Saturday, February 25, 2012

some thoughts from james martin, sj.

Fr. James Martin, SJ is one of the most popular Jesuit writers around today. Over the past year, I have read many of his articles, as well as two of his books, and I had the chance to see him speak back in December at Boston College (the video above is a link to that exact talk). The following quote is from his most recent book that I just finished a few days. I'm at the point in the year when I'm really beginning to take a serious look at what is the next step for me after JVC, and this passage really hit home as I tackle that process of discernment.
"God desires for us to be the freest, most mature, most loving, most alive person we can be. As the second century theologian St. Irenaeus said, 'The glory of God is the human person fully alive!' In other words, God wants us to be our best selves. Our ultimate vocation is to become the person God wants us to be. And the first step in this journey is recognizing that our deepest desires--for satisfying work, for supportive community, and for healthy love--are holy desires, planted within us by God for our own happiness. 
So desire is an important part of the spiritual life. Where does desire come from? Well, I believe that our deepest desires, our most heartfelt longings--not simply our surface wants and selfish needs--come from God. In our deepest longings we hear echoes of God's longing for us. And the more we can follow those deep-down desires, those that God places within us for our happiness, the more joyful we will find ourselves. 
Of course distinguishing between our surface wants and deep desire requires some careful discernment. Just because I 'want' something doesn't mean it's good for me. Christopher Ruddy, a professor of theology at the Catholic University of America, recently put it this way to me: 'Another Quarter Pounder sometimes seems like a good idea--but I always regret it later. Only in hindsight do we see how God would not let us settle for our well-intentioned but limited desires, but called us--sometimes weeping and kicking--to something more enduring and satisfying.' 
The most lasting joy comes from following those deep desires and heartfelt longings that bring us closer to God. It makes sense if you think about it, because when we are acting in concert with what we feel God desires for us, things will feel in sync. St. Ignatius Loyola often spoke of feelings of 'consolation' that come when we follow our deepest, holiest desires. In coming to know ourselves as capable of being moved by God's holy desires, and in choosing to strive to follow those invitations the best we can, we feel ourselves moving closer to God in trust, in hope, and in confidence. All this leads to joy. In other words, when we do what we are made for, we find joy."
--James Martin, SJ, Between Heaven and Mirth

Thursday, February 23, 2012

flee or fight.

And today my heart is heavy. I am what my roommates and I affectionally refer to as an "emotional sponge," meaning I tend to absorb the strong emotions that surround me, both positive and negative. While that can be an asset in some situations, sometimes I just feel completely consumed with feelings. How can I feel this much? How can I hold all of these cares, concerns, and fears without letting them overwhelm me? I'm trying to be so much and care so much, but it still never seems like enough.

Moments like these are often when I feel most helpless and incapable of really making a difference for any of these kids. I know that's not true--and I have had some minor moments of "success"--but there's still so much left to do that it feels overwhelming at times.

At moments like this, my first instinct is to retreat. If our instincts when threatened are to flee or to fight, mine is to flee. I just want to go back to our house, curl up in my bed, and sleep it all away. I want to fly back home to Missouri, to my life before I knew these realities so intimately... before immigration had a face and thousands of heart-breaking stories... before the failures of our public school systems were manifested in children whose laughter and jokes were the highlight of my days...  when my little bubble of comfort and security was all I knew.

Sometimes I can't help but think, "It would be easier."

At least, it's tempting to think that it would be easier to go back to my life before JVC, but at the same time, it wouldn't be. It isn't.

Because I don't think I can ever see the world the same way again. I don't think I can look away without that pain in my heart of knowing, seeing, feeling--at least on some level--what it's like. Going back would mean forgetting, and it's never easy to forget the places I have loved, the memories I cherish, and the people that moved in to somehow take up space in my heart.

It's already too late to go back to comfortable. While my first instinct may be to shut down and back out, I know it's not a real option. I know it's just my fears talking. As a friend reminded me recently, "Fear is not from God."

So, I stay and I fight, even in those moments of inadequacy, where I feel hopeless and helpless and I wonder if I can do anything right at all. I get out of bed in the morning, I get ready for another day, and I walk to work. I keep going, I keep moving, and I keep trying to trust.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

month six.

It's almost 8 a.m. in Jamaica Plain on Saturday morning. A mixture of rain and snow is coming down outside my window, and the house is quiet, as the rest of my community members are either still asleep or out of town for the weekend. This is early for me to be awake on a Saturday morning, but I can hardly sleep in anymore. That's just one of many things that these past six months have changed about me.

Exactly six months ago today, I was in transit from St. Louis to Baltimore for JVC Orientation. I think about those early moments of JVC frequently--awkwardly meeting my community members for the first time, some of our first pivotal conversations, finally arriving in Boston and being welcomed by the FJVs, walking to Casserly House during Local-O and meeting S. Nancy and some of the ESOL students, riding the T, wandering around downtown...

For some odd reason, one of the moments that sticks out the most vividly in my mind is the first night sleeping in what has become my room for the year. I remember falling asleep that night with the bed a mess, the room halfway rearranged, my possessions in a jumbled pile, the windows open and the sound of the commuter train and traffic passing by outside. I was completely exhausted, physically and emotionally, and I just kept thinking about how surreal--and exciting--all of this was. This was going to be my room for the year; I was really going to call this city home for the next 12 months.

Over the past six months, my walls have become an ever-evolving collage of sorts with the things posted up that have been meaningful to me this year so far (rest assured that if you've sent me a piece of mail, it's probably on my bedroom walls); it hardly looks like the same place as that evening, but I still recognize that same potential when I look around at night.

At the beginning, JVC felt like a chance for reinvention: a chance to start over. While that was true in some regards, I think that I sometimes forgot that even though I'm in a new place where I'm surrounded by new faces, at the end of the day, I'm still me. I still have the same flaws, memories, and quirks to deal with on an everyday basis. But I'm learning.

Month six was a difficult one--probably the most difficult one yet, on many levels. I have had some real struggles on both personal and professional levels--or perhaps more accurately, in the strange mixture of personal and professional that I now inhabit on an everyday basis. The interesting thing about JVC is that we really can't compartmentalize our lives here; what we do at work is so intimately connected to our personal lives.

As I am now at the real halfway point, I think about what I have already gained over the past six months, but somewhere along the way, that question stopped being as important to me as a few of the other ones. These days, I wonder what have I given? What am I giving? What do I have left to give?

I'm in the middle of it all, which is exactly where I'm supposed to be.

month six.

short weeks. submitting my first grad school application. re-o. many, many good conversations. board games. hot chocolate. not stepping foot outside for days. lots of laughs. the pastoral circle. another jv talent show. lunch at bread co. with portland.

back to reality. realizations. burn out. s. nancy's birthday. happy birthday in six languages. frolicking on the boston common + public garden. dunkin gift cards. trader joe's. cookies and cream cupcakes. foley's. champagne. st. cecelia's. sunday afternoon naps.

my birthday. cake with the after school kiddos. surprises. balloons. crisitina dancing in my room. brittle. kate's package. cards. belated packages from mom with coffee cake. intense weeks and conversations. finishing grad school applications. casserly house board meetings. sissy k's. the mfa. movie nights. st. cecelia's and spiritual direction. hot chocolate.

getting accepted into grad school. being an emotional sponge. the end of the casserly house book off. stress baking + homemade oreos. one of the most exhausting weeks. the eneagram (i'm a four). new york pizza + wally's cafe. homemade challah. movie days. st. cecelia's. foley's superbowl party and stories with dave. not caring about the patriots.

visits from jvc staff. learning patience: with myself and others. making valentine's. mid-year evaluations and positive affirmations. casserly house valentine's day party. sam adams brewery tour + doyle's.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

they say it's your birthday.

So, I'm not going to lie: while there have been definite positives, overall, when I think back over these past few weeks, I feel like they were collectively some of the hardest ones since I started JVC. It's been busy and more than a little emotionally draining. 

However, in the midst of all of that, my twenty-third birthday happened. S. Nancy's is on January 21, so it was the quite the birthday season at Casserly House!

It was a lot of fun; we surprised S. Nancy with food and cake for her birthday, and then they surprised me with a cake for mine (the kids of the After School Program were probably more excited than I was about the cake though, let's be honest).

Outside of work, my birthday itself was really nice. I did most of my celebrating the weekend before, where I baked cookies & cream cupcakes (I have this thing where I like to bake my own birthday cake) and celebrated with friends. Then, on my actual birthday, my roommates cooked dinner for me and made some other treats.

delicious cupcakes i made. cake recipe here, frosting here.

And I can't forget the pieces of home that made the day special too, like packages, cards, and of course, Hoeckele's coffee cake from my parents (!!!).