Category Archives: Reflections

Wherever we may be now

There she was. Dark hair and green eyes, unique features, a natural beauty. It’s as if our friendship was only a dream. We had our highs and lows. So close, yet so far, but yet somehow…closer than ever before. The year before it ended. We never really talked anymore. She’d come sit down in the row next to me, and get on her computer. I’d occasionally ask her something, or she me. But no real conversation. Nothing to talk about. Sitting behind me, she’d play with my hair or reminisce. We had memories. But they’re almost long gone. We parted ways, and that’s just how it was going to be. I can’t help but know that I will always feel the connection. And that’s just how it is.

There we were. Two peas in a pod. It was a tight fit too, not much room for breathing. Yet it felt so natural, and we were so alive. For a couple years, I was convinced we were soul mates. The best of friends that friends could be. And no matter what had broken us, it would only make us stronger. And for a while there, it did. But the hurt became too much. We never had the energy to heal. It never clicked back, and we drifted our separate ways. And now you go here, and I go there, and our paths cross every once and a while. But we don’t notice, or at least we try really hard not to. And I usually laugh, but then I cry. Because that’s just how it was going to be. I can’t help but know that I will always hear the memories. And that’s just how it is.

There we all were. Laughter and constant silliness, stupidity really, filled the air. We really lightened up that heavy air. And they did more than we did, but when we did… those were the best days of my life. I wouldn’t say we were the closest. But we were close. We laughed and cried together a few times. That’s close in my book. And we could really get along, and I could really trust us, and I could really count on us to brighten up my day. But then that day came when you went there, and you went here, and we went there. And so maybe we stayed close, but we drifted apart. And that’s just how it was going to be. I can’t help but know that I will always miss us. And that’s just how it is.

There we were. Or maybe here we are. I can’t really tell anymore. We became such a part of me, I almost feel like you are here with me anyway. But if you are there, and I am here, and that’s how it’s going to be, then I want you to know that all the other “we’s” and “us’s” in my life… well, it won’t be as heartbreaking as me without you. You promised me you’d try to be here with me, and maybe you are, but if you aren’t, I miss you, and I won’t be able to do it without you for a while. But when I get used to me… without you… I want you to know that I am a person. I am so real, and I can do it. I’m not helpless, and I’m not spastic, and I’m not worried, and I’m not anxious. I am content. I am happy. I lose my temper on occasion. But I trust, and I know everything will be okay. And all the other parts of me that I miss, and that I remember- well, I cherish those parts of me, and I smile upon them. I don’t talk to them anymore. I don’t talk to you anymore. But that’s just how it was going to be. And that’s just the way it is.

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My real retreat experience

The most amazing things have happened to me in the past two days.

I went on retreat, reminding myself to keep my heart and mind open, convinced that this would bring life back to my heart, and inspire me to be who I am created to be. For me, this was going to be self-healing and empowering. But when I got my small group, and met with them, I realized that I felt very uncomfortable. Two of them I went to grade school with, three of them were good friends of friends I had in middle school, and one of them was one of my best friends. That wasn’t too hard in itself- but then, my small group leader was too comfortable. He knew all of them except three of us. He was very excited, and talked often of things they used to do or people they knew. I felt somewhat excluded, but even that wasn’t too bad. Open heart. Open mind. Not until he said the one thing I regret the most: “I’m not really into that God shit. We don’t really have to talk about that.” Immediately, before I even had the chance to share with them my deepest self, the deepest part of me was shut out. My heart closed up without me even realizing it, because I wanted to keep myself open to the hardships and happiness of the others in my group, and the friendships that could be formed. But I didn’t share much. Retreat went well. I enjoyed it. But I didn’t get out of it what I thought I would, for myself. Instead, I was asked to be there for others, and sacrifice what I needed.

So when I got home, I fell apart. I felt drained. I didn’t get what I wanted. I felt like something was taken from me. I was just plain upset.

But that night, when I went to bed, I finally had time to think. I finally got to reflect on everything that had happened to me on retreat, and find meaning in it all. And then I found the rosary that I always have with me, the one I forgot to bring on retreat, and I felt this overwhelming peace in my heart. This relief washed over me, and I felt calm. My mind was clear again, and suddenly I started seeing how everything happened for a reason. I realized in that moment how much I rely on God’s love in my life, yet I take it for granted every day. Being away from God for 24 hours was enough, and I never want to take God for granted again. I am so thankful for the doors that were opened for new friendships and truth, and I am so glad I had the experience I had.

Today, I went to confession. It was different from any other confession I have ever been to. Before he said anything else, the priest told me I had such a bright smile. He started asking me about college plans and then home life, and I just started talking to him. It was so unlike a confession I was used to, and when he asked me to say my Act of Contrition, I almost said, “For what?”

I hadn’t confessed anything! Yet, I felt more forgiven and lightened than I ever have! He truly inspired me to bring joy to those around me, and taught me how to listen to others and be patient with my role in my communities and family. But even though I had prepared myself to confess my sins, maybe I needed that instead.

These experiences have taught how to be open. I guess I never knew before. It is okay to have expectations, and to prepare myself, but if things go a different way, I have learned to accept it and be open to it, and find meaning in it. This is what brings true satisfaction and happiness to me.

Trust in God completely, because He will always exceed your expectations. Know that God really does always have a plan, and sometimes He throws a curve ball, just to see if you’re paying attention 😉

Everything is always going

Do you ever have a day when everything seems to go wrong?

Yesterday I had one of those days. I lost hope for a while, and I was frustrated and upset.

Do you ever have a day when everything seems to go right?

Today is one of those days…  today I feel happy and relieved and excited and hopeful and blessed and thankful and calm and so much more.

When I wake up in the morning, I don’t know what the day might bring. But even if it ends up going badly, it’s going. It’s always going. If today isn’t going right, just wait for tomorrow. Whatever you do, whatever you feel, don’t let yourself stop going.

A detrimental gloom of disappointment due to the colossal vitality of illusion

If there is one thing that I have learned for myself that has truly made me happier, its that mustering up any kind of expectation whatsoever (unless completely reasonable and controllable… like being treated with respect) can be detrimental to the experience.

A few personal cases come to mind…

Like when I thought homecoming would be so great. But when he didn’t dance with me, and he didn’t talk to me, and she showed up when she said she wasn’t going to, and the punch was all watered down… and they didn’t play that song… Well, let’s just say I was disappointed.

Or that time when we went to the zoo, but it rained, and your mom picked you up early, and my cute outfit wasn’t clean, and we were awkward… Well, that was disappointing too.

But then I realized maybe if I had told you, “Hey, let’s go to the zoo, and your parents can pick you up whenever you want, and who knows what the weather will be like, but if its sunny then great! And if it rains we can stand under an umbrella together and be all cute! And its okay if we are awkward, because that’s how it is, and it will be different someday.”

What if I had just accepted the “now”? Instead of expecting a romantic, sunny, perfect day. Why didn’t I prepare myself for the unexpected? Did it not even cross my mind that it might rain? Did it not even occur to me that realistically, we had never hung out alone before, and it was going to be awkward?

Because after the let down at homecoming, I went to Cotillion anyway. But I went to Cotillion without anything in mind. All I knew was that I had friends who loved me, and I had a beautiful outfit that I loved, and that I am capable of having fun if I want to. Who cares what music they play? If I don’t like it, I can go get a drink.  I came home from the dance with a huge smile on my face, realizing once and for all that no expectation at all is the best expectation to have.

Go with what you know. I’m not saying we shouldn’t dream. Dreaming is one of my favorite things to do. I am a dreamer. But there is a fine line between letting dreams take over, and having realistic dreams. Romantic dreams cause insanity. Realistic dreams come true.

So decide for yourself what is realistic and what isn’t. Nobody can categorize your dreams but you. No one can tell you what is unreachable. You decide what you will strive for, but make sure you know there’s a chance you might get there, and make sure you have a game plan, and a back-up plan, and a plan C, and a plan D…

“There must have been moments even that afternoon when Daisy tumbled short of his
dreams
— not through her own fault, but because of the colossal vitality of his illusion. It had gone
beyond her, beyond everything” -Nick Carraway, The Great Gatsby

The funny thing about fear

Have you ever had an irrational fear? A sort of phobia that you just don’t understand, and neither does anyone else. To you and others, it seems like it would be so easily overcome, by just stepping out of your comfort zone, and trying. But you never do.

Why? Did something happen to you as a child, or a toddler? Something that was only so long ago that it is stored somewhere in your memory, but not quite recent enough for you to access. This something creates a fear, because this something went wrong. Seriously wrong.

I’ve had a couple fearful experiences growing up, that have affected me to this day, as follows:

I have a fear of roller coasters. Not the friendly, Disney world type. In fact, Mount Everest is my all time favorite ride. And that one is pretty scary, lesbi honest. But I am terrified of the big, Cedar Point monsters that fling your limbs all over the place and defy gravity. I could never do those, I have convinced myself, unless maybe its with my boyfriend (which I don’t currently have anyway). But why have I convinced myself of this? What even happened to me? The first memory I have of riding any rollercoaster whatsoever was at King’s Island, and it was so much fun! There is no psychological way that this happy experience could have caused a fear. But then I think a bit harder, and I remember my friends and even the media telling me that roller coasters can break down, and you can get stuck on them, maybe even at the top of a hill, and never come down. The cart could fly off the tracks and you could go explode! From a childhood standpoint, these visions were real. And they have remained real to me. Maybe one of my old favorite computer games is responsible for this fear. I used to love playing roller-coaster tycoon with my brother, and we definitely used to create malfunctioning roller-coasters just to kill the little animated people. It was so sick, and so wrong, I know. But we did, and I blame that pastime for my fear of these harmless thrillers. (I use the word harmless lightly, all of the things I mentioned, like death and malfunctioning, could very seriously happen, but only by a slim chance, and because I know very well that these occurrences are rare, I wonder why it is so hard for me to overcome)

I developed a hypo-thyroid problem somewhere along the road a few years ago, and I started going to Children’s hospital to get lab tests just to check the thyroid levels in my blood stream. Now, the very first time I went, they definitely missed my vein. They had it, and then they lost it, and it hurt like HELL. I cried a ton, and I’m about to cry just thinking about it. I still have to get blood tests, and I am not afraid of them. I still go to Children’s hospital, and I’m not afraid of it. But I AM afraid to give blood. Why am I okay with the thing that caused the fear? Why am I comfortable with the place the original fear occurred in, but I’m afraid to do something I haven’t even experienced? I wonder these things, because I have forced myself to be comfortable with lab tests, but I have convinced myself that I will never try giving blood, at least any time soon. I have no interest in prolonging a minute and a half of discomfort and pain into ten minutes of it. I go dizzy thinking about it.

Similarly, my sister refuses to wear anything with buttons attached. She has only forced herself to be comfortable with our school uniforms, because she has to wear them, just like I HAVE to get blood tests. But she WILL NOT wear anything with buttons by choice. She says this is because she choked on something when she was really little, with a shape and feeling similar to a button. I remember this day, when she choked. She was just young enough as to where she could never remember the exact event, but she knows it happened. And I was just old enough so that I could picture the event in my mind to this day. We were with our family friends, in a car, on the way to some event, and I was sitting on the floor of the van, because there were not enough seats. My sister was safely strapped in, thank goodness. The mother of my friends thought it would be a great idea to give all of us (around 5-7 years old or younger, some even 2 or 3) a mint to suck on! In a moving car. What strikes me as extremely odd is that she even gave one to my sister, not even 3 or 4 years old, and my sister choked. She choked badly. I remember us pulling over and my friend’s mom grabbing my sister and dramatically slapping her back (I laugh, because I thought she was just beating the crap out of my sister, and from my point of view, this experience was so odd). My sister was perfectly okay in the end, physically.  But this kind of early childhood experience can psychological scar you, whether you can access the memory or not. I somewhat feel bad for her, because there are a lot of cute shirts and blouses that I want to pass down to her, but she just can’t do it. Sometimes I wish I was old enough to have known what was going on, so I could prevent this traumatic experience from happening altogether. But it is what it is, and if she ever chooses to try, I know she could overcome it. Because I know I could overcome my fear of giving blood, or riding coasters. I just don’t.

Hypocrisy at its finest

I apologize for blogging so much, so suddenly (in advance… there’s a lot coming for you guys). Sometimes my inspiration runs dry, and when I get huge inspirational explosions as I did today, I can’t hardly wait to write and write and write! I hope that instead of clogging up your feed, I provide you with entertainment and inspiration 😀

But I have a story, worthy of the story basket. That being, that I am a hypocrite and quite ironically at that. (I just used the word “that” three times in the same sentence… awkward.) So the other day, one of my good friends told me he drinks a thermos full of coffee before school everyday, Starbucks on the way home, and a red bull when he gets home. I was shocked at how much caffeine he drinks each day, and I told him to cut down, narrow it to one of those things a day, rather than all three. He said he was dependent on it now, and I said, “I have been abstaining from caffeine because I refuse to let my body rely on it to function properly.”

Well, half of that was the truth. I had been abstaining from it, for at least the short time of a week.  I guess I never really took into account that I had been pessimistic, emotional (which I always am, but recently in a more negative way), fatigued, and overall, sort of depressed lately. Until today. I had a bottle of Pepsi at lunch. After I drank most of it, I was already laughing, bouncing off the walls, motivated to do work! I made my friend’s day when I told her I was so excited she was in my life again! I was like, what is this feeling? I wanna go blog! I wanna participate in English even though I barely read the story! I want to get this Calculus homework done! The motivation and energy and inspiration exploded!

Then another mini-depression hit me, as I realized this burst of life had everything to do with the caffeine I drank at lunch. I remembered what I told my friend, and I knew I was a huge hypocrite. I have indeed let my body become dependent on caffeine, maybe not to wake up in the morning, but definitely to live to my fullest potential. Living on caffeine made me feel good, really good. This scares me. No wonder I’ve been feeling like I can’t be satisfied, that I can’t brighten other people’s days, that I just don’t have the energy to do my work or even smile. I need this drug. But should I settle for that? Or should I keep trying to abstain, if even once a week? Is it worth any risk whatsoever (even all those rumors that may or may not be true about caffeine) to be able to live full of energy, motivation, and happiness? I’m leaning towards… yes. I might have to start drinking coffee.

The beauty in a song

I really REALLY don’t want to be here right now. I don’t want to be where I am, wherever that may be. And I need an escape.

Do you ever have those moments when you just can’t handle your emotions? They are so strong, so controlling. They take over and you can’t think of much else. Your mind starts spinning. You create images of the future. A future now changed because of the emotion you’re feeling. A false future, really. No one can predict the future, or even begin to imagine what it will actually be. But right now, the emotion you are feeling is so strong, that you see your whole life in front of you. And all you see is pain.

But subconsciously, without even realizing, you think of a song. That one song that seems to describe perfectly how you are feeling. It acts as a comfort, a shoulder to cry on. And you sing it over and over in your head until its stuck there for a week. Or a month. Or a year. At least until a new emotion takes over.

And that’s the beauty of a song. There’s a song for everything, it seems. A song can make me feel so much. A song can pull tears out of my eyes, and before I know it, I’m sobbing. And it’s beautiful. And when I’m sad, or broken, or need healing and comfort, and I need that escape, all I wanna do…

Is sing.

My Year in Review: 2012

My 2012 was quite the rollercoaster of emotion and experience, indeed. When I look back on it, a lot of really important milestones happened for the people in my life. This past year seems to have been the beginning of the climax of my life, and it will last for the next few years. There are themes of brokenness and hurt, moving on to healing and love, and then an explosion of faith and happiness. And because of this pattern of emotion that my year held, it was one of the best years of my life. My life took a huge swing upwards, and it hasn’t let me down. I formed/went through so many new friendships and grew unbelievably close to people. And although this has happened to me before, I have never been so sure in my life that these friendships will never go away. I feel secure and happy, and I feel the love. It was a damn good year. So here are my favorite moments of 2012:

-For the second year in a row, broke up with my boyfriend right before Valentine’s Day. (It’s not as depressing as you think, in fact, it makes me laugh, and I enjoy thinking about what might happen this year… it’ll be a story to tell the grand kids)

-In May/June, my sister and brother both graduated from a big part of their lives. My sister moved on to high school, my brother to college. It was an exciting month!

-That month my sister was also Confirmed and asked me to be her sponsor, one of the most faith strengthening challenges I’ve taken.

-I got my driver’s license, and I don’t even need to tell you how that has changed my life (fortunately, it has been for the better so far)

-Over the summer, I lived life to its true capacity (for at least a week), venturing out to CYSC for the first time and growing extremely deep in my faith.

-I dove straight into a volunteer camp that treated me with disrespect, giving so much time and receiving no gratitude, but becoming stronger. I don’t regret it. I learned who I was and how capable I was of standing up for myself and what I deserve, and I learned how to get out of situations that only bring me hurt and pain.

-I took an amazing vacation to New England with my family, somewhere I had never been before, and it was a blast!

-My parents had their 26th anniversary. I am so happy for them 😀

-I went to an amazing driving clinic, an unforgettable experience I have written about before and one of the highlights of my year.

-I went into marching band with a leadership role I didn’t know if I could handle. But by the end of the season, I took my leadership capabilities and passion for my band family to a whole new level, and really put my heart into it. I am so glad I was able to do this, because I feel that I truly became and inspiration to others in everything I did.

-Some of my cousins from Texas visited, and I haven’t seen them since I was probably 6 years old.

-By the end of August, one of the moments I had been waiting for for two years finally arrived. My sister’s first day of high school, when we could finally go to school together again!

– I was given the great opportunity to hear Chris Stefanick speak, and I loved it!

-Took an amazing mission trip to Kentucky that filled me with love and hope and gave me a new perspective on life.

-Made unbelievable friendships and have been blessed to keep old friends in my life.

-For the third year in a row, crying (in some way) on New Year’s Eve, and whether they were tears of joy or sorrow, I can’t imagine what that night would mean without emotion.

2012 was a year of building and maintaining loving relationships, becoming a part of new families, healing and growing closely devoted to Mary and the Holy Spirit, venturing into new opportunities and discoveries, and pushing myself past my limits and learning so much about myself. What a great year!

‘Tis the Season!

This Christmas was a good one. Even though it’s not quite over, it’s been really great so far! I didn’t feel the desire or need to form a list of things for others to get me, but rather went venturing out on Black Friday for the first time in my life to shop for my dearest friends and family. If I failed to get you a present, I am terribly sorry. It’s nothing personal whatsoever. It most likely signifies that I ran out of money before I got to you on the list.

But anyway, my point is, I wanted this Christmas to be completely about giving. I wanted my excitement to be founded in the generosity and love I would share with others, rather than an excitement in waiting to receive gifts for myself. So everything I got this Christmas was a total surprise. And I had a much better feeling afterwards. Every gift I received had more meaning, because each was something the person picked out for me, having to put thought into whether I would like it and what it would mean to me. They had no choice, considering they didn’t have a list they could mindlessly buy from.

Now, I’m sounding quite selfish right now. I realize that I’ve been talking about myself and how people had to shop for me, but I enjoy reflecting on how much more meaning this Christmas held because of that. I love every single thing I got from my family and friends because everything was a surprise and a gift of love. It was perfect, and I walked away happy. I came into it without expectation, and walked out with joy. This is a lesson I’ve learned many times and it’s one of my favorite pieces of wisdom. The expectations we form in our minds usually determine the outcome, so why expect anything?

Now I want to share with you a couple of my favorite gifts that I received today.

1. Tickets to the Trans-Siberian orchestra in concert on the 30th. My grandpa bought them for my family, and I am overjoyed. As I was handed the envelope, one of their songs, Christmas Sarajevo,  came on the radio. I made a comment to my family, “Guys! We should have gone to their concert!” And then I opened the envelope, and pulled the tickets out. It was a mini-miracle.

2. My grandma made me a crocheted rosary when I was born, and I’ve kept it ever since. I love it very much, and asked her if she could teach me how to make them. She is going to teach me, and she even made me a couple more. This is a really great gift to me. It was also a nice gift of quality time together when she taught me how to make them tonight.

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Cute little giraffe shipped to me from Africa 🙂

3. I got Hillsong’s album Cornerstone, the Deluxe version, which includes the full concert on DVD. I definitely wanted this. I listened to it on the way to my grandma’s today. I love it! Next best gift would be tickets to their concert. And I got a gift card to iTunes so that I can get Chris Tomlin’s album that comes out on January 8th!

4. I got a really cool giraffe shirt and giraffe nail polish. My sister even put this little giraffe key-chain in a little crate to make it look like it was shipped from Africa. Cutest thing ever. I love giraffes.20121225-171242.jpg

5. My brother’s girlfriend, God bless her soul, drew me a lovely picture of Rapunzel and her chameleon Pascal from Tangled, and I aspire to be Rapunzel and have my own chameleon someday. I love that movie. It’s by far my favorite. She also gave me this little Japanese cat figure that is believed to fulfill your wishes and dreams. I thought that was really neat because I love dreaming. She’s a sweetheart.

5. My mommy bought me a subscription to a seasonal magazine called Radiant. It’s a nice encouraging magazine for young women and includes modest fashion ideas and interviews about common experiences with love and life struggles. I love it already!

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I’d also like to give a special shout-out to my new cabin socks. I got these stockings in my stocking. Pretty cool.

6. Finally, I got an iPhone. Crazy, right? There’s no way. But it was a promotional item that came with my brother’s, and I am thankful for it. My old phone is getting on my nerves, and its a really nice gift. Completely unexpected. But awesome. My mom also picked out a custom case that’s absolutely beautiful. I can’t wait to put the case on my phone and call it my own! I rhymed 🙂

I think the best gift of all that I have this Christmas is the ability to love my friends and family and to receive their unconditional love for me. I am also incredibly thankful for my strong faith and gifts and talents. All of this is truly a blessing in my life and I plan on doing great things with it.

A reflection on the experiences of my mission trip to Cranks Creek, Kentucky

I… am literally speechless right now. But I have so much to say. I don’t know where to begin, so I must warn you readers that I will circle and weave around in an incredibly obnoxious way throughout this entire reflection.

To begin, I want to regroup my thoughts. Well actually, let me start off by filling you in on what I’ve have been doing with my life for the past four days.

I began my journey this past Wednesday. At about four in the afternoon, I jumped in the car with what I would now like to call my second family, my closest friends of the youth group I attend regularly. We drove to Cranks Creek, Kentucky, an Appalachian community struggling with poverty. Our mission was to collect, deliver, organize, and distribute food, clothing, toys, shoes, bags, coats, blankets, and home supplies to the people in need who live in that community. A man named Bobby and his wife Becky opened a donation center in an old barn nearby, and keep a survival center for the groups who come down on mission trips throughout the year. I rode down with an advanced team of about 18 people, to get the survival center and barn cleaned up and ready for our mission before the rest of the group arrived. Going down early was something I will never regret. It gave me an opportunity to be patient with myself while I acclimated to the new environment I pushed myself into.

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Bobby Simpson, God bless his soul

The trip for me was indescribable. (I say this as I proceed to describe every detail.) At the beginning, I was closed in my shell, being patient with myself, knowing that it might take me a day or two to warm up to the group I would be spending so much time with. In new situations, I take a little time to let myself totally free. But I got there, eventually. I spent most of my first two days in personal conversation with my fellow advanced team members, getting to know each one on a deeper level than I know most of my good friends. It was strengthening, and provided growth for me, offering new perspectives. I will go deeper into how these conversations affected me later. One of the big moments of the first two days was on Thursday night. The team visited with Bobby, and he told us riddles. We laughed together. It was a really good exercise of patience and listening, and helped me grow in both of those areas.

Most of the action (the events and moments I remember the most) didn’t occur until the main team arrived. On Friday afternoon, the rest of the group showed up. We organized clothing and food in the barn, getting a head start on our work. We also participated in a group prayer session, one of my favorite things to do. Saturday was one of the biggest days for me. We started off the morning with a Mass, given by a wonderful priest that came down with a group from Maryland to lend a hand in the mission. We continued with our work during the day, decorating the barn, organizing the clothes, moving the toys, and unloading and packing the food. It was crazy. We had music playing the whole time. It was a party. So much happened that day, I can’t even remember it all.

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The lovely decorations my friends and I hung

But I do remember a couple specifics. I had one of my best Confessions yet. I would say it was my second best, after my experience with Confession at CYSC this past summer. I mustered up the courage to pour out everything I had been holding in, and truly decide how I would ask for the Lord to help me improve and grow in my relationship with him. Amazing.

In the evening, I was given a wonderful opportunity to share in a group hug with four or five of my favorite people. And you may think this is too common of an occurrence to be special in any way, but this hug was special in every way. And the memory of the hug stands out among many. It consisted of a few people that had previously been a mystery to me for so long. One of them was the same little friend that I had my favorite reconciling encounter with (read below) and one of them included a friend that I got to know so well and that I now hold dear to my heart. The hug also included my group’s youth minister, whose personality I had not discovered fully yet. The fact that I was swept into this loving encounter with these mysteriously amazing people was just something I will never forget. I felt loved and included: a part of a family. And that’s what everyone needs. This loving exchange was amazing, in such a small way.

I remember another special moment. We took the afternoon to drive around town, visiting the homes of the sick: those who would not be able to make it to the pick up on Sunday. We visited a lady named Geneva. She was beautiful, inside and out. She had a nice big picture of her entire family on the wall of her home, and she took the time to describe each one of them. She told us where they were in life, and how they impacted her. She told us how she was looking forward to their visit on Christmas. She also told us about the many great deeds her neighbors had done for her. She even shared her sadness in the fact that a lot of her friends, even her husband (who she mentioned as being a great friend to her) had passed away. She was so open, and I was able to share in her emotion completely. It was a changing experience, because in that moment, I felt God’s grace in the work of mercy that I was participating in. I suddenly saw life through her eyes, representing the eyes of all the sick, lonely, or aged. They are all so loving and sharing, and often times in the past I have asked myself how they could be that way. How could they take on such a position to serve others with their love, when they were in such a position to be served? Talking to Geneva answered that question in my heart. These people know God, because God has never left and will never leave them. As they begin to lose those dear to them, they come to a realization that He is always by their side. They continue to develop a loving relationship, thanking him for their family and friends and everything they’ve been given. At that point in life, what else is there to really do? Being saddened and trapped in by sickness limits the ability to go out and be distracted by worldly things. So these people reflect, think, ponder, and pray. And it’s amazing. They hold so much inside of themselves, begging for someone to share it with. And when someone comes along, it pours out. And I thank God for the opportunity I was given, and ask that I be open to more, because not only was I able to grow in my sharing of emotion with Geneva, but she was able to pour out her love to us, a moment she had been so excited to have since last Christmas. Amazing.

On the way home from our house visits, we stopped at a Dollar General for a bathroom break. A little uncomfortable incident happened during the stop, which I would not like to share (don’t even ask). But the boy who caused the sudden distress felt terrible for causing it. And a little later, he came up to me with teary eyes, and asked me if I was okay. At first, my eyes teared up as well. I thought to myself, how cool is it that this young man is doing such a mature thing, to come up to me and ask for my forgiveness and show that he cares? To reconcile a relationship from even the tiniest amount of brokenness? My heart pretty much melted on the spot. So I said, “Please don’t feel bad, I’m okay!” And he said ok, and I gave him a hug. I might have to put this reconciling encounter up in my top five favorite moments of life so far. Amazing.

Another great thing that happened to me, not just on Saturday, but throughout the entire weekend, was the relationships I was able to build. And I built them from ground zero. A couple girls I had never actually met became my best friends, and another great friend I had never spent time with became one of the people I hold dear to my heart. How did this happen? The Lord really does work in our hearts, and when we are open to him, we accomplish great things. When we open our hearts to each other, we accomplish great things, with great people beside us. We become unstoppable and powerful. Life really is all about relationships and a journey. And there isn’t a thing about life that is truer. Once again, amazing.

Finally, Sunday was give away day. Cars lined the stretch of the road as far as we could see, waiting to receive their annual Christmas bundle.

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A car coming through the barn to pick up its order.

I took orders from each car, asking what food, clothes, and toys each family wanted. I asked for special prayer requests, and my friends handed rosaries to as many as we could supply for. I met one young woman, she was very sweet. She thanked me many times for my prayers and my giving heart. She told me about a family in which the parents are struggling with a drug addiction, and the children are lost without support. I shared my sympathy, and will forever hold her and the family in my prayers. Talking to people from all different walks of life is something that requires strength and understanding, and I don’t know how I did it. I walked into this task blindly, questioning my ability to impact each individual’s life in the way I longed for in my heart. But I did it, and it was awesome. The Holy Spirit shined through my works, his gifts truly revealing themselves from deep in my heart. ‘Twas truly Amazing.

That same day, I was also blessed with an opportunity to work on mending a seriously broken relationship with a dear friend who I have been struggling to communicate with. He was sent over to take orders, and I happened to be working there as well. I think that this task that we shared worked as a means by which we could communicate externally, about something completely detached from emotion. This enabled us to get along and act as friends for a good amount of time. I rarely have a chance to spend this kind of basic bonding time with him anymore, because we both have no clue where to start or how to go about it. I thank the Lord for this. I really do. It was so simple, yet so perfect. It didn’t compare to the deepening conversations I had had with so many others all weekend. But it was something in itself that was so full, because the simple encounter that we had mended all that needed to be mended at the time. This proves that patience in the Lord is really important to have, because he works through us in such small, unexpected ways which come about when we are just beginning to lose hope. I was just losing hope in our friendship. Now I realize it will be okay.

The ride home on Sunday afternoon was actually one of the most amazing parts of my trip, believe it or not. How can a seven hour road trip be better than an eight hour dance party in a barn? I don’t know. But it was close. I spent more than half the time pouring my heart out to my friends (my family) who had been by my side the whole trip. I felt gifted and strengthened to be able to speak everything I had felt and experienced since eighth grade year when my faith started playing a big role in my life, and I shared my reflections on self-growth and experiences I had on the trip. It was such a fulfilling conversation for me, receiving affirmation and love from my close friends and leaders. I can’t even describe it. It was amazing.

Lastly, I want to say that I was given a great opportunity to meet some lovely new faces and personalities that will serve as role models in my life, and I am so happy I met these people. It was great to experience their openness and friendship right off the bat, without any introductions. They just hit it off, and seemingly knew my name before I ever talked to them. Being surrounded by people like this for a whole week makes it hard to move back to a life of brokenness and healing, but I trust in the Lord that I can bring the love back to this life. The Lord would never ask anything of us that we are not equipped to handle. I am equipped. And I am ready.

I want to close by saying that this mission trip was life. I lived, and I lived fuller than I’ve ever lived. I lived for, with, through, by, and in others. I lived outside of myself, and don’t plan on stepping back in. Looking outside of me gave me the opportunity to gain an understanding of others, and myself. I was able to see who I used to be, and how I’ve changed to be who I am now. I can see where I’ve grown; I can see what I’ve learned. I can see who I am; I can accept it. I have more patience with myself than ever before. And the virtues and gifts just keep growing exponentially. It’s restorations like these that set my heart on fire, and it’s sad to me to realize that after restorations like these, I usually let the fire die.

Lord, thank you for the fire you set in my heart, to go out and do your work. Not only to do your work, but to spread your love and kindness in my work. Not just to take the journey, but to form strong relationships throughout. Help me to constantly feed your fire, and never put it out with sinful actions, laziness, or fatigue. Every time I encounter you closely, I grow more equipped to be an instrument of your love. Thank you Lord, thank you for sending your Holy Spirit upon me. Thank you for sending your love and salvation in your son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

What I learned about myself/How I changed (in a nutshell):

I have acquired more patience with myself, in trusting my life to God’s plan for me, and realizing that I am sent to carry out his mission, and my life will fall into place the way it is meant to.

I should trust in my given abilities and talents, and never doubt something I am called to do.

I am able to share my thoughts and emotions so easily, filled with hope that the person receiving my ideas will be open. Even if they aren’t open, I share anyway. I learned that I need to share my love with everyone, but sharing my every thought with everyone isn’t always the right thing. I should share my thoughts and feelings with those who love me unconditionally and will affirm my thoughts and build me up.

If I take the time to breathe, and think between my words and sentences, I actually have a gift for speaking and finding the right words to say. I can be clear and explain things that seem unexplainable, if I just have patience with myself and give myself time. Previous to this trip, I decided I was too nervous to ever be able to share something without feeling awkward or dissatisfied.

In the words of the Lord, spoken through my dear friends, I acquired the knowledge that in the eyes of the beholder, I am crazy, fun, open, loving, lovable, patient, beautiful, selfless, forgiving,gentle, pure, clear, kind, filled with unending potential, weird, and truly amazing: apparently more than I know. Thank you everyone for showing me who I am, where I belong, and where I want to take my life. With God’s help, I will surely figure out how to get there.

I learned how to communicate efficiently and effectively (through observation of others and my own experience) with people who may be hard at hearing, or understanding, or confused, and to listen with patience to those who may have trouble communicating or may have accents that are hard for me to understand.

When I begin to lose hope among my brokenness or in seeing the brokenness of others, it helps to step back and watch the healing that the Lord is doing in us, through our encounters with each other. I learned to have more trust and patience in the Lord, because just when I start to lose hope, He finds some unexpected way to plant it back inside of me.