Tag Archives: religion

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.

20121225-171322.jpg
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!

20121225-171344.jpg
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.

Picture 072
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.

Picture 050
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.

Picture 048
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.

A corrupt kind of reverence

When we go to Mass,

Why do we cross our arms? Are we in opposition? What are we opposed to? We should be opposed to sin.

Why do we roll our eyes? Are we searching? What are we searching for? We should be searching for God.

Why do we sigh? Are we impatient? What are we impatient for? We should be impatient to receive the Body of Christ.

Why do we slouch? Are we weak? What is our weakness? We should be offering our weaknesses up to God.

Why do we yawn? Are we tired? What are we tired of? We should be tired of submitting to our sinful nature.

But must we really cross our arms, roll our eyes, sigh, slouch, and yawn?

Instead,

Why don’t we sing? Aren’t we joyful? Aren’t we in the presence of the Lord?

Why don’t we pray? Aren’t we thankful? Don’t we want to return to God his great gift of love?

Why don’t we respond? Don’t we listen? Don’t we hear the Word of God being spoken to us?

Why don’t we go? Are we avoiding something? Are we afraid? Are we too busy?

How can we change that?

Lame Confessions (to be continued)

I do a lot of strange things. Not really strange so much as just unique, or maybe not even unique, because I’m sure plenty of people do these things, but I guess I would describe these things as idiosyncrasies of mine that most people don’t really notice, or don’t know about me at all. And its these kinds of confessions that truly show who we are.

1. When I have an emotionally or mentally stimulating-enough day, I like to have quiet time. Like really, I just need 20 minutes to myself, before I feel ready to tackle the next period of constant noise and interaction. You may think this is normal, and everyone needs it, duh. Well, you’re right. But I don’t allow myself this kind of time anymore. I try to pack each minute of my day with some activity or work, because I don’t do well with a lot of free time. A time does come, though, where I really do need to sit by myself quietly. So let it be. (and if you bother me during these moments, I will bite your head off…not really)

2. Now that you have judged me as a vicious, violent, hostile-towards-social-interaction kind of person, you may feel inclined to exit my blog, for fear of what I’ll say next… Don’t. Really, I promise I’ll be nice now. Anyway, my second confession is that I don’t sing in the shower. Rather, I sing in the car. This is beyond normal, but I don’t just sing. When I get a drive all to myself (and I mean no one but myself in my car.. I look forward to these drives) I SING LOUD. At the top of my lungs. I put so much emotion into it, sometimes I blare the music so loud it seems the whole world can hear it. Why do I do this? It’s an outlet. It relieves stress, anger, sadness, frustration. Try it. It’s awesome.

3. I don’t read a lot of books. But when I do, they are either books from school (which happen to be good most of the time, and I am usually glad I had to read them) or autobiographies and writings by certain religious figures. Yes, this second category is extremely specific, but that’s really all I read. I’m reading The Private Writings of Mother Teresa… she’s amazing. Check her out sometime. Also, I personally think that some of St. Louis Marie de Montfort and Blessed John Paul II and St. Thomas Aquinas (of course) are amazing. I love philosophers and psychologists, and people in general, who are willing to share their story. They have such interesting insight and discover inner truths of the human self.

I can’t think of anything else right now. To be continued in Lame Confessions Part 2.

Over the years…

Thursday night is just one of those days. I have absolutely nothing going on and I just don’t want to do anything. On days like these, I am anything but productive, and on this day in particular, I just feel like writing. I turned on ABC Family to watch the Nightmare Before Christmas, and this made me think of things that I have recently been obsessed with. When I have an obsession, it isn’t overbearing. I just find that there have been a few recurring themes over certain periods of time in my life, and that is my definition of an obsession. So here is a list of things that I have been seriously interested in, or have had a great love for throughout my life.

My crayon tower consisting of 150 crayons=awesomeness

Eagles. The animal, not any sports team you may be thinking of. Ever since I was little, I have always loved eagles. Little did I know I would be attending a school at which the mascot is an eagle, and I can’t say I wasn’t thrilled when I found out. I’ll also confess that I have a massive eagle collection in my room, consisting of anything from a stuffed animal to an eagle-headed walking stick.

Crayons. When I was in sixth and seventh grade, I was obsessed with crayons. I wanted every type of crayon to be in my possession. I also had things like crayon erasers and crayon bubbles. (How can you even have crayon bubbles? I don’t know, but I had them.) Truthfully, I still consider crayons to be the best writing utensil ever made. They smell really good, and have a nice texture to them. They never run out of ink, and if they get dull, you can sharpen them these days. If they break, tough luck, you use the biggest half. Not to mention they come in just about every color you can think of, and then some.

Sesame Street.

In seventh grade, I decided that I wanted to be a little kid again. My childhood pretty much revolved around Sesame Street, so I regressed and clung onto that idea for awhile. I even had a Sesame Street birthday party. I deemed Oscar the grouch as my favorite character, and decided I hated the new pink fairy girl. Anyway, I was really into it. I asked for this really awesome book for Christmas that year called “Unpaved” and it included secrets and facts about each of the popular episodes throughout Sesame Street history. I was at the library the other day, and ran across a complete history of Sesame Street, so I checked it out. I will never get around to reading it, but it reminded me of the significant role Sesame Street has played for me, as not only a childhood memory, but a memory to last my whole life.

Seashells.

She sells sea shells by the sea shore. She really does, I’ve been there.

I used to venture out to the beach in the spring with my family, and we’d shell hunt like crazy. I have tons of really cool ones, and they are all so different and interesting. I still love my shells.

Makeup and Nail Polish. Okay, not many girls skip the period of life where they think makeup is all that matters. I was there once, and it was around the end of my eighth grade year. I took it so far as to read about ways to apply it and experiment with colors that I wouldn’t dream of putting on my face to this day. I actually had days when all I wanted to do was sit down and do my makeup and hair and nails, because that’s what I call a good time. I had a best friend who loved doing her nails, and we’d paint the coolest designs on our nails. I kind of miss those days.

Gimp. I went through a huge phase in eighth grade where all of my free time was spent making gimp key chains. I made some pretty cool ones and those of you that know me have definitely seen them on my bags and stuff. I was overjoyed when I was able to teach a bunch of kids how to make them at a camp over the summer. My skills were finally put to good use.

My gimp looks way cooler than this, no worries.

Tim Burton. I have always had this admiration and love for anything written or directed or produced by Tim Burton. He’s so well known, yet never seems to show his face, unlike most other popular figures whose faces seem to show up on the cover of every magazine. This may be for a reason though. He doesn’t go out much, and it shows. Anyway, I love this man. I especially love all the creativity and talent and hard work he put into The Nightmare Before Christmas, my favorite movie of all times. Dark Shadows was a good one too, along with everything else he’s ever done.

Mr. Tim Burton himself. Not his most attractive photo, but none of them really are… like I said, he doesn’t get out much.

Halloween. I love Halloween, and have deemed it my favorite holiday. I look forward to it every year, and actually set aside time to celebrate it. I love love LOVE carving pumpkins, digging out the guts and squishing them in my hands, baking the pumpkin seeds, and snacking on them while partaking in my traditional watching of the nightmare before Christmas (yes, there is a theme here). I also love candy. And I love scary things.

Nothing is better than dissecting a pumpkin on Halloween.

Nonfiction. Ever since fifth grade, when I was required to read 20 books of different genres. I read so much fantasy that year, and I decided I was done. I have been completely unable to read a fiction book since then, except for school, which is sad. The only type of reading I do these days is informational, or memoirs and I’m okay with that. Now, I get really fired up when someone starts talking about all the reading they do, and all these great adventures the characters took. Sorry, but I just don’t have the motivation to dive into some fantasy that doesn’t even exist, when I have my own life and the lives of people I care about to keep track of.

Music. I have a great appreciation for music and always will. I love singing, playing instruments, listening to singers and instruments, writing music, conducting it, whatever you can think of. Get involved in music. It’s the universal language.

Our Beautiful Lady.

Devotion to Mary, mother of God. She is an awesome role model. She is perfect. Loving. Devoted. Hard working. Compassionate. Strong. I could go on and on. All of the prayers written to her are beautiful and so meaningful. If you don’t know much about her, you should look into it.

Such wondrous creatures.

Giraffes. I love giraffes, one of my most recent obsessions. They are so unique and mysterious. Their pattern, and shape, and everything about them. They just look like a peaceful species. (Please don’t comment some absurd fact about how vicious these creatures actually are in the wild. If they have a wild side, don’t tell me. I want to maintain my peaceful image.)

MARSUPIALS. This is it, my final obsession. Kangaroos, koalas, wombats. I love marsupials! Partially because I love the letter K, and kangaroo and koala both start with K, but mostly because marsupials have pouches, which is different from any other kind of animal, and I find this really cool.

A Controversy on Confirmation

Confirmation has been given to students around the ages of thirteen or fourteen for a long time, and there does not seem to be a problem. However, all teens, even myself, will go through a time of questioning and rebellion at age fifteen or sixteen, and may even regret having been confirmed. Confirmation requires an understanding of the Catholic faith and a desire to live one’s faith to its full potential. Until a more mature age, most students are not ready to make this commitment. Although the sacrament of Confirmation is offered to young teenagers, it would be more effective if given to young adults, to ensure more time for preparation and proper decision making.

One of the hardest things about early teenage years is the many hardships and changes that this age group faces. During these years, friends come and go, families fall apart, school becomes much harder and more responsibilities seem to be piled onto the students. It is hard to go through all of this alone. Many parents and students may believe that it is in this time of life especially that one needs to receive guidance from the Church and God’s grace through Confirmation.

Some people believe that it is best for young children or teens to receive Confirmation because by the age of seven, children have already developed the ability to reason and make judgments. By seventh or eighth grade, students are well past the point of being able to make decisions of their own.  Some may also believe that students who are going through the process to receive Confirmation have been properly educated in the faith. Many students attend Catholic schools for at least a year or two, and if not, attend parish schools of religion weekly. In addition, most of the students have grown up in a Catholic family, and are more than ready to confirm their faith and receive the grace to live it out to their fullest potential.

Because many students are more than ready to receive the wonderful sacrament at an earlier age, most parishes suggest that Confirmation be received by a very particular age group. More often than not, Confirmation is only offered to young teenagers, in seventh or eighth grade. However, these students may not be ready to take this step of faith on their own. Even with a sponsor, the student may not be capable of understanding on a personal level how sacred Confirmation is and what it truly means, let alone how it will affect one’s life in the future. The sponsor can teach the confirmand why God created humans: to know, to love, and to serve him. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2304) The sponsor can share his or her Confirmation memories with the confirmand. The sponsor can inspire the confirmand to take the sacrament seriously. The sponsor cannot, however, ensure that the confirmand understands the sacrament and plans on living out one’s faith. Because middle school students may not be ready to take the leap in faith that Confirmation calls for, it would be best for the distribution of the sacrament to be postponed a few more years.

The guidance and support that students need so desperately during their teenage years can be given in more effective ways than through a metaphysical sacrament. For example, support groups in parish communities or schools can be formed and offered to students who are struggling with certain issues. Youth groups are now available to middle school students, and are great opportunities to grow deeper in faith and form positive friendships. It is unnecessary to use Confirmation as the “go to” for grace and love in times of need. Confirmation is so much more, and should only be received when one feels truly ready.

Confirmation is a deeply spiritual experience that requires thought and meditation beyond the capabilities or desires of young teenagers. A study done by psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg in 1969 showed that almost seventy-five percent of all people will remain in a conventional level of thinking, based on conformity to society, throughout their entire lives. Only twenty-five percent will move on to a level in which they apply their own morals and principles to their reasoning, and will not reach this level until the age of sixteen! This proves that most adolescents going into Confirmation have no idea what they really believe for themselves. They are not psychologically capable of making the commitment to the Lord that Confirmation is asking them to make! They need three or four more years to mature and explore what they are interested in. If they already know they are interested in the Catholic faith, then they need the extra three or four years to learn and grow deeper in their relationship with God before they make the full commitment to him. The Sacrament of Confirmation brings a heavy responsibility, yet a wonderful reward to whomever wishes to receive it. This concept is hard to understand; therefore, the commitment is hard to make, especially at a young age.

Confirmation is conventionally given to thirteen or fourteen year old students who may not understand their faith and the lasting grace they are receiving. Faith is a gift from God, given to everyone, yet many people have not willingly received the gift or have yet to discover it. Consequently, the meaning of Confirmation is taken away. Some students only take it because their parents are strong in faith and have felt the duty to raise their children Catholic. Some students go through the sacrament because they see all of their classmates going through with it, and would it not be so much easier to conform than to go through the trouble of making an exception?  Although many of the students have a deep longing for a relationship with God and feel ready for the commitment, many students do not. As Joseph Martos, a sacramental historian at Bellarmine University in Louisville, KY, said, “Unless people, when they’re confirmed, are actually making a passage in their life… then there isn’t any meaning in the sacrament of confirmation, because the meaning comes from what’s going on in the person’s life at the time.” A person’s knowledge and desire, or lack thereof,  in receiving Confirmation has a very strong affect on the meaning the sacrament holds, in the same way that a person who had never heard music and had no desire to would experience hearing a symphony differently than a person who had a great knowledge and appreciation of music. Because that person lacks understanding or desire, the symphony sounds like noise that needs to end soon. To the person receiving Confirmation with a lack of understanding and desire, the sacrament looks like a single event or a process to go through. Because the music lover has a knowledge and appreciation for it, the symphony sounds like a beautiful melody that will play over and over inside one’s head for days. To the person receiving Confirmation with a deep knowledge and love of the faith, the sacrament is a journey and a gift that will last until death. Faith is a gift, and unless it is sought and developed before receiving the sacrament of Confirmation, the sacrament will hold no meaning.

Finally, once the age of conformity and conventional thinking passes, there comes an age of rebellious nature. At this age, teens will want to believe anything other than what their parents are asking them to believe. Many stop going to Mass and praying. They consider themselves atheists or Buddhists or whatever else they can think of that is not the common “Catholic” or “Christian.” This is why Confirmation should not be offered at the ages of fifteen or sixteen either. Students need time to pass this stage, and figure out what they want in life. They need time to mature so that they can form clear values and morals for themselves. As stated in the Catechism, “Confirmation is sometimes called the sacrament of Christian maturity.” (CCC 1308) The sacrament of Confirmation is supposed to be given to those who are spiritually mature. Once students reach this point of maturity, they will be capable of making a clear decision in faith, and will convert out of rebellion and back to the church. In this conversion, they will seek the Lord in a more special way than they would have if forced into the sacrament at a young age. Going into the sacrament with confidence and excitement sets one up to come out of the sacrament filled with grace and ready to commit to one’s mission for the Lord. This seems like a much better alternative than going into the sacrament blind and unwilling, and coming out of it having been given a special gift of grace, yet not feeling ready or willing to give back to the Lord.

It would be best for students to wait until a more mature age to receive the sacrament of Confirmation, giving them more time to prepare and to decide if it is what they truly want. Although they face many hardships during early adolescent years, and can easily make decisions for themselves at an early age, Confirmation is more than just a gift of grace or a simple decision between two different cereals. Confirmation is a commitment to live a life of faith in God and to live out the faith in love, service, prayer, and in every aspect of life. This concept may not be easy to grasp in adolescence, especially because of certain patterns of psychological development. To ensure that the sacrament is received willingly and knowledgeably, it is necessary that time is allowed for maturity before the sacrament is given.