I Choose All!

Working with the poor and writing have been playing a game of tug of war with my heart.  But, in my recent hours of combing through job openings, I came across something illuminating.

(WRITER) ARTIST IN-RESIDENCE

Yale-New Haven Hospital

JOB SUMMARY

Develop, implement and adapt creative writing and spoken word activities for a diverse pediatric patient population in an acute healthcare setting. Facilitate group or individual sessions that engage children of all ages, family members or staff in self-expression through poetry, narrative, theatrical writing and performance to support the healing process. Share patient work through performance and publication.

Wait…I don’t have to choose?? Once again, God has reminded me that He wants to fulfill all of my desires, and put them in my heart for a reason.

Then, this afternoon I really discovered that something I thought only existed in my imagination is a really thing, that many writers do: running writing workshops with disadvantaged populations.

My teenage self would say: duh!  This is why art and music therapy works – because self-expression is an effective form of therapy.  Helping people learn to express themselves gives them power and can even help lift people out of poverty.

Here’s another example of an organization that runs these sorts of workshops: http://nywriterscoalition.org

I made some great connections today and can’t wait to see where they take me!

 

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Windows to the Soul

I’ve inadvertently entered into a social experiment – one of those where you pretend to be disabled, a single mother, schizophrenic, etc and see how people react.  When I, who could pass as a high schooler, walk around with the African-American baby I nanny, there are quite the variety of reactions…

Spring has sprung –
a new day has begun.
We are enlightened, brightened.
 
Blind to color we claim to be
but a different kind of blindness is what I see.
 
Blind to the colors of the Divine Artist – 
an artist of stained glass to be specific,
windows being his specialty.
 
He works only with the finest, priceless glass
illuminated with brilliantly varied colors.
His windows are world-renowned!
Reflecting the same Light but looking oh – so different
a veritable paradox.
 
Meditating upon the work of this Artist –
(perhaps you’ve seen some of it?)
and in search of Truth, Beauty and Goodness,
I walk on the edge.
In the shadow of the woods
I see the dark undergrowth of “equality.”
 
I thought this was a “new” haven?
Old problems dressed up in new rags –
rags that threaten to hide the work of the Divine Artist.
 
So on this walk (a treasure hunt really)
I discover to my dismay –
birds of a feather still flock together
(especially those stubborn ducks!)
at the edge of the woods.
 
Who am I to disturb the status qu(ack)o?
“Who is this that appears like the dawn?”*
 
“Look at that!  A white woman with a black baby!”
I’ll spare you a lecture  on genes,
but while we’re on the subject,
please pull up yours.
 
Sir, I ask just a moment of your time
I beg you, step inside.
Let the dawn of a new day
illuminate our souls.
 
What color is your heart?
 

*Song of Songs 6:10

For the Children!

The Holy Family

We just skyped with the 2-year-old niece of one of my roommates and, oh my, her cuteness literally brought tears to my eyes.  She is being raised in a solid Catholic household and her innocent faith reminded me why Jesus told us to be like children.  She prayed the rosary with us (which involved repeatedly kissing the crucifix) and told us the story of Moses.

During this conversation a great truth sunk in: children are the most wonderful creatures on earth.  As frustrating as they can be at times, I feel blessed to spend every day with them.  No matter how bad my day is, having a 3-year-old run into my arms and yell my name can erase the deepest frown from my face.  Even the worst trouble makers know how to melt my heart with a hug and ‘I love you.’

It breaks my heart to hear about the broken homes some of my students have to go back to every night.  I just want to scoop all my children into my arms and shower them with the love they deserve.

I’m all about not using this as a diary, but I think that it’s important for me to reveal some of myself once in a while.  Being around children all the time has made me incredibly sad that I may never have any of my own.  Perhaps it’s my biological clock ticking, or just the natural longing to have a family, but God is making me painfully aware of what He is asking me to give up.  At the same time He is forming me as a spiritual mother, through interactions with my students, housemates, and friends.

Here’s a little poem I wrote a while ago:

A little hand slips into mine;

a head drops to my shoulder.

Little eyes close

as little arms wrap around me.

Innocently trusting I will be here

when he wakes up.

He has known me for a mere three days

yet gives me all his love and trust.

 

Updates!

I haven’t abandoned you my readers!  Life has gotten substantially busier in the last two weeks, but definitely in a good way.  I’m settling into a new routine and getting to know my housemates.  We get along really well and more importantly, everyone can cook delicious things.  It’s wonderful to have a community again – we pray together, challenge one another and hold each other accountable.  Not only do I have this small community, but the larger Catholic community in this area.  God is doing amazing things and I have been overflowing with joy these past two weeks.

As for the five-year olds – they’ve quickly captured my heart despite causing me to lose my voice.  I mean they’re always telling me that I’m pretty and that they love me – it’s hard to stay mad at even the worst trouble makers.  I wasn’t quite sure why God put me in an elementary school but I think he’s continuing to teach me the importance of being present to people.  Right now these children need my presence and I need theirs.  My afternoon may consist of playing frisbee with a six-year-old, but for some reason she needs me in that moment and I need her.

So I realize that this blog is going to become an interesting mixture of many topics.  There will be updates on my volunteer placement and Chi Rho.  Of course I’ll still be writing about my discernment with the TOR Sisters and fundraising efforts (less than a month till the half-marathon – please consider donating!).  Plus my normal thoughts on morality and matters of faith.

Bear with me – it’ll be an interesting year!

The Joy of Community and A New Beginning

Well folks I’ve moved once again.  Can I reiterate how much I hate packing and unpacking?  You would think that a future nun would be able to get by with a lot less stuff…

The place I’m living is quite close to my hometown, so I’ve been hanging out here for the past few weeks.  I have to keep reminding myself that I am here permanently now.  I start at my placement on Tuesday, so that’ll come up fast.

So after trudging up to the third floor and dumping all my stuff, my roommates and I discussed the plan for the day with the director of Chi Rho.  Our first task was to go grocery shopping.  He sent us off on our own with a strict budget of $150.  As one of my fellow volunteers pointed out, frugality will be the order of the day this year.  The three of us managed to get everything we needed and reach the limit almost exactly, with no permanent damages to egos or fists.

We’ll be taking turns cooking dinner, so the person whose turn it was got to work when we got home(I just called it home unconsciously).  He made delicious chicken and to-die-for pumpkin bread to usher in the Fall season.  Don’t worry Mom, I won’t be living on canned soup and peanut butter this year.

Just in time for dinner, our fourth roommate arrived and added some much needed estrogen to the mix.  She speaks fluent polish, which will come in handy with the Polish church right next door.

Dinner was followed by a riveting game of Pictionary, which brought out our competitive sides, but also brought us together.  We learned that none of us are skilled in the drawing department, but are not lacking in creativity.  I have a feeling we’ll get many more laughs out of that game in the weeks and months to come.

Now we’re sitting around watching a movie and I’m anticipating all of the experiences we’ll have.  We all have different placements and I can’t wait to hear everyone’s stories about the people they meet and the lessons they learn.  This year will bring struggles, joys, obstacles and growth.  God is going to ask us to be vulnerable and depend on each other more than we may be comfortable with.  I know that this taste of true Catholic community will be just what I need.  God made us to live in communion with each other – giving and receiving love.  I thank Him for the chance to truly live that out!

You Want Me to Do What?

 

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.

 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

~Isaiah 55:8-9~

I am learning the truth of this the hard way.  Lately God has been asking me to follow him into the dark – to do things that seem to make no sense.

I’m slowly making my way through C.S. Lewis‘s abundant collection of brilliant writings.  Right now I’m conquering his Space Trilogy, which consists of Out of a Silent Planet, Perelandra and That Hideous Strength.  They are an interesting mix of science fiction, theology and philosophy.

I was already thinking about how God asks us to do things that we don’t understand sometimes when I came across this passage in That Hideous Strength:

“There you go again! You grumble about being given nothing to do, and as soon as I suggest a bit of real work you expect to have the whole plan of campaign told you before you do it.  It doesn’t make sense… The great thing is to do what you’re told…”

Now the character speaking here is working for an evil company and does not have the sincerest intentions in keeping Mark Studdock(one of the main characters) in the dark, but the idea can be applied to how God works as well.

I like knowing things.  I like knowing why things happen.  I like knowing the future.  All of these tendencies are not conducive to building a trusting relationship with God.  Often when I ask God to reveal his will to me, it is not what I was expecting or what I wanted.  And then I complain.  Sound familiar?  We don’t just want our prayers answered, we want them answered in the way we want.  We ask God to give us a purpose, and then complain when that purpose is different from our own plans.

God is asking me to do something unexpected for reasons that are beyond my understanding.  The only thing I know right now is that he is begging me to trust him.

As you may know, for the next year I will be participating in Chi Rho Service Corps.  I’ve been slowly getting prepared and transitioning to where I’ll be living.  This has been a huge test of trust.  A couple of weeks ago I found out my placement and it was one of those moments when you wonder if God really knows what he’s doing.  I’ll be working at a Catholic elementary school, assisting in a kindergarten classroom and helping with the after school program.  I walked out of my meeting with the principal in a confused daze, with the need to know threatening to take away my sense of peace.  My fellow volunteers are working in soup kitchens, Catholic Charities and a family services center – all places perfectly suited for a social worker.  So why is God asking me to do this?

My need to “figure it out” quickly took over.  Am I supposed to be a teacher after all?(made worse when I was asked to teach a ccd class).  Is this even what I’m supposed to be doing?(squashed by very clear signs).  This is simply what God is asking me to do for the next year.  I’m not supposed to know the whole “campaign,” but trust him with each new day.

“The sooner you drop all that talk about what you came here to do, the better you’ll get on.” – That Hideous Strength

 

You Keep Using That Word, I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means

Lately, the word freedom has been thrown around an awful lot.  As  is often the case with overuse of words, the meaning of this word has been twisted until we have lost sight of its true meaning.  As I’ve written in the last few posts, freedom is about being your true self.  As much as I’ve pondered this idea and written about it, I still can’t quite grasp why that is.  How does this seeming contradiction of Christianity work?  How is it that surrendering ourselves entirely unto the will of God and obeying him, leads to true freedom?   Well I came across this video in which Fr. Robert Barron and Dr. Scott Hahn, theological geniuses and Catholic superstars, discuss the answer to this question.

 

Fr. Barron and Dr. Scott Hahn discuss God and human freedom

Of course the other word which is utterly and hopelessly marred beyond recognition is tolerance.  In regards to that, I’ll just share this lovely meme that has been circulating the web: