Category Archives: heartbreak

Father Larry Richards – Confession

This past week, St. Gregory the Great Catholic Church, in Hamilton Square, New Jersey, hosted a four-day parish mission led by  Father Larry Richards.  I was unable to attend the event on Monday and Tuesday due to prior obligations, but I made it to Wednesday and Thursday.  Wednesday focused on confession and Thursday focused on adoration and healing.

Wednesday, May 12 – Confession:

This is one of Father Larry’s most famous topics of discussion, so if you were unable to attend the event, you can see him speaking about confession at one of his other parish missions with a quick YouTube search. (Here is Part One on  YouTube.  It has four total parts). [see also: Part Two, Part Three, and Part Four]

Father Larry’s confession talk is extremely powerful in that he is able to make his audience examine their consciences in a way that probably goes deeper than ever before, but he is also able to cause them to feel absolute awe and wonder at God’s mercy.

At different times during the talk, I felt a combination of guilt, shame, gratitude, and overwhelming love.

He explained that mercy is when someone gives something good to someone who doesn’t deserve it.  That’s exactly what Jesus did for each of us in dying on the cross.  Jesus never sinned, yet He experienced excruciating pain in order to enable us to be forgiven for our sins and to one day reach the kingdom of Heaven.  As Catholics, we know this to be true, but often we take it for granted.

Father Larry holds many conferences for men, so he initially spoke to the men and husbands in the audience.  All of us, both men and women, should be praying daily, but it is the husband who is responsible for protecting and praying for his family.  If that is not the case, he is not doing his manly duty and it is problems like this, sins of omission, that are often the most grave sins.

He spoke about the many scrupulous Catholics who are constantly going to confession over every little mistake, but they fail to realize that venial sins are forgiven during Mass.  He says that Catholics should go to confession once a month, unless they have a mortal sin, in which case they must confess that as soon as possible.

He has a very blunt attitude about him, which is refreshing because he speaks the truth, not sugarcoating anything or trying to be politically correct.  There are probably a lot of people who were offended by his words not because they were wrong, but because they were challenging.  Any lukewarm Catholic was probably a bit frightened to understand that simply attending Mass on Sundays is not enough to inherit the kingdom of God.  Even those of us who consider ourselves to be passionately Catholic were pushed in our faith, feeling humbled at the inadequacies he exposed in each of us.  Priests were not exempt either, as he was very clear about the responsibility of priests to pray for their parishes.

He gave us a really good analogy of Jesus as the Good Shepherd.  He once was working on a farm and had to carry a cow to a different area.  While he was walking with the calf on his shoulders, it started to urinate, getting all over him and even into his mouth.  This is the way that we treat Jesus.  All He wants to do is bring us home to Heaven, yet we urinate all over Him through our sins while he is simply carrying us on His shoulders.

I have heard priests discuss the Passion and I watch the film, The Passion of the Christ, every year during Lent to remember Jesus’ suffering, but never have I heard it described the way it was on Wednesday night.

People sometimes wonder whether Jesus can understand their pain when dealing with the loss of loved ones, heartbreak, or even physical pain.  Asking that sort of question is the equivalent of slapping Jesus Christ in the face.  Of course He can understand our pain.  The question is, can we understand His pain?

While Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, he was sweating blood.  Father Larry told us how our capillaries can burst when we are enduring significant stress and fear.  This is what was happening to Jesus because although He accepted His death for us, that did not mean that he was immune to fear.  He was terrified about the pain that he would soon experience.  

Then, Judas betrayed Him with a kiss on the cheek.  When we are experiencing heartbreak, we sometimes wonder if he can understand.  Jesus didn’t date or marry, so how could He understand the pain of a breakup or divorce?  But those questions show our lack of full understanding.

Jesus IS love.  He loves everyone with a deeper love than we can ever imagine.  He loved Judas, the man who betrayed Him with a kiss.  Did He experience heartbreak in that moment?  Absolutely.  We cannot fully grasp the extent of God’s love while we live in these earthly bodies, so it is we who cannot understand this heartbreak, not Jesus.

Father Larry continued to describe the pain of His Passion in a more detailed way than I have ever heard before.  He described the way Jesus was scourged and how the pieces of metal and sheep bone that were attached to the leather straps on the rod would not just slap Jesus’ skin, but tear it away.  This reminds me of the scourging scene in The Passion of the Christ when the metal on the strap gets stuck in Jesus’ side and is then ripped away with an extra tug.  I am unable to watch that moment in the film, yet this was the way the entire scourging process unfolded.

Father Larry described the crown of thorns as more of a cap of thorns.  The thorns were not like those on your average rose bush; they were one to three inches long and he said that they would have pierced his eyebrows, ears, and even his skull.  

All of this pain, and yet the actual crucifixion had not even begun.  It was then that Jesus had to carry the wooden crossbeam.  It was tied to his arms, but he was so exhausted from the scourging that Jesus could barely walk.  If I was to fall down, I would catch myself with my hands, but every time Jesus fell, He landed flat on his face, with the wood of the cross smashing into the back of His head.  

On most crucifixes, Jesus looks to be in pretty good shape.  We don’t want to terrify the people who enter our churches by portraying Him in a more realistic way, with chunks of flesh removed from his body and other strips of flesh torn and hanging, but that was the reality of the crucifixion.

I have heard so many people who refuse to watch movies about the Passion because it’s too much for them to handle.  I, too, prefer movies that lack that type of gore, but it is necessary to understand.  Father Larry did not mince his words in talking about the crucifixion.  It was absolutely gruesome, but we must realize that in order to be truly aware of the awesome gift Jesus gave to us in His death.

Once He was nailed to the cross, His body would sag down and forward.  He would be gasping for breath, only able to breathe once he pulled himself up by the nails in his wrists.  He only spoke seven times while on the cross, probably because every word was a struggle.

He was hanging there, experiencing more pain than we can ever imagine, yet He said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  He was forgiving the people who were killing Him at the very moment of His crucifixion.  Yet we sometimes find ourselves unable to forgive those who hurt us years ago.
During the crucifixion, Jesus also established His mother, Mary, as our mother, when he said to John, “Behold your mother.”  He gave us the gift of Mary, yet some Catholics refuse to honor her as they should because they want to focus on Jesus.  We take Jesus’ gift of Mary and say, “No thanks, I’m good.”  She is a gift from God and we must give her the love and gratitude that she deserves as mother of our Savior.  Father Larry told us how he completed St. Louis de Montfort’s Total Consecration to Mary and now wears a chain on his wrist to represent how he is a slave to Jesus through Mary.

Because God cannot be near sin, Father Larry explained that Jesus said, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” when He had accepted all of our sins.  God could not be with Jesus in that moment because Jesus was sin, which could only be overcome through His death.

With that, many of us were already feeling quite guilty, knowing that we had a hand in Jesus’ death.  I’ve met people who don’t like to say “crucify him” aloud when we read the Passion during Lent.  But although we didn’t say that word for word, we say it every time we sin.  We are the ones hammering those nails into Jesus’ hands and shoving the crown of thorns into His head with every sin we commit.


At that point, Father Larry started to review the examination of conscience with us.  

When people hear the term mortal sin, they often think about murder, adultery, and devil worship.  But mortal sin has three facets:

-full knowledge

-full consent

-serious matter

As a practicing Catholic who understands the Church’s teachings, that means that any time I commit a serious sin, it is probably a mortal sin since I know the teachings and I have chosen to commit that sin.  That is absolutely terrifying since it only takes one mortal sin to end up in hell.

Missing Sunday Mass or a holy day of obligation is a mortal sin unless we were really sick or otherwise unable to attend, yet there are tons of Catholics all over the world who are not at Mass each week.  Sure, some of them fail to realize that is sinful, but many of them do and are therefore culpable.  

When Father Larry spoke about the first commandment about not having false gods, he explained that most people never confess that sin, but all of us are guilty of it.  Unless God is always first in our lives, then we are culpable of that sin.  We often value money, success, and relationships more than God, which is shown in our priorities.  If we don’t pray daily, we definitely are guilty of this sin.

Father Larry did not shy away from sins of a sexual nature.  This can be an awkward subject for many, so some Catholics shy away from this topic, but it is a sin that so many people struggle with.  He admitted to dealing with his own lustful temptations on a daily basis.  I think it’s extremely honorable for a priest to stand up in front of over a thousand people and admit to that.  It also helps us to realize that we are not alone, that we all face temptation, but that we also all have the strength to avoid that temptation.

He also said how too many people focus too much on feeling bad about their sins of lust while forgetting about the sins of omission, arguably the worst sins.

He said how he often asks people in confession what they have done to help the poor and whether or not they pray every day.  Failing to do either of those things is much worse than many of the sexual sins that we focus on.  We should all be helping those in need as much as we can, giving 10% of our income away.

We must confess the sin if we ever had an abortion or helped anyone to get an abortion.  He suggests making a good confession and then asking God to reveal the child’s gender.  Then they would name the child, pray to him or her in Heaven, and ask that child for forgiveness.  They will then be united one day in Heaven.

It’s also a sin if we use artificial contraception.  This is a topic that many priests avoid.  Many people don’t want to make too many waves, but we must not forget about pivotal Catholic teachings as a result.  They want to pick and choose which teachings they believe in, but that is not how it works.  When we think back to Jesus’ suffering and death, we know that it was a result of each of our sins.  It is not up to us to decide.

Many frequently people say “oh my God!”  That is a sin that used to be punishable by death.  Just because we hear other Catholics and sometimes even priests or nuns say it does not mean that it is not a sin.  We have no right to take the Lord’s name in vain.

People often think they’re safe in terms of the fifth commandment since they haven’t killed, but we commit that sin every time we feel anger.  Anger is not of God.  Father Larry admitted to struggling with this on a daily basis.  Again, it was refreshing to understand that we are not alone in our struggles.  Priests aren’t immune from temptation and sin either.

After he reviewed the examination of conscience, we said the Act of Contrition aloud.  There were eleven priests who would be hearing confessions and he told us to be quick, not using it as a time for counseling since there were so many people there.  He also said that if we were one of those scrupulous people who had just been to confession three days ago, we needed to go to the back of the line to allow other people to confess their sins.  

The next night, he said how he ended up hearing confessions until 12:10 am and how there were some people there who had not been to confession in over fifty years.  He wanted to make sure that people in situations like that would not have to stand in the back of a line, possibly changing their mind and leaving with all of that sin hanging onto them.

Although I go to confession regularly, I felt even more renewed after confession on Wednesday.  I had never delved that deeply into an examination of conscience.   I had never felt so guilty about the sins that I have committed but simultaneously, I had never felt so loved and grateful for God’s mercy.

When my CCD students went to confession this year, I explained how fortunate they would be if they ever died on a day they went to confession.  They were obviously taken aback, but Father Larry explained the same thing, how if we died following a good confession, we would go straight to Heaven.  He even mentioned his movie idea of a priest who performs confessions and then slits the throats of the person who just confessed his or her sins since that would get them straight into Heaven.

Father Larry promised that during this mission, nobody would ever be bored and that their lives would be changed forever.  Through his animated, enthusiastic speech, jokes, and storytelling, we were definitely never bored.  And our lives were definitely changed forever.  I will never consider my examination of conscience the same way I had before hearing this talk.
I am so grateful that I was able to attend Wednesday night’s talk and I hope to be able to share Father Larry’s messages with the people who were not able to attend the mission.

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Confession lines on Wednesday night

Laying Down My Life

Last night I went with four friends to Catholic Underground in New York City.  It was my first time at Catholic Underground.  There are hundreds of young adults (in addition to people of all ages who are there to worship Jesus.  It is simply amazing.

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Catholic Underground NYC

First is Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.  During adoration, there are a bunch of priests hearing confessions.  They sing the night prayer and then they turn down the lights while singing some praise and worship music.  After adoration, they have music downstairs in the basement of the church, with different performers each month.  While the music is playing, people share in fellowship, meeting new people, and finding old friends.  I was excited to run into a friend from college who is now a sister, which I hadn’t even realized.  It was so nice to see her again after so many years.

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My friend from college

So the main song they sang last night was Hillsong United’s “Touch the Sky.”  I had not heard this song until last night, but the lyrics really struck me.  Today when I woke up, I had the song stuck in my head, so I looked up the video on YouTube and I watched it on repeat a few times, tears streaming down my cheeks.  These weren’t tears of sadness but rather tears of awe in realizing all of the blessings I have received from God in the past few months.

Here is the video if you aren’t familiar with the song:

Last night, this part of the lyrics kept being repeated while we prayed at adoration:

My heart, beating

My soul, breathing

I found my life, when I laid it down

Upward, falling

Spirit, soaring

I touch the sky, when my knees hit the ground

The line in particular that resonates with me is this: “I found my life, when I laid it down.”  I always try to remember to ask for God’s will when I pray for the desires of my heart.  Sometimes it’s difficult to know whether I am following my own path or the path that God wants me to follow.  But I also believe that the things that I want the most, in the depths of my heart, must be things that God also wants for me.  Not passing wants like material items, but the things that I yearn for in the depths of my soul…I believe that God placed those yearnings there because He wants them for me as well.

It had been my desire to move to New Jersey for years, since high school or possibly even middle school.  I was so excited to finally move here last September.  I had wanted to live here for so long, and it was great in the beginning, but then when my boyfriend broke up with me in February, I was a mess.  My Lyme was acting up.  My job was stressful.  Things seemed to be falling apart.  I started wondering if my move was a big mistake.

I began doubting myself and my trust in God, wondering if maybe things weren’t working out because it had been my desire to move here and not His.  But now that months have passed, I can see how His plan was unfolding all around me while I was completely oblivious.

I didn’t move here because of my boyfriend, but he definitely made the transition a lot less frightening.  I knew him, his family, and his friends.  I knew which towns I liked, which schools I might enjoy working in.  I was relatively familiar with the area.  We were both confident that our relationship was headed toward marriage.

So February tore me apart.  I had envisioned us together forever, without a doubt in my mind.  Suddenly all of my plans for the future were discarded.  I was left alone, without a single friend in the area.

I was lonely.  I didn’t understand what God wanted from me, but I focused on Him as much as I could.  I was on my knees in adoration, crying, not understanding His plan.  It was lent, so I was at Stations of the Cross every Friday.  I was reading the Bible and devotionals.  I was coming closer to Him than I had been in a while.

Eventually, through a small Catholic young adult group, I met someone who I now consider to be one of my closest friends.  During my loneliness, I really just longed for a friend.  I dated a little bit, but I didn’t really want to jump back into another relationship after having been in 2 long-term relationships back to back, which accounted for the past five years of my life.

It required me losing everyone around me to find this new friend, and I bet that if I had still been in a relationship with my ex-boyfriend, I may have never ventured out to the young adult group.  I may have never met her because I had been spending most of my free time with him.

So my friend (her name is Gabriella) invited me to her Bible study.  Through this Bible study, I have met even more Catholic friends in the area.  Some I am closer to than others, so I was excited when Gabriella invited me to Catholic Underground last night because we would be carpooling with three other members of the Bible study who I didn’t really know too well.

The five of us drove to NYC, talking, praying, and learning about each other on the way.

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The five of us from Bible study at Catholic Underground

During adoration, I thought about myself just a year ago.  At the time, I thought that I was happy.  I was with a guy I was positive I would marry.  But that relationship wasn’t truly fulfilling the desires of my heart when I really think about it.  We went to church together, but we never prayed together or went to Catholic events together.  We didn’t really talk about God all too often.

Then I thought about my sadness back in February, without any friends in the area.  I felt like life was just ruined.  I hated the weekends.  During the work week, I was busy, but weekends would come and I had exactly zero plans.

Now I consider this weekend.  On Friday night, I went to a Tenth Avenue North concert with one of my new friends from my young adult group.  Yesterday I went to Catholic Underground with four friends from Bible study.  Myself back in February would have never believed me if I had told her to just keep waiting and praying and that everything would get better.

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My friend and I at Friday night’s Tenth Avenue North Concert

Last night I realized that although I didn’t intentionally lay down my life for Christ, as the lyrics in that song mention, it is what happened unintentionally after my breakup.  I had nothing but my faith.  I was falling to my knees in adoration (“I touch the sky when my knees hit the ground.”) and slowly I started to meet people.  My breakup was in February and I don’t think I met Gabriella until around June, so it took a little while for things to start falling into place.  I needed that time to myself to focus all of my energy on the Lord.

Today I am so incredibly grateful of the way everything has happened.  I now can’t imagine life without these new friends.  We meet every week on Thursday evenings for Bible study.  We have a young adult holy hour once a month.  This past Thursday there were 12 of us at Bible study.  12 young adults eating dinner together, reading the Bible together, providing advice and a listening ear to each other, laughing together, and simply sharing time with one another.  I feel so incredibly blessed.

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This past Thursday’s Bible study group

Last night all of this really hit me because it’s so easy, like mentioned in today’s Gospel (Luke 17:11-19), to forget to thank God for all that He has given us.  It is easy for me to turn to Him when I am brokenhearted, sick, or dealing with the loss of loved ones.  He is my go-to when I am struggling.  But I sometimes forget to look back in thanksgiving to see everything that he has bestowed upon me.

I am now confident that my move to New Jersey was by no means a mistake.  Instead, it was a leap of faith that has now enabled me to grow so much in my friendships and in my faith.  I had to lay down my former life.  I had to move away from the people I knew in Connecticut.  I had to be left single and friendless.  I had to seek God with all of my heart, and slowly but surely, joy has reentered my life, and for that I am incredibly grateful.  God is so good and His plan for our lives, if we listen to Him and pray to follow His will, is more glorious than we could ever imagine.

“I found my life, when I laid it down.”

Do We Want the Relationship or Just the Facebook Status Update?

I read a really interesting article on the Huffington Post a few weeks ago.  You can view it here: We Are the Generation That Doesn’t Want Relationships.

The article basically discusses how we want all of the perks of being in a relationship without any of the work:

We want a second coffee cup in our Instagrams of lazy Saturday mornings, another pair of shoes in our artsy pictures of our feet. We want a Facebook official relationship every one can like and comment on, we want the social media post that wins #relationshipgoals. We want a date for Sunday morning brunch, someone to commiserate with during the drudge of Mondaze, a Taco Tuesday partner, someone to text us good morning on Wednesday. We want a plus one for all the weddings we keep getting invited to (how did they do it? How did they find their happily ever after?). But we are the generation who doesn’t want a relationship.

It moves on to say that the reason we don’t want a real relationship is because we don’t want to become vulnerable with our emotions, so we stay guarded so as to avoid getting hurt.

I can absolutely understand that, not that it makes it a good thing, or a healthy way to live.  I’m 28 years old.  I’ve had my heart broken a few times (even when I was the one doing the job of breaking up with a former boyfriend).  It’s hard.  It sucks.  Now that I’m single again, I’m just kind of tired of the ups and downs.

I know that I’ve verbalized more than once the fact that I’d rather be single than be in another relationship that will just fizzle out.  Sure, I’d like the boyfriend to be able to go do fun activities with.  I’d like to not have to worry about whether or not I have the plus one for the wedding I’ve been invited to.  But I don’t want the heartache that may come with the end of another relationship.

Author Kristi Wilkinson also writes that we, as a generation feel entitled to love, like we feel entitled to full time jobs out of college. Our trophies-for-everyone youth has taught us that if we want something, we deserve it.

But if we cannot open up and share our innermost feelings with another person, even at the risk of being hurt, then that love will never be able to find us.

I think she states it perfectly when she writes: We want a placeholder, not a person. We want a warm body, not a partner. We want someone to sit on the couch next to us, as we aimlessly scroll through another newsfeed, open another app to distract us from our lives. We want to walk this middle line: pretending we don’t have emotions while wearing our heart on our sleeve, wanting to be needed by someone yet not wanting to need someone.

I have to admit that am guilty of this.  I want someone to share time with, but I don’t want to feel like I have to “check in” each day.  I want someone to go mini-golfing with, but only on that random evening when I happen to be bored and alone.  I want someone to go out to breakfast with, but then leave me alone to finish my marathon training in peace and hang out in my pajamas without a care in the world.

Sure, I’d like to meet the right person, but I guess I have to ask myself whether or not I’m ready to put in the work that requires right now.  I like my independence.  I like being able to do what I want when I want (unless of course it’s an activity that I can’t really do alone, in which case,  I end up frustrated by my singleness).

I’m guilty of so much of what Wilkinson writes about, especially now that I’ve made friends in the area.  After my breakup in February, I was desperate to meet the right guy, simply to fix the problem of my loneliness.  I know that loneliness isn’t the right reason to date someone, but I felt so isolated living in a new state without any friends.  Now that I have friends, my singleness isn’t such a terrible thing.  If I was in a relationship, it would be more difficult to juggle the time between work, volunteering, friends, family, and a boyfriend.

So yes, I’d like to meet a great guy.  But right now, maybe it’s not so bad that I’m content with my life as it stands.  I must be open to being vulnerable if the right person crosses my path, but for now, it’s better to embrace my singleness than wallow in self-pity.

We Shouldn’t Be So Cavalier About Divorce

Scrolling through the internet this morning, I found this: Hilarious ‘Divorce Selfies’ Remind the World that Breaking up Can be a Good Thing.

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Okay, sure, I guess it can be funny.  But for me, I definitely find it more sad than funny.

We live a world in which marriage has lost its sanctity.  I hear of so many couples who don’t really even care about getting married since they believe that it’s just a piece of paper.  They live together and eventually get married, mainly because it’s just the thing that couples eventually do, or because they want to have a fun wedding and honeymoon.

I think that is a big reason why divorce is so prevalent.  Of course it doesn’t seem significant to get divorced when you view marriage simply as a piece of paper.  Divorce, then, is also just a piece of paper.

Because I believe in the sanctity of marriage, I believe that marriage is a true union of two people.  A married couple has become one.  Because of that belief, divorce would be devastating (as it is for most couples).

I am all for maintaining a positive attitude when life gets you down, but divorce isn’t something to be happy about.  I’m sure that the couples pictures aren’t truly happy, but the pictures just seem to be sending the wrong message.  Many of them could easily be mistaken for happy couples who are in solid relationships.

This also demonstrates the problems with social media.  We all put our best faces forward when it comes to the internet.  If you have a bad day and a bad picture, that probably isn’t going to make it to Instagram.  We all know most of the Instagram selfies were probably selected after 50 other almost identical photos were scrutinized.  We’ve all seen those girls snapping away at themselves while slightly adjusting the angle each time, hoping that their couple of extra pounds will be hidden with the combination of a high angle and perfect lighting.

And now the problem isn’t just regular selfies, but post-divorce selfies as well.  These couples are breaking up not just a relationship, but a marriage.  Some of them may even have kids together.

So although I’m not judging these couples and their selfies, I’m just saddened to see how cavalier the whole idea of both marriage and divorce have become.

 

 

 

Dumpee or Dumper?

I don’t know if other people feel the same way as me, but I think I would rather be the dumpee than the dumper.  I’ve been in both positions a few times, so here are my thoughts on the two:

Dumpee:

During sophomore year of college, I was dating a guy who I was confident that I would be with forever and who I would one day marry.  When he broke up with me, it hurt like crazy, especially since I had to see him every day in class and around campus.  I was sick with Lyme, I was away from my family, it was no fun.

Then, just this past February, I was dumped again by a guy who I was confident was the person I would stay with.  And it absolutely sucked.  I had moved to a new state, I had no local friends or family and I missed my old job at the time.

However, in both situations, I knew that I could not change the situation.  I would not put myself at the level of begging for either of them to change their minds.  I knew that if it was meant to be, it would eventually happen.

I think that’s why I prefer to be the dumpee — because I am at a lack of control.  I usually like control, but when it comes to relationships, it can be overwhelming.

Dumper:

I absolutely abhor breaking up with people.  I think it’s because I hate making people feel bad.  I know how miserable it can feel to be dumped, but I feel more pain at the thought of causing another person heartache.

I had to break up with my first boyfriend over the phone from college.  That wasn’t too bad since our relationship hadn’t lasted long and I was now an 8-hour car ride away (in Ohio) while he was still in his senior year of high school in Connecticut.

Then I was in a 3-year on and off again relationship.   Why was it on and off again?  Because the situation was in my hands.  The first two times I broke up with him, he was devastated.  Although I never really saw us together forever, I know that he did.  Upon breaking up, I would feel sad (as is normal) and eventually he would contact me saying he missed me and by that point, I would second guess myself. Did I make the right decision?  But he’s such a nice guy.  Maybe if this one thing changed, then we could work out.

I always reconsidered once I knew how sad we both were, not realizing that even as the dumper, you’re still allowed to feel sad.  It’s still a loss.

Just this week, I had to again be the dumper, although not in a real, long-term relationship.  I had been dating a guy since the beginning of May.  He was infatuated.  He was a nice guy, but I wasn’t super attracted.  He had a good job, he knew how to cook, he worked out, enjoyed the beach, liked to travel, everything that I want in a guy (well, minus the religious aspect).  On paper, everything sounded great.  But I just knew that he wasn’t someone who I was excited about.  I want to be with someone who I can’t wait to see.

I had just been on a trip to Kansas City for work and he kept telling me that he missed me.  I could never say the same.

So tonight I ended things with him and although it went smoothly and he understood, I still feel so bad.  Although I’ve only known him for two months, I didn’t want to cause him pain.  He was already planning my birthday gift, and talking about taking trips to Philly and Baltimore and although I was excited about all of that, I knew that I couldn’t use him for those things, since I really didn’t see a lasting relationship in the works.

Last night I planned to end things with him, but then he mentioned my birthday present and I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.

Today I hemmed and hawed all day, thinking of both sides.  Mentally, I am exhausted.

So for me, as much as it sucks and as painful as it is, I would rather be dumped by a guy than vice versa.  I like the lack of control that it allows.  I like the fact that there is no second guessing.

With my most recent ex, I still don’t know exactly why he broke up with me.  As frustrating as that is, I know that he was confident in his decision.  Looking back, I respect him for ending it when he did rather than stringing me along.  And I like that fact that if anyone is reconsidering our situation, it’s him and not me.  The ball is not in my court, so it’s a little bit easier to move on.

 

 

 

His Perfect Timing

I really believe that everything happens for a reason.  I find myself repeating that line over and over in my conversations, especially with my students.  But sometimes it’s so difficult to actually heed my own advice.

I can’t say that I love the fact that I have Lyme disease, but it has forced me to grow in so many ways.  If it had not been for Lyme, I might not be a runner right now, something that I love so much.

Upon graduating from college, my goal was to move to the Jersey shore.  Things didn’t work out initially and I had to work in Connecticut for five years, but I had amazing experiences at my job there and I had the opportunity to meet some awesome students and coworkers.

Two years ago, I met a man who I really thought I was meant to be with and when he suddenly ended the relationship, I was lost and confused.  I felt especially lonely since I was living in a new state.  But looking back, I think that he was the reason why I had the courage to take the leap of faith that required me to pack up my life and move to New Jersey.  If I had been in a relationship with someone in Connecticut, I may have second guessed myself.  Or if I had been single, I may have simply been to afraid to move somewhere where I didn’t know a single soul, leaving behind my job, apartment, friends, and family.

I could go on and on with examples of other times when, looking back, I can see God’s work, but the most recent occasion happened last night.

Since moving to New Jersey, I have been hoping to meet some like-minded, Catholic friends.  I don’t want to be picky when it comes to friends, and I have met great people at work, but I want someone who really gets me and understands why I am the way that I am.

I was so fortunate to have attended Franciscan University, where everyone is Catholic and it is so easy to find people who will push you to be a better person.  Out in the real world, things aren’t quite that simple.  I want a friend who I can talk to about my faith without them thinking I’m too hardcore, or some sort of Jesus freak.

So about a month ago, I was reading the church bulletin, hoping to find something geared toward people in my age group.  I saw a little blurb asking for young adults in their 20s and 30s to try to start a CORE team for Theology on Tap.  I immediately sent an email when I got home to say that I was interested.

We ended up meeting at a place in Belmar a few weeks ago, but the turnout was not great.  There were 5 of us, and only 2 of us were actually from the parish.

We had a nice time, but I was not looking too optimistic about this group, considering that there was only one person who was actually from my church and in my age group.  So we met again the following week and this time, there were only 4 of us.  It wasn’t looking very promising at that point.

In trying to think of possible future activities, we decided to go to a place near St. Rose for dinner at 6pm and then walk over to adoration (my church has Eucharistic adoration from 7-8pm on Monday evenings).

Last night, to my surprise, there were 8 of us at dinner!  I was so excited that it was more than just the four of us.  I ordered my typical water without ice and then I heard the girl across from me, Gabby, order the same thing.  I know it seems totally random, but most people think it’s strange when I order water without ice.  When someone asked us why we don’t like ice, we immediately responded with the exact same sentence at the same time about how it makes the water too cold.

Then I was talking about my previous day’s 11.5 mile run and I found out that Gabby also runs and that she’s done a half marathon before.  I was really excited, thinking that maybe this was finally someone who I could get along with well.

I had a great time at dinner just talking with everyone and getting to know everybody’s back story.

Then we walked over to church for adoration.  A few people had to leave due to prior commitments.  During adoration, I usually pray the whole time, read a book, or do something else that really requires my full thought.  I started off that way, praying about the things on my mind, but then I just felt like being still and trying to listen to God, knowing that He has a plan for me.

I didn’t feel particularly inspired, but I left church feeling happy that I had left time to be with God on my busy Monday.

As we were walking outside, I saw Gabby approaching us in running clothes.  She was trying to get back in time for benediction, but she had just missed it. She asked if I wanted to go for a run since she was headed to the boardwalk.  At first, I didn’t really want to since I had eaten a BLT and fries for dinner and I never run that close to eating.  But how could I turn down the offer to finally have someone to run with?

So I drove her to my apartment and changed into my running gear, and then we went for a short jog on the boardwalk.  I couldn’t believe how many things we had in common.  My birthday is July 20th and hers is July 16th of the same year.  She’s also left-handed.  Obviously those are pretty insignificant things, but I felt like we could have talked for hours.  We talked about relationships and the struggle that it is to find a guy who is actually committed in his Catholic faith.  How it’s easy to find nice guys, but that nice isn’t good enough.

I sometimes feel like I’m too picky when it comes to guys, but I don’t just want a nice guy.  There are plenty of those around.  I want a nice guy who loves God and who loves his Catholic faith.  And being Catholic alone isn’t really good enough.  If a guy simply goes through the motions of attending Mass, that’s still not really what I yearn for.  I want someone who is passionate in his love for the Lord, someone who makes his faith a priority.

Yet while I want someone who is passionate, I also want someone with other interests, someone who likes to do things outside of church as well.  I have looked at guys on Catholic Match before, trying to see if there was anyone who I was interested enough in to actually pay for the subscription, but I don’t love the idea of paying to find a relationship.  And many of the guys who I’ve been on the site are one of two options:

Option 1: They’re Catholic in name only, mainly on the site to meet nice women, but they aren’t passionate about their faith.

Option 1: They’re passionately Catholic, but they seem to lack social skills and they don’t share common interests with me.  It seems that all they do is related to church.

And this is why I sometimes feel too picky.  Yes, I want a Catholic guy, but despite my love for my faith, I have many other interests.  I don’t want to spend the entirety of my weekends in church.  I love running, kayaking, hiking, going to the beach, mini-golfing, and just being outside in general.  I want someone who can share those interests.  Is it impossible to find someone who shares these feelings?

Looking back on my relationship with my ex, I really thought that we were headed for marriage.  We had talked about engagements and future plans.  I was confident in us.  But I see now how I was still settling.  Yes, he was Catholic, but he refused to say grace aloud at a restaurant because he didn’t want people to look at us.  He didn’t want to go to Mass on holy days.  He went to church with me every Sunday, but he didn’t mind missing Mass here or there.  He was always complaining about the homilies.

He didn’t really like going to do outdoor activities as much as I did and was very happy to watch TV or movies instead — something that I only really do on a rainy day when I have no other plans.  He loved going out to watch movies at the theater, while I would rather spend my money going to a nice dinner and watching a movie at home.

He had no desire to travel  — something that I am so passionate about.  Yet I was okay with that.  I thought that our relationship was worth sacrificing travel for.  And it wasn’t even his refusal to go on mission trips with me…he wouldn’t even go on a day trip to another city.  I had accepted the fact that I would probably just continue to volunteer overseas alone, while he stayed home to coach football.  Football was his passion and although I learned a lot about it, I really don’t care at all about the sport.  He was a great guy, but he was probably right when he eventually decided that we weren’t right for each other.

Maybe it could have worked out just fine.  But I am still hoping that God has something even better in store for me.  Maybe, once I meet the right person, I won’t have to sacrifice some of my passions.  I know that any solid relationship requires some sacrifice and compromise, but it’s tough to decide how much is acceptable. It’s difficult to know if I’m giving up too much of myself in order to be in a certain relationship.

Gabby has the exact same feelings as me, and similar situations with dating.  If it wasn’t a work night, I am sure that we could have just talked for hours.  And she said something that really resonated with me, about listening to the desires of my heart.  If there is something that I really seek in a man, that is something that I shouldn’t give up on.

I know that if I had to choose the perfect person for me, he would love God above everything else, but also enjoy being outside and staying active, and be eager to travel with me.  I don’t want to have to compromise on any of those three things.  If I did compromise and find myself in a marriage with someone who didn’t fit those criteria, I think I would be always curious if I could have found a better person if I had waited it out.  And that is what would lead me to a divorce.

Do we necessarily need to enjoy all of the same outdoor activities?  No, but some should overlap.  I’m not expecting or even seeking a guy to accompany me in marathon training.  But I hope I can find one who will cheer me on at the finish line.  I don’t need a guy who loves kayaking, but maybe instead he enjoys hiking.  He has to enjoy some of the activities that I enjoy.  Does he need to jump on a plane for 14 hours to go trekking with gorillas in Rwanda?  No.  But going on a drive to the Baltimore Aquarium, or flying out to see the Grand Canyon would be awesome.  And he would need to be supportive of the mission trips that I go on, not upset with me for leaving for a week or two.

So Gabby and I chatted about jobs, relationships, dating, our faith, and friends over our 2.3 mile run.  She told me how she loves going kayaking and stand up paddle boarding on a river that is close to where her sister lives.  She also enjoys running and the beach.  Although I don’t drink, she assured me that I will enjoy going out with her to experience the Belmar night life with her and some of her other Catholic friends.

I drove her back to my car, we exchanged numbers, and I left feeling so excited about the way the night had played out.

A few hours before, I had come home from work, went to the beach, and I was actually feeling a bit frustrated knowing that I would have to leave the beach early to shower and go out to dinner.  But I am so happy that I went.

I have no idea what will come with this young adult group or this friendship, but I am absolutely thrilled to find out.

I couldn’t even fall asleep last night because I was just in awe of the way God works.  My relationship ended in February and I took time to work on myself.  During Lent, I had been going to adoration every Monday and Stations of the Cross every Friday.  I went to Mass every Sunday and I went to confession twice.  I was reading my devotional daily and trying to pray more than I had been in the recent past.

I also worked on restoring my health, through hot yoga and running.  I needed to be alone during the past few months to get to where I am right now.  And maybe He now knows that I’m ready for more, whatever comes from all of this.

They always say that things happen when we’re least expecting them and I think last night was a perfect example of that.  I went to dinner expecting there to be four of us, maybe five max.  But everything fell perfectly into place.

I wish that I was better at waiting patiently and trusting in Him, but I get so impatient when I feel so alone.  I need to remember that He truly has the best plans for me, even if they don’t happen as quickly as I think they should.  Waiting is key.

And the idea of waiting reminds me of a blog that I wrote on February 11th, about The Difficulty of Waiting.  At the time, I was just frustrated that I had to wait to see how life would unfold, but now, in June, I am starting to see the fruits of that message in my devotional about waiting.  It had said this:

“Your path is difficult.  There is no work in life so hard as waiting, and yet I say wait.  Wait until I show you My Will.  Proof it is of My Love and of My certainty of your true discipleship, that I give you hard tasks.

Again, I say wait.  All motion is more easy than calm waiting.  So many of My followers have marred their work and hindered their progress of My Kingdom by activity.

Wait.  I will not overtry your spiritual strength…

All your toil in rowing and all your activity could no have accomplished the journey so soon.  Oh, wait and trust.  Wait, and be not afraid.”

Four months later, and maybe the waiting has finally paid off.  I am eager to see what unfolds next.

God is so good and I am feeling incredibly blessed.

 

“Piece by Piece”

I recently watched a YouTube video of Tyler Ward’s cover of Kelly Clarkson’s song “Piece by Piece.”

Here is his version:

And here is her version that she performed on American Idol:

By the end of both versions, I was brought to tears.  The song is so emotional.  It about her feelings regarding her father who abandoned her, contrasted with her husband who is now a loving father to her daughter.

Some of the lyrics read:

And all I remember is your back

Walking towards the airport to leave us all in your past…

But piece by piece you collected me

He’ll never walk away

He’ll take care of her

He’ll love her

Piece by piece

He restored my faith

That a man can be kind

And a father should be great…”

I can’t entirely relate to the song since I’m not married and I don’t have children, but the lyrics touch me so much.

I know that I’m pretty jaded regarding marriage and fathers in general.  The line “he restored my faith that a man can be kind and a father should be great” is so simple, yet so striking at the same time.  Although it’s not intended to be a religious song, it also reminds me of my Father in heaven.

While I haven’t found a man to heal my wounds and restore my faith, God has been there through my doubts and struggles.  He is the father who fills my heart when my earthly father is not around.

I recently returned from visiting my dad’s side of my family in Brazil.  They were all blown away by how rarely I see my dad.  I’m used to it, so I sometimes forget about it, but telling them how infrequently I see him and seeing their faces full of pity made me realize how sad it really is.

But I walk with the faith that God is there through it all, supporting me when I need it the most and helping me to get through any obstacles that I encounter.  It is Him who is the great father in my life.  It is He who has collected the shattered pieces every time my heart has been broken.  It is He who has been a constant in my life.

Life Doesn’t Always Have A Happy Ending

Jodi Picoult (author of My Sister’s Keeper) is one of my favorite modern authors.  I find myself so captivated with her books because they always keep me guessing.  I never expect all of the twists and turns that occur with her plots.

I recently finished reading her novel, Leaving Time.  In the beginning of the book, it reads:

“The moral of this story is that no matter how much we try, no matter how much we want it…some stories just don’t have a happy ending.”

I really had to stop and think about this line for some time.  I have always believed that everything happens for a reason.  At first thought, that seems to contradict Picoult’s sentence.  However, upon considering it a bit more, it’s not a contradiction at all.

Just because something happens for a reason does not mean that something happy has occurred.  Often times, it’s just the opposite.

I don’t proclaim with joy that I have Lyme disease; however, I do realize the ways in which it has been beneficial to my life.  Although I would love to have grown into a stronger person without having Lyme, I appreciate all of the ways that is has strengthened me.  Lyme has allowed me to be grateful for the days that I am healthy enough to work out.  It has definitely helped me to live a healthier lifestyle in general.  It has also increased my faith in God.

I am thankful for the struggles that I experienced as a result of growing up with a single mother who, at the time, did not have a college degree and was always struggling to find good jobs.  Without that experience, I would be a completely different person today.  It was from these experiences that I developed my work ethic and drive.  It was through witnessing my mom’s struggles that I found the motivation to excel in school.  I knew that I had to prove to my mom that all of her efforts in raising me were not done in vain.

Although breakups are never fun, I know that looking back, there is always a reason for the time that was spent with ex-boyfriends.  I don’t regret having dated any of my exes because I believe that I learned valuable lessons from each of them.  Although it’s difficult to see why things had to take the route they did during the moments surrounding a breakup, I believe that there is always a reason for each person having been in our life.

We can yearn for those happy endings forever.  That doesn’t mean that is what will actually occur.  We can pray for hours on end for certain things to happen.  But just because we don’t get that joyful response that we were looking for doesn’t mean that God didn’t answer our prayers in some way.  Often times, our prayers are answered in the ways that were least expected.

My Lyme story has no happy ending.  It has strengthened me and increased my gratitude, but having a chronic illness will never really be something that can be considered “happy.”  I may have flare-ups for years to come, if not forever.

My relationship with ex-boyfriends will also never have a happy ending.  I don’t believe that the whole friends with exes thing is a realistic goal.  I miss having those people in my life, people who I had at one point opened my heart to.  But just because that happy ending was missing does not mean that those years were wasted.

I left my dream job to fulfill my lifelong goal of living by the beach.  I unfortunately can’t say that life at the shore is all sunshine and rainbows, like my idealistic brain had hoped, but that also doesn’t mean that it was a mistake.  In Connecticut, I was blessed with an amazing job, great coworkers, and family members who lived close-by, but I hated the area in which I was living, and I longed to live at the beach.  Now I’m living at the beach, but I don’t know many people in the area, family or friends, and it can definitely get lonely at times.  Was it worth it?  I think so.  Is there a happy ending?  I’m not really sure yet.

So just because something turns out in a way that is different than we hoped or expected, just because it doesn’t seem to be a “happy ending,” does not mean that it was a waste.

Life on earth is wrought with struggles.  That is to be expected.  Every person on earth will one day die.  As I grow older, I will lose the loved ones around me.  I’m not trying to be cavalier about it, but we must be realistic with ourselves that sadness and pain are facets of life.  Happy endings aren’t always possible or realistic.

I hope and pray that my happy ending is to eventually make it to eternal paradise in Heaven.  That would be my ideal happy ending.  But here on earth, I can’t expect things to turn out perfectly.  All I can do is move forward each day with the confidence that everything can and does happen for a reason, no matter how difficult each obstacle may seem at the moment.

Don’t Rush Your Life Away

I’m 27 (and a half).  I’m not your typical girl who has envisioned all of the details of her wedding day.  I actually tend to dislike most weddings.  I’m also not your typical girl who oohs and aahs over babies.  Yes, I like children, but I don’t particularly feel the yearning to have a baby at the moment.  Yet I can’t help but feel like I’m falling behind when I see how friends from college have been married for five years and they already have three children.

It’s so easy to get caught up in those sorts of things, which sometimes causes me to feel like I’m missing something.  I now have students who I taught while I was student teaching who are engaged and married.

It’s easy to get consumed by all of those stories and to feel like a bit of a failure when life doesn’t seem to be working out the way that it “should.”

But I must stop and remember that I really do have a lot of great things in my life.  I have a solid career, now onto my 6th year of teaching.  I have a beautiful apartment.  Since my boyfriend broke up with me three weeks ago, I have been trying to delve into my faith more deeply than I had recently.

Tonight at Eucharistic adoration, I was just thinking about life in general.  I see engagement after engagement, wedding after wedding, baby after baby.  Although I don’t feel like I need any of those right now, they are difficult to ignore.

My students are always talking about how people these days are too picky, how anyone who is still single after 30 is just being too picky and they will probably end up alone.  Granted, this is advise coming from a bunch of 17 and 18 year olds, but still, I sometimes can’t help myself from thinking about their comments.

But when I think about what I would want in a future husband, I want things that I’m not sure that I’ve found yet.  Some of these include:

-Someone who loves God more than he loves me

-Someone who is bringing me closer to Heaven

-Someone with whom my soul could spend eternity

-Someone who brings out all of the best qualities in me

-Someone who will pray with me

-Someone who I can be myself around

-Someone who is confident, yet humble, kind, yet not a pushover, friendly, but not crass or vulgar

I know that God has a plan for me, which may include a husband (or it may not), and which may include my own children (or it may not), or it may include adopted children (or it may not).

I need to maintain the faith that I will know when things are right.  Granted, I truly believed my most recent boyfriend was the one I would spend the rest of my life with, but maybe when I really find the right person, it will feel different than this.  Maybe the certainty that I thought I felt will be multiplied exponentially.

I would rather be single and lonely now as opposed to divorced and lonely ten or twenty years from now, after settling for the wrong person.

27 is still young.  I could still end up in so many situations.  I could stay in New Jersey forever.  Or I could randomly end up living across the country.

That’s the great thing about life – its uncertainty.  None of us know where we may end up in the future.  We just need to trust that God has our best interests in mind and that He will help to lead us in the right direction as long as we try to follow His will for us.

Focusing on Me

Life has been a bit hectic lately.

-My boyfriend dumped me almost 3 weeks ago

-I live in a new state where I don’t really know anyone other than my ex and his family

-My job has been extra stressful lately, due to some deadlines that are quickly approaching

-My Lyme disease has been acting up

-My mom, who I usually call after work, is on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land (which is completely amazing, don’t get me wrong.  But selfish me is sad that I can’t call her)

Although my breakup is definitely not easy, I figured that the timing was pretty good since Lent is a time to reflect and make sacrifices and focus more deeply on God.

That’s exactly what I’ve been trying to do.  I’m trying to focus on God and also focus on bettering myself, in terms of my faith, my diet, and my exercise.

Faith

Although I’m absolutely still upset, I’m finding moments of peace with God.  So in terms of my religious journey this Lent, this is what I’ve been doing so far:

  1. Every morning I read the day’s devotional from the book, God Calling.  I then read the day’s devotional in a Lent booklet that I got at church.
  2. On Fridays, I go to Stations of the Cross.
  3. On Saturday or Sunday I go to Mass.
  4. Last week I remembered that Mondays are a holy hour of Eucharistic adoration at my church, so I went to confession and then to adoration.
  5. I had given up all non-Christian music for Lent, so I’m listening to the Christian radio station or my Tenth Avenue North cd on repeat since I just love it so much.

Food

I usually eat pretty healthy when I’m by myself because I really don’t mind eating the same things over and over.  I don’t mind eating healthy (or even bland) things.  So these are some of the foods I’ve been eating lately since they’re easy to make and also healthy (minus the random desserts that I obviously sneak in):

  1. Quinoa
  2. Kefir
  3. Black beans
  4. Broccoli
  5. Green Beans
  6. Organic chicken breast
  7. Wild salmon
  8. Greek yogurt
  9. Guacamole
  10. Fuji and golden delicious apples
  11. Sweet potatoes
  12. Kidney beans
  13. Carrots
  14. Wild Rice
  15. Mushrooms
  16. Organic skim milk

Exercise

I’ve also been focused on getting back into shape.  2015 was not a great year in terms of my Lyme symptoms.  I am determined that 2016 will be better.  So this is what I’ve been doing to better myself in terms of exercise:

  1. Hot yoga – I’ve never done any kind of  yoga, but I signed up for ten 75-minute sessions of hot yoga.  It’s way more difficult than I expected, but I’m definitely starting to enjoy it.  So far, I’ve gone three times.
  2. Running – I used to be able to run a half marathon, no problem.  Now I’m slowly working my way back up to distance running.  Last week I ran a 5k (3.1 miles) in 29 minutes and I was pretty happy with that since I haven’t been running much lately.
  3. Walking – On days when I’m too sore to run, I go for walks on the boardwalk or on the beach if it isn’t too windy.
  4. Lifting – I’m slowly starting to lift weights.  My shoulders have been very tight, so I’m going easy on the weights for now.
  5. Plyometrics – I do some of these exercises to gain strength for my running.  Squats, jump squats, lunges, jump lunges, burpees, etc.

Unfortunately, the end of this week was not great in terms of my exercise, due to stressful situations at my job, but I am trying my hardest to relax and stay calm and not allow the stress to cause my back to hurt too much.

Now that spring is quickly approaching, I am ready for a new beginning for myself in so many ways, and the first part of that requires me to focus on my health and well-being so that I am able to more easily accomplish my goals.