Walk this way

“Did you know that to worry about a situation you are making a conscious choice to do so?”

-Mike C. Adams

Sometimes I can be so indecisive, putting off making a decision until the very last minute. And once I make a decision, I find myself second guessing it, debating whether it was the right choice. Worrying what might happen as a result of the decision or what people around me might think. Every decision we make can have such a ripple effect. Having a choice is a great thing but it can be stressful at times.

The other day I was talking to a friend. Somehow we started to talk about the birds in the sky and how they fly without really knowing where they’re going or having a choice. Yet they seem at such peace, careless, and free. Sometimes I feel like our ability to make choices often weighs us down, complicate things, and hold us back from making the right choice. There are so many times when our ability to choose is influenced by fear, anger, anxiety, or our desire to be in control. But birds just seem to trust and not worry. Not concerned with where their next meal will come from, overthinking everything they have to do, and faced constantly with having to make choices. They just fly and trust.

Years ago, a friend got me a plaque with the verse “show me the way I should walk”. Although it’s meant to be a spiritual insight, it was kind of an amusing gift because of my issues with walking.

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Watching birds fly in the sky reminded me of this verse. They are not concerned with making choices or worried about anything beyond the present moment. Sometimes I feel as though our ability to choose can be our downfall in life. There’s so much chaos going on in our world right now, differing opinions, and so much of it is affected by choice. Seeing birds flying carelessly in the sky reminds me to trust. To not obsess over making quick, rash decisions or worry about things outside of our control. But instead to ponder all things in your heart and to trust.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding

-Proverbs 3:5

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Sunrises and gratitude

“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We only have today. Let us begin”
-Mother Teresa

I love to wake up early during the summer and watch the sunrise, there is something so beautiful and breathtaking about it. Sunsets are equally incredible but watching the sunrise just sets the tone for the day. Sunrises are full of promise, full of wonder, and each unique in their own way, To me, a sunrise is God’s way of saying “Good morning, this is for you”. Sunrises on the water are my favorite though, the sun reflecting off the water. Even on the days where it’s slightly overcast or rainy, I still love seeing the sunrise.

As my mom and I were watching the sunrise at the beach, we both wondered if people who live on water take sunrises for granted. Do they enjoy them each day or do they just become used to seeing the sunrise and become so concerned with other things that they don’t have time to enjoy watching the sunrise? But that made me think how much do I fail to see the sunrise even when I’m not on vacation or I’m in a rush? Worried about taking care of a, b, and c, wanting to be in control of the day, and not taking time to enjoy the present moment.

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Friday I celebrated 25 years since undergoing my first surgery to remove my brain tumor. Over the years, so many people have told me how unfair it was for a child to experience something so scary. Yes it was scary but I will always say that it was the greatest blessing of my life because of my age. First of all because I don’t remember much except the few things that mattered to me. Like the love of my family, the kind nurses and doctors, and having to wash my hair in the kitchen sink to avoid getting my stitches wet. Second of all because that’s when I first learned what it meant to be strong, courageous, and to have hope. My parents both made sure to remain calm and brave in front of me despite knowing I had a rapidly growing brain tumor. Because of the way they acted in front of me, that made me believe everything would be alright and to stay strong and fearless. It also tested my faith at a young age which looking back, I’m grateful for that because it helped me to understand what it means to have childlike faith. At a young age, I learned what a gift life is and to not take life for granted because it can change with the blink of an eye.

I’d like to say being a childhood brain cancer survivor makes me never take life for granted but that would be a lie. It’s probably safe to say we all take life for granted at times. It’s easy to get caught up in the politics of life, the difference in opinions, and, in our everyday anxieties. I try to be grateful everyday but easily get distracted by worrying about things I can’t control which only lead me to feeling discouraged, uneasy, and hopeless.  But with each sunrise I’m reminded of what a privilege it is to be alive, even if it’s a rainy sunrise.

“The secret to happiness is to live moment by moment and to thank God for all He, in His goodness, sends to us day by day”

-St. Gianna Molla 

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Taking chances

Be weird. Be random. Be who you are. Because you never know who would love the person you hide.”

― C.S. Lewis

Life has a tendency of giving you moments that you never see coming. Undxpexted moments that make you stop and smile.

The other day, a friend of mine was able to attend a last minute prom that had been postponed by quarantine. It reminded me of prom my senior year when I was prom queen. It was a moment I totally didn’t expect and I actually nearly missed. I had no plans on attending prom my senior year. I didn’t feel like dealing with the drama of finding a date and all the other things that go along with prom. Plus, I had swim practice that night and at the time, that was more important than a dance. It was not until the week before prom that my friend convinced me to go. Good thing she did because there would have been an issue if I was a no-show. Being prom queen was never something I really cared about or spent my time thinking about. I always thought it was a ridiculous high school thing, and it is in the long run. But in a way, being prom queen was an unexpected honor and surprise.

Like most people in high school, I struggled with fitting in and finding who I was. Let’s be honest, high school is a very awkward and difficult time for the majority of people. It’s filled with emotions, drama, and struggling to find yourself. For me, I definitely went into high school as quiet, shy, and not really knowing where I belonged. It was so important to me to fit in that I usually pretended to be someone I wasn’t. Like I was hiding the real me, afraid people wouldn’t approve. At some point, I started to ask myself “how do you want people to remember you as 10 years from now?”. And it was with that thought I started to reinvent myself, let people see the real me. So being prom queen my senior year, as crazy it sounds, it gave me confidence in knowing that my peers appreciated who I am, despite my disabilities and all the other flaws.

The other week, I was watching a Q&A with a wise old priest. Someone asked him what advice he would give to young people. Although I don’t really remember his word for word answer, basically he said find your confidence and you’ll find your vocation. Many people associate vocation with religious things but most don’t realize vocation applies to all. Vocations describe our careers, our livelihoods, and discovering what we are called to.

So you’re probably wondering how this relates to prom queen. The moment I started to consider how I wanted to be remembered is the moment I unknowingly stopped to think about my vocation. By making a change and taking the chance to be who I really am instead of what people expected, I took a step towards finding that confidence and my vocation.

“Discovering vocation does not mean scrambling toward some prize just beyond my reach but accepting the treasure of true self I already possess. Vocation does not come from a voice out there calling me to be something I am not. It comes from a voice in here calling me to be the person I was born to be, to fulfill the original selfhood given me at birth by God.”
― Thomas Merton

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Watermelon and being in control

“You wouldn’t abandon ship in a storm just because you couldn’t control the winds.”
-St. Thomas More

Life is such a gift. Sometimes I find myself overwhelmed by all the  ways I’m blessed each day. But sometimes it is a little more difficult to see the blessings. I’m typically very grateful for life but like most people, I have those moments where gratitude is a struggle. Moments when I wish I could control everything in life and am so caught up in thinking about the bad things in life that I become blind to all the good, positive things. Well, there’s nothing quite like nearly choking to death on watermelon to help keep my gratitude in check.

The other day, I was just enjoying some fresh cut watermelon and a tiny chunk got lodged in my throat. One of my lesser known disabilities is I actually don’t have gag reflexes so as a result of this, I tend to eat slower than most people. It’s really not much of an issue, I’ve learned how to work around not having gag reflexes, however there are times when it causes problems. But because of this, it is not weird for me to cough a little after drinking water because it went down the wrong pipe. So when I started to cough after swallowing a piece of watermelon, I thought nothing at first. But within a couple seconds, I went from coughing to gasping for air. Thankfully, my mom was in the room and being used to my random coughing after eating, thought nothing of it until I started gasping. While asking if I was okay, I pointed to the container of watermelon and she knew exactly what I was saying. Next thing I knew, she tapped my back and out flew a tiny piece of watermelon. It was an exciting couple of seconds.

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Earlier that day, I had been overwhelmed with worry and anxiety about little things I have no control of and focused more on the future instead of the present moment. But choking on that watermelon made me realize how there are so many times in life we just need to let it go and not always worry about being in control. When you’re choking, it is our first instinct to immediately panic and start coughing but that often causes our throat muscles to overwork or become irritated which only makes the issue worse. But by remaining calm and not worrying about being in control, it makes it easier for your throat muscles to relax and slowly respond on their own time. This might seem like an odd train of thought to some people but after wasting my morning worrying about things I can’t control, it felt like someone was trying to tell me something. To let it go, relax, and stop wanting to be in control. “I’ll take care of this for you.”

“God is still writing your story.
Quit trying to steal the pen”

-Toby Mac

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The best is yet to come

“Always remember that your present situation is not your final destination. The best is yet to come.”

-Unknown

It is so easy to fail into despair and depression at different times in our lives. To feel overwhelmed by uncertainty of the future and the constant change life throws at us. 

This weekend I was reflecting on life and feeling a bit anxious. With this whole virus still going on, so many things seem to be up in the air. I should be grateful I’m healthy and for my life but it’s so easy to throw a pity party for yourself sometimes, worrying about things you can’t control.

In my random thoughts, I remembered a time in college I felt this way, overwhelmed with life, worried about my future, and feeling lost. After a rough semester at another college, I transferred to Mount St Mary’s University and I wasn’t in the best state mentally. I felt disappointed in myself, depressed that things didn’t work out better, and stuck in life, like my present situation would never change. I’ve always had a very strong faith but at that point my faith was more like something thrown to the side instead of at the center of my life. One of the things I loved most about Mount St Mary’s was always having some sort of social event that would help you grow in your faith. One evening, as I was throwing a pity party, my friend asked me to join her for praise and worship. I didn’t really feel like doing my work and thought why not. As I sat in the chapel, listening to music being played, I poured out my heart to God. My fears about the future, my doubts, and anxieties. In the midst of my complaining and being dramatic, I felt something in my heart say “the best is yet to come”. 

As simple of a reminder this is, it has stuck with me for years. That following weekend, I went on an incredible retreat that changed my outlook on life. It made me realize my faith needed to be at the center of my life and how I needed to trust God more. The best is yet to come. Years later, I was trying to distract myself by shopping for useless things. Someone very close to me died and as much as I saw it coming, it was pretty devastating. I love tea and drinking out of pretty mugs just make a cup of tea so much better. As I was looking through a shelf of mugs, once again throwing a pity party, I found one that said “the best is yet to come”. Ironically it was the only cup left with that saying. Thank you for that beautiful reminder.

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It is this simple and cliche saying that I cling to so many times in life. It is easy to fail into despair, to be overcome by our emotions, our anxieties, and fears for the future. But with faith and hope, remember the best is yet to come.

“Let us remember the past with gratitude, live the present with enthusiasm, and look forward to the future with confidence.”

Pope John Paul II

 

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Strength in meekness

“What we do in life echoes in eternity”

-Gladiator

Growing up, my brothers and I used to spend our time together watching the latest movies. Having three older brothers and their friends always at our house, I rarely had a say in what we watched. Typically it was action, comedy, something bloody, or sometimes horror. The other day, a friend was talking to me about the movie Gladiator. I think he was kind of shocked I even knew about the movie, let alone that it’s probably one of my favorites. One of the greatest scenes is in the beginning, where the main character says “What we do in life echoes in eternity”. Although it is taken from a quote by Marcus Aurelius, that line is extremely powerful. I remember my brother printing this quote out and taping it to his wall as a daily reminder of the impact our actions can have on others. Throughout life, it’s always been something I’ve kept in mind as well.

As this quarantine goes on, I’ve been trying to find ways to educate or challenge myself every day, listening to different talks, reading scriptures, etc. This week, I listened to a talk on being meek and meekness that really resonated with me. So many times we hear meek and automatically think weak. Like someone who is meek is a complete pushover. It went on to explain how when we are meek, instead of acting in anger, we are able to step back, listen to others, and act accordingly. By being meek, we resist our anger and our impulses to act out in rage or based on our knee-jerk reaction. By being meek, we have control over our emotions and are not driven solely by our desire to lash out in rage. Meekness is not weakness but strength, courage, and self-discipline. My mom once told me “anger is one letter away from danger”, it seems rather fitting when applied to meekness.

In listening to the video, I realized how much I need to work towards being meek. Controlling my emotions and instead of responding in rage, approaching every situation with gentleness, patience, and humility.  It is easy to respond in anger, in our immediate rage, and desire to act. But it takes courage, strength, and meekness to step back, listen to others, and act accordingly.

“Faced with their rage, be meek; faced with their arrogance, be humble.”

-St. Ignatius of Antioch

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Simple doubts

“Doubts and mistrust are the mere panic of timid imagination, which the steadfast heart will conquer, and the large mind transcend.”
  -Helen Keller

The other day, my brother sent me an email titled “free online courses from Harvard”. He and I both have a love for always learning new things or somehow bettering ourselves. And since I have plenty of free time lately, why not take a class from Harvard? But after taking a look at the courses listed, Neuroscience, Law, Biology, etc. , I quickly decided maybe I’ll just stick to reading books and other projects around the house. While I love learning and was interested in some of the courses, I’ve found myself to be more simple the older I get and no longer wanting to know or understand everything.

This past weekend, the Gospel was about doubting Thomas, the Apostle who has trouble believing without actually seeing. Poor Thomas, he gets such a bad rep because he was only doing what we do best, doubting. Recently, my mom introduced me to a series called The Chosen. It is about the life of Jesus and the Apostles. The way Thomas is portrayed, he appears to be very analytical in his thinking, business-minded, and struggles to believe what he cannot see.

I think it’s safe to say we’re all guilty of being a doubting Thomas at some point in our lives. Wanting to see the physical evidence in order to understand or needing to know every reason behind a belief. Although there’s nothing wrong with wanting to fully understand everything in life, there are moments where we have to take that leap of faith and find peace in the fact that we don’t have all the answers. With COVID-19, it’s so easy to get caught up in knowing the latest statistics and all the mass hysteria and anger surrounding the situation. I believe there is a fine line between being informed and being over informed, where knowledge is no longer beneficial but actually harmful because it leads to anxiety, worry, and despair.

Like my brother and Thomas, we all have a desire for the truth but at what point does our thirst for the truth cause us to doubt our every thought and the world around us? At what point do we sacrifice simplicity and our humility in order to gain more knowledge?

“To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.”

-St. Thomas Aquinas

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The Power of a Name

Mary Magdalene stayed outside the tomb weeping.
And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb
and saw two angels in white sitting there,
one at the head and one at the feet
where the Body of Jesus had been.
And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”
She said to them, “They have taken my Lord,
and I don’t know where they laid him.”
When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there,
but did not know it was Jesus.
Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?
Whom are you looking for?”
She thought it was the gardener and said to him,
“Sir, if you carried him away,
tell me where you laid him,
and I will take him.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary!”
She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,”
which means Teacher.

John 20:11-16

The gospel reading for today is one of my favorites. There is something about the emotion and heartache displayed by Mary Magdalene that speaks to my soul, something I can relate to. It is the deep love she holds for someone she cares for, respects, and has now lost. There is something so natural about her reaction that I can envision myself being in the same situation in my own life, feeling the same emotions. Being overwhelmed with sorrow, worry, discouragement, and unable to see past my own issues to see joy and experience the hope and peace that come with it.

One thing that stands out to me is how Mary fails to recognize Jesus until He calls her by name.  It makes me think of how often we fail to hear unless we also are called by name. How we tend to ignore or overlook the signs or messages sent specifically for us because we are too focused on our own problems. How easily we get discouraged if we do not receive an immediate  answer to our prayers.

Most people call me Beth but when someone calls me Elizabeth, it always gets my attention. It’s not that feeling a child gets when they’re in trouble and get called their full name. It reminds me of a feeling of love, belonging, and being appreciated. Msgr. Art, someone who was very special to me, always insisted on calling me Elizabeth. When my dad passed away in 2001, Msgr. stepped right up and became that father figure I needed. Every time I saw Msgr., he would look at me and say “you look beautiful today Elizabeth”, just the way a father speaks to someone he loves. He had a way of always making me feel important, appreciated, and loved, even if it was just by using my full name.

But now, thus says the LORD, your Creator, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine!

Isaiah 43:1

 

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No negativity please

“If someone isn’t what others want them to be, the others become angry. Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own?”

-Paulo Coelho

One of my biggest pet peeves in life is people who constantly judge others. Being judgmental is part of human nature and it is impossible to avoid even when we make a conscious effort not to judge.

Something I’ve realized throughout life is how fear and uncertainty bring about judgement and condemning others. When we are afraid or in uncharted territory, we tend to immediately judge, to point fingers, and act like we know what’s best. 

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I think it’s safe to say we’re in a time of fear and uncertainty. One great thing about difficult times is how it has a tendency to bring us together and unites us in a single cause. I love looking on social media and seeing all the support for essential workers and seeing people trying to help in any way they can. However with many areas of our lives going virtual now and facing so many new regulations, we are in “uncharted territory”. It‘s so easy to judge everyone for not doing enough or doing too much. To point out their mistakes and complain about their failures or lack of doing what you think is right. Our world has enough negativity, there’s no room for judgmental attitudes. Just love, understanding, and kindness.

“While you were busy judging others, you left your closest open and a lot of skeletons fell out”

-Anonymous

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Don’t lose hope

“If you lose hope, somehow you lose the vitality that keeps moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of it all. And so today I still have a dream.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

So I guess there’s no point anymore in trying to avoid talking about the elephant in the room, COVID-19. After a week of staying home, I’m starting to go stir crazy and lose hope that’s there no end in sight. I feel like I’m on an emotional rollercoaster, as I’m sure most people are also feeling. Some moments, I’m overwhelmed with panic and anxiety, while at other times I hand it to God and wash my hands of the worry.

Something I discovered, although I kind of already knew, is how dangerous and depressing Facebook can be. But as I was reading an article, it was discussing the differences between SARS and COVID-19 and it reminded me of my experience with SARS.

In April 2003, I was scheduled to have facial surgery in Toronto, Canada to bring movement back to my face. Being near the end of my eighth grade year, I was disappointed that I would miss many of the end of year activities because of the surgery but I was beyond excited to hopefully have my smile back in time for high school. However because of the rapid outbreak of SARS in Toronto, the surgery was postponed until they had the virus under control. Doctors didn’t want to expose me to the virus while in surgery or during recovery. So the date of the procedure went from planned for the near future to TBD.  I was definitely disappointed. My hopes of having a smile and facial movement by the fall when I started high school seemed like it wasn’t going to happen anymore. I waited years for this surgery and searched for a doctor able to help me and now, I had to wait even longer. I even arranged to make my Confirmation early without my class because I planned on being in Toronto. But instead I ended up being at home in Maryland when the rest of my class got confirmed.

Looking back now, I’m thankful for my doctors not wanting to risk my health. Despite all my fears and worries about it not happening, the surgery ended up being rescheduled for the end of May, only a month later. I started high school that fall with a new smile.

That’s the thing with life, you never know how it’s going to end up or where it’s going. At the end of the day, all you can do is hope, pray, and have faith.

“In the meantime, don’t worry to the point of losing your inner peace. Pray with perseverance, with faith, with calmness and serenity.”

-Padre Pio

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