Wednesday, November 30, 2005

My Special Thanksgiving

I realize that all of you spent your Thanksgiving around a real table with real (breakable) dishes and eating real Thanksgiving food. You all were surrounded by family and furniture and got watch the Macy's Parade on a real sized TV. For years, that was the way my Thanksgiving would unfold. Relaxed and restful. This year, however, was different, for my family.

We were moving all through out my break. As is typical with the Smiths, we had our last minute crises, like me getting sick, and almost not being able to rent a U-Haul truck. I think my family is God's comic relief because when I stand back and watch us do things like move, it turns into a huge charade and I can just see God watching us like we were His latest sitcom.

Anyway, we are now in Texas. We have neighbors who introduced themselves, and the town we now live in has stores! Our house is absolutely beautiful and the nieghborhood is very welcoming. This all is very strange and foreign to us. I told my Dad over break that it feels like we have been on a hardship tour overseas for a year (for those of you who aren't military, that is a difficult assignment in an foreign country). We are literally coming back into civilization and I have realized how hard the last year truly was.

Of course, things were rough moving. Kansas took one last successful stab at me before I left, taking something from me that I truly loved. And we will be a long time recovering financially from the last year. So, really, things will never be the same. We've lost quite a lot in the last year.

But as we sat around our plastic card table adorned with tupperware and turkey breast, I couldn't help but be thankful for the past year. Only God will ever know how rough it was, but through it all I gained so much. I suffered. I love being close to Christ by suffering. It's an incredible and humiliatingly wonderful experience. I have a much closer bond with my family. Through the tough times, we pulled together. I have seen my family's faith flourish. I have never felt so incredibly close to that awesome God as I do now. And I have friends.

My friends will never know how much they helped get me through. I felt the prayers and was appalled at their worry for me. I have never had friends until this year. I am so blessed and thankful for all of them. Each and every one of them had their arms open for me if I needed a hug or some support. Their words and advice were always perfect and exactly what I need to hear. They stuck by me, even when others wouldn't. My real friends, which is so lovely to say, they know who they are. They are such an incredible blessing to me.

So, as things wind down and we move into our Home this Christmas, I will sit by the tree, thanking God in His infinite mercy for three things. I will thank Him for our new life as a family. A home is such a dear thing. I will thank Him for my family, which has grown this year now including our dear Molly, and the closeness we share. I will also thank Him for the wonderful people He has put into my life, my friends.

God is incredible. He gives so much and expects nothing in return.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

The Cocktail Party

This last week has been one of the most hectic in my life. I had three huge papers that I had to have finished before I left for break and personal stuff going on. And anything that could have gone wrong, did. It's amazing that this little chic is still standing. But, I reign victorious.

I had a dilemma, however, with all this nasty stuff going on. This week and weekend was the fall play, "The Cocktail Party". At least four of my friends were involved in the production of this play. And of course they laid the pressure on thick. "Are you going to the play we worked so hard on?" the three seniors doing backstage work asked. Of course, they asked the day that I saved over a paper that I had spent three days writing. It was all I could do to look at them with out passing out from shock. At that point, I saw no possible way of being able to go. I broke the news to them with a shattered heart (yes, Ted, I do have one of those even though I shaving creamed your room Friday night).

I then made the goal. I was going to have the papers done by Saturday night so that I could go to the play on Sunday. Oh, the fates tried to stop me (they are hateful, wicked things!), they tried. But, they failed. I got my papers done last night and went to the play this afternoon.

Ok, I would like to commend everyone who was involved with that play. It was a phenomenal production. And I was told by a two people, whom are dating eachother, that it wasn't a great play. They told me this before I went to the play, so I was set up for disappointment. But I came away apalled. The actors and stage crew pulled off a wonderful and moving performance and I was left breathless. I laughed through the first act and cried throughout the second. The play was incredibly deep.

The actors and actresses seem to become the people they were playing and it brought me so much further into the play. The dialogue was incredible and the emotions they felt danced perfectly across their faces.

So, I just thought that I would take a moment and thank my friends for insisting I go. And also congratulate them on a wonderful and moving performance! You all were awesome!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Consoled in His Lap

I have realized, through a series of unfortunate events, that this semester has been quite trying. And not just on me. All of my friends seem to be dealing with issues. These issues are flying perpetually at all of us and are quite a load to handle. From relatives with health issues to that world of love, we all have had our share of crosses. And the crosses keep coming.

There have been several nights that, on our hall alone, at least four girls are crying. We all just get so down and laiden with the suffering that we need some kind of outlet. So, girls do the logical thing. We cry, because clearly this is going to solve all of our problems. Anyhow, usually whoever cried the night before is holding the ones who are letting out thier tears on this particular night.

I am thankful that most of my girlfriends (except two, who should be over more often than they are) live on my hall. This is such a comfort as is the fact that we all are going through growing pains together. It's so much harder when you're the only one. So, this semester has found much chocolate given and coffee brewed for sad little girls.

But at the heart of our home here on campus is a wonderful little home that seems to call all of us there, regardless of the extent of the sufferings with which we are dealing. And in that little home is our Dad. He loves us so tenderly and dearly, more than we can ever love Him, even in the most intimate of moments. And as we kneel before our Daddy, we gently place our folded hands on His big knees and implore Him to just pick us up and hold us for a little while to ease our aching hearts. And He will. He will gently pull us into His lap and we can place our little heads agains His chest and cry and tell Him all of our worries and fears. We can cuddle in His arms and if we let go enough and trust Him enough to hold us, we can even hear His heartbeat while our heads lie against His chest. And when we are done crying and feel consoled, He sets us back onto the ground, where we can pick up our crosses, feeling strengthened and loved.

God, I like to believe, is not some foriegn mass of being somewhere in the cosmos. He is a big Daddy who loves his sons and daughters. We may grow and suffer and become adults, but in the eyes our our Heavenly Father, we are always seven years old, still small enough for Him to pick us up and hold us when life gets us down. And when we are ready to carry on and pretend for the world that we are stong grown ups, we can get back down from His lap and carry on with our crosses. And these sufferings never end; they change and new ones come, but we are always suffering. And until life gets us down, our Dad is awaiting us in that little home, be it in our neighborhood or on our campus, until we come to climb back into His lap for more love.

So, while life may get us down, I pray that we never forget our Daddy sitting patienty in our Home waiting for us to come and cuddle for a little while. He is there, always.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Those Lovely Little Moments

I was at the cemetery yesterday afternoon and a thought suddenly struck me. All of these people, now passed on to eternal life, were pilgrims here on earth. Each of them had time on Earth to prove his or her love for God before being called home. How many of us forget, including me, how little time the amount is that we spend in this life. A lifetime, when compared to eternity, is a fleeting moment and how quickly we forget this.

We become so wrapped up in our daily lives, worrying about who has ceased speaking to who, about quizzes and papers, and about what we will be doing after school. Stress is a nasty thing. It begins to grow, like a disease, and consumes us. It seems to be a tool used by Satan to wedge his way between us and our Father. Before we know it, we are no longer focusing on the eternal life.

But, as always, God comes through. While so much on this Earth is fleeting and superfluous to worry about, God sends us Little Moments to remind us.

Yesterday, I arrived back in my dormitory after Mass. I sat down in the hall with my friends, Niki and Laura. We were all so consumed with stress that all we could do was stare at our shoes. Suddenly, Niki spoke out, commenting on how beautiful she just knew Skyline Drive was during this time of year. Laura looked up, guiltily, as did I. All three of us were thinking exactly the same thing. We all darted into our rooms and were changed in five minutes. As we met in the hall, I had a sudden inspiration. "Let's kidnap Ted and make her go!" The girls laughed.

Since Tuesday, Ted and I had been faithfully going to the cemetery every night to pray for the poor souls, gaining a plenary idulgence each time. So, I called her phone and told her we were going to the cemetery. She fell right into the trap.

I have not had such a lovely afternoon in a long time. The four of us girls sat at Skyline for forty-five minutes, awed by the beauty. It seemed as though God had painted the landscape just for us. We then headed to the Daily Grind for coffee, sitting for half an hour just chatting and catching up. For the remainder of the afternoon, we prayed and meditated at the cemetery. It sounds quite morbid, but actually it was so good for all four of us, who have so many things going on in our lives.

The afternoon was definitely one of those moments. But the evening held a moment, as well.

One of the girls who went with us got a migraine in the late afternoon. By the time we got back to campus and had finished dinner, she was not at all well. So, she came back to my room and I gave her a head rub. She fell asleep in with her head in my lap for two and a half hours. I was so happy. All I could do was just look at her lying there in my lap so peacefully and I was just overcome with how much I loved my dear friend. She looked so very beautiful. It was such a simple moment, and I know He sent it to me. He was trying to remind me that, while most friends come and go, there are always those few who will be there always, even if not physically. This friend of mine is one of the first real friends I've ever had. Gratitude and love just washed over me anew every minute.

These Little Moments that are so precious are tiny reminders of the happiness that Heaven shall hold for us. Sometimes, when I am in the middle of these lovely moments, I can't help but think, "If life is this wonderful right now, I can hardly imagine what Heaven is going to be like." God wants to remind us where He wants us and He uses, among othere things, little spiritual candies of happiness. We get to suck on them for brief moments and then they are gone. We must relish them while we have them and love those around us while they are there with us.

So, I hope that, while it is inevitable that we become consumed by stress and worry, I never am too far gone that I can't stop for a moment and appreciate the falling leaves, the history in the graveyard, or the simple beauty of a sleeping friend. Thank God for Little Moments!

Friday, November 04, 2005

Friendship: A Valuable Vocation

Life has this funny tendency to teach us these huge lessons when we least expect them, much less want them. Sometimes, these lessons suddenly come to our attention one day. They just kind of hit us all of a sudden in the middle of the day, causing us to stop and wonder for just a few moments. Others try to slowly reveal themselves over a long period of time and can be quite a painful blessing.

I have been made the victim of the latter type of lesson and this has made realize just how many people go through this life, from all walks, completely ignorant of the value of a real friend.

I am the product of public school. I was only homeschooled my senior year, spending the previous eleven years in a classroom setting. I have many stories, especially from the later years, that would raise the hair on the back of any neck. But out of all the things I was faced with on a daily basis, the one fact that still haunts me today was the devalue of friendship. I never had real friends in high school, or during any of my shcool years for that matter. But, ask any Catholic student in public school and you'll find this is not uncommon. No one in public school anymore bothers to make friends, unless there is some profit in it for his or her self. This bothered me a great deal at the time, but I always consoled myself by thinking that this wouldn't happen when I was at college or as an adult.

I was wrong. I have learned that, regardless of your where you are, there are always going to be people who don't value friends. If they don't get the personal profit, they let you know stingingly and move one, leaving you standing there wondering what just happened.

Friends are people that God puts in your life to get you to Heaven. These are people that God somehow sees us as deserving and are huge blessings. How selfless a task these people are only too happy with which to help. These people help us through our sorrows to see the blessings that will come and they laugh with us in our joy, which is a mere glimpse of that Heavenly happiness. These people pray for you, cry for you, laugh for you, and try for you. It's not always a fun job, that of a friend. And the giving is not always 50/50. Sometimes, it's 75/25, where you're the one doing all the giving sometimes. But that friend for which you are trying so hard needs you. That's why you're giving so much. And next week may find him or her returning the favor.

Friendship is a vocation to which God calls us. As with every vocation, it isn't always easy. However the benefits and the love which we recieve from this person are so rewarding. Watching that person slowly blossom and grow in thier spirituality while you grow in yours is an incredible thing. You are walking with this person closer to Him. God lets you have these people, who love and care about you, in your life so that you have a shoulder on which to cry and lean and a heart to give love and find support . And you must be willing to do the same for the other person.

People forget this. They forget how powerful friendship can be. Maybe that's one blessing that I took away from public school -- I know the value of people and more so the value of friends. People lose sight of this far too easily. And when someone whom you thought was a friend walks away, the pain never fully heals.

Even so, those who are true friends will be rewarded greatly in Heaven. They are fulfilling their vocation. I have many acquaintances, but very few real friends. That's what I've learned over the past few weeks. But those real friends, and they know who they are, are such a blessing to me and I will be ever grateful for all the things they've done for me.

It is my hope that everyone who makes the pilgrimage through this life has a friend on which to lean. And I hope they never forget the value of Friends.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Catholic Guys are Awesome!

The average single girl has proclaimed, at least once in her time as a single girl, that men are morons. We do this in times of intense frustration with the opposite sex or when there are only one or two of us sitting in our empty rooms on any given night when our attached friends are out with their significant others. Now, this flippant statement probably is better not stated, but for centuries our female ancestors have been guilty of similar statements, so obviously it is something genetic or has root in the Fall. All the same I, too, have been guilty of once in a while being frustrated with the male gender and have made similar claims concerning the moron-ness of men.

I now realize that all along I was wrong. Men are not morons. I mean, as any self-respecting girl will tell you, they have their moments. However, men can be so incredibly wonderful. Especially Catholic guys.

Last night, I was at the Halloween dance at the O'Donnels'. The evening was full of revelry, chatting, and dancing. The costumes were wonderfully done, especially the two security guards that showed up. It was a nice chance to catch up with friends and just have some fun. As the night drew on, however, the weather grew more and more cold. About fifteen minutes before the end of the dance, my friends and I were ready to go. It was decided that I would follow Micah in the mini-van and Sophi and Ashley would ride with me. Micah took a ditch in the yard with no problem and was on the road fine. I, however, was not so sure that my rather tiny car could manage it. After much insistance that I would be fine from one of the girls in my car, I attempted the ditch. I also failed. My car was stuck. I tried reversing and drive, but to no avail. I began to panick.

My Dad, an incredible man whom I adore, taught me that, when I first learned to drive, the primary rule of driving was: Never panick. This ran through my head as I exited my car to speak with Micah.

Five guys then attempted to get my car out of the ditch, again to no avail. I was beginning to get very worried. I prayed to God and Saint Faustina, an incredible saint, to get me out of this mess. One of my guy friends told me to call Road Side Assistance under my insurance agency. The agency told me this was not covered under my policy. It was then that I began to cry. Mrs. O'Donnel told me not to worry, but at that point it was already too late. Almost all the cars were gone by this time and already some of the guys that had been helping me before had gone back to campus. I began to get myself ready for the dreaded phone call to my parents.

This is when it happened. This is when I was proved wrong about my erroneous summation of men. Out of nowhere, almost fifteen guys surrounded my car and, after calming me down, grabbed the front of my car and had it out of the ditch within thirty seconds. It was the most incredible thing I've seen in long time. Some rather small girl in trouble and, with out giving it a second thought, fifteen selfless and strong guys get me out of a rather large mess. They all are my knights.

I want to personally thank everyone of the guys who spent time out in the cold night to pull me out of the ditch. I hope each of you know that I am forever grateful for your strength and kindness. You all are awesome. Catholic guys are awesome!

Thank you to each of you.