Wednesday, December 12, 2007

I recently received an e-mail from a friend asking about teaching High School. She was asking for advice. I started by giving practical advice and then told her of the journey I've walked the first half of my year. I felt compelled to share it with those who still are faithful readers.

So, a teacher, huh? My best advice I can give is to start looking now. You are really going to want to start getting your name out now. What area are you looking in? If it's a high-populated area, then the competition is going to be tougher. Take your resume and have Tom in Career Development beef it up. Schedule several meetings with him because you want your resume to look amazing. Make sure it has a bent towards education and childcare. Start sending it out and make sure you keep track of where you sent it. I made a spreadsheet of where and when I sent it off, further communication, etc. After two weeks, call the schools back and ask if they've received your resume.

I am going to be honest with you about teaching high school. It's totally different than anything I've ever done before. I am up at the crack of dawn, at school before the sun is up, and all I hear all day is screams and much talking. As a first year teacher, I am at the bottom of the totem pole. All I hear is criticism; and I have to smile and agree. It's a constant struggle to keep up with grading and a perpetual fight to maintain control of the classroom. For the first three months, I vowed I would not be coming back next year. I hated my job, hated the hours, hated the constant fear and feel of being the lowest of the low. Then, something happened. I looked into the eyes of my students one day as I was teaching. They were Theology! They were hanging on every word. It's not like that everyday, but everyday that's what I work for. I love that this is a completely selfless job. You don't get paid squat, there's hardly any benefits, you're constantly criticized, and you literally never stop going. But, that's not why I'm doing it. I do it because the looks in my kids' eyes when I affirm them or answer a very important Theological question. I do it because I am finding fulfillment in being the lowest. In taking the kids hearts and souls in my hands I may be, through the grace of God, making sure they continue that long, arduous walk towards Heaven. I learned early on that there's a difference between a good teacher and a great teacher; the good teacher teaches, and a great teacher learns while she teaches. I have learned a great deal. I have a post-it note on my computer in my classroom that says, "Remember that you are not here for you, you are here for your children." Honestly, Cass, it's the next best thing to being a Mom. The only difference: I don't take my kids home at night.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

"Stop worrying so much!"

These words are quite familiar to me. I hear them constantly from those closest to me. My twin brother frequently reminds me to just quite agonizing over various things in my life. My boyfriend is famous for employing the above words. But, I admit: I still worry. I agonize and question every decision I make, and criticize and second guess every choice I commit. Why? Quite frankly, because I am mortally afraid of screwing up. That's it, in a nutshell. How can I make every thing go perfectly, every moment run smoothly? Because if it doesn't, it's my fault.

I sit now, in front of the computer, with waves of emotion and questions running through my head. Every muscle in my neck, back, and head are rock. I have had waves of pain running through my head for a week now. I am stressed beyond belief. Why? Because of worrying.

I recently bought a new cell phone plan. What if I bought the wrong one and I am stuck with it for two years? What if I don't get everything done at work before midterms next week? What if I offended the person I spoke to just now on the telephone? What if I don't have the solution to the biggest problem in my life right now (which, by the way, is the only legitimate worry I have; but, it's legitimate)?

The answer is clear. I should know, as a Theology teacher, that the answers to the above question are the same words I preach to my kids everyday: take all things to Christ in prayer. We must trust His divine will over ours. As long as we do all things to glorify Him and His holy works, what wrong can we do? Stuff happens. If I don't get everything done at school, so what? The end will not come any faster. If I don't have all the answers in life, will the Fates come and sieze me? I think not. My mind knows this, I just wish I could make my heart believe it.

Why do place such responsibility on myself? Why do I blame myself for so much and hold myself to impossible standards? I have a vague idea.

I watch the Phlegmatic people flow through life without a care and, being a closet melancholic, I envy them greatly. My boyfriend doesn't let almost anything bother him. "So what? It'll take care of itself." How does one cultivate this attitude? Especially a person with such a propensity to worry? How can I stop the vicious cycle? How does one learn to just slow down and take it easy?

I wish I had all the answers. I wish I knew what tomorrow and next week, next month, even next year, held. But, I know if I did, I'd probably worry about all the inevitable Crosses. I would agonize over the bumps in the way.

I must start taking all things to Christ in prayer. I must learn to start chilling out, relaxing. I must learn from those dearest around me. Loosen up, and have a proverbial beer while taking it all to Christ. I must learn to start trusting Him again. I have been terrible about that. He is my Father, in Him all things will inevitably take care of themselves.

Dearest Father in Heaven, you know all the intentions I hold in the deepest recesses of my heart. Some, I have told no one about. Please, take my yoke and guide me. Teach me to relax in your Holy will for me. In Jesus' name we pray.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

One Year Ago

I am a closet melancholic. Anyone who knows me even the littlest bit knows how often I slip into brooding and obsessive analyzing. I was conversing on the telephone with one of my friends the other night, catching up on life's little events and gabbing like a typical woman. She mentioned how stressed she was because of her thesis and how I probably knew how she felt. A few days later, I was privileged to see the movie Bella again in theaters, and was struck again by the line, "If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans." These two tiny moments caused me to reflect on where I was a year ago.

I remember I lived in front of this computer. Every day, every night found me typing away in front of this little machine. I had to get an A. By this time, I think I was about eighty pages into my rough draft of my Senior Thesis and was scaling back a few thoughts that were superfluous. The final draft was due in a matter of days. It was a Friday night that found me alone in my room, listening to my romantic music, musing on what it if. I had just experienced a broken heart. I was lost in reverie about what the future held. In one year, I envisioned myself attending graduate school at a prestigious school and, since clearly I would be completely single, I would be assisting at a Church as a Youth Ministry Director for High Schoolers. I would be heroically struggling to make ends meet while traveling during my breaks from school. I would be living in Virginia, near my friends.

As my college graduation approached, I was looking at graduate schools in Virginia. Honestly, the schools were chosen only because my friends were near, but I would never have admitted that. I was looking at Youth Ministry positions, trying to register for the GRE, and was thrilled about the new life. And then, God laughed.

I laugh, too, thinking about how drastically my life has changed in the last year. Good times and bad times have come and gone. Crosses given and Crosses resolved. But, I am in no way where I had so romantically pictured myself. I am teaching Theology and English Catholic High School for ninth and tenth grade. After two and a half months of struggling to find my niche there, I have done it. I assist with the Youth Ministry program when I have time to breathe. Only now am I getting ready to take the GRE. Grad school may or may not be on the agenda for next year. I hardly have time to sleep or relax. Nights find me racing to grade all papers I need to get back to my kids. Days find me energetically teaching God's sacred word to seventy innocent and trusting souls and running around trying to get everything done. But, more than anything, God has blessed me with an amazing man. Loving and supporting, he has been such a blessing during the most stressful point of my life. His gentle strength and deep-flowing faith are such an inspiration to me as I try to figure out life.

Despite the web of insanity in my life, I am so happy. Yes, God laughed. Yes, as it reverberated across the universe, my delicate plans fell from the shelf and broke. But, He had better plans for me. Such plans! As I teach, I learn. As I pray, I am in prayer. As I love, I am loved. Could I ask for anything more? And I have no idea what the future holds; I have become more flexible, though. God's will, although known through our desires in our hearts and the petitions in our prayers, are always somewhat surprising. However, no matter how disappointing or frustrating the difference between our plans and His, I know that I shall learn a great deal. As another year flies by amidst tests, projects, fundraisers and love, I shall continue to take each day as an opportunity for sanctity and blessing.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Death's Nimble Steps

Moments are so fluid, so multi-faceted. While one event unfolds in one person's life, somewhere some milestone for another is ending. On October 15 in the evening hours, my friend swerved into a guard rail while driving. At the same Moment, I was receiving the humble word of Love for the first time. And, during that flick of time, my sister-in-law died.

Death sneaks in with nimble steps and thieves life. Warnings come and cautions are made, but still we silly human beings do not heed. We deny what lies in front of our faces; we naively think it cannot happen to us. But, the inevitable comes and we are left with that wretched hollow feeling and a million unerasable regrets. The waves of emotion come, crashing in our minds like giant cliffs of waters against the rocky shore. First, we are left in disbelief, then the realization hits and the pain won't stop. Someone we care about is gone, from this world at least.

I have convinced myself that crying is weakness; crying in front of others is selfish and ridiculous. Today, I cried. A lot. It hurts. Deeply. One of my students approached me to ask about my sister-in-law today and I had to step out of the classroom. I was in and out of the ladies room all day. When people asked how I was, my auto-response was "good." A lie.

For ten months, dearest Kristin suffered. A mere twenty-six years of age, the girl was just beginning life. The world was opening to her and her dreams. But, she was not like any girl; scars covered her arms, legs, and stomach. She had gone through three transplants, took multiple medicines, and lived from lab result to lab result. She had bruises on her arms and plexiglass arteries in her legs. Kristin would never be able to have children. And thus, her motto in life was Carpe Diem! Sieze the day! So, she did.

During her last years on earth, she went on a Cruise, had pets, got married. In fact, I was the first to meet her; she was in my Political Science class. We used to giggle over first impressions and silly fights. One night, my brother came over with coffee for me. Fate happened and the rest is history. And he stood strong through her suffering. Now, she's in a happier place, a place where Angels sing and Saints rejoice. She doesn't have bruises, her scars are gone. The pain and torture of constant surgery and dialysis is over for dear Kristin. She can finally rest without fearing the No Tomorrow. And her family is left to grieve.

We Catholics believe that Death should be celebrated. Prayers are always answered. I cling to this Maxim of the Magesterium. I prayed daily for her conversion and for a matching donor. Neither happened and I am left holding desperately to the hopes given by Mother Church. "No prayer ever goes unanswered." "We live our life for one moment: to die." And so, seizing the day, Kristin passed from a transitory life of suffering to, God willing, an eternal life of bliss. May God rest her soul.

Eternal rest grant upon them, O Lord, and may the souls of the faithfully departed through the mercy of God, rest in Peace. Amen.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

In a Moment's Time

Last week was, arguably, the worst week I've ever experienced. As a school teacher, I have that unconditional love for my students, even when I am conscious of the desire to wring their necks. My case is worse, as I have teenagers; the hooligans with the rushing hormones. Last week, the moon must have been full because my children were out of control. The children's behavior climaxed at the end of the week and I sent a round of students home with punishments. Discouraged, stressed, and tired, I headed home.

And then it happened. I was pulling out from a stop sign (after having looked both ways) and was slammed by an on-coming car. I spun down the road and (after driving south) stopped heading East and he flew into a yard. My car is a mess and his was completely totalled. I have never experienced anything like that. It wasn't until the next day that I realized how hard I was hit. I could hardly move and I was still so shaken up. During some time with Jesus, I realized something.

I remember seeing him come out of nowhere. I remember thinking, "My God, he's going so fast." But, the next thing I remember is realizing I had been hit and my car was probably badly broken. Had circumstances been a little different, had he been coming from a different way and maybe going a little faster, the outcome may have been completely different. My last thought could have been, "My God, he's going so fast." I don't remember him actually hitting me. I don't remember my car spinning down the road. It was like I skipped a moment in time. But, what if there hadn't been another moment in time.

I always try, sometime during my busy and stressful days, to stop for a few moments and pray to Saint Joseph for a happy death. I frequently remind myself that, if my last moment comes, to make some divine ejaculation to the Holy Spirit. I thought I would remember. I did not. Had that been my final moments in this life, I would have failed to pray to the Father for my immortal soul. It really is true that we don't know when our last moments will be, even when we may be in our last moments.

I am still shaken. I hesitate to get behind the wheel tomorrow to drive to work. I haven't slept in two nights because everytime I close my eyes, the accident plays itself repeatedly in my head. But, I learned something. As with all life's events, big and small, I took away a lesson. I must live my life for that moment. Because, God forbid, if it come sooner than expected, I don't want my last thought to be what ruins me forever. I must prepare my spiritual resume in case the end is seconds long.

So much has changed over the last four months. I am appalled at what a path my life has taken. I never would have seen myself where I am four months ago. As always, God sends more Crosses, but one unexpected blessing has come into my corner as well. All of this sumersaulted through my head Friday night and Saturday. With all of these Divine love notes, I must slow down. I need to live my life for Him, doing His will. I know enough to realize that my Father doesn't want me worrying about daily stresses. He doesn't like me running myself ragged. He wants me to calm down, take it slow, and focus on what matters. In this way, I can prepare for that day when the final moments come. And I will be sure that my soul is prepared, whether or not my thoughts are quite as quick.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

All people have one desire in this short life, we long for love. Every being is given a chance to receive this love. Each person born into this life has a fair, equal chance to recieve the greatest gift of all time. Every person is given a family through which we are supposed to receive love.

Sometimes, though, these love-giving units from God are destroyed. This destruction comes from two sources. When we least expect it, when times are most jovial, death strikes. This great ultimate steals the life of those we value most. Other times, the Evil One steals into homes and lodges hate between the family members. These victim souls sadly do not know true, constant, unconditional love. They open their hearts to those it is most natural to allow in, and these people tear and cut the inside. The consequences are deep and silent, until actions by the ignorant cause defensive reactions from those terrified, deeply tortured souls. They trust no one, yet they reach out to everyone hoping to gain the love they starve for so greatly.

Sometimes, these people are given second chances. The One Who is Love sends them people--special people--who have been sent to repair the ache. These little saviours suffer rebuffs and refusals, but they push anyway. They aching soul finally recieves love, often for the first time. These people, often thought of as Angels, are friends.

These friends cannot concieve the immense vocation they are fulfilling. When the aching soul attempts to thank the angels, they humbly refuse the gratitude. The magic, the power, the grace of this affirming, healing, gift of love causes the soul to feel special, wanted, even need for the first time. And the Angels have no idea what they've done.

But, unlike families, these friends often have a far shorter time together. God sends them on to other souls. The aching soul wonders why--why is one given the gift of love only to have it taken away. Then, the answer comes.

These hungry, empty souls--so many in this life--are yearning to be filled. Those few who are given the blessing of friends are given a small, lesser taste of the Love one Man offers us. The angels gently take the hands of those hurting souls and walk them toward the Eternal Light. They give us a sample of true love during this short journey, leaving us thirsty for more but also newly cognizant of the source.
"Don't forget that we never really say good-bye,
we'll always be together in His Sacred Heart."

Those aching souls, now full, have a strange yearning to seek other empty, aching souls and, taking thier hands, give them the love that now fills every part of their being. They know the pain of loneliness and now they know love and the strong desire to fill the empty shells.

These we call friends do not leave us. They simply leave one another's company to continue thier selfless giving. Those now filled begin thier new quest to fill the desire of emptying one's self through love. All the friends find those who are alone and hurting. They fill and repair these souls. Through following this path, and after death comes to all those angelic souls, they truly do find themselves together in His Heart. Together, they rest in the Source of all true, good love. These friends, then, do us no disfavor in leaving; they simply continue walking towards His heart amassing souls. The choice lies with those now given it: Shall I follow? Thus, through our earthly friends, we truly meet our Eternal Friend.

A Random Realization

I really do not know why I thought the late nights and studying would end when I recieved my college diploma. Mistakenly, I assumed the cramming, intense reading and note taking, and class organization would end when my undergrad days did. I would pick those habits back up when I went back to school for my Master's. Not so much.

Every night this week has found me up as late as midnight, typing ideas on the computer or reading out of the school books. I've been trying to figure out what to teach and what to leave out, how to organize the classes, and how to make things run as smoothly as possible. I want to do right and teach those kids as best I can. I want them to know the Truth and know how to use it. I want to teach the kids properly, showing them that learning can be fun. I want to teach them how the Faith is in every aspect of our society.

The other night, a thought occurred to me. I think I discovered the real grain behind teaching. A good teacher wants to teach much; a great teacher wants to learn much. I am very excited to see what I learn this coming year. We think we know everything, but we all know so little. Most often, it is those who are younger than us who know more than we.

So, I shall keep my journey here, for those who care to follow along. And you, my humble reader, may share your thoughts with me.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Dancing Ladybugs

Recently, my three sisters and I were overjoyed when we found we'd be alone an entire weekend. My parents were leaving for a weekend to get some much needed relaxation. They left last Friday evening and we spent the weekend bonding, burning, and watching.

Saturday, after spending several hours getting sunburned at the pool, we came home pained and tired. Dinner, we decided would consist of the pizza Mom had left and enjoying home videos. As we travelled through the last five years of the Smith Family journey, I realized how much had changed in our lives. As we started out, we were still together as one family. But, that was short lived. We watched Justin prepare for and marry all over again, looked on as Drew left home to discover his own path, I left for College and graduated. Emily departed for College, as well, and began dating. Laura and Kathleen watched as their family separated.

The same weekend, my twin brother called with some saddening news. After suffering a great deal over the last few years, this was the straw that broke the camel's back. He lost it. And we cried with him. Kathleen, the youngest, let tears fall freely from her eyes. "I just want to hug him, but he's so far away. I hate being the youngest. I hate having to watch everyone leave!" How terribly sad.

When Justin got married, we children were thrilled. This meant nieces, nephews, and a wonderful wife. But, in a way, we were a little sad, too. The King of Narnia had relinquished his rule. The tight-knit, imaginative Smith clan had realized its first step towards dissolution. The eventual disbanding is inevitable and is something we children feared through out our entire childhood. Losing one another.

I used to think how lucky we were. We children went without so much, materially speaking. No televisions existed in our room, we could not fathom having our own telephone. But, we had each other. Especially we four older children. We spun creative games that would have marvelled even Aesop. Flying animals that saved the world from destruction. A magical kingdom that existed solely on imagination and Faith. Christmas in July and dancing ladybugs in December. Yes, we kids were blessed. And then came the end.

But, we were the end. While we older children bravely took the first step out of the nest, Kathleen and Laura were forced to watch, and stay behind. Yes, they had to suffer through four good-byes and the house became progressively quieter. The flying animals went their separate ways to save the world in different places. The ladybugs flew to different valleys. The King found a Queen. Now, Kathleen and Laura live for the days when the four older children are at home. When the house is full of screams and giggles again. They feed off of the still existent imagination of their older siblings when they are home. Which is not often enough.

As I think back to times long gone, I remember a young blond boy who wove threads of lore into fanciful games and five younger children who clapped and jumped, hanging on for the next idea. I recall a red-headed boy who quietly stood by his brother's side and made intricate toys from Lego's and string. I remember a small, blond girl who lived for each day and revelled in the magic of games. There was a brunette who stood right along side her older sister, waiting to go dance across their bedroom and pull out the Barbie tub. Then, two more girls followed, who were dubbed princesses and carried around on pillows. Time seemed to stretch on and the children lived for each Holiday, most especially Christmas. Magic seemed to perpetually exist visually in the air and one only had to reach out and grasp it.

Now, I see different times. The blond boy lives in South Dakota and has a wife and baby. He makes his family proud with his vast education and incredible job. The red-headed boy became sad and moved far away, still trying to find his way back. The small, blond girl feels acutely the pain of each member of her family as they struggle with their Crosses. She is graduated from College and is all grown up. The brunette holds a lot inside and has become quiet lately. She is in College now and has someone special. The two youngest girls watch quietly and patiently as their siblings go off to fight the good fight, to follow God's will. And sometimes they cry.

Taking the first step out of the nest was scary and daunting. To gather all one's courage and leap meant complete trust. However, I would not trade it for the other option. To be forced to watch a family slowly separate and expand has to be extremely painful. The entirety of my sisters' lives and memory has been saying good-bye. My sister Emily brought up a very good point: "When Kathleen became old enough to finally appreciate what was occurring around her, Justin left." We all soon followed suit. Thankfully, we have our Faith. As Justin has pointed out many times, we all must strive for Heaven. How often I have thought of this. In Heaven we shall never have to say good-bye ever again. Heaven will be the combination of dancing ladybugs in December and Christmas in July, of flying animals and tangible magic. Best of all, we shall all be together for eternity, with the real King, the One Who never relinquishes His rule.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

JP II: I miss you!

Last weekend found my mother, sister Emily, and me at the video store picking out the week's rentals. Chic flicks, action videos, and dramas sat beckoning us to choose them. However, one movie had caught my eye the last time I had been at the movie store. It was no romantic comedy or action thriller. Rather, it was a film about a simple saint known the world over.

As I sat watching the film John Paul II, I found myself becoming acutely aware of how much I missed the man behind that name. He was the first Pope I had known, and I knew him for a lengthy time. A simple man with a unique message, he suddenly met world fame like no other pope in history had. And yet, this did not attack his pride. Rather, he used this to spread God's message even further.

It was from his mouth I first understood the importance of Catholic young people. JP II called out to the young particularly because we have a special mission as new adults in a materialistic and immoral world. Rather than sheltering ourselves from this massive frenzy, we young Catholics should run to seek them. We should pray with them, as John Paul II did with the man who shot him.

It was JP II who started World Youth Day, a time when as many Catholic young people as possible can come together to pray, worship, and learn together. He would speak the most profound words at these functions, illustrating how God's message is not stopped by the barriers of continents and languages. No, God's message overcomes all obstacles.

I still meditate on various precepts of the Faith that JP II clarified during his time as Pontiff. His literature on Theology of the Body has made a profound impact and his numerous encyclicals have affected politics to a degree which many still cannot comprehend. Books, poetry, and other works by the man still circulate and touch readers everywhere. The man was amazing.

So, tonight, as I drift off to sleep, I shall pray that John Paul's message is still propagated world wide. I beseech that all Catholic young people realized the awesome responsibility they have as members of a degenerate society; that we must reach out and bring back the lost sheep. I pray that all who have been touched by John Paull II can give the messages and lessons to those who were not so fortunate to have known him. But, most of all I pray to always strive to put into action the lesson of Love that John Paul II taught through out his life. He truly was the personification of, "Preach the Gospel always, use word when necessary." JP II, we miss you.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Something is Missing

I have done a great deal in my life recently. I have finished two books in three weeks, moved half way across the continent, and graduated from college. When I look back on who I was a year ago and how much I have changed, I am rather surprised. My life a year ago was far different in many personal ways than now.

A little over a year ago, I was surrounded by my friends, many of whom lived on my dormitory hall. We spent a great deal of time together, praying, partying, studying all in one or two rooms. We played Ultimate Frisbee every Friday night, sat in Mass in the same pew on Sunday, and attended many of the same classes. My brothers were married to healthy happy wives and one of the new families was expecting a child. My family and home were in a wonderful condition, everyone was healthy and the home was in one piece.

Fast forward one year. I am now graduated and haven't seen my friends in a month, some for longer. I am having to make some huge and scary decisions about the future, like where I want to work and live. One of my sister-in-laws in sick and her health continues to rapidly deteriorate, while my brother can only stand there and watch. My family's home suffered flood damage and we don't have the money with which to fix it. I have other Crosses, which I shall not mention here.

I remember, a year and a half ago, life was full of luster, everything was new exciting. Things were rolling along. I jumped out of bed every morning and went to bed content every night. Every moment was exhilarating and every breath I took was exciting. I was happy.

I realized today I have not felt that way in for some time. Now, life is a struggle, everything is dull. Things are a struggle. I stumble out of bed every morning nad go to bed afraid every night. Some moments are a Cross and some breaths are more of a sigh. I am tired.

At Church this evening, I was reflecting why I felt this way. What was it that was making me feel this way about life recently. There is no excitement and I am afraid. Why? Then it hit me. To borrow a line from a movie, "Something is missing." Something is missing from my life that makes me feel this way. What is it?

I am not sure. I do know that most of this is probably because my life has been changing faster than I can blink, and the future is incredibly unstable and unknown. I place my hand in the grip of God and let Him lead me to where He wants to go. He will lead me through the dark and give me the missing pieces in His good time. Until then, I shall take it one day at a time until the days are exciting again and each moment is full of anticipation. And then, I shall again live in each moment.

Monday, May 07, 2007

The End Times are Near

As I woke up to my screeching alarm clock the last few days, I have had the distinct feeling as my consciousness faded on that I had to do something big imminently. A few seconds would find me wondering what this big thing was. And then, as the immense realization hit me, I would sit upright in bed and force myself to calm down. The end is near. I have four and a half days left as a College Student.

I find myself asking constantly how I feel about this. There seems to be a general consensus in my Graduating Class of excitement and anticipation; I have a confession: I do not share the same feelings. Please understand me. I will not miss room checks nor will I find myself yearning to relive any Finals Weeks and chasing after that seemingly unattainable A. I will not desire the few times when horrible tests and papers were returned to me. But, there is a great deal of things I find myself already missing.

I will miss reaching out and spanning all of the classes, making friends and trying to know every name. I will miss the Coffee Nights in my room until three in the morning, laughing, worrying, and crying over stupid things that did not seem so stupid. I will miss opening my door, walking across the hall to my friends' rooms or running over to another dorm to "study" with my girlfriends. I will miss the Classes, the pride of my Class, and the growing up I've undergone here. Most of all, though, I will miss the little building that sits at the center of the campus. How many tearful moments I've had in there, either beseeching him for an answer or grateful for his assistance. The Mass, when I have sat enraptured, time after time, as I felt Christ inside my very being.

I look very much foward to what I am called to do following this Saturday. I am terrified, anxious, and scared. But I am also excited, and only because I know God wants me to move on from this wonderful and bewitching place. Without the calling of God, I could never leave this place on my own accord. It has become my home.

I will miss my class. Never again will we be in the same place again. Life will prevent this through vocations and distance. So, in these last few days, I beseech God to make them go extremely slowly. I hope that the Senior Class of 2007 realizes the small and precious time we have left together as one entity. And when the time comes for us to move on and join the world, I hope we all leave one heck of a mark on souls, bringing them back to Christ in droves. But, most of all, I hope none of us forget what we learned here at Christendom College and that we do not forget each other.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Standing on the Edge

Recently, I have the distinct sensation that I am standing on a precipice of a giant cliff. My feet are balanced precariously on the edge and below is complete darkness. I have been slowly and carefully walking up to this cliff edge for the last four years. Initially, I would look at the others standing on the distant edge, contemplating how terrified they must feel. There is nothing underneath them that they can see; their destiny is completely unknown. And then, they would jump. Where they landed, I hardly knew. Now, as a Senior, I stand on this very edge. In the next three months, I have to prepare myself and then jump.

Even as I stand now on this edge, I am constantly overcome by two emotions. Either I am completely ready or extremely sad. Fear is not an option at the moment. I have far greater things in life to fear. And the view down from the cliff-edge is more clear than that while standing two, three, or four years off. I can now see this Man waiting at the bottom. He is strong and capable and He is very kind. He is calling to me. Right now, He yells gently, "Get ready! Get set! You don't have much longer, but you still are there for a reason!"

I will admit that there are days when I feel so ready leave. I do not hate Christendom. Quite the contrary. But, God is calling me out into the world immenently and in order to leave a place as incredible as this, God must provide immense graces to quell the fear and sadness. Those days when, detesting the idea of cleaning my room for room checks as a twenty-three year old woman, I offer this up for the Holy Souls and visions of apartments dance through my head.

On the contrary, there are those days when suddenly the reality of it all hits me in the face, usually lasting only thirty seconds. Saturday night, I pulled various pictures out of my photo albums for the Senior slideshow shown for the Senior Dinner in May. I made four stacks: Freshman year, Sophomore year, Junior Year, Senior year. Suddenly, the near-end was sitting tangibly in front of me. Four years, four stacks of pictures. As the radio lilted out melancholic songs behind me, I flipped through all the pictures from the four years. Mary Akers, now happily married, dressed tackily to meet her ex-boyfriend's parents. Iona's birthday party from Freshman year. Top Floor Campion crowded into Bethany Zuniga's room for the surprise party she never showed up to. Julian and Adam swing dancing together for Coffee House. Various dances, parties, girl-times, and memories.

College, the wise adults (we ourselves are quickly becoming) say, is supposed to be "the time of your life." I have no regrets, only that the time is almost over. I vowed long ago to carefully balance my social and academic life, having heard two regrets from former college students of all ages: "I wish I'd spent more time studying," or, "I wish I'd hung out with my friends more." Having gained an enviable and wonderful education and made life-long, holy, and loving friendships, I get ready to jump knowing that I have those two very things to back me up and that nice, loving Man below me to catch me.

As I continue through my last semester, waiting for reality to permanently hit me, I continue to make friends and learn new things. God has a reason for me being here until the day I graduate. And when I do, I hope I leave behind something that other students behind me can learn from. I hope that when they, too, step onto the edge they may look with confidence on my Senior Class and garner hope from us. And when I leap in May, I will continue to look on this place as my first home and pray to meet all my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ in our true Home.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Thankful for my Health

I have a friend who, while attending college here at Christendom, spend the entirety of her Freshman year bed-ridden with a serious and dangerous illness. Occasionally rising for classes, she confided in me once that it was God who had helped her with classes and life that year. She couldn't crack a book. Of course, my reaction was sympathy. I could not empathize because I had neer been bed-ridden at all in my life.

Christendom is like a Petri dish. All illnesses get caught inside our Holy bubble and fester. Of course, being an overachiever and overextender, I always seem to catch everything going around and always at the worst possible times. Last Thursday night, in the middle of my night class, I suddenly realized I could not see the professor. I couldn't see anything. After seven years of freedom, I was getting a migraine. I picked up what belongings I could and left the classroom. Friday morning came, and I was feeling no better. This was not surprising. I usually feel better about 24 hours after succumbing to these little samples of Inferno. Friday night came, and I was still strangely tired; Saturday and Sunday all found me the same. Frustrated, I was curious as to why this migraine was hanging on so long. Then came Sunday night. I was burning inside and out. My wastebasket suddenly became attached to my hip and I began running fever. Darned migraine, I thought. I began to feel worse. I climbed into bed, but was feeling so awful I didn't fall asleep until 2:30 in the morning. Long story short, I spent seven days in bed. Through it all, I finally realized the migraine was the beginning of a wicked strain of the Flu.

Okay, I now have an incredibly small idea of how my friend felt. As a social, happy person, I hate being stuck in bed. However, I can usually handle the imprisonment for two or three days...not seven. My friends were very patient and my sister took wonderful care of me. I can't remember having been that sick in a long time. I ran fever for at least three days and on Tuesday was convincend the end was at hand. I know. But, I was tired.

As I lay in bed, two things kept running through my head. First, I badly wanted to go to Mass and be with Jesus. I hadn't seen Him in several days. Beyond this, people take thier health for granted. As I lay there in bed, worrying about all the commitments I was breaking, I realized how far we push ourselves. Committing to innumerable activities, not going to bed until we absolutely must, filling our mind with silly worries, the list goes on. Then, God sends the Flu. He tries preliminaries, but for all of our worrying and running we don't hear Him say, "Calm the heck down, my young Paduan. All things in My time." And so He lays the smackdown. I listened this time while lying in bed.

People need to slow down, enjoy life, not worry so much. Stop, watch the waving daffodils on the hill, smell the scent of coffee lingering in the kitchen, sleep. God wants us to take care of our bodies, His gifts to us. So, I am trying to take better care of myself and change some of my habits. I realized there's a truth behind one's health: you don't know what you've got until you've lost it.