Monday, October 28, 2013

Food for thought on a Monday in October



We're happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time
It's miserable and magical.
Oh, yeah

Now I might not be quite twenty-two, but I can totally relate to Taylor Swift here.  Whatever your opinion of her, she expresses our silly, girlish emotions in such an honest way.
Oh the 20’s – a decade to enjoy, we’re told, to make mistakes, to live as free spirits!  We’ve got so much going for us! Ok, well maybe one thing: our youth.  In all honesty, that doesn’t feel like enough, because all us twenty-somethings, well, we’re searching and longing.  
If we’re lucky, we’re also struggling to heal from past hurts. 
If we are less fortunate, we’re engaged in lifestyles from which we will need a lot of healing later on in life.
Overall, life for the typical twenty-something is messy and honestly, it’s often more miserable than magical and more lonely and confusing than happy and free.  And, to top it all off, we’re expected to have it all together.  Take the attitude towards college: go and explore your interests, but make sure to graduate with a lucrative degree.  Or what we modern women now get fed:  Do anything you want – just make sure you are successful – elsewise you are a disgrace to the women who fought for your rights in years past.
The message for our generation is:  Be your own person, be free, and have fun!  Just make sure that whatever you do fits into this box labeled acceptable by modern society.  But the truth is that these current societal expectations do not truly satisfy, and as a consequence our generation is really struggling – struggling with depression, with abortion, with anxiety, with pornography.
I don’t have the statistics but they shouldn’t be too hard to find online.
Christianity, having a personal relationship with Jesus, striving to follow Him and purify our desires, now that, is countercultural.

We Christians dare to believe that our own selfish desires won’t actually satisfy.  We dare to see beauty in a world tainted with sin and darkness.  We dare extend kindness in a world marked by cynicism. We believe our suffering can bring us closer to joy in Christ. We above all dare to hope and believe in Jesus’s promise of love and mercy. 
Don't get me wrong... this whole faith thing?  It ain’t easy.  Heck, it’s pretty difficult and downright scary, but through the confusion and the many trials and tribulations of this wonderful decade (and I only say that with a little bit of sarcasm, because it actually is quite wonderful), faith in God’s love and his goodness… well that’s what gets me through.
And our generation could definitely use God.  We need freedom from unrealistic how society is telling us to live.  We need the grace to be able to cultivate genuine friendships that will lead us to the Source of Life and Love – not materialism, jealousy, and pride.  We need unconditional love and the freedom to be vulnerable with each other.  We need God’s forgiveness when we make mistakes.  Us twenty-somethings?  We above all need Jesus.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Classes Have Begun!

The fall semester is here!  My university town is bustling the the activity of students, new and returning.  With this, my schedule will be pretty busy, so I don't know how much time I'll be able to devote to this blog of mine.

For today, however, I leave you with a link to Darling Magazine's latest post Breaking Up With Your Ideal Self.  Enjoy!!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Goodbye, 19, you have been good to me :)

As I embark on the last 24 hours of my teenage years, and prepare to bid adieu to 19 (a year in which I learned so much!) I thought I'd share some of my most important life lessons (thus far :) ):


1. Don't be afraid to be vulnerable.  You are so much more receptive to life when you are vulnerable.  Vulnerability opens your heart up to love and teaches you so much about yourself and others.  Don't waste your time and energy being too proud to be vulnerable.

2. It's healthy and recommendable to embarrass yourself at least once a day... it teaches you to be brave and take yourself (and life) a little less seriously

3. You do not need to be perfect in order to be loved.  The things we'd like to change the most about ourselves are what make us unique, so don't apologize for your imperfections.

4. Similarly, a weakness is not something you necessarily need to change or get over.  It's just a strength that needs to have some light and truth shed upon it to reveal its potential.

5. Cultivating gratitude may just be the most important thing in life.  Don't go a single day without finding at least 3 things you are grateful for and on a bad day find 8.

6. Even in your weakest moments, you are never given more than you can handle - and no prayer goes unanswered.

7. Struggling is not a sign of failure or even weakness, it's a sign of growth

8.  Never let yourself become jaded.  Hold on to your dreams, because they hold the key to how you will change the world - in other words, they hold the key to true joy.

9.  There are few things better than putting a smile on someone's face.  And don't be selfish with your own.

10. And of course, the one facet of truth from which the other ones have come:  You are enough.  You are doing enough.  And in fact, you have always been and always will be enough :)

Friday, August 9, 2013

A bit from Anne



"I'm just as ambitious as ever. Only, I've changed the object of my ambitions. I'm going to be a good teacher-- and I'm going to save your eyesight. Besides, I mean to study at home here and take a little college course all by myself.
Oh, I've dozens of plans, Marilla. I've been thinking them out for a week. I shall give life here my best, and I believe it will give its best to me in return. When I left Queen's my future seemed to stretch out before me like a straight road. I thought I could see along it for many a milestone. Now there is a bend in it.  
I don't know what lies around the bend, but I'm going to believe that the best does.
It has a fascination of its own, that bend, Marilla. I wonder how the road beyond it goes--what there is of green glory and soft, checkered light and shadows--what new landscapes--what new beauties--what curves and hills and valleys further on."

-Anne of Green Gables

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Explore. Dream. Discover.


Twenty years from now you will be more 
disappointed by the things you didn't do 
 than by the ones you did do.
  So throw off the bowlines.  
Sail away from the safe harbor.  
Catch the trade winds in your sails.  
Explore.  Dream.  Discover.

-Marc Twain

Monday, August 5, 2013

There is no fear in love

These past 10 weeks... have they been real?  Or am I to awaken to the sound of my alarm... once again 15, obligated to drag myself out of bed and into the banality that was so characteristic of high school?

Right now, as I sit on the steps of a landmark quite representative of my university ;) , admiring the peaceful sunset and watching families and pedestrians stroll by, I am tempted to believe that it has all been a dream.  Everything has fit together so well and I've been given so much... how could it not be?

Yet, my experiences this summer are marked by one distinctive attribute that is particular to real life alone:  imperfection.

To which I could add struggle and pain... but also peace and joy.

You see, my dear readers, this summer I experimented with a few things that had been quite foreign to me:  vulnerability and courage.

No, it hasn't quite been the fairytale my romantic nature so would have desired it to be, and yes, there was in fact hurt involved, but the truth is it is only when we test our boundaries and limitations and reach out for those somethings that always seemed out of our grasp that we truly experience life.

Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure... than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.
-Theodore Roosevelt

 I must agree with good ole T.R.  If we let fear dictate our actions because we are so scared to be vulnerable, we end up suffocating our souls.  We are never sure of our true potential.  We spend each day just trying to survive and we are never capable of thriving.

However, one truth must stand out in the midst of fear:

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
- 1 John 4:18

Perfect love drives out fear.  

We are all broken.  We all have wounds and sins that mark our souls.  We all question our worthiness at one point or another.  But when we question ourselves and afraid of vulnerability, we must look to Christ on the cross.

It's so hard to fathom... God came down and suffered for US.  He endured ridicule and pain and ultimately died for US... individually.  How could we doubt ourselves, our worth, after that?

How much must God love us to have done all of that?  It's inconceivable (yes, Inigo Montoya, I do know what that word means ;) ). And the most amazing truth:  His love is there for ALL of us to experience, but we alone must choose to reach out to Him.  We must choose to be confident in His love and have faith in his healing.

Again, I recall the story of the hemorrhaging woman:

Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.”
Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed at that moment.

Matthew 9:20-22

So the take away message?
Don't be afraid to be vulnerable, because it is the key to experiencing life, growth, and most importantly love .  
And Christ's love in time will heal your wounds.

Live.  Be open to love, for after all, as C.S. Lewis so wonderfully put:

 “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

Friday, August 2, 2013

Summertime Blessings

Image from http://consumer.media.seagate.com

Summertime is laden with growth,
Joys and sufferings - always both.
As the seeds of spring start to take root,
As flowers blossom and begin to bear fruit,
I sit back with inspiration and awe,
At the beauty before me I never foresaw.
I bow my head in gratitude and praise,
My God, truly, You never cease to amaze.

August Update

The month of July is up and gone and less than 10 days remain of my teenage years.  In a matter of time, I will, as my roommate from Beijing put so nicely earlier year, begin "running towards thirty"!

Thankfully though, I am unafraid.  The Lord has done so much for me in the past few months... He has been so good and taught me so much... There have been many blessings, and yes suffering too, but He's been guiding me through it.  Seeing in hindsight how much He's taken hold of my life in the past few months makes me realize that I can't even imagine what the next decade has in store.  One thing I've realized, though (despite the fact that I've heard it many a time) is that as long as you walk with Christ the path may not be easy but, boy, it is totally worth it.

So as to a foresight of what is coming soon..!

Two verses that have been speaking to me:

Psalm 139: 13-16:
For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother’s womb. 
I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them.


1 John 3:1
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 

(Can anyone say posts about self worth...? ;) )


Peace, love, and God bless!

Aina



Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Restless

The clock ticks and tocks
And my heart is on the rocks
I've hit a turbulent tide
There's no telling when this will subside
Yet I see no warning for me to heed
I feel closer to being freed
Maybe one day I'll learn to let go
But for today the answer is no
Despite the strife and struggle inside
I perceive peace on this tide.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

The caged bird does sing



and so the caged bird does sing
i thought with a smile
for it posses a knowledge
one often forgot
that dreams make life worth living
and that the promise
of faith will not leave it wanting
knowing one day soon
the iron chains will come off

Friday, June 28, 2013

Waiting


I sat and waited 
 summer's fresh breeze
caressed my cheeks gently
the evening sun colored the field
and the birds' sweet melodies 
softly sang me goodnight
I sat and waited
I did not utter a cry
For peace had come over me
Reassuring my soul this summer's nigh'

Il faut chercher la joie de vivre

http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8335/8392893464_68148c8483_z.jpg

Look for the joys that surround you... live a life worth living. <3

Ciao i miei amici, today I challenge you to amidst your circumstances - whether blissful and bright or troublesome and turbulent - to find 10 - or maybe even just 5 - things that you are grateful for.  I'll even give you one to start:

You are wonderfully and fearfully made.

Love always,
Aina

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

SURPRISE!!

Why hello again my dear blog, didn't expect to see me back so soon did you? But SURPRISE, or rather SURPRISE (in case you couldn't tell, that was "sur-preese" à l'intonation française... the catch phrase of the days of the French Academy... un souvenir que je cheris beaucoup :) ) ... I have returned with a vengeance! (not really but I've always wanted to say that, and beware, one day I will!! ;) )

So what am I up to today, you ask?  What sort of new revelation am I about to unfold to my loyal - or so I like to imagine (and I do have quite a good imagination, if I do say so myself) - readers?  Alas, there are some things that I will not be so... expressly candid about... but I do intend to write in such a way that you get a certain gist of things.

At this point I will say utterly apologetically that this blog post will not follow any sort of linear thinking... I intend to reflect my current state of mind which is, I must confess, not following any sort of logic at all.  Sorry, not sorry.

(I have all summer to be logical at my systems internship and with probability homework, and so I've allowed myself sporadic moments of... honest insanity) 

All this being said...

I'm a structured kinda gal. (Hello, engineer much?)  I wake up in the morning and fall into routine.  I have a mental list of things I must get done and and when I've accomplished what I set out to do - if not more - I feel satisfied.  "Good job, Aina" I say to myself, "another day done."  It's my perfectionist nature, my ambition... and my crutch.  It's good for "getting ahead," but it also becomes an armor I hide behind as the safety of the expected and a fall back for my self-worth as I work hard to hide any imperfections I perceive within myself.

But it's funny what God's grace does to ya.  Ever since that last post back in May, I've been praying for God's healing.  I've been trying to emulate the woman who'd been ill for so long... her courage in reaching out to Christ... her confidence in His healing.  I've been recognizing that Christ sees me... He sees me everyday in my strivings and in my imperfections.  He knows how broken I am and - guess what - He not only knows how to heal, but He wants to.

And so, slowly and gently, I've begun to find that I can do it - I can embrace my imperfections, I can be brave, I can find beauty in spontaneous moments that were never part of the plan.

I've realized that it's all about being vulnerable.  Because to be vulnerable is to be open to love.  It is alone the way we can love others and allow them to love us back.

Now, I'm beginning to embrace my vulnerability and to truly love my imperfections because I know that they are the indelible marks that make me me.  And with it is coming freedom.  And with it is even coming faith and trust in the Lord.

So, to conclude this post that I actually had no intention of writing today (but was a product of one of those spontaneous events, which, let me just say featured a very, well not composed Joy (looking up antonyms for composed was amusing and would be probably pretty revealing to any readers as to the situation I am sorta describing) who lost any verbosity she otherwise possessed):
Letting go of expectations and embracing imperfections - this, I am finding, is the true way to leading a joyful and fulfilled life.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Returning soon... :)


http://www.organicsoul.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Summertime.jpg
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever. 

I've neglected my blog in the past month with the craziness of finals, then relaxation at home, and now with the utterly hectic schedule that I've this summer (that involves a course, a internship (yay!) and some other activities I've assimilated into my day...).  Never fear, I will be back soon (promise) with some updates.  Let me just say though, since my last post, the Lord has been SO GOOD.

Peace and love,
Joy Marie

Friday, May 3, 2013

A Confession and A Revelation

I have a confession to make.

I have a crush.

Oh yes, a crush.  I say this unabashedly, unashamedly, even with a a stint of pride, acknowledging that I'm still 19... my teen angst has not yet subsided and I don't have to acquire a false sense of maturity to accompany my 20's for another 3 months!

That being said...

I've had a lot of qualms about my feelings for the duration of this crush, because (here comes a  shocker!) crushes are painful. And so in questioning this pain, I've constantly asked myself "Should I feel this way?" and "Am I just emotionally using him?" and chastised myself with "  I don't even know him!  So I better stop this silly daydreaming nonsense!!"

But this is not another "emotional chastity" post - there are plenty of those out there (believe me, I've done my research (on a side note, compulsive Type A personality, anyone?) ). No, I've gone through the guilty part of liking him, and reached a point when I had to surrender my feelings up to God*, recognizing that I cannot control my desires, but knowing that ultimately... He knows what is best and what He has in store for me is greater than my wildest dreams.

*(note: read tell God "God, I'm putting my emotions in a box, and giving that box to you and walking away"... 3 seconds later:  "God, that didn't work, please let him like me too!!!! Please let me talk to him!!!  Can we just be friends at least, God, please... PLEASE???!")

For now, however, I have a crush on a guy that (from what I can tell) is a strong man in Christ, intelligent, handsome (allow me to stop here and just call him a Catholic McDreamy), and my heart soars at the idea that maybe, maybe, if I work up the courage to say something... something could happen.  My heart does yearn for this.

And this crush, in ways he is completely unaware of (I derive much internal amusement from this thought), has taught me some good things.  It's funny how God works through people... even when they don't know it ;)

This experience with him has taught me that... a crush isn't bad.  It's a reflection of a desire in our hearts.  God makes attraction happen, it's part of being human.  However, there is a reason for that pain that comes with the excitement, and in my case it results from a fear of taking a chance.

When you never take a chance, you instantly crush any hopes you may have had.  How can you expect or even hope for good things if you do not reach for something?  If you don't, you are automatically qualifying that something as unattainable.  In effect, you are crushing any hope. (ouchhh...)

But why?  Why the fear of taking a chance?  Why the fear of even talking to him?? It all comes down to one self-belief, one I've struggled with for the majority of my 19 and 3/4 years... I'm not good enough. That internal voice emerges when the possibility (however much of a stretch it may be) of love arises and tells me Joy, you are just not smart enough, pretty enough, thin enough, athletic enough, poised enough, funny enough, mature enough, holy enough. One look at you, Joy, and he will find you lacking.

And so, I look down when he passes by.  I "casually" never get to shake his hand during the sign of peace during mass.  I avoid chances to talk to him no matter how much I contradictorily desire those chances to arise.  I am scared of vulnerability and afraid to show my brokenness, and I fear that if love were ever to arise, he (or whoever) would see me as I am and have it be too much and not enough.


Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.”
 Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed at that moment.
 -Matthew 9:20-22

Amidst all this turmoil, one truth stands out. He who knows all and loves us beyond belief has already seen us.  Jesus has seen the depths of our soul, He knows our hurts, our scars, our desires, our joys.  He wants to heal us, and if only we have faith in Him, like the woman from the Gospel of Matthew, He will.

So what can I take away from my crush?  That I should be unafraid to be seen, because Jesus, who loves me without end, has already seen me.  That He knows my wounds and that I can have faith that he is healing me.

Finally, the Father desires us to be happy and experience true joy.  So let's work to be confident in Him and His love, mercy, and goodness so that we may face life without fear, more open and receptive to the blessings God bestows upon us daily.  Who knows, maybe a conversation with a cute Catholic guy may come out of it... ;)


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Favorite Findings on the Web

In the past week, I have come across some web gems that are definitely worth viewing. 

You are More Beautiful than You Think:


Darling Mag on "The Power of Our Stories"


And as the summer season approaches, from the archives of the Catholic Young Woman:


Also, for concerning feminism some food for thought from Verily:

Enjoy!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Quotes for a Saturday in April

"Pray, hope, and don't worry. Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer."


"The life of a Christian is nothing but a perpetual struggle against self; there is no flowering of the soul to the beauty of its perfection except at the price of pain."



"Prayer is the best weapon we have; it is the key to God's heart. You must speak to Jesus not only with your lips, but with your heart. In fact on certain occasions you should only speak to Him with your heart."

Padre Pio, pray for us!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Laughter


“I love people who make me laugh. I honestly think it's the thing I like most, to laugh. It cures a multitude    of ills. It's probably the most important thing in a person.” 

- Audrey Hepburn

Monday, April 8, 2013

Whatever is Noble...


 

 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.

-Phil. 8:4

Friday, April 5, 2013

Aspirations & Anne

I never tire of reading this passage. :)



The mention of college gave a new direction to Gilbert's thoughts, and they talked for a time of their plans and wishes. . .gravely, earnestly, hopefully, as youth loves to talk, while the future is yet an untrodden path full of wonderful possibilities. 


Gilbert had finally made up his mind that he was going to be a doctor. 

"It's a splendid profession," he said enthusiastically. "A fellow has to fight something all through life. . .didn't somebody once define man as a fighting animal?. . .and I want to fight disease and pain and ignorance. . .which are all members one of another. I want to do my share of honest, real work in the world, Anne. . . add a little to the sum of human knowledge that all the good men have been accumulating since it began. The folks who lived before me have done so much for me that I want to show my gratitude by doing something for the folks who will live after me. It seems to me that is the only way a fellow can get square with his obligations to the race." 

"I'd like to add some beauty to life," said Anne dreamily. "I don't exactly want to make people know more. . .though I know that is the noblest ambition. . .but I'd love to make them have a pleasanter time because of me. . .to have some little joy or happy thought that would never have existed if I hadn't been born." 

"I think you're fulfilling that ambition every day," said Gilbert admiringly. 

And he was right. Anne was one of the children of light by birthright. After she had passed through a life with a smile or a word thrown across it like a gleam of sunshine the owner of that life saw it, for the time being at least, as hopeful and lovely and of good report. 

--Anne of Avonlea 

Isn't the complementarity of Gilbert and Anne beautiful?  I love their respective dreams and desires - his so noble and hers so pure.