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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Resolute Resolution: Take 22.

So, if you didn’t know, the world will be ending this upcoming year [2012, RUN!]. Because of this shocking revelation, I have decided to write a little something on what I hope this upcoming year will be like.

First, a recap.

While I look back on 2011, I am not only inspired but awe-struck by the grace that I was given to keep my head above water and a smile on my face. There are many days that I recall being immovable, steeped in a depressed stupor of human flaw. I experienced loneliness in a way that I had never before understood. Rejection and heartbreak were shadows on my walls that I became all too familiar with. They seemed to follow me around in hopes of filling my hung head with false truths and indescribable emptiness.

I lost weight. I gained weight. I lost even more weight and then I crashed and ate everything in sight. I was deleted from facebook, and harassed via e-mail. I started wearing make-up for someone and then I stopped wearing make-up because of that same person. I was hit on, ignored and let down. I screamed, he screamed, she screamed…we all screamed. I fell in lust, and time slipped away.

All the while, my heart sat in darkness stretching its arms toward the Light that once shone brightly.

I had my good days, and I had my bad days…but mostly I just faked it.

It was one, rather late night, as I wrote my future husband an e-mail out of desperation for a friend and listener, that I finally cracked. I began weeping uncontrollably, knowing I could not continue on the way that I was going. I was a car running on “E” and there was no way I was going to avoid this inevitable break down.

“What was I doing writing a man that probably didn’t exist? My future husband? Come on. How could anyone love something as broken as me? That’s right, I am a something, not a someone!  I will settle for anything or anyone that will take me…I mean, I’m a mess! A joke. A waste of space. A headache that no one should have to be stuck with till death do them part…”

It was decided. I would be someone’s purgatory but never anyone’s heaven.

And so I wept, for myself and for my sinfulness. I was heart-sick for what the Lord had wanted me to be, not what I was.

And as Dane Cook so gracefully pointed out, I, wishing to see myself cry in the mirror, did the one thing that would accentuate the agony of the stupidity I was choking on. With a tear stained face, I googled ‘To My Future Spouse’ assuming I would find that I was the only idiot on the planet that had stooped so low as to be the unthinkable….A Christian. And even worse, a Christian praying for their future spouse.

What followed was both a miracle and all-too-soon a painful reminder of learning to keep my mouth shut.

The very first thing that I opened was a blog post that a young Christian man had written to his future wife. Heartfelt, vulnerable, honest…echoing the very fiber of His Word, I now wept for a different reason.

They existed.

All the men that had filled my head with empty promises and lies were now forgotten in the light of God’s Son who filled my spirit with hope once again. Good, faith-filled men were out there. I realized that my future husband could actually be out there praying for me…

Wow.

And in my joy, I wrote this young blogger an e-mail of thanks. I wanted him to realize what he had just done for his sister in Christ! I wanted him to realize that he had just saved me from depression by shining the light of my Divine Love on me. This blogger had granted me peace by reminding me that the Prince of Peace had a man out there that would find my brokenness insatiable. And so I wrote him. Not hoping  or looking for love or gratitude but for friendship with a foundation in His holy name.

And I never heard back from him. In fact, he posted on his blog a couple days later in response, probably not directly to my e-mail, but to many swooning women that he was not looking for a wife and that he was simply opening his heart to His Lord.

Okay, okay. I won’t lie, I was sad and a little pissed when I read the post. I thought God was sending me a friend in the middle of a dark age. I thought I had made it clear that my e-mail was a letter of thanks, not a message selling myself for romance. In fact, trying to make him fall for me was the last thing on my mind—I had been in a state unworthy of love, remember? The last thing I was doing was trying to find it! I just wanted to feel that I belonged to some group or forum, and I thought God gave this desolation to prove that I did!

But I let the post go and I didn’t think about it… Until, of course, as a woman, I couldn’t resist the urge to go back to his blog and read his words of wisdom. Regardless of whether or not he understood my heart or my intentions in e-mailing him, the Lord was using him as a mouthpiece [and I really enjoyed his writing].

That day he was directing his audience to go read something he had written on another blog. A blog specifically for women.

Nothing is accidental, everything is providential.

Here’s how I first became acquainted with the Good Women Project.

What a blessing this website became. Women sharing their thoughts, their wisdom…their crosses. I could relate to each woman’s story, and though I probably seemed a little too emphatic with my excitement and joy for having found a refuge, I couldn’t express or contain how happy I was to find a place, though pixilated, that I finally felt I would fit.

I decided that day…that I would start my own blog.

I have always had an unquenchable desire to share my thoughts and my heart through the medium of writing, but before this, I didn’t think anyone would care what I had to say or what I thought or learned through the trials and tribulations Christ had sent into my life. But, because of this forum of women, I decided it didn’t matter! I didn’t need a following: I needed a deepening of faith! I needed to draw myself closer to the Son of Man that saved my life by breathing new life into my heart after four dark months of depression. The God that filled my emptiness, that dried my tears…that loved me when I was most low. No, I would not write for anyone but myself. Soon, after discernment, I decided to make it public. This way, I would be kept in check by those close friends that knew my reasons for writing.

And that leads us to right now. Here I am, folks. Raw and uncut. I came here to find refuge for meditation, and what a success it has been.

Because of Him, I am a success story.

But what’s next? What comes in the next chapter of this broken, recovering serial-flirt, body image obsessed, love addicted, sinner’s life?

Time will tell.

Or should I say, the Master of Time will tell.

But in the spirit of the world ending, and in hopes to make my divine Husband laugh, I want to make a few public New Year resolutions for the last year of the world's existence. So, if you’ll bear with me…here goes…

  •  TRUST: It has become obvious, through my meditations and prayer, that I am being called to a deeper trust in His plan. I wish to continue giving myself over to His will, and to become more aware of where I am failing, in hopes of growing closer to reflect His goodness.
  •  LOVE: While I’m revved to find my husband, I know that my heart is still suffering with deep hurt from my childhood and past relationships. I ache from the rejection I have faced and have grown cold and sarcastic as a means to protect myself from more damage. I want, in this upcoming year, to allow the Lord to melt my hardened and imperfect heart and replace it with His own. I want to love without expecting anything in return. I want to love without fear of being tossed aside. I want to love for all the right reasons and in His name.
  •  SELF LOVE: I write many things on how I am learning to accept who I am as a human being, that I am learning [by the grace of our Savior] how to look in the mirror and recognize the beauty that is within me…but this is something that does not happen over night. It will be an ongoing journey. No man, woman or therapist can tell me that I am worthwhile. This many silent years worth of damage is something only He can mend, and it is my job to open my heart and let Him. This year I will exercise to keep healthy and not to fit a mold.  Instead of liking myself every other day of the week, I want to love myself every day of the week.
  • STRENGTH: Not everyone is going to like me. Time to wake up, smell the roses and move on! This next year will be about Matthew 10:14 and less about bending over backwards and feeling sorry for myself when people refuse to acknowledge me.
  •  SHINE: I’m a talented actress. I’m a pretty decent writer. Eventually, I want to work at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre Co., The Goodman Theatre, or even Steppenwolf. I want to start my own theatre company that creates pieces of art that are revolutionary, inspiring, and, most of all, wholesome. I want to publish a novel. I want to know what it feels like to be chased for all the right reasons. I want to make a thousand new acquaintances, and if I come out making one new, good friend…I’ll be happy. Perhaps I can't do it all next year, but it's time I said aloud what my ambitions are.

I’m going to live. I’m going to take risks. I’m going to grow.

I am often told at school that I’m too apologetic for my work. I find myself apologizing for no reason in my everyday life. If someone accidentally threw something and it hit me in the face…I’d probably apologize for being in their way.

So, this year…I’m choosing not to apologize for my existence.

Thanks for a great year, everyone. Whether anyone reads this or not…it’s irrelevant. It’s been a blessed year, and I can’t wait to take on the next one.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

His Gift to Us.


Tonight, as my family drove home from dinner at a local Indianapolis restaurant, in the violet twilight of the evening…we passed the house that I grew up in.

It was dark enough to not see everything clearly, but light enough to know that it had been painted since I was a little girl. Once upon a time it was white with black accents, now it’s been converted into a caramel brown disaster. My heart ached for the once upon a Christmas time.

And then I saw the most beautiful thing—the two trees that my father had planted in our front yard, two beautiful pines…were decorated with Christmas lights. So many precious memories came flooding back!

JOYJOYJOYYYYY! Merry Christmas JOY! There is nothing more thrilling than those joyous Christmas memories I have of my childhood. My elderly neighbor would take me, during the Christmas season, down to the end of our street to change the light bulbs on the pillars that marked the entrance to our neighborhood, to red and green. My father and I would put lights on the trees we had planted in my adopted brother’s honor. We would get our Christmas tree at the last minute, often times a rather Charlie Brown-esque tree and would wait until Christmas eve to trim it with lights, an assortment of random homemade ornaments and tinsel galore. At the crack of dawn my mother would drag me into my parents bed while I was half asleep and turn on the Urbi et Orbi [the live papal blessing from Rome]. We would…well, I could go on for hours, really.

The point is: Christmas was our thing. We lived Christmas, we breathed Christmas…it was more than just a couple of days off from school or work. It was a way of life. In fact, it was a celebration of life.

His life.

Regardless of the ridiculous traditions we held, or how many times we listened to that one Bing Crosby Christmas album over and over and over…it has always been apparent that this is more than just a time to give gifts. 

This is the season of joy.

Because He chose to be born of a pure and humble woman, choosing to come into the world in the very form of weakness, He showed us what it meant to live. He, in His human nature gave us the ability to understand what it meant for the soul to love, to give, to trust, to respect, to be obedient, to be humble, to be pure…

How can we NOT be joyous while dancing in the Light of His birth! A star is guiding us to find Him wrapped in swaddling clothes, too small to even compare to the very stars that He created. Too small to reach up and touch His own mother’s radiant face. Both divine and human in nature, irresistibly lovely in visage and the Savior of our world.

Today, our Emmanuel was born. Today, in His manger, He accepted the cross.

Today, we were given the most beautiful Christmas present ever offered—Eternal Salvation!

We are LOVED immeasurably! Let us rejoice in His birth! Let us rejoice in this gift of Truth!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

What I learned in 2011: Let Go, Let God


The clock at the church across from my window struck midnight.

Silence.

I watched my phone in sweet anticipation, longing to hear his voice. Expecting to hear my favorite three words from the boy I was so sure I would someday be married to.

Silence.

I couldn’t contain myself! Where was he? Didn’t he know the tradition of New Years? If I couldn’t be with him, I had hoped he would at least want to call and tell me he loved me!

My phone sat sleepily on my bed, exhausted from the anticipation I had built up for it.  

Silence.

Three weeks later, I was single.

Scratch that. Three weeks later, my whole life fell a part.

One of my favorite Buddhist sayings is ‘Let Go—Attachment is suffering.’

Last year I had fabricated intricate plans for what I believed I wanted my life to be. I had decided that if I wanted to be happy, I would have to give up my dream as an actress and put all my energy into helping him pursue his dreams. I had fallen in love with my best friend, and while I knew it seemed sudden, his presence in my life was more thrilling and rejuvenating than the cut-throat world of a theatre conservatory. So, I gave up who I had been for years, I gave up my strength in our Lord and in my talent to be with him.

He made me into something I was not, and I let him.

And then he broke my heart.

At first, I didn’t know what to do. I would lie in my bed weeping for hours, a recording of the rosary playing softly to keep my soul at rest. My roommates brought me donuts, my friends made me go out with them, my parents called each day to make sure I was alright…but I couldn’t let go of the fact that everything I was willing to give up, wasn’t enough. I wasn’t enough.

Fast forward through eleven months of ups and downs, and what an absolutely beautiful blessing that heartbreak has been! Yes, it’s still painful to think I’ve been deleted from the life of the man that I once loved…but it has taught me to recognize that I must trust in His plan, and not my own.

See, this year I learned that my plan is flawed.

I’ll come clean, I have an issue with control. I like being in it! And prior to this heartache, prior to my life shattering into little pieces…I had been able to skirt by without truly looking to our Lord for support. I had a boyfriend that would love me, parents that would take care of me and friends that were there to make me laugh. And that felt like enough.

I could hold on tight to my plan, and proclaim and that it was all in the name of my Divine love.

But when the façade came crashing down on me, it became apparent that what I had been craving from the start was a different kind of solace. A different kind of love and romance.

That of the Kings of kings.

I’m human. I know that I’ll still spend my life craving the feeling of having a handle on my life. That feeling that leaves me responsible for what’s going to happen. But the truth is, no matter how much I desire control…the only thing my clinging to 'being in control' has done is smother everything that was going well without my prodding!

When we detach from what we, in our brokenness as humans, think is ‘best’ for ourselves and reattach to what God knows is perfect for us…we find that our strength is renewed in Him and our souls are free to soar.

This year was about letting go of what society told me I should need (namely, a boyfriend) and asserting what I knew I truly craved: Our Lord.

I can finally say, with joy on my fingertips, God made it a point to shut the door on that relationship. He knew I had a lot of growing left to do…and that there was someone better out there for me. Who ever he may be, I’ll keep praying for him…but this time, I won’t push or chase…I’ll simply let go, and let God.

Give the wheel to God, ladies. His plan for us is more deep and rich than any of us can comprehend. What a blessing.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Mending the Birthday Blues.


It’s coming. It’s cold, and windy and the weather forecast is predicting snow. It’s the season to be jolly, and I can hear that wretched day approaching like the obnoxious bells on Santa’s sleigh. I mean, it’s hard to escape it when all you hear at the sushi restaurant below your apartment is Bing Crosby’s ‘White Christmas’ over and over. That day is coming and I can’t avoid it….

That’s right folks, you guessed it; it’s almost my birthday.

Oh wait, you totally thought I was going to say the birth of our Lord, didn’t you? Sorry about that! His birthday is just fine by me…

But…mine. Different story. Let’s begin, shall we?


On April fool’s day in 1989 the following exchange occurred:

‘A Love Story’ in one act…

[A young and beautiful woman sits at a pizza joint in New York. Her dashingly handsome husband exclaims…]

HUSBAND: Let’s have a baby!

[She laughs.]

WIFE: Yeah, right! I’m not falling for that! Good one. [Eyeroll.]

HUSBAND: I’m serious.

WIFE: Yeah, sure you are.

HUSBAND: Okay. Let me see. How should I put this… I want to have a baby with you.

WIFE: …  … …

[Insert lots of awkward back and forth looks here.]

HUSBAND: … … …

WIFE: Fine, ask me again at midnight, when it’s not April fool’s anymore.

Hours later. Midnight. A little conversation and…

BAM. He punched her!

Just kidding.

More like: BAM! She was pregnant. Nine months later, my mother was in a hospital bed, holding a 6lb baby girl and thinking ‘whoa, I’m a mother..’

It’s beautiful, really. A story of love. A man and woman begin a new life together by creating a new life together.

All that beautiful poetic stuff said and out of the way, let’s get to the real point of this post:

I really dislike my birthday.

Now, before you get all weird on me…hear me out, okay?

One day, the Lord thought me up. His heart yearned for something and to fulfill the void, to fulfill what he felt was missing from this world…He created me. He loved me into creation. He wanted me. He chose me. Just as He chose all of us into being.

This being said, life itself was the greatest gift I could have ever been given, and every day I am reminded by His mercy and love that I am blessed beyond all reason.

So, why then, do I get so depressed whenever December 15th rolls around each year? It doesn’t make sense, when it comes down to it! I’m a child of the Most High, a daughter of the King of kings…engaged to the Bridegroom.

From what I can tell, I should have no reason to get bummed out whenever my birthday comes. BUT! It does! Every year, like clock-work. A month before, I start getting excited and wondering if anyone will remember or throw me a party or do something special for me. Three weeks before hand, I start talking about how excited I am. Two weeks before hand, and I’m reminding everyone, but also begin to get leery of people actually remembering. One week before, and I’m so thrilled, I feel like I’m on speed!

And then the day arrives. And it’s the same old same: December 15th:

I lie in bed and count the reasons I hate my birthday.

Weird, I know. Even after having built myself up in excitement for a month, I find myself crashing into depression. But, I’ve been thinking about it, and I believe I’ve finally figured it out.

The dirty little secret to this complicated human heart of mine is that…I do love my birthday. A lot.

My mother always made a huge deal out of celebrating life. Celebrating MY life. She wanted me to know that my existence was the greatest gift God had ever given my parents. She wanted me to know I was loved, and that I was worth being loved…and that with every year I lived, I was giving glory to my creator.
She made me love my self, and my existence. Every day was a rebirth, every day was a cause for celebration, and so I celebrated every day as a new birthday to grow closer to the Holy Spirit.

I spent each day taking care of the people that I loved. In fact, I spend every year basking in the joy of being cared for and reciprocating that affection. It’s fulfilling and beautiful.

…but when my birthday comes, and I’m sent four hundred and thirty facebook comments of ‘happy birthday’s’ from people that probably don’t even remember how they first met me and I’m given money and gifts and material things, but the pure, unadulterated love seems to fade into the background as the weight of the material grows higher in importance…I feel more empty than I’ve ever felt.

Birthday’s have become so base that they hold little to no meaning in this society. Life was once a cause for celebration, but in this culture of death…it feels more like another way to get lost in sin.

It’s your birthday? Well, in that case…let’s drink until we can’t remember who we are! It’s your birthday? Well, you ought to throw a big obnoxious party and get people to bring you presents! It’s your birthday? Shake the card before you open it, see if there’s any money inside!

I would rather hang out with my best friend, watch a movie and gossip about boys than go out and get wasted with a ton of acquaintances who probably would only be using me as a cause to drink, rather than a friend to celebrate. I would rather get a hand written letter, a handmade gift, a well thought out and personalized gift [no, I don’t mean with my initials on it], than get the newest and most expensive toy out there.

Granted, I appreciate what I’m given. I’m thankful for the beautiful gifts my friends have offered me out of love. I cherish them [I mean, let’s be honest... I’m still a girl, and I’ll always secretly love being pampered], but the idea of birthday has morphed into something else by the world. And it seems ugly.

The attention that comes with it being your ‘birthday’, the ‘affection’…feels false. And my spirit can sense it, and before I have five minutes to accept that this is just the way it is sometimes, I sink into somehow taking this lack of joy and love personally. It’s like, after all the beautiful things that happen daily…I can’t fathom accepting it is as reality.

But this year, after a lot of prayer and time spent with my Divine Love in adoration, I’ve decided to deny the pity party that the culture of death is planning on throwing me, and choose joy instead. I’m going to wake up in the morning this upcoming Thursday and smile because, regardless of whether or not anyone else is happy that I was born—I’m happy that I was born. And that’s what’s going to get me through the day.

Praise God.

Soooo...Happy [almost] birthday to me! As I look forward to another year of adventure and growth, I would like to thank you all for your beautiful reminders that life is worth being filled with joy, even when I struggle.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

How Porn Taught Me to Love Like Christ.


This November, at the Good Women Project, [a Christian women’s blogging site that addresses the struggles of being a good woman in today’s society—which I recommend everyone to look up] the women have been writing about Pornography and it’s impact on women. I wanted to participate in this conversation here on my own blog. Consider this my call to prayer. Thank you for opening your hearts today.

The computer glowed softly as her vacant eyes stared back into mine.  The room was silent, as the previous user had turned the computer to mute. While racing to exit out of the webpage I had accidentally stumbled upon, I became trapped in a trance that this hypnotic scene was playing in front of me.

I wasn’t turned on, and deep down I even knew it was distasteful…but I couldn’t for the life of me look away.

She stared at me, stunning blue eyes piercing my soul. She smiled, as if to make the statement ‘I’m enjoying this…aren’t you?’… and then proceeded doing whatever degrading act was in the script.

I sat, frozen. Stomach flip-flopping with a mix of emotions.

Pornography was something that was never really discussed in my household. Granted, my parents were incredibly open about sex, and were more than willing to answer my questions—but this particular subject had never made it’s way into conversation. 

Mostly because I was clueless.

Yes, I was a pretty innocent thirteen year old. I didn’t know much about the perverse world of sex, and though I made jokes about sexual things with my classmates to make myself seem like I was up to speed with them, I knew deep down that I had no idea what I was talking about. At thirteen, I was really just entering the dialogue between my body and it’s sexuality.

And before I knew it, or even had a say, while working on a project for my eighth grade English class on our apartment complex’s free computer, I was pummeled with the over-stimulation of eroticism.

And thus my innocence was stolen away.

The girl laughed, as she looked at the camera. She seemed comfortable. As if what she was doing was ‘normal’, as if the fact that I was watching her do…whatever she was doing… was something to be considered ‘normal’.

But it wasn’t normal. I knew deep down that something was missing.

I won’t lie and say that I watched in complete disgust. It awakened a part of me that I didn’t even know existed. I was uncomfortable and surprised, perhaps even a little fascinated, but even more than that… I was scared. Scared of feeling the pressure to be this girl. Terrified that I couldn’t live up to what I was watching.

Even more so… terrified by how lifeless her eyes were.

Would I react this way to sex? Would I look that disengaged when I ‘made love’ with my husband? Being raised by two devout Catholics, I had been promised a sex life filled with love, not complicated acts of animalistic pleasure.

I had prayed for so long to have an understanding husband, a man of God that would love me with all his heart and love my child-like naivety when it came to such subjects…but watching these scenes made me scared that the man that I would fall in love with would want these images that were so void of love. Vulnerability, honesty, truth, love, trust… everything I thought my future sex life would possess, played no part in the relationship between the man and woman on this website.

I went to bed that night, ashamed of myself. Ashamed of how my body felt ‘alive’. Ashamed for being so naïve. Ashamed of thinking a man could love me with my lack of knowledge. Ashamed that my physicality couldn’t compete with the girl on the screen. Ashamed of being unable to erase the image of her from my mind as I shut my eyes to sleep.

I hated her.

Weeks passed. Months. Years.

My struggle with lust was a battle that I fought tooth and nail. My body was awake now and I didn’t know how to put it back to sleep. I wished to wipe those thoughts and images from my mind, but no matter how hard I tried…there always seemed to be a moment that they re-appeared in my mind’s eye, and the fight to remain pure would ensue once again.

One unintentional viewing of pornography ruined my youth.

And I blamed her for it.

It wasn’t until I was seventeen, as my father and I drove from Florida to Pennsylvania, that I was suddenly reminded of her face. The face that I had been so enthralled with. The face that ruined my purity. See, we passed a billboard advertising for the ‘XXX: Adult Enterainment’ gentleman’s club off of the highway and almost immediately I had a flashback to that afternoon. That moment when she was smiling and looking at the camera. And for the first time, I fell into a deep state of prayer. 

What had she expected when she first signed up for that project? What was she promised? When she was a little girl, had she dreamed of being a princess or a porn star? Was she a Christian? Did her parents know what she did for a living? Did they care? Was this even what she did for a living, or was it something she did on a whim?

I cried silently that car ride. I didn’t really know why in the moment. I thought, maybe, for my soul. Or, maybe for the brokenness of humanity. But when I look back on it, five years later, I know I was weeping for her. For her lost dreams, for her lost hope, for her lost innocence.

This past month at the Good Women Project, women have been writing about their own struggles with pornography and the impacts it has on women. While I have struggled immensely with lust and sexuality, I was never addicted to porn. In my story, I never craved it the way that some of the women this month have so courageously shared.  But porn did impact me.

It taught me to love like Christ.

In high school, I would have looked at that woman as something that had wanted to corrupt me. Someone to hate. Someone to blame for all the struggles that I would come to know. But in truth, when I least expected it, God broke through my hardened heart and reminded me that she too was broken. That that girl on the internet didn’t grow up with aspirations to destroy my sexuality, or her own. I would say that she was just as much a victim as I was, and just as desperate for love.

My heart aches for her.

Today I would like to make a request. It’s simple, really. I would like to ask each of you to call to mind that girl when you pass an ‘adult entertainment’ billboard or see a tantalizing website. And I would beg you to say a prayer [for you and I] to have the courage to remain strong in not indulging in this media…and for the women who have so blindly lost themselves by participating in this entertainment of empty pleasure.

Because they deserve so much more than the base infatuation we have to offer at watching them on the internet. Because they are beautiful and so are we.

Because, I love that woman in the porn I watched so many years ago, but I love her for more than her body. I love her soul...and I wish I could tell her that. I wish I could tell her that I pray for her and think about her face every day. I pray that she is happy, and that all her dreams come true. I wish I could tell her that she is beautiful, not 'sexy' or worth getting off on. She's simply perfect.

Because He too devoted His life to spending time with, and praying for, and loving prostitutes and sinners. Shouldn’t we?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

White Walls.


I’m thankful for…Well, I’m thankful for…Because…Huh.

So, about that new season resolution I made in September!

Don’t get me wrong, I am thankful. There are so many things on this blessed holiday to call to mind and not take for granted... But! It seems that as of late it’s hard to articulate the positive when all that seems to come out of my mouth is negativity.

See, I’m sitting in a room in my ‘house’ that is not really my room. I did not grow up in this room…this condo is not the place that I have fond memories or buried secrets. In fact, my parents moved into this condo about two months ago. Since then, I have called it ‘home’, in hopes to bury the old as quickly as possible. But the truth is...I’ve only ever slept in this room four times.

Over the years I’ve learned that burying the old as quickly as possible is the easiest way not to drown in the nostalgia for what once was. You see, this is not the first time I have sat in a foreign room, attempting to find solace in the familiar color of starch white walls. Familiar only in the sense that all the rooms I have called my own were this color [except for the Pepto-Bismol pink I begged my parents to paint my room when I was four don't hate].

I had always hoped the white walls would lend themselves easily to starting anew. That they would be the physical blank canvas to my life…but every time we moved they somehow became the link between the blanched walls of my prior room and the new. The memories I had in those prior rooms where I once laughed and played would come flooding back.

Of course, eventually, the memories of the old would join or be replaced with the memories of the new. Sooner or later I would forget the heartache I felt for my older ‘home’, but it was never an easy or quick transition.

I sound like I’m whining, don’t I? You’re thinking ‘so what…you’ve moved once or twice...’

Wait for it...waaaait for it....

I’ve lived in four houses, two condos, and five apartments.

I’ve attended a total of fourteen schools. Some parochial, others public…even home-schooled for a semester. I’ve lived in six states, each eventually became ‘home’ in their own unique way.

BAM!

No, nice try, but I’m not a military brat.

I think I would have an easier time understanding why I had moved so often if my family was in the military, but it would be a lie if I said I was. Honestly, I think God likes to make sure my family never gets bored, so He’s constantly got us on our toes!

And I am thankful for the adventure He’s given us…but…

As I sit in this new blank room, where no memories have yet painted the walls of this blank canvas, I feel exhausted more than I feel thankful.

I ask myself questions about being settled. I beg God to explain why He’s made me feel uprooted so often. I wonder what life would have been like to grow up in one house or in one school. Would I have had a best friend that I grew up with? Would I have met the Cory Matthews of my dreams in seventh grade? Would I have known my neighbors so well that I would invite them to my graduation from college? Or to my wedding? Would people know me? Would people care? 

Would I be a more whole person?

Maybe I would. Maybe I wouldn’t be so crazy, so outgoing, so goofy if I had been given those things. Maybe I wouldn’t feel insecure about my looks or worried about my future if I knew what stability was. Maybe I would trust in humanity a little more had I not been hurt the way I was hurt through all the unsettledness of my youth. I could be different! I could be popular! I could be….

…everything but me.

But I like me.

And I like who Christ has molded me to be. Regardless of how difficult and strange this adventure has been…I’ve truly loved every minute of it.

I have parents who taught me that my trust should never be placed in humanity, but should be kept only in our Lord. Who taught me life is painful, but through the pain we find ourselves. Parents who held me as I wept in those new blank rooms because I was scared to go to a new school, or homesick for the old. Parents who I call my best friends, because they made me laugh at just the right moments. Whether it was by dancing a Mexican hat dance at six in the morning to wake me up for school, or by wrapping a towel around my head and calling me the queen of Sheeba…they loved me through each transition.

I have family who care about my future. Who ask how I feel, who love me and want to know that I’m doing well. Who remember each birthday and make sure I know they are thinking about me. Praying for me. Family who send me four GB's of music when they hear my computer crashed, family that want to see me on stage….family that want me to succeed.

I have friends all over the world, all over the country…people who love me and care about me with every fiber of their being. People that, only having known me a few months or a few years, know exactly how to care for me. The people that remind me being sane is boring. They are my angels, my hope, my joy.

I have a best friend who, by the grace of God, asked me to go to an art museum with her, completely out of her own shy demeanor…simply because she remembered how painful it was to be the ‘new student’. A best friend who, knowing my heart, has made each birthday spent together, special.  Five years of tears, laughter and dancing in the living room like crazy people…she made me feel like I fit somewhere.

And on this thanksgiving, these white walls that have so often been a screaming reminder that I am different, have suddenly shifted into the back drop of my vibrant life.

I cannot be contained in four white walls…I’m too unconventional for that. And my love, my Lord God, knows this better than anyone else.

This Thanksgiving is not about what I am thankful for, but who I am thankful for. Things are nice, but it’s people that have helped me color these walls of discontent, people that have painted my life with the most beautiful of memories.

And today I am most thankful for these amazing people, Lord.

I wouldn’t trade these white walls for anything. Because in these walls, in Your love and plan for me: I am made whole.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I hope you had a blessed holiday!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Attacking Anxiety.


I get anxious fairly easily. In fact, it doesn’t take much to set me off down a spiral path of worrying about one thing or another, which usually leads to hyperventilating over absolutely nothing.

Last night, as I entered mass…my heart began to pound out of my chest. I couldn’t for the life of me tell you why, for I had no particular reason to be upset. I had just spent the day out of town at a farm…pretending to be a child amid the apples and pumpkins and petting zoo. I was content, at peace and ready for a very stressful week to begin. Yet, walking into the sanctuary, I felt a burden tug at my heart. I tried to ignore it. I tried to get lost in my surroundings. The music was so beautiful, and the church was warm and cozy. Normally, my sitting alone and with Christ would lead to a beautiful dialogue between my divine husband and I, but instead my mind raced away from His saving face. I sat down, and a thousand things hit me at once; exhaustion, rejection, the thought of my school work, the heartache I’ve shoved down for so long, the fear of not being liked by that new someone, the fear of not being good enough, pretty enough, smart enough, skinny enough, humble enough, talented enough, my shame for being so judgmental, my fear of being alone, my desire to be normal, my desire to be different, my fear of being different….

‘I’m such a mess.’ I thought ‘I’m such a selfish, spoiled sinner…I don’t deserve Your love or forgiveness. I don’t deserve the gifts that You have given me. I’m the worst kind of sinner. How am I suppose to make it into Your arms if I can’t even let down my pride long enough to trust in You?’

At one point in my life, when these moments of being emotionally overwhelmed would hit, I would sit in the desolation and become so lost in the agony of my thoughts that I would choose to forget the love of Christ. I wanted attention, I wanted someone to make me feel better in that instant. In my naïve mind, I would think, ‘If I look sad...if I seem distraught… someone will have to rescue me.’ And I would purposefully choose the desolation over Christ. But this only led to more anxiety, and worse, more selfishness. What I hoped to achieve in this state, what I wanted more than anything, during these moments, was for the room to fill with the weight of my anxiety. I wanted it to permeate the air and destroy the joy in my proximity. I wanted the people around me to sense I was broken, notice my lack of breathing, rush over to wipe my tears away, hold me, caress me, take care of me, reassure me...me, me, me! 

But last night, mid-tears and racing heart— He pressured me to try a new tactic. I sat, in silence, with my eyes lowered, and calmly allowed the thoughts to come and go while the Lord spoke to my soul.

“You are not your emotions, Katherine.” He whispered into my ear, trying, as He so often does, to reassure me that everything would be okay.

“Trust in Me.” He repeated.

Trust in Him. It has been the theme of my life to learn to let go and trust in Him. The all-powerful, creator of the world…and yet, I have the hardest time giving my everything to Him.

Including my negativity.

One of my favorite Buddhist sayings is, ‘Let go; Attachment is suffering.’ For some reason these words repeated in my head as the mass continued on. So, I gave it to Him. A gift, in a way, to show my undying devotion to His most Sacred Heart.

He knows, all too well, how difficult it is for me to give my anxiety up to Him, but I did…because I wanted to be able to give Him something that was difficult to give, even if it had to be my tears.

And yet, I was pleasantly surprised. In the heat of this desperate cry for hope,  I realized that while I thought I was giving the gift, it was truly Him that was sacrificing for me. Sitting in the presence of the Lord makes it very hard not to be aware of His undying devotion to His people. To me. 

Because before my eyes flashed the multitudes of moments when humans let me down. But this time, instead of seeing myself in these images sitting alone…I could see Him beside me.

When I am most emotionally distraught, regardless of how ridiculous the circumstance, He simply attends to my needs without question. When I weep, He wraps His arms around me and promises His eternal love, while wiping away the tears. When I whine, He laughs at me. When I fall down, He runs to the rescue. When I bear my insecurities to Him, He finds little ways to make me smile.

…And when I wanted to leave mass yesterday, before having met Him at the altar in communion with the Eucharist, He kissed my forehead and blessed my mind’s eye with an image that He knew would wipe away my pain.

He humbly reminded me of the nails being driven into His hands. Not because He wanted me to feel bad about my emotional crisis. Not because He wanted me to repent for being self absorbed or selfish. Not because I was being dramatic. But because He wanted me to know that He had already had this anxiety attack with me… on the cross. He had already felt this pang of complete desolation, worry, fear, rejection, overwhelming lack of trust from me. He had already died and risen so that I could have this growing pain while in the midst of His flesh and blood.

And the Eucharist was raised, and while I didn’t feel any better, I also didn’t feel alone.

My love is outside of time. He had given me this gift long before I even knew that I would break down crying with Him. 

Get lost, anxiety.


Trust in You, my Divine Love? With all my heart.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

To My Future Spouse: Two Year Anniversary.


To my most beloved and treasured husband,

Two years. Who’d have thought I’d make it this long, eh? You know me well enough to know that I often fall off the bandwagon with things like this when life gets chaotic…but here I am…still going strong. Aren’t you proud of me?

On October 21st, 2009 I found myself in desolation. My serial flirt ways had caught up to me, my male friends had dispersed and I was alone, in a new university, with artists I was scared to trust.

Scratch that. People I was scared to trust.

You’ve been in the forefront of my thoughts and prayers as of late, but you’re probably not surprised by that. You know, all too well, how often I think about you, worry for you, send love in your direction and ask my guardian angel to kiss you on the forehead as you fall asleep each night.

Sometimes I like to imagine that you send me kisses back. It’s like we’re secret lovers and the only other people that are allowed to know about our romance are our confidants, the angels. 

My 'best guy friend' had just broken the news via cellphone that he felt it wise we didn't speak anymore for fear that we were getting too close. My heart was heavy, as he had been the only thing getting me through my recent break up with the previous Mr. Nice-But-Not-The-One [not to mention, keeping me calm as I adjusted to my new surroundings]. With his disappearance, I couldn't imagine having the strength or courage to mend on my own.

I don’t read as often as I used to, but when I was a little girl my favorite quote from Jane Eyre by Mr. Rochester was…

‘Sometimes I have the strangest feeling about you. Especially when you are near me as you are now. It feels as though I had a string tied here under my left rib where my heart is, tightly knotted to you in a similar fashion.’

With each message I write to you, I hope to articulate this poetic and beautiful image. When I shut my eyes, I imagine our bodies so intimately intertwined that, even without ever having ever laid eyes on one another, I can feel you near to me in each passing moment of the day. When I pray, I know you are with me. When I laugh, I hope you are smiling where ever you may be. When I sleep, I leave room beside me for your arrival.

Who would hold my heart as it ached each night? Hadn't God sent my ‘best guy friend’ to make sure I could laugh and smile when my insides felt like they were collapsing? Was God so cruel to take my only form of comfort away from me?

I walked into my dimly lit dorm room after this late night phone call, the weight of disbelief and rejection heavy on my shoulders. My roommate asleep in her bed had left the closet light on, and when I looked straight ahead I was surprised to catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror.

'How could someone so broken, look so whole?' I thought to myself as tears slowly trickled down my cheek.

Sometimes I think about you and realize how lucky a girl I am to have been given a gift as beautiful as you! Do you know how wonderful you are? You are a testament, a beautiful specimen that gives glory to God’s craftsmanship. You know just how to love me, romance me, hold me, kiss me, annoy me, drive me crazy and push me to be the best person that I can be—all at the same time!

 And I am so thankful for this.

What a treasure God has bestowed to me.

I feel blessed to have such a wonderful man of God desiring to take care of me. You love me when I’m stubborn, impatient and mean… How you are sweet to me when I’m being obnoxious, I’ll never know! But I am thankful, because you make me want to be the best version of myself that I can possibly be.

I'm sorry that over the years I have tried to give my heart to so many who were less than worthy. I'm sorry that I can be insecure and that I worry so often. These are bad habits that I have prayed for the grace to let go of—but you know I still struggle each day. Yet you still love me… I am thankful that you know how to kiss away the worry lines on my forehead when I don’t think I’m pretty enough for you. That you know when to hug me when I’m upset, when to kiss me when I won’t stop talking and when to listen because it’s actually important.

No adoration chapel to run to, no mass so late at night and the rosary looked an impossible feat to conquer on my own in such a state-- I turned my eye away from God feeling He didn't care and instead opened my computer.

Word. File. New Blank Document.

I am so blessed to know that you see me the way God sees me. That you love me the way I deserve to be loved. That you have chased me, fought for me, wanted me, dreamt of me, prayed for me and proven time and time again, that I am worthy of love.

'Beloved...'

And the words poured from my fingertips as they had never done before. Each word coated with an honesty, a sincerity and a vulnerability I could only give to him.

You have brought me to Christ time and time again, begged me to speak to Him before I spoke to you and have made me learn how to trust His plan before trusting my own.

Two years ago, I wrote my first e-mail to my future husband. Partially out of desperation, and partially because I needed some one to share my thoughts with, I poured my soul to him. In my overly emotional state, I decided it would be, one of the many, wedding gifts I would give to my future spouse on our wedding day.

It’s been such a blessing to know that I could share myself with you before you even knew my name. It’s such a relief to know that God made you for me, that you already love me with every fiber of your being and that all it will take is a moment of realization to recognize that we were created for one another. You are mine and I am yours. Each message to you has been filled with my secrets, my worries, my thoughts, my aches and pains…and while you may not be present in my life [at least to my knowledge], you have given me the strength and courage to continue to be my authentic self.

Little did I know that starting a fake e-mail account and sending random messages to a man I didn’t even know…would be the greatest gift I could ever give to myself.

Thank you for being the best friend and prince charming that I've always daydreamed of. Thank you for being broken and human. Thank you for wanting to grow with me, to become a better man for me and for our Lord. Thank you for accepting me and my brokenness. For not expecting me to be perfect and for keeping me humble in that sweet, but not hurtful, way that you know just how to do.

I love that we strive to be saints with one another, that we pray together and laugh together and make fun of movies and dance in the kitchen with one another and have inside jokes and star gaze with one another…

Forty e-mails later.

My husband, without having known it, became my best friend and the greatest listener I have never yet met. He has been there every moment I needed to vent, laugh, joke, complain, share…he loved me through two years of silly messages that meant nothing and everything to me.

I love us.

This is the greatest love affair God has ever given to me and I’m absolutely thrilled to see what will happen next in this ridiculous romantic comedy.

We’re silly and ridiculous, but…we wouldn’t have us any other way, would we? By the time you see this, these messages will simply be reinforcement…because you’ll have already heard all of this time and time again. But on our two year anniversary, I just wanted to remind you—

I love you!

Keep looking for Him, and I promise that you’ll find me, darling.

I’m forever walking toward you, in hopes that you’re walking toward me. I can’t wait to finally meet you and end this game of hide and go seek—which, by the way, you’re great at.

Be good, make good choices and know that you are forever and always in my prayers.

Your future wife, best friend, prayer warrior and partner in crime,

Katey

PS: Pam and Jim got nothin’ on us.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Walking Contradiction.


Up until last week, I used to consider myself a walking contradiction.  

You see, I’m an actor, and in the world of theatre, being organic and raw is upheld as ‘Truth’. Screaming profanities, throwing things, crying at the drop of a hat, feeling, touching, groping, loving, experiencing—this is art. This is what my teachers, classmates, directors, and co-workers look for when they are creating a piece of performance art. They want the raw, brokenness of humanity portrayed on stage as is.

To them, this is salvation.

It’s hard to explain to those who do no act what it feels like to get up on a stage and manipulate people into feeling a certain way. It’s hard to express what it feels like to reach into someone’s chest and rip their heart to shreds as they live through the actions of the actors from the audience’s perspective. I would never know how to explain what it means to go to rehearsal day in and day out to imagine, create, develop, and immerse yourself in a world with fellow players that, in essence, does not truly exist.

It’s magical. It’s powerful. It’s… addicting. 

There are so few fields in this world where you are paid to create a universe that pressures it’s patrons to simply…feel. And it’s because of this that it is so easy for an artist to get lost in the idea of not needing a creator.

Why play the created when you can simply play god?

But then, in what seems like the opposite extreme, I’m a devout Catholic. My faith, the foundation of my life, asks me to view God as Truth. In many ways, the emotions of this world seem counter to what we, as Christians, strive to attain. We may lust, rage, and envy, but we set our emotions and bodily urges aside, accepting them as our crosses, in attempt to glorify God’s creation.

We, as Christians, look to respect ourselves, love our brothers and sisters, heal, grow, learn and become like children. We pray for humility, and ask for the gifts of kindness, charity and temperance.  We are aware of our brokenness, but we praise God for His mercy and work constantly toward becoming the best version of ourselves.

We gladly accept the role as the created, and praise God for the gifts He has given us.

So…how the heck do the two extremes marry one another?

‘Oh my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended thee…’

A week ago I had the chance to experience something in my work that I rarely get to feel. I have often, quietly felt this way in my soul, but have never had an articulate way or opportunity to express what I feel is now necessary to share with the world.

‘…And I detest all my sins because of thy just punishment…’

You see, my voice felt like a tree, rooted in the text that I had so purposefully chosen the day before. Each word fell from my mouth like a piece of ripened fruit, and the more I spoke the more I felt grounded in myself and my faith.

Before I dive in any further, let me just skim through what exactly my ‘work’ as an acting student is. I’m not just one of those ‘Oh, hey…I like community theatre but have a real job during the day so that I can support myself and not starve because I’m sensible’ kind, but more so the ‘I’m paying a substantial amount of money so that I can go to a prestigious acting program and will be in debt for the rest of my life all for the sake of art and living my dream’ kind.

I never said I was the brightest bulb in the bunch.

Essentially, while normal college kids spend their time in classrooms with tables, chairs and notebooks…I spend my days rolling around on gym mats, loosening my jaw and doing tai chi and yoga.

So, last week my Voice and Speech teacher asked us to bring in a text that we knew by heart and were deeply connected to. The plan was to ‘de-structure’ the text—basically break it down into simple sounds and syllables and then rebuild it until the imagery and intention of the text was raw, organic, and flowing from a free and natural voice. And when we were ready, we would speak our text to a nearby ensemble member to share in this experience.

The work we do depends heavily on willingness to be vulnerable. In using text that we felt was important to us, it was inevitable that it would be an emotional roller coaster when confronted with a point of focus. In allowing an ensemble member to drop down into the center of our beings with us, to hear and participate in our own exploration of the words we held so dear to our hearts, we would be learning far more about art, ourselves and humanity than just doing the work by ourselves.

[I know, I know…if you’ve never come across an acting school, it all sounds ridiculous].

As I listened to him speak about the work we would be doing, I had the impulse to use the Act of Contrition [a Catholic prayer used in confession].   

 ‘…But most of all, because I have offended thee, my God…’

Only…I don’t talk about my faith in the theatre school.

‘…Who art all good and deserving of all my love…’

Not because I’m uncomfortable with my beliefs. On the contrary, my deep love of Christ has made me bold in many ways [take this blog, for instance] and my classmates know very well how religious and faith-filled I am. But, I have found, particularly with artists…it is better to love infinitely and allow Christ to work through the silent conversations between souls, rather than force dialogue many do not wish or are not ready to have.

I was surprised, to say the least, when I walked in to class the next day still filled with the desire to pray in my studio. It seemed…sacrilegious, in a way. And yet, some inner force urged me to speak the prayer. 

‘…I firmly resolve with the help of thy grace…’

I laid on the mats, breathing in and out as I had done so many classes before. When we were given the instruction to begin our texts, I knew immediately why the spirit of the Lord had urged me to speak.

Next to me, on the ground, lay one of my very close and beautiful classmates. Her text, a monologue from one of Sam Shepherd’s plays…was about God being dead. How an artist must be smooth like Jesus, must be selfish like Jesus…that Jesus and the time for religion and faith…was no more. That people could not be filled with the rubbish of God, because it was too far away to connect to.

I laughed.

And then I prayed.

‘…To sin no more, and to avoid the near occasion of sin. Amen…’

When we made our way to standing, I was looking out the window as I spoke, but I could see from the corner of my eye that she was standing, speaking her text toward me. She wanted, so badly, to battle with our contradictory words.

And as I turned to her as she spoke, I saw tears form in her big beautiful brown eyes.

Why was I so calm? Why was I relaxed in this obvious emotional battle? I’ll admit it—I’m a crier! I should have been weeping at this obvious attack on my core beliefs.

Yet, all I wanted to do was hug her and tell her that everything was okay! But my teacher instructed me to fight through the emotions we felt and continue speaking the text…so, I carried on with my repetition of the Act of Contrition. And the more I spoke, the more she cried and the more she cried, the more I felt… Fine. Great. Wonderful. Perfect.

Finally, the exercise was complete, and while I could see frustration in her face, I pulled her to me and allowed our hearts to beat in unison.

I cannot fully express what this experience gave to me, but I want to try to put it into words before I forget the feeling:

Theatre and faith…are one in the same. As I spoke my prayer, I realized the tradition of my faith; the parables, the lives of the saints and angels and prophets…the very core of my beliefs in mercy, love and understanding… are fully intertwined in the tradition of theatre.

We tell stories. We sympathize with humanity. We love. We understand.

We yearn to feel full, and so we create, in our brokenness, a world to fill ourselves.

My father only recently converted to Catholicism…before he was Catholic, he had been raised Jewish. When he decided that he believed in Christ, that Jesus was not just a prophet, but the son of God…he decided to call himself a ‘Completed Jew’.

Today, I am choosing to call myself a Completed Artist—because there is nothing contradictory in loving humanity and Christ in the same breath.