Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Precious confidant: Sunflower seed bread and pizza.

Over the years I’ve learned the hard way how important it is to have friends that you can trust.  I’ve been stabbed in the back, dropped like a hot potato and deserted for size two’s enough times to write an award winning novel on teen angst. But, while I could write about all the unkind people I’ve met…for now I’d like to focus on a different kind of person…

She was sitting at the end of the long cafeteria table, picking at the piece of pizza that sat in front of her. She seemed shy and barely said a word as the girls around her chattered away about boys and class. I dreaded sitting down at the table as I looked at it from a distance. I knew I would get stuck sitting in the seat across from the shy girl. It always felt like such a chore to strike up conversation with someone who didn’t seem to have anything to say.

Slowly, but surely, I was led to the table [that would, eventually, become my comfort zone] and just as I had predicted, was instructed to sit across from this silent observer. Her big brown eyes looked at me, as she smiled.

I hadn’t anticipated such warmth.

“Katey, you and Carrie will get along great! She’s from Florida too!” one of the girls shouted to me from the other end of the table.

I faked a smile, and nodded as if this made me feel more at home…all the while thinking to myself ‘How many times do I have to say I’m not from Florida…I moved from Florida, but I am not from Florida. Is it really that hard to listen for five seconds?’

With this angst-ridden thought buzzing through my ‘new girl’ brain, I had missed the moment at which the shy girl, apparently a girl named Carrie, perked up.

‘You’re from Florida! Where did you live in Florida? Did you shop at Publix? I love their sunflower bread!’

I almost screamed.

Erie, Pennsylvania. A once booming industrial city, currently comprised of the most beautiful abandoned old factories, was in that moment my new ‘home’. My father had gotten a new job in the middle of my junior year of high school. So, I made the leap and transferred schools, in hopes of making friends before my senior year. It was either that, or moving up for my senior year without knowing anyone. Though painful to leave my theatre department, friends, memories [regardless of how painful or messy] and more importantly leaving my mother…I knew it was a wise risk to transfer early. I knew the Lord would give me the courage and strength to start new.

Not to mention, I was a little excited to meet new cute guys.

BUT, BREAD?! Really? Bread? My first conversation was going to be about bread?

I stared at her, and sort of fake smiled. I was appalled, a little annoyed…homesick as hell. I couldn’t stop thinking that there was no way this girl and I would ever be friends...

A week went by. Every day I sat at the table. Every day I got stuck across the table from her. Every day she ate pizza. I soon learned all she ever ate was pizza. Growing up in a household of ‘Organic’ and ‘NO MICROWAVES’ and ‘Vitamins! Minerals! Herbs! Oh my!’…the idea of a person eating pizza every day seemed foreign and a little weird.

I wasn’t being judgmental! I simply knew what worked well for me and what didn’t.

And she didn’t.

I mean…granted, I wasn’t super healthy, but her life was drastically different from mine. She was different from me.

We could never be friends.

Two weeks later. I was beginning to meet people, but there was a piece of my heart that felt empty. The snow was driving me crazy, the gray skies were depressing and I just wanted to be back in sunny Florida! I missed the smell of warmth, of the Gulf. I missed my stunning theatre, the stage that I had laid on so many times, staring into the lights as I dreamt of my future.

Conversations of bread, snowy weather for two months straight and the shy girl had not been what I had in mind when I planned my move.

But life is never exactly how we plan it, is it?

I concealed my heartache with my smile, and I thought eventually the cool kids would realize I was worthy of a little attention. But as we’ve already established, things never go exactly as we plan…And so, instead of being noticed by who I thought would make me feel significant, the shy girl invited me out to the art museum.

[Which I later came to understand was incredibly out of character for her to invite anyone out. Funny how God’s will moves us to do things so completely outside of ourselves.]

But once again, after an afternoon with her away from our comfortable little cafeteria table…I was sure we should never be friends! I was loud and ridiculous and silly…she seemed put off and confused. She laughed, but she seemed uncomfortable and when we parted at the end of our outing…I couldn’t imagine her ever wanting to spend time alone with me.

 When God truly loves us, He does not give us what we want…but what we need.

This upcoming January, my best friend Carrie and I will have known one another for five years. Through the ups and the downs, the doubts, the fights, the tears, the obnoxious phone calls at three in the morning…we have become sisters. We have learned one another’s hearts and come to understand each other’s quirks. We don’t have to do much to have fun. Sometimes it involves baking, other times driving around aimlessly while chatting about boys…sometimes we come together in prayer. But what makes us work so well is our willingness to sacrifice for the other.

Yes, we still have differences. We disagree. We fight. We don’t talk for weeks at a time…but we’ve pushed one another to be the best that we can be. Our friendship has been a clear result of Christ’s work, because had either of us been in control…well, let’s just say I really didn’t have a lot to say about bread.

 But, I for one, know I would have been a lesser person for having let her go.

When God was screaming for me to see how wonderful she was, I was too blinded by my own immature judgment to recognize an honest heart. I am so thankful that she was open to His will, and never backed down when it came to being my friend. I am thankful that she came to visit me for my birthday this year, and made it yet another special memory. I am thankful that the Lord knows our hearts so much more than we do, because I can’t imagine living this life without my best friend, my sister in Christ…my confidant.

I love you, Carrie—who’d have thought that after all these years, I’d give anything to be in a room with you, eating pizza and talking about bread.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Eucharist of Euphoria

In response to a fellow blogger who questioned why people loved their church, I have written a reflection on my relationship with the Eucharist. While I know that many people who will read this will not be Roman Catholic, I wanted to be completely honest with myself while answering this question. Why do I have such a devotion to the mass? Why do I love adoration? Why do I make sure I don’t miss my weekly meeting with my Lord at the altar? My formation in faith was greatly deepened by my relationship with my Love through the mass and time spent in adoration. I would not be as whole, as loving, as accepting, as warm, as strong, as devout or as child-like had I not spent countless hours in church and in the adoration chapel during my adolescent years. While this does not necessarily articulate the reasons why I love the Roman Catholic Church so deeply, it may shed some light on the relationship with the one others call Savior, and whom I prefer to refer to as my ‘Divine Husband’.

Thank you, as always, for allowing this to be a safe place for me to share.  

“Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed

I kneel, hands held tightly to my heart. I feel like a child who is anticipating Christmas morning. I feel His Spirit so gently beckoning my soul to come closer, and soon the waiting becomes unbearable.

First row. Second row. Third row.

My heart is racing. My face fights back the smile that so desperately wants to appear. My cheeks begin to burn:

I get to meet the most important and true man of my dreams at the altar once again.

During the week, I have such a hard time not feeling…disconnected from the world. Somehow I feel like I’m less a citizen of this culture because I live a lifestyle so outside of what might be considered ‘normal’.

And after a long week of being made invisible by the men that do not stand in the Light of Our Lord, I am reminded why I wait for the ‘right one’. This feeling that I get when I am in the presence of Him is overwhelming. This feeling of being full, of being complete…it’s worth more than anything society could promise.

It takes three for a perfect romance, and so I assume the Prince of Peace as my only spouse until my beautifully broken and earthly husband arrives to complete the trifecta.

Here, I am joy-filled in my singleness, knowing that one day a man will kneel beside me, as thrilled as I am at the prospect of meeting his Maker at the table of plenty.

I stand early. The people beside me are slow to rise and I find myself begging God for the patience and understanding not to jump over them.

“How can they be so calm?” I find myself thinking.

The Son of Man is standing in our midst! Our Savior is currently less than thirty feet from me.

How is everyone so calm…?

As we begin to move, I find my eyes gripped by the crucifix on the altar. The wounds I’ve inflicted on my Love. The lust, the pride, the envy, the rage, the profanity and disobedience. My sinfulness that drove the nails into His hands, and still He waits with arms wide open.

 ‘I am not worthy…’ echoes through the brokenness of my human frailty. I am not worthy of the love that He delightfully showers me with.

As a part of the body of His church, am I, too, His bride? Does He think adoringly on my presence as He watches me wait in anticipation to approach His altar?

His acceptance of His cross, His unwavering obedience and trust in His Father’s plan, and the very salvation that He seems to have given to me as a wedding gift… propels me towards His Divine body.

Before I can catch my breath, I realize I’m next. I bow, in hopes to find the right words to express my infinite joy when I approach Him, but I am overcome with emotion.

The priest raises Him before me and my Savior kisses my existence.

There is no way to articulate the complete and utter ecstasy of the initial impact that the most holy Eucharist has on my spirit. My physical being suddenly feels awake. My heart leaps, my body quivers and I am thrown into the most passionately sacred conversation with the great I Am. Each cell in my body dances and soon my heart is replaced by His. They beat in unison, and each beat is a hymn in adoration of His mercy and love for His children.

Our romance, our covenant, is one that is incomparable. In this moment of shared love, I want nothing more than to be His. 

I feel something warm drop down onto my hands still pressed tightly against my chest. Surprised at the interruption from my fervent prayer, I open my eyes to discover my cheeks painted with tears. 

Tears. Tears like those wept in the agony of the garden. Tears like those wept by our blessed mother as she watched her Son be persecuted.

Tears like those that a broken woman, who I most certainly resemble in wretchedness, used to wash the feet of the Son of God.

“Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.” Luke 7:47


You, oh Lord, make me cry tears of joy.

Because you have taught my shattered soul to love, I am made worthy. Because you have saved me, I can rest in peace. Because you died that I might participate in this meal with You, I am made unbroken.

Love much? In your presence, my Divine Love, this is an easy request!