The Gypsy 

So today as I was doing my best to respond to my kind and inquisitive new dental hygienist she remarked, upon hearing bits of my life story, that I have a bit of a gypsy lifestyle.

By that, she meant I don’t live in the same place for very long and am not on a traditional career trajectory (where I’m holding x job in order to reach x goal in 5 years etc.)

It about made my day because, to be honest with you, my life has since become much more settled and routine the past year or so and I realized as she proceeded to grind my teeth to shimmering perfection that I had lost a good bit of courage in the past few months.

To backtrack, as I have recently been on a hiatus from blogging, I find out whether or not I can be considered as a candidate for something I really want to do in late January (pray for me please!) and I’ve been feeling the anxiety of the million reasons I could be rejected. I really have my heart set on it and so, being ever the optimist, I felt that as I’m now an adult on the wrong side of her 20s (I just turned 26) I should have a comfortable back-up plan to console myself with should I not be allowed to pursue said candidacy.

In the interim, as I’ve been sifting through a million different lives (because choosing a lifestyle is the essence of career planning) I’ve been really overwhelmed by all the uncertainty. There is nothing so exhausting as trying to secure your future happiness forever based on what you know in the tiny sliver of the present.

And I have been so busy that I didn’t even realize I had wandered so far down that primrose path. I slip so easily into living in the future that I did not catch myself in the act this time. Fortunately, my perfect stranger of a dental hygienist was there to do it for me.

While I’ve already admitted that my past from college to present does sound rather “gypsy” the adventurous, non-linear path was not the path I choose for myself. It was the path that God gave me through circumstances of life, job, and health. It was the path where I met God on the littler way and I would not trade it for anything. What the dental hygienist called gypsy, the Catholic Church calls pilgrim and that was the way of life I did not know I had been seriously missing until I ended up drooling on myself while facing a poster that read “Dental Diva.”

From living in the present moment with God I can attest that God does not always break through into your life via the painstakingly dramatic and obvious, sometimes He slips in through the ordinary people and events that make up your day. And I appreciated that He used my time as a captive audience to my unexpected but thoroughly appreciated benefit. Because it is so easy to forget the glorious truths I profess as a Christian and a Catholic. It is so easy to look back or look so far ahead of myself that I forget to look at God Who is always with me right now, whatever now happens to be.

And it is so comforting to think that the God of the universe is so humble that even in His majesty He descends to go with me to the dentist because it is so much easier to trust in the love of God when I remember how purely selfless it is. I always enjoy the act of remembering that truth because it gives me the courage to truly live.

 

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Be Careful What You Wish For

One summer several years ago I had just finished my freshman year of college and was waiting to hear back from an internship I’d applied to. To make some money in the interim I did some housekeeping work for the Bed and Breakfast where my mom worked.

One afternoon I was in a particularly beautiful suite cleaning the bathroom where there was a tub so huge I actually had to get inside it in order to clean it. I confess I was having a moment of bitterness because while my friends were off having fun and going on vacation I was stuck working hard. Instead of being grateful I chose to be frustrated. As I was cleaning this ridiculously luxurious tub I complained to God something along the lines of, “I should live to see the day where I can afford to soak in a tub like this.” Preoccupied with my own thoughts and taking out my frustration on my scrubbing I bumped the water handle which somehow turned on the showerhead and covered my clothes with water. I quickly turned off the faucet but had to laugh because as it turned out I would get soaked in that tub a lot sooner than I had anticipated.

I am forever grateful for God’s sense of humor in that moment because the encounter shook me out of my head and returned me to the mystery and adventure of the present. It’s a reminder I always need because I am so prone to missing the present by thinking about the future and the plans that I have instead of accepting each moment with gratitude as it comes.

I know that essentially what it boils down to is the eternal struggle for surrender, the fight to let go of control of my life and let myself be led by God. It requires a trust and a patience that I do not have by nature but that I hope to have one day by grace. And in the interim, all I can hope is that I do a little better with it today than I did the day before, knowing that regardless of whether I succeed or fail I’ll be one day closer to heaven.

You Will Never Wash My Feet

As a loveable screw-up, I have a special fondness for St. Peter because he is my constant reminder that God loves not just the worthy but the ordinary. People like me and people like Peter who have high ideals and good intentions but are weak and often fall short of them. And what I love about Catholicism is that the thing that redeems those shortcomings is both the love of Jesus and the grace of repentance, which gives us the faith, hope, and love necessary to try again until we finally stumble into the gates of Heaven.

More to the point, it is St. Peter who gives this post its unusual title. I was talking to a very close friend of mine the other day who is very religious and currently very anxious about the future since this upcoming school year will be her senior year of college. She reminds me exactly of myself during that time of life, wondering what she ought to do and what God wants her to do, struggling with that age-old question: what is the best way to be happy?

I could hear the influence of the general collegiate atmosphere in her voice. The anxiety that demands a plan to attain the ideals of a perfect romantic relationship, lots of friends, and a successful career in order to lead a life full of purpose, meaning, and influence. Throw in my friend’s anxiety of also wanting it to be pleasing to God and it’s easy to see how one could be too overwhelmed to choose anything at all. Being the basically ancient age of 25, I tried to offer her the wisdom that got me through that turbulent time by asking, “how much of yourself do you truly share with God?”

When I was younger and more proudly independent than I am now I had a very similar attitude to God that St. Peter had when he faced the prospect of Jesus the Master humbling Himself to wash his own dirty feet. In the face of Jesus’s offer Peter responds, “You will never wash my feet” (John 13:8). It’s such an endearingly human response and it was precisely my attitude the first time I imagined what it would be like to actually receive that offer from Jesus. While I had a relationship with God as a (younger) young adult I admit I held back. I would let God share with me moments of questioning, moments of peace, and moments of success but I would never let Him “wash my feet” if you will. I would place a barrier between the most broken pieces of myself and God, limiting my thinking to surmise that since those were the parts of myself I had trouble loving it would be a real risk offering them to God and expecting Him to love them in the face of His many perfections.

But this is precisely the attitude that has to be overcome if one is ever to have the true peace and true joy that marks an intimate relationship with God because, as you will find out if you finish reading the scripture passage with the washing of the feet, this is precisely the part of yourself that God has to love and serve and heal if you are to make it to Heaven. Jesus literally responds to Peter,  “Unless I wash you, you can’t share life with Me” (John 13:8).  

As we experience the love behind this humble service we are healed of our human eyes that only love when we see something or someone loveable and we are slowly able to love more like God does. This, I would argue, is a much more effective testament to His glory than preaching with fire, having millions of followers or attaining political or social influence. Those flashy things mimic the glory of the world, they glorify the self or glorify the cause. Yet God is so much bigger than that, so much grander and far-reaching than that. God is infinite and God is love, which means that truly learning to love not only changes the world you live in now but resonates down through eternity.

And if you find yourself scratching your head wondering how this relates to my friend fear not I am about to explain. Before she or anyone else learns their purpose or accomplishes great things for God they will have to learn to humble themselves and accept God’s tender care in the midst of their misery, trusting that His love is enough. To let go of the sweeping perfectionism the world teaches them to hide behind and practice offering themselves to God in each moment no matter what condition they happen to be in, even those moments where they feel utterly repulsive and would opt to be alone.

The world has a way of wanting to steal the present moment which, wherever you are and whatever you happen to be doing, is your direct encounter with the living God where this love is made manifest. Instead, it offers empty distractions, entertainment, and the temptation to always live in unknown projections of the future. However, learning to reject that fear and go beyond the distractions in order to live in the present moment with God truly gives you the peace of never having to worry about the future because you come to realize that no matter what happens you will always have God and God is all you ever really needed.