Posts Tagged With: friends

Planting Seeds

Dear Pope Francis,

It’s spring (not that we really had much of a winter by Canadian standards). Everything is turning green, blooming, and generally looking beautiful.The spring bulbs are starting to blossom. But in order for those bulbs to bloom now, they had to be planted last fall.

This is not the first time I’ve used images of plants and seeds to describe the spiritual life, and I’m certainly not the only one in history to do so (For instance, St. Teresa of Avila talked about watering a garden). In the past few years, I’ve often been the growing and tending stage. The seeds of discerning ministry, school, and making friends, had been planted – partly out of necessity and partly by choice. Now, those seeds have bloomed. One year ago, I successfully defended my thesis and finished school. This capped off three years of new friends, new joys and challenges, and discerning where God was asking me to go next.

For a while I simply enjoyed the blooms in my spiritual garden – the joy and relief that came from finishing school, the bliss of being able to relax with friends, and the excitement and healthy dose of nerves about moving to work in ministry. But now, those blooms are fading, their memories recorded in journals and with pictures. It’s time to plant new seeds.

I don’t know exactly what seeds I’m planting; there isn’t a sign or label anywhere saying what these seeds are supposed to grow into. I think I’m planting some friendship seeds, and of course some faith and ongoing discernment seeds. But there are also some new ones, writing being the most prominent. I have no idea what exactly is going to come from any of these seeds. This is equally exciting and nerve-wracking. What if none of them grow?! the nagging voice at the back of my head asks, better to not plant them at all.

But when this voice gets too loud, I return to the mustard seed: the tiniest of the seeds grows into the largest of shrubs and provides a home to birds (Matthew 13:31-32), and having faith the size of a mustard seed is enough to tell a mountain to move (Matthew 17:20). So, ignoring the nagging little voice, I plant and care for all of the seeds, and have faith that the proper ones will grow, because “…faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1-4), and really isn’t that what gardening is as well?

Preparing the soil,

Lauren

PS: Readers, have you either seen the fruit of prayer in your life, or are you planting some new seeds. Share below, and I’ll be sure to pray for your seeds too!

Advertisements
Categories: Lauren | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Year Later

Dear Pope Francis,

Meredith and I have been writing letters to you for a whole year. It was exactly one year ago today that Meredith published our joint letter. I have to admit, I’m a little surprised that we’re still going.

It’s hard to say who was more nervous about this blogging endeavour, Meredith or I. I was shocked when I had seriously suggested starting a joint blog to Meredith in January 2014, and more than a little relieved when she didn’t mention it for a few weeks. When it did come up again, I was surprised and worried about writing letters to you every week. I didn’t actually think I’d be able to find things to write a letter about every week.

But, a year later, I’ve found tons of things to write letters about (I’ve included links to some of my favourites throughout this letter). And the ideas keep on coming.

By no means have we been perfect about getting our letters posted on time. There have been typos and grammar errors along the way. But I have learned a lot by writing these letters. Sometimes it has been cathartic; other times, it helped me to figure out what I think about big issues. It gave me something concrete to focus on when I felt like I was losing my grip on life. Most surprising it helped me get comfortable with the idea of other people reading my thoughts and words. Finally, and most importantly, this blog is a fun project between friends that has brought us closer together.

Where will the next year take Meredith and I? Quite literally, God only knows. A lot has already changed for each of us, and I suspect the next year will be no different. My hope is that the letters will continue, that we can continue sharing our thoughts on being young, independent Catholic women in this fast-paced world, and that our thoughts and ideas will trigger conversations with our readers (either online or in person). Personally, I hope that this blog continues to be an opportunity for growth, development, and something to keep me writing even when I’m swamped with other things.

As we set out on our second year, Pope Francis, pray for us, for wisdom, clarity and courage to follow the narrow path that God calls us to walk.

Praying for you,

Lauren

Categories: Lauren | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Settling into Ordinary

Dear Pope Francis,

The last few weeks have been very energetic, with the holidays, travelling, seeing my friends again and starting new classes. It’s now almost the middle of January. School is back in full swing, complete with reading to do, papers to write, and extra-curricular meetings and events to attend. I have swapped holiday stories with my friends, and now the opening question is ‘how are your classes?’ or ‘did you finish the reading?’Ordinary Time

While school can be stressful, and there are a lot of different tasks to get done, there is something comforting about being back in my routine. As much as the break I had during the holidays was much needed and relaxing, I began to miss the ordinary things in my regular life, like my friends, my apartment and – to some degree – the structure that school gives my week.

This time at the beginning of the semester is what I consider ‘ordinary’. It is the quiet period after the busyness of the holidays, but before the stressful times of the semester. It’s the time when I can work at my own pace, or linger in a conversation without feeling guilty. It’s also the time when I forget to pay attention because everything seems so far away. The paper isn’t due until February, and from here, that seems like an eon, so I don’t start it right away, even though I have the time now.

It’s not just school where lack of attention can be problematic. This is often the reality in my faith life.

There is no big feast or liturgical season coming right away; we’re in ordinary time. I attend the regular liturgies, I pray in the evening like I usually do, and, as terrible as it sounds, I can forget to look for God in my life. As a professor once reminded me, this ordinary time, both in the liturgical sense and in day to day life, is time that is meant for God, just as much as any liturgical season, feast day, or exam period. God will come and be with me just as much in this time of low-stress school work and socializing, as He is when I am on edge with deadlines.

Finding Him now is no different than finding him in those big moments; I need to be quiet and attuned to the Spirit, perhaps even quieter and more attuned, because God will speak, I need to be paying attention.

Enjoying the ordinary,

Lauren

Seek Kingdom

Categories: Lauren | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cheering for the Underdog

Dear Pope Francis,

The World Junior Hockey Tournament is wrapping up in Toronto tonight with the Gold medal game between Canada and Russia

Watching the World Juniors is a holiday tradition in my family. Without fail, regardless of where we are and what’s going on, my dad and I are keeping tabs on how the tournament is going. This generally includes watching the opening game on Boxing Day (December 26) and the game on New Year’s Eve. As I have mentioned before, and perhaps it goes without saying, I cheer for the Canadians from beginning to end.

This year, I was surprised to find myself also cheering for Denmark. They were truly an underdog team in the tournament, having never won a game before they beat Switzerland in the preliminary round. They surprised everyone, perhaps even themselves, by making it to the medal round. As I watched them play Canada in the quarter-finals, I still couldn’t help but cheer them on. Everyone was saying how lopsided the match was, in Canada’s favour, but the Denmark team played hard anyway.

It’s easy to cheer for the top teams and players, those who dominate in their chosen sport, just like, in everyday life, it’s easy to cheer for the people that we like. When our friends are up for awards or coveted positions, we support them by cheering and praying for them. Of course we want them to succeed, they’re our friends.

But, just like in sports, there are underdogs in everyday life, the people who perhaps had a tough start in life, are a little rough around the edges, have some additional challenges to overcome, or simply grate on your nerves. I can think of several people who fit that description for me. But that doesn’t mean I can treat them any differently.

I may not admire these people, the way I admire the Denmark hockey team, but I still need to support the everyday underdogs as best as I can, whether that’s praying for them, helping them out when they need a hand, or simply accepting them as they are. I know from personal experience, this is easier said than done. I struggle a lot when I have to work with people that I may not get along with. It is in those moments, I strive to remember that Jesus commands us to love the unloved, loving our neighbour as ourselves. So I will root for these everyday underdogs, I will pray for patience and understanding when working with people that I may not enjoy working with, because at the end of the day, I want to know that I tried my best to be Christ in the world.

Gearing up for the gold medal game,

Lauren

Categories: Lauren | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

End of the Challenge: Benefits of Radical Gratitude

pruningDear Pope Francis,

Yesterday marked the end of my 100 Days of Gratitude Challenge. In all honesty, while I was home I didn’t consciously think about the challenge. Getting back to Toronto, I realized how close I was to the end, because I had counted the days on my calendar. I’ve spent the last week reflecting both on my time at home and the challenge.

I was so grateful for my time at home. I didn’t realize just how burnt out I was until I stopped for a while. I saw the people I wanted to see, went where I needed to go and did the things I wanted to do. It’s easy to be grateful when things are good and I’m in a good space, both physically and mentally.

What is more difficult is to be grateful when things aren’t going well, when money is tight, when things are changing faster than you can keep up, when deadlines are looming. It is in these times I need to hang on tight and rely on God. Keeping faith can be hard. I’ve had my fair share of Doubting Thomas moments where I ask for proof of God’s love.

In hindsight, I realized that I did hang on through some tough stuff, and that radical gratitude helped me to hang on. It had to be radical gratitude though, because I am grateful for everything, including the pruning, challenges and change. I’m not grateful for the hard stuff because it made the good stuff even sweeter. I’m grateful for the hard stuff because it makes me stronger. I wouldn’t say that I relish suffering, necessarily, but I am grateful that I was strong enough to persevere, and continue to persevere, in faith.

My time at home was a bit of a reprieve from the stress and general hectic life I have when I’m in the city and in school. It gave me the space both physically and mentally to be able to see the last eight months for what they were, a rough patch in my life, and to name the lessons I learned in that time. I had the opportunity to get new perspectives from friends and family, and to start seriously looking forward.

I had to have an open disposition in order to receive these things, and having a radically grateful outlook helped create this disposition as well. If I had gone home with a chip on my shoulder, and spent the time at home allowing that chip to get deeper, then I would have received something very different from my time there. Instead, having a grateful outlook allowed me to have the openness to listen and learn, both to God in prayer, and the people around me.

Ultimately, this radical gratitude is not something I do for myself. It really is a grace from God. If I had tried to force myself to have the outlook I did, or do the things I do in order to heal, I likely would have ended up jaded and cynical. Instead, I can acknowledge that some things hurt and there was change, but that it was truly God’s plan. He gave me the grace and wisdom to see this. For that, I am eternally grateful.

Enjoying the sunshine,

Lauren

 

PS: For those who also kept up with the challenge, what did you learn? Let us know in the comments below.

Categories: Lauren | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Creating a New Normal

Dear Pope Francis,

As I’m sure you (and perhaps other readers) have noticed, both Meredith and I have become increasingly sporadic in writing our letters. It’s not necessarily because we’ve run out of things to say. Speaking for myself, I have lots of thoughts and ideas that I would love to put into words. However, life happens. Meredith has shared good news Summer Vacationrecently about opportunities taking her closer to her goals. I’ve been home soaking up all the goodness that comes from time at home with family and old friends, and taking a bit of a break.

The arrival of September next week (where did the summer go?!) brings with it more new changes.

There has been some major upheaval in my life, and I hope to be able to share some of that in another letter in the coming weeks. For now it’s enough to say that I am going through a long period of transition, which will likely stretch into the coming academic year.  In the last month, since I’ve been home, I have been very intentional about praying and discerning this period of change.

One of the keys to navigating this change has been to develop a new standard of ‘normal’ for my life. This has involved doing some soul searching and reality-checking to realize that some things really aren’t helpful, and trying to replace them with healthier habits. So far I’ve been having some success.

Case in point, one of the habits I’ve very intentionally been developing is exercising most days of the week. In order to do that, I started following a program consisting of daily 30-minute exercise routines on DVD. At first I had to force myself to show up and do my best, considering it a success if I stuck around for the whole workout. Within the first week, I was pushing myself to do more. I added more exercise by biking with my parents or walking with my friends. Thanks to the exercise and eating right, I had more energy, was sleeping better, and was feeling really good about myself.

junk foodLast night, my mother and I had a junk food binge, enjoying all our favourite treats and watching the last two episodes of Once Upon a Time, season 3. Within an hour of eating the junk food, I felt disgusting. I was sluggish, thirsty and uncomfortably full. All I wanted to do was get my bike out and go for a bike ride to clear my head. In the last three weeks, established a new normal, because even two months ago, I would have napped off the food coma, rather than trying to figure out if I could get a decent bike ride in before dark.bike riding

I have always struggled with change, but focusing on making these healthy habits a new norm has helped me to realize that I can in fact navigate change. I can let go of the bad habits, the junk food of my life, and replace it new habits, the wholesome foods that keep me going.

Going forward into September brings a host of changes: a new job, a new school year (complete with a new role), and new adventures to be had. I’m excited for all of it, but I am so grateful that I have this time of transition, where I am a part-time student with a foot in the world of employment. I have the time to focus on making changes and using those changes to structure the rest of my life. What I hope is that developing some of these healthy habits now as a young adult allows me to carry them into my adult life and whatever changes that will bring with it.

 

Soaking up the last of the summer sun,

Lauren

 

PS: As a result of the changes that are going on, Meredith and I have agreed to a new posting schedule. Watch for letters from me on Mondays and Fridays, and letters from Meredith on Wednesdays.

Categories: Lauren | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Happiness List

Dear Pope Francis,

I love that lists are becoming so popular. I have loved lists for as long as I can remember. I was really excited by your list of 10 things to do for happiness, and not only because it was a list. I think your ten items make a lot of sense, and apply globally. It got me thinking about what are the ten things that make me happy. In no particular order they are:Praying together

  1. Eating a meal with someone else/other people (even if we’re not eating the same food)
  2. Spending time with my family
  3. Being able to listen when someone needs a friend
  4. Praying with friends
  5. Campfires (add s’mores to make it even better!)
  6. Lying on my back and seeing so many stars that I can’t count them all
  7. Writing purely for the joy of writing
  8. Having a good conversation with friends (preferably over good food and drinks)
  9. Seeing the first buds of the spring
  10. Wading in shallow water at the beach

It was a really hard task because there is a difference between the earthly happiness that comes from more immediate gratification, and t
he peace and joy (that I also call happiness from time to time) that come from God. My list of instant ‘gratification happiness includes things like getting a good grade, eating delicious food (it’s even better when I cooked it myself), or being given a compliment. The list above includes the things that bring me peace and joy. I would enjoy walking in the shallow water or having a good conversation with a friend regardless of what’s going.

While you talk about happiness in your list, I think that what you are really getting at is the feelings of peace and joy, rather than the immediate gratification. If we followed the things on your list, we’d be at peace with our community, the environment and ourselves. These things go much deeper than immediate gratification.

The items on my list nourish my soul. When I’m stressed out, and feel like a weird half-human sleep-walking zombie-monster, doing even one of the things on my list helps me to feel whole. For me, I find myself when I’m in relationship with others, myself and God, and bring all those different elements into balance.Friends eating together

I also think each person’s list of what brings them true happiness is unique. At their core, there might be similarities, the way both mine and yours includes community, the environment and personal components. But how exactly we express them is different. I talk about being able to eat with someone/other people, where you talk about the importance of families eating together with the TV off. I bet there is a similar root for these, but living away from my family means that I have a slightly different way of expressing that because my reality is a little different.Family eating together

Now, LTP Readers, it’s your turn. Pope Francis and I both made a list of what makes us happy. Share with us in the comments what makes you happy.

Smilin’ away,

Lauren

Categories: Lauren | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Letting God Work

Dear Pope Francis,

IMG_4874

Hanging out at the waterfront in my hometown

I have two very close friends at home, and sometimes we’d go for a walk and make God laugh by telling each other the plans we made for our lives. I don’t know if we actually made God laugh, but if there is one thing that I learned from those conversations, and my own life, it’s that generally when I make a plan, God has something else that’s much better in mind. Somehow, despite experiencing  this over and over in my life, and hearing about it happening in other people’s lives, I still have a hard (more like virtually impossible) time just letting go, and giving God the space to work.

I am reminded of all those evening strolls along the boardwalk, or late nights around the campfire for two reasons. One, I am feeling a little homesick for summer on the East Coast, with salt-water beaches, BBQ’s with family, and late night s’mores made with peanut butter cups (seriously, you need to try it!). Secondly, and more importantly, I don’t know where God is calling me right now.

I had this brilliant plan, that I’d find a job, work for a bit, go to Europe, come back, work some more, and then go home to the East Coast for a week or so. I’d get back just in time to start school and I’d have tons of great stories to tell my friends about my awesome summer. However, only some of that come to fruition. I went to Europe and came back. I’m not working anywhere yet, and I haven’t booked any flights home.

As school was ending, I had several things I had to sort out for the next year or so, most importantly classes, school-year employment, extra-curricular involvement, and summer employment. I distinctly remember praying that I trusted God to know what I needed for the coming months, and that He would take care of me. Now, here I am, in the middle of it, with the first three things more or less sorted out, but nothing for the next eight weeks.

My challenge right now is letting God have the space to do his work. I trust Him and His plan, however, it is so hard to let go and see what happens. Perhaps harder is letting go of my notions of that the next several weeks need to look like. Sure, I had a plan, and I’m already frustrated with myself for not working harder to make those plans happen. Somewhere, in the recesses of my mind, I am reminded that God is going to take care of me, and that His plan is going to be great. That voice is hardly more than a whisper right now, and it is frequently drowned out by the voice telling me that I’ve failed because I don’t have a job for the summer, or the voice that is encouraging me to run away from the problems that not having a job poses. These voices are also making it incredibly difficult to do something meaningful with this time, like settle into work on my writing projects or get a jump start on some school work. These things aren’t meant to be my primary activities, they are going against my plan.

DSC02109

Watching the sunset as the fire gets going for a night of s’mores and stories

I don’t want to put words in God’s mouth, but if I can let go of my pre-conceived notions of what the summer is supposed to be, then maybe I’ll leave some space for God to speak, and I’ll find out what he actually has planned.

Trying to let go (which is easier said than done),

Lauren

Categories: Lauren | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Bridges to Community

Dear Pope Francis,

People live in community with each other all over the place. We have communities at work and school, and if you live in a big enough city there’s a group for enthusiasts of every hobby under the sun. This isn’t even getting started on all the communities available through message boards on the Internet.

Living in community is how we’re meant to be. Despite what Simon and Garfunkel might say, no [hu]man is an island. And even if someone thinks they are, they’re still in the archipelago.

My maternal grandmother has a cottage in Spider Bay. Along the route to the island there’s a couple which are located close together and owned by the same family. Sometime in the distant past when such things were still legal, the owner of the islands built a footbridge across the narrow but not impassable channel between them. (Side note: how do I NOT have a photo of those bridges to illustrate my point?)

Sitting on the dock with my siblings and some of my cousins, 2007

I’ve been thinking a lot about that bridge the last day or two. If the owners didn’t maintain it properly, the bridge would eventually collapse and the two islands wouldn’t be connected anymore. Beyond severing the physical connection of the islands, it would also damage the surrounding eco system with the broken wood and nails which would fall into the lake and be hazard to boaters and the wildlife in the area. If they wanted to rebuild the bridge again, it would take a lot more work because they’d have to do all the cleanup of the old bridge before they could start construction of a new one.

Human communities are the same. With moving home to my parents I’ve been immersed back in to the community of my immediate family. My family is big on reading and board games. The year Rachel was born my mother made my bedtime later than my siblings’ and taught me how to play some of her favourite games. Every night after the others had been put to bed, she and I would sit at the table and play backgammon or cribbage or scrabble. I remember getting whooped most of the time when we played, but I also remember laughing with my Mom and knowing that for that one uninterrupted hour every day – unless Rachel woke up or Dad called – she was mine.

scrabble_boxRachel turned thirteen a couple of weeks ago, and I gave her Scrabble for her birthday so she and I could play together. Mom usually joins us, and she usually wins. But the three of us sit around the table and laugh because BUTT is worth 27 points if you play it in the right spot and butts are funny.

To get back to the bridge metaphor, spending time with my sister in the evenings is part of the regular maintenance needed to keep that bridge safe and intact.

With Lauren being away in Europe for the last couple of weeks, I’ve been lonely for company my own age. This weekend was really good because I met a bunch of new people when I went to work; but the people I’ve been thinking about are the friends from high school who I have on Facebook but haven’t really seen since I left for New Brunswick five years ago.

There hasn’t been anything hugely dramatic to break the bridges apart, but I’ve been deferring the maintenance long enough that it’s going to take some serious work on my part to repair the bridges enough to be able to bear any kind of load.

Being aware of how little attention I’ve paid to these friends since high school makes me nervous about even sending a message announcing that I’ve returned and want to see people. I really haven’t kept in touch, and I’m not even totally sure who is in the area still and who has moved away for careers and family. Frankly, I’m a little worried they all think I’ve become a religious nut since I don’t post much on Facebook except for links to this blog.

Got to start sometime though right?

Rebuilding bridges,

Meredith

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Long Distance Friendships

Dear Pope Francis,

This letter is going up very late in the day, probably the latest I’ve ever posted and it’s very short. IMG_20140525_150403I promise it’s for a good reason though! For the first time since we have become friends, Meredith and I live in the same province, and she has come to visit for a few days. We spent today exploring the city for Doors Open Toronto. I think the best part of the day was that I had the opportunity to introduce some friends to each other because we all wanted to go exploring. We made a day of it, packing a picnic lunch and wandering wherever we pleased.

Spending this time with Meredith got me thinking about how exactly we managed to establish and maintain a friendship almost entirely long distance for four years. I still don’t really know the answer to that yet, something just clicked and it worked. What I did realize, is how important this friendship has been in my life. Without it, I probably wouldn’t be publishing twice a week on any blog, let alone Letters to the Pope. Some of my memories would also be radically different. My first trip to NYC just wouldn’t have been the same without Meredith’s company.

I have a few friends like this; we have developed and/or maintained friendships over a significant distance, including different continents. When we are together, we talk and laugh as though we have never been apart. When we are apart, we call or Skype as often as we possibly can. In the meantime, we text or write letters or send care packages to each other. Although I don’t see these friends often, I value their friendship, and a have a wall dedicated to the hanging up their postcards, letters and pictures.

Having these friendships helped to maintain some amount of stability in my life when I moved to Toronto, because I had people to talk to while I was developing new friendships in Toronto. They also help me to stay grounded in reality, even when I am stressed out, confused or upset. They are also very important people to celebrate with when good things happen.

I am very grateful for the role that these friend’s play in my life. As much as being away from them is difficult sometimes, it makes seeing them again all the sweeter.

Feeling grateful for my friends,

Lauren

Categories: Lauren | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: