BEDA Day 13: Inspired

I know you’re all desperate to hear about art camp (hah), but before I post about that, I have some poetic religious gushing that I have to get off my chest. If you don’t want to read it, that’s fine, but I feel like it will offer a peek at my world view and my spiritual life, so if you’re interested, continue on.

I’ve put this post off because Saturday and Sunday I was too exhausted to do it justice, and I don’t want to lose my train of thought by putting it off any more. Almost the entirety of this post occurred to me during adoration on Saturday, so y’all should feel flattered that I’m thinking about you all the time. ūüėČ

So on Saturday I went to a LifeTeen event at a theme park. (Not telling which one, for safety reasons, however feeble they might be.) We spent the day riding the roller coasters and eating overpriced ice cream and sweating a lot. It was incredibly hot. As fun as the roller coasters and the ice cream and the heat (ha) might have been, the best part started in the late afternoon, when we gathered in the stadium for Mass and adoration.

Before Mass started, we sang a bunch of Catholic songs and punched the air and danced — I recognized a guy who spoke at the Made to Love retreat I went to back in February. It was awesome.

Then there was Mass.¬†As a rule, whenever our Archbishop says Mass, it’s awesome. You know how (or you may not know, actually) how Pope John Paul II was so invested and enthused about the youth? Our Archbishop is the same way. He’s fantastic. His homily was fantastic, but the part of the Mass that really spoke to me was the Eucharist. This seems to always happen to me at retreats, but because it always takes so long to distribute to Body and Blood, I end up having a lot of time to contemplate and it always really moves me.

I’d spent the whole week at art camp, surrounded by people who weren’t Catholic and probably weren’t even Christian. At one point during the camp, I’d had to explain how we Catholics don’t worship Mary, we just honor her. (That’s always fun, right?) I can’t help but pity my non-Catholic/non-Christian friends. I know they’re happy how they are, and I mean no offense by any of this, but I am so happy to be Catholic. I can’t even imagine what it’d be like not to have Mary or the saints in my life. Not to have the Eucharist; not to have adoration.

I have to wonder how it feels not to have that special relationship with our Heavenly Mother. I know that when I’m feeling the most alone – when I’m crying late into the night and can’t sleep because of the sobs pulling apart my chest – she’s the one who kisses my wounds and rocks me in her arms until I fall asleep. She’s the one who holds me, the one who comforts me. One night at camp I just lost it completely. I’d never felt so alone, so much loss, so empty inside. I spent a good fifteen minutes kneeling by the window and just crying my eyes out as quietly as I could so I wouldn’t wake up my roommates… I finally settled under the covers with my rosary and ended up falling asleep halfway through the third decade. She is with me when others aren’t, or can’t be. And I can’t imagine life without her.

As I knelt on the cement ground of the theme park stadium, watching the Archbishop give communion, I felt huge emotion welling up inside my chest. The band was singing How He Loves,¬†which I absolutely love, and this one line just echoed through my head… “If His grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking…”

I felt so tired. Emotionally and physically, I was exhausted. I was sick (still am) of crying myself to sleep, of the ache in my heart that comes from nowhere and catches me unaware. I just wanted to stumble forward into His arms and drown in Him. I wanted to give everything to Him, and I did. My aches, my pains, my joys, my fears, my sadness, my excitement… Everything that I am, everything that I am to be, I want to surrender to him. I want every molecule, every particle of my being to be filled with Him – every time I breathe in I want Him to fill my lungs, to fill me inside and help me stand up, help me carry on, help me hold up my head. And I want it so desperately – the only thing I want as desperately is for my friends to be able to feel this way; to experience what I experience. I want the people I love to know how it feels to have Him in their life – not that they don’t already, but a lot of them don’t have Him in this way.

Not just my friends, either. The people on the roller coasters surrounding the stadium, their squealing cutting through the silence – not realizing how close they are to Christ Himself. Not realizing that the one person who loves them more than anyone on this earth ever will is¬†right there.¬†He loves them more than the boy sitting next to them on the coaster, more than the mother who tucked them in at night, more than the girl who broke their heart said she did. More than all of it combined. And they don’t even know it.

They don’t know how it feels to see the priest process in with the monstrance and to have their breath catch in their throat and their heart skip a beat. To not want to tear they eyes away until they have to because their vision is flooded with tears and they have to wipe their eyes.

If I am drowning, then I want to grab hold of everyone I know and drag them under with me, because drowning has never felt so beautiful and filled me with so much joy. My life has been rough and confusing lately, a lot like the roller coasters I rode on. There have been loops and twists, plummeting drops that still haunt me, and the inescapable fear that I am going to fall off the ride. But through it all, He has been with me, holding my hand and teaching me how to breathe again.

I realized on Saturday that Jesus is and always will be my one true love. He is my bridegroom, and every Sunday (and usually at some point during the week, too), I walk down the aisle to be with Him at the altar. He is the only man who will love me more than I could ever possibly love Him – even though I love Him with everything I have, He will always love me more because He can. I cannot love Him like He loves me because I am just human. I’m a weak and exhausted teenage girl, and despite my many flaws, He loves me and He always will, even when I sin, even when I break out in pimples, even when I feel like the most unloved and loneliest being alive – He is always there.

I am never truly alone. I cannot be. That is the simple truth that has kept me going since June. When love and hope and happiness feel as though they are gone from my life, there is someone there for me, there with me.

That’s why I pity people who don’t know Christ. Because without Christ, I would feel even more lost than I always do. I have a road map, and even though I feel like I can’t read it a lot of the time, I know I have it and the reassurance of that has kept me sane.

That’s why Catholicism is the most important aspect of my being. That’s why I go to Mass every Sunday and why I keep a rosary by my bed. That’s why Mary is my mother and my greatest friends don’t live on earth. Without Christ, without the Eucharist, without someone to feed me – someone to tell me to GET UP AND EAT¬†– I would be nothing. I would not be able to go on.

Have a blessed evening, you guys. Stay tuned for some art camp shenanigans and some paintings and stuff. ‘Til then, best wishes! ūüôā

~Hero

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What is this feeling? (Is it love? What is love, anyway?)

Before you ask: yes, I am aware that it is Friday, and yes, I know I promised you guys a post yesterday, but here’s the thing. Yesterday morning, my dad and I went to a golf tournament and then my aunt came to town and we spent the day with her – long story short, I didn’t finish my schoolwork until past midnight, at which point it was no longer Thursday and I could not have kept my promise even if I wanted to!

(I didn’t want to. I was really tired.)

On the bright side, I¬†finally¬†finished my paper on¬†Julius Caesar, and I’m really proud of it. I might post it, just so you guys can revel in my genius.

Anyway. I am up at 7:15 AM, writing this blog post now SPECIFICALLY so I won’t run out of time later. See how much I love you? See?

That was a really obvious segue – but, hey! It works! Today we’re talking about looooooooove.

Before we start, I want to clear up a misconception about love. Raise your hand if you think, or have ever thought, that love is just an intensification of ‘like.’ For example, when I was younger, I would have crushes on people, and if I¬†really liked someone, I would have debates with myself: “I really like him – does that mean I love him?”

In a word: no.

I mean, yes, love obviously has feelings involved, but love is different than liking someone. When you like someone, you’re simply attracted to them. When you love someone, well. Here. I think the best way to start this is with Pope John Paul II’s definition of love.

“For love is not merely a feeling; it is an act of will that consists of preferring, in a constant manner, the good of others to the good of oneself.”

What this means is you can’t judge love by how strongly you feel. Love is on a whole new level: we can’t just like someone, we have to strive to know what is best for the other, and then make an actual commitment of our wills to bring about this “good” for the other. Love is an active decision to completely give yourself to someone else. When you love someone, you do what is best for them and what will make them happy, even if it will make you unhappy.

I’ll use another example from my preteen years (this isn’t getting embarrassing, or anything). When I was twelve or so, I had a¬†huge crush on this one guy. One of those hopeless, desperate, I-know-this-guy-will-never-ever-like-me-in-a-million-years-never crushes. I was pretty much obsessed. Then, my twelve-year-old world was rocked when a friend of mine dropped a bombshell on me: she liked this guy, too. In that moment, I had to make a decision: do I keep liking this guy, on the off chance that he’ll like me back, or do I give him up for her? I knew that if, by some miracle, something happened between me and this guy, it would totally crush my friend. And that if I continued to like him while she liked him, too, I would start to see her as a rival. (I know that’s stupid, but I was twelve. Cut me a break.) I eventually made up my mind: I had to stop liking this guy. My friendship with my friend was more important to me. Sure, I liked him, but I¬†love her.

That was probably one of the best decisions I ever made. Just so you know. I maintain that when you make a selfless choice for the good of someone you love, both of you benefit. Give and you shall receive, as they say.

Anyway, that was a slight tangent. Back to the topic.

In the Greek language, there are many words for love:¬†eros, for example, is the word for romantic love.¬†Agape is the self-giving love: the total donation of self. If you want an example of this kind of love that is easier to understand than the intricacies of my preteen love life, look at a crucifix. I don’t care if you’re not religious at all, go and look at a crucifix. Jesus Christ hung on a cross for¬†six hours – which, by the way, is excruciatingly painful – because he loved you and wanted to save. Could you imagine? That is love. That is true, total, perfect love.

Now, if you’re thinking really critically about this, you’ll have reached a problem in all of these definitions. If love is a complete self-gift to someone else, how can you love at all? If you are giving up everything, then the act of loving someone romantically at all is kind of selfish – sure, you want the best for them, but you also love them and want to be loved. How does that make sense – to give all and yet take?

Simple explanation: obviously, real love is not one-sided. It’s not only about giving – though that is the crucial, most important part of love – it’s also about receiving. By accepting someone’s love, you are allowing someone else to give completely of themselves – which, if you think about it, is a pretty selfless thing to do.

The last thing I want to mention before I wrap this up is that love has three facets. Human beings are created for love – we were specifically designed for love – so obviously, we want to be loved, and we have attractions for people. Just because that isn’t¬†agape love doesn’t mean it’s wrong, or somehow a twisted view of love. It’s only wrong if it exists without the self-giving: which is how the world defines love, by the way. “She’s cute, I want her for myself.” “He’s cute, I want him for myself.” That’s not how love works.

The aspects of love are as follows:

Love as attraction: recognizing the good of another person; seeing the inner and outer beauty of another person.

Love as desire: wanting a good for yourself; desiring goodness and happiness.

Love as goodwill: desiring the good of another person.

All three of these are good in themselves – recognizing inner beauty, wanting happiness, wanting what’s best for someone else. But when they’re together, they are true, self-giving, lasting love. Real love. And that’s what we want, right?

I’ll leave you all with two quotes that I really think encapsulate love.

“Love, to be real, must cost – it must hurt – it must empty us of self.” ~ Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta

“A young husband should say to his bride: ‘I have taken you in my arms and I love you, and I prefer you to my life itself. For the present life is nothing, and my most ardent dream is to spend it with you in such a way that we may be assured of not being separated in the life reserved for us.” ~ St. John Chrysotom

If you liked this post, or you want to know more about this kind of thing, I recommend looking into a Theology of the Body course, or maybe just finding a book on the subject. Most of what I wrote today came from¬†Theology of the Body for Teens by Jason & Crystalina Evert and Brian Butler. I have it as part of a class I’m taking, but I’m pretty sure you can find a book on Theology of the Body phrased in a way that’s easy to understand (because let’s face it: reading JPII straight up, while great, is not easy) and interesting to learn. Even if you’re not Catholic, it’s a good read. Also, I would look into some of Jason Evert’s stuff. He talks about love and how to find it and how to love truly and perfectly in his books. How To Find Your Soulmate Without Losing Your Soul is a really good one – but any of his stuff is good.

I really find love fascinating, and I hope it shows in this post. After all, it’s what we’re made for. And I think that’s pretty cool.

~Hero

I Could Have Danced All Night

The fact that I have now had two consecutive blog titles containing a¬†My Fair Lady¬†reference worries me. Especially because I don’t even particularly like¬†My Fair Lady all that much, plus I just went to see WICKED for the second time, so my head should be full of that.

Whatever. I’ve had the most amazing weekend ever, and I will now try to synopsize it for you guys.

Saturday

Saturday morning I pulled myself out of bed at the ungodly¬†hour of seven AM and my dad drove me and my friend to the convention center for a retreat. The theme of the retreat was ‘Made To Love’ and the keynote speaker was Jason Evert.¬†(For those of you who don’t know, Jason Evert is this ridiculously amazing and hilarious chastity speaker. You should check him out.) However, the people running the retreat were having some scheduling problems, which led to us sitting around for a while taking pictures of our feet and writing on ourselves. (Ink poisoning FTW.)

Eventually, they sent the boys into a different room and we had these two guys come up and talk to all the girls about how both men and women are made in God’s image, and how we all possess some of the qualities of God Himself. In the guys we can see God’s strength, adventurousness, and in the women we can see God’s beauty and mystery. (Personally, I think we girls got the better deal. ;)) They talked about how men have an innate desire to be conquerors – it’s ingrained in their being to need to conquer things. (Also, a cool quote from a cardinal – I think – whose name I have forgotten, “The world tells man to conquer a woman for himself. God tells man to conquer himself for a woman.”) This is kind of cool because if a guy genuinely loves a girl and the girl has high standards, the guy will do basically anything to meet her standards. So girls, set the bar high. ūüėõ

At the beginning of that talk, they made all the girls in the room compile a list of qualities they look for in a guy. This would have been fine, except they made all the guys in the other room compile a list of qualities they thought girls looked for in a guy. The lists matched almost exactly, except that the guys included ‘money’ and ‘a beard.’ (The best part was that all of the girls from my group groaned and basically facepalmed because WE KNEW that our friend had put that on the list. The big dork.)

Moving on! We had lunch. I had a vegetarian sandwich with entirely too much mayonnaise on it. HURRAH.

Then Jason Evert came up and talked. I never expected him to be so funny. I only took a few notes because I was too busy laughing my head off, but I did write down this one thing… He said that if he could only talk to us for sixty seconds, he’d tell us that, “No girl on earth will ever convince other people that she has dignity and should be respected unless she convinces herself.” (That’s important. That’s why it’s in bold.)

All of the other pictures look rather the same, so I shall SKIP THEM! *triumphant trumpet music* (By the way, I am not going to explain these pictures at all, so deal with it. :P)

At the end of the retreat we had Mass. After the Eucharist I was suddenly hit with how much Jesus loves me. I acutely felt it like a knife in my chest Рhow much Jesus had done for me, despite the fact that I am so low Рso low Рand I will never ever ever ever ever ever (to the billionth power) be able to deserve it. No matter what I do. It makes me feel like crying, both because I feel so awful for my repeated, continual failure and because it feels so amazing to be loved like that.

I was going to apologize for how religion-heavy that paragraph is, but you know what? I won’t. I cannot apologize for my faith. I am enamored with Christ, my Lord, and I am not sorry about it. At all.

Once the retreat was over, my friend-with-the-beard and his brother, my best-friend-sans-beard, drove me to this Sadie Hawkins dance. (Well, bearded-friend drove – they can’t both drive. That’d be weird.) The dance was amazing. I danced like a complete maniac – I am so sore today. We had so much fun with the strobe lights (we are such dorks). There was a lot of swing music, so I danced with three of my guy friends: my best friend, who I usually¬†dance with, my other friend who I’d danced with a couple times (so I kept flubbing it up because I was used to dancing with said best friend), and my other friend who didn’t know how to dance, so I had to teach him.

Toward the end of the dance, they played ‘Dancing Through Life’ and I started completely freaking out. Nobody had any clue why, so I had to scream (in between lines, of course), “IT’S FROM WICKED!” And then of course, I started singing it, but Dancing Through Life is sung by a tenor, which means it’s too low for my little girly voice, but if I try to bump it up an octave, it’s too high. So I basically just had to yell the words (since I couldn’t sing them), and add this to the fact that I was jumping around like an absolute idiot… My non-Wicked-savvy friends were raising their eyebrows and thinking, “Oh, she’s lost it now.” (I’m looking at you, Mon-la.)

To quickly wrap up the rest of Saturday night (because this is getting really long and I still have to get through Sunday), I slow danced with this guy that I kind of dislike, halfway because I was dared to, halfway because I thought it’d be hilarious. (It was actually just awkward, so, fail.) The DJ announced that the next song was the last song, and I was going to dance with guy-I-didn’t-really-like’s cousin/my non-Wicked-savvy-friend’s older brother (again, as a joke), but I couldn’t find him, so I just danced with my best-friend-sans-beard. I figured I’d dance with somebody I actually liked for the last song. ūüėõ

The dance ended really late at night, so as my friend-with-the-beard drove me home (he’s the only licensed driver in our circle of friends who my mother will let drive me anywhere), my best-friend-sans-beard points out, “Hey, isn’t it illegal for you to drive past midnight?” (According to state law, you have to be licensed for a year before you’re able to drive after midnight.) At this point it’s 11:47 PM and we’re about 10 minutes away from my house. Note that these guys live, like, fifteen minutes away from me. You do the math. I was like, “Ohhh… Shoot.” So, yes. Illegal activity of the day! (Kids: don’t try this at home.)

End Saturday.

Sunday

Dad and I drove for aaaaaaaages (and ages and ages) so I could go see Wicked with my aunt. I’ve seen it before, and seeing it a second time was slightly less powerful. I mean, it was still amazing and magical and wonderful and all things fantastic, but I knew what was coming and how it ended, so it was like part of the anticipation was gone. Does that make sense? It’s sort of sad, because I’ll never be able to recapture the feeling of seeing it for the first time – but that in no way means I’m going to stop going to see it. It is still my favorite musical and it is still unbelievably incredible. So, bravo, Stephen Shwartz and Co. Bravo.

The cast of this show was pretty much the same cast as last time I went to see it, but they had a different Glinda, and this performance with the understudy for both Elphaba and Fiyero. I was excited about this, because I thought it’d be cool to see a different portrayal of the characters. They didn’t disappoint. I completely fell in love with Fiyero all over again. And even though in my heart, David Nathan Perlow will always be the one true¬†Fiyero, because I saw him in the role first, this guy was still pretty awesome. (And, yes, Julia – pretty attractive, too – or at least I thought so. I didn’t get to meet him up close like I did with DNP, so I can’t be sure, but from where I was sitting, he looked pretty good. I cannot cast official judgement, however, so we must leave this unresolved.)

Can y’all give me, like, ten seconds to fangirl? Okay. Thanks. *gigantic swoon thing* I LOVE FIYERO. SO MUCH. Not even the actors that play him, just the character. Just FIYERO. Goodness. Goodness. *swoons again* “I don’t even think he’s perfect anymore and I still¬†want him!” (Oh, Glinda.) Which now prompts one of my favorite exchanges in the whole musical: “He’s been moody and distant… And he’s been thinking.” *enter Fiyero* “Elphaba! Listen, I’ve been thinking…” “I heard.”

Gah. I just love it all so much.

And yes, before you ask – I did fork over twenty bucks for one of those fancy programs. Don’t judge me.

All in all, going to see this play again and falling in love with the characters again has only convinced me further that the blood running through my veins is a glittering emerald green.

Alright, I’m going to bed. I apologize for this novel length, completely confusing post. I’m probably going to reread this tomorrow and go, “What on earth…?”

Sleep deprivation is fun. Whoohoo.

Thanks for reading, guys. It means a lot.

~Hero