rebirth

 “Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’ He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.’

Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.’” — Matthew 26:36-39

When I was little, Easter was when we made “Easter trees” by clamping string into plastic eggs and hanging them outside. I remember picking out the perfect Easter dress for church and waking to a basket full of chocolate goodies and a new springtime piece of clothing. I remember – with a little competitive love – the exciting egg hunts and relaxing Sunday afternoon meal at my grandparents’ house. Easter has always had a bright, enlivening aura around it – the promise of a fresh breath of air, a happy season as the dawn of spring is carried in on Easter’s arrival. Easter brings new life. As a child I never understood why, but as I get older I understand more.

The image of Jesus in Matthew 26:36-39 is not filled with sunshine, flowers, and pastel colored eggs. He isn’t rejoicing at the promise of new life for us; Jesus mourns his own death. This is one of my favorite images of Jesus, not because he is filled with sorrow and grief, but because it shows him experiencing feelings that are innately human and worldly. How many times have we, collectively as humans, felt “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death”? At some point in our lives, we will feel the overwhelming, crippling grief that Jesus felt in the garden of Gethsemane. Maybe it will be the day our parents pass away, or when one of our friends gets a bad diagnosis, or when we feel immensely desolate. I’m not being cynical, but I am being realistic. We will likely experience these feelings in our lives.

This is the very reason why I love this image of Jesus. He was vulnerable, pained with the situation he was facing. How hopeless I would feel if I thought I had to go my whole life trying to live up to a Christlike figure that never felt the pain and sorrow of loss. Instead of viewing our own tragedies in conflict with the existence of a powerful, loving God, we should view them like Jesus did: painful, harrowing, but never the end of the story.

Jesus cried out to his Father to take the cup, to remove the tragic death he was about to encounter. I think we can learn so much from Jesus in this moment. First, it is okay to feel the heartbreaking reality of life’s circumstances. Jesus didn’t fake a bold, invincibility toward God. He accepted with humility his desperation and faced God with vulnerability and truth. Secondly, Jesus didn’t run from the Father. He didn’t try to evade God by turning to worldly promises. He turned toward God and prayed to Him. The realness of Jesus in this moment gives me hope that when I face hurt, tribulations, and defeat in this life, my response does not have to be trivialized; I don’t have to display false courage. While He is offering a behavioral response to difficult situations (if you can even call what Jesus was about to encounter difficult), He includes a didactic moment, too. That is, when times get tough (which they invariably will), the first place to go is to God. God will always meet us in prayer, even when we’re angry, unfaithful, and devastated.

While all of this seems sad and dark, there is indeed light that returns the vitality, beauty, and promise of new beginnings that Easter is known for. Jesus didn’t stop in this moment to lament indefinitely. He gets up and recognizes His fate – to save a world of sinners. He confidently says to his capturers in a scripture I love:

“Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?” – Matthew 26:53-54

Jesus knew the implications of His crucifixion. He could have called on the Heavens and saved Himself from the pain He would encounter. But He didn’t. He embraced God’s will for His life and died to save the very man who hung him on the cross. It is a beautiful, overwhelming, incomprehensible love that he displayed for us.

Easter still has to me the excitement and fun that I remember as a child. I still love a good egg hunt and an elegant dress for church. I cherish getting together with my family and taking special time to remember why we celebrate this season of pastel-colored eggs and whimsical decorations. Now though, Easter is so much more than this. Yes, while the springtime flowers and sunny days are revitalizing, the promises that Jesus fulfilled on the cross will always be the most life-giving, hope-renewing, and beautiful treasures that I, and we, will ever receive.

sunny rays

“Let the illuminating rays of the morning sun revive my spirit, renew my soul, and fill my heart with the hope of the descending dawn.” – mb

This morning I rolled over in my two-foot-wide bed and was greeted with the sunny and peaceful dawn of the morning. It has been rainy the past few days (or weeks, it feels like) and my spirits have felt the same dreary, sobering mood that the overcast, grey skies bring. But today, I rolled over and I saw sunshine and felt a joy and hope spring up inside me. I consider myself a somewhat-paradoxically optimistic yet skeptical person about things. I was raised on seeing the best in others, being the bigger person, and always finding forgiveness because life is too short to hold grudges against others. Skepticism, though, has woven its way into my life though and not in a necessarily bad way. Healthy skepticism can prevent pride, overconfidence, and faulty judgement. I’m at a place in my life, though, where I want to reevaluate what I’m making priority and what tendencies recur in my life. Periods of fasting and prayer have urged something deep within me to reconsider what I’m considering important in this life; what idols have I unintentionally set up? How do we as a society and especially as believers deconstruct those things that have begun to take root in our hearts and outcompete our love for others, doing good, and living Christ-like? What does it mean to live authentically as a Christian and a doctor, scientist, writer, teacher, lawyer, musician, etc.? How can I change my life in such a way that it is refocused, centered, and set on sights of above?

In my shallow attempt to answer some of these questions, I’ve quickly learned it is both complex and uncomfortable to address your life in such a way, as an observer or outsider. Life itself can be hard, and it’s my superstition that too many people are afraid of hiding their fears and insecurities, their big challenging questions. How are we supposed to parse through what is important in life if we can’t even discuss it with the people who are present in our lives every day? I am just as guilty about this as the next person, but for some reason I’ve felt the need to change that and to eliminate this hindrance in my relationship with others and with God. When I started this blog, one of my intentions was sincerity about the hard things in life, like body insecurity, loneliness, divorce, failure. This was my platform of exposing the vulnerabilities and being real with others. Now, my attempts to write are often displaced by obligations to study or work. So instead my goal has been to create real, vulnerable and truthful relationships with others. When I “feel the need” to start doing something different in my life, even if it so minute and seemingly insignificant, it is usually inspired by the heavenly Creator. I don’t want to wear these masks every day in front of others, always answering with the “right” question when someone asks something meaningful about your life. One time in church, I was so caught off guard because my pastor once asked me how I was doing. Of course, as we all do, I answered, “Oh I’m doing fine, how are you?” and his response was, “No, how are you really doing, what’s going on in your life?”. He caught me at a time where I was really struggling with some things behind the scenes, and this intentional, thoughtful question provoked something in me that is usually deeply buried in daily conversations. He didn’t just care about filling the space between us with empty words and conversation, but he wanted to dig deep into what was going on in my life. This type of real, intentional conversation and community with others is something that I long for these days. I’m tired of artificial conversation, wearing masks that make our lives look flawless and unrealistically strong. This is not what I want.

Jesus never said to avoid letting others into your mind where there may be insecurities, doubts, questions. In community, we have the opportunity to break down walls. My walls are pretty rigidly constructed after years of maintenance and reinforcement. I’m the first to admit to being the type that always appears put-together with “everything figured out” but let me first handedly say that this is not the case. My doubts and fears are cumbersome and admittedly scary and unwanted. I question things. I feel out of place, uncertain, and confused sometimes. Instead of bottling these feelings up, I’ve began to embrace them and talk through them with others. I’ve began, most importantly, to talk through them with God. As I would my best friend, I welcome God’s input on my situation and seek for His answers instead of my own. I really think our best bet at answering some of the hard, anxiety-inducing, and uncomfortable questions I mentioned above is partnering with God in prayer and in life. It requires a community of believers and friends that can help you navigate through life’s toughest issues.

I think something transformational is happening in my life right now, something that is helping me to reevaluate and rethink my old tendencies and desires. It feels small and subtle but present. For some reason I felt the need to write it down, talk it out, put it out there for the world. Maybe God is calling you into something more than artificial relationships and surface-level Christianity. My hopeful, optimistic heart is overpowering the skeptical, doubtful nature of the human being. I think there is more for us than achievement, recognition, reward, promotion, and perfection. Something urges me to articulate that when we partner with God, truly anything can happen. Let the renewing rays of the sunshine remind us that there is hope on the dawn.

“This is my command — be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

“I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 3:14

new beginnings

The textbooks are purchased, the desk is decorated, and the coffee has already been brewed (multiple times). I can smell the start of a new year, and I can certainly feel it. Sophomore year as a pre-medical student is full of the “hard” classes and a lovely phenomenon called the “sophomore slump”. My year as a sophomore will be filled with organic chemistry I and II, genetics, microbiology, molecular biology, statistics, and some humanities classes. As I sit and prepare for the upcoming year, I naturally feel very overwhelmed (taking a look at the syllabi didn’t help either). But the truth is, I don’t want to fear what God has given me. My education, my freedom to pursue a career that I picked and no one picked for me, is a blessing. Sometimes I get so attached to the things of this life (GPA, honors, awards, leadership positions, and ultimately two letters after my name), that I get consumed with the accompanying anxiety of it all. The only way I can escape this anxiety is by remembering the true honor of this life. The reward that satisfies only the deepest desire of my soul. The heavenly eternal promise following this temporary life. And while this seems extreme, it is the only thing that keeps me at ease in the midst of chaos. This world and the society that I am a part of is increasingly negative, judgmental, and uncertain. Belmont, although one of my favorite places to be, is a place that is an extension of this world and cannot fulfill the greater call I have been given. My place in this world, molded by my decisions and mediated by the purpose God has placed on my life, is to seek and glorify the Lord’s name in all that I do.

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” -1 Corinthians 10:31

So “whatever you do” for me right now is a whole lot of studying, reading, writing, calculating, speaking, meeting, and trying for success in the career I aspire to pursue. Likewise, I will seek to glorify God in those things and by doing so that requires that the anxiety accompanying it all to cease. A difficult challenge (not just for those in college, but in any profession or situation) but I believe by chasing the things of above, God will grant strength to all those who trust in Him. I can only hope that the things I am pursuing in this temporary life satisfy and please the Creator of it all. My prayer is that this semester I see my studies as an opportunity to learn new knowledge to impact the world in the way God calls me to, whatever that may be. I pray to see challenges as a test of character and faith to encourage me to grow stronger. I pray for comprehension, retention, and recall in understanding the complex content that I will be required to learn. I pray mostly for optimism, hope, and joy in this semester. I pray that love permeates the air that I walk and that the people I encounter know that they are loved, cherished, and important to me. My prayer is that God blesses everyone’s pathway this semester and that we all possess thankfulness for the blessing of new beginnings. This is my prayer.

 

weighting on the world to change

I am not a writer. I cannot formulate words into the sentences I want them to be read. I hear my thoughts and I want other people to hear them, but it is often hard for me to communicate my thoughts to other people. I am an awkward person. I am a real person who gets uncomfortable in situations. This post is going to be careless. Not careless in the way that I don’t care what I am writing, but careless in the fashion that my grammar may be wrong at times. I may not make sense. Actually, I probably won’t make sense (that is how my brain functions). I am going to write my thoughts as I think them, not as I want them read. I have always enjoyed writing, whether it be prose fiction or research papers. I enjoy writing, but why?

I enjoy learning. I thoroughly enjoy learning. I am a creative thinker. I love to create things in my mind. Scenarios. Problems, realistic and scientific. Stories. I love learning about new people. I love discovering new places. I am passionate about gaining knowledge in every aspect of my life. I have always said I have a curious mind but honestly I think I have a curious heart. I am passionate about learning about other people. Their likes, dislikes, loves, hates, emotions, worries. I love learning about people. I often silently watch others and just soak up what I observe. How they speak, how they articulate their words, how they choose to love, how they choose to breathe even. Every body is different. And I mean that in every body is different.

I hate the media.

We as women are so often, for lack of better words, tricked into believing lies. Skinny women are everywhere. NO, photoshop and hungry celebrities are everywhere. This post is written for myself. The average weight of an American woman has gone up 11 pounds in 20 years according to thehuffingtonpost.com. The ideal weight for an American woman is 140 pounds. We, on average, weigh 156 pounds. Now, I don’t weigh 156 pounds. Or 140 pounds. I know women that do though. I have a petite frame. I have always been naturally skinny, but I am just as victimized by the unrealistic idea of beauty that is portrayed in the media as my other lady accomplices that weigh 156 pounds.

I hate the media.

I looked myself in the mirror this morning and kind of freaked out. Not because I was embracing my typically atrocious morning hair. But I thought to myself (prepare for the messy thoughts I conceive), this is who I am. I am this face, I am this hair, I am this body, and these eyes. I am those feet and these hands. To other people, this is who I am. But to myself, I am not those things. 90% of the day I never see my face. The other 10% I am taking snapchats or fixing my messy hair in the bathroom mirror. The 90% is who I really am. I am my thoughts. I am my actions. I am my words. I am not my body weight or jean size. I am not my brown eyes or green nails. My body is merely a camping place for my brain and my heart. One day, my two most important inhabitants will get up, and leave. And my body will be left here. The exact thing I have been agonizing over and perfecting for all this time will be left behind. What will be left of me?

Oh yeah, those two things we oh so frequently forget about. The first, my brain. What did I leave in this world. Did I make a difference? Did I learn all of the things I wanted to learn? Did I learn about people and places and things and emotions? I want to learn about those things before I leave. Did I create something beautiful? Or did I destroy something beautiful? Did my thoughts build me up or break me down?

The second, my heart. Did I love passionately? I hope I gave. I hope I graciously and openly always gave. I want to give to others. Love, hope, and faith. Did I share my feelings? Did I tell every single person I knew that I loved them? I hope I created something beautiful. I hope I loved openly. I want to embrace my heart. I hope I was sensitive. I want to be sensitive to others. I want to invite others into my tent. If someone can make it past the flaws in my camping place, they can fully embrace my delicate brain and complex heart. If someone can see past their own camping grounds. Their own flaws. The rocks they have lying around their grounds. The wind that affects their tent. The trouble that storms have left on their place. If someone can move past all of those imperfections and enter into the tent of their beautiful mind and heart, they have won. They have beat the media, their own minds, the words and actions of others, and the war against themselves. See past your imperfections. See past your flaws. See past your weight and hair and face and clothes and image. Look inside your tent and care about your mind and your soul. Care about the things you hold inside you.

Our bodies are a camping place that one day the greater things inside us will get up and leave. Make sure what you take with you is greater than what is left in the ground behind you.

some thoughts

  1. We are more than the things we see every day
  2. We are the words we say and the actions we perform
  3. A weight cannot make you beautiful
  4. You can beautiful at any weight
  5. The media lies to us
  6. We choose to accept those lies
  7. We need to stop accepting those lies
  8. Everyday is a beautiful day
  9. There are ugly moments in every day
  10. We must embrace them
  11. Beauty truly comes from within you
  12. A heart that gives is more beautiful than a hand that gives
  13. number 12 might not make sense
  14. Give loving words in private not loving gifts in public

I love you guys and I pray we all, talking directly to myself here, love ourselves for what we are worth on the inside. Not the outside.

xoxoxo

mary catherine

Thoughts of Thanks

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This morning, I rolled over onto my side and looked at my clock. 7:57. I decided to wake and embrace the quietness before this undeniably busy, beautiful day begins. As I was climbing out of bed, I reached over to turn on my bedside lamp. Warm, saturated, yellow light filled my perfectly messy room. I put on my record player and brewed myself a cup of coffee. The tranquility of these simple tasks evolved into an array of simple, thankful thoughts. There are many misconceptions about the reality of people only being “thankful” on Thanksgiving, but I am inclined to believe that this premise isn’t true. It is very obvious that attention is brought to what we are thankful for on this day marked as “a day of thanks giving”. But I truly believe people are thankful every day, even if in a very small way. I know I have been thankful for something as odd and miniscule as my eyebrows before (for preventing an influx of sweat into my eyes!). I have been thankful for bad situations that have turned into intricately developed lessons learned. I am always thankful for my ever loving parents, sisters, and brother. I am not boasting, however. Because there are times I am stressed beyond my control (or so this is what my mind believes). I have been ungrateful for many things in my life. I will never be able to fully comprehend the merciful grace my God has bestowed upon me. He, after all, is what we should be most thankful for. I have watched my family, friends, and strangers go through unthinkable times and remain thankful. Victims of robbery that have asked for prayer for the robber. Families that have had their children, brothers, and sisters murdered and have asked for mercy on the killer. I pray my heart becomes as tender and compassionate as the hearts these individuals possess. Life, so many times, can make a genuine person shallow and unappreciative. And that is why I am thankful for days like today. Where we are consciously and incessantly reminded to “be thankful”.

Along with my inundation of grateful thoughts this morning, another thought rose to my mind. I am not entirely sure why or what triggered it. The only explanation I can come to is that sometimes God places thoughts on our minds for dwelling and understanding. I thought to myself the repetitive phrase I have heard many times from exposures of marketing techniques and, of course, my parents. “Nothing in life comes free” I thought to myself. Proceeding this thought was that this statement is wholly and utterly false. I started thinking to myself all of the things in life that are free. My family offers love and devotion to me for absolutely no price. The moments I spend with my sisters discussing projects we want to do, the anticipation we share for our little Ezra, the excitement we have for Christmas, and the always present, meaningful support we extend to each other has no price tag. The care, advice, and generosity my brother in law shows towards my education and college decisions are things I couldn’t pay for and am so thankful for. The generous sacrifices of time, money, labor, comfort, energy, and passion my parents undoubtedly and unthinkably show me on a daily basis are things I don’t deserve. Love is eternal and absolutely, positively free. Materialistic things, though I do favor them and get trapped in the worldly perception of them, are not free. My hope for today is that I can shatter my love for “things” and nurture my love for people and emotion. I will keep this thought at the forefront of my mind today as I am enveloped by the love from phenomenal people I am blessed to call my family.

I want to wish everyone who reads this post a very Happy Thanksgiving. May you spend it happily engrossed in conversation and delectable food!

“I always thank God for you because of His grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in Him you have been enriched in every way, in all your speaking and in all your knowledge” 1 Corinthians 1:4-5 NIV