poems from seaside

I think

there are so many poems

about the ocean because it is

simultaneously violent

and peaceful.

At the same time it

crashes against the coast

destroys a weak vessel

and carries away debris

It

smoothes the rocky shore

coos the frightened bird

and hugs your planted feet.

It somehow reminds us

gently

chaotically

simply

subliminally

of that violent yet peaceful

love

that roars as it sings.

That kind of love that lives within you and within me.

——

If each day is a fresh page

Then I want mine to be

Inked with words of prayer

Stained with drops of coffee

Smudged with chocolate fingers

And scented with smells of you.

If each day is a fresh page

Then yesterday doesn’t matter

And tomorrow can’t be viewed

So I’ll sit here and

Think

Today, what good can I do?

——

prayers are like raindrops except you send them up instead of let them fall. everyday you send a raindrop up to heaven to join the puddle pooling at God’s feet. everyday you wonder, did my raindrop reach the stars or did it break along the way? then one day, you realize your raindrops were never supposed to go up all the way and stay. you just forgot to look around and see everyone soaked and smiling by the rain that wiped away their tears. your tiny little prayers were falling all the while, and finally you learn, prayers are a lot like raindrops,

they fall on those who are near.

dream big

Reader, I did it.

I got into Harvard Medical School.

This isn’t a post about the hours I poured over biochemistry pathways or the different immune cells. It isn’t about my boyfriend, Avery, who made quotes for me to read every day I studied for the MCAT. It isn’t even about my gratitude for my mom and dad who empowered this dream.

This is a post to you, to say YOU CAN DO IT. I promise you can. Whatever it is that sets your heart alive, gives you a purpose that is bigger than yourself, or wakes you up in the morning, I am begging you to chase that dream. Nothing is more beautiful than settling that thing in you that is urging you to pursue your dreams. Four years ago, I was a high school senior in a small town in rural Tennessee. I had never taken an AP class or won a national spelling bee or been inducted into the National Honors Society. I applied to one university and never even imagined applying to an Ivy League school. I had a few key mentors, a passion for science and service, and a door that was hanging wide open in front of me. Through that door, I saw limitless opportunity and chance. I saw hope. Belmont University was my vessel to explore that thing within me that said “Hey, go for it. I believe in you.” I have always felt there is something greater within me, something calling me to do more and to be more than my small and limited mind can comprehend. I followed the crazy things that thing called me towards, and I achieved a dream – a dream bigger than I ever imagined.

I think everyone has this thing within them, gnawing at their spirit. It may be starting a business, working as a nurse, doing mission work, becoming a writer or artist, helping those that are differently-abled, or finally going back to school. It may be small; it may be big. Whatever you have in you that is inching to get out, it matters. Your contribution to the world matters.

People will discourage you. People will question you. People will try to limit your ambition and your dreams. My biggest advice is to never be that person to yourself. Believe in who you are. If you do this, other people will believe in you, too. My freshman year of college, my mentor Dr. Javid Moslehi consistently introduced me as, “This is Mary. She’s going to be a Harvard medical student one day.” I jokingly laughed it off and didn’t believe him, but his belief encouraged me to believe in myself. Find those people that believe in you. They are the ones that throw gasoline on the fire within your heart.

Dream big but work hard. My dad always told me, “There are people a lot smarter than me, but none of them can work harder.” This is my motto now, too. You can be a math genius or an art prodigy, but if you do no work with that talent, you will never fulfill your potential. Seriously, work hard. Where you are deficient, hard work can compensate. I fully believe anyone can learn anything with enough time and effort. If hard work can get a girl like me into Harvard, it can get you anywhere you imagine.

Just go for it. The worst thing that can happen is that you fail, and if you fail then you just start over and try again. My mom always reminded my younger sister, “What happens when we fall? We learn to pick ourselves up.” You can always pick yourself up, and you’ll probably have people around you that are there to catch you anyways. Whatever is holding you back, throw it off. Whoever is holding you down, let them go. You are worth achieving your dreams. You are worth making a difference. I promise: you can do it.

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” – Mary Oliver

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” – Maya Angelou

sacred places

“There are no unsacred places; / there are only sacred places and desecrated places.” — Wendell Berry
I’m starting to understand that there truly are no unsacred places — this is a bold claim. Some may perceive the site where a white American minister burned himself alive in the name of racial reconciliation as unsacred, or the home of hundreds of incarcerated men and women as unsacred, or the doctor’s office where an abortion has been performed as unsacred, or a strip club where infidelity puts food on the table for women employees as unsacred. I am guilty, as I predict we all are, of having passed an opinion on each of these cases and many others without considering the human lives involved. And while yes, I do believe that there are very uncomfortable aspects in each of these places and scenarios, I’m starting to see that life is much more complicated than the simple dichotomy of sacred/unsacred or right/wrong or good/evil. I didn’t coin this distinction, though; that was Wendell Berry. Luckily it wasn’t me, because Berry importantly includes the alternative to unsacred: desecrated. I looked up “desecrated” in the dictionary to see exactly what he meant. Something desecrated has been violently disrespected, or possibly perverted, violated, infected, polluted, vandalized, debased, or degraded. Berry is onto something here. People — the most critiqued in society — are likely to have been victims of many waves of desecration in their lifetimes. I imagine people as those beautifully painted Russian nesting dolls. We may look whimsical and pleasing on the outside, but within each of us there are many unseen, hidden layers. These mysterious, unknown layers may be what have shifted some of us from the sacred to the desecrated. We’re all damaged, polluted, degraded in some way. Some of us are just better at hiding our layers than others.
So there are no unsacred places, only desecrated places, and those not yet desecrated, or the sacred. There are no unsacred people. There are people who have been cheated, lied to, abused, hurt, neglected, abandoned, scared, dishonored, gossiped about, rejected, and shamed; they are simply damaged. If someone we love is damaged, do we abandon them? Give up, toss them to the side, move on, and hope for better luck in the future? I hope the answer is no. At least, I’m hoping no one gives up on me. I’m damaged, just like you are. I want to see people as the complicated, multi-layered, dynamic living souls they are. This world is far too vivid and beautiful to see only in shades of black and white. That place we call harmony, sympathy, and understanding is all gray.
—–
How to Be a Poet by Wendell Berry
(to remind myself)
i   
Make a place to sit down.   
Sit down. Be quiet.   
You must depend upon   
affection, reading, knowledge,   
skill—more of each   
than you have—inspiration,   
work, growing older, patience,   
for patience joins time   
to eternity. Any readers   
who like your poems,   
doubt their judgment.   
ii   
Breathe with unconditional breath   
the unconditioned air.   
Shun electric wire.   
Communicate slowly. Live   
a three-dimensioned life;   
stay away from screens.   
Stay away from anything   
that obscures the place it is in.   
There are no unsacred places;   
there are only sacred places   
and desecrated places.   
iii   
Accept what comes from silence.   
Make the best you can of it.   
Of the little words that come   
out of the silence, like prayers   
prayed back to the one who prays,   
make a poem that does not disturb   
the silence from which it came.

plastic hands

flower envelope.

I started college this past week, and I already have the addition of so many unique experiences. I have been to an outdoor free concert in downtown Nashville, I have exchanged “hellos” with more people than I thought imaginable, I have made friends that I plan to hold onto, I have ran and explored around my magical campus, I have had moments of homesickness, I have attended interesting lectures, I have attended boring lectures, I have eaten at amazing restaurants, I have heard fantastic musicians, and I have most recently spent quite a bit of time in my dorm reading and writing notes and trying to decipher scientific text into simpler terms for my own understanding. But tonight as I write notes over chemistry concepts, my thoughts keep navigating towards neuroscience…

Plasticity is the brain’s ability to adapt to change and conform to new environments, new demands, and new experiences. It is a rather novel concept but to me it is absolutely awe inspiring. Our mind is the single most complex organism on our planet and remains the most complex system even when we extend to the Milky Way that envelops us in its gravitational embrace. Our minds, the envy of computational and electrical engineers across the world, is able to physically adapt to change. It is living, growing, and becoming more dynamic with every encounter we have and every memory we form. Your neural connections are on fire as you read this very sentence. Your brain is processing every bit and piece of information and deciding instantaneously where it is to be stored. Why does all of this fascinate me? Because I sometimes feel we as humans forget that we too have this plasticity feature. We are not supposed to remain complacent or dormant. We are not encouraged to become comfortable as the character we were cast for the play of Life. If the brain has the unique quality of changing when needed, of becoming better adapted for the role that it is required to fill, then we need to replicate this quality in our everyday lives. Open up your mind, your home, your heart, and your eyes and look for ways you can become an asset to the vast world around you. Find your passion and fall deeply in love with what it takes to pursue it. Be adaptable. Be the moldable human being God designed you to be. Stretch your beliefs, stretch out your hands to others, and stretch yourself vehemently in ways previously unthinkable. It is my belief that when we use our plasticity as humans, and as lovers, and as sons and daughters, and as warriors, and as citizens, that we have moved towards the bright and hopeful road of satisfying the great Creator.

So go out here. Look for the changes you need to make to be a better person, to make better decisions, and to make the world a better place.

I pray you find your ability to change and use it.

“His master replied, ‘Well done my good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!'” Matthew 25:23.


muddy water

One of my greatest dislikes in someone’s character is simply mediocrity. I don’t care who you are or what circumstances you are under, you are worth more than being mediocre. Falling short to the undeniably gifted talents God has given you is sad to me.. I am not trying to be harsh. I just think it is so important to realize talent and utilize it. It is my belief that we are all unique in personality and we are each responsible for contributing to the world something great. Whether that be someone who can bake cakes, care for children at a daycare, treat the sick, create music, entertain with athleticism, WHATEVER your talent is, it is useful. Don’t be mediocre. Don’t fall victim to society’s relatively low standards of talent recognition. Don’t do something because it’s “easy” or “acceptable”. Do what you are good at it. And do a lot of it. And grow a passion for it.

Ahhh, yes. Passion.

Passion awakens the soul. Passion makes life bright. Passion lies within every harbored and complex mind. Passion is within all of us. Some will choose to feed it and water it and love it and create something amazing with it. Others will let it die. Don’t be the latter person. Develop a passion for something, someone, anything. Just be passionate. This world is full of muddy, polluted water.

Don’t be dirty water.

Don’t be the leftovers. Or the one that is left behind after everything else has been cleaned. Be the fresh, pioneering person that creates rare paths and casts new light on existing institutions. Be the person that thinks differently, acts differently. I don’t care if you have a passion for trading baseball cards. Just don’t be a mediocre baseball card trader. Don’t be a casually involved grandmother, if being a grandmother is your passion. Make footprints that don’t get washed away. If you love music, create music. If you love singing, sing. Follow your passions. Follow the things that keep you awake at night but are also the things that illustrate your dreams. Passion makes doing things that are difficult or challenging or, shall we even say, impossible doable. Passion is as strong as “You’re not good enough.” Passion is stronger than “You can’t do that.” Passion prevails.

When I was a sophomore in high school, a lofty two years ago, I was heavily concerned with the fact that I felt as if I didn’t have any passions. Truly. What inspired me? What made me want to be a better person? What made me want to move forward and pursue something? I have always loved science. I have always loved painting. I have not always loved reading or writing or recognizing beautiful things in everyday life. I realize now in retrospect that I was so concerned with others, with relationships, with ideologies, that I didn’t take time to explore what motivated me or made me feel happy. This is so important!! Try new things. Take existing passions (art, for example) and adventure into different areas related to that to see if you like new things (writing and reading, for example). Be passionate people. It is such a flattering quality to possess!

So don’t be mediocre. Don’t be like the rest of the world, because they are average. You are not average. You are worth ten thousand times more than your average self. You are rare. You hold something that is creative and ready to blossom within you. Go swing a bat, take an art class, babysit a child, shadow a doctor, help the elderly, write some poems, go for a run. Be proactive. Be intriguing. Be passionate 🙂


some of my everyday mantras:

  • you are worth more than this
  • you are more than a body
  • God has so much planned for you
  • the hardest day still only has 24 hours
  • love like Jesus
  • the future is brighter than the brightest moment of the present
  • you are different, but you are unique

watercolor number one: an ornament of grace

unnamedI have begun a series of watercolor paintings that I am going to display on my Instagram (@lovemarycatherine) and my blog. I have always enjoyed painting, yet I haven’t really fully immersed myself into watercolor painting. SO, don’t be critical of my paintings (they are semi-abstract anyways). I will be dissecting, interpreting, and symbolizing my favorite phrases, quotations, and verses. I hope you enjoy this project as much as I do, and I encourage you to find your form of expression (whether it be writing, singing, painting, dancing, playing an instrument, speaking, ect) and let it grow and cultivate into a vibrant and fun passion!

watercolor painting number one:

Proverbs 1:8-9 reads:

“My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother: for they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck.”

The other morning I read this verse, and interpreted it in my own way (which may not be the right way, but I got something out of it). To me, this means, respect and honor your parents. When they give you instruction, discipline, and advice, listen to them. Our parents – even if you’re 16 reading this or 54 reading this – are wise, knowledgeable, and experienced. It is written to us many times to obey and honor our parents. They only hold our best interests in their hearts and would not take the time to guide us if they were trying to lead us astray.

I painted this picture to depict our lives as sons and daughters as the plant. There are brown and greens within the plant that show the various highs and lows of our lives. The red “ornament” around the plant’s head symbolizes the love and concern that our parents show for our minds and our direction in life. Red is a robust color that signifies the passion that a parent holds for his or her children. The ornament is around the head, and that shows that our minds are very delicate and should be guided by someone who has a great love for God, obtains wisdom, and has a sincere interest for the betterment of our future.

The chains around the neck signify that our mothers and fathers are always capable of keeping us grounded to reality. Our parents can see through the things we are blind to. They are the ones that hold us to a standard of what is acceptable, what is proper, and what is appropriate. The chains here don’t represent something that is negative, but rather something that is necessary.

This is how I dissected that simple verse and then expressed it in a picture. I hope you guys enjoyed this; don’t forget to follow the next watercolor paintings that I’ll be sharing. I hope you all have a wonderful, enjoyable Sunday evening!

Thoughts of Thanks

.

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