I'm trying to walk by faith while giving nothing but love along the way while seeking the love of our Heavenly Father. Will you walk with me?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Being a Christian isn't for wimps.

All throughout high school I was labeled. I was known at the "religious one," the "Christian girl," the "Jesus freak." I was known for my faith. Although now I'm proud of that, to be honest, I wasn't always. I would feel self conscious every time I was labeled like that. I would be afraid to stand up for my faith. I would be afraid to be judged because I love Jesus. I was afraid to not conform to society. I was blessed enough to have an escape though. I was really involved with a retreat center called Capuchin Youth and Family Ministries. If it wasn't for CYFM, I wouldn't have the faith that I have today. Though I grew up in a faith-filled home, my faith was never my own until CYFM. The first retreat I went on at CYFM changed my life. It brought faith from my head and to my heart. I completely and utterly fell in love with Jesus on that retreat.

The other amazing part about CYFM is that it gave me a Christ-centered community to be involved with. It was a place to go where I was appreciated for my faith. I wasn't negatively labeled for my faith. But rather, people found it awesome that I love Jesus. One of the greatest feelings is to be appreciated for faith. CYFM was a place where I could so around saying "I LOVE JESUS!" and I wouldn't have to worry about what others would think because everyone around me would say "I LOVE JESUS!" too. But what about what would happen when I would leave the doors of CYFM?

Faith has always been a part of my life, and I was involved with youth group, so I would share that I have faith. But it wasn't always easy for me to openly state that I love Jesus simply because of fear. I was judged before, so I figured I would be judged again. However, the more I fell in love with Jesus, the harder it became to not share it. So I would openly talk about my faith and share what it means to me. But sharing my faith wasn't and isn't always rainbows and butterflies. What it comes down to is that being a christian isn't for wimps.

As Christians, we are called to be people in whom and through whom Christ lives. We are to go out and share the love of Christ and to love without limit. We are to teach others about what life with Christ is like in a loving, respectful way. We're not here to shove it down people's throats. But we're here to preach the gospel at all times and use words when necessary. However, it's not always easy to do this. In my experience, I have been labeled and judged. I have been called the Jesus freak. I've been looked down upon because of my faith. I've been made fun of. I've had boys who were pursuing me stop because I was a "Jesus freak." I have been persecuted for not conforming to society.

So why put up with it? Because Jesus is worth it and He put up with it first.

“If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first.
If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own;
 but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world,
the world hates you. Remember the word I spoke to you,
‘No slave is greater than his master.’
If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.
If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.
And they will do all these things to you on account of my name,
because they do not know the one who sent me.
If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin;
but as it is they have no excuse for their sin.
Whoever hates me also hates my Father.
If I had not done works among them that no one else ever did, they would not have sin;
but as it is, they have seen and hated both me and my Father.
But in order that the word written in their law might be fulfilled,
‘They hated me without cause.’
When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father,
the Spirit of truth that proceeds from the Father, he will testify to me.
And you also testify, because you have been with me from the beginning."
- John 15:18-27

When people persecute you, think of the joy that Jesus brings. Think of the peace, the healing, the hope and the good that life with Him brings. Think of all those moments of grace in your life. Think of all the God moments in your life. Think of the good. All of that is worth it. It's not easy and it can be easy to want to give up. But nothing of this world can satisfy us the way Christ can. Life with Him is better. In Him there is hope. In Him there is peace. In Him there is life.

What do we do when people persecute us? According to Jesus:
"And as for those who do not welcome you,
when you leave that town,
shake the dust from your feet in testimony against them."
- Luke 9:5-6

Shake it off. Let it roll of your shoulder. Shake the dust from your feet. Don't let them get to you. "Love your enemies and pray for those that persecute you." - Matthew 5:44. Love them anyway. Forgive. The biggest revenge is to forgive someone and show them that you love them.

It's not easy. But don't be afraid to afraid to take the step and show the world that you walk by faith. Don't be ashamed of your faith. People may judge you and people may persecute you. Love them anyway. It's not easy. But it's worth it. Life with Christ is worth it. He is enough. He is all we need. Live for Him. Don't be afraid. Jackie Francois once said: "You might be the only gospel someone will read."

"So what are you waiting for?
What do you have to lose?
Your insecurities try to alter you

You know you're made for more
So don't be afraid to move
Your faith is all
It takes and you can
Walk on the water too"
- Britt Nicole

Go out, share your faith and show them we are Christians by our love. Set the world on fire. It's not easy. But being a Christian isn't for wimps. You are never alone.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

God always wins.

Yesterday was a battle. I find that when I have awesome God filled days and have really great God moments and feel so overwhelmed by His love, the devil tries that much harder to get me to fall. And let me tell you, I fall; I fall hard. It's not that I fall into doing anything that I shouldn't be doing. It's that I fall into the lies and the temptation. That was my day yesterday.

I was asked what I get out of writing this blog. My mind started going crazy trying to think of an answer. I want this blog to be a documentation of my journey. But more than that, I want it to be able to help others along the way. I want to lead others closer to God. But truth is, I don't even know if people are reading it and if what I type makes a difference. This thought started to eat away at me. And then the battle begun. I spiraled downward into an overthinking mess and beating myself up. The lies started to slowly seep in. All it took was a simple harmless question.

"I'm not good enough."
"God doesn't need me."
"I'm useless."
"My boyfriend is too good for me."
"I don't make a difference."
"I'm nothing."

Pretty destructive thoughts, aren't they? They're lies. My heart was hurting as I was in a state of confusion and lies. And the devil was thriving off of this because that is exactly what he wants. He loves it when we are confused and lost, because that is what gets us the most. The more confused we are, the more likely we are to fall to the lies. Think about it, when you're physically dizzy, you can't walk straight. Same thing. When we're confused, we can't think straight and we become vulnerable. Then he makes his move.

In mass, I was trying so hard to not believe the lies. I went in with a hurting heart and came out feeling better. I came to realize that in the midst of the battle, God fights for me. The devil may get me to fall, but God will always get the devil to fall. God is bigger and God always wins. You hear that? God always wins. No matter how hard we fall, how confused we are, or how many lies are consuming us, God will find way to win our hearts. He will win the battle. Later that night, I was on the phone with Matt. The lies and the hurt came back up as I was telling him about my day. The devil was back at it. But God was giving it right back to him. The Spirit starting moving in Matt as he said every single word that I needed to hear.

"You are precious."
"You are a child of God."
"You are so loved."
"You are wonderful."
"Jesus is so proud of you."
"You are making a difference."
"Your dad is proud of you."
"The fact that you are answering God's call is enough."
"God loves you so much."
"You are something and you are great."

What a difference from the thoughts that I was thinking. He said more, but in my crying state, I didn't absorb all of them. But what I did absorb was the love that was seeping into my heart. While he was talking, I would still have pangs of hurt. But as he kept talking, I kept hearing Jesus say: "LISTEN TO ME. LET IT GO. DO NOT HOLD BACK. HEAR ME." He was fighting. He was fighting for me hard. And at the end of it all, when there were no more tears to cry, He got me. He won. God always wins. To to the point where I was laughing. God won.

Each and every day is a battle because each and every day the devil is trying his hardest to get me away from God. God is love and God is the source of life. The devil hates that, so he's going to try to bring me down. And because I'm human and because I'm weak, I fall. And I will fall over and over again. But with God, I am strong. "I can do all things through Him who gives me strength." -Philippians 4:13. We can't walk this life alone. We need to let God in and know that He is by our side walking with us. He is fighting for us each and every day. He will hold our hand through it all and He will pick us back up when we fall.

"Our steps are made firm by he Lord,
when he delights in our way;
though we stumble, we shall not fall headlong,
for the Lord holds us by the hand."
- Psalm 37:23-24

Temptation is out there. The lies are out there. Pain is out there The devil is out there. We will fall.
But there is hope.
God always wins.
God always wins.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Come Home.

Today was a pretty big day for my family! My sister gave birth to a little boy this morning, making him number 9 of the nieces and nephews. His name is Stephen Mark. He was 9 weeks early, 3lbs 9oz and 17 in long. He may be tiny, but this kid is going to be strong. And I love him already.

Aside from the excitement of our newest family member, I learned a lesson today. And I learned it from my dog, Phoebe.

I took a train home this morning so I could be there to welcome Stephen into the family. Later on in the day, I was walking Phoebe. Phoebe is the kindest dog I have ever met. And the expression "social butterfly" is an understatement for her. Whenever she sees someone new, her tail goes crazy and she gets so excited. Therefore, she pulls me to go meet this new person so she can say hi and let them know that she'll love them forever if they pet her. Due to the length of our walk, this happened quite a bit today. Normally when she does this, I just try to pull her along and then tell her that she shouldn't do that. However, after she did this the last time, I laughed to myself and just said: "Pheeb, you're good for me." I realized that each time she pulled me to say "hi" to another person, she brought a smile to whomever she was greeting. Because of her, I was forced to talk to these people. I was forced to go out on a limb and ask how they were doing or to make a conversation with them. Normally, I wouldn't have a reason to say a word to these people. But Phoebe gave me a reason. She gave me a reason to love. Then I continued to walk and pray and I couldn't help but tie Phoebe into Christ.

One thing that I love about Phoebe and most dogs is that they don't care who you are; they will love you no matter what. And they will always be there to greet you with nothing but excitement and love every time you return home. They don't judge you. They don't care what you've done, where you've been, or how far you've fallen. They will look at you with those eyes and a wiggly tail and a face that just says, "I love you and I'm so glad you're home!" And Phoebe gets so excited to meet other people as well. What would happen if we got so excited to meet another person? That every time we greeted them we showed them that we genuinely wanted to meet them and that we cared. That we won't judge them or let what they've done influence our opinions of them. That no matter what, we just love them and that we let them know that their loved just by being eager to meet them. I don't know about you, but when someone seems to be excited that I'm there, I can't help but feel so loved. So why not be more like dogs and just love? Maybe I need to be more like Phoebe? Or maybe we need to be more like Christ. Doesn't the love that dogs have for us pale in comparison to the love that Christ has for us? He loves us SO much that He rejoices every time we come home to Him.

"The tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to him, but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So to them he addressed this parable.“What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it? And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy and, upon his arrival home, he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance." - Luke 15:1-7

Pretty powerful, huh? Christ Himself would leave all of the other sheep, just to find you. And when He finds you, He won't scold or rebuke you. He'll greet you with excitement and say: "My child! You're home!" If you think dogs get excited, I can't even begin to imagine how much more excited Christ would be when we come home to Him. If there has been something that has been keeping you from Christ or if your faith has been shaken, I pray that you find peace and joy knowing that when you come home to Him, He will great you with the greatest of greetings. I don't know where you have been or how much pain you have felt. But I can assure you that there is peace and healing in Christ. I know this because I lived it. (That's for a later blog post.) God will hold your heart with the same hands that created the universe. He will provide a way out so that you may be able to bear what ever it is you are going through. "No trial has come to you but what is human. God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it" - 1 Corinthians 10:13. He will heal you. He will run to you. He loves you. God. Loves. You. Yes, you. He wants you home. So come home to Christ.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Let me tell you bout my Best Friend.

Because of my major, my homework requires me to learn about Jesus. Which in my opinion, is pretty awesome. It brings me so much joy. Today, I was doing homework from my Christian Belief and Though class and I had to read the gospel of Luke. While doing this, I couldn't help but realize how much Jesus truly was fully human (while being fully Divine, of course). But my point is, Jesus gets it.

Jesus has experienced every human emotion that we experience. He's had human experiences just like we have. He's been angry, tempted, rejected, His heart has been moved with pity, He's felt joy, sadness, pain. Sounds familiar, right? Kind of like you and me? I think what's so amazing about this is that it allows us to relate to God. God isn't some task master who is going to take note of every single thing you do right and wrong. He isn't far away from us. He isn't someone to be afraid of. He isn't dead. He's an all loving, all forgiving God who understands exactly how we feel and knows us better than we know ourselves. He's someone you can truly depend on. He's the best friend that we could ever have. And He wants to be our best friend. But that requires work on your part. C.S Lewis said: "God doesn't want anything from us. He simply wants us." He just wants a relationship with us. And because He knows exactly how we feel better than anyone else, why not have a relationship with Him? 

It can be hard to have a relationship with God. He doesn't talk back in the ways that we're used to. We can't just text Him or Facebook chat Him. However, there are ways for us to do this; prayer. Prayer doesn't have to be formal and you saying the rosary for hours. Prayer should be something personal; between you and God. Prayer is your way to communicate with God. It's your way to text Him. Prayer is crucial when it comes to having a relationship with Jesus. Just like any relationship, we need to talk to God. Think of your best friend. You talk to them all the time, right? I'm sure you're in constant communication with them and you update them on your lives and make sure they know what's going on. But imagine you talk to your best friend for one hour once a week. That's all. What would happen? Well, your relationship would eventually dwindle and maybe die. In order to keep that relationship, you need to communicate with them. The same goes for God. We can't just talk to Him for one hour a week in church. We need to be in constant communication with Him. We need to spend time with Him. 

Find what works for you so you can do that. For me, I keep what I call a Jesus journal. I keep a journal where I write to Jesus every night. I talk to Him as my best friend. I talk to Him about my day, struggles that I've had, joys that I've had, things that I'm thankful for. And throughout the day, I share everything with Him. I make sure that He knows what's going on in my life and I keep Him apart of my every day. Another thing that works for me is going to mass or going to the chapel. For those who are Catholic, at mass, we receive Jesus. And when we do, we physically become one with Him. Just as a married couple become one when the consummate their marriage, we become one with Jesus every single time we receive Him. Just as we crave intimacy with other humans, we have an even greater desire for intimacy with God. We are able to be satisfied once we have Him. And there's something about physically getting to hang out with Jesus that does so much for my relationship with Him. You can't get much better than actually being with Jesus. 

Try and take Jesus wherever you go. Make Him a part of your daily lives. Life is hard. But life without Jesus is even harder. We need Him. But most importantly, we need to have a relationship with Him. We need to get to know Him through scripture, song, and others. We need to talk to Him as if we were talking to another person. We need to act out of love for Him and for others. On a retreat I went on in high school, I was taught that we need to have a Christian tripod of study, prayer and action. With this tripod, we can live out our Christian lives. 

Having a relationship with Jesus has done so much for me. He has saved me. He has brought me so much joy, peace, and love. I'm nothing without Him. Having a relationship with Him allows me to be the best I can be. If I love Him as best as I can, then I can better love others. But the best part of having a relationship with Him is the fact that He is the best friend I could ask for. He understands exactly what I'm going through, He will never leave my side. He won't judge me or condemn me. He loves me no matter what. He is the only One I can truly depend on. Jesus will never let me down. And what's awesome is that He can do the exact same thing for you. We have to be the ones to make a move and work for this relationship. Jesus is always reaching His hand out for us; it's up to us to grab it. I pray that you can let go, and trust Him. Know that He will love you with all that He has and that He will never hurt you or let you down. He's the best friend anyone could ever ask for. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

I'm desperate.

So I would try to come up with some witty introduction to interest you and hook you into my lesson of the day. But I'm just going to come right out and say it: I'm desperate.

Yup. That's right. I'm desperate. I'm desperate for Jesus.

Over the past year, I've truly come to realize how much I need Jesus. Especially recently, I've come to know how much I am not without Him. I don't like who I am without Jesus. Think about food. Do you every go a really long time without eating? Nothing can satisfy you but the food that will end your hunger. In the mean time, you get irritable, grouchy, emotional and impatient. The smallest thing can tick you off. If you're like me, you don't like who you are when you're in that state. But once you eat, you are totally satisfied. All of the moodiness goes away and you are back to yourself. Because of that food, you are happy again and you can continue with your day. That is me when it comes to Jesus. I'll have days, like today, where I fall from Him. I become distracted. I don't pray as much as I should. I don't depend on His grace to get me through the day. I try and get through the day on my own. I put Jesus on the back-burner and only go to Him when I need Him. In the mean time, I become super emotional, easily angered, insecure, doubtful, weak, and other things. I don't like who I am. But once I catch myself or go to mass and put things in prospective, I'm good to go. I get Jesus in me and then it's as if nothing can stop me. I am completely satisfied. Thing is, up until that point where I have my "aha" moment of the day, I look to other things to satisfy me throughout the day. Mainly, other people. Especially my boyfriend.

And friends, I'll admit, I hate that I do this. And sharing this with you makes me feel like I'm weak. But it's true and it's a part of me. I'm not perfect. I'll look to others to satisfy me. Take my boyfriend (Matt) for example. I will be the first to tell you that he is the most amazing guy that I have ever met. I have never met anyone like him and I have never been as close to someone as I am with him. I couldn't have asked God for a better boyfriend. He's incredibly sweet, gentle, and respectful. He loves Jesus and he leads me closer to Him. He'll randomly send me flowers, and some of the texts he sends me put the biggest smiles on my face. Simply put, he's awesome. And having him in my life has brought me so much joy. However, Matt is human. As am I. The love than a human can give is limited. Inevitably, we disappoint each other, annoy each other and sometimes even get the other mad (mostly I get him mad when we have debates and I just get carried away with playing devil's advocate :) ). Point is, neither of us are perfect. And because of this, it's completely unfair for me to expect him to satisfy me. No human being, as amazing as they are, can satisfy us the way Christ can.

We have God-shaped holes in our hearts and He is the only one who can fill it. We can try to look to people or things to truly satisfy us, but we will soon come to learn that that will never be enough for us. God is enough. I know this. So why to I go through days where I don't live like I know it? Well, because I'm not perfect and because I fall. But the amazing part is, that even though I fall, Jesus still loves me. I get distracted, go my own way, and sometimes think my plan is the better plan, and He stands there, patiently waiting for me and so madly in love with me. I don't deserve this. None of us do. But even while we don't deserve it, Jesus loves us to no end. He loves us so much that "while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." -Romans 5:8. How amazing is that? No matter what we do, how much we fall, or how much we get distracted, Christ will be by our side no matter what. Wow.

Now, don't take it as in "I can go do whatever I want without Jesus, party it up in the world of sin and He'll still love me no matter what!" It's true that He'll still love you. But we have to strive to have a relationship with Him and to grow closer to Him. Sin is simply defined as something that leads us away from God. We have to follow Christ.

God would have this be the Gospel for today, just because He likes to work in awesomely ironic ways.

"Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life? For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay everyone according to his conduct. Amen, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

This is what I'm striving to do. I need to deny myself and lose my life for the sake of Christ. And I going to be perfect and the best follower ever? No. I'm going to fall, mess up, get distracted over and over again. But I'm at peace and I find joy knowing that Jesus loves us no matter what. No matter what.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Nothing but love.

I make it part of my day to go to daily mass every day. I find that there's something so amazing about being able to have Jesus every day. Once He's in me, then I can truly let go and let Him do whatever He needs me to do. However, today there was a little bit of conflict. After the second class of the day, some friends asked if I wanted to go to Ride Aid. Due to some womanly issues, I had a very great craving for chocolate. I also had some things to pick up and some pictures to print out. By the time we got to campus, it was 5:03. Mass started at 5:00. You would think that undoubtedly, I would go to mass. But I had an internal conflict. I had milk that needed to be put into the fridge and all I wanted to do was sit in my room and eat my chocolate. But I remembered a text that my boyfriend sent me this morning telling me what the readings of today were. Which so happen to be one of my favorite readings (so much so that it's summed up in a tattoo on my wrist). With that reminder, I ran to mass, milk and all.

Here's today's first reading:

"Brothers and sisters:
Strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts.

But I shall show you a still more excellent way.

If I speak in human and angelic tongues
but do not have love,
I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.
And if I have the gift of prophecy
and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge;
if I have all faith so as to move mountains,
but do not have love, I am nothing.
If I give away everything I own,
and if I hand my body over so that I may boast
but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind.
It is not jealous, love is not pompous,
it is not inflated, it is not rude,
it does not seek its own interests,
it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury,
it does not rejoice over wrongdoing
but rejoices with the truth.
It bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails.
If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing;
if tongues, they will cease;
if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing.
For we know partially and we prophesy partially,
but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.
When I was a child, I used to talk as a child,
think as a child, reason as a child;
when I became a man, I put aside childish things.
At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror,
but then face to face.
At present I know partially;
then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.
So faith, hope, love remain, these three;
but the greatest of these is love."
-1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13

This is what we are called to do; love. We are nothing without love. Love should be what guides our thoughts, words, and actions. Love is what Jesus immeasurably gives us. Love is what died on the cross for us. God is love. 

We're called to love. But how? No, we don't have to make a cross and crucify ourselves on it. But we do have to strive to love and react to others the way Jesus would. That means putting yourself aside and putting others first. Going out of your comfort zone to love the unlovable. Sitting with that kid who sits alone. Defending the voiceless. Giving until it hurts. Lending an listening ear. Holding a door open. Volunteering at a soup kitchen. Helping someone with homework. Not participating in gossip. Smiling at someone who passes you on the street. Stopping and asking how someone's day is. Being quick to forgive and slow to anger. Being selfless. It doesn't take starting a non-profit or opening an orphanage in Africa to love. As Mother Teresa says: "We cannot do great things. Just small things with great love." These small things with great love should be what centers our day. Make it a point to do one thing for someone else each day. Because as James 2:26 says, "faith without works is dead."

"Faith without works is dead." That's pretty powerful. And it definitely makes a great point. We can go around saying that we have the greatest faith ever and that we go to church all the time and that we always pray and pray for others. Yes, that's great. But that's not enough. We can't just talk the talk. Friends, we need to walk the walk. Don't just have faith; live it. We cannot have faith without love. We cannot keep that love to ourselves. We need to do whatever it takes to love. This is crucial. Even if you don't like someone, love them. If someone hurts you, love them. If someone disappoints you, love them. Even if someone persecutes you for your love or questions your love, keep on loving. Don't judge. Just love. Love is a decision and it's up to you to decided to love each person you encounter. Let no one leave you without feeling loved.

"Love your neighbor as yourself." -Luke 10:27

Everyone wants to be loved. And everyone wants more love in this world. As Gandhi said: "be the change you wish to see in the world." It's up to us to be an example of love. Jesus loved to no end. He loved to the point of death. If that's not love, I don't know what is. Let our lives be the proof of His love. Open your hearts and let Jesus work through you. Go out and show the world nothing but love.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

This I believe.

Today in one of my classes, we talked about belief. What we believe and why do we believe it? What does it mean to believe and what does it take to believe? I was being asked what I believe. Not what my mom, step-dad, brothers, sister, sisters-in-law, brother-in-law, grandma, aunts, uncles, cousins, teachers, or friends believe. Me. What do I believe? At least in my case, I've grown up being told what I should believe and why I should believe it. Don't get me wrong, I've always been supported to believe in my own ways. But I've definitely had guidelines of what I "should" believe. Mom's always told me to go to church and that God loves me. In church, I'm told about God and why to believe in Him. Sometimes I've even felt pressured to believe what the church believes. But I'm in college now. No one's here to tell me what to believe, what to say, think or do. I'm on my own here. It's up to me to determine what I believe and what I want to believe. I can decide what I agree with and what I don't. This is my chance to become my own person.

What do I believe? Well, I believe in a lot of things. I believe in Jesus and I strongly believe in going by what He says; not necessarily what the church says. I believe in the love, hope, peace, joy, healing and life that Jesus brings. He has done more for me than words can say. I believe in loving someone to matter what. It doesn't matter what you do, what you've done, who you are, where you've been, how far you've fallen, if you're gay, straight, black, white, Asian, Hispanic, or any race, if you're an addict, if you're an atheist, Muslim, Hindu, Jew, Buddhist, flying spaghetti monster follower, homeless, rich, or whatever label you have been called; it doesn't matter. You are you and I will love you just for that. I believe in not condemning or judging. I have no place judging or condemning someone just because they sin differently than me. I believe in tattoos. They open the window to someone's soul. Mine just happen to be my mottos on skin. I believe in family. Family is forever. I believe in forgiveness and the power of it. Everyone deserves to be forgiven no matter what. I believe in respect. Even if you don't respect me, I will respect you. I believe in turning the other cheek. I believe in horses and animals and how much healing they can bring. I believe in laughing at any chance I get. Laughter is the best medicine. I believe in Christian music. I believe in having an open mind. I believe in marriage. I believe in gay marriage. I believe in being in love. I believe in humanity. I believe in optimism. I believe in hope. I believe in kindness. I believe in faith. I believe in love.

I believe that everyone is entitled to believe what they want. 

But what does it mean to believe? I think it means putting your faith into something even when others may disagree with you. What does it take to believe? A lot of courage to come out and state what we believe.  I've been made fun of, and flat out told that I was wrong for things that I believe. And to be honest, that is not a good feeling at all. It's a personal blow. There is always going to be someone out there to disagrees with you. That is why we cling to others who believe the same things. Every time I publicly state that I believe in and that I'm in love with Jesus, I risk being called a "Jesus freak." Frankly, it wouldn't be the first time and I'm sure it won't be the last. It's not easy believing in Jesus when so many are not for Him. Honestly, it can actually be scary. Today we were asked to go in front of the class and talk about the world that best describes your vision for your life. My word was "Christ-centered." I have to admit, I was afraid to go up and state this and state what I believe because I'm afraid of rejection. I'm afraid of being ridiculed and negatively confronted. I'm afraid of being persecuted. "The phrase 'do not be afraid' is written in the bible 365 times. That's a daily reminder from God to live every day being fearless." I'm going to believe what I want to believe without being afraid. You too, should believe what you believe without being afraid.

Believe what you want to believe. Don't be afraid of rejection. Don't worry about what others think about you. If there is something you believe in and are passionate about, then friend, go and believe it. I have no right to tell you what to believe. I can tell you what I believe and why I believe it. But it's up to you to believe it. Same goes for others. Don't judge someone just because they believe something differently than you. Everyone is entitled to believe in what they want to believe. You don't have to agree, but respect their beliefs.

Agree or not, this is what I believe.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Keeping my eyes on Christ.

Today started off in a totally unnecessary frenzy, as do most days. I woke up on time, but decided to take my time while getting ready which resulted in me being late to class (only a minute late, but I was still the last one to walk in). I guess that goes to show how unmotivated I can be in the mornings. In the midst of this frenzy, I forgot to start my day off the way I usually do; talking to my Best Friend. Each morning, I give my day to Jesus and let Him work in me however He needs to for the day. This allows me to feel a sense of relief knowing that all of the pressure isn't on me for the day. However, I forgot this today and coincidentally enough, I was feeling rather anxious in class. Anxiety isn't a new issue for me. It's been something I've struggled with since my dad died. But due to a recent growth in my relationship with God, I really haven't been feeling much anxiety; especially since I started college. But today I did. And I can't help but tie that with what happens when I don't keep my sight on Christ. Without Him, I'm an anxious, insecure, weak little girl.

"My child, listen and be wise: Keep your heart on the right course." -Proverbs 23:19

God would have this be the daily bible verse that was sent to my e-mail today. And strangely enough, it fits perfectly with my lesson of the day. Keep your heart on the right course. What does that mean? We live in a world full of distraction. Whether it's facebook when you should be doing homework, advertisements, people, places, things, possessions, society, music, that cute person you have a crush on, relationships, the internet, or a bird flying by your window. You get my point. There are so many things around us that so often attract us and distract us from what we are supposed to be doing. However, what is it that we're supposed to be doing? Yes, I'm supposed to be doing homework right now. But what about in this life? Homework isn't going to shape the rest on my life. As a Christian, I'm supposed to be living in my life is such a way that reveals the love of Christ to others. I'm supposed to be focusing on God and seeking His perfect love. However, this world tends to tell me something much differently. I'm told to conform to the patterns of this world. I'm told to do what the magazines, commercials, and internet says. I'm told to live a life of fun, not a life of love. I can't fall to this. We have two courses we can follow: the course of everyone else, or the course of Christ. I don't know about you, but I choose to keep my heart of the course of Christ; "the right course." I will try my best to not get distracted from Him and I will live my life with Him. As Mike Donehey once said: "we could say "yes" to a bunch of momentary pleasures or we can say "yes" to Jesus who will give us a river of joy." His grace will always be enough. This was proved to me today.

I took a break from writing this and went to mass at 5 PM. On my way there, I heard a group of people in the middle of the green singing "How Great is our God." I wish I could have recorded it so I could share with you how amazing it sounded. By far was this the best version of this song I have ever heard; acapella with the most amazing harmonies. The moment I heard them, I instantly had chills. Once I realized what they were singing, I could not keep the smile from my face. Joy came and completely washed over me. I almost skipped the rest of the way to the chapel. When I was in mass, this joy did not leave. I honestly wanted to start dancing because I felt so much joy. I wanted my Jesus and I wanted to praise Him. When time came for the transubstantiation (for those who are not Catholic, this is the part of the mass where Catholics believe that the Eucharist becomes the body and blood of Christ), it took every fiber of my being to restrain from tapping the kid sitting next to me on the shoulder and saying: "THAT'S JESUS!" I was so excited. I felt like a little kid and I loved it. It was the most innocent and pure joy. It was the joy of Christ. I was feeling His grace. And coincidentally enough, the priest said in the homily how Christ's love and grace will always be enough. That cannot more true. Keeping my heart on the right course and keeping my heart on Jesus allows me to feel this joy.

Brothers and sisters, I pray that you feel this joy. What this world gives us can not even begin to compare to what Jesus can give us. Life with Him is something not of this world. Therefore, we cannot be of this world. We must try our best to not get distracted and to keep our eyes on Him. We must keep our hearts on the right course. Although we can find pleasure in this world around us, nothing will satisfy us the way Christ can. "The only One who can truly satisfy the human heart is the One who made it." Maybe you have yet to take that step with your relationship with Christ. But I can assure you, once you do, you will never want to turn back. He loves you and He will make sure that you know it. Open your heart and let Him in. Keep your heart on the right course.

"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--His good, pleasing and perfect will." -Romans 12:2

I lost weight!

I went home this past weekend on a mission to buy a dress for my brothers up and coming wedding which is two weeks away (yes, I procrastinated). Sunday morning, I couldn't resist the temptation to weigh myself due to the fact that there simply are no scales in college...well at least that I know of. Upon my weigh-in, I came to find that in the 3 weeks that I've been at college, I lost 3 pounds. I smiled to myself and giddily walked downstairs to enjoy myself a bagel.

But why is this that seeing a number on a scale that was less than what once was made me so happy? Could be that it is a sign that my hard work at the gym and my great attempt (attempt being key word; ice cream is available at all times during college) to eat healthier is paying off? It is that I'm so determined to not gain the freshman 15 that losing it instead brings satisfaction? No. It's that I can't help but conform to society on this one.

Go to a mall. What do you see? Magazines that tell you "lose 15 lbs in 3 weeks" or "this diet is so magical that not only will it make you lose weight, but it will turn you into a magnet for every attractive and good guy out there!" (maybe I'm exaggerating, but you get the point). Advertisements with nothing but super skinny girls who look like they have never eaten anything but celery in their life. TVs that have commercials about diets, exercise tips, and the latest clothes that would only look good on you if you are a size 0. You get my drift? As a girl, this is what I'm constantly exposed to. I'm constantly being told that I need to be skinny, pretty and perfect. If not, no boys will like me and I will never go far and life. And well, if no boys like me, then the world is just going to end, now will it? (ha). You'll come to find that I have a lot of beef with society.

Contrary to society, I'm not a stick, I have a boyfriend, AND he says that he would still love me even if I was 50 lbs heavier. But why is it that sometimes I can't help but look in the mirror and tell myself that I'm fat? Because I feed into the lies; lies that comes from the devil. I once heard in a talk that the devil hates women because we are life giving. We literally can bring a new life into this world. So that's why we constantly believe the lies that we're "ugly" or we're "not good enough" or that we "don't deserve more" or that we're "fat." Have you found yourself believing this? I know I have. But how do we overcome it? God. Simple as that. The lies of the devil are big, but our God is bigger. And because of Him, He created us to be the most beautiful creatures on this earth. You hear that, ladies? YOU are the most beautiful creation to walk this earth. So why feed into what society tells you? I know it can be so hard because it's constantly around us. But I can assure that who you are is more beautiful than what any diet can do for you. You don't need a magazine to tell you that you're beautiful because the One that created the universe sees you as more beautiful than any sunset or any stars. "There can never be a more beautiful you." And He is madly in love with you, just as you are.

Don't worry about what you weigh or what you look like because I can assure you, what is on the inside if way more beautiful than any outfit or number on the scale. You have so much more to offer to this world than just your looks. You deserves so much more than what looks alone can offer.

"For in her is a spirit
intelligent, holy, unique,
manifold, subtle, agile,
clear, unstained, certain,
not baneful, loving of the good, keen,
hampered, beneficent, kindly,
firm, secure, tranquil,
all-powerful, all-seeing,
And pervading all spirits."
-Wisdom 7:23

Your spirit is beautiful. You are beautiful. No matter what you weigh, what clothes you wear, how much makeup you have you have on, you my dear, are beautiful. Please believe it. I know it's hard to believe. I've struggled with believing it before. But when I look in the mirror, bloated and with a food baby, and all I want to say is "you're fat," I just tell myself that God thinks I'm beautiful and that's all that matters. Because it is. What He thinks of me is all that matters; not what society or anyone else thinks. What God thinks. The same goes for you. What God thinks is all that matters. Live knowing that you are loved by Him and that He thinks you are the most beautiful person He's ever laid eyes on, and then the pressure of society will soon mean nothing to you. Live loved. Live knowing that you are beautiful. You are beautiful.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

And so it begins...

Who am I? Well, to be honest, I'm not entirely sure of that. Although I think I have a pretty good idea of who I am, I know that on this journey of life, who I am is going to change over and over again. Not as in I'm going to be one person one day and another person the next. I mean as in this life, God is going to throw different things at me. I'm going to learn, grow, and change. And with each new curve ball thrown into my life, who I am will essentially change because I will (hopefully) learn from that and grow as a person. So I could go on and tell you who I am at this point in my life. But I know that who I am right now is not who I'm going to be tomorrow; for today has taught me something new that I had not known yesterday. At this point this is where I'm at:

  • My name is Marisa
  • I'm a freshman in college
  • I'm in love with Jesus
  • I dream big 
  • I want to make a difference in the lives of others
  • I want to lead others closer to God
  • I love my family, friends and boyfriend
  • I'm double majoring in Religious Studies and Catholic Studies and minoring in Social Work with the hopes of being a worship leader/youth minister/campus minister/highschool religion teacher/essentially working with youth and shedding some light, love, and Truth on the darkness of society
  • I'm not a big fan of society 
  • I have been a victim of society
  • I grew up a lot faster than I should have
  • My dad died 5 years ago
  • I love dogs and horses
  • I have 2 tattoos
  • I love to laugh
  • I love to smile
  • I love knowing that I have made even the slightest impact on someone's life
  • I am so excited about what the journey I'm on and what it will bring
That's it; the journey. Just 3 weeks into college, I'm on a journey of a lifetime. And this blog is here to walk with me through it. People may read it, people may not. If people do, that's great; I hope I can make some sort of impact on their life. If not, well then I'll have this to document my journey. It all starts with today. It all starts with the idea I got while walking my dog on a beautiful autumnal evening. As I sit here, eating pretzels with Nutella in my dormroom with my pet fish Simon, let this crazy journey begin. With God at my side, I am ready to take on the world. 

My prayer for this journey is that I (and hopefully others) come to know that we are loved beyond measure and that we do not walk the journeys of our lives alone. "Our steps are made firm by the Lord when He delights in our way; though we stumble we will not fall headlong, for the Lord holds us by the hand." -Psalm 37:23-24. This journey is going to be full of ups and downs. But this is life. I am not alone. You are not alone. And although we may stumble, fall, mess up, fail, we are loved  no matter what. Christ died for our sins on the cross. In Him we are made new. And by Him we are loved to no measure. Where ever you are in your life, let us meet there knowing that we are loved and that we will always rise "for the Lord holds us by the hand." How cool is that?! HE WILL NEVER LEAVE US. Wow. That just leaves me in such awe and brings me such hope. I pray that is brings you hope too. With hope, let this journey begin.