Monday, August 17, 2015

To Die to Self (while playing Mafia)


Okay. So, forever have I wondered what it meant to die to self. I always would look it up to try and figure it out. It seemed like such an easy phrase. I know what dying is. I know a little about who I am. However, whenever I tried to bring the four words together and make sense of them, I always fell short.

Well, I've been on the road frequently doing weekend trips to see my family and friends back in my hometown and being in the car by myself gives time for some thinking. This past weekend, I was in town for my older brother's birthday party. It was tons of fun. We got to go out to an amazing Scottish restaurant, that has excellent mac and cheese pie, and then walked to his apartment for games and cake (and grapes haha). Okay. So, the game of choice was Mafia.

I'm not sure if you are familiar with Mafia, but the gist of it is that it's a group game best played with 10+ people sitting in a circle. The Mafia goes after Citizens and Sheriff by knocking them off to try and win. The Citizens and Sheriff can win by getting rid of the Mafia before the end of the game.

I don't know if any of the readers are competitive or prideful (yes I'm still working on that ;P), but being the last Citizen to be taken out of the game because the Mafia got the better of me, it didn't brew well in my kettle. The Mafia didn't win (I know that's kinda confusing. It's easy once you get going. We should play together sometime!). Yet, after the game was over, I looked at the Mafia member who bested me, my roommate, and said, "Good job." As someone who is competitive and doesn't like "losing,"(although The Mafia really lost. I just was ended.) I don't usually congratulate people like that, acknowledging that they bested me. smh.

Okay. So, that brings me to my point. I realized on the way back home (my roommate and I drove separately--because of how the game ended. :P jk) that that moment--in those words--I felt kinda like I was dying a little. My chest actually hurt. I was giving up part of me--my pride--and acknowledging the fact that my roommate outwitted me. Then, I gave her a compliment after recognizing it. As I pondered and realized the feeling of death. I was like, "What is the thing that is dying?"  It was me. It was my desires. It was something that I had to give up. Stupid scenario to make me realize what it was and that scenario is seemingly menial.

However, to then put it in the broader spectrum--bigger life situations--I can see how it can really make an impact and bring me closer to Christ. I died to myself and chose to recognized my roommate in her accomplishments. I gave her what I wanted. I wanted to live--live and be the one who bested her--well The Mafia. It's funny in this case since I had to "die" in that game to die to self.

I realized if in those bigger life situations--choosing God over myself--choosing my neighbor over myself--I would be following the greatest commandments. (Matthew 22:35-40) By loving them, God and my neighbors, not living for myself, I would keep the law of Christ. That's legit.

So, it gives me another daily bundle of goals to set out in front of me. If something frustrating happens induced by a friend, coworker, or family member, I shouldn't get disgruntled. I should love them in that frustration--die to self--put them before me. Not lash out or let it fester inside me. If God challenges me with something that I don't want to face--ANY sort of trial, I can't just object and throw a fit. I have put my love into that trial and push through with His grace.

All in all it was a good weekend. I suffered a little. But, hey, that's what this blog's about. There's merit in it.

Here's to death. Death so that we may live eternally.

+ Pax +


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Humility Takes a Hidden Form | Part III - Lessons Learned

+ JMJ +

That job I was hired onto... well it didn't start on the 22nd or the 24th or the 29th or the 1st--all dates I was told that it would start on... that punched my savings in the gut. 2 weeks no pay! And I had to pay rent! Pay rent on top of my application fee, my admin fee, my moving costs, etc. etc. etc. I started to get beyond stressed... Beyond it! I did still have some money, but since early college years I don't think I had seen my accounts that low. My recruiters, out of their own pockets, gave me a $50 Visa Card to buy groceries...I was humiliated. I felt like a legit beggar. I had never asked anyone for money... I am a Franciscan... Never did I ever think I'd have to beg though. I started July 6th and I got an advance from my paycheck so I was able to cover rent, but that just came out of the rest of my checks for the month. That was last month's rent.  It's August. So right now. It's tight. Very. Tight. I'm serious, buckle-down-peanut-butter-and-crackers-for-lunch-all-week tight.

Last week was terrible. Budgeting was the worst. Everytime I calculated--didn't matter what I did--I barely had enough money for gas or food. I spent every night crying my eyes out. I went to the Adoration Chapel--just crying. (The poor people in there with me--the whole hyperventilating crying.) I went home one night, opened up my online banking, looked at the numbers and immediately ran into my bathroom and came so close to throwing up. Like I'm serious--I'd never been stressed so bad that I almost lost my lunch. I spent the entire next day nauseous. I was getting despondent. I was spiralling out of control. I just wanted to die.

Then. I talked to my mother. "Have you been praying the Litany of Humility?" "sigh..." "I always warned you, 'You pray the Litany of Humility be prepared to be humbled.'" I knew she was right. I did. I look at the saints (as us Catholics call those we recognize as knowingly being in Heaven) all of them are humble. They followed Jesus, who was humble. Mary was humble. St. Francis was humble. I wanted to be. *tears well in my eyes* I didn't think it would take this form. My mom said to me, "Where do you take the most pride in your life? Money. You had never been in debt [I had to borrow money to buy a bed]. You had always had a good cushion in your savings. You've always been so good with it." She was right. God gets you where you need to be gotten (I know that's not a word).

The song that was on repeat perpetually... *face palm*
Money's something that we all deal with in our lives. Yeah. I did. I did take a hearty dose of pride in the fact that money was always mine. I saved a lot. I liked being generous. So. I was always happy when I made enough to be SUPER generous. Now. I can barely put a quarter in the giving basket. I started questioning, "Should I be here? Should I have moved?"

On July 30th as I was driving out of my parking garage at work, I let out in desperation, "Jesus, Mary, Joseph, St. Francis, St. Therese! Help. Show me what I'm supposed to do! ...don't let me down..."

I seriously felt like there was a veil was over my eyes. The whole world looked grey. I was lost. I had forgotten everything. I didn't know why I was here. I didn't know every way God showed me this is where He wanted me. I didn't know any of my past desires to be humble. I didn't know what that would even look like. I didn't know my desires to be a saint and what it took. I didn't know. I was going to Mass at least 4 or 5 times a week, but my depth of field was so limited.

I got home that night... another night full of tears. I got on Facebook and I started scrolling down my feed. And I came across this summarized message between God and St. Therese:

God was going to console her, telling her: "Don't worry, don't be discouraged by your weaknesses." We soon see why: "It is precisely through your weaknesses, in your poverty, that I will act with my power; what you can't do with your own strength, I will do."

I realize as I'm typing this, no where on this blog does it say why it has its title. I'm mos def not explaining that now. All I'll say is "to suffer for souls" is a quote from St. Therese, my homegirl. Once I read this excerpt from the book, everything about her flooded my mind. My life changed at age 10, because of her. There were things I asked God for and promised Him that I would do, because of her. I remembered them and I began to be content--very content.

I know this situation is temporary. I AM making an amount of money that will provide me with all that I need. My rent isn't super high. Money will definitely be coming in. It's just the timing is all out of sorts. I didn't plan for this. I didn't plan. As a Dave Ramsey girl, I failed. 

Humble pie tastes pretty nasty, if I do say so myself. But hey, that's one pie that doesn't go without merit (and it's calorie free. ha. ha. ha.). And when I realized that there's more to this, I'm actually suffering (duh. smh.), I was like ok seat belts on, offer it up and let's save souls. Believe it or not even with this past month of humiliation, despondency and misery, I'm okay with it. It's what growing in virtue costs. It's not easy. I know. These are most definitely first world problems. But as my friends were telling me, I was placing all my security in money--I need to trust God. Trust Him. Trust. Somebody needed to smack me upside the head with Jesus. I had a good deal of support this past week. You need to watch what you ask for for sure. And if you do ask, be prepared. God always answers prayers... but rarely ever in our timing or the form we think they will take (at least for me). 

+ Pax +


Monday, August 3, 2015

Humility Takes a Hidden Form | Part II - Just a little biiit closer.

+ JMJ +

I closed off the last post writing about being thankful around Christmas. Also, I mentioned that I was laid off of my job. Thus, in the beginning of 2015, I was jobless. I had a good deal of savings--relatively speaking. So I thought I could coast helping at the house with my family while I waited for the next interview to come in.

February came along and I decided I'd find some part-time work to help with bills. I went to Mass and prayed to ask God if He could provide me with a good job that I didn't have to work on Sundays or crazy hours of the day. On my way home, I stopped in at Bradley's. It was a shop I'd gone to for 20 years--rode my bike down there as a teenager, the owner knew me by name (well, she's excellent with that for most people--that's one of the things that makes her so great), and it sells 70 different kinds of gourmet chocolate out of a case and all the different chocolate covered things that you can imagine (I love them Oreos!). Anyways, it was an ideal place. They are closed on Sundays, have good hours, and Joy plays Christian music to boot! Joy hired me the week after I applied. The next week after I started was Valentine's Day. Yeah. Crazy chocolate time. haha.

Throughout working there, I continued looking for different jobs. Some interview processes again ended in great disappointment as they seemed very promising and were in positions that I would very much enjoying working. For the most part, I had been sticking to the Knoxville region until finally I was like I really need a full-time job--I'm going to start looking elsewhere.

I pretty much opened up to the southeast--not really giving Nashville a serious thought since I got so burnt last year. Plenty of interviews. Plenty of not good fits (for me and for them). Interviews via Skype to different states, such as VA and SC. South Carolina was another three interview process--one Skype and two in person. That seemed ideal, but I didn't feel comfortable with the place and they ended up saying no. In all honesty, I was relieved. (This whole time I was working with recruiters.)

June rolled around and on the 4th I had an interview set up with a company in Nashville. The recruiting agency asked if I would like to move there. I recalled the rejection from the year before and was like... well it did seem obvious that I was to be there. Maybe I should go for it this year. I prayed. And some things fell into place that I wish that I could remember. I interviewed on the phone and then in person. Then on the 8th they said, "You're hired. You start two weeks from today."

Okay. (clap! haha) I was not packed nor in the frame of mind that I was going to be uprooting myself. I did not have a place to live. What in the world was I going to do?! So yeah the 8th was Monday when I was told that I would be starting work.

I had told the widow from the last post on Sunday that I might be moving to Nashville. Her room was rented, so I asked if she knew of any girls looking for roommates or any person with a basement or room to rent. She said she'd check around. By Wednesday I was starting to get stressed. I was standing at the cash register at Bradley's and I smacked the counter (no one, but my coworker was in the store). I cried out, "God! You GOT me this job! I KNOW you are not going to be having me live out of a box. So I need a place to live!" The widow called me within 2 minutes after exclaiming that prayer. She said she found this lady, who's husband had died three months before, that was going to be moving and was willing to rent out a bedroom while she was selling her house. I was like cool and yes Thank you, God. haha.

I spoke with the landlady on Thursday. We talked about why she was moving--her husband had passed away, her son was in college, and she needed to downsize. She said I could come check it out on Thursday of the next week and see if I wanted to stay there. I thought to myself well if I don't I'm in trouble, because I start work on the 22nd. As I was talking to her, I said, "Do you only have one son?" "Yes. Why?" "Just curious."

When I ended the call, I got on the USCCB website and what did I do? Remember in the last post about Elijah and the widow and her son? Yeah I bet you do and I bet you're thinking about it right now. Well, even before I mentioned it. I got on the site, why? haha. Because I decided to test the providence of God. He gives signs right? That website has all the readings from all the Masses from everyday of all the years (maybe not all the years. haha.) So yeah I was like, "Okay, God. There's this widow. with a son. in Nashville. wanting to rent me a room. This is how it is. If I'm supposed to go, I want that story of Elijah with the widow and her son to be that first reading of the Mass exactly a year ago yesterday (yesterday being the day I found out from the first widow that the second widow had a room for me. And the year ago taking me back to the day I looked at my app in church and read the reading--I know confusing--God understands my mind because...)." It was.

The next week flew by. Tuesday of that week I found a roommate who was moving to Nashville July 1st. She found a place to live and that's where I am now. But let's not jump ahead... wait for iiiiiiiiit... the story will be continued in the next post. You're so much closer!!

[Read More: Humility Takes a Hidden Form | Part III - Lessons Learned]

Monday, February 9, 2015

Humility Takes a Hidden Form | Part I - The Back Story

+ JMJ +

Nashville is my new home as of June 23, 2015. I prayed and felt God calling me here--starting late May of 2014. It was an obvious call. Something I'm going to remind myself of now ... by posting it here.

Last year, I started to really want to leave where I was working to do something that I felt completely passionate about doing. I work in computers--creatively and codefully. I love it, but I didn't feel like I was where I was supposed to be.

Anyone who knows me knows I'm a novena pray-er. They work. Period. St. Rita's feast day is the 22nd of May, which was when I was going through the thought process. Why not begin a novena to her? She's the saint of impossible causes--surely she can help out. I started thinking at the time, "What am I the most passionate about?" Answer was: my faith, of course. I had discerned out of becoming a nun and consecrated virgin earlier that year... well the month before. So I was like, "What can I do with that?" My next thought was, "What else do I love?" Helping people with money. Who does that best? I believe Dave Ramsey. Why? Because he takes Biblical values and puts money in perspective. So I thought to myself, "Maybe I can do something in finances."

The second day of the novena, a guy from grade school calls me and says he works for a financial company that sells insurance--um I can't remember how he even got my phone number... I was like O,O (that's my surprised "God actually listens" face... duh.) I talked to him for a while and told him I'd get back to him. In the mean time, I called the guy in Nashville, Josh, that is my contact for coordinating Dave Ramsey classes. I asked him what his thoughts are on selling the type of insurance that the company sold. Long story short, I ended up deciding not to go with that guys company, because I believed the insurance did not really help people and felt almost immoral pitching it to people since I thought it would hinder them financially. The call didn't go without merit. Josh told me that The Lampo Group (Dave Ramsey's company) was hiring and to look into positions. So I did.

I'm going to take you now on a trip to Cleveland, TN--to Pastor Tony of a Charismatic Bible Church's house. What was I doing there? Buying a wheel for my mother's car that I busted driving in to my church's parking lot on the way to Mass... If this is how God treats His friends, no wonder He doesn't have that many... (Thank St. Teresa of Avila for that one.) I got there and, being the person that I am, I delved into a conversation about Jesus and the Bible and God's love... We got to the book of Revelation. He was commenting on it and then I said, "I like Dave Ramsey's quote where he uses Revelation. He says not to worry about stuff. He's read the back of the book. We won." Then I start to mention to him that I was looking into getting a job in Nashville to work for Dave.

I begin to tell him all the reasons I would never move out of my hometown, Knoxville. "I don't know anyone in Nashville. It would be like moving out to an alien land. I've lived in Knoxville for 25 years. I love it. My family's there. All my friends that have left have pretty much come back--save a few. I've lived off the same street the whole time I've been there. I've gone to the same church for 20 years. I know someone everywhere I go. Everything I have and want is there. Why would I want to leave?"

He told me a story of a man who sold all his belongings, paid off his debt and bought a plane ticket to Asia to be a missionary.  That man left everyone he knew and everything he had, because he felt God calling him to go somewhere. He had $20 in his pocket. He brought many people to Christ and found his wife there.

I realized something that's obvious. Life isn't about a job. Sure it's a big part of it, but life is about so much more. I said to Pastor Tony, "You're right. God could use me wherever I go. Even if it was to bring one person to Him, that would be worth it. [to save one soul!] And hey, I could even meet my spouse there!" It's true. Everything was put in perspective. If I moved out of Knoxville, it wouldn't be just for a job. It would be because God wanted me to be somewhere else. I would work, but I'd be interacting with people everywhere I went. I'm a tool. haha. And proud of it. I wanted God to use me.

I started saying to him, "Well maybe God's just using this to open my mind to moving out of Knoxville..." "No! If God wants you to be in Nashville, you go where He tells you. Think of the story of Elijah and the widow and her son. Elijah was in the desert. His water had dried up and the raven stopped bringing him food. God sent him to the town to be helped by the widow. He ended up in return helping her. Elijah could have gone anywhere, but God's Will would not have been done unless he went to the widow. If He's calling you to Nashville, go. Go and His Will will be done."

Okay. I was convinced. Tuesday of the next week when I was at Mass, I sat down in the pew before it started and was like, "God, if you want me to move to Nashville, I want the first reading of this Mass to be the story of Elijah and the widow and her son." I opened up my Roman Missal app and sure enough it was. smh. CRAZY.

Next thing I realized was, "Wait I do know someone! And she's a widow! And she has a son! And she rents a room!" It was crazy! The room was available. It was perfect... now to get the job.

I applied at The Lampo Group and discovered it was a 7 week process. I ended up going through three interviews. Each one they were highly impressed with me. Then. It ended. An automated email showed up in my inbox saying thank you, but we are taking the search in a different direction.

Yes. That was it. I was so confused. I thought it was obviously God's Will that I would get the job and move. It seemed like a wide open door. I had no idea it would be slammed in my face. I became dejected--wondering if I ever really was able to discern God's Will. I can't say anything positive came of it at all that year. I never really felt satisfied like I had learned something--never was happy and content. I was pretty miserable. It was a year of no's. The rest of which I won't go into.

I ended up writing my Christmas letter and thinking, "What is anyone going to want to hear about this past year??" That was when it was good. I began it by writing that even though not everything turned out as I had wished, I grew in faith and fortitude... or at least tried to. After starting, I realized then that I was to be thankful for the things that were not related to me individually. My brother and his wife welcomed my new niece, who became my Goddaughter. My friends' welcomed into their homes their first children. My cousin, his wife, and one of my other Goddaughter's moved closer to my home. There were things to be thankful for--even though I also had my contract terminated early, due to 10% of IT getting laid off and all the rest of the mess of the year. I took the focus off ME and put it into those around me, which made it better. That capped off the year. I ended it grateful--despite the no's. Like the title says this is Part I. I will carry on with the story in my next post. It will most likely catch you up to this year and there will be more examples of how I've been forced to grow in virtue. There may be a Part III if it get's too long.

+ Pax +


(I know this is not a really satisfying post--the next one will be better...this was mostly for my sake. :))

[Read More: Humility Takes a Hidden Form | Part II - Just a little biiit closer. + JMJ +]