Today’s post is a short one! I stumbled across this Bible verse last week, and I think it’s so helpful for anybody who is struggling. I would encourage you to write it down and put it in your purse or journal, or on a mirror. It’s helped me so much to place my trust in Jesus, and to remind myself that joy is coming, even amidst suffering.
Okay, this is the post where I get to pretend to be a lifestyle blogger (with much lower-quality photos) who has my crap together, not just an anxious Catholic blogger. How exciting!
Truly, though, I have been looking forward to writing this post so much. I tend to be such a deep thinker and overanalyzer, so just reminiscing on the past month and really thinking about things that have brought me hope, authentic joy, or just simple pleasure is actually quite healing. I really do think God lives in the simple things, and when we can be grateful for those little things, the chaos seems just a bit less daunting. I hope some of these items/experiences may be things you can incorporate into your own lives, and that they may bring you peace in the craziest of times!
- Consider the Lilies by Elizabeth Foss
This Bible study could not have come to me at a better time. I actually bought it almost a year ago, but I just picked it up this month, and I’m so glad I did. I love the Take Up and Read Bible studies because they are so simple. I love Lectio Divina, but oftentimes I overwhelm myself with the idea of picking the right passages to read and spending the right amount of time meditating. This particular study is focused on finding the peace of Christ, and it’s so so good. It has brought me small moments of peace amongst crazy times this month, and I am incredibly grateful for it.
2. Blessed Is She Healing Rosary
This rosary is so unique and simple. I loved it this whole semester, but not for the reasons you would typically love a rosary. I definitely prayed with it, but I also just loved holding it and looking at the image of Mary with the crucified Christ on the cross. It reminds me of what Mother Theresa says about Jesus saying “I thirst” on the cross, and how He thirsts for us and our love. This rosary is also incredibly durable, so I don’t worry about chucking it in my purse and taking it with me everywhere, or wrapping it around my wrist and banging it on desks and such as I go through my day.
3. My Sisters the Saints by Colleen Carroll Campbell
This book is phenomenal! I always feel like such a failure of a Catholic, especially now that I go to a Catholic college, because I know so little about the saints compared to my peers. In this memoir, Colleen talks about her career as a speech writer for President Bush, her experiences caring for her dad with Alzheimer’s disease, and her struggles with infertility. As she takes the reader through her life, Colleen talks about each saint she encountered, and the lessons she learned from them. I’ve been so inspired by her book to read the writing of the Saints, and to pray for their individual intercession. I highly recommend this for any woman who is struggling in her prayer life or with her relationship with the saints!
4. Gilmore Girls
I love Gilmore Girls. I always have, and I always will. There’s a good chance it will be on my favorites list for each month until I die. I can’t quite explain it, Gilmore Girls just gives me this incredible sense of comfort and home. It also reminds me of my mom and some of my closest friends. Whenever I’ve had a hard day and need a pick-me-up, Lorelei and Rory are there to comfort me, laugh with me, and cry with me.
5. Leah Darrow’s Podcast Interview with Maria Abbe
I LOVE THIS GIRL! Maria is so authentic, positive, and raw all at once. She tells her story about her faith, her struggles with eating disorders, depression, and anxiety, and her journey to becoming a runner. She and Leah are wonderful together, and I found her podcast to be both inspirational and forgiving. Her blog https://www.runningmyselftogether.com inspired me to start my own:)
6. Peppermint Oil
Woohoo, the endless nausea continues! I should probably see a doctor, but oh well. Anyway, peppermint oil is meant to relax and clear the mind, and it also helps with digestive issues, nausea, and headaches. Not much has been helping with my nausea recently, but peppermint oil seems to do the trick. I either put it on my wrists or diffuse it with lavender in my room. I especialy love peppermint when I’m doing homework or sleeping.
7. Fresh Eggs
Okay, this one might seem a bit random, but I’d never eaten fresh eggs (which I now lovingly refer to as butt-eggs, because it’s super weird to see an egg actually come out of a chicken’s butt) before this month, and it’s changed my life! I house sat for a lovely family with eight chickens for a week, and each morning I’d wake up to three eggs. I don’t quite know how to explain it, but they just taste more… egg-like. These eggs were better than any I’d ever had before. Plus, there was something so satisfying about feeding and watering chickens at night and then collecting eggs in the morning and cooking them for breakfast. I felt an odd sense of ownership over my breakfast, and I loved it. I now desperately want to have chickens when I have my own house one day.
8. Homemade London Fogs
Once again, something is on my favorites list because of nausea. I’ve been trying to drink less coffee (this better be worth it, ugh), so London Fogs have been my replacement for my morning (or 11pm, because I work the night shift now) cappuccino. I still get the joy of making fancy coffee, even if it doesn’t smell quite as good. In case you didn’t know, a London Fog is basically a tea latte- Earl Grey tea, steamed milk, and vanilla. You still get some caffeine, but it isn’t nearly as much as espresso.
9. The Book of Job
If you read my last post, where I complained about my various ailments and talked about being honest with God, then you’ll know I’ve been loving reading the Book of Job. To be quite honest, I still haven’t finished it, but reading it has given me comfort in God’s goodness and also allowed me to be more honest in my prayer life.
10. “Sigh No More” by Mumford and Sons
To be quite honest, I don’t actually know what this song is about. I realized that I was listening to the lyrics incorrectly, but when I first heard it, I thought it was about Christlike love. I have no idea now. But I’ve always loved Mumford and Sons, and this song really does soothe my nerves and speak to my heart.
11. This Strange Grilled Cheese Sandwich
I’m now realizing that there is perhaps too much food on my favorites list… but I think that’s pretty true to who I am, as I like to eat. A lot. I recently went to an incredible restaurant in Anchorage called Bread and Brew, and it’s forever changed the way I view grilled cheese sandwiches. My sandwich had cheddar and gouda cheese, green apple, and bacon. It was such a strange combination, but I can’t stop thinking about it! I recreated it at home, and even though my ingredients weren’t quite as fancy, it was still delicious.
12. Blueberry Mint Kombucha
Yet another food item! And the THIRD item on the list that has to do with nausea! I’ve been on a kombucha kick this summer, and my favorite of the ones I’ve tried is Humm blueberry and mint. Kombucha itself is so good for gut health, and the mint also helps with nausea. Also, healthy guts lead to healthy brains! Gut health is vital for controlling high levels of anxiety. I love the flavor and the health benefits of this drink. If only it wasn’t so expensive!
13. This Hair Tie Scarf Thingy
This one is a bit more frivolous, but that’s what monthly favorites are about, right? Plus, I really do love makeup and fashion, so I would be lying if I didn’t include this. I bought this hair thingy at Anthropologie back in April, and while I’m certain I paid far too much for it, I’ve been loving it a lot. It dresses up any simple outfit or hairstyle, and I love the colors. I also think it’s very fun, very effortless, and very me.
14. The Mountains
This might also be on my list every month. I didn’t realize how lucky I was to live near the mountains until I left Alaska for college in North Dakota eight months of the year. North Dakota isn’t awful, it’s just… flat. Hiking and skiing are my favorite forms of exercise, and there isn’t much of that in Bismarck, ND. I’ve been making the most of my summer at home here, and hiking mountains has been a big part of that. Getting outdoors and hiking or going for a jog is so good for my mental health as well. I think I encounter God primarily through nature. If anyone is struggling right now, I would recommend going for a hike or a walk unplugged. Just you, God, and Creation. I’ve been focusing on surrendering my will to the Lord, and as I hike or run, I’ve been saying to myself “every step is surrender”. This phrase just came into my head during one hike, and I left that hike feeling so empty, but in a good way. I was able to enjoy the rest of my day after hiking in a way I haven’t been able to in a while.
There’s nothing like a good old-fashioned Catholic young adult conference to remind you how much of a disaster you really are. Perhaps to some people, walking into a conference full of young married couples, children, priests, and religious is the recipe for excitment, but for an anxious me there may be nothing more stressful.
Don’t get me wrong- I love going to talks, I love the Spirit-filled periods of Adoration and Confession that always seem to be present during retreats, and I love meeting new people and hearing their stories. But, for lots of reasons, this conference just wasn’t clicking for me.
I arrived at 9am after working a night shift at the Senior Center, exhausted, with hands shaking from the ridiculous amount of coffee I had consumed, my stomach churning from yet another bout of nausea I’d been experiencing all summer (I’m still not entirely sure what’s causing it), and all the feelings left over from a college student’s first experience with heartbreak. A recipe for the perfect retreat experience, right?
I came into the retreat feeling ill and directionless. For weeks I had felt as though I was teetering between feelings of despair and quiet, timid hope. Anyway, as I walked into the retreat, I put on the mask of happiness we are all too used to wearing and fought back tears for several hours.
“Just pull yourself together!” I told myself angrily. “Your life is good, you shouldn’t be this upset. Get it together!”
But I couldn’t. The feelings of despair built up throughout talks, Confession, lunch, and Adoration. I was desperately unhappy, and so angry at God. If I’m being honest, I think I hated Him that day (don’t worry, I’ve since apologized).
Comparison is the thief of joy, right? Absolutely. I realized that part of the reason I was so upset during the retreat was because I wasn’t living in the moment. I was comparing myself to the priests and religious, and to the wives and mothers. They have their lives figured out. They trust God enough to find their vocations. They look like they are happy and peaceful. And then my friends and the young, single missionaries. They are laughing. They are experiencing freedom in their singleness. So why can’t I? Why can’t I pull my crap together? Why can’t I count my blessings?
I realized that one thing I suck at is just letting myself be. I am awful at sitting in the painful emotions, at leaning into my fears, sadness, and anger. But that’s okay. I’m learning. My friends, if you struggle with this, then be still and know that you are learning too. It’s a journey, and we don’t have to be perfect at it.
Truly, given my mindset, it could be nothing short of Divine Providence that I was able to be even the teeniest bit receptive during the conference. Luckily, God is all-forgiving. Even though I had spent most of the conference grumping at Him, He still blessed me with a talk by Gomer (Michael Gormley) of the Catching Foxes podcast.
(If you haven’t listened to the Catching Foxes podcast with Luke and Gomer, then I highly recommend you do so! They are hilarious, holy, and honest about their wounds. Here’s a link: https://www.catchingfoxes.fm)
Gomer’s talk was exactly what my weary, grumpy, ungrateful heart needed. As dramatic as it sounds (and I sure as I am that Gomer would puke upon hearing this) it truly nurtured my soul.
Gomer was just so honest. He shared about the struggles he experienced with depression after he lost his long-term girlfriend, and the exhausting period of waiting it took for her to accept him back. I found myself relating to his tale of the young drama-queen Gomer, because I’m a bit of a drama queen myself, especially in seasons of waiting or suffering. He talked about the agony of prayer and of living a life on this side of Heaven- a life where we make mistakes and those mistakes have consequences. A life where we don’t realize what we have until we lose it. A life full of sin, separated from God.
After Gomer’s girlfriend broke up with him, he thought his life was over. He pouted and cried and basically just had a miserable existence (he said it, not me). His spiritual director told him two things. One, Gomer needed to read the Book of Job, and, two, Gomer wasn’t grateful enough for the goodness of his girlfriend. Read the Book of Job, and be grateful. I thought to myself “well, I’m pretty much just as dramatic and lost as Gomer, so maybe I should do those things too.”
The topic of Gomer’s talk was “How to Pray”, so I expected a long-winded explanation of the different types of prayer and how I was doing everything wrong. Well, Gomer did talk about how I wasn’t praying correctly, but it wasn’t because I don’t follow a certain format, or because I get tired and distracted too easily- no, my prayers are often flawed, I realized, because I’m not honest with God.
When Gomer’s spiritual director told him to read the Book of Job, he was showing him an example of true, honest prayer. The Bible is filled with groaning and wailing, with complaints and anger… especially the Book of Job. Good Lord Job…
“My own utterance I will not restrain;
I will speak in the anguish of my spirit;
I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.
Am I the Sea, or the dragon,
that you place a watch over me?
When I say, “My bed shall comfort me,
my couch shall ease my complaint,”
Then you frighten me with dreams
and terrify me with visions,
So that I should prefer strangulation
and death rather than my existence.”
Quite honestly, there have been many times in my life where I don’t think I relate to any Biblical character more than Job. So often, I look at my life and complain. “I’ve tried so hard!” I think to myself. “I’ve given up so much for God, and this is how He treats me? Why must I suffer?”.
Whenever I begin to think like this, I try to hide those selfish and hardened bits of my heart from God. I wait until I feel a bit better to pray, so I can craft pretty and loving prayers to present to the Lord. Or, if I pray in the moment, I use it to look at the bright side. I’ll try and be upbeat, positive, and grateful, even if I am feeling none of those things. And perhaps there is a place for that in prayer. Perhaps there is a place for positivity in prayer, even when I feel like crap. But, more than anything, God wants us to be honest with Him. He doesn’t want our pretty little poetic prayers- He wants us. He wants relationship. We don’t need to sugarcoat things for God. He knows our suffering, and He wants to journey through it with us.
After Gomer’s talk, I decided to put his advice into action. I was driving home from the conference. At this point, I had been awake for 39 hours, I was still too nauseated to eat, I was hungry, I was sad, and I was anxious. I knew I had two hours to sleep before my next shift, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to rest with my racing thoughts. So, I spent the 20 minute drive home yelling, literally screaming and crying, to the Lord. I’m sure the other people on the highway thought I was a lunatic. I felt like a lunatic. But, I had also never felt more myself in front of God. Finally, finally, I was telling Him how I felt. I was allowing Him to experience my misery with me. I was so angry and so sad, and I let Him feel all of it. And, in doing so, I felt all of it. Verbalizing my pain to the Lord allowed me to truly feel.
I wish I could say I felt better immediately after. I didn’t. But incorporating this raw honesty into my prayer has been transformative in my relationship with God.
Throughout the book of Job, it is apparent that Job is afraid of the sheer power of God- he is afraid of what God might allow to happen to him. If Job had been all-knowing, then he would have seen that God wasn’t causing his boils and the deaths of his children. God was allowing the devil to test Job, because He trusted in Job and believed he would be faithful. Imagine if we could see our trials through a different lens- as chances to show God our faithfulness, over and over again. But, trust me, I know it’s a struggle to do that. I especially resonated with this passage:
“For what I feared overtakes me;
What I dreaded comes upon me.
I have no peace nor ease;
I have no rest, for trouble has come!”
I often feel like that. I feel that the moment I think I’ve found peace, I get hit again with yet another trial, another test. But like Job, we must take heart in the fact that God is faithful. Not all our prayers should be yelling out in anguish. But many of them certainly can be. In the end, however, we must remember we aren’t yelling at God for the sake of yelling at Him. We are crying out to Him earnestly, because we want Him to know our struggles. Just like in Job’s story, there will be joy in the end.
P.S. No matter how crappy you feel, please go to conferences and retreats like this! Yes, the retreat was difficult for me, but I learned so much about myself and about God, and will definitely be going next year:)