She Held My Hand

Have you woken up in the morning and felt like you must have swam across the Atlantic in your sleep?

When your feet touch the floor, you catch yourself from falling over?

Your eyelids decide to stay partially closed and the shower does not help?

I felt exactly like this when I woke up today.

pexels-photo-262218.jpeg

Well, this morning I had Church at 8am.

My four hours of sleep wasn’t really cooperating with me.

But, thankful, I made it to Church and prayed for some energy to take part in the celebration of God’s awesomeness.

However, as the music played my eyelids became heavy. For the next 30 minutes I did everything in my power to fight it. My eyelids were bench pressing air and not successfully. Since I go to school far away from home, I usually am in Church alone. Therefore, I didn’t have one of my siblings or parents to give me the oh so gentle nudge with their elbow.

I was zoning in and out of during the Scripture readings.

I heard the priests homily and probably dozed off for a few seconds in between sentences.

I was not only tired, but extremely anxious.

pexels-photo-568027.jpeg

I had a restlessness embedded in my limbs.

I had feelings of fear.

I had feelings of uncertainty.

I was being consumed with negative self-talk.

It eventually came time in the Mass for the Our Father prayer. 

In some Churches people may hold hands, especially families.

But between strangers, it is rare.

As the prayer begins I am still in my head. I am not present. I am restless. I am doubtful. I am uncertain. I am scared. I feel terrible. I feel alone.

All of a sudden, as I’m putting my cold hand into my sweatshirt sleeve, I feel something grab it.

I look up, and see a woman in her late 60s, sitting two seats away from me.

She had the most peaceful smile I have ever seen before.

It was as if a force knocked me over.

football-american-football-sport-ball-163229.jpeg

It was as if I was lost and found.

It was as if my heart began beating with a greater force.

The moment she grabbed my hand I felt the weight melt away. My eyelids were no longer heavy. I was filled with energy. I felt a lightening bolt of peace.

When the prayer came to the end, I noticed myself hesitating to let go of her hand.

I felt I belonged. I felt out of my own head. I felt freedom.

As I was praying before Communion, her action was really getting to me.

I start to tear up.

The small act of love this woman showed me today, gave me all I needed. She reached out to a man who was alone, and reminded him of how much he is loved. Grabbing my hand was not the comfortable thing to do.

She chose to be uncomfortable so I would be comfortable.  

This woman did not pay off all my students loans. She did not heal me of all my past hurt. Nor did she comfort me for hours with her words.

 

This morning gave me a lot of insight.

It reminded me that love is the energy. By receiving and giving love we are made new.

It reminded me of how many good people are out there.

It reminded me that being comfortable and a Christian doesn’t make much sense.

It reminded me that the smallest acts of love may make the greatest impact.

It reminded me that my neighbor is waiting for me. To hold his or her hand. To let them know I am here. To let them know that I care.

sunset-hands-love-woman.jpg

 

She held my hand.

And because of that act.

I witnessed the reckless love of God. 

 

 

 

 

The Purse Lady

I was in Church last week.

Placed on the seat next to me was a purse. The lady  who owned the purse was two seats away.

The choir started singing and just like that Church had started. Maybe, ten minutes into the start a couple walked in and the usher pointed to the seat next to me and the seat with the purse. Immediately, the purse lady  waved her hand to stop the couple saying she was saving it for someone. Everyone in the Church was staring. They were starting to make a scene. The wife told her husband to sit down next to me and she would sit somewhere else. She was obviously very annoyed at the lady so called “saving the seat.”

I talked with the lady about to leave her husband and told her to take my seat. I moved and just like that all was okay with the world. However, throughout my time in Church I watched as the purse remained on that seat.

No one came.

I could still feel tension between the couple and the lady sitting with the purse. We were all probably thinking the same thing. Was someone actually going to sit there? Or was she just being rude? Even if someone was going to sit there Church had already been going on for quite some time. This person could have just found another seat.

Then I had a realization. 

My immediate thought was that the purse-lady was a mean person.

My default was that she was selfish

My instincts shouted at me that she was not to be trusted.

Why do we do this?

Everyday our default in this world is that the OTHER person is wrong. The OTHER person is rude. The OTHER person is not smart. The OTHER person is causing trouble.

I hate that.

I want to see people the way Christ sees people.

So I challenged myself.

Why might this purse-lady have been saving this seat?

I made a mental list.

  1. She was waiting for a friend who promised to be there.
  2. She is claustrophobic
  3. She is too old to pick up her purse from the floor
  4. She was waiting for her husband who never comes with her. Praying this time would be different.
  5. She was too overweight/had bad knees so it was difficult to bend down and get her purse.
  6. She had something valuable in the purse and did not want to let it out of her sight.
  7. She had medications in the purse she needed to access quickly.
  8. She was fearful of getting sick so she wanted some space.
  9. She was waiting for her son/daughter to come for the first time.
  10. She was sick and didn’t want anyone sitting so close to her.
  11. etc. etc. etc.

That is when it hit me.

Look at all those justifiable reasons why she did what she did.

Friends, let us start making these lists.

Taking a deep breath.

And changing our default setting to something more positive.

And even if this women was just plain rude.

Maybe, by treating her with love and respect it would change her heart for the better.

God Wrecked Me 

I’m a Christian man.
I pray. I’ve never missed a Sunday. I love people. I love God.

Yet, for some reason in my heart I never believed that I heard His voice.

In my prayers I felt distance. In my Church I felt distracted. I love people but how can I love more? I love God but how can I love God more?

Gosh I wanted to hear God. I would hear stories of saints and sinners literally hearing God speak to them. It got me pumped. I want. I want. I want that.

But God had different plans for me. As He does for you.

In the wake of the hardest time of my life, this past year, God put me on a path that I didn’t understand at all. I was angry. I was frustrated. I felt hopeless.

I had dreams and plans that I saw. I could taste them. I worked so hard. It was all PERFECT.

But they didn’t happen. No matter how hard I tried. They didn’t happen. 

I prayed. And felt nothing.

I felt abandoned. 

Yet, during the past two months I believe I have heard God.

God truly did give me what I wanted.

A relationship with Him.

In order to do that He had to wreck me. 

By disrupting my plans He showed me my pride. He showed me my fear. He showed me my lack of trust.

One day I felt myself surrender to His will. I don’t know how to describe it to you, but in that moment I heard God.

I had enough.

It wasn’t about me anymore. In that moment I became His instrument.

All our lives we are taught to work work work.

Strive for greatness.

EXCEL.

Yet in order to fully unleash my potential, I needed to give up. I needed to give my self to my Lord and watch Him fill me with the courage and zeal to take the next step. The joy and stillness to rest in His loving care.

To remind myself that God’s got the whole world in His hands.

Friends, I encourage you today to kick back. Forget about your desire to succeed. Listen to the voice in your heart screaming at you to let go and recapture the faith.

Life is a beautiful field filled with land mines. When we hit one it’s not the end. But the beginning of a new you and a new friendship with God.

 

5 Ways to Call Anxiety’s Bluff

Whether it be school related. Difficult situations at home. Job related. Or for no reason at all, anxiety plagues many of us. It flushes our quality of life down the toilet and sometimes makes it tough to get out of bed in the morning. But we can’t let it take hold of us. We need to remember that the cards are in our hands. We run this game.

Here are 5 ways to call anxiety’s bluff.

  1. Run Runnnnn Runnnnnnn

I could cite thousands of research articles on this but I will spare y’all. Exercise is everything. It is anxieties biggest nightmare. When we exercise our brains are taking baths in some pretty great hormones. We are refueling. We need to recharge with exercise everyday.

     2. Call someone

Call a friend. ASAP. Don’t let your anxiety paralyze you. Hang out with a friend. Be present with someone. Anxiety is constantly trying to remind us that we are alone in this world. This statement is far from the truth. Call anxieties bluff by communicating with another.

     3. Dress Up

Dress up. Take a shower. Put on some of your best clothes. And go out somewhere. Get out of your house. Even if it is at a local coffee shop. The best way to beat anxiety is to not become a hamster in your own circling head. Our outer appearances does wonders in changing how we feel internally. Don’t forget to dress up your face. SMILE. Even if it hurts. I got more research to back that one up. Smiling changes everything.

   4. Do something creative

Call anxieties bluff by feeding the negative energy you may have into something creative. For me that usually involves writing. Try something. Whether that be going outside to take some cool pictures or writing a letter to your friend. Channel the negative energy into a positive masterpiece.

 5. Get it Done

Do what you need to do in this present moment. Need to work on a project? Get it done. Need to study for that test? Get it done. Need to pay some bills? Get it done. Don’t let anxiety tell you that you can’t do something. Nothing in life is difficult if you change your mindset.

 

Anxiety thinks it has the upper hand in life. Remember to take a breath and recenter yourself on the present. Laugh in the face of anxiety.  Call the bluff.

You got this.

This is your life.

And my goodness.

You are doing a great job.

Keep it up.

 

 

Do You Talk to Yourself?

I have a problem.

And I bet I am not the only one who has it.

It is a problem in my prayer life.

Days like today, the problem has shown it’s face.

There are times when I catch myself…

praying to myself.

What do I mean by this?

Well, during my prayers I find myself talking to myself not to God, which is the whole point of prayer.

In moments of silence I find myself telling myself

what I NEED…

what I SHOULD have…

were I MUST go…

why I WILL succeed…

etc.

My prayers are not mighty arrows of trust, faith, and hope sent to my Father in Heaven.

Nope.

They are whispers to myself that flow in one ear and out the other causing more distress each time they circle.

They are stagnant wishes and faithless pursuits.

Prayer is a mirror my friends.

It is a way for us to send our thoughts, discomforts, and struggles to God. He will send us the reflection with all the earthly junk mail stripped out. Through prayer God will send us the filtered truth. This will allow us to live in a way that glorifies His name.

However, when we pray to ourselves the prayers sit in our minds like dust balls growing larger and larger. We become more confused. We become restless. We lose hope in God.

All because we are afraid to let go.

In true prayer, there is a letting go process.

We let go of our concept of time by falling into the eternal love of a God who loves us.

We let go of our ways and trust His plan for us.

We let go of our need to speak and we listen.

One way to test if you are praying to yourself is to see how you feel after prayer. Assess if prayer has made you MORE anxious, MORE restless, and MORE fearful. If this is the case, these feelings are not from God and stem from an internal dialogue with yourself instead of an external dialogue with your Creator.

Friends, I encourage you to watch for this problem next time you have your hands folded.

Ask yourself, “Am I praying to my Savior or myself?”

It is time we let go and let God.

And stop talking to ourselves. Because our conversations with the Creator are the only way we will find peace in such a hurting world.

Do This Right Now.

Hey.

Can you do something for me right now?

Yes, this very instant.

I want you to think of a memory.

A memory that makes you laugh out loud.

Dig deep. Everyone has at least one.

Not figuratively lol. Literally laugh out loud.

A memory that makes you want to spit up the coffee that you are drinking.

Because it just never gets old.

And laugh. And laugh. And laugh.

Let that memory fill all your cracks and bruises of the past week.

Let it fill your lungs with new air and your heart with new love.

Keep laughing.

Even when it feels weird.

Laugh obnoxiously.

Laugh like you do not have a care in the world.

(Insert Memory Here)

 

 

What you just did was something amazing.

You shifted your mindset.

You told your hurting self to go away for just a moment and you jumped into a pool of pure joy.

You dove into yourself, but not the way anxiety and fear wants you to do.

You didn’t fight your past, but rather you found your past worth fighting for.

Worth remembering.

 

Why do we not do this everyday?

Every hour?

Whenever we feel the world try to crush us by it’s weight?

Well. We should.

 

Because laughter fills us with joy. And joy overcomes pain.

If you are around people and they seem confused by this…tell them what you are laughing at. Tell them your memory. Let them participate in the laughter.

Let us remember today to laugh out loud together. Because laughter unites us all. Laughter is freedom in a worrisome world.

God,when you take the steering wheel, let me not freak out.

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change…”

This is the first line of the serenity prayer, which is one of my favorites.

However, I never  thought deep into this line until today.

Serenity is defined as

the state of being calm, peaceful, and untroubled”

This is something I, and many of us, definitely struggle with.

We as humans need control. We strive for it.

Wars happen because of control.

Fear happens because of control.

Anxiety happens because of control.

We want control over our lives, our situation, our home, our friends, our environment etc.

When we cannot change something that makes us uncomfortable we freak out because we cannot control the circumstance.

So, we ask God to grant us the serenity to accept what we cannot change.

What this is basically saying is

“God, when You take the steering wheel, let me not really freak out about that.”

I mean come on.

It is scary.

God could decide to take us down a road we have never been on.

God could decide to drive for 12 hours throughout the night.

God could decide He will drive over a lake.

In those moments, even if we could see God’s hands on the wheel, we would still be so afraid.

Serenity is not something that will come overnight.

Though, I really wish it did.

It is a gift we have to prayer for and an ability we have to practice.

Trusting in God is the first step. When we trust in God we let Him take the wheel from us. We say, “Here you go God, drive.”

But achieving the serenity, the calmness, the coolness, the carefree nature, when God decides to take you somewhere you did not want to go…..that is the tough part.

Friends, this week let us strive for serenity in our hardship. We have given God the wheel, we are here, we cannot change it.

However, let us not forget the second line of the prayer

“….courage to change the things I can.”

 Trust. Choose serenity. Display courage. And enJOY the ride. 

 

 

 

Is Stress Your DJ?

I have been trying to think of a time.

In my life.

Where stress did not impact my attitude/actions.

What comes to mind is moments as a child. Where stress did not seem to exist. I can think of moments right after a big test. Where the weight of the exam melted off my shoulders. I can think of moments laughing with friends and family. I can think of moments where I stare into the eyes of my girlfriend. Moments where I am doing acts of service to help the word. I can think of moments when I am jamming out in the car. Moments when I am praying. Moments when I am reading a good book and drinking some rad coffee.

These moments rock. Yet, they are so few and far between.

Why is that?

Because I let stress win.

Lets imagine something real quick. You have your headphones on and you are listening to your playlist. Everyday you wake up and you put these headphones on. You scroll down the list of songs and pick one. Every moment of your life you must have a song playing.

The playlist looks a bit like this.

Playlist name: Life

Song 1: Sound of fear

Song 2: Sound of joy

Song 3: Sound of failure

Song 4: Sound of uncertainty

Song 5: Sound of perseverance

Then you pick one. YOU choose a song. Because you have the choice every single day, every single moment, to pick the song of your day.

The problem is we seem to let life choose a song for us.

We seem to let stress win and become the master of our very own playlist.

If there is one thing I know it is that human beings like to have control. We like determining our own destiny and fulfilling our dreams.

Yet, why do we let stress be the DJ?

Today, I want to encourage you all to reflect on this. Is stress impacting how you live your life everyday? If moments are so great without stress, why are we letting stress choose our music?

It is time that we make a new playlist. A playlist built on enjoying this awesome life we have been given.

Today, I am dancing because I am not listening to sounds of failure, fear, or loneliness.

But rather, of hope, joy, and a whole lot of faith.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Self-hate ain’t great 

I talk to myself. 

No, not out loud. 

Hmmm wait. Maybe sometimes. 

But what I mean by this is that we all talk to ourselves. Everyday. In our minds. 

We hear our own voice more than we hear the voices of others. It is constant. 

When we get up in the morning. While showering. While eating breakfast. While studying. While getting ready for bed. 

Our thoughts are our voices. 

Today, I realized something. 

My self-talk is horrible. 

If I were to add up all the positive thoughts about myself, my situations, my day I would have a pretty small number. 

Whereas the negative talk would fill a room. 

“Get up now. You are gonna be late. Why do you always do this.”

“You are never going to learn this material. Why are you even doing this in the first place?”

“You procrastinated again. Are you serious? What is wrong with you?”

“No. Don’t wear that it looks stupid on you.”

Maybe it is just me. But I can bet there are many of us whose thoughts about oneself are more negative than positive. 

When I look back on my childhood this was definitely not the case. My thoughts were something like this:

“If I practice I can totally be a professional soccer player.”

“I like waking up in the morning. Dad makes good breakfast.” 

“I like taking breaks from my homework. I know I will get it done later.” 

It is very interesting to me that as a child my self talk was mostly positive. I saw opportunity rather than failure. My motivation was new possibility not new failure. 

Christ says it in the Bible. We need to be like children. We need that type of faith in ourselves and in Our Lord. Negative self talk is only pushing us from Him. 

When I was on the playground in elementary school. I had to jump off the ledge and reach for the monkey bars. The only way I did this was to remind myself: You can do this. You are capable.”

Friends, I am asking you today this question. How can you make a leap of faith when you don’t even trust yourself to jump?

Today, my internal dialogue becomes different. My you cants will become you wills. My self hatred will become self confidence. My view of failure will become a view of opportunity. 

Try it out. Let’s make the jump together. 

Don’t Love Yourself

“You need to love yourself first.”

I hear this saying all the time.

I read it in magazines.

I see it on television.

I am told this phrase when seeking life advice.

Based on the amount of times I have heard this expression I started to believe it.

I wondered…

Maybe I don’t give myself the time and attention I deserve?

Maybe I am too involved in helping other people that I neglect myself?

Maybe I won’t find a special someone to love me because I don’t love myself enough?

The world is constantly telling us that we must love ourselves before we can do anything. Loving yourself has become the 21st century stepping stone to satisfaction and so called happiness in life.

But lately this phrase is not sitting well with me.

It has made me upset because I am starting to see it as a crutch.

A crutch that promotes inaction.

Don’t get me wrong.

 

I believe we as humans are made in the image and likeness of God. We should appreciate and be thankful for our lives. Everyday that I wake up is an absolute gift. Life is so rad.

But it is time to be real.

We live in an age where we are obsessed with ourselves.

Look around you.

All the narcissistic social media.

All the envy. 

All the brokenness. 

We are a society so wrapped up in our own lives that we forget we are a part of the world. We become our own planet. A planet constantly in need of cultivation, affirmation, and security.

Today I am asking you not to “love yourself first” but rather:

Lose yourself through loving others.

 

My belief is we need to start taking “I” out of our vocabulary and changing it to “we.”

What do (we) need today.

(We) are hurting. 

(We) are so stressed today. 

 

And then asking ourselves….how can I help?

C.S. Lewis puts it perfectly when he says,

“True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”

 

If we put others before ourselves, love will fill every inch of our being. 

So next time you open up a magazine to an article titled something like

“1,001 Reasons to Love Yourself Today”

Put the magazine down.

Turn to the nearest person.

Look them in the eye.

And ask them,

“How has your day been?”

 That my friends, is how you love yourself.