As I stared transfixed at what I instantly understood to be a symbol for the Holy Trinity, I realized that long before I had even been aware of Him, I had unwittingly branded myself as His; I belong to God and He calls me beautiful.
I find myself overwhelmed by the many endeavors I want to pursue, the vastness of improvement that I can still make in so many areas of my life, and the restlessness of my longing in general to find lasting and satisfying happiness in my current walk of life.
It seems that no matter how much we try, loving ourselves and the physical bodies God gave us can be a never ending cycle of good days and bad days. Everywhere we look, we see other women to whom we compare ourselves, always finding something wrong with what we have and something beautiful with what they have. I should know. I was born with one breast.
At the age of 32, this is my best handwriting. Close to ten years ago, four other Catholic campus missionaries and I were T-boned by a Mack Truck while driving to an end-of-the-semester retreat. I don’t remember a single day from the month that followed.
I tend to connect most with the people in my field as a marine biologist because of our love for nature, our peace that stems from the simplicity yet complexity of life, and care that wells up as we become stewards of our planet but rarely (if at all) do any of them share my faith. ...But even that has its limit. The number of times I have encountered Catholics who don’t believe my life’s work has purpose because conserving our planet for the sake of humanity is 'too liberal' is heart-wrenching for me. ...This lack of never truly belonging leads to many questions about the deepest parts of a human being and our aloneness in this world.
During the very first Mass I attended in Afghanistan, this was all I could think about. I looked around the small chapel with tears in my eyes thinking 'this is the universal Church.' I may be on the other side of the world but, during that hour of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, my soul is at home.
Sometimes I would wake up in strange places. Sometimes I would wake up on the bathroom floor. Once I woke up in a bus station downtown after a baseball game, escorted by a kindly police officer to his waiting cruiser and delivered unceremoniously to a detox center in the next city over where I attended college.
Last November before my 20th birthday, I planned on killing myself. I felt I was worth nothing and had no purpose. I didn’t know what to do anymore. I felt as if I were a robot. I was working 80 hours a week and sleeping the rest. I was so lost that I dug myself into a deep well of depression.
At a young age, sporting soccer shorts and a mullet, all I cared about was climbing the next tree and wondering when the new issue of LEGO magazine would arrive at my door. I asked for hot wheels for Christmas and role-played as the boy character for all our childhood adventures. I looked around me, saw my friends and sisters and knew I didn’t fit the mold. My (little) heart ached and wondered, “why am I so different?”, “am I good?”
How much I still struggle to be in control, to know what’s going to happen and predict life. Yet in those quiet moments, He was drawing me into a greater reality. The reality that freedom comes through becoming like children in front of the Lord.
I had just clicked submit when I saw it: “Catohlic.” I felt like someone had slipped an ice cube down my back. I had misspelled the word Catholic on an application to a graduate program. Not just any graduate program, one to study theology.
Sometimes, you never really notice how you or your life are changing in the midst of it all. Gradually, things just become your new normal. But looking back, you can see how quickly things changed. That’s exactly how my love story with Christ has been.
The story of Jesus raising Jarius’ daughter from the dead is one I come back to again and again. …How often I’ve been in the shoes of these angry, grieving family members, and how often I’ve been this little girl, pronounced dead to the world.
As I sat in the Adoration chapel, I tentatively laid out my dreams before God. My hopes for my vocation, my dreams to serve and create, my hopes for life-giving joy. But I was pulling back. I expressed my desire for fulfillment, but I did not dare voice how I hoped they would be molded specifically to my own heart.