Saturday, November 21, 2009

An update, with gratitude

I've just finished my first week in a job that I have been planning for the greater part of this year, if not longer. I'm mentally exhausted, which I keep reminding myself is totally normal after the first week of a job. It was an interesting week and I just need to say that I am so deeply grateful that I have this Saturday morning to myself, to sit in my bed with a strong smooth cup of Starbucks Christmas Blend, listening to the wind and rain outside my window while I am sat snug in my bed, recording my thoughts.

When I think back to all of the obstacles that came in the way of me making it to where I am today, I am reminded that there have been so many people who have been instrumental in getting me here. My old boss, my new boss, my friends here, my mom and dad, my siblings (for the most part), and even all the faceless officials that kept me humble. I can't forget them at this time, and I'm going out of my way to send Christmas cards to them this year, something that I have always been a bit neglectful of doing.

I am grateful to be where I am and see that the work that I put into this year has evolved as good as expected, and I am happy to have had the opportunity to contribute.

I am grateful for the timing that brought me back here when I did, finding a house that feels like a home, with people that I sense I can trust.

I am grateful that the people that I work with have been so genuinely supportive and welcoming. Since I will be spending so much time with them, it makes all the difference in the world to feel comfortable in that setting.

Now, I just can't wait to see where this road leads. One of my roommates is an attractive young Englishman who happens to be on a trip at the moment, deciding the fate of his relationship with his long-time, long-distance girlfriend. This could have big implications for our relationship, as I sense at least a lusty attraction there, as well as mutual interests as far as activities go.

Then there is my boss, a strong, radiant woman, with a strong and impressive career who found the love of her life a bit later than expected. She's now taking a leave so that she can focus on having a baby through IVF. She has thus far been unsuccessful, but is now going to try and see if work stress has been a factor. I wish her the best and I do hope that she conceives!

That leaves me with my acting boss, who is somewhere in Africa for the next couple of weeks. My first impressions of him were very positive, with a natural chemistry. He also is very well-liked and respected for his wit, intelligence, approachability, and hard work ethic. I do believe we also share a similar ideology when it comes to the work we are doing.

All in all, I think this is a very good step in the right direction. I have to continue to rely on prayer to direct me and not let my exhaustion get the best of me. The first week was tough, but I'll step into it. It does take a few months sometimes, but I see this rolling out in a exciting direction.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

And lead me not into temptation...

Last week I went to Confession for the first time in over a year. I have been meaning to go for awhile, literally months, but I've obviously not made it enough of an effort. I do take it very seriously, so part of me not going was due to the fact that preparing for it can be draining and exhausting if one truly does a thorough examination of conscience.

Regardless, last week I was led to the Confession booth following a dream in which I was preparing for death. It was a profound and deeply moving dream, one that I woke up thinking about, making a mental note not to forget it so that I could consider its meaning. In my dream, right before I awoke I was lying down, peacefully approaching death. I was mixed with strong mortal panic of crossing to the other side, balanced by a flood of peace and desire to go and meet with God. In short, I was strongly experiencing both the love and fear of God throughout my soul.

So I decided that meant I should go confess my sins and get right with God. And I did.

As part of my statement of contrition, the priest said to ask God to help me not to sin anymore. And he said that I should repeat that every night. (Of course, I can't remember the exact prayer line now but...that's not an excuse). And it dawned on me - of course! I knew that I have sinned and had been repeating the same sins. So how simple is it to ask God to simply help me not to do (X) anymore?!

It makes sense, when you think of the perfectly constructed 'Our Father' prayer. "And lead me not into temptation". Duh! I tended to always focus on the "Thy will be done" part, thinking that made me humble because I truly wanted to experience God's great plan for my life rather than my own. But I conveniently neglected to consider that maybe all of these times when I led myself into situations where I might be tempted to break God's commandments, I might have had help walking away if I had taken those words to heart, and simply asked God not to let it happen.

Sure enough, that very day I remembered a "white lie" I had told that had just slipped out, and I really didn't want to retract it at this point. I knew that I was wrong, I wasn't sure why I had said it in the first place because it was so irrelevant and superficial, but still, I didn't want the person to whom I had told it to think that I was a liar. So, I asked God not to put me in a situation where I would have to confront this lie, and knowing me, probably tell another, and another, in order to weasel my way out. Well, that was a week ago, and it appears that that little incident is in the past. How good and gracious of God to protect His little sinner like that!

But it truly is a lovely new focus for me: asking God not to lead me into temptation. I am weak. Really, truly weak, and I know that sinful behaviour easily becomes a habit.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


“A person often meets his destiny on the road he took to avoid it.”

- Jean de la Fontaine

This quote struck me not because of any particular "destiny" that I myself am trying to avoid, but it does help reflect on the importance of conscious choices that we make. It reminds of times when I was trying to avoid certain people or situations in general, yet I would ultimately come face to face them. I recall a certain man who was also trying to dodge any chance of confrontation with me, only to repeatedly turn up in the same places that I would be. I must say, watching him squirm did make me smile inwardly with content, satisfied that he was indeed being forced to own up to his part of the relationship. I did care about him though, so I really believed that having to face our situation was important for both of us.

I read somewhere this week, every lie we tell builds an alternate reality that we are forced to live in. Over time, and I know this from experience, that alternate world can become very destabilizing. So this quote becomes about honesty, about being true to the path we have traveled and the people we have affected so that we can peacefully proceed on the road ahead of us. It may lead us to unimagined places, but we can be sure that full acknowledgment of our previous deeds, good or bad, will generate less unwelcome surprises in the future.

The freedom that comes from atonement with the past gratifies your present self, creating hope and joyful anticipation for the future.

A person left a comment on a photo taken two years ago of a facebook friend, gazing out into the sunset, about how at that time, she had no idea how her life was about to change. This was right before she met her future husband, to whom she was recently married. They seem completely made for each other.

The friend's remark touched me. Although this scenario is not unlikely for someone my age, that comment helps us to remember to be grateful for the chain of events that brought us to our current reality. Remembering what our lives were like before these pivotal events helps usher in a renewed sense of wonder and appreciation for life.

So what I am saying is that we never really know what God has in store for us right around the corner. But it is our responsibility to be fully prepared to embrace it. I mean hey, it's in our own best interest, right?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Learning Humility

A good article on humility at


Here’s what I suspect: much of what I think are the evidences of humility in my life are really something else entirely. There’s an ongoing skirmish between a desire for holiness (tainted with pride), discouragement over failings (tainted with pride) and goals of using my talents in the best way possible ~ for God’s glory of course. (Also tainted with pride.) Ugh.

The discouragement part is quite seductive actually, because it can give the appearance of sorrowful humility when it is often wounded pride. Humility does not mean I must dislike myself. To speak ill of myself, to mentally berate myself over my flaws and mistakes is not evidence of humility. It is evidence of pride. It just means I’ve not lived up to my expectation of myself, or worse, my delusion of grandeur.

Friday, August 7, 2009

What Goes Around Comes Around

Ever since he first appeared on the Colbert Report, Father James Martin, SJ, has been one of my favorite voices of faith and reason, combining worldly intelligence and credentials put to use serving God as a Jesuit priest.

I mainly want to post the link to his story of conversion, as reported through his Alma Mater, the Wharton School of Business at U Penn. I came across this particular story in an article in the NY Times today about the impending exposure of GE's unethical financial reporting activities. These were the same shady tactics that had given Fr. Martin pause back when he worked in the financial reporting department at GE, the exact practices which GE had now been found liable for $50 million had been documented in one of his book's decades ago, “In Good Company: The Fast Track From the Corporate World to Poverty, Chastity and Obedience.” Father Martin himself describes his own glee, feeling vindicated all these years later, at America Magazine.

Check out an excerpt in Fr. Martin's own words at how he somehow ended up in his unlikely position today. Referring to his background in finance that led him to work with the Jesuit Refugee Service in Kenya and eventually establish the Mikono Centre, which helped channel investment funds for the refugee community:

The "somehow" of Father Martin's priestly vocation haunts him when he thinks about it. Somehow he set out on a lifetime career in business and ended up a priest - almost despite himself. "Divine Providence," the theologians call it. "If I had tried to design a perfect background to work at the Mikono Centre," he observes, "I could not have done as well as I did by accident."

It's a hope-giving tale of real life karmic justice. Made me smile.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Death and Timing

A friend of a friend of mine just lost his mother. He is in his twenties and they have had a tumultuous relationship due to her decades-long alcoholism. He had just returned from living abroad for an extended period of time and had only been back for over a week. Their relationship had been strained and painful for him, and she was known and gossiped about as the town drunk.

Then one morning, he found her in bed, dead. She had not been dead for that long when he found her. He, being in the next room, had not heard a thing.

My friend recounted to me how he had described his last night with his mother. He had cooked her dinner and it was the first time that they had sat together and talked in years. He said it was a proper talk, no fighting, and that it had given him hope. That very same night, with no indication, she suffered a massive heart attack and died.

Everyone had always talked about how it would happen, whether it would be an overdose, or something related. Ultimately, a premature death for her was predicted as inevitable after the way she had abused her body for most of her life.

So now he is struggling to understand why God would take his mother just as they had began to make amends. It does seem like particularly awful timing, but it could have been worse. They could have had a fight that night. Or he could have still have been abroad and lived with the guilt of not having been there, to try to make things right.

So I will keep him in my prayers and hope that God bestows graces on him that will bring good out of this terribly painful tragedy. This reminds me of when Obama's grandmother died the night before he was elected president. If one had no faith, her death epitomized the cruel randomness and injustice of our world. But through the lens of faith, it illustrates the often tragic poetry of life... and necessarily keeps one humble so we do not exalt ourselves. Particularly when God asks big things of us, I think we can also expect Him to remind us who is in ultimately in charge.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

A Prayer on Timing

A Prayer by Teilhard de Chardin, via Ignatian Spirituality on Facebook.

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way
to something unknown,
something new.
Yet it is the law of all progress that is made
by passing through some stages of instability
and that may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you.
Your ideas mature gradually. Let them grow.
Let them shape themselves without undue haste.
Do not try to force them on
as though you could be today what time
-- that is to say, grace --
and circumstances
acting on your own good will
will make you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new Spirit
gradually forming in you will be.

Give our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.
Above all, trust in the slow work of God,
our loving vine-dresser.