Love and Lent

And I guess it’s President’s Day in the United States so….Love, Lent, and…Lyndon B. Johnson?

a wagyu beef burger I had a couple weekends ago 😀

Love

I am typing this at the very end of Valentine’s Day — such a GOOD day! I love seeing people celebrate their relationships. One of my friends (hi, Kelsey!) got married yesterday too. Many of my friends are also in flourishing dating relationships, and I am HERE FOR IT.

If you are single, dealing with heart break, or have lost your significant other, you might be like, “k bye.” But wait! Truly, you have a Pursuer, who delights in you greatly and wants to give you e v e r y t h i n g. I cannot overstate how important and freeing this is: God Loves you and wants everything that is true, good, and beautiful for you. *clenches fists and throws head back at how much I want you to know this*

But talk to Him about it, because I can only tell you so much about the One who actually loves you infinitely.

This year I have spent much more time alone with God, and I am so incredibly far from perfect in loving Him, but He has been the sweetest in every way He sustains me at work, allows me to see stars faintly at the end of a late work shift, allows me to see a stunning sunset when I get off work early enough, strengthens me through trials, and supports me through my loved ones from afar.

Seven(!) years ago I wrote this “Letter to My Future Husband,” and I also put a “p.s.” in there saying if my future husband doesn’t exist, then I’ll be a single person for Christ, and to be quite honest, the latter is not looking like a bad option, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Lent

Not gonna lie, I am nervous for Lent this year! I am giving up all music, Youtube videos (my preferred streaming service), and podcasts EXCEPT for Fr. Mike’s Bible in a Year Podcast, so that I can keep up with listening to the Bible from start to finish. But I usually listen to that first thing in the morning. The hardest part about this fast will be coming home from a long, stressful day of work (happens often) and being in silence.

I have prayed for weeks about this and knew a while ago that this was the move for Lent this year. I think it will help a lot with my sleep discipline, and it will also allow me to give more of my heart and my time to God, especially when I’m the most irritated/stressed/tired.

But dang, this will be so hard, good grief. There is nothing seems to be nothing like dancing to music and listening to other people talk about their lives on Youtube when I’m all wound up from work. I know there is something even better, but I’m sure it will take some grace to find out.

Moves and grooves

I’ve been posting a workout on Instagram stories every Sunday now, which I think is a good amount of Instagram for me at this time.

In other news, I’ve gotten up to 7 strict pull-ups on a really good day! I’ve gained a bit of weight so I’m generally pulling more weight than I did when I first moved to NY, but my back is getting stronger!

Hope you have a wonderful week, friends. You are loved!

So tell me:

How was this Valentine’s Day for you? Joys or sorrows?

If you observe Lent, what are you fasting from this year (if you care to share)?

What did you do this weekend?

How do you introduce your friends?

pray.

This is another reflection inspired by the “What God is Not” Podcast. In one episode, Sr. Natalia and Fr. Michael were talking about the misconception that we need to “earn” God’s Love (spoiler: we do NOT need to earn God’s Love, because we could never deserve it but He gives it to us wholly and unreservedly anyway).

Related to that, they talked about the culture of utility that is prevalent in society. “What is your job? What have you accomplished thus far? What kinds of things can you put on your resume? What are your goals in life? How can you contribute to this world? How do you earn respect?”

Perhaps as a result and/or contributing factor to this, they noted that many people introduce their friends to other people by stating (1) their name and (2) their occupation. I think I typically do that, and I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing, since a full-time job takes up the majority of someone’s hours; if the person truly enjoys and believes in their job, then that could say a lot about their personality and values.

However, the dangers with introducing someone by stating their occupation are that (a) not everyone has a job; (b) some people don’t like their jobs; (c) some jobs may be seen as more or less impressive/helpful than others, thanks to societal norms. Thus, it may feed into this underlying assumption in people’s minds that the more you do or the “better” your job, the more you have to offer to the world.

But each human person inherently has wonderful things to offer to the world. Of course, we are responsible for harnessing and utilizing the gifts we have been given, but what comes of that (i.e., our occupation and successes) does not define us or make us any more worthy of love.

So how might I introduce my friends then? Again, I don’t think it’s necessarily bad to state someone’s occupation, but maybe I can think of other qualities and interests of a person to mention as I introduce him/her. Perhaps this can promote a culture of appreciation for ~the human person~ vs. a culture of “what-are-you-good-for?”.

For example: This is my best friend Rachel, someone who loves fiercely and has a heart for hospitality.

I dunno. Just some thoughts, but what do you think about this topic?

eat.

I am a big proponent for real dessert and eating non-diet types of snacks, but sometimes I want a sweet snack that won’t knock me out for a nap in the middle of the day. The other day, I decided to eat a bowl of plain Cheerios with almond milk BUT THEN I mixed in half a scoop of this s’mores protein powder (I think my brother’s girlfriend gave it to me a while ago) in with the milk… and it was delicious.

If you don’t like protein powder, you obviously wouldn’t like this, but if you have a protein powder you like, you might enjoy this. All we have in the house is plain Cheerios, but the s’mores protein powder dissolves in the milk and gives it that beloved “cereal milk” vibe.

move.

Walking, stretching, and practicing titibasana (firefly pose).

groove.

When I was on a walk in the neighborhood last night, a sweet little girl (still in her chub chub toddler days *heart eyes*) yelled, “Hiiiii!” and waved to me as I walked by. That made me very happy and grateful.

So tell me:

How do you introduce your friends usually? How do you yourself like to be introduced?

What is a snack combo that you’ve been liking recently?

What is something that made you happy yesterday?

Where would you go just to be with the one you love?

pray.

Have you ever loved and adored someone so much that you have physically traveled to places you normally would not, gone out of your comfort zone, or done some otherwise unappealing activity just because you would get to be with that person? Because being with that person is enough joy for you, no matter what you’re actually doing with him/her?

I am sure many of you have experienced this, and I know that I definitely have.

Love schmuv. So what, Alison?

Yesterday at Mass I heard in the readings, “Jesus said to His disciples, ‘…where I am, there also will my servant be.'” And what I thought of in hearing this was exactly the experience that I just mentioned — the beautiful desire to go anywhere or do anything just because the one you love will be there with you. Moreover, I thought of how the weight of any hardship feels a little less heavy as long as the one you love is there with you.

I prayed with these words, because just as I have desired to go and do anything just to be with the one I love in my human relationships, I desire also to go and do anything just to be with the One I love in my spiritual relationship (namely, with Jesus Christ). I think of this as an opportunity to be okay with going wherever He has gone — into deep pain, obedience, grief, suffering, fatigue, hunger, loneliness, hard work — just because He is there, and I wouldn’t mind those things as much, as long as He is there with me. And ultimately, He shares His profound joy and peace even in those places.

Phew, these prayer reflections have been getting me emotional.

eat.

I cooked up some dang good pork last night using Stubb’s pork dry rub. I seared the pork steaks on all sides in a hot pan before roasting it off for 7 minutes in a 410°F oven. Served with roasted broccoli and some… sort of soggy rice… #DishonorOnYourCow (name that movie)

I made 2 cups of rice (= about 5 cups of cooked rice) without really thinking about how much I was making, so now I have an absurd amount of rice to consume all by myself.

move.

Yesterday was a packed day, so I had only 30 minutes for a workout. I decided on a little upper body bro session, since my legs were actually quite sore from the 1000 rep bodyweight workout from Sunday.

  • 3×3 negative pull-ups
  • 3×8-12 bicep curls // 3×8 single arm bent over rows
  • 3×12 Arnold presses
  • 3x tuck holds on yoga blocks as long as possible (10-20 sec is what I could handle)

As always, the demos are on my instagram story / “moves part 4” highlights!

groove.

I fell into a Disney channel throwback rabbit hole on Spotify last evening. I saw my friend listening to “Say OK” by Vanessa Hudgens, decided that I wanted to listen to it, and then… I dove deep into the Disney channel soundtrack archives. The best find? The Cheetah Girls 2 Soundtrack (which used to be my alarm clock wake-up in my figure skating days). Major solo dance party went down in the kitchen while I was cooking dinner.

Gosh those songs are a JAM AND A HALF.

So tell me:

Have you ever loved and adored someone so much that you have physically traveled to places you normally would not, gone out of your comfort zone, or done some otherwise unappealing activity just because you would get to be with that person?

What is your favorite Disney channel throwback song/soundtrack, if you ever watched?

What was last night’s dinner?

Power and Love and Self-Control

There are a million words yet no words at the same time. I’ll give this post my best shot, because it’s worth it.

Black lives matter. The murder of George Floyd is an act that ought to be condemned. There needs to be justice for George Floyd, his family, and for all people of color who have been oppressed and, evidently, suffocated to the point of death under systemic racism in America since its onset.

If you have followed this blog for a while, you know that I am not too shy about my views on life issues (i.e., divisive ones like abortion), and the issue of racism is one of those life issues.

This post from @rachel.cargle is striking. The actions we take and the words we speak in the Black Lives Matter movement are not to be in vain. This is what I am hearing from many black people, whether they are close friends or strangers. The gist is: “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

Yes, this should be true for ANY life issue. Yes, this movement is getting a lot of attention right now. But major events that gain attention, despite the chaos, can stir up genuine good and necessary change. We are not forgetting other causes nor minimizing them, but for something as important, real, longstanding, and stifled as the issue of racism in America, there is a very clear need for action and tangible, expedient change.

It is easy to be complacent and tired of all of this, but if we can muster up a little bit of energy to, in some minuscule way, lay down our life for a brother or sister, please Lord, help us to help.

Act. It is not wise to “sign x, y, z because everyone is signing this and it’s probably good.” You have the faculties given to you to make an informed, conscientious decision about which petitions to sign, which organizations to support, or which posts to share.

Make the decision because you know what you are doing, why you are doing it, and the implied WORK it requires you to do after you donate, sign, post, etc. Please be responsible, not just reactive.

Be honest in your research and be okay with hearing “both sides.” You might find a sense of good in both sides of the conversation. You might find discomfort or disgust in elements of both sides of the conversation. Ask yourself why. Talk to people with an open heart. Seek to understand.

In all of this though, the priority is to listen to those who are being oppressed (i.e., black people).

If you are not sure where to even start, here are suggestions:

  • For a concise, honest, and helpful understanding of the Black Lives Matter Movement, watch this. Although I do not condone any sort of violence or crime, this video provides perspective on the deep, unspeakable pain that is yielding such actions. Additionally, I have seen and heard of many instances where black people are the ones preventing others (of various races) from destroying businesses and hurting others. There are riots, yes, but there are many necessary peaceful protests, where a majority of the protestors actually condemn any violence and destruction. Nevertheless, I am learning more and more that the riots and looting are coming from a place of extremely long-standing oppression and systemic inequity against black people (watch this). There can be an understanding of rioting and looting without condoning it. And most importantly, in understanding why it is happening, it has pushed me to realize the urgency and duty of addressing the “why” — to seek out true reform; to get dirty and serve underserved areas; to speak with my vote; and to empower young people of color with my time, energy, and money so that change can happen from the bottom up. In other words, I need to do what needs to be done so that black people do not ever feel that their only chance to be heard and loved is by rioting and looting. Who put them in such a position in the first place? Even if I did not ever personally place a black person in a position of poverty and inequity, to not do anything about it now is to do just that.
  • For my Catholic friends who are not sure how Catholics are responding or how they ought to respond, watch this and this and read this. Pray and fast for justice for George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, for real upheaval of systemic racism (which will take a lot of time, so you’ll probably be praying for it for your whole life), and for respect for black lives. Ask God to shine a light on any prejudices in your own heart, and ask Him to uproot them. Pray about how God is calling you to act against racism, and follow.
  • For those who are wondering why the Black Lives Matter movement seems to be getting so much more attention and momentum vs. the fight for unborn lives (hint: the issues are not dissociated from one another), watch this (I have linked the particular part of the video that addresses this question).
  • For petitions to sign, organizations to support, and a plethora of other resources, go here.
  • For a history on police in America, listen to this.
  • For Boston friends who seek to support local organizations that empower young people of color, consider donating to African Community Education and Boys and Girls Club of Dorchester. One of my friends, who is an immigrant from Ethiopia, said that he believes real change will happen only if black people are in positions of power, and that starts with true nourishment and quality education from a young age.
  • Support local black-owned businesses (Boston list of black-owned restaurants).
  • Start a book club with friends. Be open to conversation, and remember that you can use the opportunity to LISTEN. Discuss what you agree and disagree with, but listen. My friends and I will read Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. I also recommend Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin.

Systemic, but always interpersonal. Someone told me that change still comes down to the interactions that we have with the people in front of us. And this does not mean to shut out the world and live in one’s own bubble, because ignorance of the sufferings outside of one’s own immediate environment is part of the problem. But truly, how do you love the person in front of you today?

Does loving them mean having a tough conversation about the reality of racism? Does loving them mean reminding them of their worth, power, and love, so that they can go and pour out to others and be inspired to do something bigger than themselves?

And then after being informed about the the injustices and atrocities against black people in America, after honestly praying and educating yourself about the history of racism, how can you go to black people within your community and love them? Or at least donate to them? And if you are really not physically amidst black people, then how can you reach out beyond your community?

Look to those who do it well. I will share below some Saints who I know have worked against racism and slavery as Catholics. White people within the Catholic Church have indeed participated in racism in the past and some likely still do today. Please remember these people are imperfect and sinful human beings who act of their own accord. What is important, however, is that even their evil racism did not keep black people from the Love of Jesus Christ in the Church.

For example:

Above all, I find that Jesus Christ proves to be the answer to everything. He knows unjust condemnation. He knows racism. He knows judgement from others. He knows contempt. He knows poverty. He knows the pain of being brutally murdered for no reason.

Yet He, the Victim, gives Wisdom. He, the Victim, gives Mercy. He, the Victim, gives Power. He, the Victim, gives Peace. He, the Victim, gives Joy. He, the Victim, gives Love.

He is everything broken, impoverished, and slandered, yet He is everything good and triumphant.

My friends, my words here are not perfect. This is important though. And please, teach me more if you can, and help me to amplify black voices. Help me to love others more.

“For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control.”

2 Timothy 1:7

“‘Teacher, which are the two greatest commandments?’ Jesus replied, ‘”Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” The second is like it, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.'”

Matthew 22:34-40

Go forth in power, love, and self-control. Black lives matter.

A Deep Breath of Gratitude

I could C R Y.

It’s been oh so long, friends. Posting this blog post (after a 2+ month hiatus) feels like a huge virtual hug to any person out there who is reading this right now.

This semester has been a wild ride. Graduate school (+ life / growth / relationships) has proven to be quite different and much more challenging than I could have expected, but c’est la vie, eh?

But in the spirit of {American} Thanksgiving tomorrow, I thought this would be a fine time to take a hot minute to breathe and show gratitude for the things of life — the happy, the hurt, and every detail in between.

This semester…

I’ve experienced profound friendships.

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I’ve studied more than I ever have, but at the same time earned the most humbling and disappointing grades in my college career.

I’ve eaten some good-for-the-soul food.

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I’ve doubted my ability to become a competent physical therapist several times.

I’ve been ceaselessly encouraged by friends, family, and God to keep on keeping on.

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I’ve seen blue skies, gray skies, purple skies, and orange skies.

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I’ve had fun nights filled with line dancing, cheers-ing, and singing at the top of my lungs.

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I’ve had nights that didn’t seem to end even when the sun rose.

I’ve seen friends, family and strangers with even longer nights of the soul than I could imagine.

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I’ve made myself some wholesome foods.

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I’ve made myself think I’m eating wholesome foods.

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I’ve felt hurt in ways that I’ve never felt before.

But I’ve felt joy and the feeling of being cared for in ways that I’ve never felt before.

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I’ve seen what it means to be among beautiful women of God, who love to the very end.

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I’ve hurt others in ways I never intended but still wish I never did.

I’ve had to humble myself and apologize for my wrongdoings, which happen more times than I can count.

I’ve accomplished things in mind, soul, and body through God’s grace, and I’ve seen others do even more.

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I’ve seen tears of sadness, tears of guilt, tears of anger, and tears of joy.

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I’ve cried until I didn’t know why I was crying, and I’ve smiled until I didn’t know why I was smiling.

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I’ve dropped the ball in some friendships and allowed others to help me pick it up.

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I’ve seen God in every single day, in all of these things which remind me that, although we are dying, we are living all the more. I am beyond thankful for every person and every motion of the heart that has made this semester, this year, this LIFE… something beautiful.

God is good. All the time.

p.s. if you want to read something nourishing for the soul, please do yourself a favor and check out my friend Kelsey’s blog – she writes about beauty and about humanity so eloquently it hurts.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I am grateful for you.