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Dear Me, Five Years Ago

I signed myself up for a little challenge of writing 500 words a day. It seems easy, but for someone who gets discouraged when she lacks inspiration and time, it is tough. Today’s topic was something I really enjoyed, so here goes. I might have gone a little over 500 words…

“Write something that you wish someone would have told you 10 or 5 or even one year ago,” said my morning email today. Challenge accepted. 

Five years ago I had just finished my junior year at St. Amant High School. Here are five things I wish I could have told myself then:

Slow down, young lady.

Later on, you’re just going to want life to stop going so fast. And guess what, it won’t! Not just for you, anyway. Maybe if everyone on Earth worked together at once to hold it in place, it would at least come to a slower pace, but then what would we all be doing? We’d be stuck holding on for dear life, otherwise it would spin back into its usual orbit and fling us all off into space!

Life won’t slow down for you, but you can slow down for life. Live. Stop thinking so hard about the past and the future and enjoy the present while it’s here because life doesn’t stop. Yes, you’re about to be a whole senior in high school. Yes, you think you’re dating the “love of your life” who you’re going to marry and raise a family with. Yes, you think you have it all figured out. But sweetie, the only one who has got it all figured out is God, and he’s not going to put up picket signs with arrows telling you what’s going to happen next.

Enjoy applying for colleges with Dad. Enjoy working your part time jobs in the summer. Listen to your teachers, your parents, your grandma, your grandpa, your aunts and uncles who tell you to enjoy it all while it lasts. Wait til you’re in the “REAL WORLD.”

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It’s okay to be terrified.

Yes, it feels like you’ve got a whole lot of weight on your shoulders right now. Everyone is telling you to enjoy your last homecoming, prom, set of teachers, yearbook, last everything. But meanwhile, they’re also telling you that you’d better decide on a college, and quick.

So dear me, hugging a lumpy couch pillow, crying, telling Dad I don’t want to do college: You DID IT! It’s okay to feel like giving up at times. A wise person once told me, if you aren’t terrified of the next step you’re about to take in life, you aren’t thinking about it hard enough. The fact that you put a lot of thought into working hard is good. Some people don’t care so much. You cared, you tried your best, and you got through it.

Be scared, anxious, whatever. You’re supposed to be. If you put a brave face on and just walked through life with no fear, would you really feel as if you accomplished anything once it was over? The fact that you pushed through fear makes for something to be extra proud of.

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Stop caring about what everyone else thinks.

This overly opinionated person thinks you should just be a stay at home wife one day? Everyone assumes you’re going to be a teacher just because English is your favorite subject? No, no, no. Just because society thinks you should do this or that with your life, doesn’t mean you’re limited to just those things.

Really consider what you would enjoy furthering your education in. You’re going to change your major anyway, whether you can admit that now or not. And guess what? When you switch your major from journalism to English, no one is going to freak out and say, “MARLIE YOU LIED TO US. WE THOUGHT YOU WERE GOING TO CHANGE THIS WORLD OF POLITICAL MADNESS AS AN UNBIASED REPORTER. THE WORLD IS GOING TO BURST INTO FLAMES NOW, ALL YOUR FAULT.”

Everyone is going to be supportive. They’re going to say good luck. They’re going to tell you that even though you’re an English major now, you might still end up as a reporter. You’ll just have classes that are more fun along the way! Or they’re going to revert back to telling you that you’ll make a wonderful teacher. Just take it with a brick of salt and do what you want, kid.

Lastly, please, please don’t let the world tell you what career path to take after you get that degree in your hand. Please don’t let them tell you, you’d better find a job, quick. Because you’ll go through the same things all over again.

Find a job doing something that makes you feel fulfilled, whether that’s helping others, designing magazine spreads, or running payroll. You don’t have to have that passion figured out all at once either. Sometimes it takes stepping into a career path and realizing, hey, I am not in the right place. The search for the right place doesn’t have to be over in five days. Everyone moves at a different pace. Like I said before, it’s okay to slow down.

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Love yourself a little.

Yes, you love your supportive family, your boyfriend, your group of friends, your small town, your favorite restaurant. You love that little social life you have, with everything just perfect. Guess what, hun. Only one of those things is going to remain the same forever. And that’s family.

Guess what else? In making sure you give all your time and effort to all those things, you forgot one person who is also important. You.

One day, you’re going to appreciate alone time. You’re going to become friends with yourself. You’re going to learn that a date with a book is way better than fighting with someone once a week to preserve a relationship that, quite frankly, won’t last a whole year once you graduate high school.

You’ll realize that maybe, just maybe, if you would have been friends with yourself a little more, you might have known a tad bit better what path you wanted to take with your career later on. And even if you still didn’t know, you’d have probably been a little nicer to yourself about it, at least.

It’s totally okay to give love to all the people you’re blessed with in your life. In fact, it is heavily encouraged in this book I like and recommend: The Bible. This same book also says to love your neighbor as yourself (Mk 12:30-31). If you dislike yourself and treat yourself poorly, could you imagine treating your neighbor that same way? BE NICE TO YOURSELF.

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Embrace failure as much as success.

You are going to make mistakes. Small ones and big ones. You’re going to do some things you regret. You’re going to make decent grades in college, but not perfect grades like you did in high school. So enjoy being little miss perfect while it lasts.

You’re going to go through some break ups, you’re going to lose some friends. You’re also going to get in a fender-bender or two. You’re going to suck at saving money sometimes. You’re going to wake up late for work.

All of this makes you a better, stronger and wiser person. Also, none of it means its the end of the world, so stop trying to carry the world on your shoulders.

Those tiny moments of thinking, my goodness — I suck, turn into, wow, that experience really changed my outlook on friendship or what have you. You are not perfect, and never will be. And guess what, no one else is perfect either.

Letting go of some friends might mean letting go of toxicity. Letting go of a relationship you’ve held on to so long might mean much happier lives for the both of you. Failing a test might make you study harder for next time. Quitting a career path that makes you miserable might lead you to finding the right one.

Failure is subjective. Someone might look at a decision you made that you thought was the wrong one, and wish they, too, made a decision like that to lead them to something better for themselves.

It all goes back to loving yourself. Don’t just say, “Oh, I failed today, and give yourself a pat on the back. Say, “Oh, I failed today, but that only means I can do better tomorrow.” Definitely don’t say, “I failed today, and I am completely giving up on myself now.”

Failures, problems, heartbreaks, and all the other things that rip our world in two, become smaller and smaller as the life moves forward. Don’t dwell on them, just learn from them, love yourself and experience the life ahead of you. 

You got this!

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Someone told me to write, so I did

Today, I am having trouble concentrating on school work. Today, I am having trouble dwelling in my own problems. Today, for some amazing, beautiful reason, I can’t get Jesus out of my head.

I’ve asked for this many times. God, please shut my mind up so my heart can hear you. God, please quiet my brain so I can hear your word. I want to let you in.

Last night was one of those nights where I just didn’t stop thinking. I tried praying, but got sidetracked so many times. I’ve been working hard on my prayer life, trying to get better at focusing on loving Jesus instead of telling him all of my problems that he already knows about. I called to mind a prayer idea I got from Fr. Joshua Johnson’s book, Pocket Guide to Adoration. 

“I began to tell Jesus how much I loved him. I reminded him of our story, how I fell in love with him. Even though he already knew, I was aware that recalling our history would be a gift for both of us.”

Fr. Joshua Johnson – A Pocket Guide to Adoration, pg. 39-40

You know how it feels to reminisce with your significant other about the day you both met, or dates you went on, or the moment you discovered you had fallen in love with them? I tried this last night (or past midnight, when I stopped trying to turn off my brain). I started with my Baptism, my first Reconciliation, my years spent in Catechism, going to Bible studies, going to youth retreats, my first experiences with Eucharistic Adoration, my Confirmation, and my many, many returns to His love and mercy throughout my life. And today, for some reason, I can’t stop thinking about my relationship with Christ. 

I’ve been waiting for a month, considering there’s a pandemic going on, for a book to come in. It’s called Jesus Speaking: Heart to Heart with the King by Gabrielle Bossis. I ordered this devotional on Amazon a while back, after it was recommended during a retreat, in hopes that it would help me in my prayer life. 

I was excited to discover it arrived in my mailbox today, a few days earlier than it was supposed to come in. Jesus is always a few steps ahead of us, right? I’ve tried to focus on my classwork all morning, but I kept being pulled away to the sound of my praise and worship music in the background, to different artwork ideas floating through my mind. Imagine my joy when I realized Jesus was simply waiting for me to take him out of my mailbox. 

I know it might not be this way tomorrow, but today, I feel Jesus calling me. I felt him calling me before I ran to the mailbox in excitement about my new reading material. I felt him calling me when I woke up today. I feel him calling me to bask in his love today in the midst of this strange life we’re all living right now. 

My first devotional words in my new book were as follows: 

“Trust in the Lord, and do good (Ps 37:3).

Hunt for Me everywhere. I’ll let Myself be captured with such joy. How could you expect to find Me if you didn’t search? And when you have found Me, give Me to others. There are people I’m waiting to reach only through you. This is the mission foreseen for you from all eternity. 

Decide right now to accept this mission.”

Gabrielle Bossis – Jesus Speaking: Heart to Heart with the King, pg. 121. 

I closed my eyes and I prayed about this mission. So far this year, my proposal to Jesus has been to make me a vessel for him, to use me to speak to others and to show his love to others. Today, I found him patiently waiting for me in my mailbox. In my own excitement, I did not think of how much joy he was feeling in my love and eagerness for his word. In my prayer of thanksgiving and my readiness to accept his mission, I asked Jesus to send me to these people he was waiting to reach. I asked him how he would like me to speak to these people.

I heard one word, one word that’s been at the back of my mind for a while now, because it’s one thing I miss doing very much. I heard the word, “write.” 

So here I am, writing this to you. Hunt for Jesus everywhere. In these words. In the wind blowing through the trees. In the goodness and generosity of people in this crazy world we live in. In your mailbox. In Scripture. In your church. In your heart. Remind him how much you love him, and in turn, you will be reminded of how much you love him, and more importantly, how much he loves you. 

“Trust in the Lord, and do good, that you may dwell in the land and live secure. Find your delight in the Lord who will give you your heart’s desire. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will act. And make your righteousness shine like the dawn, your justice like noonday.”

Psalm 37: 1-6

Today, my heart’s desire is Jesus. I wish that I could say I make him my number one desire everyday, but I don’t. From now on, when I feel him calling me, I will lean into his word and try my hardest to discern his will. I will let him act through me. He never asks for much from us. Today, he asked me to write. What is he asking from you today? 

For the Weary & the Burdened

You park your car in your driveway and you decide, it’s time to clean this thing out. It’s a cluttered mess in here! Where do I start? I definitely don’t want to make more than one trip to the house, and there’s a lot of stuff here. Let me tuck this book under my arm like so, this bag over this shoulder, this bag over the other, this article of clothing around my neck. I’ll carry this in this hand, this cup in the other. Ew, what was in this cup?! Oh shoot where did I put my phone? Drop everything and do it again. Now if I could just maneuver my fingers to where I can hit that lock button on my keys…

We’ve all had this conversation with ourselves. I know I will do anything to not have to go back to my car and grab more things that need to finally be brought inside. Just the other day I was juggling cups, textbooks, and my phone in my arms, dropping things more than once. I’m sure it would have been comical to anyone watching. But to me, it was so frustrating after a long, long day at school and work.

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What happens next? When I finally get inside, ready to put these things where they go and get to the next thing I have to do, here comes Charlie. For those who don’t know, Charlie is my pup who is not so much a pup anymore, but still needs constant attention as much as any pup would.

He is jumping around my feet, I’m carrying too many things, I can’t see, I trip over him. And what do I do? “CHARLIE GET OUT OF MY FEET. You are already on my nerves and I just got home!” I let all that anger and frustration out on him.

After I calmed down, gave Charlie his much-needed scratch on the head, letting him know he is a good boy however much of a pain he can be, I reflected on myself and my actions.

Isn’t this a lot like my walk with Christ? Don’t I try to carry all the baggage, hurt, heartache, anxiety, anger, sadness, and more, all by myself? Instead of saying “God, you’ve got me,” I’ve been saying “God, I’ve got this!”

And, just like little Charlie, doesn’t God simply want love, our acknowledge of His existence, a little bit of our time just so He can tell us, “let me carry some of that for you.”

We let our mess pile up over time before we decide we need to do something about it. And if you’re anything like me, the messier your environment gets (be it your car, your house, your office), the more stressed out you get. That day, finally taking time to clean out my car, I realized how much mess I had let build up in it and how angry it made me.

How often have I let my mess pile up — my anxiety, my sin, my struggles — and when I go to fix all of it, I am annoyed, I am hiding from God because I am ashamed, and I am taking my anger out on the cabinet I banged my knee on with curse words or fussing at my dog for just needing a little love?

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28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Matthew 11:28-30

All God is saying in those “UGH” moments is, come to me. Leave that thing you dropped over there, we’ll go back to it together once I help you get rid of all this other stuff. Slow down, breathe, and let me help you carry this.

We were never meant to carry all of our burdens alone, but that doesn’t mean we weren’t meant to have any burdens at all. It’s all a part of your walk with Christ. Jesus knew He’d have to carry His cross, and He asked that His disciples take up their own crosses and follow Him (Matthew 16:24-28). All of the struggles are a part of the cross we bear, but take a deep breath and know that He never wanted you to be alone in carrying that cross.

I’ll probably still try to carry everything into my house in one trip, but maybe instead of with anger, I’ll travel with a little more grace and peace, a little lighter of an inner burden. Maybe letting Him help me carry the heavy stuff on the inside will make the physical stuff feel so much lighter.

Dedicating this post to my sweet pup, Charlie, who is always there to snuggle me when I’m sad, to make me laugh, and to take up the majority of my bed when I’m trying to sleep. He is my most favorite, fluffy little pain in the butt who I thank God for daily.

Much love,

Plain Jane

Cover image credit: Free photo 95644316 © creativecommonsstockphotos – Dreamstime.com

Look Up & Remember

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Photo by Cristian Palmer on Unsplash

How many of you have read, heard, watched, or participated in a skit of Jesus walking on the water? Probably all of you. How many of you remember the little bits and pieces of that verse? Give or take a few things. There’s Jesus, Simon Peter, the disciples, the boat, and a huge storm. That’s pretty much it, right?

Recently, I was able to look deeper (pun intended) into Jesus walking on the water in Matthew 14:22-33. It’s one of those verses everyone has heard before, and maybe even studied before. Even though I am one of those people, I chose to pay attention to the little details this time.

Before we get started, I’ll just write the story out for you guys:

Jesus Walks on the Water

22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

29 “Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, why did you doubt?

32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” – Matthew 14:22-33.

Upon reading this story, we discussed it in family Bible study. When a few of us brought up the fact that Peter seeing the wind stuck out to us in the reading, we began to apply daily struggles to the verse. There were discussion/thinking questions my aunt had provided from the study lesson plans for us, so we all reflected on them further.

What are your wind and waves? This is one question in particular that was easy to answer, because we’re all so focused on our wind and waves, aren’t we? How often have I felt like I would never get to shore, “buffeted by the waves because the wind is against me?”

I pictured the wind being all the tasks life has thrown my way recently, pictured myself fighting in the waves of anxiety, fear, and doubt weighing me down, tossed furiously by these tasks.

Many of these blog posts involve me trying to control and fight and cast away my own struggles.

“But when [Peter] saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!'”

Remember at the beginning of the story, the disciples were all looking at Jesus on the water, and Peter had asked that He command him to come to him on the water. As soon as Peter looked away from Jesus and focused on the terrible storm surrounding him, he sank.

It is so easy to lose sight of the Lord and let yourself get up to your nose in things that need to get done, decisions that need to be made, relationships that need to be mended.

But doesn’t this story make it seem so easy to just keep looking at him? Peter, of all the disciples, would probably tell you that just looking at Jesus is not easy, especially when you know you’ve sinned or denied any relationship with him.

What Peter could tell you is that when you do look to Jesus, everything changes. Switch your attention to Luke 22:54-62:

“Peter Denies Jesus

54 Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house, and Peter was following at a distance. 55 And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them.

56 Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.” 57 But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.”

58 And a little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.”

59 And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.” 60 But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. 

61 And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.”

62 And he went out and wept bitterly.” – Luke 22:54-62

Going through the Gospels, it seems that anytime Jesus is about to perform a miracle, the disciples have forgotten all the great things he’s already shown them. Here, Peter had denied knowing Jesus three times, and it was not until Jesus made direct eye contact with Peter that he remembered that Jesus knew this was going to happen.

It’s as if we have to be constantly reminded of His miracles and of His plan for us. And it’s always going to be that way. He doesn’t expect us to constantly remember, but He feels so much joy with us when we do.

A few months ago, I had no idea where I was going. I definitely could not see the shore. Now I sit here, and I feel as if I am in the right place. I can close my eyes and see myself holding that Master’s, ready to go work in a school and help students conquer their wind and waves. I also know that even though I feel that everything is figured out, there are some days where it will be hard for me to simply look up and remember.

So here’s your reminder today to look to Jesus, remember His miracles, His love for you, and walk on the water as he commands you. “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” The wind and waves won’t ever disappear, but He can calm them and hold out His hand to catch you. Because, truly, He is the Son of God.

Yours truly,

Plain Jane