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YOU WILL LEAD ME BY THE RIGHT ROAD, THOUGH I MAY KNOW NOTHING ABOUT IT

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When I Say I Understand Your Pain…


take-up-your-cross

When I say I understand your pain…

I’m not saying that our pains are the same.

I’m not saying that your pain is less than mine.

I’m not trying to one-up or compare myself to you.

I’m not trying to be condescending or pitying.

What I *am* doing is trying to give you what I really, really wish people would give to me, and that’s love. I don’t want people to say they exactly understand my exact pain, but I want to hear that I’m not alone in being in pain. I want to know I’m not the only one who’s vulnerable and scared, not the only one who knows what it’s like to beg God for death and yet beg Him to let you live, that I’m not totally lost in the dark of suffering. I want to know that I’m still lovable and connectable even when I feel totally dark and scared and hurt.

Pain is isolating, precisely because it’s so unique to its victims. And that isolation can sometimes drive people to do awful things, so I try to not be alone with it by trying to make sure nobody else is alone in it. And ultimately, I want to point people to the one person who can understand exactly what pain we’re in, because He knows everything about us. Thankfully, He also understands what it means to suffer. I understand the state of pain, but Christ understands the exact particulars. So I’m not saying I’m just like you. I’m saying He’s just like us.

A lot of people think of the words “take up your cross and follow me” (Matt 16:24) as a scary abstraction. They find the idea of a cross terrifying, because crosses are rightly seen as instruments of torture and despair. Even Christ begged to be let out of His passion! Crosses are scary, and following Jesus means more than even just a crucifixion. It means being crucified even after intense suffering, like the icing on a particular awful cake. It means carrying a cross on a back that’s been torn apart by whips, with bruised knees and a broken nose and absolute exhaustion in body and soul, and then STILL being killed on it. Crosses seem so hopeless. But they still have a small hope in them, that after the way of the cross ends, there’s always a resurrection. We’re not called to not be afraid of our crosses, especially those of us whose crosses are more literal, because crosses will always be terrifying. We’re called to have hope, even in the middle of that fear, that the cross is what’s going to get us to heaven. It’s a scary road, but it’s the only one we can follow if we ever want to be happy.

I don’t want to understand your pain. I don’t want you to really understand mine. I want all of us to understand His, because He’s the only one who understands ours. And, if we can understand His, we understand that all pain eventually leads us to somewhere painless, if we follow Him on that road. My love is imperfect, and selfish, and weak. His is not. But if my pitiful love can get someone, anyone, to understand His a little better, then it isn’t totally useless.

I have a lot of thoughts about suffering, and those thoughts shouldn’t be discounted merely because I haven’t felt literally every kind of suffering the world has to offer. But my own experiences do give me the ability to speak about pain in general, and especially about the One who makes all pain worthwhile. No, I cannot claim to know exactly what you’re feeling or why, but I can offer to share what little hope I’ve found on my way of the cross. That’s what I’m saying.

(Note: This is going to be the first in a series in which I respond to three things I hear a lot. The first is that I can’t say I understand other people’s pain, the second is that I’m too happy to really be hurt, and the third is that people think they can’t talk about their problems around me because mine are so big. These all require answers so that I don’t hurt anyone, and nobody hurts me. So keep your eyes open for more!) 

Love to all!

~Tani

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The Man Who Taught Me To Pray


“For prayer is nothing else than being on terms of friendship with God.” -St. Theresa of Avila 

This is Bill.

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He wears green in front of green things.

Bill was my youth minister for Life Teen all through High School. Bill is the stepfather of one of my best friends. Bill is the husband of the lovely lady who makes the best macaroni and cheese in creation. Bill drives a big truck, he can’t really sing (though he tries) and he always commands absolute respect by his mere presence in a room, though he never acts pompous or mean about his role as leader. He’s well-loved by just about everyone in the entire world. He’s a pretty awesome guy.

But the best thing about Bill is that Bill is also the person who taught me how to pray, without ever even meaning to.

I already knew what to pray, of course. I knew the basics, how to say a Hail Mary, how to ask God for what I wanted as my family sat together during morning and night prayers. To me, that was prayer- the scheduled, formalized, and phrases that I oft-repeated until they became almost meaningless, sure that that was how one talked to God. At Life Teen, all prayers followed a pretty regular outline of Hail Marys and St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle-s. Sometimes, someone would ask for a particular intention, and everyone would nod and say “amen,” and maybe shake the person’s hand afterward and promise their continued prayers. In that comfortable state of spiritual complacency, I felt that my prayer life was solid and didn’t need to improve any more at all.

Then came the Virtuous Reality Life Teen in March of 2012. I wrote an overview of it then, but the whole learning to pray bit was at the very end of the retreat, in the last two hours, so I really didn’t mention it. When we left the retreat center, I ended up in the truck with Bill and a few others. Since retreats are exhausting, the other teens pretty quickly fell asleep in the back. I had my headphones in and was dozing in the front seat when, in the space between two songs, I heard Bill quietly talking. I turned down the music, and heard him having a conversation. He spoke chattily, like he was just talking with an old friend. It was only when I heard him thanking the person for a green light that I realized he was praying- but praying like I had never heard anyone pray before. He spoke to God like he knew Him; not with bored familiarity, but with joy and security in the presence of the Other. He thanked God for even the tiny things around him, like the view, and for the success of the retreat. He was talking like there was nobody in the world besides Bill and God.

St. Alphonsus Liguori once said that:

Your God is ever beside you—indeed, He is even within you. “In Him we live, and move, and are.” (Acts 17:28). Not only is there no need of an intermediary through whom He would want you to speak to Him, but He finds His delight in having you treat with Him personally and in all confidence. Speak to Him often of your business, your plans, your troubles, your fears—of everything that concerns you. But above all, converse with Him confidently and frankly; for God is not wont to speak to a soul that does not speak to Him.”

Since that day, that quote has always reminded me of Bill, and every time I read it (and, since it’s one of my favorite quotes from one of my patron saints, I read it a lot) I say a quick thank you to God for blessing me with this incredible role model. I pray like he does, now, too, and gosh does it ever make a difference in life to not feel like you have to say thees and thous in order to make God hear you. God loves us and is interested in us, and so it should be the most natural thing in the world to just talk to Him like a friend. I can talk to God in the good times and the bad times and the bored in-between times, and He’s always as new and interesting and involved as the very first time we talked. That’s the cool thing about having an infinite God. He’s infinitely interesting and eternally available.

Bill had to move to another parish recently, and so I probably won’t be seeing him very often at all. But, on the off chance he ever reads this, I thought he and the world should know that he completely revolutionized my prayer life, and I’m incredibly grateful to him. Also, I owe him some peanut butter cookies, so there’s that.

Love to all!

-Tani

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I Feel Nothing for the Planned Parenthood Videos


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I’ve been struggling with writing this for the past few weeks, since I watched the first vid and realized that it wasn’t making me cry or throw up like so many other people claimed to have done. I thought it was just a fluke, until I watched the third video, which depicted the corpse of an aborted fetus being dissected while doctors discussed how much they could profit from selling the remains. I watched, and I felt… nothing.

It wasn’t precisely a nothing of apathy, but it was just a total absence of feeling. I saw tiny legs, a clear spinal column, and I just felt cold and dead. I didn’t sob. I didn’t rage in anger for the death of all abortionists. I watched, the same way I’ve watched videos depicting the horrors of the Holocaust, and felt a total lack of feeling, a void. Mathematically speaking, my feelings could have been measured in negative numbers as I watched the vid. I turned it off, closed my laptop, and walked away, still feeling nothing.

Many of my friends talked to me later about the vids, talking about how they couldn’t stop vomiting or that they sobbed for hours, if not days, about what they saw. Some were so traumatized that they shook uncontrollably, or so enraged that they started hypothetically discussing the idea of simply bombing all the abortion clinics they could find. These videos have evoked massive reactions in people, and they should. What they depict is so hugely evil that any normal, sane person should feel these emotions when faced with them. And I’m not sure what that makes me. Abnormal? Insane? Jaded? Part of the problem?

I feel like part of the problem. It’s usually the people who don’t feel anything in a situation who let horrible things happen, and I don’t want to be one of them. I wish I could throw up, or cry, or scream, or throw things, or even write impassioned blog posts about how horrible apathetic people like me are. But I can’t. I will keep fighting to end abortion, no matter what my feelings (or lack thereof) may be, don’t worry about that. It’s still an evil, and it still hurts God and hurts innocent human beings. So this confession might be rather meaningless, in the end, except to possibly confirm what some friends have told me already, that something is very wrong with Tani Federoff and she needs help. I might even be horribly selfish, to be worrying about what I feel when innocent children are being torn apart and sold. I thank the one friend who suggested that this was just a defense mechanism in my brain to keep me from fully understanding what the videos show, which makes me feel incredibly pathetic, but not actually insane.

I don’t understand why I don’t feel, and I’m sorry. I want to beg the forgiveness of the soul of the baby shown in the video, who is undoubtedly happy with God now, if me not feeling anything when faced with his tiny, broken body hurts him in any way. I’ll continue to march and to witness for life, until abortion is outlawed and hopefully gone forever, even if it means marching with no feelings at all. Because being pro-life isn’t about having feelings. Our marches aren’t fueled by fleeting emotions. We fight, not because we feel like it, but because it’s the right thing to do, for the sake of every single unborn child and their human family.

Love to all.

-Tani

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Let’s Pray a Novena for Tsarnaev


Readers, this is not a post about current events, not really. It is not a rant for or against the death penalty, nor is it a vilification of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the young man who set off a bomb at the Boston Marathon and was this week sentenced to death. This is just a plea for prayer for a very lost young man who desperately needs to find Christ.

In 1887, a murderer by the name of Pranzini was sentenced to death in France. This widely publicized story was seen by a young girl named Thérèse Martín, who had a deep devotion to the mercy and love of Christ. She began storming the heavens for the repentance and conversion of the murderer, instead of rejoicing over his death. She kept what was really important in mind- not that a man was dying, but that a man could die without accepting Christ. And then, as Pranzini was mounting the scaffold to be executed, he asked for a crucifix, so that he could kiss the wounds of Christ in repentance for his wrongs. St. Thérèse’s prayers had worked! The man had been saved!

And that, Christians, should be our example. No matter whether we believe that Tsarnaev should die or live, we should all be praying as hard as we can that he will repent. We absolutely cannot claim to be on the side of justice if we don’t see Tsarnaev, or any other criminal, as human– as someone made in the image and likeness of God, made for heaven, and then pray with all our hearts that he makes it there. So today, and for the next nine days, I’m asking everyone who reads this to pray a novena to St. Thérèse of Lisieux, for the salvation of the soul of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. I’m including the novena prayers here for easy reference (or you can be like me and print them out to tape beside your bed!)

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“Glorious St. Therese, whom Almighty God has raised up to aid and inspire the human family, I implore your Miraculous Intercession. You are so powerful in obtaining every need of body and spirit from the Heart of God. Holy Mother Church proclaims you “Prodigy of Miracles… the greatest saint of Modern Times.” Now I fervently beseech you to answer my petition (mention here) and to carry out your promises of spending heaven doing good on earth… of letting fall from Heaven a Shower of Roses. Little Flower, give me your childlike faith, to see the Face of God in the people and experiences of my life, and to love God with full confidence. St. Therese, my Carmelite Sister, I will fulfill your plea “to be made known everywhere” and I will continue to lead others to Jesus through you ~ Amen.

O Little Therese of the Child Jesus,please pick for me a rose from the heavenly gardens and send it to me as a message of love.O Little Flower of Jesus,ask God to grant the favors I now place with confidence in your hands… (Mention specific requests)… St. Therese, help me to always believe as you did in God’s great love for me,so that I might imitate your “Little Way” each day.~Amen~

Love to all!

-Tani

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Why Having Womynpriests Would Actually Destroy the Church


And now it is time, once again, for me to totally flout my feminist nature and probably insult a whole bunch of people. Who’s the target this time? Is it vegans? Fat-positive SJWs?

Gender-Role-Nonconforming Polar Bears?

Gender-Role-Nonconforming Polar Bears?

 

No, dear readers. Today, I am going to deliver a total biblical smackdown on so-called women priests. All joking aside, for people who claim to be following Christ, these ladies sure do seem to enjoy insulting Him. Why, you ask? Well, really, saying that Christ intended to call women to the priesthood is calling Him a liar and even, to an extent, denying His very divinity —which I know is going to rub a lot of people the wrong way, but let me explain.

 

So, let’s get metaphysical. God is Truth. As a being of pure infinity, He is not only simple truth, but infinite Truth. There is no truth that is truth-ier than God. He Himself says that “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” (John 14:6) The idea of God being pure, perfect Truth is also echoed by others in the Bible, like St. Paul, who said, “…even if everyone else is a liar, God is true.” (Romans 3:4) Deuteronomy 32:4 calls Him “God of truth, without iniquity.” (Iniquity means being grossly unfair, unkind, or untrue, for you people not schooled in fancy words. Which means me, because yes, I had to google the definition.)

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As the great Flannery O’Connor once said, “The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.” God is unchanging and unchangeable, as a being outside of time and space. Because He is unchanging and unchangeable, His truth is also unchanging and unchangeable (hanging with me so far?) no matter what people might think or say about it. God can say nothing but the pure, absolute truth, because dishonesty would be completely against His nature.

 

Even the enemies of Christ recognized this, when, in Matthew 22:16, the Pharisees say, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances.” And they were right. Christ never really cared about popular opinion. He was born of an unmarried virgin, hung out with prostitutes and Gentiles, claimed He was God, and commanded people to eat His body. He wasn’t the kind of person to avoid breaking cultural norms when they conflicted with His mission. Christ intended for men and only men to be priests. A common justification for women priests is that Jesus always intended to make women priests, but the cultural norms of the day prevented Him from doing so. But that implies that Christ obscured the truth to appease the people, which He had never done for any other facet of the Catholic faith, including for things far more important to the faith than a female priesthood.

 

Since God cannot be untruthful, saying that Christ was deliberately dishonest denies that He is God, and also throws into doubt any and all of His other claims. If He lied about wanting women to be priests (and refusing to be completely truthful is a form of lying), then who is to say He didn’t lie about the primacy of Peter, on which we base the Church? Or the forgiveness of sins? Or even the Eucharist? If Christ is dishonest, then He is not God. If He is not God, then we do not have any reason to have a Church. And if we do not have a Church, why would we need priests, of any gender, at all?

Women Priests- a crime against truth, God, and fashion

Women priests- a crime against truth, God, and fashion

 

So, there we have it. Saying that Christ intended, but did not carry out this plan, to ordain women to the priesthood actually completely undermines the very Church that womenpriests want to run. Those who say that they are justified in wanting a female priesthood claim they only want equality, but this is not a matter of equality, but of truth. It is true that women are equal to men in terms of dignity, humanity, and redeemability. It is not true that we are exactly the same and that God wishes us to perform the same tasks. And to try to circumvent God’s truth will only leave you outside the Church, worshipping not God… but only yourself.

Take that, New York Times.

Love to all!

-Tani

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Can We Please Tell Our Girls About Masturbation?


Control your faces of shock, readers. I know that word is taboo, and the mere sight of it makes us all cringe. Look at it… the way those syllables speak perfectly about the despair and gross-ness of the action. It’s something that people should be ashamed of, something that normal people just don’t do. It’s an action for immoral and spiritually dead young men, especially. Why would women even be interested in it?

Except… they are. And we don’t talk about that fact nearly enough.

I get it, I really do. Nobody wants to think about it, about the thousands of women who, for whatever reason, think personal stimulation is a healthy choice for their lives or who did once and, despite their mindset being changed, are now hopelessly addicted. They pray, they fall, they feel ashamed… but it all has to be kept a furtive secret, because if the word itself is so feared, how much more so is the action? This is especially true for young girls. The culture, from the TV they watch to the health classes they attend in school, tell them that masturbation is something good, normal, and healthy. Girls who don’t do it are obviously unwell and repressed. Jokes, memes, and comics circle the internet, another way of normalizing the behavior. Look at any popular comic site, and I guarantee you that you will find a joke about masturbation within the first few pages.

Girls seem to constantly be under attack in today’s culture of death. The culture has been steeped so much in the oversexualization of femininity that being “sexy” is increasingly the standard by which we judge a woman’s worth. The toys that girls are encouraged to play with, the clothes that they’re encouraged to wear, and the shows they’re encouraged to watch all quietly push that idea forward. On TV, the girls that are sexually active are cool, fun, popular, and loved. That’s quite the draw to today’s young girls, who often feel lonely or invisible at home and at school. These girls are encouraged to be slim, svelte, and sexually available, and that all those traits will earn them the love they naturally crave. It’s a slow drip of objectification; sex is a commodity, and girls are really only here on Earth to provide it.

But it’s hard for girls to consent to be objectified by others if they haven’t objectified themselves, which is where masturbation (and the path to masturbation, pornography) are brought into play. Girls are taught that their sexual drives reign supreme, and must be satisfied whenever it wants. It’s not that big of a deal… unless, of course, you don’t do it. Then you’re repressed, and you need the freedom of masturbation to turn you into the wanted, sexy person you should be. But, as I’ve written about before, though masturbation promises that you’ll feel satisfied with yourself, it never delivers. It always leads you to feel more and more broken and dirty. That shame is normal– we know we’re not made for this, but we still do it. It’s crushingly painful to the soul. But proponents of masturbation say that those feelings can be cured… with more masturbation. Before long, it’s a hopeless addiction, and girls’ self worth is so destroyed that they’ll have no problem giving their bodies to boys (equally shattered by the culture of death) because they’re afraid that, if they don’t, their bodies would be as completely worthless as they feel themselves to be.

Yeah, they can try to hide those feelings, but it’s so, so easy to see the brokenness in the eyes of a girl who has given herself up to the culture. There was one at my old school. She had lost her virginity at the age of eleven, to another boy in her middle school. In high school, she was loudmouthed and crass, quick to cut other people down, and even quicker to brag about her sexual exploits, proclaiming herself a free woman. But she was anything but. She was enslaved to her desires, enslaved to a culture that told her that her sexuality was what made her worthwhile… not her brains, or her kindness, or her ability to know, love and choose, but simply her ability to blow a guy behind the school bathrooms without teachers seeing her. The girls around her worshipped the ground she walked on, all of them sharing the same look in their eyes- the look of loss, pain, and infinite heartbreak, masked with fake confidence. They all just wanted to really be loved. They had all given up on that ever happening. They were free… free from life-giving love, free from self-worth, free from dignity and self-control. Is that really the kind of freedom we aspire to?

And masturbation was directly behind that. The girls talked about it, too, about the toys they used and the websites they visited to get things going. It was so normal to them, so completely unaware that it’s a poison, that seeps into your brain and tells you all sorts of nasty lies. I’d know. I’ve been struggling with it for years. I’m usually pretty good, but the days after I stumble in this never-ending uphill battle are always dark and painful. I definitely struggle with feeling lovable and wanted afterwards, sure that nobody could ever love me as I am. And that, in turn, is another whisper from the sin, calling me back, promising I’ll feel better, trying to push me into a downward spiral of self-hatred. Which is why it’s so vitally important to get to confession as soon as possible after a fall- it clears the sin away and removes its power. But without the ability to get it out, it just sits and drains out all the truth and life from someone, turning them into it’s slave.

So please, talk to your girls about it. Tell them what it is, before the school and the playground do. Then tell them about their worth to you. Tell them how smart and wonderful they are, and then tell them again, for good measure. Encourage them to have a truly healthy sexuality- not be enslaved to it, but to subjugate it, master it. Encourage them to pursue success in everything they do, from a shapes and colors test in preschool to their jobs after college. Remind them that they’re so, so much more than what their bodies can offer, that they’re also the proud owners of minds and souls and abilities and talents that have every right to be unleashed and change the world. And then tell them that you love them, over and over and over again. A generation of girls that feels loved and encouraged enough is not a generation that’s going to objectify themselves. And girls that have that normal, good, healthy self-worth are going to be just fine.

Love to all!

~Tani

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To My Baby Sister


Dear Baby Gi

Well, it’s me. I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately. It would have been your birthday right around now, you know. You’d be a chubby baby, with a head full of dark hair like all your brothers and sisters. We’d all have cuddled you and shushed your brothers when they played too loud, because you’d have needed all the sleep you could grow to get as tall as the rest of us. You’d have smiled at a week old and never stopped, because that’s what us cheery Federoffs do. Maybe you would have gone with us to the March for Life last Saturday, and I wouldn’t have felt all achy-breaky inside when I saw all of the babies everywhere and heard friends talking about new siblings.

I miss you, Gi. I never met you, and I miss you. There are a lot of resources out there for moms and dads who miscarried, but none really for older sisters who feel like someone is missing when they count noses at the store. I know that you’re happy, up with Jesus and all the saints, and you’re praying for the family that you left behind before you ever got to them. But I wish you could have been here. I wish I could have helped you draw your first pictures, read you the same Dr. Seuss books a thousand times and still laughed at the funny pictures, made cookies with you, yelled at you when you got into my books and accidentally tore one. I wish that I could see you play tag with your brothers, eat Daddy’s pizza, open years worth of Christmas and birthday gifts, learn the Hail Mary in French from Mom. There are a million memories that never got made, and I miss every one.

I was there when we buried you, up on top of the hill outside the house. It’s the best place to see our beautiful Arizona sunsets, and I know you appreciate that. I suppose you can SEE them, and even more beautiful things, up in heaven. And I know you see us, too, muddling about down here, trying to just live. You’re where we’re all trying to be, safe in the love of God, perfect and whole as you were meant to be. And, Gi, I know I’ll see you again up there. It’s hard not to blame God, honestly. You probably know I’ve already been feeling pretty distant from Him, and this didn’t help. But I know you’re praying for me, because you know now just how much God loves us and you’re just waiting for us to come back to Him, even though it hurts.

Gianna, you were unique and unrepeatable and so, so loved, and I know that I’ll always feel a little empty without you here. But you’re never really gone, now are you? You’re just our own personal saint, and I know you send your prayers and your guardian angel to keep an eye on us. I know you love all of us- Mom and Dad, and Zoe and Pavel and me and Kerian and Isabel and Noah and Liam and Thaddeus and Alexander and Isaac and Sam. We lost you in June, and I’m sorry it took this long to write. You know me, I tend to stick bad feelings down deep so I don’t have to deal. But I couldn’t anymore. Every time someone talks about me having ten siblings, it feels like I’ve been kicked in the chest, because I have eleven. Opening presents at Christmas, I kept feeling like there should have been some marked with your name. I see our pastor, and I remember the happy look on his face when we told him you were coming (one of the only people outside the family who knew) and I think about how he should have baptized you, making you even more part of our family. But even that’ll never happen. But you have something better now, huh? Keep a seat warm for me up there, you know my joints hate the cold.

This isn’t a goodbye, so I’ll say

Seeya soon, Gi.

your (favorite) big sister

-Tani

 

empty-crib

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When Advent Continues Past Christmas


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King David in Prayer, by Pieter de Grebber

 

Well, it’s now officially the end of the Christmas season. Today is the last of the twelve days of Christmas. The presents have been opened, the tree is being taken down, the family and friends are gone, and all the commitments that have kept you busy for weeks have evaporated, leaving you… well, right where you were before. Maybe you’re still on a holiday high, but maybe you’re not. Maybe you’re feeling empty and restless, and now that the hustle of Christmas is over, you still feel like it’s Advent in your soul. Life is hard, life is sad, and you’re waiting for God to show up and change that. But He doesn’t seem anywhere in sight.

My pastor, Fr. Juan Carlos, had a homily near the beginning of Advent that I’ve been ruminating on since. He said a lot of things, but one statement really stuck out to me. He said, “The feeling of God’s abandonment is not bad. It shows us that the soul is alive.” Isn’t that an odd thought? How could a feeling as nasty as that of thinking God is gone and He doesn’t care about you could be a good thing? It was a really confusing idea, so I wrote it down in my pocket notebook, so that I could try to understand.

Padre JC: master of confusing maxims, candy making, and cool selfies (when I'm not photobombing them)

Padre JC: master of confusing maxims, candy making, and cool selfies (when I’m not photobombing them)

 

Well, it took reading my Bible, more than a month later, to come up with an answer. I was sitting in Adoration last Friday, doing some Lectio Divina on Psalm 48, and verses 4-8 really stuck out to me. Here, read them with me-

For lo, the kings assembled,
    they came on together.
 As soon as they saw it, they were astounded,
    they were in panic, they took to flight;
 trembling took hold of them there,
    anguish as of a woman in travail.
By the east wind thou didst shatter
    the ships of Tarshish.
As we have heard, so have we seen
    in the city of the Lord of hosts,
in the city of our God,
    which God establishes for ever. (RSVCE)

So, here we see invading armies, lead by enemy kings. That it in the third line is Jerusalem itself- they were within sight of the city! Think of how scared everyone must have been. They had probably tried to beat back the invaders and failed, if the enemy was within sight of the inland capital city of Israel. Hope seemed lost. The people probably felt terrified and abandoned by God, with such a calamity heading right for them! Why would God let their enemies get all the way to Jerusalem, if He really cared about them? What if He was angry, and His absence and refusal to help was His punishment?

We’ve all thought like this. We can see our problems careening towards us, and defeat seems certain. God is nowhere to be found, and we know we can’t depend on ourselves to fix ourselves. We feel empty, despondent, broken. What did we do to deserve this? Does God even exist at all? If He does, why is He making us wait until all our hope is drained?

I’m going to paraphrase Father JC again, this time from his Christmas homily (he says a lot of cool things. Y’all should visit for Mass one day.) His homily that midnight was about when we are shrunk to our lowest point, when we’re completely finished, that’s when we find God. We have to be completely in the dark, so God’s light shines on us all the brighter. Back to our Israelite friends, though, all scared and stuff. They probably looked like this.

scared-man

And like this.

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And even like this!

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And then, something happens! Something BIG. What? No idea. We can infer that a mighty east wind, a storm, comes upon them, but that could still be metaphorical. Whatever happened, though, was something that would lead several thousand trained, hardened soldiers and their leaders to scream in terror (comparable to the screams of a woman in labor) and run from what would have earlier seemed an easy victory. A simple storm wouldn’t have shaken these brave and battle-tested attackers, who had fought their way past armies, to the gates of the city of God, oh no. But God showed His awesome power, and drove the enemy away from His people. King David, watching these proceedings, takes up his harp and composes this song, singing of how this event has taken his fear and doubt and turned them into trust and praise for God, in verses 9-14.

We have thought on thy steadfast love, O God,
    in the midst of thy temple.
As thy name, O God,
    so thy praise reaches to the ends of the earth.
Thy right hand is filled with victory;
     let Mount Zion be glad!
Let the daughters of Judah rejoice
    because of thy judgments!

Walk about Zion, go round about her,
    number her towers,
 consider well her ramparts,
    go through her citadels;
that you may tell the next generation
     that this is God,
our God for ever and ever.
    He will be our guide for ever. (RSVCE) 

Notice, David numbers all of his earthly protections, so as to say that they were useless compared to the protecting power of God. Though I didn’t include the verses here, David reiterates how strong Jerusalem’s fortifications were in the beginning of the psalm, reiterating how ineffectual they were. God had to prove all of those things useless in order to show who He was to the people that He loved. All of our walls and all the little things we do to control our lives are useless against our Enemy, and it’s pure pride to think that they could ever suffice to keep us happy or safe from distress. God allows enemies to come for us, allows us to be broken and brought to the brink of pure despair, because that’s where we realize how much we need Him. He never wants or enjoys us feeling pain, fear, or abandonment, but He allows it because He knows He’s going to save us, make us into the people we were made to be.

But He can’t do that unless we let Him be Him. So rather than let us cling to the facade and the happy feelings we may associate with Him, He backs away, so that He can better show us who He really is. He’s someone who comes in power, but also in humility. In the psalm, we don’t even know what He did to save His people. We can’t recognize Him, so perfectly humble is His glory.

He does that a lot.

He comes like that a lot.

So if you’re feeling empty and abandoned and restless, hold on. God may already be working in you, or at the very least, preparing you for His work. One day, you’ll be able to sing of His love and His power, so far above all the ways we humans try to circumvent Him. Be faithful, be hopeful, be loving, and wait.

Love to all!

-Tani

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A New Year for New People


It’s the last day of the year, the time that I get really nostalgic about life. 2014 has really seemed to fly by in a blur, though, at the same time, I find myself very aware of change, both in the world around me and in myself. And that hasn’t even been confined to the past twelve months!

I’ve been looking back lately, reading posts from the early days of this blog. And you know what? I don’t think I know that Tani anymore. The person I was, four years ago, three years ago, heck, one year ago… is not the me I am now. And that’s a good thing. As I read back, look back to the kid I was, I see someone manipulative, but scared. Someone who didn’t think she had any worth, or could ever have it. Someone who wanted nothing more than to be loved, but was terrified that she wasn’t good enough for it. I was desperate for control of my life, which I felt was slipping away from me, with my sister going quite literally crazy and my parents not really seeming to care about me, so busy were they with her. I thought I was the only person I could possibly depend on, and that made me bitter, cynical, and even mean to anyone who I felt could shake my tenuous control of my life.

I was distant from God, I didn’t know Him, though I pretended to, and I was sick with worry that people would find that out. I didn’t pray much, and I hated Christian music with a passion, because I didn’t understand how people could be so sure that a seemingly uncaring force could really love them, or that they could love Him back. But at the same time, I wanted that feeling. I craved it, which strangely only made me hate it all the more.

Then, I got sick, and that shattered what small confidence I had in my own supremacy. Looking back, I find it almost funny that I was so utterly despondent at what now seems an irrelevant amount of pain, but it was all-consuming back then. I blamed God for it, of course, sure that my as-yet unknown illness was His fault, a punishment for my very existence. I wasn’t supposed to be alive, I was convinced, and God was just trying to wipe me out, fix what my older sister had termed the “mistake” of me being born. She said it was like the Great Flood… God had messed up when He made me, and just wanted me gone so that all the people He had meant to be there could live as they were supposed to, without me messing them up.

(Have I mentioned yet that my sister was crazy? I think it bears mentioning again. My sister, forgive the language, was batshit insane.)

Now, I’m not saying all this to garner pity from y’all, but rather to make a point to who I am, today, on December 31st, 2014. Who am I?

I’m loved.

Honestly, that’s the most all-encompassing adjective I can use to describe myself now, a word I would never, in a million years, have used to describe myself back in 2011. Broken, ugly, invisible, sinful, stupid, maybe, but never loved. Never beautiful. Never forgiven. I’m writing this, with Lincoln Brewster’s Made New playing in the background. I understand the words now. Looking back, seeing Tani from 2011 and 2012, I can see God’s hand on me the whole way, changing me and making me better so slowly I barely even noticed until now. I may have felt alone, but He was constantly putting people into my life who made me better, helped me grow, and just loved me. I felt powerful in my own strength, and He sent me loving rebukes that humbled me without breaking me down (not that I liked them much in the moment.) I felt unknown and unknowable, and He showered me with little gifts just for me, a shooting star or a song coming on the radio exactly when I needed it, that reminded me He is there and He knows me.

But at the same time, He’s telling me to finally start looking outward, to stop being the self-sufficient and self-obsessed person I was. This past year, I became a youth minister, something I would never have dreamed I would love as much as I do. It’s amazing to me now (and I don’t mean to sound proud, because it’s a really humbling thought) that I am actually teaching other people about God and His love. People started actually reading my blog, and I started writing for two others. I made great new friends, gained an awesome pastor, read good books, grew in confidence (though not in height… I shrunk again!) travelled, sang, laughed. I’m a new person. The old me? Gone. Who am I, that God would care so much?

I’m like you. Really. All of us wonder, I know, if we’re really lovable or if God really cares. We al have that nagging feeling that God won’t take care of us, and so we cling to our own strength as though it will keep us afloat, when, in reality, it’s an anchor that will drag us down. We want grand displays of God’s love, but don’t really notice that He works in the small things and with the small people.

The day that started my journey back to God was just days after I wrote that post about not feeling like I could ever love or be loved by God. It was such a normal day, until I made that pan of brownies that changed everything. And what a silly thing for God to pick! He could have sent angels or done some huge miracle, but He chose something innocuous and irrelevant to work wonders. That’s kinda how He works. You just have to be open to Him.  This new year, if you have any resolutions that you need to keep, let it be this one. Be open. Be broken. Be brought to the lowest point you can, cause that darkness and brokenness is where God starts to work at making you who you’re supposed to be, when all that you’ve made yourself has crumbled away.  His plan is so, so much better.

You’re loved.

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-Tani

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