Punctured With Grace

Punctured With Grace

The other day, I was surprised when the thought ‘it is good that I am single’ came into my mind. Yet in sitting with these words, I recognized there was a truth found in them. It occurred to me while in the chapel and I found that the truth was seen primarily in how much I desire them not to be true.

Over the past few years, I’ve realized that something interesting happens when a group of people is asked to introduce themselves to the rest of the gathering. Understandably, many people introduce themselves by referring to their spouse or children or even the number or kind of pets they own. Right out of college, I could get away with listing off my siblings, but the more time passes, the more odd it seems to include them in my sixty second about me for a group.

However, what I deeply desire is to have an identity that is solidly rooted in being the wife of so-and-so or the mother of whomever. The idea of having a person I can always show up to things with or children who become the focus of the conversation rather than me sounds incredibly alluring. I’m not trying to downplay the difficulty in these ways of living, but many aspects of it fill me with great longing and deep desire. For all the hard found in that vocation, there is an abundance of beauty and grace found there, too.

It is in light of those particular desires that I was realizing my singleness is a gift from God. One I hope will not continue forever and yet is most assuredly a gift.


Because my very hope and desire to have an identity shaped by my relation to a spouse or children shows how desperately I still need to root myself in Christ. The goodness of the Lord is found here, in my current situation, and I am being given a privileged chance to become more assured of my identity in the Lord. I don’t get to hide behind attachments or people who I very much desire to be part of my life. And that ever-present ache can be a piercing reminder of my need for God, one which can’t be assuaged by cradling an infant or a date night with my husband.

It is incredibly, boldly present from the fact that my students address me as Miss (or Mrs. but I am reminded of their wrongness when they do it, even if I rarely correct them) to the fact that I’m not helping children through the serving line at family gatherings. The gaping ache can, if I permit it, become a place the Lord can fill, a place of pure desire surrendered to God, recognizing my own inability to fulfill myself. It can be become empty hands, waiting to be filled, trusting they will be filled, and yet acknowledging the goodness of still being empty.

Continue reading “Punctured With Grace”

The Rich Man and Lazarus

The Rich Man and Lazarus

If you don’t often feel uncomfortable when reading the Gospel, you might be reading it wrong.

Between a Monday evening Bible Study and Friday classes, I have the great gift of looking at the upcoming Sunday’s Gospel at least six times during a typical week. Sometimes, I’m a little dense, though. It took until Friday afternoon or Saturday before I genuinely started applying it to me.

This past Sunday the Gospel was about the rich man and Lazarus from Luke’s Gospel. It is clearly a rebuke of the rich man’s lack of compassion for the suffering of Lazarus. Also, it emphasized the finality of death and the subsequent judgement.

At first glance, I felt pretty comfortable. I do not look at the suffering of my fellow man with zero compassion. Yet I was prompted to wonder: perhaps the rich man did see Lazarus, did see his suffering, did feel moved–just not enough. Maybe the idea of reaching out made him feel uncomfortable. Or he didn’t know what to do. Or he was nervous that the suffering of Lazarus would be too disturbing to experience up close.

The Gospel suddenly became something I could apply to my life as I remembered a situation where I saw someone suffering, felt bad for them, and then did nothing. There were about three times when I had witnessed a man sitting in a wheelchair in the middle of the sidewalk, well past a time when he should have been home or in a shelter. It was an arresting scene: the sun had set, it was a bit blustery, and there he sat in a wheelchair on the sidewalk with a blanket stretched over his entire body, from his feet to over his head. I saw it and I kept driving, every single time.

Continue reading “The Rich Man and Lazarus”

Whatever God Chooses Should Be All the Same to Us

Whatever God Chooses Should Be All the Same to Us

I didn’t expect to feel sadness at a wedding.

Anything near tears, I assumed, would come from the overwhelming joy of seeing a good friend get married. And while I was definitely happy, I was startled by the profound loneliness that pervaded my heart, even as I sat in a pew with beloved friends and was surrounded by many people I knew. Grateful that my friend was receiving that for which she had long prayed, I discovered a sorrow that I didn’t want to find at that time or in that place. The human heart frequently seems inconvenient, but I’ve found that leaning into that is more helpful than ignoring it.

Near the beginning of the liturgy, I heard the priest proclaim a single word in the midst of a longer prayer. He said “home” and I was immediately asking the Lord where my home was. Looking over the priest’s head, I saw the crucifix, arms stretched wide and side pierced, and within myself I heard Him say that my home was there. In His side, opened so that mercy could pour out, was my home, my refuge, the only place I belonged on either side of Heaven.

As my blog slowly moves from being thoroughly unread to something that people I know and don’t know read, I find myself hesitant to ever speak of being single. Some of my former students occasionally look at my blog as do co-workers, and it feels odd to share this particularly deep desire, even if it seems obvious or assumed or commonplace. Yet it also feels odd to share so many other parts of my heart and then withhold speaking of the vocation I feel called to, simply because God hasn’t fully answered that prayer.

I’m a melancholic and as such I am accustomed to longing. One of the most enduring longings has been for marriage and a family. It isn’t my only desire, but it is the one that seems the most fervent. This newly married friend is one I often spoke of this longing with, as we questioned when it would be fulfilled and wondered how it would happen. So I understand to a degree why this wedding also filled my heart with a bit of sadness. It was because my compatriot had what she longed for and I was still waiting, still hoping, still wondering when and if it would happen.

Continue reading “Whatever God Chooses Should Be All the Same to Us”

Is there free will in Heaven?

Is there free will in Heaven?

“Do people in Heaven still have free will?”

Our conversation started with evolution and gradually meandered to angels, free will, and humanity.  I told them that angels had free will and they asked if angels could still rebel.  Explaining that angels will their decision to follow or not follow God with their entire beings, they then asked if people in Heaven could sin.  When I said they wouldn’t, they wondered how free will could be found in a place where there was no sin.

“It seems like free will would just be an illusion,” they said, when I told them that in Heaven we would be purified and would always choose to follow God, even while exercising our free will.

I needed to make a correlation that they would understand.  One student compared it to pizza.  If he said he would eat pizza for the rest of his life, he wouldn’t be free to eat anything other than pizza.  That wasn’t quite the comparison I was looking for in order to explain the situation to them.

I’m not always very quick on my feet.  Sometimes, I want to beg them for more time and to consider than I am a slow thinker, a muller of thoughts and ideas.  Instead, I tried to think of something tangible that they could understand.  How could one make a particular choice that was forever and yet still exercise their free will?

Now that I consider it, I could have referenced Jesus or Mary.  Instead, I used vocations.

“Priests, religious, and married persons make vows that they intend to follow forever and yet they freely choose to will those decisions daily.  Our free will in Heaven is kind of like that, but we are able to perfectly will it always.”

A couple committed to marriage make vows to love the other in a free, total, faithful, and fruitful way.  They still have a free will, but they have publicly voiced their desire to always will the good of the other.  This doesn’t make them less free.  Instead, their commitment allows them to experience the freedom of total gift of self to another.  Yes, they could choose to cheat or leave or lie.  But if they follow the vows, they will freely choose to not do those things. Continue reading “Is there free will in Heaven?”

Duc in Altum: Classroom Missionary

I’ve spent the last two months deciding if I would continue teaching next year.  There were pros and cons on both sides and I couldn’t tell which side was weightier.  Even though my mother insisted, repeatedly, that I should sit down and make a pros and cons list, doing so didn’t seem to really help.  The benefits and drawbacks of either decision seemed incapable of being captured in words to jot on one side of a t-chart.  I couldn’t go with my gut because it, too, was conflicted.  In the end, I chose to stay and while I’m still uncertain if that was the correct decision, it was a decision and I finally made it.  A part of me felt sadness to pass up a great service opportunity and another part feels concern that next year I will be climbing the walls of my classroom, wondering what momentary weakness caused me to sign another year of my life away.  Despite these concerns, I am beginning to make plans about what this next year of life will look like.  As a teacher, life stills comes about on a yearly schedule, broken neatly into semesters with lovely summer and winter breaks.

Last semester I was growing more and more convinced that I would love to not teach next year.  It wasn’t one thing in particular, but it was a bunch of things all wrapped up together.  Yet after applying for and being offered (even if only temporarily) another job, the joys of teaching became clearer to me.  The things that I would miss stood out in my mind and I didn’t even want to think of telling my department head that I would be leaving or cleaning out my classroom.  Yet I didn’t want to stay just because I didn’t want to do those things.

As frustrating and foolish as students can be at times, they can also be hilarious, witty, deep, encouraging, and beautiful souls.  Yes, they complain, test my patience, seem incapable of following simple directions, make me question my own sanity, and relentlessly insist on moving the far row of desks next to the wall so they have a backrest.  Yet at times we laugh together, we can reach a beautiful depth at times, we develop a relationship that is unlike any other relationship I have formed before–one of student and teacher.  Over the past three years I’ve grown more comfortable with my students.  Today I gave a test to my seniors and after they were finished, I couldn’t help but look at them and feel pleased.  We aren’t best friends, but it is my class and we do have a unique dynamic.

I don’t know how long I will teach for and how long I want to teach for depends on the day.  In the midst of my crisis (the I-have-only-two-days-to-know-if-I-am-going-to-sign-my-contract-and-I-don’t-know-what-I’m-doing crisis), I called my sister.  She asked me questions that I didn’t know how to answer about my personal desires and feeling peace.

“Answer this as quickly as you think of an answer,” my sister told me.  “If you could do anything, what would you do or be?”
“A missionary.”

Then she read me something.  At first, I wasn’t quite certain what she was reading me.  After a little while, I realized she was reading me one of my very first blog entries.  “Young,” first-year teacher Trish was writing about how she was a missionary of the classroom and how even as she longed for greater missions, she was called to be a teacher and minister in the seeming mundane aspects of life.  And that young teacher inspired me.  As my sister read my writing, I felt inspired to truly take up the mission of being a teacher and to live it with a radical zeal that I had forgotten.  At some point I had begun to resign myself to having a job rather than being a missionary.

So even in the midst of uncertainty, I am starting to look forward to another school year (of course, after my (I believe) well-deserved summer break) to be a missionary in a high school classroom.  Because Christ instructed us to put out into the deep and I intend to cast my nets into the high school ocean.  Because the harvest is abundant and the laborers are few.  Because the Church needs the youth.  Because Jesus says there is a millstone with my name on it if I fail to bring the little ones to Him.  Because, for some unknown reason in God’s inscrutable Will, I am called to teach.