Blessings from the Lord

Today’s Reading: Genesis 4:1-15, 25

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

Cain gets jealous, and then he kills Abel. He believes he was completely and utterly justified because Abel showed him up to the Lord. Cain brought an offering and Abel brought a better offering.

What made Abel’s offering better? He gave to the Lord before he took for himself. He gave from his first fruits instead of his leftovers. Cain saw that the Lord was pleased with his brother and that the Lord showed favor on Abel instead of Cain.

This question always comes to my mind when I read this: Was there only ‘so much favor’ to be given out that Abel got it instead of Cain? NO, there is no limit to the Lord’s favor. It was there for everyone who gave their first fruits to the Lord.

Is there only ‘so much favor’ when it comes to the Lord blessing others over blessing me? No. There is no limit to the love of God and His blessings upon us. Just because someone else got a great blessing doesn’t mean that there won’t be a blessing for you.

As most of parents have told us over and over when we were children, “don’t worry about what someone else has, just worry about what you’re doing.” That applies here too. Don’t worry about the blessings someone else has … that leads to destruction like Cain … roaming the wilderness restlessly.

Keep your eyes on your own paper, if you will. Concern yourself only about giving to the Lord what He has asking of you. Concern yourself only about how much of your life you are giving to Him. This is a lot easier said than done, but you will not be unsatisfied with your blessings from the Lord if you give Him your first fruits every day.

This reflection first appeared on carpeverbum.org.

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Be Satisfied*

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A few years ago I read this post on David’s blog with a long prayer attributed to St. Anthony of Padua called Be Satisfied With Me. On its surface I don’t disagree with the concept. He writes:

Everyone longs to give themselves completely to someone,
To have a deep soul relationship with another,
To be loved thoroughly and exclusively.

But to a Christian, God says, “No, not until you are satisfied,
Fulfilled and content with being loved by Me alone,
With giving yourself totally and unreservedly to Me.”

It is true that we should all be satisfied with God alone before we need other people.

I was reminded of this poem/prayer by a coworker when I was having a particularly rough day being okay with my singleness. The women in our chat were a mix of married people, dating people, and single people. One remarked that this prayer was always a comfort to her. I said that I had seen it before, but it’d been a while since I read through it again.

Discovering that only in Me is your satisfaction to be found,
Will you be capable of the perfect human relationship,
That I have planned for you.
You will never be united to another
Until you are united with Me.
Exclusive of anyone or anything else.
Exclusive of any other desires or longings.
I want you to stop planning, to stop wishing, and allow Me to give you
The most thrilling plan existing . . . one you cannot imagine.
I want you to have the best. Please allow Me to bring it to you.

As I read through it though, I found myself only becoming upset rather an comforted. I was reminded of my inadequacies, my unworthiness, and how I’m not enough yet. I know that wasn’t St. Anthony’s intention. I believe the intention of the poem/prayer is for us to be reminded that the Lord comes first in our lives. Additional human love is gravy. If we aren’t satisfied with the Lord’s love, then we won’t be satisfied with another person’s love. Only God can fill the “God shaped hole in our hearts.”

That is something that I believe.

However, this poem/prayer lays out a condition on the Lord’s goodness. It doesn’t say, “wait on me, I’ve got great things for you.” Instead it says, “You’re waiting for these great things because you haven’t trusted in me enough yet, you aren’t holy enough yet, you aren’t fully satisfied.”

And then, when you’re ready, I’ll surprise you with a love
Far more wonderful than you could dream of.

You see, until you are ready, and until the one I have for you is ready,
I am working even at this moment
To have both of you ready at the same time.
Until you are both satisfied exclusively with Me
And the life I prepared for you,
You won’t be able to experience the love that exemplified your relationship with Me.
And this is perfect love.

It reminds me that there’s something wrong with me today, that’s why I’m not married. I’m alone because there’s something missing from the love I have to give to another person, not because it’s just dumb luck. I don’t think that’s the intention of the poem/prayer, but words have meaning, they create worlds.

This poem/prayer is saying that daily Mass, the regular reading of Scripture, earnest novenas, a devotion to the Rosary, honest praise and heartfelt prayer time each morning and evening just isn’t enough. Believing that I am satisfied with His love just isn’t enough. I’m still missing something, some magic pill that no one’s told me about and no one who has found it (ie: married people who have found their love) will share about. It implies that something is lacking in me and that is why I’m unmarried while all of my friends are married. It implies that once you have found that special love that the Lord has in store for you, you won’t doubt Him again, struggle with prayer time, or have any struggles in your life. Because you’re fully satisfied with Him, how could you ever struggle? And every married person I know will assure me that’s not true … even if they don’t say it, I can see it plain as day.

The poem/prayer isn’t helpful for me. I dare say that it’s harmful and is someone’s odd attempt at explaining why there are so many great Catholic single women. [I know there have got to be some great Catholic single men out there longing for a spouse, but I don’t know them … if I did I might not be in this current waiting state. Okay, there probably are some out there, just not in my general vicinity. If you’re out there, give a shout … I know a lot of amazing single women you might be interested in knowing.]

When the truth is the reason for all of this waiting is that we live in a broken world, not that we are individually the only ones broken. Our world is broken.

And the long and short of why I’m still single, or you are still single, is that “we haven’t met the right person at the right time” not that “we aren’t satisfied with the Lord.” No one on earth is fully satisfied with the Lord, that’s a condition of our humanity, our brokenness. We are all longing for more because this world will never satisfy. Terrible things will happen, suffering will be presented, and we will wonder where is God in all of this. We might turn to him directly, but we will still be longing for something more. Longing for a world that isn’t this one. Longing for the time in Heaven when all will be revealed and nothing will be in the way of fully experiencing the love the Lord has in store for us.

*or the post in which I say that a Saint got it wrong. This might not help my canonization for sainthood. Maybe the internet will erase all markings of me after I die so this can’t be entered into evidence.

I Found the Perfect One

I’m not talking about a man today (unfortunately) … instead it’s a pew at my parish. (I talked about why I love them before.) Changing the topic from husbands and singleness over here to talk about church pews. I mean, the things cradle Catholics think about during all that time at Church! So what makes a pew the perfect one?

I can see both the priest and the tabernacle!
The best seat of this pew is in the middle, not the end, so there’s room for someone to join me! I wrote about this before.
We have super long pews at my parish, but this spot has a short kneeler!
There’s a special spot for my purse in the corner!
There’s enough room to stand!
It has a clear marker to signal that it’s ‘my pew’ when I’m coming back from communion (we’ve got a lot of long pews at my parish, so this is pretty key! It’s the last ‘long pew’ before the spot for a wheel chair.

So, I’ve found it. It took me 8 years and a sanctuary renovation, but I did it. It might be the only perfect thing I find in my life that works all of the time! Sometimes there’s even a nice boy who sits right to the left of me who doesn’t wear a wedding ring … so time will tell if this pew choice is good for more than just seeing everything for the whole Mass!

What Men Are Looking For

Stuff like this is what drives me crazy about online dating … Dave, what was your intention with this photo? What am I supposed to this of you?

Last week I wrote about what I’m really looking for in a husband. I’ve started saving what these men I’ve been matched with are looking for. So here we go. Here are a few gems from just today’s matches!

James is looking for: “I am looking for someone who can complete my existence a soul mate, confidant, and lover.” So no pressure there, just ‘complete his entire existence’ … that seems pretty realistic.

William is looking for: “I am looking for that right person who has a big heart, loves, cares, happiness, emotional, cuddles, and has that wild nympho side that I have.” I don’t even know what a ‘wild nympho side’ is! I’m thinking I don’t have that…

James is looking for: “Honestly and Excitement.” Good at grammar must not be high on his list…

Ben is looking for: “I am looking for a real woman to be open with me about everything, enjoy laughing with me and enjoy lots of laughs.” A good sense of humor is pretty important…

Mario is looking for: “How harmony we could have….the smile, eyes, goals….” What does that even mean?

Most profiles are pretty generic about what they’re looking for. I’ll admit that’s a hard question to answer in just 650 characters because most of this is really about getting to know the other person and finding out who they really are. Can we really do that online? I don’t think so, I know I don’t.

Sam was a little more verbose: “A Christian woman who is, kind, caring, creative and adventurous. A woman who can encourage me as I do the same for them as we build a relationship on our shared faith in God. A woman who, looks to see people for who they really are, has her own ideas and opinions, and is open to trying new things as well as sharing new things with me. I’m Looking for someone to share my life with, someone who can appreciate the simple things in life, is up for spontaneous road trips, enjoys going to flea markets and antique shops and loves to learn and explore!”

It’s the nature of the platform though, that’s the real issue. If the platform doesn’t get us talking on the phone so we can set up a time to meet, I don’t think it is worthwhile. I don’t think I’m the only one who dislikes this platform, but are we in too deep to change anything? It’s really all just a numbers game. There’s no secret except to “be in the right place (or website) at the right time (ie: same time as a guy who’s also interested).”

I feel like if I do meet a spouse on eHarmony it will be in spite of the platform rather than because of it.

What I’m Really Looking for

Photo by Matthew Fassnacht on Unsplash

Over the past five or so months, I’ve read a lot of online dating profiles. A lot of advice exists out there on the internet about how to write a good dating profile. Be positive, uplifting, encouraging, open to anything, blah, blah, blah. There’s a section in eHarmony that asks you to describe what you’re looking for in a partner. Mine says this right now:

I’m looking for someone who is faith-filled, loyal, easy going but likes to have serious conversations. I appreciate someone who knows their point of view on a subject, but can see the situation for all angles. Someone who wants a family, is excited about being a dad, and understands the importance of each of our families too. I’m looking for someone to hang with on the couch when I’ve had a bad day, to cook interesting things with, and to read with!

But I got to thinking the other day about what I’m really looking for in a husband, not the big ideas of something who is virtuous, employed, and in general delightful. But the truth is, I’m looking for someone who wants to do these things:

  • Put away the clean dishes (I love washing, but putting them all away is my least favorite chore)
  • Close the clasp of this beautiful bracelet gave me a few weeks ago that I just cannot do one handed
  • Have small talk at the end of the day about how much it rained today, the odd, but funny, thing someone said to me at Mass, or that random phone call we had at work
  • Go to Mass and sit with me every week so I don’t have to be there alone … and have someone to say ‘hi’ to at the beginning when everyone is just shaking hands with their family
  • Talk to me on road trips about whatever comes to mind
  • Stop at random places just because we want to see them and not because there’s anything special there
  • Sit and read in bed at night together just to say “we’re not alone anymore”
  • Roll their eyes when we visit my family and things are just odd
  • Help me escape for an afternoon in the middle of a long family visit
  • Go to the grocery store so there’s something more than yogurt & leftover roasted cabbage to eat when I get home from a work trip
  • Shovel the snow the two times a year it comes down in the south
  • Watch my bags at the airport when I’ve decided I need to use the bathroom just one more time before getting on the plane
  • Appreciates a good sarcastic comment and can dish it out himself
  • Indulge in ice cream for dinner or for breakfast just because the day called for it
  • Attend Wednesday night Latin Mass just because it’s beautiful
  • Enjoy eating new recipe creations even when they’re ugly, but delicious
  • Kneels down in the morning to say “thanks to the Lord” for another beautiful day
  • Wants to slow dance in the kitchen just because we can, not because we’re good
  • Gives slow hugs, just to say “I’m here, I’ve got you, You’re all I need right now”

Maybe it’s overly romantic, maybe I’d have better luck if I was just brutally honest in what I was looking for. Maybe these are all things just come naturally as we grow in relationship together. Maybe I’m just being a hopeless romantic. Maybe none of this matters or maybe this matters more than anything else. Maybe no one is interested in being this for me. Maybe they are and they just didn’t know this was what I was looking for. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe.

Downton Abbey

A couple of weeks ago I thought, “I need a break, so I’m just going to watch Lady Mary’s Wedding episode from Downton Abbey.” Then I couldn’t stop. The wedding is in Series 3, episode 1. So I just kept watching. Instead of reading, I watched Downton. Instead of listening to the news, I watched Downton. The Dowager and her zingers kept me up late at night just watching Downton. Until at last I finished.

I was introduced to Ladies Mary, Sybill, and Edith and their parents, grandparents, cousins, lovers, children, and servants by my last roommate. I remember watching the first episode and thinking “This is okay, but I don’t think I’ll continue.” Then a few months or a year later, I tried again and was hooked. They feel like “my people” even though being a great lady in a great English house with servants and maids and cooks is not anywhere close to my life.

I’ve probably seen the whole series 3 or 4 times now over the course of the last few years. They feel like friends, familiar characters that I want to look back on and fall into step for the future. Julian Fellows (the writer) is working on a script for a movie that’s filming soon. There’s a teaser trailer, but it doesn’t show much (and by that I mean none) of what will happen in the movie.

But here’s what I want to happen with my beloved friends. I want to see Anna and Bates have another baby, to grow their family living in the cottage, serving the family. I want their little ones to be in the day-nursery with the Lady Mary and Henry’s little ones, growing up together, dreaming for a great life in the modern world.

I want Tom and Henry’s business to flourish. I want Tom to fall in love with Lady Edith’s magazine editor, Laura Edmonds, and for them to get married and live happily ever after!

I want Daisy and Andy to fall into step together, get married, and live on the farm with Mr. Mason. I want Mr. Mason and Mrs. Patmore to find love together. I want Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes to retire and grow old overseeing the estate. I want Thomas to fall in as the new butler and be kind and friendly with the staff, finally finding his way. I want Mosely to become a great teacher and Baxter to admit that she’s in love with him.

I want Isobel and Lord Merton to continue to be companions for Granny, all seeing the greatness of the modern world come to Downton. I want Cora to find her place in the village with the hospital board, assuring everyone she will be there to help them navigate the changes coming to their society. With Robert at her side, leading the villagers into a world where they are all equal, and status becomes a moot point.

Is it strange to want these things for the future lives of my fictional friends? Is it strange to not want to finish a television series or a book so the characters don’t go away? Is it strange to get upset when terrible things happen to your tv friends?

An Extrovert Who Lives Alone

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I haven’t always known the difference between introverts and extroverts. I thought that introverts were quiet and shy, and extroverts were loud and boisterous. Then a few years ago our pastor brought his dad in to help our staff communicate better. One of the activities was to take the Myers Briggs and discuss our results. I tested 33% more extrovert than introvert and got a better understanding of what that means in reality.

I love being around people, and someone people are looking to talk to. I like speaking to big groups. I think out loud. I get energy from being around others. I enjoy talking with others and have been known to never shut up. I like being in community. I enjoy groups of people. I love hosting parties. I like making small talk with people I don’t know.

I thought I had my extroversion all figured out. Then I bought a house and started living alone. I got used to the quiet. A lot of quiet, to be honest.

Then a few weeks ago I flew to Ohio for a work meeting. It involved me getting up quite early, going to the airport, flying there, hopping on a conference call, meeting my contact for a prep-meeting, us going to get lunch, eating lunch with a larger group, spending an hour leading a brainstorming activity, spending an hour debriefing that, spending another hour and half meeting with a different group, going over things with father for a half hour … all before I could just leave and be by myself. After all that I picked up dinner, ate dinner, did some hotel room yoga, read my book club book, and was ready to go to bed when the phone rang and my mother wanted to talk to me for 45 minutes about the fabric I wanted for the quilt I asked she have my aunt make me for Christmas next year.

I was done. I had also lost my voice because too much talking and not enough water.

The next morning my contact and I were talking over some things and he asked “if I was just ready to go home after everything yesterday.” I said “YES! After everything with you my mother called me right before I was going to go to bed.” He asked if I was an introvert.

I said, “No, I’m an extrovert who lives alone and loves the quiet.”

Ten years ago I would never have guessed that I’d love living alone or that I would crave quiet time. Most of the time I don’t even have music on. I listen to a lot of podcasts, but just when I’m doing other things like getting ready or strength training or mopping the floor or cooking. I don’t sit and just listen to them or even listen while I’m just doing stuff online.

So I’ve learned to be an extrovert who loves the quiet. I’ve also learned that I’m a little shy when it comes to being in groups of my peers who I don’t know, especially when I really want them to like me. I’m afraid to make a bad impression, so until I get comfortable I just don’t say anything.

That happened at a Christmas party I attended back in December. It was a group of people that I know from Church, mostly married couples, who are all great and who know me (most of them … one of the husbands who I have known for years thought my name was Karen). But I was nervous and quiet when I got there. What if I didn’t fit in? They were talking about being an introvert or extrovert and asked me my tendency. I said “Extrovert, but a shy one. It takes me a minute to get to know someone and then I’m good.” It ended up being a great party. I think I grew my relationship with these new friends, and then I went home to the quiet and just sat for a minute in the comfy chair in my bedroom.