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A young Catholic’s insights on a deeper, more virtuous life.

“The only people who are never bored are lovers.” 

Dear friend,

As September comes to a close and October arrives I can’t help but continue my simple appreciation for cinnamon.  I am finding excuses to put it on anything and everything.  Call me crazy, argue it if you want, but cinnamon beats pumpkin spice by a landslide.

It’s little things like that that make life worth living.

Yes, cinnamon. 

I am sure some of you have already embraced your boredom and clicked out of the article, and that’s okay.  Your “cinnamon” doesn’t have to be my cinnamon.  But seriously, have you have cinnamon buns, bagels, donuts, spreads, butters, and even sprinkled it in your coffee?? The cinnamon treats I had this morning with the sun out and the brisk 75 degree weather while the leaves are falling help me take a breather and catch my breath.

“If we are typically modern, we live in boredom; we are bored, jaded, cynical, flat, burned out… if we were not so bored and empty, we would not have to stimulate ourselves with increasing dosages of sex and violence — or just constant busyness.  Here we are in the most fantastic fun and games factory ever invented — modern technology — and we are bored, like spoiled rich kids in a mansion surrounded by a thousand expensive toys.” (Dr. Peter Kreeft, Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Heaven)

We have access to everything; every movie, song, video, item of food (food that can even ship from other countries), planes to get places, and all the access to sexual freedom we desire and some people are still so unsatisfied!  … Tell me again cinnamon is lame.

And here I have to remind you that you are far more amazing than cinnamon. You are more than enough. You are chosen, loved, honored, and cared for. Not because I said so in this stupid article that only my mom will read, but because the God of the entire Universe claims you, knows you, and believes in you. He would not have gone so far as to die for you if it were not true. Life is not meaningless if it has meaning and purpose. Sometimes it’s just a matter of regaining that purpose.

And this letter to you is to help you do just that. Whatever stands out to you most, start there — RIGHT THERE — nothing more, nothing less, and remember that life is worth living. You don’t have to feel it, but I want you to try and believe it. 

A friend of mine texted me in light of a breakup saying,

“It’s just tough. I feel awful. I have no job, no house, no car, no money, and no girlfriend.” (He does have these things but in small quantities.)

My reply to him was this,

“I’ve had three different jobs in the last 3 years and it’s tough. I bought my first car and it’s tough. I graduated from a college that I didn’t like much. Moral of the story being you can’t really base things off what you have.”

All this life seems to consist of is keeping up with anything, especially the Kardashians. We have to live up to these expectations and most decision we make are to gain something, or someone’s approval. We keep living lives of posting, putting ourselves out there, and staying busy that there is no inner growth. In complete flatness we stay stagnant and never take a moment to stop and analyze.. or we over-analyze.

“Life is not lost by dying; life is lost
minute by minute, day by dragging day,
in all the thousand small uncaring ways.”
-Stephen Vincent Benet

We are bored because we do not love.  We are bored because we have denied love.  The only people, on Earth, who are never bored are lovers. The one’s who take their lives and make it a give and give effort (with others and self) and make it a love affair. And that is not even enough, sometimes. I need to take that up much more — a love affair with God.

“Oh, but I don’t want to become a priest or a nun… I’ll love God later.”

But, Job. Remember Job? The man in the Bible who lost everything. I don’t recall him being a priest?

Job had everything in his time. Money, wealth, status, friends. Blameless and upright was this humble man. He feared God and avoided evil things. God bragged about Job to satan. “Hey, have you seen my son, Job? There is no one on Earth like Him!” (Job 1: 8) The devil argues that Job only loves God because God gives him everything. satan actually believes that if everything Job had was taken away, Job would leave God and never worship Him. The attempt satan sought after isn’t to challenge Job — but to challenge God.

And Job never left God. Job lamented with God. Told God things were unjust, unfair, and wrong. Told God life is meaningless, all while everyone (even his wife) told Job to leave God. But Job never did. It was a love affair — one not rooted in feeling good… because to love at all is to hurt, to sacrifice. 

“Perish the day on which I was born…may darkness and gloom claim it… why did I not die at birth? … For me, sighing comes more readily than food; my groans well forth like water… I have no peace or ease. I have no rest, for trouble has come!” (Job 3, scattered verses) 

This is Job’s prayer to God. Similar to CS Lewis’ claim in A Grief Observed.  Sitting in the lack of consolation after the death of a wife, the narrator writes;

“But to go to God when your need is desperate, when all other help is in vain, what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence.”

Like Jesus on the Cross forsaken by God with not one ounce of “positive vibes” to keep him strong. His own IMMACULATE mother had nothing but sorrow to comfort Him with.

The nature of God doesn’t change. He’s not a genie and won’t become one. He’s not a vending machine that you get to approach, punch in what you want and it comes out. God is a toughening man — who uses our defeats to show us and perfect in us what truly matters.

Career’s don’t last forever. We all LIVE to retire..
Age doesn’t last forever. We all grow wrinkly.
Marriage isn’t even eternal.
Beauty is fleeting
Food is gone when we eat it
Sex lasts how long?
Money can’t be brought to the afterlife.
VSCO girls, you’ll be “old news” in another short week. Also a laughstock of your adulthood.

What more are you held back by?

What we find worth more than anything we possess are the experiences we go through that make our hearts something beautiful. Experiences that take us an itty-bitty bit closer to God Himself. What God gives and takes are only to show forth –in our understanding —- how much we can trust Him. How much He loves, and shows us what is worth living for even if it comes wrapped in lousy packaging. Maybe it is life questioning us, demanding an answer from us … not us demanding an answer from God.

And that’s the journey; to seek the infinite mystery of Love, of God, in this life. The whole journey has to comprise of us mysteriously finding the crazy, unexplainable adventure God invites us to live.

There are so many good books, resources, studies, hobbies, and beauties in the world to explore. I want to end this letter not only encouraging your realness with God and seeking Him, but to also practically help you see and understand how to get there. Our humanity and nature can benefit from things as simple as cinnamon.

Identifying your problems can help you feel better about them. Make a list of all the things that depress you. See which ones you can do something about and one’s you can’t.

And more so, if you suffer from severe or ongoing depression, contact your doctor or the National Institute of Mental Health.

Sleep, Eat, Workout

Are you getting enough sleep? And what is enough for you? Take a week to put your sleep cycle back on track. Aim for 8 hours.

Are you eating food that sustains you, energizes you, and nurtures you? Take a week to substitute foods that help you get back on track.

Are you getting at least three days of active-play in your day? Not asking you to do 15 burpees, but maybe just an hour long walk in the park after dinner.

Stop watching things that make you feel awful.

There are so many videos being made today that the amount of videos, shows, and movies that exist in the world might surmount the number of thoughts I have a day. If anything makes you feel or think in ways you are uneasy about, stop watching them. There is nothing, nothing you will miss out on. Don’t live vicariously through stories of other people who are ACTING, live through your own story.

Honestly, stop watching people who live lives of utter stupidity.

Maybe even try to eliminate porn and sexual content… tell me what happens after a week.

Maybe watch a classic like Good Will Hunting, Shawshank Redemption, and The Chronicles of Narnia.

And take yourself back to your youth and watch Monsters Inc and The Incredibles.

Hey, teenagers… I want you to know you are Teen-Agers.

Hormones, brain cells, body parts, everything in you is AGING. Be patient with yourself. Follow the commandments because they are looking out for you when you can’t even process how to look out for yourself. God’s rules for love are not restrictive, I promise you, look into them! They are to build the foundation of your heart so you can be the lover you want to be — you’re not a child anymore, you don’t want to be loved, you want to love. Mom and Dad “have to” hug you, but do they want to hug you? That’s what you wonder at night.

You ask if love is in the drugs, the starving yourself, the over-eating, the sex, the everything.  And what happens in all the unknown and searching and trying to give love, you end up making decisions that stray you off the path towards Love — towards God — since God IS Love.

I know you are becoming more self-aware. I know you are becoming more self-conscious. I know you are imitating everyone in the media you possible could. I know you are so utterly restless. This is AGING. You know those nights where you toss and turn and kick off the covers and one foot is off the bed, and the other is making a 4 with your hip, and you have one hand under the pillow and the other over your chest… that’s exactly what your hormones and brain cells are doing. Change is uncomfortable.

But, seriously, back to that imitation stage. You guys watch more YouTubers than I can name and they are all influencing you. I get it because my teenage years consisted of taking in all the people I loved and imitating all of them.  I wanted Miley’s hair, and Selena’s laugh. I wanted Mother Theresa’s courage, and to be as funny as Kimmy Gibler (give or take). Even so far as to watch the same gestures that people had; staring into an imaginary camera like Jim Halpert does, trying to make people laugh.

While all this is good to recognize, imitation is an escape from responsibility because if we imitate others, even if they are inherently good things, we lose the responsibility we owe ourselves to be who we were meant to be. It’s like planting a Rose seed and expecting it to bloom into a Daisy.

We lose the responsibility we have for our own happiness and self-care, and our own personal identity (that will be AS appealing as others are to you!) I learned my personality doesn’t actually have what it takes to be Mother Theresa, and my hair will never be Miley’s.. and that’s totally okay. More than OK, actually. Don’t go so far as to imitate others so much that your morals and values and ability to love become fake, insincere, and more like others, and not yourself.

Tell your own story.

Smile at someone, in person.
Talk to someone on an intentional level, in person.
Stop snapchatting.
Go out to eat and walk in the park.

(Suck it up) and ACTUALLY read a good book.

My recommendations…

Truth/God/Religion: 
Life is Worth Living, Archbishop Fulton Sheen. (of who inspired this letter)
The Three Philosophies of Life, Dr. Peter Kreeft
Mere Christianity, CS Lewis (anything CS Lewis)
Beautiful Outlaw, John Eldridge
The Bible…

Other:
Fahrenheit 451
Girl Wash Your Face, Rachel Hollis

Psychological gems:
Study the five love languages
Take the Myers-Briggs 16 personalities test

Podcasts:
Abiding Together
The Place we Find Ourselves

Fast. From. Social. Media

Just do it.

Set limits (10 minutes per day) or just give it up for a week.

Unfollow all the people who hurt your perceptions. All that photoshop crap, too.

Stop seeking an award.

There’s no award for doing the right thing. The award is doing the right thing. Take it upon yourself to go out of your comfort zone and love someone without a reward or gain from it. Most of human intentions for things are to gain credibility or likableness (literal likes) from others. What if we just did it for our own satisfaction without posting, sharing, or showing?

What’s the move?
Can I tell truth? If I was doing this for you
Then I have nothing left to prove, nah
This for me, though
I’m just tryna stay alive and take care of my people
And they don’t have no award for that
* don’t come with trophies, ain’t no envelopes to open
I just do it ’cause I’m ‘sposed to,
– Drake, Trophies

Prayer and Worship

The only thing modern society would never admit to you that you need. Spend more time in prayer, meditation, and good deeds.

“Refresh yourself with spiritual songs, which have often caused the temper to cease.” -St. Francis de Sales

How are we supposed to desire Heaven when we don’t even love God on Earth? Or understand God? Or love? Or meaning? How do we save ourselves from misery… has anyone in histroy accomplished that? No. We need a Savior.

We live in a world where everyone is searching for “spirituality” and not “religion.” I wonder what the turn-off is when Jesus actually orchestrated a HOLY GHOST, a HOLY SPIRIT to encompass the sphere of this Earth to imbue us with love… why the heck would that love be in the trees or a rock?

In serving and praising God (in song, in prayer, in thanking Him, in Mass, in Psalms) the heavenly powers, all of creation participates in a simplistic act of love that embraces the TRUTH that the Creator chose us and we belong to Him more than anything else we put our worth into. And no one who has trusted the Lord has been disappointed. Even Job.

God is too good, too good, to leave all of His glory a secret. It’s right in front of us and we are still so lost. We expect the Mass to be as crazy as a tsunami, or as Earth-shattering as a earthquake and we forget that our jobs are actually the tsunami’s, actual tsunami’s are tsunami’s. We forget that our own suffering and hurts and struggles are the earthquakes. We don’t want those things. We want peace and think it’ll shoot us in the stomach like a tranquilizer. No, we need a place to rest. We need uplifting and words that inspire and ignite us. We need power and Grace. Signs of divine peace and glory that awaken our souls. We need to be raw, authentic, naked, and vulnerable with Jesus.

Worship and prayer require us to open our will, our heart, our center, and experience the deep belonging to a God whose covenant has standed and tested 2,000+ years of EVERYTHING from war, death, abuse, injustice, and hurt. Being beloved is the core of our existence. Your social media followers, subscribers, and even your constant sexual forrays will never make you feel like you belong the way the celebration of communing to God’s glory will. To be satiated with the spirit of God being poured into our hearts is really the only thing that lasts.

Friends, this long letter is a lot to reflect on. And the reflecting is the journey. I could go on and on but I only hope and pray this is a page to turn in the book of your life in the direction of love, and loving well.  Claim and re-claim your chosenness from The Father who knows more about you than you do. Ask Him to show you something new.

How and where God chooses to reveal Himself to you is up to Him. I just pray you are open to it.  

Remember, you belong. You are so good. You mean something. Your life is worth living.

All the love and prayers,
Shannon

“I don’t know what your destiny will be, but the one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.”
-Albert Schweitzer 

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