Thursday, March 13, 2014

the stairs of the white house

as we drive we pass a white house
I don't know who lives inside
what they do or what their names are
what the walls might have to hide

but my hand is out the window
it rides the wind along my view
a light shines on the narrow stairs
I don't know why I think of you

I think because it's perfect
I think because it's night
I almost see your freckles
but I know that can't be right

I know that you can't live there
you simply never will
its halls won't ever have your voice
I somehow feel you still

I wonder what you'd look like
I wonder what you'd say
it's the type of country house
I always saw you in one day

your children would be loving
I know they'd have your eyes
generations sleep in coffins
when someone like you dies

this is where I see you
this is the life I'll save
you'll grow old in this white house
and we won't need your grave

so leave the light on for me
don't forget to sweep the stairs
we can laugh for hours
about our worries and our cares

I see you now, it's morning
you hair still tangled in the sun
I'm silent, drinking coffee
but your smile helps me run

miles fly beneath us
pain is nothing next to you
the outline of your nose, your lips
it's all a dream, it's true

quiet things remembered
the joy of things so small
weekdays passing aimlessly
the comfort when you call

when I leave it's simple
no goodbye, just see you soon
eternity is still a distant thought
from your front room

the room where I should meet you
the room where we should stay
the room that doesn't have
an empty seat for you that day

the white house, as we pass it
only lives in my rear view
but now I have an image
that I think is straight from you

on the stairs of the white house
a girl, she sits and waits
she watches all the pieces of her heart
approach the gates

when my piece is ready
when you get to call my name
know that every day without you
hasn't ever been the same

with trembling I will climb them
up the stairs, I'll see your face
the only reason I can find
He made the human race

if there are really many rooms
and I can earn a key
this suffering is nothing
if forever you're with me

flesh and blood, I feel you
your cheeks so rosy red
on the stairs of our white house 
no one here is dead

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Abiding Things

When I walk in my school, there's a sign that reads,"Discamus Permanentia: Let us Learn the Abiding Things."

Abiding. Enduring. Long-lasting. Eternal. Let us learn the eternal things.

Sometimes, the last thing you think will make you happy turns out to fill your soul in ways you didn't know were possible.

I don't have much time to share this with ya'll, because I'm grading grammar tests instead of watching the super bowl or swooning over my favorite British TV show- but I have to tell you this. When you find something that brings you joy- real, every day, thick and thin joy- pinpoint what that is and fight for it.

I think about that quote every day. It gives me so much hope. 

All the hard things about teaching- and there are hard things- are not abiding. The blood, vomit, snot, and tears pass. The crying over giving out detentions or having to raise your voice to a room full of screaming children also passes. You learn to smile when you answer the same question a thousand times. You rediscover your love of chocolate milk. You shout for joy over rescuing tiny mittens from an icy playground. You stop and realize you've been more alive in the past five months than you thought you could be again. 

Yes, the hard things pass. You sleep less, you work more. Their failure is your failure. Their success is your success.

And something beautiful happens every day. Every single day...and those things are abiding.

The first time a student understands a concept they've been struggling with.
When a student tries again even though they're beat down and exhausted.
When they learn to help each other.
The look on their faces when they're dying to learn.
The hundreds of times they choose the right thing outweighs the one time they choose the wrong thing.

I didn't know teaching would be so hard. So fun. So heart-breakingly beautiful.

I didn't know it would change me. I sure didn't know I was dying to change.

The abiding things. I ache for them. They pound in my chest like blood runs through my veins.
God's mercy.
His protection and timing.
My family's love. 
The loyalty of my friends; the death of our pride to love one another.
The look of trust in children's eyes when they look at me- and the fullness of responsibility and protection I feel for them that grows stronger every day.

I pray, even in a small measure, I can teach them the abiding things.

I hope I recognize the passing things in my own life.

Failure. Shame. Apathy. These are not eternal. It is a lie to believe our existence is measured in some cosmic list of our rights and wrongs.  It will only be measured in love- in sacrifice- in genuine pursuit of truth. If nothing else, His love is abiding- and believing that changes everything.

"Miss Hamilton, I can't do it."
"Maybe not today- but that won't be forever. Let's look at it again."

This joy- such a gift I did not expect to find again- this is truly abiding, and I think it will change everything if I give it the chance. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The 5 Best Lessons I learned from My Mother

My mother is an incredible woman. I don't tell her that enough.

In fact, I'll probably spend more time writing this post than I have actually spoken to her in the past few days....because I am selfish, tired and full of twenty-something year old angst.

But she will forgive me, because that's what moms do. She will smile and tell me to stop wasting time talking and just write. She will tell me to travel in my heart to wherever I need to go because she will always be here when I get back.

"I'm sorry I'm such a brat, " I will say. "Yes, but you're my brat," she says in return.

So I've been writing a lot the past few days, and each time I do that, I remember three things a little more clearly:

Who I am. Who I've been. Who I want to be.

And when the dust settles she helps me remember it's okay if these three things don't match at all.

But no matter what, one thing is always true: when I imagine the woman I strive to be, each image looks more and more like her.

She says I'm stronger and smarter than she is. I think that's silly, because she taught me everything I know. I wish with all my heart that each person on Earth knows someone like my mother.

I'd love to share her with you. Our house is like a hotel, that's true, but for now....settle for some of my favorite lessons. I would not be me without them or without her.

1.  Learn How to Read a Map

Literally, go buy an atlas and keep it in the back of your car.  There is no excuse to not make it exactly where you want to go. Do not settle for technology holding your hand. When there's traffic, you'll be long gone off-roading it on an alternate route because you can read a real ancient map.

Some of my earliest memories are driving in the car with my mom. Strong women can drive anywhere, anytime. Get your sleep, map, coffee, and music. Don't let anyone tell you that you can't. Every state on the East Coast is dog-eared in my weathered atlas because my mother raised me to do anything.

On a life scale, she taught me I would never be lost if I knew where I came from. She taught me to use my resources. There is rarely one route to a destination; the trick is being open to changing your plan. The more maps you read, the more likely you are to know where you're going.

There are maps everywhere. In people's eyes. In your gut feeling. In common sense. Read them. You don't have to wait in the traffic of life. Use your brain and find another way.

2.  Aim High in Steering

It seems like I spend all my time with her in the car. What can I say, we're women on the go.

When she was teaching me to drive, she would say, "aim high in steering," which meant...anticipate that stop light a hundred feet away and break accordingly.  I'm still terrible at breaking smoothly.

This translates so perfectly because it means more than look ahead, it means see the big picture in front of you. It means raise your perspective to the horizon. Shoot, PAST the horizon.

I get caught up in the future so often. I worry. Looking ahead has never been my problem. But seeing more...this is such an important lesson.

When I aim high, I can see so much more than what's right in front of me. Any conflict, any heartache, any crossroad- there is always more.  The world is such a lovely and enormous place.

Sometimes there's a semi in front of you and it's hard to aim high. So slow down. Take a breath. Everything will be clear soon.

"In the big scheme of your life, is this really going to matter?" she asks me. Only you will know the answer to that question.

3. Adopt Family Members

I'm confident I could be just about anywhere on this planet (except perhaps the Arctic) and be in range of SOMEONE with deep loyalty to my mother who would come for me if I needed them.

I grew up with more aunts and uncles than humanly possible to have. Why? Because my mother's heart is very large and blood is not a family requirement. There are people of all ages, religions, races, and creeds in my phone that I call family because of her. Some people might think this is strange; I think it's the way life is supposed to be.

Aunt. Cousin. Friend.  I am (or will be) honored to have those names. I hope it means the person saying them knows they could find me, day or night, and I will do anything I can to help them. I hope I never keep score. I hope there is no limit to my generosity or faith in people. I hope I never stop saying I love you. I hope I care for people half as well as she does.

4. Fear Nothing, Least of all Greatness

Some of you might be laughing because you know I am, in fact, afraid of many things.  I am the token 'safety nut' in my group of friends and the word paranoid is not a far stretch. I like to think of myself as a worst-case scenario optimist.

Growing up near DC with my father in law enforcement provided an interesting childhood. We were taught to lock our doors, scan our surroundings, and be very careful with our trust. My mother is an extremely safe person, in many ways. I used to think this made me afraid of everything- but lately I've realized it only helped me face my fears.

Whether you're afraid or not- the world (though lovely) is a scary place. The choice is how we live with that fear. Ignore it, or worse, pretend the threat is not real- and you're likely to get hurt. The alternative? "You don't get scared, you get mad." If only I had a dollar for every time my parents said this. Things are less scary when you talk about them and have a plan.

So who cares if they did background checks before sleepovers and didn't let us wander too far from the block as kids? We sure as hell weren't talking to strangers. I could use more wilderness skills but I have a plan for most emergency scenarios and I'm proud to say that.

My mother, with her passwords and "parking lot safety," didn't teach me to be afraid; she taught me the value of life. And boy does she like living. She's one of the most fun and spontaneous people I've ever met.

She had me swimming at six months old. We bike, we run, we play laser tag in the dark. We love snorkeling and fishing on boats in the Florida keys. I've slept with her under the stars of mine fields in Germany and rocky fields of Spain. We dove in caves, zip lined and kayaked in Mexico. We've walked the streets of Italy, drank water from the depths of France, sunk to our knees and wept in Portugal. We've skipped school for midnight premieres, drove across the country with an hour's notice, and waited in many emergency rooms.

She helps me pack my bags to visit a new city. She googles directions from Maryland when I make a wrong turn in Florida. She helps me pick up the pieces when my heart is broken and try again. She likes to sing with the windows down. We can never see too many beaches. She is a problem solver, make it happen kind of woman.

She taught me what on Earth is worth dying for- so that pain and suffering seemed less terrifying if death was just the beginning.  God willing I never have to prove it- but she raised me to be a fighter.

I think that's why most of all my mother hates when I make myself small.  Not the small we all actually are- in comparison to the universe- but the inadequate small.

It's true we are imperfect. There is freedom in accepting we will never earn our existence. In this way, we are small but it is beautiful. Similar to the feeling I get when I look out a plane window at the clouds or get swept into the ocean.

The lie is to believe those who are small can not also be great. Greatness, for her, is more than success. It is being the best version of yourself. Sometimes this is scary.

The fear of failure is paralyzing. The sting of hypocrisy chips away at my hope. I often feel like I take one step forward and two steps back.

"Oh well," I hear her say. "Your failures do not define you. You have right now. Try it again."

Do not be afraid of greatness. There is only one you.

5. Pray So Much It's like Breathing

My grandma Clem, when she wasn't singing in Italian, prayed the rosary all day long. She had those beads wrapped around her fingers so tight I thought they might break.

It's a habit she passed down to my mother, and I'm grateful for my mother's prayers. She prays for me, for all of you. She humbles me with her strong belief in the power of prayer. It's something I wish I had more of.

I'm most grateful for her example of constant, everyday, informal prayer. She talks to God a lot. She speaks to her mother, her siblings, and her friends who have gone home before us. There will be a line to greet her in heaven.

From an early age, she helped me see God in everything. She helped me begin to speak to Him. She prays like she breathes- it just happens without trying.

She also instilled in us a deep respect for religion and tradition, two things that are so often mocked today. Whether we were at mass, a church service with our cousins, or the temple with our uncle- we were respectful. We were honored to be in the presence of Buddhist Monks and admire the shrines of our Hindu friends.  We thanked the Mayan priest for his blessings in a cloud of smoke before we climbed into a cave. She taught us there were no limits to God's love. No human beings without His image.

I don't really care if people call us holy rollers. This is America and we'll beg for mercy all we can.

I hope when I have children I am as faithful as my mother and can pass down her wise words.

Mom, I'm scared.
Then pray the Rosary as you fall asleep and Mary will protect you.

Mom, I really messed up.
Good thing Jesus makes all things new.

Mom, I don't know what the right thing is.
Ask God and He will help you decide.

Mom, I'm worried.
Trust Him.

Mom, I don't feel anything.
Be still, and know that He is God.

Mom, sometimes I don't believe in God. Sometimes I don't believe He cares.
You know what I'm going to say. Our favorite saying. He still believes in you.

Monday, October 28, 2013

When the Gopsel Punches You in the Face

So it's my last week teaching 7th grade.

I was very fortunate to pick up a long-term sub position at an excellent Catholic Academy just outside of Washington, DC.  Over the past 8 weeks, I've been dying to write, but have scarcely had the time.

Teaching boot camp, as I've fondly been calling it, has been a wonderful experience. I will tell you all about it another time and how much it has changed me, stretched me, awakened me.

I mention it now to explain my lack of blogs. I feel certain you can smell the chalk all over me and might realize I've forgotten my name is Amanda, after being called Miss Hamilton a million times.

But this week. This Sunday. My gosh. I have to share this. It's burning in my heart and I can't sleep.

I've spoken to a few friends about how deeply the Gospel struck me in mass this past Sunday.  I felt as if I'd been sleeping for a long time, and woke up hanging from the reins of a horse off the top of a sky scraper (yes, just like in the movie "true lies"). It was a wake-up call; one that I hope to experience every day for the rest of my life.

We read the contrasting story of the Pharisee and the Tax collector. It's short so I will post it here:

Luke 18:9-14

9 He spoke the following parable to some people who prided themselves on being upright and despised everyone else,
10 'Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax collector.
11 The Pharisee stood there and said this prayer to himself, "I thank you, God, that I am not grasping, unjust, adulterous like everyone else, and particularly that I am not like this tax collector here.
12 I fast twice a week; I pay tithes on all I get."
13 The tax collector stood some distance away, not daring even to raise his eyes to heaven; but he beat his breast and said, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner."
14 This man, I tell you, went home again justified; the other did not. For everyone who raises himself upwill be humbled, but anyone who humbles himself will be raised up.'

I stood there as it was read.
I listened intently.
I felt blood rush to my cheeks.
My stomach dropped.
I felt ashamed.

I am like the Pharisee.


I am so often like the Pharisee in this parable.

It humbled me to reflect on how many times I had prayed the same words: "Thank you, God, that I am not like those people."

I know. I'm embarrassed. I should be.

Those with poor educations. Those with addictions. Those with low self esteems or terrible friends. The list could go on.

Somehow I had slipped into the disorder of affirming my own life by pitying the misfortunes of others. This is not sanctified. This is not loving. I doubt God is pleased to hear any sentiment that begins with, "At least I am not blah blah blah."

As I sat down mortified, I thought of the tax collector. He did not even dare to raise his eyes to Heaven.

I believe we are all the Pharisee; I believe we are all the tax collector.

As often as I am prideful, hypocritical and selfish.... I am also my harshest critic. I'm keenly aware of my faults. We all are.

It is a genuine desire for God that brings us to this place in the middle. Walking the line between confidence and pride, for me, is like a tight rope.

There is nothing wrong with thanking God for our lives.  I doubt I will ever look upon someone less fortunate without a deeper appreciation for my own life welling up inside me.  Deep gratitude for our existence is essential for joy to conquer.

But to judge ourselves compared to other people; to see others as less holy; as less deserving of God's love, or even our own time or attention...this is unacceptable.

May I never use the phrase, "At least I am this," or "at least I am not that," ever again.

That attitude sells me short. It sells humanity short. Most of all, it puts some sort of measurement on God's grace, which has no limit.

I don't want the "least" of anything. Not in friendship, not in my career, not in love.

I don't want to offer God enough to feel good; to feel like it's enough.

I want Him to take everything I have. Take my best. Take my most.

He will show me the woman I can be when I let Him in.

The Priest summed it up well. Sinners go to Church. Our presence there is no great token to God.

May our hearts always be honest before Him. May our prayers only be, "God, I beg for your mercy, " instead of, "God, I'm awesome and I showed up so everyone else can see."

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

"Anesthesia of the Heart"

Every day in the ten minutes it takes to walk from the metro to my building, I see at least twenty homeless people.  Men, women, children. They are hungry; hot; dehydrated; dirty; poorly clothed. Sometimes I give them change; sometimes if I have food to spare I'll leave it; most times I can only leave a smile and nod.

So let me be honest. I start to get numb. When you see them everyday, it's so easy to walk past them without even noticing.  Human beings fade into the scenery and it seems normal. 

I look around in the twilight zone and buses are zooming by, people are walking briskly like robots, everyone is screaming over traffic on their cell phones, crying kids are being dragged down the street, bikers are ringing bells, construction workers are drilling...and everyone is afraid to make eye contact...with anyone else.

In the chaos, sometimes I just stop and look. 

This might sound strange, but it's painful. 

When I look at other people, I see joy, but mostly I just see suffering. Real, tangible, difficult suffering. It just feels so heavy and I can never wrap my head around it. It seems like no one cares. Most of the time, I don't even care. We're too tired. It's not our concern. We're just trying to get by.

Then it's hard for me to grasp how God can love so many people; how He loves us all the same no matter what we do or who we are. I spend hours thinking about it but I'll never understand.

Things I fail to understand amaze me; they're the only things worth living for and the only things that can really make me mad.

On one hand, God's unconditional love for us is perfect. It feels like home. It's literally heaven.

On the other hand, in my weakness, as if we can compare ourselves to Him, I'm so frustrated by all the ways we fail to love...all the conditions I put on my love, even when I'm dying not to. Sometimes trying to care for people feels like climbing Mount Everest barefoot. Why is it so hard to do?

This brings me to two places. 

A, a dear friend sent me a homily Pope Francis gave that affirmed I - and the many of you I'm sure  have similar notions that trouble you- are not alone in our concern for humanity's depart from union with each other.

And B, another dear friend gave me a gem the other day I'd like to share that I think goes hand in hand with this topic. I was complaining about something or other being hard and she replied, "What is easy?"

Pope Francis visited an Italian island called Lampedusa earlier this month to say a memorial mass for the African immigrants who died trying to reach Europe. The full link to his homily is here. In it he said:

"The culture of well-being, that makes us think of ourselves, that makes us insensitive to the cries of others, that makes us live in soap bubbles, that are beautiful but are nothing, are illusions of futility, of the transient, that brings indifference to others, that brings even the globalization of indifference."

Globalization of indifference. Yikes. I've never been able to put my finger on it, but that rings a bell. He goes on:

"We ask forgiveness for the indifference towards so many brothers and sisters, we ask forgiveness for those who are pleased with themselves, who are closed in on their own well-being in a way that leads to the anesthesia of the heart."

That last part really got me, and reminded me of my friend's advice. She asked me what was easy. 

It's easy to anesthetize our hearts. 

In fact, it's the normal reaction to fear. Maybe if we don't feel as much, it won't hurt as much when something painful happens. Like when a loved one dies; or the person you love doesn't love you back; or you have to confront the real presence of evil in the world and the swings it will take at your faith.

But life is not a procedure we need anesthesia to pull through.

Life is this stunning, messy, unpredictable precious gift; and our hearts can weather many storms.

The numbness used to comfort me.  If you're still in that place, I promise you, it will pass. If you ask, He will lead you out of any darkness. And if you're kicking and screaming, trust me, He is patient. He will awaken your soul gently and you will feel the blood run through your veins with joy again.

"The easy path is not worth walking." I saw that engraved on an antique wedding ring a few weeks ago. (Which is awesome.)

It's funny. Lately is the first time I've considered "the easy path" is not just a cop-out, it's a burden. It doesn't even pull its own weight. You don't break even. 

A numb heart does not pull its own weight. I would rather bleed out every last drop, loving with all my heart, than retreat to its shallow beating. I have never regretted feeling too much; only when I stopped myself from feeling at all.

I want to take the hard path. Every day. In all ways. Because we can. We can help each other do it. 

Difficulty is real. Every person struggles with different things- that's what makes it beautiful and worth it. 
For me, it is hard to maintain kindness to others; hard to keep applying for other jobs; hard to eat healthy and exercise; hard to keep hope in my dreams when they seem so far; hard to pray...the hardest to trust God.

But difficulty is not an excuse, it's the gift of motivation. 

Let's keep fighting for friendships  Let's keep protecting our families and holding them close. Let's keep doing our parts to build an American culture worth dying for.

Most of the time we won't be moving mountains. I have to remind myself, since I am not God, I can not love everyone at all times. So start with yourself. Start with the person in front of you. That homeless man on the street; your chatty neighbor; your unruly co-worker; your tired spouse; the new girl in class.

May God call us out of ourselves and keep our hearts awake. 
May He protect us from this plague of indifference.

(And as a tiny favor, may He take some of my personal maddening jealousy for all the pilgrims at World Youth Day in Rio. Honestly, I can't even talk about it. First born child watch out, your name will probably be Francis.)

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Time to Ditch Your Measuring Sticks

I’ve been trying to write this blog for weeks.  As a quasi-perfectionist by nature, each draft has simply fallen short. I don’t know if it’s because I’m having a tough Lent (tough as in lazy verging on non-existent)…or if this topic has, in fact, been the main focus of my Lent; so it’s tough to express accurately. It’s the topic of measurement.

In this strange transition out of college, I struggle a lot with how I measure myself. All the tangible ways I found my value have been ripped from under me. No more papers. No more exams. No more classes to ace half asleep. Many of my awesome friends- a direct reminder of my worth- are miles away.  I left a job I loved; a place where I worked hard and felt truly treasured; where I saw visible fruits of my labor.  I left my first apartment, a beacon of independence and self expression. I left pieces of my heart with good men, no longer there as part of my identity. I left my beloved state of Florida, whose soil has mixed with my soul and whose spirit runs through my veins, giving me a sense of peace about the world.  I left the altars and quiet chapels where I fell deeper in love with God. I left the town I really grew up in- and all its affirmation, its encouragement that I know who I am- had to travel a thousand miles north.

In the perfect summer after graduation, full of lazy river floats, lots of wine and sandy clothes, I remember saying to my friends, “I’m nervous, guys. Because when I move home, I’ll find out if I really am who I think I am.”

I sensed then, without knowing exactly, that my view of myself was about to be challenged. All the ways I calculated my value- let’s call them measuring sticks of life- were about to experience a huge shift in data. At first, I thought my measuring sticks would disappear, or that I would get new ones.  You know- more adult scales- but that wasn’t true. The ways I measure myself are exactly the same; the only difference is now, when I’m alone, I see how destructive they are.

These are my measuring sticks.


I’m 22 years old. I have two bachelor’s degrees. I’m smart, outgoing, and hard-working. Still, I’m not sure what career I want to pursue. I’ve transitioned through 3 temporary jobs in 8 months. Graduating simultaneously feels like yesterday and a vague thought from a different life. And when I’m honest, in many ways I still feel like a child.

I see my peers on different paths. Getting married. Having kids. Working full time jobs with their own apartments. Making tons of money.  Just when I’m confident I know what I want, I start to feel like I’m not enough.  I start to question all the sacrifices I’ve made for the lifestyle I want; I wonder if I’m wasting time, wasting my talents. I always feel like I’m waiting.


Sometimes it’s tough having such smokin’ hot friends.  Especially when they’re beautiful inside and out. We’re told beauty is fleeting; that vanity is unbecoming. It’s true; I hope I can always be ready to leave in 10 minutes and care more about my brain than my lack of makeup. 

Yet still, I’ll be honest- feeling beautiful and desirable as a woman plays a huge role in how I view myself.  We dress ourselves every morning; I know I think about it. Oh, I’m having a  bad hair day; I feel bloated; these bags under my eyes make me look old; I need to whiten my teeth; I should have worn another shirt….the list goes on and on. The questions roll in like poison, too. Am I pretty enough to date this guy or run in this circle of friends? Will men prefer my friends to me because they’re so beautiful? Or any other woman for that matter? They’re petty questions- with obvious answers- and still, they always pop into my mind.

I’m openly careful with my weight, too. I’ve lost thirty pounds on weight watchers…but for me it’s still not enough. My healthy body now seems fat again. It’s never enough to stop and see how far I’ve come. Those last twenty pounds seem like fifty.  Everything will be better when I slip into those jeans a size down. But isn’t that what I said about the jeans that are getting lose now?


My effort to stay thin, certainly vanity in part, is mostly the desire to stay healthy. I work really hard to stay active because there’s a direct positive correlation with my joy and quality of life. It hurts me to stay inside when I could be outside. So I get into biking; I try skiing; I keep jogging; I never turn down hiking. I kick-box and swim anywhere there’s water. And I love it…but I always want more. I’m okay at everything- but not really an expert in anything. I see other girls at the gym killing it in basketball or running laps around me. I know incredible athletes- and I’m so happy for them- but it sucks to feel stuck on the JV team of life- scared of heights, pretty uncoordinated and generally slow.


I’m an addict for new places. I can’t get enough new experiences. Camping at the Grand Canyon; walking through the red wood forest; ice fishing in Alaska; looking out from the top of the Eiffel tower; driving the coast of California…those are just some from my bucket list. There are so many places I want to go and things I want to do! I start to feel irresponsible- sometimes placing more value in my external environment than my internal peace. I ache for freedom, for adventure- sometimes as the cost of relationships, or simply ignoring issues in my life I should take time to examine.


Sometimes we’re made to feel like holiness comes in a visible package. If we do this or say that, or follow these rules, we’ll be holy. As if God could love us any more or less depending on our outward appearances. In college, and even sometimes now, I worried so much about fitting into a mold of holiness that crippled me. Sometimes I’m so busy comparing myself to others, I start to accept a negative view of myself: I cuss too much; I’m aggressive and vulgar; I enjoy the occasional drink and smoke, I question authority and definitely like kissing men…so  there must be something wrong with me. I’m extremely private about my prayer and communion with God so it must be non-existent. I’m not devoting enough time helping others. I’m letting God down if I don’t do x, y, z.

So those are the extreme negative measurements…but I think you get my point. I don’t lie in bed at night and give myself a grade in each category. But it is the little daily things that add up.  That slight pang of jealousy when someone you know lands their dream job, or gets accepted into their dream grad program.  That moment when I find another grey hair or notice my skin is no longer seventeen. All the times I have to move over and avoid crashing when faster bikers race past me screaming, “Left!”  The hours I spend working on a computer, really dreaming of blue water and clear skies in a foreign place.  The times when I’m too tired to pray, or simply don’t feel like talking to God.

When I measure myself on such harsh, material scales, it’s no wonder I constantly fall short. So why is it I put myself through such scrutiny? I know in my mind the positive measurements on these scales- so why do I not feel it in my heart? Where did I get these scales? What good can come from this evaluation?

All these questions have been in my mind lately. Now, I’m not really one to quote scripture. I don’t know why, but it always sort of makes me blush. It feels so personal. But this past Palm Sunday, we read Luke’s gospel in mass and this one part always brings me to tears. If I had nothing else but this passage, it would touch me differently each day forever.

It’s the part when the repentant criminal on Christ’s side rebukes the other derisive criminal, Luke 23:40-43.

“Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? We indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

It struck me deeply because I realized, in a way, this is a measurement. The repentant thief measures his actions and takes responsibility. But this next part, this is what’s really important. Jesus doesn’t say, “You’re right, you’re guilty, I can’t help you.” Instead he says words that change the world; that I need to get out of bed every morning; the only words that renew my hope in something more than my failures.

He says, “Truly, I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

And in these precious, few moments of clarity, I realize all these measurements are empty if they have no hope. They have some value; ambition for success, happiness, joy- these are healthy desires- but not without this perspective. Not without the deep and unwavering belief that God loves us just as we are.


I have the love of two amazing parents, a brother and sister-in-law, and countless family members. I’m a damn good friend where I root my loyalty, and I know I have friends who would die for me.  I’m a pretty good writer- must be if you made it this far.  I believe the purpose of this life is to make it back to God, and I count that gift as a success. I want for nothing. I’m successful in so many ways.


I have a beautiful, healthy body and mind. On the outside my mama gave me big ole’ baby browns, killer hair and ladylike curves.  On the inside, she gave me a fire that’s always burning, reminding me what I look like has little to do with who I am, and to expect that attitude in others. God did design the human body so beautifully, so creatively. It’s normal to appreciate that; but when I get past that initial thought, and consider the whole person, I see it is people’s hearts that are so beautiful. Sacrifice, kindness, forgiveness- these are the only types of beauty that last. Romance will fall and rise like the tides until it's time to dock. And that will only happen with a man who can see with more than just his eyes.


Um, hello. I can jog five miles when I once could not. I survived a ski left. (Let’s choose our battles, Amanda.)

Again, girl please. Florida. Chicago. Boston. Philadelphia. HAWAII. No one feels bad for me. I save every penny to blow it on trips. Because it’s worth it. Rest of the main land United States, here I come. Oahu, wait for me. I will always love you.

But seriously. The best adventures I’ve taken are journeys with other human souls. No where on earth could replace the people I love. The land beneath our feet should only lead us to one another.

God loved me, each of you, into being; I think that sums it up.

I just want to break my measuring sticks in half. For me and all the other people I measure with them. He will never tell us we’re not enough. Instead I want to ask myself only one question- am I humbly and fervently asking Christ to remember me in His kingdom? Because His answer always sets me free.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

"We Seemed To Be Two Bodies With A Single Spirit"

"In our earthly life, next to the love of parents and siblings, one of the best expressions of affection is friendship. Every day, I thank God for giving me such good friends, who are a precious guide for my life." 
-Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati

Yesterday I finished Pier Giorgio’s biography with teary eyes on the metro. I knew it would end with his sudden and young death and still it caught me off guard. The story of his life- “an ordinary Christian” -is really amazing. He’s known for his compassion and charity, caring for “his poor” with all his heart and strength in God’s name. 

He was athletic, funny, handsome; respectful and humble; he pulled friendly pranks and got in fist fights, though he climbed a mountain each morning to receive the Eucharist and served the poor in secret. He’s admirable for too many reasons to start listing. It’s clear why JPII calls him a saint for the young.

Yet out of everything, two things struck me the most about him: his deep and real affection for his friends and his constant awareness of death. For me- the two are inevitably related. I find the deepest, most satisfying friendships are those rooted in the fact this life is fleeting. When I first met death, my initial responses were anger and fear. I thought it would be better to never love anyone that much again, if loss could feel like that.

It was frankly an obstacle in all of my relationships. It’s hard to get close to anyone, fearing they will die and another part of you will die again. It takes time to move past the feeling like your loved one dies each day again.

My family and my dear friends from childhood were already etched in my heart indelibly. I would love them unto death, for sure. It was everyone else. At eighteen, I felt I had no room left in my heart. As I moved to Florida alone, I knew I would have to make friends- but they would never have to know. How could they know I was a robot? It was a chance to start fresh, where I could really start over, keeping everyone around me at arm’s length. (Ha. That really worked out.)

As time went on, the numbness started to fade. Life tends to fling us forward even when we’re busy looking back. I prayed for the fear to subside, to feel again, to let myself care for others the way my heart longed to. I thought I would somehow get back to “normal.” Frankly, He had other plans for me. I felt as if the embers of my heart had turned to stone. So instead of relighting the flame, He just set my whole life on fire….burning lifelong friends deep into my heart. He sent me to people I couldn’t ignore; whose smiles were too joyful; whose laughs slowly sunk into my soul; whose passions were too strong to ever let me go.

The friendships I formed in college- either with new friends, or building on maturing friendships from home- saved my life. He’s given me people I’ve loved more than I knew was possible, and who love me in return, sometimes more than I deserve. They helped me see I was afraid of the wrong thing: death is not our enemy, but rather lacking something to die for.

Friendship….real, hard, wonderful friendship….that’s worth dying for.

Back in January, in the office of the readings, there was an excerpt from one of St. Gregory Nazianzen’s sermons about his friendship with Basil the Great.  It’s really quite moving, a link for the readings is at the bottom. Here are my favorite parts:

“Basil and I were both in Athens. We had come, like streams of a river, from the same source in our native land, had separated from each other in pursuit of learning, and were now united again as if by plan, for God so arranged it.

When, in the course of time, we acknowledged our friendship and recognized that our ambition was a life of true wisdom, we became everything to each other: we shared the same lodging, the same table, the same desires the same goal. Our love for each other grew daily warmer and deeper.

Between us there was no envy. On the contrary, we made capital out of our rivalry. Our rivalry consisted, not in seeking the first place for oneself but in yielding it to the other, for we each looked on the other’s success as his own.

We seemed to be two bodies with a single spirit.

Our single object and ambition was virtue, and a life of hope in the blessings that are to come; we wanted to withdraw from this world before we departed from it. With this end in view we ordered our lives and all our actions. We followed the guidance of God’s law and spurred each other on to virtue. If it is not too boastful to say, we found in each other a standard and rule for discerning right from wrong.

 Different men have different names, which they owe to their parents or to themselves, that is, to their own pursuits and achievements. But our great pursuit, the great name we wanted, was to be Christians, to be called Christians.”

It’s just beautiful. These words are often in my mind, for as much as I think of my friends, which is a lot. I stand constantly in awe of them- and we all appreciate the value we have found in one another- but reading Pier Giorgio’s biography let it really sit in my soul.

I have incredible friends. And if you’re reading this, you’re probably one of them.

Pier Giorgio’s satirical name for the group of friends he climbed mountains with was the “shady characters society.” It’s nice to know even saints have their favorites…and silly names for them. He said, “We believe that even when we reach the tomb, the 'shady characters' will remember each other in prayer.” Surely, his friends mourned his passing greatly. Their descriptions of his irreplaceable spirit, his "purifying joy," make that clear. Yet they knew, out of them all, he was always prepared for that day to come.  

He once said after experiencing the death of a classmate, "Since one never knows when death will come to take us away, it is wise to prepare ourselves each day as if it were our last. Therefore, from now on I am going to try to do a little something each day to prepare myself for death, so that when death finally does come I will not be caught unprepared and regret those wonderful years of youth wasted from a spiritual point of view."

With my friends, I am alive again, because they point me back to Him. When life is really hard and we question everything we believe in, everything we give our lives for, everything we die for, they say, “Hey, I know this sucks, but it's worth it. Everything will be okay.” They teach me patience, loyalty, fortitude, charity. They teach me how to pray, how to forgive, how to let go, how to love.

So thank you, my dear friends. I think you know what you mean to me. Your faces are in my mind when I wake up and my prayers when I lay down at night. This post is getting long- so next time I’ll expand on how to be a kick-ass friend like you. I could really go on for days. For now, know I’m thinking of you always.  Happy Valentine’s Day (the joke holiday before we drink with St. Patty…. Just kidding. Sorry St. Valentine- your (assumed real) martyrdom epitomizes my entire point, actually.) Long live friendship and consumer driven holidays.

*Biography: Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, An Ordinary Christian, by Maria di Lorenzo

(Toward the bottom of page: Sts. Gregory and Basil, Jan 2nd)