Sunday, May 31, 2009

Packing Party

From June 4-9, members of St. Thomas and a few other parishes will be in El Salvador. While there, we'll do some touristy things, but our focus is going to be with the children of Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos (NPH). NPH is an orphanage...but more about NPH in the next blog.

Tonight the group traveling to El Salvador (and Flat Thomas) gathered together to pack suitcases. We had a TON of assorted items to stow away: children's books, school supplies, underwear, socks, shoes, and Bingo prizes. This year's special project was to raise funds to buy books (in Spanish) for NPH El Salvador's school library. Every trip, we always take clothing donations, and this year there was no shortage of sneakers and t-shirts! One day at the orphanage, we play Bingo with the kids, and it is quite a sight to see. Every winner gets to pick a prize, and this year there are some pretty sweet picks. The floor was literally covered with everything we had to take. It almost seemed impossible that we would fit it all! Even though the night was full of camaraderie and a little chaos, we achieved our goal. Every suitcase is packed and ready to go.The reason we were able to pack so many suitcases is because of generous hearts (and wallets). We raised a lot of money to purchase books. In this economy, I was surprised that so much was selflessly donated. It just goes to show you that even when times are hard, people are still willing to help others. Amazing, isn't it?

Friday, May 29, 2009

Bicycle Man

Last night, as I drove down the road, I passed a man bicycling up the hill. It was a pretty steep hill to attempt such a feat. He didn't fit the typical cyclist build or profile that I normally see. He was just your average guy, had a beard, wore cool sunglasses, and had a slight paunch.

I think what fascinated me the most was that he did NOT fit the typical cyclist profile, and here he was, pedaling up the hill. I'm not a creeper, but I thoroughly enjoyed seeing this man. In the few seconds that I observed him, I came to respect him. What I admired most about this complete stranger was his determination. It was just really cool and oddly humbling at the same time for me to watch him persevere up this impossible hill. Even at a distance, I could tell that he was breathing heavily, which led me to believe that he didn't do that kind of thing on a regular basis. I know I certainly don't. I used to ride my bike to school in New Jersey-where everything is flat.

I found myself rooting for him. Yes, even cheering him on. Then I realized that I was praying for him. I still don't fully understand how or why, but I do know that I did. I asked God to help him up the hill and for a safe journey home. I also asked God to bless that man, because what he was doing was awesome. Awesome in the fact that I don't think I could ever do that. The stranger on the bicycle is now one of my heroes.

Here's to you, Bicycle Man!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Prayers Close to the Heart

My one friend rarely ever wears jewelry. A short while ago, I looked up as she walked into class one day and saw a necklace. On her? Never!, I thought. I think I can count the times I've seen her wear a necklace on one hand.

It was a beautiful, little, ornate box that opens and closes, which hung on a silver chain. She said that it was a prayer box. Seeing as it was a gift, she felt obligated to wear it, but that wasn't her primary reason for wearing it. She wears it because it's a way to keep her prayers close to her heart. I thought, what a novel idea. It makes sense really. I had heard of prayer box necklaces before, but no one had ever given me such a wonderful description or reason for wearing one.

She pulled out the tiny little piece of paper where her prayer was written, and I saw my name scribbled in her unique scrawl. It made me feel loved and happy. My best friend was praying for me, and I was literally close to her heart. About a month ago, she gave me a graduation present. It was my very own prayer box necklace. Inside was her prayer for me, and since then, I've added my own.

A prayer box necklace is a simple way to pray. Every time I go to fix the clasp, I touch the necklace and say the prayers inside. They are close to my heart, right where they should be.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Tink Tink the Mediator

I've recently discovered something extraordinary about my cat. And, yes, I'm going to blog about my cat.

Tinkerbell is affectionately known as: Tink, Stink, Tink Tink, Mama Kitty, Tinker, and/or Meow. For simplicity's sake, I'll just refer to her as Tink. After typing her many names, I wonder if she has ever gone through an identity crisis. In the almost 11 years that she has been a member of my family, I have come to learn her various idiosyncrasies. Here is just a few: she likes to drink out of the toilet, eat tuna straight from the can, sleep on my pillow, fight with the dogs, play fetch (truly!), sneak outside, and unfortunately pee on the carpet.

The one trait (and possibly her best one) that continues to blow my mind is that she senses anger or frustration, and when she does, Tink will come over to remedy the situation. If I start to argue with my sisters or playfully shout with them, I raise my voice. She will wake up from a nap all the way down the hall, run full speed, and jump into my lap and MEOW MEOW MEOW in my face. She also does this to other family members if they are the ones talking too loud for her. It's quite astonishing, and she will make her presence known if you ignore her. She has a rather distinctive and sometimes annoying meow. It's basically like Fran Drescher, if she were a cat.

I believe her objective is to get you to stop shouting/arguing. It works. It's weird, but my cat has a calming effect, and she will linger for a few a furry four-legged police officer keeping the peace. Once she accomplishes her mission, she goes back to sleep.

I love my mediating cat.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Zoo Day

Yesterday, three of my best friends and I went to the Knoxville Zoo. It was an awesome day that could not have come at a better time. On Tuesday, I was filling out some stuff for college when I realized that I have to grow up! I'm going to a big school with over 20,000 other people. I won't be living at home anymore. It's a huge change, and it is a little terrifying. A few hours later, I found out that my pastor, Fr. David, will be leaving for a new assignment. I consider him family, and he's been a part of my life for the past seven years. It was to be expected, but it was still a shock to find out.

Needless to say, my Tuesday wasn't a very happy one. The only positives that came were the fact that I found out that Fr. Christian gets to stay at St. Thomas, and my movie night with Becca was a lot of fun. Those were two very awesome positives. Wednesday morning, Becca, Megan, Amanda, and I set off for the zoo.

It was a perfect day: reasonable temperature, blue skies, sunshine, and a breeze. We found the zoo with no problems. I brought Flat Thomas along and took a few pictures with him. A tortoise peed on Becca and me. We didn't get sunburned. The food was alright. The animals were out and about, and we got to see all of our favorites. Laughter was in abundance.

The reason I'm sharing the past two days with you is because I learned something of tremendous value. I experienced something great. When something unfortunate happens, there is always something good following alongside. When I needed help the most, God provided a way for me to not feel sad. He blessed me with amazingly wonderful friends, and He blessed us with a beautiful day to share with one another.

The Lord walks with us always, through everything. Sometimes we don't realize it. I was fortunate enough to realize this, and when I asked for help, I was able to see the blessings He provided right in front of me. The Spirit works through our friends and maybe even through zoo animals, especially bears, tigers, and sea otters.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Being An Instrument of Peace

Today I found my patience being tested. A lack of communication and understanding between myself and another person made this morning quite interesting to say the least. It was nothing bad, but to a third party observer, it would have been incredibly funny to watch. As I was trying out blog ideas in my head today, this morning's "discussion" seemed to correlate perfectly with being an instrument of peace.

A while back, I had discovered on a retreat that one of my goals is to be an instrument of peace for those around me...friends, family, perfect strangers.
Just being friendly and having a smile on your face can be enough to be an instrument of peace. Showing God's love can be effortless at times, but it can also be challenging too. It can be particularly hard sometimes to bring peace to certain situations, to show love to someone that makes it difficult to do so, or even to just take the time to listen when we don't feel like listening. It's difficult yes, but it's not impossible. That's when I like to say the Peace Prayer of St. Francis. It helps me a lot.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;

where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;

where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;

Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood, as to understand, to be loved as to love; for it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Peace, Love, and Graduation

This past week has been a very busy one to say the least. Cleaning, sending out thank yous, and going to an awards ceremony kept me away from the blogging world. It was all in preparation for my graduation.

Today I graduated from Lenoir City High School. It was relatively short and being in the back of the alphabet didn't bother me too much while waiting for my name to be called. The valedictory speeches were good, and the crowd behaved surprisingly well. I shook a lot of hands, took a lot of pictures with family, friends, and teachers, and was even a little sweaty. (The school gymnasium is not well ventilated, and the black gowns were stuffy). And, it didn't rain! All in all, it was a memorable experience. I only get to do it once after all, so why not enjoy it?

I am going to miss high school. The four years I spent there encompass a wide range of words. Mostly, I am going to miss the people. I thought it was very fitting when I was driving home that the song "Peace and Love" by Blessid Union of Souls came on. It's one of my favorites. At the end of every email or letter, I say "peace and love, Ashley", and this song wishes peace and love. So, peace and love to all the graduates, family, and my friends. This song says everything and then some.

May every star you wish upon
And every hope you're hangin' on come true
Out of everybody in the world
There's no one who deserves it more than you
I hope you find
Everyhing you've been dreamin' of
Only good things
No in betweens just
Peace and love

These words did not come easily
Still you know I had to write them down
You must know what you mean to me
I wish that you could always be around
I hope you find
Everything you are worthy of
I'm gonna miss you
But I only wish you
Peace and love

Peace and love
Tears of joy
Kindness of strangers
All of your roads
Paved in gold
By guardian angels
Wherever you may be in this world
My salutation says it all
May you always have enough
Peace and love

I let you go unselfishly
Cause everyone needs time to be alone
Well maybe time will bring you back
And if it does you'll always have a home
I sign my name
No one to blame it on because
I'm on your side
No question of pride

Peace and love
Tears of joy
Kindness of strangers
All of your roads
Paved in gold
By guardian angels
Wherever you may be in this world
My salutation says it all
May you always have enough
Peace and Love

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

And So It Begins

After my brief tenure as a guest blogger on Blessed Is The Kingdom, I was asked by several friends and family members to keep writing. I thought it would be a good idea, seeing as I love doing this kind of thing.

Before I actually begin blogging, I thought I'd tell you about If Necessary, Use Words. The idea came to me when I read one of my favorite quotes. Saint Francis of Assisi said, "Preach the Gospel at all times; if necessary, use words." I love this quote because it is so true. It is how I want to live my life. We should all strive to preach the Gospel, and if we need to, then we can use words to preach. It's all about our actions, my actions. St. Francis is one of my role models.

I must tell you ahead of time that this place will not always be full of serious, religious, or deep-thinking material. I'm eighteen years old with a sense of humor, and I love being a kid.
So, without further ado, here goes!