Monday, July 27, 2009

Thanks Padre

This blog is in response to a post by Elizabeth Mahlou about the priests in her life, found here. Thanks for the springboard! Since one priest in my life has been assigned to a new position in the diocese, I thought it fitting to both answer Elizabeth's question and tell everyone about him.

Father David Boettner came to St. Thomas the Apostle in 2002 to help a parish in need of healing. It's been 7 years and a few months since his arrival. The transformation has been amazing. This community of faith and love has become a second home to me (partly because I spend a lot of time there!). This past weekend was the last time that Fr. David said Mass with us. Because I can be emotional, I wasn't sure how the "last mass" would be for me. I did cry, but what I enjoyed the most was reliving the memories.

During his homily, Fr. David talked about his first time saying mass at St. Thomas. That was also the first time that I had to altar serve by myself, and boy was I scared out of my mind. He kept asking me all of these questions, and I didn't know how to answer half of them! This nice young guy was extremely cool about it though, and he wasn't mean like some crotchety old priests have been. It was fitting to serve alongside FD once more, except this time my sister was serving with me.

He's been a chaperone for youth events, when really, who in their right mind would want to spend a weekend shuffling teenagers around? Well, he did. Sometimes he'd have to leave early, like the time some of the youth went to the National Catholic Youth Conference in Atlanta. He drove up separately in his own car so that he could both spend time with us and make it back to St. Thomas to say mass the same weekend. On Confirmation and Post-Confirmation group retreats, he'd be there leading us in prayer, teaching us a lesson, and even leading us on hikes.

During our all day summer youth program, he'd come by and visit. Because he's a very busy guy, he sometimes only had enough time to run through and say hello. Other times he would hang out for awhile. I've gone to the church office many times, and if he was there and not in a meeting (a rarity!) he'd come out and talk.

FD has a knack for finding people's gifts and talents. He also has a knack for giving people jobs and things to do where people will succeed and perhaps find their calling. When I was a sophomore, he sort of strongly but nicely suggested that I become a lector and a Eucharistic Minister. I did and couldn't thank him enough for, well, pushing me into those ministries! That summer, he asked if I would put together a video about the church's first mission trip to NPH in El Salvador. Then, he said I should go to El Salvador after my junior year. Of course I did! El Salvador and Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos have now become a big part of my life. I was blessed (and thankfully asked!) to go again this summer. I was underage the first trip and unaccompanied by a parent. So when we arrived to the San Salvador airport, he pretended to be my father while we went through customs and immigration. Calling him "Dad" every now and then after the trip stuck. This year he has truly become one of my dads.

When he found out that I had never skipped a day of high school, he and my youth minister devised a plan and took me on a hike...and of course while skipping school! He even braved the small, packed, stuffy high school gym to come to my graduation.
He picks on me sometimes, but I just dish it right back to him. He advises me when I come to him with a question that I have wrestled with. He talks and listens to everyone. He calls us to be the face of God to others, and he sets a very good example on how to be that. Yes he is a priest, but he truly is a man of God. Fr. David is not just a good priest and shepherd; he is also a great friend, mentor, and father (in the parental sense of the word).

The reason I'm telling you about him and some memories is because I just always assumed that where he is now and what he has been doing would be a permanent fixture (although I subconsciously knew better than to think that!). His new assignment is just down the road from where I'll be going to college. He will be missed at St. Thomas, but lovingly welcomed to his new home.

Part of his homily talked about the Eucharist and how many times our faith community has gathered together every weekend, every Holy Day, and every sacrament in between to celebrate the Eucharist. The word eucharist means to give thanks, and that is what he did. He thanked the people of St. Thomas for the time he was given with us, for the memories, for the love. Now I would like to say, once again, thank you Father David. And thanks be to God for sending FD to us.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

God's Will


I often struggle with discerning God's will. What does it sound like when God is trying to tell you something? What does it feel like? I wish I had all of the answers, because I know there are many.

I am sure that a theologian or a clergy member can better answer those questions, maybe not. I just know that as a child of God who is young and less experienced in the "arena of life", this is what it feels like to me. This is my experience. I can be very straightforward, so naturally I would like most things to be straightforward...like, "Hey. It's God. This is what I'm saying..." or like the picture above. God works in mysterious and not so mysterious ways. Sometimes it is so clear and obvious, but more often than not, I find myself striving to better understand (or even just grasp) what God may be trying to tell me.

And then, once we discern the will of God, how do you act on it? You must completely give yourself to God: mind, body, heart, and soul. I too struggle with that. Sometimes it is difficult to just hand the reins over. We're all human, and we like to be in control of things. I think, however, that once we realize who we are handing the reins of our lives over to, it becomes easier. Not that your life will become perfect, but that you know you'll be taken care of by someone who cares for and loves you.

The following reflection helped me a lot, and since I know I'm not the only person to struggle with discerning and following God's will, I want to share it with you:

"In accord with Scripture, Christ did not please Himself." -Romans 15:3

Saintly words: "The greatest gift that we can receive from God in the present world is this: to know how, to desire, and to be able to conquer self by renouncing our own will." -St. Francis of Assisi

Talking with God: Heavenly Father, teach me how to discern Your will, how to follow it, and how to make it my own in all things. For in this lies true happiness both in this world and in the next.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Wild Fire


Horse Haven's newest arrival is a little chestnut colored foal named Wild Fire. He is now a week old (as of July 20), and he has captured the hearts of every volunteer, especially me!

We brought Fancy Pants (his mom) and Wild Fire out into one of the pastures to give them some exercise. At first, he just stayed with his mom, never leaving her side. I went into the barn to do some chores, and when I came back out, Wild Fire was running around at top speed. His little legs were flying over the grass as he nickered and whinnied. He bounced around and threw his head back with delight. He was thoroughly enjoying himself and making the most of his brief window of outside time. For a second, I found myself wishing I could be him!

It's fascinating to watch a mare and foal interact. When it was time to move both Fancy and Wild Fire, all we did was lead Fancy back into the barn. Wild Fire had no halter on, and he just walked right beside his mom. I was amazed. When I went to take some pictures of him, he tried to eat Flat Thomas and the camera. As Fancy ate grain, Wild Fire stood underneath her neck and played in the water bucket, splashing everything. I decided then that foals are much more fun than human babies. I'm not saying babies are overrated, but it was refreshing to watch a different form of infant explore and be silly. It was also a nice way to appreciate the gift of life. If you have a block of ice for a heart, I am pretty sure that your heart will melt and become full of that fire of joy, happiness, and love...all because of Wild Fire.

Every time I am around Horse Haven's horses (and even my own cats), I am convinced more and more that God works through animals and touches your heart.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Cleaning


With my moving out of the house date looming on the horizon, I have had to clean. I mean, CLEAN. It's a go through everything and get rid of junk kind of clean. I've been working on little sections of my room for a little over a week now, and if you didn't already know, well, I'm a pack rat. I save everything. I collect, pilfer, and hide silly little things like they were going out of style.

I'm a good pack rat though. I make my room look clean, but one false step, and an avalanche of crap/stuff/things/useless and not useless junk could bury you alive. I don't dust very often either, so a lot of the things I've been going through haven't seen Pledge or a dust rag in years. Seriously. I've gone through a couple of shirts that accidentally turned into dust rags. The cats and dogs that sleep in my room throughout all hours of the day have left their mark as well. I've never seen so much animal hair in my life! The fun part of this dirty job is that I've found a lot of things that remind me of my childhood. Old memories were instantly triggered just by picking up an ancient middle school note asking me to the dance, a broken watch, a friend's picture, my Great Grandmother's jewelry...the list is endless.

Today I found a stack of bookmarks that had the paper clip they were trapped in stretched beyond recognition. These were bookmarks that I have actually used over the past decade or so. I'm only keeping a small amount of the twenty-six. I've dog-eared my Bible too much, so these nifty little place holders will do the job nicely. Here is what my favorite religious bookmarks said:

!) "The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." -Galatians 5:22, 23

2) King's Kid. "You are God's work of art, made new in Jesus Christ to do good things." (Ephesians 2:10). God is always with me.

3) A Winner's Creed: If you think you are beaten, you are; if you think you dare not, you don't; if you'd like to win, but think you can't, it's almost a cinch you won't. If you think you'll lose, you're lost, for out in the world we find success begins with a person's faith; it's all in the state of mind. Life's battles don't always go to the stronger or faster hand; they go to the one who trusts in God and always thinks "I can."

I certainly have enjoyed cleaning my room thus far. Put a smile on your face and clean your room too!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Not Quite A Princess...


My good friend recently posed a question to me: As a woman seeking God's face, what does it take to be a young woman who is a princess in Christ?

Well, when I started thinking about my response, I wasn't sure what to say. I've always been a tomboy, sort of outdoorsy, preferred to wear boy's shorts instead of little girl's shorts...you know, those types of things. Naturally, I shied away from the word princess as soon as I saw the word in my friend's question.

There is nothing wrong with being a princess, I just never felt that I ever was the princess type. I think the closest that I've ever felt like a princess was playing the Pretty Pretty Princess game. To me, a princess is beautiful (inside and out), otherworldly, educated. She has been given (or was born with) some responsibilities and gifts that maybe she didn't want at first, but slowly, she learns to do the best with what she has been given. I feel that my friends and I fit this particular description in some form or fashion. My definition also spans history; it includes princesses past and present. Not all of them fit this definition. That's okay.

So I guess my answer to the question doesn't involve the word princess. I still shy away from the word. I'm sorry that because I do, I can't answer it in the same way as others can, but here's my answer anyway.

To me, seeking God's face means trying to be His friend. A friend of the very best kind. Even though we bring our brokenness and sinfulness to the table, we can still be God's friend. We are born with an innate longing for something bigger than ourselves, for God. So naturally, we yearn for a relationship with Him. Jesus gave and still gives us a chance to experience "the personal touch", to feel God's human presence. It is up to us whether or not we want the the friendship, the relationship, to grow. If we don't communicate, pray, and be an active member, then we just end up walking in circles going nowhere.

While I may not feel that I am a "princess" in Christ, I certainly feel and know that I am a "something" in Christ, if that makes any sense. As a young woman who constantly seeks the love of God, I feel that God is my friend. My protector. My team leader.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Not So Typical

One of my favorite songs is "Typical" by the band Mute Math. Even better than the song, is their music video. Take some time to sit back and watch because it is really cool! Listen to the lyrics as well. They just might help you if you're having one of those days...

Thursday, July 9, 2009

It's An Adventure


Today, some friends and I carried out an adventure that feels like a tradition in the making. (At least I hope it will be!). Dwayne, Megan, Lindsey, and I set off from the Walmart parking lot all piled in with what seemed like everything we owned in my trunk.

My lead foot got us to Tellico Plains faster than we expected, so we dropped by the best little bakery in the world, Tellico Grains. I picked up a cheesecake brownie, and we proceeded down the Cherohala Skyway towards our somewhat unknown destination. None of us had been to Bald River Falls before...sort of. It turns out that Lindsey had been once. We turned at the first right onto what we thought was the correct road. After about ten minutes, we came to a fork in the road. It was definitely not anywhere near a river or waterfall. I turned around and headed back down the little gravel road. Now, I'm only owning up to the mishap because I believe it is a part of my DNA to not follow directions on the first try, just ask my dad and my priest. While on the way back down, we kept repeating, "It's an adventure. It's an adventure." And what an adventure it was.

Instead of turning, we should have gone straight. We made it to Bald River Falls, but there weren't any open parking spaces. So we went further down the road to a campsite, and we walked back towards the main drag. We took a picture in front of the falls, and then looked up at the sky which had turned a little gray. There was only one patch of blue sky left. Awesome, we all thought. The weatherman said it wasn't supposed to rain. Before we went on the actual trail, we climbed our way down to the bank just below the falls and played there.


We moved onto the trail, and I ran into an old friend that I haven't seen since he graduated last year. That was really nice. We hadn't even made it to the top of the falls before it started to rain. Shelter took the form of a rock outcropping. After 10 minutes or so, I was brave enough to say let's keep going. We didn't drive all the way out to sit under a rock and not hike! Then the rain lightened to a drizzle. I think we made it 45 minutes into the trail before we got to a particularly slick part that was at a weird angle, and the rain had picked up significantly. Not thinking, we didn't bring any ponchos. We decided to turn around and hike home.

The best part was stopping twice instead of going straight back. When it was my turn to be leader, I left the trail and headed down to the water. Dwayne and I walked on the rocks into the middle of the river. While on our way to the little path we saw that led back up to the trail, I took a step with my left foot and landed in a few inches of water. Why worry about a little wet foot? I was already soaked from the rain. Our next detour was another spot on the bank further down where there were plenty of colored rocks. We tried making face/war paint, but the rain washed it right back off.

After our hike in the rain, we went back to Tellico Grains Bakery and had lunch. The sun came back out, and it was the only time we were a little frustrated the entire trip. Of course the sun came out after we ended the hike. Our sandwiches were awesome. If you ever make it up there, try the Waucheesi Club.

This hike, affectionately known as "journalism takes over the hiking trail", was one of the coolest escapades I've had with friends. Even though it rained, we had fun. Truly. We started planning the next trip when the whole group (nine people) can go again. It was quite an adventure: full of trial and error, lots of rain drops, good food, and great company.

Morning Reflection

"Whatever your task may be, work at it with your whole being. Do it for the Lord, not for men." -Colossians 3:23

Saintly words: "We do not cease praying so long as we continue to do good. The prayer of the heart and of good deeds has more value than the prayer of the lips." -St. Augustine

Talking with God: Dear God, move me to make a morning offering to You each day. Grant that all my deeds during the day may be a devout continuation of my prayer begun in the morning.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Horsin' Around

I know that the last few posts haven't been about faith or really anything to "learn" from, but I enjoy sharing pieces of my life. So here is my latest adventure!

Yesterday my best friend Becca, her mom, a family friend, and I went to the Kentucky Horse Park. While waking up at 5:30 in the morning was not the highlight of the trip, we set off early in order to spend all day at the park. We got there and noticed that there was an awful lot of construction going on inside. Because the Kentucky Horse Park will host the 2010 FEI World Equestrian Games, the park was undergoing major renovations to accommodate the influx of horses and events for next summer. The others had been to the park many times before, whereas I had never been. They came to find over the course of the day that a lot of things were different. Becca's mom stated it well when she said the park seemed to be at "half mast." That didn't stop us from having fun though.

We are all horse people, so naturally we were in our element. I loved it! The history of the park and the property, the miniature horse's little snot of a foal (yes, imagine a baby horse but ten times smaller...it's real), and the big barns were all very interesting. I'm a history buff, and I thoroughly enjoyed the history of the horse museum. It was an entire museum dedicated to just the horse...awesome! Here is a piece of information that you will never use: when transported across the ocean, horses were hoisted onto the ship in a sling. They stayed in that sling the entire length of the journey, suspended over the floor so that they could "move with the ship" and stay off their legs.

Obviously my favorite things involved actual horses. The Hall of Champions introduced you to famous Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds. We were able to see Kona Gold, Da Hoss, Cigar, Funny Cide, and Western Dreamer if you know who any of those horse legends are. The Parade of Breeds displayed several different horse breeds. Horse and rider alike were costumed according to the horse's history. That was really cool. And of course, the Draft Horses. Who doesn't love a gentle giant? They are massive up close.

(Funny Cide)
(Parade of Breeds, left to right: Friesian, Morgan, Appaloosa, and an Arabian)

(Burt, the English Shire...massive isn't he?)My fun day was spent horsing around in horse country at a place where these wonderful creatures are honored. "Thou shalt fly without wings" is a quote that you see often at the horse park. If you have ever seen a horse gallop or have had the privilege of riding one, then you know that this quote is very true. If you have never been to the Kentucky Horse Park, I suggest you go. It is one of the coolest places that I've ever been. Although, you might want to wait until after the construction and the horse games!

In a way, every adventure is a time for you to learn something. This latest one helped me to appreciate the horse even more and thank God for them. I encourage you to go on an adventure, you never know what you might learn from it!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Berry Picking

This morning my family and I went blackberry picking. The old archery range that my grandparents have behind their house is loaded with berry bushes. While a lot of the berries are not ripe yet, there were still plenty to pick. It was quite an adventure. Getting pricked by thorns, tripping over remnants of bushes in the newly blazed paths, being whacked in the head by branches (while being a passenger on the four-wheeler), and a poison ivy scare made it all the more special. You see in my family, if someone doesn't get hurt while on an outing, it is out of the ordinary. It was nice to capture the moments on camera, especially three generations of the Stang family having fun outdoors.

Picking blackberries is a great way to appreciate nature. It is also an interesting way to celebrate the fourth of July. While I am not a blackberry fan myself, my sister can say for sure that this is one fruit that God wants us to take and eat. So enjoy your cobblers, hot dogs, and fireworks and have a happy Independence Day!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Dog Days

At my house, we know it is officially summer when our dog, Rocky, gets his annual haircut. If you ever felt horrible about a haircut gone awry, then you'll certainly feel for poor Rocky. Now granted, he is supposed to look this way, but it is still quite a loss of hair. It was a terrible ordeal for him yesterday, and he practically jumped off the grooming table when he saw my sister and me come to spring him from his version of hell. Look at him now...

I just thought I would share a little humor with everyone, and be thankful that you are not covered with as much hair as Rocky.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Optimus Prime is My Hero


I absolutely love the Transformers franchise. While I did not play with the toys as a child, I believe I made up for that lost time when I first watched Transformers two summers ago. If you ask my family and friends, they will probably tell you that I'm obsessed. What 18 year old girl loves autonomous robotic organisms? Well, I do. I have an Optimus Prime key chain on my car keys.

My favorite Autobot is Optimus Prime. Actually, he's one of my heroes. He is the leader of the Autobots, a semi truck, and he always saves the day! He also says some profound things. It's a little silly I know, but two of my all time favorite quotes are said by him.

A big thanks to imdb.com for having the "Memorable Quotes" section on their site. From the first movie, Transformers:
Ironhide: Why are we fighting to save the humans? They're a primitive and violent race.
Optimus Prime: Were we so different? They're a young species. They have much to learn. But I've seen goodness in them. Freedom is the right of all sentient beings. You all know there's only one way to end this war: we must destroy the Cube. If all else fails, I will unite it with the spark in my chest.
Ratchet: That's suicide! The Cube is raw power, it could destroy you both!
Optimus Prime: A necessary sacrifice to bring peace to this planet. We cannot let the humans pay for our mistakes. It's been an honor serving with you all. Autobots, roll out!

Now do you see why he is awesome? Last Friday I went to the movies with some friends. What was our movie of choice? Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Once again, Optimus Prime gives the world a great quote.

From Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen:
Optimus Prime: Fate rarely calls upon us at a moment of our choosing.

So why blog about alien robots who save the day? Well, besides the fact that the movies are freaking awesome, the characters say some things that I think we could all learn from. Seriously. If we shared the heroic view that Optimus has of helping and fighting for the human race, maybe the world would be a better place. And of course, it is very interesting when you ponder the last quote...