note to self: don’t be shallow

One of my favorite movies is “Shallow Hal.” Jack Black, “Hal,” is indeed “shallow,” as he only judges women by their faces, their figures– an increasingly common occurrence in my generation. However, BAM! One day, Hal is hypnotized to be able to see only inner beauty!

Supermodel women who have ugly souls suddenly appear externally hideous to Hal. On the contrary, not very attractive women (at least, by worldly standards) who have beautiful souls suddenly appear VERY externally gorgeous to Hal.

Perhaps this movie spoke to me in high school because I was overweight back then, and felt like the world didn’t quite think I was pretty. (Yet God’s love still made me feel beautiful, no matter what. I was His daughter, and I knew He doted upon me!)

I also really liked the movie because, as a young woman, I was so tired of the young men around me… proving to me that they were only boys. I’d hear things like, “She’s so HOT,” “I’d do that,” or even that simple perverted “YES” so, so many times. After hearing boys say ridiculously objectifying statements like this, I’d promise myself: “I am never going to date or marry a boy who says that kinda stuff. I want to date and marry a man.”

My best friend and I talked about these things endlessly. We knew we were worth far more than what boys were looking for. I recently came up across this little pictogram, and it totes sums up those thoughts from my teenage years!

Image

Moving on… I’d like to ask… Have you ever had one of those nanosecond moments that completely changed your life?

I can count dozens of such times, straight from the hands of God. In fact, in middle school, I believe that God really wanted to get through to my self-conscious teenage girl within, when I saw this Scripture verse on my girl friend’s AIM profile: “Man judges by the outer appearance, but the LORD sees the heart.”

The Douay Rheims version, you ask? (Please excuse my hardcore Catholic nerding out): “…Nor do I judge according to the look of man: for man seeth those things that appear, but the Lord beholdeth the heart.” –1 Samuel 16.7

The heart! The heart! The LORD saw my heart! He BEHELD it. God didn’t judge me just upon my outer beauty.

God didn’t care that I didn’t have the perfect, trendiest wardrobe from Limited Too (again, I’m dating myself– it’s called “Justice” now). He didn’t care that I didn’t plaster my eyes in makeup (I was pretty afraid of that stuff at 12). He didn’t care that I didn’t have a body like Britney Spears (she’d just made her debut back then).

No. The LORD cared about my heart! He saw it, and He loved it. He saw me.

Yet lo and behold, a decade later, even after that beautiful realization, I still struggle with issues of body image.  And a decade later, you can take all of those statements, and just fill them in with some different trendy store for 20-somethings, a new makeup trend, and another celebrity whose body I would love to have.

Yet I suppose I have to be a little forgiving of my circumstances. I mean, it’s just so difficult to be a woman today and to NOT feel pressured to have the perfect body, the perfect face.

In a world of airbrushing and shows like “The Bachelor,” it’s so hard to brush aside those subliminal and not-so-subliminal messages that scream: LADIES, YOU’RE WORTH YOUR OUTER BEAUTY!

Yes, even with the LORD and– lo and behold, a decade later, an amazing boyfriend! (think: a man who LOVES and not a boy who LUSTS)– it can still be a struggle for a woman to fight off that “beauty is skin deep” message with which the world bombards her.

I often ask myself: with the LORD and with an amazing boyfriend who loves the inner me, why is this self image battle still hard to fight?

The only conclusion I can draw is that my feminine nature will always be prey to the fallen nature of my humanity. And the only solution that I can draw is that I must really work at letting the Spirit completely change my mentality!

On days when I stand in front of the mirror, saddened my perceivedly fuller face… and on days when I stand on the scale, saddened at a number that’s just a few digits higher… I need to pray for strength from the Holy Spirit to believe that it’s my INNER BEAUTY, not my outer beauty, that matters most!

Yes, it’s my inner beauty– the virtues that are ALIVE within– that I need to be concerned about.

I need to tell Satan that my body isn’t his, and that I am not going to listen to his LIES. More importantly, I need to tell GOD that my body IS His, and that I am going to listen to His TRUTH!

And what is that Truth? That I’ll always be of infinite self worth, and a beautiful, ravishing daughter in God’s sight. Inside and out! No matter what anyone else says. So long as I keep fighting to cultivate my INNER beauty, pick up my cross, and follow Him!

My everyday, saint-in-the-making note to self? Don’t be shallow. You are worth so much more. You are a beautiful daughter of God. You are His!

Imma Be… a SAINT

I… have the soul of an artist. Or I at least I feel like I fit the stereotypes: emotional, passionate, idealistic. Not as organized nor as timely as I’d like to be. (I hate to admit that last bit.)

Empirical proof to back my theoretical conjecture? On an official Myers Briggs personality inventory, I was assessed as an “INFP”: the personality type often referred to as the “healer” (perhaps reflecting my career choice), the “dreamer,” and yes… the “artist.”

Being the “artist” type, having very intense emotions does, in many ways, make me feel most alive. Ironically, however, being the nearly 100% correlated “dreamer” type also paradoxically hinders me from bringing my dreams INTO life.

Yes, as in that lovely Langston Hughes poem, I, too, have dreams deferred. Dreams… sitting like raisins in the hot, hot sun. Dreams… ready to explode.

But my, O my, how I wish these dreams would come to life! Why? Not for mere self gratification, but because my dreams are my Divinely-inspired duties. Because I am a unique daughter of God, and God wants me to be woman fully alive! As St. Irenaeus says: “The glory of God is man fully alive.”

The more that I meditate on these words, the more that I realize that the only way for me to be fully alive in Christ is by being His DISCIPLINED disciple! Disciplined. I never really wrapped my head around the fact that “disciple” is derived from the word “discipline.”

Disciplined. Nothing less.

Even if every bit of my “artist” personality and temperament screams “spontaneity.”

For I am not a mere artist. I am God’s paintbrush. And I do not  merely create. I let God create through me. And being a co-creator with the Master takes genuine, blood-and-sweat discipline.

But blood-and-sweat discipline is worth it. Because, through me, and much to my humility, I know that God can blow Da Vinci outta da water!

Yet why do I fail to realize it so often– that I am called to greatness? That I have been given much, and that much is being asked from me?

All too often, Satan wants me to believe that I am a nothing, a nobody, that I’ll never amount to anything but mediocre. But that’s not what God made me for. Yes, He wants us to be humble. But it doesn’t mean that He doesn’t also want us to be GREAT.

Humility and greatness in Christ are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they are bound together. For when we are weak, we are strong in Him (2 Corinthians 12:10).

Pope Benedict XVI tells us: “You were not designed for comfort. You were designed for greatness.”

More importantly, Jesus tells us: “Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required; and of him to whom men commit much they will demand the more. I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled!” (Luke 12:48-49)

As a saint in the making, I’m called to dream BIG.

Do I merely hear the words of Jesus go into one ear, then out the other? Or do I believe the words of Jesus in my heart? Do I make His Will my very food (John 4:34)?

Like the summer hit “We Are Young” by Play, Jesus wants me to “kindle” the fire that He’s already cast upon the earth (Luke 12:49)! Jesus is calling me to set the world on fire… burning brighter… than the sun!

Yep, Play is totally just plagiarizing St. Catherine of Siena, who said: “If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world on fire!”

Well, who am I? And who should I be, so that I can set the whole world on fire? (That sounds pretty awesome. In a non pyro kinda way.)

I am God’s disciplined disciple. I am a saint in the making. And one day, in Heaven…

Imma be, Imma be, Imma Imma Imma be…  a SAINT!

There is no soul who can fill my shoes on this earth. There is no soul who can touch certain souls the way that God wants me to touch them.

It’s true for me, and it’s true for you!

As rising YouTube star SheIsCatholic says… “Be a saint!”

God’s healing love

“My soul shall be sated as with choice food,

with joyous lips my mouth shall praise you!

I think of you upon my bed,

I remember you through the watches of the night.

You indeed are my savior,

and in the shadow of your wings I shout for joy.

My soul clings fast to you;

your right hand upholds me.”

–Psalm 63:7-9

Lost. Alone. It is precisely in these moments, most especially when I fail to realize it and/or deny it, that God is there– His right hand grasping me even tighter, upholding me with ALL of His might.

One of my favorite psalms is the above Psalm 63. I will always muse at the ways that God works His love into my life. Through the sacraments. Through the voice and the embrace of my saint-in-the-making boyfriend. Through my highly supportive friends.

God is always the one whose love is being transmitted– it is only His love that heals. My spirit is forever restless for Him. I only pray that I too can be a vessel of His healing love as I work in the profession of counseling and therapy.

an (im)modest return: tales at Target

“Is there anything wrong with this item?” the Target customer service lady asked.

“Nope!” I chimed, as I was returning a summer dress.

However, I continued to think… not out loud, that is:

“Nope! Nothing except the fact that my boyfriend says that it’s immodest, and it might not be good for his chastity for him to see me in it!”

Yup, that’s right. I was returning the dress because my boyfriend thought it was immodest. Not me. My boyfriend. My boyfriend wanted to guard my purity, and his purity!

So let’s rewind a little.

Before visiting my boyfriend a couple of months ago (we are in a long distance relationship), I went on a little shopping spree for summer dresses. And a week before my flight, I had a little “fashion show” for my boyfriend on webcam– catwalk and all!– where I modeled my new purchases. (Yes, you have to start getting very creative with the Skype dates when you’re long distance!)

Well, this one particular summer dress was: A. coral, B. had a form-fitting bodice top, and C. …had vertical stripes on the upper half. Personally, I thought it was to die for. And of course, I thought it was modest, too. (Well, after accessorizing it with a cardigan.)

But my boyfriend? Well, he thought otherwise.

All of the other dresses that I was modeling for my cute brute were seeming to get his approval. Smiles, compliments. (Tangent: I like to call my boyfriend my “cute brute” jokingly; he’s definitely quite the opposite– a very sweet guy!)

When I modeled this coral striped dress, however, I noticed that he very quickly averted his eyes. (Almost the way you would when you were little, and would see another little kid in the sandbox throwing sand at your face.) And my boyfriend immediately said, “I don’t think that’s something you should wear.”

Now, you ask… how did I, the “model,” feel?

First off, I felt flabbergasted. “What? This was the first dress I saw and liked! [Think: eyes meeting and instantly falling in love– ladies, you know how shopping can feel.] It’s  my favorite!” I clucked. How could it be? How could he not like it? This dress is so pretttty!

“Well, it’s the stripes. They bring a lot of focus to…” my boyfriend started to explain.

But before he could finish his sentence, I understood. And I’m not going to lie, I pouted a little. I muttered a few complaints. Why this dress? Why couldn’t I wear it? But then I woman-ed up. Why, you ask?

Because… secondly… I felt… respected. Utterly… respected.

I felt honored. I felt cherished.

I felt loved.

Here I am, dating an (amazing) young man who is highly attracted to me (or, I suppose he is– after all, he is my sweetheart… er, cute brute!)– and who loves me so very much. My boyfriend doesn’t want ever to objectify me! Rather, he wants to look at me with pure eyes. Pure eyes! How utterly attractive is that?

I think there are two morals to this little tale of the (im)modest return.

The first moral?

Sometimes, young ladies (like myself) can be completely dense as to what clothing items look immodest on them. Honestly, I had no idea that vertical stripes could play eye games with guys. (And here are guys trying their best to be so valiant, fighting for pure thoughts and modesty of the eyes!)

Sometimes, it just takes a real live man, in vivo, to call the shots about what’s immodest or not. Here are some words of encouragement: Guys– particularly, boyfriends– Be not afraid! You can help us ladies who would like to dress more modestly in a gentle, tasteful way. Perhaps preface a wardrobe intervention with a kindly stated: “I know you really value chastity/modesty, and I’d just like to say that the (insert clothing item here) that you’re wearing may not really help with that.”

The second moral?

Young men (like my boyfriend) are simply 1,000 times more attractive — no, one zillion times more attractive! — when they are more like our man Saint Joseph. At least that’s how I feel as a young woman. (Confession: Another nickname for my boyfriend? My “St. Joseph”!)

Personally, I like to think of Saint Joseph as a wonderful role model and illustration of who I would like my future husband to be like. It’s just SO incredibly romantic to think that Saint Joseph was married to Mother Mary– THE most ravishing, beautiful woman ever alive!– and in their marriage, always respected, honored, and cherished her virginal purity. Yowza! Now that’s sexy. And that’s macho. And that’s holy.

To conclude, all I can say is this: O, the wonders of the world of fashion! As a young woman striving  to dress more modestly (note: in a present-day shopping world where everything seems so sultry), it’s certainly been an interesting adventure. Who knew that it’d also prove to have its quite touching moments as well? 🙂

[And, for the record, Target’s starting to become quite fashionable!]

high on LIFE

My family was driving around San Diego tonight, and we were looking for a place to eat. I pulled out my handy Yelp! app. After reading descriptions to various restaurants aloud, we zeroed in on a sandwich place with lots of good ratings. And off we were.

Still in the car on our way there, I continued to read more of the menu aloud. It was then that I realized that the place served “special” brownies. I also noted that the leaf graphics on the menu looked a lot like marijuana leaves. And that the subs came in sizes named “nugs,” “pinners” and “blunts.” What was this place– a hippie place?!

When we got to the place, it was confirmed– the sign said “CHeBA Hut: ‘TOASTED’ Subs”– and the “Order Here” sign was on a giant blunt. The theme of this restaurant?: Marijuana.

Very surprised at first, and with some laughs, my family stood outside the restaurant, looking at the posted menu and through the window, at the gaudy, in-your-face “weed” theme.

Besides the shock value of the giant hanging blunts, the sandwiches smelled excellent even outside the door. It was 8:30 PM, we were starving, and the rest of my family trickled in.

Yet I found myself silently protesting going inside. Or, rather, I found the deepest part of my heart protesting stepping foot in the place. The tiny little core of my heart asked me: “Rosanna, will you regret this?”

“What would I regret?,” I asked my heart back.  With a little more time to ponder, I came to the conclusion that I would regret supporting a place that promoted emptiness– that promoted what Pope John Paul II calls a “culture of death.”

Now, that “culture of death” term may sound a bit dramatic, but… (after sitting outside and hanging up on the phone with my boyfriend, who I was saying goodnight to while my family ate)… I still hesitated to even go into the restaurant… and remained outside thinking about my heart’s silent protest a bit more.

My thoughts?

Yes, marijuana gives individuals a “high,” but what does that high consist of? Empty pleasure. That high is not an experience of anything genuinely meaningful; it is an experience of emptiness that merely feels good. And when you feel “good,” it’s not even like you’re being yourself and feeling good. Marijuana alters your mind; you have no capacity to  really even think straight.

And while you’re in that altered state, instead of growing as a person and using the gifts that God has given you to make the world a better place… you’re letting your gifts go to waste… and dying inside. You’re not flourishing nor thriving as that individual that God made you. You’re just floundering and meandering in pleasure that really has no purpose.

During that time getting high, how many people could you have brought life to instead?

420, Pot, Mary Jane… No thank you. I’d very much rather be high on LIFE.

I’m sick of the empty promises that the world throws at me.

I want to be part of a revolution that helps people come to life! And what does that mean to me?

Being high on life means deriving pleasure from the things that God has ordained to give meaning to your life, such as via giving yourself to others– and through that, giving yourself to God. This includes performing corporal and spiritual works of mercy, to name a few.

Being high on life means gaining pleasure from being man or woman fully alive– from being the unique individual that God made you to be, changing the world in the way that He wants you to change it. No one else can fill your shoes.

Being high on life means building the Kingdom of God, and seeing others come to life because of God’s life and love.

Being high on life in Christ is a not an empty promise, but a covenantal promise that always delivers. Life in Christ never feels empty. For when you live in Christ and you give of yourself in His name, you find yourself coming to life in ways you had never imagined.

The conclusion of the night?

OK, maybe “CHeBA Hut” had amazing subs. (My family said it was pretty good.) But I’m glad that I listened to my heart and I didn’t set foot in the place. Why? Because I want nothing at all to do with the culture of death. Nothing.

I want to be alive. I want to help others to be alive.

It might sound corny, but nothing’s ever been more true and beautiful in my life thus far… nothing’s been more real… nothing’s delivered more… than that JOY which I have found in chasing Christ’s heart.

Christ promises me life, and He delivers.

My heart’s beating passionately. Heck YEAH I’m high! I’m high on life… my life in Christ!