First Friday in May (May 2, 2014)

+J.M.J.+

Well, tomorrow is the day. In less than 24 hours, if God is willing, I will walk across the stage and end a four-year chapter of my life. In reality, I suppose it is more of a 17-18 year chapter, seeing as I have been in school for, well, as long as I can remember. School and education will always hold a special place in my heart. As a child in elementary and middle school, I loved learning. The ways my teachers found to show me things, their explanations, their drawings and videos and pictures…even then I knew they poured themselves out in order to instill something in my mind. I valued that…and I still value it. I cannot quite explain it, but when I learn something new about the world, or pore over my Catechism, or read a blog on writing advice, and something clicks…it is indescribable what happens in my soul. God knew that our only Good would be to know Him as He is. If there is so much joy from the tidbits of learning and understanding that we can receive here in this life…imagine…or at least try to…what it will be like, if we can run the race to the end, to see and to know God in His many perfections. I will get to how integrity relates to the things I’ve learned this week. You’ll have to allow me this tangent because I have been an emotional wreck this week and I am distraught over possibly leaving behind school forever. Please forgive me, but I want to talk about learning for a paragraph or two (or four.

I think love of learning led me, at least in part, to my conversion. My curiosity about the world has been a part of me from the beginning. This curiosity is more theoretical, I suppose. I want to know the nature of things, how they work, why they are the way they are. My curiosity was not so much a hands-on thing, as a more inventive type of intuitive person might be. I did not much care for physical knowledge…I wanted to know theories and explanations and those sorts of things. I would listen in on conversations that adults would have around me, and from there I would pick up on many things that the adults probably didn’t realize. Sometimes my picked-up knowledge about a situation would surprise an adult in my life. I tended to be analytical, wanting the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of everything. I would take things apart and make records of things in my journal. Yes, as a 6-year-old, I was writing in a journal, a very colorful Lisa Frank journal with a dolphin and a sunset on the cover, and a lock to keep out prying eyes. I went through several such journals throughout my childhood. They filled slowly but carefully with poems, drawings, stickers, emotional ventings, stories, and records of my ‘students’, a.k.a., my dolls that I liked to play school with.

So throughout my childhood, despite my behavioral problems, I internally loved school. I hated getting in trouble, but I loved school. Learning about the world, the animals, the days of the week, the alphabet, and even the computer (back then computers were still desktops and we still used floppies and Netscape Navigator) was a joy. I liked science as well, and watching documentaries. My favorites were “The Most Extreme”, a show run by Animal Planet back in the early 2000’s, “Mythbusters”, and “How It’s Made.” Here recently I have discovered a wonderful documentary about Earth, called “Privileged Planet.” I recommend it to anyone; it incited within me some intense thinking and brought me to a sort of intellectual/spiritual high point…not sure how to explain it, and I include my reaction at the risk of sounding hippie-ish. But I was so much in awe of God and His creation, and His wisdom in creating Earth exactly where and how He created it…that I was brought to tears. Did I mention I love astronomy? Haha.

All this to say, I suppose, that I never want to stop learning, and I don’t think I will be able to stop learning, although the official years of schooling are over. And what joy it brings my heart to know that my future husband has found his calling in education, and in primary education, of all things! Those years were my favorite in school. He will be very special to his students, I hope, as my teachers were very special to me. As an adult, I see the many restrictions and regulations that teachers had to go by, and which are becoming worse every year, it seems. The fact that they (and my parents) instilled and encouraged a love of learning in me despite all that red tape astounds me. I pray that God blesses them for all they have done. And I think this love of learning that has been instilled in me has led to my conversion, simply for the fact that my curiosity wouldn’t let me leave a simple question alone, a question generated by an overheard conversation: Is what I believe true? Our Lady, by the Rosary, led me to pursue the truth, to study, to hearing wise and holy priests and teachers in sermons and personal conversations, to the Catechism, and even through the Rosary itself, which is a teacher and reminder of the mysteries of the lives of Our Lord and Our Lady. I can’t thank her enough for all that she has done for me! +Deo Gratias! Maria Gratias!+

Alright. Now to the integrity thing. I can relate it to something that happened yesterday. I had a paper due by 12:30. I obediently got up a bit after 8, got ready, said my morning prayers, and made breakfast. Then I settled in in the living room with my laptop and with Spongebob on the TV. I should have known better than to try to watch TV and work on a paper at the same time. But I didn’t want to feel alone in the house, and I thought that with writing my last paper I should do something fun. Needless to say, I didn’t get much work done. Thankfully the paper (which was actually the first chapter of my novel for my Creative Writing class) was already ‘written’…it just needed organization and a few tweaks to be deemed ready to turn in. However, I barely got those things done, and turned in something that was sub-standard, at least for my own personal frame of reference for my work. True, the tactic I’ve been taking with my novel drafting is a ‘no-looking-back’ strategy; in other words, I turn off the internal editor that wants to go back and fix everything and just keep writing. If I take a wrong turn, I just start from where I left off and make a note that I need to go back and adjust everything.

So the draft itself was kind of a mess of fragments. Realizing that the clock was getting closer and closer to 12, I threw in a few transitions, fixed a couple of places where I needed to look up a fact, and took out a part I knew would be confusing or irrelevant. Then I fixed up the formatting. My friend had come over to work on her paper as well. So at 12:15 we both rushed downstairs to my room/office and I printed off her papers she had emailed to me. When it came time to print my paper, though, the pages got out of order and then finally, to top it off, my black ink ran dry. Never one to be put off (read: I was panicked!), I pulled out the black remanufactured ink cartridge I had just bought from Amazon and changed out the cartridges. Now, my printer is a bit on the touchy side. If you interrupt it, it will hate you and refuse to work thereafter. Well, my printer does an alignment every time you change the ink. And me, in my rushed panic, frantically hit the cancel button and yanked the alignment page out of the printer. Little did I realize that the alignment was a crucial step in setting up the ink cartridge.

Needless to say, after I rushed the printer and tried to print off my paper, the printer got its revenge and instead of obediently printing, sent an error message to my computer reading “Cartridge failed or is damaged.” My friend and I tried for about 45 minutes to get the printer to read the cartridge. We tried everything, from hard resetting, turning it off and on again (thank you, IT Crowd…), to changing out the old cartridges and then replacing them with the new once again, to cleaning the ink cartridge and the slot it is placed in…eventually, we gave up. Realizing the printer only liked the color ink cartridge (because I let THAT one align…), we printed my paper in gray scale and rushed to turn our papers in. So, I ended up turning in a LATE paper as well as a SUBSTANDARD paper, all because I did not have the integrity to plan ahead, leave extra time and make conditions for myself that were conducive to quality work. That’s what I get for waiting ’til the morning of AND putting myself in the occasion to be distracted from my work.

Now, integrity is all about putting your best into everything that you do, and making sure that it is quality work that will stand on its own. This applies to our service to God, our duties of our state of life…anything you can think of wherein you have to put in work. When we settle for less than our best, substandard work, it reflects back on us–and on God. We should strive to do all that we do for the glory of God, and not for our own glory. But when we let standards slip, our integrity will be ruined and our name diminished in the eyes of others, especially when they know us and know the quality of our work. This especially reflects back on the One Whom we serve–how can we call ourselves servants of God if we are not striving to please Him and give Him our all? The servant is not above his Master, and we would be fools to think that we are not expected to serve Him to the best of our ability, when He so willingly and humbly served others, and was obedient unto death for us! He gave His all for us. The least we can do is give our all for Him, and never let a mediocre day go by. True, we must have time for rest and recreation. But even those things should be done for the glory of God. “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatsoever else you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31, DRA).

Don’t be like me. Don’t finish your college career in the regrettable knowledge that your final assignment was not your best work. Don’t let laziness or sloth keep you from practicing integrity in all that you do. Serve God always, in your duties, in your prayers, in your rest and meals and recreation, with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. And always be a genuine friend, which also requires integrity.

“Whatsoever you do, do it from the heart, as to the Lord, and not to men” (Colossians 3:23, DRA).

+Deo Gratias! Maria Gratias!+

P.S. Don’t forget: Today is First Friday! It is always good to practice the First Friday devotions if you can, and if not, to say some special prayers. My personal practice is to say the Litany to the Sacred Heart and the Consecration of the World to the Sacred Heart. Just some suggestions. May God bless you all! 

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