It's a wonderful life

I don’t quite know where to begin. So many times over the last few weeks I’ve said how overwhelmed I’ve felt (in the best way), how struck I’ve been by the gentleness and extravagance of God (my new favorite paradox), how I feel like I could just die (from utter joy and fullness and gratitude, not in a sad, morbid way). And all of that is still true, to an even stronger degree. In two days, I’ll move into the convent. I’m leaving behind nearly all my earthly possessions, saying goodbye to countless people who love me so well, and beginning a wildly new season of life, a season that is full of promise and hope and mystery.

This morning I was scrolling through my camera roll to pick out photos for the collage above. To return to the not-morbid (but yes I realize it’s weird) comment about feeling ready to die, now is an extraordinary time in which I sense this invitation to look over my whole life, as if it’s flashing, albeit slowly, before my eyes. 28 years isn’t long, no, but these years sure have been filled with oh so much, from a happy childhood to a beautiful life I’ve made for myself as a young adult. I’ve ended and begun plenty of chapters in these years, but this ending and beginning takes the cake. It’s the most extraordinary, the most intriguing, the most visible and radical and celebrated.

I’ve never liked being the center of attention. So when it came time to celebrate with 80 of my closest friends as I prepared to move away from Philly, I wavered between discomfort at the recognition to denial that this occasion was actually for me. In truth, while it was for me, well, it also wasn’t. For this next chapter has brought a new intensity to the fact that my life is not my own. My life is not about me. And I feel downright spoiled that I get to enter this life of making that truth known to all I meet in an immediate, concrete, unmistakable way. It will bring the cross, I know, in ways I can’t possibly expect. But I am also looking forward to unprecedented heights of joy.

My dear gem of a friend, Caitlyn, who hosted this tremendous party with her wonderful husband Colin, asked (unbeknownst to me) that all those attending (and even those who couldn’t make it!) write me a letter of encouragement. So when I finally made the drive home at 1 am or so, I carried with me a box full of cards, notes, and letters. After not nearly enough sleep, I awoke with a start the next morning, headed downstairs so as not to disturb my dear sleepover friend beside me, and settled into my favorite chair to read.

I was not prepared. I wasn’t prepared to spend an hour reading, crying, feeling my heart swell and break all at once. And I couldn’t help but think of that as my George Bailey moment, yet instead of crumpled bills and clinking coins, it was thousands of words of love and encouragement and truth that spilled out before me. It was, in a way, getting to see how the world is different because I was born.

Not many people get that chance, I fear. So often amidst the celebrations and heart-to-hearts of the last month, I’ve thought, This is the kind of stuff people say at funerals. Which means the recipient doesn’t get to hear it. Why do we wait until people die to say how we feel about them? To tell them we love them, to share how they’ve made an impact on our lives, to recount our favorite stories and celebrate their virtues and risk the utter vulnerability of opening our hearts? Whatever the reason, whether fear or embarrassment or discomfort or inconvenience, I thank God that He has given me the chance to hear these things before I die.

The truth is, my life, and the world, has been forever changed by the people in these photos above. By my parents and sister and cousins, roommates and babies and Bible study members, friends from school and travel and FOCUS and church. If there’s one thing that I’ve learned in this overwhelming, heartbreaking, joy-filled time, it’s this: we need each other. I’ve been blessed to give to and receive from these precious souls in countless ways. I know that our dependence on one another will change, of course, but I expect it may even grow stronger in these days and weeks and months ahead. We will be united through letters, in prayer and in the Eucharist, during providential run-ins or rare visits. This Body of Christ will go on living and moving and having our being, no matter our physical connection. The truth that we are indelibly linked gives me comfort to the utmost as I sit in the ache of separation. Jesus will hold us together.

Jesus, You are the reason for this upheaval. Thank you for these brothers and sisters You have sent to me, for the ways You’ve changed my life through their love and goodness and friendship. Thank you for this awe-inspiring call that I am joyfully answering, thanks to Your grace. Thank You for the blessings and crosses and new friends to come. Thank You for never being outdone in generosity.

And thank You, thank You, thank You for this wonderful, abundant life.




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