Mended with Gold

This summer I got to spend it living with my aunt and uncle. Two people who are truly an inspiration to me. I was welcomed into their home as I took on a new and bold adventure. It was during this summer that I got to hit the reset buttons in many areas of my life. Not only did I learn a lot as I dove into pursuing a big dream, but I healed. I healed in ways I wouldn’t have been as easily able to had I kept on the same path.

During this time, my aunt and uncle also welcomed me into their lives which included an occasional at home Happy Hour on Wednesdays (their date night). So as my time was coming to an end in VA, I began thinking of a gift I could give them to offer my gratitude. Inspired by the big wine lovers that they are, I found a cool company that turns wine bottles into serving trays- perfect for their Happy Hours! It was even in my aunt’s favorite color and could have an imprint of hummingbirds which we often admired from their porch. I was incredibly excited for this gift.

And then it arrived… shattered.

After some emails and realizing there wasn’t enough time for a replacement I got to thinking. Kintsugi, a Japanese art form that uses gold to mend pottery, came to mind. I did some research and realized it just might work. So I tried it and it actually came out really beautiful! My aunt and uncle loved it and found a spot to display it right away.

Now that I’m back home and reflecting on my time, this gift keeps coming to mind. It felt very much like a symbol of my time down in VA- a time of my broken pieces being mended back together. But not just so that I would look like how I was before but to be mended with gold and return even more beautiful. One person described the gift as “a priceless piece of art” and I am now beginning to see myself that way too.

And then just last night it happened… another piece was chipped off of me.

But as this new piece has been removed, I stand still and I surrender it to the Lord. I allow Him to do His work and trust that He will mend this piece too with His priceless gold and that I will emerge from this fresh break even more beautiful, precious, and sacred.

I don’t know what the final artwork of my life will look like when my time here on earth comes to an end. But what I do know is that the Master Artist is not surprised by any of these broken pieces and is already holding the tools that will mold each part of me back onto His Sacred Masterpiece.

It can be easy to look at the broken piece lying next to you and think- will I ever be worth the effort to be kept whole? Will anyone sacrifice themselves to protect me from being broken? Why am I not beautiful enough as I am, do I really need more gold? While these are all understandable questions, they are not valid because there is One Person, the only person who matters, who has already said yes by the gift of His own life.

A few days ago, I sat in church after Mass and questioned my worth. Whether I would ever be the one someone else was willing to sacrifice for. Jesus then gently took me through His Passion, Death, and Resurrection and with each scene looked at me and said, “I thought you were worth it in each of these moments.” Worth it to be tortured, ridiculed, and killed. Worth it to be left lifeless in a tomb. Worth it to actually fulfill His promise and mission and bring ME salvation by rising from the dead. HE says I’m worthy and HE has already proven it. And in that I know I am seen, I am chosen, and I am DEEPLY loved.

Regardless of whether anyone else believes I am worthy (which many do), I trust the Lord in this. I trust Him more than I can ever trust myself (although this new break has also reminded me that my intuition is not as clouded by wounds as I thought it was and that I can in fact trust myself, especially when I continue to surrender all to God in the process). He sees things that I could never see. He creates paths where there was no humanly possible way for it to be formed. He moves mountains for those He loves and those who love Him back by trusting Him. So once again, I release a gift I was so grateful to have for but a short time and I leave my hands wide open ready to receive at any moment whatever He desires to give me next.

As I look at this broken serving dish turned one-of-a-kind piece of art, I remember the looks on my aunt and uncle’s faces and the joy they felt from the story behind it. To them, the gold looked like it was meant to be there. And that is exactly how God views us. Not as broken pieces of art that were slapped back together. But as beautiful stories lined with gold in the most unique and unrepeatable places. Let His light shine through your whole being, broken gold-filled lines and all. You may just find yourself attracting even more attention and love in His name than you ever could have had you not let your act of loving others chip off a bit of you here and there.

Be vulnerable and be bold, friends. The only thing stopping you is fear and that has no place in the making of a masterpiece.

 

Barista

 

What I’ve Learned So Far

A little over two months in VA and the question is usually…

What have you learned so far?

Well… a lot. This is just going to skim the surface but here’s a bit of an overview.

Bar / Barista

From what a café dos leches is to how to make a double shot cappuccino with extra foam to how to determine the right coarseness of the grinds for an espresso shot, my knowledge base of all things coffee has grown exponentially. Words like portafilter and tamper no longer make my head spin and steaming milk to the right temperature and consistency no longer gives me anxiety. I’ve “successfully” made a painfully weak chai latte for my boss and so now I will never make that mistake again. While all that is not saying much since my knowledge was prettyyyy limited, I’m impressed with myself nonetheless. If I can learn these things- anyone can! (Cue casual hint to anyone who may want to join me in this endeavor 😉).

Kitchen / Cook

If we head into the kitchen, I’ve learned what’s easy to make, what’s a pain in the butt to make, the intricacies of the cooking, heating, and cooling health code requirements for foods, and have gotten into a rhythm of determining when things need to be defrosted and cooked based on when certain items are going out and how much time is left until closing (circle back to health code requirements). Inventory is another delicate dance that keeps you on your toes but I have yet to tackle that one.

Market / Shop

In the market/shop, I’ve learned how important that form of supplemental income is, a general idea of which products sell well, and how much work it takes to know when to order items, how many to order, and where to order them from. This is another area I’m looking to dive a little deeper into.

Employee Relationships

Something else that I’ve witnessed throughout my 2 months is employee relationships with each other, with customers, and with management. Even in different fields, much of it has been very similar. It’s been really great to see how certain needs, crazy scenarios, and let’s call them opinionated customers have been handled across the board by the staff. From fridges breaking down to a light switch catching on fire to staff not feeling well during their shift, there’s never a shortage of thinking and problem solving on your feet. It calls you to a new level of selflessness and self-giving. But there’s also been the less stressful, more life-giving moments as well. Such as, the invention of fun new drink flavors to seeing the absolute glee on a customer’s face as they rave about the curried chicken salad or the encouragement amongst staff when sales are way up that day and praising how well everyone handled the influx of customers.

As an employee who is new to the café, new to the industry, and only staying for a limited time, I’m trying to do my best to soak up everything everyone is showing me. Interestingly, sometimes that leads to me asking questions about things that haven’t been thought about, done, or explained in a long time. This has led to some great conversations and learning experiences for me and other staff members. I’m recognizing how easy it is to fall into a routine that isn’t quite meeting the standards we’d originally set for ourselves at the start or even how some of those standards may prove unnecessary after all. In such a fast-paced environment when there’s always something to think about, this makes sense. Doing those extra tasks or rethinking how to better address XYZ rightfully get pushed to the back burner. I’m seeing how having fresh eyes that require you to slow down and talk through or explain things is such a good thing.

Deeper Reflection

Beyond these practicalities, I had another experience that actually helped me reflect on God’s mercy a little bit more. Back when I was first given this opportunity to work at Trinity House for the summer it was discussed that a month or so in I would be given a promotion to Shift Supervisor. This was something they assumed I could handle (based on my age) and would enhance my experience and reason for coming for the whole summer (based on my desire to run my own café). When I received this promotion, one of my coworkers, who has been working there a long time, was a little frustrated by this.

Now, I understood where they were coming from because I hadn’t earned this promotion in the way most employees would be required to. While reflecting on this scenario, I realized a connection to God’s mercy. His mercy is never anything that we can earn. It’s a gift that is freely given based on His generosity AND on our specific needs for that time, place, situation, etc. In addition to that, His being merciful towards one person does not negate His ability nor His desire to be merciful or generous in anyone else’s life. In all reality, my promotion did not take away from this specific employee’s chances at being promoted. It will, however, have a big effect on me and my own specific and separate mission.

This is the same with God’s grace. Someone else’s grace-filled gift, that I may not agree with based on my limited vision, really shouldn’t any negative bearing on my own life if I’m focused on my mission rather than theirs. I don’t have to understand all the intricacies behind the gift, but I do have to accept that God is the most generous giver and will give His gifts often to those who are open to receiving them (He gives even to those who aren’t- they just won’t receive them because of their full hands).

All this is to say that we waste so much time looking at other people’s lives, wanting what they have or complaining that they don’t deserve what they have, rather than actually living our own. I am not immune to this in any way. In fact, these last few weeks I’ve found myself weighed down by similar sentiments towards others who “don’t deserve” or haven’t rightly earned certain gifts they’ve been given or who may have even squandered those great gifts.

As I continue on this journey to opening a Catholic café, just know I’m figuring out this life just as imperfectly as the next person. I haven’t found my “holy grail” because I’m going after a dream, have seemingly less responsibilities (for the moment), or get to be in new places this summer, etc. My holy grail is not here. It is in Heaven. So, I will be continuing this journey with the goal of keeping my eyes set on the true end- which is not a café, a family, financial freedom, or traveling around the world- but rather on the one place where there is no need for mercy and yet mercy is the only means to arrive there.

How will you focus on the gifts God is giving YOU and how will you go a step further and thank Him for the gifts He’s given OTHERS?

P.S. Check out this fun little reel I made showing some of the  “behind-the-scenes” of  a day in the life of Melissa at Trinity House!

 

June 7th

Have you ever had something so significant happen in your life that the date is forever engraved into your mind? That date is June 7th for me.

It’s the day that changed my life forever with one phone call and two words. Those two words, “I am”, shattered my heart to pieces, but more importantly set me on a path of making decisions that would alter my life’s direction forever. Decisions to leave a ministry that I loved, decisions to painfully offer my will and desires to the Lord in place of following and wanting His, decisions to invest in myself financially, emotionally, physically, and spiritually, and decisions to follow a dream that is just crazy enough that following it only makes sense once those blind steps of faith have already been made.

June 7th, 2020 wrecked my world.
And I couldn’t be more grateful.

It loosened and revealed so many of the negative ties, attachments, and prideful ways I’d chained myself to over the years. It introduced me to what following the Lord actually means and looks like. It taught me how to pray through the immense suffering and torrential tears blocking any vision of life up ahead.

But what’s an added bonus to seeing the goodness unfold in my life since that awful day? Having God so beautifully redeem that exact date that was so painfully seared into my mind…

A little more back story- The only ounce of joy I had felt in a week following June 7th, 2020 was when I providentially came across Trinity House Café/Community on Instagram the following Saturday. It’s what re-sparked the Catholic café dream. (I’ll share more about this story in another post).

That brings us to June 7th, 2021- I was down in Maryland/Virginia visiting friends and family as I got ready to attend the GIVEN Institute Forum. Without planning it, of all the days I was there, I found myself in VA visiting Trinity House Café for the second time ever on June 7th. I took these photos and captioned them with these words- already feeling the redemption of that date one year later.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


  1. I was blown away by this gift as the pains of that day a year earlier were still reverberating within me.

  2.  

Today, June 7th, 2022, I sit in further awe of God’s goodness, vision, and generosity. I find myself in Virginia again, having quit my job, moved down here for the summer, investing in my dream, and ready to take on my first shift as a barista at Trinity House Café tomorrow and incredibly gung-ho about learning all that goes into running a Catholic café! Once again- this was completely unplanned because if you knew my schedule (leave job on 3rd, do a Tough Mudder on 4th, drive to VA on 6th, drive back up to MA on 16th and back to VA on 19th) it’s quite clear this was not the most convenient of times to get down here! Despite all that, my jaw dropped when I realized the coincidence (God-incidence) with this date once again.

The worst day of my life is being redeemed two times over with an incredible dream I never would have dared fathom would actually come true. And to be honest, even with all the unknowns still surrounding this dream, I’ve never felt more at peace than I do now. (Ok, I definitely have nerves about tomorrow and all of it because I’m HUMAN but overwhelmingly it’s peace and excitement 🤪).

All of this is to say, I don’t know what you’re going through or have gone through but if you have a June 7th in your life (whether that’s an actual date or a person, place, memory, phrase, song, etc.)- ask God to redeem it. He 100% will and He’ll blow your mind with how He does it!

Moments in the Stillness

During my week long silent retreat at St. Scholastica Priory & St. Mary’s Monastery in Petersham, MA I kept my phone off in my purse and took out my good camera. It helped me to stay present in the moment and to experience the stillness in a completely different way than if I had used my phone or not taken any photos at all. These photos and the many others I took were an act of prayer in and of themselves. I hope as you look through them you will take the time to ponder them and to enter into the stillness with me.

 

Promises

This Easter brought with it a recurring thought: “He keeps His promises”.

How many times have we been told that? God keeps His promises. Depending on your journey it could be hundreds over the years or maybe it’s a new revelation to you. Regardless of that, what is your reaction when you hear those words?

Growing up it was often just one of those lines that sounded nice but I honestly didn’t pay much attention to or try to fully understand. It wasn’t until this past year when I came face to face with it in a way I never had before. During the hardest months of my life many close and well-intentioned loved ones told me that “line”. I remember hearing it and thinking, “How? I thought what He had given me was Him keeping His promises but now it’s all gone so how can it be true?” Then as I began to heal just a little more and the emotions weren’t clouding my every thought, a different question was allowed in: “What even are God’s promises?” Now this was a profound and startling thought. What does this God I’ve spent my entire life believing in and trusting and doing my best to follow, what does He actually even promise me?

Being in a still rather fragile state, I didn’t have the stamina or determination to figure it out on my own so I asked those loved ones who had originally shared that thought with me what they believed His promises were. Honestly, I think some of them were as thrown off by the question as I was. Some came back with good enough answers, but they still didn’t feel concrete enough. So naturally I pushed the question aside and moved my focus to easier thoughts instead. (Classic avoidance mentality haha)

Months later, as I was praying the Surrender Novena again for the umpteenth time, something stood out to me- a promise from Jesus right there! I’d prayed it how many times at that point and never put two and two together? (see my last post for more on that) So, in response, this time I decided to make a list of any promises God has made to add to whenever one popped up. I started with that promise I had just read and another one in a subsequent day’s prayers. These included:

  • I will take care of things, I promise this to you.
  • I will take care of it all; I will console you, liberate you, and guide you.

Then a couple Bible verses came to mind:

  • Love never fails 1 Corinthians 13:8
  • I am making all things new Revelation 21:5

These were a start and gave me comfort but I was still struggling to fully believe God was being serious and would come through. Then Holy Week 2021. This Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday) was the most beautiful and impactful one I have ever experienced in my life, and most of it I was all on my own for, which is new for me. God had emptied me so much over the last year that I had literally become an empty vessel. But that emptiness was no longer a profound ache or discomfort, it had a freshness to it, a welcoming presence ready to accept whatever the Lord desired to pour into me. It had a peace to it which very much came through over those three days.

And that’s when it happened. Easter Sunday. As I scrolled through Instagram one of the first posts I read said, “’He is not here; He has risen, just as He said.’” Bam. Those words, “just as He said”, stopped me in my tracks and hit me with such a deep amazement. He had promised it, His resurrection and defeat of death, and He had delivered. That was it. That was the promise of all promises and when all hope could have been lost, He did just as He said He would. So that became my Easter message to people, “He keeps His promises!” because that’s the why, that’s the reason, that’s the hope.

Now I’m seeing His promises pop up everywhere and it makes me smile and feel an excitement to actually believe them, believe HIM. When we can’t do it on our own, when our strength is decimated, when our tears are an overflowing waterfall, when our thoughts are stuck in a revolving door, when we don’t want to believe anything remotely beautiful or good could come from our current circumstances, when the passion is stale and the days disappear into each other, there’s only one sane thing to do- hold onto the promises He’s ALREADY fulfilled. Those in your life, those in other’s lives, but most importantly that one that changed the world. The one promise that took every single thing you’re experiencing, asked it to die, asked it to wait, asked it to empty itself, then blew away any expectation that could have ever been fathomed by giving the answer of a NEW <<WHOLE>> LIFE.

As I continue to walk through this new life and as I’m called to testify to my past, this is it. This is the word I want to live by and share. The depths of despair do not last, but that doesn’t matter when you’re in it. Feel it all and don’t be afraid of it BUT do not turn from the One who…

…is with you always, until the end of the age. Matthew 28:20

…will give you peace that surpasses all understanding. Philippians 4:7

…will fully provide whatever you need. Philippians 4:19

…will fight for you. Exodus 14:14

…will wipe every tear from your eyes. Revelation 21:4

His promises are as endless as His goodness. Hold tight.

Are you struggling with this too? Ask God to reveal His promises to you! “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7 (Hint- that’s another promise 😉)

 

The Joyful Banana

Last year, around this time, I found myself in the throes of depression yet again. It has been a fog that has followed me for many years now, limiting my capacity to feel, receive, and express joy in more ways than I like to admit. The cross of this is a truly defeating and exhausting one, no matter the reasoning for its presence in the first place. Well, last year someone posted a video of a little girl receiving a banana for a Christmas gift. And her reaction made me break down in tears. “A banana! A banana!” rang from her lips as she joyfully proclaimed what her gift was and how excited she was to receive it. I expressed that, that joy was what I wanted for Christmas. I wanted my heart and mind to become overwhelmed by the little blessings and gifts in life no matter how “common” or “ordinary” they seemed.

Well, when Christmas came, the last gift I opened was just that, a banana. Yet, joy was not my initial reaction. In fact, confusion was. To the gift giver’s disappointment, I had to be reminded of the video. Only then did I break down into tears with the biggest smile on my face.

Now, with that banana long gone, I reflect on the moment and realize how often that has been the case in my life. I pray for something that I so deeply desire, and then I promptly get distracted by other things in life and forget the prayer was ever said in the first place. Even with the answered prayer right in front of me, I remain clueless and a little embarrassed knowing I’m missing something… Only after the gift is explained to me do I even remember the prayer was said at all!

Through this process I can picture the face of my Lord, so excited to hear my prayer, the wheels turning in His mind as to how He will (not can, but will) fulfill this longing of my heart, and the anticipation He feels as He begins to reveal the gift to me. Then, I can see the sting in His eyes as I look puzzled at the gift in my hands and then back at Him (or on my worst days when I outright reject the gift). However, the sting only lasts a moment because His mercy is beyond my human comprehension. I ask Him, or beg Him, to explain the gift to me and He gently and with a new twinkle in His eye begins to remind me of my initial request and show me how He managed to fulfill it. My goodness is it a humbling moment when the lightbulb turns on and I realize how I forgot the longings of my own heart, yet He did not.

Sometimes, in all honesty, I still reject the gift because it doesn’t come in the package that I want. My pride is a selfish beast that I long to tame so that I never cause that look of pain on my Lord’s face ever again. Yet, I know I will hurt Him more times than I can bear to fathom. But I also know that I can change that pain back into love and joy simply by staying present with Him in that moment and asking Him to explain the love He is offering to me. It is when I pretend to understand and simply brush the gift aside afterwards that I cause more pain. But it is when I humble myself and ask the questions, that I enter more deeply into the most life-giving relationship I could ever dream of.

This year my depression still lingers, and new wounds only fuel its presence. With those new wounds have also come many prayers, many that I am sure I have promptly forgotten as well but that the Lord in His goodness has not. Some have already been answered- most received in packages I did not want, some in packages I have yet to understand, and some with a joy that could only be the answer to a prayer about a banana. As I continue to sit with the Lord and He explains to me His master plan of hunting down and fighting to give me each of my heart’s desires, I find myself fully present, gazing into His eyes, and learning to trust His every word so that each gift results in a joy in me like that little girl had for a banana.

So, as we approach Christmas this year, what is your joyful banana? And how will you respond when the Lord in His unceasing generosity inevitably gives it to you, regardless of what the package it comes in looks like?

 

Welcome to the Present Catholic Blog!

Back in the spring of 2017, as I prepared to graduate with a Master’s degree in theology, I was pulling together the finishing touches of my “Evangelizing the Culture” project requirement. We could choose almost anything we wanted to fulfill this requirement as long as it was evangelizing others in some way. I chose to write and share a daily devotional for Lent and I titled it: Present Catholic.

The purpose of the devotional was to provide a simple way for people to be more present to the movements of the Lord in their lives throughout the season of Lent. I described it in this way, “We all know the anticipation leading up to Easter Sunday and the celebration of Christ’s miraculous Resurrection. However, with that anticipation can also come a disconnect from the present moment. Through this program, you will be given a reflection and an action/challenge for each day. The goal of the reflection is to help bring your attention to that particular moment and to give you something to focus on throughout the day. In addition to the reflection, you will also be given an action/challenge connected to the reflection to help you participate in the present moment.”

It was an incredibly fruitful experience not only for myself but for the nearly 50 people who signed up! (That number alone blew my mind by the way). I had desired to continue writing after the program ended but God had other plans. Any brain power I had left after completing my Master’s program was dwindling, I was involved with a booming young adult ministry, and unbeknownst to me, a few months later, I would be hired as a Campus Minister at a small Catholic college and a year after that I would unexpectedly become the Director. Life was busy and it was clearly not the time. Almost 4 years later and God has taken me for quite a wild ride. Yet all of it has been leading me to this point, a point where the words “be still” are plastered on my heart and up ahead is a future that is only clear to the One who created me. So, with nowhere to go and a vulnerable heart in tow, I venture back into the world of writing!

Since this blog is clearly centered on faith, for those who are curious about my faith background here it is: I seek to abide by the teachings of the Catholic Church in every area of my life which I’m only ever able to do by the grace of God, and when I fail (more often than I care to admit) I embrace the Sacrament of Reconciliation to atone for my shortcomings and seek holy guidance to align myself with the will of God once again. See the Nicene Creed and Catechism of the Catholic Church for a full rundown of beliefs.

In an effort to continue simplifying my life, keeping Christ at the center, and truly having my focus in the present moment, I am aiming to let go of my perfectionist tendencies in regards to this blog. I enjoy being creative through graphic and web design, marketing, and writing, however, when the need to make everything “just right” takes away my peace, I know that I am no longer fully following God’s will. That means, I’m not giving myself any deadlines for posting weekly, monthly, etc. (you’ll have to find your Mindful Mondays elsewhere 😉). I’m also not going to be as strict about sticking to the theme of “being present”, although I’m sure it will still be very prominent as I feel passionate about that particular call to action. And while I have many ideas for making this site more interactive, I’m going to ease into the web design portion and start by simply sharing my reflections. I will offer to send you the reflections directly to your inbox, but don’t expect any fancy looking designs to accompany them. 😀 You can also follow me on Instagram @presentcatholic to see the challenges from the original program and to be notified of new posts.

This blog is a place for me to unpack my relationship with God, my prayers, and my life experiences while embracing the enjoyment I get from writing. I pray that God may use my simple musings to bless anyone who reads them. Feel free to comment or email me with any feedback or reflections of your own! Know that you are in my prayers and that I am entrusting you all to my three favorite examples of pure, holy love- the Chaste Heart of Joseph, the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and the Most Sacred Heart of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Until my next post (which will be coming soon), I will leave you with a Bible verse and a challenge. There are many I could quote in an effort to sum up my faith but the one that has been with me the longest is this: “I believe, help my unbelief” Mark 9:24

So, what do you believe in and who will you ask to help you go deeper?

For more background on the meaning being the name, Present Catholic, check out the “About” page. And shoutout to my best friend, Dayna, who reworked my original logo to make my intent  of representing the “Chi Rho”  or “XP” symbol for Christ  through the intersection of the P and C look so much like it!