Entries with tag young adult ministry .

So You Say You Want a Miracle

During Holy Week, I gathered with friends at their apartment, and we got to discussing miracles.

 

We talked seeing saints, myrrh-streaming icons, and the like. We’ve all heard marvelous and amazing miracle stories from people in every walk of life: friends, campers, family members, and priests. It was amazing to be able to share those stories with these girls who I knew understood why these experiences are transformative.

 

When I hear about people who have experienced miracles, who have heard the voice of Christ, or who have seen Him or His saints, I can’t help but think, “I want that.” I want an experience that shows me that without a doubt that Christ is real, that He is with me, and that I am in communion with Him. I want a story to tell anyone who doubts. Especially myself, when I doubt.

 

In other words, a super awesome miracle moment that changes my life forever.

 

Now, I realize that this is not how life works. You don’t ask for a miracle and get one.

 

You live your faith, and you attempt to be as Christ-like as you can be. You attend church services, you go to confession, you receive communion. And perhaps most importantly: you open your heart.

 

I’ve noticed that my heart has often been closed to the presence of Christ. Like, I’m just not thinking that in any moment, Christ is there. I don’t think about Him constantly when I’m walking to the train or when I’m at work or even when I’m in church. I don’t always thank Him when things go well (though I do usually pray to Him when things don’t go my way…).

 

But when my heart is open, I can see His presence in my life. A friend isn’t just a friend, a good day isn’t just a good day, a tear isn’t just a tear; they are all experiences of Christ. They provide us with moments to be thankful and know that God is with us.

 

Now, I’ve experienced transformative things in the church. I’ve seen the miraculous icons that drip myrrh. I’ve heard stories that can only be explained through faith.

 

None of these experiences are necessarily the personal, perfect miracle story that I want. They let me know that Christ is real but they don’t provide me with a super awesome miracle moment that changes my life forever.

 

But, I have to accept that my “super awesome miracle moment that changes my life forever” is not going to happen on my timing. It may have already happened, and I didn’t realize it.

 

Christ has done things for me and me only; the little miracles in life that I overlook. The “everyday” miracles, like waking up in the morning, like an answered prayer, like amazing timing, like a plane landing after crazy turbulence, or like meeting people who inspire you to be a better person and make you want to be closer to Christ because they are so close to Christ that they exude Him.

 

These are the experiences that should make you want to open your heart to Christ, to grow closer to Him. “Little miracles” are the ones that help you keep your heart open to Christ’s presence when you are sure that you can’t go on.

 

So, if I never get my super awesome miracle moment that changes my life forever, I will continue to subsist on the little miracles, and know that they are enough.

 

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Want more from Y2AM?  Subscribe to our email list and get weekly tips for your spiritual life every Monday!  And you can support Y2AM even more by becoming a monthly Patreon supporter.  As little as $1 a month can help us continue the work we’re doing.

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Maria is the Administrative Coordinator of Y2AM. She is a New York native who isn't completely sold on the city's charm, yet has never left. A proud graduate of Fordham University and occasional runner, she is happiest whenever chocolate, a sale, or a good Gilmore Girls reference is involved.

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The Beauty of Taking the Blame

One of my favorite home videos is of my little sister, Alexa, when she was about three years old. She is standing in front of a white wall with a red marker masterpiece on it that she has obviously drawn herself. From behind the camera, my mom is asking her who is responsible.

 

Well, my sister has every answer in the book, starting with the usuals: mom and dad, followed by yiayia and pappou. Then come the out-of-left-field answers: our great-aunt, our cousin’s wife, and even our other little sister (who was a newborn at the time).

 

It has to be one of my favorite home videos of all time. It’s so comical.

 

You know what’s not as comical? When you’re 23 and you find yourself doing the same thing.

 

For example, this week I’ve just been in a horrible mood, and I’ve found so many people to blame.

 

A friend.

 

A family member.

 

A co-worker.

 

A guy at the gym.

 

Someone I passed in the street.

 

(Seriously, these are all people that I’ve blamed).

 

It gets just as ridiculous as Alexa blaming her artwork on a newborn child.

 

It’s all too easy to fall into a pattern where I blame everyone else for the way that I am feeling, for my actions, and for my behaviors.

 

What I often forget when I find myself in a place like this is that, no matter the situation, I am in charge. And if I’m going to take charge of my reactions, then I have to live with the blame also.

 

Of course, there are circumstances around us that are beyond our control, but what is within our control is how we respond to them. So sometimes when something that someone says bothers me, I have to be aware that what they are saying is bothering me because of something inside me. What makes me react negatively is not exactly what has happened, but things that have happened to me that make me upset.

 

So, no, I wasn’t actually mad at any of these people. No one did anything specifically to hurt me or to anger me, but because of the mood that I was in, everything bothered me. As much as I’d like to place the blame on anyone else, I know that the blame is my own.

 

Where does this leave me? Well, it leaves me more dependent on Christ for one. Dependent on the fact that He will take care of me and lead me out of the depths of whatever sadness I find myself in. Dependent on the fact that He is constantly at work in my life, working on making me a more well-rounded person, someone who is more like Him.

 

I mean, the video would have been much less funny had my sister taken credit for her artwork. But at the expense of humor, taking the blame is something that we all need to work on.

 

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Want more from Y2AM?  Subscribe to our email list and get weekly tips for your spiritual life every Monday!  And you can support Y2AM even more by becoming a monthly Patreon supporter.  As little as $1 a month can help us continue the work we’re doing.

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Maria is the Administrative Coordinator of Y2AM. She is a New York native who isn't completely sold on the city's charm, yet has never left. A proud graduate of Fordham University and occasional runner, she is happiest whenever chocolate, a sale, or a good Gilmore Girls reference is involved.

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The Things That I Don't Know

In my undergraduate classes, it was so rare to hear an “I don’t know” from a professor. These brilliant men and women, who had devoting themselves studying, researching, and writing in their fields for years, could seemingly grapple with any question thrown at them. When people know that much, it almost becomes a game to try and stump them.

 

Well, we find ourselves in Great Lent, and I am admitting defeat. I am stumped by Orthodoxy. There is so much that I simply don’t know.

 

It’s hard to admit this because I want to know everything. Yet the more I pray, the more I read books and articles and listen to podcasts about Orthodoxy, and the more church services that I attend during Lent, I am still not prepared to answer questions definitively, to say that I know, well, anything. On the contrary, these experiences have me thinking: wow, I’m confused; I don’t know much at all.

 

These past few weeks, I’ve been admitting to not knowing so often. In fact, I’ve made it a point to live in the “I don’t know.” To lean into, to become acquainted with, and even to embrace the things that I don’t know.

 

Because in life, there’s a lot that I don’t know, and there’s a lot that I will never know (it’s a little scary, but a lot of truth lies in that statement).

 

I’ll never know why certain friendships have faded, why certain relationships haven’t worked out, or

why bad things happen to good people. I’ll never know why there is sickness and suffering in this world of unfathomable amounts.

 

So...where’s the solace in all of this?

 

Well, it lies in what I know.

 

As a wise priest once told me at summer camp, when you read the Bible, you should focus on what you know. So I’ve been trying really hard to do this in all aspects of my life: to focus on what I’ve already known, and to learn what I can from everything I read, listen to, and every person I talk to.

 

Unlike most professors, I’m quite happy to admit that I don’t know. The process of coming to understanding that there is a lot which I don’t know about my faith is what has led me to want to learn all that I can.

 

What I do know is so important: that Christ died for me and that He loves me. That I have put my faith and trust in Him.

 

And that’s spectacular enough to get me through all of the things that I don’t know.

 

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Want more from Y2AM?  Subscribe to our email list and get weekly tips for your spiritual life every Monday!  And you can support Y2AM even more by becoming a monthly Patreon supporter.  As little as $1 a month can help us continue the work we’re doing.

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Maria is the Administrative Coordinator of Y2AM. She is a New York native who isn't completely sold on the city's charm, yet has never left. A proud graduate of Fordham University and occasional runner, she is happiest whenever chocolate, a sale, or a good Gilmore Girls reference is involved.

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A Small Act of Sharing and Caring

I was raised in a way that has made my faith pretty private.

 

What I mean by that is that I came into my faith on my own; I was never asked or pushed into practicing Orthodox Christianity. And I was never really encouraged to share my triumphs and struggles in the faith. Obviously, our faith is a shared faith, but for a long time I kept mine very private; I didn’t realize how much there was to be shared.

 

Personal anecdote time. A few weeks ago, my grandfather was in the hospital, and there was an interfaith chapel down the hall from his room. My grandmother took me into the chapel to pray for my grandfather. It was a repository of icons, bibles, and other symbols of different faith traditions, but we didn’t see any representations of Orthodoxy. So I went into my bag and looked to see if I had any of the small icon cards that you can pick up at parishes, and I found one of St. George, so I left it in the chapel.

 

Now, I can’t really explain why, but in that moment, I felt that St. George was watching over me, and I felt so compelled to do a little research on him (I’m not very versed in the lives of the saints, and while I knew the basics of his life, I wanted to go into a little more detail). The next day, I uploaded a picture of an icon of St. George to Instagram.

 

A few weeks later, my mom asked me, out of the blue, having no idea of the events that transpired, “Now, why do you feel that St. George is watching over you?” It was honestly the first time in a long time that I can remember being asked about something going on in my spiritual life that directly. Because of the relationship that we have established with our faith in my household, I was going to say, “I just do,” and leave it at that.

 

But I took a deep breath after realizing...she asked. This is not something that happens often, if at all. So I answered. In detail.

 

I realized how stubborn I was being to not want to answer my mom in the first place. Like, “my faith is personal, and I don’t want to share it with her right now.” Yet I sucked up my pride and decided to share it anyway.


Generally, I think that I am pretty open about my faith now. I don’t try to hide it from the people I meet, like I used to. I know that if the fact that I am Orthodox bothers someone, then that person probably isn’t the kind of person that I want in my life.

 

But it got me thinking about when people ask me about my faith. I want to be the type of person who is open, who gets people thinking, who has stories to share that can keep them engaged. The type of person who is excited to talk about Christ because of the amazing effect that He has had on my life, and because of the fact that He gave me life. And I want to be asked questions about my faith. Personally, and on a more general level. So why was I scoffing at my mother when she asked?

 

Just as we have to open ourselves to Christ in order for Him to be able to come into us, to guide us towards His Kingdom, we have to be open to talking about Him.

 

Even though it’s not what I’m used to in my family, I want to be more open to changing what I’m used to, for the benefit of all involved. Talking things through and talking about our faith, about the saints who are active in our lives and about how Christ is active in our lives, is the most important way to share Him with others.

 

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Want more from Y2AM?  Subscribe to our email list and get weekly tips for your spiritual life every Monday!  And you can support Y2AM even more by becoming a monthly Patreon supporter.  As little as $1 a month can help us continue the work we’re doing.

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Maria is the Administrative Coordinator of Y2AM. She is a New York native who isn't completely sold on the city's charm, yet has never left. A proud graduate of Fordham University and occasional runner, she is happiest whenever chocolate, a sale, or a good Gilmore Girls reference is involved.

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Learning to Listen and Listening to Learn

If there was a class on “How to Listen,” I would take it. I would recommend that all of my friends take it. I would recommend that all of my enemies take it, too, for that matter.

 

One of the major themes I’ve seen over the past few months of my life is that people have trouble truly listening to one another. Some people just need to try harder, while others simply do not want to listen because they might hear things that they don’t want to. Things that don’t align with what they believe. Things that they don’t know how to respond to. But the glorious part of listening is that it’s a skill we can all learn, if we are willing to try.

 

Here’s a personal example. Over the past year, I’ve learned so much about Orthodoxy through my coworkers at the Archdiocese. How? By asking questions and then shutting my mouth. By not having the expectation that what I want to hear and what I’m going to hear will line up, but instead, truly listening to the answers that I am given.

 

In the past, I’ve asked questions and fought the answers; asked questions with self-serving motives in mind: to prove my point. But, it’s not my point that I’m looking to prove: it’s Christ’s. And if someone knows His teachings better than I, then you had better believe that I will listen to that person wholeheartedly.

 

“Orthodoxy” in the above example can really be replaced with anything that you care about. “Knitting,” “Iceland,” “my next door neighbor Peter,” even… “politics.” Shudder.

 

If you care, listen.

 

It doesn’t matter if you have all of the evidence in the world to support your point. It doesn’t matter what truths you believe you are spreading. It’s important to listen first, and then if you must speak, you can do so. It’s also important to acknowledge that there are other opinions, other ways of life than the one you choose to lead. Listening is the easiest way to make a human being feel like a human being; to show them that they are worthy and valued.

 

Because if they aren’t valuable, then I’m not either. I’m a sinner too.

 

In this toxic, politics-ridden, dare I admit it- fallen- world, we all need to learn to listen to each other. It’s not only the Orthodox way. It’s the human way. It’s the only way.

 

Now, what you might come to realize is that you don’t listen well. Or that you only listen to share your own opinions. That you’ve driven people out of your life by acting this way.

 

I have good news: it’s not too late to start listening.


And listening has a lot to do with prayer, as we strive to be like the greatest listener, Jesus Christ. He listens with no agenda other than to offer you His very own Life by allowing you to share your troubles with Him. If we could all be listeners like Jesus Christ, people would feel a lot more of a weight lifted off of their shoulders when they speak. People would be more apt to share their opinions, emotions, sins, without fear of condemnation of judgment, if you and I were better listeners.

 

Next time you ask a question, prepare yourself to hear the answer. Even if it’s not what you want to hear. Prepare yourself to put your agenda and feelings aside, and to be there for someone who truly needs you to listen to them. And when you find yourself in a position where you need someone to listen to you, you can trust that you will be able to find someone who will extend you the same courtesy that you extended them. The same courtesy that Jesus Christ extends you every time that you pray to Him.

 

You might not change a mind. You might not even fully comprehend a mind. But the only way that you can even try is if you listen.

 

Want more from Y2AM?  Subscribe to our email list and get weekly tips for your spiritual life every Monday!  And you can support Y2AM even more by becoming a monthly Patreon supporter.  As little as $1 a month can help us continue the work we’re doing.

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Maria is the Administrative Coordinator of Y2AM. She is a New York native who isn't completely sold on the city's charm, yet has never left. A proud graduate of Fordham University and occasional runner, she is happiest whenever chocolate, a sale, or a good Gilmore Girls reference is involved.

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