Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Girl on the Left

The girl on the left hates herself. 

Every time she walks into a room, she looks around to confirm she's the fattest girl there.
Every time she looks in a mirror, she's unhappy.
She takes forever to get ready until she settles for 'good as it's gonna get.'
She has never been called beautiful, and she wouldn't believe anyone who told her she was. 
She's never been bullied, but she beats herself up enough for everyone.
She does not believe anyone could love her, but how could she, when she doesn't love herself.

The girl on the left became the girl on the right.

The girl on the right weighs less.
She's been called beautiful, and sometimes has even believed it.
She's been kissed, been held, been known.
She still thinks she's fat, still wonders if anyone could look past what she's been through, what's happened to her, the mistakes she's made.
But she knows that she's loved, if not by anyone other than her Creator, Who laid this path for her because He knew she could walk it, and would put people on the road to share the journey with.
So even though she won't call the girl on the left her "Before" or the picture on the right her "After," she's making progress that can't be measured side by side, but only in how close she is to loving herself.

And my God, she's on her way.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Then and Now

Then: The following entry was written spring semester of sophomore year, in Rome, a month after finding out I didn't get Student Minister
There will be a night, or a whole day, or even a few days, when you won't want to do it anymore. Maybe you're far from home, maybe you got rejected. You feel unwanted, unloved, unmissed. And you're mad at God and mad at the people you miss which is making it complicated, and you're mad at your favorite pizza place for not being open at 11:30pm.
And you'll cry and you'll mope and you'll watch too many episodes of that trashy show you're obsessed with but can't tell anyone about. And you'll wish you were anywhere but here and doing anything else. And you'll want to hit something hard, like swinging an axe, not hurting anyone, but just getting out the hurt you feel inside because you can't bear to feel it anymore. And even though you know that it will pass, that you will eventually be okay, that doesn't help whatsoever. Because until then, you're stuck here. And it turns out the only way to get there is waiting. Waiting for it to get better.
And it does get better. Slowly. The due date of a paper you planned on spending an all nighter on gets pushed back. Friends going to dinner make you leave your room, and you force yourself to do it, and surprise yourself by enjoying it and not even talking about your pain.
Somehow life goes on. And time passes. And then you get to a point where that night, or that day, or those days that you got through, are memories, ones you'd rather not remember. But you did.
You did.
Now: Spring semester of junior year, one month after finding out I didn't get Student Minister
There will be a day, maybe weeks later, maybe months and even years later, when it will all make sense. All the hurt you felt and the pain you went through under a cloud of rejection and confusion will come to face the light of purpose. You will feel strong and validated and confident again. You will love the people who hurt you and you will thank God for not giving you what you thought you wanted from them.
You will become someone you never thought you could be. You come to see that the plan that you had for yourself before wasn't even close to what God had in store for you. You look forward to the surprises He still has planned, knowing that just like you won't be able to stop planning, He won't be able stop working His will for you into those plans, changing them and improving on them. You will learn to trust that just because He didn't make your dreams come true the way you wanted Him too, He still makes good on them.
You'll see how God uses the broken places in your past, when it was hardest to love Him, to guide the ways that you will now serve Him best. You'll see that the pain you felt was an indicator of your will being unable to succumb to His. You will surrender.
You will see your future as light shining so bright that all you can see is Him. You know all the rest will fall into place as long as He is at the center.
You will make it. You are His.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Why Are You Afraid?

23 Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. 24 Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” 
26 He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid? Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. 27 The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”

I came home last night and cried at my kitchen table. All of a sudden, my plans I had for senior year are not what I had hoped and planned for. Realizing that I'm not serving in Student Ministry was a blow, but since I don't have a good lottery number, it also means I'll most likely have to live off campus, and even that is going to be hard to swing. I had these hopes of serving in this leadership at CUA and making a difference and doing what I had wanted to do for so long, and now all of a sudden I don't have any leadership connections to Campus Ministry since I'm leaving CAC and now I'm not even going to be on campus, and maybe not even with people I know very well. It's like my great big plan got slipped out from under me in one fell swoop. I'm in the middle of a furious storm, and with wave after wave hitting me, it feels like Jesus is asleep while I'm stuck in a sinking boat.

My prayer life lately has consisted of me saying to God, "Well, YOU figure it out, You're the one who got me into this mess," and then giving Him the cold shoulder.

Which is not QUITE the same as the "offering it up" or "putting it in God's hands" approach that I think I'm supposed to be shooting for. Hit and a miss, my friends. Time to ease up on the bitter and surrender to the grace.

Yes, it absolutely blows that I didn't get Student Minister. It does! Of course it sucks that I've struggled in a friendship lately and that I had to move and that now I don't know where I'm going to live next year. It's a tough hand, no one's denying it. I've been like one of the apostles on the boat, freaking out about this crazy storm, and meanwhile, Jesus is passed out not paying any attention. But when I finally humble myself to talk to Him about it, what does He say?

"Why are you afraid?"

Why do I not know that He will take care of me? Little faith, indeed. Christ hasn't left me high and dry in this storm. Even through the trials of this semester, He has made Himself present in the blessings I have received, when I remember to look for Him in them. In the new friends I've made, in the support of a mentor, in the promise of His sacrifice that I receive at every Mass. He hasn't been asleep on the job, as much as it's felt like it. He has been with me, but I've just been too caught up in my sinking boat to see that Christ has been rowing next to me all along, keeping me afloat.

In the midst of the crashing waves, my God can calm the sea.

Do not be afraid.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Surprised by God

My beautiful friend Brooke recently started blogging (you can find her at http://brookeaparis.wordpress.com/ ) and her post, "How God Seriously Surprised Me Today," inspired me to write a post of my own on the same feeling.

Most of you know that I applied yet again this year to be a Student Minister at CUA for 2014-2015. This was my third time applying, and I felt more confident than ever in my desire to serve in this ministry. I was at a point in my life where I was the strongest I had ever been personally, academically, and spiritually. I had transformed and grown during my semester abroad in Rome the previous spring and had been leading Catholic Athletes for Christ through another year and another successful Athletes Retreat. I had two great interviews where I felt like I really showed the pastoral staff who I was and the gifts I had to offer to the program which has given so much to me. It was my time. I spent the days leading up to the decision in prayer that God would give me peace and for His will to be done, sure that this was what He had planned for me.

Today I found out that I didn't get Student Minister.

"Seriously Surprised by God" is a gentle way to put my initial reaction.

I couldn't believe it. I felt like everything I'd been through during my time at CUA had been preparing me to finally get the position I had so badly wanted since I was just a freshman and yet here I was, experiencing the same rejection I'd had every year since.

I'm not going to pretend that I'm not a little hurt or confused or that no matter what they tell you to do, that I am of course taking this a little bit personally.

But as this day has gone on and I've adjusted to the fact that God's plans for me next year are not what I had so badly wanted and planned for, I've come to a place of peace.

I'm not crushed. I haven't cried. I'm not cursing out God or setting up a meeting with members of the pastoral staff to demand answers explaining their decision. I am slowly but surely adjusting to the idea that God has something greater in mind for me than I could ever know. I don't understand why it was not in His will for me to be a Student Minister, but even if I won't have the honor and privilege of serving Him in the way that I have desired to since I was 18, He will provide a way for me to serve Him next year and one day I will understand.

This is not the news I thought I would get or be sharing today. It's not the reaction I thought I would have. But I sit here now resting in the peace that He has given me, knowing that I am His beautiful and worthy daughter whom He has blessed with countless gifts and talents to offer to those around me, which are no less because of this rejection.

To all my friends who got Student Minister, I am so, so, happy for you. You are about to embark on an incredible year of service. Be assured of my prayers and my joy for you.

To those who experienced the rejection that I did, I pray for your peace and that your desire to serve this campus will not be diminished. Your gifts are true and of God.

Love, Chris

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Waiting and Preparing

I spent most of Advent reflecting on the meaning of that season- to wait in joyful hope. It occurred to me that the time we set aside before Christmas to await Christ's coming is a lot like the time that couples have during their engagement before their wedding day. Those months are their final chance to make themselves ready for one another before they enter into their vocation, just as Advent is a time for us to prepare for Jesus to come again.

Now another season is upon us. Ash Wednesday is just one week away! Isn't Lent also a time of preparation? I may not be engaged, or even in a relationship, but that doesn't mean I can't take this opportunity to prepare myself to be. In committing to tie myself closer to Christ in anticipation of His Passion and Resurrection, I can bring myself closer to His will for me, whatever it may be. 

I spend a LOT of time wondering about God's will for my life. This means I spend a lot of time reading Jeremiah 29:11-13, which says,

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."

Plans for me to prosper and not to harm me. Plans for my future. 

God has a plan for my life. Not only that, but seemingly a good plan.

Isn't that incredible? Not just for my life, either, but for yours and for your roommates and for your professors and your boss and your little sister and for the guy in line behind you in Starbucks. 

God's got a plan for each and every one of us. And what He wants most is for you to involve Him in it. I mean He straight out says, "come and pray to me, and I will listen to you." God listens. He hears me when I whine about the uncertain future and boys and my struggles and my fears. Which coincidentally all have a lot to do with each other. 

My vocation is to marriage. I know this, I have faith in it, and I feel utterly called to it. 

I've also never had a boyfriend or even something like one. I'm 20 years old.

For a long time, my heart ached over this. I didn't understand why no guys ever liked me and decided I must not be pretty enough, skinny enough, cool enough, etc.

But still, I felt that call to marriage. I didn't write off the vocation to religious life, I painfully and prayerfully discerned it and I know beyond a doubt that it is not for me. So I was still left without an answer. I had never even experienced being in love or being loved in that way, but there was no convincing my heart that there was any other ultimate purpose for it than to love a husband and children. 

My most honest prayer during this time in my life was,

God, I just want to know my last name.

That probably sounds crazy. It's Fontaine, I know, with an 'i' in the middle and that sneaky 'e' on the end that people always forget. But it's not the name I'll always have. It's not the last name that my kids will grow up having. I just wanted to know what it was- who I was going to be, whose wife I was going to become. 

The problem with that is assuming that the most important thing that will change about me once I get married is my last name. My new last name will not redefine who I am. But who I am when I enter into that relationship and how I let myself be changed by it and the unknown husband is important. The best way to have a friend is to be a friend, right? So it follows that the guy God has in store for me might not come into the picture until I'm ready to be the girl God has in mind for that guy. God's timing is far more perfect than mine. So if I haven't met the guy yet, nor admittedly ANY guy yet, then there's a reason. 

I know that I am only 20. I know that it is not that weird to be this age and not have yet experienced being in a relationship. I know I seem like a crazed wannabe stay-at-home mom. But if you know that you are called to marriage, and you know that it is your vocation to love that way, you kinda wanna get to it. 

So, Lent. The time of preparation. I'm challenging myself to take this Lent to accept God's will- more specifically, His timeline. I understand that I may not meet the guy by Easter or be the girl planning a wedding by graduation- I'm not even trying for that, promise. What I want is to take this time set aside during Lent to focus on what I'm going to do for myself BEFORE I meet that guy. Do I want to do a year of service? Get another degree, move across the country? Be a missionary, move to a different country? I can do that. 

I can't just wait for my life to happen to me, or for a guy to introduce himself to me as my future husband. (Have to say though, that would make for quite an interesting story) I can live my life now, just as fully and happily even without knowing all the answers. I can prepare for my future life by embracing life as I know it now. By earnestly moving toward Christ, I am assuredly moving closer to the one He has set aside for me.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014


I wake up at 7:30 to work out 4 days a week.
I take 6 classes.
I call my mom at least a few times a week.
I don't go out.
I've never had a boyfriend.
I go to Mass every week, sometimes more often.
I can't remember the last time I slept through the night.
I'm saving myself for marriage.

This is my normal. These are also things that categorically and on a regular basis have made me feel like I'm not.

In my dorm, my roommates and I have become used to the screams and yelling of people outside on their way out to bars and parties, while we stay in and bemoan our lives filled with homework and then settle in for the night with wine and a movie, sometimes feeling lame for doing so.

In my classes, I'm surrounded by other Theology majors who seem to have it way more together than me and sometimes make me feel like I'm not Catholic enough or devout enough since I don't usually make it to daily mass or say a rosary.

Sometimes it feels like I have to choose between these two extremes. I can either be a lame homebody who goes to daily mass and only knows how to talk about Jesus and rejects people who watch the Bachelor on premise.

Or I can not care about my grades because that's for nerds and skip class and go out every night and go broke on beer.

I'm saying no to that. I'm not interested in trying to be what people expect from a girl whose a Theology major or feeling like a loser for staying in. I'm living in and embracing the tension between the two extremes. I'm a Theology major who watches The Bachelor every week. I like to take care of myself and for me that means working out when the gym opens and it also means using my 40 minute break between classes to sit in the chapel. I have a drink every now and then with my friends, but I don't enjoy going out and getting wasted. I read blogs of stay at home moms for fun. I can talk to you about my faith, or I can talk to you about you. I feel like I can spread the joy I get from Christ either way.

I'm Chris, and that's my normal. Make up your own normal. We do not have to be our majors, or our hometowns, or our drink of choice. We need you to be you. 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Do You Like Me?

When I first started blogging from Rome, I checked how many page views I got per day obsessively. I would watch the hits go up on my Blogger page moments after tweeting a link to a new post or sharing the blog on Facebook and become frustrated if I had less than 50 views in an hour. Less than 20 views on a typical day, even without any new posts, was something to be annoyed by.

The way I was processing it in my mind was this:

No one likes/views/comments on the post --> No one liked it (translation: liked me) --> No one cares (translation: about me)

On Facebook it went like this-

1 like= It's out there. Time to check the Blogger page hits.

10+ likes= Sh*t, I better re-read it and makes sure nothing's wrong with it if people are actually going to read this

25+ likes= It's a good post. I'm heard.

Not healthy, you say? Yeah no sh*t. It's a big reason I stopped blogging for as long as I did after I came home from abroad. I needed a break from the ego meter.

So what's the power of a like? What was I seeking from those little notifications, from a 'retweet' sign or  a spike in page views?

It offered me instant gratification. I did it for the likes. It became a weird relationship with the blog where I wasn't sure if I posting to share or if I was ultimately posting solely for the feedback I would receive. The toughest thing about studying abroad was being away from the CUA community and knowing that my friends and the life I had back at school was going on without me. Sharing posts from my study abroad experience allowed me to feel like I was still keeping up with my life back there. It's not that I think I did bad writing while I was in Rome, I just know I was doing it for the wrong reasons. I still really treasure all those posts I wrote and love looking back on them. It just makes me sad to know that when I was writing them I didn't know they were good unless 20 people I knew on Facebook clicked the 'like' button.

When I started blogging again in 2014, I decided I was writing for myself. I rarely check the views I get on Blogger, though I do share some of the writing that I do on Facebook and Twitter. The difference this time around is that what I'm sharing is something I'm proud of- the writing itself. I'm not sharing to brag about the places I've been or experiences I had, which was oh so easy to do while studying abroad. I write for the sake of writing.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

For her, in honor of him

Today is the one year anniversary of my grandfather's death. I knew I wanted to commemorate this somehow. I thought about just linking up to the post I wrote at this time last year. I thought about doing a "Year in Review" type post of the joys and blessings that the Fontaine family saw in this first year without him, with 2 additional grandchildren and a wedding.

But I think I want to do something else. In honor of the anniversary of Papa's death, I want to honor the person he loved the most- my grandmother.

I brag about Grandma Lu all the time. She is without question, the greatest lady I have ever known. She's also the last person who would ever say that about herself. She gives and gives to our family and we all love her so dearly. I'm so jealous of my cousins that live closer to her and got to spend so much more of their childhood with her.

Grandma Lu is strong and brave. She's funny and kind. She's unassuming and generous. I love her so much. I love that she has Facebook and an iPad which she knows full well how to use and now even an iPhone. I love how when you talk with her on the phone you'll hang up about 20 minutes after she's said goodbye for the first time. I love how she takes care of her grandkids.

I love that all this came from her and Papa.

5 kids, with 5 spouses, from whom came 14 grandchildren, and 2 of their spouses = 26 people who are all part of something that began over fifty years ago when a boy named Bob met a girl named Lu.

I am so proud to be your granddaughter. I miss Papa all the time, but I'm so looking forward to the years I still get to have with you.

Love, Chris

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Why I go to Church

At my home parish, I always hear a familiar litany of intentions;

For Carol, Shauna, and Maria, for Kevin and Marie, who are battling cancer...
For those on hospice, and for those who care for them...
For those who suffer from chronic pain...
For those who cannot pray for themselves...

We pray to the Lord.

I know these by heart because I've heard them called out by the same people at 5:30 mass on Saturdays for as long as I can remember. It used to just be Carol, Shauna, and Maria. 

There also used to be Beth and Tricia.

When I was younger, and I heard the lector say, "Let us now pray for our personal intentions, whether aloud or in the silence of our heart," I used to rush to think of every single wish I had so I could frantically call them all to mind before she said a closing, "Let us pray to the Lord," and my intentions could be prayed for with the force of an entire church full of people. 

I still do that.

There's something sacred that happens in prayer, especially in the context of the Mass. I don't know Carol, Shauna, or Maria, but I've been praying for them by name for years because one parishioner offers them up each week. The Knight of Columbus that always prays for "those who cannot pray for themselves" challenges me weekly to think about who that means. Who can I pray for who cannot pray for himself? Who do you know in your life for whom yours might be their only prayer?

Lord, hear our prayer.

This is why I go to church. It's not because I'm jazzed about getting dressed on a Sunday only to get back in my sweats and do homework an hour later. It's not because I'm a Theology major and have some kind of requirement to love this stuff. It's not because I just go crazy for those hymns they sing, or the potential for hand holding with a nice Catholic guy during the Our Father.

I go for those on hospice, and those who care for them. I go for the people in my life who I want prayed for by a church full of people. I go because I like to visit Jesus at His house. I go because I'm Catholic.

I'm Catholic, and Jesus died for me, and my sins. And He listens, even if I don't get it all in before, "Let us pray to the Lord."

He's listening.

Love, Chris

Monday, January 6, 2014

It's Time to Put on Some Pants

So here's the sad truth. The mea culpa. The confession:

If last semester you did not a) live in Mill South 207 or b) attend CAC meetings...

We probably did not hang out.

Which is terrible! I promise, I have more than like the 10 friends who I saw on any kind of regular basis last semester. See, you're reading this, and there's like a 60% you're not one of my roommates. But I got lazy last fall. It was just too easy to come home and not leave, cause when you live with your best friends you lose motivation to get out at all because that involves a) putting on pants and b) making plans. Whereas I was loved and happy right where I was on my couch with my pants off and my best friend making me brownies. Yum.

But anyway. I have resolved to make a concerted effort next semester to get out more and be social. Obviously I'll always have my friends to come home to, but I suspect these other friendships would be just as strong if I put in the effort and spent some time with them. 

It's time to put on some pants.

Love, Chris

PS plz hang out with me I can be fun when I'm not binge watching the West Wing

Friday, January 3, 2014

Looking Forward to '14

2 years ago at this time I was in Disney World, about to run my first (and so far only) half marathon.

One year ago today I was in Roma, at Epiphany Mass with Pope Benedict XVI at St Peter's, then finishing up orientation and moving into my dorm, beginning my semester abroad.

Today I'm hanging out in Massachusetts watching a pirate fight (babysitting my Jack Sparrow obsessed cousins for the weekend with my sister). Tonight I'll prepare for the GRE practice test I'm taking tomorrow and flip back and forth between the Jimmy Fallon special and the Bachelor. 

Wild and crazy, I know. But despite the lack of glamour, I'm looking forward to what 2014 holds for me. Last year at this time I was scared out of my mind. I had no idea what had possessed me to move to a country where I didn't speak the language and the people I went with were just as unknown. And look how well that turned out! 2013 was undoubtedly the best year of my life. My semester abroad changed me in the best ways, and then I had an awesome summer and a great start to junior year.

I'm not intimidated by 2013. I'm not trying to top it, nor do I feel like I've peaked. I'm in a really great place. I feel like I've made some solid gains in my plans for the future, narrowing down Masters programs and preparing for the GRE. I've been asked back to the summer job that I love and I'll have a new job this semester that I think will be fun. 

I'm kinda lovin life. 

Here's to '14.

Love, Chris