Saturday, April 27, 2013

Mary and the Eucharist

When are we closer to Mary than at the Eucharist?

Mary's whole reason for being (besides, you know, saying yes to God and birthing the savior) is to bring us closer to her son, so the fact that people around the world gather to encounter the physical presence of Jesus provides some fulfillment to her mission. We also know that, like the rest of the saints, Mary is present with us in the mass:
And so we join the angels and the saints in proclaiming your glory as we sing

(I love the Latin! ...and the fact that I have a fair understanding of a language I've never been taught. I can't imagine how much more I would know if I grew up attending mass completely in Latin as in pre-Vatican II!)

What makes Mary unique in the context of the Eucharist is that she was the original tabernacle. We make our receptacles out of precious metal today to show respect for the contents, following God's example: He chose Mary, a woman without sin, to be the perfect vessel that would carry so sacred a body.

In the mass and in the Eucharist, we become like Mary. We are forgiven our venial sins at the beginning of mass and present ourselves as-perfect-as-possible to receive Jesus, body and soul, into our own bodies. Our "amen" echos Mary's "yes" and her total surrender to God's will. If we approach to receive Communion without truly repenting of our sins or without upholding the tenants of the Church God has given us, we disrespect Christ by putting Him in a tainted vessel. No one (save Mary) is spotless, but it is through adherence to Truth and confession of wrong that we become worthy enough to enjoy a physical intimacy with Jesus. Mary carried Jesus inside her for nine months - what joy that must have been. The Eucharist is the closest we can get to her experience.

After receiving the Eucharist and returning to my pew to give thanks for this "communion" with Jesus (because that's what it's called!), I think of Mary. I imagine a veil over my head and bask in the same peace she carried throughout her life. Just for a moment, I feel a deep connection to Mary, as I've become like her - a vessel for Christ.

Give it a try.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Management to Motherhood: Managing Disappointment

As you work to grow others, there are bound to be setbacks and disappointments. No one is perfect, and sometimes we encounter failure. When I find out one of my "kids" (team members) has fallen short, my heart sinks a little. I want them to be successful; I coach them to do their best, but even the best people will disappoint occasionally.

Here are my 10 tips on managing disappointment:
  1. Set clear expectations from the beginning. If kids clearly know what they should or should not do, you know their failure wasn't due to miscommunication
  2. Communicate the "why". If they buy in to the reasons for rules or processes, they are more likely to follow along. Coupled with setting expectations, this goes a long way towards keeping them from doing something wrong.
  3. Gain respect before an incident occurs. Others are more likely to listen to you if they respect you. You can do this through getting to know them, establishing mutual goals for their future, and practicing what you preach - living by the advice you give to them.
  4. Show that you care for them, no matter what. Conditional love doesn't help anyone. Accepting and celebrating their unique gifts while caring for their well-being gives your relationship a foundation of trust. They will be less likely to question your motives if they know you're on their team and committed to helping them succeed.
  5. Confront them as soon as possible. Delaying a response to a problem gives them the wrong message - they may think what they did was ok. Talking directly to them about the incident shows that you won't let them slip by. Although it may be an uncomfortable conversation, it displays your care for their success.
  6. Don't jump to conclusions. Tell them what happened and how it didn't match the expectations you laid out. Then, ask them what happened. Give them a chance to speak their mind and explain the circumstances. There may be lots of excuses which you'll have to tackle, but there may be more to the story than you know. Being allowed to speak helps build that trust.
  7. Say you're disappointed. Disappointment from a respected coach is highly motivating, and it lasts. I still remember the sunken feeling I got every time my parents were disappointed in me. I looked up to them so much and worked really hard to make them proud.
  8. Turn it into a growth opportunity. Communicate what your expectations are going forward and how they can correct what happened. This makes a confrontation constructive and gives it a positive note in the end.
  9. Establish appropriate consequences. Make sure the punishment fits the crime. If one of my team members displays poor communication skills, I explain the opportunities they could have had but won't because their skills aren't there yet. I don't like taking away TV or grounding kids - those punishments are generic and don't reinforce the specific behaviors you're targeting. A teenager not making it home by curfew? Set curfew an hour earlier - once they show they can be responsible enough to make it home on time, they can "earn back" that hour...and your trust.
  10. And finally...don't take it personally! There will be slip-ups from time to time. At some point it's up to them to live their own life. You can only coach and correct, not steer. Ultimately their success is in their own hands.

Monday, April 8, 2013

"Lord of All Creation"

(Taken from prayer journal, written 4/20/12)

Lord of all creation
Of water, earth, and sky
The heavens are Your tabernacle
Glory to the Lord on high

You're above every thought I could ever have. The immensity of the world and what You have created is astounding. I can never comprehend how You had (and have) so much love for us that You created all this.

You have given me so many blessings that I have a hard time realizing and appreciating - family, friends, talents, Your love and guidance, amazing opportunities to learn and work, and other gifts that can be used for Your will. Help me to realize how blessed I am and give back to You. I could never adequately repay You for the sacrifice and love You have given for me, but with each day, I hope to know You better so I can better align my will with Yours so that the gifts You have given me are used for the purposes You intended. Help me find the path; light my way, that I may cease to stumble in the dark. Show me my failings so I may admit them and reject them.

You made all things, yet You have enough to love to share with all. Give me the strength to love as You love, and to accept Your love. I can't believe Your care for me and the willingness with which You welcome me into Your arms. Continue to shower me with love, that I may come to understand and accept the reality of Your constant presence and unconditional love. God, I love you and ask that You be patient with me as I attempt to listen and follow you. I have no doubt that You are truly present; help me to recognize what that means and act accordingly.

Bless me, shower down Your love on me, and correct my ways, that I may fulfill the goals You have put me here to accomplish. I love You, I adore You, I worship You, I thank You, and I implore you - give me the grace to live the life You have given me to the fullest, ever aware of Your presence and allowing Your love to radiate through me.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Management to Motherhood: Introduction

Ultimately, I feel I am called to motherhood, but I'm still a long way from it! I've always been ambitious and ready to move on to the next stage of life: in sixth grade, I was ready for high school; junior year of high school, I was ready for college; junior year of college, I was ready to be married. I'm not sure I was actually ready, but I had a strong desire to leave behind the current situation and embark on a new journey with new challenges.

My past ambitions have just required more time before they inevitably happened, but that marriage thing still eludes me. Instead (out of necessity and a refusal to be supported by my parents who had already done so much for me) I got a job and have shifted my ambitions towards something I can more directly control: my career.

Although I never really wanted to be a working woman, it does have its benefits:
  1. I get to use the problem-solving skills from my years of schooling. My parents paid lots of money (and I ended up with lots of debt) to give me a top-notch education. Without an outlet to employ those skills (ha! literally), all the years, hard work, and expenses wouldn't amount to much.
  2. I contribute to the greater good of society. It's satisfying to see my effort pay off in improving the efficiencies of my team and my company as well as contributing to the success, happiness, and relationship of the clients with whom I directly interact. I never intended to impact an organization, as the contribution I've wanted to make was along the lines of raising kids who would improve the world, but it has been a fulfilling detour.
  3. I get paid! Having a paycheck every month and job security in a growing industry gives me the freedom to live comfortably and without worry. I paid back the above-mentioned debt (something I considered my responsibility and not that of my future husband). My thoughts have turned towards questions like, "Which causes do I want to support?", "How do I effectively tithe?", "How much do I put away for retirement?", "What can I do for my friends?", and "What trips/adventures are up next?". (If  you have thoughts on any of these, send them my way!)
  4. I bill my university for the work I do now. (This is a small satisfaction, but a satisfaction none-the-less.) One of my clients is my alma mater, so each month they get an invoice for my help. After spending so much money going to school there, I enjoy seeing them contribute to my salary now, even though I live a thousand miles away. We may just come out even one day! (Side note: I really enjoyed my time in school and am appreciative of all the learning and opportunities while I was there. I don't have a vendetta of any sort. From a purely financial standpoint, it was just a lot of money!)
  5. I get to travel the country for free. Business trips take me to many locations: some exciting, others mundane. My favorite series of trips was to Hawaii, Alaska, and Las Vegas within a three-month period. I have seen cultural stereotypes first-hand (a fun experience for me) and have gotten a chance to catch up with friends scattered across the states. Most recently, trips to New York and DC have included work-free weekends spent in the company of holy women who I am honored to call my close friends. Work travel gives me an excuse to visit friends I otherwise may not have the time to see.
  6. I learn new things all the time. Through my interactions with smart and knowledgeable people, I've encountered so many new concepts that have challenged me to become a better professional, a better person, and a better world-citizen. I've taken an interest in various business topics, have read numerous books and articles on wide-ranging subjects, and have analyzed how others' experiences could improve my immediate surroundings.
  7. Management prepares me for motherhood (or so I hope). I manage five employees, who I think of as my "kids". They all came straight out of college, so I do a lot of initial expectation-setting in the working world. I help set their direction, find their passion, build their discipline, and put them on a path to make good decisions, much as I see mothers do for their own children. Management has its ups and downs, as I am passionate about mentoring others to grow them into their best selves and I also feel their pain as they struggle. There are great rewards when I can sit back and watch what they accomplish on their own after working closely with them over a year or two.
This last benefit, which I'm calling the concept of "Management to Motherhood", is the part of my career that I want to analyze, share, hear thoughts from others, and remember later in life. I've always heard you're never really ready to be a mother, but I'm going to do what I can to prepare myself through today's lessons. To that end, I'll be writing new posts about my adventures with team members and analyzing how they relate to motherhood. Ideally, I'd have a separate thread of these posts, but I haven't figured out how to separate/catalog them without creating a whole new blog. If you have ideas, let me know!

In the spirit of sharing insight, I found this blog post to be a positive influence on my outlook for the "not-yet married" life. Enjoy! Single, Satisfied, and Sent: Mission for the Not-Yet Married

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

"Your love is extravagant"

(Taken from prayer journal, written 9/23/11)

Your love is extravagant
Your friendship, it is intimate

It's so difficult to understand unconditional love when I don't think about it nearly enough. It's just a catchphrase until I sit still and actually consider what it means.

Maybe I don't recognize it even when I see it in the world - it makes me reconsider my priorities, which is uncomfortable when I'm around other people. I want to feel the reality of God's love, not just for me, but through me to others. I want to see people as God sees them - as beautiful creations with human dignity that entitles them to respect, love, and the benefit of the doubt. Everyone is so different, and we were created individually as we are.

I also need to love myself - not in a selfish way, but as a fallible human who also has dignity and deserves respect. In accepting myself and struggling with my weaknesses, I can better love others by being open to their world, not being absorbed in my own. It will take time sitting quietly to understand myself enough.