When the Room starts looking slightly more Organized

It is quite frustrating to be looking for something for so long. And if you had a deadline, even if it were just in your mind, each moment that went by without being able to find it would kill you. And the closer to the deadline, the harder it would be to look. And the more confusing.

I’ve been lost for a while. For a long while. Within the cold outer winter I was in a winter of my own. Not just my eyes, but my vision distinguished nothing but gray. How I saw things was what was so depressing, and not really how the things themselves were. I didn’t get cold anymore, because I already was cold. I couldn’t feel the breeze or smell the rain. I couldn’t taste the sweetness anymore. I tried eating lots of chocolates, believe me: it didn’t work! Maybe my mind had gone into some kind of hibernation. Perhaps numbness would be more precise to describe the feeling. Although in the numbness you don’t feel the intense pain, it is terrifying not to feel, not to think, and the worse of all: not to see. I had so many questions I wanted to specifically answer this year, and as the months went by, they only accumulated. The vision got ever more blurry with time.

Somehow I decided to go on a retreat for Easter. It sounded interesting because it was international. I wasn’t necessarily looking for the answers right then, because I was a bit discouraged at the moment, and had actually kind of stopped looking for them. Lately the options were confusing me too much, but my heart was still open for anything -just in case. It had gotten some empty spaces since I first got here. I will not say that I was unhappy or literally depressed. I was though, in an internal struggle, but maybe I was so numb I forgot to remind myself to keep fighting. So although I had many questions, I was at the point where I thought that they never would get answered. I didn’t imagine that I would get a bunch of answers; surprisingly soon!

I didn’t know anyone. It was far away. The truth is, I hadn’t lived my Lent like I should have. In Frankfurt, where I’m living this year, I don’t have friends that are very religious. Not close ones. And so Lent passed by as if it were not Lent. I pretended to prepare when I knew that my heart was not really setting the grounds. Even though the soil was not properly prepared, the seed was there. And it had a small and humble chance.

“I will have plenty of time to prepare on my way there. Plenty of time to think. To admire the wonderful view from the train” – And I slept the WHOLE way (literally too). It was just inevitable; as if I had taken a good sleeping pill, – or a couple of them. I didn’t know what to expect. I couldn’t even imagine how the place would be or how 600 young people would look like while praying and praising God.

The first good sign: we had wonderful weather. The sun just kept making me feel so sleepy, and as I stepped out of the train -and train station- I felt -and probably looked too- like a zombie dragging a huge suitcase. Huge because I had all of my bed sheets and covers along that only fit in my biggest bag. It made a graveling noise as I pulled it and it annoyed me: not only the fact that it was broken, but that it was LOUD.

I looked at the map they posted on internet to find the registration place. But as awful as I am reading and following maps it was better -and enough- to look up and follow the other people with their big – but not noisy- luggage.

I was late. I had been traveling since 7 o’clock in the morning but the times between trains had been longer than I expected, counting also the trains that you just have to miss on these kind of occasions. Registration had started at 4 p.m. I arrived to the town when it was 7 pm. After I got registered I wanted to leave my bags at the dorm and maybe eat something at the gym with the other people like the staff at the registration had suggested. Talking to a girl I discovered not only that the dorm was closed (for now) but that supper time was already over. Well, at least I got to the welcome talk on time…

It filled me with joy when we sang that first happy song. 500 like me, lifting their hands and singing from their hearts. It was a familiar song too, so that helped me start feeling home right away. People from Germany (of course), France, Slovakia, Austria, Rumania, Egypt, Brazil, Switzerland and other countries were introduced. Then we had mass, the one with the Washing of the Feet. I guess that I was looking at the people too much to be paying enough attention. Some with headphones, the others translating. A couple songs and lectures were not even in German, but in Hungarian or Slovakian or some language that I couldn’t understand or figure out which one it was. And so many people. The church was totally full, people sitting on benches at the sides, standing everywhere, some even with half a butt outside the bench – I was one of the ones by the way – so as many as possible could sit. The different entrance doors were open and some were listening to mass from outside, standing as close as possible to the door. There were even benches behind the altar and way up front behind the big crucifix, where you could see nothing but candles. I was starting to get excited, and so as it seemed as if I were in a dream the whole mass went a bit blurry into my memories. But I did keep 2 clear pictures in my head: the 12 Apostles sitting, waiting for their feet to be washed; and the whole crowd of spectators, waiting as anxious as the Apostles were.

It was a long mass, but I didn’t care, not even after traveling the whole day. It was as if I wasn’t even tired, my spirit was so full of life. When it was over I could finally take my luggage and settle. As soon as we left the church we turned automatically into the “tired status“. Of course, we all had traveled, and the 20 girls staying at the dorm were too tired to talk. All but a couple of girls that I started chatting with. We were on the top beds of the 3-bed bunk beds. It was pretty cool talking like this, as if from mountain to mountain. These 2 girls stayed with me until the end of the retreat; they were 2 sisters from Austria: Stephani and Sarah. Both younger than me and awfully talkative and mischievous. A lot like normal teenage girls I guess.

We had breakfast always at 8 and I was anxious to see how my first meal with the whole crowd would turn out. It was a simple breakfast, because it was Holy Friday, and so would our meals be on this day. One piece of hard bread with butter and jelly or Nutella. Morning prayer was next on the agenda, and of course – The Way of the Cross as noon got closer. This we did in small groups, separating men from women so that we would actually meet some people and talk a bit more. They said after this we would have a day of silence until Saturday noon and I was actually happy and excited about it. I needed to think, but maybe most of all I needed to really listen. Unfortunately my happy pair of Austrian friends were not exactly in the mood to keep silence and were too excited of having met me to be able to stop talking. So they wouldn’t leave me alone. But I has happy anyway because God was giving me these 2 good friends, and it would probably be a long time until I would ever see and talk to them again – if that actually happened. This was my chance to get to know them too. Friday just gave me peace, I was glad they didn’t give us much to eat, and I was excited about mass – excited about mass. I can’t remember if I ever was sincerely, whole heartedly, looking so much forward to mass. And then being excited about it! Nope, not like this. I kept waiting – and longing – for every one of the moments we had the gatherings where we could sing and praise God together. It was so strong. It was the music. The atmosphere, the people, all the languages. And God was just there, with no boundaries, no borders from countries or cultures or languages. And in all, HE spoke through his music, because if there is one thing that doesn’t need words for anyone to understand and feel, it is music. To finish the day we watched a movie of Mother Theresa.

On Saturday I was already scared that it was almost over. We had a much better breakfast, then praise and free time. I needed my time, or better said: God’s time. During the couple hours of our free time I told my Austrian friends that I needed time in silence. From the first day I got there, I had seen a sign that said “Way of the Cross –> ” and it had since awoken my curiosity. I did my own way of the cross. At each station I’d tell God what was worrying me and tried to share a bit of Jesus’ suffering. There is of course no comparison, but I was glad He was there with me and He understood better than anyone. There was the beautiful sun looking at me, the amazing spring, the gorgeous flowers, and in the peace and silence, in the simple breeze and the quiet beam of sunlight: God was there. Finally I was alone with Him.

I can’t remember how many times we were in the church during the days of the retreat. I remember feeling so much at peace, and always so energetic. I consider myself a bit religious, ok… but not that much. Church has always cost me. I think it costs us all, or at least most of us. But this time it didn’t bother me so much, I even longed to go, to sing, to just be there. It wasn’t a responsibility anymore, I wasn’t tied up to anything, no strings pulling me to what habit had done to me. Unlike before, I wanted to go. It made me think of when I was still in Tampico (Mexico), and I was in a catholic youth group. At first I went not because I wanted to, but because I felt I had to because my parents were in a catholic community and well… it was kind of expected that as a daughter of community I would be part of the community’s youth. Because I felt a bit pushed, doesn’t mean I was actually forced, I just felt it was another duty. Part of me wanted it, wanted to try it, and the other part sort of hated it. The compromise, the time; I didn’t have that much time to give… Not to these things… I had – apart from school – my friends, my boyfriend, and other things to do – I wanted to spend my time doing fun stuff too. Yet something moved me; slowly, but forward and steady. We had “out of town” retreats I never went to because I never wanted to. I don’t know, in a way I didn’t want to ask my parents to pay for it, but I also wasn’t motivated enough and some part of me thought “I didn’t need it” – I thought- “I love God, I go to church, I’m a good person- I can feel God here and I can pray here, I don’t need to go somewhere else to experience Him.

This is quite ironic, and even contradictory, because I strongly believe and say that traveling and seeing new places help people find another perspective. I consider that it’s an amazing experience where people learn a lot, grow and mature. But I didn’t see that in this specific situation. I think that God was just letting me be, and I hate it that I was too proud to admit that I needed it. The good thing is I know that He wanted me to find out later. To show it to me a different way, one I hadn’t imagined.

I was in the youth group maybe for 2 or 2 and a half years. At the end was when I truly was convinced of what I was doing. Too bad, it was barely at the end when I was totally enjoying it, when I was discovering new friends and loving strangers. And strangely loving them so much, as if I had known them for so long, as if they were my brothers and sisters. At that moment it was time to leave. To see the world. To go far away to learn and grow. And it was not easy, and not how I imagined, and that’s just how life is.

The answers I looked for, were not where I was looking. I was waiting for a great sign, a clear voice or maybe even an apparition. I was forgetting the most important: that God isn’t in the lightning or the earthquake, but in the soft quiet breeze. All these months I was looking in all the wrong places. During my time with the community in Mexico I always expected “to feel the Holy Spirit” or to “listen to God” or all of these things that you are supposed to do. They would ask me “Did you feel the Holy Spirit??” – and I would say no. Not because I didn’t feel it, but because I didn’t know I felt it. I couldn’t recognize it. I couldn’t distinguish God’s voice very well in my everyday life because it was filled with so much interference. Very few things were very clear – God clear – but most of them weren’t. Maybe when I was expecting to feel the Spirit I was hoping I’d levitate, and when I tried to listen to God I was expecting the radio moderator to send a message to: Annie; from: God.

It is a blessing to grow up in a Christian Family, but it also has it disadvantages. One of them is the numbness… That’s what happens with many Christians, they hear “God, God, God” their entire lives, and it becomes normal… Nothing special, a habit, God is there, ok, I believe, I know, I’m a good person. And this is enough. They forget to see God in everyday, in the small things, or simply in their lives. They fail to feel Him because they’re so insensible to Him. It happened to me- I’ve known God all of my life. Somewhere along the road it got to a point where I just couldn’t feel Him anymore. I still prayed and went to mass. I believed, I had faith, I knew — yet I couldn’t truly feel God, or recognize Him when He was there, trying to speak, maybe even yelling at me, but I just had my eyes closed and my ears with headphones. The world’s headphones that make it impossible to be quiet and listen to the important voice. The voice was very clear now, and the picture incredibly sharp. There in the silence, He spoke.

Saturday evening was just amazing. Everyone was excited about mass. They were all dressed with nice clothes – for like a party. Well, Jesus was Resurrecting and that was of course something to celebrate. The Church lit with our candles looked more than beautiful. The music was incredibly full of life you couldn’t help but feeling that Christ himself was there. And He was – Christ risen!! The joy was contagious. I never got tired of singing “Alleluia!”

After the real party, we had our human party. It was in a gym where a stage had been set up. A couple of bands played Christian songs. People were singing along, and dancing and jumping – of happiness!! The air was simply saturated with God’s presence. I couldn’t believe seeing all these young people jumping and screaming of joy – unlike normal scenarios- not for the band on stage, but for something unimaginably greater than themselves – Christ’s Resurrection, – Our Salvation. Never in my life had I celebrated like this: The Most Important Celebration of Human History. But it really made sense to me. I had never quite grasped that – until now. Never had I realized Easter is indeed the most important thing to celebrate in life. If you are reading this, you maybe would have had to be there to understand what I’m talking about. The intensity… the joy… all for celebrating the Resurrection.

Earlier on Saturday Stefy and Sarah had raised my hand up for the volunteering for cleaning up after tonight’s party. I was not so happy about it. First, I had helped a couple of times during the retreat and second, which probably bothered me more than the first, it was at 3 o’clock in the morning. “How on earth will I do it?” – I thought… It didn’t bother me to help out, just that it was so late, and I would be so tired, never mind sleepy…

But God didn’t get tired of surprising me and once again He did it. The party went on with the same amazing atmosphere – not like any party – but like the party. The one worth celebrating. Nothing could or would ever compare to it.

It was 3 a.m. and I didn’t want the party to be over. I wasn’t sleepy and very far from tired. Cleaning time started and was over before I knew it. Almost everyone helped and we even set the things for the next day – I had so much energy, I wanted to do more- to keep working, to keep jumping even- but everything was done. It amazed me so much, that God had not only helped me stay awake, but He had given me Life. In all the senses.

Yet when I was in bed, I had absolutely no trouble to sleep. God was just so magical – so like God! Sunday mass was also top class, I don’t even have the words to describe it.

Sunday morning we met a group of French people. We walked together to church. They were amazingly full of life. Inexplicably I fell in love with one of them, yet not exactly with him, and I’ll explain why: on our walk to church they were singing: “Alleluia” , along with different songs of praise and anything for a happy atmosphere. They lifted their hands, they sang out loud. Now imagine this: we were walking in the middle of the streets (yes, we joined the French), dancing around and hopping like little kids who just learned a new song from kindergarten. Absolutely with no shame.

One of them caught my attention, and I had spoken to him at breakfast. He had his hands up high and was singing with so much passion that I couldn’t help but being in awe. Completely in awe. I couldn’t stop looking at him and the thought came to me that Christian guys that are cute actually do exist, even in the real world!! (haha, I know, it IS amazing). He was so in love with God it made me feel in love with God too. Yet at the same time, I felt deeply and awkwardly sad. Because the person I’m in love with, is not in love with God.

I loved this guy’s passion. I understood what I’d heard before from couples of the community back in Mexico – that they wanted us to marry someone who had Christ as the center of their life. It wasn’t that they were discriminating non-Christians as I’d thought. Or that they wouldn’t do everything possible in the world for the person they love the most, so that they would know God too- and love Him; but that it was such a blessing to meet someone and know that God is part of his life as well, and if what you have in common and there’s anything that unites you and that what keeps you together IS GOD, that means you have the strongest force that could ever bond you, not only in the whole Earth but in the entire Universe! Think about THAT. And this is why I felt sad…

On Sunday we also had an Easter Musical, which was awesome!! And so much fun. But I think the music was messing with my mind, and for a moment I thought about the possibility of joining the school in Altoetting (the town of the retreat). It’s a music school and the people there are young people who give one year to serve God. They focus on music, but also evangelize, do missionary work, and do stuff like plays or help organize retreats. Of course, I was mainly interested in the music part, and then well… going away, in a place so peaceful like this… so full of God… Perhaps it isn’t that I’m supposed to go there for a year, but that it is in music where I should work for God. Until now, I’m still not sure…

Anyway… it was Sunday evening and I was thinking about how strange it was that we hadn’t had Adoration yet (during the whole retreat). Adoration is when Jesus in the host is exposed (as Catholics we believe that Jesus is literally in the host), so this is very important and extremely powerful, specially when you are in prayer. Just when I was wondering about this, they were taking the host out for Adoration. We had special intentions for the occasion and got to write them on paper and put them in a basket in front of Jesus. We could also ask for a blessing where the priest would put his hands on us and pray for our personal petition. I hope this isn’t like a dream where, when you say what it is – people say- it won’t come true… Just kidding… Because I will say what it is: I felt kind of selfish, but I felt in my heart that I did need it. So I prayed for my college. I asked Him to give me wisdom to know what and where to choose. In my waiting for an answer, I was promised I would know in time. I think I want to study Communication — or at least in that direction. But before I study, and before I go, God gave me a mission. An important one. It has to do with love. In that instant I could feel God’s love for me, and that is a wonderful feeling and certainty. Yet the transforming experience was that I could feel my love for Him. I knew with all my heart I was in love with Him and I would give Him my life, and everything He asked for. I wanted to share His love to me and my love to Him (made one) with everyone in the world. Sadness overwhelmed me once again when I realized, that some of the people I love the most don’t exactly share the same feeling. They are not in love with Him. I know they don’t feel this overflowing love, this energy, this power. This what makes you want to hold on to life and extend this sensation to others like throwing beautiful flowers to everyone. Like when one person smiles and makes the whole audience smile and in this act is sharing a small piece of heaven. Sharing this filling joy, happiness and indescribable love. The kind you know with no doubt that you would give your life unconditionally. Mother Theresa’s words from the movie popped to my mind: “It is not my plan, it is God’s plan” And I felt partly sad, discouraged, and weak. Because I wasn’t sure if I would be able to do what God wanted…. Or the right thing, or the right way. I knew it was something big, really big. I’ve always known that… That I need to do important things, great things, when the time comes… That I don’t want to have a normal life.

Imagine being 18 years old and feeling that you’ve lived through quite some experiences. You’ve tried your best and are relative mature — yet you know you still have a long way to learn and need to mature much more— and that life has actually just begun. Believe me, it is not fun. I am conscious that I haven’t lived through really hard life experiences. I know I still have before me a long road. I have all the weight on my shoulders, the world in front of me and it’s terrifying not knowing what to do with what’s in front of you. But then God showed me – at least a piece of it – and I wasn’t sure if I could handle it… The world is kind of heavy… I’m only 18… The real work is just beginning… The tough life is still ahead… What I’ve lived is nothing compared to what is waiting for me… He never said it would be easy, and His last words were “ I will give you the strength to do everything that you NEED to do” – I thought of Mother Theresa once again, and there was no doubt in my mind that I would have to do, what I HAD TO DO, and that He would give me the strength to do it.


The disastrous mind mess

It’s been so long, hasn’t it? Since I wrote… Since I thought… I have only 4 months left here in Germany and I better use them correctly. It’s just, I keep having such a disaster in my mind. I hate it! It’s like having a messy room and you want to clean it up but you don’t know how to start or where. Under the pile of junk you’re looking for something extremely important – you’ve just forgotten what it is. Lost in the chaos, you can’t concentrate anymore on what you’re looking for. And it just seems so hard… You know you’re looking for something but you keep finding so many distractions that you deceive yourself thinking that you are indeed searching.. That you are somehow going forward. But the truth is sad: your room is still messy. There’s not been much done, and you’re going crazy because instead of it being a little bit clearer you’ve just moved the pieces around. The new perspective is not helping, and perhaps now there’s more confusion than at the beginning.