Happy New Year. Happy day. Happy life. Right. Okay.
This past week I went to a giant Catholic convention put on by FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students), where there 13,000 students joining together to grow closer to Christ. Nerdy as that may sound to all of my non-Catholic/ non-religious friends, it was pretty neat.
I've been to things like this before. Two years ago I went and I was scared out of my mIND because I didn't know anyone except this girl from Kansas who I went to Africa with and I love more than most people (her name is Erin and I love her). Last year, I went again and I felt a little more confident, but I'm not totally sure why, I still didn't know people. I quickly learned though, that people wanted to know me. It was easier for me to turn off the anxiety last year, since I stuck with the same group of people every day and there were only about 3,000 instead of 10,000. This year, I was going to know a lot people. So I wasn't nervous about going at all. Erin would be there, along with three other people from my 2014 mission trip to Uganda. Not only them, but my almost my entire mission team from my Kolkata mission trip would be there. And I asked a couple of my very good friends from Lincoln to go. Not to mention the handful of friends/ acquaintances that were also signed up to go. I knew a lot of people this time and I wasn't scared. In fact, I was excited. Because I'd get to see everyone.
It seems that I had forgotten just how many people 13,000 is. It's a lot. Nebraska alone brought 7 buses. Even though I was constantly surrounded by people that I knew, the vast number of people that I didn't know outweighed them, and ya girl was swimming in anxiety. As we approached San Antonio, I grew less excited, thinking about the two hour long lines for supper and mass confusion of which talk is in which room and where the rooms are and who is talking to me and where am I supposed to go. But I held on to the giddiness of seeing everyone, and also seeing the Oh Hellos, who were performing for the conference (and who are also my fave band/ people btw). I started preparing myself for the worst, while still clinging to the best.
I like to describe the week as "very give and take"--there were times that I got so freaked out that I left the conference entirely because I couldn't breathe in a room full of thousands, and there were times that I was so overwhelmed with love and joy that the only thing I could do was sit and revel in it all. For that reason, the panic attacks and the social fears and the bus ride and the lack of sleep didn't matter. For that reason of pure love, it was worth it.
There were a lot of talks by a lot of really amazing speakers who have found so much worth in their faith, it's hard to not take something away from the conference, despite the times I wished that I was in the comfort of solitude. This year, however, I think I received the most grace from the rare times I found myself alone. The times that I left the conference because I couldn't find my room and I was overwhelmed, the times that I skipped a meal because I couldn't stand in the line surrounded by hundreds of people I didn't know, the times that I went to bed early because of the exhaustion from not sleeping the night before; that's when I heard God loudest.
Because every time that I made time to be alone, that I intentionally left, I found myself longing for someone to be with me.
It's amazing for me think about how drastically different my life is from a year ago. How many relationships I've built, how much my Catholic faith has influenced my art, how I've somehow become a person who hugs people hello and not just good bye. How I have the privilege of being a friend to so many people, and how I am privileged to have so many friends. A year ago, I did not. I could go on for hours about how different my life is from a year ago, but I won't. I'll just state how absolutely amazed I was this week when I found myself constantly wanting someone by my side. Constantly, even when I secluded myself, I was longing for someone to walk with me. And even though it was such insignificant amount of time, I have to believe that it was God who was providing for me.
Every time that I was alone and wished for someone to be alone with me, someone showed up. Whether it be Sydney walking with me to explore and skip the women's talk, whether it be Pha finding me to watch Novum worship music, or Chas, Eric and Will joining me at the cafe waiting for Reagan, or Reagan looking through my sketchbooks when Chas, Eric, and Will couldn't wait anymore. Whether it was Perry walking with me on the River walk, or Ben and Miranda stopping me in the hallway as I walked to sit alone, there was constantly someone there. It's now that I realize that Jesus loves me through humans. And when I'm secluding myself from them, I'm secluding myself from Him. What a change for someone as introverted as myself.
As Leah Darrow so eloquently put, "Relationship: if you don't have this, you don't have anything. You become what you love."--we were made for relationship with Christ.
Upon coming back to Nebraska, I was immediately embraced by Cam, who stayed awake with me until mass started at 10. While I was in mass, sitting by this human who understands how much I love God and how important my faith is to me, my thoughts were further validated in that Jesus loves me in the form of people. And not just me. Jesus loves us tangibly.
In that same mass, during the consecration of the Eucharist, I saw the same image that I do every week, and this time I heard His voice alongside the image, "This is for everyone." A.K.A. "draw this plz"--I was told who to put in the image, and where to put them, how to draw, what tools to use, and how to make it. And so I am.
I am excited to embrace this gift, and this year, and this new understanding of the image and likeness of Christ who is man.