Strength doesn’t come all at once. Any professional athlete can tell it can take years of training to perform well in their sport. There’s not a super solider serum to instantly make the next Captain America. (Another point is that the serum enhanced the natural bravery and self-sacrificial heart of Steve Rodgers that was already present through his youth…) Strength takes time, hard work, and smart work to grow to the greatest potential. Belief in God is like that. Faith takes time and it needs to be nurtured.
Continual, constant pursuit can strengthen one’s faith in God. In the relationship between God and man, there’s this type of pursuit; each one seeks the other and desires love. During times of spiritual drought, efforts of pursuit can be rather challenging. Man’s pursuits become half-hearted. God desires the entire heart.
Faith is like a river. If it stops flowing the water grows stagnant. In order to keep faith fresh, there has to be a constant renewal of the spirit. I’ve thought converts have better faith because their belief stems from a renewal that is present and relevant, rather than Cradle Catholics like myself who’ve known the faith most of their life and tend to have a lukewarm faith. I want to change that narrative.
When the pursuit of God becomes passive, these passive pursuits can be transformed into active pursuits by looking into the past and finding the times when God is present, how he was present, and learning from those experiences. Another way to transform our pursuits is to try new things, while keeping the consistency of time, prayer and effort. Finally, it’s important to not pursue God alone. The Blessed Mother, the saints and the entire church as the Body of Christ can support us in our pursuits of God.
So, a couple of weeks ago I received word that I was to be furloughed from my position at Barry Engineering this past Wednesday. This setback is caused by the financial crisis that come as a response to a response. In order to limit the spread of COVID-19, a lot of businesses had its employees work-at-home. This, coupled with stay-at-home orders, and designation of essential businesses, caused the economy to crash. This is just a sampling of all the effects of such a shut-down.
Luckily, Civil Engineers are considered essential, so a lot of firms, including mine, were still able to function with these orders for a short time. The problem is that with the failing economy, investors cannot easily fund projects, limiting the amount of available work. It is not sustainable to maintain a full staff on a full time payroll without sufficient income.
Being furloughed is a setback for me, especially since I have only worked for Barry Engineering for 9 months: 5 of those months on contract, and 4 months full-time. I still have so much to learn. There’s so many things I should be able to know to continue my career. In order to better understand my position, let’s take a step back to a simpler time: the summer of 2019.
Keep your distance. It’s quite tough to say how I’m handling this brave new world we have today. A contagious and potentially deadly disease has taken over almost every aspect of our daily life. The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on the fabric of the society. The world around us might never be same.
Lately, I’ve been feeling at odds with myself. I was almost ready to move out on my own in February, but I decided to push it back. Why? I don’t think I’m ready to let go of where I am right now. I’ve started anew back home, and I don’t want to be all on my own too soon. I have started a relationship, connected with some friends, and kept busy with my new job. It’s tough to change once again. Or maybe I don’t need to.
There is one aspect of being autistic that I don’t always understand: masking. Masking is a way that autistics have tried to adapt to the neurotypical world. We see what ways non-autistics might communicate, through verbal and nonverbal communication, and we use what we see to blend in. Sometimes these skills are taught through personal experiences or bad therapy, but it puts on a false facade. It makes us look “normal”, but it’s not our normal. It isn’t an accurate display of autism.
“And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.”
– Luke 2:19
On the first day of the New Year, the Catholic church celebrates the Solemnity of Holy Mary, the Mother of God. In today’s gospel, after the shepherds proclaimed the Good News of Jesus’s birth, Mary, the mother of God, reflected on all that happened. I would like to do the same over the past year. I wish I could have done it last year, but it’s 2020, and maybe I’ll see it clearly now.
This past year has been a whirlwind of events. To be honest, the beginning of 2019 seems so far away from me. I began 2019 at home in Houston. Within in the first week, I flew on plane to Indianapolis, Indiana, or now should I say Andy-anapolis. I attended SEEK, a biannual conference for Catholic college students to grow in their faith, and seek God, as He seeks each one of us. I had listened to His voice, telling me I was good. I wanted to rest on that. I got to watch some amazing talks, listen to some amazing music as they had Needtobreathe and Matt Maher in concert, and pray and reflect on my spiritual life.
Later that month, I went back to school to finish up my last semester at the University of Texas at Austin. In February, I went on a Silent Retreat. This time I understood the humility of silence, and being silent meant on a spiritual level. In March during Spring Break, I went on Austin CARITAS 2019. This inner-city mission trip hosted by the Schoenshatt University Men and the University Catholic Center, usually occurs in January, but due to World Youth Day and Schoenshatt’s involvement in that, it moved to Spring Break. It focuses on both serving the community of Austin through charities such as Central Texas Food Bank. Helping Hand Home, and the State Supported Living Center, it also focuses on forming the spiritual life of the missionaries through prayer and adoration. This is where I truly learned what being on mission meant: a pilgrimage to Heaven. I also realized that going home isn’t a bad thing as Heaven is our home.
During the semester I kept myself busy working towards getting a job after graduation. I had Longhorn Pep Band to keep me busy going to basketball games and rehearsal for the first half of the semester. Once basketball season ended, I had a lot more time to focus on finishing up my schoolwork. I enjoyed my last set of classes, especially classes such as my Architectural history topic, “Loos and Mies”. I also liked Engineering Professionalism, where I worked with a group to design a rain garden for an elementary school. I learned to the true meaning of hard work and teamwork, as my Engineering Professionalism group had to struggle with a team member not taking his part seriously and making the rest of us do more work. .
In April, I staffed my last Longhorn Awakening, LA 66. It was great time to pray for others and it was a good way to finish off my involvement in Longhorn Awakening. I know it was difficult because of a sudden shutdown, but I’m glad my friends helped me feel rejuvenated and more committed to praying for the retreatants. I also staffed my last STRONG retreat. In late April, I went on the first ever University Catholic Center Senior Retreat. It was a great gathering of the seniors or anyone in the Class of 2019 who was involved with the University Catholic Center. It was good to reflect on stories, community, and figure out what the future held for each of us after graduation. I’m glad that God brought this community together throughout college.
Then in late May came the big weekend: Graduation. It was everything I hoped for and more. I was so glad to be done with school. The ending was bittersweet because graduation meant I was leaving all of my friends in Austin. I enjoyed every minute of graduation, despite the struggle of attending too many ceremonies. Then it was over. I went to a small party on Memorial Day and went home to Houston.
I stayed at home most of the summer, still searching for a job in my Civil Engineering field. I kept myself busy going to church frequently, working on my hobbies such as playing the piano, and applying for jobs. I did travel once to Cedar Park, near Austin, for one interview. This was my first time driving there and back in one day. It wore me out. I was freaking out on the way home driving in the evening. I drove most of the day for almost 7-8 hours, so I was very loopy and tired. I struggled to find a job until I emailed my resume to Barry Engineering one day. Shortly after that, I interviewed for an Engineer in Training position and got hired on contract for three months. I started on July 24, two months after I walked across the stage.
Back stepping a little, during July, my sister Jennifer and I attended Cafe Catholica at St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church near the Uptown/Galleria area of Houston. This event was every Monday in July, where they had Young Adults from all over the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston gather for prayer, Mass, food, and a talk. I wasn’t able to attend every part of every week, but this led to us finding out that Epiphany of the Lord, our old home parish in Katy, had a Young Adult group. I did more research, and found out that they had bible study on Wednesdays. So, one Wednesday night in mid-July, Jennifer and I decided to make the trip. Turns out, the group decided to watch a movie, the Greatest Showman that night. That was also the night I met Tracey, my girlfriend. Jennifer and I have been attending the bible study as often as we could throughout the rest of the year, as it supported my prayer life.
I worked throughout the summer and fall at Barry Engineering on contract. I got an extension in late October to my contract to mid-December. I had struggled adjusting to work life, commuting over an hour round trip from West Houston to Cypress, (Barker-Cypress Road, all the way.) I had a lot to learn that I didn’t know about designing the Structural Engineering behind mostly wood and steel apartment buildings and a wedding venue. At work, I learned so much that school didn’t teach me, my boss sometime wonders at my college education and credibility. I worked hard to improve my work, and I finally got hired in December as a full-time employee. I’m glad to work there because it is a good group of people who work hard and enjoy each other.
Meanwhile, I decided to ask my friend Tracey from bible study on a date, We got coffee and talked for about four hours. Then we went on a few other dates. On December 21, I asked her to be my girlfriend or as I called it my “left-hand girl” as we are both left handed. She said Yes.
I’m glad for all the gifts of this past year. This is not everything that happened. This past year as not been without hardships, especially struggling with going home, the decrease of involvement in my faith community, and dealing with the anxieties of time management and anxious habitual prayers. As much as my life seems great on the outside, I realize that my reflections have to start from the inside of my heart. There are many blessings that have come of this past year, as I have moved forward in life and enjoying living life. I’m very grateful for where I am. I wish the best for 2020. Happy New Year!
As is in the season of giving thanks, and Thanksgiving being a few days away, there’s a lot for me to be thankful for in my life. I am grateful for where I am and what joys I have currently in my life, the joys and sufferings of my past that have led me to where I am, and the hope for the future. Most importantly, I want to thank God, the creator of my life, including my yesterdays, today, and tomorrows, for all these things.
While this month ends, (September) I realize I can’t finish the big blog post I’m currently working on. I haven’t posted this month. Anxiety wants me to freak out. I have already in such small blips. I feel like I have to release all of the bottled-up anxiety that shakes me, like the 2 Liter Dr. Pepper I brought to church youth group for quite a while. I fizzle over as much as I try to contain it. It’s hard to express emotions when you have to keep it altogether for those you love.
There is one person I love, who I don’t have to keep it altogether for though. I don’t have to wear a fake smile. God. God only knows my struggles. God knows everything. I can take all my anxiety to Jesus, who loves me besides my anxiety. God does not want me to anxious, but it is a natural feeling. I’m no stranger to anxiety. At Camp Texas before my freshman year, my camp, the Ring of Fire, had an icebreaker where we would introduce ourselves with an adjective that starts with the same first letter as our name, our name and an action that we all did. I called myself “Anxious Andy,” and I held my hands to my mouth like I was biting my nails. Anxiety has come to me anytime. Even when I first visited the one of the toughest engineering professors at UT Austin, Dr. Rodin, in office hours, I had an anxiety attack and nearly cried while he suggested I go to the mental health clinic on campus. That was early in the semester. I did get to contact them and visit them later on that semester.
There’s the common go-to bible verses for anxiety.
“Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God which passes all understanding will guard your minds in Christ Jesus.”
I do believe God is truly speaking to our anxieties here. So, we are called to answer to our anxieties with prayer, being thankful for all that God has given to us. We can let God know our struggle is real and He can help put us at peace.I want to take it just a step further than that. I have anxiety in my prayer life. I feel like I have to pray the rosary every day and go pray this and that. These are good habits, but they can be poisoned by my anxiety. I tend to focus on the “requirement”. Sound familiar? Plot twist: It’s about intention. Intentional prayer is the answer. Sure, I do enjoy my daily rosary, though I might mess up. I want to focus on the intention. I like to have the mediation of the mysteries of Jesus’s and Mary’s lifes. I like to think about the mysteries, and truly wonder why they are a mystery.
I like to think of a few more things before I finish tonight, and one is for tomorrow morning. In the morning, I like to do the Morning Offering prayer. I pray some version of this in the morning for quite a while. I first received a version of this while in Spiritual Direction when I struggled with offering up things. This prayer covers just about covers everything.
O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer you my prayers, works, joys and sufferings of this day for all the intentions of your Sacred Heart, in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world, for the salvation of souls, the reparation of sins, the reunion of all Christians, and in particular for the intentions of the Holy Father this month. Amen.
So, I’m going to let my blog become a bit of an offering to God. That way it all comes back to God, and I’m not too anxious about editing it too much or delaying it. It’s so God can speak through me in many different ways. I’ll end with a verse I probably mentioned before in a different post that I memorized in Boy Scouts.
Therefore, whether you eat of drink or whatever you do, do it all for the Glory of God.
As I hold myself accountable for writing a blog post about once a month, and that my last blog post was about a past event, it’s time for update. This post will be a bit more current. It will be very electric.
So, a month ago, I started my new job at Barry Engineering as an Engineer in Training. This is only my second engineering job ever, and to be honest, I’m pretty lucky to get this far. I overlooked this company. I had the company in my “Job Database”, which is just an Excel spreadsheet I used to keep track of my job applications for a while. I’m not very good at keeping track, because I started only adding dates to my database until after I graduated. Adding on to that, technically, Barry Engineering was listed as “Berry Engineering” at one point. They say hindsight is 20/20, but 2020’s not until next year.
Imagine the mountainside rising in front of you. Each step is a struggle. The trail leads up, but it’s your slipping feet holding you. The only other security is a chain-links connected to some poles in the rock. Even then, the chain sways back and forth as you grab on to it. You walk further up. Each step gets you closer to the top, your goal. You’re scared. You walk further up. Side-step for security. Hold on. You’re afraid, but somehow you make it to the top.
A few years ago, during Spring Break in 2015, I went to Zion National Park and hiked up to Angel’s Landing. More accurately, it was a climb. I came with my father, but his fear of heights caused him to stop partway and let me go on further. I was persistent on making in it to the top. You’d think I’d be afraid. I was scared out of my mind. Somehow, I made it.