So I turn 23 today.
I'm not at home and I unfortunately am not with my family, but I have been able to spend my birthday in the best way I could, in a way that just screamed "Rachel": enjoying the sunshine, marvelling in amazing pieces of art, writing in a coffee shop, and Jesus.
I'm currently in Ottawa, a place I've never been before. Today, I was able to finally make it to the National Gallery of Canada, a gallery that I've wanted to go to for a long time ever since I started getting into art and slowly learning how to appreciate it. I walked by Parliament and enjoyed the sunshine, and was able to go to Notre Dame Cathedral and Saint Patrick's Basillica and light three birthday candles between the two churches. Since I'm fasting from sweets, I won't be eating birthday cake any time soon, so lighting those three candles and being with Jesus felt like the perfect compromise.
It's on a day like my birthday where I tend to do a lot of thinking and reflection. Like the one art installation above says, "hold that thought".
And I will do exactly that.
My life has changed a lot since my last birthday. Last year I wrote about 22 lessons that I learned over the course of the year. Interestingly, my 2018 would go on to be a particularly challenging year, with a lot of the lessons unfollowed. Basically, I didn't take my own advice and it led to more anxiety, depression, and overall confusion. I really had no idea who I was and who I was supposed to be.
But thankfully, through the patience and gentleness of God, I was back on the right track. Rise Up and the CCO mission to World Youth Day in Panama were two pivotal moments, all within a 30 day period, that really helped my formation. I went from extreme anxiety and confusion to calmness and appreciation for the unknown.
My reflection today brought me back to St. Pope John Paul II's message to the youth at the fourth World Youth Day. It reminds me of a quote that is attributed to JPII: "Life with Christ is a beautiful adventure", and indeed, he mentions in his message that "discovering Christ is the finest adventure of your life" (1989). He goes onto say that the beautiful thing about this discovery is that it is more than just a one time occasion: with every encounter, Jesus invites us to deeper intimacy with Him.
This was something that I only recently understood. I thought that once I had my re-conversion back to the faith in 2016 that I had all the answers I needed. Surely that would be my saving grace, and I was on a fast-track to heaven and holiness.
I quickly learned, however, that this was certainly not the case. It required effort and faith on my part, something that I had lost along the way.
Accepting this truth in humility was a great reminder that I can't do this life alone - and that's okay.
With that in mind, I'm excited for what this year will bring. I know that there will be a lot of changes to come with graduation about a year away. And for once, even though this is the time of my life where there is the most uncertainty, I am filled with excitement for what is to come. Life with Christ really is a beautiful adventure, and I'm here along for the ride!
Top, L-R: Saint Patrick's Basillica, the National Gallery of Canada floor plan booklet, a selfie in front of Parliament.
Bottom, L-R: Notre Dame Cathedral, "Hold That Thought" by artist Kelly Mark at the National Gallery of Canada, "The Return of the Prodigal Son" by Salvator Rosa at the National Gallery of Canada.