Today I will probably remember as the 4th of July that I spent largely in the company of Italians in Brooklyn. As my plane started to descend into JFK airport and my anxiety level started to escalate I thought, wow, how ironic is this. The theme of the mission trip I led to Cle Elum, WA last week ended up being overcoming fears, great and small. As people opened up about their fears, one by one they found themselves facing (and conquering) these same fears -- God was certainly moving! Hydrophobia, heights, insects, public speaking ... all of these were conquered. At the time I found myself thinking that, aside from a fear of just generally failing at life, I couldn't pinpoint a single specific tangible thing.
Today I remembered what that specific thing is: New York City. I've been here a number of times, and every time I can't shake the heart-palpitating, suffocating, mind-numbing panic sensation that wells up within me as soon as I enter (or think of entering) this city. All the people, pollution, rats, loud noises, tall buildings, car horns, and those horrible Subway grates that blast hot air and I'm terrified I will one day fall down ... that. So today, I faced that fear -- although only sort of, because Rachel both lives here and understands my irrational fear of large overcrowded cities, and basically all I have to do for two days is follow her around and pretend to not see the crazy.
Which brings me to our Italian 4th of July. What else would be more appropriate in the great melting pot city? Rachel is part of a Catholic lay movement called Communion and Liberation, which began in Italy -- essentially all I can offer you right now is that they enjoy reading books with really big theological words and discussing philosophy. (She's a nerd and we love her.) So, long story short, she has lots of Italian friends, who came over, and we tried to feed them homemade mac and cheese, which they said doesn't qualify as pasta.
On another note ...
To my teen girls: I left Portland this morning without a single item of makeup. This is largely because I don't want to carry it on the Camino, nor be bothered with it. (Guys, bear with me a moment here.) I don't consider myself someone who is overly attached to makeup, but as a woman I wear it daily, and I like it. Makeup helps me feel fresh and clean and put together, and in my case it also helps me look less like I'm 16 (or "more professional"). The point here is that I don't need makeup to survive or to supply my self esteem -- but it is a daily part of my life, and a part I am very used to.
My greater reason for leaving home without any makeup for the next six weeks, ladies, is for you. Consider this my "offering" for you, if you will -- that every day when I am aware of not having makeup, I will pray for you, that you will truly know your worth and your beauty! That you will be blessed with family, friends and relationships who affirm you. That you will know, deeply know, the beauty of your face, your body, your mind, and your soul. That as you grow secure in your own beautiful selves you will pour out that same love to others. Each and every one of you is remarkably beautiful, and I see that every time I'm with you.
"Be not afraid!" Happy 4th of July!