Friday, December 19, 2014

7QT: Seven Quick Takes (Volume III)

I'm linking up with to do Seven Quick Takes this week.

There is always a cross.

I think I'm going to write a post about this that goes more in-depth, but I've been thinking of crosses, suffering, etc. lately.  I was raised Protestant.  One of the things that drew me to Catholicism (and still draws me), is that it is the only logical explanation of suffering I have found in religion.  It doesn't deny it or try to avoid it (as some Eastern religions do), it doesn't blame the victim for "karma" or "lack of faith" (as some other Eastern Religions, New Age religions, or Christian "prosperity" gospel preachers do), it doesn't blame God for being "sovereign" and basically call him a jerk for bringing you suffering in order to smite you or teach you a lesson (as the Calvinism I was raised in taught me)...the Catholic God suffers with you.  See him up there on the cross?  He's been where you are, if not worse.  He suffered, not so that you don't have to suffer in this life, but so that you could see there is meaning in suffering.  You can offer it up.  You can join it with his.

So, my newest cross is a medical diagnosis I got this week.  The back pain I have been suffering with increasingly over the last several months is not a kidney stone as I suspected, but arthritis.  Ugh.  Doesn't that sound like something an 80-year-old should get?  Not someone in their 30's?  On the one hand, I'm glad to put a name to it, instead of wondering WTH was going on with me, or thinking I was crazy and that this pain was all in my head.  On the other hand, I've never had a health problem that was basically chronic pain due to something genetic or not an infection or out-of-nowhere.  I feel like I'm too young for this.  I don't want to be on drugs for the rest of my life, and yet, medicine is pretty much a new daily necessity for me.  It doesn't even alleviate the pain, it just dulls it enough to allow me to make it through the day.  So, I'm processing what this means for my health, my faith, my life.  I would like to seek alternative ways of healing.  I wonder if I will need surgery.  I wonder if this would ever qualify as a disability, if the pain ever kept me from working.  I wonder how in the HECK people who are in great pain can remain virtuous.  My patience and kindness pretty much evaporate when the pain sets in.  And, at the same time, I see a new cross in my life (and I definitely feel it in my back!)  This could be an opportunity for major growth, but God help me.  I don't know how to deal with it.    


Silence is a theme of Advent.  I think it's also a theme of introverts.  To take it to a completely mundane, and NOT profound level...I work in an office of about 15 people.  We work in cubicles (except for the 2 bosses, they have real offices with real walls and everything).  Some cubicles have doors (not me), and some cubicles have a window (again, not me).  All that to say that throughout the day, we either work in deafening silence, in which a pen can drop, a phone can ring, or a person can sneeze, and it makes you jump out of your skin.  The other half of the day is spent in deafening noise - 15 simultaneous conversations, 1 lovely co-worker who literally narrates her day/makes personal phone calls/talks non-stop, and a revolving door of our customer base (students).  All that to say that I crave privacy and silence.  I would LOVE a door.  And I would LOVE a setup to my office that would allow someone to come in the office without having to look literally over my shoulder at my computer screen or be seated behind me at an awkward angle (thanks, cubicle).  These things will probably not happen as long as I work here.  I have brought headphones and earplugs to work, but some days, even that isn't enough.  I am really sensitive to noises, I think, just by personality.  I can hear things better than most people.  On top of that, I'm an introvert, and I love silence, especially when I'm trying to concentrate.  It is a challenge for me to maintain my focus amidst our loud and busy office.  Lord, give me patience with these people.


So...Christmas is in 6 days, and we still haven't gotten a tree up.  Probably this weekend.  For real.  I really want to, but we have been so busy and I have felt so crummy that we haven't gotten around to it yet.  At this point, it is definitely staying up until Epiphany, if not later.  I started wrapping some gifts last night, and it really put me in the mood to have a tree to put said gifts under!!

The Hobbit.

I haven't felt like this big of a nerd for about 10 years, when my then-boyfriend dragged me along to The Matrix midnight release.  This week we watched The Hobbit 1 and 2.  Tonight, we are going to see The Hobbit 3 in the theater.  I don't remember the last movie I saw in the theater.  It's not 100% my cup of tea, but that's okay.  It'll be a fun double date with my husband.  

The Power of "No"

I am facing the prospect of either accepting or rejecting a social invitation this weekend with a very difficult and manipulative person in my life.  I find her stressful to be around, and really try to limit my time with her.  As with all unhealthy people, when you set up a boundary, there is backlash.  Last time I kindly, but firmly, told her "no thank you" to an invitation (when I was legitimately knee-deep in wedding planning stress), she lectured me about what a terrible friend I am, and basically accused me of lying to avoid hanging out with her.  In normal circumstances, I would love to cut someone like her 100% out of my life.  However, she's a family friend, and I do have to deal with her for the foreseeable future.  So...anyway....I am faced with another invitation.  I know that if I say "no," it may cause a fight in which my integrity and honesty is called into question.  If I say "yes," it might be out of fear of conflict, manipulation, or obligation rather than a genuine open-ness to friendship.  I'm torn as to what to do.  Last night, my husband was talking through the options with me.  I was saying, "I think I'll just say 'yes' so that we don't have another fight."  And he was like, "It's an invitation.  You shouldn't feel forced.  Yes OR no are both options.  I want to empower you to say "no" if you need to."  Isn't he awesome?  I know he's right.  If I were giving someone else advice, I would also say that you don't have to feel pressure, you should make your choice and move on.  My therapist told me that "no" is a complete sentence.  You don't have to justify why it's a no.  You don't have to make excuses.  You have the power to say yes or no.  I know all of this in my brain, and yet I'm still feeling such anxiety and pressure to say yes.  I gave her an "I'll let you know," answer to buy myself more time.      

Horrible Bosses

...not the movie.  I'm not saying I have a horrible boss (or bosses).  But here are some things I think you should avoid if you want to be considered a good boss...just don't ask me how I know.   

          Don't send ALL emails with a flag of high importance, it makes the flag meaningless.      

          Similarly, don't make all requests (for data, reports, etc.) right near (or even AFTER) your deadline, forcing your employees to drop their priorities because of your poor planning.  A lacking of planning on your part should not create an emergency on my part.  

          Don't bad-mouth, trash-talk, gossip, judge, analyze, or otherwise discuss employees with your subordinates.  That should only be done equal to equal or equal to superior (boss to boss, boss to supervisor, etc.)  It should not be done boss to subordinate.  It puts the subordinate in a really awkward position when you discuss the faults of his/her equal (coworker).  It also creates distrust in that it seems safe to assume that a subordinate's behavior is also subject for discussion with everyone else, but only behind your back.  

          Don't ask people to do things which you yourself do not do.  You should set an example for respecting others, arriving on time, etc.  If you're asking for a behavior that you don't exhibit, it creates resentment and a double-standard.  People might do it out of fear (wanting to keep their job), out of a greater obligation (because it's the right thing to do, even if you don't do it), or they may not do it at all (because...why bother?)  

          Don't complain about things that would seem like luxuries to the person you're complaining to. For example, if the view out of your window (of your real office, with a real door, real walls, and outside view) is about to change due to some construction... consider that the person you're complaining to does not even have a door or a window in their cubicle it's hard to have any sympathy for you there...just sayin'.  Also, don't complain about your salary to someone who makes LESS than you do.  

          Do take action.  This means, when a problem presents itself, seek guidance, have discussions, but take action.  Don't wait 2-3 months to confront a behavior.  Don't build up a problem so big in your mind that it takes one year to resolve.  Don't wait to hire replacements out of mourning for the person who no longer works there.  I have noticed that good bosses and companies tend to have a sense of momentum, purpose, vision, and action.  That's not to say that things get done on time or perfectly, only that there is a feeling of progress, not stagnation.  Everyone wants to see that their work matters and makes a difference.  If you sit on a project or over-analyze a decision to the point of paralysis, it makes your followers weary.  



Need I say more?  T-G-I-F!!  Enjoy your weekend.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

33 Days to Morning Glory - Holy Spirit, grant us the only necessary knowledge

While I lamented last week that I really don't know how to celebrate Advent properly, I realize that this year, I am doing something different that has been great. I am doing St. Louis de Montfort and Father Michael Gaitley's 33 Days to Morning Glory - it's a set of prayers for 33 days, and at at the end you consecrate yourself to Jesus through Mary's intercession.  You can sign up here for a daily email, if interested.

Even though Advent is coming to a close, this is a worthy consecration.  You may enjoy the prayers or be able to join in for the last few days.  You can do the 33 days of consecration at a later date, anytime really.  But this particular consecration ends on Christmas Day.

One of the prayers from the litany to the Holy Spirit jumps out at me every think God is trying to say something to me?

"Holy Spirit, grant us the only necessary knowledge."  

This means so many things, it convicts me of so many sins, and it is such a succinct reminder.

Grant us the only necessary knowledge...

...of your salvation.
How many times do we wonder exactly why and how the mysteries of salvation unfolded?  Why a virgin birth?  Why Israel?  Why didn't the Bible contain more explicit references to transubstantiation or other catholic doctrines?  Why does it seem that so many seek and do not find?  Why, God, why? So many questions...sometimes it seems that the answers are few.  But, God has given us the knowledge that we need for salvation and the grace to accept it.  Each of us.  There comes a point in time that we need to accept what we do know and stop worrying about what we don't know or don't understand.  God has given us the only necessary knowledge.  Yes, Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief...and yet...don't let me get stuck in the questions and the unbelief.  Help me to accept that I have the necessary knowledge for my salvation, and I need to act upon it.  I heard Kimberly Hahn mention this in a presentation she gave.  When she was contemplating conversion to the Catholic Church, she had almost all of her questions answered.  God finally told her to act upon what she knew and believed, to stop obsessing over the small questions still left.   (I'm paraphrasing).  The answers came with time.  I think many of us Type A personalities, or former Protestants, or any number of categories can have a hard time over-thinking things.  I think God is saying that we should accept what it is that we DO know and DO believe.

Grant us the only necessary knowledge...

...of your will. 
This is a hard one.  I drove by a Psychic "business" the other day, and I thought, "how do those places even stay open?  Who goes to a psychic?"  But, the truth is, many people do.  And, even if we don't go to a psychic, we might read a horoscope or new age philosophy, or dabble in other seemingly harmless practices to find God's will.  What if our practice of finding God's will is not a psychic or a horoscope, but the paralysis of analysis that comes when trying to know what is the right thing to do.  We discuss and over-analyze with our friends sometimes without spending time with God himself to discern.  We want to know the plan BEFORE we make any moves or say "yes" to God.  We want spiritual enlightenment, but in our time, in our ways, by our standards.  There are questions that will probably haunt me for the rest of my life.  Why did so-and-so have to die at such a young age?  Why did you allow so-and-so to cause such terrible suffering?

There's a reason faith is called faith.  It's not a blind faith.  It is not a faith free from reason or logic, but it requires assurance of what we cannot see.  We have to trust.  We know that God wills our good. We know that God would never harm us, and that somehow, some way, all of our sins and screw-ups are being woven together and worked for our good.  And yet, we live in fear sometimes.  I often wonder what my life would look like without fear.  I wonder if I would have made different decisions or had different experiences.  God's will is usually seen best in hindsight.  As life unfolds, it's a dance of faith, trust, hope, and obedience. "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known." - I Corinthians 13:12

Grant us the only necessary knowledge...

...of other people's business.  
When it comes to the sin of gossip and nosiness, we can often justify things to ourselves because we think, "I'm not gossiping, I'm being a supportive friend," or, "I'm not gossiping, I'm just concerned about [insert person or situation]," or "I'm not gossiping, I just like to know what's going on in my own family [or friend-group or workplace]," or even worse, " I can PRAY for so-and-so."  This doesn't cover all the bases, but I think of the countless times I have pried for information out of phony concern, out of selfish curiosity, or the times I have stalked (yes, really), stalked via Facebook or some other way to find out what was happening or what was the latest with someone or something. We like to be in the know, to be up-to-date, or to have the latest information.  We like to hear all sides of the story, the nitty-gritty details.  Who broke up with whom and why, who doesn't like whom, who isn't getting along, what's so-and-so's problem.  We like to hear all this stuff so we can make judgment calls and prognosticate about the whys, the flaws, the mistakes, the future.  It's really nauseating and exhausting.  It's a gross and disgusting human behavior.  I think sometimes we like to know EVERYTHING about EVERYONE else so that we can be the supreme authority on how they live their lives, never turning that microscopic analysis to our own behavior.  We can never know what someone else is going through, what struggles they have, especially internally, and what might be the reasons behind some behaviors.  We can just pray for them.  (And P.S., praying for someone doesn't require that you announce that you're praying for can just pray.)  I forget which saint or writer I was reading, but they were talking about the value of silence and prayer.  They even suggested that rather than asking or wondering about someone's latest details (if they are not shared out right with you), rather than prying, just use that time and energy to pray for them.  Maybe you don't know the latest details, but which is more important - praying for them, asking God that his will be done in their lives, or knowing every little detail - even the ones they may have left out for a reason.  I have been hurt so much in my life by other people's words, gossip, prying, etc.  I'm a very private person by nature, and I hate when people try to get into my business.  And yet, I also struggle with the sin of gossip.  Our words are powerful.  Our time and energy is limited.  Why not use it to help others, to pray for them, and to remember that we should only have the knowledge necessary of a situation - nothing more, nothing less.

"Holy Spirit, grant us the only necessary knowledge."  

In what other ways could this short prayer apply to our lives?

Pax Christi


Friday, December 12, 2014

7QT: Seven Quick Takes (Volume II)

What a week - seven quick takes from my little world.


Happy feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe!!  I am very fortunate that at the age of 17, I was able to visit the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City and see the tilma first hand.  At the time, I was not a Catholic.  In my limited understanding of Catholicism (and Spanish), I don't really recall much.  I remember hearing that people would walk on their knees to visit the basilica.  As we visited, there was mass going on, and although I wasn't Catholic at the time, I refrained from taking pictures because I thought it was disrespectful to those worshiping.  I could tell these people had great faith.  I wasn't sure that I agreed with them, but I respected it and thought it was interesting.  I didn't believe my parents that "Catholics worship Mary," and yet, I didn't understand this devotion.  

I now understand the story of Juan Diego, and I even (gasp!) dare to believe it.  Particularly coming from my background (being raised in a Calvinistic household), I am really attached to the Virgin of Guadalupe.  Why?  Because as she was helping to convert millions in Latin America to Christ and Catholicism, John Calvin and his ilk were helping to de-convert many Catholics in Europe and lead them astray.  It gives me hope that even in the midst of the Church losing numbers and souls in one area, Our Mother was helping lead other souls back to Christ at the same time.  I have a really strong passion for Protestants becoming Catholic (especially Calvinists) because I was raised in that doctrine, and I think it is not only wrong, but some of the most harmful teachings in existence.  All that to say, thank God for Mary, who always gently leads souls to Christ, saying "do whatever he tells you."

Finally, not to sound crazy, but during my conversion to Catholicism, I had a dream once in which I saw an image of Mary.  You don't have to believe me, and I'm not saying I'm special or anything, but I saw a woman clothed in a red robe with brilliant stars and ROSES just swirling about her.  She didn't speak to me in the dream.  I just saw these vibrant colors, roses, stars, and this woman with a robe.  This happened shortly after someone had given me a rosary, and I had started to pray with it. About 2-3 years later, I finally became Catholic.  Based on what I know now, the image of Mary that I saw resembles the woman described in Revelation 12:13 - a woman clothed with the sun and a crown of stars.  This image of the Queen of Heaven and the Virgin of Guadalupe kind of combined and appeared to me, made it real to me.  Could it be that my spiritual Mother came and visited me in a dream?  I saw her image up close on the tilma as an unbelieving teenager.  I tentatively prayed to her years later, and she appeared to me in a dream, eventually leading me to her Son's Church.


Suffering.  I do not suffer well.  I told my husband last night that I am not a good Catholic because I do not suffer well.  I complain my way through it, I pray constantly FOR MYSELF to be relieved, and I basically can't wait for it to end.  I really do try hard to "offer it up" (whatever that means) and make some good of it.  I try to pray for others who suffer with similar ailments, only much worse than mine - it gives me greater compassion.  I also try to find every patron saint EVER possibly related to my issue and beg them for help.  I really can't imagine those saints who ASK for suffering.  I am definitely not there yet.  And, I also realize that it is SO hard for me to be patient and kind when I am in the midst of excruciating pain.  And yet - that is not an excuse.  Having said all of that, I am still firmly convinced that we are not meant to live this life in as much comfort as possible, we are meant to suffer and eventually die.  We are meant to carry a cross.  And it is in uniting that cross to Christ that we can find meaning in the suffering and merit something from it (by joining it to him).  Nevertheless, pray for me if you would, that we could find the source of the pain I'm having and deal with it effectively.  It has become debilitating lately.      


Marriage.  I haven't even been married 3 months yet, and I can confidently say it's the best thing that ever happened to me, and one of the best choices I've ever made (besides becoming Catholic).  Yeah, yeah, honeymoon phase, newlywed, etc., all of that....but honestly?  I kind of feel a little cheated and angry at the lies of the world (and some in the church) that I believed for YEARS.  People are so negative about marriage, love, family life, children, etc. that I think it has become normal to view it as the old "ball and chain" or a drudgery.  That viewpoint is part of the culture of death.  People would always tell me how HARD marriage would be, and if it wasn't, how HARD having children would be in the future, and remind me of the 50% divorce rate, and tell me that marriage won't fix all my problems, and that we need to be "wise" and "careful".  There is a grain of truth in all of that, but I have to think that if the family is to be an icon of the Trinity and the love of God himself, then of COURSE the enemy would want to destroy it.  And possibly prevent it from even happening in the first place.  I think way too many in the church have become used to bad-mouthing their spouse, bad-mouthing the sacrament of marriage in and of itself, or over-blowing the difficulties that exist.  I don't think I'm naive.  I know that difficulties exist and believe me, we have had our share.  We have known each other over 9 years and dated for the majority of 7 years before getting married.  I also believe that holy families are part of the culture of LIFE, and I wish that I had caught that vision earlier...I may have married years before.  Yes, it's hard.  But, it's also beautiful, fun, rewarding, and one of the ways God shows his love for us.  Yes, there is suffering, but it is one of the consistent ways I can die to myself, my pride, and my selfishness and serve another.  I want to be part of holding up marriage for others and encourage happy, holy, healthy marriages as the icon of love God intended.    


Christmas.  Similar to Lent, I have a hard time with Advent.  I don't know if I'm supposed to decorate at all or wait until Christmas.  I don't know if I can put out the nativity creche, but leave out the baby Jesus, or just get it all out and celebrate from Advent until Epiphany.  I have mixed feelings.  We didn't have Santa at our house growing up, nor did we have a lot of family traditions.  There was a tree, gifts, and traveling to visit family, but we definitely didn't celebrate Advent.  I really want to incorporate the liturgical calendar into our home and celebrate Advent, then Christmas (lasting until Epiphany), but I'm a little lost on what steps to take to do it right, and in the meantime, we are still recovering/cleaning up from our wedding.  (for real)


Work.  Most days I like my job, I just hate the TRAFFIC it takes to get there.  I am contemplating a move, or at least keeping my eyes open for one.  I think it's too soon to make a change, but I hope someday that I will spend less than 3 hours commuting per day and have a job that is fulfilling, pays well, and closer to home.  On the other hand, I'm grateful for this job.  It was an answer to prayer, and I will stay until the time is right to leave.  


Fambly.  (Family).  With Christmas right around the corner, I am already nervous about seeing my family again.  My parents are vehemently anti-Catholic, and some of my siblings are really going through a lot this year.  I want Christmas to be a happy time of seeing everyone, but often times there is underlying tension, unspoken expectations, and manipulation.  I have to prepare SO much in advance and work SO much in the moment to not get sucked into the drama and the typical family dynamic.  I have done it before, but it is exhausting to maintain boundaries with unhealthy people.  I continue to struggle with how to love and honor my parents when there is so much hurt (and potential for even more hurt) always there.  As I referenced in #4, I do think family is to be an icon of God's love, and when it is not, it is even more hurtful.  I think we are wired internally by nature to seek love from our parents and to want a place of peace or refuge in our family.  When it's not there, we know somehow that something is missing.  I doubt it'll be all wrapped up in a bow this side of heaven.  I just have to learn to accept and deal with what IS, not with what I'd like.  And that, my friend, is a continued grieving process.  


Life Makeover.  So, since getting married (which, as I said has been awesome), I have to say that some adjustments are definitely needed in my day to day schedule.  I am calling this my life makeover.  I have had the mentality however stupid it sounds that someday, I would get all "caught up."  That, I just need to clean, do my laundry, go through the mail, pay the bills, do the yard work, and then I'm done - all caught up.  I realize that there is no such thing as caught up.  Ever.  That thought is exhausting.  But, I have to try to view the tasks at hand in a different way.  I need a schedule to do those nagging, ongoing tasks regularly BEFORE they get out of hand.  I need to make sleep and exercise non-negotiables.  I need time with my husband when I'm not totally cranky, exhausted, in pain, etc.  I need to live in a house that is clean, NOT chaotic, and in order.  I need to go through stuff, downsize, minimize, etc., so that there is less to maintain in the first place.  (I'm thinking everything here - from paying all bills online to doing a capsule wardrobe to paying for someone else to do yard work or other tasks).  I need a re-do, a makeover.  I can't keep living with no margin, with no structure, and with everything left undone.  I feel like I am just getting by and doing the bare minimum.  Sometimes, I do okay, and then sometimes I look around at the madness and have a breakdown.  It's too much.  Sooo, maybe the new year would be a good time to try out my new life makeover.  Stay tuned.

I'm linking up today with This Ain't the Lyceum.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Patron Saints of Whaddayacallit

So, there are patron saints of nearly anything and everything you can imagine.  I really take comfort in knowing that there is a great cloud of witnesses up there, and there is bound to be someone who really deeply cares about a conundrum I might be in, due to their own life experiences, etc.

(Don't believe me?  Look here:

For instance, I recently learned that I have major anxiety to the point of panic attacks (I always thought my feelings were normal).  Enter, St. Dymphna.  Then, I learned that St. Anthony can help when I lost stuff.  And, when I'm feeling really desperate, St. Rita is the patron of impossible causes.

I have no idea what to call this sneaking suspicion of mine. Do you ever have certain people, circumstances, or characteristics that seem to present themselves to you over and over?  Do you think this is for a reason - most specifically - to PRAY for that cause yourself?

I find myself being really bothered and saddened by ex-Catholics.  People who leave the church, especially if they leave under duress and consider themselves "recovering Catholic," or become anti-Catholic.  It breaks my heart, and I have to think they really didn't understand what they left.  I have a really negative reaction when a Catholic becomes a Calvinist.  I can hardly fathom it.  (I basically did the reverse, and I'm sure this is how my parents feel about my conversion to Catholicism.)  But, it is a cause close to my heart.  Whenever I hear people like this speak, or meet someone who identifies as "recovering Catholic," or talk to a friend and realize their background is Catholic (and now there's an ex- in front of the -Catholic part...), well, my heart breaks a little.  I have to think that the only reason these people come across my path, and the reason it hurts me so is that I am called to pray for them.

Another group that seems to present themselves to me, over and over (not entirely unrelated to the former) is gay friends and family I have.  I have a background in the arts, and whether there are more gay people in the arts, or they just feel more comfortable being "out" in those circles, I know LOTS of gay people, and I count them among my friends.  I feel so sad when they feel like they cannot be gay and Christian anymore, especially if they feel they cannot be gay and Catholic.  I also feel really sad when they perceive the Catholic Church to be against them, when I feel like it is one of the only Churches who has an answer for treating our sexuality with dignity and truth.

Again, I wonder - why do the stories of these people get to me so much?  I think about them, pray for them, I can't shake the thoughts.  I wonder if it's because I'm called to pray for them and be a patron for that cause on earth.  I can think of no other reason, and yet it's interesting and odd which "causes" present themselves to me.  I trust that God is revealing something to me when my heart has pangs of hurt.  As my husband reminds me, when something bothers me, spend MORE time with it, not less, until I can reach peace.  I hurt that the Church is mis-understood, and I hurt that people would leave it or would not feel welcome there.  As I wrestle with the people and situations presented to me, I am only at peace when I conclude that it must be for a purpose.  

St. Frances de Sales, pray for us!
St. Charles of Lwanga, pray for us!

Friday, September 5, 2014

7QT: Seven Quick Takes (Volume I)

It's funny, I consider myself a bit of a "writer" on the side of my "real" life...and yet, I haven't written anything in FOREVER.  I decided to challenge myself with the 7QT this week, since I read everyone else's all the time, and it would be a good link up to get me to write...something.

1)  Happy feast of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta! 

If there ever were a saint among us, I feel sure we could say Mother Teresa was one.  (Although I remember my anti-Catholic parents lamenting that she wasn't a "real Christian" when she died...more on that another time.)  But, Mother Teresa was able to show the world, in great clarity and simplicity, who God is and what love does.  I've referenced her tiny living quarters in this post, but I continue to marvel that tiny little Teresa of Calcutta was able to change the world with such simplicity.  It seems that everything passed through her hands.  She didn't hold on to anything, she used it all for God, and she used it all the way up.

2)  T-G-I-F

It was only a 4 day work week, but heck if it didn't feel like double that.  I had such an awesome Labor Day weekend that maybe it made the rest of the week that much harder.

3)  Goin' to the chapel and we're...gonna get married

That's right...the countdown is on.  THIS is wedding month for me!!!  God help us and bless us!!  There's so much to do, so little time, no money left, and yet, I'm so excited!!

4)  I'm off the wagon (or is it on the wagon?) again with coffee 

I quit coffee about a year ago, cold turkey.  I just knew I needed to.  I had had about a 7 year love affair with the stuff, but something inside me told me that it was time to quit.  I did, and never felt better.  However, sometime again this summer, I picked it up again.  First, it was just at work...sometimes.  Then, I bought some for home because I was having company.  Then, I had to finish what I bought, of course, after the company left.  Well, it turns out that the caffeine still wreaks havoc on my system.  After about a month or two of steadily increasing coffee use, I also had increased anxiety, panic attacks, and insomnia.  Yes, all of those things could also be explained by the impending nuptials, financial concerns, family drama, etc., but the coffee sure didn't help.  So, I quit again.  Day 2.  Already feeling much MUCH better.  (Why can't I just remember that?!)

5)  I need friends

I'm relatively new to this city, been here about 1.5 years.  And, although the last several months have been a major focus upon wedding plans, I know when that all dies down, I will eventually need some friends to hang out with. I had made one really great new friend, and she moved a few weeks ago.  I feel like I haven't lived here long enough to have people moving away already, but it's time to put myself out there and try to get some new friends.  I'm really bad at that, as an introvert.  However, even though I like being alone, I still want and need friends.  I feel like I see the same people over and over (work, gym, other routines), and that it's hard to meet new people at this phase in my life.  So far, a new friendship hasn't presented itself, but I'm praying for just one new friend to take her place.  Although I consider my fiance to be my "best friend," I also firmly believe that we need other couples as friends, and that I need some girlfriends, and he needs some guy-friends to keep us all happy.  As a Catholic who is about to start practicing NFP, it would be great to have people that understood our "lifestyle," if you will.  I should just pray about it.  The friend that moved was a great, unexpected gift.  If God could give me her, then surely he could give me someone else.         

6)  It's the end of the world as we know it

...and I (don't) feel fine.  On a more serious note, it seems as if there is so much going on in our world.  Beheadings, torture, black masses, war...  I know to some extent, these things never stop, but it is SO sobering to me that when I stand up to say the Creed at church every Sunday, my brothers and sisters in Christ across the globe could be killed for doing the same thing.  Why was I born here, and they were born there?  It's not fair.  Why do those of us with freedom (religious or otherwise) sometimes take it SO for granted?  Where is the mass media on reporting this????  It seems like awareness is growing, especially after two American journalists were killed (may they rest in peace), but sometimes I feel like the world is coming to a crash around us, the enemy is gaining a foothold, and NO ONE notices.  We are busy scrutinizing the fashion choices of celebrities, or criticizing what seem to be TRIVIAL concerns of our local and national politics, when considering what is going on with the rest of the world.  Do we not notice the TRUE evil that is staring us in the face?  I hate the navel-gazing media style found in America of late, and it really concerns me that we are so unaware and (so far) unresponsive to this massive problem.  

7)  N-F-P

If you'd have told me 5 or 10 years ago that I'd be an NFP-using Catholic, I would have rolled my eyes, laughed, and told you the oldest joke in the book about NFP.  ("You know what they call people that use that method, right?  Parents.")  Anyway, I have learned a lot, and come a long way, not only in my understanding, but in my obedience to church teaching (thanks be to God, and more on that journey another time).  However, I get married later this month, and I can already say with full confidence that I may have a love/hate relationship with NFP.  First of all, not all of us are such textbook people that these methods are just easy-peasy.  I showed my charts to our NFP teacher (who is also a nurse), and even she couldn't decipher them.  I learned one method in class, then self-taught myself another method, and even with two methods sort of going at the same time, I feel like an idiot.  I feel frustrated.  I can't always decipher the signs.  I am not looking forward to days and days of abstinence simply because I don't KNOW what's going on, and yet, I know that all forms of love require sacrifice.  It's funny, I could talk to someone about the evils of contraception and how harmful I think it is to women and true feminism until I'm blue in the face.  However, when it comes to me and my body and NFP, it ain't easy.  I want to learn this stuff so well that I could teach it.  In theory, the theology and the application are BEAUTIFUL.  I really mean that.  And yet, learning it and applying it or understanding it as it applies to you and your body...well, that's a different story.  I want to find some couples who could be our friends who also practice NFP, but how exactly do you strike up THAT conversation?  And, we took our class at a parish different from our own (not offered at ours)...  Anyway, I digress.  I love NFP.  I thank God that I learned this stuff in Church!!  It's awesome!!  And yet, I kinda hate NFP.  It requires me to self-sacrifice.  It can be confusing.  It's embarrassing to talk about (sorry, it is).    

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


With a wedding coming up, and regular life going on, it seems the panic attacks and anxiety are back with a vengeance.  "Pride cometh before a fall..." because I thought I was just doing so great and coping so well.  I was putting all my tools to use - deep breathing, prayers, sleep, exercise, general positivity.  It was working so great, until it wasn't.  I also haven't been to therapy in a long time...'cuz I've been doing so well!  But, as my fiance pointed out...maybe I had been doing so well because of the therapy.  And at the same time, I don't think my therapist even realizes just *how* messed up I am.  

I just wonder sometimes what it feels like to live in a quiet mind, to live in a "normal" mind. In the past 2 weeks, I've probably had 3 major breakdowns.  Like, pit of despair, full-blown panic attack, screaming and crying breakdowns where I just want it all to end.  I can't even repeat the things I thought and said.  I seriously wonder what is wrong with me at times, and then beat myself up over these reactions, but that's not a good response for someone trying to learn self-love.

So, I dragged myself to church Sunday.  I had a huge fight with my fiance Friday night.  I apologized, and we had a respectful, calm discussion Saturday, but damn if I didn't feel exhausted and beaten down and like a terrible person.

The prayer after communion Sunday (which was actually supposed to be for next week, I think, but our priest read it this week):

Complete within us, O Lord, we pray,
the healing work of your mercy
and graciously perfect and sustain us,
so that in all things we may please you.
Through Christ our Lord.

"The healing work of your mercy..."  Those words cut right through the numbness and pain of an emotional hangover.  God is merciful.  His mercy can heal me.  I started crying at that point in church.  And finally, after several bad weeks in mental health, I felt a moment of peace again.  Mercy is what will heal me, not judgment.

"Complete within us...the healing work of your mercy."

So beautiful.  Bring it on!

Monday, August 18, 2014

What Dreams May Come...

I had a dream that my therapist called and had reviewed my file, and she had some stroke of insight that was going to “explain everything” and basically give me ALL THE ANSWERS.  She called me and wanted to meet (of course, in the dream, it wasn’t actually  my therapist, but a combination of one of my aunts and a lady I know who reminds me of said aunt - neither one look anything like my therapist).  Anyway, I went to meet the therapist to get “all the answers.”  We were in some kind of public building, maybe a large warehouse type store.  And, although we were trying to meet in the usual way (talking, sitting down, facing one another on comfy chairs), we were constantly interrupted by shoppers, friends, passersby, people looking for the restroom, etc.  In fact, I could see my file in her hands with ALL THE ANSWERS, and in the dream, although we managed to sit and chat for a bit, we never got to the ANSWERS part.  And then I woke up.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


The violence that erupted at the hands of an angry, entitled individual in California last week is disturbing. We cannot know what caused him to act this way, but the Twitter response #YesAllWomen has been both heartbreaking and important, as it sheds light on the prevalent mentality that men have a right to women's bodies.

And, so I bring you my hash tag here, to the blog, because it was simply too much to choose from before posting to Twitter.

#YesAllWomen because I can name four close friends who were raped, and none of the rapists were held accountable.

#YesAllWomen because in the workplace, a women who is aggressive and business-like is called a b*tch, while her male counterpart is called a leader.

#YesAllWomen because you can be called "too sensitive" for calling out sexual harassment in the workplace and find yourself out of work, while the offender gets promoted.

#YesAllWomen because in my church growing up, I was taught that women were responsible for men's lustful thoughts by not dressing modestly enough.

#YesAllWomen because in my church growing up, a female couldn't so much as read the announcements, since women couldn't have "authority" over men.

#YesAllWomen because it wasn't until I taught a self-defense class in college that I realized what my parents did to me was physical abuse.

#YesAllWomen because to this day, my father believes he is my "authority" because I am unmarried.

#YesAllWomen because birth control pills are a class one carcinogen, and we are fed them like candy by ignorant doctors.

#YesAllWomen because every boss I've ever had has been a white male.

Friday, May 23, 2014


I've been reading a lot of books in preparation for marriage (and I read a lot in general), but it occurred to me that as much as I desire a great marriage and worry about things and think about our future married life together, I don't consistently pray for my fiance.

Wait, what?

Yeah, for real.

I realized that I tend to pray when I'm in church, whether for mass or eucharistic adoration.  I tended to go to adoration a LOT more last year before my new workout routine took the place of that on my daily commute this year, and during the rest of the day/week, I tend to pray in desperate moments or occasionally in moments of thanksgiving.  I might offer up a halfhearted Our Father as I drift off to sleep, and I often listen to religious broadcasting (podcasts, radio, etc.), but basically, my prayer life sucks.

I have operated under the assumption that G-d knows my heart, less is more, and that I keep G-d in my mind and heart without having a set schedule/routine of prayer.  I guess I thought it was working for me.  

But, lately, I started to realize that maybe that's not the best way.  I'm not a "spiritual, but not religious" type. I'm spiritual and religious.  I see the value in religion, and I love my Catholic faith.  In other areas of my life, it doesn't work for me to have zero structure.  I have to plan when and how I work out in order to exercise at all.  I have to set an alarm clock to get up and go to work.  I plan each week and put it on my calendar that I will go to mass.  Even my fiance and I set regular date nights and regular "work on the relationship" nights (different from dates).  I plan and cook my meals for the week in advance so I'm encouraged to make healthy choices.  So, why did prayer slip into the nebulous area of self-governance?  Or an internal matter of the heart only?

I think I still have a lot of residual rebellion.  Part of it is my prideful and selfish nature.  Part of it is the inherent rebellion of Protestantism that remains (no offense to Protestants, this is just something I'm still unraveling in my own experience).  I feel like I can take matters into my own hands and be just as well off.  I feel like I can be my own authority and be great.  I feel like my wisdom outweighs the wisdom of 2,000 years of Church wisdom and authority from Christ Himself.  And (news flash), it doesn't compare.

It is important and necessary to have a personal relationship with G-d, but that does not mean a relationship without structure, format, or follow-through.  A relationship of simply good intentions really doesn't do much in the "real world," and I doubt it does much in the spiritual realm either.  I love the liturgy of the Church.  Why am I so reluctant to apply some liturgy/structure/a plan to my own prayer life?

Well, after reading some marriage preparation books and thinking about all this stuff, after surviving yet another mediocre Lenten season, I have become really convicted and aware of how much I do not pray for my fiance.  I have all these hopes, fears, expectations, worries.  They come through my mind as fleeting thoughts or disastrous, panicky thoughts.  I might pray in that moment, but why am I not consistently praying for him?  The Bible talks about "when you pray and fast", not "if you pray and fast..."

So, I really believe the Holy Spirit is revealing to me that I am called to pray for my future husband.  Not in a fleeting, passing, mediocre way, but in an intentional, consistent way.  In fact, I need to fast and pray for our marriage, and for other needs of the world and my family.  The more I realize the self-sacrificing love that marriage requires of me and my fiance, I am convinced that is the life I am called to, but I am also terrified.  When I see threats to our relationship, whether internal or external, I realize that I could have done more on my part to pray for him and us, not just put out a fire as it happens or become overtaken with anxiety.  I know that prayer isn't a magic fix for everything, but I do believe it works.  It is powerful.  It involves G-d, not just me.  And at the very least, I can die a little bit to myself as I pray for these intentions.

So, I may have been Catholic now for eight years, but I'm just now figuring out that maybe I need to pray in a more Catholic way.  I've got a prayer book, and I may buy a Liturgy of the Hours book (we will see how well this goes first before I take that leap).  But each day, I'm going to say prayers - written prayers by others, or reading the Bible in the form of Psalms or Proverbs as prayer.  I'm going to say prayers in the morning and at night.  I'm going to mention my needs, intentions, and requests by name, and I'm going to fast each week for our marriage.  Fridays, perhaps?

I am excited about this because I know it's the right thing to do.  I'm also a little worried that I'm behind.  Why didn't I think of this already?  Why haven't I been doing this since before we even dated, or since we got engaged?  I'm too selfish to do this on my own.  It's taken years for G-d to make me aware of this area of neglect.  I want to be a supportive wife, and one way I can do this is try pray, pray, pray for my husband and marriage.  (And other needs.)

It's been a journey with G-d.  While I've been Catholic now for about eight years, it wasn't until I began going to the sacrament of reconciliation consistently and also until I stopped committing mortal sin consistently that I have finally heard G-d's voice in my life and grown deeper and deeper.  I still have a long way to go, but staying close to G-d in the sacraments has finally gotten through to me.  Confession is powerful.  It has brought more grace to me than anything.  Once I got honest and agreed with G-d about what is wrong and what is right, doing the right thing became so much easier because I had the grace to do it and I had confessed my sins.  More on that another time.

Pray on!

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Benefits of Fundamentalism – Part I

Just writing the title of this post is enough to make me twitch a little bit.  Benefits, you say?  Benefits of THAT?  That which I have been through and lived to tell the tale?  Yes.  Benefits.

You see, it wasn’t just fundamentalism I grew up with, it was Calvinism, fundamentalism, abuse, being a pastor’s kid, and, as my therapist has helped me recently see, mental illness.  If all of that sounds overwhelming and toxic, believe me, it was.  It has taken decades to get to the point of untangling the web of exactly what we were dealing with.  However, there are some things that happen to me, and I think, if it weren’t for my background, I couldn’t have done that.  Yes, there are some benefits to fundamentalism.  Here they are, in no particular order, and with caveats thrown in for good measure:

1) The ability to put with discomfort, pain, awkwardness, etc. for FAR too long.  (Caveat – this is not always a benefit.  This ability has also allowed me to put up with abusive relationships or inappropriate situations because that was “normal” to my messed-up mind.)  However, all things being equal, I am able to live in uncomfortable circumstances and just DEAL.  Just deal with it, live with it, function as if nothing is wrong.  This is not some valiant self-sacrificing/taking up your cross type of martyrdom, this is just a leftover coping mechanism to the sh*tstorm that constantly swirled as a child.  Ignoring, carrying on, and enduring whatever pain may come was basically the only choice I had.  Now days, I can take a shot like a champ, I can endure pain without medication far longer than I actually should, I can power through a situation and do without certain luxuries, and I can ignore huge giant red flags and warning signs and carry on as if it were the best of times.  Again, this is not necessarily healthy, but every now and then, you *do* have to pick yourself up by the bootstraps and just get through something.  Fundamentalism helped me do that, a little too well.    

2) The ability to talk to a huge variety of people.  Our church was a magnet for freaks and geeks, no offense to those in attendance (myself included).  We took pride in not being “mainstream” because, of course, none of those “mainstream” churches had the real truth.  They were just Baptists, Methodists, etc. going through the motions of their man-made traditions each Sunday.  They probably weren’t “real Christians,” didn’t know or read the Bible.  They probably just went there because their parents or grandparents went there, or because it was the closest church to their house.  Not out of conviction, like us.  And don’t even get me started on those Catholics.  Anyway, so when your church is the “frozen chosen,” “all white and uptight” community of “true believers” (lots of “ “, sorry), and you believe that you are the ONLY way, you tend to attract those on the fringes of society or rejected by the same mainstream that you reject – single parents, recovering addicts, the extremely poor, socially awkward, conspiracy theorist types – who are looking for a place to belong, who are looking for something to latch onto.  There is nothing wrong with ANY of those labels I just listed.  In fact, I hate to even define them.  Christ draws (and His Church should draw) all these people to himself.  But, when the Savior and the Church you’re seeking for healing just gets you stuck in a different way that the wounds that got you there, that’s not true freedom.  In my opinion, that’s what our fundamentalism did for these people – a whole lot of nothing.  Anyway, all that to say, Sundays (or any time we were in church) were a time in which we were forced to speak to these awkward people with very different experiences than our own.  There were very few kids our age.  (The ones that were there eventually left due to wanting a youth group or to minute doctrinal squabbles between the church and their parents).  There were very few people that were highly educated.  We had to speak with adults in complete sentences, we learned not to bat an eye at people’s weird quirks or whatever may be brought up in conversation.  We learned that these same interesting individuals may even be sharing the feast with us at the next major holiday, so it’s best to pretend that everything is great and normal.  Now, by nature, I’m an extreme introvert.  But, growing up, I was forced to make conversation with all types of people, mostly adults.  As much as I *hated* it at the time, I’m able now to try to relate to almost anyone I meet.  I’m not saying I’m great at it.  Small talk is still against my nature, but I have learned over the years that others are sometimes just as uncomfortable, and it’s usually best to try to make them feel welcome without forced conversation or prying, but with a few statements that reach out to them.  I also get annoyed at other introverts who can't get over themselves or come out of the damn shell for just one moment and make conversation.  So, overall, fundamentalism for the win.  I learned to relate to freaks and geeks.

3)  The show must go on.  10,000 caveats again.  When you’re dealing with parents for whom outward appearances are everything, this gets really out of whack really fast.  Now, I went into a career in the performing arts for a while, and this is the cardinal rule of performing.  The show must go on.  So, anything from a little rain on your commute to the electricity going out in the middle of a show, or any number of disasters on stage or in real life, always remember, the show must go on - preferably with a smile as if nothing phased you.  This is closely related to #1.  Deal with it, no complaining, and act like nothing’s wrong.  Now, again, this is not always healthy.  It can lead to making you callous or cold to the sufferings of others.  It can put you in dangerous situations because you think you *have* to get to work, regardless of the risks or that you *have* to finish X, Y, Z tasks regardless of the toll they might take on your health.  It can make you not take concerns, pains, or hardships seriously and not listen to yourself or your instincts.  But, every now and then, that ability to carry on comes in handy, just take it with a giant boulder of salt.  

So, I've come up with three potential benefits of fundamentalism.  I'm sure there are more, and I'm sure these things are just as much a warning about fundamentalism as they are a benefit of fundamentalism.  In my effort to see my childhood with honesty - I am listing the good along with the bad.  Lord knows I've analyzed and rehearsed the bad in my mind for YEARS.  I also need to see that there were some benefits.  

Friday, April 18, 2014


"Happy" "Good" Friday...

Rather than launch into an explanation of why it is called "good" Friday, let me just express my weariness this year.  I have limped along to this day.  I dread Lent, each year.  And each year, I struggle with giving something up without beating myself up.  This year, I could not decide what to do, so I went with a "gentle Lent," and decided to take stuff on.  I decided to go to confession several times, to participate in stations of the cross, and to go to daily mass (not daily, but to aim for once a week), to give up meat on Fridays, to try to love.  I thought I could overcome my negative feelings toward Lent and to understand a balanced self-love of discipline.  It didn't take too well.  Lent still feels foreign to me, raised as a fundamental Protestant with none of that "ritual" stuff.

So, 40 days later, I was talking to my fiance last week, and I couldn't even remember what I had "given up" for Lent.  I was like, "Did I ever decide?"  Somewhere in the middle there, I had gotten sick twice.  First with strep throat, then with the stomach flu.  Between regular life, travel for work one week, getting sick, etc. it slipped my mind that I had made this "gentle Lent" resolution of taking stuff ON.  Then, I remembered, "oh yeah, I was also going to give up all negativity in speech, both toward myself and others."  Fail on both counts of giving stuff up and taking stuff on.  Whoops.  

So, here I am, on this "good" Friday.  I am worn out.  Physically, emotionally, spiritually.  Once again, I'm not a very good Catholic.  I didn't really do Lent that well this year, it wasn't a drastic difference from years before, and I didn't overcome my general negativity toward Lent.  I made it to Stations of the Cross three times, I think.  I enjoyed it, and maybe will do it again next year.  (As a convert for 8 years, this is somehow the first time I've ever done the Stations of the Cross.)  As for confession, I made it once this Lent.  I didn't go any more than that, and I basically went to fulfill my earlier birthday resolution of trying to go once a month this year.  (I'm probably actually behind now on going to confession, as I think I went to confession in March and have yet to go in April).  But, my soul feels clean and excited for Easter.  As for daily mass, I went once.  And, no, I didn't make it to 6 AM mass before work.  I made it to 6 PM mass once in 40 days, and just BARELY because of traffic.  Also, I did manage to skip meat on Fridays a few times, but I also managed to eat it a few times.  (It's also a foreign practice to me that has yet to take root.)  So, all that to say Baby Steps.  Really small Baby Steps.

I am weary of myself.  I am weary of the selfishness, the lack of discipline, the nagging sense of not following through or doing enough.  I'm weary of my own sin, my own restlessness, my indifference.  I am also weary of other Christians this year.  More so than normal.  It has been a particularly ugly Lent.  With a big scandal in the Protestant/Evangelical world about World Vision allowing married gay employees, then immediately disallowing married gay employees, 10,000 children lost Christian sponsors worldwide in this fight.  Christians tore into one another on both sides of the issue, pointing fingers, calling names, mutually ex-communicating one another over this.  While part of me is glad not to be in this camp anymore ("not my problem/this is why I'm Catholic"), I realize that it is my problem too, even if I don't want it to be, even if I don't identify with these groups as a Protestant Evangelical.  All Christians are in this together and to the world, we are epically failing.  We are not one.  We do not love one another.  I remember in 2003 when the scandals broke about priests abusing children (in Boston, I think, first), our Protestant chaplain talked about this with remorse.  He didn't gloat at the sins of "those Catholics," he owned it.  He explained that we are all in this together - for better or for worse - we have to deal with these sins too.  Those words made an impact on me.  I was Protestant, but a Catholic sympathizer at the time.  I appreciate his standpoint, and I remember it in moments like these.  

As a Protestant, I liked the diversity found in many denominations.  I saw it as brothers and sisters with different personalities, each bringing a different slice to the pie, and aren't we just one big, happy, diverse family.  While I do agree that we have much to learn from each other, now that I'm Catholic, the denominations and divisions break my heart.  Jesus left behind A Church.  And, it is a Universal Church (that's what the world Catholic means).  There is room for all of us, and yet, there is also protection from all this confusion over doctrine and practice.  He left behind the Holy Spirit to guide us, not to confuse us.  It requires submission.  Not brainwashing, not blind allegiance.  Submission.  And, yes, that part is hard.  I believe that if all Catholics truly knew what the Church taught, they would never leave.  And, if all Protestants truly knew what the Catholic Church taught, they would come running to their home.  We have it all - history, tradition, reason, a deep intellectual tradition - and most importantly - the sacraments.  Jesus.  Present.  And, yes Jesus is present everywhere, at all times, and to some extent in all religions and denominations, but this division was not and is not his will.  It saddens me.

Today on Twitter, some Protestant with a doctorate called out Pope Francis as being number one on his list of false teachers.  I just can't anymore.  I'm can't engage in these fights.  I can hardly even follow or read anymore the Protestant bloggers and authors I frequently read.  I can hardly engage in a discussion or rebuttal of someone with such vast ignorance.  I am frustrated as I watch Protestants re-invent the wheel, as I watch them struggle with questions that HAVE ANSWERS and HAVE BEEN ANSWERED.  I struggle as I watch more in-fighting and confusion, and as I see that using the Bible to win your battle basically doesn't work.  There's a reason Sola Scriptura is not in the Bible. It is not "biblical," and it wasn't thought up until 1500 years after Jesus.  It saddens me.

I remember that even within my own family, I am the only Catholic.  While some family members are more sympathetic than others, my parents chastised me last Easter for not spending it with "real" Christians.  I am weary.  I cannot open my mind or heart up to people like that.  Yes, even my own parents.  I struggle with knowing even how to even greet them this Sunday.  For one, "Happy Easter" is forbidden because they don't use that word (too "pagan").  For two, I don't want another lecture about how awful my religion is.  I'm weary.  It saddens me.  

All of this pales in comparison to the suffering of our Savior that we remember this day.  If I ever learn how to be a real Catholic, or a good one, I will learn how to offer up this suffering (however small it is) in union with Christ's.  I pray that we may all be one.  I don't know how we will be.  Ever.  I don't know how to have any part in the discussion sometimes.  I will just keep on keeping on in my own practice.  The truth marches on, and I will march with it, even if there are those who try to stop me, who try to rain on the parade, who try to ridicule the parade itself.  God help us all.

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
For by your holy cross, You have redeemed the world.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Coming to Terms

There's a logic that many people cite when looking back on their childhood - "I was spanked, and I turned out okay."  To that, I say, "Congratulations.  You support assault and battery of an innocent, helpless child.  That child is you."  I was spanked, and I did not turn out okay.  And, if I had to guess, you really didn't either.

I'm tired of the justification.  I'm tired of hearing that it's good to "break the spirits" of children so they will learn obedience.  I'm tired of hearing that children need to learn to "submit" and bow down to authority.

I have come to believe that there is no such thing as tough love.  That's not love.  Love shouldn't hurt.

It took me until I was in my early 20s to realize that what my parents did to me was wrong.  And even then, I still thought the spanking part was okay, but that the other types of hitting were not.

It took me years into my first serious romantic relationship in college to stop flinching when my boyfriend would touch my face - to realize that it could be a gesture of love, not someone trying to slap or hit me.

It took me watching the beauty and innocence of the children in my life to realize that they are not bad.  They are not broken or fundamentally flawed.  They don't need breaking.  They don't need tough love.  They need love.  Gentle, patient, consistent, real love.  Humans are not animals that need their spirits broken into ultimate submission.  They are infuriating, sure.  They make mistakes, yes.  But, the only thing to heal our wounds is love, not more wounding.

Lord, deliver us and forgive us for the profound sins against one another, especially against those who are most helpless and innocent among us.  Protect your children.  Heal all of our wounds so that we may stop wounding one another and live in the peace of Your kingdom.    


Monday, March 10, 2014

A Gentle Lent

Okay, so I know Lent started last week, but I'm just now getting around to writing about my resolutions.

I gotta be honest here and just say it...I hate Lent. 


I didn't grow up with Lent.  I grew up Protestant/Calvinist, and there was tons of self-loathing year-round, but no Lenten resolutions.  We didn't fast, we didn't tithe, we didn't give alms.  That was all too "legalistic" and Lent was too close to that man-made Catholicism.

Fast forward a few decades, and here I am, a Catholic, trying to sort out Lent.  I've been Catholic for a few years now, and honestly, I feel like I'm just barely grasping what Lent is, what self-sacrifice is and what it is NOT, and what it means to offer things up.  I can't just white-wash my Protestant tendencies and go on a 40-day self-loathing binge.  That would actually be far too easy, and that is not what God or Lent is calling me to.     

It is really really hard for me to do Lent.  I want to fix all my problems in 40 days with fasting from everything, praying for everyone, building all new habits.  And, life just doesn't work like that.  I can't fast from eating meals due to health concerns (I can fast from delicacies, or certain foods, but not skip meals, doctor's orders.)  So, I'm left to my own creative devices for Lent.  In the past, I've given up television, Facebook, swearing, coffee creamer, salt, and other "creative" things.

This year, I'm just so weary.  Weary of the self-hatred.  Weary of hating Lent.  Weary of not really knowing how to fast or offer things up or be authentically Catholic.  I don't live like a monk, but I don't feel like there's much more I can do without.  So, what kept coming to mind this year was taking something on, not giving stuff up.  And, also, taking stuff on in a disciplined, yet kind, way.  Establishing a habit.  "Leaning in" to prayer or daily mass.  No beating myself up.  No wildly unrealistic expectations.   No self-loathing.  God is gentle.  Lent should be a gentle reminder. 

Here's what I've come up with:

This year, I'm going to try washing my dishes and making my bed every day.  (makes a big difference in a studio apartment without a dishwasher)

This year, I'm going to try to attend mass once during the week, in addition to Sunday mass.  (emphasis on *try* and emphasis on *once* per week, not every single day)

This year, I'm going to try to pray with more intention.  I'm going to pray during my commute (got a prayer CD to use), I'm going to offer my intentions as I pray.  The structure of formatted prayers, such as the rosary, is a huge help to my wandering mind as I pray.

This year, I'm going to try to go through my drawers and doors and closets and get rid of excess.  Not go crazy, but go one drawer or area at a time and make sure I am being a good steward and not wasteful of what I have.

This year, I'm going to try to give up meat on Fridays for Lent.  I already messed up last week on Friday, but I did manage to go without meat on Ash Wednesday.  I have to be honest, it was hard, but definitely do-able.

This year, I'm going to try to go to confession once a month (already a resolution from my birthday).  I've already been once this Lent.  It is a gentle reminder that God is mercy.  He desires to heal us from our sins, not beat us up.  If I keep this in mind, I can do Lent.

This year, I'm going to try to participate in Lenten practices that are new to me.  Last week, I went to Stations of the Cross for the first time.  

Maybe I don't hate Lent after all.  Maybe I just need to learn how to really practice it.  Maybe I only hated my warped perception of Lent.   

Thanks, EE, for the reminder and link up.

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Thursday, March 6, 2014


It's funny - the things we hold on to. The scraps of paper that contain someone's handwriting, the phone numbers of those whose voices we will never hear again, the pictures of moments we have shared. The stuff of life. My priest always talks about how Catholics have "holy stuff."  We bless water, statues, animals, houses. We use oil, bread, wine, water, hands, incense, music, and more to convey our faith. It's truly an incarnational religion.  It envelopes our senses.

I used to think my stuff bogged me down. Sometimes I still do. But, I also long for more stuff. More tangible memories. More evidence of the good times. More touches of people I love and miss.  I want a shrine.  I want something to see, smell, look at.  Something to hold on to that reminds me that you were real.  You are real.  You loved me.  That love was real. 

I'm sick of burning bridges and dumping stuff. I want to hold on. To remember these moments. To smell the smells and hear the bells of life. I miss the sound of your voice. The smell of your perfume. I miss your spirit and your care. I miss your essence. Your being. I miss you.

I'm starting to know too many people on the other side of the veil. I hope for heaven in a different way than I used to. I'm no longer "assured" of salvation. I do hope for it. I long for communion with all, all at the same time. I long for the joy and the peace of those empty spots and holes in my heart to be bound up. Forever. Unity in community. Union. Communion.

Til we meet, til we meet, til we meet at Jesus' feet. Til we meet, til we meet, God be with you til we meet again.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

February in Review - Love Is Kind

Well, first of all, where did this month go?!

Secondly, I have to say that this was a very difficult month, and I wish I had more time to explore Love Is Kind. Of course, I have the rest of my life, but all month, I kept thinking "oh, there's time to implement that," and there wasn't time. It didn't happen. What really happened is that I lived my life as usual with the nagging reminder that "Love Is Kind."  It usually reminded me at my worst, most unkind moments.

 I wish I could tell you what one kind thing I did for myself every day, or what one kind deed I did for another person each day. I wish I could tell you that I picked up a new habit of smiling at strangers, always holding the door, or changing my tone of voice to "permanently kind" voice. I didn't do any of those things. I barely made it through the month.

This short month, I have been sick for about half of it. I started feeling bad about 2 weeks ago, then finally got a full-blown illness last week, and this week I'm still recovering. I took only one day off work. I forced myself to. I wasn't getting enough sleep, much less the extra sleep one might need when fighting off an infection. I went to the doctor. I consider both of those an act of kindness to myself, although there was much inner protesting. I would never treat another person the way I treat myself...why don't I take care of myself?  Why am I so unkind to myself?  Why do I feel guilty taking time for me?  Growing up, we were really poor and never had insurance. Yearly checkups with the doctor are not anything I did as a kid. I went when I had chicken pox as a kindergartner. I went maybe 2-3 times between then and graduating high school. So, forcing myself to do yearly maintenance is difficult, but it's part of self-care, self-love, and kindness that I need to do without guilt.

The other thing that happened this month is that I had a dramatic, unexpected confrontation with someone in my life. She's pretty dramatic and confrontational in general. I'm surprised I made it this long without such an interchange, but it was very stressful. I talked to my therapist about it, and she helped me navigate the waters. I can't say I handled it perfectly, but I also feel like I did okay. Could have been a lot worse, and I didn't allow it to manipulate me or change my priorities. I made peace and moved on.  A year ago, I probably couldn't have done it. I would have rewarded the tantrum by appeasing this dramatic, confrontational person, but this year, I just don't have room for that. Ain't nobody got time for that. I wasn't especially kind or unkind to her. I believe I was seen as unkind because of her interpretation of me, and I did apologize for that. I do think that standing my own ground (even if it was just barely), that I was kind to myself.

One other giant thing that happened this month is that I found out someone VERY close to me was unfaithful in their marriage. It was shocking. They are already divorced, but the ex-spouse who was cheated on is absolutely devastated. In related news, the cheater also lost their job, due to misconduct at work (related to the infidelity). And now, the whole family has no monetary support. This is a really hard time for all of them. I was told this all in confidence, which has made it even more difficult. I guess, as an outsider, it's a lot easier for me to see (and say) that G-d wants to give BOTH of them healing. I grieve for the spouse who was betrayed. I also grieve for the person who makes poor decisions that lead to adultery. There, but for the grace of God, go I. I'm not excusing the behavior, I just know that only a broken person does this stuff. The cheater hurt him/herself just as equally as s/he hurt the ex-spouse and the third party ("the other lover.") When will we all know that we are loved perfectly?  When can we stop hurting ourselves and others?  When will our brokenness stop overflowing and helping us lash out at others?  Since I'm not the direct victim in this case, it's easy for me to pray for healing for both parties. God loves the perpetrator and the victim equally.  I should be so kind to those who have hurt me.

So, in this Love Is Kind month, I have learned that I am very unkind, just like I learned in January that I'm very impatient. And I'm still impatient. And, yes, like last month, I know God is kind and God is kind to me, but it didn't hit me as hard as the realization that God is patient with me. I have a long way to go. I am selfish and brutal in my words and thoughts. I am arrogant and unkind in my judgments and assumptions. I am rude and unkind in my gossip and words and self-righteousness. But I'm going to keep going.  I'm going to lean in.  I'm going to attempt progress. 

The Hidden Power of Kindness by Fr. Lawrence Lovasik is a wonderful book I have read. It really goes through all the types of unkindness. It's like an extended examination of conscience with practical suggestions. It leads me to nooks and crannies of my personality and thought-life, and it reveals many an unkindness. I am going to add "unkindness" to every confession I make from now on. (I was advised by a catholic psychologist to go ahead and add pride and selfishness to each confession because it's something we all struggle with.)

Life is such a journey.  I am trying to find the balance between being good to myself and challenging myself to move to a higher level.  As Gretchen Rubin says, accept yourself and expect more of yourself.  

Lord, have mercy on us all, and in Your kindness, hear and answer us.

Stay tuned next month for Love Does Not Envy.  

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

January in Review - Love is Patient
As I end my month long focus on "love is patient," I realize what a long journey this is going to be.  From where I am now to having the virtue of patience - perhaps even a lifelong journey.  Scratch that - a lifelong journey.   How difficult some of these virtues are to implement into my selfish nature.  But, oh, there is grace for the journey.

I have learned this month just how impatient I am. It's easy to be patient standing in line when you have nowhere else to go, but what about when you're busy or running behind? Love is patient.

It's easy to be patient to your loved ones when you have to repeat yourself* once, but five times?  Love is patient.
(*I have a major personal pet peeve of repeating myself, perhaps this is easier for others).

It's easy to forgive and be patient with the faults of another when it's the first grievance...but what about the whole "forgive 70 times 7" thing when they have a character flaw that results in repeated offenses? Love is patient.

Moments of raging impatience this month - when my fiancĂ© forgets something important to me, when a flighty friend of mine was in town for a week and made me late for work, when my parents act the same way they have in my whole life, and I am impatient about it anyway. When I commit a sin AGAIN that I wish were behind me.  Love is patient. Love is patient. PATIENT, I tell you!!

I learned this month that my fuse is often shorter than I think. Blame it on lack of sleep, blood sugar problem, hormones, work, traffic. Blame it on anything you want to, but love is patient, and I often am not. I have found that it is much easier to operate in self-control when I have eaten, exercised, slept, and otherwise taken care of myself. When I'm "running on empty" so to speak, it's very difficult to act in patience. However, I think that's when it's most important to be patient. Anyone can be patient when it's not difficult and nothing's at stake, but to me, being patient in a very frustrating situation is true patience, more so than being patient when it's easy. It's kind of when the Bible talks about loving the unlovely. Loving when it's hard. Patient when it's difficult. I used to think of myself as a fairly patient person, but now I realized that I had no problem being patient when it was easy, and no patience at all when it was actually a test of patience. 

As I consider other resolutions I made this year, specifically the one about going to confession about once a month, I realized that,...wait for it...,love is patient.  (Right...duh. That's the point, right?)  What I mean is that I realized that not only do I need to confess my impatience, but I need to be grateful that Love, God, is patient. God is patient with me. And as I learn, try, fail hard, get back up, and try again, I realize that God is patient with me as I try to love, specifically as I try to love by being patient.  I imagine my youngest nephew as he runs and falls. He's little, and he's got a lot of padding on the hind end to ease the fall. Are we not children in God's eyes?  I'm not diminishing the seriousness of my sins, but God is patient with me. Just as we encourage my nephew to get back up when he falls and comfort him if it hurt, God doesn't want us to fall and stay there. That's where despair enters in, at least for me.  Love, God, is patient with me. In all my weaknesses, I should get up and try again. God is cheering me on. 

Love is patient, and Love is patient with me. It is both a call to patience and a reminder of who God is.  Can I show that patience to myself and others?

Tune in next month for Love is Kind.  

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Work it out

Last night I was talking to a friend of mine who knows a little bit of the situation at hand in my life. (Short version - I'm Catholic, engaged to be married in the Catholic church.  My parents are militant, anti-Catholic, Protestant fundamentalists).  She's very very Protestant, in the Reformed tradition.  I explained a few things to her that I had discussed with my parents, such as "Catholics don't worship Mary" and "Catholics compiled the Bible."  I don't know if I've been too insulated in a community of like-minded individuals or too hopeful that these points are valid, but I was surprised at the default anti-Catholic position inherent in her Protestantism.  I wasn't even trying to convince her in an "I'm right, you're wrong" way.  I was trying to explain certain doctrines to the best of my ability...which must not be very much ability because she kind of dug in her heels to every point I made.  I wasn't trying to argue or win her over, good thing, because I totally didn't.  Maybe my motivations were more prideful than I care to admit.  I was re-hashing some conversations I had with my parents last year, and explaining things to her in the way I had to them.  My arguments make perfect sense to me, and in fact, this line of reasoning is exactly what led me into the Catholic Church.    

The conversation made me sad.  And, rather than spending more energy on doctrinal "debates" or explanation of differences (especially when the other person has their mind made up), I just walked away thinking, "I need to stick to myself."  Meaning, I need to "work out [my] salvation with fear and trembling."  (Philippians 2:12)  I need to worry about me and me only.  I need to do what I know to be right, for me, in my life, right now.  That doesn't include telling others what is right or trying to shift their viewpoints to be in line with mine.  I need to be responsible for me, pray for and care for others in tangible ways, and let it go.  I've got enough on my plate to keep me busy for a lifetime. 

I know this.  I've always found religious debates to be wearisome and ripe with potential for pride.  I worry that I've said to much to everyone in my entire life. My parents, my friend last night, my other friends and family at other times in my "convert-to-Catholicism" zeal.  I resolved once again last night to work on my own problems and to pray for others.  I admit, I felt defeated.  This war between Catholics and Protestants is centuries old and complicated.  I used to delight in the diversity of the Christian denominations.  Now, the divisions make me sad.  We don't all have to be the same, but we are tearing ourselves apart.

My vocation is to love, especially in this year of 2014.  My vocation is not to teach, to convince, to explain, to defend.  It's to love.  And sometimes that means keeping your mouth shut and focusing on what you can change - yourself.