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.     

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

2013 in Review

1. Looking back on 2013, what might your theme song have been?
"A Change Would Do You Good" by Sheryl Crow

2. If 2013 were a movie, who would play you?

3. What was your greatest gift of 2013?
Renewed, restored love with my boyfriend (now my fiance), a new hope for the future

4. What is your New Year Resolution, or, what are you committing to this year?
My vocation is to love

5. If January could be represented by one song, what would it be?
I don't know if this refers to January of 2013 or the current month.  Since this is 2013 in review, I'm gonna go with January of 2013 and say it was "Here Goes Nothin'" - that was the month I interviewed for a new job out of state, was offered the job, and had the choice of moving, staying, trying to make things really work with my guy.  

6. What do you wish for your body in 2014?
Balance.  Lots and lots of consistent, nightly sleep.  And regular exercise, balanced eating.  Wholeness, health.  

7. Name one new thing you would love to try in the New Year.
I am going to try my hand at cooking new meals this year.  

8. What do you long for 2014 to bring?
I long for 2014 to bring peace and health to my relationship with my parents.  That may never be possible on this side of heaven, but I long for 2014 to bring me some peace on my side of things, even if my parents don't change.

9. If that happened, how would you feel?
I would feel self-respect.  I would feel proud and confident for standing my ground.  I would still be sad at the state of affairs with them, but satisfied that it's as good as possible. 

10. Where would you love to vacation in 2014 if money were no object?
Money is indeed "an object," but if it weren't, I'd love to honeymoon in Italy or Ireland. 

11. What would you like the theme of 2014 to be?
Going back to my resolution for 2014 (#4) and the fact that I'm getting married this year, my theme is "love."  My vocation is to love.  Love and say it with your life.  How well did I reflect the love of God today?

12. If 2013 were a book, and the title was 5 words or less, what might the title be?
Fasten your seatbelts, it's gonna be a bumpy ride (I know that's more than 5 words, but part of it must have been the "subtitle") 

13. What did you do in 2013 that you’d never done before?
Permanently moved to a different state than that of my birth, moved further away from home than I've ever been

14. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I honestly don't remember last year's resolutions, and I don't really care to look them up.  I seem to have similar goals each year.  I have definitely made progress since last year, but there is more to be done.  And I plan to be more concrete and intentional this year.  

15. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Not this year

16. Did anyone close to you die?
Not this year (thank G-d)

17. What countries did you visit
The good ole' U-S of A - I went home for Memorial Day, 4th of July, Thanksgiving, once in December, and for the New Year; I went to Dallas, Philadelphia, San Antonio, and San Diego

18. What would you like to have in 2014 that you lacked in 2013?
I would like to have more tools for dealing with my parents, I would like to have closure about some difficult things in the past, and I would like to have healthy habits in the areas of self-care, such as sleeping, eating, exercise, and boundaries

19. What dates from 2013 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
January 3 - the day I interviewed for my new job
February 10 - the day I moved

20. What was your biggest achievement of the year? 
Forgiveness of perhaps the biggest hurt I've ever felt
Courage to stand up to my parents in a new way

21. What was your biggest failure?
Unkindness, impatience, hurtful words - in short, a lack of love

22. Did you suffer illness or injury? 
Only internal (aside from a few rounds of strep throat)

23. What was the best thing you bought? 
I didn't make any big purchases, but I did sell a house, and I'm so happy about that.  It sold in 8 days. 

24. Whose behavior merited celebration? 
My fiance.  I'm sure that sounds cheesy.  I am proud of him for standing up for our relationship to some outside attacks.  I'm happy that he believed in us when I couldn't and that he waited for me until I lived here, until we both were ready to move forward together with making our lives one.

25. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? 
I don't want to be mean or beat a dead horse, but I get so frustrated at my parents.  Even when I can predict their reactions to things, it still hurts when it happens and it's directed at me.  Their lack of support, disrespect, and unkindness is sometimes really hard to deal with.  

26. Where did most of your money go? 
I got in 2 car wrecks, I was in 2 weddings across the country, and I paid closing costs and part of my moving costs.  That took a big chunk for about 6 months.  

27. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Getting engaged to the guy I love and realizing that we are going for it!

28. What song will always remind you of 2013?

29. Compared to this time last year, are you: a) happier or sadder? b) thinner or fatter? c) richer or
A) Happier and more content
B) About the same, but working on toning up
C) I have a better salary, but I'm trying to pay for a wedding and buy a house

30. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Lived in the moment

31. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Looking back at the past and/or not acted out of love for others and self at all times

32. How did you spend Christmas?
With my future-in-laws and some friends.  It was very peaceful, beautiful, restful, and fun.

33. Did you fall in love in 2013?
No, but I renewed the love with my long-term boyfriend, turned fiance.  We made a definite decision to make us work and move forward.  It does feel like a new relationship at times. 

34. What was your favorite TV program?
Downton Abbey!!!!!!!!!!!!

35. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
Love not hate.  
36. What was the best book you read?
I read a lot this year.  Mostly non-fiction.  I would have to say "The Hidden Power of Kindness" by Lawrence Lovasik.  (It's not as boring as it sounds, and it helped me see my actions more objectively.  It's also helping me with this 2014 love project).  

37. What was your greatest musical discovery? 
I'm not really into "bands," I'm into classical music.  So...I will say I really enjoyed some outdoor concerts this year in my new city.  
38. What did you want and get?
I finally got peace and answers about my relationship.  Once we got into the same city again (after 3 years together, 3 years long-distance), it was so much easier to be together and focus on us in healthy ways.  There was some confusion and there were many bumps in the road, but I finally feel peace and direction about our relationship.  I'm sorry I waited so long to move! 

39. What did you want and not get?
A winning lottery ticket?  JK, I don't buy them, but...

40. What was your favorite film of this year?
I'm about a decade late, but I finally watched the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  I enjoyed it.  As far as theaters, I enjoyed The Butler, but I wouldn't call it a new favorite movie. 

41. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 33 and had no less than 4 birthday celebrations.  My day started with a contemplative prayer meeting, followed by lunch with my future in-laws and fiance, followed by dinner with my fiance and 8 friends (new and old).  At a later date, I had an exquisite, extravagant 7 course dinner with a flight of wines paired to each course (the dinner was a gift), and I also went to get drinks at a really cool, innovative bar with a friend.  It was a great birthday times 4.  Being 33, I'm calling this my Jesus year.  I'm not sure what that entails (death? rebirth?), but it has a nice ring to it. 

42. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? 
Honestly, it was a good year.  There was a lot of change.  The only negatives are that I intensely miss my sisters, nieces and nephews, and friends back home.  

43. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2013?
"that must be in I'll wear this"

44. What kept you sane?
Reality checks with long-time friends and family who affirmed me, know me well, and want the best for me.  

45. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

46. What political issue stirred you the most? 

47. Who did you miss? 
My niece, my sisters, and my church friends from back home.  I miss them every day, and it hasn't really gotten easier, I'm just used to it.  

48. Who was the best new person you met?
Probably my new friends Dani and Sarah.
49. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2013.
Stand up for yourself.  Be kind.  Sufficient sleep and healthy meals can solve a lot of problems.   

50. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
"Be not afraid" 

Friday, January 3, 2014

2014 - One Resolution

Happy New Year! 

I have many new year's resolutions.  I love a fresh start, a clean slate, a reason to start anew.  It's one of the many reasons I love butterflies.

My birthday is close to the end of the year, and on my birthday, I made some "new year's resolutions" for this year of my life.  For the calendar year, however, I have decided to come up with just a theme for the 2014 year, something simple.  The resolutions (for my birthday) and the resolution (for the year) are very much related.  

For 2014, my resolution is to love.

My favorite saint is St. Therese of Lisieux.  She's not my confirmation saint, and I can't even tell you how I discovered her.  She discovered me.  She came into my life through a means I really don't even really recall, and the more I learned, the more I realized that her "Little Way" was for me.  It made sense.  It was possible.  It was simple.  My vocation is to love.  Now that I know more about her, I realize she's a popular saint that many (Catholics and non-Catholics, Christians and non-Christians alike) revere.  However, when I discovered her for myself, I felt like it was a special thing that must have been obscure.  It seemed so new to me.  Yes, I'd heard that "God is love," but Therese is able to help me act on that truth, receive that truth, and share that truth, not just know it intellectually.  It turns out that Mother Teresa named herself after Therese of Lisieux.  She's a favorite saint of Pope Francis.  Gretchen Rubin talked about her in The Happiness Project as being her "spiritual master."  Elizabeth Esther blogged about her doing "30 Days of the Little Way."  It seems that everyone had heard of this person except for me.  Little Therese was hidden in plain sight...until she wasn't.     

In my excitement and discovery, I suppose I have talked about Therese a lot.  As a result, I have received three books and a DVD about her as gifts this year.  I have purchased my own small library of her works.  I can't get enough of it.  Coming from my background of a performance-based, conditional love, I really need to hear messages about the mercy and love of God.  It's the only God I can believe in.  I was confirmed on Divine Mercy Sunday, and that's the God I believe in.  The Little Way emphasizes God's overwhelming love for us and that we can only do small things for God, but we can do them with great love.  Therese teaches that by consecrating our hearts and actions to the love of God, no matter how insignificant those actions seem, we are able to follow God's commandments and change the world.  Now that I know about Therese's teachings, it's very evident in the life of Mother Teresa, for example.  Here are some quotes from Mother Teresa that reflect the simple spirituality of love:   

"What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family."
"Let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love."  
"Love begins at home.  It is not how much we do, but how much love we put into that action." 

Similarly, Pope Francis seems to grasp that small actions done in love can have a huge impact.  He kisses the face of the deformed man ostracized by society, he allows little children to disrupt a service without reprimand, he gives a mentally challenged friend a ride on the pope-mobile.  There are many influences on Pope Francis (St. Francis definitely being one), but the Little Way of love is very evident to me.  

It blew me away to see Mother Teresa's bedroom when watching the Catholicism series by Father Robert Barron.  It was a tiny room.  A cubicle, really.  It contained a bed, a small desk, very few decorations or furnishings, but one of the few things in the room was a picture of St. Therese with the words "my vocation is to love."  To think that little Mother Teresa changed the world with her life, and lived that life out of such humble conditions was so amazing and inspiring.  It was the Little Way in action.  
Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.
Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.

(You can see St. Therese on the left of this picture of Mother Teresa's room.)

So, for the new year, I have decided to follow love. I am going to use I Corinthians 13 as my basis and be intentional about how I transform my life through love.  It might seem overly sentimental or cheesy to dedicate a year to love, but I think it's actually quite powerful and profound.  It's also the year I will be getting married.  The love I speak about is not a romantic love, but a universal love for all humankind.  I'm looking forward to finding ways of applying this love to myself also.    

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres...Love never fails." - from I Corinthians

I am going to focus on one aspect of love each month of the year as follows.  I will blog about my experiment and experience.  

January - love is patient
February - love is kind
March - love does not envy
April - love does not boast
May - love is not proud
June - love does not dishonor others
July - love is not self-seeking
August - love is not easily angered
September - love keeps no record of wrongs
October - love does not delight in evil
November - love rejoices with the truth
December - love always protects, love always trusts, love always hopes, love always perseveres