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.