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. http://thisaintthelyceum.org/
I'm linking up today with This Ain't the Lyceum. http://thisaintthelyceum.org/