Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Answering the Call

Not that I have much of a "following" here, but I felt the need to share what's up with me.

I recently celebrated a birthday.  Though not one of the milestone years, I love the sense of a clean slate that a birthday gives us.  A new start.

Lately something has been brewing inside of me.  I can't figure it out.  I can't name it.

I just know that something must change.

I've had to do a lot of work over the last decade and a half.  Work on myself.  The work that survivors of abuse know.  Work that those who need major therapy understand.  It's hard work.  I don't want to do it most of the time because it is work.  It hurts at times, and yet, there are rewards for doing it.  I know if I don't do it, the poison inside me will kill me.

Do I sound dramatic?  I'm sorry if I do.  I just have gotten too old for this stuff.  I want it out.  I want it gone.  Forever.  I know that may not be possible, but I have got to make room for the work in my life.  How will I do that?

Unplugging.

Minimalism.

Answering the call. 

...{not sure, still figuring it all out}...

I do know that over the last several weeks and months, I've gotten a clear message.  We must "love our neighbors as ourselves."  This isn't new age, mumbo-jumbo.  This is wisdom, hidden in one of our most familiar and beloved Christian verses:

Matthew 22: 36-40

 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”


The love of God, self, and others.  That is the key to life.  I need to take some time to do the work of learning to love myself.  

I was raised to hate myself.  I always felt like I should have never been born, like I was unwanted and unloved.  This was through spoken and unspoken messages from my parents.  Our Calvinistic doctrine taught us about a monstrous God who was all about justice and wanted to punish us all to death.  

To know Christ...the real Christ...is to know Love and to become more loving.  To know and love God, who is Love, is to love others and yourself.  If I don't love myself in a healthy, balanced way, how can I love God or others?  The answer is, I can't.  I'm feeling it.  I'm feeling the brokenness.  And it's time for me to unplug, go minimalist, and do whatever it takes to answer the call to conversion on this matter. 

You might not relate to what I describe here, and that's okay.  I don't say it out of self-pity or evangelization.  I simply say it for myself and for the few others who may have had a similar experience.  The relationships we have to God, self, and others are equally important and inter-connected.  It's time for me to do some intentional work to heal in these areas, and I'll be pretty silent on the blog for a while.  I'm not sure what this is going to look like, except that silence and intentionality will be coming into play quite a lot.   

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

From one of my favorite Christmas carols, O Holy Night

...Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new glorious morn...

Do you feel your worth?  Do you know how much you are worth?  A new, glorious morn...a new way of doing things...a new way of seeing ourselves...a new way of being loved that had never existed before came into being.  Love incarnated.  

It's time for me and my soul to feel my own worth. 


~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
John 1:14 

"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth."



Friday, November 13, 2015

7QT: Seven Quick Takes (Volume XXXII)

I'm linking up with This Ain't the Lyceum to bring you seven quick takes from my world this week.  

~1~

Modern Dinner Party.

I posted outside of my normal Friday 7QT earlier this week to tell a story about a recent dinner party we attended.  Political affiliations and salaries were discussed.  Awkward?  Yes.  As the days continue to pass, it's still on my mind, so I know it must have bothered me.  It only recently occurred to me that perhaps I had differing political views from everyone else because I am in a different tax bracket/economic status.  Le sigh.

What do you think?  Is every topic of discussion fair game these days?

~2~

Introvert Offices.  

I'm a introvert who loves people.  (Hello, fellow INFJs.)  One of the frustrations of my job is that I don't interact with others as much as I'd like.  On other hand, working in a cubicle that has no door and is "exposed" to passersby 100% of the time is also draining to me as an introvert, not to mention that there is absolutely no ambiance.  I realized that my "alone time" at works comes...during my bathroom breaks.  Even though it's not a private bathroom (i.e., there are stalls), having a DOOR to close and not be bothered or seen by anyone else is a relief.

Here's the glorious view out my cubicle doorway.  No view of the outside world, but 100% view of me anytime anyone walks by.  I can't take a lunch break without interruption, so I usually leave for lunch.  I can't speak with anyone in the cubicle without everyone overhearing me.  This is bothersome to me.  It doesn't seem to bother my coworkers, who have discussed everything from their child's divorce to their cat's special food to their own prescriptions within earshot of others in our cubicle world.  (True stories.)  Study after study has proven that open concept office spaces are not as effective, not just for introverts, but for all employees.  But, they do seem to prevail in our modern day workplaces.

Oh well.  I shall survive.    

FYI - For Your Inspiration Information


~3~

Relics. 

As part of the Year of Mercy, Pope Francis sent Saint Maria Goretti on a voyage around the world. We were fortunate enough to see the relic in person last week.  I had never heard of her before, but the story is amazing.  She not only forgave her attempted rapist and murderer, but her mother then adopted him.  The mother forgave him too.  He had a vision of St. Maria Goretti forgiving him, which led him to repent and turn his life around (up until then, he had been a violent inmate and claimed innocence in the crime.)  He then forgave himself.    

Here is a video which details some of the same information I learned that night.

I have to say, as a Catholic convert, this kind of thing really rubs against my natural sensibilities.  I can see how those who do not understand think that we are being superstitious or taking away from God's glory or being pagan.  I was thrilled that so many thousands of people would take the time to pay respects to a saint, but I felt like one of those "crazy Catholics."  I do believe in the communion of saints, and I think St. Maria Goretti's story is very powerful.  I feel sometimes like immigrants must feel in their adopted homelands.  I doesn't come naturally to do things like this, but I believe it's true. Amid the huge crowd, the hours in line, the loud people speaking English and Spanish and Vietnamese (which was distracting from the atmosphere of prayer, to be sure), I still know God was there.

Yes, Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief.   

St. Maria Goretti - pray for us!

I have a new favorite for my personal litany of saints, the Little Saint of Great Mercy.

~4~

Self-Hatred.

When God speaks to me, He has to be very clear, or I just don't get it.

It wasn't until earlier this year that I realized the voice of self-hatred and condemnation, even if it's your own inner voice, is not of God.  If it's not from God, then who is it from?  The enemy.  Plain and simple as that.  I learned this from Fr. Timothy Gallagher and from Deacon James Keating as I read and listened to talks about spiritual discernment and marriage.  It was a powerful revelation.  My "self-talk" has always been extremely negative.  I would never speak to anyone else out loud the way I am accustomed to inner self-talk.

Well, within 10 days, I have gotten three separate messages about self-hatred being of the enemy. The first was Fr. Robert Barron's series about The Mystery of God.  In discussing the Trinity, he talks about the idea that as God knows Himself in the Son, the only proper response is to love, which is the Spirit.  (This is originally from Aquinas or Augustine, I believe.)  In a similar way, as we learn who we truly are, in Christ, the only natural response is to love ourselves (in a healthy, balanced way).

Next, our priest gave an excellent homily on All Saints Day.  While the focus of the homily was not self-love, he made a remark in passing that struck me.  To end up in hell is to end up in self-hatred. In other words, when you end up in hell, it is because you have disobeyed God.  One of the primary ways we do that is to reject his divine design, the goodness we are created for and to live according to our own designs.  It's idolatry, essentially.  And, as the good priest said, in not following God's design, you aren't your truest self.  And hell is the culmination of such self-hatred.

Finally, the homily at the mass surrounding the viewing of the relics of St. Maria Goretti... The priest instructed us on how to pray when we venerated the relic.  This is a saint of great mercy and forgiveness.  He told us to pray something like, "Lord Jesus Christ, through the intercession of St. Maria Goretti and in your name, I forgive (so and so) for doing (such and such) to me."  But, then he made an excellent point.  St. Maria Goretti's murderer and attempted rapist had a vision of her forgiveness.  He had a vision of God's forgiveness.  But, had he not also forgiven himself, he could have never lived the rest of his life in peace.  So, we were also instructed to pray, "Lord Jesus Christ, through the intercession of St. Maria Goretti and in your name, I forgive myself for doing (everything you are most ashamed of)."  This piece of the forgiveness puzzle is absolutely crucial.

It was the third confirmation within 10 days that God does not want me to hate myself.  My husband squeezed my hand when the priest said that, knowing the journey I'm on.  And a tear fell from my eye.  I knew it was a message for me.

Let us all be free.  Let us all forgive others and ourselves.  Lay it down at the foot of the cross and leave it there.

~5~

Old Friends.

I've had an old friend in town this week.  It's been great to catch up.  Funny how it's easier to pick up where you left off with some people than it is with other people.  I'm grateful to know such interesting and brilliant people.  This friend of mine is an English professor. We ate lunch together. Then after work, we went to an amazing art exhibit with my husband and then dinner all together.  I miss being able to talk about society, the arts, and ideas with people the way I can with this friend of mine.  He's a deep thinker and very insightful.  He also said that he wished he had friends like myself and my husband back home.  I guess the feeling is mutual.  

~6~

Snake. 

This is not a metaphor of any kind...there was a snake in our office yesterday morning.  This is not a drill.  I repeat: a snake in the office.  

It's gone now.  It was caught and taken outside, but my-oh-my, I could not concentrate until it was removed.  EEK!!!!!!

As Jim Gaffigan says, "I'm what you call...indoors-y."

I found this hilarious image on Etsy

~7~

Happy feast of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, who said:
"Love and God will take care of the rest."  


St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, pray for us!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Have a great weekend!



Monday, November 9, 2015

The Modern Dinner Party

We were happy to be guests last weekend for a dinner party held by someone from our church.  She invited several of us in the young adult class (some married, some single) to dinner at her house.  Our favorite priest was also there.  Plus, we've wanted to connect more with these same people and have more of a sense of community, especially among other young married couples.

Everything was fine and dandy (in my book) until the host said that it was time for us, one by one, to go around the dinner table and reveal who we were planning to vote for.  My husband was wise and said he hadn't decided yet and wasn't informed enough yet (which is true).  I was the only person at the table to say I really liked a person from one certain political party.  Every single other person at dinner really liked candidates from the opposite party.  I am a registered independent voter.  I have to admit, I'm pretty cynical about politics.  I, too, feel not as informed as I hope to be on election day. I'm also weary of the whole thing and not very loyal to any specific party.  I care more about individuals and certain issues.  Narrow the field down to two candidates, then I'll select the lesser of two evils.  I don't have a lot of faith that electing certain people will completely change our country or our life.  We feel pretty divided as a nation, to me.  And, I also feel cynical that even if a bunch of changes are pushed through with one president, they might be overturned by the next one or by Congress. It makes me very pessimistic.  That's how I feel about politics.  If I could refrain from voting in good conscience, I would.  I vote because I feel a moral obligation to.

Well, you could have heard crickets at this point in the dinner party.  The host's husband (jokingly) told me that I could see my way out when I gave my answer.  "There's the door," he said.  I tried to take it all in stride, but this conversation led to about 30 more minutes of political discussion, some of it directed at my supposedly faulty notions.  I noticed our priest stopped talking after giving his answer.

"So, Bridget, how's your love life?  Why are there so many women your age still single?"
*If you've seen Bridget Jones, this is exactly how I felt when answering the political question.*


After that point, the conversation then turned to...how much money people in our given professions make. While we weren't required to go around the table and give answers to that question directly, several of the people there gave their two cents.  Suffice it to say that as a person working in higher education, married to an artist, I now know for a fact that we make way less money than everyone else there, except for the priest..not that we revealed that information.  But most others there felt free to say a "starting salary" in their field is in the range of X-Y.  I, for one, had sticker shock.  Of note, after about 30 minutes of silence during the political discussion and making a joke about his salary, our priest promptly left.

So, is this conversation in bad form?  I know that politics and religion are not the most politically correct topics to discuss.  However, the only way we know one another is from sharing a religion, so maybe our host figured politics wasn't a big jump.  But...delving in to how much money people make?!  I thought it was tacky and embarrassing...maybe because, aside from the priest, we were clearly the lowest earners there.  I'd wager to guess that I have more degrees than anyone at that table, but no one ever gets degrees in music for the sake of earning lots of money.  Still, it left an odd taste in my mouth.

I really believe that our host is someone who likes to talk about controversial things.  She has no problem disagreeing with people, and in fact, I think that's how she naturally communicates.  It's difficult for someone like me not to take it personally when she disagrees with every statement I make.  Gretchen Rubin would say that she is someone who uses oppositional conversation style. While I still find this conversational style a bit exhausting, I do understand it better with this paradigm in mind and try to accept this person the way she is.

I don't know how much money my friends, or even family members, make.  I'm sure, like a person's age or weight, you could probably make an educated guess.  After last weekend, my notions of what the average person makes should probably be multiplied by two or three.  I do tend to know people's political leanings, not from asking directly, but because they share their views as related to certain issues, current events, as it naturally arises in conversation, or from their blatant posts on Facebook.  Maybe I would feel differently about the whole evening if I agreed with everyone else's politics or if I made a much higher salary in alignment with theirs (three to five times the salary I do.)

But, still...is it okay to discuss who you're voting for and how much money you make, even among friends?



Friday, November 6, 2015

7QT: Seven Quick Takes (Volume XXXI)

I'm linking up with This Ain't the Lyceum to bring you Seven Quick Takes from my world this week.  

~1~

Litany of Saints.

You might be Catholic if...
...you don't think one day is enough to commemorate all the saints in your life (both official canonized Saints and friends or relatives that you're sure are saints).  Thank goodness, the Church uses the entire month of November to reflect on this topic, remember the dead, and pray for them.  I love the communion of saints.  As a convert, this is something that brings so much more fullness to the body of Christ for me.  Having unity with believers of all ages - past, present, future - believers in all states of being - militant, suffering, triumphant - is amazing.  Having examples that bridge the gap between the stories of the Bible and ancient times and the modern world, people to whom I can relate.  The stories are so varied.  

I heard someone recommend once that each person should build their own Litany of Saints...not just your confirmation name or the Blessed Mother or your middle name (if it's Christian), but all the saints who are dear to you.  If you don't have a growing list of favorites, get to reading and learning about the lives of the saints.  They are our allies, our friends, our advocates, our family.  They are fascinating, diverse, brilliant, humble, and encompass nearly any and every walk of life.  

If you know anyone who has passed away (and we all do), then make sure to pray for them.  Maybe they were holy and you think they went straight to heaven, pray for them anyway.  Thank God for their lives, the love they showed you, their example.  Ask God to have mercy on them and bring them to Himself, if He hasn't already.  If they're already in heaven (and only God knows), ask God to apply those prayers to all those in purgatory.  Ask them to pray for you, but pray for them too.  Do not lose hope for those loved ones who may have lived less-than-faithful lives.

St. Cecilia...
St. Therese of Liseaux...
St. Louis and St. Zelie Martin...
St. Benedict...
St. Anthony...
St. Dymphna...
St. Frances of Rome...
St. Vincent de Paul...
St. Rita...
St. Faustina...

All the angels and saints...

...Pray for us.

~2~

Manna.

"Don't speak against the provision of God."

I heard a nice reflection on gratitude that I really needed to hear.  God provides for us, just as He provided manna from heaven.  Eventually, they got sick of the manna and complained about it.  Don't we do the same thing?

"Another day at the office?"
"Another diaper to change?"
"Another run to the grocery store?"

Whatever the case may be or the cross to bear, be grateful for the provision God has given you.  Don't bite the hand that feeds you.  (I'm saying this to remind myself, too.)

Sometimes we need relief, help, or sometimes we need a big change.  But, be grateful for what you have.

~3~

Decorating.  

I love decorating the inside of our house (much more than maintaining the outside).  I don't know that I'm good at it, but I have specific ideas of what I like and what I don't.  I have always wanted my home to radiate peace and to reflect our faith, while not feeling like a museum.  

Jen, over at Graceful Living at Home compiled a list of some of the best decorating websites around, including her own.  Follow, click, add to blogroll, like, etc.  It'll give you a great list of inspiration if you like this kind of thing the way I do.

~4~

10 Tips for Online Behavior.

I guess it's link week on my 7 Quick Takes.  But, seriously...online behavior seems to have taken a down turn, and this article is a good reminder.  It's enough that I'm considering deleting Facebook, Instagram, this blog, etc.  We all need a few reminders that behavior online doesn't get a "pass."  Just because it's behind a screen doesn't mean it's meaningless or a way of getting by with bad behavior.  Especially as Catholics, keep in mind that others are watching how we treat each other, how we speak of the Church, and how welcoming (or unwelcoming) we are.  Food for thought.  

~5~

Jennifer Fulwiler referenced this long ago on her blog, and it's FABULOUS.  A “Decalogue for Daily Living” from none other than Pope John XXIII.  Such wisdom here.  

1. Only for today, I will seek to live the livelong day positively without wishing to solve the problems of my life all at once.


2. Only for today, I will take the greatest care of my appearance: I will dress modestly; I will not raise my voice; I will be courteous in my behavior; I will not criticize anyone; I will not claim to improve or to discipline anyone except myself.


3. Only for today, I will be happy in the certainty that I was created to be happy, not only in the other world but also in this one.


4. Only for today, I will adapt to circumstances, without requiring all circumstances to be adapted to my own wishes.


5. Only for today, I will devote ten minutes of my time to some good reading, remembering that just as food is necessary to the life of the body, so good reading is necessary to the life of the soul.


6. Only for today, I will do one good deed and not tell anyone about it.


7. Only for today, I will do at least one thing I do not like doing; and if my feelings are hurt, I will make sure no one notices.


8. Only for today, I will make a plan for myself: I may not follow it to the letter, but I will make it. And I will be on guard against two evils: hastiness and indecision.


9. Only for today, I will firmly believe, despite appearances, that the good Providence of God cares for me as no one else who exists in this world.


10. Only for today, I will have no fears. In particular, I will not be afraid to enjoy what is beautiful and to believe in goodness. Indeed, for twelve hours I can certainly do what might cause me consternation were I to believe I had to do it all my life.

~6~

The Battle Is Real.

Apparently there are those people out there who don't think the devil is real. While I don't want to give too much emphasis on ole' hairy legs or make him an evil equivalent to God (keep in mind he is a created, fallen angel)...I think it's dangerous to think he doesn't exist at all, to play with things that are condemned by the Church, or to otherwise be unaware. 

There is an enemy to all that is good. There is a spirit of resistance, self-hatred, and condemnation. It's a voice I know all too well.  Stay in a state of grace as best you can (by God's grace), use sacramentals, say your prayers, and of course, Carry On.  We are the victors in Christ.

**Note, I had a hyperlink, which I later removed because the article disappeared, and the website no longer exists.**

~7~

This is your daily reminder to TRUST YOURSELF...

And, in the spirit of offering basically nothing original this week on my seven quick takes, you simply must read the meditation that Elizabeth Esther posted on her Facebook page on November 4.  It was so good that I copied and pasted it to re-read over and over later as a prayer.  I feel like I need to meditate on this daily until it becomes second nature.  She thoroughly explains how to overcome some extremely damaging teaching that many of us were exposed to.  It really resonated with me, and it might with you.

Here is a copy of the text of what she said:

This is your daily reminder to TRUST YOURSELF. Growing up, I was actively taught NOT to trust myself because my heart was "desperately wicked" and everything I was feeling was suspect and that the only way I could know the truth was by checking in with the authority figures. When something bad happened to me, nobody believed me. "What? That didn't happen!" they'd say or "You're exaggerating!" or "Stop trying to get attention!" This is what I learned: that I wasn't trustworthy, that I couldn't even trust MY experience, that what I felt and thought could only be understood through the filter of other people. So I learned to repress my feelings, to push down my memories, to pretend that what was killing me wasn't really killing me.
WHAT I KNOW NOW: I can trust myself. When something feels bad, I am allowed to say "that hurts" or "that makes me feel bad" or "that makes me uncomfortable." I am also allowed to do what I need to do to make myself feel safe. If someone is making me feel unsafe, I am allowed to protect myself. And I don't "OWE" anyone an explanation for that.
I AM ALLOWED TO MAKE MISTAKES: not trusting myself meant I was hyper-vigilant about not making mistakes, not messing up. Inevitably, I *would* make mistakes and then I would go into a terrifying SHAME SPIRAL and believe I was the worst possible person in the whole world. Vile. Evil. Basically, a self-fulfilling prophecy. I was "bad" and making mistakes PROVED I was untrustworthy and bad.
WHAT I KNOW NOW: everyone makes mistakes. It's ok. It's what I DO with the mistakes that matters. Making mistakes doesn't mean I am a "bad" person. It means I'm human. I get to experience the natural consequences of my mistakes just like everyone else. I'm no better and no worse than other people. And above all, I am loved. Making mistakes doesn't mean I'm not trustworthy. It just means I get another opportunity to learn how to live my life.

I have a select few people with whom I trust my whole self. I listen to them. When I've gone off the rails, I know they'll be honest with me. But they'll be gentle about it, too. They won't blame or shame me. They won't bash me. And they'll always affirm their love for me. How did I get these good friends? By being a good friend TO MYSELF. By being whimsical and light with myself. OOPS, I did it again. Pick myself up, brush myself off, start again. Yep, I messed up. That's ok. The sun will rise again tomorrow. Take a warm bath, say sorry, eat a cookie and give it to God. Go to sleep. You're a good person because God only makes good things. xo. EE.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

As a reminder, heaven is our destiny.  May we not forget what we were made for, who we are meant to be.  All the angels and saints, pray for us!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

7QT: Seven Quick Takes (Volume XXX)

 I'm linking up with This Ain't the Lyceum to bring you seven quick takes from my world this week.

~1~

There, but for the grace of God, go I. 

There are lots of situations that phrase can apply to, "There, but for the grace of God, go I."  I'm not an alcoholic or a drug addict.  I didn't hurt anyone the times I have driven after drinking.  I didn't find myself in a marriage that didn't work.  Just like Mary was saved from original and actual sin before it happened (by her Immaculate Conception), I've been saved from a lot of stuff before it happened.

But one that really struck a nerve with me this week was in Verily magazine: I Donated My Eggs, and I Regret It.  I didn't donate my eggs, but I almost did.

I was in graduate school, and extremely poor.  While I had a teaching assistantship and an outside job, I still made less than $10,000/year and worked or went to school all the time.  The cost of living was low, and at the time, I had $0 debt, so I was able to make it work without even going into debt by the end of it.  However, there were ads in our school newspaper that called for egg donors.  You could make really good money, like several thousand dollars (and this was about 10+ years ago).  They preferred women below 30 who were healthy, smart, etc.  It seemed easy, like I could do some good for society and make some money.  So, I applied to donate my eggs.  I filled out all the paperwork about my background, personal health, social history, intelligence, family history, etc.  I also sent a picture, which was required.  At the time I thought, this is a win-win.  I could make some money as a poor graduate student, and these strangers could have a child.  I wasn't sure I wanted children at the time.  I wasn't Catholic, there were no moral dilemmas.  To me, it seemed about as difficult as taking some hormones for a few months, then cha-ching, get the cash.  I had taken the BC pill with no obvious side-effects, and so I thought it would be similar.

Well, thank God, along the way, something inside me made me hesitate.  I thought about having offspring I didn't even know about roaming the world.  Someone with my nose or my walk or my cheeks...that I didn't know personally or possibly didn't even know existed.  I thought about running into them years later, and something made me hesitate.

I went so far as to apply and talk to the agency on the phone several times.  I'm not a model or anything, but I do have a very high IQ and was very healthy at the time.  I fit their criteria. I think that made me appealing to the prospects, and I was poised to take the first steps with the agency.

Eventually I stopped taking their phone calls and didn't go through with it.  I figured, I was making it on my tiny salary.  It would be nice to have the extra cash, but I didn't need it.  And there was that hesitation.

A few years later, I remember sitting in Catholic Church when from the pulpit, it was mentioned in the homily that surrogate parenting, IVF, and using these types of technologies for reproduction was immoral.  It's the first I'd ever heard that.  While I was skeptical and still not Catholic at the time, I thought, "Well, at least I didn't do it, one less thing to worry about."

Fast forward to now, and I thank God I didn't do it.  I understand now that it violates the sexual act and natural law.  I know about Theology of the Body and practice NFP now.  As much as I feel for infertile couples, I do understand the greater ramifications that such an immoral action would have had.  They are now finding that there are major problems with the hormones given to such donors, not to mention the angst explained in the link about creating a human life that you are separated from. There are alternatives, such as NaPro technology, which work with our bodies instead of against them.

A quote (questionably attributed to Albert Einstein), "I fear the day when technology has surpassed our humanity."  Whether he said it or not, we have arrived at that day.

~2~      

Conversion. 

I love a good conversion story.  Head over to The Heart's Overflow to read several of them compiled recently: Volume I, Volume II.  I really enjoy seeing how God works in everyone in a way they can perceive.  Every conversion story is so different and interesting.  

 ~3~
Sanity, Sanctity and Sexuality.

This article by Father Dwight Longenecker talks about how saints are a balance of masculinity and femininity because they are a picture of what we will all be in heaven.  They are not effeminate men, aggressive females, nor are they asexual.  They are not macho men or Barbie doll girls, but they are a completed fulfillment of what we are meant to be as humans. 

I thought it was a rather profound and fascinating article. I never felt like I fit the stereotypical female.  I'm an introvert, I hate the color pink, and I never played with Barbies.  My husband doesn't fit the stereotypical male, either.  He's extremely expressive and emotional, he hates football, and he's a great cook.  I realize these sound like really superficial reasons for not being traditionally masculine or feminine, and that's exactly my point.  They are superficial ways of measuring that.  We don't really fit the superficial mold, not that we are just walking saints who are fully integrated like the people Fr. Dwight Longenecker references.  But, this article gave me hope that by accepting myself and growing in holiness, I will actually grow in what it means to be a woman.

With Theology of the Body and my Catholic faith, I'm trying to figure out what exactly it means to be a woman.  It has always been a confusing and conflicting thing for me. Don't get me wrong, I definitely identify as female, but I don't feel like I have good female role models - I've got a lot of secular feminist examples and doormat "submissive" Protestants in my background.  Isn't there a happy, healthy medium of what it means to be a woman?

What is authentic, Catholic femininity?

~4~

Nuts. 

My coworkers lately are driving me nuts.  I don't have a holy stamp to put on that, or a way to redeem it and say that I see Christ in them.  I don't.  I'm just annoyed and have to figure out some ways to deal with it.

In the words of Miranda Preistly from Devil Wears Prada, "That's all."


~5~

Halloween / Reformation Sunday.  

We don't have kids and won't be passing out candy this year, but Halloween weekend coincides with "Reformation Sunday."  This is the day when Protestant churches gloat about the fact that they aren't Catholic.  To be honest, it breaks my heart.  Whether they vocalize it or not, they'll be saying, "Thank God we aren't like those people.  If it weren't for Martin Luther, we wouldn't know how important the Bible is, or how wrong Rome is, or what the "real gospel" is."  This year is the 500 year anniversary of the Protestant revolt.  



This is not Christian unity.  As they sing "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God," the misunderstandings just get deeper and deeper, the chasm between Protestants and Catholics just gets larger, myths against the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church just perpetuate.

I used to think that all the denominations were just part of a beautiful tapestry, that none of us had the complete truth, but that together, we did.  Now, I see the thousands of "denominations" as a vast misunderstanding of what Christ wanted for us as his followers, which has resulted in chaos, confusion, division, and yes, hate.*

*If you think Protestants don't hate Catholics anymore, you should meet some of my family members.  (Yes, I know most aren't like that.  And, yes, I'm sure there are hateful Catholics too.)

Called to Communion is a great website that answers a lot of the objections of Protestantism to Catholicism.  David Anders points out that Calvin and Luther would not recognize modern Protestantism, and that the Evangelical Christian churches do not adhere to the teachings of early Reformation leaders.  This study led him into the Catholic Church.

Al Kresta's show, Kresta in the Afternoon, on 10/28/2015 in Hour 2 addressed this really well.  Take a listen here if you'd like.  He discusses this in an historical, balanced way, but doesn't have time to go into too much depth.  

~6~

Weekend. 

Speaking of the weekend, I am planning a surprise "stay-cation" for my husband and myself this weekend.  We are re-visiting a hotel we stayed at for the beginning of our honeymoon last year (before leaving for the rest of our honeymoon) and going to eat at a cool restaurant in the area that we ate at right after getting married last year.  It's only a few miles from our house, but a little fancy.  We haven't been to either place since then.  I got a discounted rate, and we have the free time plus an extra hour of sleep.  I've devised some rhyming clues to tell him where we're going...but not until Saturday.  Should be fun!

~7~

Mutlipotentialite.

Call us Renaissance persons or... multipotentialites.  I just watched this Ted Talk by Emilie Wapnick, and it really resonated.  If you've ever felt like you "missed your calling" because you didn't want to do just one thing with your life or were good at more than one thing or had very diverse interests...you might be a multipotentialite.  

I have degrees in music and in a foreign language.  I have worked in the music industry, higher education, and for the church (both Catholic and Protestant churches).  I currently work in higher education in a job description that seeks someone with a computer science background.  Sometimes I have an existential crisis because I feel like I should be doing more in music.  I also am interested in possibly getting another (fifth) degree...this time in Theology.  Due to my personality (an INF/TJ), I tend to be obsessed with something or completely uninterested in something.  Emilie says "follow your curiosity down those rabbit holes..."  My profile on this very blog says, "I believe that following those little rabbit trails of interest can sometimes lead you to your destiny..."  

Idea Synthesis, Rapid Learning, Adaptability are three skills Emilie identifies in multipotentialites.  

Wow...soo I think I'm a multipotentialite.  Emilie divides the population into specialists and multipotentialite.  As the latter, I have to say that I think I'm a specialist in multiple areas, or a specialist for a limited time in many areas before moving on.  What about you?  Does this understanding make sense for you or someone you know?   

Anyway, another fascinating look at humanity.  I love Ted Talks! 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Have a wonderful weekend.

From this morning's Divine Office:

"Let us adore Christ who offered himself to the Father through the Holy Spirit to cleanse us from the works of death. Let us adore him and call upon him with sincere hearts: 

In your will is our peace, Lord."






   

Friday, October 23, 2015

7QT: Seven Quick Takes (Volume XXIX)

I'm linking up with This Ain't the Lyceum to bring you 7 Quick Takes from my world this week... and hey-o imagine my surprise when I saw that I got a shout-out from Kelly herself about my post last week that Jesus is a really bad driver.  (Really, he is - see #3 of last week's 7 quick takes.)  

~1~

To answer the survey question about my most and least popular posts, I'm pretty sure it's hard to distinguish between the two, since this blog is not exactly mainstream.  I got more hits on my NFP Awareness Week post earlier this summer than many others, though.

~2~

Undoer of Knots. 

About a year ago, I became acquainted with Our Lady, Undoer of Knots.  I love the depiction of Our Lady, dutifully untying the knots (our problems, our prayers) that are brought to her by angels. Pope Francis has also indicated a devotion to her.

Recently on our wedding anniversary, someone gave us a small picture placard of Our Lady, Undoer of Knots.  I usually think of her as solving impossible problems, situations that we cannot figure out. But, the friend who gifted us with this also said she's great for marriages.

Fast forward a few weeks, and Our Lady, Undoer of Knots was the last thing on my mind.  I was thinking of my marriage.  We have a wonderful relationship.  I am so much happier as a married person, and we are in love and trying our hardest.  At the same time, I still feel some barriers between me and my husband.  Old wounds, old grudges, old fears that are still there at times on my part. Things are great, and yet I can sense within my heart some hesitations to love fully.  Without too much thought, I identified this "stuff" as a knot in my mind.  And then immediately I remembered Our Lady, Undoer of Knots.  Our marriage is great...but I still feel some knots.

Those barriers between us really do feel like knots - knots of anxiety in the pit of my stomach, the feeling of panic, chest pain that feels like a knot, like my heart is literally breaking or hurting from worry or old wounds, situations that are so complicated that a knot is the best way to visualize them. As wonderful as married life is, we already (or still) have some knots.  We didn't do everything right while we were dating, we haven't always practiced the faith, and I am a really wounded, messed up person sometimes.  I haven't totally forgiven everything emotionally speaking...I know this because I still feel the ache...the knot...sometimes.  I believe forgiveness is an act of the will.  I have consciously forgiven.  I'm waiting for the emotions to catch up.

Our Lady, Undoer of Knots...pray for us.  Pray for me.  Pray for my husband.  Pray for my marriage.

~3~

Forgiveness.


A few years ago, I read the book by ImmaculĂ©e Ilibagiza called Left to Tell.  It chronicles her harrowing experience of surviving the Rwandan genocide.  Not only was her survival miraculous on many levels, but she talks about the absolute need for forgiveness to survive.  She walks in freedom because she has forgiven those who hurt her.

It's an amazing story, and recently I started following Immaculee on Twitter.  She tweeted something about how once, she and another woman were applying for the same job.  Immaculee really needed and wanted that job.  So, she prayed a rosary that the other woman would find a different job so that she herself could have the job they both applied for...and it worked.



Recently, there was a situation in which my husband and I were invited to an event that included the attendance of a really negative person in our lives.  Someone who tried to tear us apart and nearly succeeded.  A very toxic person who cannot be trusted in more than one way, for more than one reason.  I know that it's possible I will have to run into this person eventually, even though we live in one of the largest cities in the US.  I just didn't want to go to the event for that reason, but my husband did for many reasons, his career/networking being one of them (kind of important).  I didn't want to re-hash all the reasons I didn't want to see this person or even explain to my husband that that was the reason.  I expressed some resistance and said, "maybe," and that I wanted the option to play it by ear on the day of the event. I considered lying about being sick, but decided that was wrong.  Although the wound from this person is something I think about often, and maybe even too often, I didn't want to talk about it with my husband.  I thought it would re-open old wounds, and my thinking about it often is something I'm trying to deal with.  Although we may run into the person eventually, I didn't want to go to an event in which their presence was guaranteed.  I still feel like I need more time to be ready for that moment.  

I prayed to God and acquiesced to whatever His will was.  If my husband really wanted to go to the event, I told God that He would have to give me the grace to handle it.  I figured it was better that we both see this person than just one of us.  That way, we could present a united front.  In addition, I figured the best way to live out my vocation as a wife is to support my husband.  So, I didn't want to cause a fight if he really wanted to go to this event.  I understood his reasoning, and I thought maybe I needed to suck it up.  I saw Immaculee's tweet around this time, and I prayed that perhaps this person would find other plans for the evening, rather than showing up to the same event.  I also went ahead and prayed that perhaps s/he would find a significant other, so as not to try to interfere with our marriage.

Within moments of those prayers - both to have the grace to support my husband and to perhaps give the other person alternate plans (both for the event and for the long run) - I got a text on my phone.  I knew it was from my husband.  I knew it was in regard to our plans that evening.  I composed myself and braced myself and read the text.  I had been in existential drama for days about this.  His text said something like, "My family would like us to join them for an impromptu dinner.  We are all on the same side of town, would you like to do that?"  To my sweet relief, this time around, an alternative was presented.  I said a hearty, "YES."

Thank you, Jesus, for providing a way of dealing with a difficult situation that didn't involve me fighting, having a panic attack, dredging up the past, or dealing with something I'm not quite ready for.  I know that a prayer being "answered," doesn't always mean I get my way.  I'm just glad that an alternative was presented to me, and that it was my husband's idea.  

Your grace really is enough.

~5~
Love Your Enemies.  

The next time you're tempted to think that all religions are essentially the same, remember that Jesus said to "love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you" (Matthew 5:44)  This is revolutionary stuff.  While other religions may promote peace and goodwill, or some version of "the golden rule," none go so far as to say you must love your enemy.

It hurts, it's the right thing to do, and it's difficult in our human nature.  Here is a wonderful prayer to pray for your "enemies," those who hurt you, those whom you are tempted to will evil against.  When we pray for our enemies, we have completely thwarted the devil's plans.  We not only forgive them, we pray that they will be converted.  We can offer up our pain for their salvation and for ours.  In these moments of knots and pain from others, I always hear the refrain from the Anima Christi, "Within thy wounds, hide me."

"Lord Jesus Christ, Who didst command us to love our enemies, and those who defame and injure us, and to pray for them and forgive them; Who Thyself didst pray for Thine enemies, who crucified thee: grant us, we pray, the spirit of Christian reconciliation and meekness, that we may heartily forgive every injury and be reconciled with our enemies.  Grant us to overcome the malevolence and offences of people with Christian meekness and true love of our neighbor.  We further beseech Thee, O Lord, to grant to our enemies true peace and forgiveness of sins; and do not allow them to leave this life without true faith and sincere conversion. And help us repay evil with goodness, and to remain safe from the temptations of the devil and from all the perils which threaten us, in the form of visible and invisible enemies.  Amen."  

~6~

I have mentioned Joseph Sciambra before.  He is a former gay man, now practicing Catholic.  He writes bluntly and profoundly about his experience, both "coming out" as gay, and coming out of that lifestyle.  I will say his writing challenges me.  This article of his, in Church Pop, is some of his best writing, in my opinion.

Let's all join our prayers with his that all would be transformed by the power of God, especially our gay friends, brothers and sisters.  

~7~

Yesterday morning was going along fine and dandy until I realized it was only Thursday.  So, we finally made it to Friday.  For some reason, it's been a loooong week around here.

In honor of St. John Chrysostom, whose feast day it is today, a little quote from him.  This is a friendly reminder that when those earthly relationships sometimes disappoint, God loves us more than we can imagine.  And when those earthly relationships are deeply satisfying and a glimpse of God's love, remember that it's only a portion of God's love for us...the tip of the iceburg...an icon of the real thing.





Friday, October 16, 2015

7QT: Seven Quick Takes (Volume XXVIII)

I'm linking up with This Ain't the Lyceum to bring you 7 Quick Takes from my world this week.

~1~

Humility. 

There's a saying that humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.  The other way to look at it is that humility is not self-hatred, nor a narcissistic self-love.  Humility is looking at yourself - knowing your weaknesses without giving into despair, knowing your strengths without giving into pride.  We are to be grateful for our strengths, and know them, acknowledge them as gifts from God. We should also be aware of our weaknesses.  This helps us buffer up and be on guard from temptations, helps us to know when to ask for help, and helps us see how much we need God.

I've been especially aware lately of false humility.  Self-hatred is not humility.  Putting yourself down is not humility.  Women tend to introduce themselves as "just" a stay-at-home-mom, or someone how "tinkers around" in the industry in which they are actually an expert.  They admit fear when given a platform or frame their talents on display as an "honor they don't deserve."  Sometimes I think women need more humility, in the sense that they need to honor and acknowledge the gifts they do have, not downplay them as "little old me".  On the flip-side, over-confidence is not humility.  Self-assurance and self-sufficiency are not humility.  Our American society is so backwards.  Women are often taught to criticize ourselves and downplay our strengths.  Men seem to be taught to act as if they had no flaws and "fake it 'til you make it."  (Sorry, I'm painting in really broad brush strokes here...)

Here is a link to Mother Teresa's "rules" on humility.  Some really good stuff.

And, if you ever need a shocking prayer, pray the Litany of Humility.  It'll really put life into perspective.  If you start praying it, all of the sudden, opportunities will abound that allow you to grow in humility.

~2~ 

Performance Review. 


This week at work, we all had to meet with our immediate supervisor and discuss our job performance.  For the first time ever, I have been told I'm not aggressive enough in some situations.  In the past at other jobs, I've been too aggressive.  Part of this lies in the fact that I basically took a demotion to come to this job - not in pay, but in authority.  I don't have the authority to make lots of decisions here, and boy oh boy does the Big Boss never fail to exert his authority.  I know my place.  However, due to the micro-managing and my hands being tied quite a bit, maybe I've over-corrected and become less assertive than I need to be.  It's hard to know when I'll be punished or reprimanded for exerting the authority I do have, or when I am expected to step out and take the reins over a situation.  This job has been confusing at times.  Although I have about one existential crisis per week regarding my career, I am grateful to have it, and I want to do a good job at it as long as I'm here.  Tying in to the Litany of Humility - it's hard to know when I should be self-promoting at work, and when I should just put my head down and get the job done.  America's workplace and the virtue of humility don't go that well together.  It seems those who get to the top are aggressive, brash, rude, and very confident.  In my workplace the leadership are mostly white males.  I'm so much less ambitious than I used to be.  I just want to make enough to meet our needs and to have the time and freedom to spend more of my life with my husband and doing what matters to me.  My career is no longer the most important thing to me.  

~3~

Jesus is a really bad driver
.

On retreat a few weeks ago, we were told to see Christ in everyone, especially the difficult people.  I've heard that saying many times before.  But, for some reason this time, I imagined Christ all around me when I'm stuck in traffic and prone to road rage at the incompetent drivers.  Would I flip off "Jesus," yell at him in my car, or call him names if he were in the car next to me?  Um...no.  No, I would not.

This has really helped me be more patient on the road.  For real.  However, as I have told the Lord recently, "You are a really bad driver!!"  I mean, Jesus has been cutting me off, nearly hitting me, driving too slow, driving too fast, etc. all over town. 

I have to smile because this exercise is actually working for me.  Not only is traffic a major point of my first-world suffering to the tune of 10-15 hours per week, but I have the opportunity to grow in patience constantly because I see Christ in all the other drivers now.  And, Jesus is a really bad driver, FYI, so he's giving me lots of chances to grow in patience.

~4~
All that glitters is not gold.  

When I was in my 20's, I fell deep into the "Sex and the City" lifestyle.  My friends and I watched it together religiously.  We even started a blog in which each of us wrote under one of the character's names to keep up with one another after we moved to different cities and the show ended.  (I was "Charlotte.")  At the time, drinking and sleeping around was completely normal and expected.  I was on track to be in school for the next 10 years, get a doctorate, look for a tenure-track job, move anywhere for my career, etc.  The way I saw it, a man couldn't fit into that equation... or at least not until the tenure-track job was secured.  I effectively postponed my happiness, looked for only casual or not-headed-toward-marriage relationships, and made my twenties all about me me me.  

Ironic how Carrie from SATC ended up with "Big," her on-again, off-again love.  And at the end of the series, all four women were actually happily partnered off - Charlotte and Harry, Miranda and Steve, Samantha and Smith.  (Of course, the movies after the series tweaked this set-up...)  Isn't it interesting that a whole entire show about how fabulous life is with your single girlfriends in the best city in the world still concludes with said single girlfriends seeking lasting, monogamous, committed love with a member of the opposite sex?

Thankfully, I had a few shifts after the SATC lifestyle years.  For one, I realized during my master's program that I didn't want a doctorate.  I didn't want that life when I saw the inner workings of academia.  I realized I had been postponing my happiness for such a distant point in the future that I wasn't enjoying the here and now.  I came off the career rat-race track.  Secondly, I became Catholic.  Although it took a few more years after becoming Catholic to start living the faith fully, I gradually became more and more open to the truth of the human person regarding sexuality, contraception, theology of the body, etc.   As a result of becoming Catholic, I eventually broke things off with my long-time, on-again off-again boyfriend.  He was a non-practicing-Catholic turned atheist.  I was a Protestant-agnostic turned Catholic.  As confused as I was about myself and the world, I knew I could not marry or raise children with someone who didn't at least believe in God and support or respect the beliefs I had.  He didn't.  One night, we stayed up talking on the phone until sunrise at 5 or 6 am.  I don't remember exactly how it was said, but I made it clear that I couldn't move forward in the long term because of our differing beliefs, and that I didn't see the point in having a not-going-anywhere relationship.

Eventually, I met my husband.  Although we had many, many ups and downs, a break-up, and nearly lost it all...we not only started living our Catholic faith, but we came back together in a stronger, better relationship after all we went through.  We are committed to God and to each other.  When I look back on that SATC girl who blogged under the "Charlotte" pseudonym, who thought there was no such thing as a soulmate (except for our great friends), who thought a career would keep her warm at night...I feel sorry for her.  I am glad that I was able to get off that train before it crashed.  I know that not everyone who longs for marriage or children gets to live out that dream.  Thank God for stirring that longing in my heart and letting me believe it was possible again.  Also, for guiding me to my husband...out of the billions of people on this planet.  And, most importantly, for restoring my dignity.  When you play Russian roulette with your sexuality, you are playing with life and death. What if you get pregnant, what if you get an STD, what if you have a child with someone who you'd never choose to spend your life with, what if you have an abortion....?  There really is a dark side to these behaviors, as pleasurable as they might seem in the moment.  I didn't come out of that lifestyle unscathed.  But, it could have been much worse.

All this to say that we have been sold a great lie.  It is an appealing lie.  There's a bit of truth to it - girlfriends are fabulous, NYC is one of the best cities in the world, and we don't need to be married or in a relationship to be happy.  But, we are meant to live in community, regardless of our station in life.  We are meant to respect our bodies and our appetites...meaning we cannot indulge our every sexual whim without consequence.  And, there is no denying biology...whether we marry and have children or not, our bodies are beautifully capable of that for decades.  Month after month, we carry the wondrous ability to conceive.  Is it really meaningless?  to be discarded?  an afterthought?  Or is that motherhood, whether literal or spiritual, an integral reality of our lives as women?

I'm still unpacking all of this.  It's been a few years of being a practicing Catholic, but some days I feel like an addict in recovery or someone who left a cult.  I'm still finding little remnants here and there of twisted thinking, lies I've believed, and wounds that hurt.  

I read this interesting article about a British woman in her 40's who admits that her single life is not what she thought it would be, and Sex and the City didn't set her up for the truth of this reality.

~5~

Gratitude.  

Jennifer Fulwiler made some interesting points on a recent podcast about gratitude.  Basically, God gives us the tools or what we need to more faithfully carry out our vocation.  If we don't find that perfect pair of shoes (her example), then we don't need that pair of shoes to faithfully carry out our vocation.

In terms of my job, I guess, God has given me this job for now.  I know my primary vocation right now is marriage, maybe children someday.  For so long as an artist and musician, that was my "vocation."  That career path, especially, tends to speak about the lifestyle of an artist as a vocation.  You have to love it.  It has to be more important than anything - money, stability, etc.  Now that I make a living other ways, have gotten married, and have really tried to practice my faith, that "vocation" is basically out the window.  I need to try to understand things in terms of my vocation.

How does this contribute to my primary calling in life right now?  God has given me what I need.

~6~

Dreams.  

I had a very vivid dream this week.  So vivid that I had to check Instagram to see if it happened in real life or not.

I had a dream that one of my (gay) friends posted a picture on Instagram of himself and a (gay) friend of his.  (They aren't a couple in real life, just friends who both happen to be gay males.)  It was a selfie of them in a beautiful church, flying buttresses, in the old cathedral style of a church shaped like a cross with the altar, narthex, etc.  But, when you looked more closely, you could see that they were each flipping off the camera.

When I asked him about it (in my dream), he basically said that the Church, the Catholic Church specifically, represented hate to them.  Their picture was basically their way of protesting the institution that represented the most opposition to them, above all other religions and above all other Christian denominations.

While I don't know that my friend would ever do something like this in real life, Fr. Jonathan Morris experienced something similar this summer when he was spat upon during NYC Pride.  People have been hurt by the Church, or they think the Church hates them.


This is the civil rights issue of our country right now, despite several other worldwide conflicts and possibly more prevalent issues, it dominates the discourse.  Unfortunately, the Catholic Church has been painted as one of the enemies in this culture war.  I wish people would take the time to understand our viewpoint.  We aren't Sola Scriptura folks, quoting Bible verses and "cherry picking" our favorites.  We have a holistic viewpoint which takes into account society, anthropology, natural law, tradition, reason, scripture, and faith.  In our world, we have ISIS killing gay people (or perceived gay people), and then we have American states outlawing "conversion" therapy.  I don't deny that there is some damaging therapy out there, but if someone were to genuinely want to talk about their sexuality and they were unhappy with that, we are telling them there is no alternative.  Acceptance is forced now.  Even in countries where homosexuality is accepted and not persecuted, gay men and women face higher rates of suicide, increased chances of life-threatening illness and mental illness.  There has got to be a better way.  A Third Way, if you will.  

I do pray fervently for my gay friends.  I hope that there can be a more sane dialogue possible in the future.  I know this is a huge and difficult cross to bear, especially with such confusing messages from our world.  There is hope.

~7~

T.G.I.F.

Thank God it's Friday.  

And now, a quote from St. Teresa of Avila, whose feast day was earlier this week. 

What if we acted like we really believed that Christ had no body on earth but ours?





Friday, October 9, 2015

7QT: Seven Quick Takes (Volume XXVII)

I'm linking up with This Ain't the Lyceum to bring you seven quick takes from my world this week.

~1~
25.

This is quick take number 25 for me, since Kelly asked for a count.

~2~

Job.

There is a job I was really interested in applying for last week.  I might still apply, but I asked for more details over email last week. 

The pros?  I could work a much more flexible schedule, which means 10-15 hours less commuting each week, less money toward commuting, and less stress overall.  I could see myself actually having and raising children with that schedule.  The cons?  Well, the salary is about $10,000/year less than I make now.  And I would spend more time away from my husband on weekends/we couldn't go to church together because this is a church job (and he also has a church job on weekends). 

As much as I would love this job, I think...there's probably no way to make it work.  I have less than $10 in my bank account right now, and I don't get paid again until a week from now.  (I blog semi-anonymously, so I'm okay with sharing this information.)  I don't think I can swing a $10,000/year pay cut...sadly.  I will likely be the primary breadwinner for the foreseeable future.  My husband has a disability, and also is in a line of work that pays much less, no matter what.  Also, I love our church, and I wouldn't be able to go to the young adult group or attend mass with my husband...which is really important to us.  I guess we could attend a daily mass together during the week, but that's not quite the same. 

As much as I got my hopes up about this job, I think it reveals to me a greater truth - that I am unsatisfied in my current position for a multitude of reasons, and I'm open to change.  However, it has to be the right situation.  And, until then, I need to be grateful and do the best I can. 

~3~

Community.  

I find myself desperate for Catholic community.  I have tried with the other couples in our young adult group, and it is slow-going but I guess making progress.  I also am trying with the local "Blessed Is She" affiliates, and it may develop into something...also a bit slow going but with potential.  I wonder if others feel the same way.  As the culture wars continue around us, Christ is the only thing that makes sense.  And increasingly, I know I need to cling to His Church.  

~4~

Friends.  

I have written before of my concern for my gay friends.  Just this week, a dear friend of my husband's and someone who participated in our wedding "came out."  He is Christian, though not Catholic.  And, I never ever would have guessed he was gay (not that it matters.)  Both my husband and I feel a deep concern for him, and will be praying for him.  Apparently, some of his Christian friends have abandoned him.  We definitely do not want to do that.  On the other hand, we want to give him hope, but present that chastity is the answer.  I feel my husband is in a unique position - he will not reject this friend, like other "Christians" might; but, he also is Catholic and has a differing view of the human person than the secular, gay community does.  We watched the movie Desire of the Everlasting Hills as a result of this coming out of our friend.   (You can watch it for free online.)  I had seen it before, but my husband hadn't.  I highly recommend it for anyone, it's very well done, and spoke deeply to me, even though I'm not gay.  I have struggled with other sexual sins, and this movie presents people with deep wounds, who all found healing in the Church.    

~5~

Old.

I was up until almost 1 AM earlier this week, helping my husband prepare for his upcoming concert. I'm so old, I can't bounce back like I used to from lack of sleep.     


~6~

Love.  Truth.  Healing.  

I came across a quote from St. Edith Stein earlier this week,

"Do not accept anything as the truth if it lacks love. And do not accept anything as love which lacks truth! One without the other becomes a destructive lie."

This may just sound nicey-nicey to some people, but it hit me like a ton of bricks.

I was raised in an abusive household, there's no other way to put it.  My parents constantly criticized us and put us down for how we looked, what we wore, our life choices, etc.  They still do.  And, there was truth to some of it...  That's what made/makes it so hard to reject, even if it hurts your feelings deeply.  But, I read this quote this week, and it gave me pause.  So, you mean...it's okay to reject something even if it's true, if the statement lacks love?!  There is so much freedom in that.

I talked to my husband about this, ever the sage.  He agreed.  He said that the love part (desiring the good of the other) is what puts the "constructive" part in "constructive criticism."  And, you have to develop a filter for only receiving what could be constructive from a criticism.  If it's not said with your greater good in mind, out of love, feel free to reject.

This is easier said than done.  I think I have a long way to go before I can only receive loving truths, and before I can only speak loving truths.  But, I feel like I have a whole new understanding of truth now.  I've heard it explained this way before...Truth without love is brutality.  Love without truth is sentimentality.    

If Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life...if God is Love...how does it all fit together?  Truth in Love?  That's where the question lies for me.  I feel like this quote from St. Edith Stein gives me some direction.

~7~

Story.

I love hearing people's stories, what makes them who they are.  I love conversion stories and stories of those who overcome abuse (see Elizabeth Esther's book and Jenna Miscavige Hill's book and Holly Madison's book as three recent examples I have read.)

It always perplexes me that I can come from the same exact upbringing as my sister did, and yet, we have completely different reactions to that upbringing and completely different "life stories."  My brother-in-law is the same way.  He is so different from my husband.  I don't understand how they came from the same home, and ended up so different.  But, when I found out more of his story this week, I understood more.

It's easier to have compassion and empathy for someone when you know a little bit about where they are coming from.  It's easier to pray for their needs and understand a little bit of why those needs exist when you know the story that put them in that situation.  That was the case for my brother-in-law this week.  There is so much hurting in this world.  We are all wounded.


...O good Jesus, hear me
Within Thy wounds hide me...

~Anima Christi~






Friday, October 2, 2015

7QT: Seven Quick Takes (Volume XXVI)

I'm linking up with This Ain't the Lyceum to bring you Seven Quick Takes from my world from this week (and last week).

~1~

The Pope.

The Pope's visit was amazing.  I am a huge fan.  From my office cubicle, I was able to catch several of the happenings on live stream while I did other work.  I saw him arrive in DC, speak at the White House, do the mass of the canonization of St. Junipero Sera, speak to Congress, speak to Catholic Charities, and greet people in DC.  What came across to me, hundreds of miles away and watching through a screen, is the man's humility.

His speech to Congress was nothing less than inspiring.  He didn't preach to our nation.  Contrary to popular opinion and mass media, he didn't pander to either political party.  His comments inspired me.  There is something about his presence that encompasses seemingly opposite values - courage, and humility.  He is loving and almost goofy, with his broken English and Fiat car.  He was passionate and yet gentle.  He got the left and the right to give standing applause and to sit on their hands.  In a word - he was Catholic.  He is the Pope of the Universal Church.  It was wonderful.  I hope all people of goodwill are inspired and touched.

I loved it that two very famous and prominent Jewish women both said positive things about the Pope on social media about him being one of us and the power of one person's influence.  I love it that I heard a Muslim man call into a Catholic radio show to say that he wished the Pope goodwill on his visit and saw him as a man of God.  Thank you, Pope Francis, for embodying what it means to build bridges.

(This image was taken from aleteia.org)


Fiat Voluntas Tua
(Thy Will Be Done)

~2~
Catholic. 

It was a great week to be Catholic last week.  The Pope was in our homeland.  My husband and I went on an amazing retreat to a monastery for three days.  It was so refreshing.  Unfortunately, with all the Catholicism in the air, it was inevitable that the criticisms came.  It's interesting to me that my extreme left wing friends hate the Church and the Pope for not allowing women priests, not sanctioning gay marriage, and meeting with Kim Davis.  (He also met with Fidel Castro and Obama.)  It's equally disappointing that my right wing friends find him to be too "environmentalist" and too "pacifist," believing the media hype about the Pope being a socialist or a communist.  In a word, the Pope is Catholic.  If you read his words in their entirety and put them in context, he will annoy both the right and the left at times.  He will also agree with both the right and the left at times.  He is Catholic.  He is the leader of the universal Church.  Sometimes we get so stuck in the American viewpoint that we misunderstand this.  My own parents posted the most mis-guided, anti-Catholic meme on Facebook.  I wanted to challenge it, but tried to pray for them instead.  Some prominent Protestant progressive posted equally ignorant statements that "the Pope supports governmental discrimination against LGBT."  

I hate that people waste their time and energy criticizing the Pope, Catholics, and other Christians. There was even a poll given by a Protestant magazine that went out this week saying, "Do you think the Pope is a Christian?"  Give me a break.  I guess I am wasting my time and energy criticizing their criticisms.  It just breaks my heart.  It is so mis-guided, ignorant, and really misses the point of what our world needs - JESUS!!  This has sometimes come from fellow Catholics, too...those who expect the Pope to be more progressive, and those on the other side of the spectrum who think he is "changing" Church teaching and is too progressive.  The poor man can't please everyone, though it seems we all certainly expect him to.  

Pope Francis has spoken several times about his popularity, saying that he doesn't expect it to stay.  

“Jesus also, for a certain time, was very popular, and look at how that turned out,” he said. “So nobody has his happiness guaranteed in this world. The only thing I ask is that this peace in my heart be maintained and that He keep me in his grace, because, until the last moment we are sinners and we can renounce his grace.”

Here is a good article from a few weeks ago in which the Pope speaks to the refugee crisis, the crosses we all carry, and his own "popularity."  
  
~3~

Anniversary.
 

My husband and I celebrated one year of wedded bliss last weekend while at the monastery on retreat.  Marriage has been a wonderful journey in learning to expand my heart, learning to love, learning to be open.  I pray for many more years, and I'm grateful for the fastest, most difficult, yet most meaningful year of my life so far.  

~4~

Offer It Up.  

I struggle to know how this works, as a Catholic.  Suffering is a mystery, and uniting our sufferings to those of Christ is something of a mystery to me also.  


"Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church." 
~ Colossians 1:24


Upon returning from our monastery retreat, one of the first places we went was the hospital because my brother-in-law had to have his appendix removed unexpectedly.  He should make a full recovery, and he's doing well already. 

However, the day after our return, my husband spent most of the day with his brother.  I'm sure it was helpful to him, and much needed as my brother-in-law tried to rest and recover.  But, I have to say I didn't handle it so well.  I was annoyed a little bit.  I wanted us to be together in the limited evening hours we have every day.  I had horrible thoughts about how I should be more of a priority for him than his family. I unloaded and reloaded the dishwasher (usually my husband's job).  I made some dinner for us (usually he would have gotten that started while I drove home).  I got the mail, I took out the trash, I noticed every light that was left on, every task left undone, etc.  I was feeling so bitter and angry that I had to do all these things while he got to be with his family instead of being with me.  I knew it wasn't justified, but that's how I felt.  I was tired and hungry.  I wanted my husband to be doing on this for me.  I didn't want to have to do it for him or even for us.

So, as I was forcing myself to do all these household tasks, I thought, "Can I offer this up?"  And, it was still a struggle.  Then, a new thought came to me.  "If you can't do this for yourself or for your husband, can you do this for your brother-in-law?"  And the answer was immediately YES.  I felt relief from the anger and bitterness in my heart.  Rather than being jealous of my husband's time and companionship, I thought of what a hardship it would be to have an unexpected surgery, to have to miss work, face medical bills, not be able to care for others like normal or even eat or drink regular foods for a while.  I thought of the humility it takes to be in need of help, in pain and miserable for several days, feeling alone or helpless, even if you're young and you know you'll be okay.  I had compassion on my brother-in-law, and I was glad my husband could be there for him, even if it meant less time for me.

And in that moment, I finally "offered it up" in a way I could understand and feel.  I was still tired and hungry, but I had a cause for the "suffering" I was going through, and the blame game ended. Thank you, Jesus, for that small insight.  For that one moment, I got it.

"A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the 'why' for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any 'how.'" 
~ Viktor Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning

~5~

Little Things. 

There's a story that a bishop was eating his Easter dinner when a vision came to him of a hermit in the woods with no food.  He left his table (with dinner in tow) and searched until he found the hermit. They shared the Easter meal together.  That hermit was St. Benedict.  Last weekend (at a Benedictine monastery, no less), we heard that story.  And now for a much less miraculous, but similar story that happened to me.    

One day at breakfast on retreat, I lamented that with my new way of eating (no starches, no carbs, no/low sugar), there weren't many options for me.  Donuts, cereal, and bread prevailed.  The only thing I could eat for breakfast was boiled eggs.  Most mornings I home, I eat 3 boiled eggs, bacon and cheese.  There was no bacon at the monastery, but there were eggs and cheese.  I took 4 eggs.  (This may seem like a lot of detail, but it'll be important).  I figured without my usual routine, I might be hungry for more eggs than usual (with the lack of bacon, etc.)   

I ate two of my four eggs and one cheese stick, and I was absolutely stuffed.  It's funny, since I normally eat more food than that.  We are talking every single morning of my recent life, I eat more than that.  I am a creature of habit.  I had coffee, two eggs, and one cheese stick, and I was stuffed. At one point, I thought I should maybe eat another egg or two, since I didn't know what lunch would bring.  That way I'd have some protein on the reserves and not be as hungry at lunch if there weren't any low-carb options.  Well, I couldn't do it.  I was so full I thought I'd be sick if I ate more.  (This is really unusual for me, a bottomless pit of hunger at almost all times.)  I even peeled the eggs and waited a while to see if I was hungry.    

So, we were enjoying our silent meal at the retreat, and I had my leftover two eggs sitting there. Finally convinced that I had had plenty to eat, I went inside to take them back to the breakfast area, in case anyone else wanted them.  Wouldn't you know it, but my mother-in-law (who was also on the retreat we were on), was in search of breakfast for herself.  She also avoids starch, carbs, and sugar like I do, and eggs would have also been the only thing she could have eaten for breakfast also.  But, they were all gone by the time she came down for breakfast.  (She wasn't feeling well that morning and came down for breakfast a little late.)  Except for the two eggs I didn't eat, nothing in the whole dining hall was available for her.  So, I gave them to her, and she was relieved to have a good breakfast. 

I know it's a small example, but I was so happy that God did this for her - brought her breakfast through me.  I can't convey how unusual it is for me to leave any food on a plate (I promise I'm not obese).   God had to make me so uncomfortably full that I didn't eat those other two eggs.  Every time I almost did, I felt this odd hesitation.  It may seem like a coincidence or a meaningless story, but for me, it was God's hand at work, and I'm glad I listened.  True to form, God has to be very clear when speaking to me.  He had to make me so uncomfortably full that I didn't eat the food, and it was available for her.  

Thank you God, for these small promptings of the Spirit.  Help me to keep listening.   

~6~

Links.

It's easy to get disheartened in this world and give into despair.  It's something I fight constantly, probably due to my personality, I will always have to choose the light. 

This week was the feast of the Little Flower.  I know she's extremely popular, but I honestly had never heard of her until a few years ago.  I felt like I was discovering a treasure when I began to read her writings and learn more (come to find out, everyone knew about her except for me).

In honor of her little way, here is a link to Fr. Robert Barron's "10 Powerful Resources on St. Therese of Lisieux."  

And, here is another good blog this week called "Love Does Not Brood."  It reminds me of St. Ignatius's reminder that God is the voice of consolation and the enemy is the voice of desolation.   

~7~

Little Flower. 

The first quote I ever heard from the Little Flower, which caused me to discover more about her, was this: "A God who became so small could only be mercy and love."  

She's the Little Sister I never had.   

Little Flower, show your power in this hour.  Pray for us!  
That we might know the love of God as you did.