Nobody really reads this, nor do I use my real name or too many identifiable details...however, I'm pretty sure I'm going to close up shop here at the blog....again...for real this time. I do fancy myself a writer in some sense. That's how I process things. I want the freedom to write down my thoughts and talk about them with others, while at the same time not invading my personal life with the blog. Maybe I need to privately online journal or open up a word document and call it a day. Maybe I need to share more with people I actually know on Facebook or in real life to get the connection I guess I'm seeking. It just seems like most the Catholics online all seem to be either men doing apologetics or moms who blog, which brings me to point number two.
I am not a mom. We are "trying," and have so far been unsuccessful. It's not my fault that we didn't get married until I was 33, and that was almost 2 years ago. It's not my fault that my parents didn't pay for my wedding because 1) they're poor and 2) it was a Catholic wedding. It's not my fault that we started off our marriage with student loans and unexpected medical debt from an accident my husband had that was a very near miss on his life. That is the way my life has unfolded thus far. I have not given into despair (yet), nor has it been long enough to have to look into infertility treatments. It's totally in God's hands. I have no idea what will happen. However, it's really hard to be bombarded online with mom-talk, mom-blogs, etc. in the online Catholic world when I want that and don't know if or how it'll ever happen for me. I don't relate, aside from being an auntie and being close to many moms. That's not my life (yet? ever?). On the other hand, it's just hard not to be bitter or even jealous, especially when people complain over things that they seem to take for granted, things that I want, things that I think I would embrace. I know we all have crosses and that as much as motherhood is a blessing, it can be a cross too. I just think I need to step away for my own sanity from the overwhelming mommy-sphere of the Catholic online world that I have stumbled upon. I get it - moms, Catholic moms need community. I just feel so left out sometimes. Where is the newlywed community? Where is the married/no kids community? Where is the "we accept you as you are" community? Where is the co-ed, multi-aged community? Which brings me to point number three.
I want community - in real life, online - and I don't think you have to be the same as someone else to have community. Why are so many women's conferences formoms, not all women? Why are there so many retreats that are men's retreats and women's retreats, not for couples? These are my own special pet peeves of life. First world problems. I think it helps to find people in your age and stage of life. It also helps to stretch yourself outside of that. One of the most life-changing and meaningful relationships I ever had was with someone in her 80's when I was in my 20's. All that to say, it's rough out there. In order to get community, we have to intentionally create it. We are doing stuff in real life to reach out to others in our big city and to create a network of friends and family we can really turn to and connect with. And it's hard, but it's definitely gotten better than it was even a year ago. I just don't think the online world has contributed to my need for community, it has (for my own reasons) made me feel more isolated sometimes. I think I need to step away.
I am going through what my husband calls a "Franciscan" phase right now. In other words, lots of donation bags to Goodwill, lots of shredding of paper, lots of de-cluttering, lots of reading of minimalist books. It's been fabulous. I was sick for the first 6 months of our marriage, followed by 9 unplanned surgeries/procedures to my body, so essentially our entire first year of marriage involved medical issues for me. The second year of marriage was spent kind of getting to a new normal and getting my head above water, but lots of it felt like survival mode. One major change was commuting to work on public transportation, rather than driving. In such a large city, I'm still gone for work about 11-12 hours per day, but it's less stressful on me. Having less driving time (not necessarily less commuting time) has given me my life back a little bit. I have been able to do more than just "maintain" at home, but actually de-clutter, organize, and simplify. When you do that with outward things, it makes you want to do that with inner things, and "invisible" things, such as digital presence, social media, etc. Which brings me to point number 5.
Taylor Marshall recently mentioned on his podcast that he and his wife are doing a 30-day social media fast. It has made him more present in his everyday life. He said he has more time to read, feels like he is more focus and relational with his children, and it has been a positive experience.
I've occasionally taken time off or deactivated social media. I think it might be time to do that again, blog included...only I think the blog might be a permanent closure. It just seems like relatively little-to-none ROI (return on investment) for the time and mental energy. There are some high-drama people in my family, and it's hard enough to maintain relationships with them, much less manage their expectations on social media interaction. It's ridiculous.
Not only are we trying to conceive, but I really really really need to get serious about my health. I feel bad on most days. I don't know if this is normal, but it is normal for me. Headaches, exhausted, roller coaster, pounding heart rate, etc. I am 90% sure this could all go away (or at least be drastically improved) if I strictly followed an anti-inflammation diet. Oddly enough, deleting a blog, deactivating social media, and cleaning out my closets help me focus on my physical health. It makes me feel like I have the psychic space and energy to take care of those things. Exercise, eating right, sleeping more. I have been able to detox my body before with good results, but I feel like this will be a lifelong struggle, a lifelong choice to say "yes" to this way of life every single day. It's so easy to go off track (there are cookies in the work break room this very moment).
I feel like all six points thus far are reallyclose to some major self-pity. I don't mean to come across that way. I love my mom friends, and maybe someday I'll get to be in that club. Maybe not. I can't mourn an unknown reality, I just have to take it one day at a time, which has surprisingly been very hard. Feeling so overwhelmed (as I do by life right now) just makes me want to re-evaluate priorities and get serious about living my best life. Maintaining this blog doesn't seem to fit in that equation right now.
In honor of one of my favorite saints and one of my favorite soon-to-be saints, a friendly reminder that it's the little things that matter. It's the small things, the little way, that matters. I need to do those small things with love, great love. I need to step back from all that is non-essential right now so that I have the ability to even attempt the little way.
I wish peace and all good things to anyone who reads this.
Last weekend I got hurt by someone I loved. Bad hurt. Like a dagger in the heart hurt.
I guess we all make certain assumptions about what so-and-so would never do or that such-and-such would never happen. Then, it happens. And it's either a dream come true, or a nightmare you hadn't imagined.
I struggle between knowing that I must forgive and move on, and honoring my feelings, acknowledging them, and grieving. I know if I don't feel my feelings, think my thoughts, and get in touch with the hurt and anger, then the forgiveness will just be a form of denying reality.
However, forgiveness is also an act of the will. "Father forgive them, they know not what they do." It doesn't mean I feellike forgiving. I can ask God to forgive without the emotions behind it, knowing that it's the right thing to do. I can also still grieve, feel sick, sad, and angry, even having forgiven.
There's a balance between acknowledging and feeling the truth, and wallowing in it to the point of bitterness. There's also a balance between forgiveness as an act of the will and being so free that it's as if it never happened.
I tried to pray, to meditate, to invite God into this.
Over time, I got two messages.
One is, "Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace." It sounds so nice when you're thinking about world peace, doves, or resolving the violence of war and poverty. When it hits closer to home, being an instrument of peace can be very, very hard.
The other message is, "Take and eat, this is my body given up for you." What are we receiving when we receive God? Unconditional Love. That was the message I got.
Yes, I believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. But, what that meant to me this time wasn't a message about the theology of trans-substantiation, it was a message that I need to focus on what it is that's feeding me. If I am receiving The Word Made Flesh into my body and soul, then I need to feed on that. Rather than feeding on my hurt or on the wrongs of others, I need to feed on Christ, who loves me more than I can imagine.
Once I was able to grieve and acknowledge my hurt, I moved on to focus less on the hurt and more on the unconditional love of God. The reason these human hurts sting so badly is that we know there is an infinite, perfect love out there. We long for it. We are disappointed when humans deliver something less than that. We have to feed on the right things.
I'm not saying I have it all figured out and that my heart is all bandaged up now. It's a work in progress. I imagine that choosing what I focus on will need to be a conscious effort for quite a while until I can move on a little better from this.
One final thought is that I realize that I need to pray for those involved in hurting me.
They are screwed up people, just like me. When I was so focused on the hurt and grief that their actions caused me, I couldn't pray for them. Now I can. Just a little bit. And they really, really need it.
What feeds you?
Is it your own sick thoughts of revenge? Is it your human understanding, which is only a small slice of reality? Is it an idolization of another person, who may eventually fail you?
Feed on the feast of Christ, the wedding supper of the Lamb, the Bread of Life. Eternal Life, Unconditional Love.
There's a feast waiting, you just have to accept the invitation to that meal.
I'm linking up with This Ain't the Lyceum to bring you Seven Quick Takes from my world this week. (I almost didn't link up this week, I'm feeling so down with all that's happening in our world. But, this link up is mostly links to other stuff.)
Another day, another heartbreaking news story. Pray for our world. Pray for peace.
I thought this article by Simcha Fisher did a pretty good job of explaining that "custody of the eyes" is not just refraining from checking out attractive people. It also means refraining from scrutinizing and over-analyzing people (visually), leaping to conclusions, judgments, or too much curiosity. One thing that I've always found helpful is to look for/in the person's eyes when at a loss or distracted/tempted in other ways. If you can, pray for them too.
I'm fascinated by people who leave the gay lifestyle and came back to their faith. Due to teaching on Natural Law and Theology of the Body, I left the secular, worldly, promiscuous lifestyle and came back (truly discovered) the Catholic faith. It was life-changing for me. I don't know how to reach my gay friends, since I haven't experienced what they have, but I'm encouraged by conversations and conversions like this one. (Note that this is a link to an interview/podcast.)
Similarly (to #3), Daniel Mattson has a great response here to why Natural Law arguments do reach some people in this discussion, himself included. You may recognize him from the documentary Desire of the Everlasting Hills.
On a much lighter note, Gretchen Rubin mentioned on her podcast this week that New York Public Library had archived a bunch of public domain pictures. It's beautiful at the very least, and could even be helpful.
"2015 was the first year on record when Americans in the middle-income bracket did not make up the majority of the country: that is, those above and below the middle class — rich and poor combined — make up half the population"
We definitely fall into this category. Sometimes it's hard not to give into despair, yet I also feel like it's a first world problem. We are okay, it's just not easy.
And from the public domain (referenced above), something beautiful called halymenia ligula...
"Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things..."
Lizz Lovett, a young wife and mother of four, passed away after a valiant fight with cancer. Contribute if you can to this GoFundMe account for her family, this video shows her courage in facing suffering and death. She faced it and fought it head on, not giving into the lie of "death with dignity," but death with true dignity - in God's time. Lord, have mercy.
I am so saddened by the violence and senseless deaths in our society. Pray for peace, unity, and an end to racism. Although written as a result to different violent tendencies, this blog post by Fr. Dwight Longenecker came to mind this week. As I write this, the news out of Dallas from last night is being released, even more to mourn. More violence, more division. I have friends who say I can't speak up because I'm not one of the minority being discriminated against. I have other friends who think that silence is compliance. I don't know what to do but hope and pray for better times, for justice, and for peace.
A quote from Fr. Longenecker,
"In the breakdown of the family, the church can become an alternative community not of hatred and fear and violence, but an alternative family of love, acceptance, forgiveness and reconciliation. In the midst of darkness we can provide a haven and a refuge of light.
We’d better get busy doing it!"
I hope everyone had an enjoyable Independence Day last Monday. We went to a cook-out at my in-laws. First we had lunch, then lounged around, went outside, watched a movie. Then, we had all the same food for dinner a few hours later and watched fireworks. It was fun. For whatever reason, my 3-year-old nephew and godson was really attached to me that day. I know the preferences of a 3-year-old are pretty fickle, but he's a sweetie, and I enjoyed hanging out. In just a few short years, I'll be chopped liver, so I'll take it.
I have used the summer to get a tune-up, you know like a car does, only for myself. My insurance (the fiscal year at work) changes each July 1. Before it changed (and prices went up), I got a check up with a new OB/GYN and a mammogram. Then, after the change, I've made appointments for an eye appointment and dental exam. I had to get a new dentist because of an awful experience I had last year. I had to get a new eye doctor because the last time I drove by her office, it had turned into a Subway restaurant. I couldn't find news of a relocation anywhere online, so off to a newbie I go. I guess I'd better get to flossing for my dental exam (!!) I'm so bad at doing that regularly. And, I feel like I should lose weight before seeing my regular doctor again. She's always telling me how fat I am, and I could stand to lose 10-15 pounds. It was refreshing to just hear how old I was from the OB/GYN. Perhaps on a related note, I hate going to the doctor. I do it out of obligation and self-care, but it's very hard for me. In fact, I was so tripped out by it that they remarked that my pulse was high.
One of the good things about living in one of the largest cities in the US is that random people pass through on layovers, for work conferences, and every now and then, someone you know moves here. I had a former student of mine contact me to say he was moving to town. He and his wife ate dinner with my husband and me lastnight. I'm older than my husband, and it seems that his wife is about my age, and he is about my husband's age. Anyway, I don't see us being new BFFs, but it was fun to catch up and chat about the arts scene here and where they might live...not that I'm an expert, I still feel new, but there's something about seeing someone from "back home," that brings a nice feeling.
This is an anonymous blog, but I still don't feel like I can say exactly what we need prayer for. If you're the praying type and care to say a prayer for us, please do.
After finishing a novena to Our Lady, Undoer of Knots, my husband and I just finished a novena to St. Joseph. Next, I'm going to do a novena to the Holy Spirit. We need a lot of prayer lately.
(P.S. there's a novena app now, which has proved very handy, it's called Pray: the Catholic Novena App, and it's free.)
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us! St. Joseph, pray for us! Come, Holy Spirit!
This has been a LONG week. Next week is a 4-day week, and last week was a 4-day work week for me (took a day off). I knew it would feel long, but WOW has it been painfully long. T.G.I.F.
My husband was a victim of identity theft a few years ago. Someone illegally filed taxes under his name. Recently he has been hit several more times with fraudulent credit card accounts opened in his name using fake addresses and hacking into his email. And this week someone used our address illegally to open an account, which is mail fraud. It's so exhausting and time-consuming to deal with this. I wish people would use their time and creativity to get a job, rather than commit crimes. Supposedly the Infant Jesus of Prague is good to turn to in times of financial hardship. Be diligent in monitoring your records, and pray for the conversion of these people. A simple internet search revealed the identity, LinkedIn account, Facebook account, and recent mugshot for the mail fraud perpetrator. Amazing. It was all I could do not to publicly shame this person, which would have been really stupid and counter-productive, but I get so angry. I digress. In this age of technology and information, it's likely a matter of time before it happens to everyone at some point.
This article about Living with High-Functioning Anxiety is making the rounds this week. I thought it was really good. It took a therapist telling me (at age 33) that I had panic attacks before I knew that what I experienced was a panic attack. It was normal to me, especially when my parents were involved. I thought everyone felt that way, at least sometimes. I'm still unpacking what my childhood did to me. For others recovering from abuse, maybe you understand what I mean. Maybe you're a recovering perfectionist, maybe you have anxiety, PTSD, panic attacks. Maybe you're still unraveling and trying to understand, like I am. Maybe you have a hard time in certain environments because of your past. If so, the article may help you feel less alone. It neglects the spiritual element, and I do have hope because of my faith. I also believe in physical, medical help, not just praying and spiritual solutions to very real problems. Maybe this article can help you put a name to the way you experience life. Recognizing it is often the first step toward healing.
Those of us from religiously abusive backgrounds can often find it traumatic to read the Bible. The words were used against us, used in unhealthy ways, misinterpreted, proof-texted to justify bad behavior, etc. It has helped me a lot, as a Catholic, to hear the word proclaimed in a liturgical setting with reverence and with no interpretation (until the homily). It has also helped that the common translation used in mass is different from the one I am most familiar with, so even though the text is the same, there are subtle differences between the traumatic version of the Bible from my youth and the Bible I most often hear read at mass.
This article addresses what to do when reading the Bible is difficult. I found it pretty helpful. It recommends to change translations in order to hear things differently (like a band covering a song puts their own twist on it). I have also heard that it's good to read the Bible aloud slowly and in your own voice in order to replace the negative memory of the Bible read by someone else's abusive voice. There are also many techniques, such as lectio divina, which can help you slow down, meditate on words one at a time, and re-construct your understanding.
The thing that is so sad to me is that I know the Bible is God's Word...what I mean by that as a Catholic, and what some fundamentalists mean by that is probably different. I hate that a good and holy book, a source of our faith, has been so mis-used and abused to the point that some cannot even read the Bible. Talk about a trick of old hairy legs. Having said that, God is love. He is beyond the Bible. He is in the Church, the Sacraments, in nature, in the soul of everyone we know and love. We can experience God in other ways when the Bible just doesn't help.
Our pastor taught us about progressive revelation (not the same as progressivism). This viewpoint has saved my view of the Bible and helped it not be an abusive, re-traumatizing book for me. It's the idea that God revealed himself slowly, over time. First, it was to the Jewish people, revealing that there was only one God, and calling them to live a certain, strange way. They never really got it. They were rebellious and fell back into their old ways many times. It started with 10 commandments. Finally, after centuries of relationship and covenant, broken and re-committed, we were ready for the revelation of Jesus. Reading the Old Testament is like reading the diary of a teenager, our pastor says. It is their idea and understanding of God, in so far he has revealed himself up to that point. It is limited in their understanding (thus, the teenager part), and they don't have the revelation of Christ and salvation that later comes into our understanding.
When I read a troubling passage that asks God to smite enemies, I think, yeah...they have a teenager's understanding of who God is. They think he hates the "bad guys" as much as they do. There is darkness and light together. Their understanding of God was limited to what He had revealed at that time in history.
I'm not a theologian, this is just my armchair/laywoman's explanation of something that was helpful to me.
This weekend I get to see one of my oldest and dearest friends. We were bridesmaids in each other's weddings. I've known her since the 5th grade. Oddly, through all the changes, moves, and development over the years, we are sort of still the same little girls who met in 5th grade. She is one of the most full-of-grace people I know (and not even Christian). I'm excited to see her, and she is pregnant with their first child.
In honor of Independence Day, I'll be doing some cooking this weekend. My in-laws are hosting a cook-out. I'll probably bring dessert, salmon burgers, or baked beans. We'll see. I really love to cook, now that I've learned a thing or two.
Last week I finished up a novena to Our Lady Undoer of Knots. A special intention came up after that, and the first thing that came into my mind was that I've got to pray to St. Joseph. My husband and I are now doing a novena to St. Joseph. My husband is Italian, and his family has a special devotion to St. Joseph. It was on his feast day a few years ago that we were able to find the house we now live in. I trust he will help us get an answer this prayer too.
Here is an awesome article about overcoming sins of the tongue. Even us introverts can be very guilty about this. I love and crave silence, but that doesn't mean I don't have inner noise. At the same time, that doesn't mean I don't sin in my words also. Lord, have mercy.
Speaking of loving silence and being introverted, Susan Cain, author of Quiet, wrote an interesting article here about our personalities as we age. Do you ever feel more introverted or extroverted with age? It turns out that in our younger years, most of us are more extroverted overall because of the biological tendency to be seeking a mate and "putting ourselves out there." As we age, we settle in more to our natural personalities and tendencies, become more emotionally stable, and sometimes more pronounced in our introversion/extroversion.
While I love people, I am an introvert at heart, although it oddly took me years to figure that out. My growing up family did not exactly value introversion. On the one hand, if my parents hadn't pushed me, I might be afraid to speak to people. On the other hand, it was not "okay" in their eyes to not be a "people person." As a pastor's kid and also with some narcissism in our household, there was this mindset that we had to appear one way to the outside world and put forth a certain image. Part of it was also an attempt to convert people to Christianity. In college, I constantly put myself in very extroverted situations - performing music, giving campus tours, being a freshman orientation leader. Later in my twenties I worked as a college recruiter/admissions counselor. I met with strangers constantly on campus as well as in travel. While it was draining on some level, I also enjoyed it. That interaction is one thing I miss in my current job...even though I'm an introvert.
I moved to one of the largest cities in the US a few years ago (where I currently live). The constant flux of people in traffic, work, every store you visit, every activity you do outside the home, whether it's grocery shopping or church attendance, is quite draining to me as an introvert. Even if I don't interact directly with all these people on the bus or in the store, I find the hustle and bustle of the big city to have its own quirky effects on my introverted personality.
What do you think? Have you gotten more introverted or extroverted over time? Are you married to someone who is opposite of you? Do you find big cities taxing on your introverted soul? Did you, like me, miss a call to the life of a hermit?
Here is an awesome article about not giving into despair. With our world the way it seems lately, it's easy to despair. I recently heard a podcast on the Catholic Commute about the three cardinal virtues: faith, hope, and love. His point was that most of us struggle primarily with one of those three, while to some degree, we all struggle with all three. I'm pretty sure that I struggle with hope the most, as I am prone to despair. I didn't even know it was a sin for a long time! Growing up Calvinist, despair and the wringing of hands were commonplace when we evaluated our world. I somehow internalized the message that despair and self-hatred were holy. Now I know that hope is a virtue, one I seek to cultivate.
I have to say, after the Orlando shootings, not only was the event itself devastating, but the reaction in the culture was equally devastating to me. This article by Sister Theresa Aletheia Noble was one of the best responses I have seen.
"I pray for anyone who uses the media to promote violence, including any kind of petty division and animosity toward those we perceive to be our ideological opponents."
"Will this tragedy move us to become more like Omar Mateen or more like Christ?"
As a classically trained musician, it was heartwarming to see this article about a priest who uses his piano skills to relate to people, much like others would use sports. I wax nostalgic for the days in which everyone had a basic music education, could read music (such as a hymn), and in which a piano was in most middle-class homes.
It seems the Pope has made yet another controversial statement by saying that most Catholic marriages are likely null. I have to say, if our marriage preparation was any indication of the typical Catholic marriage preparation across the US, then he is probably right. It was abysmal.
We took a personality test, which had wildly inaccurate results for us, and reviewed it with a non-therapist over several weeks. We attended a one day-long workshop with a minimal discussion on issues such as finances, sex, extended family/in-laws, religion, etc. with input from a non-therapist facilitator, a married couple, and a priest.
If it weren't for the fact that I had dated my husband off and on for seven years before we married, and for the fact that we had been going through a reputable couple's relationship book and workbook on our own (at the recommendation of a licensed therapist), and the fact that I was seeing a therapist due to my family's rejection of our marriage and my Catholicism, and the fact that my husband came from a very stable, loving home, and the fact that we (on our own) sought out and attended sessions about NFP, Theology of the Body, and Natural Law all before getting marriage...then, I fear we would have no tools going into our marriage and be another statistic.
I remember looking around the room during the one-day workshop and wondering which of us would make it, and which of us would not. I feel too young to already know people who have been divorced and remarried. And yet, with the lack of Catholic marriage preparation we received and the way our culture is, I understand why many marriages fail, or why they are deemed "null" in the first place. Maybe there are more annulments now because more people really do not know what they are getting into and how to fulfill their vows.
If the marriage of a man and a woman is a profound mystery, a union that mirrors the love of Christ for the Church, it is no wonder that it is so messed up. It's a prime target for the enemy, and we have few examples of long, loving, healthy relationships.
"For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife,
and the two will become one flesh.
This mystery is profound,
but I am speaking about Christ and the church."
~ Ephesians 5:31-32 ~
I'm doing a novena to Our Lady, Undoer of Knots. So powerful! I'd never seen this image before.
I'm devastated by the shootings in Orlando this week. What's more, I'm also concerned by the reaction I've seen. I have lots of gay friends, even a few who live in Orlando (they are okay). My more liberal and/or gay friends in general have said that Christians are responsible for this shooting, despite the fact that the shooter was Muslim. I have seen memes and posts that equate lack of support for gay marriage or a lack of support for gun control with the murder itself of gay people, posts that have said that straight people are responsible for creating this atmosphere. I am sad that these deaths are being politicized over gun control and bathroom laws, over labels of hate crime versus terrorist. No one deserves to die in that way. Our religion says to love another, and thou shalt not kill. I am trying to understand where they are coming from. It is no coincidence that the majority of the countries in which you can be killed simply for being homosexual are Islamic countries. By the same token, I don't appreciate the Catholic bishop who basically fed into this mindset by indicting Catholics as well or the ACLU for somehow blaming a different religion than that of the shooter for his actions. We cannot even discuss anymore rationally. We cannot disagree without it being seen as "hate" or irrational fear (the definition of "phobia"). Due to the sad divisions with Christianity, those who also hold to the label of "Christian" might propagate hateful ideas, and we are all indicted. Despite the fact that many cry "not all Muslims" are terrorists, it seems that the battle cry that "not all Christians" are bigoted spewers of hate, the logic does not seem to apply equally. I understand that this specific attack can be seen as a hate crime aimed at the LGBT community. That is wrong. I also think there is room for both/and rather than either/or. It can be terror and hate. Sadly, I don't see how the label matters. I am listening, trying not to wound further my friends who are directly hurt by this. I understand how this attack seems like a threat to all, and I don't want to minimize that.
Yet, I foresee a dark future for anyone who holds to true Catholic teaching as it relates to marriage, sexuality, the human person, etc. In the meantime,
"May the souls of these victims in Orlando, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen."
Quite related to number 1, Joseph Sciambra provides a nice Catholic response to this tragedy as an ex-gay man. He is much more qualified than I to have an opinion about the best approach. (This post on his blog was also featured on Lifesite news.) He also was interviewed in a wonderful podcast, which you can catch here. I believe this is the defining issue of our time: sexual identity. It's not abortion, the death penalty, divorce and remarriage, it's sexual identity. The Church quite simply has not done a good job of providing the truth with clarity, and not just that but providing healing. If we view this as a wound, not just a sin, then we need to help people have alternatives. We provide healing retreats from those involved in abortion, why not provide healing retreats from those who have had unwanted same-sex attraction? There is much to be done, and as a married straight woman, I have no idea what I am to do, I just know we have got to respond better as a Church. Learning about natural law and Theology of the Body was life-changing for me. It changed my mind and my behavior. It is likely the reason I am still Catholic. If I had not understood these issues on a deep level, I would possibly have left the Church over them, before having a re-conversion of sorts. Pray, pray, pray for our world and our Church.
It's not every day that you get to hear one of your favorite authors speak. This week, Dawn Eden gave a talk about her book Remembering God's Mercy that was I able to attend in person. It was great. I hope I didn't act like too much of a dork when I met her, since I was saint*-struck. Again, it's the best book I've read this year, and I read about one book per week of non-fiction Catholic theology or spirituality books such as this. I highly recommend for anyone struggling with past pain or painful memories.
(*Catholic equivalent of star-struck upon meeting a future saint)
They're making a documentary about Misophonia!Here's a linkto the trailer. Very depressing preview, I have to say. I'm not sure I want to watch it, but the fact that it exists makes me feel less psycho. Don't forget, it's thought that Therese of Liseaux had this too.
On a much-needed lighter note, there is now such a profession as a water sommelier. That's right - an expert in how different waters taste, impact your meals, or when enjoyed alone. All you have to do is visit a bar in Los Angeles to consult a water menu, cultivated by the water sommelier.
Ain't America decadent grand?
I'm behind the times, since we don't have cable (or even the free channels). But, we watched a cute movie this week. It promoted nice family values, even though there were tear-jerking moments, it was overall a happy, sweet story. I recommend for kids and parents alike, The Good Dinosaur.
One of my favorite depictions of the Blessed Mother - Madonna of the Lilies by Bouguereau.
Motherhood is on my mind lately, ever since Mother's Day. And ever since two of my closest friends (bridesmaids at my wedding) have announced their first pregnancies. Here are two articles about it - one that's from a more "worldly" perspective - you never know why someone has the number of children they do or the struggles they're going through. Another one from Meg that acknowledges the crosses that come with blessings.
Is "tidying up" actually magic?
I finished reading the Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up. Gretchen Rubin posts here about her take on it. Overall, Rubin's point is that TLCMOTU tends to give a one-size-fits-all approach, whereas Rubin's research on habits reveals that there is no such thing. You have to "hack" habits (including tidying up) in a way that works with your nature so that the effect is long term. I agree with Rubin, having read her book on habits, which was not my favorite, but definitely seemed like it would apply to many more people.
I enjoyed the book, but I won't say it changed my life. Honestly, I think the novelty of someone from a different culture proposing a drastic approach must be very appealing in its exoticism and claims of success. I read it as a way to gear up mentally for some summer cleaning. What I got from it is "when in doubt, throw it out." Also, be grateful for your stuff. If you're getting rid of something, be grateful for the purpose it served during that time. (Kondo injects this with some animism, but it's easy to translate into gratitude.) My beef with the book was that it barely addressed the kitchen, which contains a LOT of stuff for most Americans, I'd guess. The other issue I had was that she clearly saw one best way to do things, and only one. One best way to fold your socks, one best way to deal with your purse, one best way to clean the shower, etc. While it does present a comprehensive approach, it just didn't seem like it would work in reality for many people. What Kondo calls "tidying up" I would call minimalism. In that sense, you do it once, you're done for life, as she claims. If you read the book in that paradigm, I can see how her claims are believable or would work.
Bottom line, Americans overall have way too much stuff. The questions - is it necessary? is it beautiful? - are much more helpful to me as I go through my stuff. The thought of just purging once (Kondo's version of "tidying up") and being done for life strikes me as completely unrealistic. If you're going completely minimalistic and have family buy-in, it might work that way. My guess is, like laundry, tidying up seems to be an unfortunate part of life's drudgery that is never done.
Someone very close to me suffers from short-term memory loss, whereas I have a very good memory. The role of memory in holiness has fascinated me. Dawn Eden explores this really well in her book Remembering God's Mercy (my favorite book this year) as it relates to the line about memory in the Suscipe prayer:
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.
You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.
I have loved that prayer, ever since I heard it. The part about memory stuck out to me, as I could vividly remember abuse from my past. I remember one day asking God about that. The next day, I had a clear dream or word of knowledge that it wasn't the fact that I remembered something that was significant, it was how I remembered it. Did I remember it in context of God's love? Could I re-frame it in a healthy way? The memories weren't going anywhere, but my understanding of them could change.
There were a few articles this week about suffering, dealing with aging loved ones, and loss. I think our culture is in a time that disregards suffering and wants to do away with the dying. Follow these links if interested.
There has been a lot of disaster-level, emergency-inducing weather where I live lately. We are okay, aside from the inconvenience of road closures and roads flash-flooding, but many are displaced. Pray for them!
Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Before I was Catholic, I visited the Sacre Coeur basilica in Paris. I loved it and brought a cross home from there. A few years later, at my confirmation, my dear friend gave me a necklace with the Sacred Heart of Jesus on it. I was always drawn to it, but still am learning so much about it. We recently watched Fr. Gaitley's Divine Mercy series via Formed dot org. I learned the connection between the Sacred Heart, the Little Way of Therese (also one of my favorites), and Divine Mercy (another of my favorites).
Today is the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, depicted as on fire with love for you. You can run to that heart, hide in that heart, hear that heart beating with love for you and for the whole world. There is no fear when our God has a heart like this. Let his heart heal your heart.
"I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh."
I'll be cantoring at mass this weekend. (get the joke?) Say a little prayer for me. I used to do it regularly for about 8-9 years. It never, ever got any easier to sing in public. As in, when you hear me sing, you'll know I'm a trained instrumentalist. Yes, it's in tune and the rhythms are correct. That's about all I can say. I know bad cantors are a dime a dozen in the Catholic Church (unfortunately), but G-d sure is funny when I ask Him how I can be more involved in music and in my parish.
I think I've come full circle on the modesty debate/issue. As a kid, women were "less than" men, and seen as the source of/responsible for all male temptation. Not only was fashion pretty unflattering in the '90's, but I didn't know how to make myself look my best. Looking back at pictures, I realize I was never as fat/ugly as I thought I was. I just didn't know how to dress and do makeup well.
Fast forward to college, and I lost a little bit of weight, fashions slightly changed, I was away from my parents, and modestly generally went out the window...not to the extent that it could have due to my self-hatred and incredibly low self-esteem, but looking back, I cringe. I enjoyed the male attention I got, and I used myself and others physically. I was okay with drawing immodest attention to myself in some contexts - like when there was drinking involved. (a really bad combo)
Now, here I am, having gone through a conversion and reversion of sorts - first to Catholicism, then to a deeper understanding and practice of the Catholic faith. I'm now married, and I feel very drawn to dressing more modestly. My senses feel assaulted by what others wear (I work on a college campus, so this is a regular occurrence). I don't want to dress like a frump, but I've pretty much gotten to the point of never wearing sleeveless, layering so as to avoid cleavage, and wearing longer and longer hemlines of skirts. I've even stopped wearing heels for the most part. My swimsuit last summer (which was the most comfortable I've ever been) was a swim shirt and swim trunks. I don't feel any shame in this. It's not like I think I'm tempting others by my rabid attractiveness. I don't feel like I'm responsible for the thoughts of others, so much as I feel less and less comfortable showing that skin. I want to look "normal," but I am actually more comfortable the more I cover up. I have joked with my husband that I will simplify my wardrobe and get more and more "modest" to the point that I'll be wearing a habit one day...even though I'm married. I see the beauty in covering up.
I'm still on a journey about what this means for me. Will I become one of those "no pants/skirts only" women? Will I keep my hair long? Will I start looking frumpy? I don't know that there's any one answer or hard and fast rules. Height, age, etc. often affect rules about length, for instance. I don't judge what others wear. I pray for them when the outfit distracts or tempts me to lust. I just know that I'm on a journey to understanding modesty, in the context of my vocation to marriage and to chastity as a virtue. I think there is a lot to be said for looking relatable, attractive, and yet, modest.
In this crazy society, where anything goes, anyone can see anything at anytime, and liberation is seen as license. It's hard to know how to be relatable to others while still being as modest in clothing as I feel called to.
If the Shoe Fits...
This article contains some vulgarity, but it makes a great point. Are high heels sexist? I'm only 35, and I'm 5'3". I've worn heels since I was 12 years old because I'm so short. Especially in the workplace, I've always worn heels to be seen as more authoritative, professional, to be taken seriously, and not be treated like a child. I've worked on college campuses for several years. Wearing professional clothing and heels has helped distinguish me from being a college student. I always cited the statistic I heard once that the majority of CEO's are over 6 feet tall, and height (plus being a man) helps in the workplace. However, in the last few years, I've had to do a lot more walking just to get to-and-from my bus stop and/or car. I can't do the heels anymore on those long walks. They are excruciating, impractical, and I refuse to carry two pairs of shoes around all the time in order to walk in one and wear the others at work.
Is eschewing the high heel part of the next wave of feminism? I admit, I feel dorky and frumpy in many of my flats, but my feet thank me. I don't think I have the ability to move up in this current job, so I don't care that I'm not wearing heels and asserting myself physically. I'd love to stay committed to this as a lifetime cause, but I still wear my heels for special occasions. I look at the shoes men wear, and they are just comfortable, practical. Aside from men having slightly large and wider feet, why aren't women's shoes the same as men's? Can I wear a comfortable, practical shoe without feeling less feminine?
There are laws in England which require women to wear heels. It was recently protested. As part of the uproar, some men wore heels for a day to see what it was like. Watch the video here, it's rather humorous and absurd to see men wearing heels, yet it's completely normal for women to do the same.
I have to say, even in Catholic circles, this seems to be a problem. I was going to join a Catholic young professionals group in my city until I read some of the dress code requirements for networking events, which included heels for women among the description of what is "business casual." Maybe that is the standard professional definition. I doubt there is dress code "bouncer" at the door, but it's disappointing to see it in print. ::Sigh:: - I give up.
I am happily married, but a few short years ago, this article by Matt Fradd would have resonated on every level with me. It's slim-pickins' out there for Catholic women (men I'm sure, too, but I'm not a man, so...) I don't want to be a smug married person. I truly understand how hard it is out there to be single, to feel called to marriage, to feel like there are zero prospects unless you change who you are or lower your standards. I can say from observing some people close to me that it's far better to remain single than to marry the wrong person. Similarly, as Matt Fradd points out, there is a cross in every way of life, including marriage, even if that's what vocation you're called to.
The butterfly is my personal symbol, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez wrote my favorite book, One Hundred Years of Solitude. In reference to a fictional event in one of his books, mourners brought hundreds of yellow butterflies to the site of his burial in Colombia. I love it. More here.
Quote of the week:
“Spiritual living is accepting reality at any cost” - Simone Weil
As I mentioned yesterday with fear, trepidation, nervousness, and excitement, my conversion story is now up on the Coming Home Networkwebsite. Check it out here, if you'd like!
I just got back from a trip home to see my family. I have a sibling who is in the states for a limited time, home from an overseas deployment. It was good to see everyone. We also caught up with some friends while we were in town, and there was no family drama to speak of. All in all, a good trip home.
So, my home office/study is to a crazy level of insanely unorganized. You'd think I was a hoarder. I'm not exaggerating. The funny thing is that I'm generally clean and organized, but I just can't seem to stay on top of (or even get on top of) the incoming mail and paperwork I need to deal with. I joke with my husband that we should just burn the house down and start over...not that funny. Last weekend I spent some time unsubscribing to things and getting on the "opt out" lists for credit card offers, insurance offers, etc. I'm hoping that helps.
What I've learned: get more sleep! Also, there's no business like show business.
Our trip home this week was marked with unusually long wait times with the TSA. I had heard about this, but I thought we would be exempt from it, traveling on off/non-peak hours, not travelling from/to places like NYC or Chicago. I was wrong. Let the traveler beware. We waited longer in line than our first flight lasted, and if it hadn't been a delayed flight, we would have missed it. People were running to gates, cutting in line, and generally becoming irate and restless. It was awful. Bonus, we ran into Sister Miriam James while in the long line. I act like such an idiot around some people, so I said something stupid about following her on Twitter, rather than something meaningful like, "Thank you for your book/your ministry/your witness." I will say, having a nun and a priest nearby made me have better behavior than I might have otherwise.
Elizabeth Esther has a similar background to mine, and has introduced me to the concept of Religious Trauma Syndrome (RTS). It can be seen as a form of PTSD, related to faith or religious experiences, often occurring in people who leave cults or abusive religious environments. I'm pretty sure I have this. For instance, I have had panic attacks before listening to Catholic radio when the caller was an anti-Catholic and the apologetics show turned into a screaming match. Also, anytime a rain or thunderstorm wakes me up, my first thought is that it's the "rapture," or the end of the world, and I've been left behind. I know this isn't true, but that's my first thought upon waking. I then have to calm down to go back to sleep, which doesn't always happen. Anyway, RTS explains the inner-workings of people like me. We feel misunderstood a lot. We are invalidated a lot by people who mean well. What I like about Elizabeth Esther's take is that 1) we have a similar upbringing, 2) we both became Catholic, 3) she's able to be a person who still has faith, while also maintaining a healthy balance of recovering from this stuff. The woman who coined the term RTS, for instance, was raised Christian and is now atheist. While I respect everyone's journey, I appreciate the insights EE has as a person who is overcoming the abusive aspects while also retaining belief that is balanced and healthy. If you haven't already, check out her book too.)
That's all I got, folks. Keep the faith. Have a lovely weekend.
My conversion story is now live on the Coming Home Network's website here. It's called "Forgiveness on the Path to Faith" and uses my pseudonym, Ari Mack. The CHN version includes a little more detail than my story as published on this blog, along with some editing for content, clarity, and length. It's kind of like my whole life story, as it pertains to religion and faith.
I'm excited and nervous. I love stories, particularly conversion stories. I think that hearing someone's story and experience often is more meaningful than hearing a doctrine or theological argument (as important as those can be). We can learn from others, and I am 100% not perfect. I pressed on in submitting this to the Coming Home Network because they have a much larger platform than I do, and if my story can help one person, then praise be. I wrote it, submitted it, and now I have to let go and work on living a life of virtue and love. My faith is very much a work in progress, and I love the idea of "practicing Catholic" - I am practicing, but have not yet arrived.
I love the phrase "coming home," don't you? The idea that the Church is our true home, that it ushers us to heaven, our eternal home, that we can rest and be at peace within her walls, that we can travel this journey with others in the family, that we share a meal at the banquet table with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
I can think of no better image or story of this reality than that of the Prodigal Son. If only we knew how much God loved us, we would come home, running into God's open arms.
To those who have become Catholic, welcome home. To those searching or questioning, to those who have left for whatever reason, come home. We aren't perfect. We don't have all the answers.
I never thought I could be so excited about a stretch of highway, but due to mother nature's work on April 18th, we have been unable to use several major thoroughfares near our house for nearly four weeks. This has made my already long commute (1-1.5 hours each way) into unbelievably long (2-2.5 hours each way). So, I'm back to spending 2-3 hours per day in the car, rather than 4-5. I'm back to getting up at 6 am rather than 5 am.
I'll take it. My bosses graciously let me work from home a few times the last month. I wish that would be a permanent arrangement, but it won't. I'm just glad to have the convenience back.
I will be traveling next week to see my family. My brother has been overseas with the military for about a year. We haven't seen him since August, and he couldn't come home for Christmas. My parents graciously paid for my husband and me to join in the celebrations next week. So, I'll be headed to a little family get together.
My husband is a member of a Lay Cistercian community. Their spiritual director died this week. I met him three times while on retreats with my husband. He was a rare gift to the world. Very humble, wise, funny, spunky, honest, loving. It's hard to quantify how a simple monk could have such a profound impact on so many, but he did, myself included. I was looking forward to seeing him again on our next retreat. As sad as it is to lose him, I'm grateful for him and his life. His was a life well-lived. He knew who he was, what he was called to do, and he did it - all for God. We'll miss you Fr. Anthony. Please pray for us.
Friday the 13th.
I know relatively little about Our Lady of Fatima, but I do know that on May 13 is when she first appeared to the children of Fatima. I recently learned a little more about all of it via the Divine Mercy series (which is available on Formed dot org for a limited time). I highly recommend the series. Our world needs mercy. It's beautiful to see the progression from the Sacred Heart to St. Therese to St. Faustina and Pope St. John Paul II. Clearly this is a message for our time.
I work in higher education. Near graduation time, we are always called into the office one weekend to get everything ready. It went well last weekend. It just cracked me up to see my boss in a t-shirt reading "TGIF - This Grandma is Fabulous" and another co-worker (also a grandma) wearing a t-shirt that said "sexy" on it...maybe there's a reason for those dress codes on the other days of the week.
In an effort not to drown in despair, I simply implore us all to pray for our world. Whether it's culture wars, the next election, public bathrooms, persecution of minorities in other parts of the world, ISIS, or our own futures, there is much to fret about. But, we aren't called to fret. Pray, do penance, and trust in God.
I was going to link up with This Ain't the Lyceum to bring you Seven Quick Takes from my world this week....but last Friday turned into today (Monday), and 7 quick takes turned into random ramblings on Mother's Day. So, here we go.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there. I have to say it's a difficult day for me. I love my mom, but we aren't that close. She did the best she could under difficult circumstances. But, the emotional temperature of our relationship is like what I would guess a distant great aunt is like or something. It's hard to honor someone when the way you're expected to honor them is dictated to you by society and by parental expectations. [I literally received a message instructing me on what I should post on Facebook regarding Mother's Day.] Most people adore their mothers, consider them best friends, have warm fuzzy feelings toward them...
The sting is not as deep this year. I am learning to feel more of God's love than ever before. I am trying to cultivate a relationship with Mary. I'm more secure in myself and my boundaries. It's easy to recognize the crazy and quickly dismiss it now, more than ever before. But, those of us with abusive parents have a hard time with Mother's Day (and Father's Day). As an adult child, it's hard to know how to honor and respect them, how to forgive them, and how to keep good boundaries without becoming hard-hearted or falling back into the familiar dysfunction.
Not to give my mom too hard of a time. After all, she did apologize last year in an unprecedented move. She basically said she was sorry for so much of our childhood pain. And that was deeply healing. (See: The Day I Thought Would Never Come) But...it's complicated. There's not a hallmark card that says how I feel, nor should I necessarily express all that comes into my mind and heart. I just struggle sometimes with why. Supposedly God only allows things into our life that will bring about a greater good, that will bring about His will. I should be grateful. Yet, in this life, it's hard to see - why did He pick them as my parents? why did He allow the abuse? why did it have to be so hard? I see the broken lives of my siblings and the struggles I have had. I feel like my entire childhood was a cross to bear, and I ask - there's more? more suffering ahead? You mean, the entire Christian life is about crosses? I digress.
Then there's the nagging question - when and how will I ever be a mother? People mean well, but they can be insensitive. Much like the sting of Mother's Day, the sting of "are you pregnant yet?" or "when is it going to be your turn?" hurts a little less now too. I know they mean well. I don't have the emotional energy to give to each and every drama that could be, each and every remark, each and every assumption. I can "let it be" a little more easily than in the past. But, suffice it to say, when you look at another person's life circumstances, things may not be what they are for the reasons you think. Many single people would love to be married. Many childless people would love to be parents. As each day, month, year slides by and time flies and marches on, I do wonder what life will hold for me. For me and my husband. For me and my womb.
My comfort is that we have a spiritual mother. As foreign and mysterious as she is, I know she's also very close to me, that she probably helped bring me into the Church, and that if I could only receive her love, I'd receive more of God's love. If I could follow her way, I'd find The Way.
"Lovely Lady, dressed in blue, teach me how to pray."