Saturday, December 12, 2009
The gravity of the years hit me when we were decorating the Christmas tree. Decorating the tree is one of my favorite family events of the Christmas season. The kids have a great time looking at all the ornaments and finding each ornament's perfect spot on the tree. My husband always finds his homemade childhood ornaments and puts them on the very front and while he is not looking, I sneak them to the very back. I enjoy putting the first ornaments we got as a couple on the tree. It is a set of 12 German ornaments that German Christians say no tree should be without. To us, the ornaments aren't just decorations. Each one has a special meaning.
When we first got married, we didn't have a lot of meaningful ornaments. So, I went out and bought some decorative ornaments that held little significance so our tree would not look so bare. As we were unpacking the ornaments this year, I noticed that many of those ornaments are gone and replaced with ornaments we have collected over the years. Now most of our ornaments represent a special memory. Each one is a frozen moment in our history. They are a wonderful trip down memory lane telling the story of who we are.
As I thought about our ornaments on the Christmas tree, I realized what a beautiful symbol it has become. The Christmas tree is a symbol of Christ's gift of himself to us. Its unchanging evergreen nature represents eternal life. It is a symbol of the new tree of life we have through baptism. What a beautiful thing it is to see our history on the tree of eternal life; to see our moments hanging on the branches of Christ's love; to see Christ touching and sharing each memory with us. And as we put our ornaments on the tree, we give Him our moments. We trust Him with our lives. We live for His promise of eternal life. And with His love intertwined in our past and holding onto our future, we give Him ourselves for His greater glory.
Monday, November 23, 2009
Anyhow, I bought the new shoes. I admit that I went for the sale and for looks instead of function. They felt alright in the store so I brought them home. And when I put them on the next morning, I was immediately uncomfortable in them. They didn't feel good. They held my feet with an unnaturally tight grip. They were hard to get on and off and the laces seemed too short. Since I loathe returning things more than actually shopping for them, I decided to wear them for the day. Maybe I could break them in.
So, reluctantly, I wore them. And all day I found myself dreaming of my old shoes. My old shoes were lighter. They were roomier. They conformed to my feet perfectly. The laces were easier to tie. They were everything I wanted and needed in a shoe. The new shoes just didn't live up to the old ones. The next day, I decided to put the old shoes back on. I wanted the familiar comfort on my feet. I wanted my feet to feel normal. So, I got the old shoes out of the closet and put them on. And things were different. They didn't feel as secure as I remembered them. They didn't support my foot like I thought they did. They felt worn out. They felt uncomfortable. So here I was stuck between my old shoes and my new shoes. Did I want to live with the worn out, unsecure old shoes, or did I want to take the time and energy to break in my new shoes? As I debated with my shoes, I realized that this dilemma is not new. It is an old and familiar situation I have faced in my faith life.
God has given me new shoes. When I chose to travel with him, I needed new shoes. My journey with the Lord required secure and supportive shoes which my old shoes could not provide. Of course, my new shoes were not comfortable at first. I longed for the old, familiar shoes. The shoes that fit my old life. The shoes that I traveled in for so long. But those shoes were worn. They were not worthy of my new journey. So, I put on the new shoes. I let my feet break them in. I savored the security and support they provided. And I trusted that God knew exactly what kind of shoes I needed in order to travel on His road. As I traveled in my unfamiliar shoes, I was reminded that if Christ can suffer and die for me, then the least I can do is break in some new shoes for Him. And as time wore on, the unfamiliar became familiar. They became more comfortable with each step I took. They provided for me in more ways than my old shoes ever could. And the journey God has taken me on with my new shoes has been amazing. It hasn't been easy, but amazing. And on this journey, I have learned an important lesson. When my shoes pinch, or hurt, or wear a blister on my tender feet, I should not worry because He will be there to carry me.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Prayer is a powerful thing. It’s the Holy Spirit in action. And it’s not something that happens just when you close your eyes and utter some words. It’s an ongoing event in our daily lives. God is always there touching us with his creation. He craves the communication with us like we crave love from a parent. He whispers to us through a touch in a cool breeze. He speaks to us through the voice of a child. He looks at us through the expression of a friend. God reveals himself to us so often and so absolutely. The more we become aware of His presence, the more He is able to fill us with His spirit and speak to our hearts.
My weekly CRHP meetings have come to an end. And the big thing I miss is our prayer time. I have only known these women seven months. And we all come from different walks of life. We are all in different places in our journeys with the Lord. We all face different challenges and have different outlooks on this world. And even though we are so different, we share an unbreakable bond. We share a love none of us expected to find in one another. And I believe we have formed this bond through prayer. We shared our struggles with one another and then gave them to God in prayer. We shared our joys with one another and then rejoiced with God in prayer. We held hands, laughed, cried, danced and sang all the while in prayer. And, as we called upon Him, God poured out his love through us and into the hearts of one another creating a bond that will withstand the test of a lifetime. O, how I love to call upon the sacred heart of Jesus with my beautiful sisters.
It is my hope that my children will experience this wonderful adventure of prayer. I pray that they will hear God whisper to them in a warm breeze and that He will touch their hearts through the voice of a child. It is my prayer that they will see God's face in the expression of a friend. It is my hope that they will hold hands, laugh, cry, sing and dance while calling upon God with their brothers and sisters in Christ. And I pray that God will become that much more real to them with each day of their lives here in His beautiful creation.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
One prayer that has had an impact on me lately is the rosary. Before I became Catholic, Gerry and I used to go to adoration for an hour in the middle of the night on Sundays. And I always prayed the rosary. Because I was so new at this whole Catholic thing, I didn't really get it. I said the words and I meant them, but I didn't feel like I was communicating well with God. After the rosary, I always fell back on my conversational prayer. Then, after a while, I didn't pray the rosary as often.
Lately, I have been drawn back to the rosary. And all of a sudden, it is such a powerful way for me to pray. I am not sure what has changed, but I am blown away by the communication I have with God during the rosary. I have been especially drawn to the sorrowful mysteries. Every time I pray through the sorrowful mysteries, I gain a deeper understanding of His passion. I see a new glimpse of the love He has for me. While in prayer, my mind will start to wander to something I need to do or fix or someone I need to talk to or pray for. Thoughts will pop into my head that either have meaning at that moment or meaning I discover at a later time. And there have been moments when I think I hear Jesus talking to me. My humanity would like to label those moments as crazy but my spirit wants to label them as real. My most vivid experiences with the rosary have been in front of the Blessed Sacrament. I am really looking forward to the end of football season so I can go to first Friday adoration, pray the rosary and listen for Jesus to whisper in my ear.
How to Pray the Rosary
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
~St. Bernard of Clairvaux
Friday, September 25, 2009
It's the story of how my children came into this world. Let me start with a little background. I am a planner. I am a controller. I am a perfectionist. I like to be in control of my perfect plans. At the tender age barely 21, I had a perfect plan for my life. Of course, I was going to do everything in the correct perfect order: graduate from college, get married, and THEN have kids. And my soon-to-be husband and I were practicing Catholics. We practiced abstinence. Except for once. Yep. Just one time we didn't. We slipped. We didn't plan it- it just sort of happened. We were already engaged and less than a year away from our wedding when we succumbed to our weak moment. And you'll never guess what our one weak moment resulted in. Yep, little Gerry was on the way. His due date was our wedding date. God has a sense of humor.
Well, my perfectionist planning self didn't think it was so funny. This little monkey wrench was really messing up my perfect plans that I thought I had control over. This surprise was the beginning of my life long lesson in how I am not in control of my life. So we cried. We sought counsel. We went to the priest who heard our confession, agreed to marry us anyway and moved our wedding date up. In fact, everything kind of fell into place for the wedding. The church was available, the rehearsal hall was available and everyone necessary to throw a grand New Orleans wedding was available. I would have the wedding of my dreams after all. I didn't even start to look pregnant until the week after the wedding.
Also, amazingly enough, I got through my senior recital and my student teaching while planning a wedding and pregnant at the same time. God must have given me supernatural strength. At any rate, the time was approaching for little Gerry to be born. My mother was late with both of us kids. I didn't really have any other family history to base my pregnancy on so I just assumed I would be late too. Three weeks before my due date, I went to the doctor who announced I was 1 cm dilated. Not a big deal but I should stop working and stay off my feet. So, naturally, I decided that evening to go out to dinner and then to Wal-Mart so we could stock up on all the baby stuff. I ate a roast beef po-boy from In and Out and then I didn't feel very well. The po-boy was the mistake, obviously. We went to Wal-Mart and I walked all over the baby section with Gerry and we got all the stuff we needed. And all the while, that po-boy was talking back to me. When we got home, I convinced Gerry to put the crib together so I could take my time getting the room ready (his room was actually our dining nook in our tiny one bedroom apartment). While he was doing this, I gladly went to bed to sleep off this mistake of a dinner.
At about 3:00 in the morning, I woke up and I still didn't feel well. I went to the bathroom and that didn't help. I started to wonder if I was having contractions and I even woke up Gerry so he could time the indigestion. He wasn't very happy with me. We timed it and it was not even close to regular so he convinced me that I was crazy and that I should never eat another roast beef po-boy from In and Out and that he should go back to sleep. And then he rolled over and went back to sleep. At 5:00, I got up to go to the bathroom again. As soon as I stepped into the bathroom, my water broke. Of course, I went to wake up Gerry again. He insisted on a thorough investigation to see if what I was telling him was true. It took him a minute to really wake up and fully appreciate my frantic nature and assess the situation. Once I was sure he was convinced that I was in labor, I decided that I should pack my nice hospital bag. I could be in labor forever, right? At least that is what everyone told me. I heard all kinds of horror stories about how the baby would refuse to be born and the story teller would describe these 15 and 20 hour labors with the ending being a c-section or sucking the baby out with a vacuum. So, since I was in minute 5 of my labor, I naturally assumed we had plenty of time. So I slowly got dressed and started packing my perfect bag for the hospital. While I did this, my husband, who was now fully awake and convinced that we were having this baby, was calling the doctor in a panic because that's what Millers do. During his phone call, the real labor began. I was doubled over in pain. Through my gritted teeth, I was yelling at my panic-stricken husband to tell the doctor I was going to the hospital NOW. And when the pain subsided the least bit, I began throwing my clothes for the hospital in the nearest thing I could find- a laundry basket. Gerry had me ushered out the door and into the car 30 seconds later with our haphazardly packed laundry basket in the back seat. Yes, we were the Slidell hillbillies going to the hospital in Metairie.
Normally, it's about a 35 minute drive from Slidell to Lakeside Hospital in Metairie. With my coaching (which was me screaming for him to go faster or the baby was going to be born in the car), we made it to the hospital in 20 minutes flat. To this day, Gerry won't tell me how fast he drove. In my memory, it seemed to take forever for us to get to the hospital room. I kept asking the take-in nurse to go quickly. I kept asking for the epidural man all while clutching my poor sad little laundry basket. I remember asking the security guard for the epidural man. I wanted the epidural man so badly. My poor husband was absolutely terrified by my behavior and promised me he would find me the epidural man. We asked the nurses on the L&D floor as they got me out of the elevator for the epidural man. After they examined me, they found the epidural man pronto. When he walked in, it was obvious that he had been sleeping. At least I still hope that is what explained his appearance. He wasn't very happy to see me but I was so happy to see him that I instantly forgave him. He kept asking me to be still. And I kept trying but I was having labor pains so badly that I could barely see straight. And then after what seemed like forever, he was successful. I was numb from the waist down. He was my hero. After that, I felt a lot better so we decided to call people. First, we called Gerry's parents. Gerry was coming unglued to say the least so I thought I would let him hear some parental words of encouragement first. Talking to them helped his mood but I think it also gave him something more to worry about. They wanted to get from Orlando to New Orleans in time for the baby and his poor mother was going crazy trying to figure out what to do. On top of the fact that his father had tickets to the Bay Hill PGA Golf Tournament that weekend and he was going to have to miss it. Then we called my parents. They decided to start driving. They were 8 hours away so they thought there was a chance they would make it. Then we called Nanee who lived only 5 minutes from the hospital. She said, "Oh, sh**," and then said she would be there in her blue suit asap. She wanted a girl badly so she was still holding a grudge that we decided to have a boy. After the phone calls, the nurse came back in and checked me. Then, she checked me again. And then she got another nurse to come take a look. Then they decided that I was fully dilated. It had only been an hour since we had arrived. So they contacted the doctor who said he was on his way. And we all waited anxiously for the doctor. The nurses kept coming back and checking me and calling the doctor who was always on his way. Finally, he arrived to the great relief of the nursing staff. I now know that they feared they were going to have to deliver the baby with no doctor. At the time, I was so relieved to be numb from the waist down, that I didn't pick up on the fact they were worried. As soon as the doctor arrived, they wheeled me into the labor room and Little Gerry was out in one push. From the time my water broke to delivery was about three hours. Everyone was shocked. Gerry's parents, who hadn't even left the house yet were quite disappointed they missed it. Nanee was the only other family member there for the blessed event. After the delivery, we took our sad little laundry basket and moved to the recovery wing. Visitors came and went. Little Gerry was a delight to everyone he met. It was absolutely the happiest moment of our coon-ass-hillbilly lives.
So now we are going to fast forward 7 years. We are living in Dallas. Please take note of where we are living- Dallas. Mckinney-to be exact. We decide that it is time for Little Gerry to have a sibling. Then one week later, I discover that I am six weeks pregnant. So, we can kind of say that this one was planned. Can't we? I like to think he was planned. Let me have that much. I would also like to think that I am a little more prepared for what is going to happen. I happily explained to my first OB doctor that I delivered my first child in three hours with an epidural(epidural slows labor down). She agreed that I was high risk for rapid labor and we would put together a plan to deal with it. And then, due to the insurance company that seems to think they are more qualified than doctors to make decisions about my healthcare, I had to change OB doctors. I retold my story to the new doctor who assured me that rapid labor was no big deal and we would have a plan in place. I felt better. Two doctors had told me not to worry. I was also in better shape health wise than I was with little Gerry. In the seven years since little Gerry's hurried arrival, I had become a runner. I even ran regularly up until the time I started to spot early in the pregnancy and the doctors told me to stop running.
So, at week 32, I go to San Antonio on an airplane. Now 32 weeks is usually the cutoff date for out of town travel. I was fully aware of this. I asked all four of the doctors in the OB practice if I should go on this trip. They all said yes. They said, "Go and enjoy your weekend with your husband sans children. It will be your last for a while. All will be fine." So we went. We woke up at 4:00 a.m. to catch the flight from Dallas to San Antonio. So, naturally I was tired. I had to walk all over the airports to get to our destination which made me more tired. I started having more frequent Braxton-hicks contractions and I knew it was because I was tired. So when we got to the hotel, I took a nap. Gerry got me up in time to go to the fancy dinner sponsored by a company he did some work with. And I happily went. I walked from our hotel to the restaurant on the river walk. The wine was flowing! I kid you not, they poured at least 7 glasses of different kinds of wine. I had just a taste of each one. I LOVE wine. I am a teacher. When was I ever going to be able to drink expensive wine? So, I had to taste. About half way through dinner, I started having those pesky Braxton-hicks contractions except, now I had pressure. I was a little concerned about it. I kept hoping they would stop. When they didn't, I told Gerry that I wasn't feeling so well and that I needed to leave. So we left. I felt bad crashing the little party but I wanted to lie down. We started walking and the contractions started to get a little painful. I started to worry. And so did Gerry since I had to stop every five minutes or so for a contraction to pass. When we got back to the hotel room, we called the doctor. She told me to lie down for thirty minutes and see if that helped. If it wasn't better, then I should go to the nearest hospital with a labor and delivery unit and have them check everything. I waited 10 minutes and then told Gerry to call a cab. When we got into the cab, we asked the cabbie where the nearest hospital was with labor and delivery. He gave us a swift and free ride to Christus Santa Rosa in downtown San Antonio.
When we arrived, it seemed like forever to get me checked in. Really, in the last 7 years, you would think they would have the process more streamlined. At any rate, by the time I was actually on the gurney in the hospital room, I was already using colorful vocabulary to describe the extent of the labor pains to the nursing staff. They checked me and decided I was 2 cm dilated which meant they could stop the labor. They ordered the appropriate drugs which seemed to take forever to arrive. All the while, my vocabulary deteriorated. I was defiantly not a good catholic witness at the moment. When the drugs finally arrived, they asked Gerry to leave so they could start an IV. I was required to sit still while they inserted the IV which was no easy feat. After the nurse got the IV inserted and turned on, I announced that I had to push. She panicked. She turned the IV off and quickly checked me and decided that I was going to deliver. She yelled at me to cross my legs and ran to the door and started yelling "She going to deliver!" In her brief absence, I disobeyed and pushed. Crossing my legs did not quell the need for me to push. My water broke. No less than 10 people ran into the room with all kinds of beeping equipment. It was like a scene from ER. One of the nurses was going to try to get my gurney ready for delivery when I grabbed my ankles and announced I was pushing again. At this moment, a very young and barely awake resident ran into the room just in time to catch little Ben. Poor Gerry ran in right behind him and almost missed the whole event.
As soon as Ben arrived, he screamed and then I knew that he would be alright. If he had not screamed, I would have come off the gurney in an effort to save him. His scream was one of the best sounds I have ever known. At 32 weeks, he was amazingly developed. He weighed 4lb 11oz which was big for a 32 week old baby. He was breathing on his own. It was a miracle. He spent 9 days in the NICU and 2 days in the special care nursery simply because he was a little too young to eat well. They sent him home a few days earlier than they would have normally because they knew we wanted to get back to McKinney so badly. He had a feeding tube at home for the first week and a half and then every day after that, he was a normal, healthy baby.
So, as you can see, there was much drama surrounding the birth of each child. And it was all the more dramatic since no one anticipated the drama. Through these wonderful, tense, and sometimes humorous events, I have learned to let go. I am not in control. I do not know the plan. I can only have the faith that the one who loves me more than I deserve will take care of me and the ones I love. These events have tested every ounce of my faith. In the wake of the first test, I didn’t always find comfort in my God. I wanted to hold onto my control. I wanted to salvage my perfect plan for my life. After the second test, I couldn’t help but turn to my God. He gave me a miracle. Ben is here by the grace of God. As I look back, the lesson I learned is that these wonderful children are not mine. They are here by God’s will. It is my job to raise them so that they find His love and His will for their lives. It’s a tall order and I ask you to pray that Gerry and I will get it right.
Friday, September 11, 2009
6And he said to me, "These words are faithful and true"; and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent His angel to show to His bond-servants the things which must soon take place.
7"And behold, I am coming quickly Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book."
8I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed me these things.
9But he said to me, "Do not do that I am a fellow servant of yours and of your brethren the prophets and of those who heed the words of this book. Worship God."
The Final Message 10And he said to me, "Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near.
11"Let the one who does wrong, still do wrong; and the one who is filthy, still be filthy; and let the one who is righteous, still practice righteousness; and the one who is holy, still keep himself holy."
12"Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done.
13"I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end."
14Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city.
15Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.
16"I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star."
17The Spirit and the bride say, "Come " And let the one who hears say, "Come " And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.
18I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book;
19and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book.
20He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming quickly " Amen Come, Lord Jesus.
21The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.
God's Word in the Book of Revelation has had a pivotal influence in my life. It is a confusing book for the lay reader. It is full of imagery and symbolism which proves difficult to understand without formal historical and theological training of which I have neither. It can be dangerous to interpret without instruction. On the other hand, it is so wonderfully written. It describes a grand event that leaves me awestruck. Oh, how I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when that angel visited the Apostle John.
The misinterpretation of the book of Revelation was the straw that broke the camel's back in my journey with the Baptist church. I was a Junior in high school and we were studying Revelation in youth group. Our youth pastor was actually naming modern day churches for the seven churches. Surprisingly enough, the Baptists were not on the list while the Catholics were at the top of his list and that seemed really fishy to me. How could a religion that has only been around for 100 years or so trump the religion that has been around for 2000 years? Why did the Catholics make his list and yet the Baptists get a reprieve? Aren't we all just sinners in the sight of God? I asked these questions. And many, many, many other questions. I wanted to see the logic behind his conclusions. And when I was finished with my questions, the youth pastor was finished with me. Things were never the same after that. I think in part it was because I could find no logic or theology to support his ideas and he knew it. I had debated him into a corner. My drift from the Baptist church began at that time. It would be another year before I felt the call to leave. And then another year before God led me to the the Catholic faith.
This past year, I had the pleasure of participating a bible study at my church on the Book of Revelation. The whole experience was a big God moment for me. A lot of it finally made sense and I had yet another confirmation(out of about a million so far) that the Catholic faith is where God wants me to be.
So why am I sharing all this on my blog? Well, I have been privy to some "revelations" conversations lately. Some of my Protestant brothers and sisters have been making references to the Book of Revelation when trying to describe recent current events. I have even heard some say that Obama is the anti-Christ. And all of this talk makes me crazy because they have missed the point! So bear with me while I add my two cents.
The big main idea I got from Revelation is that we will be judged. We will all be judged based on our works- holy, evil and in between. And we will face consequences- either good or bad. And only the individual knows his/her heart. God will know what category we all belong in based on our works (which is why the once saved, always saved theology has some holes). We must live holy lives, offering each day to the Lord, loving our neighbor as ourselves and dying to our humanity so Christ can live in us and through us. The book of Revelation is a description of what will happen to the evil ones and to the holy ones. It is a plea for Christians to be holy so that we may share in God's kingdom. I chose to include the final Epilogue from Revelation in this blog because it really does sum up what were are supposed to do after receiving this prophesy. We are to be holy and live our lives as if each day on earth was our last. And give our lives over to God's work and all our joys will lie in his kingdom. We are not to add to God's Word or take anything away from God's Word. And foremost, we are to worship God.
So, I challenge all my brothers and sisters in Christ, Protestant and Catholic alike to look at your life- not at today's current events. Jesus will come like a thief in the night (1 Thessalonians 5:2). Our focus should not be on predicting when he will come- that is not the point of Revelation. It should be on living a holy life, loving others and dying to our humanity. I am just hoping my lifetime will be long enough to reach that goal so I can spend eternity with the Man-God whom I have fallen in love with; who loved me despite myself and then taught me how to love.
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Being that I am a Navy brat, I think that I have learned that people are not going to be there for me. I went to 9 different schools over 12 years. I have a lot of friends all over the country and not many that I would call and talk to about my life. It's not because I wouldn't like to share with them. We are just not close anymore. They left my life and we all moved on. And now that I am in one place, I am not sure how to do this friend thing. I seem to hold everyone at a distance- waiting for them to leave. I am there for them to talk to or ask a favor of, but beyond that, there isn't much else to hope for. I know that I don't like to make myself vulnerable or to rely on others and I am sure this is a big stumbling block to building friendships. I have recently become aware that if I decline someones offer of help, then I am robbing them of the joy of giving. So, I am trying to be accepting of offered help. But it is hard. I just don't know how else to be but I do know that I would like the joy of friendship in my life so I guess I have to be different. Or become a nun. But Gerry wouldn't like that so much, I think. I'm not quite sure why I am blogging about this but so I am so here it is.
Friday, August 14, 2009
So, why does it have to pour so hard in our life? Why does a God fearing couple, who has devoted their lives to shaping kids for tomorrow's world, have to be living in this financial storm that doesn't ever seem to end? As I am pondering all this, I am reminded of all the things I should be thankful for. We are all healthy. Gerry has a job. We have family and friends who love us. We have wonderful children. We live in a great country where we enjoy freedom. Yes, there is much to be thankful for. But sometimes it is so hard to see that when the visibility in the storm is zero.
Why do we have to keep suffering like this? What is the purpose of living in this never ending storm? I am reminded of the story of Jesus sleeping in the boat while the storm raged around him. And the disciples were terrified and woke him and asked him to do something about it. His reaction is what I have always been perplexed about. He was annoyed with them. He wanted to know why they had such little faith. Well, they did have faith. They had faith that he could do something about it. And he did do something about it. He calmed the storm. So, what did he mean when he said they had little faith?
We only have this one life. We only have this one chance to find true happiness. What would this life be without the storms? Would we wilt? Would we thirst for something more meaningful? The Father is our creator. He knows the beginning, the end and all the stuff in between of each and every one of us. Our lives are designed to find Him and thus find true love and happiness. So how do the storms fit in? The storms shape us into who we are to be. The storms are our opportunity to turn to God and have the faith that He is in control. And at the end of the storm, we will be a little more like the person He plans for us to become. It's our chance to find out what is really important in this life.
So, how do I handle the storm? Should I be asking Him to calm the storm? Or should I dare to walk out on the water with my eyes totally focused on him? One thing has occurred to me. If I don't experience the storm, then how am I supposed to witness the miracles? If there is nothing in my life that requires me to depend on God, then how am I suppose to have that miraculous encounter? So, on that point, I should welcome the storms. I should dance with God in the rain. I should step out of the safety of the boat and walk on the water with my eyes totally focused on the one who loves me more than I imagine. The storms keep me from wilting. They grow my faith. They help me set my priorities and they wash away the dust of this world so I can see God's light and love more clearly. If I stop worrying about the storm, then maybe I can enjoy my dance with Jesus out on the water.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
After college was over and we went through the trauma of having a baby just three months after we were married, I was not walking closely with God. Before these moments, I did. Afterwards, not so much. I was angry. I worked so hard in college (3 jobs plus 20 plus hours of course work each semester) and it wasn't fair that I got pregnant right at the end of it all and I had to rearrange all the wedding plans while I was student teaching and pregnant to top it all off. Oh, and I was giving my senior recital at the same time. It was STRESSFUL and I didn't respond well to the pressure. I was 22 and I had everything already planned in my life and I was mad that it was not going according to plan. And it all got blamed on God. I was not a happy camper. And when I am mad at someone, I quit talking to that person. And that is what I did with God. I tried to take full control of my life since he was making such a mess of it. I no longer trusted that he knew what to do. What my older and wiser self knows now is that I was to proud to see that my own sin is how I got into the mess. Anyhow, the point is I quit talking. And I thought I took control of my life.
Well, what I learned was that I can never really have full control over my life. I kept learning that lesson over and over as the years passed. And I finally came to a point when I was so unhappy that something had to be different. There was an imbalance that I had to fix. And, deep down, I knew exactly what it was. God was waiting for me to soften. His patience is extraordinary while he was waiting for me to come to the end of my rope.
In my search for something at the end of my rope, I decided to go to a lecture at my church. I wish I can remember the name of the man who was speaking, but it escapes me. He was a great speaker and I was hoping to take something away from his words. It was the very last thing he said that struck my heart. As soon as he said it, I could feel what was missing. The ice melted and I knew what I yearned for at that moment. He began by telling us this story of himself in high school. He was at a dance and he wanted to ask a girl he admired to dance with him, but he was too shy. In the end, she asked him to dance. He spoke of how excited he was to dance with her- how much it meant to him that she asked him to dance with her. He felt honored and loved and ecstatic all at the same time. And then, before he walked off the stage, he said, "And that is what Jesus is asking you tonight. Will you dance with him?"
As soon as I got home that night, I got on my knees and admitted my fault. The moment I uttered my apology, the vision began. All of a sudden, I was in Christ's arms looking up in his face and we were twirling around the dance floor. I could feel the love and joy coming from his being. The happiness on his face was amazing. And when I would begin to apologize again, he would stop me and say, "Don't worry, you are forgiven. I am so happy to dance with you." And we danced and we danced and we danced. He held me, and loved me, and danced with me. I fell asleep dancing with him that night. It was incredible. The memory in my mind is so vivid. It's like it happened yesterday. What a wonderful night it was, indeed.
This may all sound a little crazy. But I will take being a little crazy over being hopelessly lost and unhappy any day. And, oh how I love to dance.
Saturday, August 1, 2009
Gerry was nearly 3 and 1/2 before he potty trained. Up until that point, he outright refused to sit on the potty. He would scream and cry at the idea of not wearing a diaper. All the books say "don't force them" and "make it a positive experience." Apparently, they never met Gerry Miller. I don't know why using the potty was such a frightening event for him which made it all the more frustrating. We finally took the boot camp approach. We refused to put a diaper on him and played with him in the bathroom all morning while his potty awaited him. He held it from the moment he woke up (with a dry diaper)until around 10:30 a.m. Then, he finally made pee-pee on the potty while screaming in terror. Afterwards, we had a major celebration which must have had an impression because he totally changed his attitude and used the potty like a professional from that moment on. We skipped pull-ups and went straight to underwear.
And then there is Ben. Ben is my little dictator. He likes to tell me when I will eat, where I will sit, which toys I will play with etcetera, etcetera. In the beginning, Comrade Ben enjoyed the idea of using the potty. He would go all day with out an accident in the first week or so. Then, the novelty of the potty wore off. The dictator decided that it was old hat and he wasn't going to do it anymore-especially when Mommy suggested it. So we went back to diapers for a time. Then, I decided not to put any pants on him. He really liked this idea. He could use the potty without any help. And he did for a while- until that got old too and he was back to asking for a diaper or peeing on the floor. So, I broke out the training pants. Well, he didn't like that they got wet so he would very reluctantly use the potty. He would wait until the absolute last second- when the potty dance was no longer effective in delaying the inevitable. And then he would still insist that he didn't need to go. Of course, he would wet his pants just a little bit. And then he would make sure that I had given up waiting on him and went to do something else that wasn't paying attention to Ben. Only after this would he announce he had to "go potty, QUICK!" So, being the dutiful subject, I would halt all activities and run Ben to the potty and be amazed at the amount of pee that can come out of a two-year old bladder. This little routine has been going on now for a month or so. I have been trying to think up little ways to derail his game without hurting the potty progress, but all of my tricks have not really worked. He enjoys watching me drop everything I am doing to run him to the bathroom and if I ask him if he needs to go before his announcement, the answer is always "NO!" despite the yellow eyes and dancing feet. It has to be his idea and it has to interrupt what ever I am doing.
His power wielding game also works nicely when we leave the house. Except he doesn't wait until the last second. He is curious to see what other bathrooms look like. He wants to see how other toilets work and how other sinks work. Who knew that there were bathrooms all over town! Its been a fun discovery for him and every time we go out, he can produce at least 3-4 drops in the potty in order to justify a visit the new and interesting bathroom. I have considered traveling for the next 6 months or so in order to speed this process along, but then I figured the discovery of a new bathroom will also be old hat soon.
I have been a little frustrated at this potty training experience. Everyone told me that Ben is so smart- he would train early and it would be easy. They were right about the smart part- he showed all the signs for potty training readiness at 27 months or so. But he has decided that he is too smart for potty training. It's too easy and boring and it doesn't interest him- unless he can get some entertainment out of it by wielding power from atop his potty.
Friday, July 24, 2009
I long to have rich soil. I long to live undoubtedly rooted in the will of God. I long to hear His voice. I long to believe with an unshakable faith. I long to serve Him as he would see fit. I long to share the joy he has placed in my being. Oh, how I long. Lord, call me to your presence and change my heart.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
As an adult, I still struggle with sharing. But it isn’t my toys, or my stories, or my time that I want to keep to myself. It’s my heart. I don’t want to let go of what is inside of it. I don’t want to let others poke around in there. I don’t want to be vulnerable. I like to keep everyone a safe distance away so nobody gets hurt. If it were up to me, I could probably live like that the rest of my life. It would be a safe life. But that is probably all it would be- just safe.
The problem with my heart is that I do share it. I share it with my God. And trusting Him with it has become easier and easier and I travel along my faith journey. I am happy to have Him poke around in there and even make Himself comfortable. God has been a constant rock in my life and I am certain that He won’t do anything bad to my heart. He my change it or mold it but all the while He is holding my hand and I know He loves my heart more than I can imagine.
So, why is this a problem? Why can’t I go on to live a happy, safe life alone with my God? Well, it doesn’t work. I tried it. I was miserable. God has not called us to be loaners. He wants us to be part of a community. This was apparent when he created Eve for Adam. God wants us to share our hearts with one another. He wants us to see the beauty of love in each other and share our joy.
As a child, when you share a toy, there are risks involved. It could get broken. It could get lost. It could be stolen. It may not be returned to you in the same condition in which you shared it. These are all the same risks we face when we share our hearts with one another. We could be hurt. We could be changed. We could be lead down a path we did not want to take. We may not be the same after we have shared. So what is the payoff? What is all this hype about sharing our hearts? It could just be the joy of seeing God change someone else’s heart.
Monday, July 20, 2009
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
This Sunday, the gospel reading was about the story of Jesus calming the storm while He and the disciples traveled in the boat on the sea of Galilee. The disciples were afraid of the storm and they were astounded that Jesus was sleeping through the whole frightening event. They woke him and asked him what should they do. Jesus was frustrated with them for having little faith and he immediately calmed the storm to lessen their fears.
That got me thinking about all the times in my life when I asked Jesus to calm the storm. Should the calm be what I focus my prayers upon? Or should I have the faith that God has a purpose to the storm? The storm may be there to draw me to a new level in my spiritual life. The storm may be there to bring about God's kingdom. I am sad to think of all the times when I have asked Jesus to calm the storm instead of embracing the storm with the faith that God's Will is bigger than my life. How many times have I missed the step to the next level? How awesome would it be if I just danced with God in the rain and trusted that He will keep me close to Him? Faith, hope and love is what I should be praying for.
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Taken from A Contemporary Reading of the Spiritual Exercises
Jesus, may all that is you flow into me.
May your body and blood be my food and drink.
May your passion and death be my strength and life.
Jesus, with you by my side enough has been given.
May the shelter I seek be the shadow of your cross.
Let me not run from the love which you offer,
But hold me safe from the forces of evil.
On each of my dyings, shed your light and your love.
Keep calling to me until that day comes,
When, with your saints, I may praise you forever.
Friday, June 12, 2009
In the last CRHP meeting, our spiritual leader had a vision about a beautiful garden and how each one of us was a beautiful flower in the garden. And the gardener in the garden was Christ. And while she admired the beauty of all the flowers-all of us, he carefully picked all the best flowers of each one of us and made her a bouquet and handed it to her. It was at that moment that she knew she would be our spiritual director. The thing that stuck out at me was how she was struck by the beauty of the garden. I consider myself to be a pretty average soul. Why would God choose beauty as a means to describe us? Later that evening, I saw an article on the Word Among Us website that went into great detail about divine beauty. I was drawn to read it thinking that there was something more that God wanted me to understand about the vision. The following is a summery of that article.
God is beautiful. His beauty is something that we cannot comprehend here on Earth with the limitations of our imperfect humanity. The Son is of the Father and the Holy Spirit is the breath they share. Therefore, the Trinity is beautiful. They are beautiful because they admire the beauty they see in each other. The beauty of their relationship is much like music. Each note derives its beauty from its relationship to the other notes. Their beauty is not defined by the limitations of our senses. Their beauty is divine and something that we will fully experience in the next life.God created mankind in His image. Therefore, before sin entered the world, Adam and Eve understood and experienced divine beauty. They lived with the beauty of God in the garden. They saw the beauty in each other. Life was beautiful. After they committed sin, Adam and Eve could no longer see the beauty God gave them. They were ashamed of their nakedness and covered themselves. They hid from God. Because of their sin, they lost their privilege to experience divine beauty. However, God did not take away their desire to seek beauty. As humans, we seek and appreciate beauty. This is seen in things such as art and music. God left us with this desire so that some day we may find our way back to the source of the beauty.
When God's Son came into this world, He had to give up the experience of divine beauty. He had to become human- like us. The divine beauty was absent from this world and the only way He could bring it back to us was to become one of us. This sacrifice brings me to my knees. The humility He has is amazing. He became one of us and gave up the beauty He experienced with His father. This is an amazing unconditional Love for mankind. When He was on earth, He spoke constantly of God's glory. Glory is another word for beauty. He said that by doing the will of the Father, He is glorified. He became like a window through which we can see the beauty of God. By doing His father's will in dying on the cross, Christ pays the debt for the sin of humanity. He gives beauty back to the world through its opposite- an ugly death on the cross. When we accept His love and give our hearts to Him, we are made beautiful. We become part of His family and we share in His beauty. And he generously gave us the Eucharist so we can share in His beauty more fully here on earth.
We are made beautiful through the relationship we share with Christ. And we are made more beautiful every day that we not only give our love to Christ but also to each other. You see, Christ taught us that we should not be looking for the love of beauty. We should be looking for the beauty of love. The Trinity models this love for us and their love is what brings about their beauty. Christ modeled this love for us during His life on earth. He loved us and His Father with every ounce of His being. His love made Him radiate an inner beauty that conquered death which brought beauty back to the world and the people He and His Father loved. And with every small ounce of love we give Him and give each other, He abundantly shares His beauty with us.
After reading the article, I definitely had a clearer understanding of the beauty in the vision. We are beautiful in the garden because Christ makes us beautiful. He waters us with His love and shines His beautiful light on our faces. He carefully prunes us and showers us with hope so that we may become stronger and more beautiful every day. He allows the rain to wash the dust off so we may soak up as much of His light as we can. He planted us all in His garden so that we can not only love Him and place our lives in His hands, but also love and share with each other as well. And He brings others to the garden so that they may see our beauty. And He hopes that we will tell them all about the one who makes us beautiful so that they may want to grow in His garden too.
Sunday, May 31, 2009
The Holy Spirit guided me through out high school. When my baptist church wanted to judge the hearts of those outside of its walls, it was the Holy Spirit that led me to question. At the age of 18, after some turmoil with friends and adults in my baptist church, it was the Holy Spirit that told me to get up and leave- literally get up in the middle of service and leave. So I got up and walked out of the church that I had known since childhood. It was the Holy Spirit that put friends in my life of the catholic faith at that moment in time. At the guidance of the Holy Spirit, I walked into a Catholic Church where I found the presence of God overpowering.
It was the Holy Spirit that gave me the strength to tell my very Baptist family that I was going to be Catholic. I was going to join a church that the Baptist faith considered misguided and lost. I was leaving the faith they worked so hard to instill in me and going to be part of a faith they considered contrary to the word of God. It was the Holy Spirit that gave me the confidence to tell them that the Catholic Church was where God wanted me to be.
It was the Holy Spirit that calmed me down and worked everything out when I got pregnant a little too early in life. It was the Holy Spirit that guided my young family to move to Texas. And I came here kicking and screaming at the Holy Spirit, but He still loved me anyway. He even game me confirmation after confirmation that Texas is where He wanted us to be by providing jobs, a house we could afford, and a place to stay while we were in transition. He even gave us another sign that we were supposed to move when a tornado hit our house in Slidell almost one year to the date of when we sold it.
The Holy Spirit has been at work the whole time we have lived here. Most recently, He was with me the night I unexpectedly delivered my son Ben at 32 weeks in a hospital in San Antonio. Even though he was 8 weeks early and we were so far from home, I was at peace that everything would work out. That peace can only come from God. Now, Ben is a very healthy, smart and active two-year old. You would never know that he was premature. Then, when life got really stressful in my fifth year as a middle school band director in Texas, it was the Holy Spirit that told me to quit my job and God will provide. And He has provided. Miracles happen every month that help us get by.
As I look back on all this, I am astounded at the blessings I have had on my road of life. I am so very thankful for the family God has given me, the friends who enter my life at just the right moment, and the faith community that I am growing with. I can now see that the Holy Spirit has always been at work in my life. I wish I had chosen to stay close to God during all this time. I discovered that traveling on this road was not easy, especially when I was trying to do it my way. And in that discovery, I became sad. Happiness was gone and I felt alone. I could have avoided it if I had chosen to stay close to the One who had chosen this road for me.
I am surrendering more and more to the Holy Spirit as I travel along. And with each new step of trust, I am blessed with miracle after miracle. As I look ahead, His light gets brighter and brighter and His voice gets louder and louder. What a wonderful road God has chosen for me. I can't imagine traveling anywhere else.
Saturday, May 30, 2009
My Lord God, I have no idea where I'm going.
I do not see the road ahead of me,
and I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself, and the fact
that I think I am doing your will
does not man I am actually doing so.
But I believe the desire to please you
does in fact please you,
and I hope I have that desire in everything I'm doing.
I hope I will never do anything apart from that desire,
and I know if I do this
you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always,
though I may seem to be lost
and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
As I was just about to sit at the sewing machine and complete yet another task I have volunteered for, I started to pray. I began to tell God I didn't like these feelings of anger and self pity. And immediately, he reminded me that I had not read my meditation today. So, reluctantly, I got up and came to the computer and looked at today's meditation from Word Among Us. The Gospel reading is from John 17.
I started reading John 17 the other day and I was very moved. I am not sure if I have ever read this chapter before. It was like I was reading it for the first time. While reading it, I could see Jesus knelt in prayer and I could hear His voice. This is such an intimate moment Jesus shares with His Father. I almost felt like I was spying on Him. And as I listened, I became very humbled. In this intimate moment, Jesus was praying for you and me. The words coming out of His mouth were about you and me. He called us a gift to Him. Imagine, you and me a gift to Jesus. I have always considered Jesus a gift to us. He went on to describe His love for us and His desires for us. He prayed for us to be one with Him and the Father. He loved us so much that He wanted us in His heavenly family. The love He felt for you and me is just overwhelming. This prayer took place the day before He was crucified. He knew that He would be leaving. He wasn't afraid of leaving this world- He was looking forward to joining His Father. But, you could tell that He was concerned about leaving us. He wanted to see each and everyone of us again- to be one with Him in His family in heaven. And as He continued His prayer, He put us in the hands of His Father. We were all that He worked for on this earth. And He put all that he worked for, all that He loved, all that He nurtured in the hands of His father. This is amazing trust.
So, my God moment happened as I read the end of the meditation. The WAU author says that Jesus is praying for us to be unified. He wants us to be one. The love of Christ unites all Christians. Then the author went on to say that we should pray together. Even if we are of other denominations, we should pray together. Jesus will be with us in this prayer. And praying together with people of other traditions will help us to be more loving and caring to one another. This is when I had my moment and my answer.
I have been wondering if I had really reached forgiveness. Have I really taken the rock out of my back pack? And the answer is yes. But the interesting part is, I have been unpacking the rock for a while and didn't even know it. You see, I worked at a bible church this past school year. And I have prayed with these wonderful colleagues and friends all year long. And they are not Catholic. God put me in a place where I would have to pray with a community so much like the community that rejected me all those years ago. And in that time, I was unpacking my backpack. Through that prayer, I was becoming more loving and more caring. The wall that was thrown up all those years ago was crumbling down. Praying with these women allowed me to experience the divine love I needed in order to forgive the community that cast me aside. And through that forgiveness, I have been able to find the community where God wants me to grow, love and serve. My rock is gone. Thanks be to God!!!
Saturday, May 23, 2009
Once again, nature has a way of mirroring my faith journey. There have been times when it has rained just a little and other times when it has stormed. During the rain, it is hard to see the road ahead. The rain pounds into your skin. The hammering rain can destroy your train of thought and distract you from your goal. When it starts to rain, we look for a place to take cover. We leave the road and find a safe haven. Things may be destroyed during a particular violent rain. We may loose a few blooming flowers. A branch may break off a tree here and there. If you are in Texas, you may loose the roof on your safe haven. In New Orleans, the all-consuming rain may run over the levees and wash your safe haven away. During such events, we may get angry at the rain. We may blame the rain for destroying our happiness or taking away all the hard work we have stored up in this life. It is hard to find our joy when we are wet and cold and trying to find peace in our so called safe havens. But when the rain is over, and the sun is shining in the clear blue sky, things are put in perspective. Life becomes crystal clear. Just as the landscape is shaped by the rain swollen creeks, so am I shaped by the trials in my path. I am changed. I am made new. The dust is washed away and I am made more resolute as my face soaks up the light of my God. Just as nature is strengthen by the rain, so am I strengthened by the bumps along my road. And as the blinding storm clears away, I can see that I was not alone. In fact, I am now walking closer to the one who guided me, protected me, sometimes carried me and allowed the rain to wash me just enough. Long enough to give me the strength to keep putting one foot in front of the other as I travel on this road of life.
Friday, May 22, 2009
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Friday, May 15, 2009
Right now, I am in between. I have found my past and seen how I have let the unforgiveness and hurt manifest itself. It has been a big stumbling block to trusting others which has starved me of growing with a faith community. I have been thinking and praying and thinking and praying and I think I have forgiven them. I am over being right. I know that I am so blessed to have found the fullness of the faith which is what I was searching for in all my questioning of the baptist church. They love the same God and Jesus I love and we are bonded in that love. I can truly say that I am happy to worship with them and they have a great light to shine before the world. Its no longer about being right, but about being united. There is so much hurt in this world that we shouldn't be wasting energy on arguing about who is right about this and that. Instead, we should be showing Christ's love to all those he puts in our path and worshiping our God with every step we take.
So, I have come to this point. The next step is to trust. I have prayed and have asked how do I trust a faith community. His answer is "Just Do It". So I guess, I just have to jump off the deep end. I have to take the bull by the horns and be bold. Ever since Father Don gave me the analogy of the rocks in my backpack, I have been finding rocks everywhere. On the day I came home from the retreat- the same day I figured out my trust problem, my oldest son showed me a rock with a cross stamped on it. They gave it to him at the church he went to with his friend that day. The day after I met with Father Don, my two year old walked up to me and handed me a rock and walked away. I have found rocks on counter tops, in pockets, in shoes and on my dresser. I need to get rid of the rock in my backpack. And I think the holy spirit is wanting me to make another appointment with Father Don. I will be bringing him an actual rock. I will be telling him that I trust him. I will also be giving my CRHP sisters my blog address after I explain to them why. I like to think that no one is reading this blog. It is a little scary that people from my faith community would be reading it. Its my way of jumping off the deep end I suppose. I have a feeling there is something coming down the pipe that will require me to do some trusting. At this point, the trusting is not my concern. I am concerned about whatever is coming down the pipe.
When I was a teenager in that Southern Baptist Church, I felt that God was calling me to something greater like perhaps some kind of ministry. I sort of dismissed it as I left that church. And, I didn't know how I could fit into a ministry in a Catholic Church so I kept dismissing it. Now I feel like I am being reminded of that calling. I am not sure what the calling is. I think that people in my faith community may know. Spending time with them will help me figure it out.
Thursday, April 30, 2009
The Holy Spirit was very present in all of us on this retreat. There were many stories shared and many, many God moments that impacted us. For me the weekend was all about trust. Trust is a big word. It means that we have to give up control. It means we have to be vulnerable. It means we have to depend on someone else. For me, trust is hard. I struggle to trust people, and God. I want to be in control. If I don't have to trust, then I don't have to be disappointed or hurt. I protect myself from these possibilities by withholding trust. Unfortunately, I also deprive myself of the joys of trust. And I think that is what God wants me to experience; the joys of trusting. I have been trusting God more and more in these past few months. And the little trust that I have invested has bore so much more joy than I deserve.
When I tell you that the Holy Spirit was screaming the word trust at me, I am not kidding. I received little cards about trust at every break. I got a bag stamped with the words Trust in the Lord with all your heart(we all got bags with different phrases). I opened prayer books at random and there would be a prayer about trust. There were stories about trust. There were homilies about trust. There was much scripture about trust which played through my head whenever I knelt to pray. And trust was the common thread in all the women who were placed randomly at my table. If there had been a burning bush on the alter that spelled out the word trust, I would not have been surprised. Trust was definitely dancing in front of me in bright and pretty colors in order to get my attention.
The whole weekend, I knew that I needed to trust. This was the lesson God wanted me to take from the weekend. But what or who specifically did I need to trust? I want to trust God and I feel I have been trusting him more and more. I didn't feel like God was speaking to me about trusting Him so much but someone or something else.
I found something else that I was looking for at this retreat: community. I had been so frustrated about finding a community of believers that I can be a part of. I have been a member at St. Gabriel's but I had felt like I was really a part of a community. I couldn't find them. I tried being involved in a few ministries, and I never really felt like I belonged. I was starved for a community to be a part of and serve. And at this weekend, I found them. I knew it as soon as we sat down for breakfast. These women were to be my community. I was very excited. But I was also sacred which confused me.
And then there was my issue with priests. I have always avoided priests. I can list you a hundred reasons on why I didn't really need to talk or get to know a priest. They are intimidating, holy, too busy, and detached from someone like me since they live a completely different life. I could go on and on but you get the point. I would never expect for a priest to play a big role in my life. And that was just fine with me since I was extremely uncomfortable around them anyway. As you can imagine, there were priests around every corner this weekend. So I was very uncomfortable with that. I was forced more and more out of my comfort zone as the weekend progressed. And there was a moment where I wanted to run from the scene when the priest got a little too close. I didn't realize what a problem I had until that moment.
When I got home, I started to think and replay the events of the weekend in my brain and I came to the conclusion that I have a trust issue. I know- big surprise. And apparently, my trust issue is with my new found faith community. I was uncomfortable and scared around the sisters in Christ that I searched high and low for and I was ready to run from the building screaming when the priest got too close. Yes, trusting people in a faith community was definitely my issue. After I put this together, I thought "Why do I have this problem? This is not normal." And I instantly flashed back to the moment I got the letter from the Baptist Church saying that they would honor my request and remove my name from their membership. And then it all became crystal clear.
So now I should fill you in on a little background. I am a convert to the Catholic faith. I grew up in the Southern Baptist Church. My parents brought me to church faithfully throughout my childhood. I went to Sunday school, VBS, camps, retreats- you name it. As a teenager, I got even more involved. I was at EVERY youth event. I planned youth events. I was president of the youth council for the church. I sang in the youth choir. I even played the role of music minister for youth led services. All my closest friends and most trusted adults in my life were at my church. Now, I was also the teenager who asked the most questions. I questioned everything. I asked questions until I got an answer that made sense to me and sometimes, I never got an answer. In other words, I drove the youth minister crazy. I was always putting him on the spot and since I was a leader in the youth group, that didn't always go too well for him. By the end of my senior year, he was done with me and I knew it. And I knew that God was leading me away from that church. They couldn't answer all of my questions and I didn't agree with many things that were being taught. So, after some clear nudging of the Holy Spirit, I decided that I was no longer going to be a member of the Southern Baptist Church. I wrote a very short, matter of fact letter requesting that my name be removed from membership. And the only response I got was a letter back saying that they removed it. I never got a phone call from a pastor, or a minister, or a Sunday school teacher, or even a friend. At the time, I took it as a sign that I was clearly not supposed to be at that church. God was calling me to go somewhere else and so I went. And I didn't look back. I didn't allow myself to feel the hurt and rejection. If I didn't feel the hurt, then they wouldn't have the satisfaction of hurting me. I just packed this rock away in my backpack and went searching for my God. One of the first places I went was a Catholic church. The presence of God in a Catholic church was over whelming to me. I couldn't find it in any other church I visited. It was the place God wanted me to be. So I went through RCIA and converted.
I wish I could tell you that I have always walked closely with God from that moment on. But I haven't. There have been some dark moments and some bright moments. He has always had a hold on me and has never let me go even though he has had many reasons to let me go. Through all of these moments, His love speaks volumes to me. But in all of this time, I never unpacked the rock. I carried in on my back pack and felt the weight of it on my shoulders. After some time, I forgot that the rock was in there. I was so used to the weight by then. It was my normal and since I was busy trying to live my life on my terms, I never had the desire to unpack the rock. I truly forgot about it. As I have renewed my spiritual life, it stayed in the shadows. I knew something was there but I couldn't put my finger on it. And I didn't realize that the weight of the rock was keeping me from finding my community and from finding joy with those whom I craved a relationship. Here I was frustrated with the Catholic church for not providing more opportunities for fellowship and the real reason I couldn't find fellowship was because of this rock.
Now you are probably wondering what I have done with the rock. This is where the story gets a little more entertaining. When I found the rock, I felt this overwhelming urge to see Father Don- the holy spirit at work I suspect. I couldn't find rest until I made an appointment. So I did and the rest arrived for a brief moment. And then the anxiety started to mount. And boy did it mount. I had no idea that the fear was so big. On the day of the appointment, I started to wonder if I was going to have a panic attack. I considered calling friends to see if I could find some Xanax. I told everyone I saw that day to pray for me at 5:00- the time of the appointment. So, at 5:00, I was waiting in the office of the church and felt a sense of peace. I know it was the prayers. When I walked into his office, I could tell he knew I was a mess. So I blurted out right away that I have a fear of priests. And then I began to tell him why. I talked really fast so I could hurry up and get it over with. I am sure this helped with his overall first impression of me. After I was done, he looked a little shocked. He didn't quite know how to respond to me. He did laugh because I was pretty comical. Here I am, a grown confident woman telling him I am afraid of him. And then he told me I had a lot of guts to face my fear head on. I could tell he knew I was hurt. As soon as I came to that part of the story, his face fell. And then he told me about the backpack full of rocks that we carry around. Nope, I didn't come up with that analogy on my own. He asked me what was I going to do with my rock. Was I going to take it out and leave it or was I going to hold on to it because it meant I could be right in the situation. I am still figuring out this one. I WANT to forgive and leave the rock. I WANT to unburden my backpack, but how? Do I really want to let go of being right? He asked me to think about what I would say to them if I met them in heaven. That is a tough one. They very well could be there. I didn't realize that I would face my past in heaven. Then, he told me to write a letter to them letting them know how I feel and then to tear up the letter as a way of letting go of the hurt. I haven't tried it yet but I am thinking that I will. I know that this will be a process and the layer of the onion I am trying to peel off will not shed itself overnight. The verse "He who has begun a great work in you will see it through to completion" keeps going through my mind.
I want to trust Father Don and I want to trust my new sisters in Christ. I want to be part of this community. In order to do that, I need to make myself vulnerable to them. I need to not just lay my burdens on the alter, but lay them up there for everyone to see. I am not sure what God is going to do with my rock once I let go. I do find it interesting that there are three women in my CRHP who work heavily with the youth- which only makes me want to hold on to the rock more. I don't think I am quite ready to connect all these dots but I do know I need to trust. And with trust will come great joy and the lightness of my spirit.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
We are created beings. And we have a sense that there is something out there responsible for this creation. That sense is what draws us to God. If you notice, through out history all human societies worship something. Weather it be God, or pagan gods, or the sun and other celestial beings or even mountains and rivers. We have a sense that there is something out there responsible for this creation and controlling forces we can not influence. And we feel the need to respond to that something.
God has given us this sense. And he also gives us free will. He wants us to find Him with our own free will. He could have created us to solely worship him with out a choice, but he didn't do that. He wants us to choose His Love. What kind of love would it be if we could not choose it? What kind of lover forces his love to love him? He planted the seed of His spirit in us and gave us the free will to choose to find Him and love Him. Loving Him from our own free will is the greatest act of our existence.
In Bible study, we are studying the book of Revelation which focuses heavily on divine judgement. It outlines in very apocalyptic imagery what we need to do as believers in Christ in order to withstand divine judgement. And really, it all boils down to one basic thing. We need to worship Him. This need to worship is a very basic instinct. Through out our lives, we will worship something- whether it be money, or material possessions, or work or God. We want to fill our soul with something. God is hoping to be that something to us.
This message of worship hit me hard this week. My purpose as a created human being is to worship Him. Not just at mass. But in my every day, minute to minute life. All of my acts should be in worship to Him. Jesus lived his life in constant worship. He spoke the truth. He helped the disadvantaged. He loved his friends. He welcomed the children. He prayed to the Father- prayed so hard that he sweat became blood. And the Love that came pouring out of Him lead Him to the cross for our sake.
What is keeping me from worshipping Him? What in my life draws me away from worship? What would my day be like if I let worship be in the driver's seat?
Sunday, April 19, 2009
You may think that I am overreacting a bit. Let me fill you in on a little background. I HAVE NEVER BEEN CAMPING. My family never went camping when I was a kid. I did go to Girl Scout camping which I thought was camping but now I have learned it wasn’t really camping. As girl scouts, we stayed in cabins and had real bathrooms next to our cabins. For me, this was camping enough. I do admit to being a bit of a Princess. I don’t do bugs. I don’t do dirt. I do require flushing toilets and clean showers. And if you want me to spend time outside, it must be dry and pleasant. I don’t do well with cold and hot. So you can see how camping is a bit out of the box for me.
The anticipation leading up to the camping was just as traumatic as the camping itself. I really avoided thinking about the whole event until about a week before it was supposed to take place. I still had a little hope that I could come up with Plan A but I was starting to mentally prepare for plan B. I watched the weather. Now, last year the weather was on my side. We had the threat of overnight severe weather so they canceled the overnight part of the trip. I was overjoyed. So I anxiously awaited the weather forecast for this camping trip. And there was a glimmer of hope. They were predicting thunderstorms on Friday night and Saturday morning. Camping was to begin on Saturday afternoon. So I started praying, “Please God, deliver me from this camping trip and delay the storms by one day.” I knew that God was my buddy and I believed that he would answer my prayer. I held out hope that He would give me that miracle all the way until Friday evening. When the weather played out like the original forecast predicted, I got nervous. Especially when I got the e-mail saying that even though it has rained a bunch, they weren’t canceling the campout yet. They were in a “wait and see” mode with the weather. That is when I had a light bulb moment regarding the weather and the camping. The rain was making the camp ground wet. Was I going to have to go camping in the mud? Surely, God would not do this to me! Are these people crazy? This campout should be canceled so I do have to sleep in the mud!
As evening wore on Friday, I got more nervous. That is when I decided to go buy camping supplies. At this point, I was holding out hope that Murphy’s law would come into play. If I buy all the camping supplies, then they will promptly cancel the campout. So I bought the camping supplies, and then checked my e-mail every 5 minutes. My answer came on Saturday morning: “Even though we may run into an occasional shower, the campout is a GO.” My heart stopped. I was really going camping. Camping in the mud and rain. Why is God doing this to me? Why hasn’t He delivered me from this camping problem? I knew what the answer was. It was probably going to draw me closer to my precious child and to Him. But why has he picked camping in the mud and rain to bring this about?! So, in my defeated moment, I began packing our camping supplies. The amount of stuff was amazing. I didn’t have the slightest clue how to get it from my car to the camping site. I was very overwhelmed.
The next morning, I got up, savored my shower and packed the car. We made a quick run to Wal-mart for dreaded rain gear. After dropping Ben off with my wonderful friend, we headed to the camp grounds. It was an hour long drive- an hour for me to think about all the mud and look at the dark clouds. When we arrived, my guardian angel in the form of a man with a pick-up truck helped me get our gear to the camp site. I promptly set up the tent all by myself. It was a nice feeling of accomplishment but I have to admit it wasn’t very hard. Then my friend arrived and I helped her set up her tent. After walking around a bit, we realized that we were the only two women camping without husbands. And my shoes were very muddy.
The first event was a water balloon fight at the pirate ships. The pirate ships are the size of real ships and the boys can launch balloons from the top of one ship and hit the other ship. Of course this was great fun for them. And I was enjoying watching it from the sidelines. Then the Cubmaster made all the leaders get on one ship and put all the kids on the other ship. Then after I reluctantly got on the ship, he suggested that the kids could leave their ship and try to get on the leaders’ ship if they wanted a better shot. This was not a good plan in my opinion. The other leaders made me take a water balloon so I could defend myself. I threw it at a kid but it didn’t break so I immediately went to plan B which was hide. That worked for a while but I was eventually hit and then I was wet. And my shoes were very muddy.
After the pirate ships, we changed, ate dinner and then headed out to the graduation ceremony. I was looking forward to seeing all the boys get their new neckerchiefs and advance to their next rank. We arrived and sat down and everything seemed nice. But really, we were being hunted. In those first few moments of our arrival, the mosquitoes were formulating their assault plan. It took them about 10 minutes for them to start their attack. And it was vicious. These were not normal mosquitoes. They were giant. Remember, everything is bigger in Texas. And they were not deterred by bug spray. I was killing them left and right. They tried every inch of my body and I fended them off as best I could. Unfortunately, they did succeed and I have a bite ON MY FACE. It’s such a wonderful souvenir. And after the battle was over and we were safely back at our camp site, my shoes were still very muddy.
For our evening activity, we had skits around the campfire. This was actually fun to watch. The boys love putting on a show for one another. Our boys ended up doing three skits. Their last skit was like one of those MasterCard commercials where the punch line was “watching Mrs. Lori’s face when we tell her she has to go potty in the woods, priceless.” After the skits, they gave me chocolate and I was happy. They all had a good time cooking their marshmallows and eating their smores. And then it was time to get ready for bed.
I was going to have to use what they considered to be a bathroom. I think it is called a latrine. The toilet is basically a hole in the ground and you bring your own toilet paper. I went inside and conducted a survey before I decided to actually use it. I knew there was a flushing toilet up the road but I also knew it wasn’t very clean. After weighing the long walk to the real bathroom with the conditions at the latrine, I decided to “man up” and use the latrine. I am proud to say I successfully used the facilities without touching anything. But my shoes were still muddy.
Sleeping in the tent went as well as to be expected. I am a very light and fussy sleeper. I did have an air mattress so I wasn’t completely uncomfortable. However, even though I had my ipod, I could still hear the bugs dive bombing the tent as I tried to fall asleep. It took forever for me to actually sleep. And then the wind woke me up at 5:30 and I couldn’t go back to sleep. It was very creepy. Even though I couldn’t sleep, I didn’t want to get up because it was FREEZING outside- well, I guess outside is inside when you are in a tent. Semantics aside, the point is I was COLD. And I was tired. Which I guess is why people kept inquiring about my rough night at breakfast. I guess I didn’t look so good. And the mosquito bite on the face didn’t help. I am really glad I forgot to bring a mirror.
After breakfast, we were to go on a hike. I was actually in better spirits. We were coming to the end of our trip!!!! Anyhow, I wasn’t that worried about the hike. I am a runner so I knew that I could handle the endurance it required. But other than that, I didn’t really know what we would encounter, so I guess you can say ignorance is bliss. As soon as we entered the woods, there it was- poison ivy. It was everywhere. We were hiking in the poison ivy forest. I immediately started to itch. And I was glad we were walking fast. I was worried the poison ivy would pass through my clothes and get me. And then the terrain got kind of rough. We hit a spot where basically people were sliding down this steep hill, hoping for the best. I decided to run down the hill into the arms of my other guardian angel in the form of a sturdy man with a good foot hold. After going up and down and all around in the poison ivy forest, we were allowed to pack up and go get our cars. The best news I heard on the trip yet! However, my shoes were still very muddy.
I must say that the trip wasn’t as horrible as I expected. I tend to think of the worst so I can take out the element of bad surprise. And I did have a good time with my son. He had a blast. It was fun to watch him be a boy with his friends. Being that it is Sunday, we had a short religious service this morning. And the man leading it asked this question: “Why are you here?” All I can say is this: it’s for the love of a 9 year-old boy. I got on the pirate ship for the love of a 9 year-old boy. I used a latrine for the love of a 9 year-old boy. I got harassed by Texas-sized mosquitoes for the love of a 9 year-old boy. I slept outside in a tent for the love of a 9 year old boy. I waded through the poison ivy forest for the love of a 9 year-old boy. I sacrificed my shoes to the mud for the love of a 9 year-old boy. When they put this baby boy in my arms 9 years ago, I knew in the back of my mind that I would have to endure the dreaded camping trip one day. And even though I avoided it like the plague, God made sure that I got to go so I could experience the love of a 9 year-old boy.