Monday, April 2, 2012

How To Journey, When the Path is Hard to Find

Haven't been here on the blog in a bit, and while I wish there was some great reason, like deciding to forgo blogging for Lent, it is a combination of being fairly busy, very stressed, and a little lazy.  My Lent did not go nearly as well as I had hoped.  My spirituality is important to me, and yet I am finding it harder and harder to make decision that support that value.  It's not about making bad decisions or doing the wrong thing, it's just about the fact that I haven't been making a conscious effort to improve my relationship with God.

 The description of a retreat I'm hoping to attend in a few weeks says it provides "tools for continuing [the] journey of faith." The tools are what I've been lacking lately! I feel like I've been approaching my spiritual journey with a compass and a book of matches, when what I really need is a GPS device and a flood light.  I'm trying to remember what I told retreatants on a START retreat once - that the path toward God is always in front of us, but sometimes it is more difficult to see. I remember telling people that sometimes the path was clear, and sometimes it was like stepping stones hidden beneath the water.  Lately, I feel like the path is a tightrope, that I must take every step carefully for fear of falling off entirely.  It is frustrating to feel forced into walking one step at a time, when all I want to do is run full speed ahead toward my Destination.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Seven Quick Takes... Spring Edition

So here I am, another 7 Quick Takes.  This time I may even remember to link up my blog over at Conversion Diary instead of just sending my (likely non existent) "readers" over to Jennifer's corner of the world.  Anyway, here it is my Seven Quick Takes spring edition! 

(1) 70 Degrees
It was 70 degrees yesterday.  Readers from other corners of the globe (aka Texans like our QuickTakes Host) may be wondering just why 70 degrees is so exciting.  But it is March in New England, and a 70 degree day is something to be celebrated, even after our mild winter!  Breezy days in the 60s or low 70s are my version of weather heaven.  I'd take 'em 350 days a year.
(2) 350 Days?
Yes, I am fully aware that there are 366 days in the year 2012, and 365 in it's non-leap year counterparts.  But I want 350 days of 65 with sunshine and a breeze, plus a week of beach weather and a week of snow.  Preferably coordinated with my vacation week and Christmas respectively.  

(3) The Winds of Pentecost
Yesterday was very, very, windy here in Western Mass!  But it was also our day to talk about the Holy Spirit at our Alpha follow-up, and my grandmother pointed out that at Pentecost the Holy Spirit came from Heaven like "a strong driving wind" (Acts 2:2).
(4) Scary Winds
Even with this concept of the Holy Spirit arriving as wind in my mind, the wind is still scary for me.  Ever since the tornadoes and micoburst in WMass last summer, I still get a little nervous every time we have a bad storm, especially one with lots of wind.  It is unfortunate because sitting on the porch and watching a lightning storm used to be one of my friends.  But I'm reminded that if I - a grown adult, who did not physically see the tornado, and was not directly affected by the tornado, and rationally knows how unlikely it is that this area will see another tornado in the near future - am so scared, then I can only imagine what the children who saw their homes, schools, and neighborhoods destroyed feel like.  There is still a lot of healing to be done in this area, and I can only pray it happens quickly. 

(5) Alpha Program
In #3 I mentioned the Alpha program.  It is a great program led by an Anglican clergyman, Nicky Gumbel, and used in Churches throughout the world.  It is used in Anglican, Episcopal, Catholic and non-denominational churches.   Gumbel, has actually spoken to the College of Cardinals on evangelization.  He also has a fabulous British accent which you can hear in all of the videos.  The program has been in my diocese for about 6 years, and is actively expanding to more Churches in our diocese.  It is a great program for evangelization to un-churched individuals, as well as  for a deepening of faith in practicing Catholics/Christians.  I highly recommend the program!  For those of you here in WMass, there is a new program starting in Chicopee after Easter, email me if you want more info!

(6) Super Tuesday
This week was Super Tuesday.  I think the only thing it did was remind me how little faith I have in our politicians.  I am not a very big fan of any of the current candidates.  I wish that for a change we could have leaders who cared about people instead of politics.
(7) Next Steps
I am 8 months into my commitment with Americorps*VISTA.  In many ways I feel like my service is just beginning.  I am just starting to feel as though I am making progress, as if I have things to do which are interesting, and meaningful.  I can't wait to see the direction our project continues to take! And then there is reality.  The reality wherein I realized that I went to a private college.  Have so much college loan debt I want to vomit just thinking about it, and likely can't afford to do another year of service.  And so, it's time to discern my next steps, and decide what happens next, and what direction I want to take with my career and my life.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Seven Quick Takes

Ya'll know the drill.  And just like Jennifer over at Conversion Diary, my quick takes are likely to be more scattered than normal.  And there will probably be some random links to various places on the web!

(1) Back In High School
Today I went and presented at a local high school.  It has brought on anxiety and bad memories all week.  Even a nightmare yesterday.  And no I didn't have a scarring high school experience, this was all based on the realization that I am SO HAPPY I am no longer a high school teacher. 
(2) It wasn't the kids 
 My hatred of teaching HS wasn't about the kids. In fact I loved them.  Were I the school counselor or campus minister, or an advisor, or in some other position that didn't require me formally teaching, I'd probably still be working in a high school.  But the teaching itself I wasn't a fan of, and the anxiety that accompanied I really didn't like.  I was miserable.  And so I'm not teaching anymore. 

(3) Anxiety
 No big surprise from the last two quick takes that I've been having some anxiety issues lately.  This isn't something particularly new for me.  I was diagnosed with depression more than five years ago, and also have general anxiety.  So when I say I'm anxious I don't just mean nerves, or fear, or being afraid to speak in front of people, as a lot of people assume. It's not always the most pleasant problem to encounter, but in the end it's just part of who I am.  We all have abilities and disabilities and areas for growth - this is mine. (Note: I love public speaking, so #1 had nothing to do with a public speaking fear).
(4) Courage
Even here in the 21st century, talking about Mental Illness can be fairly taboo.  While the days of mental institutions and such are behind us, society often looks down upon people who are battling mental illnesses.  I need to give a big shout out to, two fabulous young women who have used their blogs as a platform to help disspell some of these myths.  Emmy Cecelia over at Journey of a Catholic Nerd Writer has discussed anxiety multiple times on her blog, and Hannah Katy of and More Love Letters wrote an excellent post last week on depression, which can be found here.  Kudos ladies, and thanks for taking the time to address a topic so many people sweep under the rug!

(5) Next
This has been the recent topic of my thoughts. Next. As in, what comes next.  I'm not sure exactly what the answer is, but I hope you will join me in praying for whatever comes next on my Journey.

(6) WSU fights the WBC
Last week, rumors expected the Westboro Baptist Church to arrive here in Massachusetts, to protest at a soldier's funeral in Westfield, MA.  On less than 24-hours notice, a group of students from Westfield State University organized a Peaceful Counterprotest against the expected church members.  The WBC didn't end up showing up (Praise God!) but I am still very impressed with the WSU students for their swift organization, and their reminder to everyone involved that their job was to quietly and respectfully support the bereaving family - they were to be a "human shield" against the Church's hatred, not create a scene themselves.

(7) That said...
If I ever encounter someone from the WBC I probably will end up causing a scene.  This is a "christian" Church which preaches hatred! It is these types of organizations that give a bad name to Christians everywhere, in my mind this organization is to Christianity what extremists in the Middle East are to Islam.  The WBC is no more representative of true Christian teaching, than the Taliban is of the true teachings of the Muslim faith.  They are crazy radicals who try to use religion to teach hatred.  And while the WBC is not killing or sending out suicide bombers, their protests are still problematic and hateful.  I'm not sure how any Church which teaches that "God loves you" is a lie, can consider themselves Christian.  All I know is they need to read up on their Bible - they obviously missed John 3:16, Romans 5:8, and countless other verses about God's love for us!  

Saturday, February 25, 2012

7 Quick Takes... Slighlty Lame Version

Alright folks, ya'll know the drill.  The 7 Quick Takes is hosted over at with Jennifer (who has returned to hosting after a few weeks of guest hosting by Haley at I have been missing for a few weeks, but  now I'm back and ready with some great QTs... This is definitely going to be a quick set of quick takes!

(1) Praying for my enemies
So for Lent this year I've decided to "pray for my enemies," or as one of my friends (who is also doing this) more accurately referred to it, we are "praying for a different person [we] kind of dislike everyday." I don't exactly have "enemies," but taking the time to pray for the people who annoy me whether it's an old friend who has recently ticked you off, or the "creepy looking obnoxious man in the last pew who says all of the Mass responses incredibly loudly as if trying to prove that he learned the new responses," (yes that is really who I prayed for on Ash Wednesday, and yes praying for him as the "creepy looking obnoxious man" instantly felt awkward and was changed in my prayer) has been a rewarding experience! I recommend. 

(2) Vegetarian Lent 
I've decided to go veggie for Lent.  Unfortunately this was challenged today when I attended a conference which only offered turkey and cheese sammies for lunch, so I did cheat a bit.  But ultimately this has also been rewarding.  I think my friends blog post about her Vegan Fridays during Lent, explains very well some of the reasons why I choose to limit my meat consumption.
(3) "Weird" Lenten Ideas
 Somehow in the world of various internet link-ups I came across this article from Lifeteen on "20 Weird Ideas" of what to give up for Lent.  Overall I thought the list made sense but there was one idea that REALLY bothered me.  The very first idea on the list "don't eat the last bite of your food." Now in theory this sounds like a miniature fast at the end of every meal, but then I thought about it little more.  Over the course of 40 days of Lent,  that is more than 100 bites of food, at an average of 3 meals a day that would be 120 bites of food. ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY BITES OF FOOD.  Wasteful much?  Imagine how many hungry people you could feed with 120 bites of food.

(4)  The Biggest Loser and Twitter
The Biggest Loser and Twitter are my new obsessions.  They might sound unrelated but in fact the obsessions fuel one another, primarily because I follow all of last season's contestants on Twitter and love to read their reactions to the show.  According to my twitter profile, my twitter dream is to have Bob Harper reply or retweet me, and I am only half kidding.

(5) Clients!
I am excited that work has finally been getting busy, and I am finally starting to serve lots of clients. It is a great feeling.  Starting a brand new non-profit venture is definitely a big undertaking, and starting to see things come together is quite rewarding.

(6) Diocesan Women's Conference
I have never attended the Diocesan Women's Conference (here in the diocese of Springfield, MA), I have also never heard Fr. James Martin, SJ speak.  But this year I'll check both of those off, because he is the keynote for this year's Catholic women's conference, and I am pretty stoked!  My incredibly limited Jesuit education during two semesters at Creighton and involvement in a Jesuit parish when I lived in SD, led me to an interest in Jesuit spirituality and introduced me to Fr. Martin. I am really excited to hear him, in large part because despite the fact that he is a nationally known and renowned writer he is a virtual unknown here in WMass, and in the conservative Springfield Diocese the Jesuits don't always get as much respect as they deserve (this partially traces back to the decision of Boston College to go against Cardinal O'Malley and allow pro-abortion politicians to receive communion on campus, and thus the negative press for the Jesuits here in New England). Before heading west my opinion of the Jesuits was definitely tainted, and I am excited for Fr. Martin to bring the beautiful Jesuit spirituality here to the Valley!

(7) PCWM
I've always considered myself an amateur (at best) use of social media, but as I continue using it more actively, and utilizing it for professional purposes as well as personal my desire to learn more keeps going.  Hence why I've spent the day at Pod Camp Western MA!  It has been an interesting experience, and I can't wait to go back and read through so many of the resources that were shared today.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Preparing for Lent

Still failing on all these Quick Takes, but someday I will manage to actually get on it! Hopefully I'll actually follow through this week, while Miss Hallie Lord/Betty Beguiles is still guest-hosting for Jen.  I'm loving this guest hosting as it gives me an excuse to make extra visits over to!

Is anyone else finding it as hard to believe as I am that Lent starts NEXT WEEK! I mean, Christmas barely ended, I still have some Trader Joe's Candy Cane Joe-Joes in the cabinet.  Granted, this may be in small part due to the fact that I've been hoarding, but still, that's beside the point!  Well, believe it or not, Lent is walking up the front path, ready to be knocking at our doorstep soon enough.  I don't know about you, but I have a few things left to do before the start of Lent.  I'm sure I could come up with many, many things if I tried, but for now, here is a top ten list.

(1) Reexamine my goals 
Remember my "New Years" post back from the start of Advent?  The one where I laid out my spiritual goals for the new liturgical year? Well as practical as I tried to be, I'm not sure I succeeded in following these goals as much as I would like.  Have I made time for prayer? Yes. Well, sort of.  In other words, I haven't made as much time for prayer as I would like. Appreciating blessings is a fairly easy one, but unfortunately I can't say the same for my Bible reading. And that most important goal of all?  Making God the priority. Well, He is my priority.  No doubt on that one.  But have I been acting like it?  That's where things get questionable... 

(2) Get the sin out of my system 
No, this isn't my excuse to sin as much as possible in the next 7 days (though yes, I am human, and yes, I will undoubtedly sin).  I need to get the sin out of my system. Cast it out of my soul.  In other words, I'm a bit overdue for a trip to the Confessional.

(3) Girl Scout Cookies 
A former roommate once told me she thought Girl Scouts were evil.  She was being more than a little facetious, but she did not appreciate that the delicious Samoas, Tagalongs and Do-si-Dos always made their appearance during Lent.  Sometime in the next seven days I need to get my hands on two boxes of Thin Mints.  One is on the express train to my stomach, and the other is going to enjoy a forty day vacation in the freezer until I get home from Easter Vigil on April 7th.  

(4) Scheduling A Few Dates
If I want to start succeeding on these goals  it is time for me to accept that I'm a busy gal and it's going to take a bit of advanced planning.  For the past few years I've been taking a bit of an Ignatian approach to prayer - I've been trying to pray in my daily life, to achieve that goal of prayer at all times or contemplation in action.  Unfortunately, I took what St. Ignatius knew was a difficult task, and tried to water it into something easy.  Recently I heard the following quote, from the Catechism - "we cannot 'pray at all times' if we do not pray at specific times."  I was using the concept of prayer in action, not in order to pray at all times of my day, but as a reason not to pray at specific times of the day. I thought it was better to simply interweave my day with prayer, instead of separating a "Time" for God, I wanted Him to be part of every moment.  And this would have been great, had I been successful.  So now it is back to the drawing board, time to make "appointments with God," as one smart campus minister recommended a long time ago.  So, before Lent, I am creating a "prayer calendar" and scheduling a date with God for each of these 40 days.  

(5)  Finding A Few Buddies 
Throughout college, and during my time in the Midwest directly following college, I was blessed with a great faith community.  Initially, the loss of this was really difficult for me.  Without my faith community it was difficulty for me to sustain my faith.  Since then I realized that at times, I had come to appreciate the community more than the faith.  Instead of allowing the community to bolster my faith, I had allowed the faith to become a side note, while the community was what I really appreciated. Both were important, but I had allowed them to become so co-dependent that when one part (community) changed, I risked losing the other part (faith). Now I am starting to rebuild my faith and what it means to have a faith community.  I am looking for a few good friends to support the journey, to hold me accountable to all these dates I'm scheduling with God. Maybe we can even go on a double date together, I'm sure Jesus won't mind the extra company :)

Monday, January 30, 2012

Seven Quick Takes Fail....

Well, as I predicted, I haven't quite followed through with the 7 Quick Takes. I actually had most of a post written back on week 2, but my computer deleted it, and I just never got back to a follow through.  It is far too late to link-up for this week, but hopefully next week I'll be back. 

The theme I had planned for the failed 7 Quick Takes was "Words That Are Not My Own," or something to that effect.  Several of the things that are on my mind this week are once again not my own thoughts.  In the wake of the Roe vs. Wade anniversary last week, and the current political campaigns a lot of my thoughts have had to do with abortion and health care issues and the Catholic faith.  So here are a few of my thoughts:

(1) Option of Conscience
As some people have likely already seen from my Facebook statues or posts, I am a big proponent of an option of conscience for medical professionals. I believe it is important that doctors and nurses not be forced to assist in abortion services, and I also oppose the use of tax dollars to provide abortion services or medicines which are abortificent in nature.  Below is a statement on the issue from Cardinal-designate Dolan:

"The Amish do not carry health insurance. The government respects their principles. Christian Scientists want to heal by prayer alone, and the new health-care reform law respects that. Quakers and others object to killing even in wartime, and the government respects that principle for conscientious objectors. By its decision, the Obama administration has failed to show the same respect for the consciences of Catholics and others who object to treating pregnancy as a disease." 

(2) The "Catholic" Candidate
First off, let me state that I am a political moderate. I do not belong to a political party. I have chosen not to belong to a party because I believe that it is important to look at the individual candidate running for office and their stance on the issues (plural) at hand. I am not a single-issue voter.  And if you tell me that lack of enrollment in a political party means I'm an "uneducated" voter you can expect an earful. Similarly, I will not vote for a candidate simply because they are Catholic. And you shouldn't either.  (Note: You are a grown person, if you want to vote for Santorum go for it.  But for the love of God and Church, please don't vote for him because he is Catholic.)

(3) Abortion
If we really want to end abortion, we need to look at the whole picture.  Simply outlawing abortion isn't going to help the cause. We also need to educate young women (and young men) about the consequences of sex.  More importantly, we need to create a culture that embraces life.  We need to create a society that supports the vulnerable woman and makes it possible for her and her child to live a happy, healthy, vibrant life. These women know that abortion is a choice, we need to show them why life is a better one.