Sunday, February 14, 2016

Sunday Prayers

Lord of love and laughter and hope and joy, help me this day to thank You and appreciate more the gifts You have given me from Your great and wonderful bounty.  Help me to put aside my pride and self will and learn to hear Your voice and answer Your call all the days of my life. Amen

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Expressions

A school district near my home recently announced they are laying off around a dozen PE teachers and around a dozen instrumental music teachers for next school year. It is a cost saving measure in a district that is not really struggling financially.  It wasn't directly stated that music and physical education aren't included in the state testing, but it really didn't even have to be.  The state test is king around here and administration lives and dies by the scores.  Anything that brings up the scores is good, anything not directly related to the scores is an unnecessary waste of time and money.

It is distressing to watch the fine, physical, and practical arts make way for only the solid academic subjects. It is distressing to see less supervision and guidance in physical development.  Solid academics are certainly valuable, but so is self-expression.  I am an academic minded person.  I am thankful I learned to read well and can handle myself in the demands of my life in the maths and sciences.  I am interested in history and the social sciences.  But, I have to say, that writing the blog, quilting, cooking, photography and the other artistic pursuits of mine have added much my joy and peace in my life than the academics ever could.  I might have benefited from more physical education in my school years rather than less.

As a society we greatly admire the physically talented, and those people who dare to freely express themselves in music and art.  We watch cooking shows and listen to music and spend exorbitant amounts of money watching performers of all types.  But, more and more we are taking our young people away from free self -expression and the opportunity to experience the discipline and excitement of directed performance and team work even for the less talented.

I would never argue that academics are not important.  But, I would argue that they aren't the only thing.  Young people need to play instruments, sing, learn various games and activities to develop their bodies and to work as a team.  I believe our humanity is fully awakened when we have many opportunities to express who we are.  Arts and humanities are important.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Be Careful What You Wish For...

I was talking to some friends about answers to prayers and about praying for specific outcomes the other day.  It sometimes feels inadequate to just pray--Thy Will Be Done, Lord.  Of course, it is.  Of course God's Will is the best and most loving way, but sometimes I have an emotional stake in the game.

I have a long time friend who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer.  She never married, was an only child and had few relatives, most she had only met a couple of times in her life.  Of course, she has friends, but she is shy so not a wide circle of friends, and she retired a couple of years ago. We live far away from each other. I pray for her and it is easy to say--Thy Will be done, but then because I am me, I need to add reminders to God about making things easier for my friend.

But, in more personal matters, when I find myself crying out for God's mercy, for God's help and it feels as though the jagged rocks keep bouncing off God's help and love, I am learning to ask myself if I am on the right path, am I going the right way?  Maybe I need to retrace my steps and listen for God's voice.  Because He is always there.  He did not abandon me.  He did not leave me orphaned.  God's love should be like water soaking into a sponge, so easy, so right. At least that is what I am trying to learn.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Dwell on These...

I have written a lot about the painful aspects of my life lately, and I don't feel that this is giving a fair representation of the life I am living now.  I don't want to pretend that things are easy or I don't have moments of discouragement, I do.  But, I have found a lot of happiness and serenity in the midst of the turmoil.  I have strength I didn't even realize.

My life is essentially happy because I am free to express love to my family, to nurture friendships, to decide some things for myself and even make mistakes without criticism or blame.  I was venting about an unfolding situation at my counselor's office a short while back.  She encouraged me at expressing my anger and horror at the events that someone else was directing.  She indicated that she had not seen me do that enough times.  I didn't tell her then, but perhaps I will next time, I do a lot of venting here and in personal journals.  I have learned the value of expressing the anger I am feeling.  Not, so that other people can help me, although sometimes they have, but rather so that I don't stuff it down and start feeling as though I deserved the thing that made me angry.

And having expressed my upset feelings, I am free to dwell on the lovely, right and beautiful in my life.  I am warm and have everything I need.  I have more than I need.  I have some lovely and generous people in my life.  And there are sunrises and hawks and eagles if I just drive over the river road soon.  And I feel that these gifts, so numerous to be named are the bountiful gifts from my loving heavenly Father who has new love and gifts to give every single morning and all through the night.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Ashes

Repeat after me--This is NOT a Holy Day of Obligation.  Yet most Catholics find their way to Mass on this day.  It is more than tradition or some fun practice.  Having black ashes smeared on your forehead and being reminded of your own death is not stuff for fluffy part-time Christians.  Yet even fallen away Catholics who rarely or never attend Sunday Mass, like to go to church on Ash Wednesday.

Ash Wednesday as the beginning of Lent reminds us that repentance is necessary and change is possible.  Repeat and believe in the Gospel.  There is still time to listen to and respond to the call.  I thought I might not go to Mass today.  It is NOT a Holy Day of Obligation after all.  I am still searching for a church community, a Catholic Church Community.  And the joy and sorrow of living in the Rome of the West is that there are still a great many churches to choose from.  Even if I stick to ones within a 10 mile radius there are a lot of Catholic churches out there.  I am listening for a call to one of them.  I am attending different ones as I adjust to my new status.

So, this year, I have realized that I do need to go to Mass and have some ashes on my forehead and reflect on my status as a sinner and a penitent.  This year maybe more than ever before, I need to hear God's call to come back.

Monday, February 8, 2016

I Was Lost

I isolated myself for many years.  I was living a life in which I found that I couldn't relate to the experiences of other people.  Either they weren't honest, or my life was not going as well as most other people's lives seemed to be.  When people talked about events and emotions that didn't match my own experience in any way it is easier to isolate.  I gave the impression I had a happy marriage, lots of friends, family that I was close to, and interests.  In all honesty, my marriage was miserable on my end of things, I had acquaintances, but hardly any friends.  Those I did have got scared away when they witnessed events in my life.  They kept distance between us.  And maybe I was a little too clingy sometimes because I so longed for someone to talk to.  I was a mover and shaker in my family, but my siblings were sometimes uncomfortable with my marriage.  I quilted and crocheted and was interested in history.  But, I came to hardly know what my favorite color was or what I would really like to do on a free Saturday.

God called me to freedom, to love, to trust, to life, not death.  He set the captive free. Or He is working a new thing in me and freedom is in front of me.  This freedom is not a call to live a sinful selfish life.  This call is to bring joy and love and hope into the world.  He has made all things new. The first among those is me.

One of the discoveries I have made is--isolation is not good.  When I am not forcing myself to pretend that my life is not something that it isn't, when I am acting in a whole and authentic matter, I have people in my life.   It is not good for man to be alone.  It is not good to isolate.  How can I spread the Good News in an empty room?

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Prayers for Sunday

Dear Lord,
Thank You in the morning.  Thank You for the fresh start and the new chance to get it right, or get it close or at least to hope and try again. Thanks You for the blessings and the mercy that never ends.  Thank You Lord as Ordinary Time comes to a pause and the serious work of Lent is nearly on me.  Thank You for the breath and the beat and the song.  Help me to keep You in my heartsong. Amen

Saturday, February 6, 2016

What Do You Think?

When the house was built on sand, when the wall was never built strong and solid, when all is falling down around you, do you keep shoring it up?  Do you hunker down and let the bricks keep falling on you?  Does it destroy you bit by bit by bit as you hang on to security that never was?

Or do you take a step out, size it up, see if it is salvageable and then decide either to restore it or to abandon it?  And if it is the building above, you would say--tear it down.  If it was a person, you might say try to build him back up.  If it was a relationship, maybe you would say--it isn't meant to be.

Friday, February 5, 2016

The State of My Mental Health

Mental illness is a scary thought for most of us.  We rely on our brains, our wits, our minds to carry us through life.  We all of us come with some baggage--preferences, prejudices, some skew of reality or truth.  Perhaps the cause of it was the fall and our sinful tendencies.  I don't know.  I just know that mental illness is a scary thought whether it is personal, to a family member or friend or out there in the broader public.

I think metal illness wouldn't be so scary if there were an identifiable cause, a treatment, and a cure.  Some mental illnesses do have fairly simple diagnosis, treatment and management if not always a cure.  Figuring out that you have a problem, seeking help, finding the right help, and continuing to work at the problem even when it seems over or you seem better is the challenge.  A misstep in any of those areas often derails the well-being of an individual. 

Then there is the challenge of those mental illnesses that defy diagnosis or perhaps defy treatment.  Some people with mental illnesses don't really want a cure or don't want to do the work required to work on the problem, or don't believe that they have a  problem or if they did, that anyone could help them.

Our system is poorly equipped to help people with mental illness.  I know from excruciating personal experience that getting the right help is a painstaking and agonizing process.  I went to 3 different counselors/ therapists before my depression was diagnosed.   This is despite that the fact that I wept almost entirely through the sessions with the first 2 therapists. Wept, uncontrollably.  They were trained professionals and didn't think--this girl is depressed.The anti-depressant I am taking works great, I have few side-effects and I would and perhaps will happily continue on the medicine for the foreseeable future.

I am one of the lucky ones.  I was finally diagnosed.  I received appropriate treatment which was available for me.  I am still working with a therapist.  I am doing well.  The bumps in the road have become bumps again and not impassable mountains.  Some people are not so lucky.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Run, Run, As Fast As You Can.....

If only I had spent more actual time rather than figurative time running.  I was running away from feelings.  Running away from truth.  Ignoring, with wild abandon, logic and sense and reality.  I am a fixer and a please-er and a responsible one.  I was prideful.  I was confident that if I just tried hard enough, sacrificed enough, learned enough, gave away enough of myself, I could make things work out.  Or at least I could live with the consequences, find what serenity I could find and make the best of things.  If anything went right I was convinced in my own mind that it was now all better and everything would be coming up roses from now on.

Then somewhere along the way I got too old to run.  I got too fragile to handle and 'take' things.  I became weak and sad and confused.  I told God numerous times that His burden wasn't easy and His yoke wasn't light.  It was killing me.  I wanted to be rescued like I had so long tried to rescue others.  I needed help.  I could barely hobble along the path, let alone run. So I stepped off the path.

This isn't the life I had planned.  It isn't what I had envisioned. God showed me another way. Accepting this side path took me time.  I went to many people wiser than I am.  I was told that I would need all of my faith and trust and hope. I needed to turn my will and my life over to God. It required humility to let myself be in the position of one who is judged harshly and even despised.   Some people blame me for everything.  Some people would curse me and spit upon me if they could.  I am learning to unite those sufferings of mine with those of Christ.

I am not trying to run and carry everyone or anyone else these days.  The burden has gotten easy and the yoke is so light. Or lighter-ish.  For a while I thought since I have taken this side path, I would have nothing to share, that I was shame, I was the woman at the well. I thought that I should shut my mouth, close up my keyboard and slink away.

And I am, that woman at the well although  I intend to have no more husbands.  I have concluded that I am not a good or even reasonable judge of character.  Marriage for me was hard and sad and painful.  I don't look to take that journey again. Perhaps I am just not good at running with a partner.

But, the woman at the well, despite her poor choices, had something to share.  I don't want to advocate that anyone else take the road I am on.  It is hard and painful and rocky.  If there was any way I thought I could answer God's call and not take this path, I would do it.  I have tried to ignore God's message to me for nearly 40 years of my life.

But, it is important for me to be clear that I have not abandoned my faith.  I intend to investigate and work to heal with my church.  And perhaps someday my suffering will be recognized and acknowledged and perhaps I will remain a poor sinner throughout my life.  But, we are all sinners and none of us deserve the graces we receive.  Any one of us might be called out of our plans and sent on some other road.  Sometimes it is time to stop running and sit in prayer and adoration and let the God of the universe work in our lives.