Archive for March, 2010

Finished!

We finally got the garden boxes finished. We dug the 6′ x 6′ holes, stapled gopher wire to the bottom of the boxes, and filled them back in with a combination of amended soil: 50% of our own soil (which tends toward clay soil), 25% green  manure, and 25% bumper crop compost. It was a lot of work, but now our garden plot is ready for the coming day when we can plant our seeds.  Now all of our boxes look like the box on the left side of the picture below:

The only real work left, other than actually planting the seeds (some of which we have started indoors already), is to lay down some gravel on the path and to paint the fence. Oh, I forgot: Sugar definitely helped too:

Unfortunately we probably won’t get much more work done this week. I’m starting my Spring Quarter tomorrow, so I’ll be commuting 2 hours each way to get to my classes. Then, on Wednesday, our 70 degree weather is supposed to turn around and change to snow. Yikes.

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Lamentations

It’s funny how sometimes God knows exactly what you need.

Turns out what I needed was the last thing I wanted to do. As I had mentioned, I spent the weekend in Anaheim at the Religious Education Congress. I had two big events on the schedule: I was coordinator for the Lamentations Liturgy on Friday night (a role which entailed a lot of planning, some same-day meetings, organization of all materials, and finally participating in a small choir) as well as a hired choir member for the Celtic Liturgy on Saturday evening. Even though the two events were on Friday at 9:30pm and Saturday at 5:15pm, respectively, there were plenty of meetings and rehearsals to attend in the hours leading up to each event. I knew it would be exhausting.

Usually when I arrive at Congress, the opening ceremony is one of my favorite events. It’s always filled with good friends, amazing music, fantastic preaching, and a lot of joy. This year I couldn’t shake the heavy darkness. I felt terribly sad on Friday morning. I didn’t want to be at Congress. I just wanted to be at home, in bed.

But as the day wore on, I had to step into the leadership role that I had come to fill. Which was a bit of a distraction. We heard a good talk by Ron Rolheiser, and we met up with some friends. By the time the Evening Liturgy of the Hours came around 5pm, I was feeling a little more at ease. I heard my friend Theresa preach, which was absolutely amazing, and we were able to catch up a bit afterward. My soul was nourished, and I was ready to coordinate the Lamentations service that night.

Something happened at the service. I started out worried that I wouldn’t be able to get everything done–after all, the service really was the brainchild of Bob Hurd, an icon in Catholic church music. I didn’t want to let him down, especially after planning together so carefully for the last few months. I had friends coming to sing with us, and I wanted to make sure they had everything they needed. I needed to set up the environment. The moments leading up to the service were hurried. And then it started.

As I started out saying–the last thing I wanted to do was the thing I needed most. The last thing I wanted to do was spend an hour lamenting. I didn’t want to think about sadness anymore. Yet the more I had pushed the sadness away, the more it had begun to eat away at my joy. Avoiding it wasn’t working. I suppose sometimes you just have to face the darkness head-on.

So, for an hour, I mourned. I mourned surrounded by good friends on each side of me. I mourned with the assistance of the same liturgical dancer who had danced at our wedding, only this time she was dancing the grief of Mary of Bethany after her brother Lazarus’ death. I mourned as we sang Taize songs, the same songs I had sung many times while leading Taize at LMU. I mourned, deeply and sorrowfully.

And when it was over, I realized that I didn’t need to cry anymore.

The next morning, it was as if everything had changed. The sun suddenly seemed bright and inviting again. I wanted to enjoy Congress. I wanted to spend time with friends. I wanted to dance. I wanted to laugh with my husband and do silly things. I didn’t want to be alone in bed anymore. I wanted to grab life again.

The wisdom of God is absolutely perfect. And God knew exactly what I needed to heal.  And life goes on.

Weekend Away

Tonight we leave for Anaheim, but Lord knows we’re not going to Disneyland (Disneyland is probably close to my least favorite places I’ve ever been). No, we’re going to one of my favorite gatherings of the year–the Religious Education Congress of the Los Angeles Archdiocese. It always takes place at the Anaheim Convention Center, and over the course of the weekend there will be over 200 speakers, 300 workshops, lunchtime and evening concerts, 12 different Masses, a Lamentations service, a Taize service, and countless other activities. Over 40,000 Catholics from every state and multiple countries across the world come to this conference. It’s a place to meet up with old friends, make new ones, and get a IV shot of God-talk and Spirit-juice. This year we’re signed up to see speakers like Ron Rolheiser, Jim Wallis, and Sr. Helen Prejean (author of Dead Man Walking).  I’m really excited.

In addition to the workshop, Rob and I will be blessed to sing with both Bob Hurd and Liam Lawton at two different liturgies. It is certain to be a blessed distraction from the struggles of the past few weeks, and it may even serve to bring us some of the comfort we’ve so needed.

The Religious Education Congress is doing something really cool this year: they’re streaming some of their events live. I’d like to invite you to check out some of their events…here’s the info straight from their website:

This year we are thrilled to invite the global cyber community to join us in our first-ever “live” webcast! Know someone who can’t make it to Congress? Invite them to experience the outpouring of grace and enthusiasm right here on the web at our new “live” page — www.RECongress.org/LIVE.

Join us for the fun and excitement beginning Friday, March 19 at 8:30 am PST as we stream “live” from the Anaheim Convention Center Arena, culminating with our Closing Liturgy on Sunday at 3:30pm PST.

RECongress.org/LIVE Schedule for Friday, March 19, 2010
8:00am-8:30am Convention Center Arena
8:30am-9:30am Opening Rite and Welcome
10am-11:30am Workshop: Ronald Rolheiser, OMI: “The Abundance of God and Philanthropy of the Heart” (Session 1-19)
11:45am-12:30pm Concert: The Jacob & Matthew Band
1:00pm-2:30pm Workshop: Rev. R. Tony Ricard, MTh, MDiv: “Why You So Crazy? Developing the Faith of a Fool!” (Session 2- 23)
3:00pm-4:30pm Workshop: Matthew Kelly: “One Dynamic Catholic” (Session 3-16)
5:15pm-6:45pm Liturgy: Jazz Liturgy, J-Glenn Murray, presider; music by John Angotti and Meredith Augustin
6:45pm-7:45pm REPLAY: Opening Rite and Welcome
8:00pm-10:00pm Concert: “Friday Night LIVE Rock ‘n’ Praise!” with John Angotti and guests Meredith Augustin, Cliff Petty & more
RECongress.org/LIVE Schedule for Sunday, March 21, 2010
2:00pm-3:00pm REPLAY: Highlights of the “Friday Night LIVE Rock ‘n’ Praise!” Concert
3:30pm-5:00pm Closing Liturgy

But it doesn’t end there … videos will remain available for 24 hours after the event on our YouTube channel.

Have a blessed weekend, and I’ll check in on Monday after we’ve returned back to sunny Tehachapi.

Knee Day

A couple of years ago St. Patrick’s Day ceased to be a day for green beer and pinching–at least in our family.  March 17, 2008 changed the course of events in our calendar, overwriting St. Patty for the evermore infamous “Knee Day.”

This was the day of my second ACL reconstruction. The final ACL reconstruction, my orthopedic surgeon emphasized. A day that would ensure that I wouldn’t have the recurring pain of bone-on-bone (I have no cartilage or meniscus in that knee, either) or the uncertainty of whether or not my knee would hold together during a fall. The knee reconstruction was also a reconstruction of my future.

Today I’m thinking a lot about my life just two years ago, on Knee Day. Our lives were so different. I hadn’t even started seminary yet; in fact, it was my recovery after the reconstruction that brought me back to theology and study. We didn’t have any intention of moving out of Los Angeles, and backyard chickens were for quirky people who baked their own bread and probably their own granola, too.  Tehachapi? Where was that? And I guarantee that a dog wasn’t anywhere near my husband’s radar.

Today, exactly two years later, I’ve changed the course of my career (or, rather, my vocation) and Rob has changed to a new job that we hope we’ll some day be able to work him out of. We own not only our own home, but the acre and a half that surrounds it. There isn’t the sound of planes or traffic in the morning; rather, there is the silence of a still sunrise…just before a chorus of birds sings its hymn to welcome the day.  I know how to demolish and reconstruct a bathroom. I know how to plant a garden. I’ve had to clean dirt out from under my nails more times that I can count. We’ve expanded our family to include our sweet dog Sugar, and on April 16th we’ll welcome a hive of bees. We’ve planted a cherry tree, an apple tree, an almond tree, asparagus, blueberries, boysenberries, and grapes (syrah, merlot, zinfandel, and chardonnay).  We have lavender seedlings started, and the seeds for our garden are simply waiting until the threat of frost passes soon. We have cows that frequent the hill behind our house. Neighbors always smile and wave when they drive by. We don’t have cable anymore. In fact, we haven’t even unpacked our television.

Life is very different.

The past week or so has been filled with grief, but today I want to focus on the joy. The gratitude of what we do have, rather than the pain of what we lost. I honor that pain, but I need to feel normal again. I need to remember that pain isn’t the sum of this story. It’s only a chapter. And it’s certainly not the final chapter.

Thank you, Knee Day, for reminding me that my life is continually undergoing reconstruction. The recovery can often be painful, but the fruit of the experience is sweet.

These Are Some of the Ways I Heal

Unloading and stacking 8′ beams of wood…

Planting apple and cherry trees…

 Putting the final touches on our fence and getting it ready to paint…

Getting our raised beds ready for planting…

Watching the land anxiously as it foretells of Spring…

Spending quiet moments with my husband.

Miscarriage

I thought a lot about whether or not to post about such a sensitive and personal topic. But in the end, I decided that this is a blog about seeking the sacred–in the joyful and terribly painful moments of life. I’ve written a lot about joyful things–although every once in a while I have shared my grief with you. This, I think, is one of the most important moments to do so. I need to remember that the most sacred thing–the love of God–is present through all the happenings of our lives. I need to remember that here, in this moment of grief, the sacred need not be sought. It is here.

Rob and I have been trying to get pregnant for many months now. I was told that it might be a little more difficult for me to conceive because of some hormonal imbalances, but so far we have not taken any extra measures. We’ve been relying on love and prayer, hoping it would be enough to happily surprise us with a child.

Last Saturday I was wondering if something was up. I was four days late and my temperature had stayed elevated–pretty big signs that I might be pregnant. We took a test, and much to our surprise and delight, it was positive! So we went out and bought another one, just to be sure….also positive. We were ecstatic.

Sunday morning came. We took another test just to be sure. But his time the test was negative. I was devastated. How could it be positive and then negative over night? It was 4am and I was crying. Rob got up, held me, made a special breakfast, and then assured me that we were going to buy another test. Which we did. And it came up positive.

At this point I wasn’t sure what to think, but I was certainly feeling pregnancy symptoms. All day Sunday I was feeling mild cramps and nausea. I made a doctor’s appointment for the next morning.

I went in at 9:20am Monday morning for a urine test. It was negative. I burst into tears. The doctor immediately decided to do a blood test, and after 2 more hours I had gotten my blood drawn STAT at the local hospital. She called me with the results around noon, saying that my hCG levels indicated that I was pregnant and that it had been 2-3 weeks since conception (which is considered 4-5 weeks pregnant by the way the doctors date it–I know, it’s weird). I needed to come back on Wednesday to have my blood drawn again. The numbers needed to have at least doubled by then to indicate a viable pregnancy.

So yesterday I went back and had my blood drawn. This time the doctor didn’t call until 6:30pm. I don’t know if it was because she was busy or because she wanted to wait until my husband might be home. Regardless of her reason, in many ways I’m glad she waited, because Rob was indeed home to hear the news with me. My levels had dropped by half. I was going to miscarry at a little over 5 weeks pregnant. 

So now its just the waiting game. We know I’m miscarrying, but nothing has actually happened yet. My pregnancy symptoms have disappeared, but other than that, I’d never know I was going to miscarry. But I do know. It’s just a matter of time.

Where is the sacred in all of this? How do I find God in the grief?

The sacred is in my husband–my wonderful, loving husband who slow dances with me in the kitchen, who draws me baths when I don’t feel well, who reads to me before we go to bed (Scripture, books about chickens, books about bees, gardening books, you name it), who makes me a special breakfast for no reason at all, who holds me at night and says “I love you” even in his sleep. My husband is the biggest, most blessed reminder of the sacred in my life.

The sacred is also in my family–both mine and Rob’s. We told both parents right away, and both mothers brought me indescribable comfort. I supposed I recognize that in trying to become a mom I am signing up for a job that is a lifetime commitment. Thank God for moms and dads.

I’m finding the sacred in my animals and the land that I tend. Midnight, Easter, and Sugar aren’t children, of course. But I have promised to love them and care for them their whole lives, just the same. And right now, caring for them is very, very comforting.

Finally, I’m finding the sacred in hope. I know that we are a people of hope, and I hold that hope even in my broken heart. As Romans 5:3-5 says: “Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts.”

So…I’m sorry that I didn’t really write much this week. My heart was too full. But I felt that it was important to share this very personal experience because, well…it’s not just the happy times in which we must seek the sacred. We need to seek it in the sad times, too. 

Or perhaps it’s the sad times when we don’t have to seek it at all. We just need to trust that it’s there.

Another Mentor

The Jesuit who has been the president of LMU for the last 11 years has announced he will step down at the end of Spring term. During my time at LMU (1998-2002 for BA, 2002-2005 for MA), he served as a mentor for me. I didn’t always agree with his decisions regarding the direction he took the university (I would have preferred it stay a little smaller), but I loved his theology and especially his homilies. I appreciate his role in my life.

One of my friends transcribed a quote from a Baccalaureate homily a few years back. I would like to share it with you, because it touched my heart–and who doesn’t need to heed this advice!

“My advice to you is not to put too much weight in your worries, and even not to put too much trust in your plans. Trust rather in yourselves, and trust even more than that, God. The God who loves you more than you can ever imagine, the God who will always be with you on your life journey, often at your side, but occasionally out in front, leading you into unknown and magical places where you can become even more fully yourself and love in your own particular and wonderful ways. And when that happens, and as that happens, my guess is that you will discover, much to your own surprise, that you have indeed become a light to the world.” ~Fr. Robert B. Lawton, S.J.