Posts Tagged ‘God’

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.

Stitches and Cones

Sometimes Sugar gets what we lovingly call “The Crazies.” When she gets The Crazies, she begins running full speed in whatever direction she is facing until she meets an obstacle (like the edge of our property). Then she’ll stop in a way that resembles a skier at the bottom of a hill, dirt flying everywhere, turn around, and start running in a new direction. A few people have independently commented to us that they think she might be part whippet, and to see her run, I wouldn’t doubt it. At full speed, I would guess that she’s running at least 25 miles an hour, maybe more. When she gets The Crazies, she is having more puppy-like fun than almost any other time. She loves it. But it doesn’t always leave her with the best judgment regarding her own safety.

So this last weekend during a bout of The Crazies, she got too close to something–we think the raspberry bushes are the culprit. I never knew raspberry bushes had such nasty thorns, but they do. But whether it was the raspberry bushes or something else, Sugar came in with a nasty gash on her hind leg (as well as a milder one on her front). It was pretty bad…I’ll spare you the gorier details, but needless to say I could see down to the muscle.  And our brave little pup patiently (and surely painfully) stood still while we poured iodine and bactine into it, never even letting out a whimper. It was obvious she was in pain, but I could also see that she trusted us to take care of her.

Despite our best efforts, it became clear she needed stitches. So she got a date with Dreamland and woke up to a stiched up leg and a brand new collar. The Elizabethan Collar bascially makes sure that she can’t lick the area, thus tearing out the stitches or introducing infection. She’s not happy about it.

The collar basically means that she can’t navigate in her usual way. She’s always bumping into things. She can’t sleep in her crate because she can’t move around the space with the collar on (and we can’t take it off at night because we can’t supervise her). It’s much harder to eat. She’s afraid to go to the bathroom with it on. Needless to say, it’s been the source of a lot of discomfort and fear for her. Sometimes I wish I could speak dog language, and then I could just explain how it’s for her own good, how it’s not a punishment, and how it’s not forever. But for now, I suppose, she just has to trust us even though we can’t explain.

I was thinking the other day about how similar this situation is to our own faith lives. How often do we go through periods of discomfort, of fear, of not understanding the purpose of things? How often do we just have to trust that God knows something we don’t? We all have Elizabethan collars in our own spiritual lives. We all have stitches that are healing, and God sometimes keeps us from licking our wounds for our own good.

Sugar would probably say that being in the collar is the hardest job. But as her “mom,” I have to say that watching her suffer and knowing that she doesn’t understand is pretty hard, too. I wonder if God experiences that? I think so–that God struggles with our struggle. That God’s compassion reaches out to us in those moments. And that God continues to assure us that there is a purpose for the discomfort, and that God will take care of us each step of the way.

My Valentine from God

Well, the sun has finally come out and melted all our snow, and my body has decided to respond joyfully by coming down with a cold. 😦 Therefore, I’ve decided to spend the day resting, taking vitamin C, catching up on episodes of “The Office,” and reading old emails from my first few weeks dating my husband.

It’s been four years–it seems like so long ago and yet it seems like such a small amount of time. I kind of divide my life into two sections: Before Rob (B.R.) and After Rob (A.R.). My B.R. years seem to blend together into a mish-mash of preparation, of God’s seed-planting years. My A.R. years seem to be when my life really began to blossom. When I began to become who I was meant to be.

I found this in an email I had written just 10 days after our first date:

I have faith that our paths have crossed with a definite purpose, like I said. There is work we are supposed to do, ways in which we are supposed to help each other. While I am doing my best not to “figure God out” and jump to the conclusions of what that means, I do have a deep intuition that at the heart of it all, we are here to help one another grow.

How my husband has helped me grow. I am stronger, happier, and more in love with life and with God than ever before. I truly feel like I have begun to live out my purpose on this earth, and he has become my partner in doing so. I feel so grateful, so blessed that he is the one that walks this journey with me. God knew so much better than I when he planned out this humble life of mine.

So, on this Valentine’s Day weekend, I’m actually most grateful for the Valentine that God sent to me in the form of a man. Through my husband, I have learned more about how to see the world with God’s eyes; I’ve learned more about how to love whole-heartedly, to be humble, to be compassionate, and to be courageous.  And I’ve learned that God shows the depth of God’s love in ways we could never even imagine for ourselves. That’s why I’m so glad that God never listened to my many, many plans.

Quick Check-In

Just a quick check-in from the winter wonderland of New Jersey. We’re out here on our annual holiday vacation visiting Rob’s side of the family, and having a great time. Hope you all had a wonderful holiday and are anticipating the new year with joy and hope.

Rob and I are preparing for a talk we’re doing on Sacred Simplicity on January 9th. I think I’m going to go back and check out some of my own meditations on the topic from 2008 (“The Complexity of Simplicity” Parts One, Two, Three, and Four)…regardless, we’re excited to be speaking together again. The last time we did a talk together was for an LMU retreat. We spoke to about 60 college students about Sacred Sexuality. I love speaking with Rob, and I think we make a great team. Now it’s just a matter of getting our thoughts organized on paper!

Finally, we’ve also been spending some of these last days of 2009 considering our blessings from this year and our hopes for the next. We’re excitedly thinking about our future garden, about ordering bees, about expanding our family (both animal and human). 2009 was quite an adventure, and now with our new homestead, I am certain that 2010 holds many memories yet to be made.

I love this time of year because of all the potential it holds. So many things held in the tension of hope and wondering.  So many opportunities yet unknown. Fears will be conquered, barriers will be crossed, all while we continue the journey of expanding ever-outward. So, as we journey together into 2010, I pray that we each have the courage to go willingly where God takes us. Sometimes that’s scary, sometimes exciting, but always blessed.

Advent

This wouldn’t be a proper Christian blog without an Advent reflection. It’s interesting–each year, I find that God leads me down different reflective paths for Advent, Lent, and the (non-liturgical) New Year.  This year I find my Advent has been centered around reflections of pregnancy.

Of course, I’m not blind to the fact that this is closely tied to our place in life right now: trying to start a family, praying each month that it is the month that we will become parents. But I also think that pregnancy is one of the most important aspects of Advent.

After all, our entire lives are filled with pregnancies. Man and woman, we are pregnant with dream,  goals, and hopes. We are bringing our co-creativeness to birth each and every moment. We anticipate.

There is an inevitability with pregnancy, especially as birth approaches: our whole lives are about to change, and it is only the passage of time that separates us from our lives now and our lives to come.  There is an unknowingness about pregnancy. Will bringing this change to birth be painful? Scary? Dangerous? Will I know what to do once it happens? Will I mess it up?

In Romans, Paul says that “the whole world has been groaning in labor pains until now.” Yes…yes. We groan as we go through the cycle of anticipation, pain, rejoicing, fear.  At the time of Christ’s birth, whole world was pregnant with the hope of better things, of God showing Godself, of peace. In some ways, Mary was not the only one pregnant with Christ. The womb of creation was in a state of preparation. Of anticipation. And yes, the delivery of this hope held it’s fair amount of pain.

But, like true childbirth, the glory of the miracle wipes away the pain of labor. The preparation and anticipation becomes critical, for once the child arrives there is little opportunity to continue to prepare.

This Advent, I consider the ways that God has placed me in a state of anticipation and preparation. This whole year has been preparing the way for our current state: this home, this town, this life. Now we are to prepare in new ways–plan the garden, order the bees, find places for the contents of boxes still unpacked, save our money, learn the community.

The cycle begins anew.

This is what Advent reminds us of each year: the ways in which God prepares our hearts, and our responsibility to continue to cultivate that state of preparation. Our lives serve as Bethlehem over and over again. Do we create space for God to be born within us? Or do we say “No room!”?

We Made It!

Move in day was last Friday. Well, technically, I suppose it turned out only to be move out day. At 7am, we picked up the truck, only to realize it was too small. I don’t know who from the UHaul website decided that a 3 bedroom house could fit into a 17′ truck, but it definitely wasn’t the case with us! We had thought that we had been doing well to simplify, but this was a wake up call. Things hiding in corners and closets…where did all the stuff come from? Regardless, it wasn’t fitting into the 17′ truck, and that was that.

With no larger trucks available, we ended up renting a second truck, the smallest available. Rob drove up the 17′ truck and my dad drove the smaller. Our loading crew consisted of me, Rob, my mom, my dad, and my brother. We had quite a bit to load:

Despite tireless work from our brave loading crew, we didn’t get done until around 4pm (I had hoped to be on the road by noon). The trucks had to drive up a bit slower because of high winds in the Antelope Valley, so I went ahead to turn on the heat and get the cats settled. The trucks pulled into the driveway at around 7pm, as a light drizzle began to fall from the sky. Although I was cold and exhausted, I was filled with joy as I waved to the caravan as they pulled into the driveway. We were home.

We knew we couldn’t start unpacking that late; it was dark, we were exhausted, and we absolutely needed food. So we backed the trucks into the driveway so they would be ready to go the next morning, and then went to enjoy the best pizza I had ever tasted. I’m not sure if the pizza was actually amazingly good, but I had probably burned 4,000 calories that day and was ready to eat anything!

Rob and I had reserved a hotel room for my parents at the Holiday Inn, and we decided to see if there were any extra rooms available. Luckily, there was a room right across the hall from them, and we settled in for our first night in Tehachapi (the cats stayed at the house–lucky guys!). Rob and I slept restlessly; I think we just wanted to be home! We woke up around 5am, showered and dressed, and went down to the lobby room for some morning coffee.

As the sun rose, we looked out the window to miserable weather. The wind was howling and the rain was pounding (did I mention the sign on the trucks that said they were water resistant but not water proof?). We decided to head to the house to check up on the cats. We’d meet with my parents in a few hours for breakfast.

As we got closer to the house, the landscape changed. The rain turned to snow. The wind calmed. The silence grew. All thoughts of anxiety left us as we drove down our rural country road…no anxiety could be sustained in such beauty.

A few pictures from our driveway:

And of the truck!:

The cats enjoyed the weather, too:

At around 9am, my family met us at a local restaurant and we had a hot breakfast while the snow came down outside. Lcukily, by 10am storm seemed to have passed, and by 10:30 we were unloaded the truck in dry–albeit cold–weather.

By 6pm, everything was unloaded and most of the kitchen boxes were unpacked. The bed was assembled and we had enough clothes unpacked to last us a day or two. We had made it–we were home.

I am so grateful to my parents and brother–without them, we’d never had been able to do it (especially moving the piano). I am so grateful to my husband–he was so patient and worked tirelessly. I know he must have felt some anxiety about starting a new job the following Monday, but no anxiety came through during the whole move. He was incredible. And I’m so grateful to God–for this opportunity, for this dream, for all the memories that are to be made here. There are more stories of affirmation that have happened this week, but for now, I’ll end the tale.

But, in truth, it’s just the beginning.