Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Honesty of Children

We have been reading Old Testament stories recently. We've also read Egyptian and Greek myths and are at a place in history where Old Testament stories fit in.

We read about the fall. You know how the story goes. God creates this perfect world, puts a man and a woman in it, then plants a tree smack dab in the center of this garden of paradise. The tree is knowledge. God tells the man and woman they may not eat the fruit of that tree (that knowledge belongs to God only). But the woman, being a curious human who has a natural desire to learn (God given?), with a little help from that Old Adversary, eats the fruit. Then she wants to share it with her husband. (I like to share my new found knowledge with my husband, also.) Bad! God warned them. Now they have to face the consequences of their behavior.

They are quickly escorted from the Garden of Eden. Sickness, suffering, death, toiling all day for food come into the world. And the dratted woman who had curiosity and want of knowledge and started this whole mess by convincing the man to eat, got a double whammy. Henceforth women will have to labor in extreme pain to bring children into the world. But the biggest one of all? Bigger than sickness, death, hard work, labor pains? God takes away His grace. His very life, His essence. Humans are no longer born with His grace. The gates of heaven are shut and locked.

We read the stories from a children's Bible history, my girls narrated the stories back to me. They asked some questions, I answered. I DO NOT give my opinion. I let the stories stand on their own merit. When we were through with our reading sessions, Beatrice looks at me and says, "Mommy, that was really, really mean." Her big eyes were tearing up (she's my sensitive one - her twin - nothing phases her) and, "Why would God be so mean?"

She's only nine. She's honest. She says what she feels and thinks. She said what I've always wished I had the courage to say, but I haven't because I'm still scared of hell. However, aren't we to be like little children? Right? Okay.

So God, why oh why were you so mean? I think your reaction to the whole incident in the garden was a knee jerk reaction (do You have knees?), and no doubt You really regretted it almost as soon as you said it. Of course, if you want to keep the humans' respect and not have them questioning your rules every few minutes, you can't backtrack. (First rule of parental discipline.) So, after You inflicted this punishment on the entire human race, and were no doubt wishing You could undo it, You had to come up with some way that wouldn't lessen your position, make sure that your children continued to respect You and not question Your authority, yet give them an out. A Savior. But just to make sure they got the message, You make them wait thousands and thousands of years. Finally, You send your Son, Second Person of the Blessed Trinity to earth as a human. On earth, He will teach the people. Then He will suffer and die a most horrible, torturous and bloody death. Then, and only then, after this bloody sacrifice, can these humans, still suffering from the punishment You inflicted on that first man in a Godly fit of rage, be redeemed, gain Your grace and live with You eternally in heaven.

I'm with my daughter; that was really, really mean. Besides sounding like a made up story.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

My husband's bil has been fighting cancer for about five years. At first it looked like he might have it beat, but as is so often the case with cancer, it was still there, waiting for the right time to make a sneak attack. I'm not being flippant. That's the way it looks to me. He passed away a couple weeks ago, and we had his funeral last weekend. Tim and I drove north with two of his brothers and left the girls at home.

We were able to stay with his oldest brother and his wife in their cabin in the mountains. I always come back from there feeling as though I've touched heaven. His brother said he figures when he dies he won't have to go anywhere. Love his attitude. In spite of us gathering together to bury his bil, it was a good visit. All Tim's siblings (minus two) were there so there was a lot of visiting, eating, singing and reminiscing. We had a couple great conversations about life and all those big ideas.

On the other hand, it was a difficult weekend. Tom (bil) left behind his wife (Tim's sister) of 34 years and a son and his new wife. Tim's sister and her dh not only lived together, they worked together, built their business together, built their house together. Everything. She is going to be so alone. Such a helpless feeling knowing what she's going through and realizing how little you can really do. She had a lot of support the last couple weeks, but that will fade away. She does have a very active church group, and I hope they're there for her. The only family is the brother we stayed with. I can't even try to imagine what it feels like because it frightens me - being alone.

I have never attended a funeral like this one. After briefly talking about Tom's life, they spent the rest of the time telling everyone how they must accept Jesus as their savior; how nothing would make Tom happier than to know people turned to the Lord during his funeral; how the only way to paradise - if we ever want to see Tom again - is to accept Jesus. Then they asked us to pray 'the prayer'! We were preached to. Then the minister said if anyone accepted the Lord, to please let someone know so they could keep track. Keep track?

It bothered me - which probably says I have a big problem - which I do. We went there to celebrate Tom's life, not to be evangelized. It seemed that we were a captive audience and they took advantage of it. I felt offended. I don't like feeling that way. It was not guilt. It made me angry. But I don't want to feel angry towards anyone. I want to let people live the way they need to, wherever they are on their journey. It should not offend me. So I left the funeral realizing I still have such a very, very long way to go. For every two steps I take forward, I take one back. Or maybe three back. Alas.

So I've been pondering death, heaven, hell, salvation. Basically, driving myself nuts, as usual. I walked away from that funeral believing less than when I walked in. Not what the people in that church wanted. I would sure disappoint them.

How sad it must be to die believing that some people, family, friends, that you love dearly, you will never see again because they will be in hell. Just how depressing.

We are taking the girls on a short trip tomorrow, probably just one or two nights. The girls are so excited to be getting away; truthfully, Tim and I are pretty excited, too.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

My little girls are growing up. This has been a big weekend for them; one they've been looking forward to all school year. Aren't they sweet? Just a very biased mom here. Hmmm... the picture doesn't look right now that I've shrunk it. Oh well. They looked beautiful, they acted beautifully, they had a very special time. Fr. Bruno, our Tanzanian priest said Mass. He had all the First Communicants come up around the altar for the homily; he got down on their level to talk to them. Then during the Consecration, he again had the children come up and kneel around the altar. B.G. and Abby (B.G. is on the left, Abby on the right) volunteered to distribute and pick up collection baskets, a task they took very seriously. They children did the readings, prayers of the faithful and took the gifts to the altar. After Mass they went back up front and sang a song. Very sweet. The chidren are able to be so much more involved than back in my day. After Mass there was a reception in the church hall. Rachael's fiance was here this weekend, and he joined us as well as Hannah's boyfriend. Neither one of them are religious, but were willing to come along. I appreciated that.

Helping prepare them for First Communion and Reconciliation this year proved to be a struggle for me. I started off the school year saying, okay, if I'm catechizing my children, I need to believe what I'm teaching. So I went through this period of faking it. I fake it by saying 'I believe', 'this is the truth' when down inside of me I don't believe. Made me depressed. So I stopped. Put up the catechism (they get a little bit at RE) and just started reading stories. Spiritual stories, stories of justice and love. And just talked to them about love, justice, etc. No dogma, doctrince. I'm just not good at pretending. I can say, the church teaches this, but I can't say I believe this. I do share with them what I believe - just not doctrine so much. And I do love the traditions, the connections that I feel to all other Catholics out there, past and present. I love the liturgy. I'm not sure what I believe; if pressed, right now I would have to say I probably don't believe in the traditional understanding of the Eucahrist. I'm working on my own belief, what I can say 'yes' to. Oh well. Enough of all that for now.

Rachael and Dan came by so I will go talk to themf or a while.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Defeating Anger and Resentment

I've made some progress in getting the best of anger, resentment, bad feelings especially with my mother-in-law and my sister. Long stories there, and ones best left alone. Anyway, I always tried to bury anger and ignore it, but it was always there under the surface, seething, waiting for the right moment to boil to the surface. Finally, I just wallowed in that anger for a while: talked about it, wrote about it, worked through it, and finally, almost, have put it to rest. I've made my peace with my sister and my m-i-l. They are who they are, and I need to work on myself. Occasionally, something comes up that sparks those feelings, but I'm pretty good at looking at them head on and dealing with it.

But, there is this event, this thing, these certain people, that I have not been successful in any way with putting the resentment to rest. It's the one thing that haunts my conscience, slowly tears away at my peace. I know it, I know what it is, I see it, but Good God, I'm having a hard time getting over it. It involves what were a couple of very, very close friends, a son of one, a daughter of another, and my oldest daughter. I won't say very much out of respect for my daughter other than to say it involved abuse and betrayal of the worse kind. My daughter spent a year working with a therapist, and I still see so many unresolved issues that stem from this past event. Even worse than the abuse, was the betrayal of her very closest friend. It truly tore her apart, and she's still trying to put the pieces back together. But it's not the same. She is forever changed.

So when you hear the hardest thing to forgive or get over is a wrong done to your child, let me tell you, there was never a truer statement. I've been fighting this for three years. I'll do fine for a while; I simply don't think about them. But then I'll see one of them, hear something, and there it is again. Yesterday Tim and I dropped over at a friends and heard that the girl (dd's friend) is getting married. To the abuser of my daughter. I didn't think I'd make it out of the house. I was physically ill. All evening. Couldn't sleep last night. I confess, I want vengeance. But not really. I like to imagine it, but I don't really want it. Anyway, I hope I don't. It wears me down.

I think a lot of this comes from the guilt I feel. I introduced my dd to this family. I took her into their house. I let her meet their son. The son of a very good friend. A friend who was the most pious, most holy Catholic you could hope to meet. This family, I thought, could have been the poster family for what a faithful, serious Catholic Christian family should look like. Oh, how deceiving looks can be. If I could go back and change any one thing, it would be that day. But I can't. The damage is done. There it is.

Also tied up in this mess, is the mother of the girl, my dd's closest friend, the one getting married. Her mother was my closest friend. She was the woman that I shared the most with, opened myself up to honestly. When I shared with her my faith struggles, told her the questions I had, was honest, she moved away from me. She pretty much intimated that my loss of faith, my turning my back on Catholic doctrine was what was responsible for my daughter's trouble. Never could it have been the fault of the boy's family. They were such good, holy, pious, law abiding Catholics. But me, the heretic. You know. Anyway, not only was my daughter seriously hurt and damaged, betrayed by her closest friend, I also was betrayed my closest friend. Many, many emotions stirring around in this pot of anger.

I'm so ready to be through with this, over it. Anger tears away at your soul, and when it's destroyed you, it will start destroying all those you love. I know where I need to be; I'm just having a terrible struggle getting there. People forgive murderers, horrible, terrible events. This is probably small compared to those. I think I need to see the victim on the other side. When I'm being sane, I realize the boy was a victim of a sick, religiously fanatical mother. When I'm sane, I realize my friend was a victim of her own, big insecurities. I know these things. I know....

Take a deep breath, go outside, breathe the fresh air, take a walk. Let go.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

And Now, The Bad News

One thing first, before the bad news. Last night at Mass Fr. Steve centered his homily around Archbishop Oscar Romero. Fr. Steve either has excellent sermons or really bad sermons; he never seems to hit mediocre. This one was excellent. Of course, that's just my very biased opinion. It reminded me of a prayer written by Archbishop Romero that I used to keep tucked away inside my journal. When I looked for the prayer, it was gone, however, I found it on my computer. I think I will write in my journal tomorrow morning, and I will tell my children about Oscar Romero. Sadly, they didn't know who he was. They can name all sorts of saints, but they didn't have a clue who Fr. Steve was talking about last night. I'm ashamed. Oh, and the prayer...

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.

The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is even beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God's work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying
that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the church's mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted,
knowing that they hold future promise.

We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation
in realizing that. This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well. It may be incomplete,
but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for the Lord's grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results, but that is the difference
between the master builder and the worker.

We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.

Now, the bad news. Tim's last day of work will be April 30th. The prospects are bleak. Many local business have hiring freezes or are laying off, unemployment is growing. Several people he worked with have been unable to find any work over the last six months. Job prospects for an older, gray haired male with specialized skills in a field that has been largely outsourced doesn't hold a lot of promise.

Now the bright side of this bad news. We're okay. Really, we're okay. We've always lived simply. While others were getting a new monster SUV's every few years, I was driving my 10 year old Saturn while Tim was driving his 20 year Toyota PU. Instead of buying a bigger house, we stayed put and focused on simplifying even more. We enjoy our home so don't go out much. During the summer, the garden, orchard and picnics in the field satisfy us. In the winter, evenings in front of the fire with popcorn and a puzzle or a good book are great entertainment. The latest clothes, electronics, or whatever the newest fad might be, doesn't hold a lot of sway over us. We enjoy the simple. Also, we've known for some time that his job wasn't secure, so we've had time to prepare for this. We're okay.

Tim's got feelers out, but they're not feeling anything. He's eligible for unemployment, and he'll keep looking. Other than that, I'm looking forward to having him at home. The girls are looking forward to having daddy at home. And this is the best time of year it could happen, if it had to happen. Tim is a outdoor, nature boy. Nothing makes him happier than to dig in the dirt, and spring is just around the corner. He's looking forward to more gardening time and working outside. I'm looking forward to morning coffee in the orchard, walks together, time to sit and just be.

In the meantime, we're crunching numbers. and seeing where we are. Our retirement has taken a big hit, just like everyone else, but we have a couple ideas. By the end of summer, if nothing has come up, I'm going to start looking. Actually, I wouldn't mind part-time work if Tim was home. He would love, and I would love, for him to have the opportunity to be the 'on-duty' parent, while I actually wouldn't mind working. It's been quite a while. I know I can't get back into the field I was in, but I'm not picky and we don't need a lot.

And if I get to feeling sorry for myself, all I need to do is read the foreclosure notices in the paper or see the tent cities on the news. We have nothing to be sorry about. I keep all the homeless, jobless people in my prayers. If we all join together, in whatever little way, we can help everyone. Maybe just an extra can of food for the foodbank, or a kind word or smile. It spreads.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Happy News First

because I'm the type that wants the happy and good news first. Bolsters me up for the bad news later.

I don't talk much about my family here, but I wanted to write about something other than religion. I have five girls, ranging from almost 20 to 8 yr. old twins. I could fill up blog after blog writing about any one of them. This time, it's about my second oldest.

R. has always been mentally years older than she is physically. She knows what she wants, she makes a plan, and gets it. She is one of those kids that was 13 going 30. She has a sense of maturity that is in some ways more developed than adults I know. Perhaps she has an old soul. Of course, there are moments when she proves that she's still young, but then there are days when I prove that I still have much growing to do. She finished high school at 16 and started college that fall. She works part-time, is paying her way through school, has bought her own car, pays her own insurance and pretty much any extra things she wants. Can you tell, I'm proud of her.

Well, several years ago she met her 'soul mate', or so she claimed. Now, I don't really believe in instant soul mates, but she vehemently disagrees. She knew immediately he was her soul mate. For me, after 23 years of marriage, I know Tim is my soul mate. Maybe I'm just slow? At first, because of her age we didn't allow her to see him. Last summer though, I realized I couldn't stop her. (I knew all along I couldn't stop her, I just wanted to pretend I could.) By that time she was driving to work, school, making her own way, so unless I wanted to lock her up, she was going to see him. With or without my permission. Well, I'm not a parent that is all about control and proving I'm bigger or older or I get the last word. Relationships are more important to me; unless they are in danger, that is.

Tim and I met him last July for the first time. It was obvious that the feelings she had for him were returned. We knew he was probably here to stay and were preparing ourselves for some formal announcement. It just came much sooner than we expected. He proposed to our daughter last December. At the ice skating rink. He got down on knee and asked, "Will you honor me by becoming my wife?" The answer is obvious.

Our daughter is getting married this August. Yes, she is young. Very young. I was almost 25 when I married, Tim was two weeks away from his 27th birthday, and we thought we were young enough. That was us, though. This is another person. R. made up her mind. She is getting married. Whether her dad and I are there or not, she will marry him. She made her decision. Now it was our turn to make our decision. We could be those parents who stand their ground: you're too young, you don't know what you're doing, you're making a huge mistake and end up with months of arguing and hard feelings. Or, the biggie, he doesn't go to church, he's not Christian, or even worse, not Catholic; there is no way we will support you in this. Yes, I have several friends who would react that way. Oops, promised not to mention religion.

Well, that's not our 'ground' we're standing on. For us, it was a no-brainer. We will be there to give them all our support, encouragement, prayers and love. Dan will be totally accepted into our family circle. Cause that's the kind of parents we are.

The couple to be....

Don't they actually, sort of, look like soul mates? I keep wondering if they're going to get hooked - literally - but haven't seen any ripped noses yet. If you're so inclined, you could send up a quick prayer or energy or positive thoughts for Dan and Rachael. All couples can use all the positive energy they can get. I want them surrounded by positive thoughts and love.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

This morning while I was sitting in my favorite chair, cup of coffee by my elbow, and all the children still in bed, trying to clear my mind, this one particular memory kept coming to the forefront.

The summer of 2004 was, I think, the lowest I ever got. Mom passed away in 2001; sister went mostly bonkers; dad almost died, spent 2 mos. in ICU, 1 mo. in nursing facility and I nursed him for 3 mos. in 2003; dh's position was outsourced, he was scrambling to find a position, and was showing all the signs of being depressed; everyday was filled with stress and tempers; I was worried sick about a daughter; my faith was a mess although I was still playing the game; my best friend had all but deserted me over my faith issues since I had become a near occasion of sin for her. Bluntly, life was hell.

One day I escaped to the orchard with a glass of iced tea. I remember feeling totally defeated and ashamed that I was so easily defeated. Praying seemed so useless. Where was God? I remember clearly saying out loud, "God, where are you? Where can I find you. The real you; God in the raw."

God in the raw. I never knew where that came from - inside me somewhere, I guess. It almost sounded sacriligeous at the time. Yet, that's what I wanted. Needed. God in the raw. God untouched by human hands. An unanthropomorphic God.

I clearly remember that feeling creeping in that something was wrong with me if I didn't know God, if I couldn't find God. People for 2000 years had found him in the church, he was there, why wasn't it working for me. It was my fault. My heart wasn't open, pride was getting in the way, on and on and on. But this time I stopped that line of thinking; it always made me depressed. I considered the problem. I wanted God in the raw. Then I needed to go where man had not intervened. Not church, not the bible, not catechisms, documents, encyclicals. No, no, no. Man was in the middle of everything.

What I couldn't see for a moment was the answer staring me in the face; and then I saw it. Creation. It was all around me. Trees with fruit. Flowers growing wildly. That was as close as I could get to God. God's creation. From that day on, I looked on God differently, looked for him in different places. I refused to look for God in books or buildings or someone else's answers. Ever since that day I have been trying to trust the answers in myself. Many times I doubt myself and want to run to another source, accept it without question, let someone else define my faith. When I do though, that depression starts seeping in again. So I keep moving forward.

Looking back on that time, it sounds a little hokey to me. Seeing God for the first time in my Santa Rosa Plum tree (which was probably altered by man to produce bigger plums). It was a start though. Laughable or not, it was a revelation for me.

Oh my, I'm a mess. Are there other people out there this messed up over religion? Other people whose thoughts are sometimes totally consumed with religion, faith, God, salvation, heaven, hell days at a time? I hate it. How I envy people who can take what works for them and leave the rest behind. Me, I've got to do it all, no picking and choosing for me. All black and white. If 'this' is true,then everything else is false. It drives me absolutely nuts. I drive me absolutely nuts.

Anyway, that thought kept coming back to me this morning, and I thought maybe it was for a reason. Something left to learn from it. I have now written it out so I can come back later and re-read it. And probably see how ridiculous I am.

I envy my brother-in-law the somewhat aetheist. Life is so simple for him. I know, I know.....

Back to my St. Patrick Day preparations.

Friday, March 13, 2009


Do you see an overabundance of compassion? I see some, but I am also sadly aware of a lack of human compassion. "They messed up, they were stupid, now they need to deal with it." That kind of attitude. It's bothered me for quite a while, but with the economy in the mess it is, with people losing homes, losing jobs, not meeting monthly payments, I have noticed an increase in this attitude. "I would never have gotten myself into that situation; I'm responsible. People want to play, they need to pay." Why is it so easy in our pride to turn a blind eye to suffering and write it off as someone's stupidity, that they deserve unfortunate circumstances and misfortune.

I'm linking this back to my thoughts on original sin. Somehow I think this belief in a punishing God makes it easy for us to be punishing; paves the way for us to show our supposed superiority over others. Do exactly what I say, don't go against me, and I'll be your friend. Go against me, offend me, I'll leave you. Get on your knees and beg forgiveness and mercy, and I'll be your friend again. We're a lot like God, aren't we? Or is it that God is a lot like us?

Showing people who have made bad choices, used poor judgment, or just plainly haven't been 'as smart as I am' any consideration, kindness or wanting to help them get back on their feet is misguided compassion.

I guess I'd rather be guilty of misguided compassion than be guilty of no compassion.

I'm feeling down today. Sad. And more than a little ashamed of humanity. In my little circle, anyway.

On another note, my brother-in-law called and asked 11 yr old dd to spend the night with her cousin. Dd is ecstatic. She and cousin are the best of friends. But... there's always a but in things. But, brother-in-law is a fundamentalist, born again, evangelical, preachy minister. I ran out of adjectives. So, dd and I sit down and go over the list of topics that are off limits. No religion, no wizards, no spells (dd is still into all sorts of things magical), in fact, no fantasy anything, no dinosaurs (evolution, don't you know), no Obama, no, no, no.... What have I missed. Frankly, the girls would be fine if the adults would stay the hell out of it. But we adults have our hang-ups, don't we.

Monday, March 2, 2009

We are now a week into Lent and many thoughts have been swirling in my mind. For the past several years, my feelings about Lent have been rather ambivalent. That feeling of ambivalence has likely been due to a need to detox from my overly religious past.

For years I attacked Lent like it was my enemy, something that I must defeat. I searched for my deepest character flaws, gave up those things which brought me the most pleasure, and added on extra despicable chores. It was all about mortification. I remember meeting with friends to discuss how we could make this Lent better than all the previous Lents. Ideas ranged from eating only the scraps from your childrens' plates to giving up sex, praying a 15 decade rosary on your knees (that would be 20 now, right?) to covering your head in the house as a sign of submission to your husband. Yes, these were Catholic women. Ideas offered to our children, in addition to the normal 'give up candy', included sleeping without a pillow, sleeping on the floor, forgoing all books except school books, being silent until spoken to, etc. A family examination of conscience would include each family member confessing a sin in front of the family and doing a public penance. Are there still convents that do this? I remember thinking that a hairshirt and 'the discipline' would be suggested. It was all about mortifications, little and big. In the 20th century.

I did mention giving up sex to my husband to which he responded that you needed to have enough of something before you give it up so rather we should add more sex to our life for Lent. I was actually offended that he didn't take me seriously. 'Nuff about my sex life, or lack thereof.

Now all this was suppose to help you become detached from things of this world in order to live in God's Will. At the end of Lent, you would emerge closer to God, living more fully in His Will and not yours. You would know God better. I would emerge from Lent a few pounds lighter, or with a cleaner house, or some nasty chore that had been put off for months accomplished, but as to feeling closer to God, I can't say that was ever an outcome for me; neither did I know God any better. I recall so many conversations where friends would talk of what a blessed, holy Lent it was for them. How they felt they had died a little more to themselves and were living more in accordance with God. How their relationship with God was so much closer and holy. I would nod my head, say the right things while on the inside wonder why I was the only one that didn't have these holy experiences during Lent. After more than several years, I became very cynical and began to doubt the honesty of these friends. I became suspicious that they said these things because that's what sounded good. It made them more holy, more Godly, more pious. See what a nasty, jealous person I am? Instead of emerging from Lent a better person, I emerged a nastier person - on the inside, anyway.

Sometime after my mom's death when I started to take apart my faith (with the hope of re-building it from the ground up) I became totally disillusioned with Lent. And I quit. During this time I prayed and prayed - prayed to know God, to love God. I wanted what those other people had: this personal knowledge of God, this great LOVE for God. What friends said, I wanted for real. What I've found over the last eight years is something very different from what I thought I would find; indeed, what I've found is the opposite of what I thought the answer was. Yes, I knew the answer before I started looking. When that answer never came, and I screamed at God, "I give up", and that was when I started feeling God for the first time.

First off, I was always looking out there. You know, the God out there, up there. In church, in the Bible, in the teachings of Church Fathers, in the lives of the Saints. That God. An external God. Yes, I could have God's life inside of me, His grace, but I could lose that in a heartbeat. Sin. Yes, God was in other people, if they were open to Him, but then I constantly found myself in the trap of judging whether that person was open to God's grace or not. Yuck. So a God out there, a God that would come into my soul, but that would also leave me. No, that's not right. God would never leave me; I would leave God. Just as God doesn't send one to hell, but one chooses hell. Right?

Secondly, as I mulled over the whole Lent thing, I realized one thing that had bothered me the most was how individual it was. It was all about me. My holiness, my godliness, my salvation. People I knew, including myself, became so very introspective. It was all about me. Can I say selfish? Wow. That was sacrilegious. Lent and selfish are polar opposites, right? I don't believe I can even explain that statement, but nonetheless, that's how I felt.

So between looking for that God out there, hoping and praying for that God to live in me, and focusing on me, my salvation, my holiness, I came up empty handed.

A few years ago, Tim and I were watching a show on PBS. It was about women in Africa. It was heart wrenching. My gut hurt. At the risk of sounding corny, while watching that show I felt this incredible amount of love. And, the biggest realization of all? It was love for god, a spirit, a connectedness, a something. Or maybe it was middle age female hormones. Whatever it was, that was the starting of my journey towards knowing god. I had found god, not out there, but in there, in people. People so different from me yet so like me. The god in there, not out there.

Lent has been very different for me since then. It is not a time for me to get all introspective but a time for me to become part of this whole humanity thing, to connect with other humans, to love other humans. Sometimes I am amazed at this love I feel. Love for people; not God, the God, but just people, and that's where I've found god. Giving something up with an eye to solidarity with world is so much more inspiring and hopeful than giving something up in hopes of living in the will of an illusive, confusing God. In a world where we get upset when dinner is 15 minutes late, I now try to share a human connection, a human spirit with those who are lucky to get one meal a day. Looking for any little way to extend help, food, love to those who need our love most of all brings me closer to God than all the mortifications I could ever dream up.

Now I need to add a caveat to this: I don't believe you will find this rigid, puritanical attitude among the average Catholic in the pew. This is solely from my experience with traditional, orthodox (according to them) Catholics. For the most part, they were very disgusted with all the 'feel good nonsense' these 'liberal' priests were spewing from the altar. Many of them would freely admit they hoped and prayed to see the church return to her glory days, to the truth, and leave this modern heresy behind. I think many of them would be happy to wear hairshirt and use the discipline. For me, no thanks.

So, not only am I guilty of the sin of relativism, I am also guilty of the sin of humanism. Big sigh.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

My in-laws are still living: my father-in-law is 90 and mother-in-law is 86. They still live in the house where the family was raised; an old home sitting on 5+ acres. Some time ago they deeded over 4 acres to the children because the taxes and upkeep were more than they could handle with the understanding that the kids would keep the property intact while mom and dad were living. My father-inlaw is a saint. My mother-in-law - it's just hard for me to say anything. There's much bad water under that bridge. She is a difficult woman. At some point in my marriage I realization moment. My mil has problems, but somehow I had allowed her problems to become my problems. The amount of my energy that was spent with being angry, upset, offended, hurt, worrying about what she would do, would say, was draining me. So I made a choice to let her problems be hers and make my peace. Sometimes that literally entails my getting up in the middle of a conversation, making a lame excuse and leaving. Sometimes it has meant my not visiting my in-laws for several months at a time. It works. Also helping is her age; she just doesn't have enough energy to be miserable, difficult and cranky. So I can say I have reached a place where we have a fairly good relationship - something I didn't think would ever happen. There are still moments, but those moments aren't worth going over.

Along one edge of their property the bushes and trees are growing out into the street. They received a letter from the city some months ago, and one son trimmed up some of the branches. But the majority of the overgrown shrubbery remains. So this past weekend Tim, the younger three and I went over with nippers, saws, etc. to start the clean up. Now when you try to help my mil, you had better be geared up for battle because it will be a battle. In the old days, I would have thrown up my hands and said to hell with the whole thing. Now I don't do that. I ignore all the comments, the totally unnecessary remarks about my fil being lazy (remember he's 90 with a very bad heart), and every difficulty she can dream up. After a day of trimming, with very sore muscles and scratches up and down my arms, I will say it was a good day. We got a lot of work done, with a lot of work for next weekend, the girls had a blast building fairy houses in all the little hollows under the trees, we did a task that needed done, and I managed the whole day with a smile on my face. I am VICTORIOUS. I have conquered a nemesis, and it does feel good.

Other than that, on Monday I had an esophageal endoscopy. The procedure itself wasn't bad mostly due to the fact that whatever drugs they pumped into my vein put me to sleep, and they were able to dilate the area with the stricture. The downside is that I had no idea how much discomfort I would feel after wards. Today my throat is still extremely sore; swallowing is painful. Cool jello or ice cream feels best. The worst part? Today is Fat Tuesday, and it is our tradition to have lasagne, salad, french bread and cheesecake. This is so not fair. NOT AT ALL FAIR. Feeling very sorry for myself.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Sacred Places

My hearth. The center of my home. Here I find warmth and strength.

What is important
in Infinity?
Smiling flames.
What is important
in Eternity?
Climbing flames.
What is important
in Immortality?
Glowing flames.

~Sri Chinmoy~

Friday, February 13, 2009

Breastfeeding another's baby - Taboo?

Copying this from my other blog.

Have you all seen this video clip of Salma Hayek breastfeeding another mother's baby in Africa? Taboo or beautiful?

If anyone knows me, they know how I would respond. An absolutely beautiful, human, loving, gracious gift.

Would you do this?

Absolutely yes.

Would your husband be okay with it?

Absolutely yes. He would be my biggest supporter. What a darling he is.

I guess a lot of Americans think it's inappropriate, yucky, taboo. It's okay to run to the store and buy formula, or maybe possibly okay to pump breastmilk and feed the hungry baby that way. But to offer your breast - no. Here we are, America, leading country in the world, and we're offended by a mother using her breast to give succor to another's child. Let Victoria Secret models almost totally expose their small, pert breasts, but God forbid should a woman partially expose her life giving breasts to feed a baby. Yeah, let's keep breasts a sexual object, by all means, and never honor them for their highest purpose.

Scratching my head....

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Love: Feeling or Action

So, which is it. Feeling? Action? Combination of both? Or sometimes is it a feeling that keeps love going, and at other times it’s actions?

This rabbit trail was prompted by a discussion I was involved in about the mother of octuplets. Everybody was providing their opinions and judgments on the woman – mostly negative; then someone made the statement that she did not love her children. Her actions proved she only loved herself and not her children. Up to this point I had remained mute on the subject, but this statement brought me out of my mute state. I maintain that we cannot make that judgment regarding love. I’m not sure how I feel about it. I pretty much stay clear of that type of media so I’ve read very little about her. My first thought is that her actions were irresponsible. Human life isn’t something to play with just to satisfy needs. Beyond that, I’m not about to make a judgment on whether she loves her children or not. That I will leave to another judge, thank you very much. To which I received responses like these:

OH YES WE CAN! (In response to my saying we cannot make that judgment.)

Come on people, love is ACTION. It is NOT feeling.

It has nothing to do with how you feel.

The definition of love comes from the Author of Love, Who Himself is Love. God so loved that he GAVE. Love is not a feeling, it is action.

Guess I got told, huh? At this point, I backed out of the conversation. Well, after a couple little replies, that is.

I could say some things about this such as: actions can be false; judgments can be clouded by personal experience; judgments can be in error due to lack of personal information. I know someone very well, in fact, you could say I know this person better than any other person now living on this planet. If strangers were to cast judgment on this person based on sketchy information (such as what you get from the media), it’s very likely that judgment would be the same as the mother of eight received in this recent discussion; ‘she doesn’t love her children’. Yet I know for a fact, beyond a doubt, that she does love her children. I’ve witnessed her trying and fighting to do the right ‘actions’, but sometimes being so hampered by depression, instability, bi polar disorder, her actions would have convicted her. This is one of the reasons I will leave the judging to someone who can view us from the inside out.

Actually this question is something that has been on my mind recently. Over the summer I read several books on love/dating/marriage. These books were from a Christian perspective – primarily Protestant. The main point: our feelings cannot be trusted. Feelings are not stable, not reliable, they will trip us up and let us down. We need to use trusted sources such as Scripture (which is another whole discussion), authority figures God has placed in our lives such as parents and pastors with which to weigh these decisions of the heart and leave the heart out of it. I admit to being surprised at the number of my Catholic friends that totally agree with this perspective: you cannot trust your feelings.

This fits in with my faith journey because my journey is based largely on my feelings. I could substitute the word emotions or convictions of heart for feelings. I’ve been trying to look inward to see what outward steps I need to take. The few times I’ve shared this faith journey and my feelings with others, the advice I’ve received is ‘you cannot trust your feelings’. My feelings will lead me down the wrong path because they’re not reliable. I’ve been advised to ignore my feelings and rely on sources that I know are trustworthy and sound and cannot fail me. Such sources as the Word of God, the Church/Magisterium (which cannot err in matters of faith and morality), and other authority figures God has placed over me (spiritual directors, pastor, deacon, etc.) Simply put, be obedient to these as Jesus was obedient to Joseph and Mary and God, and you will be safe. Start following your feelings, and you could be falsely led. What they didn’t say, but what I heard is, if I follow my feelings/passions/emotions, I could be following Satan. Why following all those authority figures who are human with feelings just like is safe, but my feelings aren’t safe, is another discussion, too.

So this leads me to the question “where did this distrust of our feelings come from”. I am starting to think it is very connected to our belief in original sin.

I need to go attend a Little House on the Prairie tea party that my three little darlings have put together. More later.

Monday, February 9, 2009


Last year I was on a reading binge of non-Christian authors or, at least, not traditional Christian authors. I finished most of those with a rather cluttered and more confused, than usual, mind. I decided to stop reading that type of book for a while and just ruminate. In the background I kept reading as I could no more not read than I could go without water, but that was limited to fluffy fiction - some deeper and some pretty shallow. My sister moved last year and gave me a stack of books. After looking through them I picked up Wicked by Gregory Maguire, and in spite of myself, I was quickly hooked in perverse way. I didn't want to like it, in fact I wanted to hate it, and actually set it aside for a time, but being the weak creature I am, I had to finish it. Then of course, I had to read Son of a Witch.

For some unknown reason reading those made me want to pick up The Screwtape Letters; however, I found it just about impossible to turn the pages. Since I had been giving so much time to the other side, I figured I would try Mere Christianity. I forced myself to stay with that one longer. Sometimes I would nod my head and follow his reasoning. Then there were the times when I would shake my head at his reasoning. But then who am I to question Lewis' reasoning ability. Obviously I'm in over my head. Looking over my religious bookshelf I just didn't feel quite up to much that it contained. I suppose it could be guilt. I don't know. I have been reading bits and pieces of In Conversation with God by Fr. Francis Fernandez, The Imitation of Christ and Prayers and Devotions by John Paul II. Sometimes I find great help and motivation to keep trying, to stay true to the course. Then other times I just feel plain uncomfortable. Oh, I know, it's that good old guilt again.

What started this, I believe, is the fact that I'm preparing my twins for their First Holy Communion. We read, we talk, they ask questions, I answer. Sometimes when I'm answering I'm not sure I believe what I'm saying. Can anyone understand how hard a thing that is to admit? My girls are forcing me to face my questions again. On the up side, we've had some very good discussions and completed a few fun projects. They made a prayer book from beautiful old fashioned hold cards I have, a book mark for their First Reconciliation, and we are now working on a Mass book. They wanted to learn the rosary (shameful that this Catholic mother hasn't taught this prayer to her young daughters) so we have been working on it one decade a day. I haven't prayed the rosary since my dad was fighting for his life in intensive care six years ago. I've actually found peace in those prayers, but one decade is about my limit. My older daughter, 11 yrs., is wanting to learn the Angelus, so I've promised we'll start that. I love the beautiful, traditional Catholic prayers. They give me comfort and security. My husband got me a chain for my very special miraculous medal, so I have been wearing that. Again, I feel very peaceful about it. It's just the theology that gets me down. If only I could ignore it, but that's not me.

Then on the other hand I put When God Was a Woman by Merlin Stone on hold at the library. Oh goodness....

Oh, and I did watch a video about Hildegard of Bingen and am going to explore that further. Our library has several books about her.

In the meantime I picked up The Historian and am deep into vampire lore.

And I wish I could figure out how to format things here at blogger. The font is all wrong.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

It's been quite some time since I've blogged here; I still blog over at Xanga but sporadically at best.

I've been in hiding. From myself. The door in my mind that I started to let open over the last couple years - the door that lets questions in, questions that your mind has to mull over, think about, search out, then eventually look for answers, but those answers can lead you down very frightening paths - yes that door, well I've been trying to shut it. I think I knew intuitively when I first started to let those questions form in my mind, that there was no turning back; nevertheless, I've been trying to shut the door and go back to the status quo. Basically I've been faking it, pretending. I read somewhere that's what you do when you find yourself doubting; you fake it. Don't let the doubts in and continue to do everything you were taught to do whether you question it or not. Do that, and God will be faithful and reward your trust in time of doubt. Well, all it's gotten me is a major headache and the feeling that I could be on the cusp of depression. Pretending makes you feel lousy, it makes your insides feel torn up, it leaves you no peace, no contentment but constant turmoil.

I need to let the door swing open and face whatever the other side brings me. I need to be brave, but in truth I'm scared. I'm afraid of the other side. This side is so safe with it's rules and safety nets. The other side is unknown. I want to be able to trust in God's mercy, I want to feel safe in questioning and wandering and perhaps ending up somewhere quite different from where I began, but I find it so hard to shake those voices in my head. They don't leave me alone.