Friday, April 29, 2011

The Easter Alleluia

The long awaited Easter week/Spring Break is here! I was chatting with my friend G- whom I often mention in this blog since she is a fellow blogger and member of my women's group- on Holy Saturday about how this Lent wasn't perhaps the biggest success for us in terms of successful sacrificing. I remember last year just being so relieved that Lent was over because I had delved so much into my fasting.

This year, it has been an anticipating of Easter in a different way. Not just for Lent to be over, but so that the celebration and rememberance of the birthday/Triduum/Easter could begin!

I've already mentioned how Triduum turned out just as I had imagined it. I ended up going to the Easter Vigil at my parish on my own and then meeting up with my parents for Easter Sunday morning Mass. I was glad I went to the Vigil. It is my favorite part of the liturgical year for a reason. So much drama, so much meaning and symbolism. And we get to welcome new Catholics to the Church! I think that element of community is so important. I like to be a part of that Welcome Committee, if not the chairman ;)

Easter Sunday was spent with my parents and a childhood friend who happens to live in DC with his wife. The Easter eggs above are ones we dyed on Easter Sunday after Mass as part of a tradition his family has and my parents and I got to take part in this year. (My mom won the contest with her extra-special 'dinosaur egg' which you may be able to spot above ;)

I'm writing to you now from Florida after watching the Royal wedding (hence the random picture above. I'll get to it in a moment!). Our week has been mostly perfect with the exception of rain today (hence the blogging instead of beaching!) I've gotten to live my Easter Alleluia and my first week in my 30s in style: Beach/Pool by morning, lunch, then more pool or beach, then dinner, then hot-tub, then bed! I hope this routine is a foreshadowing of how my 30s are going to go ;)

My friend who is here with me and I are both single women and marvel at how God has blessed us with the ability to be down here in FL, take in sunsets and beautiful weather, and to be mostly stress free. While we certainly have moments where we watch the sunset and wish the other were perhaps a member of the opposite sex at that moment, we are grateful to be able to live the lives we have even if they don't include a husband or a baby to include in our Facebook profile picture at this time.

We are staying at a place that has mostly retire-ees or 'snow birds' down here for the winter. They are cute and do their water aerobics by day, dinner and dancing by night. One night in particular this week, they were throwing a huge bash! My friend and I were in the pool for the sunset and we could see and hear all the old folks dancing to Sinatra (and even Johnny Cash! win!).

We had what my other friends E and L like to call "ovary-exploding" moments- moments where the cuteness and our feminine sides just overwhelm us. We swoon and can't control the coos and awwwws of the overwhelming adorableness happening before our eyes. I try to be tough, but the old couples dancing to tunes asking if they could "have this dance for the rest of their lives" was just too much. I had to remove myself from the situation and get another cocktail stat.

Watching the Royal Wedding now isn't helping 'the situation', perhaps. I mean, Prince William was every girl my age's dreamboat! We had pictures taped up into our lockers, etc, etc. Now throw in Alexander McQueen dresses and this is easily any girl's dream if I can make such a generalization.

Like the old couples dancing the night away, though,the Royal Wedding makes me think of the serious commitments these couples are making for each other for the rest of their lives. And that life long commitment can be just the thing to keep those ovaries in check. I mean, together for life is a LONG. TIME. When I think about it: Queen Elizabeth is still keeping it real on the royal throne. Then it's Charles, THEN Kate and Prince William will get to do their thing IF they are still together! (which is a horrible thing to say, but Charles and the late Diana couldn't even keep the fairy tale for too long.) There. The ovaries are deflating now.

And so quickly I become more like a dude. Guys are stereotypically more afraid of these life-long commitments while we women tend to dream of it. Clearly, a nice realistic approach to life and romance and its challenges is probably the best way to look at marriage. Not with an ovary based bias or lack their of.

I know I've talked way too much about lady parts in this blog post and I apologize. A week with cute old couples and sunsets will do that to you...if you are a girl, I suppose.

Back to my old cyncical self next week I promise you! AS for now, the sun looks like it may come out today! Imma turn this fairy tale mess off the TV and get back to the reality that IS my life as a fabulous single Catholic teacher on Spring Break! Huzzah!

To the life long promises and the freedoms given to us by God no matter our state in life-

Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Triduum + Thirty = Three Days of Awesome.

So it is finished- my 20s :)

The start to this year's Triduum has gone pretty according to plan (heh. I mean, the events of the Triduum were kind of an ordained plan. That's how Triduum works)- but here I mean MY plans (at the risk of sounding kind of obnoxious). I finished out the week with my last grad class of the semester and also said goodbye to the kiddies I teach as we head into SPREAK BREAK! FINALLY!! (Some of my students brought me cupcakes on Thurs, too, which was very sweet :)

My parents rolled into town on Holy Thursday and came over to join me for Mass and my 30th birthday celebration in the "upper room" of a bar here in DC :)

I was really humbled by my friends and family who came to celebrate. I had friends there from my 30 years of life: friends from first grade, high school, college, my years as a youth minister, and my current besties.

Also, as anticipated...I celebrated QUITE well and needed to rest on my actual birthday- Good Friday. But I like to chill on Good Friday. Keep it solemn and simple. I'm a traditional kind of girl in that respect.

Yesterday, my parents joined me for lunch (and by joined me for lunch I mean brought me a sandwich and gatorade as I sat in my pajamas :) and then we went to a Good Friday service. The service we went to was one here in Silver Spring. Not my parish, but one I had been to when I celebrated Triduum by myself here in DC a couple years earlier. The service is really well attended, starts at 3pm (I like my Good Friday services to start at 3pm. It's a thing I have) and is solemn yet prayerful.

This year, the thing that struck me the most about the service was the people. The veneration of the cross is my favorite, and watching people come up to honor it was striking to me. Young and old, all bowing down to give honor to the God that we love. Christ truly unites us.

So this Triduum has had a communal focus for me so far, as well as liturgy done well. The Holy Thursday Mass we went to in DC was long, but really traditional- lots of sacred music, the washing of the feet of the parishioners, and my FAVORITE part- the Pange Lingua and transfer of the Eucharist. I just always imagine us going to the garden with Jesus to pray at that moment.

My fav Holy Thursday (well, I have two...who does that? I'm such a nerd) was once in high school (or maybe I was home from college) and at my family parish in OH where a friend from high school youth group and I got to have our feet washed. My parish back home makes it a point to have young and old- really different representations of people in the parish- to get their feet washed. And that was signficant for me at that time in my life.

My other fav H.T. was when my bestie from Ohio and I were in Spain. The Mass was sadly not that well attended, but it was in this big old Church and the transfer of the Eucharist was particularly powerful for me. My friend and I stayed there praying for a while and it was just cool to be in another country doing the same things we would do at home, to have my friend there, and just really experience the universality of the Church.

This year's Holy Thursday will now have a rank with those top 2 ;)

Today is Holy Saturday and my parents and I are probably still taking it easy today. I haven't decided if I will go to the Easter Vigil tonight. We all know it's my FAVORITE but I don't like to make other people sit through it whom haven't written disertations about it like I have :)

Easter Sunday we are celebrating at the same Church we went to for Holy Thursday Mass and then going to brunch at a high school friend's home here in DC. It will be nice to have a piece of home to celebrate the feast with me here in DC.

I'm liking this communal aspect that is starting off my 30s- being surrounded by people I love is definitely a way to celebrate new life ;)

On a slightly sadder note, the tales of woe with our house continue. Remember the winter of no heat? Well, I came home on Wed from work to water in our basement. Our landlord sent over someone right away to fix the water tank which was leaking, but the damage had been done for my poor roommate whose room is IN the basement. The carpet in her room got soaked and is still wet and smelly :( So she is moving out!

We were planning on going our separate ways this summer anyways, but now it looks like we will be splitting up sooner. So 30 will be bringing me a new adventure in finding a new place to live! Anyone relocating to the DC/Northern VA area??? :)

I will also say goodbye to my parents after Easter brunch on Sunday and add the last items to my suitcase before I leave for FL on Monday!!! Yeah!!

30 certainly rocks! Get ready for obnoxious beach text and tweets in the week to come!

And thanks again to all who made my entrance into my 30s special.

Blessed Triduum and Easter!!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Selling the Drama Part 2

In thinking about Palm Sunday and its liturgy, I really had a lot of the same thoughts as I had last year. I love the role playing. I love the traditions. I love the drama and the stories. I just wish we could be that passionate about the Passion everytime we go to Mass since we do, essentially, always remember the same thing- the Paschal Mystery- Christ's Death, Resurrection, and Ascension. But I said that already last year :)

I got to go to a Seder meal this weekend which was cool for many reasons: 1.) it was celebrated with some of my favorite people! 2.) I teach Old Testament and actually taught about Passover and the practices of the Seder with my students. 3.) You might also remember last year how obsessed I was about how our rituals are based on Jewish traditions.

The Passover Seder does have much in common with our Holy Week liturgies. Almost all of the things I mentioned above: the stories, the drama, the role playing, traditions ("Tradition!" even ;) And there's just something beautiful about remembering our history and our salvation; the fact that we are free in many ways because of our forefathers and because of Christ. (AND I found the 'Afikomen' at the supper and won a PRIZE. Passover rules. Easter bunny, eat your heart out. )

The Seder supper and Palm Sunday liturgy are reflective of my life in many ways right now. There's so much going on in them that I don't know what to focus on! That's kind of how I feel about this week. It's all GOOD stuff- last week of classes before break, last grad class of the semester, my birthday, the Triduum, preparing for vacation! Phew! But it's a lot!

So Sunday at Mass, while I was able to enter into the Passion play and the readings, I didn't know which part of the readings really stood out to me the most. I don't know what I'm supposed to be reflecting on STILL as I enter into this last week of Lent and this last week of my 20s.

I guess if I could pick something to reflect on from today's readings that struck me was that Jesus did everything to fulfill prophecy. He really explains everything to them and to us. For example:

Then Jesus said to them, “This night all of you will have your faith in me shaken, for it is written:I will strike the shepherd,and the sheep of the flock will be dispersed; but after I have been raised up, I shall go before you to Galilee.” (Matt. 26)

And Exhibit B:

At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to seize me? Day after day I sat teaching in the temple area, yet you did not arrest me. But all this has come to pass that the writings of the prophets may be fulfilled

And even regarding poor Judas (who is the subject of a new Lady Gaga song, btw, but that's another blog for another time):

That is why that field even today is called the Field of Blood.Then was fulfilled what had been said through Jeremiahthe prophet,And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the value of a man with a price on his head, a price set by some of the Israelites, and they paid it out for the potter’s field just as the Lord had commanded me.

It's amazing how many prophecies the Lord fulfills and yet the people (and ourselves) still don't believe or trust him.

So perhaps that is something I can take with me as I go into Holy Week and the Triduum. Our salvation history is good, though it has it's ups and downs. God proves over and over throughout it how He provides and takes care of us, despite us getting off track.

And Jesus fulfills so many prophecies. Perhaps in my 30s some prophecies and promises will be fulfilled :) Though he has so clearly provided and kept promises throughout my 20s too. I don't even know right now what the future could hold. Maybe prophecies will be revealed!

The possibilities are endless. So, ready or not- here comes the drama of Holy Week and I say goodbye to the drama of my 20s!

That is one promise/prophecy I know will be fulfilled :) PS- When I looked for pics/fun things regarding 'drama' urban dictionary's definition is this:

"Something women and especialy teenage girls thrive on. consisting of any number of situations that have an easy solution, wich would bring a fairly good outcome, but these girls choose another, sh***, bad way to deal with it, again consisting of backstabbing, blackmailing/gossiping/betraying their friends, or the all-too-common "I want to break up with him but i still love him!" it drives men and what i like to call "normal" girls nuts."


Good-bye 20s! Hello Holy Week and 3-0!



Sunday, April 10, 2011

Oh, and I HAD to share this pic perfect for the 5th Sunday of Lent! I love it! Thanks, S! ;) Oh, the holy humor...HA!

OH, HEY THERE, 5th Week of Lent!

Just as I've finally been able to catch up with myself and feel all things are right in the world again, Lent is winding down! 2 more weeks 'til the big 3-0 and EASTER. The most important being Easter, of course :) Though I did find a cute party dress for the bday celebration!

The readings today were very Easter-y all focused on the Resurrection and stuff. The first reading from Ezekiel had me at: "I will open your graves and make you rise from them." Oh, I see. Easter is almost here. Thanks for the reminder! I will make these last 2 weeks COUNT.

I'm also making April count as we talked about last week. I just got back from a weekend in the mountains with some of my favesies to celebrate my friend E who just turned 30. We did as we usually do- we detoxed (spa) then we re-toxed with beer, wine, and the like. It was a fabulous weekend!

Above: Girls making margaritas at our mountain hideaway and Veritas Vineyard. Fun fact: Veritas means 'truth'. I believe this is a fitting name for a winery. Why? Because I love wine. Truth. See what I did there?

Weekends like this weekend bring me back to life in many respects. One- the massage I had at the spa was AH-mazing! Fact: I want my feet rubbed with hot stones ALL of the time. Two- being with friends away from the hustle and bustle makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. The alcohol also helps.

So it is fitting that the readings are switching gears towards the Resurrection as we begin to transition to spring FINALLY and the new life that comes with Easter (and Spring Break!)

The Gospel reading today was one of my ultimate faves: the raising of Lazarus. I write and speak about this Gospel passage ALL of the time I'm pretty sure. I had heard it preached on back in college and it kind of changed my life. Or at least the way I looked at myself.

The shortest verse (I believe) in the Bible (0r at least the New Testament) can be found in this story of the raising of Lazarus: "And Jesus wept" (John 11:35). This was also the verse that I held near and dear to my heart for so long because of what the priest had said about it in college. Jesus wept for his dear friend Lazarus showing how much he truly loved him. The priest pointed out that Jesus would do the same for each one of us and for some reason that moved me. Knowing that Jesus loved me and would be so moved if something happened to me as he was for someone he walked and talked and spent time with like Lazarus made me grow in the self-love that I was lacking at the time.

This Gospel has come to mean more to me, however, in recent years. I've paid more attention to Mary and Martha and their reaction to Christ in this story. Christ and Martha have a very interesting and important exchange in which He tells her He IS the "resurrection and the life." He himself hasn't been resurrected yet, though, so Martha can't possibly yet know what this means, but she believes. I've also been taken in the past by Lazarus himself- the stench and all- that he truly had a second shot at life and how amazing this must've been for him and his family.

Today I was struck, though, by what Thomas says. Jesus says he wants to go back to Bethany- where he is wanted and has had his life threatened- because Lazarus is ill. The disciples think he is crazy to go back to a dangerous place where they just came from. Thomas, however, says something to the effect of: "let us go to die with him." Wanting to put his life on the line with Christ and for Christ. However, we know Thomas is the one who doubts the Resurrection.

So Thomas is willing to die with Christ, but not rise? Why is the resurrection the part, for all of us it seems, that is more difficult to believe? We know death is real. Suffering is real. We have experienced it. The joy that comes after, though, is sometimes hard to see or believe when we are in the midst of the suffering (as Thomas was, since he had just seen Jesus suffer and die when he had heard of the news of the Resurrection).

Well, even though I perhaps haven't taken advantage of the redemptive suffering and discipline of Lent as I should've this year, I am ready to focus on the rising :) Seeing certainly is believing- but may we have the faith that Thomas lacked even without seeing just yet.

And may we allow ourselves to rise which also seems to be difficult. We try to keep ourselves and others down. When Jesus tells Lazarus to "come out" of the cave, the dead man walks and lives! If Christ can make the dead man walk again, certainly, he can help us out of whatever is keeping us from truly living.

ONE WEEK 'TIL HOLY WEEK! OMG! Make it count! And live! ;)



Sunday, April 3, 2011

Eye on the Prize: April Rools. (Heh.)

Lent Week 3 came and went and without much resolve in my Lenten promises, unfortunately. I'm still working on 'em, but I haven't been as valiant this Lent as I had hoped. I blame part of the reason on the added temptations associated with the FREAKING LONG distance between now and SPRING BREAK. Humph. A late Easter= late Spring Break at school, and both kids and teachers are starting to go out of their minds. Where Jan and Feb brought at least a couple snow days and some long holiday weekends, March brought none of the above. AND we still have 3 more weeks 'til any reprieve! Ahh!!!

I couldn't find any clever comics or non-obscene pics regarding 'Spring Break', so I thought I'd use this pic of my friend Christine's chair from our FL trip last year. No doubt there is a margarita in a solo cup somewhere behind that towel. Or maybe just in my hand, perhaps. Definitely in my hand, actually.

And so the devil seems to have more time to work on me between now and that week of Easter bliss. The monotony of week after week is certainly is grating on me. That's why I was SO grateful to have a little break and go to visit friends in Richmond last weekend. AND I'm super stoked because this coming weekend I'm going on another VA resort getaway! Huzzah!

Then my cousins will be in town, then it's Birthday/Triduum time, and THEN Alleluia! He is RISEN (AND I GET SPRING BREAK. In Florida. Praise the good Lord!)

I probably should've taken advantage of the time I had in March to reflect as April is going to speed up significantly. But hindsight is 20/20, eh? All I can do is forge ahead and continue to renew my resolutions 'til the end.

Spring does seem to be taking forever to come our way after another long winter, but we know the promise of new life when it does finally come is going to be great. We have to trust in that hope of renewal- that it WILL come! (Like right about now when we are going out of our minds waiting )

I mean...Imma be the Big 30 soon! I don't think I've totally grappled with it, though I surrendered to it a long time ago. Last night, I was with some friends who were in town and we realized I was only 1 of 2 of us out of about 10 in the room still in his/her 20s. I had forgotten that I even still was! Is that sad? I mean, LIVE IN THE NOW, right?
Thanks, Garth, for the sobering advice.

I guess I have been preparing myself so the change won't come as a blow, but at the same time I also need to focus on the present and enjoy what it means to be where I'm at.

Okay, back to Lent. Today's readings had kind of a 'healing' theme to them. The anointing of David- an unlikely king, Psalm 23, St. Paul's call for us to 'Arise', and the healing of the Blind Man.

The theme of healing has been huge for me lately as I have had some pretty specific things happen to teens in one particular class I am teaching this year. I remember how much junior year in high school sucked. There is so much pressure academically, socially, and your body is telling you stupid things. I have always known this class was hurting, but sometimes let their negative attitudes get the best of me. I wasn't being totally conscious of their suffering. Usually when someone is nasty to you, it's not you- it's them. I've known that with these teens, but instead of chalking their sour attitudes to teen angst, I'm really trying to be conscious of what type of healing they are each in need of.

Appropriately, we are starting the chapter of the Anointing of the Sick. Last semester I kind of breezed through this chapter. But this time, I'm really looking forward to using these lessons to open the kids up to Christ's healing power for their lives.

Only HE can touch and heal us. But the good news is, all we need is that touch. His touch is so powerful in the Gospel. I imagine the clay on my own eyes, my own skin. I probably wouldn't have believed, sadly, that when the clay washed off, I would see. But the blind man had faith. He probably was so excited for the possibilities.

I, too, am excited about the possibilities for the school year, for 30, etc. It's important we don't let fear hold back that excitement.

Christ, only say the word and I shall be healed. And may those words involve Spring and Break :) jk. A couple more weeks 'til Easter! Let's do this!! Peace, Julia