Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Something More

I meet with my spiritual director about once a month. It is usually just a check in: I tell him what is going on in my life and he suggest how I might best approach prayer in regards to wherever I am at in my life.

Tonight, before I went in, I thought to myself: I'm not sure what I'm going to tell him or talk about. Everything in my life right now is really good, stable. My prayer is somewhat consistent and fruitful, work always has its moments, but it is ultimately going well, and I have been traveling and keeping busy building relationships in my social life with people I care about.

So, I started to think about it, and I have been seeing this particular spiritual director for 5-6 years now. I started meeting with him a few months after I returned from the convent, and he has been a constant in my life since. He has helped me get back on my feet when my faith was a little bit shaken after my plans turned out to be different than what I thought. But for the past year or two at least, I wondered if I had really grown at all or made much progress spiritually as life has kind of "settled" (as we put it).

Father told me that whenever we meet, the idea of "more" comes to mind. What more can I give? What more does Christ want to give me? This is always my mode of thinking, too, as I am a natural born over achiever :) I always want to know what more I could be doing to improve myself...but this is less about self improvement and "more" (heh) about my relationship with Christ.

It's true that it took me a while to realize after leaving the convent that Christ still wanted to have a unique relationship with me; that He was still calling me to be His "beloved", just in a different way. It's interesting that St. John the Apostle has kind of followed me around in one way or another through his many titles over the past 10 years or so: St. John the Apostle, St. John the Evangelist, and St. John the Beloved are all titles of churches that I have been registered at and all titles for the same friend, evangelist, and follower of Christ.

I, too, have shared many of the same titles: friend, beloved, evangelist, and follower of Christ. And working with my spiritual director has helped me to continue to grow in these roles, even as the single, independent woman I am today.

To kind of hammer home this idea of "more" and what "more" Christ could be asking or trying to give, Father brought up the story from Mark's Gospel about the blind Bartimaeus. The story is somewhat familiar: blind beggar calls out to Jesus for help, Jesus asks him what he wants. The man says: "I want to see", Jesus heals him for his faith. Done and done. But going home tonight and re-reading the story, I picked up some nuances that gave me so much insight:

- the beggar calls out despite being rebuked. In fact, it makes him call out all the more.
- when the beggar hears that Jesus is coming by, he cries out all the more and louder. More. Hmmm.
- when Jesus finally tells the apostles to bring the blind beggar to him, they tell Bartimaeus to "take courage."
- Jesus asks what Bartimaeus wants, even though the answer might seem obvious. As if maybe there is something else that the blind man wants or that Jesus wants to give.

Anyways, this passage tonight really made me think and I hope to continue meditating on it and all that it could mean in that "more" that I am looking for with Jesus.

Finally, though everything is going well and things are "settled' as we called it, I could always use improvement when it comes to my tendency to dwell on the negative instead of the positive in certain situations. For this, we turned to OF COURSE St. Paul.

St. Paul, despite persecution and trial, was always able to look at the good and find the joy and meaning even in suffering. He was realistic, which is why I like him, but ultimately positive and CONFIDENT that good would come from suffering. I will also continue to look to Paul for inspiration of the more that I could get from being positive in negative situations, while still being realistic.

Tonight, I am grateful for many things, but mainly God's Word and for blessings like spiritual direction in my life!

I also had an incredible weekend of traveling over the holiday (Columbus Day) weekend to see some amazing friends that I do not see nearly often enough. Saturday, I drove up to Philly which has now become a fall tradition to spend time with a dear college friend who always inspires me with hope, peace, and joy. We always find random shops or pieces of art around Philly to inspire us. Here are some pics from last fall and this fall with said inspiration:
 My taking in a "fall flower"

My friend serving up some peanut butter, antique-store-shopping style...

And from this year's trip...You can't blame the Youth (but I often find a way ;)

I also drove up (after my Philly trip) to CT with some friends to see our mutual friend give a beautiful recital for his doctoral program at Yale. The recital was two pieces: one instrumental and one choral, and both beautiful! I am so in awe of the people God has placed and continues to place in my life

Besties after the recital!

Again, so grateful for so many things tonight. Can't wait to see what "more" God has in store!


Monday, October 6, 2014

Surrounded by So Great a Cloud of Witnesses

I picked Hebrews 12:1-3 as the url for this blog long before I really started to understand what this passage is about. I made the selection because it had to do with perseverance, and as a college friend once told me in my early 20s, to her I was "Perseverance Personified." I took it as a compliment then, and I still think it holds true today, though the details surrounding this passage have spoken to me in so many new ways since then:

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."

Since I started this blog seven years ago, I have come to learn more about what it means to throw off things that hinder. I have learned how to fix my eyes more closely on Jesus. And I have learned what it means not to grow weary or lose heart.

I'm sure I will continue to re-learn these things as I carry on to "run the race" marked out for me, for I still do not yet know fully all that that entails. I still do not know exactly what God has "marked out for me" and I'm not sure that we ever fully do. We just follow the part of the "trail" that He maps out for us at a time.

Today the part of this passage that struck me is the line regarding the "Cloud of Witnesses." I believe that I have blogged about this line before, but once again, I don't think I fully understood then what it would come to mean for me now, and I'm sure its meaning will continue to grow as I continue to "run" (slash jog/walk briskly which I've always been pretty clear about ;)

This week has been a powerhouse week for this "Cloud of Witnesses": namely, the Saints and people in heaven who look out for us and intercede for us. The week began with the feast of the Archangels (Sept 29), followed by St Jerome (Sept 30) (which may not be a powerhouse for some people, but for this nerdy Scripture scholar, creator of the Vulgate! Hello!). Then, of course, comes the Feast of The Little Flower, St. Therese, who is a fan favorite (Oct 1), and then the feast of our Guardian Angels (Oct 2). And today (Oct 4), the namesake of our current pope and another fan favorite, St. Francis of Assisi!

My parents were in town visiting from Ohio this week and I have always said (okay, well, probably not when I was a teenager) that my parents are way cooler than me. When I was living in the convent, I would call them and they would be out at bars, and they always have tickets to see my favorite bands (ie Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, The Black Keys, etc.) before me. They are busy every week giving tours of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by day, and rocking out at my dad's late night gigs by night. It was a blessing to have them here this week, but they kept me super busy and wore me out! In their early 60s, they some how have even more energy than me (which I guess isn't that much of a surprise, knowing how geriatric I truly am).

My parents rocking it in front of a piece of the Berlin Wall a couple of years ago at the Newseum.

So I was grateful to have the time in between late nights and early mornings this past week, the "Cloud of Witnesses" of these saints and their feasts to celebrate each day at Mass. Culminating, with the Feast of St. Francis today, Saturday, Oct. 4, for which, a Mass for my friend Dan Lyons was celebrated.

It is still hard for me to write about Dan in a way. I guess I still can't believe that he is gone, as generic as that sounds to say. But I have felt Dan's presence a few times since he has past and this Saturday, on my way to the early morning Mass was one of them.

Dan and I had a very playful relationship to say the least. I don't know how it was possible for Dan to be simultaneously the sweetest man but also the sassiest. He got my sarcasm and would give it right back, which is actually something I give bonus points for with my friends and relationships. But then he would give that incredibly sincere smile that humbled me and let me know he was only half being sassy with me just because he knew that was how I functioned and it was almost his way of reaching out and loving me. It makes me crazy to think that he was somehow messing with me and loving me at the same time! He definitely just got "it" a lot quicker than the rest of us do in so many ways.

When his wife told me about the Mass on Sat, I really wanted to be there, but it was early for a Saturday, even for my geriatric-bed-at-10pm self. I found myself simultaneously cursing at Dan and then smiling as I got in my car at 7am, but knowing this is was just his way, even from the next life, telling me that he loved me in the most enraging but perfect way.

We all, at times, struggle in our faith. I myself continue to struggle, even more so as I get older, with what I really believe, which is why I am once again grateful for the foundation I have been given. And I am grateful for moments like these that remind me that we are all connected and that life truly doesn't end. We have our loved ones in the "Great Cloud of Witnesses" to remind us of that. And I am grateful for that reminder.

I hope that you are enjoying fall! I'm gearing up for this to be the best fall ever!
Me in all of my gourd glory after some festival fall gourd picking!!!

During the fall, we often think about all things All Hallows Eve (Halloween!), but not so much the hallowed days which that eve leads up to...namely the days of All Saints (Nov.1) and All Souls (Nov. 2). I'm going to try and remember our Great Cloud of Witnesses not just on All Saints and All Souls Day but each day this season.

Thanks for reading!