Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Babies n 'Bows

My friend and another friend's baby at a get-together and the Christmas Rainbow!

An Attitude of Gratitude

Last year for Christmas my roomie got me an Ann Taintor(if you don't know, you bettah ask somebody...or click on the link) tag for my suitcase that says, 'An Attitude is a Terrible Thing to Waste'. Insinuating MY attitude that is generally one of sass (which it is and usually serves me well, particularly in cases of this blog).

I've been told before in the sin bin to work on my attitude (and not just my one of sass) but to develop an attitude of GRATITUDE. We all let bitterness and- dare I even say- the sin of ENVY get to us. And I know, for a post-Christmas post, ENVY isn't exactly the topic one would choose. But I think this sin certainly happens at Christmas, whether it be eyeing that Wii or EnV3 phone that someone else got (just saying) or comparing ourselves to family members or other families who might have what we want, blah, blah, blah. The devil GETS US at Christmas. He KNOWS its the greatest season of love and he HATES it.

So every once in a while, when that sin of envy creeps in...we have the virtue to combat it, which is GRATITUDE.

This Christmas I found myself in the sin bin because- as predicted- suddenly it was Christmas and I hadn't reflected on the greatness of the GIFT of SALVATION and LOVE that IS Christ Himself at Christmas. Sigh. I also found myself envying others who had changes happening in 2009 or already 2010. Friends getting married, having babies...the usual ;)

I had just prayed this novena to have PEACE and decided on the theme of HOPE for the new year and already the devil is trying to deflate my peace and confidence in the Lord. BOO!

God did give my family and I a sign of His Promise, though, on Christmas Day! Not just through His Son, but as my parents and I were driving to my aunt's with my Grandma, it was sunny but raining slightly. Of course, we were looking for a rainbow, and we found one! A FULL one! I definitely took this as a sign of hope and God telling us everything is gonna be alright. He's taking care of His promises.

And so, I write this blog, to reflect on the things I am GRATEFUL for in 09 to have HOPE for '10!

- I am grateful for my friends and family that I have gotten closer with this year. Particularly my new bro-in-law and friends who like to tweet and blog :)

- I am sooo grateful for the opportunity to go to grad school! And for my grad program.

- I am thankful to have a job.

- I am thankful to have the peace in prayer that I was perhaps lacking earlier this year, late last year.

- I am grateful to go on RETREAT in just under TWO WEEKS with my friends!! WHOO HOO!

- I am grateful for spiritual direction. HOLLER!

- I am grateful for health and health of my family members.

- I AM grateful for the Love Christ gives at Christmas and the HOPE of the NEW YEAR!

I could go on and on, but I wont :) I hope you all are able to reflect on the gifts you received this Christmas.

Merry Christmas and Happy NEW YEAR! 2010 is a year of HOPE! ;) Get it!


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas on Conover Drive 09

Pics from our crazy Blizzard of 09, A Merry Anthropologie Christmas with the Roommates (and our hats that Susan bought us!) and roomies and I at our "Christmas Party" that got snowed in.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Waiting in Hope

Well, I had hoped that the blizzard of 2009 would've passed us over this weekend. I know, I know- I'm SUCH a Grinch to not want snow- especially around Christmas. The Clevelander in me has just seen one too many snowstorms in her day and the commodity of 'playing in the snow' wore off somewhere around high school. Also, the pessismist in me sees the disadvantages of snow, like having to shovel, or being kept from places or events you had planned- LIKE OUR CHRISTMAS PARTY!

How DARE there be a white-out scheduled for the DAY of our annual Christmas party?!?

I was scoffing at the chaos of DC on Friday when there had been the call for 20 inches of snow over the weekend. I said I'd believe it when I actually saw it. DC tends to freak out over snow, and when I went into Whole Foods Friday night to get some last minute items for our party, it was like Y2K all over again. I asked the cashier:
"Is it like this every Friday?"

"No, it's the snow." she replied.

"But there isn't even any snow yet!" I exclaimed.

I was hoping that the predictions would be wrong because I had been so looking forward to hosting our big party. My roomies and I go all out. With my networking skills, Susan's flair for holiday decor, and Steph's culinary delights, we make pretty good hostesses. Not going to lie. And the snow was putting a damper on our plans!!

Such a metaphor for our spiritual lives, right? We plan and plan but we cannot compete with elements like nature that our beyond our control. So we have to surrender. There comes a point where worrying or planning just isn't going to help.

Though I was disappointed, and HOPING that the snow would STOP (I mean, seriously, it did not stop until 1am last night- about the time our guests would've been leaving- oh, the irony. sigh) I surrendered that there had to be something else God wanted for us this night. Maybe to just enjoy a more intimate setting with a few friends and to be thankful...or maybe to enjoy all the rum and goodies we had prepared ourselves! Don't mind if I do!

We ended up having a couple brave friends- 4 in fact. 3 within walking distance and 1 who braved it with her car (she ALMOST made it to us, but did have to call us to help her dig it out at one point). And though it wasn't quite the same as if all 100 of the people I invited on Facebook would've shown up, I feel like the same goals were accomplished: we sang, we danced, we ate and drank, we played, we laughed...definitely a successful evening.

But it just kind of went along with what my year has been like. I keep wanting BIG things to happen. A BIG event. And God keeps showing me the ordinary. I had been hoping for a big party, but last night was really no different than many laid back nights with friends. But maybe God is showing me, 'what's wrong with that???'

Today at Mass (we walked to Mass- there was no getting our cars out. We were pleasantly surprised at how many people turned out! It was almost a typical crowd!) Father talked about how- to people in Mary's day- she and Joseph probably seemed insignificant. Bethlehem means 'town of bread' or something (BTW- how COOL is that! Our Bread of Life came from the Town of Bread! You can't MAKE that up!) and was really only known because King David has also been born there. Mary was just a girl to most, Joseph just a carpenter...they seemed insignifcant but were asked to play such a part in changing HUMANITY.

As we walked to Mass, we saw many of our neighbors digging out their cars, helping one another. Whenever a person would get stuck, whomever else was also out would run to help push the car. The girls and I started singing Christmas carols while we walked, doing what we could to contribute to the Christmas community we had going on. And it just seemed like all was RIGHT in the world. People helping one another, coming outside of our houses...not rushing off past one another to wherever the next place we need to be is. It made me think, this is what community is supposed to be, and it gives me HOPE that we can still do this as humans.

Also, the peace and QUIET of the snow is such a gift. I was disappointed that we couldn't have the loud, crazy party I may have pictured, but the limitations the snow puts on traffic lends itself to a natural peace and quiet.

I was expecting the last week of Advent to be BIG, but it seems God is showing me it may be small, insignificant, but that there is beauty to that. Because His Will is still in that. Though His Incarnation at Christmas was far from insignificant, the scene, the setting was. It was NOT a big, loud party to welcome Him in. But a quiet, still night with just a few select characters to witness. Kind of like what my friends and I shared. And it was beautiful. And in it- HOPE.

And so we wait in HOPE this last week before Christmas. Whether the Lord ushers Himself in with a loud party for you or just a small stillness, May you experience the blessing of His Incarnation at Christmas.


To any of you new readers who may have found me through Todd's posts on Sainthood Project, welcome! Feel free to leave comments! I use my blog to reflect and update friends and family on my life, but feel free to use this place to reflect too! I'd love your feedback! God bless!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Still Waiting...

Okay, so there's totally truth to the me blogging when I should be studying thing. I have my last final today and then my semester is done! I feel ready, but a co-worker and I were reminiscing about the good old days when test taking was drawing a line from one definition to another or True and False questions. I'm actually much better at writing, but there's something daunting about having to write all there's in to know about one subject as your TEST. Well, here goes nothing!

As I was taking a break from studying, I took a little walk to clear my head. There is a path behind the Dominican House of Studies that co-workers and I often walk to get some exercise and get out of the office. This is usually my place where Jesus and I have 'The Talks'. They usually go like this:

"So, I'm still here, Jesus! Still waiting! Still walking! ANY DAY NOW, Jesus!"

And then I get nothing, which isn't surprising because who wants to respond to whiny non-sense like that.

Unless I calm myself and surrender, then He gives me a little something to work with. And it can't be a surrender like in a shake my fists or throw my hands up kind of way. But like, lay my hands down way. Oooo...that's good.

I kind of sorta did that today. And I kind of sorta got an answer.

My friends have been SO GREAT with humoring me in this 'waiting' process, btw. I get tired of speaking about it, so I'm sure they get tired of hearing about it! But they are so patient with me. Just today, a friend reminded me via facebook- "I'm sure God has something great planned for you!"

And I wrote him back as I usually do: "Thanks, I know. If only God would clue me in soon!" But I really did appreciate the sentiment. And I am starting to approach this time a little differently, more positively, lately.

The other day, I was praying with Scripture and I found a letter stuck in my Bible I had printed out. It was from a sister I had sought out when I was discerning leaving the convent. I didn't have printed what I originally wrote her, but I'm sure I was addressing my concerns about the sitting around alot and not feeling like I was actually DOING any mission. I wanted to be used for mission! And God was asking me to wait! This was not what I signed up for!

She asked me if I could handle being "hidden" like Christ was before His ministry. This has been a theme for a lot of my friends, it seems, in our late 20's early 30's. We are ready for that next step, but this seems to be a "hidden" phase.

Funny how I left and I'm still in this phase of my walk with Jesus. Shows He'll get you one way or another! It was the right thing, no doubt, I feel much free-er even in my 'waiting' now than I did there. This is clearly what God wants for me, but it still includes the waiting piece.

We can't understand this in our culture since we are so uber-productive as a society. As I was pacing the path behind our office, one of the Dominicans was walking in front of me. SUPER. SLOWLY. It made me think how peaceful it is just to walk with Jesus, not to have to rush through to get to the next destination. Somehow I can't apply this to my own life, though (I quickly made a hard right to get off of the path- I couldn't bring myself to pass him ;)

If only we looked at the beauty of the in between more often. We are clearly in good company. As I mentioned, Jesus was hidden until age 30-33. We don't know much about His 'formative' years. We don't know much about Mary or Joseph either. They certainly had many formative actions with Jesus before the high drama of His ministry hit. We are all about the drama, the spotlight- myself included.

I think it's hard to take joy in the in-betweens because we DON'T hear much about it. We don't know what is happening in this time, we just see the aftermath. But again, that puts us in good company. When I'm walking around the path yelling to Jesus: "I DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING NOW!" We don't know much about what He was doing at this time in His life either. It's a big secret. And so it is with us, apparently. I guess this is another (er, cool?) way of Him uniting ourselves to Him.

This time of Advent is a good time to just focus on the journey, since we are all- as I've mentioned before- just waiting for Heaven. I know I'll be trying to focus on the company I'm keeping. Thanks for being on the journey with me!


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Gaudete Sunday

It has been called to my attention that when I say I'm working on grad papers, I actually end up blogging. There may be some truth to this. Today, however, I fully intended on paper-ing it up all day today but a little birdie/angel/christinemarienajarian reminded me of my commitment (indirectly reminded. She really just called me out for my usual Captain Distraction shenanigans) to blog every Sunday of Advent.

And I'm glad she did! Because I totally would've past over a.) my Advent resolution and b.) this beautiful day of REJOICING. Because let's be honest, nothing about writing a final paper really leads me to rejoice except when it's finished.

Let me back track to yesterday which was the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I was reminded in a very real way yesterday of this patroness' power when a former youth group member of mine asked me to pray for someone contemplating abortion. I don't want to turn this blog into a political anything, I just want to reflect on Mary and her 'yes' that without which, this season of Advent wouldn't be celebrated. I just can't even imagine where we would all be. I also can't imagine what this girl must be going through. The Bible tells us Mary was scared. There are things that God- or more often our sin- throws our way that freak us out. There are things that come about in our lives that are unfair. But if we remain closed, we only end up causing hurt to ourselves in the long run. I have learned this on many occasions! So I really pray for that girl just because of what she may go through somewhere down the road. We can ALL learn from Mary's openness to God's Will. So I really was called to unite my prayers in a special way to Mary and what Our Lady stands for yesterday. Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us.

So what are we rejoicing for on Gaudete Sunday anyways? What does that even mean, Gaudete? And why is the color pink? Why is it celebrated the Third Week, not the one right before Christmas??

Honestly, friends, I'm in grad school and I'm doing enough research myself right now... If you would like me to elaborate on Reverend Peter C. Yorke and the catechetical method he developed in the early 1900s, I would be happy to elaborate. These are questions, however, you may have to answer yourselves :)

I will tell you that Gaudete means 'rejoice' and Wikipedia (not a source I use for grad papers! or well, at least that I include in a bibliography...) and that the readings for this Sunday are happy rather than the somber, penitential ones the previous two weeks.

I love the first reading from Zephaniah. It really is a message of Hope. This past week, the organization I work for ran an Advent reflection for people at a parish and the theme was about "Awaiting God's Kingdom in a Broken World". It is easy for us to get discouraged and forget about the hope that Christ promises. If nothing else, this Sunday really is about remembering Christ's fulfillment of God's promise to us for eternal life. A life beyond this that we can't imagine, but I'm pretty sure won't entail grad papers... :)

Another reason for me to rejoice this weekend: I MADE SOMETHING EDIBLE to contribute to a cookie exchange some of my friends were hosting. I was intimidated and nervous about the whole venture because as Sr. Agnes once told me, "You don't cook. You re-heat". Touche, Sr. Agnes. But my friend Kaitrin gave me a recipe that didn't entail BAKING or COOKING. I KNOW.

Without giving away any of my SECRETS, you can probably infer that nothing about this process was organic or healthy, but rather all ingredients were highly processed already and simply necessitated me gathering materials together in a bowl. Regardless if they were 6,000+ calories a piece, or whether we will be finding marks of chocolate on our walls for months to come- this is an achievement for me, and the whole event was a success. I have documented proof:

Yes, they may look like reindeer poop. No one said they had to be aesthetically pleasing. I'll work on that for next year. Plus, there was Rock Band at this cookie exchange- probably the only way my friends knew they could get me to attend since I was so freaked out by the cooking- so all were distracted and paid no attention (or at least did not comment on) the fact I won't be getting a culinary award any time soon. Rejoice!

Until the next candle...

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Happy Feast of the Immaculate Conception!

Hail, Favored One!

Little known fact: when I was in postulancy, my co-postulants and I had an inside joke about this feast that we celebrate today. Who has inside jokes about The Immaculate Conception?? I DO. Yes, this is my life.

We were taking this class and for some reason, the doctrine on the Immaculate Conception- which we celebrate today- was always a point of contention for one of our classmates. They wanted all the details. (rightfully, so!) And the joke became that we would talk about the date when this doctrine was defined. EVERY. CLASS.

Our poor, dear classmate: "What date was the Immaculate Conception instated again?"

Me and my postulants (okay mostly me): eye rolling (1854, I believe, and I only know because we mentioned it. EVERY. CLASS.)

(disclamier: for those of you who aren't too familiar with the details on the Immaculate Conception, I'm not going to elaborate too much here, but if you have questions, about this doctrine, please do not hesitate to ask me!!!! BRIEF synopsis: MARY- not Jesus as commonly misunderstood- is the Immaculate Conception, which means she is born without original sin. She called herself by this title- 'I am the Immaculate Conception'-to St. Bernadette at Lourdes in the 1800's)

It's not that I don't mind educating people about the Immaculate Conception. There clearly is a need for it! That is understood. It was the repitition of the questioning. Also, hopefully, understood.

We also discussed often in a different class- interestingly enough- about the language used in the passage of Scripture which we base this doctrine on (Gabriel coming to Mary to announce she would be the Mother of God, FYI): 'Hail favored one' in some translations. "Hail, HIGHLY favored one', in others. I think one was like, 'Greatest Salutations!" Just kidding...kind of.(ps-Some translations of the Bible are AWFUL!)

The point is, in the Greek, there is more depth to this greeting. It is in this scene with Gabriel and Mary that we interpret Mary's purity from sin; her being full of GRACE. The translations we use sometimes don't do her significance and this scene justice.

But reading "Hail favored one" in my translation, I thought today:

Doesn't Jesus favor me as well? Each one of us, in fact?

(this is where the power of the Greek translation comes in. Clearly, I AM NOT LIKE MARY. Let me just make that clear!)

But, I'm just saying: doesn't He call out to each one of us in a special way? Clearly Mary has her role in the Church and in history and she is the Immaculate Conception! But Jesus calls out to each one of us and gives our own unique calls and roles as well- in all of our sinfulness.

I've always loved that Mary is troubled by this greeting. Again, not troubled like the way we might think. I'm thinking she was probably just generally freaked out by an angel appearing in her room, not necessarily by the message, because clearly, she accepted the message with her 'Yes'.

We tend to be more freaked out by what God may be asking us to do, hence, our sinfulness compared to Mary's perfect acceptance and surrender to God's Will. He says, 'Hail favored one' to us, in a very different way (in fact, in a 'you are still born with original sin' kind of way!) But there is still something God is asking us to do, each moment, each day- something we need to say 'Yes' to. And this is why we use Mary as our help and our model so that she can help us make our 'yes' to Jesus.

I think Mary can also be our model- particulalry us women- in having a little more confidence in ourselves, gosh darn it! What I envy most about Mary (can I say that??? I just did) is her CONFIDENCE. Our culture TEARS. US. DOWN. Ladies, but God wants to build us up! We are FAVORED in His eyes! We have a CALL. Mary knew that in her inmost being with perfect trust (that's part of what's makes her more perfect than us ;) May she help us have that confidence in the Lord.

Amen?? Amen!

Happy Feast of the Immaculate Conception! :)


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Okay is (not) Alright with Me

Sooo...I went to my spiritual director yesterday and got a nice little kick in the pants. This is how it is people: when you think you are doing okay, this is usually a sign that you are NOT :) Complacency or being 'comfortable' is never totally okay in the spiritual life, sad but true. It is when we are uncomfortable that we 'get to grow'. Bah. So just consider the spiritual life a constant kick in the pants. Great.

So I walk in there and tell him, 'I'm great! Things are great. Finished the novena. It was great. I think I'm doing just great.'

Then he was like, 'Great! Now, what are you doing about Advent?'

Advent ALWAYS sneaks up on me- didn't I tell you? I worry about preparing for it, and then a week goes by and suddenly I'm in Ohio sitting at my Babci's eating pierogies ( YOU KNOW they are GOOD. Real deal, folks) and have totally forgotten I even planned an Advent resolution. Oh, well- better luck next year!

See, my intentions are always good. I told Father, 'Well, I've been prayiing about what to do for Advent. I WANT to do something" But apparently, good intentions are not the same as DOING SOMETHING. He was like, 'Well, um, but...it's already the 2nd Sunday of Advent". Point taken.

So he gave me homework. I have to come up with a resolution by today people. TODAY. I think I am going to commit to blogging on each Sunday of Advent, because this has been a significant way for me to meditate and share. He also suggested using images and art in my prayer to help jump start because, let's face it- this grad student gets plenty of WORDS lately.

And then he brought up the whole cheezy gift thing ( Which he also acknowledged the image may be trite and cheezy, which I appreciated ;) that Christmas IS Jesus' birthday after all (or that day on which we choose to recognize it ;)and so we GIVE PEOPLE STUFF on their birthdays. WHAT AM I GOING TO GIVE JESUS for CHRISTMAS?

AHHHHHHHHH....gift giving. Here's the thing. I DO like to give people gifts. Side story- I went to Anthropologie yesterday which I love SO much I even link it to this blog. I KNOW it's over-priced kitchyware and the like, but you KNOW i am a girl of DISCERNMENT, people. It's like with media intake- you have to be DISCERNING. DON'T buy the $288 purse. Go straight to the Sale room and don't even fantasize. YOU CAN FIND $40 SWEATERS and then TELL everyone you bought it at Anthrolopologie and they THINK you dropped $180. You are welcome.

Anyways, that was a huge digression. All to say, I went. I bought. And it was not for me! It is going to be a very Merry Anthropologie Christmas for SOME good girls in my life this year! And it made me SOoooo excited to buy the gifts. I wanted to even spend MORE because I just know how much enjoyment my friends, relatives will have. But my credit card bill said NO. Silly credit card. Bah humbug.

But going to Anthropologie's Sale Room for my friends is easy. No brainer. I know they will love such things. But what about those gifts for people who are hard to shop for. Like my DAD. He never wants anything, but deserves the world. I just feel like nothing would be perfect enough, good enough and maybe those are my ISSUES. But do know what I'm saying?

Shopping for the perfect gift is STRESSFUL.

So what the heck am I going to GIVE JESUS. He is well...JESUS. This makes Him simultaneously the most difficult and easiest man to 'shop' for. Most difficult because I feel nothing could be perfect enough, good enough, but easiest because He usually accepts anything and doesn't ever even make that face that I make EVERY CHRISTMAS when I get something and internally think, 'really? This fuzzy jumpsuit made you think of ME? Really?' HE DOESN'T DO THAT.

So I guess I should stop stressing out about what to give Him and just DO SOMETHING already. Other than just make metaphors for shopping for Jesus. 'Cause really I could do that forever:

With Jesus, sales are never final (Hey-oh!)

With Jesus, one-size fits all (bud-dump, ching!)

Alright, I'll stop there. But feel free to comment with your a.) Advent resolutions b.) shopping for Jesus metaphors c.) any comments, thoughts, and concerns as per usual :)

Ps- the title of this blogpost is inspired by an Eric Hutchinson song. Just an FYI. If you don't know him, you should.