Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Advent Resolutions

I arrived home from Thanksgiving break last night to Christmas lights, a Christmas tree, and decorations galore! My Martha Stewart-esque roommate wastes no. time. It must be Advent!

Some of you have asked about what kind of Advent resolutions I am making. One that I can share is that I am making a conscious effort to say a rosary every morning. I have gotten out of the habit of saying a full rosary everyday. So I put my rosary that I usually carry in my purse by where I place my ipod in my car. My commute in the morning is usually 30-40 minutes, during which I typically pretend to be Sara Bareilles or Lea Michele from Glee and sing from the top of my lungs while downing my morning coffee. This ritual will now be replaced for the time being with a morning rosary. Upon completion of the rosary I can commence my delusional superstardom for the duration of the commute :)

Turns out, when you say a rosary in the car, one is also much less likely to swear at fellow morning commuters from behind the wheel. Go figure!

I also am going to make this season truly penitential and give up something. Typically done during Lent, I'm going to give up sweets this Advent. I know that with upcoming Christmas parties this is going to be a feat, but I hope it will remind me of the waiting that we are observing and make Christmas all that more celebratory!

I also want to unite all of my waiting with Mary and Christ. Anytime I get impatient or frustrated with someone or something in my life that I am having to "wait" for, I hope to offer it up with the waiting during this liturgical season.

I have a couple other little Advent observences that I'm offering up, but that's just for me and Jesus ;)

I am also looking forward to Spiritual Direction on Dec. 4. It is much needed! I'm sure I'll have more insight to share after I meet with Father this weekend....until then....

Happy Advent! What resolutions are you making this new year?


Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Year in Pics...

Girls Getaway Weekend, Wintergreen, VA, Nov. 2010
My dear friend and her little miracle! May, 2010

Me and my new nephew Lucas, Oct. 2010

Visiting friends in CA! May, 2010

Florida Trip! May 2010

Snowpocalypse Feb 2010

Retreat! Jan 2010

Youth Ministry Retreat Feb. 2010

Dressing up like Lady Gaga for my 29th bday, April 2010

Countdown to the New Year!

10! 9! 8! 7!...

The new liturgical year that is ;) Man, I'm such a liturgical NERD. For reals.

Today was the feast of Christ the King! That means a.) Advent is almost here and b.) it is the end of our liturgical year! CRAZY!

I was just looking back today on Facebook at my pics from this year. I was able to add yet MORE fall winetasting pics as I just returned from another great getaway weekend. As I looked back at my pics from this year, there were lots of fabulous trips filled with lots of faces of fabulous friends.

Christ the King/beginning of Advent also coincide with the American celebration of Thanksgiving. As I looked back at 2010 and this liturgical year, SO much to be thankful for. New job, new nephew, lots of trips like I said, grad school classes...and most importantly...I think I got my groove back ;)

I'm back in ministry, and I've had some boosts of confidence here and there...and yet I still find myself questioning God about the path He has led me on.

Today's readings for Christ the King really fit in with what I'm teaching the freshmen of late. We are talking about the Davidic covenant and how he was a man after God's own heart, though not perfect. Because God has a special relationship with David, he says that he will be a king and his descendants as well. Christ, of course, is one of these descendants and we all know that His type of reign as king is not what was expected.

I was thinking as I was sitting in Mass today (which was really a beautiful celebration. The parish I went to really did up the 'end of the year' theme right. They chose a lot of songs, too, that made me reflect on my days in youth group and music ministry as a teen. It was a good reminder of where I have been on my journey...) that if God can send a Savior so perfectly through the line of David...so many prophets predicting how He would be born and die, all of it matching up so perfectly...how can I question God's plan for me??

I'm also trying to stress to my teens that we are all a continuing part of Salvation History. Part of the covenant God made to David is that his line would never end. Some of the students questioned this...how could the line never end? Well, Jesus was a part of that line and he opened up all eternity for all of us! Done and done ;)

I remember when I went to spiritual direction around the time of Advent last year, Father called me out for being halfway through the season and not really having made any commitments to celebrate Advent. As I sat in Mass tonight, I also started thinking about how I could honor the upcoming season in a special way. As I wrote last week, I can feel this aching for reflection and for penance. I haven't been sacrificing as much as I used to. I think I was in waiting for so long- looking for a new job, and just re-grouping after my multiple 'life changes'- that I thought that was sacrifice enough and I've just been basking in the abundance of late. God certainly wants us to enjoy and rejoice, and I will continue to do so at Christmas, but I think it's time for a little penitential season-ing...time to make a little sacrifice as we all lie in wait for the Savior.

I'm going to take this week to meditate on how I can reflect more during the season and also offer up more in this season of penance as we wait for the light in the darkness.

How are you going to celebrate the new year? ;)

Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Feast of Christ the King!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

I Gotta Feeling or Aching for Advent

One of my youth ministry colleagues tweeted this week that he could "feel Advent coming. Aching for Our Lord's return." And I thought to myself: "aha! That's what I'm feeling/missing..." His tweet made sense to me. (the power of Twitter, I tell you! Media! ;)

I've talked before about the cycle of the spiritual life and how we are often in tune with the goings on of the earth around us. We can sense the cold coming and we need the Lord to keep us on track- to be our Light in the Darkness, which is what we celebrate at Advent.

Last winter, my spiritual director led a retreat for some friends of mine and myself and it's time for us to start planning again. It feels like it is about that time. I am in need of Advent- a time of reflection. In need of a change of liturgical season to bring a challenge, bring repentance, bring me Jesus.

I remember before I left for NET and after I graduated from CUA, my friend put together a little photo album for me to take with me on the road. It had a message in it from our campus minister at the time who encouraged me to "bring 'em Jesus, Jules"- referring to the teens I'd be encountering that year and all the families I'd meet, really.

That message of "bring 'em Jesus" has been in my mind lately with teaching as I've switched from mere textbook lesson planning to really trying to bring ministry into the classroom. Last Friday, the chaplain at the school exposed the Blessed Sacrament for my two junior classes as we were wrapping up a unit on the Eucharist. I wasn't sure how the teens would react- I was pretty sure they would just talk the whole time, fidget, or fall asleep. I was surprised to find they were quiet and respectful, some of them even sung the songs with me! And after Adoration when we went back to the classroom, there seemed to be a different feel about them. A different tone to their demeanor and their interactions. I don't know why I was surprised- they had encountered Jesus- whether they realized it or not.

I've been really comfortable lately. My grad school paper is nearly done, I've gotten a handle on teaching and lesson planning, I have a good balance going between social life and taking time for other elements in my life....is it time for a change? I kind of want to hold onto fall. I love this season. And I hate winter. I hate the cold, I hate the snow. I want to hold onto the comfort of light coats and sitting outside in the sun with friends. I don't like that it is starting to get darker...

but with that darkness comes the need for the light. And I am ready for Jesus to enter into my life in a new way- to bring light to any darkness that might exist and shine light upon it.

Speaking of my time on NET, I know I've also mentioned before the Jars of Clay cd I purchased that year on the road and how it continues to be a "light" for me and in an aid in ministry.

I used this song when I was preparing teens for Confirmation at St. John's back in the day, and I recently used it in talking about the same Sacrament in my classroom recently:

Trouble Is- Jars of Clay from "Who We Are Instead"

My wings don't sail me to the sky
On my own, these wings won't fly
Jesus told me so
Still I'm not so sure that I know

Can't find no rest for my soul
Can't find no rest on my own
Jesus told me so
Still I'm not so sure that I know

Man, the trouble is
We don't know who we are instead

I keep running the other way
My heart ain't built to stay
My heart ain't built to stay
And the world just ain't that way

Man, the trouble is
We don't know who we are instead

My heart ain't built to stay
Jesus told me so

I use and continue to use this song because I think it raises that important thought that we "aren't built to stay" here. We are built for heaven. So it's a great song to use when speaking about Sacraments and just to get us thinking about the choices we make while on earth. It also reminds us that we can't do it on our own, we need Jesus and that's why He provides us with the Sacraments to give us the grace and strength we need.

Advent is also a good time to remember "Who We Are Instead". It's a penitential time to think about the ways in which we've tried to do things on our own and failed, but to have that hope of change and strength that is the Light in the darkness- Jesus.

Is it too soon to start singing, "O Come O Come, Emmanuel?!" I'm ready! Not ready for the Christmas commericals or the snow though...can't Hallmark wait 'til at least Thanksgiving to tug on my heartstrings?? ;)


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Matters of Life and Death

Soo...I'm an aunt now.
My younger sister gave birth to Lucas John this past weekend. It's our parents' first grandchild, the first great grandchild on my mom's side, my first nephew, my first godson...
No pressure, kid. ;)
We were all super excited, of course. And everything hits much closer to home when it happens, well...at home.
Like, babies are cute and all, but I really do think he is just that much cuter 'cause he's related to me. He's got good genes, what can I say?
Lucas also came at seriously the perfect time. I wasn't sure if I was going to make it home for the birth, being a new teacher and all. I had a friend who said he would sub for me, but with Thanksgiving just a couple weeks away, I thought I would just see what happened and maybe just make my next visit the big turkey weekend.
But God had other plans. And as usual, they are perfect.
When my brother in law called me on Saturday morning at like 9:30am, I immediately said I would hop in my car and make the 6 hour drive to Ohio. By the time I got there around 4pm, my sis had just started going into her harder labor and about 5 hours after that, we had welcomed Lucas to this side of the world (the outside ;) I had plenty of time to grade papers, get some sleep, and hop back in the car the next day.

Lucas' birth also comes at a time after the school where I work at had just suffered a shocking loss.
A young, new teacher who had just graduated from college and started teaching with me died suddenly last week. He was such a nice guy and still hasn't hit me that he's gone.

On my first day of training, he was the first person I met. Since he was new too, we comiserated about lesson planning and getting to know the kids as new teachers. We often had lunch together and had just chaperoned the Homecoming dance. When I got the email that he had passed away, I didn't believe it. I still feel like I am going to see him in the hallways.

Rob's funeral was today. The place of course was packed and it was very moving. The priest did a good job of making us laugh and cry at the same time, while focusing on the joy of Rob's life and the joy of his final resting place in heaven.

I've been teaching the kids in my Sacraments class about the Eucharist. I had just taught a lesson about the Eucharist being our Heaven on Earth. I have decided to forgo the textbooks a little this Chapter, since the Eucharist is so near and dear to my heart. I want it to be special for the kids. Lessons they will remember. Anyway, we had just talked about how- next to heaven- the Eucharist is as close as we can get to complete union with God. I really challenged the kids to ask themselves if union with God is something they even desire. We all know teenagers often get wrapped up in themselves, but one of my students when I asked, 'What do you care about?' honestly answered, 'Ourselves'. That is scary!

But the experience of birth and death takes us outside of ourselves and forces us to be in community. After that funeral Mass, I wanted to be with the community of teachers and students to share our stories of Rob and just be together. I wanted to be with my family during Lucas' birth and then to share the stories with my roommates and friends after.

The Eucharist is a communal event. I am trying to teach the kids that is highly personal, but also highly communal. Getting them to have a personal relationship with God one on one and then go out and share that relationship are two extremely hard things for them. But that is why we have the grace of the Sacraments. We cannot do it on our own.

Please join me in prayers of Thanksgiving for my nephew (and soon to be godson)! And please continue to pray for Rob and the repose of his soul. It couldnt of happened at a more perfect time, though- the funeral was on the feast of All Souls and we celebrated All Saints yesterday as a community too. I know Rob is in union with the saints and angels. I pray he will greet us with Christ one day.