Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Waiting in Stillness this Advent

I have been super into "the season" this year, you guys. I think all of my spare time that I've been blogging about has led me to dive into the holidays like never before. During Thanksgiving break I visited all of the people, drank all of the things, shop til I dropped, decorated, cooked, baked!


 I didn't cook or decorate any of that, actually. I spent Thanksgiving with a friend's family, but it was so seasonal.

THIS is my decor! It is my first holiday season without roommates and I still took it upon myself to bring some holiday cheer all up into my living space. Those of you who know me can appreciate what this means.
Every holiday season I do make an attempt to bake for an annual cookie exchange with friends. This year I actually kind of enjoyed it, though. I don't know who I am anymore.

So, perhaps it is because I have extra time on my hands that I've embraced Advent and the holidays, but there's nothing wrong with spreading a little Christmas cheer, is there?

I didn't think so.

Okay. So when you last "saw" me in November, I was reflecting, being thankful for the Year of Faith, and re-embracing my call to ministry. Now I'm all up in the holiday mix and OMGSOEXCITEDTOHAVESOMETHINGTODOANDCELEBRATE that I need to take a step back again and remember how peaceful November was and how important and essential my time in reflection is.

But that's what Advent is for! So I'm also super thankful and excited for this season of Advent.

Already in our second week!

A common theme for Advent is the act of "present waiting" which is something that I have been working on anyways. I am very task oriented. I always want something to DO. That's why I can get behind Advent; because I like this idea of actively waiting. It's not like REAL waiting. 'Cause we are still DOING something in that waiting.

For some reason what I just wrote about "not REAL waiting" made me think of Mean Girls and this "not like a regular mom" moment. It's not like "regular waiting". It's "active waiting." Get it? Any excuse for a Mean Girls quote, I know.

Anyway, this is why, perhaps, that my spiritual director and I have decided that I need to work on the STILLNESS of Advent. Not so much the action part. With the past couple of months dragging along in my mind and so many moments of uncomfortable stillness, this is a good challenge for me. Embrace the stillness of Advent- the stillness in the waiting.

Stillness can make me so ANGRY. I really do get so angry when people complain about things but never take action to make them better. I always want to take matters into my own hands. So, again, this idea of just embracing stillness is a good challenge for me, especially at this time where stillness can seem PAINFUL.

But as it has been turning out, the stillness of Advent has been more welcome since I have decided to busy myself with all of the things of the holidays. I need the stillness of Advent to keep me grounded so that I don't get carried away with the rest of what the holidays have to offer.

And when I am struggling with stillness- whether that be because I am busy or not- God gives me strength and peace with readings like today's (Wed for the Second Week of Advent):

To whom can you liken me as an equal?
says the Holy One.
Lift up your eyes on high
and see who has created these things:
He leads out their army and numbers them,
calling them all by name.
By his great might and the strength of his power
not one of them is missing!
Why, O Jacob, do you say,
and declare, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the LORD,
and my right is disregarded by my God”?

Do you not know
or have you not heard?
The LORD is the eternal God,
creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint nor grow weary,
and his knowledge is beyond scrutiny.
He gives strength to the fainting;
for the weak he makes vigor abound.
Though young men faint and grow weary,
and youths stagger and fall,
They that hope in the LORD will renew their strength,
they will soar as with eagles’ wings;
They will run and not grow weary,
walk and not grow faint.- Isaiah 40: 25-31

And today's Gospel...

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest. 
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves. 
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”- Matt. 11: 28-30

I love reading Isaiah during Advent for so many reasons, but in today's reading I love his confidence in God's strength and power. It reminds me that God is in control, not me. I also believe this was the reading that I read at my friends' wedding in July!

And of course, the Gospel reminds us that when we are weary, we should give everything over to God. Again, not resting on our own power, but His.

Happy Advent! I look forward to seeing what the rest of the season has to offer! But in a totally I'm-being-still, chill, and present, not anxious or a busy-body kind of way ;)


Monday, November 25, 2013

The Year of Faith Revisited

With the end of the liturgical year culminating with the Feast of Christ the King yesterday, we say goodbye to the Year of Faith. The Year of Faith began in October of 2012  commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council. The Year of Faith was to call to mind the anniversary of this great, game-changing event in the Church and it was to end on the Feast of Christ the King, 2013 which was yesterday.

As I was praying after Mass yesterday, I reflected on the readings for Year C of this feast and I also thought about how I had lived this "Year of Faith." As I already mentioned, the Year of Faith began in Oct. 2012, when Benedict XVI  was still our pope. As the YOF comes to a close, we have a new Holy Father, Pope Francis. And this significant change I think definitely plays a huge role in this YOF for the Church. Pope Benedict XVI was (and still is!) a great theologian. I remember having to read one of his works for grad school and I also (because I am a nerd) read many of his works for fun, too. He was (and is!) great with the written word. But I think something we see now with Pope Francis (the first to take on that name) is a pope of word and action. Granted, Benedict was not able to move and act as much as he would have liked, which is why he stepped down. But our current Holy Father is drawing many people back to the faith because of his actions, which is a great way to close out this year of faith. Benedict XVI "opened the Door of Faith" and Pope Francis is leading people in. It's so cool to reflect on how that worked!

And then I thought how I personally have lived this YOF, and admittedly, it is not as much as I would have liked. I started off strong, reading the document Benedict released, blogging about it, sharing the information and letter with my students. I began the New Year also talking about this theological virtue of Faith. But then it seemed that my faith was more tested than anything else in this year of faith. Since graduation and moving in May, I have had to struggle and rediscover my vocation and purpose since I no longer had a goal to strive toward and I have extra time (and space!) on my hands. This summer was certainly a struggle for me, working instead of traveling and jetsetting like I had the year before. 2012 had been such an exciting year with all of my weddings and travels, and 2013 has been a year of tests- literally and figuratively.

But reflecting now, isn't that what faith is? A series of joys and tests? Belief in things unseen? This year in particularly I certainly have had to have faith. Faith that I could get through my tests and believe that good will come from them. Faith is not always the sunshine and rainbows that come with joy and feeling close to God. Faith is also persevering when God does not feel so close. Our forefathers and foremothers have certainly shown that throughout Salvation History.

The readings for the Feast of Christ the King are really interesting in Year C. For those of you unfamiliar, I think I've mentioned this before, but our Sunday readings are on a three year cycle so that we don't hear the same readings year after year and we get to read more of the Bible. The Gospel for this Feast in year C is the passage of Jesus dying on the cross and speaking to the two criminals beside Him. One yells at Jesus and tells Him that if "He is the Son of God to save Himself and them" and the other says "Jesus, remember me when you come into Your Kingdom."

This is not the reading that comes to mind when I think of Jesus as a King. I think of His many parables about what the Kingdom of heaven will be like or something from the Ascension with the Son of God rising on a cloud to take His Throne. But this year's Gospel gives us the kind of King Jesus truly was and is: a king who is merciful, humble, broken for our sins. One who is like us in every way BUT sin. The Son of God who took on flesh to save us.

I use this story of the two criminals and Jesus to teach my lesson on judgment to my sophomores. Here are two men on their death bed. One continues to jeer and mock Jesus even to his death, needing proof of His divinity, and the other believes with a sorrowful, repentant faith.

Which are we more like right now? Do we still need Jesus to prove Himself to us? Or are we willing to believe, even if we are suffering?

I know this year I have needed much proof from God of His work in my life. But as we come to the end of this liturgical year and year of Faith, I like to think that I am going out the "Door of Faith" stronger and ready to release control.

Then he said,
"Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."
He replied to him,
"Amen, I say to you,
today you will be with me in Paradise." - Luke 23:43

I met with my spiritual director to try to come up with ideas for Advent. I am really excited and looking forward to it. Advent is usually seen as a time of waiting. I am certainly in a time of waiting right now as I wait for what my next adventure will be. But my SD and I decided to focus more on the present moment and living Advent as it comes each day very presently for its own sake, so I am excited to give this active, present waiting a try.

I'm also soooooooooo looking forward to this Thanksgiving break! As you can tell, November has been a very reflective month for me and I am very grateful for it!

May you all have blessed Thanksgiving and blessed end of the liturgical year!

Sunday, November 17, 2013


I began this year of blogging highlighting the fact that this was the first year in three years that my friends and I had not began the year with a retreat. 

I have been fortunate enough, however, to end this liturgical year with two!

I was asked a couple of months ago to be the music minister on a retreat for the youth group that I used to be in charge of before I entered religious life. It was an honor to be asked and I knew that since I would just mainly be providing music, I would have some down time to reflect myself. Not only had I felt like I come full circle (since this was the youth group I had essentially helped create- see my post on this parish here) but I was humbled that it truly has been 10 years now since I had graduated from CUA and began ministering to high school students full time (with only a brief detour in mid 2007-2010).

I was grateful for the opportunity not only to reflect but also to minister. Since I have finished my Masters, I've had lots of down time which at first was very welcome after years of studying and writing and researching all whilst teaching full time. But now I'm looking for ways to use my gifts outside of just teaching again. So this music ministry gig was a welcome opportunity. 

And I got to spend it praying HERE. A place I used to take my retreatants when I was the youth minister at this parish:

It was so breathtaking and peaceful and, like I said, I had some time to reflect on the year since I had not been truly able to while working on my Masters. 

While I was there, I worked on my plans for the upcoming Kairos 3 retreat at school as well as taking some personal prayer time. I've mentioned several times in this blog about the power of these Kairos retreats.  I believe the Holy Spirit allowed me to be open to the message He wanted for me personally and also that I was to share with the students on Kairos. 

The Kairos 3 retreat was this past week and it was even more successful, perhaps, than the 2 before it. Word has gotten out that this retreats are really powerful if students are open to it, so the students come in ready to experience it fully. I was absolutely blown away by the student leaders and all the students on the retreat this time around. They reminded me how open and vulnerable teenagers really are and how they desire true love and God's friendship. So many of them just wanted to know how they can have a relationship with God. This, to me, was the sign of a retreat well done and the Spirit moving in our world which gives me hope!

I have been praying this year to be more vulnerable and open and God continues to show me through the youth I encounter the challenge that I need to accept. The challenge to let He and others in. It's true that I've already let God into my life and I believe that the teens look up to me because I've done this and they want to let God have control of their lives. But it is a constant challenge to re-open myself to others and God in new ways. And now that this chapter of my life- my moving out of living in a community and my Masters degree- are done, I need to be open to whatever happens next.

For the first time in 3-4 years I truly have no idea, no direction of where God wants me to go. But He helped me to reclaim and reaffirm my commitment to youth ministry through these latest retreats. He continues to bless and honor me by allowing me to be in the lives of young people and minister to them. I've decided I'm going to continue to do that full force as long as He continues to call me. To just invest in what He has called me to in the present moment, which continues to be youth ministry.

I was growing nervous these past couple of months over having so much free time and what God might be calling me to do next, but after these two retreats, I've reclaimed, like I said, the here and now and the present moment. I'm going to just keep doing what I'm doing and take every opportunity that comes my way to use my gifts in ministry to the best of my ability until He calls me to something else.

It's always been about the next thing for me. On the Kairos retreat we tell the students to participate, not anticipate. Anticipating was definitely making me a little crazy last month. And so I've decided to just participate in whatever God gives me in the here and now. It's kind of fun not having a clue about what is next (famous last words, I'm sure)!

I AM looking forward to, however, some Spiritual Direction this week as well as Thanksgiving break. Beyond that, I have no plans, no anticipations. Advent is going to be very interesting this year because I don't know yet what I'm "waiting" for!

Here's to the end of another liturgical year, anticipating Advent, and participating in the present!


The Year in Review

It's really hard to believe that next week is the Feast of Christ the King. That means Advent is right around the corner and another liturgical year is come and gone. It is usually around this time in Nov. that I recap the year and take a moment to look at its highlights. I still feel like, though, so much good is yet to come! But we only have another two weeks!

My sister is due in these next two weeks with my little niece, so that will certainly be another highlight of 2013. But here is what else the year has brought me:

I rang in the New Year in LA and made another trip out there over Spring Break in April:

 I celebrated my Babci's 90th birthday! And then she got to come to DC to help me celebrate my Masters

I said goodbye to some of my favorite students:

And hello to some fun kids that I would spend much of my summer with nannying:

I got to have a much needed respite in Florida in July:

 And see two of my best friends get married:

I celebrated my 10 year college reunion...

And made some time for some trips to Philly, Richmond, Ohio, and (of course) some wineries.

When I look back on 2013, finishing my Masters degree is going to be one of the biggest standouts, as well as moving into my own apartment, and the year I decided to spend my summer as a nanny. 2013 definitely had it's ups and downs, and it has left me needing to rediscover myself in a way as I wait for what is next.

I truly can't believe 2013 and this liturgical year have come and gone. Guess it's time to embrace the waiting of Advent and 2014! I really have no idea what is next and that is scary and exciting!


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Working and Waiting

This fall it seems I'm having very many thoughts and experiences similar to that of fall three years ago- the fall of 2010. I became an aunt for the first time that year and I was working very hard as a first year teacher. I also got to harvest grapes for the first time at the family vineyard of some friends. There were also what I thought to be some promising dating opportunities at the time, and there was just an overall attitude of newness and hope after a pretty trying first half of the year.

Three years later (is it coincidence that our lectionary of readings is also on a three year cycle? That I would have heard the same gospels and letters three years ago in Year C, the same lectionary year as today?) my sister is one month away from giving birth for the second time, I'm still working hard as a teacher, and I recently got to harvest at the same family farm as I did in 2010.

This year, though, because it is 3-4 years later, there were SO MANY new grapes for us to harvest! Many different varieties than the grapes we had harvested before. And once again, the biblical analogy of the vineyard was not wasted on me. In fact, it probably had even more impact this time around since I was seeing even more fruits of years of labor.

As I was helping with the harvest this year, I meditated on how it truly takes so much time for wine to be produced. Christ certainly knew this and no doubt used it as His analogy for faith for this reason. Grapes take years to grow. The ones we were harvesting this fall in 2013 I believe had been planted in 2009. Four years to grow to the point where they were now ready to be picked. And that is still just the beginning stage of winemaking! Then there is time to ferment:

These were grapes that my friends picked earlier in the week. They have to ferment and be "punched down" for weeks, I believe before they move to the next stages...

The processing stages don't take AS long, I believe, as the growing of the grapes, but we still know that wine "gets better with age" so the longer in the bottle, the better!

Again, no wonder that Christ used this analogy for faith. Grapes take YEARS to grow. So does our faith. The growing is the longest part of the process (to my knowledge). This gave me much to meditate on since it seems Christ keeps sending me this message to WAIT (see most of my previous blog posts, including my last one before this).

The processing usually doesn't take as long, (again in my limited knowledge of winemaking) though it is still very much WORK. I have found this to be true in my faith life as well. Once i know what I'm doing or what needs to be "processed", God makes it happen. Like when I entered religious life, or went to grad school, those events still took time and effort- but they moved along a little quicker than the waiting/"growing".

Speaking of religious life, the order I had entered- I still remain in contact with and I am so grateful for that relationship and connection. The sisters began a novena last weekend and I reached out to a couple of the sisters I am close with and gave them my intention for new discernment. With grad school done now, I have spent the past couple of months just working and WAITING. I don't know what the next chapter is for me and I'm just working at school and spending the rest of my time just waiting for God to reveal what He wants me to do in addition to that.

The sisters were very sweet and sent me some words of inspiration which I thought I'd share because I used them to meditate on today:

"May He give you light, but also courage, as he helps you see the unfolding of this next chapter... Perhaps not having any project lined up will leave you freer (but perhaps feeling uncomfortable) so that you may receive what he is unfolding..."

 "Live the uncertainty as an invitation Jesus gives to trust more deeply... the present moment is a grace for those times..."

 "Keep loving Jesus in the present moment...and He will love you into the next chapter."

You can see that I had expressed some concern as to what to do in this present time because, unlike the fall of 2010, these experiences- while all great- are not really "new" this time around. I'm of course struggling with that theme of late (again, see last post!). I always want something NEW- a new project, a new chapter. It seems others are moving on and I'm still left on the vine to grow or that I have been left in the bottle a little longer.

But God's great plan has also not been wasted on me. While I was working (literally, not spiritually!) in the vineyard last weekend, I discovered that one of the winemakers married a friend of one of my old coworkers. A coworker from my job that I had right before I started teaching. This coworker was actually the reason I found my current job in the first place and it was just such a fitting reminder of how perfect God's plan is. I had really struggled in that previous job and it seemed to take forever to find the next, new fit for me. But when it was the right job, God made it happen and placed people in my life to make it happen. And I'm still very content in my current state three years later.

And so I will continue working and waiting in this uncertainty and perhaps looking at it as an opportunity in and of itself to grow. I did blog about and pray for vulnerability a while ago, didn't I? Sigh. I probably brought this all on myself!

Also, I knew there was a reason I feel such a strong affinity for wine :)

Happy Fall Harvest!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Quality not Quantity

"For the vision still has its time,
presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint;
if it delays, wait for it,
it will surely come, it will not be late."- Habakkuk 2:3

Last weekend, my college friends and I celebrated our 10 year reunion. In some ways, it feels very much like 10 years and in other ways, I can't believe it. Many of my friends are married with growing children already. But I was also very ( and somewhat pleasantly :) surprised that many still- like myself-are not. Many are still finding their way and discovering things about themselves 10 years later. 

These were all taken pre- Facebook, so my friends were scanning pics and posting them all the week before the reunion...don't we look like babies??!

10 years later:

Still lookin' good, right?

So last weekend, I'm surrounded by all these special people in my life- I even had two of close friends stay with me in my new apt- so we hung out like old times all weekend and was back reality. And the starkness of my current state in life- independent and single- sank in once again. I thought I would feel it more when I was with all my friends and their new respective friends and family, but I was actually pleasantly surprised, like I said, at how it felt like old times. I did have a conversation, though, with one of my old roommates who is now a mother of two and it went kind of along the lines of the following:

Me: "Wow! It doesn't feel like 10 years!"

My old roomie: "Oh, it does to me!"

Me: "Oh, I guess your life is pretty different with two kids, right?"

Her: "Yup."

Me: " life isn't that different...."

In my mind, I felt bad that my life really wasn't much different than 10 years ago.  But she actually posted about this same conversation later on FB from a different perspective. She expressed concern that her life was SO different and that she felt different from many of us. (That is why, THIS: )

This current weekend, like I alluded to, hurt a little bit. I had made plans to hang out with a friend and then she got sick so I was left to fend for myself. Just like my conversation with my aforementioned roommate, our states in life can be a double edged sword. I LOVE my independence. But then there are weekends like this one where it gets kind of old. I'm sure she LOVES her children and husband but probably has weekends where it can seem like a lot to bear.

I tried to make the most of my unexpected free day doing things that I love- being outside, praying, going to a movie, etc. And it was a good day! But my prayer kind of looked like this:


I had recently prayed a novena and I got, what I felt, was a pretty significant sign. But then this week kind of made me question the answer I thought I got. So I prayed to God yesterday for ANOTHER sign. Ha. Who does that? I was totally up front with God:

 "LOOK, I know this is probably very wrong of me, but I'm gonna need ANOTHER sign, ok?"

 And I believe the readings for today were my answer.

The verse from Habakkuk that I began with was a pretty strong sign for me to continue to hope and wait for God's plan. As well as the fact that this prophet seems to just get me:

"How long, O Lord? I cry for help but you do not listen! I cry out to you...but you do not intervene!" - Habakkuk 1:2

I don't know much about the prophet Habakkuk, but I definitely can empathize with his form of prayer!

My guy Paul, too, gives hope (as always) in his second letter to Timothy:

"I remind you, to stir into flame
the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands. 
For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice
but rather of power and love and self-control. 
So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord,
nor of me, a prisoner for his sake;
but bear your share of hardship for the gospel
with the strength that comes from God."

Paul always reminding me that it could be worse (imprisonment, for example...) and that God has not left us to fend for ourselves but empowers us with His strength in difficult moments. 

The Gospel was a little harder to unpack (Luke 17: 5-10), but began with the parable of the mustard seed, which the priest at Mass chose to focus on. Obviously, the moral of this parable is that if we have great faith we can do great things. But I guess I never bothered to think before about the quality versus quantity of it. 

I guess many would say I have great faith. I've given a lot of my life to the Church and I do turn to God alot. He's a pretty big part of my life. But is that quality of faith always there?? I mean, as I mentioned above, I had to ask for a SECOND sign, because I wasn't totally convinced. Moses got shunned from the Promised Land for that kind of talk...

The same can be said for friendships and relationships- it's not the being surrounded by people 24/7, but the quality of those friends and companions that you can count on. I was in pretty amazing company last weekend- so much so that their absence was striking this weekend. But I was reminded this weekend that God does have a plan, and it is the quality of relationship and trust that I must bring to the table.

I have A LOT of quality people in my life- even if I'm not around them most of the time. I am envious of those who get to have their BFF around them 24/7, but I trust in God's plan and His time for me. As the prophet Habakkuk says: "...the vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint..." 

if we have but the faith to believe it.


Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Women in My Life

Those of you who know me know that I go down to Richmond a fair amount to see some of besties who live there (and get my hair did. My hair stylist, Missi, is the greatest. She is a 90s music connoisseur, has a great sense of humor, and has become one of my biffles or besties as well).

A couple of weekends ago when I was in Richmond, my girls and I were porching it (aka- hanging out on the front porch, taking in the Richmond scene, consuming a beverage or two, etc.) and discussing what makes one a feminist. Just your typical Friday night fodder. Actually, some of them keep a feminist blog and, well, we *are* all women, so the fact that we would be discussing such matters is hardly unheard of.

I have always considered myself somewhat of a feminist in that I believe in promoting women's strength and equality to men in a civil rights sense. I know that men and women are created differently (duh). But history has a track record of also treating us differently in an offensive, oppressive way, so I'm a feminist in that I want to ensure that that never happens again and stops happening in places that anti-feminism still exists. I believe women can do what men can do (again, in a civil sense) and ALL people should be given equal, basic human rights regardless of race or gender.

In the course of our conversation, we brought up a certain iconic female rap artist and debated whether she is a feminist or not. She is an artist that has proven her equality with men in that she can do what they do and rap about sex in a vulgar way. We wondered: is she asserting her equality with them? Or is she actually demeaning herself and women by rapping about her body and all of the things that she can/a man can do with/to it.

I chose to vote for the latter. And since then, I've thought about the music and artists I grew up and whether or not they promoted a positive, feminist model for me. I feel like I grew up in an age (the 80s or 90s) in which women were finding their way in a man's world and finally starting to assert themselves successfully in it- whether that be in the workplace, the art world, etc. Power suits became a thing, though, they were not pretty:
The ladies of Designing Women....God, I loved that show....

I actually debated with a student last year whether a power suit made you a feminist or not. She (and we certainly thought so in the 80s) seemed to think that wearing a suit made a woman equal to man. I happen to think you can still dress feminine and like a lady and be treated equally to a man. And if someone talks down to you because you are looking cute and professional and sophisticated in a super cute dress or skirt, well, then shame on them.

But here are some of the ladies I looked up to as a kid and an adolescent. I kind of wish girls and teens today had some of the same rolemodels:

Debbie Gibson
This was seriously the first woman I idolized. And I apparently still idolize her since I have the same bangs 20 some years later:

I think she was only in her late teens or early twenties at the time herself, and her pop songs may have not been all that prolific (see Electric Youth) but she wrote her OWN. SONGS. And she was always fully clothed. Can Rihanna say that? After a summer full of nannying I've learned that a young girl's first music tastes are not always refined, so please don't judge me. Though, I do find myself judging Deborah now herself when I follow her shameless self-promotion on Vine.

Janet Jackson
She was in "Control" and I loved her for it. I still want to realize my dream of creating a musical based on her work and using her original "Rhythm Nation" and "If" choreography. I would merely write and stage the musical as I could never, ever master the aforementioned choreography. Janet started her music career all covered up physically and eventually she started showing some skin. "Janet" was definitely one of the most scandalous albums I ever owned, but I think that says more about my music collection than it does about her.

Salt N Pepa
These ladies. Remember the female rapper I mentioned earlier? She needs to take a note from these ladies. Like Janet and the Designing Women before them, they started their careers mostly covered up and dressed even a little more masculine. No doubt to fit into the male dominated rap game they were a part of (I love that I just used the phrase "rap game" appropriately and non ironically). But like Janet, they eventually shed their skin, but I don't believe to fit into a more over-sexed, objectified female trend. They had already proven their chops. They were just doing them and their lyrics (unlike aforementioned female rapper) can back that up.

Kim Deal (of The Pixies and The Breeders)
Oh man did I ever want to be this lady from The Breeders- one of my favorite alternative bands of the 90s. I think I even had that same Phantom of the Opera oversized shirt. Not really, but it was also not unlikely. I don't think teenagers realize that we used to LIKE wearing our clothes baggy. That it was a THING. We would tie things around our waists ON PURPOSE not to hide a spot or stain on our pants. But Kim Deal was one of my alternative idols with her eccentric, musical style. Again, another woman doing her amid a largely male-dominated scene like the 90s grunge scene.

Shirley Manson
No, she is not related to Marilyn. That man scared the begeebus out of me. She, however, like Kim Deal was a rocking, alternative chick heading up a band of all dudes and doing it in a feminine way. See also:

Gwen Stefani- beautiful and feminine with amazing style but doing it her way, not they way any trend or man tells her to. She makes the trends. But I can't even talk about her abs.

So clearly I am a child of the 80s and 90s. But Julia, this is a THEOLOGY blog. So can we get some Scriptural models up in here? I'm so glad you asked.

For my Masters degree I wrote a research paper on three different female types in the Old Testament. The Old Testament so rarely even mentions women (sadly. Alas, a sign of the culture and times) that those that are mentioned you know have to be pretty solid. Here are the ones I chose to profile:

(She's peeping outside of the door no doubt overhearing the angel speaking to Abraham and laughing at what the news was- she's going to have a BABY? At her age?? Bah! Ain't nobody got time for that).
I read Genesis and some critiques for my research and found Sarah to be the strong, but "stand by your man" type. She was obviously a strong woman but had to abide by cultural norms. She let her husband sleep with a concubine (not feminist in my mind) but God told her that that was not part of the plan and she and Abraham needed to get with the program. The fact that she is clued into this plan is HUGE, however, since usually it's just the dudes in the O.T. who are running the show (but everyone knows that behind agreat Jewish man is a great Jewish woman ;)

Now we are talking. Girl was the only female judge of Israel and she just sat and hung out under a tree (HER palm tree, no less- see Judges 4) and let the people come to HER. She also commanded a military from that tree. WHAT.

Let's call her the strong but silent type. She is kind of the "Joan" (if I may use a Mad Men analogy:)
Oh, man, I love the female characters on Mad Men, too...that's another blog for another time...

 in which she uses her female sexuality to lure a man and then promptly tricks him and turns the tables... running a stake through his head. Dudes are so dumb sometimes...and Jael knew this.

These are just some of the women I have chosen in the past to focus on, think about, and let influence my life in some way. Who am I currently influenced by you might ask? Well, pop culturally, I'm obsessed with female comedians and writers like Mindy Kaling, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Kristen Wiig. I may never be a writer because those ladies have already said it for me. Also, say what you will about this lady and her husband, but there is no denying that she is a powerful woman and a great study for feminism:

And of course, I'm surrounded by so many "real" ladies- my teacher friends, my Richmond girls, my Jingers-

Susan and Steph may actually be my real life heroes. Sus just had a baby and is already pursuing her phD. She also kept her last name when she got married which I think is kind of rad. Steph is one of the most athletic women I know and can run and tackle and throw like one of the guys and she is fierce when it comes to Fantasy Football. And they are both still such ladies!

And the real ladies in my life will also always be these ladies (with one on the way! My sis is preggers with a girl! And my cousin just had a girl, too!)
My cousins, sister, mother, grandmother, and I

Girl Power! (and that leads us to the Spice Girls... Feminist or not? I will leave that one up to you.)


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Feasting on the Assumption

There are so many word plays I could make with this feast...but you probably already "assumed" that... Har har har...oh, how I hate puns!

As I've already mentioned, I have a mixed relationship with the Blessed Mother (see Sept 19, 2012...I would hyperlink the post, but I'm working on my iPad app today and I don't know how to do that...humph). But for some reason I was super pumped to celebrate today's feast. I even gave myself a reminder in my phone to go to the vigil last night 'cause I knew I was busy all day today (Last full day of nannying and seeing one of my favvvvv performing artists tonight!!). And I was really glad I went to the vigil because the readings were different than the Mass for today.

This morning's readings use the excerpt from Revelations depicting the woman "clothed in sun" which is a great image for this feast ( the Assumption is the day we honor Mary being taken body and soul into heaven. Why doesn't she just "die" like the rest of us, you ask? Her body housed the Son of God for one! It doesn't get to decompose. For two, she was conceived without Original Sin, and one of the effects of Original Sin is death. No Original Sin= No earthly death. Kinda makes sense, right?).

The first reading used for the Vigil Mass last night, however, was the account of David bringing the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem, making it the Holy City it is today. The Ark of the Covenant housed the most sacred thing for the Israelites at the time: The Ten Commandments (and some say a piece of Moses/Aaron's staff). David, flawed as he was, had a pure heart and wanted to honor God and make Jerusalem a sacred city. We call Mary the "Ark of the Covenant" because she housed the most sacred thing for us: our Lord. And both she and David carried their respective sacred items with great joy.

I love the story of David bringing the Ark into Jerusalem because of his unbridled, unabashed simple joy for God. I can relate more to David, I believe, than I can Mary because he was flawed and she was/is perfect. However, while I identify more with David, I aspire to be more like Mary in her simplicity and obedience.

Here's a pic of my man David leading the way for the Ark with great fanfare:

Anyways, so the readings last night made me even more stoked for this feast today. Oh, and the Gospel from last night? ONLY ONE VERSE. And it was a good one! Luke 11: 27-28 (ok, so *two* verses):

"While Jesus was speaking, a woman from the crowd called out and said to Him: 'Blessed the womb that carried you....' He replied, ' Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.'"

Jesus, once again- the great deflector- putting the attention on other people rather than on Himself. I wonder if there are even shorter Gospel verses or readings ever read at Mass. I'm sure an even bigger Theology/Liturgy nerd than myself can answer that :)

And because I'm such a 90s nerd in addition to theological nerdiness, I always use Lauryn Hill's "To Zion" when talking about this story of David in my Scripture class. I believe she captures the joy of David bringing the ark to Zion (a mount in Jerusalem)  as well as Mary's joy of caring God's Son. Lauryn Hill for the win (always). I mean...Sister Act 2:

Enjoy this feast!


Sunday, August 4, 2013

Vanity and Vulnerability

Summer is winding down and any time something comes to end we pause to reflect: "was it well done? did we make the most of our time? What did we even do, really?!"

Summer has definitely gone way too fast- possibly the most overused, understated phrase ever- but it's true! 2 more weeks of nannying and then I'm back at school for teacher meetings and training already. I definitely think it was a summer well spent, though. No one can say I wasted any time! I put many hours in, did a lot of stuff around DC, made trips to Ohio and Florida, and if my goal was not to sit on my couch all summer, well then, mission accomplished.

I also feel pretty good about my summer goal of maintaining somewhat of a prayer routine. I've continued to take time before going to "work" as a nanny, read the Scripture readings of the day, read a little bit from Pope Francis, and examine and reflect a little each day.

So you are probably saying, GOOD FOR YOU, JULIA. If you are one of my kinder friends, you mean that sincerely. If you are one of my more snarky friends, you mean that sarcastically (and I love you for it). And to each of you I say THANKS. I'm pretty proud of myself. But before we get into vanity, I want to address the latter subject of this post.

This past week I went to Florida and got to spend time with some of my besties. I was reflecting today that these people each love me and accept me for who I am, know me well, but still call me and challenge me to be even more vulnerable which is often difficult for me. In other words, these friendships don't stop at surface level. They easily could. We could just talk about what we have in common, gossip, or shop (almost all of my best friends do this last thing well ;), but we don't. We call each other out while still being loving. I have been blessed with many of these types of relationships throughout my life, with different people at different times, all calling me to something greater by simultaneously loving me but calling me outside of my comfort zone.

Today's first reading kind of addresses this need to go beyond the surface and artificial because it is all vanity:

" Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth, [ the author of Ecclesiastes, often attributed to Solomon]
vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!

Here is one who has labored with wisdom and knowledge and skill,
and yet to another who has not labored over it,
he must leave property. 
This also is vanity and a great misfortune. 
For what profit comes to man from all the toil and anxiety of heart
with which he has labored under the sun? 
All his days sorrow and grief are his occupation;
even at night his mind is not at rest. 
This also is vanity. " - Ecclesiastes 1:2, 2: 21-23

Now as a writer, I hate the standard, contrived intro to an idea of: "vanity is defined as... blah, blah, blah." But as a writer, I also always want to know the origins of and research words! So for the purposes of this post:  Vanity can be defined as: "the excessive belief in one's own abilities or attractiveness to others." (Stephen LaMarche a la wikipedia...I never said my sources had to be legit for my posting purposes ;)

This definition kind of cuts me to the heart. This is something I think we all struggle with- pride/vanity defined as above. I know I can get really trapped in my own mind and selfish thoughts if not for the aforementioned friendships and, of course, faith. We can get caught up in our own abilities and become consumed by how attractive we appear, if not for our true friends and True God to rely on and love us no matter what.

I have mentioned several times on this blog the retreats that I have been a part of with the school, particularly the Kairos retreat which we've recently implemented. Tonight, the original leaders of our 1st Kairos are getting together and I'm excited to catch up with the kids. After hearing the readings at Mass this morning and thinking about this week and weekend's events, I was meditating on what makes the Kairos retreats so special. It has to do with the same I idea that I mentioned about my close friends- on Kairos, the kids make themselves vulnerable and truly open themselves up to God and each other in a way that they haven't prior. It gives them a chance to move past the vanity of the world and be vulnerable in a healthy way that allows them to grow personally and spiritually. I need to be constantly reminded of this healthy openness and vulnerability, so I'm grateful for the reminder today.

I'm just grateful for the friends, Mass readings, and prayer time that I've gotten to enjoy this summer. If it could stay summer for a few MORE weeks I'd be even more grateful, but as is also said later in the book of Ecclesiastes: "to every thing a season."

Enjoy the rest of your summer! And here are some Florida beach pics for you to enjoy:

 Palm trees just instantly give me peace!
Ah, the ocean waves!

God gave us a rainbow on the first day on the beach! Always a reminder of His Promise and love.


Thursday, July 11, 2013

"The Laborer Deserves His Keep"

I started to write this blog post yesterday, but then the children (remember, I'm a nanny can you forget if you follow me on Twitter ;) came running in to ask me something and all was lost. Sigh. I'm beginning to have great empathy particularly for my single mother friends. I don't know how you do it and juggle everything else.  I've always wondered this, which is why I have, perhaps, never felt called to motherhood. Juggling stresses me out!  I can do it (figuratively speaking) and I'm even kind of good at it, but I don't choose it. And i also prefer to juggle solo ;)  I have been told I have great maternal instinct, but I choose to use that instinct towards my students or for other people's kids who I can hand back after a couple of hours.

This is why many were shocked when I announced I was going to nanny this summer. I had made my distaste for spending my free time with children rather known (teaching teenagers is a different story. You can talk more with teenagers as opposed to having to come up with new games every day and managing your own classroom is way different than having to fend for yourself in an adventure in babysitting) so people wanted to know WHY. Why take a summer job? Why take THIS summer job?

As I said in my last blog post, I did feel somewhat called to it. Maybe to feel empathy for my friends with kids who are growing by the numbers. I also had met the kids and they seemed really cool and chill and that it would be fun to get to know them (which it is). But mostly, I wanted to DO something. I know summer is for sitting and relaxing, but I have never been able to do that for long! I don't know about you, but I always have to be doing something, accomplishing some kind of goal, and making good use of my time...damn my strong work ethic!

It is interesting that, in this time of relaxing and summer, we have had at Mass this week readings about labor. This past Sunday at Mass we heard that "the harvest is abundant but the laborers are few" and in today's Gospel Jesus tells his apostles to do all these tasks that seem impossible: "Cure the sick! Raise the dead! But take nothing with you! The laborer deserves his keep." (Matt. 10: 7-15)

My thoughts on these Gospels have been: "Send more laborers into your harvest already! I'm starting to get a little frustrated and tired, here. Why can't I just lay around and get lost in video games and the traps of the culture like everyone else? Humph. And what does it mean, Jesus, that the 'laborer deserves his keep?' you just told us to keep nothing! I'm onto you!" I mean, I know I said that I like to keep busy and work, but WHY me? 

So these are the questions I have found myself asking this summer: Why labor? Why take the job in the summer? Why try to stay busy and persevere? Why labor in the Church when many make it seem like a lost cause?

I clearly have to meditate more on these things, but God does provide some answers in this week's readings. The Old Testament readings have been the story of Jacob and his sons. I love teaching this particular chapter to my students because they always freak out when they realize what a playa Jacob was: 12 sons (and probs even more kids counting his daughters) by at least four women. AND Jacob got to be blessed by God and given the name Israel even though he tricked his father Isaac into giving him the inheritance and birthright in the first place. These stories never make much sense to us because it doesn't seem fair. It's not fair that Jacob is one of the founding patriarchs of our faith when he lied and became a polygamist. Just like it might not seem fair that we have to work so hard. But I have come to see these stories as stories of hope. If they can do all that crazy and still be blessed and forgiven, certainly God will keep his covenant with me!

And so we see in the readings that it's not always fair they way things work out, but God is faithful. That is what the Old Testament readings are meant to show us: that God has kept and fulfilled His promises. It is hard to remember in the midst of our labor, but it is what does and should keep me going and why I do what I do. I just have to have these reminders from time to time and God knows that. 

The last bit of Scripture I will leave with today: "Without cost you have received, without cost you are to give." This line is also from today's Gospel and I believe sums up what I've been trying to say. It may not seem (at least it doesn't for me!) that I was given something without cost. I feel like I have earned what God has given me and worked hard for it, but the reality is, we don't have to do anything. God's grace is a free gift and we don't earn it. This a hard concept for us to understand, and sometimes we want to show off our labor like a badge of honor, but it is not ours to tote around and flaunt. This is why we labor: to share the gift that is worthy to be given freely. Not just to keep us busy, but because we have been given a gift that we are called to share. And I guess since it's not really us doing all the work in the first place, that's why we don't really deserve our "keep." But he gives us the reward of His promises any way. 


Some evidence of my "labor" this summer:

I've become quite the baker thanks to my new little helper...

We also have Fashion Shows...

I join the moms in the waiting area at gymanstics class....

And I rejoice when I get a moment to read when they are playing with friends :) I'm like a pseudo-mom!