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.