Saturday, November 23, 2019

Feast of Christ the King 2019 Year in Review

You can tell that the year has slowed down for me because I have blogged a couple of times this month. Winter came too fast this year and it seems we have all gone into hibernation mode. As I've mentioned, though, November is a great time to reflect. With its feasts of All Saints and All Souls Day and now the end of the liturgical year- not to mention the end of a decade- it is time a great time to check in on ourselves, where we've been, and what we've done.

So here we go! The annual Feast of Christ the King Year in Review!

 I rang in 2019 with essentially my family here in Richmond
 My girls and I made a commitment to quarterly Girls' Weekends. It only happened twice for us, but we still had many adventures throughout the year. Above is Virginia Beach, below is a cabin/winery somewhere in NW VA!

 I spent a lot of time with family this year with a visit to Richmond from my cousins (above) and trip to Israel with my parents (below). The trip to Israel was definitely a highlight. I also made many trips to Ohio this year. Probably as many or more than I did 10 years ago in 2009!

 I spent my Spring Break this year in the Midwest with a trip home for Easter and my birthday (below) and time with CUA friends at a conference in Chicago (above). 

 I spent the summer of 2019 with a lot of domestic travel.  A trip to Asheville NC (above), Delaware and Philly (below), as well as another trip to Ohio and also a trip to Savannah, GA.

 Oh! And I went back to North Carolina in September to see Lizzo with some fabulous friends (above). It was also the summer of the Cocktail- A- Day challenge (which I achieved below). 

 We lost my Babci this year, but celebrated her 96 years of life with family (and vodka shots above). I also celebrated my 20th High School reunion (below)

 I rounded out the year with another girls' weekend (above) in VA with friends from CUA and celebrated Halloween with my favorites at our annual RVA gathering.

I normally would include pictures of Thanksgiving in this year round-up, but it's PAINFULLY late this year! I still have 2 more days of school as I write this before I finally get a break! It's been a long haul since Labor Day!

As I look back 2019 is similar to 2018 with lots of joy and time with the communities I am a part of. I also enjoyed lots of domestic travel and the trip of a lifetime with my parents to the Holy Land. Losing my Babci was also a big mark of this year, but I will remember 2019 with fondness as the blessings definitely outweighed any trials.

I already reflected a little on this last decade in my previous post, but I can't believe the 10 years has passed and I've spent almost 5 of them in RVA. These 10 years have certainly been blessed. I've had a lot of growth, a lot of successes and joys, and a lot of finally owning who I am after discerning it for so long in my 20s. I think it is interesting that both 2009 and 2019 brought a lot of trips to Ohio respectively with weddings and funerals and reunions. As I mentioned before, I have never had a long term plan for nearly anything for as much of a planner as I am. Sticking with my intuition, discernment and prayer has not led me astray so far. I think I will do it some more in the next 10 years and see where it leads.

I love the Feast of Christ the King not just because of the time for reflection on the past liturgical year, but because it reminds of us of where we are going. There are lots of readings about heaven and the Second Coming during this time of year. Today's Gospel also reminds us about what kind of King we have in Christ and it just blows me away each year the Gospel readings that are picked for this feast. They are not readings of a King taking His Throne, but of a poor Man taking His Cross. We have a king who humbled Himself and died for us.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Reflections on a Decade

A friend posted today (and yes, I recognize that my last 2 posts have been prompted by social media!) about the fact that a DECADE is ending this year. The post was a challenge to sum up the past decade in six words. I chose: "Found community and call to teaching."

I remember where I was at the end of 2009. I had left the convent a year prior, I was living with two awesome friends from college in a house outside DC, but I was still working a non-profit job that I hated and was looking for my "purpose" in life. (I actually started this year reflecting on the past 10 years in regards to yet another social media challenge. I might have a problem).

Here's a pic of NYE '09-10. Please note my CAMERA in one hand and my Motorola Razor phone in the other!

November is often the month that I pause to reflect. We start with All Saints and All Souls Day, we wind back our clocks and the nights get longer. The weather gets colder and we hunker down for a long winter's nap. Lots of time to sit and stir and reflect.

The liturgical year is coming to an end and I always take a look back on the year on the Feast of Christ the King that is coming up in a little over a week. But prompted by my friend's post today, I want to take a look back at the things that have taken place for me in the last 10 years that meant the most:

- my sister got married to my brother in law who is great
-  I went to so many weddings. So. Many.
- we lost my uncle, my Grandma Strukely, my friend Dan, and Babci
- My niece and nephew came into the world
- I very haphazardly took a job to start teaching at the end of 2010. My life has certainly not been the same.
- I met and maintained some of the best friendships of my life.
- I obtained a Masters Degree.
- I stopped living with roommates and moved out on my own.
- I left the DC area and moved to my "happy place" of Richmond
- I started to dabble in art!
- I learned about wine!
- I drank a lot of wine!
- I had many failed attempts at dating and online dating but many life lessons learned
- I learned you have to work two jobs to afford life as a teacher.
- I traveled to Greece, Turkey, Italy, Hungary, Austria, Germany, Poland, Czech Republic, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Israel and Palestine.
- I got my summers back and learned how to spend them in the best ways: doing whatever the heck I want!

I'm sure as I continue to reflect, this list will continue to grow. All I can say is, none of the above things were part of MY plan. None. I did not plan to be a teacher. I did not plan to move to Richmond. I did not plan to travel the world. I wasn't sure I would get my Masters or what in. I didn't plan to be living on my own. But all of these things have made me the best version of myself. I have been thriving.

 In 2009, we had my 10 year high school reunion (above) This year, we had our 20th! (below) I think my friends and I (granted, different friends pictured in both) are even happier and healthier at 38 than we were 28.

I am so, so grateful for the last 10 years. And just like I couldn't possibly plan all that happened in the last decade, I have no ideas for the next. But I am always hopeful.

I will be recapping 2019 and The Feast of Christ the King soon! Favorite time of year! I love an end of the year reflection!


Sunday, November 10, 2019

It's All About Balance

The year is 2005. The social media platform is MySpace. The profile bio asks you to feature a quote.

I come up with this: "It's All About Balance."

People other than my "top 5" probably wonder: "What? What does that mean?" And that would be fair. I was 24 and fancying myself introspective, but wanted to keep it light and fun? I guess?

I'm still not sure all that the MySpace bio quote meant to me then, but I did find myself for the rest of my 20s and 30s trying to seek a medium between extremes: wanting to be faithful to the Church, but also wanting to live "in the world." I think that over my past 15 years or so, I have achieved, for the most part, that balance. Though I have certainly lived that balance out more gracefully at times in my life than others.

I find myself thinking about this MySpace phrase due to another social media encounter that I had today with my cousin via Twitter. Being the good Polish-Catholics that we are, my cousin and I found ourselves after Mass tweeting about today's Gospel. Who does that? We do, apparently! I will admit, when I first read the Gospel for today, I wasn't thrilled. I was having to break this Gospel down at our RCIA meeting last week as well as for my students. What was I going to say about a woman being married 7 times (though 7 is a symbolic number in Scripture...) And the Sadducees? And Moses? And what, in fact, is Jesus trying to teach us??? Here is the passage:

"Some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection,
came forward and put this question to Jesus, saying,
"Teacher, Moses wrote for us,
If someone's brother dies leaving a wife but no child,
his brother must take the wife
and raise up descendants for his brother.

Now there were seven brothers;
the first married a woman but died childless.
Then the second and the third married her,
and likewise all the seven died childless.
Finally the woman also died.
Now at the resurrection whose wife will that woman be?
For all seven had been married to her."
Jesus said to them,
"The children of this age marry and remarry;
but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age
and to the resurrection of the dead
neither marry nor are given in marriage.
They can no longer die,
for they are like angels;
and they are the children of God
because they are the ones who will rise.
That the dead will rise
even Moses made known in the passage about the bush,
when he called out 'Lord, '
the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob;
and he is not God of the dead, but of the living,
for to him all are alive."- Luke 20: 27-38

My cousin, in her tweet, wanted to know why we had to focus on the next life while we are still living and breathing here in this one. My response to her was taken from that MySpace profile: "It's All About Balance."

We have to focus on heaven because it is our hope. It is our goal. I am an extremely goal oriented person and so to me, if there isn't a goal, what is the point? But I saw my cousin's point as well. We can't go around with our head in the clouds without living in the here and now. I used to think that saints were so detached from this earth that I couldn't possibly relate to them. I have come to (as you well know, dear reader) love the saints because they are living, earthly examples of how to live heaven on earth. 

Here's a picture of my cousin and I from when she came to visit me in RVA earlier this year. A lot of my friends down here said we look alike. I'm definitely 8-9 years her senior!

Even before my cousin had tweeted me, however, I was thinking about this idea of balance on my way to Mass. Mostly because I was thinking about work and how my students more so than ever before really are quite detached from the Church. It's not their fault- they are 11 and 12, after all. And it's not that they don't have a desire, they just haven't been exposed to the Bible as I had been growing up,  nor the traditions of the Church. Even going to Mass is not a priority in their world. 

I was thinking about how we address this separation from Scripture and Tradition and it has to be with kindness and with balance. To instill fear was a tactic from the past and fear is one way to hold power for sure, but it isn't the healthy way. Christ never went for fear tactics. Now His message was not always easy, but it was that balance of observing the law and revering God, but having compassion and meeting people where they were at. 

I am constantly challenged to meet people where they are at. I like to think I do a good job most of the time, but there are times in my classroom or in my relationships where I may try to instill fear instead. We are finishing up our unit on Moses and the 10 Commandments and it is really such an important story today. Moses was tasked with an incredible role- to free people from slavery and then lead them through the wilderness to a new life. He did not do it perfectly. At times he got angry. And when he disobeyed God, he was punished. My students always feel bad for Moses for not being able to enter the Promised Land, and perhaps it is harsh. But we can't know what goes on in the hearts of others. I think we try to, but it is only God who can see our hearts. And there is something to be said for discipline and consequences, but they are only effective if also met with care and love. 

I was thinking too, today, that God always reveals Himself with Light. As I've mentioned, winter is hard for me. The nights come quicker and the temperatures drop and though I am an introvert, I don't like to be relegated to the indoors for long. The sunlight is necessary. It gets me out of my funks. 

Similarly, God spoke to Moses through light in the Burning Bush. Moses had been exiled, and the Lord brought Him back through Light. We recognize God's presence with candles in the Church and in the Sacraments. Even non-believers have celebrated the presence of the sun, moon, and stars and their times of light. But even then, it is about balance, right? You can't have the star or moonlight without the darkness. 

I have been praying this week that I may harness Christ's light so that I do not delve to deep into winter's blues and that I might be able to share some light with others, especially in this time where the dark comes sooner.  Again there is that balance to be had: we need the dark to appreciate the light. 

The light of heaven and the light of God's presence can be experienced here on earth, but we also look forward to it in the next life. As the end of the liturgical year approaches, we look toward what is next in the here and now but also beyond.