Saturday, April 17, 2021

Reflections on My 30s (on the Last Weekend of my 30s!)

I started this blog when I was 26 and had just decided to enter a convent. 26 already seemed so late to be just starting my vocation as so many of my peers were getting engaged and starting families. When I realized quickly that religious life was not my vocation (even after having quit my job that I loved and selling many of my possessions) I had to start over at 27. I moved into a house with a couple of women I knew from college that were also still discerning where God was calling them. I started a new job (that I didn't love), started grad school (that was a lot of work), and put myself back in the dating pool (ugh). Things were starting to come together, but I still had no idea where I was going. 

At 29, while in grad school and still living with roommates, I started teaching. Looking back now, I have no idea how I was able to be a first year teacher in the chaos that was the last years of my 20s, but teaching has been one of the things that has been consistent throughout my 30s. As I reflect and write this on the last weekend in my 30s, I can say that my 30s were marked by their consistencies. Early on in my 30s, I finished grad school, moved into my own one-bedroom apartment, and became a department chair at the school I was teaching at. I discovered art and travel and by my mid-30s, I left the DC area that I had called home for so long and started to cultivate all of the things I had found in recent years for myself in Richmond.

I am not sure if this is the same for everyone, and my story is certainly my own and unique, but sometimes I don't realize how much I have accomplished in my 30s because it didn't have the same huge peaks and valleys that my 20s seemed to. In my 20s, I was throwing myself into "who am I?" and "what is my vocation?" in quite extreme and dramatic fashions. But in my 30s, I seemed to quietly, unceremoniously find it and just flow into it. Like I said, teaching was something I fell into as I turned 30 and it has been that consistent factor for me. I've also been consistently called to preach and evangelize in various ways whether that be through music ministry or blogging or giving presentations at schools and parishes or now Zoom meetings. My 30s have certainly been about laying the foundations of who I am and answering those questions I asked in my 20s without my even maybe realizing it. 

I have heard that the 40s are fabulous. I am grateful that we are starting to emerge from our "upper rooms" of the pandemic as I enter into 40 and can take my vaccinated self out into the world again. I'm also grateful for having been quarantined this last year because it has caused me to reflect and evaluate and re-connect with friends I had maybe lost touch with throughout this decade (and start a lot of projects! You can read more about them here). I get to emerge confident in who I am and (hopefully) ready for whatever God has next for me. 

I got to recently share my story on a podcast I became familiar with this last year, The Feminine Genius podcast, that seeks to present and highlight Catholic women and their own unique gifts. You can listen to the episode here. I'm proud of what I have accomplished in my 30s. I've established myself as a solid Religious Educator through achieving my degree and 10+ years of teaching, become a world traveler dabbling in art and media while continuing to share music and foster communities in the Church with friends. I did some of it consciously but most of it with God slowly, subtly guiding me towards things. I will carry with me all that I've accomplished and established into my 40s with a true sense of gratitude getting to do so after a year in quarantine and living in a pandemic. 

I hope that you all are also in a place of hope this Easter season even as we still grapple with this pandemic and racial injustice in our country. In the Easter Season, we journey with the apostles who also have just had their world rocked and are having to establish something new- the sometimes flawed but Holy Spirit driven Church. We are in good company as we navigate the unknown with the hope of good things to come. Thank you all for all that you have done and do to support me and help me to grow over the years! Happy Easter!



                                                    39 almost 40 doesn't seem so bad...

Friday, April 2, 2021

Lent and Good Friday 2021

Happy 2021?! In many ways, we have still been living as we did in 2020, but as Spring has begun, we have the hope of new life. I received my two vaccines in Jan. and Feb. so am fully vaccinated and ready to have a little more normalcy while still fully knowing that we are not yet out of this pandemic. 

January and February were hard. We were still locked in our houses and the pandemic was in full force after people had traveled for the holidays. Since I have been teaching in person since August, we had a lot of students go remote in January and a lot of teachers were out due to exposure to the virus. We haven't been able to bring in subs this year because of Covid so I had to sub for a lot of classes during my planning time. And we had a very, very cold February with lots of snow and ice. Winter is hard for me anyways, but add to that teaching in a pandemic, not having much social interaction due to Covid, and just the acknowledgment that we still were dealing with this virus a year later, plus all of the division in our country, I was very, very grateful for that vaccine that could provide some light at the end of this tunnel. 

I have been keeping myself busy with a lot of projects that I started in 2020. You can keep up with the podcasts and blogs and things here. 

Along with the vaccine, March and Spring have brought back that hope that I was meditating on back in Advent. Warmer weather and being vaccinated mean that I can leave my house and hang out outside with friends. The governor finally expanded indoor gatherings to 50 people instead of 10! It feels so good to get some life back and start planning events and travel- still not fully the way we were before the pandemic, of course- but it is something. 

It is also Holy Week- Good Friday to be exact. Last year's Holy Week was exceptionally sad for me. To have to watch some of my favorite services of the year online by myself and not travel during the Easter break was so hard. Yesterday, I got to go to Holy Thursday Mass in person. It's one of my favorite services of the year. There was no washing of the feet due to Covid procedures still in place, and still no congregational singing, but there was beauty in its minimalism and simplicity. 

Just to be with my parish in person celebrating one of my favorite Masses of the year was enough. One of my favorite parts of the Holy Thursday liturgy is the praying in silence with the Eucharist after Mass. We remember Christ going to the garden to pray and we have the opportunity to sit there with Him. I always meditate on His loneliness- how He must've felt when His apostles couldn't stay awake to pray with Him- and how He must've felt alone in what He was about to do. In many ways, we can identify with that loneliness, especially in this year that we have just had. But His loneliness in the garden is not the end.

I've been using this book to pray throughout Lent and the men and women who are written about in it have all inspired me with their bravery.

We have had to be brave in many ways this past year. We have had to reach outside of ourselves and try things in new ways because of the pandemic. Today as I pray on Good Friday, I usually find my prayer a continuation of Holy Thursday- uniting with Christ's loneliness and mourning in sorrow. Today, however, I am inspired by the men and women I have journeyed with this Lent in prayer and Christ bravely carrying His cross. 

This Lent has been different. We got to be a little more gentle with ourselves because this whole year has been like Lent in many ways. We have sacrificed a lot this year. Now is not the time to surrender, though, but rather to pick up the cross and bravely carry it all the way to Calvary with Jesus. 

I am empowered by His act of love today. I pray that we can all recognize our bravery from this past year and carry it with us into Easter and the rest of 2021.