Thursday, May 30, 2013

Appalachian Aspirations

In 2008 I made an attempt to hike the 2000 mile Appalachian Trail. I ended up quitting the trail at 204.5 miles and nearly one month in what I thought at the time was a colossal failure. It took me a long while to recover my confidence after that failure, I was utterly defeated. My heart still aches a bit every time I see my trail pictures or see any reference to the Appalachian Trail. They make me long for the wilderness. I always thought that I would try and hike it again before I had a family because if I would wait until my yet unborn children were grown I would be too old to make an attempt at a thru-hike. Fast forward to today and I have have a 3 month old baby, a husband, a house, chickens, cats, dogs. Beings in the world that depend on me and keep me anchored to domestic life. My home is a sort of cloister, and I felt like the abandonment of my Appalachian Trail dreams was just a sacrifice that I had made in favor of marriage and family. The Christian life is full of sacrifices and I thought this was one of many I would have to live with forever.

This week I've been reading Born to Run by Christopher McDougall, and the book has definitely made me revisit my memories of the AT and my attempt at a 2000 mile feat of endurance.

The book talks about people who can run. Really run. For like 100 miles. Without injury. Even older people. The human body is truly amazing!

It occurred to me that when I was a 22 year old hiking the trail, I was already hiking like an old lady. I hiked much slower than everyone else, and downhill slopes just murdered my knees. I also had oozing blisters, some kind of infected thing on my lip that swelled up my face and a boil under the hip belt of my pack. But the knees really got to me. I wonder now, as I read Born To Run, whether my use of hiking shoes contributed to the knee injuries. I bought some Vibram FiveFingers shoes and have started walking/jogging with them, so we will see if my knees hold up!

All this to say, maybe there is still hope that I can hike the AT as an older woman. Ever since I birthed Lillian unmedicated I have felt more confidence and appreciation for my body than I ever have. I love the things that God is doing in my life right now. In my next post I'll tell you another way that I think God is correcting the path of my life, and it also can relate to the AT. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


I would bet that obedience is everyone's least favorite word, and in this country it's a bit of a dirty word. I remember an episode of The Office where Jim and Pam are creating a resume for Dwight. One of the assets listed on paper was "a dog-like obedience to authority". It's hard not to think of a dog when someone says that particular word.

As a Catholic I'm having to learn to see obedience in a different way: my will needs to be in submission to the Church. I know that many Protestants would be horrified by what I just wrote because the basis of Protestantism is sola scriptura, and they believe that each Christian must read and decipher the Bible for him or herself and that truth can be obtained by reading Scripture apart from tradition. I used to believe the same thing.

When I was first discovering Christianity, I was reading the Bible and searching for a Church that interpreted the Bible the same way as I did. I went to several different churches, and saw that each believed different things. I went to an "Apostolic" Pentecostal church for a while which held radical views about baptism. This church taught that the only way a Christian could be saved was if he was baptized with the words "in the name of Jesus" (as opposed to "in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit"), and come up from the water speaking in tongues. After reading his explanation of why his view was true, I was convinced that this was the case. His reasoning was solid, intelligent. It made perfect sense! Until I went to the Baptist Church down the road and the pastor there was teaching something totally and completely different. And guess what? His reasoning was solid and intelligent as well. Who could I trust? I was afraid that I would make the wrong decision and be condemned by God.

The answer to this dilemma came in the most unlikely of places: I started listening to Catholic radio (89.7 FM  for anyone in the San Antonio area!) and learned about Peter the apostle as the first Pope and Apostolic succession.
And I tell youyou are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. Matthew 16:18
 The Catholic Church teaches that this verse establishes the Catholic Church, and proves that Church will be guided by Christ throughout time. Scripture also tells us that the Church, not the Bible is the "pillar and bulwark of Truth" (1 Timothy 3:15)! Without a visible Church sustained throughout the ages with the authority to interpret Scripture and teach on issues of morality, this could never be so because Truth would always be shifty and slippery and moldable into whatever shape someone would need to fit their own agenda. This type of "truth" was the unstable foundation which my early paganism was founded upon: that I am my own moral authority free to incorporate just whatever pleased me into my worldview. This type of thing only led me to making some poor choices and mental/emotional isolation. There was no community, only myself. It was a heavy burden. I never in a million years would have thought that obedience to a higher authority would be a liberation! It is beautiful, exhilarating, often inconvenient, but liberating.

Someone might wonder why I would not be Catholic, but follow my own conscience on certain moral issues. The answer is because when I made the decision to join the Catholic Church, I professed publicly that I believe in everything the Church teaches. Every time I take communion it's an acknowledgement that I am unified with the Body of Christ throughout the world. To disobey by saying that the Church is wrong on this or that issue, but still repeat the Creed and receive communion every week would be hypocritical. If I were to knowingly decide that my personal conscience freed me from following a teaching of the Church, this would be merely an attempt to decide good and evil for myself and place myself above the authority of Jesus himself.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

In the Desert

Wow, haven't written in so long. Here's the short version of where I am in my religious seeking: the Catholic church is the VISIBLE church that Christ founded and is the fullness of the Christian faith. I have been baptized and confirmed as of Easter 2012. My husband remains unaffiliated and unconcerned about matters of faith, seemingly taking the view that there is a God, who may be the God of the Bible, but he either really doesn't care what we do or maybe he does care what we do. Either way the hubs doesn't feel pressed to take any interest or stance until he becomes an old man.

Let me tell you something about being Catholic. Being Catholic is hard. The hardest Catholic thing I have done lately is to give birth to my baby girl and still believe that contraception is wrong. Yeah, really. It was much easier to believe that contraception was wrong intellectually as a seeker. It was easy to believe contraception was wrong when my husband and I didn't mind if we got pregnant. It is still easy to believe that contraception is wrong, but it has been much harder to practice this belief. The difficulty lies in confusing postpartum fertility signs (cervical mucus, temperature etc.), a husband who is definitely putting the pressure on me to contracept or at least practice certain *ahem* acts which are wrong for the same reason contraception is wrong (but I give him credit for putting up with the abstinence this long even though he doesn't understand the beautiful reasons why the Church teaches against contraception between spouses!), and the abstinence. Oh the abstinence! It's been twelve weeks since the baby was born.

I believe that no one reads this blog, so I will write something personal. There has been a constant animosity between my husband and I ever since I started seeking God. He is deeply suspicious and threatened by "religion". I put that in quotes because he says the word the way someone else would spit out the word "cockroach". As a result of this animosity, I feel like all of my relations with him have been guarded. The walls are up, the lips are sealed. I cannot trust him with my heart because every time I hand it over I receive it back with pins and needles stuck in it. He constantly laments the days of Old Rachel. Past Rachel. I feel so unloved as Present Rachel. Present Rachel is defective. Not what he signed up for.

We do manage to keep a peace as long as the walls are up, but I just wish I could be truly naked with him again and live a life with no pretenses.

I was praying the Sorrowful mysteries of the rosary today and was particularly struck by the final mystery, the crucifixion. This decade ends on a doleful note, the Lord has been crucified! I tried to put myself into the place of the women and the Beloved Disciple at the foot of the cross looking up--all hope for my son, my friend, my Lord dashed in a dreadful few hours. All dreams of the Messiah crushed. This is how I feel sometimes looking at the ruins of my marriage. We have no plans to divorce, and we don't have yelling matches. But sometimes things inside it feel so hopeless for me. I am unequally yoked, and not by choice. Where Truth goes, you follow. Where Christ goes, you follow. Jesus has not come to bring peace, but a sword (Matthew 10:34).

 "He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me." Matthew 10:37.

I am living this out in my marriage. I can only hope that a resurrection will eventually follow this trial just as the resurrection followed the crucifixion. Patience, fortitude and constant prayer will be my companions through this difficult time. And smiles from my growing baby will also not fail to help!

Our Lady, undoer of knots, pray for us!