Monday, August 12, 2013


I think I'm finally ready to write the post that I alluded to in this post.

The past few months I have felt especially called to community. I feel God asking me to take more chances in trusting people and relying on people. Like maybe he's taking his eraser and correcting the crooked lines in my life.

I love my parents, but I sort of imbibed the philosophy from them that expressing emotion was a sign of weakness and that personal autonomy was the highest goal that a person could strive for. I internalized the idea that everyone hates being bothered. By phone calls, visits, asking for favors. One of the highest goods is privacy and the ability to live without needing anyone else. The thing I really love about my parents is that they always seemed to enjoy spending quality time with us kids. Viewing their relationships with other people, it seemed like they'd do all they could to get away.

I'm pretty sure it was just a symptom of 2 introverts working with the public all day and needing some down time. Still, I didn't have an example of openness and warmth. I think that's why I have such a hard time forming relationships with other people.

I think that God is working on me with chisel in hand, chipping away at the wall that surrounds me. He keeps placing me in situations in which I am forced to trust and rely on other people. And let me just say: people continually surpass my expectations and pleasantly surprise me every time.

When I went on the Appalachian Trail several years ago, I was truly alone in the world. I was unable to rely on my crutches: my parents or my husband. And it was hard. I couldn't be vulnerable, but yet I was so lonely. I finally attached myself to some older men and became part of a group. They actually helped me. They gave me company and let me stay with them. It was never anything inappropriate, I think they may have felt sorry for me. When my sleeping things became wet in a deluge of Smoky mountain mist, they lent me a jacket. When one of them went to hang his food bag, he would go out of his way to ask for mine and hang it too. The experience of caring was unexpected and nearly foreign.

Other people on the trail also showed so much kindness. There were strangers who would pick up hikers and drive them places, just out of the goodness of their hearts. People saw that I was down and went out of their way to comfort me. Each instance was like a little chink with the chisel and hammer.

When I returned from the AT, my old patterns resumed. Life as normal returned. I never questioned or understood that the ways I was accustomed to were dysfunctional until I started seeking God again. Somehow it seems like God keeps exposing these old memories of mine and infusing them with new significance.

Fast forward to now. My pregnancy with LC and her birth really opened me up to new people. I got really personal with my midwives. I had to rely on them in utter vulnerability. I was literally naked and moaning, deprived of all my usual barriers. There was one I was especially close to, as she was very motherly. This was a completely new kind of dependence which created another little crack in the wall.

A couple of months ago I started to realize that God seemed to be calling me to deliberately seek community with other people. I felt called to start going to the church that my cousin attends, which I had avoided before because I thought the church was an "extrovert church" and the friendliness was beyond my comfort level. I also hope that LC can grow up knowing her cousin and see me interact in friendship with my cousin.

I felt convicted one day after reading a Scripture (I wish I'd written down which one!) that I have been miserly with my money, but even more with my words and time. Not choosing to spend my time reaching out to others, and to leave too many things unsaid. I also mentioned in a previous post about my struggles with Facebook. I think that God has been calling me to abandon this social media for quite awhile, as I've always used it as a crutch to have superficial relationships with people without getting too close. In this past week which I've been avoiding it, I have noticed more personal friendliness and openness to others.

Of course, it's difficult to see a path through crossed wiring. All I can do is take little steps and trust in the grace of God to help me move forward.

Friday, August 9, 2013


My Lilly Clare is getting baptized this Sunday on the feast of St. Clare of Assisi, her namesake! I am very excited because of this holy alignment, and also because her godparents-to-be are coming to stay with us for the weekend! I am trying to get everything cleaned up not only to have our house be habitable for those special people, but we're also having a little get-together on Sunday with some family members. I just wanted to take a little break from cleaning while the baby is taking a nap to share this.

This is the gift that I'm going to give to L.C.'s godparents.

I made this today, and I think it turned out amazingly cute. If my hubs wasn't so hostile to new crosses springing up in the house I would be tempted to keep it!

I just got 2 wooden pre-cut crosses at Hobby Lobby and spray painted them brown. After that dried I traced each one onto its respective scrapbooking paper and glued that to the front of each cross. Then I just wrapped some jute rope around the middle, added a St. Joseph and St. Clare medal, and done!

I think it cost me less than $10 for all the supplies, except the jute was a little pricey, but I have another project in mind for that.

I think it would be even better if I put some Mod Podge on top of the paper, but I doubt that's going to happen since I made my glue out of wood glue and I have no idea what color that will dry!

Well, baby's crying. Motherhood calls!

Thursday, August 8, 2013


I have been slowly reading Strange Gods: Unmasking the Idols in Everyday Life by Elizabeth Scalia. I have only read a couple of chapters so far, but it's already really making my guilt bone hurt! The chapter I'm currently reading is about the idol of the idea. Like we get certain ideas about ourselves, identify too much with a particular group or idea, and lose our connection to God when he calls us in a different direction. At least I think that's what the chapter will be about. I've just read about three paragraphs so far, but it got me thinking about the damage that can occur when we let other people apply labels to us and we are forced to identify with certain ideas about ourselves that way.

Here are some labels that people have applied to me throughout my life, good or bad: shy, quiet, smart, creative, artistic, funny, good baker, seafood hater. I have found in my own life that labels applied by other people actually held as much or more sway than the ideas I had about myself.

My whole life I have been labeled, "shy". This word is never meant in any way other than derogatory. I have had this word applied to me so often that perhaps it fused into my very soul and influenced my development. I have to wonder whether the label kept me from reaching out to others through the years, kept me in a little box neatly labeled "shy" in which I was previously categorized. I always thought I was just defective that way, but I just wonder whether it was that perception of myself, imposed by someone outside myself, that kept me practicing shy behavior always.

I personally have such people-pleasing tendencies that I always try to live up to whatever people expect of me. Wouldn't want to disappoint them, and if someone says I'm defective I must be defective.

For a people-pleaser it can be dangerous to identify too closely with "good" labels as well. For me such identification influences me to take fewer risks and keep myself inside my own little bubble.

I have always been interested in baking, and am known for making really good desserts. Sometimes I'm afraid of ruining this reputation by trying new recipes/techniques. What if it comes out bad? Will I no longer be Rachel, "good baker"?

If I am "creative" and my creation turns out ugly, will people think I'm still "creative"?

If I'm "smart" and become a Christian, which I always thought was the epitome of stupidity, will people still think I'm "smart"?

Growing up I always thought that my parents' love was contingent upon achievement. I don't remember being praised very often except for when I brought home good grades and report cards. I tried playing sports to win the approval of my dad, even though I didn't really like sports. I know they didn't intentionally train me to think that way, and that it really isn't true. But my perception of myself being an "achiever" kept me chained to this never ending cycle of trying to win love by doing instead of being.

Self-identifying with these labels tends to keep me from living life unencumbered.

I hope that as I raise Baby Lilly I will be careful about applying labels to her which I don't want to her to claim and self-identify with, especially derogatory labels.

I hope I can be careful about labeling the behavior and not the person.

This goes beyond myself and my relationship with my daughter. Applied to other people, I think it can help foster true charity because people are more than their behaviors and circumstances. Anyone is capable of change if you only show them patience, and beyond that, we all deserve to be loved because of our inherent dignity as human beings created in the image and likeness of God. Not for being useful or fulfilling certain roles for other people.

One of my highest goals is to live with integrity. Let go of imposed or self-imposed labels and become the woman that God designed me to be.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Living Deliberately

I want to live deliberately. Not in a constant state of reacting to something. Of course there are little things that I would react to living deliberately or not, but my life should be pursued. I should not always let life pursue me. I hope that forming a close relationship with God will help me to do that. I have been so guilty all my life of tuning out, waiting to get to the good things in life. I need to look around and realize that good things are happening every day!

This post has the sound of a good ramble already, and I'm not sure that I can navigate the circuitous routes of my mind. I feel incapable of writing what I'm thinking, which is such a shame because it looks like such a beautiful epiphany from my end.

I think I've always had a disordered relationship with technology. I distinctly remember telling a classmate in 3rd grade, "I couldn't live without TV." It's a wonder that I remember such an inconsequential snippet, but I do. Now I find myself yearning for the simplicity of life without TV. I know that will most likely never happen in this house given my husband's number one hobby is watching movies. When I watch a lot of television I feel like life is slipping through my fingers in mindless spectatorship. Television is something which numbs my mind and releases it from the responsibility of dealing with my burdens, which leads to prolonged anxiety. I've done pretty well at limiting my time with it when I'm home alone. I rarely turn it on anymore. I feel totally capable of using TV in moderation.

In the past I've had a sick addiction to the Sims 2. I remember days when I would play this game for about 6 hours straight, with only food breaks. I played and played until I realized that as I was playing this simulated life, I was completely ignoring real life. I forced myself to stop playing this game about 5 years ago and have been careful not to play it since. I was not capable of playing in moderation.

The problem-technology for me right now is Facebook. I am woefully addicted to it, and ever since I downloaded the Facebook app on my iPhone I have checked for updates on it near constantly throughout the day. In general I think of Facebook as a good thing, but for me it's poison. Two days ago I changed my password to a mystery password. I'm too chicken to deactivate or delete the thing, but it's a start. My problem with Facebook has been that it constantly makes me feel inferior to others. I can't appreciate the gifts that God has given me because I'm too busy coveting someone else's. It makes me have uncharitable thoughts toward people. It stimulates my people-pleasing tendencies in a bad way.

Perhaps most of all, I feel like God is leading me toward greater community interaction. Leaning and depending on other people. Needing them. Facebook gives me a false sense that I am doing just that, but in reality most of my relationships on Facebook are illusions. My time would be better spent seeing and speaking to people face-to-face. As an introvert, it's too easy for me to substitute one for the other and think I'm on the right track.

I can stop idolizing the activities, cleverness, social aptitude and general awesomeness of others and actually learn to like myself and live my own life without worrying about how others will perceive what I'm doing. Living my own life deliberately instead of reacting to trends and emulating other people.

Maybe like writing a blog. I feel like this post was my worst writing of all time, so scattered. I feel like I'm still missing something, but as G.K. Chesterton said, "a thing worth doing is worth doing badly."

Still, I remember going to Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church several years ago before I got married. This was when I was nominally Deist and the only interest I had in the church was it's beauty that I thought would look charming in my wedding pictures. I remember the gospel that day because it hit me like a ton of bricks, even though I never expected to get ANYTHING worth while out of the Bible. Ever.

The gospel was Matthew 5:29-30. It could have been more than those two verses, but those spoke to me that day. Mass attendance that day was a turning point. I didn't recognize it then, but I recognize it now. Anyway, I feel like the message in those passages is still for me with my relationship with Facebook. I thought the same thing in 2009 when I heard them for the first time. Clearly I am not capable of using Facebook responsibly if it continually causes me to sin.

So for now I'm cutting it off. Hopefully soon I will be detached enough to cancel my account altogether.

I'm going to write some more tomorrow, maybe about self-esteem and introversion.