Friday, February 28, 2014

Betrayal of Creation

Praying the Sorrowful Mysteries this week I couldn't help thinking about the scandalous humility of Jesus. He humbled himself not only below his human creatures, but the whole of beautiful creation turned into instruments of His torture. And He opened not His mouth.

The tips of the thorns piercing the skin of His forehead. The leather fashioned into a scourge for His back. The bits of metal, iron or fiber fastening Him to the pillar. The woven fibers in the purple cloth mockingly clothing Him. The gravity weighing him down as he ascended to Golgotha. The wood of the cross beam digging into His aching shoulders. The harsh gravel and rocks meeting his poor knees as He fell. The iron of the nails driven into His hands and feet. Gravity again tearing His wounds and making it nearly impossible to breathe as His beautiful arms outstretched on the cross. The creation which was once so good, stripped of its goodness and used for evil. The creatures have rebelled against their Creator, and He let them because of Love.

And He did it for me. So I could have mercy and grace and love and be a child of God and a relationship with the Father despite my sinfulness.

O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the heart of Jesus as a fount of mercy for us, I trust in You!

Anyway, some saint has probably written about this more completely and coherently. If so, I would love to find such a thing.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Lent Plans

Maybe it's strange, but I'm actually looking forward to Lent this year. Last year I started out strong. I decided that my sacrifice would be to pray for others more than I pray for myself. It was a really good goal. Things went pretty well with it until I had my baby 10 days in and my prayer life devolved to, "God, please make this baby go to sleep help this baby get the rest she needs," and, "God, please make this baby stop crying," and "God, please make nursing not hurt any more." All prayer came from the trenches of survival-mode. I didn't have to observe the fasts because I was nursing. I couldn't even get things synchronized enough to go to Mass for the majority of Lent.

Lent in 2012 was a prayerful, happy time because I knew that at the end of the season I would be baptized and received into the Church. Still, I missed out on a lot. I didn't go to church on Ash Wednesday and receive ashes because I wasn't sure if it was only for baptized Catholics or not. During Holy Week I attended Mass, but I didn't come forward to kiss the crucifix because it felt strange to do so without being a baptized Catholic. I was living in that divine sense of "almost" and not able to really participate. The intensity of knees hitting the kneelers and hands clasped, knuckles white stemmed from the joyful anticipation that I would soon be able to receive the best gift of all.

My plan of action this year is to go on a personal spending freeze. That is, buy nothing for myself for the forty days and donate my "fun money" to charity. It looks a little feeble when I write it out. Maybe as a special treat I will go to Mass childless at the church in which I was baptized during holy week and Easter. Ah, dreams.

Several days ago I ordered some leather sandals from Israel. They fit my "strappy brown sandals" category on my minimalist wardrobe list. I didn't intentionally look for "Jesus shoes", but when searching for strappy brown sandals on Amazon these were actually the type that I liked (and could afford, btw). Maybe during Lent I will wear only these shoes as a penance reminder!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014


Last week I bought A Monk's Alphabet by Jeremy Driscoll, OSB for $0.50 at a used library book sale (San Antonio Public Library's Book Cellar for anyone local). I judged it by the cute bird and alphabet collage on the cover, and so far I have been really happy to have picked it up. In fact, it inspired me to participate in this 7 posts in 7 days challenge. A Monk's Alphabet is composed of a series of short essays on a number of topics, arranged alphabetically by keyword. So far I have underlined the entire selection on "Monastic" because it seems to perfectly describe the purpose of my writing:

"Monastic. I should study and read and perhaps also write primarily with a view toward keeping my own relationship with God intact. If something is produced for others as well by my working in this way, so much the better. This is the monastic way of doing theology."

I have felt a little guilty before about writing primarily for me, but doing so ultimately benefits my family and others who I come in contact with in real life. Blogging has helped my faith life grow, and my prayer become more fruitful. A right relationship with God flows into better relationships with other people, especially my husband and daughter. Big things and little things retain their proper perspective when measured against the majesty of God.

It made me me think more about my domestic monastery here at home. I have felt the pull toward having less to do with technology during the day. I have canceled my Facebook and cut back on Twitter. I usually don't watch television during the day. My weakness is audio distraction via podcasts and Guadalupe Radio. The past couple of weeks I have tried to nurture more daily silence and maybe even adopt a Benedictine attitude of "Ora et Labora". Morning prayer, rosary, Mass readings, evening prayer. I like the rhythm, when I can make such a thing happen (not as often as I'd like).

There is simplicity in the silence. Simplicity in washing the dishes one at a time, hot soapy water full of bubbles for thought. Simplicity sometimes in seeing things at the surface level and not over-analyzing every thought and situation as is my wont. Simplicity in one breath in, one out. In seeing the sun set huge behind a stand of gnarly mesquite. In doing a thing and not wishing to be doing something else. Single-tasking. Simplicity is found in merely being. What a romantic notion.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A Hobbit's Life

"Perfection consists in submitting unreservedly to the designs of God, and in fulfilling the duties of one's state in the most perfect manner possible. To compare the different states as they are in themselves can do nothing to improve us since it is neither in the amount of work, nor in the sort of duties given to us that perfection can be found." - Jean-Pierre de Caussade, Abandonment to Divine Providence
 This quote jumped out at me because of the Scripture at Mass on Sunday. It echoes St. Therese to me as well. I have to keep reminding myself that I can do little things for the glory of God. I have a tendency to look at what others are doing and feeling as though I am not doing enough, like God leaves all the work to His feisty ones. But I am not feisty. I am slow to move, more likely to endlessly contemplate a problem than to act to change it. I always think that my phlegmatic temperament is a huge handicap, and it probably does come with tendencies and habits which should be sometimes resisted. I've wished that I was more like St. Peter who seems to act before thinking. But I suppose that God has created us phlegmatics for some reason, and I that the best I can do is to use what God has given me without coveting the responsibilities that are more suited to others. We can't all be cholerics. That would be intense.

Today I suppose I can discover perfection in getting breakfast out in time for my husband to eat it before work (check!), being patient with Lillian (pending!), doing a load of laundry and putting it away, doing the dishes, sweeping the floor, praying. Seems to be a hobbit's life for me (at least for now)!

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Dear Hunter and Leaking Cisterns

Yesterday I drove to Mass in heavy fog. At times I could only see maybe 20 yards ahead of me. My drive was became an allegory of the life of faith. I kept driving because I knew that even though I couldn't see the way, the highway was still there before me and would lead and guide me as long as I kept forward momentum. I suppose its the same way in my walk with God. I pray every day for God to guide me in His will for my life, and don't let me stray even though I can be a stupid sheep seeking daisies and dandelions a little too far from the path. It drives me crazy that I don't know what God's ultimate plan for me will be. I sometimes wish that He would just tell it to me straight, lay it all out, let me see the game plan. Again and again I am reduced to walking along in the fog not knowing ultimately where I'm headed, but trusting that God's way is better than mine anyway.

When I first started looking in to Christianity I went through a Protestant study guide, He Speaks To Me by Priscilla Shirer. I don't remember an awful lot of the guide, but I discovered a Scripture verse inside which stuck like a barb in my skin and has maybe become a lamp in my life.
Two evils have my people done: 
they have forsaken me, the source of living waters;
They have dug for themselves cisterns, 
broken cisterns, that hold no water. Jeremiah 2:13 (NAB)
After reading this verse, the lyrics from my favorite song at the time jumped out and slapped me in the face.

"The pail has leaks and even if
you put all your water into it
you end up with nothing left to drink
the well has gone dry and I with it"
-The Dear Hunter, "His Hands Matched His Tongue"

Every time I hear this song those words from Jeremiah grip me and give me a little shake. When I make and follow my own plans it's as if I've built a leaking cistern. I pour all of my energies, my heart and soul into something which does not have the ability to satisfy me and which might not even work out. It seems as though my leaking cistern was my plan to become a librarian. I got the right degree. I worked in a library, getting experience even in areas outside my comfort zone. I kept applying for jobs and being rejected. I encountered one closed door after another. I found myself one night sitting on a bench in the prayer garden of St. Louis Catholic Church crying and asking the God who I was only just then being acquainted with, why I was such a failure and why I seemed incapable of moving forward and why He created such a worthless being. I had to eventually admit that my plans were dry and cracking things, better to abandon than to patch again and again.

When I quit the library shortly before having my baby, another Dear Hunter song seemed to perfectly express my position.

"Amongst the stone and smoke
Rising above it all
Broken, but not beyond repair
See how this soul fairs
From after all this suffering
I could lie here for good
But with a mind on fire
I try and stand my ground
Illuminate and I will follow
 -The Dear Hunter, "Saved"

 After I quit the library, I felt like I could be a real person again. A person whose life mattered. I was broken, but not beyond repair. Once again I find myself in an odd place. I thought I had an idea where He was sending me, but today I am not so sure. All I do is take one step after another into the fog and trust in His abiding goodness. Trust that He knows me better than I know me. Trust that once again His plans will be so much better than any I could dream up.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Minimalist Wardrobe

For the past year I have been dressing in rags and tatters, basically. This is because 1) I had a baby and some of my real clothes still don't fit, 2) I shop mostly used anyway, 3) I don't enjoy shopping with a wiggly 1 year old strapped to my hip, 3) We're trying to make it by on 1 income, 4) general laziness. Last week I kept watching What Not To Wear on Netflix and was inspired to weed through the ol' rags 'n tatters and get rid of items that don't fit, flatter, or inspire joy. Yet I also don't have a credit card with $5,000 (or even $500 for that matter) to dish out on clothes, so my plan is to be more mindful of the types of items that I buy when I go to replace the clothes that get too worn out.

My entire goal is to *love* and feel beautiful in every item that I own, but own fewer items. I want to create a wardrobe which can be mixed and matched with different pieces, maybe even stemming from a particular color scheme (not sure on that yet). I ultimately want to have fewer but higher quality items as I gradually add. Plus some thrift store finds which I don't mind getting covered in baby handprints. I may be going to job interviews this year, so it will be nice to have something decent to wear on hand. The goal is not to be a total frumpster.

This is my wishlist. Some items were added not necessarily to further my minimalist agenda, but because I already have them (looking at you, brown heels!). The items crossed off are what I already possess:


  • 1 pair dark boot cut jeans 
  • 1 pair dark skinny jeans
  • khaki slacks
  • black slacks
  • 4-5 skirts


  • plain black shirt
  • plain white shirt
  • black tank
  • black cami for layering
  • white cami for layering
  • 2 floral/patterned blouses
  • 5 plain-colored shirts
  • colored short-sleeve cardigan
  • tan long-sleeve cardigan

  • black casual dress
  • 2 casual/jersey knit dresses with waistlines
  • 2 nice dresses
  • black heels
  • tan heels
  • brown heels
  • thin strappy, brown sandals (hopefully real leather)
  • silver sandals
  • colored flats (green or blue, maybe)
  • tennis shoes
  • brown skinny belt
  • brown thick, fancy belt
  • silver skinny belt
  • pretty scarves
  • jewelry, duh
Okay, I realize this list is totally boring to anyone who is not me, but it helps me have a checklist written out! Some of my plain colored shirts are on the verge of wearing out, so I need to keep my eye out for some of those. 

This past weekend I fulfilled my jean quota. Today I finally tried out both ThredUp and Twice, which are virtual thrift stores. I even added the short-sleeve category in my wishlist just to accommodate an item I saw on ThredUp:

 A choir of angels actually started singing when I saw it. Oh, the colors! It's from Ann Taylor, a store which would usually be too expensive for my blood. It came out to about $10 once discounts were applied, including shipping. 

The item from Twice was a dress also from Ann Taylor Loft (I seem to be attracted to this particular brand!). I can't find a very good picture of it which is capable of being saved, but you can see the colors are to die for. Clearly I'm a sucker for clothes which tonal patterns. This dress was about $25 once all discounts and shipping were applied. Not too bad, I guess.

Anyway, we'll see if things work out once they actually come in. My fingers and toes are crossed.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


Since yesterday I have been thinking about walking and community. I heard Kim Brown, the author of this book (which is now at the top of my wishlist!), talking about her experience on the Camino de Santiago. It made me think about my Appalachian Trail experience which lasted about 30 days and 204.5 miles. In a sense I began the AT as a sort of pilgrimage. I was a Deist at that time, a short skip away from Paganism and witchcraft. When I was Pagan I saw all of nature as a sort of shrine and tabernacle for the God and Goddess. As a Deist I believed that nature was the surest sign of God's existence and that immersion in nature would be a religious undertaking. I would be surrounded by the glory of God in the hazy slope of the Appalachian mountains peering at remarkable beauty all day long. It sounded like a dream. It was a dream. 

What I found was that the charm of nature could not satisfy my need for communion with others. In essence, I could not escape the deep human need to know and be known. I was quickly beset by a pervasive loneliness and longing to reunite with my loved ones. Even in the absence of those dear souls who knew me most intimately at home, I found the greatest joy in meeting people along the way in the woods. Eventually the endless stretch of path and white blazes up and down the ridges became a long, arduous walk toward campfire camaraderie at the end of the day. I went to find God in nature, but found greater joy discovering people. 

The journey ended when I reached Newfound Gap in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and was whisked away to a warm hotel room with my parents and then boyfriend (now husband). It was a marvelous reunion. The meeting filled my aching heart. What was I doing on this pointless trek meeting strangers when my future was at home? I knew that I wanted Oliver and a front door of my own, a quiet life nestled in peace and clean sheets. A garden and books and most of all, a future and a family. It was all so domestic, boring and perfectly average. When I left the trail to return home I was ashamed of my weakness in choosing a boring life over what could have been an epic 2000 mile trek.

A reader of my online 2008 Trail Journal left this comment in the guest book which confirmed that my need for others was a weakness which I should have quashed:

"I'll be sad if you gave it up, I agree with previous posters that you have grand writing skills. One interesting thing I've noticed about trail journals: when they veer from focus on info about the hike, the gear, the territory, etc. into primarily social diaries ( the hut were Sling Foot, Beer Belly, Happy Guy, Funny Person, etc... and we couldn't find Hiking Dude or Monkey Boy... and we all went beer drinking...and tomorrow we're joing up with Bloody Mary and Dog Woman and....etc. etc. etc.) something gets lost, the hiker and the journal reader seem to lose focus. Seems to me the AT has changed from wilderness experience into crowd control and it grieves me."

For years I have carried this comment in the back of my mind. That I should have focused and placed my hike, my dream, ahead of people. It only occurred to me today that when seen as a pilgrimage, my hike led me to exactly the place that I needed to be. It brought me top-to-bottom, inside out. It was folly to seek God and focus only on nature when God shines most truly from those wonderful creatures who are made in his image and likeness. I experienced their kindness again and again. I was one of the "least of these" of Matthew 25:35. I was brought low and gratefully accepted their charity. I lost my focus on sterile nature, but gained a glimpse of God shrouded in glorious humanity.

Thanks to God for shining a light on my "great failure" and letting me see his fingerprints all over my past.