Easter Sunday: The Journey Continues

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I spent this morning at my first Easter Mass. It is also my last one as a non-Catholic, and I think that weighs on me in both good ways and difficult ways. I’m very attached to the Father’s homilies. He has a way of speaking that is both soothing and comforting and also firm. He has a way of getting his message through to you in that lovely, gentle way. Whether I agree or not with every one of his homilies, he is consistent in his tone and basic message, and he has a way of bringing a caring place to every conversation. He uses a lot of anecdotes and humor in his sermons and it is in those that I can see myself. I can relate with both sadness and joy depending on the emotion pulled up with his words, and of course, think about things and make plans of action as realization takes hold in my mind.

Today, of course, the Gospel was of John and he compared it with the other three Gospels. John had faith; he just believed. He didn’t ask where Jesus was when the burial tomb was empty; he simply knew that His words had come to pass.

Faith is one thing that I am consistently lacking. I have a friend like John, who leads his life by faith. I look to him for my inspiration when things go horribly wrong or wonderfully well. What would my friend do? Would he moan and complain about it as I would do? No, he wouldn’t. His example made me ready to hear Jesus’ words and really listen. When the Father spoke about a Red Steamer Trunk, and too many things in it, I easily saw myself. I like my things. They don’t have to be fancy things, but the important things mean a lot to me. My frog, Bob. My friend’s tea cup. The rock from Dolwyddelan Castle. The cross I received from the church on the first Sunday of Lent. The picture of my kids, and the note from my husband telling me everything would be alright. Except for the tea cup, these travel with me everywhere, every day. The story of the red steamer trunk made me think about the rest of my things that I have, but that aren’t as important and I’ve tried to make some decisions based on whether I want to carry a heavy oversized trunk that I will never use everything in or a smaller backpack where everything is a necessity.

It’s hard to change a lifetime of habits.

It’s hard to walk away from things that were once so very important to my daily existence; my emotional safe places. But they were binding; trapping me in layers upon layers of someone else’s important.

The very first homily I heard from Fr. J was on May 7, 2012. He was just back from his sabbatical in Rome. I wasn’t sure I liked him. He was different from the other priest who I’d grown accustomed to in the previous two months. But I took a deep breath and I gave him a chance.

He talked about his visit to Rome, the places he visited, the places he prayed, the Pope and other things that moved him. He reminded me of how I speak of Wales and I was drawn in by that comparison right away.

He began then to talk about the spirit. I know he meant the Holy Spirit, but how many of us who do not follow the tenets of the Catholic Church believe in fate and destiny and something like a spirit that moves us in one direction or another. It’s really not such a foreign thing. I’ve always believed in that and in something bigger than me. And so, when he began to talk about the spirit moving him, I felt the spirit, the one that brought me to the church in the first place, the subconscious poke, a light at the end of the tunnel for me, and as I continue to follow it, it is still hard to form the words around the feelings.

Halfway through this service I was crying – it was so emotional on a subconscious level.

Today was much different. Part of that is the different place I’m in. My brain chemicals are stabilized mostly. I have some goals for the rest of the year. I have a stronger faith and a spiritual goal as well. As I finish my first Lent, I’m pleased with myself. I did not ‘cheat’ once, although I did accidentally have a tiny bit of bacon mixed into a tasting on a Friday. And the cheating is only on me; no one else cares if I ‘made it through’. But I do care. I struggled very little in the last forty days, and I think a lot of that had to do with my reason for abstaining.

I did it for me, and only me. I didn’t do it because someone said I needed to, or because I had to, or because I should. I did it because of the deeper meaning behind abstaining and keeping the fasting days, because I believed in where I was going and this was one way of cleansing myself before the Easter.

This was also the first year that I understood why Easter is a happy holiday. Realizing that it is not a celebration of Jesus’ death (that is commemorated on Good Friday), but a celebration of His eternal life in heaven through His Resurrection. It sounds so simple now.

No one explained it to me, but attending the Masses up until today, and reading the extra things that I had been reading, it brought a greater understanding and commitment to the church for me.

Today was children laughing, wailing about the long service, wheelchairs, crowded pews, bright light, candles, colorful banners, music and instruments, trumpets and violins, the choir loud and proclaiming, hands given in peace and love, hugs, warmth washing over, and above all, the true meaning before I go home to chocolate eggs and a turkey to be put in the oven with kids searching for Bigfoot in the woods and a teenager calling home and actually wanting to speak to his parents and siblings.

It is a good day.

And so I do what I’ve been doing daily since Lent began, and what I’ve tried to do practically since I was born: Write.

I posted about my success these last forty days, but the success isn’t only in the numbers (which surprised and impressed me), but in the daily. In the needing to. In the pen to paper and clattering of keyboard.

I know that a lot of my writing this month has been either faith based or Supernatural, and it is actually surprising that they really do go hand in hand, at least in my mind. I won’t bring too much of the show into this now, but one of my loves for the show is its metaphor and of course, it’s take on some religious mythos. It says some of what that I’m afraid to say, but it also lets me think.

Still, I’ve always been one to hide my faith and I find that similarity in Dean Winchester. Wanting it, but not quite believing it. Needing something, but seeing things that contradicted that faith. Keeping a talisman because it’s the only thing he has to believe in.

Whether I was afraid to admit to being Jewish when Jewish was different or not wanting to bring it up when there are other more religious Jews in attendance (or in a chat room) because I feel judged (and never by them, but the feelings are still there). I grew up doing things so much differently than even my cousins who lived next door. Now, part of that were our parents’ ages. My cousins’ parents were my mother’s aunt and uncle, and so they were from a more religious generation. But I was raised in a very follow the traditions household. We changed our plates for Passover, but we didn’t throw away all of the bread. Bread went into the freezer and we didn’t eat it, even when we would eat out. (Wendy’s is a good place for Passover – great salads, no croutons.)

I didn’t like being different, especially when I was supposed to be the same.

We observed all of the big holidays and some of the smaller ones. We didn’t go to services, but we celebrated Chanukah, lighting two menorahs – one electric and one candlelit. We didn’t say the prayers on the side of the candle box, but we didn’t get a Christmas tree even when Christmas crossed the threshold into secular American holiday and all of the children were dating Catholics.

I still don’t like to stand out, but turning forty-five clicked an off button for me, and now that I’ve gotten it back on, sorted out (at least in diagnosis) my medical-mental health problems, fell into the deepest pit I’d ever been in and then pulled out, and had life turn upside down for friends, I’ve started to speak out.

I’ve started to stand up. And the church is part of that, both in the turning the switch back on and in giving me something to think about and write about and feel.

When I started going to church, I hid it from everyone except my therapist and my Facebook. The thirty people on Facebook were my support system, prodding me, encouraging me, hugging me, and they guided me through last spring as I found my way along the catacombs of a new religious feeling.

Being told by the priest that Jesus had been Jewish and I was welcome in His house was overwhelming and so devoid of the usual condescension that statement is usually attached to when spoken to me (at other times by other people). He never asked me to be Catholic. Not once. Of course, he was very happy when I came to him, but I had been attending Mass daily with him for more than seven months at that time. I didn’t, but I could talk to him. I was received warmly by my fellow churchgoers. People who didn’t know me took my hand and introduced themselves to me. I didn’t feel strange asking questions. They never asked why I didn’t know very basic things.

When the Father would announce the opening hymn and sound like an announcer at the train station (Please turn to #53 in your Missalette, that’s #53, five, three, in the Missalette, #53), we would laugh together despite the feeling of irreverence. When he had a ‘private’ conversation with a parishioner with the mic on, we wondered if we should tell him, but soon realized that the conversation wasn’t private and the Father was having some fun with us.

From the first day, sitting in the pew in tears, I was warm with the feelings of the Spirit and Christ floating over me. And whatever else was going to happen, I was okay. I never stopped coming after that.

Easter is renewal. It is rebirth. It is the Resurrection. It is the reminder that all things are forgiven, and more importantly, not that I will be forgiven, but it gives me the strength to forgive those that have wronged me or the people I love. Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

2013 is a new year for me. Things are clicking into place. (I hope.)

This Easter is my first real Easter. I understand it and I feel it, and my old life is gone, or at least it’s in a box in a corner of the room and I need to see what it is I want to bring forward with me into this new life without completely dismantling the old one.

These moments are meaningful; more meaningful than things used to feel. I put myself out there, much more than ever in my entire life. It’s scary. It’s new. I need to do it. It is part of my rebirth and the rest of this year is part of that journey. I will probably share it with you.

Forty Days of Writing

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As I finish my first Lenten season, I decided that with two days left I would look over the writing commitment that I made for these forty days.

I was pretty impressed with myself, and while I will pat myself on the back, I want to recommit to writing more and consistently.

So far (and I hope to add to this before Monday), I’ve written 31 things – some essays, some random prompts, some fan fiction and meta analysis, some religious context. They break down as follows:

1 multi-vignette improv writing for a subfandom of the Harry Potter fandom (this is a quick fire, random prompts, write as many as you can in two – three hours. I wrote about 1600 words)
1 homework for my Memoir Workshop (this does not include the assignments in the class, only what I did outside of class)
4 Others – one was a writing resource for my class, one was a birthday letter to my friend that I shared here, one was a random prompt from my collection from Sarah Selecky and one was a riff on a jacket I found and how it made me feel.
16 either fan fiction or meta for the Supernatural fandom

Total words: 33,137!

The theme for this season’s Memoir workshop is transformation, something that you know I have been going through for a long time now and expect to continue to go through for a while to come, so I am very excited for not only the in class prompts, but for the homework as well. I expect to share most of that here.

ETA: 4/1/13: Including my last writing for the Lenten season (Easter Sunday: The Journey Continues), my word total is: 35,179. I am very pleased and hope to keep it up.

Reflections for this Holy Week

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I wanted to write something for the reflection for my church’s blog on March 26th (yesterday), but the words aren’t coming as easily as I had expected (or wanted) them to. I chose today’s date because it was one that was very significant to me.

One year ago today I began attending daily Mass during the week. It kind of came about accidentally, but in the last year, I’ve discovered that nothing is accidental.

Every day that I attended, I discovered something new about the Lord, the church and myself.

For one thing, I became calmer. I wasn’t looking for it, but it was a definite change in my mindset.

It began on my drives to church in the mornings. They had the effect of washing away the troubles and the bad part of the last night and the morning. I wasn’t trying to get rid of it, but my mind would clear itself and when I arrived at the church door, I was ready for whatever message was coming my way.

For another thing, more likely than not there was a question in my mind, a struggle, something that I needed help with and had nowhere to go, and nine times out of ten, the answer was there in the Mass. If it wasn’t in the Gospel or the Responsorial, it was in the homily.

As a child and young person growing up, I wasn’t Catholic, so the few times I would attend church for friends, for weddings or funerals, it was awkward. I was awkward. I understood nothing, I never knew when to stand, when to sit, when my eyes should be open or closed. How did everyone know what to say and when? I was uncomfortable whenever Jesus was mentioned.

However, from my first day here at Mass, I wasn’t awkward. I wasn’t looked at strangely. I was welcomed. I felt welcomed. My questions were welcomed. No one cared that I wasn’t Catholic, and they went out of their way to explain anything to me that I asked about. I was allowed to explore my faith and myself and the pieces of the church that I had never seen before or been exposed to, and discovered much more than a place to rest my depression or simply a place to go.

I still didn’t know what to do, but it didn’t matter. I stood when the person in front of me stood, and sat when they sat. When they turned to shake my hand, I shook theirs, and in that moment of touch, it was like a bolt of lightning. I felt my face alight with a smile and joy filled my soul and I looked forward to that touch every day; the connection as our eyes met, our hands met. I would close my hand and keep that touch in there for as long as I could. It gave me energy. It gave me hope. It gave me promise and purpose and love. And I held it close.

When I would forget, I could just close my hand and it would be back again.

One year ago I took refuge in the pews of the church, usually empty save for me or the occasional visit by the grounds keeper. Before I began attending the Masses, I would just sit and read the daily prayers in the Missal. I was lost and at a loss and just in the sitting and talking to G-d, I found something. I hadn’t realized it at the time; it took several months to realize how important my mornings with G-d meant to me and how they changed me in a positive way.

In the year since that first day, I have found many more readings that fit into my daily life and give me guidance and a hand to hold when I’m feeling alone.

Mass is not an obligation to me. I look forward to the Mass. And I’m never alone.

I have this deeper understanding of who Jesus Christ was and is and where He fits into my life. It is more comfort than I think I have ever felt.

 

The beginning of today’s Psalm reminds me of why I started coming and why I come nearly every day:

In you, O LORD, I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame.
In your justice rescue me, and deliver me;
incline your ear to me, and save me.
R. I will sing of your salvation.

 

 

It’s the Last Sunday Before Holy Week

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G-d is the G-d of second chances—or third or fourth or as many as we need.

This Lent, stop kicking yourself. Move on and make the best of today.

 Lord, I make no excuses for my past, but I don’t want to be bound by it either. Lord, set me free to move on.

(Connery, Fr. Thomas (2012-12-09). Traveling Light – Spirited Reflections and Prayers for the Days of Lent (Kindle Locations 656-657). Creative Communications for the Parish. Kindle Edition.)

John 8:11 – Neither do I condemn you.

Communion Antiphon

Has no one condemned you, woman? No one, Lord.

Neither shall I condemn you. From now on, sin no more.

(John 8:101-11)

In the meditation (from The Word Among Us publication for March 17, 2013), we are reminded, “Jesus knows our sins far better than anyone else, even better than we know them. Still, he refuses to condemn us. It doesn’t move him one bit when others try to remind him (or us) of our failings.”

As most of you know, this is my first Lent. Since it is my first time, I’ve gone to several people in order to both do it right and make it meaningful for me. I was told that the act of giving something up isn’t simply to suffer, but to trade something that we enjoy and think we can’t live without for G-d and Faith and what is really important to us.

For me, I’ve been talking about writing and writing since I was a little kid. Some of it is bad. Some of it is so good I can’t believe I write it. One of the things the Internet has given me is a platform. A platform to share, to get feedback, to meet people and to share my thoughts, my feelings and to thank the people who help me on a daily basis. I try to do that, and in the last year, I am a better person and I am grateful for that, to G-d, to the friends who’ve stood with me and supported me and shown me what true friendship is as I now find my true faith.

What I had decided to do in addition to giving something meaningful up, I added a few things into my life. I was asked the other day about how giving up my diet soda and favorite scone treat was going, and I admitted rather reluctantly that it was going surprisingly easy; easier than I expected. I’ve missed neither except for a couple of times that I wanted a soda and then reminded myself why I wasn’t drinking them, and I was fine.

I did go from 5-6 12oz. cans of diet Coke a day to ZERO. Cold turkey. I replaced it with green tea in the morning and water throughout the day with very occasional visits to Starbucks.

I attend the daily Mass three days a week and I’ve been trying to attend Sunday Mass (which I will continue for the next two Sundays).

I had a chance with Lent to remind myself of my New Year’s resolutions, one of which was to increase and be more consistent in my writings of all subjects: fan fiction, non-fiction, memoir, my spiritual journey of the last year and anything else that springs to my mind. I’ve certainly been better than last year, but I still need work, and so for Lent, one of the things that I promised myself was to do more writing, ideally on a daily basis: one faith based writing and one writing about anything else.

Unfortunately that hasn’t happened as easily as I would have liked and last week brought my second bout of a deeper depression than I’ve experienced since I’ve been on the medication. I know it’s a recovery process and there will be times like this, but it’s not easy and I’m still not out of last week’s; there is a mound to climb over and with my friend’s birthday looming (I’ll write more about her on Tuesday), it is just not an easy week.

They’re not for everyone, but I stick to my rituals and they help. I get up in the morning and I have my ‘kindle things’. I check the free app of the day because Free is Good. I check the overnight onslaught of Tumblr, which is usually good for a few smiles. I check my Facebook. Even if I don’t do anything else in the daily routine, I do those and I read two things: the day’s Scripture/Mass from The Word Among Us and the day’s entry in Traveling Light by Father Thomas Connery, which is a book of reflections and prayers to be read during Lent. My church gave these out with a small cross at the beginning of the Lenten season.

These five things are an always for me. They set my day. Some days, the scripture readings are just readings, the next day in a succession in the life and teachings of Jesus, and a reminder to stay on your path, but some days (remarkably more often than not), they speak very specifically to something I’ve been dealing with, something I’ve been praying on, something I need counsel for, and somehow, despite all of the belief and the comfort, I am still surprised when G-d knows exactly what I need and when I need to hear it.

Today was one of those mornings.

Spiritual Changes

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“Few of us look as good as we once did. It is a fact of life, the price of getting old. We have our bumps and bruises, cuts and scrapes. Life damages us all. Even our spiritual life may not be what it once was.”
-Traveling Light by Father Thomas Connery

My spiritual life was never what it is now.

I’ve always had a strong sense of G-d, but also a terrified sense of what’s next? I was always concerned with what happens when we die. I’m still concerned, but it consumes me less. As a child, I hated going to funerals, although the one time I was given a choice on the matter, I opted to go because I was close to the woman.

Since joining the Church, I’ve attended at least six funerals in the last three months. I knew none of the deceased. I found something uplifting with the funeral message that life isn’t ended, but changed. Honestly, I’m not sure I believe it – it’s a lot like grasping at straws for me – I want it so very badly, but I still have the question in the back of my mind.
In my spiritual life, I never fit. When I did attend a religious school and temple, I disliked it in the extreme. It was too formal. Odd I know coming from someone who spends three to four mornings every week in an extremely formal ritual of Mass.

But all of the Hebrew schools I found didn’t explain anything to me. I felt unwelcome. We were either too religious or not religious enough.

We followed the rites with our children, and that was more than that it was required. I could feel the thousands of years of tradition and it felt wonderful. Even my son in the pain from his bris, I felt the connection to a place thousands of years old, thousands of miles away in the desert. It was a bit overwhelming and I remember it distinctly to this day.

There was a scene in Supernatural recently, where the character of Dean says, “Dayenu”. I’m not sure what he meant by that – it was one of those things that I let go because I just didn’t know, but I remember a song Dayenu from our Passover Seders about goats. I might be remembering it wrong. I really enjoyed those Seders. I still have my torn, scribbled on paper copy of the one we got from shul, and that was the best school I could have gone to. We learned Yiddish and the Bible stories and the traditions like reading a Haggadah for Passover and lighting Chanukah candles and watching those cheap wax candles melt so quickly, more quickly than they should have, and learning why you don’t light a Yartzeit candle until your parents die because it’s not right to do it before.

My Dad also taught me that you don’t put hats on the bed, you don’t give out more information than is asked for, you give more than you get, you don’t take gas money if you’re going in the same direction, and if someone needs a helping hand, you don’t ask why, you reach out your hand. He did these things quietly.

My mother was equally generous with her time and her money and her love, but she did it much more noisily. She didn’t expect a thank you, but it would be nice. Her family always came first. She didn’t have medical treatments because that would mean time off from work and time off from work would mean less money for the family’s needs. How in the world does a $48,000 house cost $275,000 and it’s still not enough.

My parents were smart and funny, well, my father was hilarious. He loved his kids and his grandkids more. My mother did also.

I miss them.

And in this journey through Catholicism, they’re the only ones I worry about. How would they feel? For one thing, they wouldn’t want me to be miserable hiding my feelings, hiding my faith. They wouldn’t want me suicidal. They would want me to do whatever I felt was right to take care of my kids and myself.

From the moment I walked into the church, I was welcomed, and not just welcomed, but I felt welcome. I was allowed to ask any question, even irreverent, even to the priest himself.

I really do feel as though I belong.

It’s funny, growing up and well into adulthood, I was very uncomfortable seeing crosses with Christ depicted on them. It was torture. Why is it everywhere? It wasn’t until I started attending church and when I stopped avoiding looking at the large cross which is always positioned over the Father’s shoulder when he reads the Gospel. I started really looking and feeling the empathy FROM it, not my feeling sorry towards it for His torture and murder, but the amount of comfort coming from it amazed and overwhelmed me. There was light filtering in through the skylight and the lingering smell of strong incense and the most amazing feeling of arms wrapped around me, and I knew then; it was months ago, but I knew then: I was falling and

He caught me, and he hasn’t let go, and I won’t let go either.

I understand now; just a little bit, but I do understand.

Your Work in Me

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“Jesus, I welcome your work in me this coming year. I want this year to be a time of growth in my journey with you.”

I’ve been attending church services for almost one year now. I started the actual Masses during Holy Week. There was never any intention to join the church. I just needed a place to sit quietly and think. I knew that I would talk to G-d. I hesitate to call it prayer; it was a simple conversation. True, it would be a one-sided conversation: I’d do all of the talking and hope that Someone was listening. It was the one place I could say, or think, anything and there was no judgment, no scorn, no bad things.

Whenever anyone came into the church while I was there alone, they left me alone. On occasion someone would ask if I needed anything, if I was waiting for anyone, I’d get a wave or a smile, but no one ever asked why I was there. No one ever asked me to leave. To be honest, that was the primary reason I chose a church for my thinking: I would be welcome.

The first time I spoke to G-d here, He answered with the church bells. It was perfect, and all of the scared things, all of the hurt, all of the anger just went away, and I cried.

There were so many more moments like that, and every time I was ready to lose faith, another sign, another answer came to me, and I went on for a few more days, finding comfort in the stability, the steadiness of the daily Mass.

I wasn’t quite alone any more.

Things would happen at home or I would be upset and certain that this was my last day, and the Gospel would be read, and it was the exact answer that I needed for my exact problem.

There was a ray of light hitting a pew, an extra strong scent of incense while I was reading a passage, the smell of the candle wax melting. Sitting in my ‘usual’ pew, I glanced up, not anything special, just a slight lift of my head, and I would have sworn that I could see Wales. Upon closer inspection, through that one particular window that you could only see from my seat at just my height was the trunk of a tree and green leaves hanging heavy, dripping water with bright sunlight coming from behind it through the spaces where the trunk split. I took a deep breath and my lips curled up.

It was Wales.

So I stayed.

The quotation above is something that I didn’t know I was looking for. I’ve heard people talk about Jesus, and the moments when they felt the pull. I’m cynical but open minded and I’ve never really been a believer in that sort of spiritual stuff. I do believe in ghosts, but Jesus, Son of G-d, that’s a bit much.

When I was called, when I knew, it just happened. It wasn’t getting hit by lightning, but it was profound and I could feel it. Once I decided that I would be baptized, I wouldn’t wait; I needed to speak with the Father immediately, as soon as possible. I knew that it would be a difficult concept for my family, and most of them still don’t know, but I have the support of my best friend and my church family (and all of them would have supported me either way – no one ever asked me about conversion; they just enjoyed what I was getting out of the Masses).

When I read that quotation, it is exactly what I’ve been looking for.

I’ve been much more spiritual; much more calm and thoughtful, and forgiving. I feel G-d on my shoulder and I do pray now – actual prayer in addition to the conversations I still have with G-d.

I will keep that quotation in my notebook, and remind myself of how far I’ve come, not just in other parts of my life, but in the spiritual part, the faithful part. It makes me stronger, it makes me more confident, it makes me smile because I feel it so deeply; I feel the love and the support and it centers me and reminds me to take those moments to think; to think and then do in all parts of my life.

I look forward to the upcoming year. I’ve looked forward to observing Lent, and missing out on my Diet Coke reminds me of the other things in my life that I should be thinking about. I’m writing more, which was one of my intentions for my Lenten Pilgrimage. I am feeling my faith and living my faith and after becoming nearly a completely different person in the last two years, this faith, and my journey with Jesus Christ is like putting on a comfortable sweater, tucking into a cup of tea and a good book or a friendly voice on the phone.

Day 5 of Lent

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Today at Mass the Church gave out these small metal crosses that fit into the palm of your hand. The Father said that they’re to remind us of Jesus’ temptation by the devil in his forty days in the desert, and for our time during Lent, whenever we’re tempted by something, we should take this cross out and look at it, hold it in our hands, turn it over, read the Scripture on the back (John 3:16) and fight through the temptation. Remember that G-d is always by our side; we just need to have faith.

It was kind of funny with what I was thinking about as he said it, and it made me realize how often my mind can wander, and how my dreams often will take me places that I’m not willing to go to when I’m awake. I also think that some of that is the stress of my house. I’ve been taking a few extra deep breaths, and I’ve been biting my tongue a bit more, but change is coming; for better or worse.

I think we must all have those moments where the grass is always greener somewhere else, and we want it – the envy and the lust and the need and the longing, not so much of what someone else has, but how much better we’d be if we had the same thing as them – that it must be so wonderful over there, but of courses, we’re only seeing what they want us to see.

Their world is different, but it can be equally difficult. We just don’t always see their forest for their trees.

There are a couple of people I’d like to trade with – take a vacation from my life and let someone else stand in for me for a while.

However, I do need to remember that I have three children, and I am their example, as poor as some days that is, so I will work on this coveting and temptation and see where I am in forty days.

Fall Forward

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As part of my New Year and dealing with my depression and keeping a healthy focus in my life, I have been reading a book, Achieve Anything in Just One Year by Jason Harvey. Every day, there is a quotation, a short reading and an assignment to work on. I try to do this every day, but there have been some assignments that were hard, and so they were put off to give them the consideration that they deserved.

The last few days have been related to failure and how to change your present habits and deal with failure better since failure is the foundation, the stepping stones to success.

Today’s assignment asks the reader to take our failure and fall forward.

I have a friend who will take my ‘failure’ (although he would never call it that) and gives me a poke, just enough to propel me forward, and that is one of the things that this assignment reminded me of. For this assignment, though, the point is to give myself that little poke, on my own, not relying on my friend, and take whatever the failure is and fall forward to the next level.

Immediately, as I began to write my response, I was thinking of Wales, and since that it is my spiritual place, the place that reminds me of what I can do and the strong feelings that it can evoke in me, I thought this was a good reflection both for falling forward from failure and the faith that I’m trying to see more of and work on recognizing during this Lent.

One of the things the writer asked me to remember were those moments in childhood when we’re learning to ride a bicycle and flew down that hill with abandon.

My problem is I never flew down that hill with abandon. The closest I came to anything like that was Wales. I let go of my fears in Wales because it was Wales and because I had no choice.

If I didn’t drive, I didn’t go home.

If I didn’t climb as close as I could to Dolwyddelan, I would have missed the one thing that I’d wanted for so long – Llywelyn’s castle; his birthplace.

If I didn’t push down my fear, I would have regretted it.

As it stands now, while there are things that I didn’t do while I was there, but there are so many more that I did and it’s the first time in my life that I had absolutely NO REGRETS.

I need to remember this.

Ash Wednesday

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This is my first post since beginning Lent.

This morning I realized that this is my first rite since deciding to become Catholic. I’ve been going to Mass, but I’ve never participated in any sacraments. And I’m actually not allowed to because I’m not baptized. However, I was told receiving ashes is not a sacrament.

But it is a rite.

And in realizing that it is my first one, this is actually a big deal for me.

It stops being ‘hanging out in church three days a week, sometimes four’, and solidifies my commitment to Christ. It is almost (or really past) time to start telling my family about my decision. Except for who is reading this, I’ve only told my best friend, my priest, my therapist and my husband (in that order). My family is not very religious, but I still worry about their reaction. Part of it is not only a step forward in my faith, but also in my continuing journey. Asserting myself positively as I become more myself. Asking my family to accept me as I grow and change.

As part of that first step, I was nervous walking into the gathering space. There was no room for deep breaths. The door opens and there are people waiting for you, and then I start to have a little panic thing going on. I don’t know what to do.

The Father greeted me with hello, and I respond with a good morning, and then go on to receive my ashes. I don’t know what the woman said to me. She smiled, reached her thumb out to my forehead, and said something. I think I thanked her, although I’m not sure if you’re supposed to do that. At least, no one laughed at me.

Once she touched my forehead, though, I no longer felt weird.

I belonged.

I was in the right place, doing the right thing, and I could feel it.

Mass went as usual, but it felt big.

Important.

Some days the Mass does feel that way. You can feel, literally feel the Spirit upon you and those days feel Big.

Today was one of those days.

There’s music, but it’s somber.

There are no Alleluias. Father told us yesterday that those were the last ones until after Lent.

The Deacon is back from his holiday.

All of the vestments are purple. Having a young daughter, I always think of purple as a happy color, but adorning the church and the Christ on His Cross, it is dark and muted and thoughtful, and not at all happy.

There’s penitence, and apologies, but certain words evoke certain images, and every time for me, when I hear penitent, I hear Sean Connery’s voice, and then Harrison Ford:

“A penitent man. Kneels before G-d!”

And then the Father uses the phrase, ‘a Lenten Pilgrimage’ and I smile broadly. That is what I called it yesterday in this very space, and I know that I am traveling in a new direction. I have everything I need, and I am ready.

I bow my head to receive the prayer.

And thus begins my first Lent.