Gratitude Scavenger Hunt – #1

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Refer to the original post for the list.

1. Find something that makes you happy.

As with most of these lists, answers will vary depending on the time of year, my mood, and whatever else is going on in my life, so YMMV on these.

With Nanowrimo, spending some time at my local Starbucks makes me happy. It’s right in town, so I’m nearby if my family needs me to return home for any reason since we have only one car.

So what is that something that makes me happy?

My usual. And the cup says it all – That first sip feeling. (c)2020

Who Are The Saints We Turn To?

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When I was young, I loved to read about Joan of Arc. It was many years before I discovered she was a saint. It just wasn’t part of my growing up to associate her with religion; not really. I know she talked to G-d; I mean, so did I! I wasn’t Christian so I didn’t grow up attending church. But I knew Joan of Arc. She was a part of my girlhood, like Anne Frank, another young girl, someone I could relate to who also died too young. These were my heroes.

In my recent years of finding Catholicism and spirituality, I’ve added to my “collection” of saints and saintly people. I love hearing that saints are just like us. I’ve also learned that they are an outgrowth of their times. Sometimes their lives are huge and important and sometimes their deaths are, but in a lot of times, they are just ordinary people who do or preach extraordinary things. I know that today is All Saints Day, but I was still taken aback by the number of times I was called by the saints in the last two weeks.

Once I put this topic on my calendar a few weeks ago, I spent a lot of time thinking about it and the saints I look to in my life. They do change depending on the circumstances. I didn’t start reading on any of them in particular, but I looked at the saints for the day, seeing which feast days were coming up and thought a lot of who I felt the closest to.

Throughout October, I had been attending weekly zoom presentations on Diversity in Spirituality. Last week’s lecture was given by Dr. Kim Harris of Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California. Her focus was on Black Americans, their experience, their worship, and their saints (and lack thereof). In addition to music and talk of the ancestors, Dr. Harris also asked the following question:

In our troubled and tumultuous times, what kinds of saints do we need or what kinds of saints do we need to be?

I was stunned into silence. That is very nearly the exact question I put on my calendar, the one that I’ve been contemplating on for the past two weeks, and here it was as our breakout room assignment!

What kinds of saints do we need in our lives right now indeed?

In conjunction to that synchronism and along with all of these thought provoking happenings, yesterday, I also attended a scheduled Day of Reflection centered on walking and praying with the saints. I had been looking forward to this day for several weeks and it did not disappoint. It also led me in my continuation of thinking about the saints and who I feel the closest to.

This was a question that I had been giving a lot of thought to, although in my mind I hadn’t phrased it quite like that at all. I’ll share a few thoughts with you.

I’ve mentioned Joan of Arc earlier. I was always enthralled by her hearing voices and following as well as being able to command an army. Maybe it was because I grew up in the feminist wave of the 70s that it seemed impossible to ignore and easy to admire.

St. Kateri Tekakwitha is a newer, local saint. Her birthplace is in upstate New York at the village where the North American Jesuit Martyrs died although they weren’t there at the same time. The spring where St. Kateri was baptized is there, and I am hoping to be in good enough shape to go through the woods to the spring sometime in 2021.

St. Elen is my personal saint, the patron of travelers and roads. I chose her for my saint’s name for my confirmation in 2014. Upon finding her, I found so many things about her that I could relate to as well as having been in her homeland, literally where she walked the earth although I did not know it at the time. I was fortunate to be able to pilgrimage to one of her holy wells in Wales in 2017, and it still gives me pause when I remember my times there.

Maximilian Kolbe and Edith Stein draw me back to my Jewishness and my Jewish upbringing. I know that Maximilian Kolbe wasn’t Jewish but he was killed in the camps in Nazi Germany as was Edith Stein. It reminds me that others (in Edith Stein’s case) have walked a similar path to mine.

I was drawn to Mary, Untier of Knots through Pope Francis’ devotion, and it has only grown stronger over the years. There is something very familiar about untying knots as a mother from shoelaces to necklaces to yarn and in needlework, not to mention the untying and smoothing that goes along metaphorically.

St. Dafydd is, of course, the patron saint of Wales, a place that I feel connected to since I first set foot there in 1987.

And finally, in this moment at least, Mary Magdalene. I didn’t know much about her; her life was co-opted a bit and confused with others, but what I do know and believe is that she followed Jesus from very early on. She was the first of his disciples to see him after his Resurrection, and she brought the word of his Resurrection to the apostles, becoming the first to bring the Holy Word of Jesus to others after his death. I love that she is the Apostle to the Apostles and that she is in history as someone who can possibly convert hearts to allow women priest and preachers.

Which saints are you drawn to during these difficult times of chaos and uncertainity?

Art is mine based on the song:
Saints Of God In Glory
Frank Brownstead · Bernadette Farrell · St. Thomas More Group, 1991.
(c)2020

Listen here.

Finding the Joy

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Several months ago, April to be precise, I was given a series of reflection questions related to the losses I’ve had since the March 17th lockdown. I may have mentioned this in my original post, In the Midst of Loss about that retreat session and over the course of the month following that first hour I would bring up the subject to myself and think about those losses, the reasons for them, as well as trying to name my feelings about them, and then question how to say goodbye to what’s been lost. It is obviously much harder to say goodbye to a loved one who has died during this pandemic; that loss is astronomically deeper and more upsetting than the loss of work or routine or our regular habits, although the loss of work is catastrophic in its own way and those of us struggling with mental health issues like anxiety, depression, and others will feel that some of our losses are also catastrophic. How do we accept the losses we are experiencing and move forward even in the midst of the ongoing pandemic, a pandemic that will continue to be with us for many more months to come, if not at least another year or more? What strategies can be adopted and adapted to move on; to create a new ordinary for our lives?

There were two additional, important and hard to answer questions broached during that session. The first was do we really want back what we’ve lost? All of it? Are there some things that we have lost that we kind of want to stay lost? The second was to ask ourselves what was good about this time.

While we’ve all had losses, we’ve also had gains. There were good things that were perhaps only seen in retrospect. How do we find joy in the confusion and chaos of today?

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Inspire. September.

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BACK TO SCHOOL

And suddenly you know: It’s time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings.

Meister Eckhart
On the cusp. (c)2020

This back to school will be quite different from years past. My youngest starts high school, and yet won’t see the inside of the high school until January. She opted for fully virtual school while my other child in school opted for in-person/remote hybrid. Even back to school night will be virtual.

The above picture I chose was from the last day of our vacation. It is on the cusp between both summer and fall. Its place is so far north that is on a second cusp, balanced between the United States and Canada. It is a home away from home although we’d only stayed at this hotel the one time.

Reading and absorbing Meister Eckhart’s words, I will strive to be more in balance; to start something new; to find the magic of beginnings, and keep moving forward.

This year will be challenging.

It will be hard.

We’ve come through worse, both personally and as a country. We can do this – – – together.

Two days ago, we began school here. We have our agendas and our schedules, our chromebooks and our notebooks.

Yesterday marked forty-nine days until Election Day. As I said then, create your voting plan, and implement it. I was going to do a mail-in ballot, but I think my current plan will be for early voting. I have the dates and the locations, and I’m ready for this new beginning.

This week includes a doctor’s appointment, a therapy session, and the first part of a four part Cursillo workshop and concludes with the observation and celebration of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. That holiday is my personal traditional time for starting anew with plans and changes and goals.

I’m wary… but excited.

I feel goodness and hope. I hope you can feel it also.

John Lewis: In His Words and Of Him

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Instead of what I had planned for this week, I decided to compile the many things that I’ve heard about and from John Lewis and share them with you.

One of the reasons for this was the realization that while I adored and admired John Lewis for a very long time, I was unaware of his esteemed place in history. I knew about the Edmund Pettus Bridge and I knew he was a “civil rights icon”, but I did not comprehend the vast expanse of what that actually means.

A few weeks ago, I began to read The Children by David Halberstam. I’ve had it in my library for some time and just hadn’t gotten to it, but it begins at the beginning with the young people in Nashville, Tennessee, with John Lewis and others.

I read it and had only gotten so far when Congressman Lewis passed away. I’ve said before that he was one of those people, those heroes, those strong voices that I thought would never leave the earth. He may be gone, but his voice will live on.

In retrospect, growing up in New York I would have thought we’d have a better understanding of the Civil War, its causes and its outcomes, but I’m saddened to realize that I learned more about Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis than I did about John Lewis, Jim Lawson, and Diane Nash. At fifty-three, I am rectifying that.

John Lewis is an American hero. Hero and iconic are words that don’t live up to the lived life of John Lewis. He embodied peace and love, and as I type out these words I hear his voice in my head, and I hope to hear his voice for the rest of my life.

What follows are the words of some from his celebration of life service as well as three videos that I would encourage you to watch, although watching the entire service would be a valuable use of your time.

May John Lewis rest but may we not rest until we reach his beloved community with equality, liberty, and justice for all.

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In Time

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It’s noon on Friday.

I woke my family to the greeting of “It’s Hamiltime!

Get up, get dressed, there will be no talking, no singing, no pausing, no leaving in the middle. The intermission is one minute long. Please plan accordingly.

When Lin-Manuel Miranda announced that a film of Broadway’s Hamilton performance would be premiering in theatres in October of 2021, I put it on my calendar.

Immediately.

When he surprised us a few weeks ago with a new, moved-up date of July 3rd of this year, I think I may have shrieked and then I put it on my calendar in big, bold, capital letters. Back when Hamilton was on Broadway, and then later on, locally at Proctors [live theatre], I had thought about getting tickets, but it was well out of my price range, and I accepted that, but I also knew that there was a filmed version in a vault somewhere, waiting for the right moment, and I waited.

I believe I’ve been rewarded for my patience.

I mean, I could have watched it at 3am when it began streaming on Disney+, but I waited for my family even though they’re only watching it with me to indulge me. (I must confess that since I was actually up at 3am, I did watch the first song, and let the second one start, but that was it. I turned it right off. Honest.)

Patience is a virtue, they say.

And patience is something we’ve all been living with and being forced to accept during these last few months. Hurry up and wait. It’s been frustrating and sometimes a little scary being in this new place we’ve never been before. Even the meaning of time changed for many of us. While my kids had school remotely, they didn’t have very much online class time so they were very flexible in doing their schoolwork. It didn’t matter when they woke up or when they went to bed, their video game consumption or facetime as long as they got their work done. That same level of “flexibility” stretched into grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning. Things definitely got a little lax there; after all, who was coming to visit?

There was also something hanging in the air. It wasn’t tangible, but something changed. Time is often described as fleeting, but in March… it just stopped. Our whole lives jerked to a stop, and when it started again mere moments later, it began a slow crawl to nowhere and no-when. Days slipped into weeks. It took a year to travel through March, and the next three months weren’t any better. At times, it seemed that we were moving backwards. We weren’t of course. Time wasn’t fleeting, but we also weren’t standing still. Here was where we established the days by Sunday’s livestreamed Masses and Monday’s Rosary [with the Cursillo movement], and time by watching the Governor’s daily briefing. As each pause of society was extended in two week intervals we were given some semblance of a hope that we would return to normal. If only we had patience. Collectively, we learned to focus on our present and be patient for the tomorrow that is yet to come.

And now with the majority of the country failing the present crisis, we try to slip by the inevitable return of lockdown, balancing our lives with our life, and those around us. It’s tiring. It’s frustrating. It’s certainly not how I wanted to spend my summer. But I remain in faith. If we all do our part, together we will get through this crisis, and come out on the other side.

Leslie Odom, Jr. as Aaron Burr sings in Hamilton, “I am the one thing in life I can control….I’m willing to wait for it.

And as St. Paul tells us in Romans 12:12: “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

In the meantime, that’s really all we can do.

De Colores.

[De Colores is a greeting, farewell, and song used in the Cursillo movement by many of its groups.]

[This was previously published in our local Cursillo Weekly Digest the first week of July, 2020.]