Monday, August 19, 2019

Back to Peace

I went to Mass on Thursday, for the Assumption of Mary, and it was the first service in a long time that I found myself completely immersed in worship.  I can’t stress enough how being prayed over liberated whatever sad, anxious spirit had stuck to me and I finally found consolation.  It was a special feast day that incorporated incense into the Mass and I remember being so drawn by the smells, it just connected my senses and drew me into the service in a way that I had long been lacking.  On Sunday, the readings again got me so engaged and spoke to me filling me with hope and perseverance.  I thanked God, for His words, for the Eucharist and for breaking that veil that had me feeling so disconnected during worship. 
Things haven’t changed here, I am still facing the same struggles, but now with a peaceful spirit.  For a skeptic, I still am in awe of how being prayed over made all the difference.  Like I told my Franciscan small group, I believe in the power of prayer when I am interceding for someone else, but when I am crying to the Lord for myself, I can be very doubtful.  Thus, to be freed from the oppressive Spirit after being prayed over has began to change my thought pattern about prayer.  Though, I wish that I had that complete trust in the Lord as seen in our Holy Mother- I know that little by little my doubt is being transformed. 

I have thought long and hard about these past post that perhaps have been a little gloomy in content, but I think it’s good to show that it’s ok to experience unpleasant feelings, to feel almost at the point of defeat- even as Christians because we are human and experience the same range of emotions; however, before we break God always comes through.  It is in our weakness that the glory of God is manifested (the Bible tells me so); thus, when I am struggling it’s ok to share that struggle because our testimony is powerful.  I am reminded of the “Book of Job” (perhaps my favorite book in the Bible), he goes through great tribulation feeling a range of unpleasant emotions, but he never quivers away from the Lord. Job stands firm in his faith, even though he suffers immensely – it is in seeing his major suffering and loss that the glory of God shines ever so brightly.  Though Job losses everything, God rewards Job’s fidelity. 

Sometimes we go through a purging season, where we feel like we are losing everything that gave us comfort and peace but, God has a plan.  We need to be empty to be filled up again.  We need challenges to grow in sanctity and in our trust in the Lord.  It’s hard to let go - to walk in uncertainty, but if I rely in the promises of God- that walk can be one of peace, one that looks forward to the celestial gifts waiting to be opened.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Power of Community Prayer

“Where two or more gather in my name there I am with them…”  God made us for community, to share our joys and to help carry our woes to the cross.  On Sunday, I was a little under the weather, there are many troubles ailing my family – big problems that I can’t do anything about.  During my formation small group one of the discussion questions on prayer brought tears to my eyes and the leader of the group noticed that I was not my usually cheerful self.  So, she stopped the discussion and asked everyone to lay hands on me and my small group all prayed over me.  During the prayer I heard God say, “let go.”  Since I have been feeling quite at peace.
Sometimes when our loved ones are struggling, we want to help them and we take on their burden and feel utterly overwhelmed because we weren’t designed to be the ones carrying another’s burden.  That is God’s job.  Our job is to be there, to help in anyway we can and if the situation is beyond our scope of help then we pray so that God will act.  Though carrying the burden of my brother might feel like solidarity- the reality is that I am taking the place of God.  Jesus said, “come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble.” He tells us that when we are having a problem, we need to seek God and to let go of our trouble because he doesn’t want us to carry that load.  When we turn to Him and entrust him with the situation causing us woe, we are free to do His will.  To love and serve our neighbor always repeating, “Jesus, I trust in you.”
I love a story of a father watching his little girl get pinched with a needle trying to pull thread through it. He was tempted to go and thread the needle for her, but he knew that if he allowed the temporary pain his little girl would learn to do it and her self-esteem would grow knowing she had finally done it.  It’s hard to watch our love ones suffer and to think of the good that can come from it, many times I want to act - to help… But I am learning to discern what matters I can help and which I need to entrust the Lord with.  I think in many cases I need to learn to let go and not be an enabler through my desire to help, but rather give it to God.

I leaned this prayer on Sunday, a day that time in community filled me with the peace I was lacking:

“Jesus, right now I place my life in your hands.  In sickness, in financial difficulty, and in the midst of wounded relationships, I offer myself to you. Come and lift me up from stormy waters, and place my feet on the rock of faith in you.”

Monday, August 12, 2019

Saint Clare & Root Bear Floats

Yesterday, was the Feast of Saint Clare and in my Franciscan meeting we had Root Bear Floats to celebrate.  I forget sometimes the importance of studying the life of the saints, of getting to know them as close friends.  Though I love Saint Francis, I don’t ever resort to calling on his beloved best friend, Clare.  As you may know Saint Francis established three communities one for men, one for women and a Secular Order for people who want to live his spirituality out in the world.  Francis never had plans to do this, but slowly the need for each community came to life as people fell a deep connection to his way of life.  Beautiful Clare came from a family of nobility, her family was busy making a match for her to marry, but she refused all suitors because she felt a great desire to give herself to God.  After years of secretly meeting with Francis she realized that she wanted to follow the same path.
Her family didn’t support her desire for religious life, so on Palm Sunday she left her home traveling to a little church where Saint Francis cut her hair and she received the poor habit of the friars.  Though her family tried to persuade her to return home, she persisted and they soon realized that she wasn’t coming home.  She dedicated her life to the poor and to Christ.  Her life in the convent was filled with much physical suffering due to chronic illness that brought much pain.  In addition, she struggled most of her life trying to receive approval for her Rule and only two days before she died was it granted.  She was an exceptionally bright woman, who showed such a profound spiritual understanding that Popes, Cardinals and bishops all came for her counsel. 
In learning more about her life, in community with my Franciscan brothers and sisters I realized how much I need to become better friends with Saint Clare.  I admire her spirit of persistence.  Many times I feel like giving up and the only surrender that needs to happen is my surrender to God’s will.  If I already prayed and made the decision to entrust God with my situation, then I need to do my best to move forward with my day; to fight the temptation to dwell until I become anxious and desperate and focus instead on loving and serving others.  Clare persisted in doing good even though at times it seemed like she might not get approval for her Rule, she didn’t allow herself to despair, but trusted in God’s will.  Her persistence is what I most feel drawn to today, because it’s a trait that I need to emulate.  It’s too easy to give up, but with friends like Saint Clare, God shows that all is possible for those who trust in the Lord.            

Thursday, August 8, 2019

We Are All A Little Weird

We are all a little weird and I am no exclusion. 
I give the last rites to animals that have been killed in the streets- I guess the correct terminology is roadkill.  When I pass through animal remains, while driving, I bless them with the sign of the cross and say a little prayer and imagine that God made their end the least painful.  I am an animal lover to the core and am quite sensitive to seeing mangled bodies of God’s creation; thus, in a quick ceremony, I imagine that these little animal souls are at rest perhaps running free in heaven’s gardens.
The weirdest thing that I have found at a thrift store is an urn of someone’s pet.  I noticed that the little box looked similar to Dollar’s, in a clear bag with the dog’s paw print and a condolence card from the place of cremation.  I took it my friend’s the cashiers and asked them if I could have it to give it a proper burial.  They looked at me probably the way you are while reading this (smile) and agreed that perhaps the little guy deserved a resting place that wasn’t their garbage bin.  Now Dollar has a companion resting beside him.
I am the oops child that came seven years after my parents thought they were done having children; thus, I was much younger than my siblings and growing up in a farm meant that animals were my closest companions.  I daily socialized with chicks, rabbits, goats, dogs- you name it and I considered them my animal best friends.  From the moment I was born my days were filled with farm life and animals lots of animals.  In Mexico, animals died normal deaths and when I moved to the city, I saw that some had difficulty coexisting with the city environment and met their ends in terrible ways- usually hit by cars.  Though there are qualified people that pick up the carcasses from the road, a little prayer allows me to thank God for their existence and to wish them a happy death.

If you still want to be my friend after learning this… (smile)  

Monday, August 5, 2019

A Retelling: Christ Cathedral

Yesterday, I finally made it to our newly renovated, dedicated cathedral.  When I was first trying to pick out a church to attend, I thought I had finally found my home at the then Crystal Cathedral, I was attending a Bible study group and helping in a prayer ministry and the campus was so entirely beautiful that I thought becoming a member was inevitable.  For a week there was a lot of hype about a famous pastor coming from Argentina to take over the Spanish services.  I attended his first service and that’s when God told me that I had to continue looking for a home church.  This famous pastor on his first service spoke ills about the Catholic Church and how his mission was to evangelize and bring all misguided Catholics to the truth.  Though at the time I didn’t have any zeal for the Universal Church, I knew that I would not follow a leader who spoke so publicly against a group of people.  I can accept ignorance from members of the church because they are learning, but from a leader who is in charge of guiding his flock I couldn’t.  So, after the first Spanish service, I left behind the most beautiful Church that up until then I had seen.
A little after I returned to the Catholic Church, I was informed that the Crystal Cathedral had been transferred to the Catholic Church to be its new diocesan grounds.  The first time I heard the news, I couldn’t help, but smile- to think that God does indeed have a sense of humor- because I walked away from the one place that I felt I could grow roots, to return to the Catholic Church and now He was converting us both to the one true faith.  I love the cathedral grounds.  I have been going regularly for a couple years taking classes for my Master Catechesis Certificate.  Usually I would go early to class so that I could spend time in the prayerful nooks and the various gardens.  While only recently has the cathedral been completed for proper Catholic worship, I have enjoyed our diocesan grounds with such gratitude.
Yesterday, mom and I went to Mass to finally see the inside of the newly renovated Cathedral.  The inside is beautiful in a minimalist sort of way.  Other than the floating crucifix, the tapestry of the transfiguration and the life size Our Lady of Guadalupe mosaic the cathedral is pretty plain.  It still homes one of the largest organs and has beautiful bronze Stations of the Cross.  I was expecting more embellishment, more religious art – even though it wasn’t as decorated as I thought it would be, it’s still such a beautiful place that will bring so many people to God.  Yesterday, without planning I went to Mass when the bishop was celebrating the Eucharist and I felt such a special welcome.  They are still working the kinks – like distributing communion on a timely manner.  Overall, it’s such a great feeling to see how far we both have come.  She now a beautiful Catholic place of worship (that am sure will attract and win many souls just through its godly beauty) and I revert able to be there worshiping God.  God is full of wonderful surprises, of tangible moments that feed the soul. I would have never imagined that I would find myself worshiping in a place that began my reversion (smile).    

Thursday, August 1, 2019

No Mountain High Enough

I had a couple interviews this morning, so forgive my tardiness…  I have never been very good at selling myself, so I feel like I am not the greatest interviewee.  I get a little self-conscious trying to give my potential employer reasons why I am a good hire, but I think it’s equally uncomfortable for the person asking the questions.  Thus, I usually try to tell myself before I go in that we are both just trying to get a feel for one-another- they have a job to offer and I a person qualified to do so.  Therefore, neither person is better than the other, we all have the same value and that reduces my feelings of intimidation. The job hunt is a path of highs and lows – sometimes a job that seems perfect for you, one that you have pictured yourself doing doesn’t get offered, or turns out to be a bad fit or for whatever reason you just don’t get- it’s hard to not take it personal.  A denial no matter the reason can feel like a failure, like a kick in the stomach that leaves you winded and feeling so utterly vulnerable.  A door closing does feel like a rejection and no matter how positive one is - it’s hard to reach the mindset that one closed, but another will open.   
This week I realized that two of the jobs that I had my hopes on – most definitely are not going to work.  I had a day where I did allow myself to feel the insecurity, but I didn’t allow myself to remain there.  All these months I have NOT been unemployed, I have actually been self-employed working on my eBay Store full-time.  Thus, financially I am not at all suffering.  I do get a little crazy working from home, but I have been able to spend so much time with my parents.  Everyday, we have lunch together and share in such great bonding time.  I have been able to train Francis, who requires a lot of attention as a puppy.  I have been able to grow in my faith – to have times of prayer, to attend Mass more frequently.  It’s easy to focus on the negative, somehow or minds usually go there quite easily; but nothing is ever bad or good there’s always a little of both and what we choose to focus on really is how we live life.
Recently, I discovered how prayer works and that has made my relationship with God so much more meaningful.  Since, I discovered prayer As a little girl I always thought that my prayers changed God into giving me my petitions and I got so frustrated when years went by and nothing changed.  I think I shared that part of the reason I left the church was because I prayed for years for my alcoholic father to seek recovery and nothing ever happened.  Thus, I felt that God didn’t hear me, that for whatever reason He just didn’t care about giving me a dad without addictions.  All this time I have felt like my petitions didn’t have much value because in the end God would do whatever God wanted to do.  Now, I know that it’s not about getting what I want, but of asking God to change me into a closer image of Jesus.  My conversion matters more, my sanctification is of greater importance.  Which leaves me singing, “ain’t no mountain high enough, ain’t no valley low enough to keep me from getting to you…” (smile)    

Monday, July 29, 2019

Changing Our Hearts Through Prayer

Yesterday, I realized that I have been looking at prayer in quite an erroneous way and that’s why when it comes to petition, I have been so skeptical these past years.  All this time I thought that when I prayed for something that I want and think that I truly need I was doing so to change God’s mind, to get Him to submit to doing what I wanted of Him.  Yet, God is perfect He doesn’t change.  In yesterday’s readings we are encouraged to pray, to ask and to hope knowing that God will provide.  It’s easy to take these scripture readings as asking God to change His will for our lives and becoming disillusioned when things do not change the way we hoped.  However, prayer is about changing our hearts, about making us closer reflections of Christ.  For the longest time, I have prayed only to be disillusioned and disappointed when those prayers didn't turn as I hoped. Now I know that when I pray and ask God for something, even if the answer is no the prayer process works to change my heart to mold me into a better reflection of Christ. 
Father shared how he went to a healing mass and though he witnessed several miraculous healings, he returned home still sick, “sometimes people say that if your faith is strong enough you will receive what you desire in prayer, but that’s not the case.  God is mysterious and though he heals some – at other times He permits suffering because it glorifies Him.”  Thus, when I ask in prayer, I shouldn’t feel like the the strength of my faith will produce the outcome that I want nor that I can change God through my constant petitions.  I need to look at prayer as putting my needs before the Lord and trusting that He will provide whether He says “yes,” “no” or “not yet” - because prayer doesn't change God, it doesn't change things or circumstances it changes us and that change changes our world.  Real prayer is about changing ourselves first and foremost and this personal change affects our world positively. 

I constantly whisper, “God, help my unbelief,” because I thought that receiving the results that I wanted was a matter of how strong my faith is.  This way of thinking many times led me to feel like a failure because if I didn’t get the yes, I wanted in prayer I thought it was because my faith was not strong enough.  When my brother died, a Christian woman came up to me and said, “If you would have prayed harder, he wouldn’t have died.”  That was my first introduction to prayer- results in prayer depended on the strength of my faith.  Yet, the object of prayer is to bring us closer to God to remind us that we need Him more than He does us and sometimes though things we want go unchanging – prayer will change our hearts and we will see that whatever is being permitted in our lives serves a greater purpose.  A purpose that will bring us closer to heaven, one that doesn't convince God to give us what we want, but to align us with His will (WOW).

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Finding Peace

Place Christian girls in a room and they will lose track of time talking, sharing and just being supportive.  Last night, I attended my monthly Gianna Club meeting, we were closing our book study on silence and between the laughter and serious sharing I realized how crucial it is to have like-minded people gather and inspire one-another.  Lately, I have been feeling pretty spiritually dry (I think you probably have noticed from my previous posts) I have avoided silence or time spent with God because I have given too much importance to other things- in doing so, I have neglected my spiritual life.  I keep looking at the past, instead of living in the present and forming new experiences with God.  In other words, He’s become so familiar that I lost some of my reverence, I have taken Him for granted…
I started going to morning Mass, intending on going daily.  Every morning I would show up and say, “Lord, I am here even though I don’t want to be here.”  During the service I had trouble concentrating, I was restless just wanting for it to end.  Though physically I was present – the rest of me never made it to Mass.  These past few months that’s how I have felt in matters of faith and though I have placed an importance on study, I realized that my prayer life has suffered.  There’s this disconnection- now I am a person that knows the faith, a cerebral Catholic that knows the answers, but lacks spirituality.  Last night I finally realized that a relationship (no matter with who and especially with God) must be nurtured – in a way it’s a living organism that must be fed.  Learning about God is great, but if I don’t spend time with Him then I will just be someone who knows of God and not someone who knows Him.

Many of the saints lived their lives like a twenty-four-hour prayer- in constant communion with God.  They understood that the best place for the lover is in the presence of the beloved.  This morning I went into my backyard with a cup of coffee and just listened to it rain, I marveled at the perfection of nature and of He who created this magnificent world.  I took the time to admire all His beauty and thanked Him for giving me so much, and asked for forgiveness for not living appreciating all that I have – and I do have so much!  It was my first time in awhile choosing God instead of the things that have been occupying my time and am not sure if it was last night’s fellowship or just consciously trying to be with my Creator – but this early morning I experienced a peace that I have been lacking and I realized that I have known all along how to get and keep that rest and that is in seeking and finding Him.  "...Seek me and  find me..." (smile).

Monday, July 22, 2019

Back to Normal

Currently my days are filled training my new pup, I have noticed that when he gets scared, he storms off like a bullet to find safe refuge.  Only after he has assessed the situation and concluded that things are safe will he return to wagging his tail.  Sometimes, I have to coax him into understanding that all is well.  This innate reaction to seek a safe haven is built in all of us.  I know that when I get overwhelmed or just need time to think before I act – I retrieve to think of my options or just to let my feelings settle so that I can see the truth. 
I think that because lately I have been so focused on getting my needs met, I have been a bit self-centered thinking only of myself and have neglected others.  As I was beginning to get depressed, the words of a wise priest came to my mind, “sometimes depression is fueled by our thoughts constantly thinking of our problems instead of seeing how we can be a blessing to others.”  I had to be reminded that life happens even when we don’t have everything we want and part of maturing in the faith is being calm during the storm.  First, thanks for letting me vent these last few posts- I have a tendency to voice my thoughts as they are happening, it helps me to just release the negative to clear space for the good to come.

I am here, the same me with the same feelings and dreams- some things have temporarily changed, but nothing that wont soon be mended.  While I have allowed myself to retreat, to run for cover seeing things in the proper scope have made me realize that I have been overwhelmed instead of trusting that God will handle those things out of my control.  I have also been reminded that when I focus too much on myself, I miss the opportunity to be a blessing to others.  And when we open ourselves to the service of others, we see that things aren’t as bad as we thought because there is always someone facing a bigger struggle.  Service helps not only the recipients of our charity, but it also allows us to see that no matter the state we find ourselves we can always help another.  Jesus really tapped into something huge, when he said he came to serve and for us to imitate him.  Service allows us to see the truth and removes us from self-centeredness to put us in our place.  After sometime in silence, God set me free again reminding me of message I receive years ago, a message to step away from me and help another.  To be aware that others are in more dire need than me and that I can always be a helping hand that shows them the love of God. 

Silence can help us hear the voice of God reassuring us that no matter the circumstance He is with us and since He is charge, we can serve another holding steadfast to our Lord.  Thanks for letting me vent these past few posts, I will try to be a better friend (smile).

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Life Unexpected

I like watching some reality TV shows, most recently “Hoarders Buried Alive.”  Most of the hoarding can be attributed to trauma, death of a loved one or having lived in poverty growing up.  I find it so interesting how people deal with life.  When I was growing up, I always wondered how people just gave up.  I worked at Big Lot’s during college and my boss was severely overweight.  She once shared that she wasn’t always big, that in fact she used to be quite active and relatively small- but that her troubled marriage pushed her to find comfort in food.  I was just out of high school and I judged my boss poorly, judging how she allowed herself to get so big instead of addressing the issues in her marriage.  Each episode on Hoarders has people that medicate through accumulating stuff.  It’s so interesting to witness each person’s story, to learn how trauma in their lives led them to find comfort in obsessive behavior. 
While I am not a hoarder, I do see in my life how I also have addressed situations in my life with unhealthy behavior.  After my brother died and after having a mental break-down I lost a lot of my discipline.  Before I used to have so many goals and the will power to follow through.  Yet, after going through the most difficult experiences of my life – my point-of-view changed to just plain survival.  My priorities changed from accomplishment and career success to spending more time with my loved ones because I was terrified of not enjoying them while I had them.  It’s also been about stuffing myself with food when I feel anxiety instead of finding healthier ways to deal with it.  I try to not always give in to the fatigue related with bipolar, but these past years I have led quite a sedimentary life.

Initially when I had my break-down I was reading about mental health and I remember that statistically it takes years to recover from both a loss and a mental breakdown.  I didn’t want to believe it, but now I see that healing takes time.  Though we weren’t placed on earth to be successful – it’s hard to think of all the schooling that I had and to find myself in the situation I am in.  It’s hard to accept that situations out of my control have had such a drastic effect in my life, but just as the many people getting help on the hoarders show – I see that it’s never too late to make small changes to get back on track.  When I had my mental breakdown, I used to ask God why instead he didn’t take one of my legs or arms- something physical instead of my mental pain.  People can see physical injuries and be more accepting than with pains that are invisible to the eye.  Yet, this is my cross – the situation that can bring me closer to God if I allow it- my sanctification process.  On Saturday, my friend who has a mental disability was in town and I got to spend a few hours with him.  It’s always so nice to talk with him because we both struggle with our minds getting out of control sometimes, but we both try to live as normal lives as we can.  It was nice talking to someone about the job hunt and how the anxiety multiplies for people with mental disabilities.  He gave me some coping mechanisms- but I think the greatest form of encouragement is just knowing that I am not alone nor the only one that has added challenges.  Life can be cruel at times because it throws things into our lives that practically destroy us, leaving us trying to just plain survive; but our faith teaches us that all is not lost.  That suffering can be used to bring us closer to God and in the end that is the goal (smile).