Lenten Failures

I have become a Lenten failure.
Depending on how you look at it.
I have set out, as I do yearly, to add something to my life that will increase my faith or make me a better servant of Christ. This year my focus has been on choosing peace.  This goal has morphed from an exercise in finding peace, to choosing peace and finally, to resting on a goal to wrench my peace out of the hands of a would be thief.
It has been a lesson in peace.  A slow evolution of how I view this journey.

Last week I realized something else.  For years Off and on, through out my life, I have kept my prayers in journals.  It seemed like a way to be the most honest with my God and to keep my mind focused on praying.  I tend to lose focus quickly, if not tied to the tracks.  There are a few things wrong with this strategy.
If I am really praying, if I am invested in praying for my family or things that are very important to me then it takes time.  My hands get tired.  `Funny, I know.
For you spiritual smart alecks out there, this is not the time for that challenge…how long would you have waited in the garden?
I also find that somewhere around the middle of the page, it becomes the Tashmica Show.  I am not involved in a conversation.  I am throwing balled up pieces of paper at the wall, hoping that God is catching my drift.  The purpose of prayer, in my mind, is a conversation.  It’s a moment where we sit in on what God’s plans are.
This does not mean that the journal thing does not work for me.  It just means that I am going to do things differently.  I am going to use my journal to create bullet points for my prayers.  I am going to spend more time reading my Bible and listening for an answer.
I am also going to stop starting my prayers like this…
Dear God,
Thank you for this day and thank you for this time we have together….
I mean, does anyone really mean that?
My prayers have begun to start with more truth.  I am not always thankful for this day but sometimes, I am thankful for dust that looks like glitter swirling at a funeral.  Sometimes I am grateful for the way that light rolls down the back of a child from the crack in the door as I rock-a-bye.  Those are real things that I have been thankful for in the past month.  I thank God for them because they are real moments of gratitude.  Not a prayer I was taught to say to appease those standing around me with my normalcy.
*smile*
As if I have ever been able to feign normalcy. 

Staying the Course

I struggle.  Sometimes it’s with my own demons and sometimes it’s with the spaghetti jar. 

My darkest struggles seem overwhelming.  They seem to go on as far as the horizon.  When I am in the midst of my own struggle, sometimes I need to hear the stories of survivors.  I need to know that the battles of others that seemed to reach into forever were survived.  I am kind of in that place now.

That is why I enjoyed so much interviewing the recipients of the Staying the Course Award given by The New Citizens Press.  Addie said God told her she would be fine and she believed.  Phyllis said that she was not managing her life well but things have gone just fine since she placed that job in His able hands.  Above and beyond the fight against illness and for sobriety I heard the story of faith and it blessed me.

Read the article I wrote.  Be blessed. Find Faith. 

Celebrating 10 Years by Honoring Two Women

Out and About

Nearly a year ago, I spilled the beans on my childhood trauma.  It was uncomfortable but when my emotions get the best of me I have to free them.  So I did.  Now the word is out and about.
I have always maintained the point of view that I did nothing wrong and so I should never be responsible for holding on to his secret.  I survived and if anything, when I announce that I survived sexual abuse, trumpets should blast and confetti should fall from the ceiling.  I am alive.  I am a part of the walking wounded but that’s the most important part of my story.  I recognize that I am a living force to be reckoned with and I am still walking.
That’s right.  MeStill walkin’.
It may not always be a victorious saunter.  It may appear to be painful, slow or a lost wandering.  I deal with my past as it comes.  I dealt with it in the way that a child does when I was a child.  I dealt with it again as a teenager…and again as a young adult…as a new mother….wife…thirty year old.
That sounds a little too simplified.  It sounds like my past came up to me at a coffee shop, sat down and introduced itself with an itinerary of what issues we would deal with during this thrilling episode of The Dirty Girl Comes Clean.  It’s never simple.  It knocks me to the floor each time. It is like a surprise shoving from behind after which their is a standing over me.  A gloating, a taunting about who I will never become because I am so damaged.
If you understand, my heart aches for you while my hand reaches out to pull you up.  If you don’t understand *sigh* the gratefulness to God on your behalf leaves me speechless.
Now. What to do with this girl’s story that is now out and about.
This year Urban Mainstream Magazine is running a Child Abuse and Domestic Violence Campaign called Unveiled Tears that will be officially launched February 15th, 2011.  I will be contributing to the campaign as a freelance writer sharing my experiences in support of the three main points of the campaign;

“To be Aware, To be inspired and To be an inspiration.”

I am not the only one who will be participating.  There will be many voices and they are looking for more to help lift the heavy veil of silence.
The idea of purpose: “The actions we take today gives hope to children tomorrow.”
I have to be honest and say that I used to take much more pleasure in sharing when I thought that my healing would be complete someday.  That delusion has now left me and I now realize that their will be major battles in a war that may last my entire life.  In my most heroic moments <~~~enter major sarcastic tone here…I rage at God that I don’t want to be anyone’s lesson.  I shouldn’t have to be.  My childhood should have been mine.  It should have been something unliftable by such a con artist.
*sigh* woulda, coulda, shoulda….My past was and is. There is no denying it, wallowing in it (all of the time…just sometimes on really bad day) and there is no reason to keep my hard won lessons to myself.
Well that won’t help anybody will it?

Jesus Christ Superstar Pt.1

Tonight Paul and I were invited by a work aquaintance to attend the 2010 Passion play at Mt. Hope Church.  I was not looking forward to it.  I have a hard time watching suffering, especially when I know it’s not fictional.  I also grew up in the outer reaches of the Bible Belt and I have seen more than my fair share of Passions and Pageants. I really wanted to skip it and go see the new Tyler Perry movie, “Why Did I Get Married Too?“.  My husband kindly reminded me that we can’t turn away from what Christ did for us. He promised to hold my hand at the scary parts and we went.

Our friends got us great seats and we settled in.  I didn’t mean to be aloof but I was.  I knew that Jesus had died on the cross and sometimes I cringe at the constant reminder by some Christians of our debt to him.  I have always felt that Christ wants us to serve him out of love and not out of obligation and fear.  Please don’t take me to mean that all Passion plays or Christians are getting it wrong.  My attitude in the moment was one of trepidation and doubt.  I couldn’t explain why a normally enthusiastically open person closed off so suddenly.

As the play began and we wafted through Jesus’s miracles, teachings, persecutions, crucifixion and his resurrection, I knew why.  I am not in love with my sin and I definitely don’t want to spend an evening wallowing in it.  I can fill the air with all the rhetoric I want about love and obligation but I need to pay attention.  I need to remember even if I don’t need the alter call and the free Bible.

Tonight I remembered that I am the woman at the well.  I am the mother carrying her dead child to place in His arms.  I am the blind man and the cripple begging to be healed.  I felt the woman’s hopelessness as she bathed Jesus’s feet with her tears and I rejoiced when she was forgiven. My heart broke as Mary sobbed at the foot of the cross. I cried when Jesus stepped out of the tomb.  I was especially moved when Judas Iscariot hung himself because even with the promise of forgiveness, he couldn’t forgive himself.  I can relate to that.

When Jesus gave His final commandment to love one another I thought of the world with sadness.  I see in my minds eye all of the misrepresentations of that love that hurts my soul.  The Pastor at Mt. Hope welcomed all of the attendees with open arms and made the statement that it didn’t matter what “brand” of Christianity you come from.  The only thing that matters is our salvation in Christ (loosely quoted).  We all suffer greatly when we focus on our differences.

Even if you don’t believe that Jesus was the Savior, we can all agree that He was a revolutionary.  That is the Jesus I love.  Not out of obligation but because I believe in his message of love.  I want it to be given freely to everyone.

In our home we have a rule.  Love Rules.  If you can’t make a decision about how you should treat someone in any circumstance, let love rule.  It doesn’t always work.  I don’t always let love rule in my life but that is the highest goal and it’s what I want my children to remember about our home.  I don’t care if the rule says bedtime is at eight.  If you need a cup of tea with your mother we let love rule.

I hope that this Easter you are inspired by Christ’s commandment to all of us.  Let love rule or as He said it…

John 13:34
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

Smudges

I have been a Catholic for nearly four years. My conversion did not come with a massive epiphany. I felt no absence of faith that I needed to fill with this alien denomination. As a matter of fact, I shouldn’t even use the term conversion because my God didn’t change. I just sat in a different pew. My conversion was prompted by a strong, if not indoctrinated view given to me by my parents, that families should attend church together.

Before Isaiah was born, we treated our Sunday affiliations like partial custody of a child. Every other weekend we would bounce from a Non-Denominational church for me and a Catholic church for Paul. He would squeeze past the coffee station and loud chatter of fellowship to listen to a sermon that sometimes reminded him of a theater production. I would passively kneel and struggle to listen to a sermon that I thought had all the spirit of a 5th grade boy reading his book report on Nancy Drew.

Children always complicate things and a decision needed to be made. Paul was a cradle Catholic. He and all nine siblings attended Catholic Schools through high school graduation. The Catholic Church is where he finds God. I am more flexible in nature and thus find God everywhere. I am the one who was baptized in a horse trough. I knew that the transition was mine to make.

We are now approaching my fourth Easter as a Catholic which is preceded by my fourth Lenten season. I have the dark smudge of blessed ashes in the shape of a cross on my forehead to prove it. Four years ago, I would have thought it ridiculous and legalistic to follow the Lenten procedures. Ashes, alms, fasting, prayer…It all seems like a lot of unnecessary crap to do when my salvation is secure.

Now I view Lent as a gift to the faithful. A time where God says to us that it’s okay that you have forgotten Me. It’s okay that you take advantage of My grace and use more than what you need of everything. I am here and now that we both know, let’s do something about it. Why don’t you take the next forty days to come closer to me. Reflect on what you need to change and we will work through it together.

I accept his invitation to hit the reset button on my life. I move slower and with more thoughtful purpose. I pray more and am mindful of my faults. I confess more often because I am made aware of my sins. It is a time where God becomes less of a responsibility and more of a privilege.

I won’t list for you all that I intend to give up, change or donate because for me, that’s not the point. God knew me well enough to know that I would forget his sacrifices, my privileges and my priorities. He is not surprised by my behavior. The point is that God is willing to sacrifice again to remind me. Who wouldn’t worship a God like that?

Time Out and Church


“Mommy, I don’t like church or time out because they’re boring.”


We were in the car on the way to Grandma and Grandpa’s house for dinner when Isaac shared this little jewel with me. My first reaction was to tell him that Church is not boring but it can be, even for grown ups, excruciatingly boring. I imagine for a four year old it must seem much worse. Besides, I did not have a leg to stand on since I had skipped church that morning for laundry and baking.

I realize that I am supposed to be a better example. I have in the past bounded out of bed and sang out, “Today we get to go to Church.” I want my children to be aware that worship is a freedom that not everyone has. Sometimes my Sunday morning script changes to, “It’s time to say thank you Jesus.” My children have a lot to be thankful for.

This weekend, however, I felt justified in side stepping the Sabbath. I had spent two days out of the week in Grand Rapids working with the Michigan Darfur Coalition on the Refugee Assistance Program. I also worked hard to run our family business and shuttle two school aged children to school and gymnastics classes. I prepared low cost healthy meals that included bread and granola that I baked myself. The week ended with a party where I invited some good friends over for a game of Charades. Fun was had by all. All of this while maintaining a healthy weight and losing two pounds.

I was amazing.

I am also amazingly full of myself. I never intended for this blog to become a commentary on my faith. I wanted it to be an honest account of my experiences as a mother, wife, business owner and advocate. In order to be honest, I have to admit that I should have taken my amazingly-full-of-myself-butt to church for a time out.

I told Isaac that Church and time outs may not be fun but they are necessary. Sometimes we need a moment to be still and focus on our choices. Sometimes we don’t even know that we need them and sometimes we find ourselves there completely by surprise. I promised both of the boys that mommy would start prioritizing her week around the Sabbath and not the other way around.

I love working for a good cause. If I am helping to feed the oppressed I know that I am working with God. I want my children to see me involved with their school and cheering them on in their extra curricular activities. I work hard to preserve my marriage and I have personal goals that deserve attention, too. I would be a fool to believe that all of the good I intend to do will not bear down on me with it’s full weight without the cultivation of my faith.

Next Sunday you will find me in a pew at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church and I will take my time out like a big girl.