Thursday, December 29, 2005

Becoming God's

I've tried to start this post several times today and am having trouble finding the words. Today is my one year anniversary of being received into the Catholic faith. One year ago today I experienced confirmation, reconciliation and first communion plus the sacrament of marriage all in one fell swoop.

All I knew at the time was that I was going forward in obedience to the best of my ability. I did worry I was going to become some religious zealot....someone who did all these religious things without any substance on the inside. I think it is sometimes the lack of words or the confusion over language that makes things more difficult than they need to be. For some reason being described as a devoted Catholic brings negative connotations to my head as opposed to being described as one who is on fire for God. I've lived for too long hearing people say that this or that person is a Christian despite being Catholic. I mourn the divisions that stand between people that aren't necessary.

I thought if I just brushed up on apologetics and could have every answer at my fingertips when questioned that that would somehow count for something in any person's eyes, whether they were for or against my choice. I gave up on that idea quickly. I am no different than the next person. I believe when I want to and I dismiss when I want to. Someone can question my choice but not hear a thing I say because they have already made up their mind that I am in error. I do it to other people too. It's not only God that I do my "la la land dance" with. You know, the one where I stick my fingers in my ears and sing loudly, "la, la, la,..." so I don't have to hear what the other person is saying? That one. It's been freeing and frightening to find out that the Catholic church teaches one to be open to the truth wherever one finds it even if finding it means in another faith altogether. A professor I had responded to the question one of my classmates posed about Bhuddism by saying, "Sometimes I think God is elbowing us and saying, look at that truth there that you have missed." When you are used to people just telling you everyone is wrong but the way they see it, it does a number on your brain to have it stretched in this way.

So it is a year later on my journey. In every which way the best year of my life. Most painful. Most healing. Most discouraging. Most hopeful. If I've become a religious zealot it's okay.

I remember sitting with a Catholic priest about 3 years ago and hearing him talk about his niece and her husband and how they were attending such and such a church and were finding a home there. I was still in the place where I thought everyone had to see things my way in order for me(who do I think I am anway!) to bless their journey. I remember puzzling greatly over his acceptance at his niece's choice.

I think about Rich Mullins and how he told people when they heard he was exploring the Cathoic faith that it wasn't really about becoming Catholic or not it was about him becoming God's. And that about sums up my year. A knowing that I am truly becoming God's.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Living The Experience

One of my favourite authors is Jean Vanier. I was pleased to receive his new book, Befriending The Stranger this Christmas. Here is an excerpt:

"We all have to ...come to a greater understanding
that those who are blessed
are not those who succeed 'religiously'
but those who keep trusting
even as they live the experience of failure."

Before I started writing this post the phrase "How do you like your humanity? came into my head. Some days I want to put as much distance as I can between me and my humanity. Today is one of them. This too shall pass.("Thank God," the choir said.)

I am tired and crabby today. Okay, that is an understatement. I am extremely tired and crabby today. I'm having a hard time accepting that my humanity will always stick with me like a bad case of static cling. Would it be a groan-worthy play on words to say that God is the ultimate humanity softener?

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Have A Very Merry Christmas....

My world is a richer one this Christmas because of you. Yes, you. Thank you for your input into my life and for being such an encouragement. I wish you a very Merry Christmas and all the best in 2006. I don't know about you but I like my life. Right now. As is. I think I really may be absorbing the reality that life is a journey, a process and for that I am grateful.

God bless you this holy season.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Waiting

Sometimes after a session with Father Charlie I feel like it's just the same crap different pile. It feels like I've been visiting these piles forever. I asked myself on the way home the other day which pile was I stirring this time. As if I had nothing better to do with my time. Sigh. I'm weary of it. Father Charlie told me today that even so it was movement, it was progress, and sometimes a person stirs just a little but it's still movement.

That means that even when I feel like I'm standing still I'm not.

I had a restless sleep last night. There are blurry lines in my head between me and my mom and me and my daughter. The patterns of abuse from my childhood home I repeated in my own home. Certain images of my actions haunt me. It was a slow ride up out of the abuse pit to break the cycle for the next generation. One may turn a corner abruptly but the baggage they carry with them cuts a wide swath and it takes a while for the momentum to stop. I was shocked when Father Charlie asked me about my feelings towards my mom to have the image of wanting to strike her flash through my head. To pummel her mercilessly for the pain she has caused me. I am so tired of there not being peace when I think about my mom. It comes occasionally in small doses - like when she was in the hospital with congestive heart failure....but whenever I go inside to that tender spot where the pain is the greatest there are waves of anger, pain and fear. Jesus, could you just heal me already?

One of the books I bought when I went to West Edmonton Mall was about one man's 30 day Ignatian retreat. Within its pages he shared his experience of an exercise called a Triple Colloquy that stuck with me. Here is the gist of it:

Triple Colloquy: from St. Ignatius:

I go to Mary that she may ask, on my behalf, for three favors from her Son:
~ deep realization of what sin is in my life,
~ an understanding of the disorders in my life and how to amend them,
~ and an insight into the culture that surrounds me and leads me to seek empty things as if they could bring happiness.
In the book I bought it describes it as an understanding of how the Prince of this World works, and to hate those works.

Next, in the company of Mary, I go to her Son, Jesus, and ask that he may obtain these same graces from the Father.

Finally, with Mary and Jesus, I approach the Father and make the same requests.

Last night by candle light I visualized going with my mother to Mary. The look of compassion on Mary's face...her knowing as a mother herself...she made haste to bring us to Jesus. I felt like a bit of a bystander because I was curious what it looked like to see my mother going to Jesus. Tears and more tears as I sensed her longing for mercy. When we went to God together, the final scene of Braveheart came into my head and I realized that extending mercy towards my mother meant freedom for me. I have always loved that final scene where William Wallace cries "freedom" with every last ounce of energy left in his body while the crowd wants him to cry mercy to be saved from the pain of a brutal death.

This morning as I did some research I had no idea that the theme of the Triple Colloquy was mercy. I could remember none of the specifics. Last night I forgot there were three points or anything. All I knew was that I was to go in prayer to Mary, then with her to Jesus and then together to God. I'm not sure why I brought my mother along with me.

After this time of prayer I went to bed and dreamt I was standing outside my bedroom door in a dark vise-like grip. Picture a silhouette outlined with a thin veneer of concrete and that is what it felt like. On my own power I could not move. The very Prince of this World held me tight. In the dream I struggled for a long time, I prayed different things. Nothing made any difference to the hold Satan had on me. Finally I prayed through the Apostle's Creed and started to say 'Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy.' As soon as I said "Christ have mercy" whatever was binding me let go. I woke up gasping for breath from the strain of trying to break free.

Last night I had prayed for the courage to drop the baggage I have been carrying around with me for 43 years. Today I am more than hopeful that my prayer will be fruitful.

I also read through Being Home. This selection says it for me:


How hard it is to know
when the pot is too small for the plant.
Some plants need to be contained, held very close.
Others cannot be crowded.
I don't know when I myself am too pot-bound,
lacking courage to be replanted,
to take the shock of new soil,
to feel into the unknown and to take root in it.

This drying out, this self-crowding
sneaks up on me. It seems I must always feel
a little wilted or deadened before I know
I'm too pot bound.

This african violet must first be cut
and divided. The knife goes through the root.
The white flesh exposed and moist
looks as if it is bleeding.
It must have soil immediately
so the plant won't die.
Then water. Water taken in from below.
This water must seep up into the plant
by infusion. Then comes the waiting
as the shock registers.
Days and weeks of waiting.

It will be months before a new leaf appears.
Perhaps the plant won't make it.
So it is when the time comes for me to be cut
and divided so as to grow again.

Help me to see this not as a problem
but as a process. Help me surrender
to the growth that only comes with pain,
with division, with helplessness, with waiting.
Especially the days and weeks of waiting.

~ Gunilla Norris in Being Home

Tuesday, December 20, 2005


I'm feeling raw and vulnerable today. Yesterday's session with Father Charlie was full of pain, fear and tears. Tears coursed down my face as I spoke my fears outloud. This morning the picture in my head is of being wrapped in a loose, whirlwind-like cocoon of soft red, blue and white strings. Red anger, blue pain, and white fear. I am crouched down hugging my knees. The cocoon only goes part way up my torso. I have a sense that Jesus is holding the cocoon and lifting me up to God.

Snuggled up to my husband this morning, waiting for the sun to rise yet at 9 am, I shared some of my fears outloud with him. I worried that he would think less of me, hold against me some of my actions of the past. Oh, how I thank God for this man. He said to me, "Only the legal system punishes people for things in the past."

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Looking Both Ways

Sunday mornings one of the local radio stations plays songs from their Country Classic Collection. This morning I listened to Charlie Rich, Conway Twitty, and Charlie Pride sing songs that took me back to my childhood. My mom loved (still does) listening to these guys.

I get pretty homesick this time of year. Phoning home on Christmas day and hearing the sounds of family in the background makes me teary inside. I just want to be home with my parents and siblings. The six hundred miles between us seems to stretch forever at Christmas.

Tonight our only daughter comes home for the holidays. On Friday our oldest son joins us and while our youngest son is still living at home, he is counting the days until he turns 18 (before the end of the month!). We haven't been real big on Christmas traditions. My husband came from a tradition that treated Christmas just about like any other day of the year except for going to church that day, no matter what day of the week it was(isn't that a hot topic this year?!) They were very poor and presents were few. Typical Christmas decorations were not part of his culture or religion. No Christmas tree, no lights on the house, no Santa Claus, no Christmas carols on a radio. The one thing we have carried over from his childhood is the making of Peppernuts. This morning I have the dough rolled out in logs, chilled and ready to bake so that when only daughter walks in the door tonight that is the smell that greets her. From my side of the family the tradition that continues is the hanging of Norwegian flags on the Christmas tree. These flags come in a package of two strings of about 15 tiny flags each and cost only $2. The Christmas that my older sister sent me a package of them I cried.

There was something special this morning listening to my mom's favourite singers on the radio while I was preparing peppernuts for my daughter's homecoming. With a finger on each generation it was as if I was looking backwards and forewards at the same time.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Shades Of Grey

This comimg Monday I have an appointment with Father Charlie, who has gone from being my spiritual director to my counselor. Two weeks ago I took him a copy of my Advent Prayer. We discussed the nitty gritty specifics of the darkness within me. I spoke outloud the sin in my life that I have skirted around for so long. There was no accompanying panic, no urge to hide. It simply felt like I was saying, "Here I am in all my humanity." Incredibly, I left the session filled with much hope. Two weeks later it's still there. The hope I mean. The darkness, a lighter shade of grey. The shade it turns when Light shines on it. That sounded corny to my ears even as I typed it, yet I can't help but be overwhelmed by the grace that is greater than any sin. The scripture "Mercy triumphs over judgement." is a balm of sweetness to my ears.

This is a different season in my life. It's the first December since I've lived in the north when I haven't dreaded the encroaching darkness. By this time next week we will be past the day when we see but a scant 6 to 7 hours of daylight. I can't seem to muster up the sinking feeling which has come unbidden every year in the past as that day presents itself. For once I am okay being in this season instead of wishing away the hours waiting for the next one. I haven't been straining and searching for the coming of the light so I could wave goodbye to the darkness. I hesitate to say that darkness has its place, yet we all have a shadow side. We all have things we could write on a post card and send to Post Secret.

That warm and red egg shaped symbol is still cropping up in my prayers, thoughts and reflections. I don't know what it means. The tightly wound spring that appeared in the middle of it seems to have unwound itself.

I have no idea what my session on Monday is going to be like. I think for the first time I will go with no printed out blog post to share. When I first went to Al-Anon nearly 18 years ago, I took my newborn baby with me more as a security blanket than anything. I have a hunch that sharing my blog posts with Father Charlie has two edges to it. I do want him to know that this is who I am but the posts have also been a bit of a security blanket for me too. By sharing specific posts I felt like I was a bit more in control of the sessions.

I'm 43 years old. At last it feels good to be me.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Being Home

A few weeks ago we stopped at this mall, which was once dubbed the largest mall in the world. There is only one store I absolutely have to go into when we go there. The other 800 stores pale in comparison to The Book Outlet discount book store. I love it. Leave me alone for a few hours while I scour the shelves. Most books are between 5 and 10 bucks, brand new. This time I came across a book I treasure. I have taken it out of the library several times and was thrilled to find my own copy for 5 bucks! The author writes meditations on everything from Awakening to Planning The Day and Setting The Alarm.

Here is an excerpt from it for you:

Getting Dressed

You have made us so naked.
We have no plumage to speak of -- no fur
or feathers against the cold. Does that mean
you want us to dress ourselves in nakedness?
To have only thin skins between us and You,
between us and Your world?

When I contemplate such nakedness
I know I cannot bear it.
I want immediately to cover myself.
Even so, You have placed Your life
within this exposed skin on purpose.
You have asked me to feel with You...
to be profoundly touched.

Let my need for safety not make
layers of insulation against the majesty
of Your trust in my vulnerability.
As I put on these clothes today let me remember
the intimate life You have called me to:
to touch and to be touched.
I don't want to shy away from knowing this
when I am with others. Let me wear
these outer garments lightly...for warmth
and for shelter...within them, let me remain
as you made me...utterly naked.

~Gunilla Norris in Being Home

Monday, December 12, 2005

The Excruciating Faith Of Leo

I read this post by CHB last night and returned to it this morning because it struck a chord with me. I thought of many of you who comment here and felt that you might have some insight to give him that would help him know that he is not the only one with these kind of thoughts and struggles.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Being Out There

My husband was raised in a religious tradition that kept their distance from all things worldly. In a remote farming community with no radio or TV in his home, his thoughts on what the heck the world was like out there was mostly influenced by what he heard from the pulpit. In brief, the world was anything that wasn't of their church. Capisce? He heard countless messages about those other pretend wanna-be Christians of other faiths who were worldly and therefore lost, and he heard plenty about the people who weren't even pretending, who ran around and drank, smoked and danced.

When my husband decided the night before his baptism that he simply couldn't go through with it, he believed he only had one other choice. He had to act like that wicked world out there. So he promptly bought a pack of smokes, went to the bar and got drunk. After all, that's what those not of his parent's church did, right? It was the starkest black and white thinking ever. He stumbled into his parents bedroom in the wee hours of the morning smelling like the bar, and told them he wouldn't be getting baptized that morning. This many years later we can only imagine the pain they would have felt. He had already made a profession of faith adequate to pass the scrutiny of an all member meeting as to whether his conversion was the genuine thing. The embarrassment at having their son be a no-show for that all important rite that tied him forever to membership in their church and his ticket to heaven, must have been most difficult.

I was wondering today just how much kinship there is in my thinking with that of his parent's church. I shudder at thinking that outloud here but the reality is that it does flit in and out of my head. No, I don't doubt my now adult children's place with God. Or do I? I keep stubbing my toe on thoughts that rise to the surface and embarrass me. Thoughts that I just want my adult kids to at least look like they are doing the right thing. Could they at least go to church, not swear, not drink, not smoke dope, not do this that and the other thing? I can easily get hung up on the external. I hate it when I see how skilled I am at talking out of both sides of my mouth at once. I hate it that I often seem to want them to project the acceptable image with less concern about the internal workings of their heart than the outer actions of their lives. Just how human can they be and still be okay with God? In their mind, fully human.

It all seems so ironic. I was raised in that scary worldly world my husband was taught to fear while he was raised in the shelter of a community that shunned it all. Yet today my husband never gets his insides in a knot over the behaviour of his kids. It's not that he doesn't get concerned but he never automatically ties their behaviour to their heart relationship with God. Oh man, I feel like I am digging a bigger hole the more I try to explain my thoughts. I can hear some of you saying that you can't divorce the two. I don't know about you but if my actions and attitudes are a reflection 24/7 of my heart relationship with God then I am in big trouble. It is only recently that I have been able to relax enough to know and I mean, know that God reads my heart and understands my humanity far better than I do. I hold my humanity against myself more so than God does.

Okay. In the circles we have raised our kids in if a kid was drinking or smoking dope or going to the bar or doing any number of other things, it has always been equated with them walking away from God. There was no wiggle room. There wouldn't be a sigh of relief until they were back going to church and not doing that stuff. And I wonder why it has to be that way? I think about all the things I struggle with in my walk and how people don't doubt my relationship with God because of it. They give me the room to be human but that doesn't always seem to be the case with our young adults/teenagers. Why is that? And why can't they stumble on the way and be supported as they try to keep on the path? Oh man, someone please read between the lines and get what I am trying to say.

I was thinking today of our kids' pastor and how I would answer him if he asked me how they were doing. And how I couldn't say that they were doing this that and the other thing because his concern for them would overshadow all else. He wouldn't stop being concerned for them until they stopped doing these things. They wouldn't be okay with God unless they did. And how I wouldn't be able to find the words to tell him that God was underpinning their life despite how it looked. And that none of them doubted how firm a grip God had on them.

Maybe that is what bugs me. My kids are freer to live in the grace of God than I am. They accept they are human and feel at ease with their humanity. They know that their intrinsic worth in the sight of God remains the same. Always. In my mind, mine tends to fluctuate. They don't equate a list of behaviours with being in or out with God. That they believe this sometimes makes me feel like I have failed.

Our kids come to us and tell us what they are doing. I realized today that they don't fear condemnation from us for it. Oh, I do throw a great hissy fit, there's no doubt about it. Because of that they go to their dad first and me (sometimes) never, (most times) later. They aren't fessing up necessarily. They are just sharing their experiences with him honestly and openly. He tells them how he sees it but he doesn't judge them for their experimenting. He has seen how God has kept him in His sight through his own life, and trusts that God will do the same for his kids. Maybe what I am seeing is that because of how approachable their dad is, my kids are not scared of God. And I want them to be. A bit. Enough to walk my line.

I had lunch with my oldest son today. He is experimenting with dope a bit. He talks about it freely. Not bragging. Not keeping secrets either, though. We talk about addiction and his decision long ago not to drink because of the generational alcohol addicition in my family. We talk about the dangers of things becoming coping mechanisms and stress reducers. We talk freely about it. I'd rather he didn't experiment at all. He knows it. We talk about things his brother is doing. He tells me he is shocked I didn't kill his brother for his own recent admission of things that could get any mother's shirt in a knot. My penchant for temper tantrums is still intact and it just about kills me to have to respond to it all like I'm an adult too. They are so matter of fact about life and so free to admit this or that wasn't a good choice without any embarrassment. And free to remind me it is their choice when they continue to make a different choice than I would.

I sit here and wonder about my trust level in God, in my kids, in the world. How much easier it would be to belong to a tradition that spelled it all out and kept everyone in bondage under the guise of being right with God. How much I still find that desirable and abhorrent both. It should come as no surprise to me that if I struggle with wanting to clean up this blog post and portray a different reality that I would definitely want my kids to portray an image to those they actually meet in person in their day to day lives.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Mirror, Mirror.....

I've been keeping a journal for many years now. Yesterday I was reading over my journal for the past year and came upon an entry that I would like to share:

"I feel like I've been freed to do His will. There is a willingness within me that is free of guilt or obligation or all those words that make me feel like I'm striving. Instead, I feel like I am becoming. I feel like God is coaxing me towards a mirror so that He can reveal to me the fullness of who I was created to be. He has this beautiful beaming smile on his face, pleased with his creation and he wants me to see myself through his eyes. What he sees is good.

And I'm finding that as I inch my way towards the mirror I am already looking at those around me differently. With more grace, more compassion. Or so it seems. When I make a stabbing comment about someone I hear it for the sounding gong that it is. The comment reveals more about me than anything. I know from experience that in those times when negativity seems to radiate from me in waves that it's because I'm viewing myself in the same way.

As the mirror gets closer God is telling me that how I see myself is not the sum total of who I am. Yes, I have all these human foibles. I get moody, pissy. I can make a verbal attach that has the power to mortally wound a spirit. I have compulsions and coping mechanisms that embarrass me. But God seeing it all doesn't condemn me for it. He encourages me to embrace it all. As he does."
~January 13, 2005

Monday, December 05, 2005

Patience? I Think Not

There is a standing joke in my parents' home - I am always greeted with a chuckle when I make a birthday or anniversary phone call a day or two early. The real surprise is when I actually wait for the right day to call! I also either send the card early or not at all (sorry Dad I found your Father's Day card in a pile of papers last week). When I buy gifts I feel like I am a horse with a bit in its mouth, being held back by God-knows-what, when I can't give the present the moment after I've bought it. I like celebrations. I like to surprise people. I really nearly jump up and down when I match the perfect gift with the right person. It's too bad I can't jump on a trampoline anymore because that is what my heart does when I give a gift.

You will have to forgive me for being early with this post. You see, in 3 days from today, on December 8th, it will be one year since I wrote my first post on this blog. I am a bit giddy about it. I want to dance and shout and make merry. I want to celebrate me and you and you and you. Every member of my family will be laughing, but not surprised, that I could not wait to write this post. It is one way I am sooo predictable.

I have a commitment phobia of sorts. I avoid making commitments as much as possible. Other than being married for nearly 24 years and meeting regularly with friends for the past 216 weeks(it's been that long all you boundary people!), well, don't count on me to show up, okay?

So that I have shown up here is something to celebrate. That you have shown up here is incredible. This morning when I clicked on my blog there was the little counter at the bottom showing I've had 10,000 visitors. Okay, okay, minus 2,000 at least of those hits as mine and well, I am still dancing around in my heart.

I have been stretched in unpredictable ways by reading all of your blogs. Recently my husband had a dream about his brother who passed away 18 months ago. In the dream his brother said to him, "You don't see the whole picture." I still don't see the whole picture but I see a bigger one than I did before I met all of you. I had thought of listing you all but with my blog favourites somewhere over 200 blogs it would be a mammoth list. Thank you for the regulars who keep encouraging me to write and letting me know that I am not alone on the journey.

Two things now. First, could you lurkers post a comment to let me know you are here. With hits just about at 100 a day curiousity gets the better of me. Oh dear, I am so full of myself. Sigh. Some things never change! Second, below are links to my favourite posts. I got over the fear of posting "shitty first drafts" as Anne Lamott calls them and have learned to hit the "publish post" button far short of perfection. It feels much better than the days when I laboured over every sentence before I considered anything worthy of being read by anyone else ('cept my sister).

My Favourites:

The Whole Journey
Getting My Fix
Note To Self
Jockeying For Position
Saran Wrapped
Having A Q-Tip Moment
Head Noise
Sweet, Sweet Days Of Summer
Give Me The Goods
Come Dine With Me...Not
Of Sawdust and Icons
The Full Monty
The Truth Shall Set You Free
Believe In You
Cracked For good

Seven Things Meme

from Bobbie

7 Things To Do Before I Die:

1. Publish a book
2. Hold a grandchild in my arms
3. Learn to play a dulcimer(thanks poor mad peter)
4. Belly dance
5. Keep that darn hoola hoop aloft
6. Visit the ocean again
7. Meet at least one person from the blogsphere

7 Things I Cannot Do:

1. Roll my tongue
2. Sing in tune
3. Change oil in my van
4. Change a tire either
5. Use tact without effort
6. Make small talk
7. Make my face not express what I am really thinking

7 Things That Attract Me To My Husband:

1. His heart for God
2. His sparkling, mischievious eyes
3. His hands
4. His soft spot for animals
5. ooh, those kissable lips of his
6. His laugh (the one that's just for me)
7. His sense of humour

7 Things I Say Most Often

1. Oh crap
2. I'm just gonna check my email
3. Really?
4. I love you
5. No, no, no, no don't (when ice cold hands are approaching my skin)
6. You're kidding right?
7. Good grief

7 Books or Series I Love:

1. Little Britches Series by Ralph Moody
2. The Way To Love by Anthony de Mello
3. Little Notebook by Nicole Gausseron
4. The Nickel-Plated Beauty by Patricia Beatty
5. Being Home by Gunilla Norris
6. Everyday Sacred by Sue Bender
7. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

7 Movies I Would Watch Over And Over Again:

1. As Good As It Gets
2. Chasing Amy
3. Love Actually
4. Wit
5. Crash
6. Life Is Beautiful
7. To Sir With Love

7 bloggers to tag: Amanda, Jan, Daisymarie, Katy, Eija, WhichJo, Jackie

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Make-A-Flake Fun

In the spirit of play that Father Charlie is always encouraging me to discover, have fun making your very own snow flake. The scissors are a bit hard to figure out how to use - at least they were for me. It's a little bit of creativity to make you smile. Enjoy.

Via Lisa

Break A Leg

We're going away for a few days - only daughter is in a production at the little theatre school she is attending. We are thrilled to go see her in action! Our sons both took time off work to make the trip so this will truly be a family affair. It's our way of saying to only daughter collectively, "You go girl!"

I leave you with this quote:

"Can you, from time to time, just nurture a little warm feeling toward yourself? I truly believe that's all it takes (for sanity and realistic expectations). A little warm feeling creates an atmosphere of acceptance, of allowing, of permitting. And within that atmosphere there is a kind of encouragement for the goodness to grow: the goodness that is you, the goodness that is life in you, the goodness of creation in you, God's goodness in you."

~Gerald May in Simply Sane

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Being A Journey Junkie

A dear friend, Owen is back with his blog about his journey from being a Prostestant Pastor to becoming a person of the Roman Catholic faith. I commented on his new/old blog today that I think I am a journey junkie. Except I spelled it journey junky....ah well, my journey does indeed feel junky at times. C'est la vie. None of it is headed towards the junkyard but to that wonderful journey dwelling place in the sky. Hah.

While in the mall yesterday I met two different women whose journeys and mine have intersected on occasion for over 20 years. I have a deep desire to be present to others and yesterday was a beautiful opportunity to do just that. I see these women only a few times a year and yesterday they filled me in on where their journey has taken them since we last talked.

One of the women was our babysitter when our daughter was a newborn. She loved our daughter as much as possible without being her parent. We have watched this woman grow from teenagehood to being the mother of 5 children of her own. She is PASSIONATE about motherhood. Her own disturbing scars and bruises of childhood haven't deterred her as she pours her heart and soul into mothering her children in the opposite direction that she was mothered. With her youngest in school she is now pursuing a career that will enable her to care for them if anything should ever happen to her husband. He is not so enthusiastic about her growing independence. No amount of assurance on her part that she is not planning on leaving him (or killing him for that matter) will lessen his discomfort that she will soon be able to provide for her family if he cannot.

When I saw the radiance on her face as she told me of her 97% average in school I could not help but be thrilled for her. I encouraged her to do what she must to achieve her dreams. Career or no career will not guarantee a melding of two hearts into one in her marriage. We must be our partners' greatest cheerleader not their greatest adversary. I found out the hard way that the world will not recognize the education that managing a home and children for 20 years gives a person. When my turn came to provide for our family after a 16 year absence in the workforce I had to settle for a minimum wage job because no one took my homemaking skills seriously. My training as a journalist in 1980/81 did not hit their radar screens either. It was a radical wake up call. It made me wish I had either taken courses over the years or worked part time to keep in the loop. I used to believe that being a full time homemaker was the only viable option for any woman. I do believe it is a calling but I no longer believe it is the only calling a mother can have. Sometimes I just shock myself that I can change opinions that were once set in cement. I have come to learn that cemented opinions of mine were often poured in concrete out of fear. (That's another post for another day.)

The other woman worked alongside her husband when my husband was one of their employees. This woman worked hard. She took the brunt of her alcoholic husband's outbursts. She not only worked beside him day by day ( on call 24 hours a day/7 days a week) but she also managed a home and raised 3 kids. The one Christmas that we shared found them with a few meager gifts wrapped in newspaper under the tree. The tension in the air was so thick it was hard to breathe. The dad took refuge in the basement in his booze. The unpredictability of his actions set us all on edge. It was as if we ate our turkey dinner cautiously, not knowing whether we would need to pick up our plates and run at any given moment. We were newlyweds and I had my own alcohol problems. It was much easier to point fingers at his though than entertain the notion that I might be a fellow pilgrim on the same journey.

His wife eventually left him. She waited until the kids were about grown. When we moved back up to this part of the world I met her daughter in the mall one day as she was shopping with her young daughter. She introduced me by saying, "Remember that Barbie doll in my hope chest? This is the woman who bought it for my twelfth birthday." It turned out it was the only Barbie doll of her childhood. A cherished possession and a cherished memory. I have no memory of buying it for her. I just remember this scared little girl who walked on eggshells lest her dad erupt in anger. I often invited her over to bake cookies or let her puppy play with our own. I remember that I identified with her tense little body that held itself closed in on itself. She had a wariness in her eyes which said that a flight or freeze mode might be necessary at any moment.

Her mom must be about 60 years old now and yesterday she told me that all three of her adult children have come back to God in the past few years. With tears in her eyes she was full of gratitude to God for being bigger than the pain of years gone by. She has been such a woman of prayer for so long. It was thrilling to hear what God has done in this family's life.

Isn't that what we all hope for? That no matter how deep the pain or how rough the road that God will be bigger than it all? That God hunkers down in the painful places with us as we journey towards wholeness and healing? And maybe that is what fuels my being a journey junkie. I need companions on the journey. When I follow your journeys I gain strength for my own. When I see healing in your journey in places where I am still waiting for it, I feel encouraged to keep my face turned towards the Truth. Some of you are hunkered down with me right now, waiting and praying as I journey towards wholness and healing. Thank you.

Hi, my name is Hope and I am a journey junkie.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

In The Moment

It's been 16 years since all of my siblings and I and our families have been together. The summer we moved from southern Saskatchewan to northern Alberta my parents hosted a family reunion of sorts. Not only my siblings but all my cousins came and it was good. My kids were all preschoolers then and I didn't look any farther than bedtime on any given day. It was a different kind of living in the present. Demands on my time made living in the moment the only viable option.

This Christmas is the first time that we have to juggle schedules and find a day when all of us will be home and we can have our own family Christmas. I have a new appreciation for why it thrilled my mom to have all her kids gathered around her. The thought of my own family gathered around the 'hearth' pleases me to no end. I know that the day will most likely come when getting everyone together won't be possible. I cannot imagine going 16 years waiting for it to happen again.

In my husband's family every Christmas his father says a few words to us all. With 10 siblings and over 35 nieces and nephews, some married with families of their own, we are quite a crowd when we gather. My father-in-law always talks about how a time is coming when we won't be able to be gathered like we are. That someone will be missing. He talks about being ready to meet God. There were many years that I felt like he was trying to lay a guilt trip on us all. Especially since he believes membership in his church is the only way to get to meet God. But a few years ago I told my daughter to appreciate having come from a tradition that spoke of spiritual things...that cared for the spiritual well being of each member of the 'tribe'. That particular year we were all thinking of a young nephew who had been killed in a plane crash. Last year saw the death of one of my brother-in-laws in a tragic accident and at Christmas Dad didn't get up and say his piece. The pain was too raw that people were missing.

This morning I am sitting here feeling a bit nostalgic. I want to be present in the moment for different reasons than the ones I had when preschoolers filled my days. That inner presentness that speaks of the worth of every moment and every person in it. The kind that acknowledges that God is in the midst of it with us, always, whether our loved ones are present or not.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

An Advent Prayer

I went on an Advent retreat today - a time set apart to learn and grow, a time of solitude to hear God speak to my heart. A blessed time of preparedness for the light to break through the darkness. In one of my times of solitude I wrote the following prayer. I share it here in all its honesty and vulnerability.

Oh God, you know the darkness within. As my compulsions become less and less satisfying and more and more frantic I sense you calling me to give them up to the Light. It is hard to trust that you are enough. My head knows it but my heart feels scared to receive the truth of it. My body wants to be kept in a cocoon, safe from what scares me. Yet you beckon to me with whispers of freedom, to learn what it truly means to live, yes, truly live, in my body, connected to both mind and heart.
A symphony of movement that carries no burdens, is hampered by no fears. "Be light," I hear you say.

I want to trust that this light will satisfy me on every level. But I am scared. And I am tired of being scared. Being scared feels heavy and rough and hard. And alone.

I am scared that the voice of perfection will drown out your voice of love. So I do not try. I long to but turn my body away from you, scared to expose my naked soul to the light of your love. I am turned more towards the dark than the light yet there is a glowing red ember of your love within me. You are waiting to breathe your life into it. The darkness does not own me. It is not stuck to me but I to it. It is I who must move away.

As I enter into the Advent season I choose to turn towards the light, naked of soul before you. My cupped hands offer you the darkness within. It does not want to have the breath of light upon it but I cannot carry the burden of it with me on the journey. You want me to kow what it is to fly free.

My head knows you are the great comforter but these dark places have been my comfort for so long. They have become dry in their nourishment. I must suckle at them no more.

Bread of life feed me. Be my nourishment for the journey. Be the light for my path.



My mom has been diagnosed with congestive heart failure. The doctor sent her straight from his office to the hospital yesterday and within 5 minutes she was hooked up to 4 different machines. He told her that the CHF was a result of untreated high blood pressure. Her blood pressure was 190/120 when she was admitted.

I think about how Father Charlie talked to me a few months ago about the possibility of being a vehicle of God's grace for my mom by telling her I loved her at the end of our weekly phone conversations. I told him I couldn't. I wasn't willing. I didn't think she deserved it in light of how intense my anger was towards her at that moment. I wanted her to pay for her screw ups for a while yet. If they were causing me such intense emotional pain then why the hell would I want to let her off the hook?

It's amazing what a 24 hour time period can do to change a person's mind.

I am more than willing to extend grace now. This does not mean that I deny the effects of her actions or inactions in my life. That would make a mockery of not only sin but of grace as well. I do feel God is extending grace in this moment to me so that I may extend grace to her now. I give God thanks that I am writing this while she is still alive to receive it.

I was an adult before I heard the words "I love you" from either of my parents. And I have never heard it come spontaneously from their lips. Growing up I was so confused as to whether my parents loved me or not that I often asked my younger brother if he thought they loved us. He didn't know either. I often stood outside their closed bedroom door, wanting to knock and say "I love you", or ask if they loved me but I didn't have the courage. I didn't want to risk the possible rejection.

Before I hung up the phone tonight I said to my mom, "I love you." Over the years of saying this to her in person my mom has progressed from replying, "Me, too" to "I love you, too" said in a voice laced with a hint of hysteria and warning bells. A tone of voice reminding me in code that we don't talk like that in our family, it's too touchy feely and unpredictable. Tonight her reply was heart felt when she told me that she loved me, too. We both know that although death comes to us all, death may be coming sooner than later now. The uncertainty has shifted places.

I have always thought my mom would live to be an old lady. And who knows, she may yet. At age 67 she has a ways to go before I would consider her elderly. Her mother and aunts lived into their 90's. What prevented my mom accepting treatment for her high blood pressure was that her own mother, at age 90, began treatment for high blood pressure and experienced terrible side effects from the medication. She was convinced that the side effects were permanent and she didn't want to live with them so she took her own life. My mom and her twin sister didn't want to chance that fate so they took the risks that went with high blood pressure over the alternative.

There is much left unsaid between my mom and I. I'm praying that God gives me wisdom to sort through what must be said and what is better left unsaid. Lord have mercy.

Friday, November 25, 2005

This is the best quote I have read in a while:

"It is striking how the Scriptures come alive depending upon how much I need them. I am often neither spiritually awake enough to have them slice me open or desperate enough to have them heal me."
~ Gregory Floyd in A Grief Unveiled

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Cracked For Good

I've been mulling over what a brain stretching, faith filled tension has existed since I stumbled onto the blogsphere. In my little corner of the world it's pretty easy to simply stay in a cocoon and not go out of my mental comfort zone unless I choose to. I can hang with people of the same mindset or simply stay snug in my own, thank you very much.

Reading your blogs has stretched me in uncomfortable ways. I've been intent on being right for as long as I can remember. The answer to feeling safe in this life could be found in being right. Having teenagers cracked that assumption in half but I was seriously still trying to keep it intact. Thanks to all you folks out there, the assumption is cracked for good. It's still not very comfortable and I don't always embrace it, but it sure makes me think. If nothing else I have gone from God fits in this box to God doesn't fit in a box box. :)

Reading your blogs has forced me to see that being right at all costs might feel safe but it's an ugly place to live. Being right has often meant to trample on someone else's story in order to feel good about my own. I don't mean it's wrong to have a set of beliefs that I don't apologize for, but I have come to see that I need to hold those beliefs in an open palm up to the Light.

As I have journeyed along a fairly crooked path I have tried to distance myself from where I have been, after I've left it. It was too confusing to embrace the good things about a spot on my journey when I was moving on. It felt like I was both right and wrong and when you are set on being right that doesn't work very well. Black and white thinking resists the shades of grey that real life exposes.

For the record my path has taken these twists and turns in the past 25 years: atheist, highschool; acknowledge there is a God while a newlywed; non Christian yet an elder in a church; near death experience, realize there is no pretending to be a Christian; newly Christian, newly sober, AA and Al-Anon involved; newly Christian, evangelical fundamentalist hard core; charismatic dabbler. Homeschooling mother submerged in its culture; head covering, dresses only conservative Christian; home churched; return to institutional evangelical fundamentalism minus head covering and dresses; presently Catholic. Dizzy yet? You put your own spin on what being any of the above means and there you have it so far. I could write a whole series of posts on any of those places on the journey and how God kept showing up in spite of myself. Wherever I have been on the journey I have often felt the (insecure)need to feel as if I am at the head of the pack.

Have you ever rounded a corner and ran smack dab into someone? I would have been fine except I kept running smack dab into Jesus in the lives of people whose journeys I would have previously dismissed. He kept showing up in places I was sure he wasn't. And I don't mean places you might think. I mean in the lives of people whose spiritual path was different from my own or whose spiritual path has them in places I used to be. People I would normally feel threatened by. And when I find His story in the lives of those I want to distance myself from it gets uncomfortable living in my skin.

I have lost count of the number of times I have read someone's blog and sputtered because where I would have once dismissed them and their journey, I saw God. What was God doing there? Dismissing them would mean dismissing their story and ultimately dismissing God. And oh, I know the sparks that fly when anyone wants to dismiss my story. I can't have it both ways. So often I have read something on a blog and found it didn't fit my preconceived ideas yet it contained that indelible ring of truth which meant I had to make room for it instead of tossing it out for comfort's sake. "Just how small is your God anyway?" pushes against my edges continually.

It's been hard to honour Jesus when I find him in places I was too prejudiced to think He could be. I recognize Him there but I still struggle with feeling I have to let go of what I believe to make room for your beliefs. I realize I've labeled people and their traditions, as good or bad, acceptable or unacceptable. In having to face all this I find that seeing Christ in everyone means that the next time I round a corner and run smack dab into Jesus that instead of saying "It can't be You." I simply acknowledge, "Oh, it is You."

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Food For Thought...

courtesy Love Barbara

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
~ author unknown

"There are two days in every week about which we should not worry,
two days which should be kept free from fear and apprehension.
One of those days is Yesterday, with it's mistakes and cares it's faults and blunders, it's aches and pains.
Yesterday has passed forever beyond our control. All the money in the world cannot bring back Yesterday.
We cannot erase a single word we said we cannot undo a single act we performed.
Yesterday is gone.
The other day we should not worry about is Tomorrow, with it's possible adversities, it's burdens, large promise and poor performance.
Tomorrow is also beyond our immediate control. Tomorrow's sun will rise, either in splendor or behind a mask of clouds but it will rise.
Until it does, we have no stake in tomorrow for it is yet unborn.
This leaves only one day, Today.
Anyone can fight the battles of just one day.
It's only when you and I add the burdens of those two awful eternities,
Yesterday and Tomorrow that we break down.
It's not the experience of today that drives us mad.
It is remorse or bitterness for something which happened yesterday and the dread of what Tomorrow may bring
Let us therefore live but one day at a time."

A Lick And A Prayer

Okay. I sit down to type, lift up my prayer concerns first and burst into tears. I don't know how often we pray about things we could take action on ourselves but this time these are things I can do nothing about. Where to start?

My mom. She has noticed increasing shortness of breath over the summer. My mom is an all round martyr. She hates hospitals and doctors. She was the kind of mom who never went to bed when she was sick (but could pass out on the couch drunk). She survived breast cancer twice - once when she had 5 kids at home ages 13 to 3. In a time where there were no support groups, no counselling, nothing. The second time 17 years later. She told me once that if she ever got cancer again she would not be telling us. She said she was never going into a hospital again. She never talks about her health.

I have talked to her twice in the past two days. She is so short of breath that she had my dad make the bed and do his own cooking. She is talking about it and worried that she has emphysema. This is not the kind of talking my mom does about her health. There was a hint of booze in her voice Sunday night. She's been worried enough about her breathing that she quit smoking cold turkey about a month ago. She has an appointment to see the doc on Friday but I tried to encourage her to get to the doc asap. We'll see. My mom is only 67. ((((((Mom))))))

Oldest son has his vehicle stolen from the parking lot at work on Sunday afternoon. Someone drives it out as his buddy is driving in. Yesterday one of his coworkers saw it being driven around town. When he tried to stop them they tried to ram him. A short while later the police find his vehicle on fire. (((((Oldest son))))))

Only daughter has money worries that come with being a student trying to live on meager student loan and too much month. Wishing I could wave a magic wand and do something about it. (((((0nly daughter)))))

Yesterday we went to town and I used a scooter to get around Wal-mart. This was a reality I would rather have pretended didn't exist. We usually hold hands and visit as we shop. The aisles so crowded it wasn't possible to manouever down some of them. Shopping single file is no fun. Some days I have perspective and am able to take in stride my physical limitations. Other days I don't.

Okay. There are good things happening too. I don't want to end on a negative note. My husband found a doctor who is willing to be a sounding board and review all my medical stuff. He's thinking pulmonary fibrosis. The other really wonderful thing is that one of my posts, that I expanded and submitted, has been accepted to be published in a book about home schooling. How cool is that?!!

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Two Prayers

This prayer via is what spurs me on to keep seeking wholeness and healing. I see it as a gift not only for me but for my children and future generations:

"If you mold her (your child) completely in this way, you will save not only her, but also the husband who will marry her, not only the husband but the children, not only the children but also the grandchildren. For when the root becomes good, the shoots are outstretched toward what is better, and for all these you will receive the reward. Therefore, let us do all things so as to help not one soul alone, but many through the one."

~ St. John Chrysostom

This prayer is what I am praying today:

Prayer For Openness

Spirit of freedom,
open my mind and my heart.
Lift the barriers,
unwind the strong grasp of my demands
when I want everything to go my way.

God of spaciousness,
reach into my inner space,
sweep out all the old clutter,
enlarge my capacity to receive.

Bringer of truth,
empty me of whatever impedes
the growth of our relationship.
Help me recognize and accept
your sources for my growth.

Creator of the seasons of life,
soften my resistance to emptying.
May I welcome each inner season
as a catalyst for my transformation.

Faithful Friend,
deepen my trust in you.
Ease my doubts, fears and discouragements.
When I am feeling vulnerable,
remind me that you are my safe haven.

Diving Mystery,
may I be ever more rooted in you.
Draw me into solitude.
Entice me into endless encounters
where I experience oneness with you.

Holy Whisper,
open the ears of my heart.
May I hear Your voice within the silence
as well as within the noise of my life.
Re-awaken me so that I can listen to you
whole heartedly.

Bringer of Good and Giver of Growth,
we yearn to be open and receptive
to your generosity.
May we trust your presence amidst the cycle
of emptying and filling.

~ Joyce Rupp in The Cup Of Our Life

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Seeping out my fingertips

I've come to the keyboard several times in the past few days trying to write a post. I type for a while and then delete it all. I feel disconnected from myself. Unable to reach that place of authenticity inside. The place where my heart seeps out the ends of my fingertips to find its way onto the keyboard. It's very frustrating. Eventually I will find my way again. Today's just not that day.

So here are a few links to new(to me!)blogs I have been reading:

Blessed Are The Poor In Spirit

Mere Catholics

The Dark Madness

The Torn Pages

Thoughts On The Way To The Abbey

Finding Pasture

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Wearing My Ammonia Halo

I like what I see in the mirror tonight. There was a time in my life when I avoided looking in the mirror as much as possible. Self loathing whispered in my ear with every glance and I hated both my inner and outer view. It took until I was in my thirties to learn good hygiene habits and to consider self care a possibility. It is almost always a sure bet that if my outward appearance ain't too hot you can bet my inner voice is suffering too.

I've been practicing saying to myself in the mirror, "I love you just the way you are, don't change." I look myself in the eye long and hard as those words hang in the air. I know that accepting myself as is is the first step in any true change happening. I've never stood still in my journey for very long so I am not worried that change won't happen. God loves me too much to let me stay put. If God loves me in this moment surely I can love me too.

I've been talking to my body as I practice good self care....I start at my feet and thank God all the way up. For the feet and legs that have held me up all these years, being grateful for my dough boy belly that grew big and round with child three times over. For arms that rocked babies and mixed cookie dough. Caressing my skin with lotion as I dry myself off.....being thankful for it all. It's surprising that what I once would have dismissed as vanity I now see as loving myself. Wonders never cease!

Tonight I dyed my hair at home for the very first time - using a product that my mother must surely have used as that ammonia smell is unforgettable. I have no memories of my mom being grouchy while walking around the house with her ammonia halo. I wonder if doing that small bit of self care made her feel better about herself. She wasn't so good at it in other areas. I think we do our families a disservice by always putting ourselves last. When my daughter got to be about 12 she started questioning me one night as I was setting the table....why did I always put the cracked plate at my place at the table....why did I give up the last piece of whatever it was so that they could all have some. There was a trace of hostility in her voice as she asked these questions. Her words forced me to look at myself. Oh man, I'm typing all this and cringing. I'm hearing those voices in my head telling me that it is virtuous to give everything up, even my own identity, for my family. All those versions of what I used to think made a Godly wife and mother.

But I knew when my daughter questioned these things she was challening me to examine my worth. Would I see myself as an equal or as a less than person. And I knew that my example would have a direct impact on her and my sons. On my future son-in-law and daughters-in-law. She forced me to look in the mirror and see myself in the human race as Jesus does - as an equal.

This post is headed in a different direction than I thought it would take. It's been nearly 10 years since my daughter challenged me that day. It's taken that long to journey towards consistent good self care. Tonight as I'm wearing my own ammonia halo I'm thinking about my mom and my daughter and how cycles have been broken. And I thank God.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The Gift of Tears

Her face resembled the 'wound up tight' picture that I drew for Father Charlie last week. I noticed a warm and cozy Tigger blanket with her luggage when she arrived for registration. The kind I like to curl up in. So before opening prayers Thursday night I sat beside her. I recognized the tightness in her face, the look that said she didn't know what was coming down the pike for the weekend and how the uncertainty of that unnerved her. We talked of her blanket, her husband that had given it to her, the girls who waited for her return home. As we talked I got the faint whiff of alcohol on her breath.

And as the weekend unfolded so did she. It was beautiful and heart wrenching too. Tears were under the surface so much of my weekend. The pain in women's hearts touching the pain in my own. To see transformation happen is a gift. To see this woman break down in uncontrollable tears showed me her courage. So many times in the weekend I wanted to put my own head on the table and sob. The tears a mix of the pain I felt radiating from those around me and my own.

In the quietness of my heart I prayed for this woman all weekend. Thank you for your prayers for me during this time. With a few time outs for much needed sleep I made it through. My own heart touched with reminders of His grace every time I turned around. I got a card from a complete stranger on the spoke of things only God knew.

"His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me."

You Go Girl!

My older sister told me last night that I had incredible temper tantrums when I was a little kid. She said the kind where I pounded the floor with my fists and screamed and hollered. It made my day to find this out. It means I didn't sit passively through my childhood. I had spunk. My memories are of being obedient and good so that my mom wouldn't have her own tantrums. There is a part of me that whispers to that little child throwing a fit on the floor, "You go girl!"

When I was packing for the retreat this past week, I used a suitcase I received for my 18th birthday. That was twenty five years ago and I decided I was packing it for the last time. In the years before I left home I heard my mom often say how she was looking forward to when us kids grew up and moved away. This many years later I can understand that her words came mostly from the weariness of bearing the brunt of responsibility for the active parenting in our home. But as a kid all I could hear was that she couldn't wait to see me leave. So when I got luggage for my 18th birthday it only reinforced that message. As I have been working through childhood issues I know it's time to let go of the actual suitcases too. It is rewriting the script of hearing my mom's words of "(Out)you go girl" echoing in my head to being my own cheerleader and saying to myself "You go girl!"

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Fully Present

I'm in the midst of trying to get ready to go to a retreat tomorrow. It's hard to explain but I'll try. I'm one of a handful of back up speakers - people who will step in if one of the main speakers gets sick or something comes up that they can't give their talk. The talk part is easy. I have always enjoyed public speaking. I get such a distasteful feeling in my mouth when people talk about ministering to other people but the only way I can say it is this....I will be part of a team whose mission is to be fully present to the 25 women who will be experiencing this retreat for the first time.

The days are long. I'm not real sure I have enough spoons to make it through the weekend. Honestly, on my own strength I don't. I'm hooped before I even begin. But I have prayed the last two years that God would give me another chance to work this particular retreat. That any suffering or sacrifice on my part I would offer up to Him. I'm not good at being other centered. This retreat is often life changing for the women who come. Jesus becomes real and personal to many of them for the first time even though they have lived in some kind of relation to the church their whole life. I have witnessed incredible healing in some of their lives. The kind that makes your spine tingle and makes you cry at the same time. I have always come away from this retreat wowed at how ready God is to work in our lives when we least expect it. Mine included.

If you would pray that I have enough spoons to see me through the weekend I would be grateful. That I would keep out of God's business and that the needs of the women there would be met would also be a prayer request of mine. Thank you. See you Monday.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Lord Save Me From Destination Thinking

Just when I think I've learned something I get to see I'm not where I thought I was. I've had moments when I was sure I had the answer how to lose weight for good. Or how to parent. Or be totally surrendered to God. You pick the topic. On just about anything I've thought I've arrived at some moment in my life and haven't been able to keep the answer to myself. "Would you shut up already," I tell myself. You'd think I'd learn. I haven't. Today my mantra is this: "You are on a journey. Stop panicking because you haven't arrived. Relax in the journey." Oh, God if only I could stomach myself today. I can't.

It reminds me of those Sunday mornings when I would be a screeching ninny and then have to go to church and paste on a smile and say how fine I was. One Sunday morning one woman asked me how I was and I looked at her and whispered, "Bitchy." Relief flooded her face as she told me she was that way too.

In all seriousness. It feels like there have been huge leaps forward in my faith journey lately. Pure gift. Today it feels like it is all slipping through my fingers and it will all be a precious, but distant, memory. Lord have mercy. And the next time I leave some trite comment on one of your blogs just remember I must have been in destination mode when I wrote it. God, in His mercy, will remind me that I'm on a journey and the destination is by His pure grace.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Believe In You

A fresh powdering of snow graces the landscape as I type. It's been several days since the temperatures rose above freezing. This is the first winter of my adult life that I am accepting its coming. Not quite celebrating it, but accepting it. Life cannot be all about springtime and summer. That sounds like such a sappy mantra but I think I get it now. Without the change of seasons none of them would seem so glorious. Learning to accept the season I am in instead of hankering after another one, could be one of the reasons I am content despite the weather. I am learning just a bit what it looks like to live in this moment only. Oh, I do look over the sides of the boat to the distant shores but am content with the here and now. At least for today. I've cried more lately than I have in a long time. Tears that are welcomed as part of the season I am in. On the flip side I have laughed more too. I am full of hope. Hope that as the ground is freezing around me my emotions are thawing like it's springtime.

My husband loves music. Give him a song that has depth and he is happy. Sometimes words fail him. It's not unusual for him to put on a song to say something to me. He gets it that life is about relationships. As I was sitting here typing the other day he reached over my shoulder to put on this song by Amanda Marshall.

Amanda Marshall
Believe In You
Written by - Marshall & Bazilian
From - Tuesday's Child

Somewhere there's a river
Looking for a stream
Somewhere there's a dreamer
Looking for a dream
Somewhere there's a drifter
Trying to find his way
Somewhere someone's waiting
To hear somebody say

I believe in you
I can't even count the ways that
I believe in you
And all I want to do is help you to
Believe in you

Somewhere someone's reaching
Trying to grab that ring
Somewhere there's a silent voice
Learning how to sing
Some of us can't move ahead
We're paralyzed with fear
And everybody's listening
'Cause we all need to hear


I will hold you up
I will help you stand
I will comfort you when you need a friend
I will be the voice that's calling out

I believe in you
I can't even count the ways that
I believe in you
And all I want to do is show you
I believe in you
And there are just so many ways that
I believe in you
Baby, what else can I do but believe in you...believe in you
All I want to know is you you

This is a man who has believed in me when I couldn't believe in myself. He is a man I believe in when he can't believe in himself. Sometimes we lose all hope and can't believe in each other or ourselves. Tears fell as I listened to this song this morning. Half of the month my husband works out of town in an ER ward and today is one of those days. He sees so many people on a daily basis who have no one to believe in them.

So for my dear dreamer and drifter from one who was paralyzed with fear: I believe in you.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

If Everybody Did

Note* You just gotta laugh with me on this. Today when I sat down to write I closed my eyes and simply typed away so that the gist of what I wanted to write would flow and I would be content with what Anne Lamott calls a "shitty first draft". That is until I opened my eyes to correct what I knew to be a blatant typing error and found I had been typing with one of my hands one key out of pattern all the way through. Looking it over I thought to myself, "Aunt Helga, I might just learn how to speak Norwegian yet. It looksl ike I can type it with my eyes closed!" I actually went back and decoded it all so there you have it. Enjoy.

In the last few weeks I've tossed several apple cores out the window in the pre dawn light. It's been a little freeing. You would have to know how I have berated my family for doing likewise to understand how out of the ordinary that is for me. In fact any family member reading this will be clapping their hand over their mouth to know I actually did such a thing. I'm guilty as charged, dear. When anyone in my family throws an apple core or banana peel out the window I remind them that the fine for littering here is 200 bucks. They've always responded with telling me that the banana peel is biodegradable so they're really just helping the enviroment. In turn I remind them of the book we used to read called If Everybody Did. Full of pictures of what the world would look like if everyone did things like walk across the room with muddy shoes or throw stuff on the floor instead of putting it away, I loved to read it aloud when they were little to get everyone to pick up after themselves or at least picture the ditches with mountains of apple cores or banana peels staring back at them.

Not too long ago I thought of that book and about how much energy I have spent living by the law - even ridiculous ones I made up myself (this is so embarrassing) like not being sure it was okay for my kids to pick up the odd pebble off the road because after all, that gravel belonged to the government. God help me lighten up. Or at least give me some relief from this spiritual constipation I keep suffering from. I thought about how wonderful it would be if people could laugh at themselves a bit more. Or extend compassion when they really were wanting to lash out with whips of judgement. Or if everyone did something silly together to lighten the journey. How I need to embrace these things first and then do likewise for my neighbour. And what if everybody did?

Today some words got flung my way much like an apple core thrown out the window or a banana peel left to decompose on the highway of life. The kind of words one speaks that just pop out unexpectedly. They weren't meant to harm but they left me and him gasping in horror that they were said at all. Words that had me covering my face in my hands and sobbing those gut wrenching sobs. That I was able to cry at all about the event his words triggered is freeing. There have never been tears cried because of it ever. And the tears just flowed without my inner censor putting up a wall. And they were flowing in front of someone. Those were redeeming things in the midst of it all. Afterwards I joked that the money he had just given me to buy his Christmas present would buy a whole lot of duct tape. I was able to acknowledge how much the comment hurt and I was also able to acknowledge that he hadn't meant to hurt me. He simply hadn't been thinking. That's a long ways from me lashing out at him in anger like I have been known to do when hurt and treating him as if he was out to get me. He's having a harder time forgiving himself than I am.

I think the wound-up-tighter-than-a-corkscrew spiral inside me got a little looser today. I don't plan on becoming a habitual throw-my-apple-core-out-the-window rebel but today I did throw a bit of the pain I've kept inside out. Now just imagine if everybody did.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Wound Up

One hundred and fifty miles later my day is coming to a close and I am glad. Headed in one direction this morning to see the doctor and the other direction this afternoon to keep my appointment with Father Charlie. I feel like I got the full meal deal with my physical, spiritual, and emotional selves looked at in one day.

I so wanted to do a perfect step 4. I kept feeling blocked when I sat down to write. I got the worst of things that were plaguing me down on paper but that was all I could seem to do. The worst of things were the most embarrassing of things. They were like weights around my neck, so they were easier to just put down on paper and be done with. I went in this afternoon feeling like I was deceiving myself, playing games, not being honest because it hadn't been a seamless flow from head to paper. Maybe I was supposed to simply be thankful for what did make its way onto paper and the incredible revelation that came as a result? Could I settle for progress instead of perfection? Yah think?

Nothing seems to fizz Father Charlie and for that I am grateful. He read my stuff, including a print out of my blog post of the other day, and simply took it in stride. Thank you, God. He talked about a person bringing their emotional, spiritual, physical and intellectual levels into tune. That I was in the tuning process. That suffering abuse makes tuning take a nose dive and I am in the process of bringing them into tune in a way that makes life doable. Not perfect. Not even perfectly in tune. But in harmony enough that life is enjoyable. I still want someone else to connect the dots for me and bring it into tune without having to go through the process. "Nothing doing" is Father Charlie's silent mantra. He knows he is not the conductor of my life.

At one point today he had me draw a picture of how I was feeling inside. I drew a red egg shape with a tight black spiral in the middle. I felt like I was keeping my emotions wound up tight. Close your fist as tight as can be and you have the idea of how wound up I felt inside. As I started drawing the spiral in its tight circle the tears started coursing down my face. I felt SO wound up inside. How big would I draw the spiral? Would it reach the edges of the red shape? But then it would be poking through the red and that would be painful. Would I close the spiral or keep it open? He asked me to sign and date the drawing and then give it a title if one came to mind. Then he asked me to take it home and put it on my fridge. He talked of how important it was for me to honour my feelings in that way. To look at the picture and reflect on it. He said he could see all kinds of things in the picture but that he wasn't going to tell me them. It's my story, my emotions. My journey. And in that moment I just wanted him to tell me what he saw so I could accept his interpretation of my feelings. "Nothing doing" was his unspoken response.

I have hidden behind words my whole life. Drawing how I felt instead of speaking it outloud was a new experience. I was unprepared for the unleashing of emotions. He told me he still drew pictures of his emotions when he needed to and he still hangs them on his fridge. He's at home with the process of being fine tuned.

It's been so many years since I had a drawing on my fridge. I have no memories of my drawings on the fridge of my childhood. My fridge is graced with a one woman, one piece art show tonight. The pictures will change from time to time but I think the show's going to last a lifetime.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

The Truth Shall Set You Free

One of the things I learned the last time I was at my Lay Formation Weekend was that God's revelation is personal - revealed to the person for the person. I've been thinking lately about how it is that one person reads a book and finds it life changing and the next person reads it and is bored out of their skull. The first person desperately wants the revelation to be for them both. Finding kindred spirits in our life changing moments can feel like a bit of heaven on earth. So what I am going to share in this post may not make one whiff of difference to anyone who reads it but I cannot contain the "wow" factor for me. It may be too much information. But it begs to be shared even though it is on the fringe of my comfort zone. Okay it is way out of my comfort zone. But it is oh, so cool.

A few days ago I spent some time at the little church in my community where I go to Mass every Sunday. It's a tiny bit of a building where, on a good Sunday, we have 10 people, including kids, gathered together. When it doesn't freeze too hard at night, the furnace is shut off until Saturday night and then turned on in time so that Sunday the building is comfortably warm. I've entertained the idea of going there during the week to pray - the quiet of the building and the presence of Jesus in the tabernacle beckon me.

As I have been working on my step four (made a searching and fearless moral inventory of myself) I have felt the need to go there to pray and write. Thursday I loaded up a quilt, my big (AA) book and papers and off I went. Picture me climbing over the wooden church fence with a quilt over my shoulder and book bag on my arm and just know I was praying no one would drive by in that moment! I visualized some farmer coming along and wondering if I was breaking into the church and planning on staying a while. "No, sir, I'm just going to cozy up to Jesus for a bit, okay?"

I wrote and prayed until the chill started to permeate my bones and then I soaked up the sunshine on the front steps while singing a few of my favourite songs. Being there hadn't made any difference. None. No relief from the burdens on my shoulders. I felt like I had made no headway in my writing and was on the verge of indifference. Let's just rip up my papers and forget about my inventory. That's how I felt. I stood to go and said outloud to Christ, "I am so tired of dealing with this same stuff over and over again. I feel like a little girl in a grown woman's body. I want to move forward but I don't know how. Help." And with that I dipped my fingers in the font, reminded myself that my sins were forgiven in baptism, slung the quilt over my shoulder and made my way back out to the gravel road and the van. I felt like God had let me down and that I would be carrying these burdens on my back forever. Oh sure, I know all about confessing your sins and being forgiven....1 John 1:9 right? But there is nothing worse than wanting to crawl out of your own skin because you want to forget just what it is you are capable of.

One of the other things we have been learning at the Lay Formation program is how to pray the Liturgy of The Hours. It is a discipline that appeals to me. I'm still new to all things liturgical. I've spent many years convinced that what I saw as rote prayer had no value at all - and if I ever did that (like only every time I prayed but of course that isn't rote prayer cause I made it up!)I would never tell anyone lest they think I had joined a cult. But the morning after I had been at church I picked up my book of prayers for comfort. This is in part what the morning Psalm read:

Psalm 51

Have mercy on me, God, in your kindness.
In your compassion blot out my offense.
O wash me more and more from my guilt
And cleanse me from my sin.

My offenses truly I know them;
my sin is always before me.
Against you, you alone, have I sinned;
what is evil in your sight I have done.

and a bit further down this:

O rescue me, God, my helper,
and my tongue shall ring out your goodness.
O Lord,, open my lips
and my mouth shall declare your praise.

Instant tears on my part as the sins I have been confessing as part of my step four include things that weigh heavy on my heart, stuff that keeps sticking to me like a burr on a pant leg. This psalm was the unspoken cry of my heart.

That evening I was sharing with my husband some of my inventory - wondering outloud why I feel like I do - why was there so much guilt and shame surrounding my s*xual issues. Why did I struggle with the same sins in these areas ad nauseum? I wondered outloud why I felt cheap and ashamed whenever I had s*xual desires and why was that anyway? Having been violated at a young age and then again as a teen I knew my thinking when it came to sex was plain (pardon the choice of words) screwed up. I asked why was it easier for me to feel sleazy/bad when I was horny than anything else? God was just plain merciful to me in that moment of thinking outloud.

I looked at my husband and said, "I feel sleazy because I think if I want sex then that means I am going to use you for my pleasure." Oh. My. God. Ding,ding, ding....the bells went off in my head. Wow. What a lie I have believed about myself all these years. Of course I would think like that. My first s*xual experiences were of being used by men who were horny - who used me for their pleasure.

The next revelation was this.....there have been more times than I can count in my 24 year marriage where I have accused my husband of using me for his pleasure. He has always replied that he would sooner never touch me again than have me perceive his advances that way. When I realized I thought I had been using him I saw clearly.... I mean clearly that he had never used me. I had only projected onto him the lies I believed about myself.

I looked at him and said, "I know in my heart that you have never used me." Then I whispered, "I know that now." And then I told him that knowing that in my heart meant that I was now free to trust him. In that instant the walls of self protection came crashing down around me. You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.

My husband is a toucher by nature. He craves it. I have often misinterpreted his touch to mean something s*xual. My internal dialogue would go something like this: "You touch me that means you want s*x. You want s*x means you are going to use me. Fuck off." "Geez - anyone know the number of the closest shrink?"

I have prayed so much that I would learn to touch him with the touch that nourishes his soul. My hands have felt mechanical.

That night as I caressed his back I said...."Wow - your skin feels different...the invisible wall that was between my fingertips and your skin is gone. Does it feel different to you?" He told me gently that it was my story to tell.

That night's Psalm said this:

Psalm 116

I love the Lord for he has heard
the cry of my appeal;
for he turned his ear to me
in the day when I called him.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Swaying In The Wind

This morning I sat in my chair and watched the tall poplar trees sway in the wind. Invisible hoola hoops swung around their nonexistent hips as their tops circled in the sky. I envied their freedom to sway in rhythm with their Creator. I so want to know what that kind of freedom feels like.

I found myself doing anything but face writing out my step 4 today. Restless and in avoidance mode I worked hard to keep from sitting back down in my chair and doing the serious work of looking inward and exposing my demons. After a nap and a shower I finally settled down to write. The worst of me made its way onto the page first. Like a little kid playing hopscotch I made my way from one end of myself to another. It didn't take long until a theme popped up. All my defects of character kept pointing to just one thing. The motivation behind my behaviour is to feel safe at all costs. Fear and the need to be in control rule my life. They are my own invisible hoola hoops I keep swaying in the air. The energy it takes to keep them afloat affects every relationship I have. I was so tempted to start writing over and make myself look better. Praying for the courage to be honest I continued on. I know, I just know that there is another invisible hoola hoop circling me. It's called Love. God keeps it in the air with no help from me but desires for me to embrace its healing rhythm so that the hoops of my own making can fall away and be stilled.

Back Already

Our last day of summer like weather today. A balmy 22C (71F). Many years we have permanent snow already so this beautiful day feels like winning the lottery. I worked outside for a bit and gave many thanks for the warmth of the sunshine on my face.

So much for taking a mini sabatical. I never have been able to keep my mouth shut very long. But even this short break from blogging has been good. What I really needed was a break from feeling like I had to post something in order to have people read my blog. Pressure I put on myself. That self centered "pick me" feeling. I hate it when I see it rear its ugly head but in all honesty it looks over my shoulder every time I post.

I'm struggling with behaviours that I resort to in order to comfort myself. Self defeating behaviours. Stuff that numbs my feelings. This morning I told God that I didn't know how one could desire to learn how to feel and yet simultaneously be working overtime to numb their feelings. Make up your mind already I tell myself.

I am working on a step 4(made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves) from AA. It's been years since I have done one and I already committed to the step 5(admit to God, to ourselves, and another human being the exact nature of our wrongs) when I see Father Charlie next week. Scary stuff. But I have commented one too many times to him lately that a drink would be so much easier than facing what I must in order to heal. I counted today and I have 6503 days of sobriety behind me. I am not willing to surrender that struggle in order to veer away from the struggles I am facing now. Sometimes I think it is only my pride that keeps me sober. I'm not sure that is a good or bad thing but it is the closest to the truth that I can discern. Father Charlie told me that facing the stuff is about having a pile of puzzle pieces and giving myself permission to sort through them. I feel like it is dumpster diving and am covered in shit up to my eyeballs. I do know that any other time I have done a step 4 and 5 I have come to a peace like no other. This will be the first time I will be doing a step 5 with someone who knows me and who will continue to see me after they know the whole dirt on me. The other times I picked an anonymous woman minister out of the yellow pages. The shame was so great at what I was confessing that I couldn't handle talking to a person who might reject me in the end. It's a huge step to be doing this one with someone who I trust will continue to accept me as I am.

It was Deb's Post over at Abiding that was the catapult that has me writing my step four. That post was a wake up call for me to do something about how I am (not)coping with life these days.

I have come across several quotes today that have encouraged me. I hope they encourage you too.

"The next time you are tempted to swallow your truth, speak it instead. Everything you are afraid of will happen, but you will eventually fall in love with the sound of your own integrity." - via Christy

"If you desire intimate union with God you must be willing to pay the price for it. We find it difficult to give up our desire for things that can never satisfy us in order to purchase the One Good in Whom is all our joy!" --Thomas Merton, from What is Contemplation - via A.

"This prayer is kind of a modern version of the Anima Christi.

Jesus, may all that is you flow into me.

May your body and blood be my food and drink.
May your passion and death be my strength and life.

Jesus, with you by my side enough has been given.
May the shelter I seek be the shadow of your cross.

Let me not run from your love which you offer,
But hold me safe from the forces of evil.

On each of my dyings shed your light and your love.

Keep calling to me until that day comes,
When with your saints, I may praise you forever.

via CowPi Journal

Friday, October 21, 2005

Looking The Other Way

I'm going to be on a blog holiday until the first of November. I've thought about taking time off the blog before but then this panic seizes me that I'll get forgotten in a blink of an eye and that nixes any plans I've had of looking the other way so to speak. Ah, so human and so needy. I'll be back on All Saint's Day.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Normal Anyone?

Debra over at As I See It Now has a wonderful post about Loving Normal.

I have to agree that I love normal too.

There have been several factors in my life in the past few years that have cemented my love of normal. The first was the time we spent living on welfare and using the food bank. There is nothing like not eating a balanced diet for a prolonged period of time, to make a person forever grateful for the taste of a piece of fresh fruit. For some reason I have been thinking lately of one doctor's appointment I had during this time. I sat there with teary eyes and told his nurse that I just couldn't handle my kids not eating vegetables and fruit. Carbs, carbs and more carbs were our mainstay during that time. I swear that not eating properly messes with a person's head. It was much harder to have hope when my body was lacking proper nutrition. I learned that it was instinctual to make sure my kids got fed first before me. It was awful, truly awful to spend all my energy trying to figure out how I was going to put a meal on the table. We got so that we joked about the wild meat I was cooking every night for supper. "101 Ways To Prepare Elk" is a cook book I could write with my eyes closed. Fifteen months post-welfare I still have times when I get giddy about what a privilege it is to buy all the fresh produce I want!

Another factor has been my ongoing health issues. I live with a new normal now. I still have times of intense longing for my old normal. Longing for the days when I could go from morning until night and have that blessed tiredness of body that meant I put in a good day's work and that sleep would be such a welcome rest. Days when I use up a spoon now just having my morning shower can be a bit hard to welcome.

But the reality is that this new normal is permanent. I can't say I love this new normal but I'm learning to see the good things about it. Yesterday, as my husband went outside to the storage shed for the umpteenth time, I told him I envied his ability to just up and go out there as many times a day as he wanted to. Depending on my spoon supply my normal varies day by day. I have days I've nicknamed "pajama days". Those days all I have the energy to do is sit in my chair in the livingroom in my pjs. "Pj days" are an opportunity to learn how to be truly present in the moment. I've sent up so many thank yous for the warmth of the sunshine on my face on those days. Learning how to manage my spoon supply has its own blessings too.

I once read a t-shirt that said "Stress: When your head says 'no' and your mouth says 'yes'. Who can't relate to that definition? I would often be left with anger issues mistakenly directed towards those people who I said yes to when it was my head and mouth in disagreement. Having a limited spoon supply means that my head and mouth match now.

Sometimes I get sidetracked by wanting someone else's normal instead of my own. Those are the days when I get the words normal and perfect mixed up. I think their normal is perfect. Hah. What a challenge it can be to settle for a perfectly normal day.

But you know what? I'll take it.