Friday, December 31, 2010

Ending on a high note

I've got to be quick because I'm going out in just a few minutes. I'm spending the night with my closest guy friends from high school; we've done this every year since I was about 13. I couldn't imagine myself anywhere else.

New Year's Eve has always been a very weird, sensitive time of year -- when I first began my spiritual journey, it was this night when my then-partner told me he was cutting himself. A few weeks before that, I had made the decision to walk away from the occult, one that would leave me completely empty-handed and powerless.

It took me a long time to realize that the answer to all of that was Christ, but I did eventually figure that out. It will be five years ago tomorrow morning that I laid in my bed at 16, stared at the ceiling and told God to take over.

I'm a different person now, though I guess that's to be expected given the way people mature in their teens, but my life philosophy is totally different. There was very little driving me back then, only how to get everything I wanted and doing it all my way. I was both very shallow and very selfish.

Now, it's funny. I still have my moments, and often most of my troubles come when I wrestle control back from God insisting that I have the right answers. But in every moment I humble myself, suck it up and remember where my heart belongs, things always straighten out.

It's hard to believe that about a year ago I was teetering on the edge of nihilism and disbelief. I never want to go through that again, ever.

My Mom-Mom is still with us by the grace of God, and relatively stable, too. Both she and my Grandma were able to spend the day with my family on Christmas morning. I can remember the tears a few weeks before that, when she had said last Christmas would be her last. She was wrong, and I've thanked God every day since for the time we've gotten. My cat, too, is hanging in there, scrawny as could be but as the vet said yesterday, "She's 14. She looks damn good." ;)

And my faith has slowly but surely come around, and I dare say I feel stronger than ever before. The change came in the summer when I learned to be grateful for every blessing that comes my way, no matter how small or trivial. Couple that with fall retreat and learning to orient my life in the present moment, and I'm so happy to feel like myself, truly myself, for the first time in a long time.

Of course, I do have a lot of regrets. I lost my best friend this year, and I mourn that every day, but I still believe that for now, this is what's best. I know we pray for each other and that God and time works a lot of healing. That's all the reassurance I need. A lot of people that were in my life last year are no longer so close, mostly thanks to distance and time, but the ones closest to me have been phenomenal. I'm very lucky.

Here I am, on the eve of my graduation year with a budding freelance career and plenty of avenues to explore when May comes. The road ends here, but now's the time for me to blaze my own path. I'm ready.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Friday, December 24, 2010

'Twas the night before Christmas...

...And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us. Talk about Christmas gifts. Have a wonderful, blessed Christmas; I'm off to spend it with my family. :)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Little Reminders

Since Advent, I've been doing this six-minute devotional given to us by the pastor of the university parish. To be honest, it's been pretty shallow thus far, but every now and then it gives me something important to think about, like a recent post about people we need to forgive.

Last night, after spending the evening with a friend who will graduate with me, I had to admit that those old apprehensions about May came back in full force, and with it, so did the rest of my worries.

I tried to pray it out, but it was no good -- I just couldn't shake my blues. Finally, I told God that I knew He was still taking care of me and that was that.

A few hours later, I read my devotional for the day, and was amazed at what I found.

Mary and Joseph probably had no idea what they were getting into when she was first pregnant with that little boy. At 14 she likely never dreamed that her life would be surrounded by miracles, that a sword would pierce her own heart as she watched her only Son be rejected by mostly everyone, only to be executed as a criminal.

But then again, the book said, she never knew He would conquer death and become the hope of all mankind, either.

All they could do was surrender themselves with complete confidence to whatever God would want of them. And while it might have been a mess, they always had the strength they needed to get though each day, one at a time.

One day at a time.

I shook my head, laughed, and went to sleep happy. He really is taking care of me.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Advent Music Monday: Francesca Battistelli

Because it's not Tuesday until I go to sleep and wake up. ;)

Tonight I bring you what's technically a Christmas song, but one I love enough to share early. It's an original by Francesca Battistelli, who emerged onto the Christian music radar only a few years ago with her infectious "Free to Be Me." Now married with a baby boy of her own, Francesca's music has (at least in my opinion) matured a great deal since those days, and I think you'll find that reflected in this song. It's also from Our Lady's POV, which is always neat.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Restless Waiting

There's been a lot on my mind this week. I don't really know how to express any of it.

Gaudete week is all about rejoicing. I heard it described recently as peeking around the corner into the living room on Christmas Eve, if only out of pure longing.

And then the pastor at the parish Newman is now incorporated in said that we need to reflect on the gift of Christian joy, so that we might better radiate it to others. But in the midst of all that, he asked why we weren't weeping for those that didn't know or rejected the love of God.

Ever the reverent soul, I snickered. In the front pew. Thankfully, only one of my friends noticed, and she understood.

You know, I've been through Romans a few times thanks to daily Mass and my own studying a few years back, but a friend pointed out a verse to me last night that I somehow never noticed before. Paul writes:

I have great sorrow and constant anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and separated from Christ for the sake of my brothers...

I had to read that twice before I understood. Even Paul felt like throwing the whole thing away now and then. In some strange way, that's consoling for me.

This is just a messy time of year -- so much peace and wonder and insanity that comes when we stuff my whole clan into one house. Yet there's always that itch in my bones that never really goes away -- it's magick and "Ole Scratch" convincing me now and then that things would be so much simpler if I just did things my way.

But we all know where that landed me, aye? Thankfully I'm used to this needling in early winter, and it passes quickly. I've learned to shrug it off and pay close attention to Advent in moments like these. After all, He did come for the restless ones probably most of all. And that's something to rejoice over.

Patience, I tell myself. It's almost time.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Advent Music...Tuesday?

A day late and a dollar short this week .. I've been (and unfortunately still am) very sick this finals week. So before I crawl back under the covers, here's your gift for the week.

We lit the rose candle this weekend -- Gaudete Sunday! We depart from the reflection on the End Times for now in order to shift focus to the joyful birth of Christ we'll celebrate in just 10 days.

This is an old Latin chant I'm very fond of, by a Celtic group named Anuna.

And a rough English translation of the chorus and verses:

Rejoice, Rejoice!
Christ is born
Of the virgin Mary,

It is now the time of grace
That we have desired;
Let us sing songs of joy,
Let us give devotion.

God was made man,
And nature marvels;
The world was renewed
By Christ who is King.

The closed gate of Ezekiel
Has been passed through;
From where the light rises
Salvation is found.

Therefore let our assembly now sing,
Sing the Psalms to purify us;
Let it praise the Lord:
Greetings to our King.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Advent Music Monday! Casting Crowns

I've been listening to Christmas music pretty much nonstop since our local station made its annual conversion to 24/7 holiday tunes two weeks ago.

At the same time, the nationally syndicated station I listen to for Christian rock, Air 1, has been mixing in contemporary Christmas arrangements by popular artists in the genre.

I love it all, really, and I've found myself saying more than once recently, "Oh, I should blog about this song," especially given I'm bound and determined to actually make something of Advent this year.

Voila. Introducing an Advent rendition of the Music Mondays I started elsewhere. :)

This week, here's "I Heard the Bells of Christmas Day" by Casting Crowns. The only element that remains the same from the original version is the lyrics. The change-up is dark and passionate, and super fun to play on piano, too. ;)

Saturday, December 4, 2010


One of the things I think I've struggled the most with as I settled into the Church was the obligation of forgiveness.

What had me stuck was a passage in the Gospel that says if our brother sins seven times seventy times, we still need to forgive him if he asks for it.

"That's just outrageous!" I used to say to my old confessor. "All that does is let people walk on us."

He was quick to correct me in saying that forgiving isn't synonymous with being a doormat. We have every right to speak up when we are being treated unfairly. Sometimes, I wish I had known that sooner. Too often I've found myself holding my tongue out of what I thought was charity, be it at home or elsewhere, only hurting more in the process.

It was still something that confused me until fairly recently on retreat. One night while everyone was sleeping, I dug into one of my favorite theological classics -- C.S, Lewis' Mere Christianity. 

He has a whole chapter dedicated to forgiveness, but his philosophy is nothing like the one that I thought Christians held: we have to be friendly and  connected to people if we have truly forgiven them. If your best friend hurts you grievously, you have to go right on being their best friend and act like nothing ever happened if you're being true to Christ's words.

Honestly, where do I come up with some of these things? This is why you're not supposed to follow Him alone. (And also why spiritual direction exists.)

Yes, we are obligated to forgive even the worst sinner. This holds true even if he isn't sorry, is a killer, a rapist, or a cheater.

But forgiving someone doesn't mean we have to like them. Not even a little. We are still allowed to be righteously angry, hurt, and vulnerable, providing it's not unreasonable.

To forgive, we just need to sincerely want the best for the person who has hurt us, and for them to be whatever God wants them to be. Wanting that is the definition of loving someone in a Christian way.

I've been going through a book of Advent devotions that was suggested to me at Newman, and last night it said Advent is the time to let go of unforgiveness.

I lost some good friends this year, and will be the first to admit I made a lot of mistakes, too. Saying "I'm sorry" isn't always good enough in either case, unfortunately.

But I know that I can pray sincerely for those I've hurt. Every day that I do, I receive a little more healing.

"And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us..."

Maybe there's something to those words, after all.