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Morning meditation

20180405_105215“Morning has broken like the first morning…”

During Lent, I had a goal of getting back into praying the Liturgy of the Hours.  I had not done so in about a year until Good Friday. I finally prayed morning prayer. I prayed it every morning for years. Most of the time, it was therapeutic. Sometimes it was sustaining. A few times reciting the prayers kept me afloat. I cherish what it did in my life. Because it is an old friend, I can resume as if I had never stopped. But because time has passed, I see it with new eyes and a deeper understanding.

The morning prayer is set up the same way every day I follow the shorter Christian prayer which consists of morning prayer, evening prayer, and night prayer. It opens with the invitatory psalm, usually Psalm 22 but there are others.You recite an antiphon that changes depending on the day. This is followed by two psalms and a canticle from an Old Testament prophet, again with antiphons that are fitting to the season or the feast. There is a short reading, sometimes from one of the prophets or a letter of Paul. Then you recite the Canticle of Zechariah with an antiphon, prayers of intercession, the Our Father, and a concluding prayer and a blessing . Some of these prayers I knew by heart; I’m sure with more recitation I could I could do it by memory

The Canticle of Zechariah has always been one of my favorites. It comes from the Gospel of Luke which is my favorite gospel. It is a song of joy following the birth of John the Baptist and recalling the history of salvation. The lines that consistently strike are the ones that say, “ he promised that he would save us from our enemies  from the hands of all who hate us.” Sometimes those words make me cry. That is what happened in my life. I have been burdened by people full of self-loathing and hatred of others. I have had to fight back against their toxic poison. I prayed for deliverance. I prayed for their conversion. But mostly I prayed for God to prevail and to keep me safe. He did. He always has. I am forever grateful.

Morning prayer may only take about 15 minutes but it is a wonderful time of serenity and silence. When I recite these prayers, I enjoy peace and stillness. I definitely need more of that in my life instead of the usual piles of folded laundry or checked work emails that I tackle weekday mornings.  So far during the Easter season, I have been praying the Liturgy of the Hours daily. Those moments of quiet reflection are much needed and appreciated.

Revealing relapse

“There is trouble in the air, destruction is everywhere
And men are being trampled beneath the soil
And nations, great and small, have now begun to fall
Oh come let us go back to God, go back to God”  written by Thomas Dorsey, as sung by Donnie McClurkin

When I talk about backsliding, I often mean it negatively.  When I backslide, I’m going to back old, often negative, habits and ways of thinking. Like every normal person, I have times when I’m disciplined, motivated, and therefore feeling and being successful.  If I “relapse” into past behavior, it is usually because I’m exhausted, demoralized, and struggling physically, mentally, and/or emotionally.  Life goes in cycles.  It’s never a journey of point A to point B.  So why do I hold myself to that unrealistic black and white thinking?  What if “going back” has its benefits?

Para los que me conocen, y’all know I’m often goal-driven. I take on reading challenges, savings challenges, and prayer challenges. I train for half-marathons and for street performances of various choreographies.  I do weeklong class hops, novenas of daily masses, 40 day fasts, and multi-week fitness programs. But I don’t always complete these goals to the best of my ability.  Sometimes I don’t complete them at all.  Then I spend some time beating myself up about those failures.  Fortunately, time and life experience has taught me to seek humility.  Life has taught me that failure is a good time to turn back to God.

I said it.  As important as my faith life is to me, God doesn’t always come first. “Well, I guess we won’t go to Mass Carnaval weekend because I’m not about to sit in church in my costume.”  God doesn’t always fit on a busy schedule.  While I thank God when I’m succeeding, I spend less time with Him while I’m busy working towards that success.  I’m going, going, going.  Literally and figuratively running.  A quick grace over a rushed meal. Half a rosary done on the commute from one family activity to another.  I don’t build in time for devotion.

It is in times of struggle and failure that I truly give myself over to God.  When I’ve been diagnosed with illnesses, I have stood with God.  When I’ve struggled with work situations, I have had long, emotional conversations with God.  When I have lost loved ones, I have found comfort from God.  Where human motivation and individual goals waver, God is constant.

I know I have lots of work to do in the next few months. I will make my faith life part of that work.  Going back to God is wonderful.  Staying with Him must be a goal. 2eec7f06e6a3add42dfda620cb60b94d

The other sibling

That’s big bro on the right passing judgment
For years, I have pondered the apparent good fortune of people who engage in meanness and foolishness.  Earlier this week, I grumbled that my good friend died young while an individual who has recently faced discipline for their lack of professionalism is “hale and hearty.”  Another acquaintance, a woman of integrity and compassion, is facing a family tragedy.  As someone who strives to always take the high road, I struggle with feeling compassion for others, especially if I don’t feel they deserve it. 
Last Sunday’s Gospel reading is one of my favorites, the parable of the Prodigal Son. Each time I hear this parable, I hear something new or I relate to the story in a different way. At present, I hear the words of the indignant older brother.
“’Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes; you killed the fatted calf for him!’ “Luke 15: 29-30, Holy Bible New Revised Standard Version
How often do I cringe when someone I judge as unworthy goes unpunished or is even celebrated? I have no problem admitting one of my greatest flaws is my judgmental attitude. 
The loving father offers wisdom, “‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’” Luke 15: 31-32, Holy Bible New Revised Standard Version
The father does appreciate his elder son; he does not love him less because he is less of a problem child.  The father wants to celebrate the willingness of his younger son to change. He wants to celebrate his younger son taking the first step to being a good person. 
Like the elder son, I have a self-righteous streak.  I focus on the other person’s flaws and wonder why they are reaping benefits I feel they haven’t earned.  Also, I struggle with those who have yet to choose change.  I find it challenging to have compassion for those who are in the throes of behavior I find problematic.  It is hard work to learn to forgive and accept. 
Once I was that prodigal child. I found forgiveness and joy in acceptance.   I pray that someday I may act more like that loving parent, one who waits with open arms and open heart to receive a lost soul.  I’m praying daily. 

A Lenten miracle

As happens every Lent, my daughter’s school hosts the Stations of the Cross every Friday. An upper grade combines with a lower grade and the children read from Scripture, act out the scene, and help us to reflect. They charm us with the cuteness of the little ones and move us with the depth of insight of the older children. I have had to miss the last few events due to my work schedule.  Now that my daughter is an avid reader, she was assigned three stations to read with a 7thgrade partner. I’m sure I could have requested personal time in advance.  However, given recent developments, my boss and I now have a standing meeting with an individual every Friday.  Te puedes imaginar how I looked when I realized that I would be spending time with said person, rather than experiencing a Lenten tradition with my child. 
This Chihuahua is my spirit animal; I give this look when #icant
It’s not very Lenten or Catholic of me, I know, but I’m also the writer who brought you You’re Ruining My Advent. To make matters worse, my boss was unavailable to join the meeting and asked if I could handle it on my own.
Though I admit I wanted to say no, I couldn’t possibly handle it, I took a few moments to gather my thoughts before agreeing to move forward. So while my daughter took the microphone and read Scripture, I fought the urge to read this person.  
“Shade comes from reading…reading is the real art form of insult” Paris is Burning
I did not give out a piece of my mind. I conducted the meeting calmly and professionally.
Was it a Lenten miracle?  Grace?  Personal will?  All of the above.  I have the ability to choose how I act.  I have the ability to choose whether or not my emotions will control me or I will control them.  I choose to treat people with respect. I choose to leave another’s dignity intact.  In doing so, I commemorate the Stations of the Cross.  So while I would have preferred to be at the Stations of the Cross in person, I was with my daughter in spirit.  In reflection, I see how the Stations she was assigned speak to the situation I experienced.
The 3rd Station: Jesus falls for the first time
My faith journey has been one of struggle and failure. I have never pretended to be someone for whom faith and religious practice come easily.  I fall all the time.  Though I don’t fall quite like I did before I got my mind right, I have moments of weakness.  My anger against the co-worker or any other person who may have slighted me is a feeling with which I wrestle. I know it is not right to hold grudges or pass judgment. I am praying for those who anger me.  I am praying for a heart of forgiveness and compassion. 
The 4th Station: Jesus meets his mother
My faith journey has been shaped by those I love. My own mother taught me to pray. While her methods in doing so were not always gentle, they gave me words that have sustained during my most challenging trials. I wrapped a rosary around my arm when I went into labor with my daughter. I pray before every appointment, test, and medical procedure. I prayed before the Friday work meeting. Now that I’m a mother, I walk with my daughter in her faith journey. Together, we pray the rosary, attend Mass, read the Gospels, and talk about our faith.  When she struggles, I struggle.  When she hurts, I hurt. Love and faith are intertwined. 
The 5th Station: Simon helps Jesus carry the cross
Despite my personal struggles, I accept the call to serve others. I do so in my career. I do so in my personal life. I may want to decline sometimes. I may be angry, indignant, fearful, exhausted.  But I take up the cross. In doing so, I remember who I truly am. I am a person of faith and compassion. 
This struggle is Lent.  Lent is a time to accept our humanity in all its facets and to accept the call to love others.  Lent is a journey toward peace. 

Seatbelt fastened

“Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.” Margo Channing in All about Eve



My latest IGM flare-up has been an emotional roller coaster. After my initial worry and the subsequent sense of acceptance, I began to experience anger. It began as a slow simmer while at work.  By the time I came home from this week’s biopsy, I was livid.  I was angry at the physical pain. I was angry at my body and its apparent ongoing weakness.  Mostly, I was angry at the behavior of certain individuals who conduct themselves with negativity, rudeness, and disrespect on a daily basis; I straight up questioned why they are well. I even said I could punch a specific person.
If Rambo hadn’t been present, I might have thrown a few things.  But those moments pass.
Then there was the waiting. It has been so hectic at work that I haven’t had the time to dwell on the possibilities. Once that call came through (of course it had to happen at work), there was the relief.  I am still cancer free.  But I still have an infection so the journey to healing continues. 
Faith is a must as I handle living with a chronic illness. One of my samba sisters had issued a Bible verse challenge nearly a week ago, a day after I discovered the lump. Every day I have shared a Bible verse on social media. These particular verses inspire hope in me while I reflect on my personal experiences. It has been a practice that has helped me focus on the positive.
One of the positives was meeting my new specialist. My previous specialist, known as the local expert of IGM, retired. Fortunately, I was able to get a Tuesday afternoon appointment after my Friday morning call. I rescheduled due to having the biopsy to Friday afternoon, always a good day to get good news. He is of the opinion that the infection I have is simply that and is not necessarily a flare-up. He did not recommend an additional round of antibiotics and is confident we can avoid invasive procedures this summer. He also said I could resume exercise so long as I stay aware of discomfort and pain.

My health may present occasional challenges but la vida continua(life goes on.) I had already planned to have my gall bladder removed in a few weeks so that will happen(see previous blog at http://mujerevolving.blogspot.com/2015/03/an-old-friend-resurfaces.html.) June is full of M’s dance performances.  Carnaval with SambaFunk continues through various celebrations. As I was once told by King Theo, healing is mine! 

Oasis

“In the sweet territory of silence we touch the mystery. It’s the place of reflection and contemplation, and it’s the place where we can connect with the deep knowing, to the deep wisdom way.” Angeles Arrien
“What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.” Antoine Saint-Exupery
I am nearing the end of my 40 days in the desert of my own making. While I have felt isolated at times, the positive changes I have experienced have made up for the occasional duda.
For 40 days, I have renewed my commitment to contemplation. I began my mornings with Dynamic Catholic’s “Best Lent Ever”, a collection of videos featuring author Matthew Kelly, quotes, and questions meant to prompt reflection on readings and themes. I now write in my Mass journal during every Mass I attend. I have committed to spiritual reading as a daily practice.
In 40 days, my professional life underwent a significant transformation. I went from being fearful, complacent, and exhausted to feeling empowered, focused, and re-energized. All it took was heart-to-heart chats with my credential coach and my longtime mentor and most importantly, prayer. I prayed for clarity and strength. Reading Father Greg Boyle’s Tattoos on the Heart helped me revisit my commitment to young people. I needed to revisit “vocation” and “mission” over “job” and “career.”  
In 40 days, I have realized that disconnection can lead to reconnection. I am still seeing friends, taking my daughter on adventures, and communicating with folks who make me laugh. I haven’t missed the noise and information overload that often makes me want to give up social networking altogether.
For 40 days, I have read and listened to more books than I have in years. I read M her first chapter book, Charlotte’s Web.  M has declared “books are magic.” 
Caral Peru.
Photo by Julie Ann Calderon. 

Every year, I cherish my Lenten experience. Then, on Easter Sunday night, I promptly return to my old habits. But, now, with another surgery expected in summer, I need to do what nurtures my family, my health, and my faith. I resolve to stay in the desert every day.  

An old friend resurfaces

At one point in my life, I seriously considered becoming a lay member of a monastic community.  I wanted to leave the world of work and personal life, if only seasonally, and focus on contemplation, prayer, and learning more about my faith. Inspired by poet and author Kathleen Norris, I specifically explored how I might become a Benedictine oblate.  Many events and people drew me away from this plan; however, some of what I learned sustained me through life’s challenges. How wonderful to know that Saint Benedict will be rejoining my daily litany.

Saint Benedict, apart from being a founding father of Western monasticism, is also the patron saint of gall bladder disease and inflammatory disease.  Two birds with one stone, pun absolutely intended.  
One of the stories told about him is that some of the monks, newly introduced to him and his Rule, decided to rebel and attempted to poison him during Mass. Benedict survived because the chalice broke and a raven stole the bread before Communion.  

The surgery I will have in the summer is elective; in the words of my new surgeon,  I’m “not on fire.” Still it is reassuring to know that I can literally call on Saint Benedict.  

Fifteen reasons to pray

What I miss:
Bear hugs with my daughter
Running
Dancing
Feeling completely clean
Getting up from sitting without having to carry the vac
What I won’t miss:
Bandaging
Blistered, irritated skin
Pain
Knowing my daughter is suffering from stress
Being disappointed by others  
What I appreciate:
Being infection-free for five weeks
A renewed sense of humility
The love of my immediate family
The unflagging and unconditional support of my close friends and dance community

The opportunity to value the blessing of health

Faith is a crisis

A lot has been said recently about Mother Teresa and a new book that follows her faith journey for 50 years. Many have marveled at the possibility that this nun, founder of an order that serves the most marginalized people in Calcutta and throughout the world, may have been troubled with apathy, ambivalence, and disillusionment with her faith. The “controversy” is sure to boost book sales and has already called into question Catholicism and religious faith in general. What the average American doesn’t seem to understand is that faith isn’t static. Mother Teresa lived a holy and faithful life but she was a real woman with real feelings and real experiences. In other words, her crisis of faith was evidence that faith impacted her life. So often, religious people are expected to be perfectly sure of their beliefs, perfectly pure in their thoughts and actions, or just plain old perfect. As a person of faith myself, I can attest to the beauty and power of imperfection–and the importance of doubt.

A few months ago, someone important to me commented that I didn’t seem religious. It stung at first. I countered with my own conviction of my personal faith. But I have continued to ponder that observation. Am I not religious if others cannot tell I am? How would I need to live so that others would know that I am religious? How crucial is it that others can identify me as a person of faith? In homily after homily, we are called to live lives that will bring Christ to others. We are called to evangelize by our way of being. Am I not a very good Christian? It is a crisis of faith.

In the last few months, I have faced dark hours. I have railed against God. I have isolated myself at times from my home parish. Some Sundays I have not gone to Mass. Some days I have not prayed the Morning Prayer. In moments of great pain or anger, I have tried to turn away from my faith. But then there is solace. Somehow, the light that emanates from my faith refills my being and I am comforted. I am drawn back to prayer and to the community that has allowed me to grow in my faith. I recognize that it is my faith that has sustained me through the years. It is my faith that keeps me from being a permanent victim, from becoming a person of bitterness and resentment, from surrendering to my emotional issues and my challenges in maintaining mental health. I may not abide by every doctrine and dogma of the Catholic Church but I love my faith and I struggle daily to live it.

So is it possible that Mother Teresa felt distant from God for 50 years? Yes. Is it possible that this saint, who devoted several decades of her life to caring for lepers and AIDS patients, sometimes questioned the meaning of such stewardship? Yes. Faith is a beautiful crisis.

“For it is when I am weak, that I am strong.”