Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Journey of a Thousand Miles

If you are just stumbling on this post, it will make more sense if you read Part 1 of my story:
The Wedding Invitation That Changed My Life

I hope you didn't decide to abandon me, dear reader, for being a horrible person. It's not that I was (or am) completely horrible. I think it has more to do with being raised in today's secular culture where our worth and our sense of accomplishment is often dictated by the size of our home, how big our flat screen TVs are, how successful we can be at work, how much money we make, and how thin we are.. things like that.   I was the one who always wanted to be popular, but never quite fit in. I am very vain and always wanted to be physically beautiful, but in reality, I am pretty darn average on my best days. I am insecure and have always compensated for my perceived short-comings with sarcasm and cynicism and judgement. I might not be gorgeous, but I can be smart. I may not have joy in my heart, but who needs that when I am so successful at my career? There just wasn't much room for God in my life. Not that I didn't believe in God, I just was doing things my way and on my terms, and was an extremely selfish and wounded person trying to "keep up with the Joneses". My daughter was going to receive her sacraments because "that's what Catholics do"... even though we were not even going to church. In fact, you could count on one hand how many times we had been to a Catholic Mass since our wedding day 7 years prior to this point!

And so here we are.

Because even though I didn't go to that wedding, the invitation, and the people behind it and what they stood for, changed me somehow over the course of the following year. Everyday I had to come to work, I was in an environment where I felt unsure of myself and very out of place. Surrounded by many deeply Christian individuals who were so simple and joyful and at peace with themselves and their faith.

And what was so special about this "Blessed Sacrament" that would cause someone to cover their head?

Somewhere in the very back of my mind a little voice kept asking that question.

Why was that so threatening to me?

I really didn't want to answer that question!

As the days passed, I kept quiet and listened to the Bible conversations going on around me and I learned to accept it. At some point being surrounded by faithful people makes you act a little more righteous. There was no competition, no gossip, no back stabbing, no racy jokes or inappropriate innuendos, it just wasn't what I had ever been used to. The men around me were all married and faithful to their wives. God was important, their families were important. They were also very smart. Masters Degrees in Engineering and PhDs. I was taking mental notice.

Several of them had begun reading "Biblical Revelations" by Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich. They talked about it every single day. This is a huge 4 volume set you can buy from Tan books.
Here's a link in case you want to see what I'm talking about. I wasn't about to spend the money for something like this by someone that I had never heard anything about, but at one point I was making casual conversation with my co-worker and said to him, "Well, everyone else is reading this, you are going to have to let me borrow it one of these days..."

I think I was being more polite than serious, but as you can probably guess...

I came to work a few days later and Volume 1 was sitting on my desk... My co-worker was loaning it to me, as he had now moved onto Volume 3.

I will continue my story in a future post about how reading this book immediately began to touch, well melt might be a better word, my heart.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Wedding Invitation That Changed My Life

This post is about how God sets into motion circumstances that change our lives.  It is how He uses other people to lead us to Him through grace.

When my oldest child was born, 6 1/2 years ago, I was successfully selling real estate and making a lot of money, working late nights and every weekend, and not practicing my faith. I got fed up with it all when I missed my daughters 1st birthday because I had to drive across town to show a home to a young couple who ended up ditching me anyway and the deal ended up falling through. I was not able to spend the day as I had planned with my little princess, firstborn, who had just turned one. I was devastated.

Eventually I started sending out resumes in order to obtain a job that was Monday through Friday, in the hopes that I could enjoy the weekends and evenings with my husband and daughter. I knew I would have to take a pay cut, but I didn't care.

I got a call from a company that I was not particularly interested in. It was far from home. I'm not even sure why I went to the interview. I already decided when I walked in that I wasn't going to work there. I didn't like it. They sent me home with an application, which I never filled out, and I never mailed it back to them. I wasn't interested.

Then they called. They wanted to hire me.

I said I wasn't interested. I let the application collect dust on the counter.

A couple weeks later I received an offer of employment from this company. It was for over $25k per year more than the other job offers I had received.

When they called again I tried to gracefully decline, using my current job as an "excuse" because I had some closings I wanted to see to completion in the next couple of months. They told me I could work part time and set my own schedule, they were completely flexible. They literally made it impossible for me to say no! I agreed to start on Valentine's Day and work 2 days a week to "test the waters".

At this place, I was in an alien environment. IT WAS A COMPLETE RADICAL SHIFT FROM WHAT I WAS USED TO.  I went from working with a bunch of women who drove very expensive cars, got their weekly manicures, lived in McMansions, and dressed very fashionable. Now I was working with a bunch of computer nerds who talked about jet engines, the inner workings of compilers, and an awful lot about the bible...

What a bunch of GEEKS!
That was all I could think at first as I just kept to myself and tried to adjust.

Now for the God part... it didn't take me too long to realize that everyone around me in my row of cube-mates was Catholic. (Well, one guy was Russian Orthodox, but he was off site most of the time, so I'm not counting him.)  But seriously folks, I'm talking the-most-devout-Catholics-I-had-never-met-before-Catholic. I was surrounded by 3 people in my row, and 3 others that would come over from other rows to talk to the people in my location, for a total of 6 completely practicing and devout Catholics hovering near by on a daily basis.  I tried hard to ignore them all.

But the people who sat by me, were just so nice...

I was very surprised when one of the gentleman asked me for my address.

"Why?" I wanted to know, always suspicious.

"So I can invite you to my daughter's wedding." 

"But you don't even know me!" was all I could say...

"Well, sure I do. Come on, it will be a good time. We would love to have you there."

So, I reluctantly gave him my address. And when I received the beautiful formal wedding invitation in the mail my bad attitude turned downright horrible when a small card fell out of the RSVP envelope, and it said this:

Our Wedding Ceremony is being held in a Traditional Roman Catholic Church. In honor of the Blessed Sacrament, we request that no sleeveless dresses be worn and that all women please cover their heads. (Veils will be provided.) Thank you.
I grimaced and gawked. My mouth hanging open in disbelief. I mean, this actually offended me. Blinded with pride, I called my sister and read her the invitation and we laughed at it. I jokingly told her, "I don't even OWN a dress that has sleeves. There is no way I'm wearing a stinking veil. I am NOT going to this wedding."

I RSVP'd "No" and told my co-worker that we were going to be out of town that weekend.

He smiled and said genuinely, "I'm so sorry to hear that. But... we will see you at the next wedding then. It will probably be next year." (My last thought was... Good grief, this guy has 7 kids and 5 daughters. Please don't invite me, I am going to have to come up with another excuse to decline...)   

But God had other plans.

To Be Continued... click here


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

I hate my job

I'll spare the gory details... but I am fed up with my job. Right now I hate it.

I'm committed to putting in a 40 hour work week, and dealing with a 2 hour commute every day. And I realize this comes at a cost, and it is my family, and my health, that suffers for it. I also realize it brings many blessings (not really for me at all, but for my family), which I've talked about on here before, and that is why this is a difficult thing to just walk away from.
But I've really had it.

A new position, which is much much more visible and demanding. (No official promotion, though, just a lot more work and a lot more stress, yeah, one of those kind of deals...)

I can't take having to work every evening for hours after the kids go to bed, just so I can "keep up".

I can't take crying in the bathroom anymore because something isn't working and I'm already past the deadline, and I've had no training, and I've been thrown into something beyond which I can handle.

I can't handle feeling like a failure anymore.

I can't handle putting my husband and kids on the backburner.

I can't handle my two year old calling me "daddy" because she sees so little of me.

I can't handle the stress this is causing on my marriage because of built up resentment towards my husband because I hate my job. (And his built up resentment towards me from lack of intimacy, because I am too tired, from lack of taking care of the house, because I am never here, and from in-general all the things I should or could be doing that I can't because I am tied up trying to wrap up yet another 'urgent' work item.)

I can't handle spending more money on daycare than on my mortgage and 2 car payments, combined.

My company is sucking the life out of me.

Every week now since my daughter started CCD, I have met yet another homeschooling mom. Great for them, but it's driving me crazy with jealousy.

I used to think that this was "my cross to bear" and have been trying for the past 4 years to make the best of my situation, but now I am not sure why God would even want me to stay here. I've already learned to swallow my pride, I have been humbled. I have learned to accept people that I have strongly disliked. I have learned not to judge others as much.

Not sure where this is all leading, but it's just where I am at right now. Please say a prayer for me.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Session 3 of The Great Adventure Bible Study

Our third Session of The Bible Timeline Great Adventure concluded our study of Early Genesis, Chapters 1 - 11. We gained deeper insights into the 2 Creation Accounts, the Fall, the Flood, and the descendants of Adam, Seth, Enoch, Noah, and so on.

Some of the most notable things I learned:

The Ark is an old Testament type, or symbol, of the Church. Within the Church, we can safely navigate this treacherous world. God made a covenant with Noah, that he would never again wipe out mankind because He knows that it is in our nature to sin and he patiently waits for us to turn to Him. He marked this covenant with Noah by placing his "bow in the sky" (a rainbow). Isn't it interesting that the word "bow" is used? God hangs His "weapon" in the sky... to signify His love for us and his promise of peace!  After the Flood, it was like a "2nd Creation", and even a "2nd Fall", as man began to fall back into evil and prideful ways, as shown with the building of the Tower of Babel. Why do we have such trouble with trusting entirely in God?

I particular found it interesting that the "confusion" that occurred after the mixing up of languages at The Tower of Babel, was essentially reversed in the New Testament, at Pentecost. when the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles! Wow, I had never made THAT connection before!

There's a lot more to say here, but you will have to go through this study yourself to get all the juicy details.

Somewhere in the introduction, it was recommended that we keep a notebook of the "hard-to-answer" questions so we don't get bogged down in the details and prevent ourselves from moving forward in the narrative story. I don't have a notebook, but I'm kind of using this blog to capture some of my thoughts and I'll just list them below. These are my unanswered questions so far, from the book of Genesis ...(and some of them may be goofy, but... they are things I am wondering!):

* Did Noah bring baby dinosaurs on the Ark? Or did they get left behind?

* Were all men vegetarians until after the Flood?  (Genesis 9:3 seems to imply this.)

* What could the Mark of Cain be? (Genesis 4:15) Was it very dark skin? (Wow, isn't it way politically incorrect to say that today? However, many have said this in the past. The descendants of Cain settled in North Africa. Has this biblical narrative been used to perpetuate racism?) Whatever it was, it prevented his own brothers and sisters from killing him, so it was a mark that came from God. Was it a tattoo or something sacred marked on his forehead? Some of our Church Forefathers have interpreted this as a physical trembling and a horrible countenance, perhaps a form of epilepsy and horrible birthmark?

* Genesis 6:4 is a wild verse. I wrote a blog post about it HERE. Many questions on the Giants or Nephilim...

*  Genesis 9:21-22 is just plain disturbing when you understand the biblical language that "uncovering nakedness" implies incest. (Just skim Leviticus 18 if you don't believe that, and you may reconsider.) So did Canaan either rape his grandfather or perhaps Noah's wife and then tell his father, Ham, about it? Did Ham gossip, brag, or laugh instead of trying to cover his father back up like Shem and Japheth did? Yikes! I would rather just go with the literal interpretation on this one...

OK, well, this is all I've got to say today. If you have made it this far, you are probably in the Bible Study yourself, so you will have to let me know what interesting questions you came up with after getting to this point and how you are enjoying your Bible Study.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

105 Waves, 3 Thumbs Down, and 2 Middle Fingers

Today our church had a "Life Chain". We gathered on the sidewalks up and down the busy streets surrounding the local abortuary for about 5 blocks on each side of the road.  We all held signs and stood peacefully by the street in view of every passing car. It was a good turn out.

I wanted to keep things as "entertaining" as possible for my 6 year old, so I suggested we wave at every passing car and see if we could get 100 people to wave back at us. I would estimate about 1000 people drove by. Most saw us, as it was impossible not to, but pretended not to see. Most didn't care. A lot of people honked and waved and smiled. (This was '1' point each.) My 6 year old, and I, kept smiling and waving. Some people reluctantly waved or gave a little nod. (Hard to ignore a little 6 year old vigorously waving at you with all her excitement and her toothless grin... '1' point each.) A few people gave us a big "Thumbs Down"... and 2 horrible people held up their middle finger, looking directly at US... towards me as I held my 6 month old infant and my waving smiling 6 year old. One guy even yelled "F You!" at the top of his lungs with so much anger, I felt a backlash of anger welling up in myself. Who would flip off a little girl and a new born baby? Are you for real? It was appalling. I had to stifle the urge to flip HIM off 2 fold. (I told you, I am not always the perfect Christian.) Fortunately, I got a hold of myself and realized that THOSE were the people whom we were standing out there for... the people that were REALLY angry that we were there. Those people are the poor souls that we need to pray and fast for in order to bring about a conversion of their hearts and for the salvation of their souls. Why would they be so angry? They were all old men! Can you believe that? What happened in your past to make you hate what we were doing so much? To make you hate all that pro-life stands for? To yell horrible obscenities at my little girls? There was so much hatred in those gestures, even if for only a passing instant on a busy street. Is it because you are voting for Obama? Is it because you have turned against God because of something painful that happened to you?  Did you and an ex girlfriend from your long-ago past make a decision to terminate her pregnancy and now you have buried the hurt deep inside and have to justify it through a hatred of Christianity?

My little daughter asked me what that "bad sign" meant, I could only shake my head in disbelief and tell her that it meant something very mean, and that those people were not on "our side"... they didn't believe that all babies should have a chance at being born and that if a mother didn't want to have a baby then she could decide just to make the baby go away, instead of offering the baby for another family who wanted to raise and love the child. Even my daughter had the sense to look at me and say, "Well how can they think THAT?  Even they were born..."

It all reminded me of Ronald Reagan's famous quote:

"I've noticed that everyone who is for abortion has already been born."

So, after we collected our 100 waves, we stood for a few more minutes to catch just 5 more, to make up for the 5 "Bad Guys". And when we gathered together to say our Rosary at the end, we said it not only for the intention of all the innocent babies slaughtered through abortion, but also for those 5 people who didn't like our signs. God only knows what good these things do... it usually feels like a lost effort and that you aren't going to change anybody's mind. But I know we have to keep trying.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Session 2 of The Great Adventure Bible Study

I am really enjoying The Great Adventure Bible Timeline Catholic Bible Study and wanted to post a quick update on how things are going. We meet every other Wednesday and it is a "Women's Group" at a local Catholic Church. It's really nice to be in there with other women, and the 2 hour "get-a-way" is a life saver. Two whole hours to talk about and study God's word, free from changing poopy diapers, crying babies and toddlers and all the distractions of a very busy home and stressful full time job! I sure do need this!

I didn't mention this earlier, but this study is about giving the "Big Picture" of the Bible and Salvation History through studying the 14 narrative books of the bible, starting with Genesis and working through the New Testament. The premise is that once a chronological story emerges, we have a full context for understanding what is really going on, how the Old Testament relates to the New, and how to place everything else into its proper historical context. We spend the first hour discussing our reading and our "homework" questions, and the second half watching an informative video by Jeff Cavins.

During this second session we reviewed Genesis 1-3. We talked about the 2 different accounts of Genesis and what they mean. We talked about the Fall and the promise of a redeemer in Genesis 3:15. It is really great to study Genesis in such detail with slow daily reading. There is so much depth here, it never ceases to amaze me. Right now the 2nd creation account really speaks to me (Genesis 2:5-25) and has me pondering God's original plan for marriage and how men and women relate and compliment each other. And just as an aside, it's really amazing that once you start reading something like this (The opening chapters of Genesis), it starts to appear everywhere, and I mean everywhere! My 6 year old is studying Creation in CCD, so I really enjoyed talking with her about the 6 days of Creation and even got to sit in her class with her. My husband coincidentally rented The Genesis Code, which was a really interesting movie talking about how to reconcile a literal interpretation of the "Days of Creation" with modern day science. In light of my readings, it was very timely. I could go on and on, but you get the idea.

It is also nice that everyone seems to be taking to the Catechism, and understanding that it isn't "just a boring meaningless book". It is really cool how this study ties in a lot of Catechism reference and by going through this course, you aren't only going to learn the Bible, but you are going to learn a lot of what the Church actually teaches as well.