Tuesday, November 27, 2012

It's a "God Thing"

Years of rhetoric and every piece of advice that could be shared was given me when I came home from the convent, a broken, barely living human being. I buried myself in school, trying to get through the pain I could not avoid and burying the pain I could in being active in university classes and the WCWA. Suicidal thoughts and wishes gripped me in my weakest moments as an unholy demon tried to take possession of me.  It has been a long, very hard, and sometimes horrible journey of recovery, these past seven years. I couldn't be what I thought I could have been - what I did want to be...and after university when the recession hit, I didn't have anything to bury myself in. No schoolwork, no history papers, not even the WCWA after a visit to Gettysburg so traumatized me and then my asthma flared up something awful that I couldn't be around black gun powder smoke.  There was no more hiding.  I had come home noticeably thin - what doctors and experts say would be my 'ideal weight' - but that weight was a result of weight loss through extreme emotional, mental, and psychological duress. I pretty much maintained a size 8-10 for my 5'2" large bone frame - until university finished, and my goal to work in the National Park Service as an Historical Interpreter was lost in the recession.  All I could get was sporadic seasonal and part-time jobs no matter how hard I tried. And over the course of 4 years struggling with major depression, PTSD, and Panic Disorder, having no self-confidence and no sure goal of 'where I wanted to be in five years,' I went from a size 10 to 12 to 14 to size 22W. Yeah, it runs in the family, but genes were not the problem. 

America has an obesity problem, but think about this the next time you see one of us obese women: there is more than meets the eye as to why we are in the shape we are. And until this past holiday weekend of Thanksgiving, nothing was going to change because I didn't care anymore. If I had clothes that fit and a warm home and reassured God was taking care of me, it didn't matter how fat I was, even if I was pre-diabetic and my physical health continued to deteriorate.  But something did happen to change all of that - something that can only be described as a "God thing." A "God thing" is a miraculous light-bulb that comes on when there is inadequate 'electrical wiring' to have a light bulb there in the first place.  During the weekend, I saw an online special - a snippet from a talk show on health called "Your Unhappiest Age." An intriguing title, I clicked on it to watch what the 'experts' had to say.  Apparently due to kids, family commitments, work obligations, etc., a poll taken showed that women reported their unhappiest age at 37 and men at 42.  (And I'm only 30.)  Then the psychologist went on and said the one thing that broke through the fog that has clouded my process of thinking all these years. She said that exercise was just as effective as anti-depressants in treating depression.  Yes, I had known I needed to increase the exercise in my weekly and daily routine to help lose weight, manage my cholesterol and blood sugar...but until she said it, I was not the person to listen to just any one's 2-cents worth on health perspectives. But God's Hand reached down and created a light in the darkness I was in, a darkness no one else had been able to penetrate.  Why not be happy for me? Why continue to be unhappy for the misery caused by the convent, the life I lead after leaving the convent (which was a choice I didn't want to make, but saw no other alternative to saving what was left of me)? Why not be happy for my own sake? Not someone else's - not happy for someone else's being. If I was to be healthy, I had to work on being happy.  I never looked at it like that before. Why not be happy for happiness' sake because when God created everything, He created it beautiful and good?

Sound a bit off, a bit self-centered? Am I off on a tangent, perhaps headed into a wrong direction of thought? For a long time, I believed I could never be happy if I wasn't healthy. Truth was, I wasn't healthy because I was unhappy. I made up my mind - I was going to work on it. Yes, 3 - 4 days later, life is still chaotic with two weeks of the 2nd quarter left to go for my Medical Receptionist certification. But courage is not a loud roar - well, not always. It is that voice at the end of the day, when all is said and done, saying with firm belief: "I will try again tomorrow." So what if out of the past few days when I have decided to incorporate using my exercise bike while praying my rosary I have only been able to do it once for 15 minutes? It's a start! And I am not going to give up. For every breath I breath, may I enjoy it because God gave it to me because He loves me.  When I lose weight, for every pound may God be praised, for I am taking care of that which He entrusted to me to care for; and should I reach my goal of finally fitting back into a size 8/10 or just being able to wear beautiful dresses like those traditional Chinese wrap dresses or a ballgown for the WCWA ball, let the glory go to Him for the beauty He gave me to share with the world. A symbol of His love for all to see who wish to see it.  Let laughter come back into my life everyday, and with every laugh a smile to share with those around me - not just a beautiful girl, but a woman of God.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Sunday's Life Changing Moment

Well, the first week of classes at BTC didn't go well, and I had this question hanging in front of me that if it wasn't working out, maybe it's God trying to tell me I'm doing the wrong thing and not the devil preventing me from reaching a goal.  All the week before classes I kept getting the idea I was supposed to be in the class I switched to the Monday after my epiphany.  Anyway, we celebrated my sister's birthday at her house over the weekend, and while using her internet access, saw she left the page open.  I had so many doubts nagging me about my classes, my program of study...I decided to enter an online prayer petition (a special little service they've set up on there - you really should check it out).  They receive the petition, print it out and with all the other petitions pray over them as a community, then have them present at the monthly apparition of Our Lady.  Well, they must have been praying right when I had the epiphany.  I suddenly lit up like I was struck by lightning and said "I should be a radiologist!"  Something I've avoided for quite a while in confronting - fears reasonable and unreasonable have kept me from pursuing that career and tech training.  I was registered in the Medical Receptionist program, but the official switch to Radiology Technian will be in October because of Admissions/Financial Aid paperwork/red tape.  So, suddenly shedding the fear of facing intense study, the new technology to deal with, the financial debt, etc. I suddenly embraced the calling confronting me without worry of anything.  I can finally get a job that has local accessibility and security to be close to my family and take care of myself economically.  Our Lady of Medjugorje has been very present in my life lately, and with the easy switch into the right classes (I have 4 pre-requisite classes before I can start the program), things are just falling into place.  And October is the Month of the Rosary.  I'm quite looking forward to it.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Power of the Rosary

Many people underestimate the power of the rosary, even the mere presence of one.  By it's very existence, it tests the mettle men and women are made of.  Scott Hahn related in his youth how when his grandmother, a devout Catholic, died, that his family gave him all her religious belongings.  Not that he was Catholic - he was non-denominational Christian with an anti-Catholic slant.  He didn't hate the Church - he hated what he thought it was.  Among her possessions he inherited was her rosary, which she prayed fervently as he well recalled.  He picked up what he believed to be a 'symbol of misguided devotion,' and pulled it apart into pieces, thinking that his grandmother was 'free of such superstitious chains that bound her on earth.'  Years later when he converted, he yearned for that rosary.  A vibrant memory of his grandmother's faith, the true faith he had finally found.

I have to say that many who know me know of my annual collection of rosaries for rosary mission charities.  Some come in the mail, others as gifts...many people do not see the point of having more than one rosary.  It is, for all intense purposes, a tool of prayer.  This is very evident in the 'Ladder Rosary.'  It relates back to the beginning of mendicant orders, where one saint had a dream of two ladders to heaven: one steep one leading straight up to Jesus, but his brothers kept falling off the ladder; the other was a ladder to Mary, Jesus' mother.  Jesus said to the saint in that dream: "Tell your brethren to climb to heaven by means of the ladder to my Mother."  It was more at a gradual angle for easier climbing.  All right, if you are set on having only one rosary, fine.  But let me relate to you some experiences I have had that will make you think twice.

Until recently, I felt guilty of having all these 'extra' rosaries around me because I knew somewhere someone could be using it to pray on and here I just had it lying about for convenience.  A rosary in the car, a rosary in my purse, a rosary on the wall, a couple of gifted rosaries I felt I could not give away because they were gifts.  I took a hard look to see what I 'needed' as far as rosaries go.  The wall one would stay - it hangs by my bedroom door.  It is special not only because I made it, and made it out of luminescent beads, but the crucifix is a large pectoral style St. Benedict crucifix for protection.  I kept the first rosary (encased in a glass heart-shaped jewelry dish) that I felt Mother Mary gave me - the first rosary I sincerely and seriously prayed with while recovering from PTSD from the convent.  I kept the one in the car for emergencies and as a spare in case my traveling companion (whoever that might be) might want to pray the rosary while we drove to town, 45 minutes from our house in the county.  (And I have mastered the art of praying the rosary in hand while driving safely - it's all a matter of technique.)  And in memory of Our Lady's miraculous apparition and blessing at Medjugore, I keep one rosary hanging from the curtain rod above my window, facing out as a protectorant against evil.  And of course, the rosary I have to pray with does change frequently.  As I said, I am quick to give in generosity or charity.  I had a splendid pink crystal rosary my uncle got for me in Rome, blessed by the Pope and touched to the tomb of Bl. Pope John Paul II.  I loaned it to a friend of a friend who has aggressive malignant breast cancer and is 34 weeks pregnant.  I have come to terms that I may never get that rosary back and I have occasional pangs of regret - but the greater good must come first.  I gave it to her to comfort her.

But returning to that luminous rosary in the window, the cheap plastic string ones you can get for 99 cents - there's a good story behind that.  When I was a young nun, one of the visionaries from Medjugore was touring San Diego and giving talks on the apparitions.  It so happened to be arranged that one of his talks took place in our chapel, open to the sisters on one side and the public on the other.  At the end of the talk he gave, we met with him in the vestibule, and he gave us rosaries blessed by the Mother of God in a recent apparition.  Yes, it was the common plastic ones most people shrug off as cheap, replaceable 'things,' but to me it was gold.  I never had a present like it before or since.  I was in complete awe that Our Lady would send me a rosary with her personal blessing.  I used that rosary - I prayed with it until the cord frayed and broke and even then I kept it close.  At first I wrapped it around my metal bed frame, and then I wrapped it on the latch of the window of my cell (room).  That was while I was in the novitiate.  Time came for me to take my first vows eventually, and I was moved into the professed sisters section of the convent.  I left the rosary in my old cell.  The reason being, I wanted whoever had that cell to be protected.  You see, the convent was a section of the older part of the retirement home, locked off by heavy fire doors.  It was 3 stories tall and had a basement.  The novitiate was on the 3rd floor, professed sisters on the second, and on the first was the kitchen, refectory, offices, infirmary cells, and adjacent chapel. 

The novitiate floor used to be divided in half - one corridor for candidates and postulants and one corridor for the novices, keeping us segregated until my last six months of postulancy.  It was decided that since the mistress of novices was put in charge of postulants and candidates as well, that the dividing wall would be knocked down, and so it was.  It became in general the formation floor of the convent.  But something strange happened after the wall came down.  At different times, all of us at one time or other heard mysterious footsteps at night, pacing the hall - sometimes even coming into the rooms at night...but you could see no one.  Then things got worse.  Unnerving as it was to see inexplicable figures of a nun in habit on occasion, we somehow acquired a poltergeist.  Two of us would be in one room, and hear a great commotion so loud we knew it came from the adjacent room, and despite the rules of privacy we went to investigate.  Most of the time, nothing would be found to be disturb.  Other times, things like medicine bottles from the bathroom cabinets would fly out of a closed cabinet with considerable force.  And there were the demons.  We had one to three which eventually were exorcised - one by proper rite with a priest, one with the leaving of a postulant, and the other one - that one I exorcised myself, with the help of Mother Mary's rosary from Medjugore. 

I was a professed sister and these disturbances still persisted, and it came time for the new Mother General of the Order to make her visit to the convent as required by the Rules.  Since the second floor was full and almost overflowing, it was decided to host our new Mother General in the third floor rooms, as well as her Senior Advisor.  The room chosen for Mother was my old room.  We not only knocked ourselves out cleaning the entire convent Marine-style, but I went around with permission (and this was after the official exorcism) with blessed salt and taped it to the door frames, cabinets, etc.  When I got to my old room, by my sixth sense unquestionably present was the last demon who had evaded all attempts to cast him out.  Caught between myself with blessed salt as I stood in the doorway and the window which still had my Medjugore rosary wrapped on the inside lock, I was suddenly impressed with the feeling that it was in immense terror because it was cornered and could not flee.  I had chased that thing all over the third floor - nothing was going to hurt Mother General as long as I could do something about it.  Between the rosary and the salt, it had no where to go.  I could not see it visibly but no one can deny the powerful evil essence present.  But it was weak, it was vulnerable.  I commanded it's attention in Biblical terms aloud: "By the power of Jesus, Son of God and God Almighty, by His name I command you to leave!  And by Blessed Mary ever Virgin, Mother of God, I command you to never come back!"  My body felt as if prepared for a wrestling match.  By those words, the demon was cast out and never returned.  And I was very, very amazed at power God granted me to do such a feat.  Had it been me and the salt, I think it would have found somewhere to hide.  But when cornered by the powerful presence of Mary's rosary and her devout daughter, it stood no chance to remain present.  And that is why, my brothers and sisters, for all the crosses, statues, crucifixes, and medals, I prefer to keep a rosary in the window, be it of my car or my room.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

I Have Survived

Well, first I must say that I am sorry it's taken me so long to post.  There are several things I wish to talk about, including the absolute degenerate status of religious orders...sorry - hard to write with a chip on my shoulder.  I went to confession today, and an elderly Irish priest was substituting in place of our recently new replacement at Sacred Heart.  I had mention that I was an ex-Carmelite nun, and he asked me (after telling me he'd been a priest for almost 70 years) to pray for a friend of his.  She was a Carmelite nun who had to leave her convent because of the same fractious spirit afflicting her former community.  Although she had applied to 6 or 7 convents, they all made their excuses to not accept her.  Now there is nothing wrong with her, but unfortunately age discrimination is a plague in the religious orders of the Catholic Church.  I know that first hand from when I joined the convent I was formerly in, of the way the nuns in administration and interior ranks used to comment about not giving God "leftovers."  Yes, you read that right.  Anyone over the age of 35 has to have a martyr's excuse as to why they didn't try to join earlier in life, such as caring for their crippled mother until she died or something.  And after 40 - well, you'd better want it above all else and give twice of what you've got to even get considered.  I know that I am ineligible (because of my PTSD/major depression/Panic Disorder caused from the convent I was in) though I still feel the call to serve, but it is absolutely sickening, that in her hour of need, a servant of the Church and bride of Christ Himself is cast aside because of 50 years already spent in service and could take no more of the factioning and digressive politics that run rampant in many US convents. 
I am still in contact with one nun from my former community, a friend who entered after I did and was there firsthand in all I/we went through and still remained...sometimes I wish she'd forget me, other times I wonder if she or any of the others care at all about me.  I did help a lot to reform that convent, but the price was that of my health, mental health mostly.  Although I pray to St. Dymphna to be cured to serve again, I keep having panic attacks and meltdowns....obviously it's not meant to be.
God graced me, though, in a spiritual way I haven't experienced since I was in the convent.  It was on the Feast of the Assumption.  God only knows why and by how, but a complete change took place.  Not only had I perfect contrition for my sins, a deep love for God and all His creation, and a wonderfully grateful spirit for all I had been given (good and ill), the ardor of my soul was revived and I felt as I had before in the convent.  I was a living spirit & soul of Love itself - a heavenly chosen flower, gathered at the altar on Mary's feast of her Assumption into Heaven; all living, breathing, present for the sole glory of God.  It was wonderful.  And I was so grateful to God and thankful to Mary.  And somehow the thought prevailed upon me, quietly though persistent, that it was partly due to the prayers of that good friend of mine that I had left behind in the convent that all this happened.  What I'm supposed to make of it...I know there are many different ways to look at it and as many explanations for it but I don't much care for how's or why's anymore.  I'm just grateful it happened, and I hope it will happen again.  As the splendor in the firmament (or plainly put, the stars in the night sky) gave me hope of great proportion in my darkest hour as a teen, and thoughts of going to the moon, of being an astronaut, carried me through the roughest patches of PTSD recovery when I left the convent, I'll hold just as dear the dahlias I treasure that bloom this time of year for God cares for them though they toil not... I'm reassured all the more that He does care for me, and for every human being.  God bless you all.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Dedicated To The Ones I Love....

Why does the pussy willow bleed
where the bark has been skinned
but the leaves remain green?

Happy 4th of July, everyone.

Last night I got to thinking about my family - my greatest earthly blessing aside from freedom and liberty.  I don't speak much of my brother and sister, but I thought I'd would do so now.  My dear, sweet sister Trish, whose birthday is only 18 months later than mine, is an exceptional woman.  A fantastic mother who has a wonderful talent at being a mother; an adoring wife, a loving sister, a devoted daughter...  Of all the pleasant people in the world, one of them that you should meet is my sister, Trish.  Thoroughly likable and lovable by all, even by people from different worlds, you could say.  A bit of frustration for me personally was understanding her decorative style, especially after she got married, had the three kids....she's a minimalist at heart, but pity her relatives aren't.  She keeps saying she has 'way too much stuff already' and not to get her or the kids non-practical things.  She's got a good head on her shoulders and a big heart...although, she says that could stand to be extended by "two more feet" :)  A very thorough parent - nothing is given or used by the kids until it has been extensively researched.  She's more disciplined than I am - who would have expected that?!  We grew up like Oscar and Felix - I was the tidy, organized one.  But with all the health set backs in childhood, she grew into a strong woman.  She's definitely the 'poster girl' for JRA: what doesn't kill you can make you stronger as long as you're willing to not let it cripple you.

To my brother, who started out as early in life in politics as I did the convent - he's one of a kind!  Ask most people who've met him, and the word that pops to mind is sarcastic.  It is both a helpful asset and an a character flaw.  He's the realist.  Called a pessimist and an optimist, he sees the glass as containing 5/7ths of its capacity.  It's just the way things are.  We're a lot alike, Will and I, but he's gotten tired of me saying "I know!" to everything he talks about.  And then again, we are different - he's a strategist (I retired), politics and religion are not just his bread and butter but his heart and soul.  Try talking to me about politics and religion in depth and I just tune out.  He's a fair-minded person who will always hear your side even if he doesn't agree with you.  He loves debate. Real debate, not arguing.  He loves his nephews dearly and his new little niece, Ellie.  He'd make a wonderful father.  I always look at him at least once when he's home for the weekend and wonder who he'll marry.  My bet is on a Russian or Japanese, but when it comes to the odds, I've no money to gamble.  Where I gave up for my sanity's sake, he kept to the road in his life on political campaigns because no matter what, that's what he wants to do in life.  There are times when he comes home for a break and crashes that I wonder if it would be feasible for him to get an MA and become a political professor.  But he's a doer.  He does a lot of background work, but you'll see him from time to time with some candidate on the news.  Even when I was a nun, the sisters kept saying "Someday that kid will be president and I'm going to vote for him!"  His strength of character enables him to be the ideal political advisor in every way.

Well, that leaves mom and dad, but I think I'll stop for now and see what they respond with to what I've written.  Be safe, everyone!  Fireworks are NOT toys - they are dangerous.  And don't booze up 'til you're drunk!  Every 48 seconds, some drunk person causes another person to end up using a handicapped parking space.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

I Have Come to a Decision

A day ago, I went clothes shopping with my mom, as she needed to return some clothes she got for her birthday for a smaller size.  I was very happy that she dropped 2 sizes.  Inside my head, I was scolding myself for how much weight I'd gained since last year.  Well, the past four years but last year was when I gained my obesity 'stature.' When I came home in 2005, I was a size 8 and stayed medium sized through the end of my university studies in 2008.  Now, I weigh just under 225 lbs. at a height of 5'3".  When I was with mom at the store, I tried on some dresses and blouses, only to be disgusted by my reflection in the changing room mirror, that my stomach was swelling past my DD breasts.  When I get sick with some abdominal problem (IBS or flu virus), I eat what tastes good to me and won't make me gag and feel more ill.  In other words, ice cream, pudding, etc.  Now I have had a sit down 'come-to-Jesus' talk with my doctor in March or April that I was teetering on the edge of pre-diabetes.  Well, I got right on the nutritionist's plan of modifying my diet and exercising 3-5 days a week.  But, despite my efforts of not trying to get sick by taking large doses of Vitamin C, I got sick the beginning of June, and despite my little weight loss victory by the end of May, I gained it all back because I gave up dieting and regular exercise.  My stair-stepper and my exercise bike remain untouched, and I'm just trying to get the cravings under control since I ate when I could and wanted to.  That same day we went shopping, we stopped at Shari's for lunch, and a lady more obese than myself at the table behind us aspirated her drink.  I sat praying for her while mom and a few other customers tried to get her to remain calm because she thought she was choking and 911 dispatch wasn't there yet.  She was choking at first, but God be praised, the obstruction dislodged.  I, a former CNA, looked on in fear - I could do the Heimlich maneuver, but she was way, way too big for me to get my arms around her.  She was in her early 50s, I think, and as I prayed for God to spare her because in His eyes she was still young with many things to do with her life, I thought to myself "I have got to change; otherwise, I'll end up like her."  Over the years, I have found that when a problem arises, it is best to just deal with the situation instead of engaging in a barrage of finger-pointing arguments about who or what started the issue.  I was not happy that day, despite mom's efforts to try and cheer me up.  She saw me crying in the store when I tried on the clothes.  Not that we could afford them but because of what I let myself look like - a physical wreck.  Later, when we were home, she told me of a lady's weight loss story on one of her favorite websites, about how every time she fell down on the road to weight loss, she turned to God and prayed to get back up and keep going - to not give up.  From the time mom had told me that, I have felt more assured and confident to face my weight loss struggle.  God has been whispering to me over and over the quote from Proverbs to "trust in the Lord with all your heart."  For the first time in years, I feel content.  I truly do.  I am going to college for technical training, and by God's grace overcome my fear of taking out student loans for fear of debt.  I no longer struggle daily with thoughts of suicide.  That is a major milestone in my life.  I try not to make a big deal of things, but if my family truly knew of how I felt - the significance of overcoming suicidal emotions, how much it means - I'd like to have a party to celebrate it.  I'd even go for a surprise party, and I normally do not like surprises.  But I am a very modest person, and content myself in thanking God for what He has done for me and for the family and friends He has provided me with, who support me so much.  Yes, I could blame my hormones, my human weakness, and especially my fear to do things alone, like take walks or go swimming, but blame changes nothing and only hurts.  So I will whisper back to God to help me get through this, because I do trust in Him....and at my very worst, at least I want to trust in Him.  Praise the Lord, for He is good - His steadfast love endures forever!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Missionary Hopes

"And when you stop and think about it
You won't believe it's true
That all the love you've been giving
Has all been meant for you."
                -Moody Blue's "Question"

When I was about 12/13, I had a religious conversion - what Protestants call "being born again."  I am a cradle Catholic, and have always been true to my faith.  When God showed me His love for me and that there is nothing so bad that I experienced (being bullied, sexually harrassed at school) that He couldn't handle. Indeed, His love is greater than our sins, faults, and failings.  That was one of two reasons I wanted to become a missionary - to give to others the hope and love God had given to me.

The second reason with which I didn't come to terms of understanding until just recently, and only on reflecting with a spiritual group on FB was I was looking for love to heal all the past hurt.  The loner I was at school - the outcast, the ridiculed, the harrassed; the thouroughly unwelcome existence I lived as a religious (nun)....the positive social experiences I had with my family and with the 26th NC of the WCWA...  I finally realized that I had been looking for love all the time, more than wanting to share my beliefs with others.  Every person has a unique story to tell about their relationship with God.  This is mine.

When Fr. John came to our parish for the summer in 1995, he spoke of the beauty of the his community parish, the place in Kenya that he came from, and it awoke something in my heart.  I finally understood that God truly loved me, and that going to mass was more than a Sunday ritual.  As much as I wanted to give, I had a subconcious ulterior motive in wanting to become a missionary.  If these people were so wonderful and truly Christian, I wanted to be with them to experience the kind of love that Fr. John talked about when trying to reach out to us to support the missions. 

We'll, I've been full circle, to the extreme some might think: I entered a convent at 17, having decided that being a missionary was my calling, having even prepared myself as best I could spiritually since my converion.  But the convent was worse than anyone could have imagined, and after five and a half years, I left - broken, bruised, bloody and beaten.  It has taken 12 years to get my life back in order so that I can move on and away of what I landed in, leaving the nest so young.  And until this year, 7 years since I left, my religious battles were difficult, but being persistent and trusting in God, I had a second "born-again" experience. 

It was all about realizing just what being human means, and truly understanding what God did in becoming human and dying for our sins.  And now I sit here, typing the last pages to the chapter of my life that spanned 17 years.  When I think of it all in retrospect, it's hard to believe what a mess we make of the gifts that God gave us.  I could be a linguist, traveling the world...but I'm not.  I could be a biochemist or pharmacist...but I'm not.  God leads you to where He wants you to be, even though most of the time you are wondering 'what the heck is going on?' 

I always wanted to make a positive difference in other peoples' lives.  I just wanted to help in whatever manner I could.  Mother Teresa of Calcutta was right: charity begins at home.  And like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, when the memories of the past are quite vivid in reflecting, I keep thinking: "There's no place like home.  There's no place like home...."

Sunday, June 17, 2012


Today is not one of my best days, but I felt the need to write after an interesting idea struck me in the middle of mass yesterday while Fr. Christopher gave his lecture.  I don't know why the historian in me breathes again, or how it started to breathe in the first place.  I think initially it was the tactile inclination towards holding a worn down, smooth historical item like the 19th century nun's crucifix I received as a present prior to entering the convent.  Or how much I was moved in the 8th grade when we watched the movie "Glory" in our homeroom class.  Anyway, I wanted to buy for sometime a WWI bullet shrine from Etsy or eBay because of religious motivations, and partly historical interest.  I can't afford most of them.  Even $20 is a lot to spend these days when we need to focus on getting the essentials to live with what the bankruptcy court allows us to retain from the paycheck.
Anyway, I was sitting there at mass, holding my belovedly worn, early 1900 French rosary crucifix during mass, and I thought as father spoke about leading a good and holy life about those who have lived before us, in the not-so-distant past, who prayerfully wore down this crucifix I now treasure.  From what I had and gave away, to images on Etsy and eBay, I wonder about the personal prayer lives of the people who used these sacramentals...about what they talked to God about, what their relationship was with him.  The silent lives of the unspoken saints: the mother who prayed the rosary on her knees in the kitchen while her son fought in the trenches in WWI; the soldier whose fear of death brought him closer to his faith as he held and prayed with the small ebony crucifix his grandmother gave him before he left to serve his country...  Stories passed down from families, journals, letters, and a scattering of 'relics': the bullet shrines, the crosses, the rosaries that were preserved by loved ones - it's all we have left to know of these unknown saints who silently carried the torch of faith during the tumultuous times of the past century.

I always felt it a great shame that my history professors in university never wanted to go into detail about the first World War.  I think an explanation along the lines of "it would only confuse you to go over it in detail in relation to WWII" was used with much wear.  At the time, as a student, you don't want confusion - you want facts, and although a true student wants to learn at all times, you mostly focus on passing your classes with good grades.  Sorry, I digress.  At any rate, my thought was to begin researching what I could and to write about these articles - the crucifixes and so forth, the underground chapels - even the people in so far as I could that lived through "the war to end all wars."  I can't say I don't know where to start or how to do it - I graduated with a BA in History.  It's a matter of how much I'm devoted to the subject.  I spent three or four years as a Civil War reenactor (woman soldier) in the 26th North Carolina regiment, G company of the Washington Civil War Association.  My thesis paper was on women soldiers of the American Civil War.  But my interest and activity came to a quick and sudden end when my asthma worsened and I couldn't be around black powder smoke, which incidentally developed not long after the visit I made to Gettysburg, PA to the battlefields of 1863.  I never expected the atmosphere to be one of overwhelming trauma; it was one thing to study or peruse the museums, but to be on the battlefield, having just watched the Cyclorama presentation of the Battle of Gettysburg at the National Museum - it was all way too much to handle.  I had traveled to Gettysburg with a friend from Philadelphia who I was visiting.  After the 'live battle' presentation, I was in a state of shock and quite withdrawn, making very poor company for my traveling companion.  So what's stopping me from researching this interest in WWI history?  I don't want to be traumatized again.  Chances are 1000 to 1 of me ever visiting France or touring the old Siegfried Line, but it's really hard to keep your personal distance when you have a handicap like I have: panic disorder. 

I keep looking at my crucifix, thinking I should at least write a magazine article or something.  I'm not one of the novel types, who settle for the "Red Badge of Courage" speculation of what it must have been like.  I want reality.  But sometimes reality bites.  I even found myself wondering today if I should take my brother's advice and go back to university and get my Master's degree.  I like reading history, I like researching, I like writing on history, but the old Irish saying is right: there's no future in the past.  And so far, from all the prayer and signs, it definitely looks like the right thing to peruse my certification as a Medical Receptionist at Bellingham Technical College.  But I guess it wouldn't hurt to write on the side, would it?  To keep the inner historian in me breathing and my mind focused that the world is a much bigger place than just where I live?

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Month of the Sacred Heart

As most Catholics universally know that June is dedicated to the special devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, I would like to reflect on that very subject.  Months ago, in a grocery store which had a 'latino' food aisle which was incidentally the main arterial passage to the back of the store, I was picking out tortillas when this teenager and her mother came to the section of religious candles for home altars.  Now, this store is in a town called Lynden, WA, where it is something of a world record for having more churches than people in a given measured area. (I can't remember the exact detail on it, but you can look it up.)  Now Lynden is a Dutch town - if you are born there, odds are 2:1 you are related to half of the town's residents.  It is (being Dutch) predominately Protestant, with the First Reformed Netherlands Congregational Church, also known as the First Reformed Church, close to the First Reformed CHRISTIAN Church, and a few blocks away the Third Reformed Church couples with Christ the King Evangelical Church, close to St. Joseph's Church, which is but a couple of miles from the Second Reformed Church which is now the Faith Community Church.  Then, there's the Baptist Church, and the Lutheran Church, and on and on and on!  So, I am in the 'latino' aisle deciding on tortillas when curiosity overcame the teenager and she went to look at the candles.  The first one she looked at just blew her away. "The Sacred Heart of Jesus !?!  What's that supposed to be?"  Before I could say anything within an earshot, her mother came back from the bread section (closer to the front of the aisle) to retrieve her daughter who was beginning to get stares of sad attention from those few shoppers around her.  She reminded me very much of a blond cheerleader, not just in the fact that she looked like one, but that she couldn't shut up long enough to process her thoughts to herself.  No, she had to have everyone's attention that there was this candle with a devotional picture of Jesus' Sacred Heart exposed that people worshipped.  I'm going, "Oiy."  Here in this over populated church town of 'pious' Dutch, the thought that Jesus gave us His Life so that we might live, WITH ALL HIS HEART, didn't even register to this teenage girl that it paralleled (poorly, I admit) with a high-school sweetheart offering her gifts and goodies and all his love to her WITH HIS OWN fallible, weak heart...  As they left I was partially berating myself for not going over to her to explain this concept to her, but mostly praying that God would hit her with a two by four to realize that the Sacred Heart of Jesus was the temple of His love for us...all of us!  No exceptions!

Pitiful a devotee as I am, I more practice devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus. (If you want more info on that devotion, leave a comment and I'll get back to you.)  My mother is the one with more devotion to the Sacred Hearts of Mary and Jesus.  In fact, thanks to an Etsy shopkeeper, Alexandra C., mom will be getting a very special medal for her birthday which falls on the same day of Jesus' cousin, John the Baptist.  I can never forget the 24th of June.  But as we start this month of June, a major change is taking place in our parish, Sacred Heart.  Our priest of these past six years is leaving tomorrow to enter a Benedictine monastery.  I cannot put into words how and what I feel about this.  I only pray for his protection.  But he's in a much more experienced state and age than I was when I entered the convent.  He is an exceptional priest.  Of him it can be truly said that he was loved because he loved his flock as Christ did, and laid down his life for his friends (i.e. worldly desires, other vocations and occupations he could have pursued).  I wish I could have told him that - in spite of a sizable number at mass tonight, when he was explaining how he interpreted our love for him during his sermon, I wanted to stand up and clarify to him what I just wrote for you.  Stumbling through a sermon not only on the Holy Trinity but one on how we have changed his life and left an imprint on his heart over the past six years, I smiled and looked at the crucifix in my hands.  I would tell him later, when we would say goodbye for the last time.  But after mass, the whole congregation was lined up to give him their fondest wishes and personal goodbyes.  Since I had written to him several times since he announced that he was leaving, mom and I sort of squeezed out the crowded entry and left before the parking lot wars ensued. (That's an exaggeration - there are no wars, but there is a lot of stop and go traffic between people trying to get out asap and those who are overly polite and won't shift until those from different lot sections have a chance to make it to the driveway.)

Although I bought ex voto images of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary to display in my room, there's something just not eye-catching, I guess you'd call it.  This is only the second day of June; the first one already sent me into a flurry of activity and the ultimate emotional breakdown by 3 PM trying to make class arrangements to attend Bellingham Technical College.  Yes, Fridays are always rough for true Christians - in some way we all participate in the Passion of Jesus every Friday.  It is part of our spiritual lives.  I know the official feast of the Sacred Heart falls mid-June, and I think the minor feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary follows it, but it's been too long since I looked at a church calendar.  I don't do the Liturgy of the Hours anymore, since I left the convent.  Until today, I had many, many chaplets plus the rosary that I prayed.  But I have let myself, in moments of feeling fidgety, become distracted very much in prayer.  Any saint can be quoted: "It is better to say one Our Father with fervent devotion than to pray a thousand, lost in distraction."  The Bible quotes Our Lord saying "these people honor me with their lips, but not their hearts."  Yes, now I understand the old proverb that the best intentions pave the road to hell - mostly from experience in the convent and since.  So I did heartfelt prayers to each saint instead of the many chaplets contained in two different jewelry boxes as there are so many, and settled for that and the Divine Mercy chaplet and the rosary I still need to pray.  I feel peaceful.  I later went back and did 3 of the chaplets purely out of love for God.  I know they say to pray, especially when you don't feel like it, but in some cases that just doesn't work.  So, as I sign off to pray my rosary for the intentions of the Sacred Heart, I encourage you to reflect on the Sacred Heart of Jesus as a temple of His love for us, and there is nothing too big that with Him we can't handle.  If He brings you to it, He will bring you through it!

Sunday, April 22, 2012


I was preparing to pray my rosary last night, and happened upon my parish's website where our priest keeps a weekly (sometimes daily) spiritual reflection.  He was expounding upon 'embracing the cross' on layman's terms.  He didn't just say accept what God sends you, good and bad, but in studying Catherine of Siena he said "to be in love with suffering and chose it as your inheritance on earth."  And I sat there, pondering the "folly of the cross (1 Cor. 1 18-23)," and the anguish, suffering, and despondency I have gone through lately.  I didn't see my cross as a stumbling block or as sheer folly, but I was greatly perplexed by this 'hair-shirt philosophy."  I couldn't be more confused than any other heathen about why there was suffering and pain and we were to embrace it gladly.  I was trying to reconcile the theological fact that God wanted us to be happy and Lamentations 3:33: "It is no pleasure to God to afflict men. He takes no delight in our pain and misery."  But to continue that quote, God uses suffering to bring about the best good, hence the mystery of redemption: the Cross.  We should be happy because God wants us to be happy - happy in Him.  To endure trials and suffering willingly, we join in the mystery of Christ and the ministry of reconciliation (as our holy Father  Pope Benedict XVI said in a recent homily).  My confusion had stemmed from the fact that I was merely trying to survive my misery and not let myself be 'pulled under the water and drowned by deeper currents."  It occurred to me that I hadn't job searched since last Thursday or Friday (still not employed) and I felt very guilty about that; in fact, the devil was trying to use that to bring me to despair.  But I soon realized that I was not just suffering - I had been ill.  I had been too emotionally overwhelmed, trying to climb out of the pit of despair I was in, I hadn't been neglectful in my duties of not trying to job search because I was trying to make good with what I had.  I was trying to live as God willed.  Suffering will never be a palatable thing because it is averse to the flesh.  Therefore, to live and thrive, we must live in God.  I'm not even going to try and reconcile my past hurts to this fact - what is in the past must remain there for now, for I am not strong enough to contemplate why things happened the way they did.  I am going to focus on living the moment in God.  Every second, every breath.  Now I understand the Jesus prayer of the Orthodox monks.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

God Is Gracious

Despite the rough year I've had so far, I must admit that God has been with me every step of the way.  Besides financial assistance, I've received some extraordinary help as well.  Over two months I suffered from intense pruritis, with an occasional rash, and saw 3 specialists who determined they could do nothing to help me.  Past being desperate, I began a novena to St. Jude and Our Lady, and the results were miraculous.  Six days into the novena, angel whispers in my ear advised me to stop taking the oil of oregano caps that I used to treat my sinus issues.  On the seventh day I stopped taking them, and became itch-free immediately!  I have had a few sensitivity issues linger, like itching on contact with wool, my face flushing when I have the slightest amount of alcohol - but nothing, NOTHING as severe as what I was suffering from a week earlier.  Of course the membranes of the sinuses and those of the uterus being of the same make-up, I will and do have flares once or twice a month, but I hope that is temporary until I can get the remaining chemicals flushed out of my system.  My doctor discovered at this time from all the blood work that I was pre-diabetic.  Major changes in exercise and nutrition coming my way tomorrow (if only I could keep my hands off the chocolate...).  But I am not fully diabetic, so that is a relief...of sorts.  Time to seriously buckle down on job hunting, even if I start college again in June.  Trish, it turns out after all that time, doesn't need me down at her house to help her with the new baby and two boys. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Shrove Tuesday and the Forgotten Feast of Our Lord

I used to like the idea of Mardi Gras (fat Tuesday) when I was a kid because we always had to give up candy and sweets for Lent but also I liked the bright, deep metallic gem color tones I saw with the beads and masks.  It wasn't until I got much older that I realized what a depravity it was - Mardi Gras, I mean.  Think about it - people with lax morals partying in an atmosphere that is steeped in complete lack of moral fiber... To get the beads from the floats, some cities (not all I admit), women flash their bare breasts at beastilized costumed float attendants, and the float parade itself is interspersed with with scantily-clad women.  Drunken, gluttonous festivity has replaced one of the most honorable feasts of the Catholic Church: the Feast of the Holy Face.  For brief periods of time over our 2000+ year old history as Christians, we have recognized what Lent and Easter were really all about, especially in the nineteenth century with the establishment of the Feast of the Holy Face of Jesus.  People don't want to 'do' Lent anymore because it causes them considerable moral trouble.  Well, it should - that's why it's there!  To bring us back in humility and obedience to the Faith, to God our Father who sent His Only Begotten Son to wipe away our sins, and at least once a year we could take the time to acknowledge that more fully than we do the rest of the time.  I only knew of devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus through St. Therese of Liseux's devotion, which began when the feast was solemnly approved by the Church in her lifetime.  It is only of late, with all of the suffering this year has brought, in my increased prayers for my lapsed Catholic brethren and conversion of those who are pro-choice, pro-death, and pro-abortion, that I had come to learn more intimately of this reverential day.  As I struggle with my health tonight as I write this, finding it difficult to even use the right words, and for lack on my part of full understanding, I encourage you to visit this link and at least read the one page if you truly love Jesus.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Ever Wonder?

Most people I know of take it for granted that God will answer our prayers positively, and are very disappointed with a "no" or "not yet."  It very much seemed to me that while I was in the convent, I received a positive answer for any prayer I made.  Having left the convent, spurning anything that reminded me of it, I find my prayers less frequently answered.  I had made a novena to St. Therese, requesting a pink rose as a sign that I was doing what God willed - well, what was right anyway.  Last day of the novena I had given up hope, having done several novenas since the convent and signs did not accompany them.  Then I noticed on the card a friend had sent me had two small pink roses...and I only asked for one.  How's the old adage go?  "It's not the size that counts...."  Making a novena to her is like pulling hen's teeth.  At least that's what it has become.  And St. Kateri - my patron saint, chosen for confirmation...  I always caught grief from the other religious sisters (though I had a special spiritual bond with her) that they couldn't understand the fit of choosing her name for mine as a religious sister.  I have very little Apache blood in me, though the traits are there - I was "very white" as the Hispanic sisters would say.  Coupled with that and the PTSD I came home with, I put her out of my mind and prayers for quite some time.  Same with St. Therese.  And with this latest miracle that has sealed Kateri's canonization by the healing of a Lummi boy (if ever a tribe needed spiritual help, it's the Lummi), I have begun to wonder if leaving the convent, distancing myself from 'traiditions' stuffed down my throat at the convent and anything that reminded me of the convent, that the saints weren't in a reciprocating mood because of my leaving and my distance. I don't know - they won't talk to me.  I don't think I'd care if it weren't for the fact that sometimes these saints seem the best to pray to in specific circumstances.  I've got St. Philomena, St. Dymphna, Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Infant of Prague, St. Anthony of Padua, Bl. JPII, and the angels.  I guess all things change over time.  Friends come and go...the love of a woman waxes and wanes like the moon, but the friendship of a man is as steady and as solid as a mountain.  Jesus loves me, I know.  I wonder what it will be like to finally meet Sts. Therese and Kateri in heaven....

Friday, February 3, 2012

Fighting the Good Fight St. Paul said.  Well, having a disagreement with two distantly related cousins about homosexual practice and the Catholic faith has made our relationship even more distant.  At least we don't have the same last name!  They were on the supporting side of the homosexual viewpoints, and I was on the Catholic side.  Then, last night one of my team mates on Mary's Graces (a team on Etsy) posted a prolife message in the team forum and was shot down by the captain for 'imposing her beliefs on others,' esp. since the captain it turns out is prochoice.  So I took up Joan of Arc's banner and went into a battle of morality in words with the captain.  My gut feeling last night was after I had said everything that supported my Catholic faith and being prolife was to quit the group because people like that do not change overnight.  Finding my inner strength in my faith and our Blessed Mother and Christ Jesus, I gave her (the captain) an ultimatum of change/reconsider your views or I leave.  Imagine my non-surprise when I found out she had kicked me out of the group this morning. 

I was having trouble picking a Lenten penance because I was struggling with all the suffering I was going through, but not anymore.  From now until Easter vigil I will pray one rosary for the conversion of my cousins, and one chaplet of Divine Mercy for the conversion of believers and practitioners of abortion (and an end to abortion!) each and every day. Especially since the birth control act was passed into law requiring Catholic healthcare providers to cover birth control in medical situations and insurance. This is most urgent that I will not wait for Ash Wednesday.  Starting earlier will be part of that penance.  And I am rejoicing to suffer for Christ!

Thursday, February 2, 2012


Well, as broad as a subject that is, it is my New Year's resolution to give more of myself - time, effort, energy (money when I have it) to those around me.  Charity begins at home, and this year got off to a really rough start, so I have made it my ultimate goal to be more giving.  Not that I've been stingy in the past, no - my family often voiced their frustrations about me giving away things they had gotten me.  I never intended to offend anyone - it's just that once I've fully enjoyed and appreciated the gift given (like a teddy bear or jewelry or whatnot), I would like someone else to enjoy it too.  So I 'regift.'  Comes from being a nun for 5.5 years.  Sounds crass in writing, doesn't it?  I can't help it.  But there are somethings I will not give away.

Trish's baby is due on Easter Sunday, but we are expecting it will arrive a bit earlier - just not too early!  I have a couple of gifts I want to give, but Trish's in full pregnancy mode and overwhelmed at having 'more stuff' so I guess I'll keep those presents in reserve.  Like the teddy bear rosary I designed to be hung in the nursery.  I have been praying that it sells by Feb. 14th; if it hasn't by then, I intend to pull it out of the shop.  Then I guess I'll hang on to it until Ellie (the baby) makes her first communion. 

Well, I need to do a whip-round and gather all the stuffed animals I've collected that I've 'outgrown' and bag them up for Goodwill.  There are four bears in my room that I'm having trouble giving away.  On the one hand they sit there and are not hugged (and someone else could be enjoying them), but on the other they create a certain ambiance to the different areas in my room that I am hesitant to disturb.  Sounds silly, doesn't it?  I guess I'll pray about it and see what the good Lord wants me to do.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Thinking of St. Philomena

After reading "St. Philomena: The Wonder Worker," every thought and care I've asked her to join with me in prayer or pray for me.  Currently making a second novena of chaplets, trying to steer my life in the direction God gives me (soon, I hope) - I am thinking about going back to WWU for a master's degree.  Not sure in what yet, but it seems more hopeful than agonizing over retraining at the local tech college for having to pick out 'the perfect' area of study to get a job in.  I've tried more than three times to go there and WCC for career retraining, and it always flops.  After a long talk with my family, it seems pursuing a master's degree will open more doors.  I am very open to suggestions from anyone about what to take.

I began my novena, and I know it must have been the little saint, because someone clearly asked me when I asked for help to get some kind of funding to go to school - something to the effect of "Would you like someone to pay for your schooling?" - as if an anonymous donor would leap to the fore and come to my aid.  I immediately laughed and somewhat scoffed at the thought that this was even possible to be done for me, no matter how influential St. Philomena or the Virgin are, and I replied "No" - I wasn't exactly thinking along those lines.  And as suddenly as the voice had clearly spoken to me, I suddenly realized that I had turned down an offer that would not likely ever be repeated, and was disappointed in myself for doubting.  I still sit here and wonder if someone would ever do that for me.  The answer is likely no - the few that would haven't the money, and the fewer who could would do it in return of a favor from the saint.  How many graces go unreceived because we never even think to pray for them...especially the little things and I'm not talking money.

I made the teddy bear rosary I talked about a while ago, and posted it on my etsy shop last night.  Of all the encouragement I got, very few have taken the time to see it though I've posted on Facebook and Pinterest, and fewer have noted that they like it.  Yes, something of a disappointment to me.  I only charged the cost of the supplies plus what I normally charge for making a regular rosary.  Maybe $85 does seem a bit steep to most people.  I could just recoup my outlay and charge around $60, but the laborer is worthy of her hire.  I expected more of a reaction to say the least about that particular piece, but there's not as much interest as I thought.  Yes, disappointing.  Yet, there is so much to be thankful for - and all I can see is gloom.  God help me.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Hope Through Mary

I've been praying the rosary more than I used to - those things that bring you to your knees often remind you how much you need God's help.  Well, out of character, the DSHS has granted me an interview for Food and Cash Assistance, and since I have just started PT in recovery from my fall and am still fighting bronchitis, getting a job is not going to happen in the next week.  God willing, I might actually get some help, but knowing our family's luck I have as much success in getting government aid as Blackbeard does of ice skating in hell.  But, for Mary - God would hear my prayer.  So I entrust this cause to her as I cannot afford to lose the opportunity for my family's sake.  By her prayer, God willing, my father will get this one-year contracting job with a local engineering company he used to work for when we first moved to Washington state.  I read recently of a friend of mine's experience with Mary in her life - how blessed she was to be touched by her, especially as a Methodist.  I often think of my relationship with her...Mary I mean.  At 17 joining the convent, we Catholics are taught that nuns are the spiritual brides of Christ.  Very prayerful and eager, I was a little overconfident in my approach as not her daughter by virtue of the universal brotherhood of mankind to Christ Jesus but as a Carmelite nun in training, her daughter-in-law, so to speak.  Well, I have to admit that my prayers in the convent were always heard and I always got clear answers to my prayers.  When I found myself in PTSD at the end of six and a half years of being in the convent with no alternative to save my sanity but to leave, my confidence slackened to almost nil.  If it weren't for the faint hope I had in Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of all Americans (north, central, and southern), I doubt I would have stayed Catholic.  It was the darkest hour of my faith.  However, I am finding that the more I pray the rosary, the more help I get in all my needs and that my prayers are answered faster with much more blessings than I ever expected.  You can't go wrong to pray the rosary!  The older I get, the more I want to do for my Mother, the Mother of all mankind and of my brother, Jesus.  Despite all odds and setbacks, I think of that dream that St. Francis had of his brothers reaching heaven by climbing the rosary ladder...and I hope that's how I'll meet her in the end.  Though my mother prayed non-stop to Mary for my safe delivery into this world and consecrated/entrusted me to her maternal care, and all the signs that followed in my childhood, it has been choices of my own that have kept me near her, in spite of all evil.  Hail Mary, full of grace!