Sunday, January 27, 2013

Recharging my Batteries

Well, I just got back from a contemplative prayer retreat this weekend.  I found out about it on Thursday evening, and was able to register Friday morning, and the friar that was leading the retreat said that he might be willing to be my spiritual director, but he wanted to meet me first.  This was definitely providential, as this past week was really tough at work.  I have to say that I really hate our new learning management system, and that all the glitches that we have found so far has made my stress levels go through the roof.  When yet another glitch surfaced at about 5:30p Friday evening, I started to cry.  At that point, I had no choice but to tell my professors that we couldn't fix the problem until Monday, letting both them and their students down.  I hated that more than our new management system.  By the time I began driving to Holy Cross Retreat Center, I was running on an emotional empty.

After the first session Friday evening, when Fr. Tom let us know that the chapel would be open all night, so I spent a while in front of the tabernacle.  As I did so, I could feel my muscles unclench and the stress begin to subside.  I was still trying to keep abreast of the situation at work, as one of my friends was helping me out, so stress was not going to go away completely.  Even so, as I walked to my room, I was thanking God that I had gotten to come and that I could spend time in God's presence.

Then, when I woke up on Saturday, I realized that I had forgot my cell phone charger, so I had no way to keep up with work.  My phone died early that morning.  I think the Lord knew that I needed to have a weekend where I was unplugged.  Instead, I started my morning in Adoration, my day in prayer and learning, and ended my day talking with Fr. Tom about the possibility of going to him for Spiritual Direction.  The consensus was that I would try it out for three sessions, and see what happens from there. I don't know if it will work out, but I'm excited about getting spiritual direction from a fransiscan, since I'm attracted to that spirituality.  The retreat ended at lunchtime today after Mass--since I couldn't eat the Spaghetti  on the menu for Lunch, I took the opportunity to have gluten-free pizza from UNO's, which I ate on my way home.

At the left of the main crucifix is a statue from the 18th century, and a relic of the True Cross.  I was able to touch my rosary to it.  I wanted to do the same with the relic they have of St. Francis and St. Anthony as well, but never got the chance.

This was a wonderful weekend, and I was able come back recharged and refreshed, even if none of the problems at work resolved themselves. I won't go into the whole weekend, but the best part was one of the times for prayer yesterday morning.  I absconded with one of the extra blankets in my room, and found a nice place to sit in the pecan grove of the retreat center.  While there, I listened to all of the birds chattering and basked in the sun that had only recently peeked out from behind the clouds.  I also meditated on the following verse:
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.  And He who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. --Romans 8:26-27, RSV
Two things hit me from this verse: first, that this verse is highlighting the fact that we often don't know what to pray for or how to pray.  Right now, I really don't know what I should pray for in my life on so many fronts, so I'm fully aware of my shortcomings in that area.  Second, the Holy Spirit DOES know what needs to be prayed for, so He does it for me.  I LOVE THAT!!!!  It is so awesome that God continually has our back.

The pecan grove at the retreat center.  The trees currently have no leaves on them, but I don't currently own a camera....using the pictures from the retreat center's website will have to suffice!

Monday, January 21, 2013

pity, passion, and pushing myself

Last Tuesday evening was tough....I went to the local running club so that I could have someone to run with, and as I drove to our meeting place, I noticed that the group I usually run with was already on their way (I run with the slow group, as I am nowhere near the place where I can consistently run an 8 minute mile or less).  Since they had left without me, I ended up trying to keep up with the fast group, but I was quickly left in the dust....within a half a mile, I lost them completely. 

As I continued to run, I began to have a bit of a pity party, complete with complaining to God about how awful it was to run alone when I was expecting to run with others, whining that I could have run by myself at home, and then complaining that no one even noticed that I had disappeared.  This continued until I tripped on a crack in the sidewalk and fell. 
A picture of my Road Rash the next morning.  Some people need God to use a 2x4 to get our attention, but in my case, an uneven crack in the sidewalk worked just fine!

At that point, I seriously thought about figuratively taking my toys and going home--it was pointless to talk to the running club members if this was what I could expect most Tuesdays.  So, I actually sat in the middle of the sidewalk on Mesa and let myself wallow for a few moments....Really, part of the reason that I want to be a part of the running club is to make new friends, and this clearly wasn't working!!! 

Then, it hit me.  Doing so was a huge disservice to the members of the club, because the slower runners didn't know that I was coming--Tuesday was only my second time attending! It also meant that I was playing the martyr by letting a little discouragement keep me from making connections.  In essence, I was "cutting off my nose to spite my face."  So, first I ran to the pub we visited the week before in the hopes of meeting up with everyone there. When no one was there, I went back to our meeting spot, and I talked to someone. 

In doing so, I was able to meet some of the other runners and to begin developing friendships.  Speaking up doesn't come naturally to me, but I'm glad that I said something.  In pushing myself to do so, I will hopefully be able to develop some friends that have the same passion I do for running, as well as people that can both encourage me and mentor me in my continuing quest to become a better runner.  I will probably never be quick enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon, but I can work on consistently running a 10 minute mile, and I can learn little tips that I might not think of as a novice runner.

I think that this is one of the reasons that I have been asked by several of the vocations directors of various orders if I had a spiritual director--I'm not sure that we can always figure out how to get ourselves to the next level of spiritual health alone, just as I can't learn how to become a better runner alone.  Rather, I can learn these things, but it will take me longer because I will have to use a lot more trial and error.  I would prefer to not re-invent the wheel!

I also learned that having a pity party really isn't very productive--it demotivates me, and it highlights all of my natural tendencies toward selfishness and navel gazing.  So, I plan to go to the running club again tomorrow, and I suspect that it will go better.  I hope that I can get there early enough that the slow group won't leave without me, and that I can continue to learn about the other members of the club. 

Lastly, I will begin looking for a spiritual director here in the diocese.  I already asked my priest, but he told me that he isn't very good at it--I respect his honesty, and will keep looking.  Will you pray with me about this?


Wednesday, January 9, 2013


Yesterday, I received my third rejection because of my age....ok, it wasn't REALLY a was more a "We'll talk to you, but you should know that people your age usually don't succeed.  It's up to you if you want to continue the conversation or not."

Here is a direct quote from the vocations sister in this order...
Although, we do not have an "age limit" per se, and we have accepted candidates in their 30's and 40's, we have found that it never seems to work out for someone above her early 30's. The adjustment to community living is always too great. I do not mean to sound negative, but I do want to be realistic and honest with you. 
 I respect and am glad of her honesty about this, but it makes me wonder if I should even be discerning a vocation....every order that I am looking at lives in community, so the difficulties of adjusting to community life will be the same, no matter what order I enter.  And, I have to admit that I have some of the same concerns: can I adjust to having to ask for toiletries rather than just running out an buying them when I need them? Can I adjust to the schedule?  Can I adjust to living in close quarters with several ladies?  Can I give up my cell phone and iPad and the ability to just go tie on my tennis shoes and take a run whenever I feel like it?  Can I spend 4-5 hours every day in prayer?  Can I be silent?

Other things I really don't expect to have issues with--I will miss my pets, and I will make sure that they have good homes, but I can live without their furry love.  I think I worry more that my dog will have adjustment issues, since she is so attached to me, than that I will have adjustment issues.  I'm really not all that attached to my stuff, either--In some ways, the idea of selling everything off and moving through this world without it appeals to me.  And, more than once, I have thought about getting rid of all of my dishes except for one place-setting and one pan--it would force me to keep up with my dishes!

It reminds me of In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden.  One thing that the main character mentions is that, because she had a late vocation, the transition to religious life was pretty difficult at times.  That doesn't mean that I can't do it, but it often feels like time is working against me....and according to Canon law, I cannot actually join an order until I have been Catholic for 3 years--which means that I'm not eligible until Easter of 2014!

I guess, if it were easy, everyone would do it!


Saturday, January 5, 2013

Running, Racing, Rationalizing, Training.

I was supposed to run a 5k this 7:30am.  I am an inveterate night owl, so getting up this early is always a struggle (I needed to leave the house at 6:30 in order to get there on time).  It is probably one of my biggest concerns about going into religious life--can I reset my biological clock to be able to get up early to pray?  I even struggle to get up on weekdays to be at work at 8am, although I am better about getting up if I can get to bed at a decent hour.  Last night was not one of those nights, mostly because I drank strong coffee after 8pm. So, I wasn't able to get to sleep until close to 1am.  This meant that I had trouble getting out of the door in time to begin the race on time, and ultimately, while I did make it to the race, I was 5 minutes late getting to the starting line.  In addition, my late start meant that I did not have time to eat breakfast--needless to say, my running time was not my best!

As I was driving home, thinking about my run, I kept thinking about a snippet of a verse from I Corinthians 9:24-27--

Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Well, I do not run aimlessly, I do not box as one beating the air; but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
 As I begin looking toward the half-marathon that I plan to run in February, the Marathon I plan to run in October, and then walking the Camino at the end of this year, I am realizing that the physical training is going to take up a lot of my time if I'm wanting to finish these things successfully....Even though I have been exercising regularly, to be able to do all of these long distance events, I must build up my stamina, which means putting in the miles and the time it takes to build up the miles--taking the stairs every day isn't enough.  I'm ok with that, but it also means finding the time, which means either getting up early or taking time away from my evening.  It means having the commitment to go out and train, even if it is cold or rainy, or hotter than I would like it to be.  It means exercising even if I'd really rather vegetate in front of the TV or sleep in. 

The thing is that I should also be doing this with my walk with God....How often do I prefer to sleep in rather than go to daily mass?  How often do I choose sleep over Adoration on First Fridays?  How often do I choose to procrastinate rather than work diligently while at work?  How often do I give in to the temptation to commit those little sins in my life? I like to rationalize that I'm too tired or busy or...whatever! The reality is that I'm just giving in to my human nature when I do that, when I should be training--whether we admit it or not, we are all in spiritual training, and that means we need to practice for the race we all want to win. 

I know that I can't do everything, and as I am training for the physical challenges ahead of me this year, I need to modify what I can do spiritually--If I run in the morning, I won't be able to go to daily mass!  Even so, life is a balance, and I need to make a point of making time for both the physical and the spiritual aspects of is the only way that my pilgrimage at the end of the year will be successful!

Looks cold, doesn't it?  I will be walking the Camino in conditions similar to this!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Where to Begin?

Well, there are tons of blogs out there about their trip along the Way of St. James, or the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, in Spain, so I guess that, in many ways, this blog is superfluous.  However, I have several friends that say that they want to read about my experiences.  I'm not planning on leaving for my pilgrimage until next December, but feel like this year of preparation is actually part of the Pilgrimage process. I plan to chronicle my journey, both spiritually and physically here, so that my friends and family can join this journey with me.  While on pilgrimage, I plan to blog whenever I can find internet access, so there will be pictures and narrative as I walk.  In the meantime, I will talk about all of the planning I do, as well as any and all spiritual insights as the Lord gives them to me.

So, a little bit about myself.  I am thirty-something and a Catholic convert....This Easter will mark my second anniversary of being received into the Church.  I am divorced after almost 11 years of a marriage that I knew was a mistake within 6 weeks after the wedding.  I have not yet started the Annulment process, but hope to turn in my paperwork sometime later this month or early next month.  I have a dog and a cat, although my roommate also has a cat and a rat.

I am contemplating the possibility of entering religious life.  Since I am on the downhill side of 35, that means that I have fewer options than some, but know that, if this is what God wants of me, He will open the doors He wants opened.  I have contacted a few orders already, and have begun conversations with 3 or 4.  I am also scheduled to go to a come and see weekend in mid April.  Since this is also part of my personal pilgrimage, I will talk about things as they develop.  What I really hope for is to be able to know if and what order I will enter by the end of my Pilgrimage this year.  Jesus said, "Ask and it will be given unto you, seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened unto you." (Matthew 7:7)  So, I plan for this year to be my year of asking, seeking and knocking.  Will you join me on the pilgrimage?