Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Lions and Tigers and Bears (and Spiders and Scorpions and Snakes)

I don't consider myself the particularly outdoorsy type.  You see, where I live, there's humidity.  And cornfields.  And mosquitos. Why would I want to go outside, when I have perfectly good air conditioning and a good book to read in here?  However, when I go on vacation it's a different story.  Get me somewhere that I can go hiking and I'm out there.  I'll camp (more on that later), but only because it's the best way to get on the trail early.  I'll complain about the bugs, but I'll live.  Speaking of bugs, check out these guys that kept buzzing us while we were in the Grand Canyon:

They were huge!  When I was going through pictures, I found five or six where they decided to make a guest appearance.  In Arches, I will remember the gnats.  They were crazy out there. (Sorry, no gnat pictures.)  At least there were no mosquitos in the high desert.  We didn't have to deal with those until we got back to Colorado at Hanging Lake. Of course, they're the size of sparrows there.

Still, we are not here to talk about the annoying creatures.  Let's talk about the dangerous animals.  When you get out to nature, you are on the animals' turf.  Normally that doesn't bother me too much.  In Rocky Mountain National Park, we were told that a bear was visiting the campground.  Ho, hum.  I mean, be careful, but bears there are more nuisances than anything.  Keep your food and all smelly items (lotion, perfume, toothpaste) in the car, and if you see a bear stay back.  

In Grand Canyon National Park, we saw this sign:


I'm not going to lie, mountain lions concern me more than bears do.  Still, I didn't think too much about them when planning the trip.  Again, you know what to do if you see one (make yourself look as big as possible, speak with authority, don't run, don't hike alone) and I've spent a lot of time hiking without seeing one of them.

What did concern me about the desert were the snakes, especially rattlers, scorpions, and poisonous spiders.  Also, really big, creepy spiders. I don't care if they're harmless.  

 On our night of camping in Arches, I was too restless to crawl in a hot tent and lay on the hot ground to try to sleep, so I went to the ranger presentation instead.  He was cute enough that I didn't even mind that he was going to spend the whole time talking about the things I was trying to forget: snakes (particularly the Midget Faded rattlesnake), scorpions (Giant Desert Hairy scorpion) and black widow spiders.  You know, all the friends that were in the park with me that night.

Actually, his presentation was quite good, and he made one point that really helped me out a lot.  He noted that these venomous creatures use their venom primarily for hunting prey, and they're not too interested in going after humans.  They would much rather go unnoticed by the humans that are much larger than they are.  He said they want to bite us about as bad as we want to walk up to a grizzly and punch it in the nose.  (He also told some funny stories about how the most likely person to get a rattlesnake bite was a drunk 18-26 year old male, and they usually get bit in the hand as they are reaching for it.)

Did you know that the venom of most of these creatures is not likely to kill most humans?  It isn't a pleasant experience for sure, but you're not likely to die unless you're a small child, an elderly adult or are very sick to begin with.  Huh.  Makes those dramatic rattlesnake encounters on TV seem a little less exciting:  "Thanks, Lassie, for fending off the rattlesnake that was trying to avoid me as much as I wanted to avoid it. Also, I would have lived no matter what, but really, what a heroic dog you are!"

However, those are not the only dangerous animal in those habitats.  There is one in particular that is left.  This may be the scariest animal of all, and I saw a LOT of them.  And they're not particularly afraid of humans.  Are you ready?  Here he is:


Can you see the little guy at the bottom?  Yes, a chipmunk.  You think I'm joking about how scary he is, don't you?  I'm not, and here's why:

Did you catch that last part? Look again:


The plague!?! As in bubonic plague?! As in Black Death?  As in what killed Europe in the Middle Ages??  Are you kidding me right now?  I didn't even know it still existed! I did NOT sign up for chipmunks of death! Give me a bear any day, and I can go down fighting at least.  Or a rattler, because I probably won't die.  I may get a horrible, disgusting wound, but I should live to take pictures of it and tell about it in all it's gory detail.  Not the plague!

I read up on it, and the incubation period is 2-6 days.  I should be in the clear by tomorrow.  I'm not too worried about having it though, because I avoided chipmunks and all other flea bearing rodents like... oh.

Well, like the plague.

Monday, June 29, 2009

More About Trust and Fear

Perhaps you remember that I have a little problem trusting God. Since He's been so good as to lead me by the hand down this road of learning to trust, you'd think maybe I'd get the hang of it one of these days. Heh.  Maybe you would get the hang of it, but I'm a little slow. (And by "a little", I mean "a lot." I just didn't want to say it out loud.)

I can't believe it's only been a week and a half since I left home for a very close friend's wedding followed by a ridiculous road trip.  It seems like a month. 

The wedding was a lot of craziness, with a little drama thrown in for some extra zest.  I did a lot of planning of my own possibly someday wedding, which mostly consisted of eliminating lots of steps as unnecessary.  That is, unnecessary for me.  For her, I hope they combined to make the day all that she dreamed of it being.

As you can imagine, being single at the wedding of one of your closest friends is quite the emotional roller coaster.  As I go through some of this, I hope that you recognize that these emotions did not replace the joy and excitement for my friend, but were a part of the great big mix.

The first emotion was apprehension.  In every marriage there is a fundamental change.  It is what a marriage is.  There is now a bond between two people that didn't exist before, no matter how close they were as they were dating and engaged.  In one of my longest friendships, there is always a little sadness over the change, even though you're so excited for that person.  Her sister, another of my close friends, has recently married and had a child, so I was living out those relationship changes with one while anticipating it in the other.  Even knowing that the friendship will last and continue to grow, there is apprehension over the changes.

Somewhere underneath it all was a little whisper that I could barely hear:

Trust.

Then in the chaos of last minute details and running around, I became in charge of one particular detail.  Through a miscommunication, it was suddenly out of my control, and I didn't want the bride to know about it, because I was trying to decrease her stress, not add to it.  Mind you, this was a very minor detail, but I can get worked up over little things as easily as I can big things sometimes.

In my head: Dang it!  Here I was trying to help, and now it's going to make it worse!  What if the right person doesn't get here first?  If the right person does get here first, it'll be okay, but otherwise it might be worse!  God, please let the right person get here first... but what if they don't?

Trust.

At that moment, there was absolutely nothing that I could do to take control and make things better.  I had to let go and simply wait.

Trust.

It took several times, but then for about 10 minutes of waiting, I was able to simply relax and trust.  Later, after I had trusted long enough, I tried to fix it by worrying some more, but always that little whisper in my heart:

Trust.

So I waited a few more minutes. Yes, it all worked out fine in the end.

The wedding was absolutely beautiful, and the bride was all that a bride should be.  I was so incredibly happy for her.  I was also caught by the sense of the groom's utter captivation for his bride.  I wondered if it would ever be possible that anyone would ever be interested enough to give me a second look, let alone be so captivated that he would want to spend the rest of his life with me.  There it was, that rising swell of doubt and fear.

Trust.

The wedding was wonderful, and the reception, well, was a reception.

The readings at the Mass that Sunday were just for me.  I'm not going to quote them in full, but I'll let you read them if you want.

The first was from Job 38, where God reminds Job who was really in charge.  (God is, in case you didn't read it.)  When you're single, and there are very few single guys around, let alone single guys with faith, let alone single guys with faith that are actually interested in you, it's easy to think that this is too big for God to handle.  So a little reminder of the basics was much needed.

Then it was on to Psalm 107:23-31.  I loved this!  First it talks of men that had seen the wondrous works of the Lord, but that when they were plunged into the depths of the sea their "courage melted away" and they were "at their wits' end".  Yes!  You mean I'm not the only one that loses it at the first sign of trouble, even when I've seen many of the works of the Lord already?  Awesome!  Finally, they call out to the Lord, and He stilled the sea, hushed the waves, and brought them to their desired haven.

The Gospel reading was Mark 4:35-41.  Jesus got in the boat with the disciples to sail to the other side of the sea.  A storm came up, but Jesus was asleep.  That's how it feels sometimes.  Why is God sleeping, and not doing anything to make this stop? God, do you not care?  Jesus' response to the disciples is His response to me: "Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?"

My head goes in all directions. What does this all mean?  Does this work on trust mean that He's going to finally answer my prayer?  If it does, how long am I going to have to wait?  Am I going to meet someone on the way out of church, or are we talking another week, or worse yet months?  

Wait for it...

Oh no!  What if it means that I'll still have years to wait or if it means that I'll have to be single for the rest of my life, and God's asking me to trust Him even while He's letting me down?

Wait for it...

Oh.  I suppose really trusting God means not knowing who, when, or if, but just trusting.  It's not about figuring out what one thing or another means, it's only about resting in God's plan as He rolls it out.

Bingo!

I wish I could tell you that I finally got it.  I did get it for all of a day or two.  Then I started the 11 hours of driving home from my trip.  It was a wonderful trip and lived up to all the anticipation, but it's over.  It's back to the daily grind.  Back to the same routine, back to work, back to plodding along.  I'm tired, and I'm gearing up for another close friend's wedding.  (Again, can't wait for the wedding, but I've had enough with my silly emotions.) Once I dropped my sisters off, and I was back to being alone. When I opened my apartment door, there was a little mustiness, a little extra dust, and nothing but a baby spider to greet me.

And I fear.

I fear being alone will last forever.
I fear everyone moving on in their lives and leaving me behind.

I know these fears aren't necessarily rational (especially the second one, given the amazing family and friends that I have), but they are my fears nonetheless and they're always waiting for me.

Do you trust My power?

Do you trust My goodness?

Eh, God? What's that You say?  I get the feeling that you're trying to tell me something, but I can't quite make it out.

So He gave me another lesson.

The most recent Sunday Gospel was from Mark 5, and our priest gave an amazing homily on it.  This is the healing of Jairus' daughter, and he pointed out that Jesus could have cured Jairus' daughter before she died, but Jesus allowed her to die anyway.  He allowed Jairus' faith to be tested further.  Jairus could have done as his servants suggested (leave the Master alone, it's useless), but he chose to listen to Jesus instead: "Do not fear, only believe."

Father kept saying that over and over: "Fear is useless; just have faith."

Okay, let me review this one more time to see if I've got it:

Fear- no.
Faith- yes.


I hope the test is multiple choice.  

Oh, Boy

Well, it's been a week and a half since I've been able to physically type out any blogs, but some have been going around in my head.  It's safe to say that the blogging deluge isn't about to dry up any time soon.  The good news is that I have LOTS of pictures to share, so it might make things a little more interesting, but I promise I won't inflict all of them on you.

For starters, I want to share a sign at my friend's church with the name of the church on one side, and this on the other:



Sunday, June 28, 2009

By the Numbers

3,320 miles of driving
2,893 pictures
12,786 bug splats on my car 
4 blisters
42 lizards
0 bears, mountain lions, spiders or scorpions
172 chipmunks
1,632,419 gnats
5 states
4 national parks
3 scenic byways
38 miles of hiking
1 tornado

When you add all the numbers together, you get:


An Epic Road Trip

Monday, June 22, 2009

Post Options

I'm so, so sorry.  Here you thought I was going to be gone, so you wouldn't have to have a new post from me every time you opened your reader.  Thanks to the wonders of "post options" I can keep posting even through a week without internet access.  That way, I can gradually unload all my burning questions and random thoughts, instead of all at once the day before I leave.

Still, you might be really bored in the middle of summer.  It's not like anyone's going on vacation, working on projects around the house, going to family reunions, planning weddings, having babies, taking care of spouses and kids, trying to keep up with laundry and dishes or mowing the yard.  So if you're one of those bored people that don't have any of those things to do, or if you're just a glutton for punishment, I have two words for you:

Ar. Chives.

That's right.  I know I have more time to write than anyone has time to read.  So if you do actually miss having posts to read, there are plenty of old ones to choose from.  They aren't all worth your time, so I've put together a list of the ones that were my favorite to write, or that mean the most to me.

In chronological order, they are:

#1 

I think they're almost all from May.  Must have been a good blogging month.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Minor Moral Dilemma

Speaking in hypotheticals, let's say you sometimes work with older people in their homes.  Let's say that some of them are not necessarily the cleanest housekeepers, though they do the best they can given their physical limitations.  Let's also say that they might have a cat and cat hair might be everywhere.  Let's say you might have seen them cut food with silverware that might have been used a time or two since it was last washed.  Let's further say that their handwashing practices might be questionable.  

What do you do when they take great pleasure in offering to share a treat with you?

Really.  I'd love your answer on this.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Vampires Beware

The other night, I had one of those rare introspective moments. (Okay, my whole life is an introspective moment; it's the way my brain works.  Moving on.)  In that moment I wondered if there was a point where you can get garlic toxicity.  This thought occurred to me while I was mincing garlic for lasagna, waiting for my garlic cheese pizza to finish in the microwave and licking my chops from the peas and mushrooms with garlic sauce that I had just finished.

I guess I don't know.  I think the only ones that can die from garlic overdose are vampires.  I can tell you that at a certain point, garlic odor can start oozing from your pores.  I won't tell you how I know that, but I would like to take a moment to apologize to the following people:

My coworkers
My patients
Friends
Family
Passengers in my car
The Mass goers in the other pews
My fellow Wal-Mart shoppers
Any others I have forgotten to mention


I love garlic.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Good Link!

I've never heard of Jennifer Hartline, but she has quite an article here. I'm a big fan of no-nonsense, say it like it is.

Monday, June 15, 2009

I Don't Say This to Brag, But...

Who am I kidding? Anyone who says that phrase is getting ready to be obnoxious, but is trying not to sound obnoxious.  Instead of being hypocritical, I'm going to embrace it: this entire post is about me bragging.  If you can't stand braggarts, then please stop reading, because you won't like me anymore, and I will probably start to cry.  But it won't stop the bragging.

In grad school, I had the dubious honor of weighing more than I had ever weighed in my life.  I weighed, well, 30 pounds more than I weigh now.  My absolute highest weight was actually 34 pounds more than I weigh right now.  It's been three and a half years since then, and it hasn't come off very fast.  Sometimes when it comes off, it goes right back on again.  I generally do a much better job talking about eating right and exercising than I do about eating right and exercising.

Today was different.  Today was a very skinny day.  My scale said I was 34 pounds below my highest point, which is lower than it's been in 5 years.  It was the first chance that I got to wear one of the pairs of pants I just bought, and they were fitting on the loose side.  I went shopping again this weekend, and everything just looked good.  I was wearing some small shirts!  I don't think I've gotten a small shirt ever!

Have you ever noticed with weight loss, that you struggle and struggle in the same place for a long time, and then sometimes you wake up one morning and notice for the first that the pounds are gone?

Part of the excitement came from the fact that I noticed today that I was missing a constant companion: my belly roll.  It still comes back with the right pair of pants, but it was gone today with the looser ones I had on.  My small shirt was fitting smoothly.  I couldn't believe it!

I have to tell you about part of the place that my belly roll went, because I think it's kind of ridiculous.  I drive a lot, and I get frustrated by stoplights.  Also, I recently have been making a concerted effort to try to fit in a little exercise here and there, since I can't seem to get a full workout in to save my life.  (Never mind.  I usually can't get a full workout in because there's something else I'd rather do instead.)  Anyway, I combined the two, and started doing abdominal contractions at stoplights.  I don't think it made the fat disappear, but it seriously made the abs tone up more and the pants fit more loosely!  Who knew it would really work that well? (Even though I tell my patients to do that all the time.)

The down side is, I'm breaking the bank with the shopping thing.  I'm not complaining, it's too much fun!  Besides, that would be off the charts obnoxious.

Okay, I'm done.  Except for one thing, though it flies in the face of everything I've talked about so far.

I don't mean to brag, but I make some wicked awesome lasagna.  

(Sorry, it's cooking right now and smells amazing!)


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Fear vs. Trust

I have to admit something.  I hate admitting things. I prefer not having anything to admit. Maybe I shouldn't admit it.  Maybe I'll call off this post.

Maybe it's not really so bad.  I just like everyone to think that I have it all together with all the loose ends tied up in pretty little bows.  I hate any small sign of weakness, whether I'm admitting it to myself or others. Not that anyone has any illusions of my having it all together.  Most of you know me too well for that, and the rest of you may have read some of my posts bemoaning singleness.  Here's another loose end that I'm going to let hang out and flap in the breeze.

In the last few months, I have found myself not caring.  Not any one thing in particular, but a lot of things in general.  I didn't care how long my dishes sat in the sink.  That's nothing new. My dishes will sometimes sit for a while.  But usually I'm at least a little disturbed by it.  I was able to ignore it and it didn't bother me in the slightest.  There were a number of little things that I simply didn't care about.  I found myself easily distracted, but I didn't care.  I had a really hard time paying attention at Mass, but I barely bothered to try to pull myself back into it.

The healthcare professional in me thought, "Huh.  Maybe a little depression."  But my gut (or perhaps the Holy Spirit) was telling me that response may be slightly true, but was also mostly a copout. 

Have you ever felt the Holy Spirit "speaking" to you?  (Great.  Now I sound like a fruitcake.)  If you don't know what I mean, it's hard to explain.  It's like a gut feeling, or some word or phrase that someone says that smacks you upside the head.  Any number of things, but if you have experienced it, you know exactly what I mean, and if you haven't, you're going with the fruitcake theory right about now.  

Anyway, my point is, in any number of little ways, I would feel the Holy Spirit nudging me to be faithful in the small things; keeping my house clean, keeping up with my paperwork.  My response was classic passive-aggressive:

"Whatever."

I did not care.  I didn't know why I didn't care, but I didn't care enough to find out.  

Whatever.  I'm going to go watch some more shows on hulu now.  My food can rot, my dishes can become a science experiment in the sink.  I do not care.

Luckily, God does care, and He cares enough to keep the spark going.  Finally I was able to say to Him that I didn't know what was causing my ennui, but insofar as it was stepping between me and Him, I did care, and would He please show me what was going on.

What is going on is that I fear.  I fear that I will be stuck in this rut forever.  I fear that I will always be single.  I fear that it will keep getting harder and never get any easier.  I fear a lot of things.  Petty, small, ridiculous things.  That's what He showed me first.

Then, because I'm not smart enough to recognize it on my own, He showed me that fear is that it is also a lack of trust.  I wondered today if there were any walls in heaven.  Because I was wondering if God was beating His head against a wall today about the number of times I fail to trust Him, even though He has showed me over and over and over again how worthy He is of my trust.

And He is so worthy of that trust.  I realized that in a way, I was defying God by not taking care of the small things, because I was telling Him in so many words that it doesn't seem to matter at all.  If He wanted me to care, maybe He should do something to make things matter.  

I'm glad God doesn't give up on me when I'm being stupid.  Again.  Now I can do the little things and care about them again, because they do matter.  They are a little way to trust God.  And I need little, because I'm to weak for big.



Friday, June 12, 2009

The Beginning is Deep. Really, Really Deep. Just So You Know.

When I start writing, I often have only a vague idea of where I'm going.  Then I start typing and see what comes out.  Hopefully it doesn't make for fantastically awful posts.  I knew I wanted to start talking about the Mass from the Bible, and I knew that I was going to start at the beginning and work my way through.  What I didn't know, what I never know, is exactly what direction it would take.

I thought we'd be jumping in with sacrifices.  Cain and Abel. Melchizedek. Isaac.  Those are all sacrifices that prefigure the ultimate sacrifice of Christ's death on the cross.  Sure.  That's what we'll start talking about.

Did you see any sacrifices in chapters 2 and 3?  I didn't.  What I did see hit me with all the subtlety of a cement block to the face.  By skipping those two chapters and jumping straight to Cain and Abel's sacrifices in chapter 4, I'm skipping the essentials of what every Catholic needs to know about the Mass! The beginning.  Not the beginning as I had perceived it, but the real beginning: Who God is.  Who we are.  Why we need the Mass. 

The first thing that we need to know is that God is our Creator. Keep in mind that these stories told in Genesis are true stories about actual events.  However, they may not be quite as literal as what we are used to.  We expect our true stories to be prose, kind of like newspaper accounts.  The ancient people told true stories about actual events, but they often used certain symbolism.  Their stories are more like poetry.  Never think that the events of Genesis didn't happen, but keep in mind that when it says that God created us from the dust, it doesn't necessarily mean that used His hands and sculpted out a person from the clay in the ground and then turned it into a living breathing person.  It could mean that He started the process of evolution from one tiny cell that He gave life to.  It's fine to believe either thing.  Just know that God created us.  However it happened, ultimately He is the one that caused it.

We need to know that God is the Creator, and we are the creatures.  God gave man life, and then everything else that he needed.  Genesis 2:9 talks about the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  Notice that God commanded man not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  That means that they were not forbidden to eat from the tree of life. (Special note on 2:25: there is a whole theology of the body world waiting for you in that little verse.  Can't get into now, though.)

All is good, right?  Man and woman have each other.  They tend the garden and brings forth fruit.  Enter the serpent.  The saddest part of this whole section is when the serpent calls God a liar, and Adam and Eve believe him.  He tells Adam and Eve that God is not looking out for their best interests, but that God wants to keep something important from them.  I think Nash puts it best: "Adam and Eve had a basic choice: listen to the devil and become 'like God' (Gen 3:5), or listen to God and partake of his very life." (p. 23).

If the tree of the knowledge of good and evil promised death, why did they eat from that tree and not eat from the tree of life instead?  Nash reports that's a bit of a mystery, but that the root of their sin and all our sins remains in a lack of trust in God's goodness and providence. 

Catholics call this sin "original sin".  It is a sin that stains all our souls and affects everything that we do, but it is not through our personal fault or guilty.  Think of it this way.  When Adam and Eve ate the fruit, God said they would die.  Notice that they were still very much alive when they had to meet God in the garden later.  Was God a liar?  Definitely not.  Certainly it meant eventual death for them, but I also believe that there was a very important part of them that died in the moment that they ate the fruit: the life of God in their souls.  That life, that union with God, was dead.  They were no more capable of bringing that back to life than they were capable of bringing their bodies back to life once they did die physically.  Someone that is physically dead cannot pass on life to a new generation.  Someone that is spiritually dead cannot pass on spiritual life to the next generation.  Spiritual death is our inheritance, and we are quick to follow Adam and add our own sins to the mix.

1 Corinthians 15:20-22: "Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.  For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive." Praise God!

Back to the tree of life.  Nash notes that after sinning, Adam and Eve are barred from the Garden, specifically the tree of life, which they could have eaten from and lived forever (Gen 3:22).  By sinning, they have excluded themselves from this fruit of this tree.  This will not be the last time that God offers us food that will give us life forever.  

Thursday, June 11, 2009

:)

Leave it to me to post pictures of a trip to Washington under a post entitled "the Grand Canyon"!  Not my brightest move. Oh, well. It's staying.

THE Grand Canyon Trip

Today I was driving to work when I realized that in one week from today I will be on my way for the beginning of the Grand Canyon trip.  Forgive me if you see me between now and then.  I may talk about it a lot.  I really can't wait.  I'm so excited.  You don't understand.  This is not simply a trip to the Grand Canyon. This is the Grand Canyon trip.  You see, when I was growing up, my mom always wanted to go see the Grand Canyon.  Whenever we would tentatively start planning the possibilities of what, there would be lots stops along the way.  At one point the Grand Canyon trip included "swinging by" northern California to visit my aunt and catching Yellowstone on the way back.  Clearly it had become a family joke by then.

The one drawback is that only my sisters and I are going, and my mom still hasn't made it.  It's a long story, but my whole family is going to the wedding of a family friend in Colorado.  We didn't know if my dad would be able to get off work, and if he didn't, then my mom was coming with us.  He did get off work, but he can't take all the of time off that I can.  So my mom (the wonderful wife that she is) said that she was going with Dad to be sure that he got a vacation, too.  They're going to Rocky Mountain National Park, which is one of my favorite places, so don't feel too badly for them.

On the other hand, my sisters and I love to travel together with just us.  We did an amazing trip last year Pacific Northwest.  Here's a little review:

We took this



to get here



where there was a TON of stuff to see.  All fascinating for us Midwesterners:





It got even better when we went to Rialto Beach:


And Hoh National Rainforest:

Once we were done there, we decided that we were bored, so we wandered down the coast of Washington to:

Beach #1.  Or #2.  I can't remember, but those were seriously the names of the beaches.  Then we decided we wanted to go to Oregon while we were "in the area".
So we did.

And that's where we found

some old bunkers?

We did not see that one coming.

But then we found a beach:

Where we had fun doing this:

"Sand Crab"


"Sand Man"


"Sandwich"


That's just us, waving hello.  It was a way to get all three of us in a picture. Yes, we are colossal dorks, but there are upsides to dorkdom. When we're on vacation you could drop us off in the middle of a cornfield and we would have fun.  The Grand Canyon will be awesome.

On the way back to SeaTac, we stopped by here:
 
Mount St. Helen's 

I can't wait for this year. It should be interesting.  The only cooking utensils we plan to pack are matches, a hatchet and campfire forks.  If you can't cook it over an open flame on a stick, we won't be eating it.  The only camping gear we plan to have is a tent (and we had to sew the door shut, but that's a story for another day), sleeping bags, pillows and air mattresses.  Yes, air mattresses.  The essentials.  We are not there to camp.  We are there to sleep, because we are too cheap to get hotels.  One night for $100 vs. 5 nights for $100?  Please.  No contest.



Btw, I'm still working on the post about Genesis 2-3, so be sure you've read up.  I thought I knew what I was going to say, but then I thought I'd better review before I started writing. Oh, baby. 


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Not for the Faint of Heart

I won't get real descriptive, but if you can't handle any kind of medical talk, stop reading now.   All I want to say is that I saw a healing surgical incision today that made my teeth hurt.  I know, weird reaction.  It wasn't even that bad, and it'll heal fine in the end.  But it wasn't quite right.

The end.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Starting at the Beginning

I'm a big believer in starting at the beginning.  Maria told the Von Trapps that they should start there, and I'm not about to argue with Maria. Too bad I don't quite know which beginning to start with!  There is the chronological beginning (whenever you define that to be), or there is the beginning of Mass.  I feel more prepared to talk about the chronological beginning, so that is where I will start.  By the way, this will hardly be scholarly.  I aim to double check what I'm saying so I don't pass on false information, but I'm not getting graded, so if I'm bored or don't understand something, I will skip over it.

Take a moment and decide for yourselves when the beginning of the Mass was.  

If you said Thursday before Christ died on the Cross... you're right!  However, we have to start before that.  See, the events of Holy Week were the conclusion of something that started long before Christ came to earth.  You know how Star Wars started in the middle?  That's where you are, friends.  Right in the middle.  Crucial things are happening, but if you don't know what led up to them, some of it will not make sense.

One of my favorite books about the Mass (besides the Lamb's Supper, which every Catholic should read) is Worthy is the Lamb:The Biblical Roots of the Mass by Thomas Nash.  That will be where a lot of my info comes from.  I thought we would be diving into the New Testament, but I was wrong.  He tells us on page 23: "The story of the Mass begins in the Garden of Eden."  That's right, to understand the Mass, we have to start at Genesis.

ANYONE THAT DOESN'T LIKE TO READ THEIR BIBLE NEEDS TO GET OVER IT.  Right now.  If you're Catholic and think you don't need to read your Bible because you get it in Mass: that's not enough. Not if you truly want to understand the treasure that you're partaking in. If you don't feel comfortable reading the Bible, you need to get comfortable with reading it. Here's how:  

1) Open it.
2) Start reading.

It can be intimidating, but just remind yourself that you have to start somewhere. Keep plugging away.  It does get easier and it will become more and more meaningful as time goes on.  I promise it's worth it.

Okay.  I feel better now.

Ready?  Let's start with Genesis chapters 2 and 3.  I'll give you a couple of days, then you can join me for a little discussion. 

Monday, June 8, 2009

Interesting

Did you know that there's a Voluntary Human Extinction Movement?  I just read a blog post about it here.  I didn't check out the official site.  I couldn't handle it.

How Protestants Helped Me Understand the Mass

There have already been some good thoughts on why some people can't wait to get to Mass and others can't wait to get out of Mass.  I would have to agree that it has a lot to do with how well you understand the Mass and how well you have prepared for the Mass that day.  

I remember a time when this became a really important question to me.  A friend of mine was telling me that she no longer went to Mass and had switched to an E-free church.  She had several reasons for this, but seemingly her biggest part of this was the fact that she wanted to continue to grow in her relationship with Jesus and she had "gotten all she could out of the Mass."  She still thought it was good, but she needed something more.  I was speechless.  I knew that she had been having a lot of questions, but all I could think was how monumentally I had failed her if she thought there was ever a point that you can plateau on "what you can get out of Mass."  

Her background is that she went to Catholic school for 12 years, but didn't start to really grow in her relationship with Christ until later in high school and into college.  She has an enormous hunger for God, and when she was in college, she had professors and fellow students challenging her Catholic faith right and left.  She tried to find some of the answers, but by her senior year had left the Catholic Church.  She didn't have animosity towards the Church, she just wanted a place to grow deeper in her faith and didn't feel the Mass was that place.

Oh, sweet girl.  Don't give up so fast.  I praise God for your deep hunger for Him. He will bless that desire to grow in Him wherever you go to church, but don't give up on the Mass so fast!

For me, I owe a large part of my love for the Mass to my Protestant friends and family.  I know, right?  It's a little confusing.  Here's the thing.  I think that in order to have any understanding and love of the Mass, you have to have a personal relationship with Jesus.  Further, the Mass means little to nothing without knowing your Bible.  The Protestant friends and family in my life have been an enormous influence in deepening my relationship with Christ and whetting my appetite for the Bible.  Further, I owe a huge debt of gratitude for former Protestants who have become Catholic and have shared their testimonies of what the Mass means to them.

Here's my advice, for what it's worth.  

Grow your relationship with Jesus.  It's easy, all you have to do is ask.  Maybe you've been going to Mass for decades, but feel that you know about God, but you don't know Him.  Maybe you feel that you have a relationship with Him, but it's stuck in a rut and doesn't seem to grow.  Just ask Him to help you.

"Jesus, I don't know You, but I want to. Please help me."
"Jesus, help me to know You more."

He never ignores those prayers.  By the way, here's a prayer I remember praying when being confused by the Mass:

"I don't get it."  (He understood the implication that I wanted to know more.)

My point is that you don't have to be eloquent, just honest.  All the studying in the world won't get you the answers you crave if you don't have a relationship with Christ.

Then crack open that Bible that's been sitting on your shelf since you got it for Confirmation and start reading it.  If you're not familiar or comfortable with it, I suggest starting with the Gospels, and remember that footnotes are your friends.  You won't understand it all the first time, but that's okay.  You won't understand it all the 2nd or the 40th time, either.  You will understand more each time you read it, and if you've just asked God to help you know Him better, be prepared to learn some great things and grow closer to God.

I would love to tell you more about what the Mass means to me, and what I have learned about the Mass, but that would take post after post after post....oh, wait.  That probably won't be an issue for me! :)  So I think that there will be regular posts about the Mass for a while, maybe a long while.  Not every post, but definitely a recurring theme.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

More on the Mass

I've been thinking.  Several days ago, lost in the onslaught of a severe case of blogorrhea, I had a post about the Mass.  (I just said "blogorrhea" and "Mass" in the same sentence.  Excuse me, please.  I'll be back to finish this post after I go to confession.)  If the Mass is really all that it claims to be (and I absolutely believe that it is), then why are Catholics so ho-hum about it?  What is the difference that some people can't wait to get to Mass, and others can't wait to get out of Mass?

I have some ideas (I'm sure you've never noticed that I can be a wee bit opinionated), but I want to hear what you think.  What, if anything, does the Mass mean to you?  What's your experience?  Love it? Hate it? Take it or leave it?

If you used to find it boring, but now find it the best part of your week, what made the difference to you?  If you used to love it and now you go to a different church, or no church at all, or only under protest, what changed?

I would love to hear your thoughts.  I subscribe to the comments, so even if you happen to read this months after it's posted, please post if you have something to say.



I Want to Know

where we got our bull crap, crippling sense of entitlement.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

God or Evolution

I recently read a post that was philosophizing (that is actually a word that my computer recognizes!) about whether or not God exists.  The author of the blog was atheist (I really admired the way that he reasoned through things, and didn't fall to cheap shots or straw man arguments) and he was analyzing some arguments between atheists and theists.  He quoted an atheist that was summarizing a theist that was arguing with an atheist, and the theist was making a point about cognitive function that was designed to perform a certain way.  Confusing?  Absolutely.  But don't worry about it.  The important thing is that someone (either the theist or the atheist summarizing the theist) pointed out parenthetically (Parentheses?  Those are only for hacks) that the design was either by God or evolution.  If that's too confusing for you and you'd like to read the post, let me know, but only go there if philosophizing doesn't mess with your head as much as it messes with mine.

Anyway, of all the things that were said in that post, the thing that caught my eye the most was the idea that you either believe in evolution or you believe in God.  It implied that the two were mutually exclusive.  That is to say, that if you ever become convinced of evolution or (gasp!) the big bang theory you're going to have to kick your antiquated traditions and fairy tales about God to the curb and join the progressive, modern thinkers that turn to science for real knowledge.  Or, on the other hand, if you ever become convinced that there is a God, you're going to have to forsake reason and suppress science so that you can believe that the earth is only 6,000 years old and was created in seven 24-hour time periods.

My answer is: C) none of the above.  

Keep in mind that the Bible is a book that deals with faith and morals.  I believe that it is infallible and that every word should be treasured.  However, I do not think that it is meant to teach us about science.  Using the Bible to condemn evolution is taking the Bible out of context and leading to potentially very poor logic regarding the scientific understanding of the world.

Science has evidence that evolution occurred.  While we do not yet understand all the evidence that we have, some things about evolution are simply fact.  That is the domain of science, making observations and reasonable inferences about the world around us.  However, using evolution to prove that God doesn't exist is just silly.  God is not a scientific phenomenon to be observed and measured.  Using science to make conclusions about the existence or non-existence of God is poor logic as well.

Here's my take, in case you care.  The Bible says that God created the world and all the creatures in it.  I have no idea how He went about it.  I don't know if He did it all instantaneously, or if He set the wheels in motion for evolution to happen.  Ultimately, He is responsible for the fact that it was created, whichever way it happened.  Given that science has a lot of evidence that evolution occurred, I would say that it has a big role to play in the way that God created the world.

I don't believe in either God or evolution.  I believe in both God and evolution, though I have some questions still about the specifics of evolution.  Ah, well.  We'll save that for another post.  This blog isn't going anywhere, and what would the world do if I didn't post three times a day?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Sweet Baby Love

One of the things that I love about writing is trying to find just the right words and tone to convey my thoughts.  It's not like I put a huge amount of time into it for things like blog posts, but even then there are times that word choices make all the difference to catch the right shade of meaning or the nuance that you're looking for.  Which brings me to a question.  Have you ever noticed a monumental oversight in the English language? There is only one stinkin' word for "love". How can you possibly catch all the nuances of different and amazing loves in that one word?

I love German chocolate cake. Wow. Yum.

I love "Lost". That is a great show and I wish I could be around minds that work like that. How do they come up with and keep track of all the story lines? What is the process of writing a show like that?

I love sushi. Actually, I probably don't really love sushi, because if there's too much raw fish, I'm not a fan. I do like some raw fish ones, and the vegetable ones, and I really love the not-really-sushi-because-it's-batter-dipped-and-tempura-fried ones. 

I love to read. I love the way a story can take me to a different time or place or the huge number of new things that can be learned (so cliche, I know). 
I love vegging out with a good movie or reality show. I've recently come to like Survivor a lot. If it has any redeeming value, I don't know what it is.  I just like to watch it. (There's my confession for the day.)

The are all acceptable uses of the word "love".  Here's some more:

I love hanging out with my friends, living life together.

I love holiday dinners with my family, with all the special traditions, like my dad starting to tell what he's thankful for every single meal before he "remembers" that it's not Thanksgiving this time.

I love a little child's laughter.

I love it when someone's injury  gets better and I get to help the process.

How is it that the same word is used in all of these examples?  They are so different.

The love of people should be a whole other category of its own. There is the love of a man and woman (I have no personal experience of that.  I have had crushes. I am, after all, a female, and I did live through junior high. And high school... I would have to add college as well. For the sake of my dignity I'm going to stop there.)  What about the love of parents for children and children for parents.  The love a man has for his mom, wife, sister and dog are very different, though the word stays the same.

What about special cases?

For example, sweet baby love. How can this not have a very special word all its own? A newborn is just so impossibly precious, from their incredibly fine baby hair to their ridiculously tiny toes. 

I fell in love last night with a tiny little guy that was just a day old. That would sound a lot less creepy if there was a good word for "sweet baby love". Until then, I guess I'll just have to clarify that I fell in sweet baby love last night.  I really don't know how you mothers handle "sweet baby love" plus "mother's love" all at the same time.  How are you still alive? Maybe there's something in the hormones that keeps y'all from exploding with it.



P.S. You know what else I love? I love that this sweet little guy I mentioned has an amazing older brother that I also love.  I don't have the appropriate word for that, but I'm going to call it "crazy amazing two-year-old love."  Which is confusing because "crazy and amazing" describes the 2-year-old.  Really, we need more words for love in this language!

P.P.S. There's one other thing that I really, really love.  I love that these little guys have such great parents that I also love.  It would be very awkward to have to pretend to like the parents in order to play with the children!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Desire of the Heart

I happened across this blog entry one day.  I thought she was on to something:

"[God] had given me the desires of my heart... the desires that could not be satisfied where I was, and then used the frustration of those unsatisfied desires to move me where He could fulfill them."

That thought, along with realizing that I graduated high school ten years ago, was part of the impetus that led to looking back over the time that God has given me as a single.  It certainly helped when I was trying to figure out why God would give me such desires and then apparently not do anything about it.

While I'm thinking about it, can anyone tell me where faith ends and presumption begins?  I know this may not seem to go with the post, but I want to know.  How about, where does "surrender to God's will" become an excuse for lack of faith in His promises?  Anyone?

January: I Found the Love of My Life

January was wonderful.  Holiday exile was over, and the struggles of the last few months began to lead to some answers.  Realizing that the number one lie that I was listening and believing to was the whole "there must be something wrong with me/I must not be as lovable as everyone else/I must not be worth it" (RA- don't flip out.  I know it isn't true. I don't believe it anymore.)  helped me understand that part of my desperation and pain came from the fact that I needed to get married so that I could prove to myself and everyone else that this lie wasn't true.  

My beautiful friend, RA, pointed me toward "Captivating" by Stasi and John Eldredge.  That is what we call the right book at the right time.  They were able to nail exactly what I was thinking and feeling.  I couldn't believe it!  They shed light on some things that I hadn't been able to recognize.  Through that, I came to see that what I was looking for was also something that many married women hadn't found either.  I came to see more clearly that a man, no matter how wonderful, was not going to be able to provide the worth that I was looking for.  

I realized that the lie that I clung to colored my view of God's love for me.  I figured that God had to love everyone.  Of course He loved me.  It didn't matter to Him that I was second-rate. Kind of like my family.  They'll love me no matter what.  I didn't even realize until this time that somewhere in the deep recesses of my mind I added "even though there's something wrong with me."  I know it sounds ridiculous when you write it out, but before going through these things, I never understood that I was thinking that and viewing my entire world through the cracked lens of that lie.

Through that book and through some amazing time in Adoration, He finally shed light on what I was feeling and helped me to see how deeply untrue it was.  I came to see how much He was captivated by me.  How He delighted in me.  I learned how beautiful the word "healing" really is. And the desperation to be married was finally gone.

However, believe it or not (I did not), the desire to be married grew.  

That is where I am today.  Some days are great, other days are really, really hard.  Some days are depressing and other days it's great to be alive.  So in a word, it's life.  I know that if I get married the specifics will change, but the general rule will stay the same.  There will be good things that will be really, really good, and there will be bad things that are horrid.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Turbulence

Ugh.  I don't really want to talk about this last one, but I'm going to.  I need to if I'm really going to share with you what this whole thing has been like.  Just so you know, I hated the experience of the year 2008, but I loved what I learned from it.  I came very close to a panic attack on New Year's Eve of 2008, because I was afraid that there would be no change and 2009 would be the same.  Overly dramatic?  No doubt.  But it's how I felt.  Judge me if you need to.

July, October, and December were the months that were the most difficult.  July was the month that my grandma died and the month that I became the last person that was still single.  I'm not going to go into everything about my grandma dying, but just as it relates to this particular part.  I had been hoping for the last couple of years that I would meet someone in time for her to meet him, and for him to meet her.  We knew that her health was failing, but I had hoped that at least that could happen.  The last time that I got to spend time with her, in May, she asked me if there was anyone in my life.  Of all the people that always ask me things like that, I think that was the only time she ever asked. I hated having to tell her no.

Then there was the fact that I became the last single person in the larger group of friends.  I couldn't believe how lonely that was.  I had no idea it would be like that.  I figured I would have problems with wishing that I had what everyone else did, but what I didn't realize is how many levels the loneliness strikes at that point.  Suddenly, there is less time to spend hanging out because everyone has stuff to do with their significant other.  Also, when we are hanging out, everyone is talking about relationship things, and I now have nothing to contribute to the conversation.  One of the greatest blessings of July, though, was that while being single alone was worse than I thought it would be, it was also better than I thought it would be.  I was genuinely happy for everyone.

Oh, October.  How I do hate thee.  Even now, I could hardly tell you why October was so stinking hard.  At least July was obvious.  It was really hard to try to say anything to anyone about what I was struggling with because I barely knew what to say.  I do know that part of the problem is that for the first time in a long time I had a lot of evenings free.  I was so used to being busy and having things to do, I felt like even more of a single loser now that I was on my own so much.  Whatever it was, I think I cried more that month than I ever have, and I hate crying.  I particularly remember one Saturday.  It was a good day most of the day, and I was busy cleaning and doing various weekend things, but I was fighting off the gloominess all day.  Once it hit, it hit with a vengeance. I don't remember ever crying so hard or feeling so bad or feeling so close to God all at the same time.  It was crazy.  

Two things happened that night.  One is that I was thinking of this song on the radio that I really wanted to hear right then, that really spoke to the experience that I was going through.  I figured, what are the chances that it will be on right now?  But I finally turned on the radio.  And... it was some other song entirely.  Guess what, though.  The very next song was the one that I was really needing to hear right then.

The other thing that happened on this very night that I was struggling more than I ever had with being single is that one of my oldest friends called in the middle of all this to announce her engagement.  I had just calmed down enough that I could even answer the phone, and decided that I was ready to move on, so I did answer the phone, and there she was.  It was kind of funny, because I am known for not having very big reactions to things, so when she told me her news, she was pleasantly surprised by the strength of my emotion.  Little did she know that it was part hysteria! :)  Luckily, she couldn't be on the phone long, but when I got off the phone it was okay.

December was also tough.  Things eased up a little for November, but after Thanksgiving, it started getting rough again.  At the beginning of the month, I was busy getting all depressed about being single again, when I suddenly started listening to the lies that I was telling myself or listening to.  It was really interesting.  Most of the lies were easy to almost laugh at and to reject, once I recognized them.  But one was different.  That was the one about there must be something wrong with me in order for me to still be single.  (Note to married people trying to cheer single people up: when you find out that someone is single, don't use the line, "Huh.  Well there's nothing wrong with you, you'll find someone." Then I figure that if the only single people are the defective ones, I just hide my defects and they haven't figured them out yet.)  I seriously didn't believe that I was as interesting or feminine or whatever as everyone else, because they were married and I was ignored.  Even when I realized that I was thinking this lie, and could intellectually recognize that it was a lie, I still believed it in my heart of hearts.  I began to see a lot of places that it was affecting my life, but it was still there, and there wasn't a thing that I could do about it. 

That was the beginning of the month.  As the month moved on, I moved into one of the longest Decembers ever.  Like most of the world, I normally have a pretty busy time over the holidays.  Not so, this year.  From the middle of the month on, I had absolutely nothing to do for almost three weeks.  Literally.  Christmas day was great, and I was home with my family for about 24 hours at that time, but I had to work the day before and the day after, so that was my one break from hanging out by myself.  There were no text messages, voice mails.  None of that.  A couple of times, I tried calling people for the lamest reasons, but they were always in the middle of or on their way to something, so they didn't really have time to talk or return voice mails. Not only that, but I had been involved in a number of different activities.  For a variety of reasons, a lot of these things were over, too.  

I was fighting with God about it.  I reminded Him that if I was going to be single, that He should at least be using me to keep me busy doing His work so this time would be worth something.  I also reminded Him that I needed to have more time with friends and family, because I couldn't handle it otherwise.

He then reminded me that He was all I needed, and that He was enough.  It didn't really make it easier, but it suddenly made that time about me and Him.  For a brief time of less than 3 weeks, He took everything away that I depended on.  He quieted my schedule at the busiest time of the year.  He made sure that I had to depend on Him, and only Him.  Not going to lie, realizing that He was enough did NOT make it easy or fun.  It made it doable.


Cruising Altitude

Back to my single life as an airplane ride.  I'm sure that's as ridiculous as it sounds, but I'm going to to flaunt it like I did that side pony tail in 2nd grade.  I look back on that with regret now, but I loved it at the time.  (I regret my hair in middle school even more, but we won't go into that.  It's too humiliating.)

I still struggled with being single, but at this point I had a great group of friends to hang out with.  I had church and work activities.  I couldn't wait to get on with getting married, but I also loved all the things that I was getting to do as a single person.  I liked being busy every night.  I was having fun and feeling like I was doing something useful with my singleness.  

A little over 2 years ago, our priest gave a homily about praying for the things you want in life.  The readings for the day were based on God's promise to give Abraham a son, but then Abraham had to wait for 15 years before that came about.  Monsignor said that the first thing that we need to do is pray for increased desire.  I thought the man was flat crazy.  Keep in mind that what I wanted is what I've wanted for a good 6-8 years at this point, and the desire was increasing that entire time.  I did not understand the logic of that prayer. Still, there's crazy and there's crazy.  And Msgr. is a crazy man of God.  It didn't matter that I didn't really understand.  I started to pray for an increased desire for marriage and family, if that was God's will for me.

Not long after that, I started to notice these bittersweet little pangs when I would see an older couple holding hands or a father with a small daughter or things of that sort.  It was what I would call a beautiful pain.  It caught me off guard because it actually caused a little physical pain,  but it was such a wonderful desire that it was sweet at the same time.  At first, I had no idea why I was feeling this way, until I remembered that prayer.  It became a more frequent and more intense for a while, but it was still sweet.

Then it kept growing.  It was no longer bittersweet little pangs.  It was a lot more like getting knocked down by sweaty, gross guys in sumo wrestling suits.  Of course, I'm also in a sumo suit, so once I'm on the ground, I'm ineffectively waving my relatively tiny arms and legs like a beetle on its back.  If I do manage to get up, the desires knock me down again.  Relentless. It's no longer sweet.  Now it's a constant, gnawing ache that is still physically present.

It's the times flat on my back that are teaching me to depend on God more and more.  So they're good, just not so fun.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Mass

Sometimes I like to talk about what I was thinking about in Mass, or what the readings made me think of, or something like that.  I would love to talk about the Mass in general, but I get scared.  I get scared is because Mass is so sacred and so holy that whatever I say will not be enough.  I can't be clear enough, I can't go deep enough, I can't go high enough.  There are not enough words.  There are not the right words.

Maybe you are confused by what I'm talking about.  Maybe you've been to Mass every week of your life and you don't see too much that's special about it.  In fact, you might be rather bored by it, but you go anyway because that's what you do.  Maybe you go through the routine and the ritual mindlessly.  If you do stop to think about what you're doing, maybe it's only to question why you continue to go.

Maybe you used to go to Mass.  Maybe you went every Sunday, and possibly even during the week at Catholic school.  Maybe you got very little out of it.  Maybe after all those weeks and years of going to Mass, you finally decided to try something else.  Maybe you didn't find Jesus until you left the Catholic Church.  Maybe you decided that the old men were wrong and there is no God.

I don't know your story.  I can't speak to your experience.  I would love to hear your experience, good, bad, or indifferent.  However, all I can tell you in this post is my experience:

I love the Mass.  I love the liturgy as it has been passed down through the centuries.  I love sharing a worship experience with all others throughout the world that are going to the Mass that day.  I love the worship of the Bible coming to life before my eyes in my parish church.

I know it's not perfect.  I know that there are crazy distorted liturgies out there that try to be your relevant weekend entertainment.  I know that there are people that do not respect any sort of dress code.  I know that there are people that show up to the Mass with the same enthusiasm that they show for doing the laundry.  I know that when I am there, I fall short in my understanding, attention and reverence.  It's a given.  Not one of the people at the Mass is perfect.  While we should constantly strive for excellence, it will never be perfect this side of heaven.  That's reality.

That is, it's not perfect insofar as it relates to our end of the deal.  It is perfect insofar as it is the perfect Lamb, and the perfect High Priest.  

Perfect.  Now I'm speechless.