Saturday, December 29, 2012

Bible Study, Anyone?

Okay, so in 2012, I was trying to read the Bible in a year chronologically.  I got behind (shocker), but as the year is coming to a close, I'm close enough to the end to start thinking about the next thing.  I'm still going to finish reading the Bible, because I'm this close, but after that, I'm ready for something else. Bring it.

I need a Bible study.  One that I can do with other people.  Now, I need to find one around here (and I'll keep looking for that, RA!), but I also thought it might be fun to see if anyone wanted to do a virtual Bible study. Here's my thought. Last year (and the first part of next year) have been about reading several chapters at a time and trying to gain some sort of a big picture view.  What I want to do now is choose one book of the Bible and dig in deep. I'm leaning toward Matthew, because there are a lot of Old Testament connections, and I'm loving seeing how the New Testament fulfills the Old, and how the New Testament is hidden in the Old Testament.

I have been playing around with several ideas of how to do this, but I guess it depends on what people want to do (if anyone wants to do it at all!) One thing that I'm pretty stuck on is that I want to do 1-2 chapters every other week.  I'm sort of thinking 2 chapters, but definitely every other week.  Again, at this point, I'm just hoping at least one other person will want to do it with me and we can work out the particulars then.

I do have a few other half formed thoughts, but I didn't want to put too much time in it unless there was a little interest.  Depending on what people want to do, we could either just read from whatever Bible was handy.  Or we could get a book that was the same (like this one) that has quite a bit of commentary and study notes, etc, and go based off it.  Or we could try to find a separate book about the Gospel of Matthew to read along with reading Matthew.  Or we could study a different book of the Bible entirely (though I hope you want New Testament, because I have two new versions of the New Testament with commentary and stuff that I really want to dig into!)

If you think you might be interested, there are a couple of things that I would ask.  No, just one.  I would really like to have some commitment to participating, both in the reading and discussion of it. That's why I really want to stick with every other week discussions and just 1-2 chapters that we're reading. I want to keep it easy to participate with busy lives going on, so that it's not too overwhelming for anyone that wants to join in.

As far as discussion, we can also do that however people want to do.  I was thinking that not everyone would have to write a whole post every 2 weeks (though you are certainly welcome to!), but I would want people to write at least a short comment on a post about what they've read or learned or how it's speaking to them in their lives that week. As far as posting, I figured we could maybe use my (poor, neglected) Bible study blog and I could add all people that are participating as authors so you could post if you wanted to.  Or, if everyone has blogs, we could take turns hosting the discussion, or we could to a link up.

Okay, most of this is just brainstorming, and is open for suggestions.  What I really want to know is if anyone is interested in doing some Bible study with me!  I really only need one other person to make it worth it for me, but of course I would love to have a lot more than that if there's interest. I do know that it would likely be middle of January before I would be ready to start.

All right, here's the scary part.  I now have to hit the publish button and hope that at least one person wants to play with me, or this is going to be a sad, sad post.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

7 Quick Takes, Early Edition

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 193)
1) It feels like it's been forever since I blogged!  Not since I've read blogs, but since I've written. Since I scheduled a post for Christmas, it doesn't look like very long, but it's been a whole week since I've actually written anything.  I guess it seems like longer because I spent close to 30 hours in the car in the last week, so I had lots of thoughts, but most of them are long gone by now (you may thank the sugar daze for that).  And maybe the general business, etc.

2) In my 30 hours of travel, at various times I was in or near the vicinity of 5 bloggers that I know of.  Funny how travel changes when you know bloggers everywhere doesn't it? (Speaking of which, is there anyone in the San Diego area? Email me!) Of course, there was no way any meet ups could happen in the craziness of the holiday madness, but it doesn't mean I wasn't planning my stalking visits for my next time through!

3) I finally got out and did a few things like light hiking and a little climbing.  The jury's still out on exactly how my nagging little injuries are feeling about that, but it felt great to be out doing something!  I'm going to try a little more this weekend.

4) So, my younger brother had this idea that he wanted all of us to get up at some pre-determined cue during gift opening on Christmas and go get something out of the other room.  Nothing big, but just to give my parents a little confusion.  Somehow, this evolved into a choreographed dance thing to a song that my brother was lip sync'ing.  With several camera angles.  The video didn't turn out great due to some lighting issues, but it was still a lot of fun.  My all time favorite clip is when my sister (who graduated with a mass comm major) was determining some of the camera angles so she turned the camera on and my brother didn't realize that she was actually recording.  He ended up doing a little dance as he stood in his spot.  It makes me laugh every time.  Sadly, not all of my brother's facial expressions ended up in the video (due to the lighting thing), but believe me when I say that he had some classic ones as he acted out the song!  Most of us are not actors, but he might be.

5) Part of the reason that I put in such an insane number of hours with the driving was that I wanted to stop and see my grandparents before heading up to my parents' house (it only would have been 24 if I went straight to their house and back). When I planned it, I didn't know that was going to be the weekend for the Christmas get together, so I got to see a lot of aunts, uncles, and cousins as well.  It was so good to see them. My parents weren't able to travel down due to my sister having some commitments at church that she had to do over that weekend.

6) I always love prayer buddies and I was so excited to get a chance to participate again this Advent.  My prayer buddy was Rachelle, and it was fun to be able to pray for someone whose intentions are so similar to my own, because I know how it is! I was able to offer up morning and evening prayer, Masses, and the Christmas rose novena for her.  Rachelle, I hope you're having a fantastic Christmas season and praying for many blessings for you in 2013!  Thank you so much to my prayer buddy as well.  It means so much to me!

7) You love how this QT's has approximately 0 flow?  Me too. Who needs themes and things that all pull together?  Not me!

I'm loving that it's Thursday, and I haven't worked yet this week!

Have a fantastic weekend and enjoy the continued celebration of Christmas! Head over to Jen's for more Quick Takes!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Christmas Prayer


Thank You so much for coming to us!  Thank You for the mystery of your birth, your humanity, and your death that conquered death. Generally, we have a custom of giving gifts to the one that we are celebrating, but instead, I am coming before You to ask favors. Yes, plural. Many favors.

Beloved, today be with those whose hearts are broken and arms are empty. Be with those that do not understand where You are today because their pain is so great.  Be with those that are smiling the biggest because they are trying to hide the deep pain inside that no one seems to see, or seems to want to see.

Be with those that have lost someone, whether it be the smallest baby in the womb, or a child, or a young adult full of life and potential, or a grandparent or anyone else. When the rest of the world is laughing, hold them while they cry.

Be with those that face emptiness today.  The ones that long for that special someone in their life, whether it is a spouse they are unable to find, or a child they are unable to conceive, or if they need a friend who understands them. Be with those who are alone and/or lonely.

Be with those that are scared.  Those that don't know what the world is coming to, or are facing a scary diagnosis, or don't know how long their job will last or when they will find a job. Be with mothers that are scared of losing a child through miscarriage, or who are facing an uncertain delivery. Be with those that are scared that the pain in their lives will not lessen or go away.

Be with those that are waiting.

Be with those that are tired and weary.

Be with those who are not with their family because they are serving their country. And be with their families.

Be with those that are sick. And those that are dying.

Be with those that are suffering.

Be with those that are angry, and bitter.  But really, my Love, they're just hurting.  They're hurting so bad they don't know what to do with it.

Be with those that are sad.  May they know that when they cry, You are crying with them.

Beloved, come and be with all of us.

And thank You that you already have come and that You are here.

Friday, December 21, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 193)

1) I have blown past my goal of 108 posts in the year. Okay, fine. I've surpassed it at least.  There is nothing too special about that number, but I just wanted at least a couple more posts than last year.  The first 2 years needed seriously fewer posts (I'd go back and get rid of many of the completely superfluous posts, but I'm too lazy).  This week has too many posts, too, but it's understandable because a) I had stuff to say, and b) I had Christmas preparations that were getting too overwhelming and so I needed something to do while I procrastinated.

2) A coworker made a comment to me today.  She laughs and says, "I love how you always have to analyze every last thing out of something."  I did the only appropriate thing and kept silent in the face of that remark.  Besides, I couldn't run my mouth because my brain was too busy: "What is that supposed to mean? When she says she loves it, does that mean that it's not too overdone and it is somehow weirdly endearing, or does she mean "I love it" as in "I hate it"?  Do I really do that all the time, or is it just a couple of times, but it was noticeable? We don't talk that often, so if she noticed something like that, how often do I do it?  And really, what does she mean?"

Don't worry, I quickly (after only 5 minutes- 10 on the outside) dropped it, because CLEARLY my coworker is crazy and doesn't know what she is talking about.

3) I've been debating about what to do with allowing comments.  I used to like allowing anonymous comments.  Not too many people took advantage of it, but I liked having the option on there.  However, then the spam got to be too annoying.  I thought maybe I could open up the anonymous comments again, because that way some people who complain they can't sign in could comment with the anonymous setting.  But, in order to avoid spam, I'd have to turn on wv.  I hate wv! Any thoughts?

4) Umm, so we did Secret Santa at work.  I'm not a huge fan.  How often do you know your coworkers well enough to get them something that they might actually like?  I got a picture frame for my person, but I have no idea what her decor is or how it will fit.  I just liked the frame and I know she takes a lot of photos.  My gift was a scarf and gloves.  Very nice set, very not my style, very much doesn't match anything I own.  Now what do I do with it?  It's too nice to throw out, but it's not anything I can use without buying a whole new coat. And even if I did get a new coat, it's still not really my thing. I know, first world problems.

5) I was wondering if I could ask for your prayers about something.  It's a little thing and feels funny to ask for, but it's important to me. I have a cousin that has left the Church, but I absolutely love discussing things of faith with him.  He is so thoughtful and so well researched about things that I feel like talking to him really makes me dig deeper into what I believe and why.  He does not give the same old tired arguments in the same old tired ways.  There is so much we agree on and I learn so much from him.  Part this desire stems from the fact that there are very few people here that I can discuss matters of faith with.  So the prayer I'm asking for is that if it would be helpful to one or both of us that we get a chance in the middle of the chaos to have a chat.  I don't even know for sure if he'll be there, as this is his first year as a married man, and he might be at the in-laws'.

6) I'm loving seeing all the snowy pictures on fb!  It's Christmas, there's supposed to be snow, and I love it. I'm hoping to get some cross country skiing in after the new year. And it was considerate of the weather to come through before I had to drive.

7) Well, I have now spent a lot of time on blogs, and very little on minor things like laundry and dishes (packing is not something I even need to begin to consider until the night before I leave... or the morning that I leave.) Therefore, I'll get off and leave you with a picture.

Snow! (In 2010)

Have a wonderful weekend and a very blessed Christmas!  I was so scared of the holidays again this year, but it has been a very nice Advent despite some of the things going on around here.  I credit that to God, but I also credit it to the amazing people around here.  Maybe it's not Thanksgiving anymore, but I really am thankful to all the people that have prayed for me for so long, and particularly thankful for my Advent prayer buddy.  Thank you all! And know that I am praying for you, too. Your intentions are close to my heart, and in particular for my prayer buddy that I'm praying for!

Head over to Jen's for more QT's.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

O, Come All Ye Faithful

There is one last thing that I really wanted to touch on when it comes to waiting well.  It's kind of a new one for me, or at least this aspect of it.  It's something that I feel that I am only beginning to understand, so I'll give you what little I've got so far on this idea.  I will say this, though I have been learning it in the context of waiting, it (like many lessons) applies in a general way to so many areas.

This thing is faith.

I have heard this word so many times that it has lost meaning for me.  We refer to our faith, and the faith of our fathers.  We talk about being people of faith.  But what does it mean to live faith? To wait with faith? In particular, how do I put faith in God, when I don't know what the outcome is supposed to be?  For me, faith has meant believing that God could work miracles and make things happen.  So, to apply it to my life, it meant believing that God could take where I am as a single person and bring a special someone into my life.  But how do I pray with faith for that to happen, while at the same time surrendering to His will, whatever that may be in terms of time as well as in terms of whether I will meet someone and get married?

This Advent, a light finally started to peek through the darkness for me.  If "Advent" means "coming", all I have to do is have faith that He is coming.  That's it.  I don't have to have all the answers, or to know when or how, just that He's coming.  That really is it.  It seems like that should be obvious when I write that out, but really, it's taken me a decade (well, three, but let's pretend that it only counts after college) to figure this little piece out.

So for the first few weeks of Advent, I focused on the fact that He is coming.  In particular, last week when words like "joy" and "rejoice" seemed like obscenities in the face of what happened, I was reminded that He is coming.  I may have made Christmas about snow and sparkles and trees and cookies and food and family traditions, but really Christmas is about the fact that He came, and that He is coming again.  It is about the fact that He came, and that while I will never understand tragedies like that, death did not conquer and last Friday was not the end for those children.  That doesn't make it any easier for their families to live without them, but it's not the end, and I hold onto that.

But also in my life, He is coming.  I have also been reminded over and over of the ways that He has already been working in my life, but this Advent really has been about the joy of Him coming.  How or when does not matter, but He is coming.

This brings up a question.  If He is coming, what am I going to do about it?  If I don't know how, then how do I prepare myself?  The Gospels are full of stories of people that accepted Jesus and those that rejected Him.  How do I make sure that I am one of the ones that recognized His coming with faith and accepted it, even when it's not what I expected?

If I have faith, and expect Him to work miracles, what do I do?

In my year of Bible reading (I'm 1.5-2 months behind), I was just starting to work my way through the Gospels when Advent started.  The first part of the Gospels all talk about tons of Jesus' miracles.  The leper who simply came up to Jesus and said, "If you will, you can heal me." And Jesus said, "I do will, be healed."  Or the centurion who impressed Jesus with His faith.  Or Bartimaeus that kept calling out even though Jesus did not answer at first and the disciples even tried to hush him.  The paralytic that was brought in by friends and lowered through the roof, or the paralytic that had been waiting at the pool for years.  How about the woman that had a hemorrhage for 12 years?

Many of them displayed great faith.  Some had waited for years, and then sought out Jesus as a last resort.  Others seemingly had a problem that Jesus solved pretty quickly. But some didn't have much faith.  What about the disciples on the boat in the storm?  They cried out that they were going to die, and Jesus rebukes them for their lack of faith, but He calms the storm anyway.

Yet, with all the differences, one thing struck me as similar.  People came.  Jesus came to earth, and He came to their regions, but they came to Him.  Some begged, some stated, some were just present, but all came to be with Him.  The disciples were often rebuked for their lack of faith, but they came, in response to a call, or to His miracles, or to His teachings, but they came. Often, they stepped out in faith before they knew what Jesus was going to do, as this blogger points out. Mary didn't know what was going to happen, but with faith, she said yes (and some great thoughts here about the difference of surrendering control and acting with faith).

Last night, I was thinking about this.  I went to a late Mass, and there were only 5 people there.  The older priest that was celebrating the Mass often gets sidetracked in his homilies, so daily Masses with him tend to be 45 minutes (for those of you that haven't been to daily Mass, they're usually 25-30 minutes).  We were in a side chapel, and we could hear the choir begin to practice for the Christmas services this weekend.  Right after the words of consecration (when He comes to us in a special way), when the priest held up the host, the choir belted out, "O, come, all ye faithful..."

And this living with faith thing that had seemed so confusing about how to do it right, suddenly made sense. First, He comes.  Then, we come and follow Him. Easier said than done? Absolutely. But at least I know where to start.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Surviving the Wait

Working Title: A (Hopefully) Handy Guide for Surviving Long, Drawn Out Periods of Waiting that May Never End from Someone Who Hates to Wait so Much as Thirty Seconds for a Stop Light to Change. And Also Some Helpful Thoughts from Other People that May Be More Patient than I.

I had to change the final title.  My English professors were harsh, and the working title would have seen a whole lotta red ink.  (Because I'm so old, I went to school when ink pens were used on a regular basis, even more than printers.)  However, let's not show them my blog posts, eh?  I'm not going to even pretend that I use half the knowledge they so diligently drilled into me. (Though I appreciate the knowledge I have, because I know plenty of people that never learned their own language very well.-- But could someone please tell me again the proper use of lie and lay?  I think I finally have it down that people lie down and things lay, but then I get all confused with the tenses: laid, lain, lay... I don't know!)

Wait, what was this post about?

Right.  A few things that I have learned in waiting.  I can only tell you what works for me.  I can't promise that will be helpful for anyone else.  Take whatever works for you, and ignore the rest.

1) Emotion and attitude are not the same thing.  Emotions are what they are.  You can deal with them, accept them, fight them, roll with them, but you cannot choose them.  Attitudes, on the other hand, are a choice. Don't confuse the two.  I have been both angry and bitter, both happy and joyful.  I haven't chosen the anger or the happiness, but I have chosen both joy and bitterness.

2) Accept that waiting hurts.  Because it does.  Accept that suffering is okay. Because it is.  

Don't get me wrong, it's not fun, and it's hard. We can't do it alone, ever.  But the point I'm trying to make is that suffering is not the worst evil.  We spend so much time miserable because we're suffering, or miserable because we're trying to figure out how to avoid suffering.  Those few times that I have been able to accept it have been far better than the many times that I have tried to figure out how much time suffering I had left and when will it flipping be over?!  Jen Fulwiler has had some great posts on suffering, and this one may not be her best written one, but it has a lot of great thoughts and links.

3) Realize that there is, in fact, a plan.  I have often thought of wanting to be the clay in the potter's hands, but I've never said it as well as it was said here. I really don't know why my life has needed to go as it has to shape me in this way.  But in the end, I do want to be shaped into whatever He wants, even if it's different than I expected.

4) One of the toughest ones for me is to be happy where I am, rather than comparing myself to where everyone else is. I still want to experience what everyone else has gotten to experience, and what I have wanted to experience for years.  But I also need to be thankful for the good things about the way my life is.

5) Offer it up. Seriously, I just rolled my eyes writing that because I heard it so many times growing up, and I hated it every time.  But it is so true.  The pain can become a prayer.  And there is a certain amount of joy in that prayer, primarily because there is purpose in it.

6) When all else fails, find a good book or a good TV show and get lost in it.  Don't worry about it if you can't be as present for a couple days or a couple weeks (though if it goes much past that, it may be time to find some help).  It's okay if you can't go out with friends, read or write blogs as much, or if you can't be on fb, or if you can't find the emotional energy to be in touch with everyone.  Like I said, I don't think it's a healthy place to stay in for very long, but I think sometimes you need the distance.

7) If you're Catholic, sacraments.  That's all I have to say about that, Jack.  If you feel like going, go.  If you don't feel like going, go.  If you don't have an opinion, go.  If you get wonderful feelings from it, go.  If you hate going, go. If you feel dead inside, go.  Just go. Same deal with prayer.

Okay, that's all I have for the moment.  Anyone else have anything that helps them get through the waiting or the tough times?  Feel free to share!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Calendar Winner!

I love to do the occasional giveaway, but my least favorite part is picking a winner, because I want everyone to win.  Unfortunately, I can't afford 13 calendars (everyone that commented on the post itself and one person that complained to me on fb that my blog hates her and won't let her comment- hi, K.!) I would if I could, but I can't.

However, since not everyone can win (which would be the best option), I was really excited to see who did win!  This time, I couldn't just go with a random numbers generator. I hate those things.  So I wrote down everyone's name and drew one.  The good news is, I can't cheat, since I can't rig it for everyone to win.

Okay, on with it, I know. The person that won has been a huge support to me and so many others, and so I'm going to take this opportunity to publicly say thank you!  I've been reading her blog for a couple of years now and couldn't even tell you now where I made the initial connection. I know she doesn't just do it for me.  You'll see her comments in the com box all over the place, and I know that a lot of people have been greatly blessed by her, so thank you SO MUCH!

Now since that could be said of several people, let me get to it.  The winner is....


Send me your address, friend, and I'll try to have it in the mail by Thursday.

Friday, December 14, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 193)
1) I have to admit, for all my complaining about how quiet my Decembers can be, this one is great. I'm loving that it's quiet.  I'll have some time to be harried and stressed like the rest of the world on Christmas itself, but I am loving some extra relaxation! Even the sad lack of exercise has been somewhat relaxing (and seems to be coming to an end soon, yay!)

2) I did not do QT's last week because my computer had to go into the shop for a little repair.  Now, mostly I signed it up for the spring cleaning... You know, delete cookies on the hard drive (or whatever) and also get rid of the cookie crumbs in my keyboard.  I also told them about this weird thing going on that results in my periodically losing paragraphs that I just typed.  It was hard to hand over my computer, but in less than 24 hours, it was back, and it was all clean and shiny. But guess what.  They didn't fix my biggest problem!  Argh!  Now I have to take it back and they want to charge you $45 just for looking at it!  I'll be emailing them.  Hopefully they'll not charge me since I just had it in and asked them to look at that particular problem. Well, obviously I'll have to pay if there's a significant repair needed, but you know what I mean. I don't want to pay another $45 dollars for them to look at what might be going on, even if I don't decide to get it fixed. (If it's too expensive, I'd get a different computer.)

3) So, I was printing out some reports at work.  By some weird glitch, they did not have my signature on them like they're supposed to and like they typically do.  I re-printed one, and my signature magically appeared.  The second one didn't work no matter what I tried.  I wasn't quite sure what to do because the report needed a signature and I couldn't figure out where the glitch was in the printing.  Fortunately, the answer was only a few seconds in coming (but unfortunately, it wasn't instantaneous).  I grabbed a pen and signed the paper.  Yeah. Really had to think outside the box for that one.

4) Since we're on electronic fun, let's discuss what happened with my kin.dle the other day.  I have read several books on there, so I recently got a new one.  Only this was a popular novel and all of a sudden I was introduced to a brand new feature: popular highlights. For real?! I hate, hate, hate reading books with other peoples' markings, especially other people I don't know.  When I got used books in college, I searched high and low for books that were not all marked up.  It interrupts the flow of reading. It distracts me. The only reason I've highlighted in my own ki.ndle books is because I can erase it later if it annoys me. You're telling me that I just bought a brand new book, and I have to read hundreds of other peoples' markings? Yuck! And it's a novel!  Highlights are something that I use for reference as I'm trying to understand something or if I need to come back to it.  When is that ever the case in a novel?! It took me 20 minutes of sorting through forums (and reading about crazy people who actually wanted that feature on) before I finally got it turned off and could read my now-clean copy of the book. Seriously, I might have had to stop reading if I couldn't resolve the problem.

5) Speaking of books, I just found one that discusses Judaism and how a lot of our thought processes and customs come either directly from Judaism, or from parallel thought processes.  Like how the zuchetta (a word I totally didn't know before, but is the "beanie" worn by the pope, cardinals, and bishops) is not a yarmulke, but both are worn because a head covering shows servanthood, and they are professing servanthood to God.  And do you know why the zuchetta is taken off during the consecration at the Mass?  Because in that moment they are acting in the person of Christ.  Cool stuff, huh?

6) Okay, in the interest of full disclosure, I have to tell you that the night that I published this, right before I went to bed I was standing in front of my toilet, yelling at it.  Apparently my mellow "whatever" place does not extend to toilets that are misbehaving (I guess we all have our limits?).  After I had exhausted my extensive knowledge of what to do with a toilet that won't stop running (I jiggled the handle), I resorted to yelling at it.  Very helpful, I must say.  Luckily, it did stop running shortly thereafter.  I was starting to think that I was going to have to lift the top off and maybe touch something inside.  Very not okay options! (Hence, the yelling.)

7) I am currently unable to publish new pictures on my blog.  Which is really annoying.  BUT, there is still a calendar giveaway going on, and the calendar has pictures, so go ahead and sign up if you're interested! I just got them, and I'm really excited about how they turned out!  Except for April.  I apologize for April.  It was kind of a stormy picture (April showers, ya know?) and it turned out too dark when it was printed, IMO. But the rest of the pictures turned out great!

You know what? A fair number of the calendar pictures are already on the blog, so here's a peek:





There are at least two more mountain views, an arch, a river, and a ghost town for some of the rest of the pictures. And, of course, a too dark picture of a storm (but you can still see the hail clouds, so all is not totally lost).

So, here for the calendar (and as soon as I get a chance to go to the post office, I'll be ending the giveaway so I can get it in the mail; but I'll leave it open at least until Sunday evening). And here to go to Jen's for more Quick Takes! Have a great weekend!!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Waiting Well Is Not the Same as Waiting Pretty

I have this post that I really want to write about waiting well, but maybe it's not supposed to be written because I can't get to it, or when I start it, I can't get it to make sense.  Today, though, I want to write about something else that I've learned in waiting.

"Waiting well" is not the same thing as "waiting pretty".  Waiting well does not mean that you have it all together, that waiting doesn't hurt, that you can keep it all together and joyfully praise God every moment of the day, and every step of the journey.  I don't know when or where it happened, but somehow I got the idea along the way that embracing my cross meant that I would choose to pick it up, throw it over my shoulder, and stride confidently along my journey.  I figured it'd be heavy, but so what? It's a cross, right? No, prob!  I'll jog across the finish line with ease and maybe even beat a few people along the way.

Yeah, right.  That only happens with theoretical crosses, just so you know.

With a real cross, you embrace it, only to realize that it is rough and full of splinters.  They dig into the palms of your hands and bite into the flesh of your shoulder.

You pick it up, only to set it back down because it is so heavy.  Who could carry it?

Only when you realize that you have no choice do you again embrace it and lift it, and begin the journey.  There is no confident striding, only slow plodding.  You can't lift it off the ground, so it is digs  into your shoulder and the end drags behind you, pulling you back.

Sometimes, you fall.  How could you not?  Sometimes when you fall, you just have to lie there for a few minutes before you can begin to get back up.

Sometimes you stand, but you can't lift it, so you only drag it, inch by inch.

Sometimes you can't carry it all, and the only forward progress comes from those that walk with you, urging you on, and helping you carry it in any way they can.

Sometimes the only people around are the ones that don't understand and only make it harder to move forward.

And at the end of the cross?  There is death.  And it hurts.

Carrying your cross is brutal, and painful, and ugly.  There is blood, sweat, and tears.  There is fear, anger, bitterness.

To me, waiting well (or whatever your cross is, because this applies across the board) is not about whether you are strong enough to easily lift and carry your cross (here's a hint: no one's strong enough to do that).  To me, waiting well is not just about the first part of Jesus' command, but also (and maybe especially) about the second part of His command:

"Take up your cross and follow me."

Waiting well is about following Him.  And He was going up to Calvary to die.  Any real cross we carry will lead to death, and it is extremely painful.


That is not the end.  If we are able to follow Him all the way, that is not the end. That's what waiting well is about, sticking with Him in the midst of it, and He does bring new life in the end!  Whether the end of our cross is the long awaited wedding day, or the birth of a child, or whatever it is.  Or maybe it will be at the end of our lives. In this life, there will always be a cross, and though it leads to death to self, it also leads to new and abundant life in Him.

There is more good news.  I have had times where I felt like I could barely breathe, let alone figure out how to follow Him. Sometimes waiting well doesn't mean you have to do anything. Sometimes it just means that you have to let Him know that you want to follow Him even though you can't because you're too tired or too angry or too sad or whatever.  He'll take care of the rest (not magically, but eventually you get to the other side, where you can breathe and function and you realize you didn't do it yourself.)

I know this is Advent, and this post seems like more of a Lenten thought process. But for some, the holidays are so painful and the world is so joyful.  I will rejoice with the Church this Sunday, but for now, I am hurting with several family members and friends.  If you are hurting in the midst of these holidays, I'm praying for you!  I just wish I could do more to help you carry the load.

Monday, December 10, 2012

For Now, Whatever

This has been an odd Advent for me. Odd because I moved out here because my life was stuck, and so I started a new job, made new friends and got crazy involved with all kinds of outdoor adventures.  And my life still continued to stay stuck in the one way that mattered most to me. That is, I'm still very single. So as great as all that stuff was, there have been some crazy painful times in the last few years.

Now, my job is mostly good, but there are some things that aren't quite perfect. (Though is any job?)  Every so often there are reminders that as much as I love what I do, it's not what I would focus my life around if I had a choice.  Right at the beginning of Advent, I was strongly reminded of that.

One of my closest friends out here moved away in August, and another friend that I did a ton of stuff with moved away in October. Another couple of friends are maybe moving soon, and another just tore her ACL, so I am running low on friends to play outside with.  Then, just to top it all off, now I have something that is not quite right with my health (don't know how to explain it, I think I know what it is, but the dr. was no help- kiss that copay goodbye!) Anyway, in my situation it's not all that serious, but it has meant that I have to avoid exertion for a couple of weeks.  So weird!  Not only can I not hike, but I can't climb, I can't even go to a gym just to work out.  It seems to be a lot better in the last couple of days, but I don't know how soon I can get back to my normal stuff, because the doctor couldn't tell me anything.  Sorry, I know that's vague.  Just roll with me on this.  Every time I try to explain it in real life, people don't quite understand and it's just easier not to explain.

Now, we have Advent.  The time of year that I want more than anything to have a family to share the season with, to create traditions together, to simply soak up the beauty of the season

If all this stuff happened all together, and it was just me dealing with this, I can tell you that I would be one hot mess and hating life right now.

So the really odd part is, I'm pretty mellow about it all.  As always, the hardest part is not knowing when (or if) I will ever have a different scenario for the holiday season (sharing it with a family of my own). But I'm not worried about next season, or when, or if.  Just now.  Now I have a tree that makes me happy when it's lit up.  I'm enjoying a month that's a little more laid back.  I'm loving the Advent liturgical season. The fear and the pain are around and sometimes they pop up their ugly faces, but they don't stick around long.

It stinks to have friends leave, but they're where they're supposed to be right now.  I miss them, but it's okay. My job is a job, and like everything else it won't be forever, so I just need to focus on the many good parts for right now.  As for the not being able to be active, it's been a little tough, but surprisingly easy to say "whatever".  I know many people that have it worse and things going on longer.  I'm just excited to have some extra time to read my new books, and this weekend of not being able to hike led to me going to an absolutely fascinating museum exhibit (that sounds so nerdy, but it was awesome). Those of you around here (you know who you are), let me know if you like that kind of stuff and I'll email you the info.  A little pricey, but SO worth it if you can make it happen (if you like history). Also, I would actually go again, so let me know if you head that way, maybe we can join up! I can honestly say that I am very okay with not hiking this weekend. I'm hoping I can start again soon, but sometimes something different is okay, too.

Anyway, I'm hanging out in the whatever.  It's a nice place to be.  I can't stay here if I think at all about how much I want my situation to change (because I still really, really want that), but as long as I let go and live in the "whatever" for right now, rather than the "what if" of the unknown future, it's been okay.  I know how quickly that can change, so I'm enjoying this for however long it sticks around.

I know that it's not always possible to choose surrender and to say "whatever" to God (in a good, respectful way!)  I know that there are times, especially in this season, that it's all you can do to get through the day, breathe in and out, and hopefully get the essentials taken care of before going back to bed.  If that is you right now, know that I am praying for you.

I don't really know the point of this post, but thank you so much to my prayer buddy for your prayers, and for all the many people who pray for me! And to my prayer buddy, I am praying for you and offering up the weirdness and uncertainty for your intentions.

Oh, yeah, and go sign up for the calendar giveaway!  (If you want, I mean.)

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Calendar Giveaway!

How do you like that cleverly worded title?  Did it keep you guessing about the gist of this post?

Okay, so it's a boring title.

But it's almost Christmas, so I feel like doing a giveaway! And it's almost 2013, so I feel that a calendar is in order.  Yeah, I did it last year, too.  So I'm not very creative with coming up with new stuff.

But the calendar will be new and have various pictures, all outdoors and mostly of the mountainous variety. I'd give you a preview, but picasa wants me to pay to put more pictures on there, and I won't! So there!  I mean, I want it to be a pleasant surprise. (If you've been following long, some of the pictures I'll be using have been posted on the blog before- both in posts and as headers. Which means that I could pull them from what's already on picasa and put them on here.  But I'll be honest.  I'm lazy. So, here's to the most boring looking giveaway post ever!)

As always, around here, I like to keep it simple.  So leave a comment if you'd like a chance to win a 2013 calendar of pictures that I took in 2012. It's a wall calendar, and it will have some of the Catholic holy days on it (because I'm making one for myself, too), but if you don't have to be Catholic, I just wanted to warn you in case you win and you're not Catholic. ;) I'll pick one commenter randomly.  I'm not going to put a deadline on it right now.  You have until the calendar gets to me to comment.  Once I have it and a chance to get to the post office, I'll end the giveaway so that I can hopefully get you the calendar by 2013!

I would love to give you all a calendar, but I can only give one token calendar of what I'd like to give to everyone.  Anyone is eligible, and if you've never commented before, now is a great time to de-lurk!  I have to say good luck to everyone, but I really hope that you win it.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

For He Comes!

I think the number one thing that I have been learning about waiting in the last couple of weeks is summed up perfectly in what I read during morning prayer on the first Sunday in Advent:

Let us shout for joy at the presence of the Lord, for He comes! 

For He comes.

So much of waiting is about surrender.  We have to give up control. We have to give up our plans. We have to give up our desires. We have to give up our timing.

But, He comes.

He comes in our weakness, in our fear, in our tears, in our pain, in our grumbling.

He comes in our joys, in our triumphs, in our learning, in our growth along the way.

He comes in our family, in our friends, in small kindnesses of strangers, in sharing our journey with others.

He comes in the unexplained peace and the unending darkness.

He has come, He is here.

And He will come in answer to our prayers.  What the answer will be, how it will look, and when it will come, I have no idea. But He will come.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

It's Only a Dream

Last night in the middle of the night, I was so thirsty. My mouth was dry, and I wanted to drink and drink.  So I grabbed a water bottle and did just that.  I drank until my belly was so full of water that I was uncomfortable, but strangely my thirst was not quenched.  It's like the water barely even touched my thirst.  I tried drinking a little more, but again, it barely helped. It was interesting, because while I was drinking, it felt pretty good. It didn't feel like enough- somehow my mouth felt dry even as I was drinking-, but the fact that I could drink as much as I wanted gave me the illusion that was taking care of things, so it felt fairly good.  I could ignore the weird fact that it wasn't enough when there was so much. It wasn't until I stopped drinking that I realized that the water had done nothing for my thirst, and now I also had a belly that was complaining.

Then I woke up.  And realized the thirst was real.  But since I was awake, I grabbed the real water that was sitting by my bed for just such emergencies.  Compared to my memory of the water that did not satisfy, it was amazing how wet the water was and how quickly it took care of my desire for something to drink. Without needing so much that I got water logged.

I'm guessing you can figure out where this is going.  It should be obvious.  There are so many things in this world that we are currently gorging on. We are constantly taking things to the next extreme.  We don't just want food, we want buffets full of choices and as much as we can eat.  We don't just want sex, we want it with whomever, whenever. And if no one's available, there's a thriving porn industry.  We don't just want fame, we want to be known and idolized by the world; and those of us that are not famous are happy to not only admire but idolize these famous ones. Even sports have gone from sane, team activities, to insanity that involve long, long hours in season and out of season, and at younger and younger ages.  Not only that, but sports get more and more extreme.

It's not enough.

It's never enough.

We need more, always more.  As long as we never stop moving, never sit in the quiet, never take a moment, we never have to acknowledge that strange feeling that so much is not enough. It's only in the quiet, in a moment where it stops, that we can see that it all for what it is: a poor substitute for what is real.

We are looking for the food and drink that truly satisfies.

We are looking for love, fulfillment, to be known for all that we truly are and accepted as such.

We are looking for a way to stretch ourselves and be the best we can be, to push our limits and to grow.

It is true that we are often doing these things wrong. We eat too much food that is bad for us, we pursue sex, whether or not there is love. We seek fame (or even just popularity) and being "known", even if it means hiding who we really are.

But even if we do it right, it's not enough.

If we eat and drink only the best, most nutritious, organic, all-natural foods, and only drink the purest water, it's not going to be enough.

Even having the most wonderful, mind-blowing sex with your spouse, and truly loving and being loved for who you are, is not enough.

Reaching the highest pinnacle of fame and success, even with people in your life that truly support you, is not enough.

Breaking all the records in your sport and doing things that no one has ever done before, is not enough.

All these things are good, and there is nothing wrong at all with pursuing them.  Some of these things are very good, and even the best kinds of things this world has to offer. But we can't ever forget that they are not enough.

We need the food and drink that truly satisfies. (John 6:35)

We don't just need the love of others, we need His love. (John 15:9)

Fame, popularity, and success is not enough.  We need to be known by someone that doesn't need a tweet to know what we're doing, but He knows our every little move, as well as all our thoughts (from the shallowest to the deepest). He knows us from the first to the last, and He not only still cares, but He cares all the more because He knows. (Psalm 139)

We need to remember that pushing ourselves to the limit is not ultimately about what records we can break, but it's about persevering and finishing a higher race. (Hebrews 12:1)

It's not that any of the things that we pursue here are bad, if they are in their proper context.  But in and of themselves they will ultimately give no more satisfaction for what we are truly looking for than my dream water will satisfy my real thirst.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Dangerous Prayer

I apologize if you are getting tired of my current obsession with waiting well.

In the last year and a half, I have had two answers to a prayer that I regularly throw out there in slightly varying forms.  I wrote about the first here. The second (both the prayer and the answer) is very similar. This time, I was so frustrated with being stuck, so tired of the never ending wait in limbo, that I was ready to pray a prayer that I never want to pray, even if it meant that I would get the answer that I desperately didn't want to hear. It's a prayer that I knew would be answered, but I didn't know if it was the answer I would want to hear. I did get an answer that I didn't particularly want, but not the expected unwanted answer.

Beloved, if it is Your will for me to be married, please send him now. If You want me to be single, help me to find contentment and purpose in this single life.  Your will be done.

The trick to a prayer like that is saying "Your will be done" and meaning it on some level. Then I settled back and waited for his answer, figuring peace and purpose were on their way, because the whole husband thing seems to be completely unattainable.  And surely God had to grant one or the other since I asked Him for whatever His will was.

It took a couple of days for it to dawn on me. I asked for God's will, but I didn't cover all the bases. And even though I said that I wanted God's will to be done, there was still something that I hadn't included in my prayer.  My prayer came out of the fatigue and frustration of waiting over a decade. I was ready for that wait to be done, so ready that I was even willing to stay single. But if I was truly asking for God's will to be done, whatever that may be, I had to include my willingness to wait for a bit longer (or a lot longer) or whatever He wanted. My prayer was intended to ask God to bring me to the end of the wait.  Instead, He proved that He really is unchangeable and left me smack in the middle of the wait.

Snark aside, I figure if He's going to allow me more waiting and not move on to the next thing, then I'd better try to wait to the best of my ability. And given that my ability is sorely lacking, and He seems to be dumping lessons on me from all over the place, I'm going to keep spitting them out here as they come. Seeing as how I forget these things as quickly as I see them, I'd better have a reference point to come back to.  Sorry about all the permutations* on the same theme, but here is my spot to write what I'm thinking about, and this is what I'm thinking about!

*How's that for a 25 cent word? I guess Dickens has gotten to me; of all those books I downloaded, I did get The Old Curiosity Shop actually read, and now I'm finding strange words and turns of expression (see what I mean?) coming to mind all the time.

Friday, November 30, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 193)

1) I will admit that I find it ironic that I wrote a blog post entitled "Waiting Well".  I'm probably the worst waiter in the history of waiting.  Let's discuss bargain shopping.  If I'm looking for a particular item and decide that now is the time to get it, I go get it. If I find it on sale at all, I'm happy I didn't pay full price.  For example, I finally order a kin.dle on Thanksgiving weekend, but didn't wait two days more until it was $30 off on Monday. I had been thinking about it off and on for over a year, but once I was ready to buy, I was ready to buy. My sister, on the other hand, has the patience to watch and wait until things go down, then buy.  This is why I might say something like, "Look at the bargain I got! I got $2 off!" Whereas my sister is more likely to say, "Look at the bargain I got! I paid $2!"

2) By the way, after having the kin.dle for a day, I realize that it's going to get me into all kinds of trouble to be able to instantly buy books.  I haven't gotten books in ages because I didn't have the space for them.  But now, I don't need space!  I added over 60 titles in less than 24 hours.  I know that's a little crazy, but good crazy, because it's book crazy.  I should explain that all but about 4 or 5 of them were public domain, and therefore free. Dickens! L.M. Montgomery!  Gene Stratton Porter!  Belloc! Chesterton! Free!  Of course, not all their works were free, but plenty of them were.  The few things I actually paid for were less than $20. Still excessive, of course, but I'm so happy to have books that I'm looking forward to reading. I am a reader by nature and for a number of reasons I have read comparatively little for the last couple of years. New books at my fingertips means I found a piece of myself that was missing. I know it sounds overly dramatic, but it is true.

3) Although, let's be honest. The chances of me reading all of these titles is somewhere between slim and none.  So that brings up an important question. Does the mere fact that I have these authors on my kin.dle make me smarter, or do I have to actually read what they say? I'd like to think it makes me smarter.  And even if it doesn't, it sure makes am.azon think I'm smarter.  You know the reading list they give you? ("Based on your past purchases you might enjoy...") Yeah. That list is currently suggesting things like War and Peace, the works of Plato, and Summa Theologica.

Moving on...

4) So far, I have not managed to join the craze that is pinterest. First it was complete lack of interest.  Everyone was talking about snazzy decorating ideas and cutesy craft projects.  My friends that are crafty and have decorated? I think it's awesome and I am so impressed.  It's not my thing.  However, I do appreciate the people that I know that are on pinterest and find things like recipes and awesome cleaning ideas.  My friend made these amazing apple tarts with brie cheese for Thanksgiving. Yum!  And she also told me about this shower cleaning idea where you fill one of those dish scrubber things (is my domesticity oozing off the screen at you?) with half vinegar and half dish soap.  Then you can just clean the shower as you go.  How brilliant is that? I'm trying to get away from using so many of the disinfectant wipes, and I also love that I can just do a little here and there as needed.  I'd love it more if it didn't make me almost late for work those first couple of days.  I'd be showering and I'd see some discoloration on the tile and lunge for it while yelling, "Out, damn spot!"

5) Not really.  Because:
             A) I don't really yell.
             B) Lunging in a wet, slippery shower might be dangerous. I've already had staples in my head once in the last 12 months. I wouldn't want to have to go to urgent care again and cite "overzealous cleaning" as the cause of my injury. (Which would be especially ridiculous if you knew the state of my house outside of my shower walls.)
             C) Who quotes Shakespeare in the shower? (But if you do quote Shakespeare in the shower, please let me know, because I will think you are the coolest.  No guarantees about what the rest of the world might say.)

But I really did take too long showering because of being distracted by cleaning my shower.

6) My computer is giving me some moments of not working right.  I don't blame it. I've given it four years of abuse and done nothing for it in return. I should take it into the repair shop, but I don't want to because:
           A) That means I would have to look up where to find a repair shop, look up how to get there, set up a time to go, and drop off my computer hoping that they were trustworthy.  Those may not seem like big things to you, but to a perpetual procrastinator, that's a lot of inertia to overcome.
           B) I don't really know much about computers.  I'm going to be the one that they roll their eyes and laugh at because I'm the stupid customer that didn't try the most basic, easy, obvious fixes on their own. (My idea of fixing a computer is rebooting it.)
           C) Most importantly, I'D BE WITHOUT MY COMPUTER FOR AN UNDETERMINED AMOUNT OF TIME. You can see how this repair thing is clearly for the birds. No one should have to go through life computer-less.

7) Last week, I figured that there would be fewer people than usual participating in QT's.  I was right, and since I had a laid back weekend, I made it a goal of mine to read through every last submission. Whew! There were still a lot of people on there!  It took me until Wednesday to get through them all, but it was fun to read.  I normally don't do that, so I got to see some new blogs... And I may have added an obscene number of new blogs to my reading list in the process (please refer to the ki.ndle incident above).

So, have a great weekend, and head over to Jen's to find a whole lot of awesome Quick Takers!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Waiting Well

My countdown to Advent continues. That'd be a little over three days, in case you were wondering. (Sign up for prayer buddies now if you're interested!) I'm not really sure what the fascination is for me, because this is a season that I have more or less ignored all my life.  But I think it has a lot to do with reading these posts in October. Some stuck with me, others maybe not quite as much, but I think what stuck with me the most was the phrase, "waiting well".

God is all about making us wait at various times of our lives.  This is not because He doesn't like us, but because He wants even more for us than we want for ourselves. We can often only see the pain of the now, but He sees that "for the moment, all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it." (Hebrews 12:11)

Want to or not, I get to wait in my life.  I am not waiting for my life to begin, but I am waiting for the fulfillment of my vocation in life. It has been a much crazier and longer journey than I ever expected. More painful and more beautiful than I ever would have thought possible. I don't pretend to know what's at the end of the journey, or when the next stage might happen, whatever that stage may be.  I do not get to choose whether I wait, but only how I wait.  I want to wait well. I may not know much, but there are a couple of things that I have learned.  One is that waiting is going to change me.  I want it to be for the better, so that I can praise God for the wait, like my friend Rebecca. But I guarantee that if it does not change me for good, it will change me to a shell of bitterness.  The only reason that I haven't gotten to that point is because I don't wait alone.  God is with me, as are many friends who are praying for me (thank you guys more than I can say!!)

I read the above verse in Hebrews during morning prayer last week, but when I went to look it up, I found that there was a lot more to chapter 12 that I wanted to think about.  Here is the way that chapter is speaking to me tonight (not to be taken for an authoritative interpretation of the text, just the way it is challenging me).

Note: Just read the block quotes if you only want to look at the Scripture without my copious amounts of prattling in between.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us,
We are not alone.  In the blog world alone, many of us know what it is to find that there are others going through many of the things that we ourselves are experiencing.  Not only that, but the saints who have run before us truly are our older brothers and sisters in Christ, cheering us on and letting us know that we can make it through the trials as well.  "Let us lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely."  I know many of my readers are Catholic and thus a little straight-laced, but seriously, can I get an amen? I can't tell you the number of times that when the weight of the wait has left me with nothing but rawness and facing something that I didn't know was even a problem.  And through that has come healing and leaving some of those weights and sins behind (of course this is a process and won't end until death, but I see some sort of progress through this.)  Oh, man, and the exhortation to "run with perseverance the race that is set before us"!  I mean, most of us can't and wouldn't choose the course we get.  It's not about it being what we did or didn't want. It's about running it anyway and sticking with it.

looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Can I just say that the only times that I have ever felt that I was halfway on the right path with waiting are the times that my eyes are on Him.  I love that He is the perfect example.  He knew the cross would be horrific and painful, but He counted that as nothing with the joy of the salvation that it would bring us when He was again seated at the right hand of God. I honestly can't see it many days, but I do know that not only will the pain be worth it, but that it will make the joy that much deeper, not only in the here and now, but also when we stand before the throne at the end of the race.

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you might not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. Have you forgotten the exhortation which addresses you as sons?--
            "My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
            nor lose courage when you are punished by him.
            For the Lord disciplines him whom he loves,
            and chastises every son whom he receives." 
I don't see this as being "discipline and punishment" in terms of what is happening to us is a punishment for what we have done in our lives, or for the fact that we are sinful.  I see it more as discipline like when an athlete has to be disciplined about what he is doing in order to reach a greater goal (there's a reason that high level athletes sometimes refer to hard workouts as a "punishing workout").  I see this in terms of God loving us as we are, but pushing us beyond our limits to something greater. In working out, you have to push beyond your limits to go to the next level. I think the same thing applies here.  And I love that He loves us too much to leave us where we are.

It is for discipline that you have to endure... [H]e disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight the path for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed... See to it that no one fail to obtain the grace of God; that no "root of bitterness" spring up and cause trouble.
That's really the crux of it. Waiting well means peaceful fruit from training in righteousness, it means healing. Without God, and without grace and being trained by the wait, we're looking at bitterness and injury.

My prayer is for anyone waiting, whatever it is that you are waiting for, whether it is physical or spiritual or emotional healing, or waiting for a job, or waiting for the fulfillment your vocation, or waiting to get through whatever it is that is tough right now. I am praying that you reap the many fruits of your waiting.  Know that you are not alone!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

My Method

Oh lucky, lucky you, fair blog reader. I had thought to spare you details of my charting, but I changed my mind.  I have learned so much from people willing to share their experiences, and in case I can pass that on to someone else, I am going to share my thoughts with you. Yes, it's high on the TMI scale.  For the love of all that is good and decent in this world, skip these posts if you can't handle the TMI. The rest of you, just call me Catholic "Over Share" Mutt, and take what you will from them.

Here, in my usual highly organized fashion (i.e. take the thoughts as they come and throw them at the page to fall where they will), are my thoughts from my first week of charting and taking some time to learn about my cycle.

First of all, I have mixed feelings about the way Creighton is taught for two reasons.  1) It assumes that you are a couple. 2) It assumes that you are a Catholic following the teachings of the Catholic Church.  It makes complete sense that it is taught this way.  This is a system that started from scientific research trying to find more effective natural family planning that was within Church teachings. That would place you squarely in the Catholic couple range.  However, because they did such a good job with the scientific research, it has led to so much more.  It has become a very effective method of natural family planning (effective rates of 96.8), and therefore more couples are interested in using it (and other NFP methods) as a healthier and more environmentally sound method of family planning.  They may not be at all interested in the religious implications that mean so much to me as a Catholic.

The other thing that has come out of this research is that it is helping to pick up and treat abnormalities in reproductive and gynecological health. This means that it can be very effective in helping to treat subfertility, particularly in that it can address some of the underlying problems.  In many cases, even when pregnancy is not achieved, there is still improvement in a woman's health. So, still related to couples in this case, but I wish it were not only Catholic couples because there are so many suffering from IF* that only know of things like IVF** that are not always as effective and that are generally not fixing any of the underlying health problems. This also means that it is very beneficial for me as a woman (no matter what my state in life) to learn about charting, because it can help me to learn more about my health and what is and is not normal.  Therefore, I would say that it can and should be addressed to all women.

As I said, I have mixed feelings.  Because women learning about their cycle is such a great benefit on so many levels, I want the doors to be open for all to feel comfortable coming to learn it, from Catholics wanting to live faithfully according to their beliefs to nonreligious couples who simply want another effective option that doesn't require taking hormones, to single women who want to be aware of what is going on. On the other hand, that Catholic background is essential in where it came from, and I know of more than one Catholic couple that has come to a much deeper understanding of their faith in general because of learning about NFP*** with that religious background included.  I think trying to figure out how to be sensitive to all of these things in education about NFP is a growing pain that needs to be addressed, but what a fantastic thing to have to think about!

As far as charting itself is concerned, I find it both fascinating and frustrating. Fascinating in that I am actually getting to see what my body is doing.  This is also frustrating, because there are a couple of things that don't look completely normal (though not too far off- I hope!) Also frustrating is trying to figure out exactly where my observations belong.  There was at least one day that everything seemed so borderline that I just wanted to chart two or three numbers and three or four letters, just to have my bases covered.**** Okay, it wasn't quite that bad, and I didn't have to chart that, but I wanted to, because I was tired of trying to figure out what was what. I suppose it would probably help if I would finish reading the study materials that I was given.  The fact that my chart doesn't look quite right obviously has a lot to do with my ignorance and inexperience.  In fact, I'd almost blame all of it on that, if it weren't for the fact that some of the things seem different than they did a few months ago (but I don't know for sure because I wasn't charting then.)

I will say that what I have learned in the last week has made me jump squarely into the middle of the bandwagon. Yes, learning about your cycle is (or can be) about NFP, and what a great way to do it, because it can be used both in avoiding and in achieving pregnancy.  But it is also about knowing and respecting your body.  Working with it, rather than against it.  It can help find and treat specific underlying problems.  So, yeah, I would love to get all women on the bandwagon.***** My plan is to make that my mission******, right after I go out and buy stock in toilet paper- the good kind.

To learn more about NFP in general, go here or here.
To learn more about Creighton, go here or to find an instructor in your area, go here.
If you are interested in learning more about some reasons to think about avoiding contraception, go to this awesome website.

**In vitro fertilization
***Natural family planning
****I would so love to explain, if only I had the faintest clue of what the heck I was talking about. For anyone not familiar, it's part of the standardized descriptors of "biological markers" (aka, cervical mucus).
*****And for the point of this post, I would say that I would love all women to chart whether or not they want to continue to use contraception during fertile times or not.  Yeah, I have feelings about contraception in general, but at the moment I'm thinking of the health benefits that come from charting and not all the benefits that come from avoiding contraception. My thinking is that I would love to have people stop using synthetic hormones (when it is simply interfering with actual healthy function of the body; still think there are times and places where it is needed as treatment for bodies that are not working as they should be) and know more about their health. Better for women's health, better for the environment. We can tackle the rest another day.
******Not really. I'm too lazy, unfortunately, but I will at least discuss it when and where I can.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Two Weeks to Advent

Two weeks from today, Advent starts.  I may have mixed feelings about the holidays in general, but I'm starting to look forward to Advent. Here's the thing about waiting.  I may have been waiting a long time, but I feel like the amount of time that I have waited well is a lot shorter, and much more sporadic.  I look forward to Advent because it is a time to remind myself to wait well, and not simply to wait impatiently. I know more about waiting than I ever wanted to know, and I know much less than I should.  And I live it even less well than I know it.

The thing is, I feel stuck in an endless season of waiting.  I get so tired of it, and it's hard to deal with the ups and downs or even just the monotony. I forget that there is so much opportunity in waiting.  Advent is the season to work on waiting well.  It has a lot to teach us about waiting with expectant hope.

First of all, it is a season of penance. That can feel a little out of place sometimes given what a joyous event Christmas is.  But Advent is not Christmas.  Advent is preparation for Christmas, and a reminder that waiting should be much more than sitting on our hind ends until the calendar rolls around to December 25th. We should be preparing. Waiting should not passive. Waiting for a husband, or a child, or the Savior of the world and many other things that people wait for all of these things require us to set aside our selfishness and give of ourselves.  What better way to prepare for this than through the self denial of voluntary penance? I'll be honest, I rarely do this, but it could be very helpful, is what I'm saying.

Another thing about Advent that I love is Gaudete Sunday.  It is the second to last Sunday before Christmas, and it is all about rejoicing.  We don't praise God only when we get what we want. We don't praise Him so that He will give us what we want. We praise Him because He is worthy of praise, in the midst of the wait.

You know what I love about Advent that I didn't even know until I started writing this?  I knew it was a season of expectant waiting. We not only wait but we wait for God to work in ways that are beyond what we could have imagined. Because He is God and that's how He rolls. But what I didn't think about is what the word "advent" means.  Do you know?

"Advent" means "coming". I do not know what His answer is in your life or mine.  But He is coming. Not just to Bethlehem, but to our lives and in the midst of our problems. We may not know when or where or how, but we do know that it will happen.

Friday, November 16, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 193)
1) Yesterday was my day off. I didn't get my workout in like I'd planned, I didn't get a single thing picked up in my house, I didn't do any of the paperwork stuff I needed to work on, I didn't get grocery shopping done or even so much as a grocery list made up, and I didn't make it very much farther in studying the Creighton stuff that I need to be going over. But, it was still a great day off, and let me tell you several reasons why.

2) Hello! It was a day off!

3) I didn't get my workout in, but I did get to sleep in.

4) I still got up in time to make it to Mass.

5) I went to a physical therapy clinic for the first time ever as an actual patient.  Luckily, because I am a physical therapist, I know who some of the good therapists are and who is going to treat the way that's going to work well for me (because there are really good therapists and some pretty mediocre ones).  It was fascinating to be on the other end of things!  I didn't go to my own clinic for a couple of reasons, but one is because I think it's too easy to get distracted by other things when you're at your own work place.  The other is because one of the types of treatment that I knew I really needed you have to be certified to do.  The only therapist certified for this treatment at my clinic? Me. And it's not something I can treat on myself. It's a little humbling to realize how much work I need to do myself when I preach it all day to other people, but it's absolutely awesome to have someone take a look at it so that I can now know what I was doing wrong and how to fix it. It was great to leave and be able to turn my head to check my blind spot without that nagging pain. I have some work to do, but now I have something specific to do to help fix it. Now I love physical therapy as a PT and as a patient!

Whew! That was long, but because of 2-4, I think I can still qualify for QT's.

6) I got to have a skype date with 3 of my favorite little guys and between looking at the toy gun, toy car and yo-yo they had to show me, I even got to chat a little with their mother. :)  Also, just so you know, jedi's use blue light sabers, and the storm troopers are the bad guys and use red light sabers. These are very important points.

7) I got to climb!!  It was only easy stuff, and I didn't do too much, but I got to climb and it felt amazing to be on the wall again. These silly nagging injuries have kept me out for about 3 weeks and I didn't know how much I missed it.  The climbs I did weren't even a challenge, but I didn't care. (I was trying to take it easy.  Too many patients overdo and aggravate their injuries; I'm trying not to be the stereotypical PT that makes the worst patient!)

That's all I have. Have a fantastic weekend and head over to Jen's for more QT's!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

I Made a Choice about my Reproductive Health

There is a lot of talk right now about women making their own choices for their own reproductive health. I figured that instead of discussing all of that, I would just discuss me. This is a blog about me, so why not, right?  The choice I made was a long time in coming, a bit awkward to begin with, and I'm sure will involve some more fun awkward moments to come.  It could have been worse on the awkward scale, but it should have been better.

The road to my choice started a couple of years ago, when all my friends were getting married, and I got to listen to endless discussions of all things wedding and marriage prep.  One thing that was consistent in that was that the couples were choosing some form of natural family planning (NFP).  It was not uncommon to have a friend say, "I thought my cycle was normal, but I realized some things were not exactly where they should be."  I wondered what, if anything, might be abnormal about my own cycle.  I was curious to find out some elusive day when I finally might be preparing for marriage.

Then I got started with this whole blogging thing, and before long found this whole group of Catholic IF bloggers (that would be "infertile", and if you think my use of initials is bad, try following their blogs!) If you don't want to learn lots about cycles, whether they be normal or abnormal or somewhere in between, don't go read those blogs.  While I have never envied what my friends are going through, I did notice that there were certain things that they were finding that were affecting overall health, not just their ability to have children.  One common one is thyroid problems.  I have a history of thyroid problems and something still seems a little off to me in that regard, so I kind of wished I could know how charting helps to figure all of that out.

Then I was noticing some things that I thought might be changes in my cycle, but I had no way of knowing for sure, because I'm single and don't chart.  Why would I chart if I'm single?

Finally I decided that there is no reason that I can't learn a few things as a single person. Yeah, sure, the class is billed as a way to learn how to achieve or avoid pregnancy, and any health benefits are sort of listed as secondary, but that's okay.  And, yes, it's fun when they tell you what the cost is "per couple" (also the cost per single person, in case you were wondering). However, when I emailed the local instructor, she was kind enough to treat me as normal.  Apparently I am not the only female out there who has no current prospects of marriage, but just wants to know more about her health.

There really wasn't any point (in my mind) for me to learn anything other than the Creighton model. Many other NFP models are good for the signs of fertility, but typically people that need to learn more about their health end up having to learn Creighton anyway. Actual fertile and infertile times are a moot point for me right now, but reproductive health and the way that connects with my overall health are very relevant. So, Creighton it is.

There you have it. My choice for my reproductive health is to learn something about it. And to chart it for a while. That way I can see if things are as normal as they seem, or if something is off.  I want a good 6 cycles or so to get a baseline for me so that I know what is or is not normal in my own cycle.  Then if I decide to stop charting for a while, I will at least have a better handle on where I am.

Also, the awkwardness came in the form of the group introductory session, in which I felt like a weirdo, even though there was only one couple there.  Particularly in the part where we were waiting for the talk to begin. I did not feel at all awkward during the actual session and discussion.  I guess after reading all kinds of IF blogs for so long, they didn't even come close to anything that seemed awkward or out of the ordinary! I just think that it shouldn't be awkward to be a single female at that class. There really is a lot about reproductive and gynecological health, and it should not be billed as being just for couples. (Again, the instructor was great about making it about all of the above, but all of the printed info for the class assumed that you were a couple only wanting to learn about when to have sex based on whether you want to achieve or avoid pregnancy.)

Thanks to all that have been willing to openly discuss things about their cycles (both in person and those that blog), so I could realize that there was more for me to know right now, as well as making so that it does not seem weird to me to discuss these things!

Brief update: I wrote this quickly last night to blurt out my immediate thoughts after taking the class. But the point in sharing it (besides that it's a blog and oversharing is part of the standard template) is that there may be others out there that have thought about learning more, and I want them to know they aren't the only ones. I also figured I should probably add a link or two so you could actually learn something if you are so inclined! To learn more about Creighton specifically, you can go here. To find a teacher in your area, go here (left side of the page).

Friday, November 9, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 193)
1) I keep trying to jump on the political bandwagon, because I have many things that I want to say, but then I find that I can't quite figure out how to say them.  Maybe later.

2) In the meantime, why don't I follow up with more perfectly meaningless nonsense? Because I can easily bore you to death with that.  Speaking of boring people (I mean, causing them to be bored, not people that are boring), I think I must have gotten one person really bored. I have few followers, so I notice when one drops out.  Not that I blame you!  But I miss you nonetheless.  Since I haven't yet gotten around to any sort of a political post, I'll have to assume boredom rather than that I offended someone.

3) I finally got some clothes shopping done this week! I noticed that many of my pants are wearing out, my shoes have no tread, and I am so bored of all my tops that I can hardly make myself get dressed for work in the morning.  So I went shopping and got some new stuff.  I think I did okay. Everywhere was having a sale. Most were less than 25% off (but they called it buy one, get one 50% off), but still. Some sale is better than no sale! And I found a stash of socks that was buy one, get one free.  That's good, because I have a lot of threadbare socks!

4) There is one thing that I bought that I question whether I will wear.  It's a skinny animal-ish print belt (though the actual color and pattern mix matches no animal that I know of). We shall see.

5) The one thing that I wanted to get and didn't was some more make up. Make up makes me miserable. I need to try some more brands and see if that helps, but I dread the headaches and red, burn-y eyes for the make ups that don't work. 

6) I don't really want to work today.  It sounds like it's going to be busy.  I can just skip it, right?  Right?

7) So the next few days should be interesting. I have two things to go to in the next 3 or 4 days that I shall name Awkward and More Awkward.  There is a chance that they will both be equally awkward, but there is no chance that there will not be awkwardness involved. Can't wait.  But there's a good chance that it'll make for good blog post material, so we can always hope for that at least!

Have a great weekend and head over to Jen's for more Quick Takes!