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.