Saturday, December 16, 2017

Adding Vantage Points

As I'm sure long time readers can attest, I have been known to get somewhat depressed at times, and sometimes I can be overly focused on the negative. I really don't want to do that anymore. I'm sure I will at times, but even if I can change my outlook for the most part, it will be a help.

I am currently reading "Before Happiness" by Shawn Achor. I'm not very far in, but so far, he has been talking about learning to look at things and situations in the most helpful way. Sometimes that means working through the same facts in different ways. For example, "I'm so overwhelmed by work" can also be "I'm so glad to be busy and wanted in a competitive marketplace." I think he does do a good job of not letting one thing get too swamped by the other (because if you're consistently overwhelmed, something needs to change, even if it is good to be busy). Anyway, this particular point is about trying to find the opportunity in what presents itself. This is NOT about putting rose colored glasses on and viewing the world with that distortion.

I haven't yet explored a couple of situations in my life from different vantage points (though I plan to tonight or tomorrow), but I gave myself a little photography experiment of trying different vantage points of taking a photo of one mundane object, only moving my viewpoint or way of looking at it, without moving the object. Photographically, these are not great photos, but I thought it was interesting how many different viewpoints you could think about!

Love this little detail, simply because this postcard is over 100 years old.

This is my theme photo for this holiday season... And just in time for Gaudete Sunday!

This is my favorite little detail from this series... and I'm not sure I ever even noticed it before.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Catholic Fundamentalism

I just had a 9 hour drive to get home from my Thanksgiving festivities. I listened to lots of podcasts, which was great, but I also had a lot of time to think about a conversation that I had with two of my sisters about Catholic Fundamentalism. If that sounds oxymoronic, it's because it is, but we try to live it out anyway. There is some growing discussion about some of this, but it's happening all over the US, whether it's being discussed or not.

I have some extended family members who very much fall into this group, and I know a lot of people who are smack in the middle of this. You know what? I have been very much a part of this without even realizing what I was doing. I hope I can say that I am recovering, but since I was blind to what I was doing for so long, I doubt I'm a perfect judge of this.

We live in a country with very Protestant roots, and there are ideologies from that that pervade our culture and influence us, whether we recognize it or not. Not to mention the fact that there are a lot of very influential converts to Catholicism who, while they have done a lot of good in the Church, have also spread a subtle fundamentalist flavor to the living out of the Catholic faith. Don't get me wrong, not all of it's bad, and it's definitely partly a reaction to the cafeteria-style Catholicism that came out from the 60's, 70's, and 80's (from what I've heard, and my own experience in the 80's- I haven't studied this, however). The cafeteria thing doesn't work, but neither does the fundamentalist thing.

Fundamentalist Christians (Catholic or otherwise) are very caught up in the black and white, right and wrong of a thing. There is very little room for nuance there. In the terms of actions, it is often possible to say whether a thing is definitively right and wrong. Unfortunately, I think the tendency (at least, this has been my tendency) is to say that the person is right or wrong, good or bad, based on those actions. We don't see all of the circumstances, and we often don't care because the action is all that matters.

This Thanksgiving, I heard two people say, "I'm not sure if it's possible to be a Democrat and be a Christian." They were absolutely serious! This is primarily based on their reactions to things such as abortion. Yet, while I agree that abortion ends the life of an innocent child and is, in fact, one of those actions that is wrong, I have also talked to friends about why they support abortion. These are not bad people, and while I disagree with their conclusion in terms of abortion, I also see that they are seeing and addressing some very human issues that I have refused to see or address in my anti-abortion blindness. One example is a woman who was aborting her third child because she couldn't afford to be off work when the child was born; she would lose her job, her home, her ability to support her other two children. Yes, there is the issue of avoiding getting pregnant in the first place, but even that is usually a reaction to deep pain and need. We can have compassion for the reasons someone might be in that position. We can see what we can do to support someone who may need financial assistance, we can work to improve laws and working conditions to better support women.

My own fundamentalism in the past would have stopped me from seeing the human needs, the human pain, indeed, the very human person in the midst of this story. It would have kept me from doing anything other than judging this woman. I so appreciate the people in my life (some Christian AND Democrat, some neither) who have helped me to see the human side. To get so caught up in rules and religion that the very people right in front of us are lost is a tragedy, and one that I want to stop in my own life.

I even thought of it a bit when I was putting up my Christmas tree today. There are those that would judge me as not being quite as good of a Catholic because I'm getting ahead of myself a little liturgically. You know what? We need to let it go. When we choose to put up Christmas decorations is not a salvation issue! I think that there is something very beautiful about doing some Advent decorations that are a little less fancy and saving the blow out Christmas decorations until Christmas Eve. But what can I say? I love the Christmas tree lights on these short, dark nights. I like to put them up right after Thanksgiving and leave them up through the 12 days of Christmas, to get the most out of it. Whatever works best for you and your family, whatever is special, is really fine. The important part, the hard part, is figuring out how to celebrate Advent.

I'm not sure how much this post makes sense as I try to work out some new thoughts, but I guess what I'm saying is that I see a lot of Pharisee in me, with all these rules and all these judgements of the people around me. I hope I'm starting to move away from this a little, and now when I hear fundamentalist statements, they are jarring to me. On the other hand, I've got a long way to go, because-among other things- I'm still very judge-y of the judgers. I think this is partly in reaction to my own mistakes, but I don't want to stay in such a reactionary place.

I'm still working through this. What do you think? Have you heard of this idea of Catholic Fundamentalism, or experienced it?

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Taking Back the Holidays

It's been a while, but this post is on my mind and heart and won't go away. As I mentioned in my last post, I was struggling some with the end of summer. Then came the Fall, and it got even worse. I think the pressure of the holidays began bearing down even then. The thing is, you would think I would be used to the single thing in general and being single on the holidays in particular, but I don't know that that will ever happen. There is so much about the holidays that is difficult. Even when I am with my parents, siblings, and whatever other extended relatives, the singleness is somewhat emphasized rather than minimized because my family is not there.

I do put up a tree for me because I am worth the hassle, even if there's no one else to share it, and I love the lights of the Christmas tree on the dark evenings. But sometimes in the warm glow, I am stunningly struck by how much better it would be to share it with others. Sometimes in the worst of it, it makes me angry as well as sad, because what? Being single even takes away the joy of the holidays? I don't even get that?

(Side note: I recently read a post quoting Charlie Munger, and he had a friend that would have these cards for anyone who started to say anything that started to lean to self pity. They said, "Your story has touched my heart, never have I heard of anyone with more misfortunes than you." My sarcastic heart loves it, and I have started mentally giving these cards to myself when I start to notice that I am crossing the line from legit processing something that hurts to wallowing in self pity.)

Doing this for so long, I do have some coping mechanisms, some healthy, others not so much. Some of the good ones are to do something that I really enjoy to celebrate, even if it is not the picture perfect holiday that I would prefer. I have gotten to where I really enjoy cross country skiing on Christmas. Time in the mountains with friends? You betcha. I also take a nice long holiday break from social media. So lovely and so necessary.

This Thanksgiving will be visiting the extended family, but there are some landmines there. This is the first holiday that my MUCH younger sister is bringing her husband, and I don't have any idea of they're trying to start a family already, but it wouldn't surprise me, and I will be on edge waiting for some sort of cutesy pregnancy announcement. (Don't get me wrong, I will be very happy for a new niece or nephew if such a thing happens, but not sure I'm up for the in person congrats at that time.) It is the first Thanksgiving without my grandma, and my first time going to their house without her there and with a lot of her things already cleared out. Then, of course, there's the food. With traveling, I have a very hard time sticking with food that doesn't make me sick, and I really don't get to eat any of the fun stuff. Not to mention that there has been a lot of extra family drama in the last couple of years that promises to continue.

As for Christmas, plans are up in the air, but it's looking like there's a very good chance that there will be much time in the city and little time in the mountains.

My super elegant prayer as I was contemplating all this was:

"What. The. CRAP?!"

And, then:

"Right. So it was already hard enough and now You're taking the rest of it away. Seriously?!"

There are several options of what to do in the face of holiday difficulties such as these. One that a friend of mine often does is to treat it like another day and just ignore the holiday part. I get it, and to anyone that needs to do that, my response is, do what you have to do. I don't want that, though. On the other hand, I'm tired. I'm tired of trying to make it special when it's hard. Don't get me wrong, I have had some very special holidays that were even better because of working through the tough stuff. I have had some really hard holidays that were not all bad because of the extra effort. But this year, it feels like even the little I had is being yanked away, and I'm too tired to try to figure out a new way to make things special. But neither do I want to give up.

Then I had this revelation. Now, please don't think I'm an idiot for taking so long to reach an obvious conclusion. The revelation came in the form of a question: If everything is stripped away, what's left?

In Thanksgiving, if you take away the food, if time with family is full of various emotional landmines, what's left?


Christmas, when you take away all the glitter and tinsel and fun family traditions, etc., what's left?

Emmanuel, God with us.

The essence of the holidays is suddenly distilled, and doesn't require in the slightest for the holidays to be fun or to look a certain way. They can be, but they don't have to be. It leaves room for the things that hurt. I don't have to fight the painful things in order to have gratitude, and if there is pain at Christmas, what better thing to contemplate than the fact that God is with us in the midst of all of it? That Christmas exists so that God can be personally present in whatever we are going through?

The funny thing is that now I'm looking forward to the holidays again, and all I have to do is celebrate what the holidays actually are. I don't actually feel like I'm taking back the holidays, so much as I'm receiving them as gift, one that I probably should have figured out before this, but one that I am grateful to recognize now.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Laying It Down

I'm not going to lie, this summer, and especially the latter half has not been easy. Maybe it's me and I need to try harder, but also there are circumstances that mean that a lot of my social networks and supports have been drifting away. That's hard for anyone at any time. It seems like it's harder when you're single. There have been some really tough days. When you add that to this constant ache that we are not made to be alone in life and, yeah. Well, you've been reading this blog long enough to know how I feel about all of that.

What will probably not shock you, is that this leads me back to begging God to change things. At this time, praying very specifically as to what and when. I have done this many times over the years, but this feels different. My sister and I were talking about this, because she's experiencing something similar. We were trying to put it into words, but it's hard to describe.

My first thought about this feeling different is, "Maybe this is finally the time that God will change something!" Yet, while that could potentially be true, that doesn't feel quite right, either. So why is it that this time of praying and begging and specifically telling God what I think I want and need is different?

I think the difference is a little more subtle. I have always felt that it is important to tell God what we need, and to ask specifically, even though the answer may be "no". Whenever I have done this before, though I always added (and meant on some level) "Your will be done", I think that there was the flavor of a demand in the midst of my prayer. If You're a good God, go ahead and work this miracle already! And if You don't, please tell me what I'm doing wrong so that I can fix it, so that we can get on with life! It's that dynamic that I talked about here, where God's love equals the things He gives us. That what we offer God is our good deeds and then He does His part and brings forth blessings in our lives.

What I have been noticing lately about these prayers lately is that it is my smallness meeting His greatness. It is my pain and need and brokenness meeting His goodness and mercy and abounding love. The prayer is not about (or not mainly about) what His answer is, or when it will happen, but rather about the relationship that happens at the intersection of these things. I bring these very specific needs before Him, because it is who I am. And He takes care of them in His way and in His time because of who He is.

For many years, I have dreamed of being able to write a post about how God finally answered all my prayers. I even have had a number of different daydreams and scenarios of super cute stories of how we met. I certainly hope and pray that I have that story to tell someday, but I'm no longer sure that this blog is the place for it. In some ways, I think this blog is more about discovering the relationship in the prayer, even that prayer of petition, rather than whatever "answer" may come from the prayer. This is more about learning to rest in the intersection of who He is and who I am, come what may.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Meaning, Not Reasons

God sent me a birthday present the other day. Through Amazon. 

Okay, Amazon sent me an email that a book on my wish list was on sale for $1.99. Now, I had no intention of buying any books, because I am currently using that list to figure out want to read next from the library. I'm only buying books if I've read them and then want to refer back to them or read them again. Normally I don't even open emails when Amazon gives me a notice of a sale, but this time I did, and the book was "Man's Search for Meaning", by Viktor Frankl. Now that is a book that I've heard a lot about, and I had a few bucks left from a gift card, so what are you going to do?

I don't want to trivialize God's work in our lives by attributing divine sources to human actions, so please don't take it that way. Some powers that be at Amazon put the book on sale, and I decided to buy it. However, there are times where those ordinary actions come together to touch our lives in big ways, ways that feel very much like God's providential will. There are things in that book that reach out and directly touch the cries of my heart. Yes, Frankl wrote the book, but God has used that book to speak to me this weekend, as He has used in in the lives of millions since it was written.

I have to tell you, there have been a lot of times in recent years that when someone tells me something that God's doing in their lives, I try not to roll my eyes. I try to keep my jaded, cynical thoughts to myself. It's not that I don't believe on some level that He is at work in some of these small things, but I haven't been able to see Him or feel Him much myself, so it's hard not to dismiss what's being said. Especially when people use these things to prove the pet theory of "everything happens for a reason."  That's not  completely untrue in a way, but we often use it in a prosperity gospel context of "all these bad/hard things happened so that all these good things could happen." Used in this way, it can be launched into the lap of someone suffering and go off with the force of a spiritual hand grenade. Really, all that person needed was someone willing to be with them in their suffering. Coming at the wrong time or from the wrong person, it can be devastating.

Frankl says some things that almost echo that thought, but it sounds so different coming from someone who was facing loss of life, loss of family and friends, loss of personhood, loss of possessions and livelihood, really loss of everything in the abject cruelty of the concentration camps. He is not talking about all the reasons for these things happening (important to note that sin and people are the reasons for the concentration camps, NOT God). These things didn't happen in order for meaning to be found, or so that good could come out of them, but in a way, it's more like the reasons don't matter at all in order for us to find meaning in suffering. 

But enough from me, how about some quotes?

~Suffering in and of itself is meaningless; we give our suffering meaning by the way in which we respond to it.

~Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except for one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation. You cannot control what happens to you in life, but you can always control what you will feel and do about what happens to you.

~Dostoevski said once, "There is only one thing that I dread: Not to be worthy of my sufferings"... It can be said that [the martyrs in the camps] were worthy of their sufferings; the way they bore their suffering was a genuine inner achievement. It is this spiritual freedom- which cannot be taken away- that makes life meaningful and purposeful.

In trying to keep other prisoners from killing themselves, they had to learn, ~it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us.*

~When a man finds that it is his destiny to suffer, he will have to accept his suffering as his task; his single and unique task. He will have to acknowledge the fact that even in suffering he is unique and alone in the universe. No one can relieve him of his suffering or suffer in his place. His unique opportunity lies in the way in which he bears his burden.

In the last part that I just read, Frankl tells a story where he had an opportunity to speak to an entire hut full of his fellow prisoners at the camp and helped them to find the meaning of their suffering in that moment. The thing is, many of them didn't have time beyond that moment. Their suffering wasn't going to lead to anything but death in the gas chamber, or from typhoid or from any number of other things. It wasn't going to lead to all things being restored to them and a new life from the ashes, at least not in this life. Sometimes suffering does directly lead us to things that we have most wanted in life, but sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes there is nothing that fixes the suffering. No matter what, that suffering can have meaning and worth.

*Italics in the original.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

"As a Mom..."

I have to say, this has not been the worst Mother's Day in the world, but crap. It's hasn't been exactly the best, either. Now, let's make sure we're all on the same page here. I think that honoring our mothers is a good thing. Motherhood is incredibly hard, and often thankless. I do not begrudge mothers some well-deserved thanks and appreciation! In no way does my frustration negate the need for and goodness of something like Mother's Day.

It's just... This particular Mother's Day won't die. It started early and seems to be dragging on until kingdom come. It started with someone asking me, "Are you a mother?" and then awkwardly trailing off instead of wishing me a happy Mother's Day as they had obviously intended to prior to that. That was about a week ago. I tried staying away from social media for a few days, which is usually enough, but my news feeds have been incredibly insistent that I see everyone's Mother's Day posts even days later. For some reason, work was a tough one this time, too. All of my coworkers were wishing each other a happy Mother's Day; at least those that were mothers. Somehow this year being left out of those greetings was just a culmination of being left out of all things motherhood and  therefore (seemingly) all things womanhood.

Okay, in a world that gets offended by all the things, let me say again. I am not offended. It is good and right for people to honor the mothers among us. I am not asking to be included, because I am not a mother. I am not saying that I also deserve some sort of recognition here. Not at all. I'm just saying that it hurts. Not that anyone did anything wrong, but that this is life and life hurts sometimes.

Thankfully, Mass (the one that I dread for weeks in advance) was not too bad. It was simply Mass. At the end, the priest did a blessing for the mothers, and while it wasn't one of the most inclusive ones the the world, it was fine. I don't mind a single blessing. It's when everything revolves around Mother's Day and you get beaten by it through the whole Mass that it's especially difficult. This was okay.

The topper this week was that there was a friend of mine that was having some pretty intense struggles with one of her kids. All of us were concerned and wanted to help, but one of our mutual friends kept saying, "as a mom, I can't even imagine..." "as a mom, I'm so worried", etc. Right. As a not mom, I can't understand the worry in the slightest. As a not mom, I barely care at all.

Look, I get that there are things about motherhood that I will never fully understand unless I become a mother some day. There is a transformation there, and, yes, the mutual friend did have a perspective that I did not. I do not think that the mutual friend meant to negate my own feelings of concern, but that's how it made me feel. We all felt a kick in the gut, but my kick in the gut was apparently of no importance as a not mom. Am I over reacting? I definitely think so. It's a sensitive area for me, and I don't have the distance for true perspective here. Not to mention that this is a complete side issue and of no real importance to what was going on (which is thankfully better now).

What I realized about all of this, is that it may be partly how the world sees me, but it's more about how I see me. I feel "less than" because I do not feel that I am living out the fullness of my calling in life. I feel "less than" because I am not a mom. I realize now more than ever that it may not ever happen for me, and somehow I have to face that feeling of "less than" that may be a permanent part of my life. Logically, I can argue with that feeling, but it is an emotion, and it doesn't care about any of my logic.

If I can address my own feelings of "less than", then what others may or may not think will probably be less hurtful, but I do think that there is also a tendency for people to dismiss women who don't have children as being somewhat selfish or career-driven, or less caring. In this world of ART, AI, etc. I am sometimes seen as not being a mother because I choose not to be a mother. Trust me when I tell you, this state of things is not my choice. Yes, I choose to avoid those avenues because I do not feel that they are in line with the dignity of children, but I do not avoid them so that I can sleep through the night and so that I can travel. (And if I do sleep through the night and travel, well, every cross has a silver lining.)

Honestly, I don't really know where this post is going. Nowhere fast, it appears. Maybe I just had to get a few things off my chest. Know that I have been praying for all who have been struggling with Mother's Day for so many reasons.

Sunday, April 30, 2017


I sit here on April 30th, and May is just hours away. I don't know if you ever do this, but occasionally I stop and wonder what the month will bring. Clearly, it often brings more of the same as each day slips by so fast that you wonder where the month went. But sometimes it's fun to stop and bring a little more awareness to the day. If I let it just slip by, it will. If I take a moment to decide a few things, I can help guide pieces of it. I can't control it, but I can make some decision about the direction that I want to go. I can make it be something more than just another month.

The question is, what do I want to work towards this month? I have a couple of bike rides in mind. Neither actually in May, but May can be some of the much smaller rides to lead to the bigger ones. There's a 62-miler that I may be doing by myself, but I'm committed and I'm going to do it. It's an organized ride. I also want to do more climbing. I'm not sure that I have enough space to commit to that, given the time that I need to spend on the bike, so we'll see on that goal.

I also just participated in a work performance summit. It was a lot of days of watching a lot of online videos, but it was inspiring. I have a few takeaways that I really appreciated, some for work, some for life in general. But I want to strike while the iron is hot, so May is the perfect time to try to implement some of the things that I learned.

A couple of the things that we've all heard before, but that were interesting to hear from different perspectives, and sometimes with the neuroscience, etc., as to why these things are important:

- Focus on the positive. (Super simple sounding, perhaps, but our brains only have room for so much. More on the positive means less space for the negative.)
- Never complain. (Wish you could have heard all the rationale behind this one. I know it's not a great thing to do, but looking at all the downsides makes me want to commit more to this one. I can be whiny!)
- ABI (Assume best intention; if someone is doing something and we don't know why, most of the time it's not actually because they're a jerk.)
- Whatever it is that you want to change, track it. (This one came up over and over and over again.)
-Remember that our brains can only focus on so much, so 3-5 items on the to-do list is usually best. (More is easy enough to add if you get past that, but that's a great place to start.)

Many of the guests were also authors, so now my reading list is even more insanely long that it was, but that's a great problem to have!

Also, more snow this weekend, so maybe May will bring a touch of Spring? And also maybe a touch more winter. It likes to do both out here!

Have a wonderful week and a wonderful May!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Beautiful Days

The last few days have been gorgeous. Perfect temperatures, sunshine. I think the world is celebrating Easter. How was your Easter?  Mine was quiet, but super nice. Of course I realized just after my last post that there would be no Adoration for me, because that is not available until Easter Vigil! But turning off my computer- and not just the computer, but the modem- was fantastic. It did give me time to take moments to spend with Him. I did spend a lot of my Thursday and Easter in the narthex (my allergies are much better this year, but I still can't handle the incense!), but it was fine. I still didn't go to Easter Vigil. Too much smoke and too little place to hide for the longest (and most amazing!) Mass of the year.

I have to say that I enjoyed the lack of social media so much that I didn't really return to it on Sunday. I'm not giving it up entirely (I still like it too much for that), but I did realize that my simple Easter Sunday is fine when I'm just focused on enjoying what is. The comparison of what is not in my life becomes all the more stark when wandering through all the pictures of everyone else's Easter. It isn't that I didn't feel the lack, but I didn't feed it, so it was more tolerable. It's funny, because in some ways I love all the Easter photos of everyone's families, and I'm so glad that they are there, filling up my feed with that joy, even if (as pathetic as it sounds) I can't actually look at them. I did get on long enough to see the photos of my niece and nephew, and that always makes my day. I sure wish those little boogers lived closer!

I had a fantastic dinner (bacon ranch potato salad may become a summer staple around here!) Also, I have to say that having the time away from all the distractions gave me some more reflection time, which may lead to a post or two. I know that I've seen that some of you had a good Easter; hope that was the case for all of you!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Into the Quiet

I'm kind of frustrated with myself. This Lent, like so many the last few years has not really been what I think it should be. Of course, there are those times where it is exactly what God thinks it should be, and nothing like what we have in mind. Yet, I don't think that that's the case either.

You know what I'm realizing, though? Lent is over. The Triduum has begun and I can't do Lent 2017 anymore. Not well, not poorly, not halfheartedly, not over-the-top and then crashing in frustration. I can't go to more Masses, more Stations, more Adoration (or ANY Stations and Adoration, as the case may be).  There will be no more Lenten fasting for me.

You know what I can do, though? I can enter into the quiet, the holiness of the next few days. I can go to Mass tonight, and when I leave I can turn off not only my computer, but my modem for the next few days. I can rejoice in the opportunity to fast tomorrow. I may not make it to Adoration tonight (after they fill the church with incense, my allergic, smoke-sensitive self will be running for the door!), but I can try to find some moment in the next few days to spend an hour with Him. Preferably at Adoration, but wherever I am. Perhaps if I have a moment, I can do some Stations on my own tomorrow. I want so badly to go to Holy Saturday Mass, but given intensity of the incense PLUS the length of the service, I don't think that's going to happen.

In the quiet, in the things that go according to plan and the things that don't, I can take the time to pray for those things that are near and dear to my heart right now. You and your intentions. For this wonderful couple I barely know, but wish I knew better (and especially that they may come to truly know the God who loves them so much). For forgiveness for all the ways that I've fallen short. For my family, for healing of wounds, ears to hear, and comfort especially for my mom after my grandma died early this Lent. In gratitude for what is. For this deep cry of my heart, that has never gone away.

May these holiest of Holy Days be truly blessed for you and your families!

Monday, April 10, 2017

In the Kitchen

There have been two meals that I have just been loving in the last week or two, so I'm going to share. It's true that one of them is more of a cold weather soup, but I was just using up the last of my ham from Christmas, and I'm loving it, even if it is a little warmer now. Those of you who love precise measurements, go ahead and look away. My cooking is a lot of, "meh, that looks good" and not a lot of measuring spoons and cups. I'll try to give an estimate of amounts, but they are only estimates! Sorry, no photos. I eat food, I don't photograph it.

Sort of Stroganoff

Potatoes (maybe a pound or so?), peeled and diced (I use yukon gold potatoes, so I don't always peel them)
Enough bone broth to cover the potatoes (or regular broth, if you're not into bone broth; either chicken or beef bone broth works great)
Salt and pepper to taste.
~1T. fresh rosemary
~1t. fresh thyme
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
Medium yellow onion, sliced
White wine vinegar (or better yet, white wine!)
1 can (15 oz) full fat coconut milk
1 lb. ground beef (or bison)

1) Dice the potatoes into large pan and cover with broth. Add salt and pepper to taste. When almost tender, add rosemary and thyme. When potatoes reach desired tenderness, remove from heat.

2) Brown ground meat until done and set aside.

3) In the same skillet (may need to add some ghee or other fat depending on how lean your meat was), sauté onions for 1-2 minutes, then add mushrooms.

4) When vegetables are done, combine meat, potatoes, and vegetables. Add coconut milk and 1-2 T of white wine vinegar OR 1/4-1/2 c. white wine. Return to heat until heated through. Warning; it will be kind of soupy, so you will probably want to use soup bowls to serve. Also be careful not to go too crazy when adding the liquids!

Ham and Potato Soup

1-2 T. ghee
1 lb. cooked ham, diced
1 medium to large onion, diced
~1 lb potatoes, peeled and diced
4-5 carrots
Bone broth (usually chicken), maybe 4-6 cups?
1 can (15 oz) full fat coconut milk
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large pan, brown the ham in ghee. Remove the ham from the pan and set aside. Add onions to the same pan with more ghee if needed. Sauté for 2-3 minutes, then add carrots. Cook for an additional 3-4 minutes. Add the ham back in, along with the potatoes and broth. Add salt and pepper to your taste. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer until vegetables are at desired tenderness.  Remove from heat and stir in coconut milk.

Both of these recipes are probably in the 4-6 serving range. I love to make a batch and then have the leftovers for a few days. These recipes were good before, but went to a whole new level when I started making my own bone broth. SO. GOOD. When I served the potato soup to a friend, she wanted thirds mostly for the broth!  Have you ever tried your own bone broth? So good for you as well as being amazingly tasty. You want that recipe, too? (Though there are a million recipes for that on the internet.) But here's what I do.

Chicken Bone Broth

1 organic chicken, with giblets
2 T. apple cider vinegar
Whatever vegetables/vegetable scraps you want to use and that fit in the slow cooker with the chicken (I typically use 1-2 carrots- peels on!- 1-2 celery stalks- with leaves if they have them-, 1 small onion, and one head of garlic- both cut into halves or fourths, but with skins and all still on)
Whatever herbs I want to use- usually rosemary, sage, and thyme. Preferably the whole sprigs if I have them fresh.

Put it all in the slow cooker and cover with water. Once the chicken is about falling apart, (~6-8 hours) take it out with slotted spoons, careful to reserve all the liquid in the slow cooker. Let the chicken cool a bit, and then remove the meat from the bones. Skin and giblets can also be removed if you want to use them in your cooking (so good for you, but I admit that I can't always bring myself to use them), or they can be thrown back in the slow cooker. Once you have removed the meat, the bones, cartilage and all the rest go back into the slow cooker. The meat can now be used for any favorite chicken recipe, and the rest of the broth stays in for a total of 24-36 hours on low. Refill with water as needed. Once it's done, it looks terrible with all those bones and vegetables in it, but strain all that out, and soon you will be left with some of the most beautiful rich broth you've ever seen or tasted!

There you go. Possibly the only 3 recipes that I will ever post. Enjoy!

Friday, March 31, 2017

Ahh, Friday Night!

Hold onto your hats! No fainting allowed, just because there appears to be a second post in only a week! (I say "appears to be" because I have only started to write and I wonder if I will really finish a post. If you're reading, then there actually IS a second post in less than a week, and wonders will never cease!) It just seems like a bloggy kind of night. It's been overcast and drippy all day. Not quite enough to listen to rain drops on the roof, but pretty close to perfection anyway. I have a cup of tea, I just caught up with all my notes for the first time all week, I have a candle going, and it is just one of those quiet and content sorts of nights over here.

Ooh! One of the reasons to be feeling good was the food tonight! Okay, you know those meals that technically don't have meat, but you still feel guilty eating them on a Friday in Lent because they just taste so dang good? This is definitely one of those meals. I know that Lent is wrapping up quickly, but if you need some Friday ideas, check it out! I definitely used clams instead of kippers (because what the heck are kippers??) I found some fish stock, so I used that, but I would guess it would also turn out well with vegetable broth. I do NOT recommend it for your larger meal on Good Friday, it is not penitential enough! ;)

The forecast for tomorrow is a lot more drippy wetness (thankfully!) I'm so glad to see the rain, that I don't even mind it usurping a Saturday. It also means that my plans for tomorrow are really limited. I do plan to hit up the climbing gym, but since my notes are done and I have leftovers that need to be eaten, I don't have to do quite as much of my usual cooking and catch up stuff. I get to sleep until I wake up tomorrow morning, and then get out of bed when I good and well feel ready and I'm done reading whatever it is that I decide to read. Those kinds of mornings certainly don't happen a lot, but they are lovely when they do!

I wish I could show you a video of my little niece and nephew. They're twins that are about 16 months old right now. She's running around trying to "tickle" him (which is mostly poking from what I can see) but there is a lot of giggling on both sides and, yes, I am a complete sucker for those two, why do you ask?

Beyond that, I am not sure what it is (because I have a bad habit of starting too many things at once when the allergies kick up, so I don't know what, if anything, is helping) but something sure seems to be helping! After a week like I had last week, it usually takes 2-3 weeks for my airways to calm down enough to be able to do a really hard workout. This time it was just under a week, and I was riding my bike outside yesterday, which often flares things up. I haven't changed my meds, but I found the real deal local honey a few weeks ago, and I have been consistently having some of that. I have also been supplementing magnesium, which is needed for a lot of things, but apparently good for the airways. Makes sense. But I got to push really hard on the bike at the gym this morning and my legs were begging for mercy before my lungs were, and I didn't even have to use my inhaler!

Hmm, apparently a couple of the neighborhood dogs are not feeling the contentment tonight. There must be some sort of critter out there riling them up. I think the bears are stirring already, but they don't seem to be bear-level of upset, and I don't smell skunk, so maybe a raccoon?

Well, my tea is gone, and it's starting to feel late. Time for me to do a little stretching and head for bed. Hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Joy in the Mess

I have been frustrated lately. Frustrated where I fall short. Frustrated that I have to start over, again and again and again. Frustrated that I fall short time after time.

This week it happened again. Specifically it is the food thing. I am trying to figure out what more I can do for my allergies and such. They are actually the best they've been in a couple of years, which does give me some motivation. But as the pollens start to do their thing, I'm getting hit by it. I don't relish fighting with asthma for the next several months (because when I get inflamed from allergies, it hits my airways). This last week, it has been nonstop coughing. Last night was the first time that I slept through the night in a week. I've coughed a few times today, but it has been short lasting and mild. It feels so good not to cough!

Anyway, I turn to the food. What can I tweak on my diet? I found some new resources, and at first I was fascinated and loving it, but as I kept reading, it all started to get really overwhelming. Absolutely no cheating in order to get things to straighten out. That makes sense to me, and I can handle it (in theory) for the eating side of things. But what's a Catholic to do about the Eucharist? I know that there are options available, but I hop around to churches right now, though I am a member of one parish. I don't really want to work on anything special right now. To only receive the wine doesn't work either, because of pesticides and stuff with the wine that is a problem. Then in frustration, I gave it all up and ate brownies and chips! Because that's the solution, right? Just quit.

Now, the food thing isn't a salvation issue. Frustration is normal. I'm going to take a step back and go somewhere between the extremes while I try to figure out what is the best answer for me. But I guess it brought up my frustration with myself in general. I haven't been to daily Mass like I wanted to this Lent, at all (and I was shooting for once a week, so not really an excessive amount!) I haven't done Adoration. I haven't been to confession like I wanted to, either.

I guess in the light of my frustration, the readings were especially interesting this week. I was thinking about God calling David to be king. Who was David? Sure, God sees the heart of a person rather than merely the outside, but God is God. He knew what David would do, good and bad. Let's not forget, David was a mess after he was king, but God called him knowing all that. Think about it, not only did God know the whole mess with Bathsheba would happen, but it is from her that Messiah is descended in David's line. This doesn't excuse messing up. It doesn't make sin okay, but God called David, knowing what it was that he would do. God still looked at David's heart and said, "This is the one that I want." Saul messed up, too, and God replaced him. I think the difference between the two, was that David's heart was repentant. Saul was not.

Then there was the second reading from Ephesians. Things in the darkness are shameful and not to be spoken of. Things in that are shown by the light are illuminated and will even become the light. Okay, the specific thing that this brings to mind is cleaning up after my little "friend". One of the most horrifying things to me was pushing the refrigerator out of the way to find what sort of parties he'd been having underneath there. That and the mouse couch. Both were nasty, between the dust and the mouse mess. I really wanted to ignore them and pretend that they weren't there. Clearly, that was no answer, either. Now that they are clean, though, it is amazing how much the whole house feels cleaner. And with those things clean, the other (non-mouse) messes are so much smaller and easily dealt with. It's worth shining the light on those corners, no matter how nasty it is in the short term.

My take away from this week, is that, yes, I am a mess. No, that's not okay, exactly, but it does not preclude me from being called by God to follow Him in the midst of it all. Lent is not over. I can still turn to Him now. As humans are, I can count on continuing to have to start again and again, and to repent again and again. The problem is to NOT try, and to give up altogether. Whether it is food, or the spiritual life or whatever we struggle with. The joy in the mess is that God sees it all, and calls us anyway.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Are You Smarter Than a Mouse?

Because I'm not. Forget 5th graders, all it takes to get the better of me is a mouse. Sad, but true. Three weeks, and $150 later, I may be mouse-less (oh, please, let that be true!) but I am definitely couch-less.

A Mouse Tale: A Ridiculous Saga

Was it only 3 weeks ago that I first saw signs that there was a second inhabitant in my little house? I think it was, but it seems like forever. The first couple of days were at the worst time, so all I could do was clean up the evidence, cringe, and cry a little on the inside. Finally, though, I was able to get to the store and get something to take care of the problem.

So many choices! Some say glue is the most effective, but no one will claim that it's the most humane. There are traps to catch and release (but at least 2 miles away so they don't return). There are traps that the mouse goes inside and never comes out. There are several options for poison. I went for the standard wooden trap. Classic. Cheap. Quick. Between that and the peanut butter for bait, I figured $6 was great price for a mouse-free house. Ha. Ha.

Someone told me that sometimes mice are cautious, so it's good to bait the traps a couple of times and get them used to it before you set the trap. They're less likely to nudge it and only catch a leg or something... Eww, first of all. But secondly, even though I want to get rid of the mouse NOW, I would rather do it effectively. So I baited it a few times (it's utterly disgusting to see the bait gone, because you know that bugger is wandering the kitchen... Though, I guess I knew that anyway, but still.) Finally I was ready to set the traps. I had to leave for a couple of days, so I was grossed out at the prospect of dealing with a mouse when I got home, but relieved at the idea that it would be over.

I got home late at night and immediately checked all 4 traps. All were set, and all were cleaned off. And, yes, there were signs of a mouse party in the kitchen. Stupid mouse/mice!

I re-baited. He cleaned them off again. Pretty soon, I realize that I'm just feeding the mouse.

Back to the store. Back to the array of choices. This time, since he seemed to like peanut butter so much, I got one of the traps that made him go all the way in for it and then was supposed to kill him. I kept baiting the other traps, too, but this seemed like it might be the answer.

Yeah, he wouldn't touch that trap. He'd still clean off all the others, but he left that one alone. Now what? With each "solution" you have to give it a few days to see how it works. Or, in this case, how it doesn't work.

Saturday night of the time change, I'm sleeping when a nice loud SNAP! wakes me up. I didn't even get a chance to feel any relief along with my disgust, though, because immediately that mouse went crazy trying to get loose. Sounded like he was flipping all over the kitchen! I was horrified. No, I didn't want the mouse to suffer, but then again, I couldn't bring myself to go put him out of his misery. I'm sorry, but I can't do mice much at any time of day, and having to corral and kill one at 12:30 am is outside of my ability to handle. So I put earplugs in and went back to sleep, because I can deal better in the morning.

At 2:30 he woke me up again, still flipping out. I laid awake in my bed wondering if he was injured enough to get blood everywhere in his battle. I wondered how I was going to kill him, or if I would even be able to do it. I can't do morning anymore. I can't sleep wondering. I get up, I put on my shoes, and head for the kitchen, to find... Nothing.

No mouse. No blood. No noise. And missing a trap.

I look under everything. Behind the washer. I start checking the living room furniture. Nothing. Finally, there was the noise again. He had made it down an air duct! Yes, this has huge holes, but still! It's a defunct air duct from who knows when. Back to bed and the ear plugs for me. I heard a couple more times in the night, but by morning he was pretty quiet. I'm glad he finally gave up the ghost. I'm sorry that it wasn't quick and easy for him. And now I have to figure out what in the heck to do about the mouse corpse in the air duct before it starts to rot.

I did the only responsible thing in the morning... I walked out of the house and went climbing with friends. When I got back, I realized I would have to do something, and with great dread planned to try to use some sort of broom handle plus hanger to see what I could get.

When I walked over to the vent, I saw the trap sitting right at the mouth of the vent. Empty, surrounded by the dust of the ages, but empty. What can I say? I'm almost starting to respect this thing! Not that we can live together when he's paying 0 bills and leaving messes around the house, but I almost want him to make it.. outside. Far, far from my home. As it is, I can only hope that he's injured enough to crawl away to die somewhere or traumatized enough to never come back.

It only takes a day or so to realize that neither of these things is going to be the case. It's war now. Glue, poison, the works! I put glue traps where he's obviously been walking, and he stops going that way. I put out poison, and that he won't touch. Thursday I was trying to deep clean all the nastiness (cleaning supplies... another mouse expense! I don't usually use Clor.ox, but it's a necessity in this case.) I tried moving things around. As I was cleaning other parts of my house, I realized there was mouse poop under the couch.

That was it for the couch! Not just because it was under the couch. We are talking a hide-a-bed. We are talking a couch that I have sat on to eat too many meals. I try not to be a slob, but I'm sure there are crumbs in there. Can you imagine? To pull off the cushions, open the bed find... Who knows what? No. Just, no. I made the appointment then and there for someone to come haul it off; another $100 out the door, along with the couch.

(For some context, yes, I am horrified by mice, but I have been hating this couch for the last two years. It's ugly. It's heavy and impossible to move so I can clean it. When I sit on it, I slouch and my neck and hips get tight. Sure, it's comfortable while I'm there, but then I'm more sore later. Did I mention how ugly it is? I've been considering getting rid of it, but I didn't know where it could go, I didn't know which friends would be suckers enough to help me lift it, and even though I haven't used it a lot, I didn't know what I would do without it. The mice were merely the motivation to find out where it could be hauled and realize it would be totally worth it to pay to have the mouse couch lifted by others and hauled far, far away from here. I guess I'll figure out what to do without it.)

Along with my cleaning, I re-arranged my traps. I realized that one of them that I placed in a corner would require him to come at the peanut butter from a different angle, from right over the trip bar. I didn't have a lot of hope at this point (I'm seeing exterminators in my future), but it seemed worth a try, even though I stumbled on that by accident.

Early Saturday morning... SNAP! There's an adrenaline rush for you. Tensing to wait to see if there's any more noise, but no. Silence. It is no fun to walk out there, dreading to see a mouse (but dreading more to not see it). I wish I could say that I was calm, cool and collected taking care of the thing, but there was at least some jumping. It was so good and so bad all at the same time. At least he was out of the house in just a few minutes. Finally! I don't fully trust that he doesn't have any friends, but if he does and they're ALL smart enough to evade all the traps that long, well, I'm just in a world of hurt. I haven't seen any new signs since then. I'm still jumping at small, unknown noises, but I'm hoping for the best!


The couch just left today. I realized that one of the things I would need to do without it is figure out what I want in my living room if I'm not just using things that are convenient and cheap (i.e. free when someone passes them on to me). There will be no pinterest worthy designs (and barely any pinterest-y research, I'm guessing), but I do know that I want light, easily portable things. I like being able to move things around, clean easily, etc. I have a lot of black and a little green and blue, so I'm going to actually try to pull those together. I like spending most of my time on the floor because of the extra movement it adds, but one of the downsides in here is how hard and cold the floor is (hardwood). I've already ordered a rug, and I think that it will be an awesome new piece of "furniture". It'll be a little small for the size of the room, but again, I want to put it in different configurations, and I want something that I can easily shake out. I'm also going to get a custom table, which I'm super excited about. My very talented sister is going to make it, and it will be perfect for floor sitting.

Other than that, I'm not entirely sure what I'll do in here. Before the couch left today, I was thinking that I would get a nice comfortable chair, but not too big and one that encourages sitting in a decent posture. Now? I'm liking the freedom and openness of the room so much that I'm not sure. It is just me, and I guess if you're going to be single, being unconventional is an advantage?* I would like to get some sort of an ottoman or something that I can move around and sit on as I would like.

And that is the sad saga of my stupid smart mouse. I may be really grateful about this whole couch thing, though. Having that out is giving me all kinds of energy and motivation to get things done. And now I am excited to see some clouds rolling in; hopefully they are bringing some significant amounts of rain and/or snow. We need it!

*Maybe. If it doesn't make me too weird to even date!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

How Things Are Right Now

It is a warm, sunny day outside, but there is a haze in the air. I don't know if there are some fires around (I know there were some earlier in the week), or if it's simply the dust and pollen hanging around. I do know that my airways are all kinds of irritated from it, so my only workout this week has been abs, diaphragm and the little intercostal muscles between the ribs (in other words, lots and lots of coughing.)

It is smack dab in the middle of Lent, and I would say that so far, I'm not really doing the best at Lent. I am trying to be concerned enough about that to fix any problems that are my own fault, but not too concerned about the things that are out of my control on that end.

I am finally getting rid of my couch tomorrow, which is something that I've wanted to do for a while, but didn't know what to do in it's place. I still don't, but I'm excited to get rid of the albatross, anyway. (Long story as to why now to get rid of it, but- provided I manage to get the post done- you'll get more than you want for details, I'm sure!)

The coughing has kept me from doing any training this week, and I am a little concerned about that because there are now only 2 months before my big ride. But I'm not TOO concerned because most of our big days of riding are around 37-38 miles with ~3,200 feet elevation gain, and I did a ride the other week that said it was 31 (we added some extra that made it 37) and 2,200 elevation gain, and it was relatively easy. Yes, that extra 1,000 feet will be tough, but I think doable. Especially if I manage to get my butt back on the bike. You know, without making the airways even more angry. We may get some rain later this week, and that should knock some of the junk out of the air. No use in going for a ride outside when the air even looks dirty! Not for me, anyway, with my super extra princess airways.

I started out needing to lose about 10 pounds (because it makes a big difference while riding up hills!) I'm more like 5-6 pounds now, so there is progress in that side of the fitness training, but at least 3 of those pounds were mostly water weight.

Lots of random mundanity, nothing profound, but that is the stuff of life, isn't it?

Sunday, February 26, 2017

That Friend That Makes You Do Crazy Things

I have this friend that I have known for about 6 years ago. Even though we only hung out together for about two years before she moved away, she has had a big role in getting me started in a lot of the things that I never saw myself doing before. Can you say rock climbing? She even got me started on spin class... A year after she moved an ocean away!

She's been in town visiting for a couple of days, and it's been wonderful. Like we haven't been separated all this time, only richer for some of the things that we've experienced in the last few years. She's been in town less than a week and- somehow- I now have plane tickets to go to Europe and ride my bike across the Alps this summer with her and another friend of ours. What the crap?! How does she do this so quickly?!

I'm joking. Not about the trip. That's real. The tickets are real (and purchased! and blessedly cheap!- okay, not cheap at all, but a lot less expensive than they could have been, so therefore possible). The indignation is fake. The slight feeling of confusion and surprise, even though I was the one making the decision, is also real. I am very excited. I mean, I get to eat my way from Munich to Venice!* I'm trying to focus on that part and not the part that this trip requires ~40-45 miles of biking per day with all my luggage on the bike over mountain passes. Apparently we're climbing 3,000-4,000 feet per day. But, I think you know that I relish that challenge as well. I started training on Friday, since I decided that I was going on Thursday. I only have a few months to prepare! This is going to be nuts! Granted, that first bit of training was simply going to spin class a few minutes early. I couldn't even work that hard because I've been fighting asthma this last week. But you can only do what you can do. I'll take whatever few extra minutes I can get!

Haha! Maybe it's a good thing she moved away... Who knows what all trouble we'd get into without the ocean in our way! Oh my goodness! I can't wait!!

*Sidenote, for some reason in my head I keep saying "Vienna", which is another place I would love to visit, but even though I will be passing through Austria, Vienna is another trip. Venice, the one with the canals, is where I will be.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

A Miraculous Story of God's Love

I have dreamed of the day when I would have the miracle story to share. When everything in my life finally came together, made sense, had a purpose. I have dreamed of the many ways it could come together, whether spectacular or commonplace, it didn't matter. As long as it happened, as long as I finally found someone to share my life, it didn't matter which way it happened or which novena finally brought it about.

That is the miracle story that we all want. The infertility finally being healed. The adoption going through. The struggling marriage being restored, and back better than ever. The cancer being wiped out forever. The vocation finally being fulfilled. The long years of suffering finally culminating into something amazing that never could have been without the suffering. The senseless finally making sense. Right triumphing over wrong.

We love those stories. We live for those stories, for ourselves and for our families and friends. We are even happy when strangers are able to share these stories. And you know what? We should be happy, we should rejoice in them, and we should praise the goodness of God in the midst of them.

In case you couldn't tell, today's not that kind of story. It is nonetheless the sort of story that should be cause for joy (not necessarily happiness), a cause to recognize the great work of God in our midst.

Mine is the story of the unanswered prayer, when the prayer is "God, it is not good for us to be alone, please send someone to share this life." He is silent, but He is present.

Mine is the story of learning to live a life that is far different than I had ever imagined or dreamed. I do not know that you can really say that this is "good" or "bad". It simply is. And He is.

My story is of days of not knowing how to go on, but getting out of bed anyway. That miracle doesn't feel triumphant or beautiful, but it is a miracle. Every single day, it is a new miracle.

My story doesn't make sense. Pieces of it are nice. Other parts are really not fun, but there is no overarching point to it. That's not to say that there will never be a point, but there is not one right now. He's still there.

Not too long ago, I felt the bitterness closing in and killing off anything that was good, twisting what was left. At this moment, that is not really the case. That is a miracle, let me tell you!

There have been so many times that God has felt far away. Actually, He felt lost, like I could no longer find His presence. And yet He was there. Right there.

I got to the point where I didn't want to go to church. There were times where instead of being a comfort, it made everything hurt worse. I admit that I haven't always been good about paying attention, and I have developed a terrible habit of running out before the last hymn is over, but the fact that I was there at all is a miracle. It wasn't a miracle that felt good or nice, but it was a miracle all the same.

How's this for a miracle: No matter how bitter and cynical I have been, no matter how much I have dreaded church, no matter how little attention I have paid, no matter how far away from God I've felt, He was always waiting there for me. He was waiting and desperately desired my presence. How's that for a miracle? Again, He was there every time, but most times, it didn't feel like it. The truth is still the same. He is there. Always.

I think that life is such that there are days where the stories of the miracles of our lives are dramatic and lovely and happy, yet I sometimes wonder if the other miracles are not just as big of a deal, if not bigger. The miracles that don't feel good at all; in fact, the miracles that we don't even feel at all, because the pain overrides. There are the miracles in the midst of the very thing that we wanted the least, whatever is making life so difficult right now. Sometimes I resent those miracles for not being the miracles I want, but hopefully I eventually come to accept them as the gift that they are.

I still believe the other story could happen, the story that feels like a miracle, the one that I've longed and waited for for so many years. If that happens, I want to rejoice as such miracles deserve, but I don't want it to be the only miracle in my life that I acknowledge. It's also possible that it may never happen. I've met people for whom that is the case. I've seen the pain in their eyes, felt it, and tried to keep the fear at bay that it may also be what happens to me.  Whichever of these happens in the future, I can only live in the now. These are my miracles right now, and this is my miraculous story of God's love for me today.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Proof of God's Love

I read a story the other day about a miraculous healing of a baby, and the author was rejoicing how this healing was further proof of God's love for us all... I wish I could remember exactly how it was worded, or be able to find it again, but I do remember thinking what a dangerous thought it was. Don't get me wrong, we should all rejoice in the miracle of life and praise God, the Healer, for healing. But if healing one child is proof of God's love, then does it prove His lack of love, lack of trustworthiness when another dies?

I have grown up in and around this mentality. When you love God enough and trust Him in all things, He will work out all things for good. Do you see the problem in what I just said? It's a doozy.

Think about it for a minute. There was a time in my life where I would have wholeheartedly agreed with this statement, though now when I hear it, alarm bells are going off all over the place.

Okay, either you thought about it for a second or you're skipping straight to this to see if I'm ever going to make a point.

"When you love and trust God enough". It's conditional. It implies that those who love and trust well will have it all work out for them. The inverse implication lies beneath. Maybe if your life is not working out as well as it should, it was because you didn't do enough, or you didn't do it right, or you weren't enough.

God is not conditional. His love is not conditional, His answers are not conditional. If everything works out, it doesn't mean you did it all right; and if it doesn't all work out the way you wanted, it doesn't mean you did something wrong. If it fell into boxes like that, it might be easier. Life is messy, and sometimes in the short term it looks like it didn't work out, though maybe in the long term it will look completely different. Or the long term may also look like crap. I don't have answers here for you. All I can tell you is that God loves us unconditionally. In turn, we are asked to love Him unconditionally, even when all of the bad things that should never happen, happen.

The second very dangerous thing about this idea is our fairy tale mentality. We have this insane idea that yes, there will be trials and tribulations, but once we work our way through it, that will be it. It will all finally work out in the end the way that you wanted it to, and of course you will all live happily ever after. You know what's behind that mountain of a trial that you're climbing right now? More mountains. There are always more mountains. Sometimes it all works out. Sometimes it works out just how we wanted, other times it's not at all what we wanted, but we see how good it is in the way that it works out, sometimes it's beyond what we could have possibly imagined. But sometimes none of it "works out".

Does it make sense now why I shuddered to see that sort of an explanation? If this good thing happening is proof of God's love, then what are all the inevitable bad things saying? About us, and about this God, whom we call good.

Perhaps I am so sensitive because I believed that statement. Maybe not worded in exactly that way, but the concept. For a time, it helped me push through hard things, because I could handle it. God would work it out in the end. Then as trials dragged on, unchanging and becoming more permanent, it made me wonder who I was and what was wrong with me or what I was doing, and why I was not worthy, or worth it. Finally, it made me wonder about God, and what His goodness really meant.

I shudder at how many versions of this we believe and propagate, and the people that we hurt with this thought process.

Whatever you are going through, it is true that God will bring healing and redemption out of it. I can't tell you when, and I can't tell you if it will look anything like you would like it to look. I can't tell you if you will see that in this life or the next. I can tell you that this healing and redemption is unconditional, and will be offered to each of us, no matter what we have done right or wrong... But we will have to receive it. If we reject Him and his gifts, it is possible to miss out. However, it is a product of whether we are willing to receive his gifts unconditionally, or not. I know I want to put conditions on it. I want to stipulate what I want the gifts to look like, what I want healing and redemption to mean in my life. My life may never be the way I would orchestrate it, but it is a beautiful life if I only accept it as it is.

Every single mountain you climb will be difficult. Some will merely be uncomfortable, and you'll think you've done something. Then you'll do the ones that take all that you have, then asks for more. Those will hurt you, change you, break you. Keep heading up anyway. I don't know if there will be relief and comfort at the top of the mountain. I don't know if the next mountain will be comparatively easier, or if it might in fact be even harder. Maybe you'll get to a spot that you thought was the end, only to realize that it was a false summit, and there's more. I don't know what is waiting for you on the mountain, but I do know that you will meet God on every single mountain, in every trial. His presence in every part of that trial is the real proof of His love for us. His presence will redeem all of it.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Sick Day

I'm wrapping up (hopefully!) a couple of sick days. Sick enough to stay home, but well enough to be really, really bored. In other words, lots and lots of time to think.

One of the things that I think about is how crazy it is that I used to feel guilty for staying home sick, or trying to figure out if I was "sick enough". Because if you're not too sick, you should be at work, right? This is especially ludicrous thinking when you work in healthcare around potentially immunocompromised people, but I have done it in the past, and know plenty of people (including healthcare workers) that do this. I do not feel one bit guilty any more. Yesterday I didn't move much off the couch, and even though I didn't feel too terrible, I did feel like I was where I needed to be. Today, I've been better, but still spent most of the day resting, and the few things I did (like shower and get a couple of things at the grocery store), I could definitely tell how nice it felt to lie down for a few minutes afterwards. Why have I ever felt the need to push myself through a full day of work while feeling like that? I feel a lot more normal this evening, so I'm sure it will be back to business as usual tomorrow, even though I'm still a little stuffy.

I hate calling in to work, but I would have been useless except to spread germs, so why do we feel such a cultural need to push through that? Europeans are right to think that we're crazy for trying it.

At least this small obstacle of being a little sick and missing a couple of days of work provided a perfect opportunity to work on some of what I've learned in "The Obstacle Is the Way." Such a great book, by the way. At least it resonated with me. Some of it is accepting what we can't change, and dealing with it as it is, rather than as we wish it could be. For example, I started thinking about the things that I wanted to do rather than be sick, but I can't change getting sick. I can accept it and allow my body the recovery time that it needs, however. I can recognize that the places where it puts me behind are not going to matter in a few weeks. I was also able to use today to really work on some of my reading, catching up on a couple of podcasts and do a little writing. Tonight is also a great time to do some gentle stretching. Things that I don't always get around to in my normal busy days.

But. I really hope I'm over this little bug, whatever it is, because I'm going stir crazy!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Thinking Out Loud

(Please note that I am about to abuse the internet by trying to add my opinion to the glut of noise that is already out there. For those of you that are fatigued with all of the back and forth, please click away now! I sometimes just have to write to help me sort though my thoughts. You certainly need not read.)

I don't know what to think right now, but I know I'm overwhelmed by everything that's going on. I can't speak in more than general terms because I don't know anything more than generally speaking. I hear things that could be wildly out of place. I'm very concerned by what I hear and the reactions that are being reported. It is not "you" that is doing something inconceivable and out of proportion. Neither is it "them". It is us. Every single one of us.

As much as I sort of choose a bit of purposeful ignorance (not saying it's right, it's just been my preference to avoid the negativity and constant accusations getting hurled around), I can't do that anymore. There is too much going on and it is too important. I'm not sure how to find real information in a world that is flooded with information, but also with misinformation and leading information, but I'm going to have to start to make the attempt. It would be easy if all I wanted was to jump in one of the echo chambers. There are several to choose from, and I could start swimming around in all of the places linking back to one another and all agreeing together, but all presenting only one perspective: That "we" are clearly right, and "they" are clearly wrong. "We" see the truth, and "they" are blind, have terrible intentions, weren't raised right as a child, and likely smell funky.

I admit, I'm a little dizzy from some of the articles I read yesterday. I haven't even really started to figure out where to go for information, these were just linked articles that I read. I don't even know how to describe it. Each one talks with such conviction about how right "we" are and how blatantly wrong "they" are, but each one is saying so much the same thing that I can't tell which "side" anyone is on! Eventually someone will say something that tells me what they are trying to argue for, but they don't seem to realize how much they sound like the other side. Most people seem to think that it is obvious where the differences are, but I can't tell sometimes. Not anymore. It used to be easy, but it's different now.

Is this just me? Am I the only one who has read an article decrying those terrible protestors that are marching, and what are they whining about, and besides, if they really had something important to say, then maybe they wouldn't be so rude and crass and just generally awful people? Then I have to read further to see if they are talking about the women's marches or the pro-life march. Because one person will say all that about the women's marches, then go to the pro-life march. Or vice versa.

It is not "them", y'all. It is us.

To use the marches as an example, let's take the women's marches. I certainly don't agree with everything they were marching for, and some of what was being defended (abortion) was something that I am very much against. Nor do I condone some of the more crass methods that were used to spread the message. (You know what I'm talking about.) However, I think that there was something very important going on there, and I am grateful to those that went, those that voiced their concern in a tangible way, and I am especially grateful to those that went as pro-lifers, the ones that spoke out for me when I was too afraid or too confused or too busy to go myself. To go does not mean that everything that everyone is doing is right, but that it is still important.

Now, let's take the pro-life march. I admit that I have never been, but I am so grateful for those that go. Those that know that there may not be much coverage of it, but who stand up anyway. There are those that go that defend life in ways that I find abhorrent and not useful to the cause. (Graphic pictures, I'm looking at you.) Some are going to shame and blame the women that have committed abortion. How is that going to help anyone? But that doesn't mean that the marchers are all wrong. Sometimes people stand up for the right thing in wrong ways, ways that may make them culpable, but still cannot take away from the rightness of their cause, even if they make it harder to see.

I know that many people agree strongly with one march and strongly disagree with the other. That doesn't really bother me. I can see how that would be. I object to those that think that one march should not exist and that the other is a good and noble thing. It seems to me that if marching is a way to stand up for what we think, then we should not be bothered if others also stand up for what they think, whether we agree or not.

You know what bothers me the most right now? How much I let myself get caught up in reactions.  I am the problem. More than us, it is me. I don't fully know what's going on, but I get carried away by things that are said that fit snugly into my own thought processes and patterns. While, like everyone else, I am horrified by some of the things that are going on all over the place, I am also fascinated. Maybe that's wrong of me, but I can't quite help it. It is crazy to me to realize people that I used to never agree with that I agree with more and more, and people that I always agreed with that I agree with less and less. Sometimes it is more who I agree with on one level, but are completely at odds with how the problem needs to be solved. Again, it is at least fascinating.

Sunday, January 29, 2017


I just started reading a book called, "The Obstacle Is the Way." I was intrigued by the title when I first saw it, and finally made it through the library waiting list to my turn to read it. So far, I am really enjoying it. It's based on a quote from Marcus Aurelius and explores some of the Stoic thinking in dealing with the obstacles of life. I'm not really familiar with the Stoics, but I'm intrigued by what is in the book. Still, it's not a book about Stoicism. It's a book that looks at systematic ways of viewing and addressing obstacles that makes them opportunities.

Think of a boulder in a path. There's no way around, so if you have to get to the other side, the obstacle is the only way that you're going to get there. However, if you have to climb over a boulder, you may have to learn new ways to move to get over it, you may have to build strength to be able to get over it. You may have to think differently about ways to help yourself over it. All of those things make you stronger and more ready to deal with more things in life.  I just love the whole idea of all of this! A quote from the book, "Obstacles are not only to be expected, but embraced."

From a Christian perspective, we may see it as a cross, but again, each cross has something in it to lead us to where we are going. The strength that we develop in carrying it, in embracing it and living it can be the very things that we need at some point in life.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Bits and Pieces

Three weeks in; how's your 2017 going? This post would be a perfect "7 Quick Takes" sort of a post, but I'm not about to be organized enough for that. So instead, a random number of brief thoughts on a random day.

1) I did not attend any marches this weekend (unless you count snowshoeing, but that's apolitical). I did feel rather torn about it, though. On the one hand, I strongly disagree with certain held beliefs and ways of demonstrating them that were talked about so much. On the other hand, there are definitely things that I feel strongly about that need to be kept in mind. I am so grateful for those women that went and stood up for the good, while vocally stating their pro-life beliefs. Tough position to be in when there are those that don't want you there because you disagree with them, and others that think you shouldn't be there because some think differently than we do. I'm being too vague and general, but I love this post about it.

2) I don't think I ever said on here, but my holidays were fantastic. Simple and enjoyable. Lots of cooking, relaxing, and being outside. What more can you want? Okay, obviously there's a lot more I want, but given my current situation, it was everything you could ask for.

3) My spending fast is honestly not going too terribly well. I've been hungry! Then I eat what I planned for later in the week, and then I have to go to the grocery store. I'm trying to plan better, but it's hard sometimes, because I never know exactly how much food I'll need.

4) That's okay, though. One of the things that I was thinking of a lot in the last few weeks is that I didn't fail enough in 2016. Sometimes you can only move forward from trying and learning things both about what does work and what doesn't work. I'm seeing some areas that aren't working great for me, I'm going to try to adjust some things this week, hopefully do a little better. Then I'll try again in February! There are a couple of other things that I am working on as well. When it feels like it might not be perfect or successful in the way I would like, I'm just reminding myself that it's an opportunity to fail, which is a good thing, because it means that I'm trying.

5) I'm also trying to focus more on doing one thing at a time. Multi-tasking has never worked well for me (or anyone, really). It really is amazing how much less stressful it is and how much more I get done. I've had a few days that just seemed to have SO much going on, and I despaired of getting it done. But, one thing at a time, I was able to knock a lot of it out.

6) I love taking time to enjoy the simple things in life. I don't think I posted anything about here, but I recently read a book called "Suffocation". Interesting read, and I sort of agreed with some of what he said, but had some problems with his conclusions. Not that he was wrong, but that it would help us out of the morass we're in. Materialism is falling more and more out of style, and his thought is that experientialism is taking over. I think he may be right, and there is good in that, but one of the experiences that he talked about was a marketing launch that involved bizarre foods (like pig's ear soup) and an even more bizarre movie that was made with a lot of LS.D influence. Sure, that may be where we're heading, but those kinds of experiences will not give us any more lasting satisfaction than stuff does. It's about learning to savor the simple things in life.

7) Speaking of the simple things, this weekend I spend a lot of time re-watching Sherlock. So well done in so many ways that I can't say enough good things about it! Not that I have to, pretty sure you're all pretty well acquainted. I haven't gotten to Series 4 yet, but I will start it soon.