Quick post – prayer request

I really do have lots to say – just finding the time and commitment to do it seems to be more than I can muster at the moment!

To anyone still reading – there is a young girl (early teens) who has been living in a terrible situation for the past 5 years. The perpetrator has been arrested and (we think) removed from her life, so the hope is that a new situation and healing may now be possible for her. Please pray for her and the devastation this has caused her and the family.

Your prayers are so much appreciated. Thank you.

A new beginning?

So – life has been busy.  Very very busy!  And it is better now, as DH has a job where he is home once more (yay!) and the children are older.  But what about this blog?

 

Where once infertility and its struggles were of prime concern to me, religious/spiritual matters have really become a centre for my life.  Infertility will always be an important part of who I am (despite having the incredible luck, blessing, or however it can be described, to have our two children now).  Infertility was a time of crucial suffering, and honestly it still stabs me in the heart sometimes when I hear the casual assumptions, conversations and experience of others for whom this was not a life-changing agony.  Those years were instrumental in turning me towards God in a new way, in contemplating inklings about the Lord.  This gradually took precedence over musings about Life, the Universe and Everything – and became a critical part of the deepening of prayer life and relationship with God.

 

Lately – the fire in my veins has been much more about walking with the Lord.  I find that prayer, worship, reading, and friendships that bring me closer to the source of life and love, are really where it’s at for me.  I find great challenge and energy in striving to live out my vocations (child of God; wife; mother; teacher, daughter/sister/family member, friend, etc.)  Sometimes I have exquisite experiences of great love and wonder at the amazing and everyday things that surround us.  Mostly I continue seeking truth as the path unfolds before me.

 

While this has been a wonderful, breath-taking adventure, it has its own painful moments.  DH is not really on this journey with me – or at least, not in a way I can see – and that is difficult.  He is supportive and recognizes how important this is for me, and also supports the religious education and progress for our children (I am Catholic and the children go to Catholic school; the 3 of us attend mass on Sundays where the children are active, and DH sometimes comes with us and sometimes not).  Overall he is such an amazing, wonderful person and father!  It is just more difficult than if we were on the same page, the “two oxen equally yoked.” 

 

When we were married I was a practising Catholic but I was barely aware, and not interested, in many of the Church’s teachings that I consider so fascinating, and probably-true-but-I’m-not-quite-there yet (e.g. contraception; infallibility of the pope; the love & respect for homosexual persons but not supporting same-sex marriage).  Now that I am interested in these controversial topics, it is quite difficult for DH as it is difficult for me to find a way to live daily life when we have such different views.  It has been a big change that he was not expecting – and not one I expected either.  However, friends of mine where both wife and husband are strong, practising, daily-praying Catholics, still have their challenges too.  Thus I try to just embrace every moment, give thanks for it, and seek to love and serve in truth, without allowing myself to get in the way, as much as possible (much easier said than done – I often get distracted).

 

I hope this will be the beginning of me posting more about the love story of faith and life as I experience it.  I guess we will see where it goes!

 

 

 

Singing & Praying Taizé

As you might imagine from my absence from blogging – life is just overwhelmingly busy, busy this year. I am hoping that next year my teaching workload may be less, or perhaps DH will be around for more than 1 week of 4 (average) with the work he is currently doing. But life right now is pretty overwhelming.

There are many amazing blessings which I appreciate so much, and much joy to be found. I just wish more sleep (and the energy to maintain a tidier house) was a part of the package! I have been moving more and more into the excitement of the journey of faith, though. A great part of this is meeting regularly with two friends to talk, study the upcoming mass readings, and pray. Another involves listening to many Journey Home episodes (for example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eZUBhZDj0_w) while doing the necessary nightly tasks of getting the lunch dishes washed. I have become more and more interested in the Catholic faith, of which I am a part. There are still some tough questions though – some of which come to the fore when I occasionally read about the experience of those in the LGBTQ community. (one – Catholic, Gay and Feeling Fine – gives an invaluable view into the Catholic Faith: http://www.stevegershom.com/ and the others really makes me question how we can be loving and accepting of all: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/permissiontolive/2013/03/oblivious-to-privilegepart-two.html

Anyway. Amid all of this I had the opportunity to go on retreat (thank you parents, for coming up to look after things on the home front so that I could go!) I attended a Taizé Lenten retreat at Loyola House, a Jesuit retreat centre. One thing I like about Loyola House is that I have met people there from many different faith traditions – various Christian backgrounds (Anglican, United, Lutheran … I don’t think I have met any from Baptist or Quaker though) and also some non-Christian backgrounds (Buddhist, Agnostic).

The retreat was completely, utterly, amazing. Not only was it truly a retreat, I had the chance to participate in evening, midday, and morning prayers in the Taizé singing format. I find this to be such deep prayer and connection with God and community. Singing is a natural way to connect with the divine for me, and I was really ready for a time to live the peace and quiet of a time to just focus on God and self, with some awareness of and sharing with others. (not to mention naps, cups of tea, fantastic food and nibbling on cookies!)

I have not done many retreats, but those I’ve found most productive in terms of listening to God have been 6 or 8 day completely silent retreats. This one had periods of silence (breakfast, morning, mid-day prayer), which I cherished. But the singing … one reflection that came to me (especially as I ponder the Catholic teaching on what it means to be male or female, what we bring to our lives in this way) – is how singing perfectly integrates and depends upon each role. I personally love hearing the bass voices of the men, which underlie and provide a foundation for all singing. I love hearing the soprano voices soar – they are often the superstars of the music – though I myself am not soprano. I sing alto. While less ‘showy’ it is often very interesting. You have to be attentive to the melody, and try to balance it perfectly. Sometimes altos do carry the melody, too! And tenors as well have some very interesting roles to play, and key harmonies to sing. When all these different voices are put together, I sometimes find it unspeakably moving and beautiful.

Now, the Taizé songs (or chants) are not performance art. They are prayer – and I could really feel that. They are short, simple, usually harmonized songs or chants which are repeated many times. They seem to sink into the heart and sing of themselves. I often would stop singing and let myself be carried along by the music. Something about participating, being in community with others in various degrees of suffering upon this road …. you know, I guess it is the action of Holy Spirit acting among us all – there was such a feeling of being carried upon a swelling current in the ocean. Most songs have English translations, which is what was usually sung. We also sang in Latin, French, and Spanish.

Here I am listening to my discs of Taizé now that I am back home – and they are beautiful, I can sing with them – but it does not compare to the experience of singing & praying with them in community. I am so thankful to have had that experience.

In case you have never heard of Taizé songs, here are a couple of samples. I hope you will find them beautiful, but rest assured that their real power comes in the singing of them – with others.

God bless us all, and the new pope as well!

Bénissez le seigneur

Confitemini Domino (come and fill our hearts, Lord)

Stay with us:

In honour of Remembrance Day

I’m sorry it’s been so quiet lately – life is crazy busy and I can barely keep up with what I need to do day to day. I realized that getting on the computer to blog and read blogs can result in too much time on the computer, so I have banned myself from blogs Mon-Fri. This means that I have quite a few posts to catch up on over the weekend and I haven’t managed to balance it with writing much myself.

However, I did want to share this song and video with you, in honour of Remembrance day. It is based on an actual experience of the song writer, Terry Kelly.

We had our Remembrance Day assembly at school today. Our school population includes many who come from other countries, some of which are not as peaceful as ours. We are so very fortunate in Canada – thanks to those who have answered the call when it had to be done.

Small victories: Washing carpet squares in the washing machine

I’ve been putting in a lot of time to get my classroom ready for the first day of school. I moved from an older portable (in not very good condition) to a newer portable (better flooring, better lighting, air conditioning that works well). Unfortunately the custodians didn’t have time to get everything quite as I would have liked, so I was in washing walls and shelves (they wouldn’t have been able to wash the shelves anyway – I had a ton of stuff stored there), and desks and chairs (these are usually done for me, so I am not sure why they were overlooked).

Anyway I don’t have my bulletin boards up, but the walls are clean. I am going to try the approach of having the kids involved in the design of things anyway – though I may still block out general areas. We’ll see. I would like to have an area of celebration – I teach at a very multicultural, multifaith school and last year I didn’t do much celebrating, even of holidays I love (like Christmas). Then I need areas for reference charts, places to display the expectations for assignments, and I’d like a place to display and celebrate student work too. It gets complicated because I am teaching the French half of French immersion to a split grade 4/5 and grade 6. It will be a busy year!

Anyway on to the carpet. I had a stack of carpet squares passed on to me last year. YOu can imagine that they were not so inviting by now. I have never tried deep cleaning carpet and renting a machine and all seems a bit overwhelming when I already feel overwhelmed. So I looked up how to wash carpet in the washing machine, and headed down to the laundromat.

Here is what I did:
1) vacuumed the back
2) vacuumed the front
3) sprayed spot remover on the stains

at the laundromat I rolled each mat up with the carpet side facing out and placed them in washers where the drum was a pretty close fit to the rolls. I fit 4 comfortably per machine (these are front loaders) and I stuffed 5 into the last load. Then I put in laundry detergent and vinegar in the fabric softener slot, where I had added a tiny bit of tea tree oil to the vinegar for extra anti-bacterial properties.

I put the wash temp onto warm, took a deep breath and pushed the button.

They all came out nicely (though I think a couple are a bit more frayed where they didn’t have good edging.) They are sitting out to dry outside right now – hopefully they will dry nicely.

I guess only time will tell if the adhesive on the back has been weakened. So far they look good though!

http://www.ehow.com/how_2341475_keep-rugs-safe-washing-machine.html

Bragging and Narcissism versus being valued for who we are

Ahhh …. back home again, however humble, after a holiday away. I thought I would do lots of blogging but it didn’t turn out that way.

Although my coffee isn’t as good as my aunt’s “second cup,” insulated coffee thermos kind (on my list of luxuries for someday), I enjoy sipping it while I peruse cbc.ca – especially when I find an article as interesting as one on how faceb.ook and other elements of our culture encourage, or perhaps reflect? our growing trend to be narcissistic.

This touches a nerve with me because I think the more we have invested in being perfect, successful, and in basing our pride in ourselves at what we do – the more brittle and stressed and vulnerable we are. If we are convinced of our value just because we are us, if we know we are loved because of who we are and we don’t need to prove anything to anyone, I think we are so much happier. At least, I have found that once I could let go of being successful and feeling that disaster would happen if I made a misstep, life became a whole lot better. (Of course there are many times I fall into this trap still).

I do feel that we have an obligation to use our gifts and talents to the best of our ability, and strive to learn, grow, improve and make the world a better place. It’s just that success isn’t the end-all and be-all. I guess it connects to a statement that made a real impression on my this summer … in our society, people are valued for what they produce and not for who they are. Thus a person who has Down’s syndrome, or is elderly, may not be seen as having the same worth as someone who is a celebrity.

Having this idea spelled out so clearly – to value others not for what they produce but appreciating and loving who they are – will really help me in the coming teaching year. Not that I ever (to my knowledge) valued high-achieving students over others. I have often emphasized effort and intention over results. But I want to remind myself to value, love, appreciate those in my life just for who they are right now, before thinking of how to push them to expand their horizons and develop their ability to persevere, take responsibility, etc.

The cbc article about how social media plays into this trend of relentlessly managing our image seems to have be drawn in from a post in the Wall Str.eet Jou.rnal (both links included below) and you may be interested to read them. I think it would take way less energy to just be ourselves instead of to be setting up an image and then trying to be the image. But in order to accept ourselves we have to be at peace with our weaknesses and failures … and where is the support and learning for how to do that in our current culture??

cbc link:http://www.cbc.ca/news/yourcommunity/2012/08/has-facebook-spawned-a-bragging-epidemic.html
WSJ link:http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390444184704577587091630924000.html

Easter 2012

Well, I would like to think that misfit was writing about me when she complained about bloggers letting weeks go by without a post – but since I think I number in the months – I guess I will just let myself be inspired by her.

So, Easter … every few years it really hits me – there is something that becomes clear to me, a new direction, a new revelation of God. It does not happen every year. In 2002 there was an especially powerful year (I was on a retreat) when I realized how pride underlay so much of my life, of my fears and the pressures I put on myself, and how I wanted to be free of it. In the ten years since this was revealed to me I have seen even more clearly how pride ensnared me, and I do feel much more free from it now (though it is still there for sure). I just had a feeling that something big was ready for me this year. It was – but – it wasn’t what or how I expected.

Holy Thursday, the mass of the Lord’s supper, was so unlike what I expected. Even years where there is no big ‘revelation’ this is a special mass for me. I have celebrated it in many different churches, depending on where we were living or if I was on retreat or whatnot. As far as I can recall it has always been a celebration of how we should serve and love one another, ‘washing each others’ feet.’ I have seen members of the parish have their feet washed by the priest – men, women, old, young. I’ve had my feet washed and have washed the feet of others. Then there is the institution of the Eucharist and the love in that.

This year I felt unexpectedly, shockingly shut out – the door slammed in my face. Now this was a visceral reaction, which I have been trying to process. I don’t say that it is ‘right’ – but it is what I experienced.

Our new priest (Fr J) is, in many ways, more … hmmm … traditional. He’s from Africa so there is a difference in culture. He’s much different to Fr G, who was in his 80’s, steady, quiet, loving, and rock solid on what he thought was right and wrong (but always with love). Fr J has a lot of energy and is really into building community and has a lot of good points – though I don’t connect to him in the same way that I did to Fr G.

So, at thursday mass, he had 12 people up to wash their feet. All men. All older (youngest maybe 42 or so?) It was so different from what I expected that I had a strong emotional reaction of being completely shut out. There were none of the women who faithfully serve our parish up there – older, younger … there were no young people … there wasn’t anyone there I saw as ‘like me’ – it felt like I was seeing an old boys, patriarchal kind of club up there. (No disrespect intended to some of the really great guys up there, please understand!)

Anyway as you can imagine – no great revelation – but alot of frustration, resentment, stewing, sadness and loneliness for the rest of the service. I actually felt close to tears, like I had been kicked out of my home or something like that. It gave me an inkling of how perhaps some women feel about women being denied priesthood (though that does not bother me – I am at peace with that).

That night and over the next few weeks I did research and I think I know why this came about. I had always experienced this service as being about love, and serving others – even the most lowly. Fr G sees it as the celebration of when the eucharist and the all-male priesthood was instituted. So instead of it being about love and service to all, it was about Jesus preparing his male followers to be priests. That is actually, from what I gather, how the Catholic church wants it celebrated.

Thus, I think my reaction was because my expectation was so far different from what happened. I still haven’t talked to Fr J about it and I don’t know if I will. I may go to the other RC church in town next Holy Thursday though, to see what is done there. I feel that this shouldn’t matter so much to me, that I should just get over it, but honestly I am still upset about it. Part of me feels I should not be upset (because it sounds like this is what the church indicates should be anyway), and part of me really feels like the way I am used to it being bears such wonderful fruits of love and connected instead of isolation, why is it wrong?

Anyway. That did not get Easter going on the note I had hoped. I was quite happy to head 3 hours down the highway to the Home Town in time for Good Friday mass (previously I’d been wanting to stay in the town where I live until I absolutely had to go for family visiting – in my books, Christmas is the holiday where family has priority, and Easter it’s the religious part that should be top consideration).

Good Friday mass was good (but I was still roiling with upset from the day before) though no breakthrough moments.

But Easter mass – one line from the homily – and then suddenly all kinds of things jumped out at me. The priest was going through different things and mentioned that really, selfishness is at the root of many, even all or almost all, of our sins – of the ways we distance ourselves from God. That hit me between the eyes.

After receiving communion I prayed about this. I told Jesus how I knew this was true of me but I didn’t quite know what to do with it. The answer was something like: ‘Haven’t you been asking, and seeking to find what gifts I would like from you? Give me your selfishness – this is the gift I desire.’ Ummm. I’d been thinking about giving GOOD gifts. You know, my hard work helping out a student who needs help … being the world’s most amazing mom or wife or friend or daughter … hm. Selfishness just doesn’t sound like a ‘gift’ kind of offering, does it.

so I prayed more over this, asking God if he was really sure this was what he wanted – and feeling quite convinced that it absolutely is, that this would bring him joy … and so that is the journey I was on.

For 10 years I’ve been offering up pride, and now I am continuing with that but also offering up selfishness. Not exactly the revelation I had hoped for but I do trust it is what I need!

I suppose there may be a connection between my reaction to Thursday mass and the underlying pride and selfishness that bring me unhappiness. But I am not convinced yet that that is all there is. It really felt like what I imagine it would be to be rejected from your family when you expected a warm and loving welcome.

I guess I have another year (or 10 months) to sit with it.