Thursday, September 22, 2016

ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI, LEADERSHIP, & APPLE BERRY UPSIDE DOWN CAKE




Oldest known portrait of “Brother Francis at Subiaco," a mural painted in a sacred grotto called St. Benedict’s Cave during the years 1223-1224

St. Francis of Assisi is a beloved and well-known saint throughout the world. He was born in either 1181 or 1182 in Assisi, Italy. He founded the Franciscan Order of Friar Minors and Sisters, lived the gospels in obedience to the Church, traveled in peace to the Middle East during the crusades, created the first Nativity Scene, saw God in everyone and everything, received the Stigmata of Christ Crucified, inspired countless people in his lifetime, and continues to inspire us today.

He is the patron saint of animals and ecology and he's honored in the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Episcopal, and Lutheran Churches. 
St. Francis is one of two patron saints of Italy (along with Catherine of Siena) and many other places throughout the world, including San Francisco, CA, in the United States. He died on October 3, 1226, and his feast day, October 4, is usually celebrated with a Blessing of the Animals.

October 3 is my birthday and October 4 is my daughter’s birthday. I love St. Francis of Assisi. Without him, Saints and Recipes wouldn’t exist at all.

*sigh* I thought this would be the post in which I return from my two-year spiritual journey and really get back to work in sharing my research about the saints. I thought maybe that instead of writing them in the form of academic papers, I would lighten up and shape them more like book recommendations.

This post in particular was supposed to be a zoomed in look at Francis’s (Second) Rule of Order based on what I believe he was trying to tell me via messages. Messages, although really unclear to me in the beginning, that were about leadership and my path. Something to do with accepting myself as a loving caretaker/badass. Someone like the imaginary Professor Minerva McGonagall. Someone like St. Francis of Assisi himself.

So I began reading where I left off two years ago in Francis of Assisi: A New Biography by Augustine Thompson, O.P. I love the fact that the author is a Dominican and not a Franciscan because he was able to be objective about his subject. The book reads more like history than legend and includes lots of source material, yet the author's love for St. Francis is clear.

So I’m reading along, minding my own business, when I get to the part shortly after Francis returns from Rome with his first few followers having received papal permission to form an order based on three gospel passages. He and his group stayed in an abandoned hut by the Rivo Torto about two miles outside of the city of Assisi, close to a hospital for people suffering from leprosy. Francis, and his increasing number of followers, assisted in caring for the lepers, and also worked as day laborers to provide for the group. And then this paragraph appeared and I suddenly felt like St. Francis was speaking directly to me:

Francis quickly learned the burden of responsibility involved in caring for his few subordinates, especially when conditions were hard. On one occasion at Rivo Torto, a brother woke in the middle of the night and cried out that he was dying of hunger. Francis, showing already the sensitivity that would make him a revered doctor of souls, had the whole community get up and eat with the brother so that he would not be shamed by having to eat alone. This also involved the entire group in resolving a difficulty that might merely have remained a private one between superior and subject. Francis used the event as an opportunity to counsel moderation in fasting and self-mortification. His first followers were prone to exaggerated and destructive mortification that had little to do with the Gospel texts that inspired their leader. Francis’s natural feelings of compassion for suffering, the same trait that drew him to the lepers, found expression in the care of sick and confused brothers. pg 30-31 Francis of Assisi: A new Biography by Augustine Thompson O.P.

And then I wept. Because I realized that this was the message he’s been trying to send me. This is an example of true leadership. This is the type of leadership I’ve been searching for without ever realizing it.

And so while I do wholeheartedly recommend the above biography, I won’t continue reading or posting about his Rule of Order at this time.

My assignment is clear now. Francis wants me to write about my spiritual journey from the point of view of leadership. You get that “spiritual journey” is code for hurt/breakdown/exploration/renewal right?

God knows, I don’t want to write these words. God knows, I’ve held these people accountable and forgiven them. God knows I don’t want to keep reliving this stuff, I want to break the pattern, I want to let go and move on.

And yet, through St. Francis, I know God is telling me that it’s time to share my shame story. That I’ll never be able to get past it until I do, that it’s a major step in my healing. And so I post this on the last day of Mercury Retrograde and the first day of Autumn. Maybe the release of these words will clear the way for 50th birthday sunshine and daisies. At least, that’s my hope for the future. Here goes:

When you are my leader, you don’t get to tell me that I’m not good with youth and that I’m a terrible public speaker. You don’t get to tell me that I’m overreacting, and you don’t want to talk about it. And no matter how kind you are to me on the surface, you don’t get to beam undercurrents of unspoken rage at me for months on end.

When you are my leader, you don’t get to berate me in a global email and then offer an obscure, late night, private, apology email. And when I ask in person for clarification in the hope of reconciliation, you don’t get to accuse me of taking over the group, seeking glory for my daughter, over promoting non-diocese conferences, and being boring with all that saint stuff. And when I say to you twice, “Do you realize how much you are hurting me right now?” You don’t get to say, “I have to do it for the youth and I’m speaking for everyone.” Twice. You don’t get to say that, because that was a lie. You lied to me and I believed you. You don’t get to lie to others that I “attacked” you, when I did nothing more than defend myself and try to appease you. You don’t get to pretend that this event never happened, or worse that you did a good thing by kicking me out of the group. You don’t get to get away with never apologizing to me for your tirade.

When you are my leader, you don’t get to refuse my repeated requests for a conflict resolution meeting. You don’t get to keep the lid on the flames that erupted with the youth volunteers and assure the staff that you have the situation under control. You don’t get to “counsel” us individually and never actually deal with the problem. You don’t get to lie to us to keep us quiet.

When you are my leader, you don’t get to treat me with condescension and chauvinism. And when I’m finally desperate enough to ask you for any kind of help with this situation whatsoever, and mention to you that I believe that the Blessed Virgin Mary is sending me messages through angelic signs, you don’t get to tell me, “In time, you will see that that’s not so.” I mean, as far as delusions go, it’s pretty harmless. (Also, not a delusion.) You don’t get to tell me that I’m doing healing prayers all wrong and that I shouldn’t say those nontraditional phrases. God knows I’m laity! And when I finally speak the real problem of the unresolved conflict, you don’t get to tell me that it doesn’t matter what she did to me because you think she’s good with the youth.

When you are my leader, you don’t get to tell me that you trust my parish’s clergy to handle the matter and that you’ll make sure we aren’t in the same small group or cabin, but that’s all.
…..

When you are my leader, you don’t get to hold my book proposal for a full year before a yay or nay when your policy is six weeks. You don’t get to give me an article assignment without guidelines, edit my words dramatically and embarrassingly, and publish without my knowledge of the changes. And when I let you know that I am upset about this, you don’t get to say I’m overreacting and then offer fake apologies which I force myself to believe for the sake of peace. And the next year, you don’t get to hold our exchange against me and lie about there just not being enough room for my words at all.
…..

When you are my leader, and I announce that gun violence in our country is absolutely a political matter, you don’t get to tell me to shut up. Again.
…...

When you are my leader, you don’t get to keep me small in that box you keep trying to shove me back into. You don’t get to tell me it’s better if I don’t visit you. You don’t get to tell me that you took me off as executor of your will and that you don’t want me involved with the doctors in case of medical emergency. And when you do, and I point out that you hurt my feelings, you don’t get to become irate, blame me for deserving it, tell me I’m too sensitive and then hang up the phone on me. Again. And later, you don’t get to call me up, pretend it never happened, and actually expect me to act happy, normal, and accepting. Again. You don’t get to tell me that you were raised by an addictive personality, too, but that you sucked it up and went on with your life and that’s what I have to do. Yeah, no. You don’t get to watch me raise my daughter the way your raised me because I stopped the cycle.
…..

When you are my leader, you listen to me cry out and guide me without shame.

......

It seems such a simple thing.

But, there’s more to the message in the above paragraph from the Dominican’s biography. Francis’s humility got in the way of his leadership. Although, he had the ability and compassion to lead his followers, he wanted always to be a follower and not a leader. This would have worked out for him if he were able to choose the right leaders. And this is where a little bit of his crazy comes through. It was simply illogical for him to follow people who were not following his Rule of Order. And so he suffered.

To me it seems perhaps (and I’m not 100% certain), that St. Francis worked so hard seeking humility through obedience of others that he forgot that Jesus was his leader, that Jesus listened to him cry out and guided him without shame.

At least, that’s what I believe St. Francis has been trying to tell me about myself. That with Jesus in my heart and me in His, I don’t need another leader.

See, my audience is not anyone I need to impress with my knowledge or defend against with my neat list of resources. My audience is you. Those who recognize themselves as having the same types of problems with people that I did in the above situations.

In my case, it’s called freeing myself from the addiction to approval seeking and people pleasing.

Maybe St. Francis is telling me that because I’ve been there, I can be of help to you. Maybe I can help steer you towards healing. 

Maybe I’m one who can hear you cry out at night, maybe I’m one who’ll listen to your story and guide you without shame.

If you want, tell me your situation in the comments. I’ll probably suggest a particular book for you to read. Or maybe I’ll be granted an insight about your situation that I can share with you. At the very least, I can pray for you!
……

Meanwhile, let’s bake. But not just bake, let’s imagine that St. Francis isn’t only a saint in history books and legends. Let’s imagine, that he isn’t only an inspiration to countless people around the world, include Pope Francis, his namesake. Let’s imagine that he isn’t only speaking from heaven to the hearts of those on earth who seek him out and listen.

Let’s imagine that he’s coming to dinner! Let’s imagine that we want to make him the perfect autumn dessert. And so let’s do it for real with a cake that speaks to Francis’s sometimes upside-down logic. I think he would laugh and enjoy it, especially on a feast day:

Apple Berry Upside Down Cake


(More photos below.) 

Ingredients:

1 ½ sticks butter, softened, separated
½ cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup honey
2 organic or local apples, peeled and sliced
1 cup fresh or frozen berries (don’t thaw frozen ones)
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Instructions:

 1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
 2. Melt ½ stick butter and pour into lightly greased 9-inch round 2-inch high cake pan.
 3. Mix brown sugar and cinnamon together in medium size bowl with fork. Sprinkle mixture over melted butter in pan.
 4. Drizzle honey over brown sugar.
 5. Spread apple slices over brown sugar mixture.
 6. Sprinkle with frozen berries.
 7. With electric mixer, beat sugar and 1 stick butter at medium speed until blended.
 8. Add eggs, blend.
 9. In a medium size bowl stir together flour and baking powder with fork.
10. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture, blend.
11. Add milk and vanilla. Blend.
12. Pour batter over berries in pan.
13. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 50 minutes or until a wooden toothpick stuck in the center comes out clean.
14. Cool on wire rack for 10 minutes.
15. Carefully, run a knife around the edge of cake to loosen from pan.
16. Turn cake upside down onto a serving plate. Gently lift off pan.
17. Slice to serve.










Monday, September 19, 2016

ST. BARTHOLOMEW, APOSTLE, & HOMEMADE HUMMUS


(This post originally appeared in Grow Christians.)

St. Bartholomew believed in Jesus immediately upon meeting him. As one of the Twelve Apostles, he’s mentioned always with Philip. Later tradition holds that he traveled with St. Jude to Armenia where they founded the Armenian Apostolic Church and were later martyred. The Episcopal Church celebrates St. Bartholomew’s feast day on August 24.

Most biblical scholars believe that because Bartholomew means Son of Tolmai, he’s the same person called Nathanael in the first chapter of John’s Gospel:

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said, “Follow me.”

Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.”

Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”

Philip said to him, “Come and see.”
                                                                                                John 1:43-46

I have to stop here because Nathanael’s question is so familiar. I’ve said it to myself many times over the years of raising my children in the Church. The memory that stands out the most does so because it’s a scenario that played out repeatedly: 

We are at a Christmas pageant rehearsal, and I’m standing in a crowded classroom, overheating, holding coats, and helping my angel and shepherd try on their costumes. Maybe I’m even smiling, but I’m thinking, I’ve got so much to do at home! Can any good come out of a Christmas pageant?

If the tears of joy I shed at every Christmas pageant I’ve ever witnessed are any indication, the answer is, of course, yes.

Sometimes though, it’s easy to forget that which hasn’t happened yet. And so we ask, can any good come out of Baptism, Sunday school, worship, vacation bible school, junior choir, acolyting, youth groups, youth conferences, community service, Confirmation, mission trips, or lay ministry?

It seems to be such a simple answer, except when we’re rushing kids out the door and into the car so we can get them there on time. That’s when we should think about what happened after Nathanael followed Philip to come see:

“When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!”

Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?

Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.”

Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”

Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.”
John 1:47-50

St. (Nathanael) Bartholomew reminds us that when we support our children’s participating in church youth programs, their unique hearts will be recognized, welcomed, and transformed by their connection to the light in the center of it all, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

To honor St. Bartholomew on his feast day, let’s see if anything good can come out of the kitchen when we make a biblical-era Middle Eastern (culturally including parts of Armenia) version of:

HOMEMADE HUMMUS



Ingredients

1 cup dried chickpeas (or two 15-ounce cans)
½ cup tahini (sesame paste)
¼ cup olive oil
1 clove garlic
About 4 tablespoons of lemon juice
About 2 teaspoons salt (or ½ teaspoon if using canned chickpeas), or to taste

Instructions

If using canned chickpeas, skip ahead to the second part of step 4.

1. Rinse chickpeas in a strainer. Place in large pot with 8 cups of water. Let soak at room temperature for about 12 hours.




2. Drain chickpeas and rinse. Place back in pot and add 10 cups of water. Bring to a boil and cook for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until chickpeas are soft, about 1 hour.
3. Set aside one cup of the cooking water. Drain chickpeas and rinse under cold water.
4. Place chickpeas and cup of cooking water into food processor or blender and puree until smooth. (Or mush them up with a mortar and pestle, because authenticity.)   
If using canned chickpeas, skip steps 1 through 4 and pour into food processor or blender with about half the water from each can.
5. Add tahini, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, and salt. Puree until creamy.



6. Pour into bowl and serve with Apostle's Bread.

Optional add-ins: ¼ teaspoon black pepper, ½ teaspoon ground cumin, ¼ teaspoon paprika, 2 tablespoons chopped olives

Alternatively, because the apostles ate much of the same foods and because saintly feast dishes can be mixed and matched depending on what’s in season or what your family prefers, you could celebrate St. Bartholomew's feast day with Fig and Goat Cheese Crostini.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

HEALTH, HAPPINESS, AND HEARTY OATMEAL COOKIES


This is a follow up to my earlier post, Signs, Glitches, St. Francis, Bad News & Social Media in which I discuss a college-tour road trip and my reaction to recent shootings in the U.S.

Because my daughter and I had car trouble, the road trip, although lovely, ended on a highly stressful note. And upon our return home, I dove in to research about the shootings and came up with a plan to take my activism to the next level.  

I posted that one on Sunday, July 10. On that Tuesday, we had to spend another seven hours on the road returning the rental car and picking up our own car from the dealer. More inertia, more eating of unhealthy foods. The next day I remember being tired, and sad, but also a bit hyper and determined to do something to make a difference in our world.

And then, late on Thursday, July 14, Bastille Day, I heard the news about the mass murders in Nice, France. That's when I gave up. I had nothing left to give, or feel, or do. The thought that I couldn't really change the world overwhelmed me with resignation and defeat.

It was at that exact moment, around 9:40 p.m. that I got sick. The germs and stress from our recent travels won.    

My daughter got sick, too. She developed strep throat and received antibiotics right away.  

I waited about a week before I went to the doctor with a bad cough. I was told it was a virus that had developed into bronchial spasms. I was prescribed medication to treat the symptoms.

Anther whole week went by and I still had symptoms. I went back to the doctor where they finally prescribed me antibiotics. I hate taking them, of course, but they were absolutely necessary. And then I got better.

I was sick for about three weeks total. During this time, I went about as much business as possible because I didn't think I was infectious and I had things to do. So I got my annual blood work taken and later received a call from the nurse.

She said, "You have an elevated white blood cell count and high cholesterol. The doctor wants you to go on a low cholesterol diet and exercise program and then come back in 5 weeks for a recheck."

I blew off the high white blood cell count as not being important because I knew I was sick and was receiving treatment (from a different doctor). So I focused on the high cholesterol issue.

Now I knew that I had been eating terrible road foods, and hadn't exercised really at all for a whole month due to the road trips and then being sick.

My dad has high cholesterol and he suffered a terrible side effect reaction to his first medication. With the desire to avoid any possibility of that happening to me, I engaged in an extreme heart-healthy diet and exercise program based on information I found online. 

Basically, I avoided red-meat, eggs, dairy, and cheese, including my beloved pizza,





and I ate a lot of fish, avocado, beans, olive oil, veggies, and oatmeal.



I kicked back into my exercise schedule and took my vitamins. Vitamins, including omega-3 fish oil, do absolutely no good sitting in the refrigerator. We actually have to consume them daily.

So I did all this for five weeks and then had my blood work taken again a few days ago. I just got off the phone with the nurse. She said, "All your numbers look good!"

"Great! Can you tell me what my cholesterol numbers were last time and what they are now?" 

"Oh, honey. We weren't checking your cholesterol this second time, we were checking your white blood count. You're all good now," she said. 

I'm like, "But what about my cholesterol levels?"

She said, "We don't look at that again until your next physical. Plus, you were only in the borderline range. So just keep doing the heart healthy diet and exercise and the doctor will go over all this with you next year and you might have to take medicine."

I got off the phone and laughed at myself and then I complained to myself a little bit about people in the medical community who might need to work harder on explaining instructions. We don't all know the things they take for granted that we know.

In the end, I'm grateful that I took on this heart-healthy challenge and while I'm going to tone it down a little bit, by adding back in some yummy high-cholesterol foods, I will continue to balance them out with heart-healthy foods and more regular exercise.

How does all this swing back to activism and news of the day? 

Well, I understand better now that it's not all on me. I'm not responsible for terrible things happening in the world. I have no real power to change anything big. But I can do the things I can do. Such as vote. Such as speaking out. 

Such as joining the team of Blessed Bakers at my church. We bake cookies for our city's Midnight Basketball program during the summer and the Police Athletic League's Teen Night during the school year. These are programs specifically designed to give youth something to do at night instead of being out on the dangerous streets.

I'm so grateful for the opportunity to be a part of making this little bit of difference in my community with the eternal hope that we are creating ripples. I'm also grateful that I can enjoy baking a batch of cookies and not have to look at them for days as they sit on my counter tempting me.

Fresh, homemade, somewhat healthy cookies are just the thing for spreading joy and heart happiness:


HEARTY OATMEAL COOKIES

Ingredients:

2 sticks (1 cup) butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups old-fashion rolled oats
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

2 cups dark chocolate chips
1 cup dried cranberries


Optional add ins: 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts OR, 1/2 cup chunky peanut butter. Make extra certain that nut allergies are not an issue before you share peanut butter or nut-filled cookies. 

Instructions:

 1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. 
 2. Cream butter with electric mixer.
 3. Add sugars. Blend.
 4. Add eggs and vanilla. Blend.
 5. In another bowl, combine flour, oats, cinnamon, baking soda and salt.
 6. Slowly pour dry ingredients into mixing bowl with butter mixture. Blend.
 7. Add chips, cranberries, and optional nuts. Blend until just mixed in.
 8. Drop by spoonfuls onto parchment paper covered cookie sheets.
 9. Bake at 375 degrees F for about 11 minutes, until are edges are golden brown.
10. Cool on wire rack for at least 10 minutes before serving. 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

COMPILINGS THREE: Beach Meandering Treasures


As a spiritual blogger/church volunteer, my "new year" starts after Labor Day. So in the waning weeks of summer, I want to share the beach meandering treasures I found during the past year and their messages. Now, I believe wholeheartedly that these items were placed in my path as angelic signs with messages that I deciphered. Another way to look at it is to see these random items as metaphors that can be applied to life.

Interesting thing to note is that it was only this past year that I began walking pier to pier at the beach only five miles from my home. Busy, busy, and all that. I could add paragraphs here about worthiness and the art of not being, but I'll refrain. I'm stalling a bit because the first treasure is intense. Right, so it was 11/11/2015:    


This is what I posted on Facebook with the photo: During my beach meandering this morning, I found a dog tag right by the shoreline. Let me rephrase that, I found a dog tag on the beach on Veterans Day. 

What happened next still makes me cry. Here's how I explained it in a local TV news story. R.I.P. Jesse.

After that happened I knew I had to keep returning to the beach to find meandering treasures:


The message with this one had to do with "baggage" as it was loaded with tiny pebbles. I still can't figure out if it was about letting go of baggage or carrying the good stuff with us.


This one says, "The spiritual embraces the modern as another way to help all those with ears to listen."


This is a rusty nickle, not a penny. So this ones message is that I should prepare to make money in a  unique way. Looking back, I have consistently earned money for my written words during this past year. This was a first for me! Whoop!


This one is about broken-heart people attracting supportive friends. Peer closely in the upper left hand corner and you'll see two angels watching over the scene.


The Angels were clear with this one, "In the only eyes that matter, every diverse one of you is a treasure."


This one reminds us that pets can be Earth Angels, too. Pay attention to 'em.


No explanation needed here.


"Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe." John 20:29


"Go for the broken underbelly ones, that's where the purple is." This was a haul from one day. Now, I do collect rocks and shells for stepping stone projects, so there's nothing really out of the ordinary with this collection. Except that I was drawn to the purple, as it's a spiritual color liturgically, angelically (color associated with St. Michael the Archangel), and crown-chakra ly.


This one says, "It ain't a treasure. Pick it up anyway. And stop using 'em for God's sake!"


One day there was feathers all along the shoreline! They were all ocean washed and sun kissed. The loud and clear message in this one is that angels are everywhere!

Which reminds me, sometimes, they aren't. One day last month, I went outside to get the mail, and I heard kissing sounds coming from a tree in the middle of our front yard. I looked up and saw a cardinal making these kissing sounds. Now cardinals are believed to be a symbol of someone in heaven letting you know they are thinking about you. So there I am basking in the "love" of this cardinal because I think it's my grandmother sending me a "you're doing a good job" message when I see a sudden movement along the trunk of the tree.

Yeah, it was a camouflage garter snake slithering towards the cardinal's nest. Lesson learned: not all "signs" are signs. Use your best judgement. Pay attention and listen to your intuition. And never forget to laugh at yourself.


This wounded tortoise-shell shell represents the tortoise-shell feral cat we took in even though she is feral. Did I mention she's feral? The angels were telling me that it was the right thing to do. And, so far, so good, she makes a lovely garage cat.

Then it was summer time when our beach fills up with tourists. So, I've been sticking to the neighborhood for most of my walks. I headed back last Sunday with my husband to join Plastic Ocean Project for a beach clean up. The group consisted of mostly college kids with their young eyes, and they kept walking in my path. I mean, I'm doing this section! But, nevertheless, in an area where many people spied the tiniest pieces of clear plastic, no one else saw two bits of purple sticking up out of the sand. I pulled them out and it was this guy!


I mean, even when you think everything's been said by everyone else, yeah, not so much. The message here is "Write away!" I love this guy.

And here we are, August 18, full moon tonight. I have to admit that I've been in a bit of a slump because I'm just not sure what's next for me creativity-wise. I recently learned clearly what's not next for me and, you know, sometimes it take a few days to get used to that kind of news.

So I've been thinking back through my spiritual journey, or as Brene Brown calls it, breakdown/spiritual awakening, and I'm focusing on the fact that the thing that sparked it for me happened about two years ago. Two. Years. Ago. And I'm still thinking about it. I mean, I so wanted to stop thinking about it immediately or even the next day would have been fine. But it doesn't always work that way.

I had to dig deep into my psyche. And what I found there was an addiction to approval seeking and people pleasing. Over these last two years, I have had to extricate myself from three dysfunctional relationships. The problem with these kinds of relationships is that dysfunction and love appear so much alike. And so leaving hurts. And grief hurts. 

And then I got to point where I realized that these people are not inherently bad. Other people truly like them and they seem to have decent relationships. It's just me. They treated me differently because I let them. And yet, they don't hate me. They didn't manipulate me on purpose. On a conscious level, they didn't even know they were doing it. Addiction is sneaky like that.

But these last few days, as I was low and in a funk (full moon tonight, just saying), I realized that I don't have those three voices in my head anymore. And what an aha moment that was, because they've been gone for awhile now and I hadn't noticed.  

I didn't dare say to myself, that's it! This time, my spiritual journey is over! This time, for real! I've fallen for that one too many times. But, there's something else going on here, something I couldn't quite put my finger on. Then today, after my late morning walk and a bit of gardening, I came in and checked my emails at exactly 11:11 a.m. I noticed this because I checked to see how long I had until LUNCH, and I'm always noticing angelic messages. Remember that 11:11 is a sign of angelic beginnings.

It was in a meditation email forwarded to me by a friend:

People in the recovery process are people with painful memories. We remember our losses. We remember our sins. We remember the sins which have been committed against us. It is part of the hard work of recovery to face these memories, to grieve them and to come to terms with them. But sometimes the painful memories become so powerful that it seems like nothing will be able to compete with them for our attention. The memory of pain consumes us. In times like this we need a powerful new memory that can challenge the dominance of our painful memories.

Jesus invites us to receive a new and startling memory. "Remember me," Jesus says, "Eat the bread and drink the wine and remember that I gave my life for you. I gave my life because I love you. Take this new memory. Allow it to shape the way you think about yourself and about life and about me. Allow yourself to remember me."

The rest of this meditation can be found here from the authors of Rooted in God's Love.

Right! I'm in recovery. Because I have an addiction. I've got to work harder on remembering that. 

And so this email from my friend playing on Team Angel for one tiny part of one day helped me to understand that the empty space where those voices were belong to Jesus now. His is the voice I can listen to. His is the voice I can fill myself up with.  

Speaking of friends, the real ones, the supportive ones, the ones who let me go on and on and then say the perfect thing, these are the friends I want to thank for being so consistently there for me -- Julia, Beth, Catherine, and Rebecca. You know your last names and you know I love you.

Speaking of friends, beach meandering with friends is the absolutely best!


I highly recommend it!

What? No beach near you. How 'bout a mountain? How 'bout a meadow? How 'bout Central Park? You'll find it!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

ST. JAMES THE ELDER, APOSTLE & TORTILLA DE PATATAS BOCADILLO (SPANISH OMELETTE SANDWICH)



St. James the Elder, Apostle, Son of Zebedee, brother of John, was among the first called to follow Jesus, and he did so with great enthusiasm. He was the first Apostle to be martyred and his feast day is July 25. St. James is the patron saint of Spain and is honored with a pilgrimage to his shrine called the Camino de Santiago or Way of St. James. 


Along with Peter and John, James the Elder (to distinguish him from James the Younger, Apostle,) had a special place among the Apostles. Perhaps it was because of his age and experience. Or perhaps it was because of James’s untiring devotion, loyalty, and faithfulness to Jesus.

Sometimes this extroverted enthusiasm could be a bit much . . .


Enjoy the rest of my latest post at Grow Christians!





Sunday, July 10, 2016

SIGNS, GLITCHES, ST. FRANCIS, BAD NEWS, & SOCIAL MEDIA

On Wednesday, my daughter and I journeyed from our home in Wilmington to the Winston-Salem/Greensboro area to tour the University of North Carolina School of the Arts and the University of North Carolina Greensboro.

We left the house without a backup printout of our route because we were late and figured we'd be fine with our cell phones. I forgot my charger and my daughter's charger was faulty. But, we made it on time for our tour of UNCSA! This tour was conducted by an admissions counselor. He knew plenty and he showed us lots of hands-on stuff. 

I took this photo behind an "apartment" built on a sound stage. This set up creates sunlight through the window. The message is that we can absolutely manufacture our own sunshine.


This is a photo of my daughter standing in front of one of the main buildings and UNCSA signs. It seems like a sign that this is her school. (We don't know that yet, as she's just about to begin junior year of high school. Plenty of time yet for contemplating.)


This photo is a sign that we chose the correct hotel for our stay because we have a Little Free Library, too. Plus, look how awesome this one is!


This photo is a sign that my daughter performed THE PERFECT parallel park in downtown Winston-Salem and is, according to this New York mom, ready to get her driver's license. She would argue that this photo is really a sign that her mom is ready for her to get her driver's license in a state which doesn't require parallel parking in their driver's test.


This photo is a sign that someone came up with a great idea and sells lots of product at the Old Salem gift shop.


The message in this photo is, with or without fences, goodness gets out.


The message in this photo is that reading that how-to-take photographs book last summer paid off.


The message in this photo is that everyone who recommended eating lunch at The Tavern in Old Salem was right!



And then we drove to Greensboro and got there in plenty of time for our tour. Our guide was a student named Laura. She did a great job! Gave us plenty of information, answered all our questions, showed us a classroom, a dorm room, the library, and the cafeteria where she gave us all cups so we could get a cold drink.  

While we were standing around slurping away, she complemented me on my necklace. It's a tiny "gold" replica of the Icon Cross of San Damiano through which Jesus spoke to St. Francis of Assisi and told him to rebuild his church. She said she saw the real thing when she was in Italy with her mom. What!? What a sign! First of all, St. Francis of Assisi is my birthday patron saint and also my daughter's birthday patron (because he died on October 3, but his feast day is October 4 due to a medieval calendar glitch). AND, we totally want to journey to Italy and do a saintly pilgrimage.

Laura ended up giving us wonderful advice about tour groups and getting to visit the saintly shrines because they are considered a part of the Best of Italy. Now I have a first step! I was soooo excited by this random data dump of exactly the information I needed but was completely unrelated to our college touring.

As we continued on, I reflected on the fact that due to the recent shootings of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and the police officers in Dallas, I was wearing an orange tee-shirt with my necklace on the outside of the shirt. Normally, I try not to be all in your-face about my Christianity, so I keep my necklace on the inside of my shirt, close to my heart. But, with one shooting after the other, after the other, while I was away from home on a specific mission and unable to process any of it, I wanted to, at least, be a walking prayer for those who so recently died by gun violence.

So I was marveling about how, via a symbol of a cross that was important to my patron saint, I "randomly" received information that I can use as a first step in bringing me to the shrine of St. Francis of Assisi and perhaps even to visit the real Icon Cross of San Damiano myself! Before I could even offer up a prayer of thanksgiving, we passed this statue.  



The photo is not mine. In fact, I don't have any photos of UNCG, I think it's because I was too engaged in the tour to think to pull out the camera. And then when Laura started telling the story of this statue, I was too enthralled to stop following her to run over to snap a photo. It's a statue of Minerva the Roman Goddess of Wisdom. A tradition got started at some point in which students leave apples with one bite taken out as an offering to Minerva in exchange for an A on an exam.

Fascinating! But all I could really think about was this is another sign! Minerva is the name we chose for a stray cat we took in a couple of months ago. Our Minerva continues to be pretty feral and is just now poking her head out from behind the water heater in the garage to eat her dinner while we our still filling up her water bowl. Now, I named her Minerva after Professor McGonagall from Harry Potter without having any idea that Minerva is the name of a goddess of wisdom! There are signs and messages galore in this coincidence! I haven't truly figured them all out yet. I wonder if it's a sign for me regarding the gaining of knowledge, or if it's a sign that this is the perfect college for my daughter. We shall see.

After thanking Laura profusely, we got in the car and began our three-hour drive home on I-40.

And then, alas.

The message in this photo is UH OH! Alert, alert!


The message in this photo is CRAP! Something is wrong with the coolant system. 


Adding coolant did not help. The phone charger was also kaput at this point and both of our phones were down to single digit percent of charge. Some of us in the car were freaking out a bit. (It wasn't my daughter.) But then, with the guidance of my husband, we purchased a new charger at a rest stop. Then, because he had called ahead and arranged the whole thing, he directed us to a Toyota dealer with a rental car counter. We arrived just before closing and they were ready for us! (Except for the service staff who leave an hour earlier.)

All's well that ends well. Except for the part were we have to drive the rental car back tomorrow, about a seven-hour round trip. But even that's not so bad. We'll have good music, we'll stop by to have lunch with my son in Raleigh, and there's no charge for the service. It was just an air bubble in the coolant system that needed to be passed.

Meanwhile, underneath all this good college stuff, signs from above, phone and car dysfunctions, and nerve-wracking pulling off to the side of the road to assess stuff, I was devastated about the shooting deaths and unable to process or learn anything more about the situations than I had seen during breakfast at the hotel.

When we got home, safe and sound, I think I spent about two hours on Friday night then about four, maybe five hours yesterday on social media sorting through all kinds of articles, news updates, opinions, blog posts, memes, status updates, people's feelings, thoughts, ideas, prayers  . . .

And I think finally I have reached a level of understanding of the situation and what it means for us as country and what it means to me personally.

I also realized with this process of my seemingly too-much-with-the-Facebook, that for me diving deep is absolutely necessary. I need to face it so I can understand it, so I can learn from it, so I can move on in a better way.

This procedure is exactly the same way I handled the rejection trauma that launched my spiritual journey in October, 2014. The one that changed my life from the inside out. The one that most recently showed me how significant childhood trauma is to our development. We can't hide from it. We can set it aside for while, just so we can get through the day, so we can continue to breath in and breath out.

But at some point, when we're ready, we need to dive deep and face those memories. To seek professional help, or read all kinds of books, articles, seemingly random stuff that pop up in the Newsfeed which we create just for ourselves with our likes and other post interactions. And then we get to a point where we realize that we are ready to face and experience the traumatic memories as they rise to the surface. Those days aren't pretty, but they're necessary. And then, thankfully, they are purged. I've already had several really bad emotional days. But I know this is all part of the process, I let it happen, and follow letting go and releasing toxic energy procedures. I also know that the sun will shine again tomorrow and if it doesn't, I have the ability to manufacture my own sunshine.

So what did I learn about the recent shootings? I learned that there is a way to meet on that bridge. That we can come together as a united people and grasp this solution together. We all need to face it and we all need to understand that, yes, there is absolutely something we can do about it.

I began my fight for gun safety when Sandy Hook happened. Those babes were exactly where they were supposed to be doing exactly what they were supposed to be doing. No one did anything wrong here. Not the parents, the teachers, nor the administration. Those children should not have died. And yet.

And yet. So many. Every day. And when there are these highly traumatic ones that affect all of us, most recently Orlando 49, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and the police officers in Dallas, at first we stand around in shock, going what the hell is happening?! But then we realize that we have to take our efforts up another notch.

For example, in the past I have actually had the thoughts, God bless you with your bathroom fight, LGBT community, I'm dealing with gun violence. And, God bless you with your blacklivesmatter fight, black community, I'm dealing with the NRA. But, it's become glaringly obvious to the point that I'm embarrassed that I didn't see it before, it's all the same fight! We're all on the same side. And my daughter's fight to save the environment is also freaking important. We can't wait on that one either. We really have to get it together as a country and not only do the right thing, but do the right things. Plural.

So, how am I doing that? I intend to keep showing up. Next week I'm attending a Potluck for Peace discussion at the local YWCA and later a Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense meeting. I might also attend a blacklivesmatter march for which I just received the invite while writing this post. I have to check it out with my and my daughter's schedule.

But you know what? We don't have to attend everything. One would do. As long as whatever we do, we're taking it up a notch.

And then this morning's sermon. I so wanted a sermon that would speak to us about this past week's nationally traumatic gun violence, and I got one. The preacher went deep into the parable of the Good Samaritan. He didn't say that we should act like the Good Samaritan and take care of those less fortunate than ourselves as I was expecting.

He said (and I'm filling in the blank to make it personal to me), imagine that you are the one who got beat up and left half dead on the side of the road. Imagine that instead of a Samaritan, it's an Assault Rifle Open-Carrying NRA Nutjob who takes care of you while everyone else walks by. That's your neighbor. Go and do likewise.

Holy . . . Wow.

But here's the thing, by imagining this particular scenario, I'm actually stepping closer to the middle of that bridge.

Won't you please join me there?