discern this

We are an Easter People, and even at the grave, Alleluia is our song.

If you haven’t got your health, you haven’t got anything. September 27, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — discernthis @ 11:33 pm

It’s almost Friday. Almost Friday means I only have to get up early one more day this week. Almost Friday means I don’t have a 14 hour day tomorrow. Almost Friday means I have time to breathe. I’ll have time to sit and relax. I’ll have time to play with the puppy and the kitty. I’ll have time to journal until I’m done, not until it’s time for the next thing I have to do. I’ll have time to play Rock Band with Kevin and watch movies and cook dinner. I’ll have time to run a 5K for Marian House on Saturday morning (support me! Marian House is awesome!). I’ll have time to weave and knit. I’ll have time to attend a play. I’ll have time to grill out and sit around the firepit with friends and drink  cider and enjoy the fall weather.

Hmm…I work all weekend too. My weekend is sounding pretty full already. There is so much more I want to do, and there isn’t much I’m willing to give up. I already don’t watch TV, and I just can’t function like a semi-normal human being with fewer than seven hours of sleep. So what gives? I know the value of taking care of myself, and I try to be careful to do what I need for me. That’s what all those things in the first paragraph are about. But at some point, I have to read for my classes, and I really need that paycheck, and I need to clean out my office for a new roommate who is moving in this weekend.

Sometimes I fear I’ve bitten off more than I can chew, and I have to remind myself that I graduate in May and that I love what I do. I love being in school, and I love my internship, and I love this work preparing for the diaconate. But it’s hard to find a balance.

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Signs, signs, everywhere are signs. September 26, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — discernthis @ 12:14 pm

An ongoing anxiety I’ve had is how all of this will affect my relationships. I’m insecure enough to begin with, and it’s not always easy to explain that yes, I am a woman, and yes, I am Catholic, and yes, I am preparing to be a priest.

Today, I had a conversation with someone where I had to explain that I would have to miss an event I really wanted to attend because I have a church thing. I don’t mind the church things–in fact, I really enjoy them. But it’s hard sometimes to have to turn down an invitation, and I get nervous that people won’t understand or will become frustrated. It’s the path I have chosen, and I’m beyond happy about it, but I still find it challenging.

Anyway, as I received an incredibly affirming and supportive response from the person, I realized the Pandora song playing in the background was “Don’t Worry Be Happy.” So I wiped my (happy) tears, smiled, agreed to let my anxiety go and allow myself to be enveloped in that joy and peace.

Ha! And now it’s Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds.

 

Bebehs September 25, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — discernthis @ 10:08 pm

Taking a child, he placed it in their midst, and putting his arms around the child, he said to them, “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me. (Mk 9:26-37)

Today, I got to feel a baby girl who is taking her sweet time coming into this world kick her mama. Then I got to snorgle a beautiful, happy little girl who has been here six months. This week I’ll be calling a family to coordinate details for the baptism of their little girl.

I am careful to separate my faith from my social work practice, but it’s never far from my mind, and it’s always in my heart. Through my work, through all the challenges and stresses and setbacks, my faith keeps me going. The successes, the smiles, and the thank yous make it worth it and remind me that God is always working in our lives.

 

A Comfortable Cup of Tea

Filed under: Uncategorized — discernthis @ 12:45 am

Today is Mercy Day. On this day in 1827, the very first House of Mercy was opened under the leadership of Catherine McAuley, foundress of the Sisters of Mercy. Mercy Day is celebrated throughout the world, and I thought I’d commemorate it by reflecting a bit about my time as a volunteer with the Mercy Volunteer Corps.

I am where I am today, and indeed, who I am today, in very large part because of my interaction with the Sisters of Mercy. I have known Mercy Sisters from the time I knew what a nun was, and I’ve always, always loved them. As I began thinking about what I wanted to do after college, I started looking at volunteer programs. I was drawn to the Mercy Volunteer Corps because I’d always had such positive experiences, and I applied to the program. I was accepted and offered a position at Marian House, a home for women in recovery. The program sounded amazing…with one catch: it was in Baltimore, MD. I was finishing my senior year at a smallish college in the rural North Carolina mountains. Baltimore could not be further from home or my comfort zone. I decided to go, and it remains one of the best decisions of my life.

I lived with three other volunteers, Lara, Margy, and Rachel. We lived in the rectory of St. Peter in southwest Baltimore, where we were immediately welcomed by the church and the neighborhood (even the less-friendly neighbors–my car was broken into within a week). Our work sites were fantastic, though not without their challenges, and I could not have asked for better roommates/community members.

We were–we are–The Baltimore Girls. We have a monthly phone call so that we can all stay in touch, and we get together every couple of years. Our most recent reunion was in May, and though it’s been ten years, it still feels like yesterday. It’s hard to explain my relationship with my Baltimore Girls. We are so much more than old roommates and friends. We have a connection that simply cannot be broken.

I worked primarily in the Education Center at Marian House, tutoring women and helping them prepare for the GED or readiness classes. I also worked with families in the program, doing tutoring with the children and coordinating family activities. By the end of my first week there, I knew that I was meant to be a social worker, and here I am, a decade later, finishing my MSW, because there is so much I want to do and learn about the field. I learned so much in my year there. It was the first time I’d encountered and dealt with substance abuse in a tangible way, and I have vivid memories of times when I witnessed some of the incredible challenges faced by people who live with addiction.

We had a movie night not too long after I started, and one of the movies was 28 Days, where Sandra Bullock’s character enters a rehab facility. I learned more watching the reactions and listening to the commentary of the women than any course could have taught me. One of the most difficult days I experience while there was when a resident’s boyfriend overdosed. He had had nearly 2o years clean, and he relapsed. That was the day I truly realized the power of addiction and the daily battle that a person in recovery faces. I’d already had tremendous respect for the women in the program and for others in recovery, but that day, I was simply blown away by the strength they demonstrate each day to remain clean.

My year in the Mercy Volunteer Corps brought me to Baltimore, to a city that baffles me daily and yet sucked me in so deeply that after a few years away, I was ready to come back. I credit my year in Baltimore for my profound conviction that I am a social worker down to my very soul.

And so on Mercy Day today, I remember that my MVC year taught me about service, about living in community, and about living simply. It taught me that as a young, sheltered, white woman from The South, I have even more to learn from my clients than I have to offer them. It taught me that friendship can stand the test of time, of distance, of differences. It taught me that Phase 10 is hands down the best game EVER, that having PJB for dinner several days in a row in order to finish a ridiculously challenging butterfly puzzle is worth it, that there are indeed bats in the belfry but that there is also a beautiful view, and that the Circle of Mercy is indeed both kindness and timeless.

 

Courage September 23, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — discernthis @ 8:47 pm

My friend Robin and I recently wandered through a cute little store in Hampden that had small puzzle piece-shaped key charms that said “I am” on one side and had an adjective on the other. One said obedient, another devoted, another heroic. I asked if there were any others available, and while there are, they won’t be in until some time in the next couple of weeks.

I explained to my friend that I have been looking for some sort of token, something I can carry with me between now and ordination that represents for me just what it is that I am doing. None of those words were working for me though. Still, I’ve always been drawn to puzzle pieces, and I made a mental note to stop back in the store the next time I’m in the neighborhood.

Today, I saw Robin and she said she had a present for me. It’s a bracelet with a small charm that says courage. It’s perfect.

See, this whole process terrifies me. I know I’m not qualified to do this. I know I’m going to screw up. I know that it’s going to be immensely taxing on me mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually

So I have to have courage. I have to believe—I have to remember to believe—that I am doing the right thing. I know that I’m called to this. I know that I’m not doing this alone.  I know that I am not worthy, but I know that I will be healed.

Courage.

 

Blessings

Filed under: Uncategorized — discernthis @ 12:43 am

I receive a daily email from Seasons for Nonviolence. This was today’s message and practice:

Looking out into the universe at night, we make no comparisons between right and wrong stars, nor between well and badly arranged constellations.
~ Alan Watts

Practice
Today I refrain from using comparison as a tool for being judgmental or as a weapon for self-sabotage, but rather use it as a vehicle for growth, for learning and aspiration.
Last Sunday’s second reading was James 2:1-5:

My brothers and sisters, show no partiality
as you adhere to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ.
For if a man with gold rings and fine clothes
comes into your assembly,
and a poor person in shabby clothes also comes in,
and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes
and say, “Sit here, please, ”
while you say to the poor one, “Stand there, ” or “Sit at my feet, ”
have you not made distinctions among yourselves
and become judges with evil designs?

Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters.
Did not God choose those who are poor in the world
to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom
that he promised to those who love him?

In my social work classes, we talk often of the distinctions our cultures places on people, categorizing them either “deserving poor” or “undeserving poor,” but I can’t help but think of how close each and every one of us is to tragedy, to despair, to poverty. Every day I am reminded of how fortunate I am and I have been to have the support of friends and family to whom I can turn when things are tough. So many people do not have that same fortune. I meet them every day in my work and as I travel through the city.

Let us always seek to welcome in the stranger, the foreigner, the widow, the orphan. Let us always seek to share our good fortune and love with those around us, especially those who have so little, regardless of whether we are inclined to believe they deserve it.

 

Happy Happy Joy Joy September 20, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — discernthis @ 10:45 pm

So one of my classes this semester is called Death, Dying, and Bereavement. Happy, fun, uplifting class, right? Actually, it is. I wasn’t sure if I was going to stay in this class or not because it was an elective and required me to come back down to campus an extra day during the week. However, as a social worker, it’s chock full of invaluable information and skill development, particularly as I am working with pregnant and postpartum moms to reduce infant mortality. As a clergy-to-be, grief is something I’ll be dealing with and asked to explain regularly.

One of our assignments for the class is to find something that deals with death, anything in our culture or media, present it to the class, and talk about it for a few minutes. I signed up to present tomorrow. I’m normally quite the procrastinator, so going on the first day is atypical for me. Of course, I didn’t prepare for it until today, so I guess I haven’t really changed any habits.

Three things immediately came to mind: seeing a shooting star while on a backpacking trip in college. It was the first time I’d ever seen a shooting star outside of a meteor shower. I learned about an hour later that my grandfather had just died. That is not a coincidence.

I thought also of a poem by Henry Van Dyke that Hospice shared with my family after my grandmother died. It’s called Gone From My Sight and tells of a ship that disappears from sight. It was as powerful to me just now as I reread it as it was the day Grandma died.

The last thing, and the one I’m planning to use for my class, is a song/prayer/blessing that David sings at the cemetery following funerals and at the end of some Masses said in remembrance of a loved one. I can’t listen to it without tearing up, and it always leaves me feeling some degree of peace and hope, regardless of how steeped in pain I may be.

 

Saints of God come to her aid

Come and greet her, angels of the Lord

Receive her soul and present her to God

Present her soul to God most high

 

May Christ who called you take you home

And lead you on unto our parents’ side.

Receive her soul and present her to God

Present her soul to God most high

 

Grant eternal rest, oh Lord

And let your light shine on her forever

Receive her soul and present her to God

Present her soul to God most high

I’m trying to figure out why I like it so much. The text, certainly, is beautiful and full of comfort. The tune, with its Irish solemn-yet-comforting-maybe-even-uplifting rhythm certainly appeals to me. Music can make or break a thing for me…this absolutely makes it.

The first time I heard it was on the anniversary of my uncle’s death. Mass was offered for Uncle Joe, and at the end, David sang this. It’s a beautiful tribute filled with hope.

I think it’s now the ritual of it. I know that it will come at the end of Mass when we are remembering someone. I know the song, and I know how David sings it, and I know what it means. When he presides at a funeral, David will start or end the graveside service with this. Knowing the power it holds over me at my strongest, I can only imagine its effect then, when the grief is so fresh it can be tasted.

Did you see the sunset this evening? It was stunning.