Thursday, February 28, 2013

Fear of the Future

                Off and on for the past four years, I have feared the future.  In the last three months, my fear has increased.  This past month, almost daily I look to the days to come and worry.  Why?  I am a strong Christian and put my faith in God.  If this is the case, why am I fearful? 

                I have always been a numbers oriented person.  Yes, I love to write and read, but I love numbers as well.  Growing up, I used to spend hours in the tiny little bedroom in our trailer house that my mom used as a pantry.  In the closet were a ton of shelves where she kept all of our canned goods and extras.  This was in the days before barcodes, so each item had a price tag on it.  I played grocer with a pen and pad of paper or if I was lucky the little calculator.  I would pretend I had a certain dollar amount and then I would determine what I could spend without going over.  As I grew up, I did this as well with my babysitting allowance.  How many shirts and pants could I buy?  We always had enough food in our bellies, but I did grow up on the poorer side of life pinching pennies.

                As an adult, I am very fiscal conservative, but I married the opposite.  However, when my husband came home from Iraq, he decided to work a budget.  Now, he is a fiscal conservative.  I literally have thanked God for the change.  This has left us doing very well in our finances, but things have been changing.  I lost my job due to health reasons and haven’t worked in about three years.  We still have prospered.  The past seven months we paid for a surgery, a last family trip, and braces.  This month both my vehicle and my son’s have broken down with a chunk of change going into fixing them.  Now my husband is looking at having to go on furlough.  Oh, my.  I am scared and a little depressed.

                As Christians, how do we face the uncertainty of our finances?  We can pray and be thankful.  These are always the first things I do.  I ask God to be with us and I thank him for what we have.  Yet, this isn’t enough.  I need to apply Saint Francis of Assisi’s principle of want verses need.  When I go to the store, I have to weigh whether I need the steak verses wanting it.  Do I need a new car or want it?  Is fixing the old one a better financial choice?  Then there are the bigger questions.  Does my son really need a car with insurance?  The way the world is going, this last question and other tough decisions could very well be a reality in the near future.  As a family, we will also have to discern my husband getting a third job and me going back to work.

                I can also turn to my Bible.  A year ago, I wrote about Proverbs 31:10-31, The Ideal Wife.  In this passage, it talks about sewing, long hours of work, and gardening.  I am contemplating making my garden bigger so I will be able to can and freeze more food for the next year.  Instead of buying new clothes, patching old ones could become more common place.  I have been putting in longer hours with my writing in hopes of maybe selling something in the next year.  Also, I can’t lose sight of charity.  I need to continue to give money in tithing and to the poor.  God has always provided for us if we remember to give.

                So, in these uncertain times, I am struggling with worry.  But I place these worries at the foot of the cross.  I also look for ways God has given me to fix the struggles.  Is my worry completely gone?  Hardly, but I know He is with me.  My heart goes out to all of us in these dark days.

                Blessings to you all.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Mindy Mccready

                This morning I woke up and moments later I received a text from my amazing husband wishing me a happy anniversary.  He spent the long weekend doing ministry for which I am very proud of him and don’t mind that I don’t get a morning anniversary kiss.  I had been thinking of doing a post in honor of our marriage and I probably will later this week, but when I logged onto the internet this morning a news article caught my attention.  Mindy Mccready (country music star) was found dead yesterday from what looks like a self-inflicted gunshot wound at the age of 37.

                I tried putting the news behind me.  Instead, it haunted me all morning.  When I sat down to do some editing, I thought I would listen to my two CD’s of hers.  The first one played in the background.  The second one penetrated my thoughts and I could not ignore my feelings anymore.

                I fell in love with Mindy’s music as soon as it came out.  I loved her videos.  The rebel in me loved the song “Guys Do It All the Time.”  I adored the visual of “Ten Thousand Angels.”  The song that still haunts me is “Maybe He’ll Notice Her Now.”  In fact, it is this song that really struck a chord today.

                I don’t follow much celebrity gossip, but I did follow a little of Mindy’s life.  She struggled with drug and alcohol abuse and I believe she also struggled with mental illness.  There is mental illness in my family and I have struggled with depression, so my heart always went out to her when I heard of the rough times she was having.  This is why the song means so much to me.  In my darkest days, I always felt that nobody noticed me. 

                “She wrote, ‘I feel just like that painting, collecting dust on the wall, And every day you walk right by me, and don’t know I’m there at all, And I can’t think of one single reason, why I should be hanging around.’”  The dark side of depression and many mental illnesses find the people who struggle with them feeling this way.  I know I have felt it quite a few times in my life and it hurts.  Now the song discusses a woman feeling invisible in her marriage, but it does apply to depression.  I can’t help but think it applied to Mindy as well. 

“She signed it, ‘I hope that you’ll miss me’, and she drove herself out of town.”  I have wondered at times what it would be like to runaway.  How long would my family last without me?  Actually, I do know they would miss me.  I also know they would do fine because they are amazing individuals who are capable of taking care of themselves.  We have raised the children that way.  I am proud of them.  In reality, I haven’t been in the deep pain to runaway or commit suicide.  I can’t even imagine the despair Mindy must have been in to hit such a low bottom, the complete invisibility to those who love her.

My prayer for Mindy now is that her other song plays a part as well.  I pray that in her darkest moments ten thousand angels are watching over her and lifting her up.  I also pray that we can all be more aware of mental illness and help each other through the dark moments, to help stop the invisibility. 

Blessings to you all.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Lenten Anxiety

                Ash Wednesday begins my favorite faith time of year.  I love going to Mass in the evening to receive my ashes on the forehead.  The journey of Lent is the polar opposite of Advent (days leading to Christmas).  People of most faiths and no faiths celebrate Christmas and spend the majority of Christmas preparing for the event.  There are parties and programs galore and tons of shopping, wrapping, and decorating to bog down our already busy schedules.  The season is hard to just sit and reflect on God.

                Lent is quiet.  No parties or programs about a mythological holiday entity to distract from the days.  The only real job is to be with Jesus.  The only list to cross off is for groceries for the Easter dinner, a little candy, and Easter Eggs.  I don’t have to think of fudge, cookies, gift wrap, cards, or much decorating.  Instead, I spend quiet time.  I love it.  This year though I have been dreading Lent.

                As I sat waiting for Father to begin the homily Wednesday evening, I smiled at how homey the church felt.  Sitting in our area, we were overflowing with 6:00, 8:00 and 10:30 parishioners.  It felt like a big family reunion of the different weekly worship services.  I loved being with the Ackeret’s from 6:00, the Riley’s and Hogan’s from 8:00, and Pat from 10:30.  This is just in our little area.  The rest of the church was stuffed with all of us.  With Father’s first words, I became stressed.

                He asked how our lists for Lent were coming.  He started rattling off all the things we should be doing for the season.  I felt my good feelings begin to deflate.  I wasn’t ready for Lent.  I want to make the commitment to go to Station’s of the Cross, but it is the same time as volleyball games, Clay’s music gig, and a number of other things.  Failure.  Almsgiving I have usually crocheted a blanket for a baby in need, but I haven’t even started one or planned to because of my busy schedule.  Failure.  I am already studying Saint Jerome and reading the Bible daily.  I am praying.  How can I do more?  Failure.

                Then Father basically said to get rid of the lists.  Lent is a time to grow closer to God not make lists and complicate our lives even more which in turn takes us further from Him.  I sighed in relief.  I don’t have to add five more things to a very busy schedule to have a successful Lent.  In fact, I don’t have to make it to Stations of the Cross.  I am going to try to get to a couple of them, but probably not all of them.  I am going to pray more by taking pictures of things I am thankful for.  I am going to play the Hail Mary on the piano and be in prayer through song.  As I go out shopping, I will pick up baby items for charity.  No lists, just simple little actions of thanksgiving.    I am now ready and excited for Lent.

                Blessings to you all.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Pope Benedict XVI

                Yesterday the Catholic world was rocked with the announcement that Pope Benedict XVI plans to resign at the end of the month.  I watched facebook as my Catholic friends all started posting.  Inevitably, jokes surfaced in a matter of hours.  My family all had reactions as well as myself at the news which surprised me.

                Growing up protestant, the whole pope idea did not really register with me.  In truth, I still haven’t given it much thought.  Here sits an old guy across the ocean leading a bunch of Catholics.  Nice ideals, but how does it affect me?  The fact of the matter is I don’t understand much about the office of pope.  I know the first pope was Peter.  Jesus told him to be the rock of the church.  This is what the pope is.  He is our rock, our shepherd.  I have learned I will defend him and respect him.  Beyond that, I don’t give him or the office much thought until yesterday.

                As I said, everyone living in my house was saddened by Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation.  In fact, later my son said he thought about it all day.  I thought of it a lot as well.  I am saddened because of something I hadn’t put into words until yesterday, the sanctity of life.  The Catholic Church’s platform in all areas stands fast to the sanctity of all life whether the talk is about abortion, execution, the poor, and a number of other areas.  As I get older, I watch for the sanctity in the elderly.

                As the world watched Pope John Paul II (JPII) grow weaker in his old age, I marveled at his gifts.  He still held a viable life.  People respected him, followed his lead, and learned from him.  In our society, we are inundated with commercials and social ideals that being young is the better life.  We need to get rid of our wrinkles, gray hair, and age spots.  (I confess I do color my hair, but I am keeping the wrinkles.  I earned them.)  The Catholic Church didn’t put JPII out to pasture as he became infirm; instead, the younger generation helped facilitate his work.  They learned from his wisdom.  We are going to miss those lessons from Pope Benedict XVI.  I am saddened by that.  Yes, I know he will continue to work for all of us and he will pray, but he will be lost to the public eye.  We will not see the sanctity of his life as he grows infirm.

                At the church I attend, an old priest assists Father during the Eucharist.  I think this is beautiful.  A couple of years back, a series of commercials made my heart sing.  They were about grandchildren going to their grandparent’s music performance or some such idea.  I love that.  The elderly need to have a viable job in their lives.  I plan to be doing something even if it is plotting to take over the care center when I am old.  In fact this morning my cousin asked me if we will ever stop fighting.  I hope not.  Let me explain.

                Five years ago when I started becoming very sick, I started to worry.  My health did a huge nosedive.  Three years ago as I waited for the military to decide if I no longer was viable in the work place I became scared.  I was looking down the barrel of not being able to work anymore.  What could I give back to society?  What would be my usefulness?  Granted, I knew I had the tasks of raising my kids and cleaning house, but I have always wanted more.  Our society doesn’t place much value in these gifts and I was feeling pretty pathetic.  My cousin who is my age also has struggle with her health.  I can imagine this is how the elderly begin to feel.  I have learned a lot in the last three years of my retirement.  I do a lot with my writing and praying.  Fortunately for me, I have a son who reminds me how much he values our cleaner (note not super clean) house and having me home for him.  I do get frustrated though when finances take a nose dive and my husband insists I can’t get a job.  But I do have value as do the elderly.  I will fight for this as does my cousin and if I know us well, we will continue to fight.

                Pope Benedict XVI will also continue to have value as he continues his journey.  I pray we get to keep tabs on it and he shows the world the amazing aspects of growing old.

                Blessings to you all.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Yearly Goals Check In

Each day when I open my journal where I write my morning pages, I see my yearly goals in front of me.  I like that because it helps keep me centered for the day on the things I need to accomplish.  So many times we hear of how our “New Year’s Resolutions” have failed.  A few of my goals have fallen by the side of the road, but others have bloomed.  I thought at the beginning of each month I would share with you how mine are going.  This first one is a bit late because the regular flu and stomach flu derailed all writing, but I am feeling better, so off we go.

                The hardest one is where I will start.  When I thought of it, I knew in the back of my mind I would fail.  However, being optimistic, I thought if I wrote it down and blogged it that by some miracle I would succeed.  No such luck.  I haven’t even done it once.  Daily Mass.  Yes, I go to Sunday Mass every weekend even when I don’t feel great.  I could make up a hundred excuses why I haven’t attended even one Mass, but none of them are relevant.  The fact of the matter is I haven’t and won’t.  I will try again next year.

                Hum, with this, I can flow right into discipline my word for the year.  I have had no discipline in attending Mass during the week.  With my word, I was hoping I would keep my house cleaner.  Some days I have done really well and on others, not so great.  Part of my problem with a clean house is I don’t truly believe in a clean house.  Now, it isn’t terribly horrible like those reality television shows that I can’t even handle the commercials, but neither would I want neat freaks to show up at my door unannounced.  I believe life comes before cleaning: hanging out with kids, enjoying a good book, studying something, crocheting, gardening, chatting with hubby, editing one more page, or writing 100 more words.  Thus, my house isn’t the cleanest, but I will continue to plug away at it.

                My word has come into play with my editing and writing goals for the year.  Last month, I rocked my goals.  I hit the total counts by the 15th and kept going.  I had hoped to double my goals, but volunteering for my daughter’s activities got in the way.  I still did an extra 12,000 words and 10 hours.  I am very happy to count the month a grand success in my writing journey.

                My Bible reading has also been going really well.  I think I missed three days during the month.  The day after I would read both days and continue on schedule.  I can officially say I have read 1/12 of the Bible.  Granted with all the reading I have done in the past, I have read more, but the fraction is for this year.  I am mighty excited that I am taking advantage of such supportive words that help my heart sore.  I am so thankful Saint Jerome did the original translation to get all those books into Latin.  When I think of the tedious task of translating, reading the Bible is so much easier.

I have enjoyed my time with Saint Jerome as I read information about him.  He is one of 33 Doctors of the Catholic Church.  To be a doctor, there are three parts: holiness, depth of doctrinal insight, and an extensive body of writings.  Jerome is known as an Ecumenical Father because he lived during the golden age, 300-600AD.  On my kindle, I am reading The Principle Works of St. Jerome.  He is an extremely intellectual writer.  Half the time I am reading I feel like the words are flying off the page before I can stuff them into my thoughts.  I have highlighted some passages, but I have no idea what to really write about them.  The one thing I find fascinating about Jerome is his ability to pull multiple passages from the Bible to get his points across to the reader.  I feel like a child again sitting next to my Grandmother trying to keep up with Pastor Wade by looking up all the references, intense. 

I know because of Jerome, I will not look at fasting quite the same way.  I never thought of these two Biblical stories when fasting.  “… by them you will understand why the first man, obeying his belly and not God, was cast down from paradise into this vale of tears; and why Satan used hunger to tempt the Lord Himself in the wilderness;….”  Gluttony is a sin and a sin I struggle with.  Satan uses this against us just as he did with Adam and Eve and even Jesus Himself.  As Lent fast approaches (next week), we are called to fast.  Why?  Food is a way for Satan to enter our lives through temptation.  By participating in fasting, we make ourselves stronger.  Adam and Eve failed the test and I fail it quite often.  Jesus shows us success.

Blessings to you all.