Several Little Prayers, Hands Held, and Myriad Kisses: Leslie and Joe’s Wedding

Tonight, my best friend said “I do!” to the man for whom she prayed to meet.

In fact, they both pray. That’s what makes it so amazing.

The glue of their relationship is good, old-fashioned faith. It was so refreshing to behold.

I wanted to speak up at the reception, but was too shy. So this is my belated well-wishing speech.

The best moment of their wedding, for me, was just before the vows.

They had begun standing facing each other, holding both hands. I noticed he caressed her hands with his thumbs. They were both so calm. And mostly, they made eye contact the entire time.

The intimacy was astounding, just witnessing it.

As the officiant prayed over their impending marriage, Leslie and Joe stepped in together. So naturally– like magnets. Their arms and hands were relaxed. Toe-to-toe, their foreheads touched gently. With closed eyes and flickering smiles, they leaned on each other and listened.

Together, they prayed over their future as husband and wife. Just watching them, I had a deep feeling of peace.

The reason Leslie is my best friend is likely the same reason she captured Joe’s heart: she’s a woman of indefatigable faith. Knowing her has inspired me and helped me grow in my own faith. And although she’s a Non-Denominational Christian and I’m Catholic, we always find the middle ground: a love for God and Jesus. She knows her Bible. She has deep convictions, to which she adheres. But she truly loves and accepts people with unconditional love and friendship. She’s the one I call when upset– I know she’ll listen quietly, with attention. She doesn’t gossip. Your secret is always safe with her. And she always remembers.

She makes sure to “like” or comment on every post I write– because she knows how much it means to me.

She’s been my rock– always reminding me who I am, to never settle. To rely on God’s timing. To remember that what I want– a sober, Catholic man– IS possible. And that I deserve it. She makes me laugh. She enjoys doing the same corny things I do. She moved to Texas not long ago because she felt God calling her to go and I miss her dearly. She indulged my propensity to take silly pictures every time we got together. As single gals, we spent a few Christmas Eve’s together. They were our Christmas sleep-overs. We’d watch a movie, cuddle up with her American Bulldog, Hodgins, and then in the morning, wake up and listen to Bing Crosby on vinyl and make pancakes. We bowled together on NYE, both sober. We went to see a hair metal tribute band at several venues. One time I got horrendously lost, and it took me seriously a full HOUR and a half to arrive. Rather than do the easy thing and venture inside to watch the show, Leslie sat at a table near the door, keeping a vigil until I arrived. Because that’s the kind of friends she is– she cared more that I got there safe. She wanted to be available to text or answer if I called, to help direct me. Talk about a wonderful selfless gesture. And when I arrived, she didn’t glare at me or lecture me about making her wait, like many would have. She merely ran at me in a full-force hug, squealing with glee that I was THERE! It was a St. Patrick’s Day show. We ran in together and danced front row and took pictures as always.

She is the Elinor to my Marianne. She and I watched “Willow” together– my first time ever! She loves Madea.

Leslie is a prayer warrior. How many times we’ve cried over the phone to each other, prayed it out. Or when I was dejected or feeling frustrated, she’d text Bible verses to me. She gives her full attention. She’s always excited to pray. When she does pray for me and with me, her words sometimes surprise me, because she always sees the best in me– things I don’t always notice in myself, but desperately needed to know. Affirmations that fit right into my heart.

Before she moved, she bought me a little red pin button that says “You are Loved,” in red and white, so that I wouldn’t feel alone without her.

You see the light of Christ in her, if you’re lucky enough to know her. She’s the kind of woman who shines a light for God without trying. It’s in her generosity, her patience, her empathy.

Her beauty radiates. She is a woman comfortable with herself, secure in the love of God. She knows that she is the Daughter of a King.

She was the first person ever to call me her “Sister-in-Christ.”

My dear Leslie, I wish all the joy and blessings that the hearts of you and your Joseph can hold.

I love you, I miss you, I look up to you.

Although I was flying solo yet again tonight– I usually am at weddings– tonight I felt hopeful.

And although I’ve questioned myself for ending relationships because of religion, tonight I was reminded that I’m on the right path.

Because you showed me that I deserve and want a man who will also pray WITH me, and FOR me.

You showed me, and all of us, that it’s POSSIBLE. Thank you.

I leave you with *my* favorite Bible verse, which I feel you embody:

“For we walk by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7

And I’m delighted that I caught the bouquet!!

That’s gotta be good foreshadowing.

The Blog You Didn’t Write

Forgive yourself.

In the moment you were inspired– but you waited.

You doubted.

You asked permission.

Your LIFE is permission! The material is yours.

Lead characters don’t defer to extras.

Remember, you’re the heroine. You’re the hero.

Anyone should be flattered to be part of your story. To be noticed.

Believe!

Your ideas, your perceptions, your feelings– MATTER.

Stop repressing those little urges to record your life, because others are in it.

You’re not vain. You’re creative. You’re lucky.

Stop suppressing your ideas, and let them unfold.

As long as you like it, it stands alone.

Grilled Cheese Guru

That’s my new nickname, bestowed one the phone by one of my besties tonight, Leslie.

To celebrate the END of my Lenten obligations, I got some Colby-Jack and enacted one of my favorite rituals.

GRILLED CHEESE!

The best is that she was singing it to the tune of “Jukebox Hero.”

“GRILLED cheese GURuuuuuu…”

I laughed at the timing, because before she moved out of state my friend and I spent a lot of time watching movies and hanging out at our apartments whilst making grilled cheese. It’s our thing.

At work I was thinking what meal I should choose to break my fast–and decided simple was best. Something familiar I could do at home.

And here we were, catching up on the phone just three weeks to her wedding!! She is so giddy, it’s adorable listening to her.

It was a lovely, up-beat conversation and almost as good as actually spending time together.

In a great mood tonight, feeling quite blessed.

Returning Home on Holy Thursday

After Holy Thursday Mass, I have a wonderful feeling.

I was told about a chicken dinner at my most recent parish– the one I left for a smaller, closer one.

I was glad to go back. I never thought anyone would notice I was gone.

Happily, I was wrong.

During Peace, this parish gives a few minutes to walk around and talk– there are a lot of huggers. It’s not just a quick handshake and a stoic nod like in most Catholic parishes.

One woman came up to me with a smile and a hug and said, “I haven’t seen you in awhile.”

Another introduced herself to me and I said I’d been gone for a bit.

“Come home,” she said.

I found myself wanting to cry.

“I will,” I said.

One of my oldest friends’ father was there, as always– he beamed and gave me a hug. He’s always treated me like his own daughter.

The best part of Mass tonight was the foot washing. I haven’t seen that done in many years. The last time I experienced that was at a conference for young Catholics in our diocese. Roughly a decade ago, I’m guessing.

I lined up to have my feet washed. There was a small pitcher of water, a bowl, and someone with a towel. It symbolizes forgiveness– having your sins washed away.

Some of us lined up to have our feet washed, others stayed seated. In preparation we removed our socks and shoes. It was more difficult for me to volunteer to be washed than I expected. I was more comfortable with the idea of washing others’ feet. But I wanted to participate, so I took the role available. I had to put my ego away.

Foot washing is such an intimate act– it embodies humility and trust. The person doing the washing humbles themselves and those volunteering to be washed are also humbled– by making themselves vulnerable. Your feet are usually always covered and protected. Usually the only people who see us barefoot are are our families and those in our inner circle.

Another woman asked how work was doing for me– am I in the same place? I had asked her how I could volunteer to wash feet– “Next year,” she said with a smile.

Next year sounds wonderful.

During Holy Communion, I found myself weeping openly. I hadn’t realized how much I would miss this little parish– and especially not that anyone would miss me. I had gone to others that were more convenient– closer, with more Masses from which to choose. More activities, more people my age. I could hear better.

I even signed up officially at a different parish and took a picture to be included in their directory.

But I hadn’t felt anything. I kept going, hoping eventually it would grow on me.

Yet tonight, I felt something immediately in this parish. I felt welcomed. I felt MISSED.

No one asked WHY I had been gone– but only welcomed me back with love.

I felt gratitude. I felt sad that I had ever left. Like one of the lost sheep in the flock.

I had been searching for my spiritual home. Tonight, I returned.

I lit a candle afterwards, praying for this parish which captivates my heart. It’s struggling for attendance.

My attendance would help.

As I left Mass, I glanced up at the large Jesus on the back wall– a big cloth outline in which the names of all the parishioners were written on small pieces of felt and stuck on to symbolize that we all live in the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

My name was still there, right where I left it.

Lent 2015: Food and Vulnerability

Usually, I’m great about being disciplined.

If I know I need to do something for concrete reasons I will. I was raised that way.

But with giving up cheese, I’ve learned that food is apparently my soft spot.

How am I able to be so good at abstaining from other, much more difficult things, but incapable of adhering to a life without cheese for even 40 days?!!

Abstaining from cheese is really not that inconvenient. It’s an extremely common ingredient, yes, but pretty easy to separate by request.

Alas, I’ve still had two little slips.

I won’t detail them here– I just want to be honest.

But I WILL be good for the remainder. This is the home stretch!

What are YOU struggling with right now– be it for Lent, or your own good?

A Gift about the Wrist and Medugorje

This morning I was talking to a new friend who asked about my necklace– with the Blessed Mother gold medal with roses around it.

Twice now, a woman has complimented it. I’ve been quietly hoping someone would notice. The first woman said it was “pretty” but never indicated she recognized it as religious.

When I explained to this woman today, she replied, “I have a devotion to the Blessed Mother, too.”

That made my heart swell. That’s a Catholic phrase— “a devotion to _____.” A moment of connection.

Simply, a devotion to any saint or Mary herself involves frequent prayer for their intercession, and a particular interest in reading about their lives and learning about their personalities and miracles on their behalf. We may connect with a particular aspect of their story or feel comforted, as if they offer a specific comfort that we need. We may feel a strong connection as if they are helping us on our journey, in small coincidences and signs that bring us resolve and assurance of the validity of our faith.

We may want to visit their shrines or make a pilgrimage to different sites known to be under their influence.

Devotion toward Mary, mother of Jesus, is called Marian devotion. There are distinctly Catholic terms of endearment for her, such as Our Lady, or the Blessed Mother. She has myriad other titles, but those are some of the most common I’ve noticed.

After this woman’s compliment, I noticed her bracelet. Very simple with wooden beads with a cross on it. I told her I liked it.

She smiled and took it off, offering it to me.

I was floored, especially when she explained she had received it the same way. A woman had given it to her just that way– she was passing it on to me.

As I held it and examined the cross, I saw the word Medugorje written in faint gold ink. It sort of glimmers– but you wouldn’t necessary notice it unless you were looking.

Medugorje is a city where the Blessed Virgin Mary is known to appear on a regular basis since 1981– many of the Faithful make pilgrimages there hoping for a miracle. People of all faiths, not just Catholics, flock there. Conversations and healings are common for those who make the journey to a small village in Bosnia-Hercegovina.

This is also the second time since December 2014 that a stranger (both women) randomly gave me something associated with Medugorje. Immediately, no hesitation, with a smile.

I know many would dismiss these instances as superstition. But for me, they are affirmative and wonderful.

I have a new Catholic friend and a beautiful bracelet to remind me that Our Lady is with me.

Now that’s a blessing.

Hit Your Knees (On Humility)

Today I woke up later than I had planned. I had set my alarm. Not sure what happened, but I did not rise.

Luckily I was off work today, so it didn’t interfere with something important.

But my immediate reaction was to get angry at myself.

“Why did I sleep in? Ugh!”

And since I’ve given up resentment for Lent, this is relevant.

This Lenten promise is drawing my attention to how often I take myself to task when it’s futile. Thus, I am making a conscious effort to nip those feelings in the bud right away.

I could either start my day feeling that I already had screwed up, or I could accept it and move on.

So that’s what I did.

I got up, and started my routine and began my tasks for the day.

And although I didn’t accomplish everything I had wanted, I still got a good amount done.

I always say “Good morning!” to God when I wake up. I try to say it with a smile. I thank Him.

Us Catholics are known for genuflecting often during Mass. It is symbol of our submission to God.

I’ve been trying to start my day by praying on my knees, and also before I go to bed.

I’ve been lazy about this. There’s no excuse– my knees are young and perfectly capable of it!

The idea is that we are taking a moment to do a physical action that connotes our humility. Genuflecting is not supposed to be comfortable or convenient.

It’s not about what we want- it’s about reminding ourselves that we are servants to Him.

Thus, I’m taking myself to task to start and end my day by hitting my knees as well as praying– every morning and every evening. As I keep this routine, it should become a spiritual reflex.

Somewhat selfishly, I also hope it will also lead to better, faster sleep!!

Do you have a morning/evening prayer routine? What do you get out of hitting your knees for the Lord?