The Gift of Adoration: A New Peace

I haven’t slept in two days, so it’s time to blog! I’m up anyway.

Last night I attended my second deliberate Adoration in probably at least 10 years. It was never a part of my life growing up, even though I was very close to my aunt who was a nun. She never was pushy about our faith, and that gave me the freedom to come to it on my own. I appreciated that about her.

Since December I’ve been part of a large group of young Catholics in Wichita, and it’s been life-changing. I’ve grown deeper into my faith than I ever would have expected, because my friends are serious Catholics. And a lot of the activities we do are based around Catholicism and enjoying the fruits of it together as a group. None of us are married or have children yet– it’s awesome. We are able to just relax and really have fun together.

Last night I only went for about 30 minutes. But it was just right. It was in a smaller chapel, with lots of candles lit. I wasn’t dressed up– I was just me. I felt comfortable. I had brought along a book for reflection, my Bible, and a journal I haven’t written in since 2015. It has The Blessed Mother on the cover in the style of a stained glass window and it was meant to be a prayer journal. I found it at home and brought it along. I had a plan.

I wasn’t emotional this time, just very calm. And I didn’t put any expectations on myself to stay the whole hour– I just left when I felt ready. I drove home feeling cleansed.

The first time I had gone, maybe a month ago, it was a completely different experience.

I had just bought a book at a Catholic gift store specifically to help you pray, called, “God, I have Issues: 50 Ways to Pray No Matter How You Feel,” by Mark E. Thibodeaux, S.J..  It has an index of different feelings that might be challenging and I knew it would really help me. I was feeling stuck and helpless. Whenever I feel that way, I tend to look inward and pray about it. Finding this book felt like a clue, a way that God was reaching out to guide me through this confusion.

When I brought the book and my Bible that first Adoration, it gave me a structured way to both pray and to read Scripture. There is a Scripture quote, a reflection, and then multiple other Scriptural verses to connect more deeply with the message. Then quotes of regular people on the same topic. It’s amazing. I would recommend this book to anyone.

This focused prayer unlocked powerful feelings in me and I found myself sobbing. For most of the time I was there, honestly. And it was so healing.

I realized that Adoration is entirely different from Mass, in a beautiful way. There is no routine or expectation for how you spend your time there. I don’t need to listen to anything being read, keep up with the responses, look up songs, sing, stand, kneel, sit, get up to receive Holy Communion. I don’t need to Confess anything to a priest. I don’t need to move or interact with anyone nearby. It’s entirely my choice. I could simply sit there and be if what I needed.  But it was still communal– I knew my friends were around me, sharing the moment.

It was cathartic in a way that I’ve never even experienced in Confession.

And most exciting, I made it the entire hour! I never felt bored, or pressured.

I remembered my previous experience, 10 years ago. I hadn’t expected to go to Adoration, I had shown up to a meeting of single Catholic adults but sadly it was not as dynamic or organized. I was annoyed. I was bored.

I think I had left after 10 minutes.

It was good to know I have developed a deeper connection since then.

These events are held once a month, and I want to go more often.

 

Lent 2019: Giving UP and Taking ON

I started this blog on for Lent 2011. Here I am, eight years later!!

For lunch I was finishing up my Super Burger at Taco Shop before I realized — d’oh!

At least I fasted for dinner.

This year I’m giving up anxiety and taking on blogging daily, 40 days.

I want to be in control, like most of us. I really struggle with letting God drive in my life.

And as I’m noticing, God really DOES know what He’s doing. So maybe it’s time to relax. I’m making a conscious choice to trust people more. To make decisions based more on instinct and feeling, rather than just analyzing it all first.

I haven’t wanted to blog much since I moved because it was too vulnerable. I wanted to be “established” first. Well, I’m half-way there.

Today I started my new job as a medical receptionist! I now live in Derby and work in Wichita. Phase two will be finding and moving into an apartment in town.

Now I feel more secure. So I’m going to challenge myself to blog every day.  And not only on the “good” days.

As I drove to my new job I found a new, shorter route. After, I found a parish just down the street and attended Mass to receive my ashes. I felt so calm and happy.  I went to a pizza joint and then a religious book store. Then home.

I have much to learn at this new gig and I know I will. It feels like such a wonderful fit.

Thank you, Father, for all the blessings you’ve bestowed already.

Best Confession Ever: I Laughed, I Cried, I High-Fived!

Friday night to Saturday afternoon I attended my first Catholic retreat since moving to Kansas, and my first TRUE retreat since college. It was groundbreaking for me.

I chose to go because it was based on the Blessed Mother, and I have a devotion to her. And also because I thought it would be a wonderful way to meet some new Catholic friends, as it was hosted a local group for Catholic singles in the their 20’s and 30’s.  I already had some friends in it, who invited me and encouraged me to attend. It was meticulously and lovingly planned with a good balance of themed talks, group worship times such as Adoration and Mass, and also opportunities to break into small group discussions and prayers. Overnight accommodations and meals were included.

But Friday night was the most pivotal time for me. During Adoration, we could sign up for Confession if we chose. Three priests were available. It was also our choice between the traditional screen or face-to-face. I chose face-to-face and didn’t need to wait long. Maybe 20 minutes.

I was surprised to find a young, hip priest. Probably younger than me. He wore his red hair cut short and a long beard, along with a black hoodie with the sleeves pushed up to his elbows. He had on black sneakers to match his uniform, but no visible tattoos. He looked like someone I might be friends with if I met him somewhere else. He was in no hurry. He allowed me to talk a bit and then asked some questions, such as which sins I wanted forgiven. There was no judgement in his eyes or voice. He then asked WHO I wanted to forgive and I surprised myself when I named someone I had been struggling with a lot of resentment towards. I had no idea that apparently deep down, this anger at that person bothers me and I wanted to let it go. He then asked again and I was even more shocked to name… myself.

But it was clear he had expected this answer, and maybe had been gently leading me toward it. I’ve always been someone who enjoys the Sacrament and ritual of Confession. But this year if I’m honest, I’ve been disappointed because I missed out on it when I traditionally go, during December near Christmas. I moved from Illinois back home to Kansas with my parents in early November and at first we stayed with a cousin. Then about five weeks later, we moved into the new home they closed on, in the same city. So December was about unloading and unpacking, and my parents needed a lot of my help. I had abandoned my plans for Confession when they asked for my help and I never made it up at a different parish.

But now here was the opportunity to do that.

This priest listened with the patience and focus of someone much older. But especially, the  way he heard my confession belied how much he cherishes his job and his personal connection with Jesus. I’m used to a few questions, maybe a few “Mmm-hmmms,” and ultimately a “Go in peace, my child,” with the spiritual prescription of how many prayers will restore my soul. A lot of times I’ve left feeling that I wanted something more, wishing the priest had talked to me. But I always reminded myself that I had no idea how many people they were listening to and that my expectations were too high.

This priest also spoke softly and sparingly.  But like Silent Bob, the words he did choose were profound. Somehow I found myself laughing, most likely at my own astonishment that I was enjoying this so much much. Then I cried, after I forgave the person I named and myself. The relief was instant and total.

It was the first time that I felt a deeper meaning during Confession. I realized that through this priest, I felt the grace and love and holy presence of Jesus, the Prince of Peace.

At the end he priest raised both hands above his head to bless me. And I first I raised mine too. Then he spoke, and I lowered my head and hands and surrendered all the feelings I had been carrying. Doubt, anxiety, depression, shame, envy, resentment.

He verbally released the “spirit” of several of these feelings. And I felt lighter.

Then I looked up and admitted with a joke,

“I thought at first you were going to high-five me!”

Of course then *he laughed, and we DID actually high-five overhead with both hands. Like we were teammates who had just played a great game together and were sharing the victory. Which, I suppose, we kind of did. Confession is a team effort.

I was lucky to have a priest who allowed me to feel safe in vulnerability and who cared enough to respond in detail to several things I shared. That is special. So of course, I asked which parish he serves and what his name was. I have been visiting several area parishes trying to find my *home, but there are so many! I will now make a point to attend a Mass there and seek him out next time I need to confess.

It was like having coffee with a friend who knows you well. Who has compassion for you but also gently calls you out and points you toward self-awareness.

I felt healed, full of hope. It was like the best runner’s high ever, only in my heart.

I’ve always felt more comfortable with Mary, but held Jesus at somewhat of a distance. Now, I feel open to the possibility of knowing Him more. What if I could replicate that feeling I had in Confession– directly with Jesus? It would take some work and time.

But oh, would it be worth it.

And quickly, I also had a wonderful moment of connection Friday night before that.

I met a new friend with electric blue hair and we talked non-stop! I noticed a beautiful navy prayer veil with her things, since she was sitting next to me at a table. I asked about it, having read about them online and how prayer veils were making a comeback with many modern women. She was happy with the compliment and asked if I wanted to try an extra one she had brought with her? It was in her room and she offered to get it and let me wear it to Adoration.

It was a white infinity style veil and she even had a little metal comb to fasten it to my hair. Walking to Adoration and then Confession wearing it, I felt something extra. I loved that my first opportunity to pray with one was an offer of friendship. I had wondered about buying one for myself and this showed me that it is absolutely something I want to do. I felt even more connected to the Blessed Mother, adorned in her beautiful veil.

What gifts I received this weekend!

A Baptism for Liam, an Epiphany for Me

I’ve been to Baptisms before, but today’s was special because it showed me something important about myself as well as celebrating the new faith of my friends’ first child.

It showed me that I do want a family life and I do want a Catholic marriage.

My friends Jenni and Ryan celebrated their first child, Liam. He was born on Ash Wednesday into an Irish Catholic family! They have been close friends of mine since high school, when all three of us went to youth group together. They’ve never missed a birthday of mine! They are both responsible but are silly enough to keep each other laughing, too.

Being there with our other mutual friends– also from youth group– was wonderful. They all have families now, and their kids were playing together in the back yard. I’ve seen them all be pregnant. I’ve been to their weddings and showers. I just felt so grounded and comfortable today with all of them.

A statue of the Blessed Mother was in the left corner of the yard and I found her presence very comforting. I found out it was passed down from someone in their family. My own Godmother has a similar one in her front yard. I’ve always hoped that one day when I hopefully own a home I will have one as well.

I spent the afternoon just catching up with our friends, getting to know both their families better, taking pictures and eating great food! It was wonderful to see them together as parents as well, knowing they prayed and planned for this blessing in their lives. They both have this wonderful, relaxed glow about them. And a big reason for that is their marriage is grounded in a strong friendship and shared Catholic faith.

If I’ve had doubts about whether religion is truly a deal-breaker for me in a relationship, today they were dissolved. Jenni has always been my voice of reason, reminding me that it’s not an unreasonable expectation and showing me that it’s possible in her own marriage. I’ve dated enough Atheists and people who profess no faith. They were all good men but there was definitely something elemental missing. I am unabashedly a woman of faith.

And the highlight of the day? Of course, it was holding Liam. He was so calm and cuddly. He felt comfortable with me and I got to take a few pictures with him. And for me, holding a baby is so natural and it just makes my day. To know this little being trusts you enough to relax and let you hold them is such a good feeling.

I will know when I’m in the right relationship and I’m genuinely happy single for the time being.

I’ve almost renounced my faith in the past because I wanted so much to be compatible with a man who was not religious. I am more confident now and will not compromise my religion again for the sake of being in a relationship. Now I recognize my faith is not only fundamental to my my identity, but my happiness.

Race Day Resilience

I nearly forfeited the 5k my work sponsors tonight because of a possible injury.

But I decided to buck up and give it a try: and I was fine! Two plus hours later, no pain.

Tonight I learned that our bodies recover when we least expect it, and to trust mine more when it comes to my running.

And I also had my first-ever race mantra:

“Protect my feet. Make me powerful.”

After running 7 miles (for the first time ever!!) Tuesday and two miles yesterday to prepare for tonight, I noticed some pain in my right foot last night and again this morning. It had been seven days since my last run prior to Tuesday. The pain felt like it was on the top of my foot where the toes themselves connect to my foot. I’m a toe-cracker (sorry if TMI!) and it felt like I had cracked mine too hard. Walking at all was painful, though not agony. Just uncomfortable. But since I’m a receptionist I luckily spend the majority of my day seated.

After doing some Googling and posting on the message board for my running club, I was terrified that I either had a stress fracture or “a complete tear of the plantar plate, where the toes connect to the ball of your forefoot.” The latter was suggested by another run club member who said she’d had the exact same symptoms as me and ended up going to a wonderful podiatrist.

But I wanted to participate tonight with my co-workers, clients, and running club friends.

On my lunch I bought my first bottle of Ibuprofen (normally a Tylenol girl)– because people had said my usual remedy is useless for inflammation. I went home and took two 200mg and grabbed a freezer pack and towel from home. Elevated my foot underneath my desk for the remainder of the day. After work I slathered Bengay on both sides of my foot and hoped for the best.

And tonight, I was fine! I walked a lot because I had to pee BAD. I was afraid to run the first mile, but then the urge passed and I was able to pick it up a bit. The humidity was still horrid, but there was a magnificent WIND and the course ran downhill around a curve too, so that was helpful.

But I really felt like a runner today. Instead of getting all in my head and skipping the race to go to quick care, I just took practical steps to treat the pain and showed up determined to at least try. I had to laugh at myself– I’ve become the very stereotype of a runner who seems to live in total denial of an injury, obsessed with racing.

I’ve already missed one race in April, that 10k that I trained two months to run only to be saddled with such a sever cold I couldn’t get out of bed that morning.

I just want to get the money’s worth for my entry fee! Today I felt bad ass. And beyond that, the thought of having to miss races or even just a few days or a week because of injury made me… surprisingly sad. I had no idea what I had done to cause this pain. Even the possibility felt so UNFAIR!

And along with a several other vendors, there was a physical therapy tent. After the race, I asked a woman to take a look at my right foot. She had me take my shoe and sock off and examined me. She said there was no bruising, nothing seemed broken– I have a healthy foot and the flexing was normal. Relief! She attributed the pain to upping the mileage AND trying a new route simultaneously.

Glad to know I’m back in business! I’ll tape it up to be on the careful side tomorrow, and ice it a few times this weekend. Seemed it’s just pains of adjustment.

Which means I’m making headway as a runner. Which makes me happy.

The biggest gift is proving that I can take care of myself and that my body can heal faster than I anticipated. To not get hung up on “what-ifs” and solving a problem that isn’t even necessarily a definite problem yet.

I’m usually so solution-oriented and sometimes I need to just RELAX.

I get why running is such a mental sport now. It’s all about grounding yourself in your body, whilst also getting OUT of your head.

Prior to racing, we all were lead in some yoga. I was cracking jokes to my co-worker about how UNSUITED for yoga I am. He was laughing along until he just quit the stretching all together, when it was my turn to laugh!

Tonight I allowed my heart to lead, and my feet followed.

A Run and A Confession

I ran five miles tonight after three days break.

Afterward, I drove to Confession at St. Ray’s. I made for the last hour and spent most of it in line, waiting.

And what a wait it was!

I had conversations with three random women. When was the last time a stranger talked to me in public, doing anything? It was refreshing and unexpected.

At first I felt a bit self-conscious in my skirt, even though it’s an athletic skirt. Everyone else was so buttoned up and well, Catholic. Hee! But a woman in the pews pointed to my skirt and asked, “Do you play tennis? Cute!” We got to talking about exercise. She had a big black boot on her foot. “I’ve never been a runner,” she told me. But she loves tennis. She said she’s not sure what kind of work out she can do with her foot.
“Yoga?” I suggested. She agreed. Pointing to her arms, she grabbed one and jiggled it! She likes to lift free weights. She was wearing a bright orange shirt, black pants. Cute choppy blonde haircut.

The line moved up, so I moved. I said goodbye to her and we smiled at each other.

Two women in front and behind me were having a conversation. Whispered, so I couldn’t decipher what they were saying specifically.

I was looking at the woman in front of me, scoffing internally at her bright yellow banana clip– straight out of the ’90s!– and the wierd black pipecleaner thing she had somehow wound around it.

And while I was judging her, she began talking with me. The woman in front her saw my Shamrock Shuffle hoodie and asked if I had run in it. “Yes!” I said. “My daughter ran it,” she told me. I felt so proud. This hoodie wasn’t cheap but I knew I’d live in it. It felt so good to be recognized for an athletic achievement by a stranger. I’d told myself it’s just an 8k, a mere five miles. Small potatoes in the running world. But that’s five miles I couldn’t dream of two years ago!

It was her turn.  So it was just me and the woman behind me, who had a thick braided ponytail– almost white blonde. She was holding a small finger Rosary.

“Is it Amber?” I had asked.

She wasn’t sure. “I got it in Poland,” she told me.

I told her that on the other side when I got there, there were several nuns waiting in line.  “I wonder what nuns confess?” I mused.

She said a lot to me, but I couldn’t hear most of it. But clearly, she was alive with faith. She spoke of Jesus, I caught that much.

Then it was my turn.

I told Father that it’s been about a year since my last Confession. I had missed Advent. I was kneeling on a dark wood bench– there was simple cloth curtain separating us. It seemed to be a large confession booth. He was a good listener. It was almost 9 p.m., closing time, but he wasn’t hurrying me at all.

I was surprised at how good I felt– I wasn’t wracked with guilt about anything. I told him the truth– that I haven’t been to Mass much lately.  That I had a hot dog for lunch. That I quit choir so I could get to bed earlier and focus on running. That I gave up envy for Lent, and that I struggle with it. That I gave up sleeping in for Lent too– also for running– and have failed that on multiple accounts! That I want to be more independent. I’m trying to save my money.  That my parents are my best friends and I want to do right by them. That I want to learn the Rosary but it’s overwhelming and not happening yet.

I told him other things of course– but I’m keeping that to myself!

I was genuinely shocked by his reaction.

He didn’t chastise me once. Not even for going MIA from Mass for awhile.

Instead he told me that God wants us to progress in our lives. That I’m doing that with my running. That my tenacity will pay off.

He asked me to say One Hail Mary and one Gloria.

I left feeling lighter. I’m always inspired by how forgiving and open-minded priests can be. I should have gotten his name. I’d like to confess to him again. He had a soft accent.

I left feeling grateful and cleansed, like I do after a good run.

Confession was like a five mile run for my soul. I feel more spiritually fit.

If you haven’t been to Confession in a long time, don’t be afraid. Be honest. And let it go.

 

 

 

Unrelenting Blogging, Running and Courage: Six Year Anniversary!

Word Press informed me today it’s my six year anniversary as a blogger.

Hard to believe this chronicle of my life still stands– I attempted to erase it once. Exes had commented, past friends were keeping tabs on me, fellow bloggers encouraged me. Thank you to those who have subscribed, followed, commented and encouraged this unrelenting literary journey! Some have left, but most have stayed.  It’s edifying.

I went through a period of wanting my life without documentation.

My emerging narrative had no focus, I felt it was a waste  of time. But as events unfolded, I found this humble blog to be a refuge.

I would write what I want, without censor or error by editors. Without deadlines.

This journey began as a public vow of accountability during Lent, to uphold my Catholicism and Lenten promises. To challenge me.

Six years ago, I was searching for meaning in a relationship with a man. I thought that was the dream I should chase. I thought my treasure would be in another’s heart– in the reflection of what he loved in me.

Now I have accepted loss in relationships that haven’t lasted. I wrote about some dates, and the struggles to combat loneliness and failed compatibility. But I kept the details away, not wanting to jinx something still evolving, nor preserve details of suitors who did not work out.

Now I have accepted uncertainty and blog when I feel compelled.

I am still restless, but have re-directed my energy. Now the relationship I feed is that with myself– and running is the mechanism driving me forth.

Now I have races and goals for which to train! The joy I find is in surpassing my doubts.

I seek my own approval, reward myself with courage.

I’m making plans without fear.

I’m still Catholic, but now I forgive myself easier. I don’t depend on Lent to hold me accountable to my own promises.

I allow myself to be human, faults and mishaps included. I enjoy Mass but it’s not the center of my life as it once was.

I’ve chosen to build my life around developing a routine of running. I’m struggling with rising early and getting to sleep early enough to maintain that schedule. But already, it’s bringing me peace.

I’ve signed up for training classes for an upcoming race, my first 10k with lots of hills. I’ve joined the local run club in my community. I’ve attended group runs. I’ve enlisted a running buddy to start soon. I’ve purchased running gear necessary. I’m learning to layer properly in differing weather so I can persevere.

I’ve also failed twice this week on something I consider major: I missed my training class Thursday, and slept through a group run this morning.

I’m worried because my next race has a time limit for me to qualify as a finisher– I usually need 1 hour and 30 minutes to run five miles. This race requires 1 hour and fifteen. I felt intimidated— but signed up anyway. Now that fee has been paid! I want that finisher’s medal.

Today as I ran, I pushed myself. I knew I had to wean my mileage and maintain it below a 15 minute mile. And I did, except for two short bouts of walking. I noticed my knees hurting by the end, 3.16 miles. But I don’t normally feel that when I’m running regularly.

Tomorrow morning I’m meeting someone from our running group early. I’ll go faster.

I’ll be the runner I know is within me.

I think I’ve found something special with running.

And it’s in every road, every time I put on my shoes.