Rosary by Zoom Meeting: Bible Study Squad!

Yesterday my Tuesday night small group chicas and I “got together” courtesy of Zoom. Formally we gather for a bible study but this week we decided to just pray a Rosary and chat a bit, amidst all this COVID-19 insanity.

It was enormously calming for me. Usually we have six-seven members but it was just four of us last night. I’d never used Zoom before, so I enjoyed learning to use this new social media technology. A teacher friend of ours, Erica, took action and set this up since she is used to attending these meetings for work.

It was a bit of a twist because normally, I’m the one who has trouble hearing others; I have a severe hearing loss and wear hearing-aids in both ears. But they’re not magic.

For some reason, the mic in my pc must not have been functioning fully, and they all could barely hear me. I was annoyed to be the only person in the group who couldn’t figure this out, but they didn’t get annoyed with me. They were all good-natured and helpful and we even got some laughs out of it. There’s also a chat function and Erica pointed that out. If I wanted to say something, I would type it out! You even have options to address the whole group, or individual chats.

We all just talked about how we’re feeling and what’s happening with our jobs.

Being able to see video of my friends in their homes was so uplifting.

And then we got to business and prayed the Rosary with the Luminous Mysteries– because wanted to focus on the positive in this heavy time, especially considering the deep hit the economy is taking with so many businesses closing or reducing hours and services.

It was very well organized, and Jeanna gave us all a screen shot of the Rosary guide we should all follow, since there are different prayers used and small variances. There’s more than one way to pray a Rosary.

We all started praying together and I could hear them all so clearly. I felt emotional and almost cried as we began. Closing my eyes, it felt like we were all in the room together.

It was exactly what I needed.

I had laughed when I saw the screen shot Erica sent us of the Zoom invitation we would all be getting and the link we’d need to click in to join.

It was labeled, “Bible Study Squad.”

I laughed and felt so lucky! I have some faithful, innovative, hilarious girlfriends.

Mass in the Time of Corona

I attended Mass tonight at Blessed Sacrament, grateful that I still could.

The Diocese of Wichita sent an e-mail informing us that while we are pardoned from obligation to go to Mass, it will still be available to us. And after hearing about cancellations in Chicago and Joliet, where I moved from, I am so grateful.

I can’t imagine a more lonely world than knowing even God’s House is empty and that we are barred from visiting Him there.

I take Mass for granted. Not today.

There were no altar boys. No ushers. Only one Eucharistic Minister.

No holy water. No wine. No Sign of Peace, though that was already in effect.

Today it certainly felt different. But I was gratified that some of the faithful wanted to gather, in God’s House.

I did a little grocery shopping first, so was late. But it was sad indeed. Very sparse compared to usual. Normally if you’re late there are a few spots but they are awkward to get to and so most people just hang out at the side entrance or in the back, standing.

Tonight the priest gave us a message of hope in his Homily. He said God is there with us, and for us. To let Him be the rock in this storm. He could have taken it in a different direction– one of guilt and punishment.

I recognized a friend with his girlfriend, so I went to say hello after. I kept more distance than I normally would. He said that even during the Plague, he heard they hadn’t canceled Mass or the obligation to it.

As a Catholic, you are reminded of sin often. I joked that never in my life did I imagine I would be told it’s okay to not go to Mass! Especially in an official e-mail from my Diocese.

Quarantine is happening, nationwide.  In Illinois, bars and restaurants will be closed by 9 p.m. tomorrow to dine-in customers, as declared by the Governor.

Now any gatherings of 50 or more are supposed to be canceled for the next 8 weeks.

Until today, I was pretty logical and untroubled by all this. Last night I was with my family and then friends for a “Fake Patty’s Day” party.

But on my way out, I thanked the priest. I told him I appreciated his positive Homily.

And I drove home and unloaded my groceries.

Lenten Sacrifice 2020: Dating

The last time I gave up dating for Lent was in 2011; the impetus for this blog.

Now I’ve been doing online dating for about 2.5 months. It takes a lot of energy!

I’ve been on some good dates. And some stinkers!

Most recently, I went out with a gentleman who was very sweet and respectful. We had cappuccinos and then took a good long walk. We had a lingering hug in the parking lot. Then he sprang forward and gave me the cutest little kiss on the lips! Like, “Hey, let’s get this over with!” I was surprised and laughed– it was innocent. I appreciated that. I felt like I was with a friend who unconditionally accepted me. I told him more than I normally would reveal on a first date. He was very calm and a great listener. Stylish.

But we had a giant gap in cultures. He was raised in a family of over 15 children! And his father was a polygamist with two wives. Both families lived together in one house– different floors. He is on a student visa, getting a Ph.D. But his home country is not one that is kind to women– in fact, it’s known for being oppressive. We also have vastly different religions, although his deep faith was attractive. I enjoyed getting to know him but knew the cultural divide was just too severe– I’m not comfortable with those traditions. I have no desire to be in a possible future international relationship. I don’t even want to date someone who lives outside Wichita! And I’d prefer if they are on the East side, close to me. But I’m always looking to the Big Picture and he also admitted he’s not looking for something serious right now, while he’s only living here for to finish his degree. He definitely wants to move back home.

It was wonderful to be with someone who paid up-front without any pause. Who told me I was “more beautiful than the picture.” Who texted me roses, was always encouraging and had a gentle personality. It reminded me of what a date SHOULD be– easy. Fun, not awkward! I felt very safe with him.

It was Fat Tuesday when I went out to a bar with some Catholic friends. I mentioned this casually, and one of my besties jumped on me about it– agreeing this was a great idea. “I’m going to hold you accountable!” she said with a smile. Until then it was just a whim, but suddenly, I was committed. I knew she’d be following up with me the next day. Later on, I told her sister and immediately started laughing because she sprang into action as well: “Delete the app right now!” she said, taking my phone. There was a tall woman next to me I’d never met prior, but suddenly she, too, was invested in helping me do this. For some reason we couldn’t get it done, but they did open the app and convince me to temporarily disable my account until Lent is over. The three of us spent several minutes on this mission, laughing. About 15 minutes later, I finally was able to DELETE the app!

I do feel relieved. No more notification e-mails. No more swiping or messaging.

Now is a good time to turn my face to our Lord. To free up some extra time. Maybe something I should add is registering officially with the parish I’ve been attending. I just finished a group book study there held over several weeks. Another bestie of mine here just began a women’s small group Bible study at her home, on Tuesday nights. I have gotten lazy with my prayers. Maybe I should be making a concerted effort to pray each day. Making sure I don’t miss Sunday Mass during Lent. Attending Stations of the Cross,which is one of my favorite parts of Lent.

Time to re-direct that energy. I’m ready, God! Show me where you need me. Direct me to help fulfill your plans. Inspire my willing heart.

With love,

Your humble daughter

Online Dating Adventures: Must Love God and maybe Two-Stepping!

I’ve been on two dates this week.  Two different men. I’m looking for long-term compatibility, so I want to be sure before I commit to someone in a relationship.

I learned so much from both.

Tuesday I went ice skating as a first date. But honestly, I left after 20 minutes. New record! That’s all the details I will give– suffice to say I felt no attraction or compatibility.

Wednesday I went on a second date for dinner. And although on paper we were a 95 percent match, it was clear to me we had nothing to sustain a relationship. He was sweet, cute, stylish. Well- established with both a home and an SUV. A great career. He seemed to be a wonderful father. But we had honestly spent most of our first date nearly arguing– we had so little in common. I had tried to end the date then but he asked me that we both give each other “the benefit of the doubt”– especially about one key issue: religion. He suggested we exchange phone numbers. Something in me softened. I relented. I wanted to know him. We texted the next few days, and he sent me cute and funny GIFS. He was available and eager to see me. All wonderful things.

On his profile he had listed himself as “other religion”– but identified himself as Atheist in person on the first date. I reasoned that he might be respectful and somehow there was a middle ground. Also, we are both passionate Democrats and I wanted to believe somehow that might supersede the chasm between us theologically. How wonderful would it be to share THAT with someone in this overwhelmingly RED state of Kansas?! But I need to learn to just draw a hard line with religion. Sometimes I rationalize it because I find someone charming and a relationship seems like such a comforting idea. I begin to question choosing to be single because I want a Catholic husband. Do I really need it? But the bigger problem is, I could never live with a man who fundamentally disrespects such a vital aspect of my identity. I’ve already endured the condescending remarks. I want someone to be WITH me at Mass. Sitting next to me, kneeling and receiving Holy Communion. I could MAYBE attempt an inter-faith relationship, if they were willing to go with me. Or at least with someone who BELIEVES or is open to converting. But deep in my heart, I want another Catholic. Because it’s not just about sharing that aspect of our lives, but that I want a partner who will help me grow in MY faith. Who has prayed for a wife, who has prayed to one day meet me– just as I have prayed for him.

And there was more. He promised he would never even try two-stepping or line dancing. He said “If dancing is important to you, I will disappoint you.” He absolutely loathed everything about country and Western culture. The fashion, the music. He complained that cowboys only reinforced “toxic masculinity” and “Alpha males.” He said he could do a little slow dancing, but that’s it. I was shocked to find THAT was important to me! In the year since I’ve moved back to Kansas, I’ve been quite the slow learner on the dance floor– but I still get out there and have fun with my friends. I try, and they are good sports and lead me and show me the steps and just laugh and appreciate that I try at all. It’s something our group of friends does on the regular. I imagined giving that up to spend time with him. I imagined him going out with us, but not dancing with me– and that he would just be bored anyway. I’ve been in a relationship before with a non-dancer. I was miserable. I’m the type of woman who dances till I’m out of breath at weddings.

Dancing as a requirement may seem trivial. But it’s a deeper issue. I want someone with enough confidence to go out there and make a fool of himself to amuse his friends. Who just wants to have fun and doesn’t care if he’s “good” at it or not. Who find dancing romantic and would think nothing of grabbing me and pulling me close to make me laugh and show his affection toward me. Who sees that dancing is a wonderful way to connect with people and spend time together– you get to know people better out there! People change on the dance floor. They lose their inhibitions. They flirt. They fall down. We help each other back up. We shout out lyrics. We dance badly– and laugh about it together. We take lots of selfies and group pictures! Dancing together is a casual and instant way to bond with someone. It makes memories that you keep forever. Why else would this activity be the penultimate event of nearly every wedding?? Because it’s awesome. That’s why.

I thought because I was so “bad” at line dancing and two-stepping, that I didn’t care about it much. But now I resolve to dance more, dance with more partners, so that I can learn and become more confident myself. Luckily the male friends in our posse are all pretty strong leaders and happy to be patient with rhythm-challenged dancers like me. It’s very difficult for me to pick up choreographed steps– I need A LOT of repetition! I prefer to just let go and improvise. But I ADORE country music, country life, and I even have a pink cowgirl hat. That’s a big part of why I moved to Kansas at all. My family are farmers, hello!! I’m not just a cradle Catholic anymore. I’m now a legit Kansas woman who appreciates that, as Kip Moore sings, “There’s Something ‘Bout a Truck.”

He hated selfies and taking pictures.  He would never karaoke. He felt disdain for social media– “It’s not real,” he said. Sure, it’s kind of dumb. But it’s also FUN. Why such a sourpuss? I like sharing my life and taking pictures of my friends and yes, myself! It organizes my social network. I did delete my facebook account for two months in 2012. But I went back after two months— because I realized I had nothing to prove and it was okay if I enjoyed it.

I just felt like someone let the air out of my balloon. So I told him it won’t work tonight. He was a bit arrogant, but wished me well. I did, too. And now I feel better.

I’m in no rush. I’m nearly 40.

I’m DONE trying to force a relationship. The good ones I’ve enjoyed have happened easily. The chemistry is as strong as the friendship. We fall together. We evolve.

And it will happen again when the time is right. Until then, I’ll go on dates sometimes. But it’s not a major priority.

I’m living my life. I’m honestly happy for the most part. I’m excited about 2020!

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.

 

Wimpy Palms and Tradition

Ever since I can remember, my father and I have braided palms together on Palm Sunday. I have written about this previously, but each year is special for different reasons.

Now my father is aging and the most obvious aspect of that is neuropathy in his hands. He struggles to write legibly and my step-mother and I help him when needed for correspondence and etc. The way he eats has also changed. His hands don’t shake, but he’s lost the grip that he once had and now it’s a more deliberate process. He holds onto his utensils differently, but still makes it work.

He and Diane went to Mass last night he and brought some good palms home. The long, green, thick kind. But it was a bit late and so we decided to braid them today. I went to Mass this morning but the ones I got weren’t good for braiding. They were short, cut off at an angle. No base to work with. Then today I had to study and do some things first, so it took awhile before we could do this together.

I saw him tonight sitting with the palms, struggling to fold them the way he’s always shown me. Not complaining, just quietly persevering. The palms were partially curled up and dried, so not as bendable and sturdy. More yellow and crinkly than green.

My father’s sheer determination and doggedness has gotten him through life. I am happy to say that I am mostly the same way. I’ll figure things out, even if it takes me longer or I need to find a different way that makes sense for me.

Tonight I offered to help him finish the braid. “The palms are wimpy,” I said, commenting on how they had changed from last night.

“MY palms are wimpy,” he said. We laughed, but I reassured him that his own hands are still strong. He still gets done what needs doing. He doesn’t just give up on things if he’s frustrated.

But I’m glad to share this with him. We only made one this year. It’s small. I asked him to take a picture with it and he was happy to do that. I feel very blessed, indeed.

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.

Care, Competency and Consent: What Four Nights in the Hospital Taught Me

Thursday night I was admitted to the hospital and this morning I awoke in my own bed.

It’s been a long time since I was in the hospital that long. I had a lot of feelings about it. At first I felt anxiety and boredom, along with mild annoyance. I had stuff to do. The bed had no back support and was intermittently moving around thanks to new technology to prevent bed sores. After two days I felt like a “sick person,” and didn’t like it.

But on a deep level, I felt secure. I had done my research and chosen doctors affiliated with this hospital after seeking recommendations from local family members. I had established relationships with these doctors and my relevant specialists came to see me. This hospital was close to home, part of a large network, but a smaller branch. It had an excellent reputation and my aunt had recommended it. I knew that I was safe there. And that helped me to relax.

A major reason why I preferred this hospital was rooted in something practical: all the phlebotomists and nurses were competent and respectful about getting lab work done. They found a vein quickly and often without pain. They didn’t argue when I told them to use my hands, not my arm. Staff at other hospitals I had visited for lab work and tests struggled, needed multiple sticks and often had to change staff to someone more skilled. When an IV was needed and I consented to them using my arm for a bigger needle, it was difficult for them. The staff that this hospital were all excellent with such a delicate but ordinary routine– and to me that’s vital.

When you’re hospitalized, it’s easy to let your fear and pain, if you’re afflicted with it, consume you.  Luckily this time I had no pain. Discomfort, yes. But not pain. Regardless it’s to easy to detach from the immediacy of your care and let others take the reigns– if they are competent and you trust them. If you’re able to think on that level, which many are not because they are too sick. My Dad has been there at every hospital stay, and most of my doctor visits. And that was needed, because he was the calming presence who reassured me to trust my doctors and that it was important to make decisions and get things fixed rather than avoid them. He was there to squeeze my hand when I needed blood work or IV’s that caused me to breathe deep because my veins are collapsed and scarred in many places. He helped me pay. In the past I would look to him to help me understand the most important information and usually go with his advice.

But I was younger then. So was my Dad.  Now he’s 76 and I’m 38. He falls asleep in his chair more often. He doesn’t chat as much. I don’t need to ask him as much and we share companionable silences. I have done a lot without his help and done it successfully. Without realizing it, I did absorb his analytical nature and ability to cut through the bullshit and find out what needs answering by the doctors and hospital staff. I taught myself to have a list of questions ready along with suggestions. I have spent much of my life in a hospital setting and handle it better than most. I realized it was up to me to help myself heal and actively participate in my care and recovery.

And I realized something  wonderful: I am a competent woman even when I feel uncertain and stressed. My Dad visited me every day, but was only present once when my doctors were visiting me. That first night. He stayed till 12:30 a.m., making sure there was a plan and I was safe.

So I asked all the important questions to learn about my diagnosis and options. I called and texted my friends and relatives to learn if anyone in our family had my symptoms. I asked my friends if they had ever dealt with something similar. I Googled away to educate myself as best I could. I questioned the nurses about updates and the next step in my treatment.

And I became a strong advocate on my own behalf. I realized at one point I no longer needed input from anyone else, even the doctors. I had made decisions. Obviously every doctor is prepared to make the ultimate decision when necessary and to negotiate aggressively for treatments families may want to avoid because of risk, price, or an inability to accept their loved one is sick enough to warrant that level of intervention. But it’s up to us as patients to make sure we understand what’s happening and draw the boundaries about what is an option and what is a hard “no.” We need to know our bodies and what we feel and not hold back when something makes us uncomfortable.

They had goals for my treatment plan and release and they met those goals in the predicted timeframe. They were patient enough to advocate for the least-invasive course of action, rather than the quickest solution. They decided to use meds rather than surgery and wait it out an extra couple of days to let me heal, and that was reassuring to me. They explained why I wasn’t a good candidate for that surgery and that it was an option but more likely a short-term fix that would bear addressing again in the future. I agreed with them and we proceeded with success. But the whole way through, they cared about my safety and consent.

At 4 a.m. when I was being woken up for blood work, they were kind and did not rush me. Every time, I was asked if it was okay. Most times they knew to use my hand, so a note must have been in my chart. I woke up just enough to move my arm for their access and then luckily fell back asleep instantly.

Once my symptoms were gone for a satisfactory amount of time and my lab work had returned to healthy stable levels for more than 8 hours, I was released quickly. They didn’t drag the paperwork out. I felt exuberant and 200 percent better.

I was grateful. During those four nights I had no responsibility other than seeing to my immediate needs: going to the bathroom, ordering my meals from food service and eating them, and answering questions about what was bothering me and what was working. I asked for a fresh hospital gown, to have a nurse wrap my IV so I could shower, to have another glass of water or more blankets. I brushed my teeth and washed my hair. Otherwise I received the IVs ordered and relaxed. I took my meds when they were brought to me on a schedule. I was able to text and call my family and friends, and receive visitors.

I slept when I needed and watched TV when I wanted. I got to catch up on some re-runs of the original “Roseanne,” which delighted me. I watched the Grammys Sunday night and squealed about each gown and musical performance.

Now I am healthier and comfortable with renewed energy.

I had been telling one of the nurses who I interacted with the most about Lady Gaga’s Grammy win for “Shallow” from her soundtrack contributions to “A Star is Born.” I told him that he NEEDED to watch this song and that it would *CLEAN UP at the Oscars. He hadn’t seen the movie yet but agreed she and Bradley Cooper have insane chemistry and they should just get together already! As he was wheeling me out to exit, my Dad went to get the car. I had declined a wheelchair but it’s just a service they provide to help your transition and show you that last bit of care as you leave. So I allowed myself to accept it.

My nurse surprised me by finding “Shallow,” on his phone and playing it close to my ear. He didn’t tell me, he just let me notice it, which is interesting because my left ear is my deaf ear and it’s a surprise I didn’t miss it.

“Tell me something, girl….” The song was close enough that I heard it.

“Are you happy in this modern world?”

It was so unexpected and considerate. It even seemed a bit romantic. I just enjoyed the moment– that my favorite song for more than six months was being played for me by someone. A stranger, really.  A female trainee nurse was there also so I didn’t comment or flirt, but if I hadn’t already been sitting down I might have swooned or asked him to dance with me.

Maybe that moment was a little gesture from God, reminding me that he’s paying attention to this girl. To keep believing and that the Next Good Thing in my life will be happening soon.

Regardless, not a bad last moment to remember in that hospital. I may be single this Valentine’s Day, but I’ll remember that song and that bearded male nurse and smile on February 14.

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!

The Great Pumpkin Run II: Luda Crisp and Cornstalks

Today was my first fall race kick-off!! A 5k called The Great Pumpkin Run in Oswego, IL.

Nothing went as planned, but I had a wonderful time.  Felt good to pin on a race bib.

It was only 67 degrees but still brutal. I’ve run hotter races– actually run them. Today, honestly, I probably only ran a mile. I’m not sure why the heat affected me so differently today. Probably because I tried to cram training into this past week only. I ran three times since last Saturday.

But that’s not what matters. What matters is that I had everything prepared when I went to bed, I got myself up early, I had food ready. I got my car parked, got a second pumpkin for the race since I forgot my five-pounder in my car — I got a 2.5 pounder instead, luckily.

And I did it! I wore the same outfit as last year: black skull tank top and gray shorts. The only additions to my “costume” for this race were some fun sparkly jack-o-lantern antlers on a headband and cheap orange sunglasses, found ’em at the dollar store. The antlers headband kept me cool

My hair is shoulder-length now; last year it was a black pixie. I just felt free.

The route started in an apple orchard and I saw a taped sign labeling them. One said, no joke, “Luda Crisp.” That’s GOT to be some farm humor, eh? Then we were passing what I think was a soybean crop, and finally, a corn field.

I stopped several times to take pictures. I was in the back of the pack with the turtles and the walkers. People just hanging out with their friends, significant others and families. Moms with their littles. Last year, I felt lonely.

This year I felt determined.

I asked a few random people to take my picture at different points. I overhead a woman making a comment that awhile back I had asked for one and needed another.

And I decided to let her comment go. Who cares if she’s judging me?

I’m not able to run fast today, so at least I can enjoy myself. Who says that races have to be about PR’s and beating your previous time? For me, I think running is about enjoying the journey. I’m not fast, probably never will become a fast or competitive runner. I have good races and bad ones. I used to be so hard on myself with races. I’d constantly put myself down if I had to walk a little. Or if my shirt fit tight or I had to go up a size.

Today I was just happy that I knew to wear a tank and shorts instead of the hoodie we got in our packets and some leggings, like so many others. I’m very sensitive to being over-layered and it makes me miserable. I know, for the most part, how to dress for my body’s needs now in most runs. That is a skill in itself. It’s not just about pace and distance.

The only thing I missed this year was actually running THROUGH the corn maze, like we got to do last year.

But it was wonderful. At the finish line I received both my finisher’s medal and the promised second medal, the “Tough Pumpkin” for carrying a pumpkin the entire race. We got a banana, Boxed Water, and then redeemed our coupons for free cider.

And I didn’t forget to turn off my running app at the finish line. I was delighted to see the map pop up, and all the beautiful turns and squiggles representing my journey.

I think I enjoy running because it’s a great metaphor. At the end of my runs, I see the map pop up showing me how far I traveled– the larger picture. Just like God has a plan for us, and we often don’t *feel that while we trudge along, just trying to make it forward. Just doing our best to keep moving without having the answers.

That map at the end of my runs, good or terrible, always comforts me. He’s taking me somewhere, and I’m reminded that I have nothing to fear.

After getting home I took a nap. I don’t know why today was so taxing, but doing the race on grass and dirt certainly made it harder.

I feel so happy. My next race is next weekend!