I Get It : Finally!

I’m really good at keeping busy.

I like helping out and doing things for others. But this year I’ve really noticed that without even realizing it, I was still putting myself last.

I’ve been “single” for years. But most of that time, I was actively dating or looking for ways to meet someone. Wishing. Praying.

I was fine doing things alone– going to dinner, the movies, staying home and enjoying it.

And I kept so busy.

I was singing in the choir at my parish. I was attending political fundraisers and meetings, phone-banking, canvassing. My Sunday mornings were for Mass.

I was always there for my friends.

But the best friend I’ll have is myself. Why am I so quick to change my plans for others?

Slowly this year, I’ve been clearing my schedule of those obligations. Even Mass. I’ll go when I feel like it, but am not allowing myself to feel guilty if I don’t.

Instead, I’m going to run as much as I’m able. That’s my priority.

I’ll meet God outside, and worship him in motion.

Like any adult, I know how to push myself. Through fear, confusion, sickness, exhaustion.

But have I ever truly set an ambitious goal and believed?

No.

All I saw were obstacles. I won’t say they were excuses– I was terrified to fail. So I would just not even attempt it. And sometimes depression crept in, manifested in over-sleeping.

But running is a natural anti-depressant. Endorphins are real!

My initial reaction is one of caution. I get that from my Dad. He’s wonderful, but he’s not the best at encouraging me when I want to try something new. And it’s understandable. He’s suffered a lot of loss. I’ve battled health problems all my life.

But I’m changing. I’m realizing that’s just the way he’s built emotionally- and it makes sense for him. And that I don’t need his approval to motivate me.

I was in this mind-frame of asking for permission.

But now I’m giving that permission to myself!

I don’t need to even tell him. I can just do it.

I can do what makes sense for me, even if he doesn’t get it.

My dreams are bigger than his: and that’s okay.

A friend at work approached me about a race yesterday. He knows I run… sporadically. This friend is a consistent runner– even in the winter! He has a training regimen.

Months ago, I had approached a different friend about running this race with me. She wasn’t game– I just gave up on it.

I’m going to sign up for it: the Solider Field 10 Mile in Chicago on May 27.

So what if I don’t finish it?

I can still do my best. And I’ve finished every race I’ve run thus far.

Instead of sleeping in on weekends, I want to go bed earlier.

I want to rise and run.

I usually like to sleep in on weekends. But if I had a date or some fun plans, I’d get up.

What if my fun plans were running?!

And now I get it! The true FREEDOM of being single: constructing my life 100% around ME.

Without obligation or guilt. I will never have that kind of freedom again later in life.

Just what I want to do. It’s not selfish. It’s necessary.

I deserve this!

Even with casual dating, you have to block out time for this person. You talk to them after work, they may text you to check in during the day. You plan dates– you invest hours and days and weekends getting to know each other.

In taking this time for myself without dating on the table, I’m putting ME first. I’m saying that the biggest priority is what *I* want to accomplish.

I won’t let myself feel guilty about saying “no” to social invitations. Or going home early.

I can still make sleep the priority– by regulating a bedtime and schedule.

I’ll build socializing into running. I’ve got three months to train.

I have no idea how, but that’s the adventure.

And I’ve got running friends to support me.

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Order My Steps

Mass today was, again, wonderful!

I woke up late but still made it on time. Thankfully I had my ensemble laid out before I went to bed.

I’ve only been in this choir less than a month, but already I’m feeling such a part of it!!

And I discovered a bonus— when it’s a little windy, choir robes keep you warm.

I feel so much more engaged with Mass. I never realized before how many songs we actually sing. It’s a hustle to keep up with them all, and I love it! I still need my book and sheet lyrics for most, but the other members assured me it took all of them awhile to get it, too.

Everyone is so welcoming and laid-back. So many smiles and laughter. But what’s most amazing is that they’re not cliquey. They greet me with the same warmth as they do other parishioners they’ve known for years.

I’m beginning to open up a little more each week. People are beginning to call me by name and I’m slowly learning theirs, too. That’s one reason I love that we have a small parish. It’s mostly the same people each week. That stability really does make a difference.

Our big song today was “Order My Steps,” by Glenn Burleigh.

And today I noticed people so into the music that they stood up, hands up in the air.

After the song ended, most of the parish gave applause!!

I’m including a video of a different choir– I don’t have any footage of us. But I love this song.

Singing to our Lord is my new favorite way to praise Him!

Gloria Festiva: I Joined a Choir!

This morning was my first official performance as a choir member of my parish.

I am stoked! Other than a fest high school spring musicals, this is my only choral experience.

And it just makes Mass so much better. For one, I now have the best seats to hear everything I would normally be straining to follow. Father Ray is to my right, and our parish is in front of me. It’s like getting sky box seats to your favorite team!

We’re a small choir, which I also like.

I’m enclosing this Mariah Carey song, “Make It Happen,” because right now in my life, GOOD things are happening! I love this video shot in a church. I love her old-school songs.

Apparently all these years I’ve been wrong: I’m not an alto. (But I can sing Cher!!??)

David, our choir director, said he heard me as a soprano. To step down into the front row. I obeyed.

The first song I learned (and the only one I really know!) is “Gloria Festiva.” Even more perfect, I studied Latin in college. Of course, I’ve since lost it. But it just feels so AUTHENTIC. Every line is beautiful.

I’m learning gospel! I’m learning to harmonize. I’m participating in a new way during Mass.

BEST of all??

We get to wear the most elegant choir robes. White, with a red and white stole with a big red heart underneath the collar. It was Easter when I first thought I really like to join.

I daydreamed a bit, imagining myself wearing one of those robes, rocking out.

This robe makes me feel powerful, special, a little closer to God.

This robe signifies that I belong– first to our parish, and now our choir!!!

At my first rehearsal, they were so welcoming. And I loved that afterward we stood in a small circle and prayed– anyone was able to volunteer an intentions. They prayed for me– thanking God for “our newest member.”

I couldn’t stop smiling.

David gave me a black folder with the music, a phone list, and a rehearsal schedule.

Today was wonderful. Mass started off with us proceeding in singing, “This is the Day,” clapping and with a bit of a bounce in our steps.

We were on our feet during most of Mass. I did my best to follow along with the music, just singing what I could.

My Aunt Pat went with me to see my first performance!! She picked me up and we drove together.

I feel so loved.

It’s not a heavy commitment– rehearsal once a week.

I feel like this is exactly where God wants me. I get to meet great new people and learn Gospel songs.

All day, I’ve been in the best mood!!! Singing for God does that you.

The Gift of Trust

The past few weeks have been very affirmative for me, considering my church.

Last week at Mass, I was given a pin by Sister Bea to wear when bringing Holy Communion. It’s a red circular pin with gold inlay, featuring a cross. It says, “Minister of Care.” It made me feel wonderful, and I wear it when I go– I decided to affix it to my coat.

Yesterday I re-scheduled my visit with her for today, since I didn’t make it to Mass. I went to Father Ray this morning to ask for the hosts, and he did the most exciting thing. He gave me permission to go get it myself from the church.

Wow! That means so much to me. I knew where the key was because someone else had showed me once, but he went with me this time to make sure. He showed me the key, and opened the Tabernackle. He reached inside for the hosts and gave them to me. I held open my pix and put them inside.

To know that I’ve been attending long enough now that Father Ray trusts me on this level means so much to me. At first he didn’t always know who I was, but now he knows me by name.

When I signed up to do this, I was nervous. And I’ve had to re-schedule a few times, and still feel a bit nervous when I administer Holy Communion each week. But now the woman I bring it to and her daughter have come to trust me as well. We have our agreed-upon times, and she leaves the front door open for me to come in. We don’t spend a lot of time chatting, but we do make familiar small talk. And they both call me by name and squeeze my hand when I leave.

It’s the most wonderful feeling, the way these relationships are growing within a church community. I’ve never really had that. I always went to Mass but never felt connected to many people in the parish, since I wasn’t involved. I was usually one of those fleeing right after Communion, like many Catholics. Now I stay for the whole service and linger afterwards– and I enjoy that immensely.

This church is changing my heart. That’s what God does!

After Mass: On Religion, Love, and the Gift of Faith

During Mass today, I realized what it’s about. Why I go.

Why we put up with all the idiosyncrasies of religion– the demands, the divisiveness.

We do it to be part of something bigger than ourselves. To share our lives in the midst of chaos and find a still point.

We do it to admit, “I need help. I can’t do do this alone.”

Admitting we need help is the hardest thing for most humans to do. We want to be self-reliant, we want to be okay, no matter what.

I love my church, because during peace, people walk around with open arms. They shake your hand, look you in the eye, smile.

My parents are local, and I enjoy seeing them. However, I don’t have siblings, and my family lives out of state. So I do feel lonely at times.

But in this church, I get hugs, just like I do with my family. And although there are still a lot of things I’m figuring out about my life, this church makes me feel anchored. Singing songs of praise makes me feel anchored. We spend the week busy, scrambling to get things done– we deserve to rest and just be thankful for what God has given us! To stand with others and testify that yes, we’re glad to be standing here, together. The services in my church usually run two hours– and I love that! At other churches, they are usually only 45 minutes to an hour, and everyone usually rushes right out after Holy Communion, and barely talks at all if they do stay. People in this church linger. A few times a month, they head into the parish hall for coffee. There’s no rush, they want to meet you, get to know you.

That makes me feel so happy. It’s just a simple church– and that’s why I like it. It’s not high-falutin’, it’s not about artifice.

It’s just about love, service, and appreciation.

Knowing that a family is depending on me to bring them Holy Communion anchors me.

I know that I can’t live my life alone, and that I’m never alone.

I’m learning that God is more than Bible verses and dogma. It’s more than prayer and Confession.

God is truly very basic.

God is a secure feeling of love.

God is a warmth in your heart that says, “Go ahead, you don’t have to be scared. I’m with you.”

God is the absolute confirmation that all you are, and all you haven’t been– is enough, because you’re doing the best you can.

And mostly, God is feeling so overwhelmed with that truth that all you want to do is share it with others.

And not by conversion– but by acceptance. By example. By trusting.

Be kind. Forgive. Help, with no expectations or conditions.

I feel God with me today. It’s an incredible lightness, to help us float through the storm.

We don’t need to know where we’re going or why– only that we’re on the right path.

Heart of Mary (for 99 cents!)

The Heart of Mary now beats in my car.

I found a cheap necklace today for 99 cents– and knew I needed to buy it. I don’t care that it’s not real gold– it’s the symbolism.

I feel protected so often while I’m driving. I’ve been pulled over but not ticketed many times. (Not because I flirt my way out of it!)  I’ve avoided near-accidents in ways that only can be explained by a feeling of grace. I must have a whole team of Guardian Angels.

I took down the stupid unicorn air freshener and necklace I previously had hanging in my car. Rosaries are too long and clunky, since I’ve tried those before. This necklace is just the right length, and it won’t get in the way of anything.

On Oct. 3, I prayed my first Rosary. I know, it seems ridiculous that I’m almost 32 and have never done one before. But although my entire family on both sides (and my step-mother’s side!) is Catholic, they are not punitive type who threatened I would be damned if I didn’t compulsively pray. I felt that praying a Rosary was intimidating, so I never tried it.

But I decided to try it in honor of my Aunt Mary Jane, a Catholic nun for 59 years. On the second anniversary of her death, I wanted to feel close to her. I used to call her whenever I wanted to talk about Catholicism, God, or matters of faith. She sent me icon cards my entire life, braided palms with me on Easter, and gently encouraged me to keep going to Mass. But she never shamed me when I felt distant from the church– and that’s why I was able to come back to it as an adult. Her faith was so strong, she knew I’d find my way home without pressure.

So I put on a black dress, with a broach of hers I’d chosen after her death. I wore the golden cross she had given me.

I went to a local church that’s kept open all day for Adoration. I brought one of my rosaries (I have several) , and I picked up a simple pamphlet there– on the basic steps of how to pray the Rosary.

And I did my best to begin.

I was alone in the church, and felt safe and peaceful.

Soon, I was crying. The rhythm of whispering the Hail Marys was healing, and it was more cathartic than anything else I’ve tried.

It’ll take practice. I don’t think I did it all right, it’s a lot to learn. But it’s something I plan to try again and I want it to become part of my routine. I’m inviting the Blessed Mother into my heart, and already I feel better.

So now I gave her a home in my car as well, and I feel closer to my aunt by doing so.