Letter to Myself at 36

I am proud of you.

You prevail even when feeling uncertain, jump without knowing when you’ll land– but always knowing you will not falter.

If you don’t know how or when to move when feeling overwhelmed, you pray. You hit your knees in gratitude, in humility. You journal to work out your feelings. Then you act.

You adult every day and know that sometimes, that includes sleeping in on weekends because that’s just what you want to do. You turn down events you could attend, but don’t feel like it– because it’s okay to do that.

Your girlfriends are a supportive, hilarious, challenging and diverse bunch. They remind you of your fire, are honest when you’re acting batty, and love you unconditionally. Your male friends are few but treasured. They have become your brothers.

You are a devoted daughter and cultivate a close relationship with your parents. You don’t take for granted that they live 5 minutes away. You’re aware that as cool as they are, they are also aging. You now enjoy a close friendship based on respect and shared history.

You are flawed, but that makes you wonderful and genuine.

You are working to better your life while also appreciating the progress thus far.

You are kind, but with boundaries.

You are quietly advancing on the path meant for you. You are steady.

Amee, I love you.

 

 

 

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Not a Praying Man

That’s what he said, the man I called. Ahhh, Super Tuesday.

“I pray every day– and I’m *not a praying man- that Bernie wins.”

Tonight’s shift was monotonous. Leaving messages– I maybe talked to three people.

But one of my first calls was this man– and it reminded me of why I’m doing this.

He was so excited to participate in a live call for the campaign! I had called to ask about signing up for a volunteer shift this weekend. He’s busy but I asked if I could leave some info for his wife about a Women for Bernie phone bank locally tomorrow and he was eager to take a message. He said she probably would want to go!

Each phone bank shift is so different. Last night I called an older gentleman and asked if we could count on his vote for Senator Sanders on March 15 in the Illinois Primary.

“Absolutely not!!” I asked if he was leaning towards Clinton?

“I feel sorry for you,” he told me.

“Okay sir, you’re not a Democrat. Just glad you’re voting!”

I had to laugh. Those strong personalities make for great stories.

But I’ll keep on calling, like a good soldier. Bernie is working at full steam, and so will I.

The Beauty of “War Room:” Don’t Believe the Bad Reviews

Last Wednesday I heard about the Kendrick Brothers’ movie “War Room,” at choir practice.

Our choir director said it was a prayerful movie and that anyone of faith should go see it. That despite the title, it had nothing do with actual, political war. That an unbeliever who saw this movie would be convinced of the power of prayer.

I was sold immediately. I’m a believer, but it sounded like just my kinda movie.

Thursday night, the next day, I was invited to my parents’ for dinner, along with a longtime family friend. She’s a mother of five, a grandmother and a devout Catholic woman– I grew up next to her family.  I had planned to invite her and my step-mother.

Once I brought it up, SHE said she had heard about the movie and planned to invite ME! We both enjoy movies and are single. My step-mother ended up canceling, but she and I kept our plans.

We decided to share a medium popcorn and she asked for butter– just like me. Apparently there wasn’t enough salt, so she poured a heaping pile of it in some napkins, then folded it up into her purse so that we could disperse it in the middle as we ate our way through it. It made me laugh.

I was so glad she went with me. Like me, she’s a movie talker!

After, she wanted to stay and watch the credits. We were the last to leave. Afterward, we went for dinner, which I hadn’t been expecting. I had the best time.

I won’t spoil it- -but I will share a few details.

It’s an ambitious movie that works because it’s focused on one small family, and the way the one family member’s decision to surrender to a disciplined prayerful life transforms the family’s circumstances in every area.

The hero is an elderly woman named Miss Clara (Karen Abercrombie). I think she deserves an Oscar.

She’s got the sternness of Madea, with a little more empathy. She’s a small woman of fire– but she commands just as much respect as Madea. She’s the kind of woman who commands your attention. The kind of woman who refuses to accept your facade, no matter how good you think you are at hiding the pain. The kind of woman who reminds you that you deserve love. That you are accepted and forgiven, no matter what. The woman who teaches you about God’s grace.

Miss Clara notices something amiss in her realtor, Priscilla, and buts into her business in the loving way that older people tend to do. She wants to know about her marriage, her daughter, if she has a relationship with the Lord.

It parallels “Fried Green Tomatoes,” in that a woman’s life is set right by a deep friendship with an older woman, a mentor, who helps another adult woman who feels a bit lost.  This woman could have given up on a marriage that was held together only by contempt. Their own daughter felt unloved as a result of their constant fighting– there was no affection present at all. On the brink of infidelity, both partners in this marriage might have abandoned hope and ended up divorced.

But Priscilla (Elizabeth Jordan), the wife and mother who befriends Miss Clara, is so desperate she is open to prayer,

Miss Clara challenges her to fight FOR her husband, rather than with him. To fight in Jesus’ name.

And it’s Priscilla’s devotion to changing HERSELF, accepting her husband and loving him as is, and praying unceasingly for him, her daughter, and her own change of heart– that is what inspires.

It’s about acceptance, surrender, owning responsibilities, about amends.

About passing on your faith and what you’ve learned with others.

It’s about creating a physical space in your life to be with God and his Word– to pray for those you love most.

It’s about the Bible.

It makes me want to overhaul my own space– to create my own War Room. To eliminate the clutter.

To put the focus back where it out to be: on God.

I heard a lot of “That’s right!” and “Uh-huh,” and “AMEN!” in the rows surrounding us.

I know I will see this movie again.

Please, give it a chance. Even if you’re a non-believer. Especially if you are.

A Soul on Fire! Singing, Sushi and Running

This was a great week for me– I gotta tell you!

Yesterday morning on the way to work I was listening to Christian radio and heard the perfect song– “Soul on Fire,” by Third Day. Even better, the lyrics talk about RUNNING!

I felt like God was telling me, “Keep it up, kiddo!” That’s the song I’ll be thinking of as I run.

It was a bit chilly tonight but I put on a stocking cap and a hoodie and I was good to go.

I took two days off running this week, Thursday and Saturday, to give my feet a break. Eleise and I kept to our schedule of three runs, and tonight I did .96 by myself without stopping! I checked my phone at the end of the block and then kept going till I hit 1 mile! And then I walked a bit, and ran to finish my goal of 1.75 miles– I made it 1.81 by the time I got home.

I’m getting mindful of what I’m eating, as well. I had a good lunch with my Dad today after Mass, and later tonight I passed on cheesecake and coffee.

Wednesday night was our choir’s last rehearsal of the summer! I had such a good time and will miss them for the next few months! Our choir director, David, ran threw several songs so that I could get up to speed and they could review. Rehearsals are laid-back and equal parts fun and music education.

The best part of our rehearsals is always at the end, when we stand in a circle, hold hands, and pray for whomever we feel called to with our intentions, be it out loud or just in our hearts. I specifically asked if we could get all of us together after Mass today and take a few quick pictures of us looking all spiffy in our choir robes! This is also the last week we’re wearing them– they’ll be taken to get cleaned and we’ll resume them when it cools off. Although I’ll miss the pride of wearing one, I do admit it’ll be a nice reprieve in the coming heat!

The whole choir (those I’ve met, some are currently not singing right now) wasn’t quite there today, but we got most of the group who have regularly been at rehearsals since I joined. I asked a tall gentleman to take pictures of us and he did! He was kind enough to take several, and I found two I really liked. We are diverse, happy, and coming together to share our joy in the Lord! I was so proud to post it today on Facebook.

And as for the sushi, I declared last night Date Night for myself and my book and went out for sushi! Why not? I got a lot done this week! I wanted to celebrate. I put on a cute outfit, a bit of perfume, and brought a book with me. Between the meal and the words, I had a great time.

Today is just one of those days that I feel grateful, motivated, and healthy.

I’m ready for June!!

If Someone Prays for You, or Wants to

it means we *care*.

It’s not an insult.

So many people seem to be offended if I mention that.

Now I sometimes ask, “Would you mind if I said a prayer for you?” Atheists are sensitive about it.

If someone wants to pray for you, please take it as a gesture of goodwill and friendship.

It doesn’t mean we’re trying to convert you, or that we think you need “saving.”

It just means you’re important to us, or if we just met you, that you did or said something that touched us.

It means that we’re thankful for you.

That we want to remember you.

Atheists, Creative Spirits, and The Glory of Defiance

For a long time, I’ve been struggling to understand why I continually attract–and am attracted by– Atheists, artists, and creative people.

All my life, I thought I was looking for a “good Catholic man.”

I think I’ve been wrong.

I like having the culture aspect of growing up Catholic in common. But I’m not convinced that I’m only compatible with Catholics.

I’ve learned that I see God in everyone. Whether they “believe” or not. I’ve learned to look beyond the obvious.

If I am looking for a Catholic man, he will also need to be very open-minded. Progressive, not only conservative.

It’s not the answer to simply conform and obey.

It is RIGHT to question authority. To insist on thinking for yourself.

I thought maybe I was attracting these types because MY faith was weak. That I needed to pray more, do more good works, or something. That somehow, it was *my* fault– and this was a punishment.

Because that’s the way we are taught to think, when you’re raised Catholic. Guilt is embedded in your conscience. Any unanswered prayer, any bad thing that happens, there’s always a reason– God is teaching us some sort of lesson. And it’s up to us to figure out what that is, in the void.

I believe that, to a point.

But I think I was misreading it all along.

Now I see that many people who profess NO faith are the kindest, most loyal people you’ll ever meet. They will agree to help you move without even knowing the date, and stay the whole time. They will be your friend unconditionally. They accept people as they are, exude enormous empathy, and in many ways embody the Christian faith and the example of Jesus more than many of the most vocal Christians.

And many Christians are self-righteous, afraid to associate with anyone different, paranoid that allowing their children to meet, befriend or date anyone of a different race or creed. They hate anyone who challenges their beliefs.

And hate is not the answer. Love is the answer.

Empathy and tolerance is the answer.

I still identify as Catholic– but I am quick to qualify that I am also a Democrat.

It is not wrong to be gay. I also support a woman’s right to choice.

People are human– and God made us all. Diversity is the glory of life, not the bane of it.

I am a proud liberal who ENJOYS having friends and dating people who challenge me, who show me a different aspect of humanity. I like learning about different cultures. I like to listen and find out WHY people believe what they do. I don’t just interrupt and say, “Well this is what *I* believe,” and then list all the reasons why someone else is wrong. I’m not out to convert people to my point of view at all costs.

I used to be terrified of change. Now it’s comforting. Change is the one thing you CAN count on.

I accept people as they are, and I’m not threatened because their having a different opinion doesn’t make feel insecure or less of a person. I am happy to agree to disagree.

Some people just want to argue for arguing’s sake. Even if you AGREE with them, they will switch the conversation to another topic they can debate. They don’t care about a civil conversation, they just want the drama.

The only way to deal with these people is to just shut them down.

Truthfully if your faith is strong enough, you should be able to get along with anyone. You know who you are, so you can be anywhere and know that you are the same person.

I wasn’t attracting the WRONG kind of people. I was hung up on labels.

The reason I have such a strong and persistent attraction to Atheists and creative men is deceptively simple.

And it’s only recently– in the past year– that I’ve had the insight to see it.

I learn slowly, but I do work through information I’m given and make up my own mind. I will change my mind, openly admit it, and explain why once I figure it out.

The common denominator is a defiant spirit.

It’s taken a long time for me to embrace it, but I realize that I do have a rebel yell.

I appear to be very “nice”– and I usually am benevolent to most people. Unless given a reason otherwise, I treat people with respect and expect they are being honest with me.

But make no mistake, I have no problem asserting my opinions and calling out bullshit, either.

And men respect that in a woman. Too many women are submissive, desperate to agree. They don’t want to upset their man, they have no opinions, they agree with everything and put up with everything as well. Even abuse, be it verbal or physical.

At times in my life, I’ve been that woman. But not anymore.

I used to be so afraid of confrontation. But not anymore.

You can’t avoid things– they don’t go away. You have to face them and work it out.

Sometimes the only thing to do is fight, for your own dignity.

Because “fun” is not the glue of love, as I have learned. TRUTH is the the glue. When you’re secure enough and respect one another enough to tell the truth, especially when it hurts.

Because I’d rather be told the truth than flattered.

Until now, I had only done this in my closest relationships. My very best friends, and only the romantic relationships that were the deepest. If I trusted another person enough to fight with them and let them have it, that meant they were part of my inner circle. I used to be a woman with weak boundaries, who was too worried about upsetting the status quo to stand up for myself.

I was quite naive, and my kindness was often used against me.

This translated to every area of my life– friendships, jobs, relationships.

Finally, I learned to recognize these manipulators. I stood up to them. I shut them down.

Now, I’m slowly rising in my confidence. In the past year especially, I’ve gotten in touch with my anger. When you’re Catholic, you’re also taught not to express anger– but to repress it, so as not to hurt anyone’s feelings. You’re taught to pray it away. And it doesn’t work.

That’s WHY a heaping majority of Atheists were formerly Catholic.

The truth is, religion can be damaging.

Silence is the weapon that kills the faith of many.

When you’re raised in a culture that teaches you not to talk about what’s hurting you, not to show emotion– just to carry on and stuff it all, it’s not good for you.

Praying is not enough. Confession to a priest is not enough.

We need to defend ourselves as well. We need to assert boundaries. We need to communicate with others directly.

Faith can be a rock in the storm. It is for me.

But it takes a lifetime to work through how to manage it in a way that allows us to balance our feelings, express them when necessary.

I’m still working on it, myself.

But every day I’m getting smarter. I’m less afraid.

And my voice is getting bigger.

This blog is helping immensely.

Just A Little Patience

God is so frustrating !!!

You think you know what you’re doing, and then get a heaping reminder from Him that you don’t.

I think maybe He is trying to teach me patience.

I make no apologies for expressing my opinions and needs, because I feel that’s healthy and necessary. But I also admit that I can be impatient. The glory of being single is that you can always have it your way. But yes, it does get old after awhile.

It’s a mighty struggle to discern His will. That’s why we pray incessantly.

He wants us to talk to him. He wants to be part of the conversation of our lives.

It is a constant struggle to cultivate humility and yet persevere with our decisions and goals. I don’t always feel strong enough to take the path that it seems God wants me to take. I’ve always been a big subscriber of the “signs” idea. The only pervasive answer I can find to questions I ask about where to go is an intense, persistent desire to do something.

That’s where our faith becomes mandatory. That’s why we need faith.

God does not give up just because we feel hesitant or blatantly reject the idea.

He is more patient than any of us.