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Sunday, August 21, 2011

What Goes Around...

In my theology classes last year, my first and last day reflections were centered around a quote by Marianne Williamson. I used the quote twice because I imagined on the first day students were distracted as they got back into the routine. I also wondered if they could really understand the depth of the quote on the first day. I used it again on the last day, because I wanted them to know that it was an important enough message to be repeated. I also hope that they understood it a little better than at the beginning of the semester and that they believed it to be true, not only about themselves, but about everyone around them. If students left my class with no other wisdom than that contained in the quote, I'd be satisfied.

You've probably seen or heard it before. It's even been used in a few movies:

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

Last night as I was thinking about the abundant affirmation I have received for my upcoming journey, I thought of the quote. I thought about how fortunate I am to have so many people who help me to believe that I am powerful, that I am "meant to shine," that I was "born to make manifest the glory of God."

Then I thought about so many people who don't have a support system, who have never been told that they are powerful or that they are children of God. In fact, some have been told quite the opposite, that they are worthless, stupid, nothing. I think of students who felt that they had nothing to offer (even when their gifts were so clear to me). Some had been told that they are powerful, but that other "different" people are worthless. They struggled when I suggested that we really are all children of God. However, some boys, by the end of the semester, saw the truth of the quote and I'm so glad. Others were still grappling with it. I gave them copies of the passage, so that when they were feeling low, they could read it again and believe. I hope they do.

Last night I was thinking I'd need to find my copy of the quote to carry with me. This morning a friend gave me a beautiful card and in it, as a part of her message, she wrote that two quotes had come to her heart as she thought about my journey. One was by Julian of Norwich. The other? Let's just say I don't need to look for my copy any more.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A Shout-Out

This has been a pretty busy summer. I have had work done on my house, have had some projects from school to wrap up, and...oh yeah, have been getting ready for my journey.

There are tasks that I'd hoped to accomplish that I now see, as my time at home is growing shorter, are not going to get done. However, as I think about what has gotten done, I cannot help but be thankful for the incredible amount of time my parents have spent helping me complete projects. Other people have helped me, too, but here I want to focus on good ol' Mom and Dad.

Among other things, I have had a lot of new drywall put up in my house. My parents have helped me paint it and have done a lot of other detail and finishing work. Neatness and organization are not my best skills. My parents have helped me to get things a little cleaner and a little more organized. The hours they have put into helping me are numerous.

It hasn't always been easy working together. As happens with parents and children, we don't always have the same ideas about what should be done in my house. I sometimes have to remind them that the decisions about my house are mine to make, not theirs. Because of those times, they may not realize how incredibly grateful I am for the work they have done. So I thought I'd put it here, for them to see and for all of you, too. They deserve some recognition.

Shout-out to Mom and Dad! Thanks!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Two Quotes

I woke up early this morning and couldn't get back to sleep. After writing last night, I continue to think about blessings, feeling alone but not being alone, and (from a few posts ago) belonging. This morning, a friend posted this quote on Facebook:

"You're an interesting species. An interesting mix. You're capable of such beautiful dreams, and such horrible nightmares. You feel so lost, so cut off, so alone, only you're not. See, in all our searching, the only thing we've found that makes the emptiness bearable, is each other."
— Carl Sagan

Another quote that has been on my mind comes from Wendell Berry's Jayber Crow:

"My vision of the gathered church that had come to me... had been replaced by a vision of the gathered community. What I saw now was the community imperfect and irresolute but held together by the frayed and always fraying, incomplete and yet ever-holding bonds of the various sorts of affection. There had maybe never been anybody who had not been loved by somebody, who had been loved by somebody else, and so on and on... It was a community always disappointed in itself, disappointing its members, always trying to contain its divisions and gentle its meanness, always failing and yet always preserving a sort of will toward goodwill. I knew that, in the midst of all the ignorance and error, this was a membership; it was the membership of Port William and of no other place on earth. My vision gathered the community as it never has been and never will be gathered in this world of time, for the community must always be marred by members who are indifferent to it or against it, who are nonetheless its members and maybe nonetheless essential to it. And yet I saw them all as somehow perfected, beyond time, by one another's love, compassion, and forgiveness, as it is said we may be perfected by grace."

That's all I've got.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Blessings

Yesterday I had my orientation with the SCNs, a wonderful day in which I learned more about the SCN's history and constitution, shared a meal, shared prayer, and was blessed by the community at mass. The blessing at mass was beautiful and humbling, as were the kind words of those who approached me after mass. Once again, the tears were flowing.

After mass I was asked, "Don't you feel loved?" And my answer was this: during this whole process of preparation, I have felt loved.

There have been times in my life when I have felt very lonely. I was talking to a young man a few days ago who is going through a hard time and he said that sometimes, even when he is in the middle of a group of people, he feels completely alone. I assured him that he is not the only person who has ever felt that way and that I have certainly gone through similar times. I assured him that those feelings will pass, and that even if he may not be aware of it, he is definitely not alone.

For me, now is a time when I am continually seeing just how not-alone I am. Along with the beautiful blessing at mass yesterday, I have had the great pleasure of being at several gatherings (and still have a few more coming up!) of friends, long-time and more recent, who have gathered to wish me well and send me off. A few people have given me gifts, cards, and small tokens, all of which are appreciated, none of which were necessary or expected.

Seeing how many quite remarkable people have taken time just to wish me well has been humbling. Were it not for so many of them leading me, walking next to me, and sometimes even pushing or pulling me forward, I would not be where I am. I would not be who I am. The physical gifts I have received recently have been wonderful, but they are simply reminders that I am not alone. They are reminders of the true blessings in my life: the many people who have enriched it.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Dirty silly fun

Yesterday I had the great pleasure of participating in the Warrior Dash- a 3-mile extreme obstacle course. The race itself was fun, but what I enjoyed most was the time I got to spend with my dearest friend in the world. The drive to and from the race was 3 hours each way, so we got to talk the whole way there and back, starting early in the morning with a serious discussion about the Catholic Church. As the day lightened, the conversation did, too.

One of the things I brought up was the fact that somehow over the last few years, I have lost some of my silly side. "Lost" may not be the best word. I haven't practiced having fun or being silly nearly enough lately. My serious nature buried much of my silly side. Thank goodness for my nephews and niece, godchildren, and the other children in my life or I'd be hopelessly stuck in my serious nature. This is not to say I don't have silly moments with people other than kids, but over the last few years, those moments have become fewer and fewer.

When I said all this, my friend agreed. I am so grateful she suggested we participate in the Warrior Dash. It seemed to be a pretty good place to start recovering some of my silly side. The race obstacles involved crawling or jumping over, under, and through various things. The last 2 obstacles were jumping over fire and crawling through mud. It is hard to take oneself seriously when covered in mud. And we were covered in mud. The mud wasn't the only ridiculousness. Lots of people raced in costumes. They were dressed as superheroes, hula girls, certurions... One woman was wearing a prom dress... And by the end of the race, they were all covered in mud. (There was a nice pond to get cleaned up, sort of, after the race.) And along with the standard race T-shirts, we received fuzzy warrior helmets. It is also difficult to take oneself seriously when wearing a fuzzy warrior helmet. The race was good, clean (well, maybe not so clean) fun, just what I needed.

Along with the many serious reasons I am looking forward to my upcoming journey, I can't wait to immerse myself in whatever joy and fun might present itself, much like I was immersed in mud yesterday. I'll keep you posted as to whether or not any of it is as dirty as the Warrior Dash. :)


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Belonging

After writing yesterday about the signature on the bottom of my foot (now just one small line), I have been thinking more and more about the idea of belonging.

I said that having the name there reminded me of Toy Story and Andy's signature on the bottom of Woody's foot. It was a sign that Woody belonged to Andy. While I heistated to say that I "belong" to the young man who signed my foot, if I really think about it, I have to admit that I do belong to him. He also belongs to me, even if I haven't written my name anywhere on him. When I say that, I don't mean we belong to each other in any weird or possessive way. Rather it is a mutual care for each other.

Isn't that what we all seek? Don't we want someone to care for and who cares for us? Isn't that what belonging is really about?

Certainly there are ways in which the idea of belonging is corrupted. Human trafficking is the first way that comes to mind. Anytime someone dominates others and diminishes their being, belonging is violated and corrupted.

Belonging, in its truest and best sense is about empowerment. I belong to my church community because I know that I am welcome there. As with the school community I leave behind, I know that I will be a part of my church community even when I am far away. That is true belonging. We are bound together even when we are not together.

I know that my church community wants me to be my best self and I want the same for every person there. We challenge each other to live to high ideals, and we strive to be supportive, patient, and understanding as we walk the paths we are called to walk. Our coming together each week to worship helps us to be true to ourselves, to our call, to our God. Our worship reminds us that we belong to each other. I am thankful that it also reminds us that we belong to the poor and the oppressed, the rich and the oppressors. They also belong to us. I find these very difficult notions to live by sometimes, but I try, failing often, to live as if I belong to each person I meet and they belong to me.

In my classroom or in my encounters elsewhere, my heart always aches for those who don't feel like they belong anywhere, to anyone. Sometimes it is that they have been excluded by others, they haven't found their path yet or have lost their way; sometimes it is that they simply don't recognize that they belong right where they are. There are cetainly times when I have felt that I don't belong. Now just happens to be a time when I am ever aware of my belonging. I do belong to the young man whose name was on my foot. I belong to the people I will come to know in India and Palestine. They also belong to me. I hope that as you come to know them here, you will also find a sense of mutual belonging with them.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Tears

The last few days I have been crying a lot. I don't always welcome tears, and will admit that on more than one occasion this week I tried to keep myself from crying, but honestly, I'm thankful for the tears.

I was on a retreat with seniors from the school where I used to teach. Even as I write "used to," it's hard to believe... I was going to write "it's hard to believe I no longer belong there." However, that's not true. While I may not work there anymore, I feel I am still a part of the community, even when I'll be several continents away. I knew that before the retreat, but being with the boys, the alums, and the other faculty members I was reminded that I do belong there. (As a side note, on the topic of belonging...the boys started signing each other the last night on retreat. Yes, I mean each other and one boy asked if he could sign my arm. Not wanting his signature in Sharpie marker on my arm, but caving in to his persistent requests, I let him sign the bottom of my foot. It reminded me of Toy Story: Woody belonged to Andy because Andy's name was on the bottom of Woody's foot. I was the one who jokingly made the comparison, but my discomfort with the idea of "belonging" to another person like that, of being someone's property, makes me grateful the signature has faded!) I know I will always be welcomed there.

This retreat was really the last time I would be a part of any official school activity, so as the week went on and that truth hit me, more tears flowed. At the end of the retreat, I was given a gift signed by everyone on the retreat. When I received it, I started to cry again. I will carry it with me while I'm gone and I'm sure that gift will carry me through the rough times I have. When I got home and had time to read the messages to me, the tears began to flow... again.

I am certain that as I say my good-byes, I will continue to cry through the next few weeks (I leave in 18 days). And while I don't always like having a snotty nose and puffy eyes, I have to say that I consider the tears a blessing. Each of my tears represents the love I share with someone whose physical presence I will miss. Each represents the love of someone I will carry with me in my heart. I can tell you right now, that's a lot of love.

Yesterday some boys on retreat and I were talking about the idea of paying it forward. I hope that as I walk in new places and meet new people, I will pay forward the love I have received. It is the love freely given to me that gives me the strength to leave it behind. It amazes me to write that. If I were not certain that my friends and family will love me whether I am sitting next to them or somewhere across the world, I could never make this journey.

And so the tears, the sign of the outpouring of love I have received, flow. And I will let them.