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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Heating

          So, as I sit here freezing, as usual, I want to know why the heating is always on the outside walls of the building.  It would seem so much more energy efficient, and warmer, if the heating was located along the inside walls instead.  We had a wood stove in my childhood, located in the middle of the house, and it sure as heck did a better job heating the place than the baseboard type heaters we have here in the apartment.  Yes, wood stoves do run hotter than the heaters usually do, but I'm not too sure it would have worked quite so well if it was tucked away along an outside wall somewhere.  I dunno, it just would seem that more heat would stay within the building if the heaters were located on an inside wall, rather than simply being soaked out the outside wall.
          Pertinent info on how wussy I am:  thermometer controlling heat says 73 degrees, I'm freezing, and feel a draft.  Yeah, like I said, pitiful.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Of Splinters And Logs

"There will always be defects in ourselves or others which we cannot correct. These we must simply tolerate until God in His goodness sees fit to change things... 2. If once or twice you have warned someone and that person does not comply, do not contend further with such a one, but leave all in the hands of God, that His will be done and that He be glorified in all His servants, for He knows well how to turn evil into good... Learn how to be patient in enduring the faults of others, remembering that you yourself have many which others have to put up with. If you cannot make yourself be what you would like, how can you expect another to be as you would like? We wish to see perfection in others, but do not correct our own faults. We want to have others strictly reprimanded for their offenses, but we will not be reprimanded ourselves. 3. We are inclined to think the other person has too much liberty, but we ourselves will not put up with any restraint. There must be rules for everyone else, but we must be given free rein. It is seldom that we consider our neighbor equally with ourselves...  4. God wills us to learn to bear one another's burdens. No one is without faults, no one without a cross, no one self-sufficient and no one wise enough all alone. Therefore, we must support, comfort and assist one another in all charity. Adversity is the best test of virtue. The occasions of sin do not weaken anyone; on the contrary, they show that person's true worth."
St. Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, book 1, chapter 16. 

Pertinent Reading

         
So one of the first things I figured I would try adding to my spiritual life was some spiritual reading.  Quite conveniently, one of the books we have on the shelf is The Imitation of Christ by St. Thomas a Kempis.  This is one of the books that I was supposed to read during my high school days, but did not because I held a bit of contempt for "holy reading", and was scared what I might learn if I attempted to start.  Well, here I am, realizing the error of my ways, and willing to give it a shot.  And lo and behold!  A more fitting book I do not think I could have found.  Divine Providence, as they say.
          Now, there are so many quotes that I have thus far found that are so relevant to myself, and the world at large, but I am afraid that to type them all out to share with you would infringe upon some copyright law or another, so I will briefly lay out the outline, and then add a few quotes I particularly like at the end.  It is written in four "books", all contained in one volume, and which are broken up into "chapters" of varying lengths and of which there are too many to mention and which are also broken up into sections.  Book 1:  Useful Admonitions For The Spiritual Life (25 chapters).  Book 2:  Considerations For Leading An Interior Life (12 chapters).  Book 3:  On Interior Conversion (59 chapters).  Book 4:  On The Blessed Sacrament And Devout Exhortations For Holy Communion (18 chapters).  This particular edition is illustrated, has the Stations of the Cross and the Mysteries of the Rosary, and an index of where useful prayers and selections suitable to different states of life and needs of the faithful are located in the main text, for a total of 288 pages.  
          I am currently on chapter 21 (On Compunction of Heart) of the first book, and nearly everything I have read has been what I needed to hear, and what I believe all should hear during this particular time of Lent.  I am not good at the whole meditative reading, but such passages as these could hardly have been read without reaction:  
"Remember, the more you know, the more severely you will be judged." 1.2.3. (book.chapter.section)
"If you see another commit a grievous sin, or whose faults are flagrant, do not regard yourself as better, for you do not know what you would do if similarly tempted. You are in good disposition now, but you do not know how long you will persevere in it. Always keep in mind that all are frail, but none so frail as yourself."  1.2.4
"In reality, all of us are inclined to to our own will and agree more readily with those who hold with our views. But if we want to have the presence of God among us, then we must be willing to give up our own way in order to live in love and harmony with others. Surely there are no persons so wise that they know everything. Therefore, listen to the opinions of others and do not trust too much in your own point of view. Perhaps you are right, but by setting aside your own will and following another out of love for God, you profit by it."  1.9.2
"It is good to listen to every person's advice; but when it is sound, to disagree is sheer stubbornness."  1.9.3.
"Through temptations and trials our spiritual progress is tested. If we are fervent and devout and unaware of any difficulties, it is no credit to us; but if we endure patiently in the time of temptation or adversity, then our spiritual advancement is apparent."  1.13.8
"Adversity is the best test of virtue. The occasions of sin do not weaken anyone; on the contrary, they show that person's true worth." 1.16.4.
          St. Thomas writes in such a straight forward manner, admonishing yet consoling at the same time.  Easy to read, and yet quite reasonable and intellectual.  My Lenten recommendation.  :)

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Lent & Stuff

          So Lent is basically here.  Either there was an extremely short period of Ordinary Time after Christmas, or there is truth to what older folks say about time passing more rapidly the older one becomes.  Needless to say, I'm a bit unprepared for it to arrive tomorrow with Ash Wednesday, though I have been thinking about its arrival for a little while now.  My usual approach to this time is rather minimalistic and unadventurous:  giving up something that I do enjoy, but never really adding some work of mercy or spiritual endeavor to my everyday life.  
          Such an approach has "worked" for me so far, but my growth this year has left me feeling a bit convicted in regards to my lack of fervor.  I have come to the realization and understanding of some certain things God seems to think I am ready to do, but I am stalled at the gate, afraid to move forward, yet knowing deep in my heart exactly what it is I am refusing to do.  I experienced that awesome and horrific feeling of not being able to claim ignorance as an excuse anymore.  I know what we are called to do in general as Catholics; I know (mostly) what it is I am personally called to do; and I am terribly, terribly aware that I know I know, and no longer have room for excuses.  
          I also have a tendency to start things really gung-ho, and then peter out before I make any headway.  A big part of the reason for this is my ability to grossly over-estimate my ability and passion, which results in my biting off more than I can reasonably chew.  At the same time, though, I know I can finish whatever I reasonably start, if I really put my mind to it.  The big problem, however, is not wanting to put in the energy and time that it would take to finish what I started - I know this, so I usually don't start things.  I can't claim failure if I never even started, right?  And honestly, I hate failing - failing does not fit in at all with the perception I have of myself:  strong, capable, self-sufficient, under control, I-can-take-on-the-world-and-no-thanks-I-don't-need-or-want-any-help-doing-so.  
          That being said, I'm going to do my best to not dig myself in too deep too quickly, and to make certain and immovable priorities.  Most of the actual details are still fuzzy, but they will be worked out with time.  Firstly, really desire to aspire to be a saint.  Under this would fall such things like sitting and praying more; visiting the adoration chapel; going to confession more than once in a blue moon; making the effort to go to Mass more than just on Sunday; reading meditatively the Scriptures; learning the Divine Office.  Yes, all that does sound like quite a bit, especially when considering that my life is no longer as full with unused time.  But even if I were to pick one thing to do this day, and work on another another day, at least it would be something.  Or I could try them, and settle on one that is best for me right now, and then focus on that.  We shall have to see.
          Secondly, take better care of myself physically.  This will be a really tough one for me. I am a lazy procrastinator much of the time, so getting up the first time the alarm goes off would be a wonderful penance.  Actually posting when I have time, rather than wasting it with other online junk would be another.  Even more than that, though, I need to become more in tune with what my body is trying to tell me.  I trained myself to basically ignore my body when it was tired, or hungry, or hurting, that I might not be a slave to my passions.  It was a good plan, and worked out rather well, but I am beginning to realize that maybe it wasn't the most healthy way of approaching the issue.  Yes, I can quite proudly and rightly claim that I am not addicted to much of anything, and thus am able to function much better than if I wasn't, but I now need to learn that I don't have to drive myself into the ground before I finally do something about whatever the issue is.  It is okay to eat when one is hungry, and maybe not so good to ignore the hunger pains until they go away; sleeping when one is tired may actually be better than forcing oneself to stay awake sometimes; pain is not always something that needs to be worked through, and taking a break is really not wussy at all, but may actually be the smart thing to do.  Thus, I shall listen to my appetites more, though not to excess, for there is always a time and a place for everything, as well as times and places where some things just shouldn't be. 
          Lastly, the cutting out of something licit.  This year I think it will be booze, of all sorts.  Now, I don't drink it all the time, what with it being rather expensive and all, but when we get together with friends, I usually will have one or two, and I do enjoy it then.  I guess you could say I am a social drinker.  And I like it that way.  However small it may seem, this is actually one of the more significant kinds of sacrifices.  It is easier to give up things that everyone else seems to give up, like sweets, because no one else has them either; but to give up something which no one gives up seems more difficult, because one is constantly reminded of what he may not have.  Yes, so I guess I just tooted my own horn a little bit there, but it is similar to an argument I heard made in favor of allowing the thing sacrificed back into one's life on Sundays and solemnities:  doing so increases one's desire for the object, thus making it more of a sacrifice for the rest of the week.  Also, it builds a bit more appreciation for the object when it is in one's possession.  
          Well, that was quite a long spiel, and I'm a bit sorry for it, but not all that much.  The art of being concise still eludes me, and I haven't written anything in such a long time, and the idea seems to have gotten a bit away from me.  :)
          Happy Lent! 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

"People"

         "People" confuse me.  Half the time I loathe them, the other half I am fascinated by them.  In my general dealings with others, I have found that "people" as a whole, or part of a group, are usually rather lousy, disgusting, stupid, and rather repulsive - an unfortunate annoyance that cannot be avoided.  Separate a "people" from the nasty herd, however, get to know him and all of a sudden he becomes an "individual" - nice, smart, interesting, intriguing, with barely any semblance to the "people" creature to be noted at all!  Such has been my long-standing perception:  "People" stink; "individuals" are cool once you get to know them, even if they come from a group of "people" who stink.  
          The key thing to note here is that "people" stay "people" until a level of personal knowledge has been met.  Thus the "people" one passes in the street remain so, even though they are not part of an immediate crowd.  Up until quite recently, I have been content at leaving "people" as "people", with little to no interest, actually a bit of aversion really, in making any sort of initial contact that might change their status to "individual".  I believe this is a direct result of fear.  Fear of the unknown "people"; fear of being vulnerable and opening myself up to the potential hurt that could result in changing a "people" to an "individual"; fear of rejection; fear of being misunderstood; fear of persecution.  Foolish, I know, but living in the fear seemed safer and less scary than doing anything to conquer it.
          Then, my sight started to change, much to my chagrin.  The "people" I met on the street, in the store, at church somehow were no longer being seen as such, but their potential for "individual" was becoming more and more apparent!  I am beginning to see the "individual" in "people" I haven't even spoken with.  In a glance met, a smile given by a stranger, the "individual" shines through, almost like some sort of deeper, almost magical (well, maybe more like divine, really) reality hidden in the humdrum of society, waiting quietly by to give deeper insight to any that might chance to see.  
          And I am beginning to see - after a long, long time in the darkness of the unknown, the confusion, the loneliness, the pain - I am beginning to see the Light again.  I am learning once again what it means to be me, after a tempestuous time of being lost.  There is Hope, there is Life, there is a greater reality for the seeking, hidden even among the faces of strangers.  "People" may yet still be stupid, disgusting, and lousy on the surface, but somewhere underneath, there is an "individual" who is waiting to be discovered.  

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Two Lives

          There are two "lives" within me, warring for dominance.  One is much older, and therefore holds much sway; the other is younger, but in no way less strong.  "Adventure!" cries the one; "Home and Hearth!" calls the other.  Home and Hearth was chosen, young though it was, but Adventure still held a place of honor.  Honor was not enough for Adventure, and many a long and painful battle was fought between the two, with Home and Hearth slowly, oh so slowly, gaining advantage and control. Yet Adventure continued to have hope - there may yet be a day when some may be realized.  Thus Adventure submitted to Home and Hearth, or so it was thought.  One day, Home and Hearth presented Adventure with a potential reality so great that Adventure was terrified of complete annihilation.  Such a thing could not be permitted!  So Adventure has once again taken up arms against Home and Hearth, leaving me torn and bloodied once again, trapt in the midst of the battle that rages inside my soul.  

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Please! Just LISTEN!

          More often than not, I believe people who are undergoing a hard, difficult time in their life, just need someone who will listen to them, without trying to fix the problem.  I know I do.  Many times in my life would have been easier to handle if I could have found someone who would just listen to what I needed to say, at the very least pretending like they understood what I was going through.  Unfortunately, the most common responses are:  "You should try X, Y, Z; maybe that would fix it for you - that's what I would do!" or "This is supposed to be one of the happiest/most exciting/ best/(fill in awesome superlative here) times of your life!  Why don't you just suck it up and enjoy it?!?"  Neither one is very helpful, especially when all one wants (more than likely actually needs) to do is talk, and be heard.  
          In  a previous post, I wrote about the things which I wasn't expecting in Rome and consequently made it difficult for me to adjust.  To be honest, the whole trip was not what I had thought it would be, with my allotted spending money stolen from my room the first night we were there, to relationship and friendship issues finally bursting and needing to be addressed, to the theft of a backpack with things which were expensive and necessary to be replaced, to homesickness in general...needless to say, the further along the semester progressed, the more of an emotional wreck I became.  Now, I fully admit that I did not handle most of it well at all, and I take full responsibility for it, but I really, really needed someone to listen, and all I got in return was "This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and you are ruining it."  NOT helpful, and only served to induce more bitterness on my part. 
          I experienced such a need for a listening ear again this summer, and into the winter, with the approach of my marriage, and the subsequent months following.  Everyone was going on about how amazing it would all be, and how happy we were going to be, etc, while inside I was not so excited, experiencing doubts and general panic for reasons I could barely understand, and much guilt, for not feeling as others were saying I should.  I said nothing, and such emotional turmoil as there was only grew. I tried to make myself feel as everyone seemed to be saying I ought, and only made things worse as all I ended up doing was failing - again, and again, and again.  Two months into my marriage, it felt like a train wreck, and it was all my fault.  
          I was miserable; I needed someone to talk to, and felt as though I didn't have anyone.  My husband was (and is) a good listener, but my misery was killing us both and I really needed some third party to confide in.  I felt as though my single friends were jealous that I had what they wanted, and they did not, so no go there; another friend was blissful in her engagement, how could she sympathize; my Mom was so excited and happy for me, remembering her newlywed days, how could I tell her I was a failure?  I didn't want to be analyzed, fixed, or told what to do, I just needed to be heard, and there was no one around to listen.
          After many, many tears and days of darkness and doubt, I managed to work through it all, for the most part, and am beginning to understand where the pain started, and just how long I haven't been myself.  So much of what I had been through might have been easier had there been someone who I thought would listen.               
         Oftentimes the greatest thing you might be able to do for a person is just listen, and love.  We all want to feel like we are not alone in our trials, and a listening ear does wonders for one who thought he was out in the darkness fighting his demons alone.  I know I am going to be struggling with my demons until I die, and this blog will be party to my thoughts and reactions to my battles, and you, Dear Reader, will as well.  I beg your utmost patience, and a listening ear.  Prayers are always appreciated; I will ask for help and advice if I need it; but mostly thank you for letting me speak without fear of castigation.