Opportunity Cost

The hardest lesson I learned while doing Dave Ramsey has to have been his brief mention of “Opportunity Cost.” He mentioned it as if it was a given, but ever since then I have been hung up on it, struggling with what it means. Basically, opportunity cost means that when you spend your money on one thing, you can’t spend it on something else, and vice versa. It’s a silly thing to be so hung up on, but as someone who is low income and struggles with money anxiety, it is really throwing me for a loop.

I keep catching myself about to spend money working myself into a tizzy about how if I spend this money on this now I won’t have it to spend later. This could be a choice between x or y. This paycheck we had a small amount of extra money, and I worked myself into a panic trying to decide whether to pay off debt, go to the doctor, or go to the dentist with it. It is an almost crushing fear that if I make the wrong decision God will never forgive me and we will never have money again, which is ridiculous, but it is the worst of the fears that arise in me. What sucks even more about this, is I’ve done it a couple of times, and ended up wasting the extra money because I couldn’t decide which important thing was most important.

Even writing this it sounds ridiculous. I keep debating if maybe I was too spoiled as a kid. Maybe I didn’t know it but I got everything I wanted, so now I’m incapable of accepting defeat, but to be fair, that’s not how my childhood was, however much the people say millennials are entitled because they got whatever they want, I didn’t. I watched my parents struggle, a lot. I was terrified about money as a kid, so I think it’s more likely that every defeat feels like a promise that there will only be more defeat, and it will never get better. I think what I fight within myself is less the spoiled rich kid and more the savage Scarlett O’Hara turns into when she is fighting to make sure her family never goes hungry again. Who knows which is crueler, one who is fighting for their life, or one who doesn’t know how to fight?

The point is, though, that I am working on learning to be patient as we work the baby steps, and to accept that we are meant to use our money, and it is ok to take the risk that we take every time we spend any. Every time we spend a single penny, we cost ourselves the chance to spend anything else. What I have found is that when my Scrooge takes over(the side of me that hoards and is afraid of letting go) the money doesn’t get spent until my irresponsible side screams her way out and throws the money away on something stupid. Then, I lost the opportunity to give the money to any of the truly important things that it belongs to.

As odd as it sounds, I have found the most effective way of fighting this is to spend some money. While I am in Scrooge mode, I go grocery shopping, or I set some money aside. I practice trust in myself and my decisions, let go of the money, and afterwards I am able to breathe a little better. It’s not irresponsible spending, but something that has to be spent anyway, to give myself the feeling of letting go, but in a responsible way. I’m not sure this is sustainable because sometimes I feel like I should have waited, but for now it works against the hoarding impulse.

The other thing that is really helpful for me is talking to my husband about it. Even if he doesn’t have the right advice at a given time, speaking my concern out loud sounds insane enough that I’m usually able to calm down a little and see what’s happening. But usually my hubby has some great calming words that help me to slow down, take a breath, and make the right decision.

Overall, doing Dave Ramsey is sure ripping up the carpets in my mental fixer upper. He’s opening up closets and caverns and broken pieces I didn’t know were there, or if I knew, I didn’t know how bad they were. I can feel the change happening in me as I try to stick with the baby steps and the intentionality that they require. It’s amazing to see how much money affects your personality and how much working on it can change who you are as a person. It’s humbling in a big way, but I’m hoping it pays off just as big in the long run. ♥️♥️♥️ Baby step 7 here we come!

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Ugly Cry, or, My Awakening: The Tension Between Cultivating Joy and Feeling Heard

Lately, I have been feeling like a ping pong ball in my own head. I’m learning a lot about a lot of things, but the problem is they all seem to contradict each other. I am learning how to cultivate joy, but I am also learning how to give myself space to be sad, I am learning about how to let good things in, and bad things out, I am learning about how anger is a secondary emotion, and about whether or not acting it out in some way helps, I am learning about healing, and I am learning about how much hurt can hurt, and I am learning to love and trust myself, and I am learning all of my weak spots all at the same time. I read an article that talked about how ugly real-life awakenings are, and if that’s the truth, it makes a lot of goddamn sense.

I’m so pissed off about this awakening. I’m humiliated and angry and frustrated, oh and presently actually literally sick. I am so aware of every single one of my flaws and yet it seems like every day someone thinks of a new one to add, not that they are even meaning too. I’m as sensitive as a porcelain doll right now because I feel like I’m trying to become this new person and every single move I make could change the world or end it. And to be fair, I don’t blame them, I can’t stand being in my own head anymore than they can stand what a mess I am.

I’m bouncing between all of the things I’m learning at the highest extremes of each trying to figure out who I am and where I stand inside, and just knowing I don’t belong on any of the sides I see. I see flaws everywhere on everything and everyone especially myself, but I am also seeing beauty in a way I haven’t in a long time, and for the first time in a long time, when I see the flaws I am doing something about it, or at least trying to. Sometimes I feel literally on fire because I’m so angry when I see someone else get talked down to, when I see anyone being ganged up on or feeling isolated. I’ve become, possibly a little too much, intense about standing up for the people who feel alone in that particular way.

I want to be a crusader for the lonely, and the misfits. That’s how I see who Christ was, and that’s who I have always wanted to be. I want to heal broken hearts, I want to hold those I can’t heal in my figurative or literal arms, I want to wipe away tears, I want to scream as loud as I can with people who need space to be angry, I want to pull dreams out of people who are afraid to dream, I want to answer despair with hope, I want to dive into their mud and muck and I want them to breathe again.

The problem is, I’m not big enough yet. I feel like a three year old looking at my life and realizing I’m not a grown up, and I keep throwing tantrums that humble me beyond what I thought was possible. I am so deeply angry at fate for whatever it has dealt everyone who is in pain including myself. I don’t want just answers to my problems, I want my answers to be the answers for everyone. I want to revolutionize how the world does life right now, because people are hurting so freaking bad. So the problem is, again, I’m not big enough to do all the things I want to do.

My answer to this, that bothers some people around me, is to complain. To live the truth of my struggle instead of sucking it up and pretending everything is ok. There’s been several articles out lately about society keeps giving “self-care” advice to people who really just need HELP. A prophets/artists job in life is to state the truth, and I am living that curse right now. There are things in our society and culture that are seriously fucked up. There are things in our Church that are horrifying. There are things in our world that are disastrous. I am a ball of positivity sometimes and I love to see the good in people and in the world, but let me tell you, there are some awful things happening right now, and the only space for my positively right now is my all-consuming hunger for helping to change it all, so I write, and sometimes I hate my negative confusing messy scribbles, but I’m not writing them for me. I am writing them for the little girl who wishes she was dead, so she knows she’s not alone. I am writing them for the mom who can’t stand up another day, so she knows someone else is fighting the war with her, I am writing them for the people who think the Church hates them, so they know they matter too. There is beauty in the truth even when the truth is ugly.

I catch myself sometimes feeling like I am trying to excuse the fact that I’m having a hard time. When I do that, I try to just stop writing right there, because it gets insincere real quick. Sometimes, I have to just push through it to get to the other side, and sometimes the other side is excusing the fact that everyone in my situation is having a hard time. I try to write letters for those who are struggling, or write comforting words to them, or write about their struggle, but sometimes it seems like the most powerful way I am able to struggle with someone is to stand with them and say, “Yeah, this fucking sucks. I’m here.” I catch myself defending people from themselves, other people, even myself sometimes, saying, “What you have been through is really hard, it’s ok to have a hard time.”

And ok, that is partially selfish, because when I am sad that’s all I want-my loved ones to see that I’m struggling and accept me through it, but it’s not just selfish, because I think the whole world needs that. Mother Teresa said that the people in America were suffering more than the people starving in Calcutta because they are lonely. That hasn’t changed, if anything, it’s gotten worse, and I believe one reason why is that we have this standard of perfectionism that no one can ever attain, but everyone is expected to, so no one is accepted for who they really are because everyone is so desperately trying to keep their mask on. Even the women who share their makeup free selfies are sometimes hiding how insecure they really are about it, and how scary it is to put themselves out there.

The thing is, that cultivating joy and choosing the good and all of that, do matter. I am not great at them and I am practicing, and failing, a lot, but sometimes, when someone is going through something really hard, just choosing joy isn’t enough. Sometimes the whirlwind of problems are so much that choosing joy seems completely impossible, and the litany of different medical and physical and emotional things that could be wrong with you are so overwhelming that all you know is that you are all wrong. Everyone else is happy and you aren’t, so something is horribly wrong with you. I am here to tell you, it’s okay to have a hard time. It’s even okay to have a hard time if you are STILL having a hard time. Recovery from grief is not an easy process, recovery from abuse takes titanic strength, recovery from addiction takes insane amounts only effort, recovery from anger at fate for what your life looks like seems almost impossible. It is ok to struggle.

If you are reading this, and you are not having a hard time, try to remember a time when you felt completely helpless and powerless, and if that’s never happened in your life, thank God and the people who have made that happen for you. If, though, you are reading this and you are having a hard time, know, you are not alone. We are here for you, all of the other silent people longing to be heard, we are here for you and we love you. It is ok that you are having a hard time, you will see better days. Try to get there, cultivate joy where you can, but let our love hold you while you struggle to get there. You are loved, completely, accepted completely, somewhere, we just have to find the place where we belong. Until then, we love you.

Acts 15: Christians Chill Out and Love

“Reading 1 Acts 15:22-31

The Apostles and presbyters, in agreement with the whole Church, decided to choose representatives and to send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas.

The ones chosen were Judas, who was called Barsabbas, and Silas, leaders among the brothers.

This is the letter delivered by them:

“The Apostles and the presbyters, your brothers, to the brothers in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia of Gentile origin: greetings. Since we have heard that some of our numberwho went out without any mandate from us have upset you with their teachings and disturbed your peace of mind, we have with one accord decided to choose representatives and to send them to you along with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, who have dedicated their lives to the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

So we are sending Judas and Silas who will also convey this same message by word of mouth:

‘It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities, namely, to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, from blood, from meats of strangled animals, and from unlawful marriage. If you keep free of these, you will be doing what is right. Farewell.'”

And so they were sent on their journey.

Upon their arrival in Antioch they called the assembly together and delivered the letter.

When the people read it, they were delighted with the exhortation.”

Can you imagine a world where religion worked like this?

In my life, the Church has not worked this way. Every time I have obeyed all the rules I was given, I was given more rules, and more until my head spun with all of the things I could and couldn’t do, and could and could not think or feel or want or say or not say. I HATE that.

I hate the feeling of being convinced that no matter how hard I try God will not love me, and will not want me, and I will never be good enough for Him. That is the conviction I believe that Christ came to fight. He didn’t come to find “sinners” and call them out and yell at them, He lingered with them and showed them love and talked to them like they were people too. The only times He got angry or renounced someone was when they were putting burdens on others. The Pharisees judging everyone while they themselves were just as bad if not worse, the people trying to kill a woman for sinning. Jesus came to LOVE everyone, and to teach us to love everyone.

So what if religion took that into consideration more often? What if Catholics spent less time calling other people names and talking about how evil they are and instead, came to them in their pain. What it when we saw a meme about abortion or about homosexuality or a tv show or whatever, we took a second to think about the other person and how they feel, and we approached the situation with love.

What if we took into consideration that the entire world is a huge mess of confusion and so much information about what is and isn’t right and all of the contradicting rules are too much to constantly be throwing new ones at people, and we took a second to just tell them they are loved.

What if we let go of our pride about being “right” and knowing all of the truth better than anyone else, long enough to really understand what someone else believes?

I’m not saying that the truth doesn’t matter, but what I am saying is that the Spirit we are in this letter is a spirit of seeing the suffering of others and tending to it, instead of having impossibly high expectations of people and being cruel because of it.

There is a passage in the gospel that talks about people laying burdens on others that even they can’t carry, and it calls to mind the Catholics I have heard devastated and exhausted under the weight of everything they are asking everyone, even those who don’t even believe in Jesus yet to do. Some of the most judgemental Catholics I know are Catholics who have “fallen into grievous sin,” and are imposing their own grief and shame into other peoples lives.

What if we didn’t do that?

What if we just let Jesus be love?

What if He gave us everything He did to love us, not to consider every move we make sinful?

What if “Catholic Guilt” was not a thing anymore, but instead “Catholic love?”

What if we were as joyful as the Christians who celebrate Christ’s unconditional love for them?

What if we didn’t ask for a life free of any possible even not completely perfect act, but instead asked for a life dedicated to Love and living in Love?

What if we healed others and loved others in their pain instead of causing more?

Can we Be Jesus to others in our lives, so that they can feel the love we get to feel? How can we make that effort? How can we ease the burdens and sufferings of others in this world and accept them where they are at, like the apostles did in this letter.

Can we just decide together not put “any burden, just the necessities” on each other and instead spend our time and energy loving others and taking care of them?

The Conversation about Abortion

With all of the abortion talk going around, I have been feeling so sad. There is so much pain on either side. It’s hard for me to take a side because I feel like I understand the arguments and feelings on either side. I have felt unwanted and that feeling is devastating, and I have seen how that particular painful feeling wreaks havoc in the lives of other people who have felt that way. I can understand why someone who has experienced that would want abortion to be an option, to avoid that deep all consuming pain.

I have also experienced pregnancy that scared me out of my mind. When I was pregnant with my first, we were not prepared financially or emotionally for her. We were terrified and emotional and taken aback by the amount of crazy hormones I was experiencing and we lost her. Later, after losses and fertility struggles, when I was pregnant with my first rainbow baby, I was devastated to find out I was pregnant. I was so sure I was going to lose her that I sobbed when I saw the test and cried that I didn’t want to go through that again. I didn’t really believe she wasn’t just another loss until I stepped into our apartment and realized we could keep all of the baby stuff. What’s more is I was very very sick the whole time I was pregnant, so I also felt that pain. I know what a surprise pregnancy feels like and how scary it is. I know what a painful pregnancy feels like and how scary that is. I understand the desire to make a pregnancy go away. I think a lot of pro-life women have experienced this, but the guilt of feeling that way while believing the way they do is unimaginable-at least it was for me.

That being said, I understand that if you believe that the baby in the womb is a baby, abortion is the most monstrous act that could possibly happen. A womb is traditionally supposed to be the safest place in the universe for the baby(not that it always is-there can be issues with it-but you get my point) to take a baby who is snuggled away that safe and end it’s life is horrifying. Absolutely horrifying. (( side note- again, I have never known a pro-choice person who believes they are actually killing a child, and it doesn’t help the argument to say that to them. Accusing anyone of being a murderer is a real quick way to end charitable conversation.))

I have also experienced pregnancy and pregnancy loss and these changed the abortion narrative completely for me. My first miscarriage Emma, had a distinct beautiful personality. She was wonderful. I was terrified to have her, but I loved having her with me. I doubted this strong understanding of who she was for a long time, but both of my now-loving daughters have exactly the personality I perceived from them when I was pregnant. Willow is just as determined and clear about what she wants as I told people she was, she loves music, she loves dancing, these were all things I saw about her before she was born. Sage is calm and serene most of the time. She is a happy peaceful little one, and it shows. She was so peaceful when I was pregnant with her that I was afraid that maybe I just didn’t have a good connection with her at all. Knowing these girls, and experiencing pregnancy, has me completely convinced that they are little humans and completely seperate from me.

All of that being said, there are so many mitigating factors to the abortion argument that distance me from the pro-life movement and make it hard for me to connect to it at all.

First of all, even as a Catholic, I have seen firsthand how little help is available for families and how hard and emotionally taxing it is to get that help. I have been in situations so stressful I hated the idea of having a child. A lot of Catholics say there is so much help out there, but a lot of it has a catch to it, and the catches tend to be really big. Our culture is not set up for families right now. I had help in a lot of ways and still was completely exhausted and miserable at times. Mothers need a better village if we are going to be pro-life, not because a life without money is not worth living but because a life of financial strain can be absolutely terrifying.

Second, The people who believe in abortion ARE NOT MURDERERS!!! This makes me crazy. For years, many many years, the human race did not know when a baby had a soul, some didn’t believe they had it until they were born. There is an article St. Thomas Aquinas wrote that basically insinuates that a child doesn’t have a soul until it is born. There just was not a lot of scientific evidence for when life as a human started. Science is starting to find some amazing things about babies in the womb that are arguments that the pro-life side uses to say that the other side is ridiculous, but there are HUNDREDS of years of debate about when exactly life begins, and it takes time for new science to prove itself. It also takes time for old knowledge and traditions to die out-so there are still a lot of people who do not believe it is a child in the womb. Just because the pro-life side believes they are right does not mean that the pro-choice side is savage monsters.

Third, most pro-lifers should not even be called pro-life. They should be called anti-abortion. I have heard vicious talk about war from pro-lifers, and talk about the death penalty that scared me, and that should not happen. If every life is sacred, then a 30 year old man should be too, a bad man should be too, anyone should be. If it is so evil to end any life in any circumstances, then you should believe in preserving it under any circumstances.

Fourth, pro-life people condemning unwed mothers and talking bad about them, judging them, making nasty comments to people about how many kids they have, or ignoring them because they are exhausted and have PPD, is a real thing. Maybe not everyone, but there are a lot of pro-life people who really hurt people when it comes to children, and it is ridiculous to me, because that kind of treatment is exactly the kind of treatment that could make someone want to end a pregnancy. Motherhood needs to become something of value in our country again, and that will make people excited to have babies instead of depleted and exhausted. This doesn’t mean that women shouldn’t be able to work outside the home, on the contrary, the way we work needs to change, for men and women. Some workplaces are already getting that the persons health and happiness needs to come first, and their work second, because the work is better if you take care of the person. More need to do this.

I guess the most important point of what I am trying to say, is both sides need to calm down and really understand the other sides point of view. Yes, it is important to protect women’s rights. Yes, it is important to protect children. But we are not getting anywhere with calling each other names and hurling our own facts at each other. What the world needs is honest discussion about what each person believes and a constant effort from both sides to take care of each other.

Surprise surprise, “what the world needs now is love, love, love.”

Make Your Choice

About a week ago, I wrote a blog post about man’s ability to choose his God. I have noticed that God will, in many ways, be whoever we ask Him to be. Even immediately after I wrote it, though I felt it was finished and said it was supposed to say, I felt like there was something else I was supposed to write in addition to it. As time has passed since then, I have tried to put into words what exactly I was thinking, but over and over I couldn’t quiet get there. Tonight, with lightning streaking across the sky, and my whole body in a creative blur, I feel ready to at least attempt to describe what I am going to say.
God will, in many ways, be whoever you need Him to be, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a real person that He is. God wants us to love Him, so if we want Him to act a certain way, and we ask certain things from Him, I believe sometimes He will go along with it. Sometimes though, He will eventually take a second to say, “Hey, I’m actually a little different than that. This is how I do things.” When that happens, get ready for a wild ride.
I talked already over and over about my relationship with God the last few weeks in this blog, and I don’t like writing about that. I think religious writing can be way too preachy, and it’s very very personal, so sometimes its nearly impossible for things to get out in the way they are meant to be perceived. Plus, I hate feeling ‘holier than thou’ because I am not. I’m not any better or worse than anyone else because I think about this stuff all of the time, I just like to offer my thoughts on it.
This year, I went to a Bible study that changed my life. I haven’t been really happy with any Catholic community I have been a part of for years, so to suddenly walk into one that I felt at home in was incredible. I believe that God used the study and the women in it to teach me so much about who He is.
My husband asked me once rhetorically, “I mean, how do we even know, which version of God is the real one?”(Not that he was renouncing belief, we just debate theology and philosophy….a lot-and we both play devil’s advocate when necessary) I think the only answer to this, and it will never satisfy anyone fully is-“Who has He told you He is?” The answer doesn’t always work, because some people do not listen, or don’t want to listen, but I do believe that if we ask God to show us who He is-He will.
This year, God told me a lot about who He is. He is Love-in a powerful all-consuming, always present way. We got to a crossroads, where I asked Him how He could say that when He had abandoned me, and I raged at Him about it. A couple of days later, I was reading the book of Job, and there is a chapter where God yells at Job for questioning Him and lists all of the powerful things He does, and basically says, “Job, you don’t know what you are talking about.” I’m not going to lie, there was a little fear and trembling for a second there.
The beautiful thing is though, that it didn’t end there. I have always hated the Book of Job because I felt that God was horrible to Job and that his friends were cruel and he had no vindication, but then, I read a section I had never read before.

God was so angry at Job’s friends for misleading Him, that He straight up asked Job to pray for them, and only forgave them because Job asked.
Basically, God said to Job, “HOLD ME BACK, IM’MA GET AT ‘EM.” And Job of course did pray for them, and God forgave them.
That changed the whole thing for me, because I have had people who have mocked me for my suffering before. I have had people who didn’t understand it, and who told me that God must be displeased with me. I needed so badly to hear that that is not who He is. To feel that God took me aside to say, “No, it’s not that, it’s just that you don’t know the reason for what I am doing.”
Anyway, the point of this is that God is love in a way that we cannot even fully comprehend, and He will show us who He is if we ask Him. Sometimes our own thoughts and impressions are not enough. Sometimes our feelings cloud our judgement and make it difficult for us to see what God is trying to say. That is why what Job’s friends did to him was so incredibly awful. A friend should help you to see God’s love while you are struggling-not condemn you. For me, my husband friends, and the Bible study, reading scripture and taking in art, help me to sort through what my thoughts are about God, and who He really is. I can’t tell you how many times I have been terrified of the wrath of God and despairing of His love, and have been lifted up and help by someone else.
In the end though, we can only know our own experience of God. We can seek Him out and do our best, and we can ask our friends, but there is something in every heart that knows what the truth is, if we can be quiet and hear it amidst all of the noise, and there is a lot of noise. Our knowledge of them is always evolving and growing, and we should never give up on figuring Him out, but He is there to be understood, if we ask, and we make every effort to learn.

Five Years

Tonight, I have been married for five years.

It has not been easy. In fact, our first five years have been full of challenges some married people will never have to face. We have moved as many times as we have been married, we have lost jobs, children, hope. We have fought like our lives depended on it, we have wondered if we could even handle being married. We have watched our little girl triumph over a million different obstacles and miraculously come out unscathed, we have done it all over again like crazy people right away, and we have survived.

We have been through so incredibly much together. Sometimes the weight of it is unfathomable, sometimes it even seems like a joke. Our first year in particular would make a really great dark comedy. Even though that’s true, tonight I’m awake with tears in my eyes about how grateful I am to be with you.

You fell asleep while I was talking to you, after such a beautiful night together of just being young and fun. You encouraged me so much tonight, you gave me so much hope for our future, you calmed me when I was scared, and you indulged me. I love you so freaking much.

The world is so hard sometimes, and so scary, and I cannot even express how grateful I am to have you with me through it all. We “speak in our secret tongues” even when no one else seems to understand. You and I are everything I ever dreamed and more, and I love our “little talks.”

I love you, Patrick O’Donnell, now and forever. You are my everything, my home.

I love you.

Happy fifth anniversary. ♥️

I Choose Love

I wrote a post a couple of days ago about who God is, and how He will reveal Himself to you however you ask Him to. That being said, something felt wrong ever since I posted it, but I couldn’t figure out what because I really believe He does that, but then I realized that I didn’t talk about why I have chosen who I have.

Every day I choose Jesus. Even when I am left standing gaping at Him like what the heck did you just do? Or even what was that for? I have a lot of friends who don’t believe in God, and honestly, I don’t blame them because I wouldn’t either if I hadn’t had a few really amazing experiences of the real-ness of being with God.

Here the thing, I have rational reasons for choosing Him.

Jesus is love.

He ate with sinners.

He lashed out at those who hurt other people.

He wants to be our friend, lover, family.

He forgives everything.

But what really matters when it comes to faith is your experience with the person of God. Some people have never experienced Him, some have experienced Him in different ways than me. For me, He is friend, lover, father and more.

Since I got married and lost a child weeks into my marriage I really struggle with God. The problem of evil is nothing when you aren’t faced with unfathomable pain, but once you are, it is everything. I raged at God, I questioned Him, I begged Him to be with me and heal me, I wondered if I’d leave Him completely.

I didn’t.

This year, He took me aside to talk. 

He wanted me to have a deeper relationship with Him, and to clear up some confusion about who He is. See, I have experienced some very negative religious communities in my life, that have given me some really messed up ideas of who God is. 

This year, He took me aside and took me through so many lies I had been told, and showed me how wrong they were and who He was instead.

He started with Financial Peace University. So many of us have been told the lie over and over and over that God does not care about our well-being here on earth, and that all He cares about is our salvation. This year, I learned that He has plans for our success here, and I learned about His advice to make that happen. He does not promise that there will be no suffering, but He does give advice to help us make smart decisions, and He does give extra grace and blessings when we ask for them, and when we follow them. 

He also sent me to Bible Study. Bible Study was the center of a million different things He showed me, but the biggest one was that He still wanted me to be close to Him. It had been years since I had been at a Church that I really loved, or in a spiritual community that I felt safe in. The Bible study I went to is a beautiful testament to what I really believe the Church is meant to be and I am undyingly grateful to have been there. 

Lent was like a spiritual boot camp of feeling completely destroyed by the lies I had been told and climbing out of them learning how to cast them off. It was hard. Holy Week was the most intense week, and anyone who reads this blog knows how dark Holy Week got for me. Easter was even more intense because God showed Himself to me in a way I haven’t fully seen Him in a long time. He showed Himself to me in bright splendor, and I was scared because I was afraid to believe that He had the power to overcome all things, because there are some big things in my life He has not overcome yet, and if He hasn’t and He can, that is a worse pain than believing He can’t sometimes. 

I want to live with the assurance of God’s love, assistance, and abundance like the Christians do. I want to live with the Eucharist and intimacy that I find in the remains of what the Catholic Church should be. I want to live with the freedom that the atheists do. 

The crazy thing is that I believe that through Jesus, God showed us that is exactly what He wants for us. He wants us to be assured of His love. He wants us to be close to Him. He wants us to be free. 

I can hear all three groups fighting, seemingly constantly about who is better,  and has more truth, and condemning each other, but the truth is that everyone is seeking God in their own way. I even believe that the people who have left the Church are looking for the God that the Church is not always putting forward. Jesus did not divide, unless people were getting hurt. Jesus reached out to people who were considered unworthy. He went and found the woman with 5 husbands, and talked to her even though He knew it would be a huge scandal if He was found out, and He didn’t condemn her. He loved her where she was. He encouraged her not to sin anymore, but their conversation was not about sin. Their conversation was about love, and need. Over and over again, we see this happen with Him. Even down to the two commandments He gives-Love God, Love your neighbor. This is because if you really love, sin disappears. Not that doing the right thing doesn’t matter, but that if you love, you will do the right thing.

So, I choose Jesus, but not in a vague, whoever the Church or whatever person I talk to says He is, but in who He says He is, and I believe that in Scripture He told us He is Love, and I choose which Churches I attend, and people I trust based on Love. The Catholic Church as it is now, is a huge, huge mess, but the actual teachings of the Church, are not as cruel and hateful as so many churches can come across or be. There is a nugget inside of what the Church is supposed to be, and there are Churches that are living this reality, or at least striving to, and that is where you will find me. You will find me also in friendship, understanding, and conversation with those who disagree with me, and who are opposed to my views, because I believe in Love, not fear. You will also find me siding with the protestants and the non-Christians, fairly often, because Catholics don’t tend to hear them. They have needs, and many feel hurt by the Church and her people, but that is not who the Church is supposed to be, so I will not be that. I will be love to them, and I will be their voice among the Catholics, even when I am condemned by Catholic people for not being “Catholic enough.” 

 

Tangent note: To be clear, it’s not that I believe that I am better than most Catholics, or that I am better than the Church. I don’t believe that. I do, however, believe that there are a lot of things that are believed to be the Catholic Church, and are not, or are not explained well, and are not explained in love, and it is my responsibility to discern which truths are actually the truth, and which ones are not. I am not choosing to not follow the Church, I am choosing to understand what the Church is really saying, and to help them to say it better. 


There is a woman saint, St. Catherine, who went to France when the Pope left Rome to live in Paris long ago, and she told him, he needed to be in Rome. There is precedent for holy people coming forward and saying, “This is not okay.” The Catholic Church as it is now, is not okay, and the only way it will become okay, is if we make it what it was meant to be in the first place. The only way to do that, is to love the people that hate the Church, and see what happened to make them hate it, understand them, and give them what Jesus actually had to offer, not condemnation, but love. 

Condemned by the Pharisees

I have thought for a long time that if I were ever to become an artist than I would not become a saint, but if I were not to become an artist, than I might not go to Heaven. This is an important distinction. I have seen for a long time the way that artists, and genuine people even, tend to be treated by religion, and it is not pretty.

Artists, especially those who are willing to face the dark and terrifying parts of life, are not what religion is looking for in saints. Did you know that there was even a period when publishers would edit saints published lives to take out anything that didn’t make them seem holy? There seems to be this requirement that a saint be someone who was completely perfect, that is unless they were really, really evil, in which case their conversion story is so powerful because they became perfect after not being perfect. I don’t know if it is possible for a true artist to look THAT perfect on the outside.

What makes an artist what they are is something in their heart that is boundless and passionate and fearless but also terrified. They have a profound sensitivity to emotion, to life, to the good and bad that not everyone sees, and even arguably into the spiritual world. It is an artists job to explore reality, to pull out what others don’t see, and that is not something that looks perfect on the outside.

Maybe part of it is just that I have never looked perfect on the outside, or maybe it is that I did look perfect on the outside and it was when I was least myself, and least who God wanted me to be. The further I got from Him the more people thought I was so great.

It’s not just about me though. James Joyce wrote a book all about falling away from the Church with clear thru lines of the depth of his affection for God and for Mary, but a terror of and hatred for the Church, and so Christians tend to believe that he is this horrible monster fighting against Catholicism, but if you read his book without a bias, he is just a wounded person who suffered a great deal as a kid. He would be a hard candidate for canonization, but he shouldn’t be villified to the degree that he tends to be. (Graham Greene is another that I would place in this category of generally considered anti-Catholic but no where near as terrible as people say.)

Dostoevsky, Dante, Flannery O’Connor, J.R.R. Tolkien, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Evelyn Waugh, GK Chesterton, and I’m sure far more that I am forgetting get nowhere near the amount of praise they should, but they have reached people that no priest ever could. When I couldn’t stand even thinking about the Church, Dostoevsky brought me there in spirit, same with each of them, and yet there are very few, if any, saints that number among these. It’s not that there are no saints that were also artists, St. Therese wrote some poetry, Edith Stein is a blessed and she was a writer, but it seems that unless an artists work was clearly about only good and holy things the author is not recognized for the tremendous work they have done for the Church.

I’ll admit that this could all be accidental, but honestly, I don’t think so, and I don’t think so because I have lived it and the prophets from the Bible(who wrote poetry) lived it, and who knows how many artists who really loved God with everything in them lived it. I believe that there are artists who were holier men and women than we will ever know, and I believe that it would take revolutionary courage for the Church to acknowledge them for what they are because they are not the typical story of holiness, their story is challenging.

Tonight, I was driving home after a night of praying and shopping two things I do together often, and I had asked God to shower grace down on the earth. Lately, He has been literally sending rain when I pray for this, God likes to make jokes and send me fun symbolism. Anyway, the thought occurred to me, “How many artists have not been acknowledged as saints because of how weird they were? What if I prayed to all the artists who are in Heaven but have not been canonized? Almost instantly it began to rain, a sudden avalanche of these enormous raindrops shaped like circles. “What?!?” I said. And the rain calmed. So I am going to start to pray to the forgotten holy artists.

To the artists who have been forgotten,

I am afraid sometimes that the condemnation I have received from members of the Church is actually from God. I come to you, who have been spurned and scorned by a community that should have accepted you, and I offer you my true self, my whole true self. God created me with desires, talents, and an abundance of emotions and sensitivities that has made me the target of frustration and cruel talk time and again. I bring you the pain I have felt, and the pain I will feel as a result of being an artist. I believe that God loves me as I am, and does not demand that I sacrifice my identity in order to follow Him. I believe that He created me with desires and talents that He wanted to be used, and not wasted and ignored. I believe that He loves me and sees me striving for Him, even though others may condemn me and call me evil. I believe that if I keep seeking Him, He will be with me, and He will not abandon me. I believe, but help my fear and unbelief. Judgement from the Church and its people makes me feel far from you, so draw me closer when they condemn me. Hold onto me when they don’t understand my work, reassure me when they challenge my love of You. God let me work bring your love and understanding to every single person who ever reads or encounters it. May it shower them with the conviction that they are loved, and to love others. Amen.

Choose Your God

I have been ruminating over a theory about God for some time now. It began a couple of years ago when I was reading a book about St. Therese. She talked about a sister who offered herself as a victim for God’s justice, and the suffering that sister went through. She talked about how she knew she couldn’t bear that, so she asked to be a victim of His love and for Him to pour His extra love that no one wanted out on her. He poured Himself out on her in love, though she didn’t necessarily have an easy life, she did have a more peaceful relationship with God.

It occurred to me that what if our relationships with God work this way? What if He is whoever we need Him to be? The concept of God is something we can’t fully understand, He is everything and nothing, human, superhuman, and inhuman, man and woman, love and justice, mercy and grace. What if He is somehow all of the things we say He is? What if in our relationship with Him He will be whoever we need Him to be.

I can already hear Catholics saying I’m being relativistic, but I’m not talking about right or wrong, or that God changes who He is because we know better than Him or there is no truth, or whatever, but what if God is all of the things, but He reveals certain parts of Himself to certain people.

Someone said to me once, “Is Heaven even worth going to if you don’t have to fight to get there? I don’t want to go to a Heaven like that.”

At the time, I was horrified and I figured that that was exactly the problem with people, and that if they got to Heaven and it was easy and accepting they wouldn’t like it. To be fair, I’m not 100% sure I disagree with that feeling even now. However, it occurred to me that maybe some people do need the rush of the fight to get into Heaven.

Some people flourish when a boss yells at them, I crumble into a million pieces. Some people do better when they have all the time to plan something, I do better with a deadline. There are couples I know that if I lived their life I would be outright miserable, but if they lived mine they would hate it just as much.

What if God meets that in us? What if God works in symbolism and nature and love for me because He knows that I need His gentleness and love? What if He works in subtlety and art for the next person because He knows they hate religion? What if He works in demands and rules for those who need to feel like they fought the good fight? What if He can be female for a woman who was raped and can’t handle seeing men? What if He can be present in whatever is going on in your life however you need Him, and not just in the ways other people say?

I believe that God is both one and everything, and because of that He is also anything, and that means that He CAN be all things to all people, and maybe it’s ok to choose who you need Him to be for a while. Maybe it’s ok to say, “Hey, can you just hold me tonight, I’m sad and I don’t know the right thing to do.” Maybe He knows how to tell you you are trying and you are His even when you feel completely lost. Maybe He knows you, and He wants to be close to you, and He knows where you fit with where He does.

Love and Justice

Lately, I feel tossed by the waves of “who God is” as told by everyone around me. This question came to a head on Easter. I have felt that God took me aside this year to talk about who He is, over and over again He reassured me that He is love, though that love does not always look like comfort. On Easter, He sent me to a concert that would present me with two choices.

Do I believe that God is a fearsome God of justice, the God I fear, and run from, or Do I believe He is the God of all Hope, who created me to be who I am, and therefore loves who I really am?

The stakes are terrifyingly high on either side. If God is the fearsome God of justice, and I don’t repent in the right way for my sins, or do the right works, then I am choosing against Him and He will leave me. If He is a God of never ending hope, then He will love me always, and He will see how hard I’m trying even when I mess up, not that He won’t want me to do better, but He only wants that for my good, not His. He’s not a teacher waiting with a ruler to tell me i messed up.

Choosing the second, though it is what I want to be true, is difficult for me, because I was taught so many things you had to do to get God to love you. I spent half of my life trying to avoid Hell, instead of being who God called me to be. The irony is, if you live a life trying to avoid Hell, you are no longer living according to God, but according to Fear.

In the weeks since Easter, I have wrestled with this decision put in front of me. “How do I live as if the battle is already won? How? How?” I asked it so many times that the voices of my past rose in revolt and said that “I can’t, it’s just talk. They just don’t understand the truth.” Except for maybe they do.

Maybe God does love me no matter what, maybe if I’m doing my best to follow Him, then He will save me, maybe if I lay myself down at His feet He will hold me, and not condemn me as I have been condemned before. Maybe He sees what’s in my heart, and knows I love Him.

Note: The point of this post is not to say that God doesn’t care about what we do, but to compare perceptions of who He is as a person, particularly a divide I have struggled with my whole life.