Leaning in to Lent

Leaning in to Lent

Lent Burger and fries 2017-03-21Hello. My name is Heather. And I have a problem with Lent.

Before you sharpen your pencils to compose a blistering letter to our esteemed editor recounting my heresies, I humbly implore you to please hear me out.

I know all about the regulations and practices and have heard countless suggestions for having the BEST. LENT. EVERRR. I understand that the Church, in Her wisdom, provides us with this designated time of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving as an opportunity and a gift. As one who enjoys opportunities and gifts, I am totally on board. Goodness – I actually like Lent, in theory, and often in practice – especially when I can continue consuming bacon and gelato and social media. I’ll even go on record as being pro-Lent. And yet, I have struggled with discerning and maintaining my personal Lenten observances.

My theory is that my difficulty with Lent was rooted in a skewed notion of what the season is actually intended to accomplish. As an example, let’s look at my approach to fasting.

Over the years, I’ve attempted to give up just about everything – sweets, screens, sanity – you name it. And I think I knew, at least in the back of my mind, that I was sacrificing something I enjoyed to become closer to God. But I don’t think that half-praying, half-crying, “Dear God, when will it be Easter so I can eat chocolate/drink coffee/indulge myself?!” several times a day for 40 days straight is what our Lord had in mind.

Read the rest here

Photo credit: Thomas Habr; used with permission.

Listen closely … he is coming!

Listen closely … he is coming!

Fr. GaitleyThere I was, hurtling down the country roads en route to school, listening to the local Catholic radio station. The morning show host and his guest, an enthusiastic and kind-sounding woman, were talking about a program that was “new” and “exciting.” Only, I couldn’t quite catch what they were saying over my noisy children in the backseat.

“Please, you guys!” I begged my beloved offspring. “Mommy is trying to listen!”

What was the woman saying? I still couldn’t quite make it out. “You guyyyys!!” I yelled back at my children, otherwise known as they-who-could-not-be-shushed. Something about getting closer to Jesus? Maybe a book and meeting together with a group of people? “Oh!” I concluded. “She must be talking about a Bible study.”

Whatever it was, I decided I was interested – really interested.

Read the rest here.

photo credit: Marians of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Used with permission.

Living in the weeds and other updates

Living in the weeds and other updates

woman-outside-a-window-staring-into-a-roomThis is just going to be a relatively quick entry – and I apologize for that. I am quite behind with a number of things (hello, unfinished Christmas cards staring me in the face) and, of course, posting here is one of those things.

I won’t attempt to fool you or myself by promising regular entries from here on out; we all know that’s a pie crust promise  – easily made, easily broken.

What I can promise: I am praying for you. Each and every one. You are dear to me – even those of you whom I’ve never met face-to-face and I dare say that’s the majority. Your patience with me as I work out with fear and trembling what I should say – what I am able to say – in this space and your acceptance when I finally get around to actually saying it has done my heart such good over the years. And for that, I am so very grateful.

May I ask a favor? If you think of it, would you please, in turn, pray for me? I could sure use it. Due to a strange mix of circumstances, I’ve been feeling rather low and quite overwhelmed since the end of November/beginning of December, and the usual remedies don’t seem to be working. Thankfully, Christmas was beautiful. For that pocket of grace, I give thanks.

But on balance, things have been hard – so very hard. Unfortuntely, I am no stranger to the vice grip that can be clinical depression, although I am not sure if I’ve ever written about it in much detail before. Whatever the case, I find myself, yet again, researching and attempting and crying and fighting and starting and stopping and trying once more. ‘Tis the human condition overall, is it not? Sometimes, however, even the normal difficulties of daily life are magnified a million times over when one is trudging through the weeds of it all.

What I know to be true is this: my faith in God continues to be the most precious gift I have and will ever possess. Even when things are at their bleakest, I believe that God is here with me, holding my hand and counting my tears and encouraging me forward one step at a time in ways both seen and unseen. I thank you for your prayers. Truly, I do. They are precious to me and mean more than I could express.


In all honesty, I didn’t plan to write this much about my struggles today, but I think I am going to hit the “publish” button anyway, if only so that any of you who struggle with depression, anxiety, loneliness, or any of the accompanying symptoms may be encouraged by knowing you are not alone.

Let me say it again: You are not alone

Also? There is no shame in seeking help, whether via professional counseling, conversation with a trusted friend or priest, or via medication as prescribed by a medical professional. A resourceful friend reminded me of this wonderful book about Catholics and depression, and I whole-heartedly recommend it to you without reservation. If, God forbid, you are struggling in the most difficult of ways, help is available 24/7 via telephone: 1-800-273-8255 or via online chat. You are unique and precious and unrepeatable, and this world needs you. I believe this with all my heart, my friend.


And now, if you’ve hung on thusfar, you will rewarded with the originally intended main topic of this post: Fr. Michael Gaitley is coming! To our state! Next month!

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A little bit of history might be in order so as to explain my enthusiasm.

Fr. Gaitley’s books 33 Days to Morning Glory and Consoling the Heart of Jesus had a profound impact on my life, as well as many others’, I’d imagine. Over the past four or five years, I’ve made numerous attempts, via official and unofficial means, to lure invite Fr. Gaitley to Oregon (and even Alabama) with no luck. Thank the good LORD for the persistance of my friend Betsy at St. Cecilia Parish. At her suggestion, we both submitted two separate yet official inquiries to his office last year in an effort to gang up on convince him that the Pacific Northwest is beyond ready to receive the message he stewards. I don’t presume to know the mind of the Holy Spirit, but apparently, he agreed that the time had come. Because Fr. Gaitley is indeed coming. I believe the fruit of this retreat will be manifold for our local church, and I praise God for what He is doing in the world, in our community, in me. Seen and unseen. Weeds and all.

God bless y’all,

heather

Photo credit: Priscilla Westra used with permission via unsplash.com

Who Am I?

Who Am I?

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In the silent stillness before dawn, I slowly opened my eyes, reluctant to survey the aftermath of the previous night’s activities. There were empty junk food wrappers strewn about the small room, as well as myriad red cups offering up their remaining contents to the already-stained carpet. The sickly sweet smells of alcohol, incense, and smoke clung to my hoodie and jeans and clouded my memory. As I slowly sat up, I noticed about ten or eleven other teens—male and female—still sleeping in whichever spot they found themselves when they eventually passed out.

As I finally came to, my thoughts came clearly and rapidly: What am I doing here? Is this all there is to life? Is this what my future holds? Who have I become?

Read the rest here.

Photo used with permission by Blessed is She.

Update on Bury the dead: Y’all done brought it!

Update on Bury the dead: Y’all done brought it!

Earlier today, I asked for your help, and y’all done BROUGHT it. I mean, for reals and for trues. I stand in awe of our awesome God and the amazing things we can accomplish as believers when we stand united in prayer and purpose. PRAISE HIS NAME!!

Here is an update on the situation, from Mary herself:


*** UPDATE AS OF 4:28 PM EST, WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 28, 2016***

You all are amazing! Just amazing. I have absolutely no words left. I am typing through tears. I had to pick Jerry up from the floor. You fabulously wonderful people have given $4,200 plus dollars in the last several hours. I walked away from the computer to go to the grocery store and post office and I come home to yet another Christmas miracle for the Lenaburg Family. We have more than enough to get back to Oklahoma for Jerry’s Dad’s funeral early next week and to pay for extended parking and other traveling expenses. There is more than enough to cover Jerry’s leave without pay as well. Whatever is left, we will apply to the debt that remains from Courtney’s time here on earth. I should have known that when Courtney is involved, she doesn’t mess around. My daughter is an incredible intercessor. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU from the bottom of our hearts for your love and most generous support. We are humbled beyond belief … God is GOOD, ALL THE TIME.


praise-hands-edwin-andrade

So thank you, thank you, thank you!!!! While these dollars and cents don’t erase the pain, they sure do ease some of the burden for this faithful family. I am so humbled and grateful for your response.

And, just for fun, here’s what I texted Mary when I heard that y’all helped them FAR surpass their goal:

Thank YOU Jesus!! Thank YOU!!! You are worthy! You are powerful! You are mighty! We thank You!! We praise You! We adore You! You are worthy! Of ALL the honor, glory, and praise!!

That’s how I felt, and that’s how I feel, and that’s the truth, and I’m stickin’ to it.

God bless y’all. REALLY.

heather

P.S. Anyone who has struggled with grief knows that it is an ongoing process of the heart, mind, and body. Ongoing prayers for the entire Lenaburg Clan are, of course, encouraged and appreciated. Amen and amen. <3

Photo by Edwin Andrade. Used with permission via Unsplash.com