+ J.M.J.A.T. +

Friday, June 24, 2011

Summer - Part II

Okay - so other than the cleaning and fun times - there are other wonderful things about summer vacation.  Although I am starting to miss the kids I am still reveling in the freedom from lessons, meetings, papers, grades and discipline.  I am also enjoying the great fun of connecting with lovely sisters who I haven't seen all year, who are my friends, who are visiting from far away, who are working with my on summer assignments... the list goes on and on...

This week only myself and another sister are home and a sister from far away came to stay with us and it has been lovely having her here.  Next week I have workshops for school in the morning and then I'm helping a sister friend with her job in the afternoons.  I'm sure it will be lovely and renewing.  It is just so nice to have a break from the school schedule of things.  Next week I have to wake up early each day and I'm dreading it because I have so loved this week of "later days"... meaning Mass at 8... another wonderful summer attribute.

I'm just so happy to be spending time with the sisters telling stories, laughing, playing around, working together and just enjoying one another.  Community is difficult sometimes but it is also such a great gift... Thank you Lord for my sisters... even the most difficult of them.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Summer and Cleaning

I've tried to write like ten times on the topic of summer - but it is just so wonderful I haven't been able to put it into words.  The feeling of my aching muscles after a day of manual labor, the late night chats with the sisters, the leisurely meals, quiet times of prayer, and laughter throughout the day... it's just great.  In these first three days without lesson plans, tests, copiers, paperwork, school books, papers, grades, and students I have enjoyed myself immensely.

All year I've been formulating plans for what I would do once this wonderful, free summertime came.  I have quite a few projects keeping me busy in the house... in fact, I've been cleaning since Monday.

The convent I'm living in now was "abandoned" so to speak for quite some time and there are a lot of places with hidden problems and tons of dust.  The other problem is that this convent was built for 20 plus sisters... currently it houses 5.  Of the five, only 2 are able to really keep up with the necessary work to keep the house in good working order.  You can imagine how much there is to do in an enormous convent like this for the youngest sister.  But I am happy to do it - and it is good for me to do something more physical than mental for a change of pace.  It is liberating to wipe all that dust away, move furniture, reassign towels and sheets to their rightful homes... it feels like a new beginning.  Plus - someone else cooks so I can work!

I feel so happy about how well this year has gone and yet there are things I've let go a little too long that I need to take care of in my personal life.  I must clean out that stuff too while I'm doing it for real in the house.  Tomorrow I'm going to take a very big step in cleaning out and sorting through some of my personal "stuff" on the inside and I ask your prayers for this meeting.  It will be difficult but I know good will come from it and that peace will follow whatever transpires.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

School - Graduation

Tonight some of my kids graduated from grade school.  I am heartbroken.  I mean - I am so happy for them but at the same time it is a loss for me.  Teaching is so much a part of my heart that each child I meet becomes my own.  I have the blessing of listening to and sharing in their desires, thoughts, mistakes, dreams, and everyday life.  I will miss each of them as a unique expression of God's love in my life.

As this week went on I spoke to many of the kids individually about how special they are and how many gifts they have to offer God with the gift of their lives - how much I needed them to do that for the future of the Church and our world.  I'm just so proud of them and I can see all the grace and all the gifts that God has just filled them with - with the intention of them becoming great saints.  I told two of them I thought they had vocations.

Tonight was a happy one, in spite of my heartache, and after Mass we were celebrating with pictures and hugs and congrats outside Church.  I could tell one of the dads wanted to talk to me as he came over and I was in the middle of teasing a few of my dear "little ones" (who are in reality quite big!).  I went over as soon as they "freed" me from our fun and I was surprised by "dad's" interaction with me.  I love this family but I don't really have any special relationship with them.  They have a lovely son and are just all around good people.  But tonight, Dad hugged me and thanked me and I could see in his eyes that there was something he wanted to say - but he didn't say it, whatever it was.  I probably won't know what it is that was obviously important to him.

You can never know what you do for others and how much it is just a gift from God.  I wish Dad could have told me what it was he was thankful for... but maybe in God's plan for me it's better I don't know.  What I do know is that my heart is really touched by the beauty of God's plan for my life this year with each person I've encountered.  I'm happy that I've been able to tell them how much I love them, about how they show me God, about how proud I am of them.  It's hard to tell anyone that they are important to you but I feel good knowing that they know how much I care about them.        

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Envy... Holy Envy... I don't know...

I envy families.  A lot!  I've talked briefly about my own family before here but not as the actual topic of a post.  Tonight it is.  It's hard for me to write about but I think it is important too.  I've felt in religious life quite often that I don't quite belong because of my family history.  Most of the sisters with whom I live and work view family in a very different way than I do.  I should say, they view their own family's differently than I do.  I think we have the same objective value of the family but our experiences are so different.  A lot of sisters I live with can't imagine not being devoted to their parents.  They can't imagine not thinking that their parents are saints in heaven... that they gave them their vocations.

Then, on the other hand, is me.  My family is broken.  I hate the way it sounds but it is the truth.  Throughout everything that has happened and everything I don't understand still - I never thought that it would all come together like it has now in my life.  God alone knew that that suffering I had to endure would prepare me to be the bearer of immense grace toward others.

I think the hardest thing about having such a dysfunctional family is the not-knowing.  As the child, no matter the age, you can never fully understand the effect of, the sequence of, and the cause of the events which forever change your world view and your understanding of life and then somehow you must pick up the pieces.  For someone as logical as I am - walking around with such doubts and insecurities is very difficult.  Every day I remember something new that didn't click when everything was "under the rug."  But now that my parents are divorced it sheds a new light on all the experiences I've had.  I wish I could understand all of them but I know that there is no way for me to do so... so I must live with the unknowing.

Anyway... now it serves me well.  The pain is still there and the discomfort is still raw... I imagine it will stay that way.  However... most of my students have this same experience and I offer it for them.  I share it with them.  My co-workers share this pain with me and they come to me with their experiences of family strife because I understand... and I think it is a sad gift now that I have been given.

There is certainly a reward in seeing the heart animate a face which has found understanding in another person's heart.  God is good in providing these loving moments of solidarity with one another to give the love that was lacking in other ways.  Blessings are always around.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Generosity and Gentlemen

I think it is really interesting being a young religious in a church that is aging in the United States.  I mean really... I'm the only person at Sunday Mass who doesn't have white hair at this point.  I know its different in other areas but where I am the truth is that I'm alone as a young person.  Which is why some socially Catholic things - if I might call them that- surprise me all the time!  Most often I'm surprised by manners and the generosity of others.

For example, last night I was at a function in the parish hall for a family.  Now my superior always worries when I'm out late because the neighborhood is kinda crazy - but I'm in my twenties - I'm kind of fearless.  I always say they should be worried about the other guy!  So as it hit quarter after 10, I started to say my goodbyes and go back to the convent.  Now, I know I shouldn't be surprised by this at all, but one of the dads walked me home.  I felt like I was some crippled old  nun, haha!  However, although it made me feel old which I hate, I liked that someone took the time to make sure that I got home safely.  It was a nice gesture.  I started thinking about my life before religious life and I don't think there were many men around who thought to care for the safety of a woman going home at night.  That's just one example though - when I'm taking the trash out the guys from AA run to the door to grab the bag for me before I step out, parishioners offer me rides when I'm out for a walk, people try to carry my bags for me, when I buy the soda and water the coaches come out from practice and bring it in the convent.

No, I'm not trying to highlight the perks of entering religious life (although it's a great life!) - I'm just surprised coming from our modern culture of equality between the sexes which has resulted in a loss of courteous behavior that some people still do these small acts of kindness.  I try all the time to instill in my boys in school those kinds of behaviors but it doesn't come naturally to them.  Even though their dads are a good example to them, they think it's old fashioned.  It is - but who is to say it's wrong - I say bring it back!  They are just getting the hang of it and they love to be complimented when they do the right thing.  Unfortunately, they now fight over holding the doors for me - but they'll stop beating each other up eventually... maybe when they are 30...40??.

Then there is the generosity of others.  I have had a tough week as far as generosity goes.  A priest I know gave me twenty dollars for helping him with something - I felt terrible and I tried to tell him I didn't need any money - but he made me take it.  So, I thought, I'll use this for the fundraiser the parish is having so it will go to charity.  When I got to the parish event - someone else paid for my ticket.  Then people paid for tickets to put my name in the raffle drawings.  So not only had I not given my charitable offering - I had actually gained in winnings.

What's a nun to do when she can't get rid of money??  I have a few other ideas but I'm hoping I don't get foiled... one of them is a nice treat for the kids.  We'll see if they deserve it after these last days of school, haha.  Either way - here I am - stuck between these two foreign cultures coexisting.  Sometimes, like today, they bang together.  I was at Walmart and I was standing in line watching the cashier watching me.  He was young and I saw him staring at me while he was ringing up the customer in front of me.  When he rang up my purchase he gave me my receipt and change and patted my hand and said, "God bless you, Sister."  Then he turned his light off for his break and offered to take my one bag to the car for me - on his break.  I talked him out of it but it was unbelievable.  Men never treated me so nicely when I was available and now that I'm not I'm continually surprised.  I think there is merit in religious life just for the culture and for society in general.  It isn't about me but somehow a religious inspires thoughtfulness and generosity and I think the visibility of religious is a leaven for a society which is becoming increasingly self-centered.

So there you have it, generosity and gentlemen in religious life.  I hope they are trends that continue!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Good Days

I've been really down the past few weeks.  I was nurturing some bad habits and some big time pride and it all caught up with me last weekend.  Basically, it was terrible.  I felt like a fool and God and I had a really big talk about how dumb I had been.  It wasn't like He was telling me with some big club held over my head - but I knew it in my heart with a very honest self-knowledge - the kind I rarely feel.  It's like I know how wonderfully made I am and how far I have fallen or cheapened God's gift to me.  I know His mercy is there right away - it certainly isn't a despairing moment - just one of truth.  There are no excuses, no questions... just an almost emotionless desire to end the habit or thought because of God.  I'm glad this time He didn't give me feelings of extreme joy, or desire for Him.  He instead gave me the grace in the moment to see truth and decide my response to it.

So here I am, tentatively and reflectively attempting to renew and rebuild!  It feels good to do some of this "spring cleaning" of my life and soul.  Since the soul stuff went so well - I decided to spring clean in the house and my classroom today too!  To me, cleaning is one of the most relaxing things I could possibly do.  I just love to clean.  When I say clean - I mean ceiling to floor scrub - not dusting and putting things away.  I'm talking serious cleaning.  It was great!

Now I'm in crunch time for the end of the year and I feel renewed to pack up my classroom and get ready for some busy summer adventures.  I'll keep updating!