Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015: The Year This Nerd Saw Blessings During Trials

The original title to this post was "2015: The Year This Nerd Survived!"... until I got to the end of the post and I realized how blessed I was during the year of crazy... because this year was craziness. Yes, the title seems a bit dramatic but I seriously couldn't think of any other way to describe my year. I survived... and I thrived (in a way)! lol.

Boy, it's been quite the year. Even though it seems like the bad has outweighed the good, I feel like it was quite the opposite. Don't believe me? Keep on reading. ;)

January: There were a few changes to this blog during the first month of the year. First, I decided to no longer use memes or .gifs that had copyrighted material. To my knowledge, I was one of the first Catholic blogs who started using these memes and .gifs before it caught on. I stand by my decision to use stock photos that are royalty free as well as .gifs of web series' and films that either allow the use of .gifs or are free domain. I also had two major breakthrough moments: I drove to the Cathedral despite the downtown area being panic attack inducing (without having panic attack) and I began the road to learning to love myself as I am. I believe these two helped me get through the rest of the year with as little anxiety as possible (seriously, I have minimal anxiety this year). Oh yeah, and I accepted to Christendom College for graduate school.

February: My big brother came to visit from Texas and it was the first time I'd seen him since my undergraduate graduation ceremony in 2012. Those who know me personally know how his departure to Dallas has been a hard transition since he assumed the role as "man of the house" after dad passed away but his return only helped us realized that we've been able to do very well on our own. Mama G and I are independent women. lol. I also answered some questions regarding the Will and Lina series (undoubtedly due to the release of the paperbacks) and made big steps to wean myself off of social media during Lent and had some success. I really enjoyed the simpler life without much technology and have just decided to make a new goal for me in 2016. I backslid quite a bit after Lent. Like, a lot. It's not as bad as previous years but still not where I'd like to be. lol. For those of you wondering how I am doing following my admission to having mild depression, I'm doing much better, thank you. :)

March: I started my favorite month of the year by reflecting on Spiritual Motherhood (my second most popular post of the year), which led to a deeper serenity regarding my vocation. I learned to actually like silence (which I struggled with before). I was accepted to both Franciscan University of Steubenville and John Paul the Great University, the latter being where I currently attend grad school. St. Therese helped get me through the dry spells during the Lenten season, Also, who would've predicted that the year that I finally felt a connection to the ever elusive St. Joseph (who taught me great lessons this year) would also be the year that he was voted my patron saint for the following year?

One of the biggest trials of the year came when I had to say "goodbye" to one of my best and oldest friends. That was, by far, one of the more difficult lessons I learned this year. Sometimes you have to let go of people or situations that do you more harm than good. They may be wonderful but if you find yourself being pulled away from God, you know it's time to walk away. I still pray for her and I wish her nothing but the best.

April: One of my best friends came to visit from Indiana towards the end of the month. We ended up celebrating my birthday a month early, which was fine by me. lol. We also ended up meeting a number of incredibly inspiring Catholic lady bloggers when we all went to watch Little Boy at a local cinema. I also shared some of the lecture notes from my CINO (Catholic in Name Only) alma mater. Yes, all that was really said.

My most popular blog post of the year (about 3x as many hits as the rest) was the one on romantic disappointments. I guess a lot of people were able to relate to it on some level. I think that's the most open I've ever been regarding my personal life, which y'all have probably noticed is a topic I rarely talk about on the blog. I'm happy to report that I'm in a good place in regards to my personal life. Yes, I'm still single but I'm very at peace with my current state of life because I know God is still preparing me for my future fella. In fact, I feel like everything bad that I endured this year all helped prepare me for the future by showing me that I am capable of handling really hard situations without being reduced to panic attacks. Admittedly, I went through a couple of toads earlier this year but it also helped me realize that my priorities when it comes to my vocation and my future fella are in the right place. :)

May: I said goodbye to my 20s and celebrated my 30th birthday. Yes, I know; I don't look or act 30. Sorry? lol. I went through a period where I felt a pressure to re-discern my vocation which was not an easy thing to endure. It caused a lot of confusion for a while. I know people meant well but, if anything, it helped reinforce my certainty regarding my vocation so I thank everyone for that!

June: This was the last calm month I had this year before things went crazy. I wrote about why I remain Catholic, why I decided to pray like a child, and I took issue with all the shade throwing I saw on social media. I also admitted to having a social media addiction and had made great progress... until the crazy that was the second half of the year began and threw those goals out the window.

July: Before the craziness began, I talked about why I had no problem living at home at my age. Then life went bananas. It started with a walk through a pretty intense spiritual desert. On the bright side, it helped me learn to entrust my loneliness to God and made the rest of the year easier in regards to those aches of loneliness single people feel. I was officially burnt out on social media at the end of the month but little did I know that intense attacks would bring me back to it. The silver lining to this was that I accepted the fact that self-care was not laziness or indulgence. At the end of the month I had an interesting reflection on vanity during my first ER trip that summer.

August: This month was slow for me because I had a couple of surgical procedures done during the month and had to rest for a couple of weeks. My faith and learning to trust in beginning of trials was something that I believe kept me going through the domino effect of "bad luck" that continued through this month. I admitted my past academic pride as I prepared myself for the start of grad school. I also answered and commented on the most frequently asked questions and remarks made when I meet someone offline. That was fun!

September: I started the month with nothing but gratitude. I gave Mama Mary a birthday shoutout for everything she's done for me since I felt (and still feel) like I survived the year thanks to her consistent intercessions. My third post popular post was my rant on why guys should cool it with the whole "friend zone" thing. For fun, I posted 10 facts you probably didn't (but now do) know about me. A weekend trip down memory lane helped me realize that I was on the right path in life. On the last day of the month, I began grad school on an intense note that pretty much set the tone for the rest of the quarter.

October: My first car accident as a driver was kind of crazy. Have I used that word enough yet? It unfortunately began a second domino effect in which I saw my health and my schoolwork affected. I'm actually still trying to get all of that in order to this day. I wrote about why I'm not ashamed to cry, especially after everything I endured. On the bright side: I saw my handsome little godson celebrate his first birthday. I love my little man so much. :)

November: The "bad luck" continued into November. Thankfully I'm not superstitious like I used to be. This was the month in which I began having doubts about grad school due to everything that happened. I shared why I left the Church as a teenager which was a story not many people knew about. Towards the end of the month I found myself without a spiritual director which I took very hard. I'm okay without one for now though I know I will need one in the future.

December:
This month began with a crazy week in which I saw my personal safety (where I live) threatened. This is still not resolved because our new building manager is not a nice person. That's the most charitable way I can put it and I'm going to leave it at that. I survived a crazy first quarter of graduate school. I ended up failing my final Theology exam because of everything that happened in the weeks leading up to it. Thankfully my professor was merciful and I passed the class well enough to be able to stay in the program though I will have to retake the course possibly next autumn. After two months of confusion, doubts, and tears, I received my moment of clarity (thanks to the Christmas novena) that helped me decide to return to grad school after taking the winter quarter off.

There you have it: my crazy, busy, hectic, trial-filled year. I could sit here and lament about all the bad that I went through but more good came of it than bad. I was able to make it to the end of the year with little anxiety and with my faith stronger than ever. I've felt an immense peace regarding my vocation (as a wife and mother) and my career (at least in the academic sense, for now) that I'd never felt before. I feel like I'm a strong, more confident person because of everything that I went through. Yes, the year was arguably my worst year of my life thus far but even in those trials I was able to see all the blessings and for that I'm so grateful.

I hope y'all had a better year than I did, lol. Let's put this year behind us and remember that with God, we're able to get through some of the worst times. Have hope, don't forget to pray, and don't forget to love when when you're grumpy. ;)

As always, thank you for reading and God bless! :D

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Mass Adventures

I'm currently sitting at the kitchen table with a terrible stomach ache so I can't really do much right now. No, the clean-a-thon cannot possibly be done when I'm feel like curling up in a little ball on my bed. Well, I might as well blog... I mean, I'll be able to do this sitting down and it'll help distract me while I down more chamomile tea (I've already had a cup and it's not working).

Sunday was quite the interesting day. I left home for Mass 45 minutes before Mass began and I arrived half an hour late. The parish is about 20 minutes (on a good day) away. So why did it take us so long to get there? Easy: use of public transportation.

Both mom and I use a transportation system that works very similar to public transportation (i.e. buses, trains, etc) with the only difference being that they take us to the exact address. It's like Uber but cheaper and you have to book the trip the day before. There's always the chance that it's a shared ride... which is what happened to us on Sunday. But this wasn't the 2-3 person share ride, as usual. Oh no. We had to pick up and drop off a couple of people along the day and just when we were 2 miles from our parish, the driver received a message that he had to go back and pick someone up. No, he couldn't drop us off first; he had to drive back a couple of miles before driving back and dropping us off. Seriously.

So how did it start? Well, there was an elderly lady who was picked up before us and was therefore already inside the van when we were picked up. She asked if we were going to church and we confirmed that we were. She talked about how her husband used to be a pastor and how she learned to swear in different languages as a P.E. teacher. lol. From there, we went to pick up another lady who was going to her own church as well. So all 4 of us women (plus the driver) began our way towards our respective churches.

The elderly lady was the first to be dropped off. She attends a nondenominational Christian church. She wished us a blessed New Year. As we made our way to the Baptist church to drop off the next lady, she talked about being a prayer warrior which was actually quite inspiring even if she talked about things that weren't accurate (no, not theologically). After we dropped her off, we headed towards our parish. However, the driver was told to drive back and pick someone else up. Her own ride had abandoned her and our driver would be her "rescue" ride.

This lady (also quite older) was... quite understandably upset. I wouldn't be happy if my driver had bailed on me either. The way she spoke to the driver -- and then to us -- surprised me. She, very accusingly, asked him if he knew he was late. He tried to explain that her trip was a last minute addition to his scheduled route but she wasn't hearing him out. Then she got into the van, turned around, and in a snitty tone asked "where YOU late, too?" I explained to her that we weren't. In fact, we were on our way to church when we had to turn back for her. I explained it maybe 2-3 times before she was somewhat civil towards the driver and us... though that passed when she saw that we were getting dropped off first and that we were going in the opposite direction than her church.

We finally made it to Mass... half an hour late. I stayed in the back (the unofficial crying room) because I didn't want to bother anyone who was already seated. While I was there, I couldn't help but watch the babies and toddlers. They were all so joyful and friendly with each other. During the hymns, the father of one of the babies sang loudly as he watched his daughter walk around and interact with other toddlers. At times little lady would look up at her father singing and simply smile before going back to what she was doing. It was quite lovely.

I learned three things from my trip to Mass that day.

First: I took the ride as a metaphor for how life is in general. You plan on going down the straight path towards God. Sometimes there are unexpected detours but you should always focus on the bigger prize: getting to the house of the Lord. Yes, I know that sounded cheesy but it's true. We planned on being at our parish the entire hour (and then some) but it didn't work out. (side note: I couldn't stay for the next Mass because our rides were scheduled ahead of time and if I miss one more of those I'll get my eligibility suspended, making it even harder to attend Mass while I wait for my car to be returned.)

Second: I could've gotten frustrated and annoyed -- like the last lady we picked up on the way -- but I didn't because I knew that it was beyond my control. Obstacles shouldn't deter one from our main goal. As I said, I totally understood where this lady came from (I'm not always patient) but I was also reminded not to make assumptions and to not snap at people when I'm in a bad mood. It's so easy to focus on yourself and how you're feeling when things are going your way.

Third: My desire for a family in the future -- and seeing the beautiful example the young man (who was around my age) was setting for his daughter by praying and singing the hymns -- just reinforced the certainty of my vocation of future wife and mama. The fact that it happened on the feast of the Holy Family made me smile. It also gave me an additional kick to get myself in a better, healthier state in the upcoming year. I definitely need to take better care of myself. Sometimes I don't because I put others before myself but I know I'm not of use to anyone if I'm not well. I learned that the hard way this year.

So there you have it: my Mass adventure(s). It was an adventure getting there and another adventure trying to not be distracted by the little ones even though I did learn a bit more about myself there (not mentioned but also learn: I have a lot of patience when it comes to babies).

Have any of you had any similar experiences?

Anyway, I must get back to my regularly scheduled work.

I hope y'all are having a great! :D

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :D

And the Patron Saint for 2016 is...

One week and 95 votes later, St. Joseph has been chosen to be this blog's patron saint for 2016. Hooray! It's kind of perfect that all 3 members of the Holy Family will my patron saints for upcoming year; St. Joseph for this blog and the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary for my offline life.

I must admit, I thought I was going to have two patron saints this year since St. Joseph and St. Padre Pio were tied for quite some time. Then St. Gemma Galgani and St. Lidwina of Schiedam suddenly caught up. It was all exciting (for me, at least) until the poll closed.

I'm not sure who had the deciding vote but I thank everyone who took some time out of their day to vote.

Because the poll was so close, I've decided to write blog posts on each of the saints that came in second place (St. Gemma Galgani, St. Lidwina of Schiedam, and St. Padre Pio) for their feast days. I'm sure I will learn valuable things from them this upcoming year. :D

Anyway, I'm going to blog again later today so I'm keeping this one short. :D

Thanks again for voting!

Monday, December 28, 2015

Why is Sensitivity Such a Bad Thing?

I was going to write about yesterday's Mass adventures (and I will, maybe tomorrow) but I read an article on Verily this morning about how sensitivity is seen as a hinderance and I'm sitting here wondering why. I mean, I know it's true -- people see that I'm sensitive and they automatically assume I'm weak -- but why is that?

I've always been sensitive, even when I was a child. Teachers would let my parents know in my report cards. "Melissa is friendly, and a bit too talkative at times, but she's prone to tears." When I see people in pain (whether it be emotional or physical), my first reaction is to tear up. That is then followed by a great desire to help them in any way that I possibly can. I don't see this as a bad thing. Well, no. I can see that there's one downside. I know I have to be careful because sometimes people will want to exploit that sensitivity for their own gain. The words "you're too nice, Jane (Bennet)" have been uttered by some of my closest friends more times than I can count.

My initial reaction to stress, anger, joy, and other (but not all) emotions is tears. Yes, this is why everyone has been banned from singing "Happy Birthday" to me on my birthday. lol. Tears are the way I release emotion so it doesn't bottle up. It's how my body takes care of itself. Some people burst out and yell or hit something when they're angry. Other people jump up and down when they're happy. I tear up... and, okay, I'll occasionally jump up and down when excited as well. lol. Crying doesn't mean that I'm weak; it just means I release emotion in a different manner than others.

I know some guys steer clear when they see that I'm sensitive because they think I'm going to be a weakling who will be pushed around by others. On the flip side, I've also known guys who think that because I'm sensitive, they can do whatever they want. They think that I'm going to bawl my eyes out over everything that's said or done to me. Those who've known me for years will attest to the fact that this is not true. When I cry, it'll last an average of 5 minutes at most... unless the situation is complicated and emotionally taxing. Those who've attempted to treat me like dirt know what a sharp tongue I can have (though I rarely use it). I hate seeing injustices. I don't tolerate being treated like I'm less than human and get more incensed when I see that it's being done to others. I'm stubborn and I will use that to stick up for those I love, even if it's a tough, uphill battle.

Being sensitive has made me very receptive to the emotions of others around me. I'm able to figure out how someone is feeling even if they try to hide it from everyone. I never push them to talk about whether is bothering them but I make myself available to them if needed. I've become the go-to person when friends want to vent, to cry, or to talk through their problems. I'm happy to be of service to those who need it. I may never amount to much or have any "great successes" but the fact that I've been able to help friends through some of their darkest hours is more than enough for me.

When I love (whether platonically or romantically), I love deeply. Even when I get hurt, I don't abandon the person. I may create distance between them and I if I see that friendship or relationship being unnecessarily toxic but I will still care about and pray for the other person. I will "go down this ship" as they say.

So, again, not seeing why being sensitive is a bad thing. Can someone clarify this for me? Just like this world needs people with the courage to fight and to put themselves out there for the good of mankind, it also needs us who are more attuned to emotions and are more in the background.

Anyway, just wanted to put in my two cents on this subject.

I think I'm going to go ahead and write tomorrow's blog post today and just schedule it because I still really want to share what happened yesterday. :D It may not be significant to others but it was to me. :)

I hope y'all are having a great start of week! Don't forget to vote in the patron saint poll! There's less than 48 hours to go!

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :D

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Grad School Decisions

No, your eyes do not deceive you... this is my third consecutive blog post and the 100th blog post for the year. Whoo! The last time I hit over 100 blog posts in a single year was 2013 and I'm two posts away from surpassing that number. We shall see if it can be done. ;)

First, I'm very happy to report that I was able to sleep decent hours last night after weeks of falling asleep at various times. I did take a 3 hour nap yesterday evening but it didn't affect my sleeping schedule at night. I got an additional 7 hours of sleep from 11:30 p.m. until 7:50 a.m. (with an hour and half up starting at about 3:30 a.m.). I'm used to getting up that early to drive mom to work and the habit hasn't gone away despite not having my car back yet. Still, this is normal hours for me and I'm stoked. I hope I can continue them over the next couple of days. :)

Second, I wanted to share with y'all my grad school decision since many of you have been helping by praying for clarity. After talking to some wonderful friends and doing the Christmas novena, I've decided to take the next quarter (winter) off and return in the spring. I was actually leaning towards not returning at all. My mind was almost entirely made up to abandon ship and start working. I just did not want to continue. It was going to be too much money for the degree. I had a really terrible 2 months. I loved my courses but my health had been affected.

On Christmas eve I had this profound moment of clarity, peace, and confidence regarding both my health and school situation (which were the two intentions of my Christmas novena). I had this moment in which the words "Do you trust Me? Keep going" popped up into my mind when I was chatting about my situation with a lovely friend, and I felt at peace.

I now understand what I can do differently in grad school in order to help prevent my health getting affected once again. I have a new gameplan that my doctor helped me create in order to get my health back into shape. I think I finally have my priorities in check (all credit goes to the Holy Spirit because I just couldn't see beyond what was in front of me for a long time) so, barring another series of unfortunate events, I should do well without compromising my health.

To my wingman (who was the first to suggest I take a quarter off before returning; he knows me a little too well, lol), my best gal friends, and other lovely friends helped me sort through this jumbled mess of thoughts over the last couple of days, either by listening to or praying for me, I wanted to say a massive "thank you!" I know I must've driven you guys crazy but you all played a huge part in helping me reach my decision; the moment of clarity was just an added bonus that gave me confidence that I was doing the right thing even when the right thing still makes me doubt at times. Maybe that's why St. Joseph is currently in the lead of the 2016 patron saint poll, eh? lol.

Anyway, I should go and get my surprise for mom ready since she gets home in a little over 2 hours and it's going to take me almost that long to get everything done. :D

I hope y'all are enjoying the second day of Christmas. Ain't no party like a Catholic party because a Catholic party goes on for several days on earth and doesn't stop in Heaven. Am I right? ;)

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :D

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas! 8th Blog Anniversary!

Baby Jesus! Blog anniversary! Joy and happiness! Oh my!

Merry Christmas everyone! I hope your day has been filled with lots of love and happiness, surrounded by your loved ones. If you're spending it solo (as I know a few friends are), I hope you get a chance to talk to some of your favorite people in any form of communication you are able to use. It's just mom and I so my phone has been busy today. :D

I could write something about the wonderful gift God has given us -- the reason why we celebrate the day -- but I'm (barely) functioning on 5 hours of sleep (all of which were slept yesterday; haven't slept at all today) and that means there's a very high chance it'll be uber sappy so I'll spare you of that. lol. I will say that I do hope that y'all attended Mass and/or were able to spend part of your day remembering the reason for the season. The Joyful Mysteries are technically not prayed today (Friday) but I would highly suggest doing at least the first and third Joyful Mysteries today. I'm totally copying some of y'all and throwing Jesus a proper party next year. Watch me. lol. ;)

Today also marks the 8th anniversary of this blog. Wait, 8 years?! Yes, that many. It's kind of crazy to think that I started this blog as a young 22 year-old who was still very new to the faith. I documented most of my 20s. That's amazing. To everyone who has shared in this journey with me -- whether you're a new reader or one of the first who've stuck around all 8 years -- I want to say a massive "thank you!"

I must admit that there have been times when I'm considered closing down the blog over the years but somehow someone always manages to unknowingly talk me out of it with their kind words. I think that's what keeps me writing -- messages from readers saying that blog post A inspired them or blog post B gave them hope that they weren't the only ones going through a particular situation. Though I don't find myself particularly inspiring -- I think I'm actually kind of dull, to be honest (lol) -- I'm glad that God has used me and this blog to help others in little ways.

Anyway, I won't keep y'all much longer. I just wanted to wish you all a beautiful day (or rest of day since this post is going up pretty late) and also thank you for everything. Here's to 8 more blogging years... if I have the guts to keep going that long. lol.

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :D



P.S. If you already haven't done so, please don't forget to vote for the patron saint of 2016!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Please Help Me Pick the Patron Saint for 2016!

It's that time of year again, dear readers. Yes, it's time to post the annual patron saint poll. For those you know who are new to this blog: the idea is to help me pick a patron saint for the blog in hopes that they can help me learn something new during the year. So far, whichever saint had won for each year has been incredibly relevant during that particular year.

There is a twist to the poll this year: the saints in the poll are all new and it's the first year I don't pick one of the many titles of neither Jesus nor Mary. The reason for the latter is because I decided to make the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary part of my new personal devotion for the next year. The patron saint will be separate from that.

Those on this year's list have never been picked before and all but two have never been options in the past couple of years. The reason I did this was because it's usually the same saints who win. Not that there's anything wrong with that. I just hope to learn something new from someone else.

This year the lists includes (patronages in parenthesis):

St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori (theologians and against scrupulosity)
St. Bernard of Menthen (hikers)
St. Frances of Rome (drivers and laywomen)
St. Francis de Sales (writers)
St. Gemma Galgani (students and against temptation)
St. Honorius of Amiens (bakers)
St. Joan of Arc (people ridiculed for their piety)
St. Joseph (against doubt, against hesitation, and travellers)
St. Lawrence of Rome (cooks and students)
St. Lidwina of Schiedam (against illness and prolonged suffering)
St. Michael Archangel (bakers and against temptation)
St. Nicholas of Myra (students, travellers, and unmarried women)
St. Padre Pio (stress relief)
St. Veronica (photographers)

Each saint is linked to a page with more info on them. The saints were picked either because they are patrons of things that are relevant in my life or because they were suggestions from friends and/or readers. I did asked for suggestions on Twitter and this blog's FB page so if your favorite saint didn't make the list because you said nothing, do not blame me for not adding them. lol.

The poll will be open until December 30th at 8 a.m. PST and will be revealed later that day. You can vote for more than one saint or even come back and change your votes if you so chose to, as long as it's done before the poll closes. It'll be posted on the right side, under this year's current patron saint (St. Brigid of Ireland).

Okay, that's it for now. I have some work to get to. ;)

I hope y'all are enjoying the last of work (for some of you) before Christmas break!

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :D

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Fears, Tears, and Discerning His Will

How you ever found yourself desperately wanting to do God's will but have absolutely no clue as to how to do that? If so, welcome your newest club member. Hello, my name is Emmy... and I have no idea what I'm going to do in 2016.

I find myself wanting to use the cliché "fork in the road" metaphor. I feel a peace about pursuing my plans of working with Catholic youth but I'm questioning whether I need a Master's degree for that. Those who I've talked to have opened up my eyes to a reality my idealism wasn't expecting. I've already talked a bit about that in the previous blog post. Deep down I know I don't want to teach, at least not in the traditional sense. Even though I'm an academic geek and I will never tire of learning, I'm also questioning whether I'm done with my own academic career.

For the record, I seem to have passed both of my grad school courses well enough to continue at JP Catholic. I thought I would be relieved when I found out that I would be able to continue -- elated, even -- but I wasn't. That caught me off guard. I found out when I came from the hospital yesterday (side note and long story short: I had an odd, almost allergic reaction to wheat bread I ate yesterday but we didn't know that the bread was cause until later that night when I had a snack and had a similar reaction. I'm going to cut wheat out of my diet until I see my doctor on Thursday.) Anyway, when I got home, I saw the grades and was briefly happy that I had passed... but I was also kind of disappointed that I no longer had an excuse to not continue. It doesn't make sense. I loved my classes and the professors were a dream come true for this Pope Benedict XVI fangirl and former CINO college grad. I loved every second of my courses, finding joy even in the most stressful times. However, as much as I loved them, I'm finding myself unsure of whether I want to return or not. No, that's not entirely true. I find myself not wanting to return but I don't know why.

Does anyone remember a blog post I wrote a couple of weeks ago about having peaceful doubts? Like I mentioned in the post, there was a "big risk" option that I didn't need the MA for but that would be prepare me for it. Lately, I've felt pulled more and more in that direction. One of the last things my former SD said to me in our last meeting has kept popping up in my head over the past couple of days. He said "you know what you want to do and you have the tools to do it. All you have to do is put it into action." This came after a conversation about how I need to conquer my problem with fear, which is easily the biggest thing that keeps me from moving forward.

As I wrote that last paragraph, I started getting a lump in my throat and an overwhelming desire to cry. Am I going to "live blog" this? Okay... I'm going to do this... right now I feel both relief and an intense fear at the same time. I also feel like I'm getting this "bingo, this is what you need to do" moment. And here are the tears. Okay, I will not break down while writing this... no, Emmy... no...

Did I just figure things out while writing this blog post? I don't know. I just know that I'm confused. I so desperately want to do God's will but I don't know if this is what I must do and it's fear that's stopping me or if I'm just overwhelmed with everything that's happened in the past couple of months and that's why I'm feeling this way. However, I will say that the seeds of what I'm going through now were planted long ago. Way before I graduated from my undergrad program. That big risk -- the one I'm not ready to share details of yet -- has always made the most sense to me, like it's what I'm meant to do, but I've never figured out how to go about it. I still don't, which is where the fear may be coming from. I'm currently feeling both peace and restlessness about this.

Every time the thought "this is what you have to do; don't be afraid of doing it" comes to mind, the lump in my throat gets bigger and there's more moisture in my eyes. I talk about trusting God but would I have the courage to leave comfort behind and trust Him with this? Do I have the courage to follow Him into the unknown, if this is truly what He wants from me? I guess there's only one way to find out.

Please pray for me as I discern what to do next. I don't want to make any big decision based on emotion which isn't easy for me since I feel deeply and I'm a bit sensitive. Y'all know that. I'm going to pray about it (it's been something that I've been taking to prayer daily for a while now) and see where I go from here. Man, I wish I wasn't so terrible at making big decisions. Holy Spirit, it's up to you to help me at this point.

Anyway, I'm just rambling on at this point. Sorry.

I hope everyone is having a great week thus far. I'll be posting my annual patron saint poll tomorrow... and there's a new twist to it this year.

As always, thanks for reading and God bless. :)

 

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Oh, Sweet, Sweet Blogosphere: I Survived!

Can you hear the "hallelujah" chorus being sung? Can you see the sun shining? There's a spring in my step and a song on my lips. Yes, ladies and gentlemen: I've officially survived my first quarter of grad school! Yay!!! I mean, okay... I'm a bit sleep deprived, I'm quite a few pounds lighter (which isn't good because that means I'm underweight again), and I'm still facing dismissal but I survived! lol.

As I wrote last time, I don't think I will be returning for a second quarter because of how poorly my quarter went. Again, it wasn't that I didn't try. I did. I gave it my all and then some. There were just too many obstacles that were thrown my way and I couldn't catch up. I won't repeat everything; it's all in the previous post. I'm not stressed out though. I did well considering everything I went through. I received solid grades on all my essays. I actually did better in Philosophy than in Theology which I was not expecting. Philosophy is my weak spot as far as the world of Theology/Philosophy goes. I loved every second of my classes; it's just unfortunate that I had so much going on at the same time. Predictably, as soon as I was finished with the quarter, things slowed down. So the crazy began the day of orientation (the day before the quarter started) and it slowed down as soon as the last final was completed. You draw your conclusions there...

Actually, all of this has got me thinking about whether or not grad school is for me. Again, LOVED it. I learned so much. Dr. Barber and Dr. Kincaid are great professors. It's not a reflection on the school or the professors. I'm still an academic nerd at heart but I've been thinking (for a couple of weeks now) that maybe this is not the path for me. Yes, I still think that I'm on the right path as far as vocation (small v; aka career/job) goes but maybe I'm just not meant to continue grad school for this particular subject. That is something I'm going to be discerning over the next couple of weeks.

I'm not quitting because it was hard and I went through a lot. If that was the case, I wouldn't have turned in my finals. I would've dropped out when I had a chance to get the W. I could've said "why am I doing this when I'm not going to pass one class and face dismissal?" Actually, the thought did pop into my head this past week. "Why am I finishing my Philosophy paper when I'm obviously not going to pass (reminder: that means B- or better) Theology?" But, no. I finished what I started. What did it for me was the cold, hard facts that my friends who've taken a similar path presented to me.

If you guys haven't noticed by now: I'm an idealist. I dream big. I'm optimistic. That's not bad, per se... it can just cloud my decisions at times. I had this vision that wasn't exactly shattered but was brought down to reality. I won't go into detail but let's just say that, yes, I did have my head in the clouds and had to be talked sense into. In the end, while I'm still optimistic about the future, I feel as if I have a clearer vision of what I feel called to do.

I still feel as if I want to work with teenagers but maybe teaching in a traditional sense is not for me. I still want to write and opportunities have presented themselves in which I can actually do that. Yes, writing is an unpredictable and unstable profession. Hi, I did freelance work for 2 years! Still, I'm finding better opportunities to do that and in a more financially stable manner. As for the work with teenagers, I can do that with my BA. I can do so much with what I already have.

Maybe I needed to go through a hard semester of grad school to realize that I'm ready. Maybe grad school was an unintentional excuse because I was afraid (oh, fear... my arch nemesis) of going after what I feel called to do. I honestly felt as if I needed to do my Theology MA because I wasn't knowledgeable enough in the faith to dive into work. Now I feel as if I'm ready. Maybe I went through a hard 10 weeks so that I could see that I was committed to this path (which I am!) but that perhaps grad school isn't a part of His plans for me. That's okay.

As I said, I'm going to be discerning that between now and the time the next quarter starts (in the off-chance that I get to stay). A lot of time will be spent in prayer and in front of the tabernacle when I'm able. I'm not making any decisions unless I take them to prayer because He knows I know His help when it comes to these big decisions. In the meantime I've started applying to jobs. There is one in particular that would be great for me -- it involves writing, I can do it from home, and it's for an orthodox Catholic company. We shall see what the future holds. :)

Anyway, those are my thoughts for now. I have more but I'm going to wait until my end of year review post to share them. Oh, you can wait another 10 days or so. ;)

Oh! If you're wondering what my plans are while I discern: a lot of rest. I need to kick start my plans to get healthy so a lot of rest (read: stable sleeping schedule), eating well, and relaxing is what Dr. Emmy* orders for herself. I got a month of Netflix so I'm going to enjoy that when I'm not working on my third novel. No, it's not work for me; writing is fun for me! :D

I hope y'all have a wonderful weekend!

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :D

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Hello from the Land of Failure

"Hello from the Land of Failure." Well, I almost named it "Hello from the Other Side... of a Failed Exam" but didn't. Oh, Emmy... haha. I'm sure I can come up with a parody song to "Down Under" by Men at Work or "Hello" by Adele. I'm a massive goober like that. lol. Yes, I'm genuinely laughing. Yes, there's a good chance that I've lost my mind. And, yes, I did just fail my Theology final exam.

I'm not happy that I've failed a course that I loved nor I have to leave such a wonderful program. Seriously, I wouldn't trade my 10 weeks (that's how long their quarters are) at JP Catholic for anything in the world. Dr. Barber and Dr. Kincaid taught me more about theology and philosophy in 10 weeks than I've learned in nearly 10 years since my reversion. If you're thinking about studying for an MA in Biblical Theology, I highly recommend their program!

I think the reason why I'm not kicking myself or why I'm not lamenting the lost opportunity is because I've reminded myself that everything happens for a reason. I know some of you absolutely loathe that phrase but I'm a firm believer in it. I may not know the reason why things happened the way they did but I believe that God will help me see where I need to go from here.

It's not like I failed because I played played video games instead of studying. Granted, I probably did waste some time (10 minutes or so) working on puzzles every once in a while but I think I spent more time studying these past couple of weeks than I have in years. Do I need to remind you guys of how I spent weeks leading up to the start of the quarter in and out of the hospital, recovering from minor surgeries? How my platelets plummeted and how my anemia returned once I started the quarter? How my stomach felt like it was going to explode from 3 a.m. the morning of orientation until about 3 p.m. after Joe and I had gotten back to L.A. from Escondido? How I had that terrible car accident two weeks into the quarter that put me behind on my coursework for the rest of the quarter? How my spiritual director quit on me (general consensus amongst friends and family is confusion over that whole situation) only two weeks ago? How I've had major problems with our new building manager the past two weeks and how my own personal safety is now at risk? Wait, I don't think I've shared that last one on the blog yet... Not to mention that every single time I tried to study over the past couple of weeks, something would derail me. Those following me on Twitter know exactly what I mean. Not my choice to waste my time, y'all.

All the "bad luck" I've had lately has been like a series of spiritual attacks, haven't they? I've had enough people say it to make me believe that all these events were just a way to derail me from the Biblical Theology MA path. It certainly seems that way, at least. Things that were out of my control popped up all the time, especially over the past two months (time from car accident forward).

I'm not quitting grad school. At least, it won't be my decision to leave JP Catholic. The school has a C- policy -- if you get anything under a C (C- and under) and you're automatically dismissed from the program. I was informed of that prior to final exams because I asked if I could just repeat the one course I won't pass. I knew I wouldn't have the time to catch up with all the work and knew that the probability of my not passing was high. I put in full-time work hours (and then some) per week. I think I put in a couple of 18 hour days whenever a paper was due just so I could meet the deadline. I lost weight (I'm down to 112 lbs -- my smallest since I was a teenager and quite underweight for my 5'7" height) and I lost sleep trying to catch up. I gave it the old "college try," Oh, what a great idiom for this, lol. I'm proud of myself for fighting against time. The time crunch was real, y'all. I lost maybe 4 or 5 total weeks due to everything that happened post-accident. I studied until my head ached. Sometimes I would fall asleep with my laptop onto of me during the day because I would work until almost 4 a.m.

I fought temptation. I had so many opportunities to cheat on the quizzes and the final exam but I didn't. We took our exams online. Do you know how easy it is to cheat on exams online? Sure, they have software that lets them know if we open up a new tab on our browser during the exam but they can't know whether we used handwritten notes or not, even after they said no open notes. I could've had the chance to take a quick peek to jog my memory. It would've been so easy. The thought popped up in my mind at least once with each quiz and the final exam. The temptation was there... it was hard... but the Holy Spirit helped me resist. They (JP Catholic administration and professors) had full faith in us to do the right thing and I wanted to honor that. I didn't want to insult my professors, myself, or God (and, obviously, not in that order) by cheating. My memory didn't want to cooperate with me. It happens.

Unless the administration decides to give me another chance at JP Catholic -- fully knowing my situation; I've kept them in the loop since an hour or two after I was released from the hospital after my accident -- I'm officially done with grad school. What does this mean for me? Well, we'll see. There are Plans B, C, and D but first there are a couple of things I need/want to do.

First, my immediate goal is to get myself healthy again. I need to regain that weight I lost (I was up to about 122 a few months ago), eat more iron-rich foods to raise my red blood count (and thus kick anemia in the tush), and do whatever else needs to be done to get myself healthy again. Without health, I'm going to be useless in the workforce, especially if that works will have me away from the house.

Second immediate goal: look for and apply to jobs that I can do from home. My car is still getting fixed (thankfully Alli raised a good amount of $ to get my car fixed on GoFundMe; yes, donations are still being accepted since we still have to pay about $500 out of pocket at this point) so transportation isn't easy. Why do you think I've lost so much weight? I haven't had the chance to grocery shop with my limited diet and my limited time; I have to drive twice as far just to get foods I can eat and that isn't easy without a car. One of my best friends has already found a job listing for something that suits me to a T but since it's not guaranteed, I'm going to be putting out feelers. Yes, I'm still applying for the job (which I can do from home) and hope that I get it because, really, it's exactly what I would've wanted even if I had finished the MA program. Thankfully it's something that I don't need the MA for, too.

Third goal: finish my third novel and figure out the fourth. Oh, I have plenty of ideas bouncing around my head for at least two more novels. I'm not going to sit around and do nothing while I wait to find a job or while I try to regain my health. I'm also going to try to shop them around to literary agencies and publishing houses instead of taking the self-publishing route. I love to write. One of my best friends says it's one of the strengths (though I don't see it, lol) so why not try to do something with it once again? At least I know that going the "content mill" route is not for me.

There you have it... my thoughts at half past midnight on the day of my last final. Oh, don't worry about this one. It's a Philosophy paper on William of Ockham, Descartes, and Spinoza. Writing essays is my academic forte. I just need to edit it and go into the book for citations before I turn it in. At least I'll pass one course (the hardest of the two, ironically) this quarter. :)

Thank you to everyone who prayed for me during the quarter. I know some of you prayed really hard for me. Please don't think that prayer didn't help because it did. I've been so peaceful (even in the really stressful moments) that my own mother says she doesn't recognize me. lol. Seriously, no panic attacks or anything. Maybe it didn't help in terms of passing the exam but it certainly helped me not lose my marbles or commit a serious sin in the process. We'll just have to pray and see what God has in store for me next. :D

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :D

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Emmy: One, Week From Heck: Zero.

I'm okay. I'm alive. I'm (relatively) healthy. I'm still way behind on coursework, especially with everything that's happened lately... but I think I can finish everything (final paper, quizzes, and final exam) on time. I'm sure going to try. I've briefly cried from the stress but that's natural. I've vented to friends. I've prayed. I've come to the conclusion that I'll be okay. Hey, I'm not smiling for no good reason. I don't like showing false emotions that cover my true feelings. Actually, I'm fairly sure I'm incapable of doing it; people have told me that you can figure out what I'm feeling (or thinking, if you really know me) by simply looking at me.

I know some of you were worried about me after reading my blog post from last Tuesday. The feelings lingered through the next day or so but I stopped crying that night. (side note: huge shout out to the friends who either made me laugh or who let me vent it all out that evening.) I'm able to look back at the whole situation this way: I learned a lot from that meeting and for that I'm grateful. Yes, it hurt but good things came out of it. I got my prayer life back on track though it's not where it should be overall. I've been able to put God before everything else, though I'll admit that I still occasionally slip and get caught up in deadlines or lethargic feelings for a little while. Once I realize what I'm doing, I automatically shift my focus back on God. Also, bonus: I've had a couple of people benefit from my experience and it's led them to reevaluate their own prayer lives so it hasn't been all bad. :)

I also came to the conclusion that this was for the best. My former SD is a great priest (who maybe had an off day that day) but, as I was gently reminded by my mother and one of my best friends, I haven't gotten much out of my meetings with him for a while now. My prayer life needs to change. My spiritual growth has outgrown my daily prayer routine. As horrible as it sounds, I've gotten bored with the same routine and thus get caught up in just going through the motions. Maybe I would benefit from another priest's guidance.

I went through a period of confusion regarding everything but I think I've finally gotten clarity... or as much clarity as I can get while going through a rough time.

Despite confusion about whether I should continue with grad school or leave, I've felt peace about staying so I'm going to tough it out. Like I've repeatedly said, I do love my courses and my professors are great... I just got a bit overwhelmed falling behind on everything post-accident. I had to ask for an extension on my first Philosophy paper. I finished my Theology paper 4 hours after it was due because I decided that I would rather turn in the best paper I could instead of turning in something mediocre because I wanted to meet the deadline. I could've done that. I could've finished an hour before it was due... but it wouldn't have been my best work. I didn't even stress out when I couldn't upload my paper at 3 a.m. when I finished the paper and the school's website was down. That is unusual for me. Academic pride won't be a problem anytime soon. lol.

As for the career confusion: I was given many options lately but none that have felt right. Okay, let's put feelings aside: none of which I've discerned to be the right one for me. I've decided to postpone taking on a new job for now. I can afford that luxury -- to focus solely on school for the foreseeable future. If it gets to the point where I need an additional source of income (right now, novel royalties are helping), I'll cross that bridge when I get to it. For now: school is my focus. Whether I'll teach or work elsewhere will remain to be seen. All I can do is prepare myself for the future.

Regarding the topic I rarely write about on the blog or, really, talk about in general: I'm in a good place mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. There's not much I can do but pray for my future fella. I'm enjoying my time as a single lady (mostly because my parents raised a fiercely independent young woman). I've also learned to let go of any fears I might've had regarding my vocation. If anything, everything that I've gone through this year has shown me that I'm not only confident about my vocation but that I'm also ready for whatever God has in store for me. And that's all you'll get from me for a while so enjoy it. lol.

Yes, life has been tough. In the past week I:
- have lost my spiritual director.
- was billed for something my lawyer insisted I get done when my case was open and now refuses to pay for it.
- turned in an assignment late.
- have had my parking spot taken from me by the new building manager despite having it for years and being the oldest tenants.
- was relocated to the alley behind our building, not far from where a neighbor almost got raped a few months ago.
- was told by the manager's assistant that if something happened to me at 4 a.m. when I take my mom to work it wouldn't be "her problem." (The manager has since apologized for the remark).
- have been told by the latest mechanic that he wouldn't fix my car.
- was threatened with having my car towed out of my parking space even though I've been paying for it (included in my rent) if I don't move it out by tomorrow at 5 p.m.
- haven't had a chance to study or even read because I get pulled away to do other things by multiple people (this blog post actually took hours to write due to the same issue) throughout the day. Seriously, I haven't even eaten more than two slices of bread and three tortillas all day and it's now 5:32 p.m.
- and much more that I'm not even publicly sharing.

As I said, I've cried (to release the emotions instead of bottling them up) but that rarely lasts longer than a couple of minutes. I, thankfully, bounce back pretty quickly. I'm okay. I'm still smiling. I'm surprisingly optimistic about everything. My faith is growing stronger as is my trust in God. I keep repeating Psalm 46:1 and Philippians 4:13 (RSVCE) as well as offering everything up for the souls in purgatory. I'm good. Really. I promise. If you have a prayer to spare and want to send it my way, I won't say no. ;)

Anyway, I just wanted to update y'all because I know some of y'all were/are and I haven't really blogged since. I've been so busy dealing with all these crumbs that I haven't had the time. Sorry.

I hope y'all are having a better week than I am (haha!). I will try to write again when I get the bulk of what I have due finished. Commence operation "Little Emmy That Could." ;)

As always, thanks for reading and God bless!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Happy Liturgical New Year!

Taking a really quick break from my Theology paper (writing on Tradition and the Magisterium, whoo!) to wish y'all a Happy Liturgical New Year. Advent and Christmastime is my absolute favorite time of year. Everything seems to get a lot quieter, the start of the new liturgical year and the upcoming celebration of Christ's birth brings so much hope and joy, and the importance of family is highlighted more during this time than any other (during the calendar year). It seems like it's the perfect time to renew your faith if you've been wavering in recent weeks and/or months.

If you don't have any Advent traditions (Advent wreath and/or candles, Jesse Tree, etc.), that's okay. May I suggest taking a couple of minutes to contemplate the meaning of the season on a daily basis? If you're a massive Catholic nerd like I am, maybe making new year resolutions can help as well. This year I'm hoping to attend daily Mass more often as well as giving my prayer life a much-needed makeover (which I've already started). Finding one or two things you can work on should be a good start. Don't do too much at once. Baby steps, my dears.

Anyway, I have about 6 hours left to finish my paper and, while I hope to finish it in 2-3 hours or less, I don't want to rush so I should get back to that.

I hope you all have a wonderfully fruitful Advent season.

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :D

 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Heartbreak and Responsibility

Today I had my heart broken. No, no guy did this to me. Seriously, guys, no need to threaten anyone because the person who broke my heart was myself. Allow me to explain...

I was very strongly (and justly) reprimanded earlier for not placing God first in my life. Recent weeks certainly felt that way. Before this weekend, I could feel myself unintentionally pulling further and further away. My priorities got messed up. School became my priority... over most things, including food and sleep. I got tunnel vision. I had deadlines. I needed to meet those deadlines. Old habits die hard. My prayer life suffered. I placed more of an importance on finishing lecture videos than taking time out of my day to pray. I still prayed... but not as well or as I often as I had in the past. I made many terrible decisions that caused me to miss Mass. That was all on me. I take full responsibility for my decisions. Were they wrong? Absolutely. Did they make me feel terrible? Of course! Have I learned from them? You bet! In recent days I've been making more of an effort to reprioritize things in my life. Sometimes I fail but I've been praying more and putting that ahead of schoolwork... even with the time crunch.

I had a spiritual direction meeting today. Guess where I was rightly and justly reprimanded. I went with every intention of asking for help. I knew I needed it. Every time I've gotten so busy, my prayer life suffers. I was candid. I didn't hold anything back because I knew that I had to own up to my failures during the past month (plus nearly two weeks) since my last meeting. I was prepared to get strong words said my way. I deserved them I needed them. What I wasn't counting on was being left without a spiritual director.

I don't blame him. I failed. I made my own choices. They were wrong. I understand it. I accepted it. I needed help getting back on the right path. Because I'm very sensitive, I started crying when he informed me it would be my last meeting. I broke my own heart. I failed God. I failed my spiritual director. I failed myself.

I talked to those closest to me after my meeting because I couldn't stop crying. I'm still crying as I type this out. There's a lot I'm leaving out out of respect for someone else. I don't blame them. They were just trying to make me realize that I needed to re-prioritize things in my life. I'd been doing that lately but I guess it was too little too late.

Today I felt like a fraud... like a failure... like I don't deserve anything good. Has that not come across in that post? I know some of you will tell me I'm too hard on myself but that's how I've felt for the past couple of hours. How can I sit here and talk about God and how much I love Him when I can't even keep my prayer life in order; if I don't try harder to attend Mass? I can't keep using physical pain as an excuse to not attend. How can I keep blogging if I can't keep myself in line? What kind of person am I if my spiritual director quit on me? One of my best friends said this has "spiritual attack" written all over it. Either way, this was a huge wake up call to me and it certainly kicked whatever else I needed to re-prioritize everything in my life.

Gratitude? Yeah, I have that. Despite the tears, despite how horrible I feel about myself, despite how disappointed I am in myself, despite finding myself without a spiritual director when I most need one (and I definitely feel like I do need one at this point), I'm grateful for this metaphorical kick in the tush. Good will come of it... even if it'll take some time for the sting to fade.

I'm sorry if I've disappointed anyone else. I'm not perfect. I've never claimed to be. I'm completely flawed. The good intentions are there but I fall short. Again, I've been trying (even more so in these past couple of days)... but it is what it is.

Pray for me, everyone. I'm going to need them as I try to figure out where to go from here.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

A Confirmation Story: Why I Left the Church Shortly After

It's my confirmation anniversary and the feast day of St. Cecilia, my confirmation saint. (side note: yes, I know it's the feast of Christ the King, too. Trust me, I know.) While today doesn't bring the best memories, I did promise that I would tell y'all the full story of how my confirmation basically led to me unofficially leaving the Church so... here we go.

17 years ago, I reluctantly walked to the Iglesia Santa Cecilia in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico with my parents and my godmother (we call them godparents, not sponsors, in Mexico). I was a 13 year-old who was not happy that she was being forced to be confirmed against her wishes. Yes, I said forced. It didn't matter that I had my hair done or that I had a pretty new blue dress on. I'm pretty sure I was in a bad mood during the ceremony, too. I'm getting a little ahead of myself...

The weeks leading up to it were miserable for me. "No," I told my parents. "I don't want to be confirmed in Tijuana. No, I'm not going to study." If I ever acted out in teenage rebellion, it was over this situation. See, my mother's godmother had a brother who was a priest down in Tijuana. Her godmother pulled strings to get me confirmed at 13 so I wouldn't go through the two years of classes here in the States. "But I want to go to the classes! I want to get confirmed with my friends." No, my parents said. They didn't want to have to take me to classes for two more years. It was a pain to have to do it for my first communion. Besides, I would be "too old" and should be confirmed young, they argued. No matter how much I fought against it, I ultimately had no say in it. I was going to get confirmed whether I wanted to or not... and I really, really didn't want to.

It wasn't that I didn't want to go through Confirmation. I did. I was that little girl who dreamed of being a nun when she grew up. I think I've always loved Mass. I used to sit in the front pew, mesmerized by the priest, the prayers, the readings, everything. I envisioned myself in a brown habit once I was old enough to become a nun. I proudly announced that I wanted to be a nun when I grew up. St. Francis of Assisi and the Holy Child of Atocha were my first favorite saints. I loved my catechism classes leading up to the First Communion. I loved looking like a mini bride on the big day. I didn't mind that we had to celebrate it in a large tent in the church parking lot because the 1994 Northridge Earthquake had badly damaged our parish. Even at 8 years old, I knew what a big deal it was to receive the Eucharist. I looked forward to more classes in preparation for my Confirmation but it was never meant to be.

Did I go to confession prior to being confirmed? No. Did I go to classes? Unless an hour meeting the night before counts (in which they asked me questions I had no answers to), the answer is "no." Did I get to pick out a confirmation saint? No, because they don't do that in Mexico. And so I was confirmed and I was not happy. I ended up unofficially leaving the Church shortly after for two reasons: 1) my uninformed, young mind was mad at my parents for pushing me and 2) my parents said that we were "done." We no longer needed to attend Mass or anything since I was done with the Sacraments until I got married.

I love my parents dearly. They were the best parents that I could've ever asked for. My dad took care of me when I was a baby (while mom worked) and then worked the graveyard shift to support us. To this day, mom says that dad was more of a mom to me than she was because I would be bathed, clothed, changed, fed, and asleep by the time she got home in the evening. My mom taught me to not be afraid of hard work and to always help others. Both ingrained in me the importance of a good education. I don't blame their reluctance to continue attending Mass because I know what led each of them to leave Church in their youth. Still, I'm a little sad that faith wasn't more important in my own life growing up.

I think we went to Mass maybe a handful of times between (my) ages of 13 and 21, mostly for weddings and never for Christmas or holy days of obligations. I didn't pray that often. I considered myself Catholic but I certainly didn't act it. I knew nothing beyond what little I learned in catechism classes when I was 7-8. I headed down a terrible path in my teen years. I've written enough about what made me return to the Church so I won't repeat everything. The "in a nutshell" version for new readers: I fell ill shortly after I turned 21, prayed to St. Jude and he interceded... which sparked the curiosity in me. Bam, back to the faith.

Sometimes I wonder what would've happened if I had gotten confirmed at 16 like I had wanted but I don't dwell on it. Instead, I think about what has happened since my reversion. Once I learned that I was confirmed at a church named after St. Cecilia, on her feast day, I adopted her as my confirmation saint. It makes sense, too, since I've always said that music was my first love and she's the patroness of musicians. It was almost like she chose me, in a way. Her story continues to inspire me to this day. I'm very humbled that God used me to get my parents to return to the Church, with my father's official return occurring the day before my 24th birthday (his birthday present to me) and my mother returning shortly afterward.

As I said, I don't blame my parents for those "lost years." It's not great to think about what led to our time away from the Church for years but I just have to remember that what's important is the fact that we're back home. In a way, I'm glad it happened because it made me appreciate the Sacraments that much more when I returned. It just stinks that I had to go through all of that first. And, of course, this has all made me want to teach my future children about the beauty of the Church and the importance of the Sacraments as they grow up.

And, there you have it. That's the story of how my confirmation led to my years away from the Church. Glad to be back home and grateful to have the opportunity to learn more about Catholicism as an adult. :)

I have a Theology paper due in exactly one week and I want to finish it early so I'm going to go ahead and work on it for a bit. Yes, I know it's Sunday and that it's a day of rest but I'd like to think that God would give me a pass considering how much time I've lost this quarter. Still trying to catch up, folks. ;) If not, sorry, God. I really do want to do well in my courses. And, hey, it's Theology. I'm "working" but it's all still focused on the Church and the faith. I get a pass, right? heehee.

I hope y'all continue having a great weekend!

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :D

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Peaceful Doubts

Oh, doubts. You were bound to pop up at some point...

Lately I've been experiencing this odd mixture of peace with doubts. I know, it doesn't make much sense. I guess the only way to explain it is to take one of the things I've been doubting and share it... and hope it'll make sense to someone.

I don't know if it's the time crunch (down to the final weeks of the quarter and still trying to catch up on coursework) or what but I've been wondering if I should continue grad school. I should say that I am loving my courses. Despite the time crunch and the little free time I get, I truly enjoy them. I haven't enjoyed myself in an academic setting since I did my junior and senior years of high school in less than a year. Seriously, I finished both in two semesters... and I loved it. At no point this quarter have I said "ugh, I don't want to do this anymore. It feels forced." I had those thoughts ("ugh, I want this to be over") when I did speech-language pathology last year but not with theology. I still love the material, even if the books aren't the easiest, and it's something that I will continue doing (learning about theology) once I'm done... but I'm wondering if I should continue in the program.

With everything that's happened recently, I've had to really sit down and look at where I'm going and what I want. I haven't mentioned anything to anyone but I've had a couple of different career/job paths open up for me. One would have me working within the L.A. Archdiocese. It's something I already have the skills for and don't need to further my education for. Another would not be related to theology (at all) and would not need a Master's degree in either. The third option is also something that I don't technically need a Master's degree for but one that the program I'm currently in would help better prepare me for. The only downside to this last option is that it's quite possibly the biggest risk, career and education-wise, that I could take. I'm the first to admit that I'm not a big risk-taker but I know that sometimes the risk is worth the reward.

Because I feel at peace when I think about the program, I'm trying to dismiss the doubts as things that are trying to derail me again. Sure, grad school is a lot (and I do mean a lot) of hard work but I don't mind the hard work. I actually enjoy it! Yes, I'm going to be rushed for the next three weeks, trying to meet all deadlines. Yes, I'm going to work through Thanksgiving weekend... but there is a sort of excitement in it. Still, a part of me is wondering if I'll have these opportunities later on. 

If I had my car fixed, I would go to the nearest Perpetual Adoration chapel or church (to kneel in front of the tabernacle if I couldn't get to the Adoration chapel) and spend some time in silent prayer. There's too much noise and too many distractions where I live to have some time in silence. I don't see my spiritual director until next week so I guess I can wait for that... but it's still something that's going to bug me for a while.

There's something else, too, but that's going to be for my spiritual director to help me figure out. Let's just say it's vocation related and that I feel a lovely peace in my heart but it's a bit complicated. Peace... with doubts.

Maybe all of this is why I've had a strong urge to go to church as much as possible. If I had my car, I would be attending daily Mass and/or driving to the local parish and parking myself in front of the tabernacle. I haven't attended Mass or gone to confession in two weeks and it doesn't sit well with me. I don't feel comfortable and won't until I do both (confession and Mass). The last time I felt an urge this overwhelming was when there was a big change in my life. I guess we shall see what happens next.

I'm just rambling at this point but I wanted to get it out so I wouldn't go crazy trying to analyze it tonight instead of sleeping. I'm going to go pray the Rosary and do my nighttime prayers before midnight. :)

I hope y'all are having a great week thus far!

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :D

Sunday, November 15, 2015

"Bad Luck" Friday

I'm not superstitious about Friday the 13th. Yes, this past Friday was a weird (even terrifying) day from start to finish but I'm not going to say that it's all connected to the day because many consider it unlucky. I'll tell you exactly why I don't believe that it was a "bad luck" day.

When I woke up at 4 a.m. (to help mom request an Uber ride to take her to work; she doesn't know how to use apps on cell phones), my entire body ached in an odd way. I tried to sleep it off with a nap but the achiness was still around when I woke up. I didn't know if it was a cold, the flu, or something else. My body was just not feeling great. Since I wasn't feeling well, I wrestled with the decision to go to the chiropractor. My lawyer's assistant stressed that I should not miss any appointments because it could harm my case. I decided to go. I had to request Uber since I was not feeling well enough to endure the bus ride to and from the chiropractor's office. I got to place, had my therapy, and left.

When I came home, I decided to call my car insurance company because I'd received a bill to pay for the month of December. The customer service rep I talked to asked if I was going to get a new car or repair my current car. Since I didn't know, it was decided that keeping my insurance (for now) would be best. I called my lawyer to inquire about the case since I hadn't heard from them in weeks. It was one month exactly (accident occurred on October 13) so I was curious.

I was unprepared to hear how cold the lawyer sounded when she spoke to me. There was no case. Police had determined that the guy who hit me was at fault (he ran the red light) but he had no actual car insurance. The insurance information he'd given was false; the insurance company confirmed that he had no insurance through them. It looks like my neighbor's information (that the guy had no car insurance or a license) was correct. We think the guy has disappeared since the accident. Driving without insurance (which is illegal) and with a potentially fake license? Few would own up to it. Interestingly enough, right after I got the news, my body stopped aching completely. It was like I'd experienced nothing for most of the morning.

So what does this news mean? Well, that I'm basically, financially hosed. Either I get my car repaired (a mechanic that knew my dad is supposed to come over to assess the costs to get my car fixed) or get a new (used) one. With the high cost of living in L.A., tuition and book fees for grad school, other medical payments that have to be made, a stalled GoFundMe fundraiser, and one steady paycheck coming in (mine depends on the amount of work and/or royalty payments that come in each month) we basically don't have enough to do either. We'll find a way to fix this... but it won't be anytime soon.

After talking to the lawyer (and my mom; I called her to tell her the news), I tried to focus on my Philosophy paper due that night (I received an extension due to the accident). I was close to finishing editing it when I heard about the Paris attacks. While it shocked me, it hit closer to home when a good friend texted me, reminding me that his parents are currently living in a Parisian suburb. Seigneur aie pitié de nous. (Hopefully that's correct; my French is rudimentary.) I spent the next couple of hours keeping track of what was unfolding in Paris. Memories of 9/11 came flooding back. I couldn't believe was what happening. (side note: if you're wondering: I did end up finishing and submitting my paper on time.)

I shed many tears that day. It was just an overall overwhelming day with so many events happening at once. However, at the end of the day I was grateful. On a personal level, I have to dig deep and save up for either car repairs or a new car... but I still have my life and my health. Sure, my kneecap that was hurt in the accident hurts when it's cold but that can be remedied by keeping it warm. The material (car) can be replaced, my life cannot. Also, I did the math and we may actually save a bit more for a couple of months without the car. Surely, that will help bring a bit more financial stability (even if it's short lived) that we need.

I worked my tush off and I turned in a paper that I was proud of. Even if the grade isn't the best (I'm sure there was a lot I left out but the 10 page limit didn't give me enough space to write), I'm proud of myself for still working on despite everything that happened that day. If anything, I feel prepared for whatever the outcome. Either I pass my classes and continue or I don't. Either way, I have plans A, B, and C ready for whatever happens. Can't keep this girl down. :)

What happened in Paris is an atrocity. There's no way around that. There were so many lives lost... but so many more were saved by heroic acts of both civilians (such as the security guard who prevented a suicide bomber from entering the Stade de France) and policemen and women who rescued the hostages that weren't killed at the Bataclan Theater as well as in other places. In the aftermath there was mourning and anger... but also a sense of unity and resilience. I know some of my friends have an issue with me for looking at the bright side, even in horrific events such as this, but I can't help it. I see what happened for what it was -- a senseless act of violence against innocent victims -- but I also see the good that came out of it: an outpour of love and camaraderie that no one can take away. On a personal level, it made me realize just how much I love my family and friends yet how I don't say it enough. I know that they know but I should verbalize it more often. Also, the importance of frequent confession was made more glaringly obvious.

I feel like I can't do much in regards to what happened in Paris, except to pray. To pray for the souls of the victims. To pray for their loved ones. To pray for not only Paris but for the world -- there were earthquakes (Japan and Mexico) and other acts of violence (Beirut and Baghdad) either on the same day or close to the date of Parisian attacks. To pray that nations come together and come up with strategies that will help keep people safe; to prevent this from happening again. To pray for those who will risk their lives to ensure our safety, not just American soldiers but all soldiers in the fight against terrorism. I will remember that God is greater than the evil that exists. It may be hard to understand that -- especially for those who were more directly affected by the events -- but knowing that gives some comfort.

I think I'll end the blog post here but before I do I want to say a couple of things. Let your loved ones know how much they mean to you. Be grateful for all the good that exists, not just in your life but in the world as a whole. Pray. Be charitable. Go to confession. Keep God at the center of your life. In all your actions, try to make decisions that will lead you to Heaven. Be good and do good. I'll be praying for you all.

As always, thanks for reading and God bless!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Goodbye, Comfort Zone

Lately I feel like I keep getting inspired (or pushed, if you wish you see it that way) to keep moving forward. This is how my inner monologue occasionally goes:

Me: Okay, God. I think I got it -- why I was being tested. I understand. I'm okay here. Wait... are you pushing me out of my comfort zone again? But I like my comfort zone. Can't I get a break? Please? Not even for a little bit? I shouldn't settle? Yes, I know You're right but... Huh? I need to keeping moving forward? Alright. No, I'm not complaining. I just really love my comfort zone. However, if you want me to keep going, I will. Your will, God... not mine. Yes, I trust in You even though I have no idea what's going to happen in the future.

While the above applies to different areas of my life, my biggest focus has been on my past academic comfort bubble. Coursework these past couple of weeks has been rough for me. I knew grad school was hard but I wasn't anticipating it to be this time consuming. Two books in particular were read ridiculously slow (way too slow for me) because of how complex and verbose they were. The general consensus amongst my fellow classmates (and even my professor) was that the books were not easy to grasp. It wasn't that I was a total dunce (though it occasionally feels that way listening some of my classmates; my goodness, they will do amazing things for the Church). I just had to take my time and try to get through it all as best as I could with a little help along the way.

I'm currently finishing up my first paper, a week after it was originally due. No, it's okay; I had an extension due to the time lost post-accident last month. I didn't want the extension, to be honest. I wanted to meet the original deadline. Remember when I wrote about having academic pride earlier this year? I was dangerously close to going there again but this paper helped me realize it early enough to stop it. I had to humble myself and rein in the pride that wanted to pop up again. Old habits die hard, you know? No, I was not going to have it easy like I'd had in previous years. I was going to have to work harder than I ever had just to finish that paper.

When I accepted this, I talked to the right person and was able to get an extension. Did I want it? No, but I knew I needed it. Sometimes things take time and hard work. This paper was a beautiful reminder of not only that but that it's always best to trust Him. As I got closer to the deadline (prior to receiving the extension) and saw that I was nowhere near being done I said: "If I don't finish this paper, Lord, and if it makes such a difference that it will put me in jeopardy of potentially having to leave the program (side note: paper worth a good chunk of my grade)... it will be because You have something else planned for me. I will accept it. I put my trust in You." Maybe He doesn't want me to give up yet because, despite the stress I put on myself to meet the deadlines, I've felt an overwhelming peace about being in this program. Hard work isn't fun but I do love it. I've never enjoyed myself in an academic setting as much as I have recently. I can't get enough of the works of St. Thomas Aquinas (for Philosophy) nor anything that's been assigned in my Theology course. Am I still behind (in general)? Of course... but I'm willing to work harder now that I'm learning to adjust to my new schedule (which includes thrice weekly sessions for my back and a whole lot of taking public transportation).

The quarter ends in less than a month. I have two more papers and a lot of hard work ahead of me. I might've lost a majority of the first half due to circumstances beyond my control (as well as horrendous lack of time management with a dash of procrastination) but that doesn't mean I can't catch up. I can... with God's help. I hope that by Thanksgiving Day weekend I will be all caught up. That is my hope but only God knows if I'll be able to meet that goal. If not, it won't be because I didn't try. For now it's all about trust and hard work.

There's another area in which I feel God is inspiring me to move forward but it may be too early to tell. For now trust, prayer, and resigning myself to His will is all I can do. Oh yeah, and I need to be patient. As independent and (occasionally) stubborn as I may be, I know that His plans are much greater than anything I could ever plan for myself and I can't wait to see what's in store for me next.

Your will, God... not my own.

Anyway, that's all I wanted to share with y'all for now. I have most of my paper done but I want to add a couple more things to make it flow a bit better so I'm going to go do that. :)

I hope y'all are well!

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :D