Amounts to Nothing

Dwarfed.

One of the things I struggle with is feeling the need to compare. It has often led me to the feeling of being dwarfed.

When I was younger, I had dreams of being a writer/journalist. I wrote tons of personal stories, I created a symbolic language in which to write a story when I was about 10, and I wrote nearly books and books of fan fiction. Then as I left high school, it all fell away. It ended up amounting to nothing.

I finished my Certificate in Culinary Arts. At the end interview, my chefs asked me where I was hoping to go next – into the work force (which they could potentially help with) or continue into the undergrad program. I told them I was going to go study theology. Their faces spoke volumes: she amounted to nothing.

I earned my theology degree and struggled through the growth of belief. After the degree I tried working in churches. I have only recently learned that I can’t work under supervisors (ordained or otherwise) who will not let go of their own power (especially when it’s a woman) nor seek the discernment of God in ministry, and now it looks as though my degree has amounted to nothing.

Though we had some good times…

While living in Ottawa, I tried to take a Masters theology program at the University of St. Paul. I was underwhelmed by the expectations of the program, having been more challenged in my undergrad. And then, my firstborn baby came 5 weeks earlier than expected. I asked if they would make an exception to my course load and allow me to complete some of it from home. They said no and never contacted me again. It amounted to nothing.

While still under the assumption church work would be what I finally went into, I took the Certificate in Youth Ministry Studies, thinking this would be a great resource for future ministry. I loved it and learned tons, but, ultimately, it has amounted to nothing.

Social media does little to help reduce the comparative game, as anyone can tell you, everyone’s an expert in theology (or whatever your specialty is). My time on social media tends to amount to nothing.

Antidote to Comparison

I am not ungrateful for where I am. Nor am I unhappy. But this struggle is real. The antidote is gratefulness. A journey of gratefulness is the ultimate cure for comparison. And a great book to help one get started on that journey is Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand GiftsShe is surprisingly Catholic in her writing, and it was a joy to read and to begin acting upon her premise.

I know I’m not the only person out there who has this very same struggle, but with a different history. I am happy because I choose happiness. Nothing in this world can gain me happiness. Occasionally I feel embittered, occasionally I feel at the bottom of the barrel.

But there is joy in my life that wasn’t calculated. Meeting my husband was unexpected and wonderful. Meeting such good friends in California for the short stint I was there was to some degree unexpected, and terribly mirthful. Making family into amazing friends while in Ottawa was a great surprise and delight. Ending up having three boisterous and lovable children is a joy of our marriage. “Meeting” a few precious people through social media has also been a delight. My worth is not dependent upon my feelings, nor what I perceive other people think of me.

Even if after all the endevours of my life amount to nothing, my life is still invaluable. Who I am is more than what I think of me, or even the choices I make. And this is due to the inherent dignity I have in being human, made in the image and likeness of God.  I do forget this and instead fallaciously remind myself negatively of how I hardly compare to others around me. It is disordered thinking, because not only do I have dignity from being Created, but I have also been Redeemed. And these indelible marks on my soul are more important than anything on earth can provide me.

Comparison and the Deadly Sins

The comparison game, though. It’s a difficult one to ignore. Comparison is the love-child of envy, pride, and greed. It’s never a place one chooses to go (in my experience), it’s more like getting lost while wandering in a strange city and wondering either ‘Do I stay here until help comes?’ or ‘which is the way I get myself out of here?’ The problem is the window-shops – they all look so pretty. They draw me in to stay awhile. But their cost is too high.

It all comes down to choice. I can choose happiness. It is similar in the way that love is a choice. Feelings, though insightful, are not good determinations for how to live out life. They should never be ignored because they point to something within us, but they do not need to be what determine our actions. I can choose how I act, no matter how I feel at the time. And this actually reveals my true humanity better than just reacting. But it is hard. It is the narrow path, as is evidenced by so many people I encounter.

By no means am I great at this, but it is at least grounded in me. I am not unaware of the breadth of my ability to choose. But, sometimes, the feelings can overtake me. I just need to get up off the ground and get back on the horse, bruises and all.

I might feel like I amount to nothing sometimes, but it’s a lot of ‘nothing’ that’s here, and I actually like it quite a bit. Maybe I’m still a mustard seed, waiting for the right time to be a tall bush. I don’t know. But it is enough. 

No Easy Task to Trust the Holy Spirit

Tonight, I’m drinking cherry whiskey mixed with coconut rum.

Yesterday, I thought that it wasn’t worth people knowing that I drank a beer before noon to actually do it.

Training Takeover

A couple weeks ago there was a Catechist training session (week long, 45 hours) for Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. The week prior the training start date, the whole thing got plopped on my lap to ensure its survival and execution.

If it wasn’t for the Holy Spirit having such a hand in this, there is no way it would have worked out. Consequently, though, my work load went from organising childcare for participants to doing that as well as organising facilities, making and serving the lunches, running the errands, and managing the registration and budget.

There was a little of Teresa of Ávila that came out that week, who once said, “Dear Lord, if this is how you treat your friends, it is no wonder you have so few!” as she nearly lost footing in a deep river on the way to visit one of her monasteries.

Trusting the Holy Spirit is no easy task. Especially when the budget portion is not solidified until the training week is finished. I’m not sure how many times in my life I’ve had moments where my attitude was, ‘Well, God, this is your doing, so you’d better figure this out,’ but this one has certainly taken the cake. It’s a weird combination of stress over the working-it-out and yet also a trust, knowing God’s hand in it meant that it was going to have success. I certainly wasn’t the cause of the success; I just managed to stay out of the way of the Spirit enough to allow the work to be done, while doing my own part.

I do feel like I witnessed miracles. Not Miracle on 34th Street or I was dying and God healed me fully type miracles. More the I never thought that would work out as smoothly as it did, God type miracles, the Wow, God, you totally changed that person’s heart about this financial need type miracle. Also, I can’t believe I caught my math error and discovered we’re not $1000 over-budget type miracles. Let me just say, I’m not a math person. I never will be.

Revenge of the Cats

Following this harrowing experience, we discovered our friends were in a very bad place, having to evict a tenant from their property who had eight bloody cats (unbeknown to them) and were desperately in need of help to clean up after this mess (oh! the smell! Ten showers won’t be enough!) so that they could acquire a property management company to take over the rentals. So Andy took a day off and we went and we scrubbed. And scrubbed. And threw things out. And washed all the darned cat hair out of the darned fridge (amongst other things). And scrubbed.

Self-portrait, a la ‘I should be watching Paw Patrol but I found the camera while my parents were cleaning’ style

Prompted by the Spirit, whose empathy and compassion know no bounds, our lives are shaped by the way we pour out ourselves for others. Not without boundaries. And not from an empty cup. Maybe we didn’t realise it, but our own cups were full enough to be able to overflow into others’ empty cups. Replenishing, giving drink, being balm. I wouldn’t have offered if God hadn’t nudged me. If I hadn’t responded, I wouldn’t have known how full my own cup was, and that, surprisingly, I could pour out for others. But, it’s no easy task.

This doesn’t mean I’ve got everything under control. Rather, there’s a wildness that runs through it all. I can’t contain the Spirit, who moves wherever she wills. To my untrained experience, it feels wild, out of control, even dangerous. But I do trust that God knows what he’s doing, even if it feels like I can’t always contain or direct it.

Neither does it mean that I am always so aware of the Spirit’s movements, or that I respond even half as well as I should. I am not a perfect vessel, and I have many cracks and breaks. I admit I’m surprised when I feel I can sense the Spirit’s movements clearly at all.

Pentecost is coming soon. An abundant outpouring of the Spirit. Fire, wild and playful, taking shape over us and inflaming us.

What wild ride is the Spirit calling you to be a part of?

When in Doubt…

When in doubt…cook some bacon.

Things usually go uphill for at least a little while.

Food is on the Mind

My non-Lenten-but-feeling-Lenten diet has been quite the battle. Most days it has been a sad experience. I still miss cheese the absolute most.

All things considered, I am mostly managing, often without complaint! It is difficult to come up with something to eat if I’ve left it last-minute. However, I’ve found a millet-based muffin (quickbread) that is something I can eat without any guilt. This is awesome. My first bread-like product! Unfortunately, I ate them all before I remembered I could snap a pic. Next time, my dear folks. I’m sure you’re riveting with anticipation. Sure. Of. It.

My new favourite (but perhaps not the most healthy) meal is bacon topped avocado with a roasted tomato.

I think I need to use ham instead of bacon most of the time. Just cause, you know, the animal fat is super high in this version. I’m not opposed taste-wise! Just calorie wise and combined with the avocado. But boy, is it ever delicious.

Conferencing and Travel

I attended our SK homeschool conference last weekend in Regina. We worked it into a family visit (inlaws), and I also went to three parishes to promote the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program, as we’re holding a training session for Catechists in April *squee!* [If you’re in the area and would like more information, you can check out the website for SK Atriums.]

I’m not terribly impressed with the SK HS conference; it has a very strong Evangelical push with a decidedly creationist view of history, which I find distasteful and wrong. There were two sessions I appreciated – one was on Autism and the other was regarding managing anger and working from logic rather than emotions during problems that happen at home. I was very happy with both of those presentations. I just wish there were more I would be impressed with at the conference. In my opinion, religious sessions should be kept to workshops rather than keynotes when the association is meant to be for everyone, regardless of faith or non-faith.

That being said, I’ll be going to the Western Canadian Catholic Homeschool Conference in Edmonton again this year. I didn’t think it would work initially because they have it on the weirdest days ever (a Thurs-Sat rather than Fri-Sun). I think it’s because they decided to host it right on the weekend of Palm Sunday, which perhaps might not have been the wisest choice. But it might have been the only choice for them too, I don’t really know. At any rate, it’s the one weekend of Lent that Andy doesn’t have anything major going on at the parish, so he’s free to stay and watch the kids without concern. I’m thrilled to go back and hopefully chat with the nice nun who runs the Paulist Press vendor table. I love her so much, and if my memory would serve me better, I’d have her name memorized. This year will be my year, though, I’m certain of it.

All this is to say that life is still continuing on. We’ve had a change in school expectations for the year, which I’m writing about I’ve written about at CatholicMom, so be sure to watch for that.

As you can tell, we’re full of the cra-to-the-zed life here. How’s your crazy going?

Friendship Friday: The Friendship Project and Spiritual Friendships

Courtesy of Ave Maria Press. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

I’m all kinds of excited here to share about a new book just released: The Friendship Project. In fact, if you were to go through my ‘corrected words’ history while I’ve been typing, you’d see that I’ve misspelled it to freidhsip, friendhsip, and freidhips because I’ve been typing too fast.

Continue reading

Kids and Safety

I’ve been trying to figure out a good way to talk with the kids about safety broadly. It’s not that we haven’t talked about it, but I’ve never felt that it’s been adequate for possible experiences.

The Library

While at the library not long ago, a DVD cover popped out and caught my eye. 2016-11-08-11-37-18-editIt seemed like it might be a good jumping off place for safety. I was right.

Language and Experiences

This DVD focuses on the internal ‘uh-oh’ feeling that we get when things aren’t right or safe. It explores different situations where that feeling can happen. For example, if we go up to a big diving board and suddenly feel queasy with the ‘uh-oh’ feeling because we’ve realised it’s too high. Or when a stranger offers us candy. Or when we get lost. All these different situations have an ‘uh-oh’ feeling to them, which is language I know my kids understand (well, maybe not Felicity quite yet). The show also reinforced that we are the ‘boss of our bodies’, which is language I much prefer to ‘my body, my choice’ which has such specific and, in my opinion, negative associations in our culture. I’m super glad they steered away from that language.

This show has different storytelling components and a craft included as well. This series appeals to my kids and I’m glad I saw this on the shelf at the library and picked it up. It helps give language that I can reinforce with my kids. Also, it illustrates skills we can use in situations that were shown (eg. remembering the full name and phone number of a parent). It also points out people who are likely a safe adult (cashier at a store, mom with kids). I found it’s a helpful resource in the ongoing work of helping keep our kids safe.

Recommendable?

This is a great show to help with the conversation at home. If you’re looking for something that’s a good option for younger kids, I absolutely recommend it.

If anyone has any resources that positively reinforce listening to our instincts for young children, I’m all ears. I’ve had a hard time finding things that are appropriate and at their level. What do you use at home to help in the safety conversation?