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An example of growth

holiness

Recently on a Sunday morning, I heard Donnie McClurkin preach about being an example. He noted how often in the church we are told to be examples which we interpret to mean examples of perfection.  We no longer strive to be examples. We give up.”Well I’m not perfect so therefore I’m not a good example for folks.” McClurkin pointed out that we need to be examples of growth. Our testimony needs to be about the mistakes that we have made and the progress that we’ve made.

Growth is central to my faith life. I base the majority of my writing on my growth. When people ask me for advice, I’m good at couching my words appropriately. I’m  aware of how it could be taken. If we have a trusting friendship, I’m going to open about my progress. I am not perfect. I am honest about my weaknesses. The majority of my blogging in the last decade has been about where I need to grow,  where I am weak,and where I struggle. I struggle with fear, pettiness, and the desire to be vengeful.These are all challenges with which I continue to mature. All of the struggles that I have endured, whether they have been emotional, professional, mental, or physical, have helped me become stronger through faith. Like everyone who practices a religious faith, I experience periods in which my faith is shaken, weak, or lazy. It doesn’t waver. There are times when I don’t feel like praying, reading the scriptures or doing spiritual reading. II don’t make an effort to be disciplined.  Even during those periods of struggle, I find great comfort and inspiration in my faith. It is my faith that has given me the strength to grow as much as I have.

One complaint I have heard others make about people of faith is the feeling that we presume those who not practice or believe do are lesser than. The term “holier than thou” arose because people have used their religious practice or faith as a means of shutting themselves off from others. This is a mistake as people striving towards holiness because holiness is about wholeness. I cannot be a whole person if I’m not part of a whole community. If I look at others as sinners or judge others as not worthy to be saved, I have missed the meaning of what it means to be holy.

In last Sunday’s Gospel, we learn that God loves us. He loves our imperfect world. He loves humanity, which, by its nature, is flawed. He loves us.. He doesn’t expect us to be perfect. He wants us to grow. He gave us an offering of his love and faith in us through his son. That is hard for us to understand. One of my struggles is to truly accept His love. I feel pressure to be perfect I’m not perfect. I’m loved but I’m number 57 or 338 or 1250 on his list.  Those thoughts are about me not about His love.

I’m thankful to Pastor Donnie McClurkin for sharing his wisdom and helping me to reflect on the Gospel.  I’m grateful to Dynamic Catholic for continuing to push me to reflect on questions about myself and for always reminding me that my faith will help me find the answers. I hope I have the courage to share how I am an example of growth. My faith does not make me different from others. It is part of what makes me strong.  if you’re a person of faith, I encourage you to read the scriptures or find some spiritual reading to help deepen your growth. If you are Catholic, visit Dynamic Catholic and take part in Best Lent Ever. It has changed my faith life and therefore my life. Whatever your stance on spirituality and faith, find something that brings you closer to feeling whole. That will bring you closer to being holy.

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Giving it over

“Be still and know that I am God.”Psalm 46:10

It is one of my favorite verses and one of my favorite songs.  One morning, I sat in silence to speak to God from my heart. With my job search officially beginning, the question I’m pondering the most is one most working parents face. How do I strike a balance between moving on in my professional growth and being present for my child?  Unlike the adults in my life, my child is not excited about my search for a new challenge. It has actually caused her anxiety, sadness, and fear. She worries that this could be another challenge for us.

I want my next career move to enrich our lives. I know that idea may seem naive; as you move on in leadership and take on greater responsibilities, you take on more duties which take more time, energy, and thought. I want to be a good mom, to make time for my writing, deepen my faith life, and be physically fit.  Now I have to prioritize and rethink how my goals will be affected by a change in employment. It’s exciting and worrisome.

I’m giving it over to God. It is what we are called to do when the struggle is the greatest. As someone who worked to become an independent free thinker, relinquishing power and authority is a struggle. I spent so much of my life being passive; I still have room for growth. I have been blessed by trusting in God. My prayer is for God to guide me towards a new job that will be good for M and my family. I want to serve my purpose.

In silence, I notice what I usually don’t during my commute: the trees, the clouds, and the sky. These are beautiful signs of spring. I’m so busy running around that I’ve missed them most of the time. I’ve missed so much of what’s around me because of what’s happening within me. I want my next opportunity to allow me to enjoy more of these moments. I look forward to landing where I need to be.

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Right on schedule

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“He’s a God you can’t hurry,

You don’t have to worry;

He may not come when you want Him

But he’s right on time, right on time. “Traditional Gospel hymn

I have refused to give up on this Advent. (Last year’s Advent of struggle ) As expected, I have been put to the test during this season. On one hand, I have a wounded dragon heaving its last toxic breaths.

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Vandervals’ “Wounded Dragon”

On the other, there is the prospect of yet another round of hoping for a leopard to willingly change his spots.

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The guy on the right is the inspiration for The Police’s “Don’t Stand So Close to Me”

(Truth be told, I’m not waiting at all but I’m loyal to a fault and I will do as directed, even if I get a little Ben Linus on occasion.)ci-59798115230130361

I had a moment yesterday when I wavered, when all my anger, frustration, and indignation threatened to cloud my mind and fill my eyes with tears.  But I remembered to breathe, pray, and hold tight to my commitment to this Advent.  I moved forward in more ways than one.  Yesterday, I made a choice.

I’ve already owned my penchant for pettiness. Shoot, I even have the casual Fridays t-shirts to prove it. My pettiness is amusing at times, other times worthy of criticism. But it hasn’t held me back in the way my lack of self-confidence does. Oh sure I’ll dance on stage or on the streets with little practice. I’ll take the mic and put together a speech on the fly. But my career has been stifled by my inability to see myself as a leader.  I have worked for twice as long as several peers who are at the helm their own ships.  Yesterday, through the darkness of my emotions, I found the strength to own that my time has arrived. It is my time to lead, guide, and shepherd. I have vision, purpose, and integrity; now I am emboldened by the courage to stand alone.

At the end of a stressful workday or any day for that matter, I have to answer to myself, my family, and my God.  How have I been the best version of myself today?  How am I going to be the best version of myself tomorrow?  Soon, I will live out the answers to these questions in the spotlight.  My mistakes will be my own.  My decisions will be my own.  I will struggle and fail but I will learn.  That in turn will help me grow in the woman I was born to be.

While I may be tempted to take Hot Sauce out my bag and mess up a window or two, I can’t let others’ tomfoolery make me resort to my worst self.  I am finally going to fix myself some long overdue lemonade.beyonce-car

These hands will have to stick to prayer and to getting my paperwork together for my next job.  God will continue to give me the strength and patience.

After the battle

So we took on the dragon.  While I don’t know if it’s slain, I know it’s languishing in its respective corner.

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Dragon

Meanwhile, I’m over in ours laid out.  Tired.  Spent.

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Me

Because, like the days following a half-marathon or the ressaca do carnaval, the days following a confrontation with an enemy are long.  In that time, te pondras a pensar.  You will ponder many things. I ponder my integrity and my identity.

Confrontation isn’t in my nature.  I’ve gotten better over the last decade about standing up for myself.  But I struggle with not becoming what I am fighting. I don’t want to be cruel, judgmental, resentful, or vindictive. I don’t like wishing the worst for others. While doing so may feel satisfying in the moment, it drains me in the long run.  I would rather heal and help.

So how do I sustain myself? I go back to the familiar and the beloved.  My child.

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Family costume 2016: 50s Flashback

Books.

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With the fabulous and hilarious Luvvie Ajayi

Laughter.

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Photobombed at Grace Jones 

Time outdoors.

Dance.

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Flash Mob Tribute to Prince, September 2016 

Family traditions.  My faith.

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My running club: Mis antepasados y muertitos queridos 

I turn back to that which feeds my soul and that which reminds me of who I am. I am a mujer constantly evolving.

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17 year old sideeye 

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Fox in Socks at 44 

Revealing relapse

“There is trouble in the air, destruction is everywhere
And men are being trampled beneath the soil
And nations, great and small, have now begun to fall
Oh come let us go back to God, go back to God”  written by Thomas Dorsey, as sung by Donnie McClurkin

When I talk about backsliding, I often mean it negatively.  When I backslide, I’m going to back old, often negative, habits and ways of thinking. Like every normal person, I have times when I’m disciplined, motivated, and therefore feeling and being successful.  If I “relapse” into past behavior, it is usually because I’m exhausted, demoralized, and struggling physically, mentally, and/or emotionally.  Life goes in cycles.  It’s never a journey of point A to point B.  So why do I hold myself to that unrealistic black and white thinking?  What if “going back” has its benefits?

Para los que me conocen, y’all know I’m often goal-driven. I take on reading challenges, savings challenges, and prayer challenges. I train for half-marathons and for street performances of various choreographies.  I do weeklong class hops, novenas of daily masses, 40 day fasts, and multi-week fitness programs. But I don’t always complete these goals to the best of my ability.  Sometimes I don’t complete them at all.  Then I spend some time beating myself up about those failures.  Fortunately, time and life experience has taught me to seek humility.  Life has taught me that failure is a good time to turn back to God.

I said it.  As important as my faith life is to me, God doesn’t always come first. “Well, I guess we won’t go to Mass Carnaval weekend because I’m not about to sit in church in my costume.”  God doesn’t always fit on a busy schedule.  While I thank God when I’m succeeding, I spend less time with Him while I’m busy working towards that success.  I’m going, going, going.  Literally and figuratively running.  A quick grace over a rushed meal. Half a rosary done on the commute from one family activity to another.  I don’t build in time for devotion.

It is in times of struggle and failure that I truly give myself over to God.  When I’ve been diagnosed with illnesses, I have stood with God.  When I’ve struggled with work situations, I have had long, emotional conversations with God.  When I have lost loved ones, I have found comfort from God.  Where human motivation and individual goals waver, God is constant.

I know I have lots of work to do in the next few months. I will make my faith life part of that work.  Going back to God is wonderful.  Staying with Him must be a goal. 2eec7f06e6a3add42dfda620cb60b94d

The other sibling

That’s big bro on the right passing judgment
For years, I have pondered the apparent good fortune of people who engage in meanness and foolishness.  Earlier this week, I grumbled that my good friend died young while an individual who has recently faced discipline for their lack of professionalism is “hale and hearty.”  Another acquaintance, a woman of integrity and compassion, is facing a family tragedy.  As someone who strives to always take the high road, I struggle with feeling compassion for others, especially if I don’t feel they deserve it. 
Last Sunday’s Gospel reading is one of my favorites, the parable of the Prodigal Son. Each time I hear this parable, I hear something new or I relate to the story in a different way. At present, I hear the words of the indignant older brother.
“’Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes; you killed the fatted calf for him!’ “Luke 15: 29-30, Holy Bible New Revised Standard Version
How often do I cringe when someone I judge as unworthy goes unpunished or is even celebrated? I have no problem admitting one of my greatest flaws is my judgmental attitude. 
The loving father offers wisdom, “‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’” Luke 15: 31-32, Holy Bible New Revised Standard Version
The father does appreciate his elder son; he does not love him less because he is less of a problem child.  The father wants to celebrate the willingness of his younger son to change. He wants to celebrate his younger son taking the first step to being a good person. 
Like the elder son, I have a self-righteous streak.  I focus on the other person’s flaws and wonder why they are reaping benefits I feel they haven’t earned.  Also, I struggle with those who have yet to choose change.  I find it challenging to have compassion for those who are in the throes of behavior I find problematic.  It is hard work to learn to forgive and accept. 
Once I was that prodigal child. I found forgiveness and joy in acceptance.   I pray that someday I may act more like that loving parent, one who waits with open arms and open heart to receive a lost soul.  I’m praying daily. 

A Lenten miracle

As happens every Lent, my daughter’s school hosts the Stations of the Cross every Friday. An upper grade combines with a lower grade and the children read from Scripture, act out the scene, and help us to reflect. They charm us with the cuteness of the little ones and move us with the depth of insight of the older children. I have had to miss the last few events due to my work schedule.  Now that my daughter is an avid reader, she was assigned three stations to read with a 7thgrade partner. I’m sure I could have requested personal time in advance.  However, given recent developments, my boss and I now have a standing meeting with an individual every Friday.  Te puedes imaginar how I looked when I realized that I would be spending time with said person, rather than experiencing a Lenten tradition with my child. 
This Chihuahua is my spirit animal; I give this look when #icant
It’s not very Lenten or Catholic of me, I know, but I’m also the writer who brought you You’re Ruining My Advent. To make matters worse, my boss was unavailable to join the meeting and asked if I could handle it on my own.
Though I admit I wanted to say no, I couldn’t possibly handle it, I took a few moments to gather my thoughts before agreeing to move forward. So while my daughter took the microphone and read Scripture, I fought the urge to read this person.  
“Shade comes from reading…reading is the real art form of insult” Paris is Burning
I did not give out a piece of my mind. I conducted the meeting calmly and professionally.
Was it a Lenten miracle?  Grace?  Personal will?  All of the above.  I have the ability to choose how I act.  I have the ability to choose whether or not my emotions will control me or I will control them.  I choose to treat people with respect. I choose to leave another’s dignity intact.  In doing so, I commemorate the Stations of the Cross.  So while I would have preferred to be at the Stations of the Cross in person, I was with my daughter in spirit.  In reflection, I see how the Stations she was assigned speak to the situation I experienced.
The 3rd Station: Jesus falls for the first time
My faith journey has been one of struggle and failure. I have never pretended to be someone for whom faith and religious practice come easily.  I fall all the time.  Though I don’t fall quite like I did before I got my mind right, I have moments of weakness.  My anger against the co-worker or any other person who may have slighted me is a feeling with which I wrestle. I know it is not right to hold grudges or pass judgment. I am praying for those who anger me.  I am praying for a heart of forgiveness and compassion. 
The 4th Station: Jesus meets his mother
My faith journey has been shaped by those I love. My own mother taught me to pray. While her methods in doing so were not always gentle, they gave me words that have sustained during my most challenging trials. I wrapped a rosary around my arm when I went into labor with my daughter. I pray before every appointment, test, and medical procedure. I prayed before the Friday work meeting. Now that I’m a mother, I walk with my daughter in her faith journey. Together, we pray the rosary, attend Mass, read the Gospels, and talk about our faith.  When she struggles, I struggle.  When she hurts, I hurt. Love and faith are intertwined. 
The 5th Station: Simon helps Jesus carry the cross
Despite my personal struggles, I accept the call to serve others. I do so in my career. I do so in my personal life. I may want to decline sometimes. I may be angry, indignant, fearful, exhausted.  But I take up the cross. In doing so, I remember who I truly am. I am a person of faith and compassion. 
This struggle is Lent.  Lent is a time to accept our humanity in all its facets and to accept the call to love others.  Lent is a journey toward peace.