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My song of praise

st-dymphna

St. Dymphna is not here for it.

Psalm 118: This is the Day

by Michael Joncas

(Refrain) This is the day the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad.
This is the day the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad.

Give thanks to the Lord,
for he is good,
His mercy endures forever.
Let the house of Israel say,
“His mercy endures forever.”

Refrain

The Lord’s right hand
has struck with pow’r;
the Lord’s right hand is exalted.
I shall not die, but live,
and declare the works of the Lord.

Refrain

The stone which the builders
rejected has become the cornerstone.
By the Lord this has been done;
it is wonderful in our eyes!

Refrain

It’s not every day I sing a psalm.  Over the years, I have heard, both at LA Congress and from different homilists, that to sing is to give praise to the Lord. Now my voice isn’t that of a singer. I can somewhat harmonize when I have other voices with which to combine.  But I don’t sing solos nor should I.  So I make a joyful noise.  Earlier this week, I sang one of my favorite psalms, Psalm 118, out loud in its entirety. True, it was during my morning commute, so I was in my car. I sang my heart out, con muchas ganas.  The commuters who saw me probably got a good laugh.  No matter. Yo estaba feliz.

It’s Lent, a time to reflect on the Lord’s Passion. Yet I was singing a song of joy and victory. This is a song for weddings or Easter. What happened that led me to Carpool Karaoke this particular psalm?  I learned that someone I encountered in the past was held accountable. Others recognized patterns of behavior I saw. That is cause for celebration. I know we shouldn’t take joy in others’ struggles. In my personal and professional life, I have worked to move those who are a negative force in others’ lives, particularly the lives of young people, away.  Anyone who hurts a young person’s opportunities to move forward to become the best version of herself or himself has got to go. I feel vindicated and validated. I always knew that what I and my colleagues experienced was not a figment of anyone’s imagination. Sadly, this behavior went on for years before me to many others. It is high time for this person to be held to high expectations. Por fin, se va.

“The Lord’s right hand is exalted.” I believe that things happen as they should.  Whether you credit the universe, the Lord’s right hand, karma, or however you view the world, what is right, good, and just eventually happens. Wrongs will be made right.

Every day is a day the Lord has made. But that day I felt, along with many people, that justice had been served.

I can’t sing but this young woman can. This is her version of my song

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Gospel truths

On the First Friday of Lent (and Flashback Friday), as I listened to one of my favorite gospel music artists on my morning commute, I thought back to my discovery of gospel music.  I first heard Cliff Petty during the opening service at LA Congress in 2010. He was leading the psalm. My head snapped in that direction so quickly I almost fell over. I turned to my church sisters and repeatedly asked, “Who is that?” as I searched the program for his name.   I was so impressed by his voice that I listened for it during the remainder of the service. Immediately after wards, I went to the exhibit hall to look for his music company. I purchased his first CD and even spoke with him briefly. I’ve been following his career ever since. I went to his concert at LA Congress in 2013. I have taken music workshops he has presented including one in which the attendees were divided into choir sections. I was a “joyful noisemaker” as I don’t have a very good singing voice.  Cliff’s music really opened my heart to hearing the Word in a different way.

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My autographed CD; Cliff’s 2nd release

Part of being Catholic is the traditional aspect. The music is traditional and sacred-sounding such as masses in Latin, Gregorian chant and old hymns. The music is beautiful, formal, and ceremonial. Para ser franca, at times, it can be lacking in energy and joy. Gospel music has been a way to bring joy into my worship, faith life, and prayer life. The songs are based on scripture, psalms and on people’s reflections on their relationship with God. People sometimes associate gospel music with different denominations. That is silliness. Music is universal. I talk to many people who say Mass is boring and that they get nothing out of it. They are going out of obligation, not passion. Music enriches that experience. Even in the most boring of settings, I will sing. When I sing in church, I continue to reflect on the Word and my love of God. Singing allows me to do so in a way that is more creative and expressive. Because of my love for gospel music, I appreciate the liturgy and the songs chosen more.  I am familiar with different hymns. Gospel music has been a blessing which expands and enriches my faith life.

In the past when I have struggled with myself, even in those dark moments, my faith has sustained me. My faith has not been repressive, oppressive, or depressive. However,there are times when faith wavers; the busyness of life can shake me. A song can bring me back to myself. Gospel music has been both soothing and uplifting. It has been with me through times of poor health. When I’ve been so angry and I need to clear my head, gospel music has been the soundtrack. When work has been hectic, choosing the gospel station on Pandora has helped me to refocus. I’m grateful I have made listening to more gospel part of my prayer challenge.  I know it will give me more time to reflect and honor this sacred time.

Find W.Clifford Petty on Facebook at Cliff Petty’s music

Year of milagros

“They don’t always happen when you ask

And it’s easy to give in to your fears…

A small but still resilient voice

Says hope is very near…” From “When You Believe”

Nearly five years ago, I organized a musical variety show with dance performances by family and friends for my 40th birthday party.(Turning 40) Originally I had planned to do a lip sync duet of one of my favorite diva power ballads, “When You Believe” but the number was eventually shelved. mariah-carey-whitney-performed-when-you-believe-duringThis particular Oscar-winning song is a favorite not only because it features two great singers, Whitney and Mariah, in all their diva glory; it’s also an uplifting anthem from one of Rambo’s favorite Bible-inspired films, The Prince of Egypt. The movie follows a young Moses as he realizes his call to deliver his people. The lyrics adequately capture the struggle to remain faithful to your mission and purpose in the face of challenges. It isn’t a theme song for a 40th birthday; it’s a theme song for any year and any occasion.

I have been pondering those song lyrics in the last day or so. Because despite moments straight out of the Twilight Zone 15727206_236100280160973_5711380463324119652_nand the very real tears I shed for Prince and Juan Ga, 14191976_10154684379132784_285972347186439489_n

this was a year of miracles.  It is a miracle I didn’t undergo major surgery this year. It is a miracle I didn’t put these hands on certain individuals. It is a miracle I fought and ultimately vanquished an enemy.15676564_10155117829802784_4985360818320789856_o This is not hyperbole. It is real. It happened. Prayers were answered. I experienced miracles. 191-jesus-casting-out-demons

No fue fácil. I can’t deny this has been a year of new challenges, ones I continue to confront daily. There are days when I weep, curse, and waver. As I have shared in previous posts, I pray. I pray at my desk at work. I pray in doorways. I pray in my car as I pull into parking spots. I pray before phone calls or face to face conversations.  Prayer will continue to be a source of strength. As the title of this blog indicates, I push myself.  I have pushed myself out of my comfort zone personally, professionally, emotionally, even physically this year. When I’m struggling to lift a weight or run that length, I think of my challenges, of those people and situations that are testing me. I push like hell. I may not be as strong as I want to be but I am not weak.  I refuse to be.

I can’t get on the forget 2016 bandwagon. Every phase of our lives brings us pain, sorrow, success, and joy. It is my choice to receive and make miracles.

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

More than a parade

Last year, on the Sunday before Memorial Day, I rose before sunrise and began to get dressed for Carnaval.  I had asked to be able to sit on the float in full costume, my Wound-Vac covered in our theme colors.  I began the long process of applying my makeup.  As I applied the beautiful shades of color to my face, I began to feel sad. I had wanted so badly to be off the Wound-Vac.  True, I had never finished learning all the choreography. But the best part of performing in Carnaval is feeling a part of a body, a body of alegria and axe, a body which exudes grace, strength, and pure joy.  With the little machine literally attached to my body, I knew I exuded pain and weakness. I burst into tears and called my mom. “No puedo hacerlo. (I can’t do it.)”  She understood and plan B, which was to sit in the grandstand with M and my mom, went into effect. I took off my beautiful gown and donned my samba school tee.   I stopped crying, grabbed my camera, and headed to the parade.
The morning of SF Carnaval 2014

I cheered loudly for SambaFunk; they were magnificent.  I also cried. I consider it one of the more painful moments during my recovery from surgery. That was nearly a year ago.

I came to SambaFunk through a lovely woman I met on Dance Party. A brilliant dancer, she had asked me to check out her samba community sometime. I expressed mild interest; I had taken two samba classes prior to my difficult pregnancy and had always wished I continued.  A few months passed before I finally took initiative and asked when I could join her in class. On a cold January evening, I walked into the second floor studio of the Malonga and within two hours, I had found a second home. King Theo’s wisdom, love, and positive energy inspired me to take on this new creative and physical challenge.
After my first SambaFunk class in January 2013. Photo by Elise Evans
At exactly this time, I was preparing for a job interview. I would be competing for a vice principal position in a different district. I am convinced the energy I received through my dance class helped boost my confidence. I got the job. I was learning how to be a carnavalesco at the same time I was learning to succeed in a new work environment.  SambaFunk has been more than a dance class. The energia it provides has been a blessing.
Taking part in Carnaval has tapped into so many aspects of my personality.  I rediscovered the superhero in me as a Funky Gogo Love Bomber. I also learned half-marathons are nothing compared to parading nearly two miles in 6-inch platform boots.
GoGo Bombers doing their thing, SF Carnaval 2013. Photo by Yvel Sagaille.
As I struggled with illness, I reexamined the grace and power that is inherent in being a woman, beautifully heralded in my incarnation as a regal Star Mother.  While I didn’t get to parade in Carnaval last year, I was able to take part in the San Diego Brazilian Day parade.
SambaFunk, Brazilian Day San Diego 2014. Photo by Soul Brasil.
My mother and M traveled with me and stood proudly on the sidelines cheering for us.  With each Carnaval, I learn more about costuming and parading.  I also realize it is more than a parade.

Obrigado SambaFunk for welcoming my little family into your embrace.

Rambo and M, Pan-African Film Fest 2014
w M on the red carpet at the Pan-African Film Fest 2014
Thank you for the prayers and love you gave me when I feared the worst about my health and for your loyalty and support during my recovery. Thank you for helping me become the best version of myself.
Preparing for SF Carnaval 2015, M’s first Carnaval