Morning meditation

20180405_105215“Morning has broken like the first morning…”

During Lent, I had a goal of getting back into praying the Liturgy of the Hours.  I had not done so in about a year until Good Friday. I finally prayed morning prayer. I prayed it every morning for years. Most of the time, it was therapeutic. Sometimes it was sustaining. A few times reciting the prayers kept me afloat. I cherish what it did in my life. Because it is an old friend, I can resume as if I had never stopped. But because time has passed, I see it with new eyes and a deeper understanding.

The morning prayer is set up the same way every day I follow the shorter Christian prayer which consists of morning prayer, evening prayer, and night prayer. It opens with the invitatory psalm, usually Psalm 22 but there are others.You recite an antiphon that changes depending on the day. This is followed by two psalms and a canticle from an Old Testament prophet, again with antiphons that are fitting to the season or the feast. There is a short reading, sometimes from one of the prophets or a letter of Paul. Then you recite the Canticle of Zechariah with an antiphon, prayers of intercession, the Our Father, and a concluding prayer and a blessing . Some of these prayers I knew by heart; I’m sure with more recitation I could I could do it by memory

The Canticle of Zechariah has always been one of my favorites. It comes from the Gospel of Luke which is my favorite gospel. It is a song of joy following the birth of John the Baptist and recalling the history of salvation. The lines that consistently strike are the ones that say, “ he promised that he would save us from our enemies  from the hands of all who hate us.” Sometimes those words make me cry. That is what happened in my life. I have been burdened by people full of self-loathing and hatred of others. I have had to fight back against their toxic poison. I prayed for deliverance. I prayed for their conversion. But mostly I prayed for God to prevail and to keep me safe. He did. He always has. I am forever grateful.

Morning prayer may only take about 15 minutes but it is a wonderful time of serenity and silence. When I recite these prayers, I enjoy peace and stillness. I definitely need more of that in my life instead of the usual piles of folded laundry or checked work emails that I tackle weekday mornings.  So far during the Easter season, I have been praying the Liturgy of the Hours daily. Those moments of quiet reflection are much needed and appreciated.

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Mental makeover

I’m talking to the priest
The high priest
And everybody out there in the universe
If what I’m saying is wrong
Then tell me the right way to say it
Cause I wanna be made over  from “Tina’s Wish,” as performed by Tina Turner

Physical transformations don’t always lead to mental makeovers.  I recently discussed this fact with a friend. Both of us have taken part in fitness challenges. Both of us have experienced weight loss and made great gains in muscle tone. Both of us have lost some of those gains in recent months. Both of us have a different perception of our fitness level than others. For many of us who struggle to be fit and healthy, our mind continues to tell us that we are not.

 

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Samba queen selfie, late February 

The most difficult part of being fit is consistency. I am constantly struggling to strike a balance between family, work, chores, church, dance, and sleep. Fitness can get lost in the shuffle. How I eat is especially prone to changes. Sometimes, I skip meals or grab something unhealthy to go when I do not carve out time to cook or meal prep. I can be inconsistent about my choices. I know many fellow principals who don’t eat until 4 p.m.; often times they stop at a drive-thru and eat during afterschool meetings.  I know what I need to do to eat healthy. The challenge is having the discipline to make it happen.

 

When I was at my most fit last year before Carnaval,  I was happy with how strong I felt. I liked how clothes fit me. But my Carnaval experience ended on such a negative note that I lost sight of why I had worked so hard. I worked hard for myself and to be an example of health for my daughter, not for some costume. Fitness is a gift to myself, not as a challenge to accomplish. I can’t get back into shape for thirty days or six weeks or to look fabulous on Carnaval morning.

So how do I transform my mind? I used to do morning affirmations. Maybe it’s time to give the woman in the mirror more pep talks.  Today, I told myself, “I am strong and I will get stronger.”

Holy Saturday celebration

M and I have not yet progressed to celebrating the Easter Vigil Mass. When I served in a different parish, I was always a lector during this holiest of masses. It is a beautiful mass with multiple readings, the lighting of the Paschal candle, and the initiation of new Catholics. I do miss participating. But my daughter is overwhelmed by the reading the Lord’s Passion on Palm Sunday and Good Friday.  I know there will be a time when we can celebrate the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday with the rest of our parish. For now we will continue our tradition of joining my parents for Easter Mass at my old parish. My daughter was baptized there so it is homecoming for both of us. So how did I spend my Holy Saturday? My answer may not surprise you.

I’m feeling a lot better post fender bender. I followed through on my commitment to flash mob a 40th birthday party. While my plans were not directly related to Easter, dancing is a great way to mark the change in seasons. My seasonal social media fasts often separate me from the members of my dance community for some time. I’m not completely out of the loop due to posting blogs and checking messages from those whose main form of communication is via social media but there is definitely a period of distance. It was a great night to reconnect.

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I do not see dance and faith as mutually exclusive. There’s a reason we used to call our Sunday afternoons in the clubs church. Dance, like song, reconnects us to our bodies, hearts, and souls. Dance is a great way to give praise and thanks for all our blessings.

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Procession and process

Last year I took part in my parish’s Holy Thursday celebration for the first time. The Eucharistic ministers were asked to sit together. At the conclusion of the mass, we were asked to take part in a procession during the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. I was moved to tears. I have anticipated that moment all year. There are several moments at Mass when I get teary-eyed and other liturgical feasts that I love and enjoy there are others. I gain something out of every Mass I attend. The procession on Holy Thursday is a special occasion.  29683620_1980737562175453_2343870968512959220_n

I wore all white as Sister suggested and sat with my fellow ministers.  Once Mass came to an end, we walked to the back of the church. Dressed in our various shades of white, we quickly gathered together in the vestibule and formed two lines.  We each got a candle. We filed into the church and knelt. Then, we processed through the entire church as Father displayed the Blessed Sacrament to the congregation. Our entire procession stopped at several points in the church, turned to face the Blessed Sacrament, raised our candles and bowed before continuing. Everyone in the church sang in Latin.  We concluded by kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament. It was a beautiful conclusion to the evening.

29597492_1980737552175454_4484460233475374210_nAs I looked around at the faces of my fellow parishioners, I realize some of them were looking at us in awe or as if moved by what they were seeing. I felt grateful to be there in that moment. I made eye contact with many individuals and gave a quiet smile or nod. I felt grateful to have the privilege to serve as a Eucharistic minister. I felt grateful to take part  in something so special despite the challenges of the week. When I looked at my fellow parishioners, I knew they had no idea what I had experienced that week; they saw me as representing their faith.They saw a woman at peace, filled with serenity, joy, and strength in my faith. They saw me.

I am grateful for those moments when I am truly touched by God. I am grateful that my faith allows me to reveal my true self.  Every moment, every day, and yes, every challenge is a gift.  This Lent has been a blessing and I feel closer to God.  I am ready for Easter.

Musical motivation

sacred music

A good soundtrack is everything. Star Wars, the James Bond films, Shaft, Mission Impossible, Hawaii Five-O and The Wizard of Oz all have famous soundtracks featuring one or more songs that call to mind certain characters and places, and inspire strong reactions. Those songs stay with us, often for life. For of those who like to work out, a soundtrack can be motivational. I have been at many a half marathon where the announcers played the theme from Rocky or Chariots of Fire.  My gym plays a mix of old school hip hop, top 40 rap, and the always fun trap music. When I run, I stick with my disco playlist. When I lift weights at home, it is usually house music mixes or sometimes New Edition hits.  Occasionally, I try something different. When I was doing a 30-day plank challenge, I started using Rio-style samba or the Game of Thrones theme to motivate me. Today, given that Holy Week is well underway, I decided to work out to instrumental hymns.

When you hear “Holy, Holy, Holy” or “Amazing Grace,” you may not be inspired to do multiple sets of squats and push-ups. However, I found the music relaxing which then led me to focus. Usually I’m folding laundry between sets or starting on work email or rearranging clutter on my home desk. Multitasking isn’t good for the brain.  It’s not good for your form or getting into a workout rhythm either. Today it felt good to focus on my breathing. I had a more mindful workout. Plus it was in keeping with my pledge to take in appropriate material this week. I plan to change my soundtrack more consistently. I need more time to truly appreciate my health and the opportunity to improve my fitness.

Last Lent one of the four challenges I took on was to be more prayerful. (4 Challenges in 40 Days) One way I worked towards that was to listen to sacred music or gospel music during my commute. I found it helpful given the stress in my line of work. Combining working out with spiritual music was a welcome new motivation for a Monday.

My wish for this week

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Holy Week 2018 has arrived. It’s amazing how 40 days or 6 weeks initially seems like a long time. For those of you who gave up alcohol, chocolate, or swearing, maybe that amount of  time felt daunting. For those of us who chose to work on virtues like patience, forgiveness, or mindfulness, perhaps we needed more time. This is an important week in my faith life. It is a good week to revisit what I have learned and to spend more time being grateful.

I intend to make this week quieter. Though my reading choices and viewing choices haven’t always made sense given the Lenten season, I want this week to be more focused on the meaning of Lent. I told my daughter yesterday that we would only be watching appropriate films  on TV this week. As for reading, I’m going to shelve certain books until next week.

I would like to resume the Liturgy of the Hours this week. The Divine Office used to be a part of my daily life. I used to do morning prayer every day. My daughter and I used to do night prayer together. I miss the routine and the rhythm of those prayers. I miss the imagery and language of the Psalms. I have missed that time to reflect on my life and all its blessings.

May this week be a blessing to all. Though you may not practice any religious faith, everyone deserves a time of quiet, stillness, and peace. 

Worst foe

“I been movin’ calm, don’t start no trouble with me

Tryna keep it peaceful is a struggle for me” by Aubrey Drake Graham

 

To all the fake traitorous former friends in my life and those of my loved ones:  You tried it!

 

Let go when a friendship falls apart

Can’t let it hurt your heart

Most friends who turn out to be false aren’t worth grieving

 

I gave you my time, my energy

I cared for you like I cared for my best friends or for my family

You played me

This is how you paid me

You betrayed me

How am I supposed to feel sympathy for your stupidity?

I have no pity left  

I don’t care about the hours spent giving you advice through conversations, through phone calls, through text messages

I care about myself which is what I should have been doing instead of looking out for your fool self.

Go lose yourself in your addictions, your questionable relationships, your time wasting

You need help, not my health.

I will pray for you but I won’t speak to you.

You took.

You damaged.

You go.

I will be tempted to be vengeful but I know that is not me. That is my anger against you. I refuse to give in to it.  

I have wasted enough of myself on you.

I will leave you in peace and I expect you to do the same.

Don’t speak on me

Don’t speak to me.

Do not come for me.

 

An enemy is an enemy

but a friend turned enemy is the worst kind of foe.

Please go or I will have to let you know.

That’s a side of me I don’t want to show.

I know better now

I know who you are

You’re not going to get far if this is how you do those that show you love

Now go on.  Go do you.

Let the universe handle you

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those damn Ides of March 

Betrayal

From Dangerous Liaisons