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25 February 2009

Ash Wednesday

I attended mass at 7am and received my ashes. It's normally a very solemn mass, but the priest stumbled through the mass and broke the solemnity. Despite this, I appreciated the time of reflection and penance. If I could, I would attend morning mass every day. Unfortunately the demands of my schedule prohibit it. 

I have two favorite parts of the mass. The first is the penitential rite: 

"I confess to Almighty God and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned through my own fault. In my thoughts and in my words. In what I have done and what I have failed to do. And I ask Blessed Mary, ever virgin, all the angels and saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God." 

(Interestingly, we didn't say it today on this holy day of penance. Our penitential rite was the action of receiving our ashes rather than a verbal confession of sin.) I look forward to this part of the mass because it forces me to recognize my sin and guilt and openly ask for forgiveness. It isn't a condemnation for our sin but a communal plea for prayers and intercessions on behalf of all of our sins.

My second favorite part of mass is that part that almost always makes me tear up, if not openly cry. Immediately after the priest consecrates the Host and before we partake in it, we kneel and say:

"Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed."

An essential part of my faith is my desire to be worthy of the sacrifices made for me. That simple sentence is so completely loaded with emotion and penance and contrition. It completely encapsulates all of my feelings each week during mass. 

23 February 2009

Coming full circle

Lent is upon us. It marks a full year that I have been in the Catholic faith. Of course, my actual conversion didn't happen until Easter, but Lent was the real official begining. Given this anniversary and the significance of the time, I thought it appropriate and relevant to reflect on from where I've come, where I am, and where I am going.

Lent is a time of sacrifice and service. Often people sacrifice their favorite foods or activities in remembrance of the sacrifice that was made for them by Christ and the Holy Father. The usual suspects are chocolate, ice cream, alcohol, and red meat (although all Fridays during Lent are meatless, so this is almost like cheating). The sacrifices are almost always food-based. All to often the element of service is forgotten. The idea of service is to make yourself useful to the Church in some way more than you do on a daily basis. Some go out and feed the homeless every week while others volunteer to clean the church after masses. Even prayer is considered service. The whole point is to improve the condition of your soul and prepare it for the sacrifice made for its salvation. This year, I've decided to do both sacrifice and service. While my sacrifices seem trivial, in reality, all sacrifices pale in comparision to the sacrifice made for me.

My Sacrifices: This year, I am giving up the following things for Lent: popcorn (in ALL varieties ... movie and homemade), chocolate, and shopping. While these seem silly, there isn't a day in my life that I haven't enjoyed one if not all three of these activities. If you haven't heard, I make THE best popcorn ever. I learned from my mom and even she likes mine better. I LOVE popcorn. I eat it at least three times a week, usually with Jo (who is not at all happy about this sacrifice!) but sometimes alone. It's not necessarily bad for me (if you don't count the butter and salt that I layer on it), but it is something that I often crave and enjoy. When something means that much to a person, it makes a perfect sacrifice. I have the same problem with chocolate. Dark and white are deadly for me. I simply cannot say "no" when faced with them. So I figure that this small sacrifice will remind me everyday for the next forty days that Christ has made the ultimate sacrifice for me. I've also decided to give up shopping. Again, for those who know me, this is a HUGE deal. I shop for therapy. It makes me happy when I'm miserable, and, as embarassing as it is to admit, I like STUFF. I try not to be materialistic, but I like stuff. I like to bring home packages and unwrap them and look at my new things. I know that this will be increasingly difficult, especially since I am traveling to visit people this spring, so I have given myself a few exceptions. One: when the pair of navy pumps at AT goes on sale, I am allowed to buy them because I have been waiting for this pair of pumps to go on sale for two months. I have no navy pumps to wear with my navy suit. Two: When I travel to Texas, I am allowed to spend $150 on personal momentos of my trip to visit Kiki, Rob, Saw, and Tex. No more! Three: The only things that I can shop for are necessities -- groceries, household goods, Bailey things ... Four: Each week, I will place the money I have normally spent on me into the church's coffer for donation. This leads me to my service.

My Service: This Lent, I plan to give much more to the church. Right now, my time is thin. I've got two jobs, the diss, as well as grading and everything else. While I would love to contribute more of my talent to the church, I know that at this time that is impossible. I've decided that, while I cannot give my talent, I can give my treasure. I'm increasing my weekly donation and including money that would normally be spent on frivolous things. I'm also going to pray the Rosary every day. This will give me time to pray for all those in need of intercession and help. It will also allow me time to really focus my faith and center on Christ. On a secondary note, I think I will be blogging every day about faith and Lent. This will give me the opportunity to share my thoughts and experiences as well as opening up dialogue with others. Not that I want to preach, but I think faith discussions are important. 


All that being said, the last year has been one of adventure and discovery. My journey through faith has led me to realize some things about myself that I hadn't realized were there.

1.) I feel comfort in God's presence every day. I lacked that feeling before, but, ironically, I didn't miss it. I had never felt His presence before, so I didn't recognize the void. Now that I feel His outstretched hand every day, I cannot imagine struggling through this miserable world alone.

2.) Related to #1, I no longer see the world as dark and bleak. It really isn't all that miserable after all. I see so much good and beauty in all that surrounds me, and I can recognize my ability to impact that beauty in small ways.

3.) I am so much more aware of the blessings that shower down on me every day. I used to recognize the big windfalls, but now I see how important the small ones are as well. Sure, the new job at E.U is fabulous and is a huge blessing. But I'm blessed with people I love, friends I adore, and just happy moments each and every day. Sure, the big ones are great. But it's the small, ordinary stuff that really gets us through.

4.) I am no longer so afraid of the dark times. I know that sadness will happen and tragedy will strike. That's just how it is. It's called LIFE. But I know that I am capable of handling it because I have faith. I believe that God's got my back. He won't throw anything at me that He doesn't think I can handle. Even if I don't think I can, knowing that God believes in me makes me stronger and more determined. 

5.) The mass is the high point of my week. I NEVER thought I would be saying that church was the best part of my week, but it really is. That one+ hour in church gives me quiet solitude to reflect on my life and my faith and bask in the glory of Christ's presence. Of course, with that comes the remorse that I am unworthy of the sacrifice made for me. But I eagerly accept those conflicting feelings -- especially the remorse -- because it urges me to be better and more deserving of such a gift. Mass really is my quiet time with the Lord, reading His words and singing His praises. The time I spend kneeling before God is the most productive time I have all week.


Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday. I'm attending the 7am mass to receive my ashes. I think that this is one of the most important parts of Lent. Too often we are able to hide or conceal our faith. We don't really pay attention to it every day, and few people can see it on us. After all, faith is an internal marking. Well, receiving the ashes on Ash Wednesday makes my faith visible to all who I encounter and marks me as repentant and remorseful for the sinful condition of my soul. I know that it's always awkward walking around with a "dirt" smudge on your forehead, but it is a testament to the trueness and ardor of your faith. 

Of course, tomorrow is a fast day, so my rumbly tumbly will be a testament to my faith as well.

Until tomorrow ...

18 February 2009

The Beast - update 2

B is sleeping soundly at the foot of the bed. She's so sad and patetic it totaly breaks my heart! She went in for surgery at 7:30am and ehr dad sat with her at the vet's for the entire morning! He can be so amazingly wonderful! She was released after a successful surgery, and he brought her home. She was so doped up that he had to carry her up and down the stairs. When I got home around 4, she barely barked and then simply returned to her bed after she saw it was me. No excitement. No spazziness. No normal B. She hadn't eaten since 9pm the night before, so I fed her so softened food with painkillers and antibiotics.  The Boy said that she had been whimpering in pain, and she seemed so uncomfortable. She was clearly ravenous because she wolfed down her dinner in seconds. Well, perhaps "wolfed" is the wrong term. It was probably more like "gummed" since her mouth was numb and she is missing teeth!

After her dinner, she really rallied. She certainly wasn't her spazzy B self and she's slept non-stop, but she has certainly perked up. Her mouth is still a little bloody and she leaves little stains when she lays her head down. She got stitches in her mouth (which must suck!), but she's doing really well. She's been completely spoiled and will remain so for the next few days. Seeing her so sad and vulnerable just breaks my heart. I know I'm normally a hard-ass with her, but she really is my pal. Imagining her not being around is terrifying, so I'm ever so thankful that she's currently passed out on my bed with me. Thank you to all of you who sent along such good thoughts and prayers her way. We love you!

The vet was also kind enough to send along the remains of B's bad teeth. Yeah. I figured that it's only appropriate that I share with all of you!!

What does one do with excised dog teeth?

B's okay!

More later (including pictures of her teeth!), but, for now, she's okay. Happily resting at home with her daddy.

16 February 2009

The Beast update

Well, B doesn't have the dreaded "C" word. Thankfully. But she does need surgery. Both of her back top molars are abcessed. The swelling is a result of the infection. Wierdly, the infection is worse in the right side but there is no swelling there at all! But I'm used to B's wierdness, so it's really no ssuprise.

The vet was awesome and gave us some antibiotics and painkiller/anti-inflammatories to ease her discomfort. She's scheduled for surgery first thing in the morning on Wednesday. We won't go into the details of the pretty penny that this is going to cost me. All that matters is that my Beast is going to be better. The scary thing is that the vet is pretty concerned about her reaction to the anesthesia. Because she is so thin, she may not handle it well. Worst case scenario is worst case scenario. But I've been asking St. Francis to watch over her and protect her from harm through this process. I'm sure that she'll be fine and wonderful, but it still makes me very worried and nervous. Your good thoughts are greatly needed/appreciated!

No matter how much that dog drives me insane, I still love her to pieces!!

Here's a few pics to remind you all of her gorgeousness. The first is her in her new "den" in the office and the second is just beautiful.

15 February 2009

Oh what a weekend...

The weekend has been ... original. It started off with a bang and is ending with a whimper. 

Friday night was dinner with Jo and her date. We went to Liberty Steakhouse in High Point and had some tasty beer!

Saturday we went to pick up my new Nordic Track for $25 (Thank you, Craig's List!!! What a steal!!!) and installed it upstairs in the office. I moved the tv in there so I can watch tv while I "ski" the pounds away. After the new purchase, we hung out and spent time together before I went to work at 2pm. After work (9m), The Boy had made me a slight dinner and we drank some yummy wine.

Sunday morning we woke up, cleaned the fishtank, and cooked the week's meals. This is where the weekend went sour. I looked at B while we were in the kitchen, and she has a huge lump under her left eye. Seriously. It is the size of a ping pong ball. It doesn't seem to bother her, but it is really hard and there are no signs of abrasion or impact. It's really got me worried. I'm making a vet appointment first thing in the morning, but I'm really nervous. My stomach has been in knots all day. Ugh. 

13 February 2009

Finding Nemo

I met with The Fish today. It was actually quite beneficial. He affirmed his belief in my ability but reminded me that I have a lot of work to do. I know this. I'm a grad student. I'm not in the profession yet. But the meeting went well and I didn't leave spitting nails. 

So there you have it.


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