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Advent is a Good Time to Exercise Body and Mind

Advent Candles Image credit: Shutterstock/katarinagondova

Week Two of Advent

Advent is a Good Time to Exercise Body and Mind

I can’t take it any longer. I gave up my membership at the YMCA because it became too expensive and I wasn’t using it enough. That was last spring. I haven’t really lifted weights since then but have been walking a lot during the summer and hiking a few times (great for cardio). Not so great on weak knees but I do OK taking it slow and easy. Today I experienced a triple relaxed encounter at the gym. Advent is a good time to exercise body and mind.

My husband and my son joined Planet Fitness. They have affordable rates so I don’t feel as bad spending the money. I actually signed up for the Black plan which gives you a little extra. I signed up today and decided to try all the different amenities.

I started with the Total Body Enhancement Machine, followed by the Massage Chair and then the Hydro Massage Chair. I wanted to try all three. The Total Body Enhancement Machine felt really good. The floor vibrated and the the red light therapy was a mood booster. It felt like my whole body up to my ear drums was vibrating and I can see the benefit of loosening up creaking joints. I will probably go into it in a little more depth in a different post on my fitness-well.com blog.

The Massage Chair did a good job of attending to sore and tense muscles and is more forceful than the Hydro Massage Chair. All in all, I came away relaxed. The best part for me was the leg press because I stretch my calves on that.

Advent Plan

Last week’s blog focused on my Advent Plan. It is very simply presented. During these dark, cold evenings it is easy to draw inward with a cup of hot tea and a good book. Lately, I like the quiet and will often retreat to a quiet room just to think. The end of the year, especially during Advent, it is a good time to reflect upon the year or even on life’s entirety.

I decided I did not want to give up my routine of lifting weights and getting my cardio in. Same goes for spiritual life. Checking in during the quiet time, reading inspirational readings or the beautiful Advent scripture readings. These are good to meditate upon.

If there is something on your heart take it to confession. It is a good practice to go to confession especially before Christmas and Easter. It lightens the load and creates a clean heart to bring to the Presence of the Lord.

Our Circular Lives

Traditionally, the candles for advent are situated in a circular wreath. I like the image of that. We start at one point and then come full-circle back to the beginning point. Just like our lives at times. The seasons are circular and come around year after year. Our lives, too, are a mixture of circular paths at times and that ultimately end back to our creator.

What a beautiful tradition we have in advent. It is celebrating our life as well as looking to the end goal. The end of advent is Christmas and the end of our lives goes back to God.

At the gym, I start with stretches to warm up my body so that I don’t injure my tight muscles. I then usually run on the tread mill followed by free weights and weight machines. I always end with stretching. This circular nature is how I put my best foot forward in the physical fitness area.

I invite you to look for your circular patterns during Advent. Let me know in the comments what they are.

My Advent wreath this year.

Lifting Physical and Mental Weights

There is a lot that weighs us down at this present time. Inflation, joblessness, inequality, moral decay. Just as we gain strength by lifting heavy weights at the gym, we must also become resolute in our minds. Put on the mind of Christ for he will see us through difficult times. I pray that your Advent is fruitful.

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Advent Has Me Longing for the Peace That Only Christ Can Provide

Advent Candles Image credit: Shutterstock/katarinagondova

Week One of Advent

The Peace of Advent Be with You

It’s here and not a moment too soon. Advent begins today at vigil and has me longing for the peace that only Christ can provide.

We seem to still be coming off the repercussions of the pandemic, and some are still hooked on the idea of getting sick with covid which definitely could happen but I hope never to go back to the mask jail. I prefer to smile at babies in the pews. That is the only way they are going to learn about different people and being out in the world. It will be interesting to see the studies that come out about the social and environmental impact of the “pandemic generation” and beyond.

Looking Inward

The past couple of years have made us look inward whether by circumstance or by choice. It seems like we lost a couple of years without the normal life experiences and may not return to some things as they once were. I guess, I can accept that. Things change, people change, circumstances change. It is a part of life and always has been.

The word Advent comes from the Latin adventus or arrival. We wait in anticipation for Christ’s arrival, his birth, the light of the world. Not only do the evenings begin early with pronounced darkness but I feel we need, more than ever, Christ’s light to shine on our own darkness.

Don’t Let the Darkness Take Hold

I have lived in darkness this past week and am kind of obsessed with the Idaho murders where four Idaho University college students were brutally stabbed and slain with a knife while sleeping. Two out of the six present in the house were not affected and survived this insanity. Not only is it shocking that something like this could happen, but that law enforcement has no suspects or no idea who the perpetrator is.

I sympathize with the parents and try to place myself in their shoes. It’s unimaginable, unbearable and atrocious. Who can make sense of it? It as at a time like this that we must lean heavily on the Lord. I pray for the parents, friends, and community, that there will be justice served by finding whoever did this.

This photo pictures the four youth so full of life and promise, only to be unexplicably snuffed out. I know there is much violence in the world but I just find this shocking and am grieving for the parents. The two with faces blurred are the surviving roommates. Photo credit is (@kayleegoncalves/Instagram)

Advent allows us to look at all the ugliness in our lives and in the world, whatever is lurking in the darkness. In exploring the facts of the four young adults murdered, I went to social media to gain clues. I use some social media but looked in another area and was astounded by what is there in plain sight for all to see, including the eyes of our youth! The latest trends are pretty sad, not to mention sinful. Please, if you have youth, please monitor all of their social media apps. Or at least, get on the apps yourself to see what young minds are being subjected to. You will be surprised!

Come Up With a Plan

Come up with a plan to live Advent more fully. Embrace the darkness as that is the only way to move through it. And what I mean by embrace is to acknowledge it. I see areas in my life that need improvement, of things that I would like to change. I must embrace the fact that these areas need change. I need to examine the dark areas in my life with the lens of Christ. Christ’s ways are built for health and happiness.

Many people don’t believe in God or religion. Faith is a gift and sometimes even our faith ebbs and flows but by performing the practices of our faith it helps us to draw closer.

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Abortion’s Polarizing Effects as Roe v Wade is Overturned Today

Abortion.  I never knew what a highly divisive topic this would become and how abortion would polarize the nation as Roe v Wade has been overturned today.  

We knew a decision from the SCOTUS was coming because of it being leaked and what a blessing that the decision came on the day of the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The Sacred Heart of Jesus, one of the most widely practiced and well-known Catholic devotions.  The flaming heart of Jesus burns with love for all humanity.  The thorns for the suffering and agony of the Lord in His passion and death.  The Lord's side was pierced and you can see a few drops of blood that was spilled for the ultimate sacrifice for the love of man.

This devotion is viewed as a symbol of God's boundless, eternal, and passionate love for mankind.

Christ came for sinners.
A statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Photo credit: Adobe Stock/Godong Photo

Lord knows how this will end up. I think we all need to take a deep, collective breath, especially since much of our country’s leadership is in favor of keeping abortion legal.

We have been blinded over the past 49 years ( I am glad it did not make it to the 50 year mark) to or whims and desires and the attitude that our life does not seem to be finite. Yes, there are many social implications but keep in mind, abortion is not erased—the act of depletion remains with the mother—for she is mother at the moment of conception whether she carries the baby to term or not.

It Could be a Time for Unity not Division

It could be a time for our country to come together to support the unborn, to devise programs to help women in need, to focus on the structure of the family and support men as fathers. What we see celebrated in the main stream media is not necessarily what main stream Americans support or strive to exemplify in their lives. Yes, there is room for including, but not to the extent of “giving the baby away with the hand basket.”

Even though a women walks into an abortion clinic to eliminate her unplanned pregnancy, the life taken is never going to be erased. It will always be there, in the deep recesses of the person’s memory, whether there is contrition or not.

When we look at the “inconvenience” of bringing a child into the world, we must take a look at the bigger picture, at our responsibility at accepting the repercussions of our actions. As Americans, Mother Teresa advises, we need to learn how to love more. We need not accept violence as a common form of expression.

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Well-Attended Funeral Makes Me Think About Death and Dying

Loved one at casket for funeral
Shutterstock/Syda Productions

When Loved Ones Leave US

I recently attended a funeral for a fairly young individual in their 70’s which is young by today’s standards.  It was well-attended; the church was full for the funeral Mass.

I used to work for my church.  I would often help families set up for a funeral.  I would accept the flowers from the florist and get the liturgical books ready.  I might also help set up the hall for the funeral reception placing table clothes and table decorations on the tables.  Some funerals were very small—only a hand-full of people in attendance, and others very large and some were in the medium range.  All were there to honor their loved one and to send them off to their final resting place.

I don’t like to dwell on death and dying but I got to thinking about how big my funeral would be.  I am hoping that that time is a long way off, but it still made me wonder.

What was special about the recent funeral I attended, is that this individual made a difference in lives of his friends, family and community.  He touched a lot of people.  I believe we get what we give in this life.  There are different ways of giving and some of us are better at it than others.  Regardless of how big a funeral is, it is honorable to be able to celebrate and reflect on someone’s life.

I suppose it is not something that I should be too concerned with because I won’t “be there” for my funeral.  Funerals are for the living.  When I worked at the church it felt like real life happening before my eyes.  So much of life today is electronic communication.   You can’t smell the incense, sing the hymns communally or hug the bereaved through a livestream.

As a catholic, I think it is a good idea to pre-plan what you would like your funeral to look like.  I haven’t done that yet but knowing how particular I am, I would want it to be a certain way.  There are special prayers that you can use at Mass that are appropriate for funerals and hymns that always bring tears to my eyes.  Many people who are not catholic hold celebrations of life that are very meaningful.  In a way, funerals are about the marking of time, just like celebrating the birth of a child.

Expect Emotions to Rise Up

I think when we attend a funeral many emotions are brought up.  We may think about the life we are leading or have led.  We think about our relationships and what we might want to accomplish before that fateful day.  We don’t like to think about death—the finality of it.  We will all be there some day.

Many times, I think about the family members and the loss of their loved one.  I think about how different it is for them, how their world must be turned upside-down–sometimes in an instant.

I look at how violent the world is becoming, and how going about your day-to-day business can end in a mass shooting incident.  How can this be real?  It is quite tragic that we have to worry about stuff like that happening.  I think people have become more comfortable just staying home since the pandemic began.

Perhaps the world will never really be the same as it was before—I think I have changed because of the pandemic.  I think, at least for a period of time, we all looked death straight in the face and may have experienced the loss of a loved one that succumbed to the virus.  I remember right after the mask mandates went out, people that you would greet you when out for a walk, wave and say hello.  Now, it is not the case, because we have gone back to some of our old ways.

After thinking about this for a while, all I know for sure, is that there is always one constant.  Death and taxes.

Once Again, Death is At Our Doorstep

When I write posts, it often takes me some time because there is a lot of SEO stuff that I try to accomplish.  Once again, we are hurled back to that place of disbelief when a gunman enters a school in Uvalde, Texas, to massacre innocent children and teachers or out to the grocery store in Buffalo, New York, for a carton of ice cream.  How are we to respond to that death and carnage and lives lost—for what? Five minutes of social media fame?  What does this evil action prove?

It may be a little weird, but I look for clues.  I look for clues of God speaking to me as to how should I digest what has just happened or is there some significant thing I am to do or think.  I look at the locale of the action (it could be any type of upheaval, not just school shootings), I look for the date or just any sign that resonates.  I look at the Scripture for the day.  Is there a message in it for the time and place that we are experiencing?

Sometimes, I am chilled because, I realize it might not be God who does the “speaking.”  There is evil in the world whether we care to admit it or not.  Evil acts.  Some people are mentally disturbed and do evil things but sometimes there is no explanation for the evil that is committed.  Where does that leave us when we are looking for answers?

Certainly, we can not go on like this and there must be restrictions for disturbed or evil people and young people owning guns.  I feel we are on a trajectory now, especially after everything Covid has dealt to us.  It must be a trajectory of change.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

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Summitting Mt. Everest during the Easter Season

Filmmaker Elia Saikaly has shot a number of projects chronicling his experiences on Everest. His latest, Everest: The Summit Climb, was filmed during a 2013 summit bid. Click the arrow to watch him summiting Mt. Everest.

I am amazed at the photographers and filmmakers at the top of the mountain and pretty much throughout the whole trek. The filmmaker listed above has magnificent work. Check out the video of him summiting. Another thing that caught my attention was his film work of the meteora monasteries of which I had the privilege of visiting and touring in 2017.

My husband and I received our second dose of our Covid vaccine recently. Our former primary care physician who recently retired was volunteering there at the clinic. I mentioned to him that I had a fantasy of climbing Mt. Everest. He didn’t condone it because of the danger involved. “Wouldn’t climbing a mountain around here be sufficient?” he asked. I said, “You are probably right.” A person can dream though, right?

If I am going to do it, the window is growing smaller, day by day. I suppose time will pass and then the decision will be made for me.

Journey to the Summit of My Faith

This Lent was a journey to the summit of my faith. It turned out to be less prayerful in the traditional sense but I really did a good job foregoing the things that I gave up. So much so that I am continuing with giving them up or at least limiting them. We’ll see how it goes. We are already into the third week of Easter so far. Easter happens to last 50 days all the way up until Pentecost.

I wept as I heard the hymns of my youth sung in church during Easter Mass. Seeing familiar faces going up toward Communion also made me cry. I looked forward to renewing Baptismal promises and getting blessed with the the holy water sprinkling rite. I took my glasses off anticipating water drops falling on them. I didn’t feel a drop as the deacon came by waving his dripping green fronds in the air. It also happened another year where I didn’t get sprinkled and I couldn’t believe how short-changed I felt. I just have to remember it is not about me.

Holy water font lies in wait.

I suppose the Easter tears streaming down my face were the only sprinkling I was going to get this year. Since we don’t currently have holy water in the church it just felt like more of a deprivation to not receive the Easter sprinkling. I am a creature that likes certain things a certain way. It is a matter of control sometimes working toward my benefit and sometimes not.

Summiting Covid-19 Virus

Life brings challenges and presently the challenge that will have to be summited is the Covid-19 virus. It seems to be changing the way we are living–at least in certain parts of the country. Some states are more open than others with, it seems, no more detriment.

I am still watching episodes of climbers summitting Mt. Everest and K2 which is the second highest mountain (28,251 feet) in the Himalya’s Karakorum mountain range and is nicknamed Savage Mountain. Even though it is a shorter climb than Mt. Everest, it is more technical. From 1902 to June of 2019 less than 400 people have ever reached the summit and lived to talk about it. One person dies for every four that reach the summit. K2 also has a death zone that is insufficient to sustain human life.

An Eddie Bauer video suggests that Mountain climbing is a calling for some and a religion for others. It is a chance to truly test ones own limits to do what so few have done before. One of the greatest lessons a climber can learn is how to listen to the mountain. It doesn’t have a voice but it does speak.

Lent is over now and we have fulfilled out Easter duty of attending part or all of the Triduum with the culmination of Easter Mass. But Easter goes on another 50 days until Pentecost. Perhaps we can look at summitting Mt. Everest as Easter and making it back down as Pentecost.

Eucharist as Source and Summit

After summiting, the most important part of the journey is climbing back down. I have been noticing in the videos that one is not able to climb without ropes guiding and assisting with the climb. During Lent, we hung on to Jesus offering our sufferings. Now we have celebrated His resurrection. What do we place our focus on now? For Catholics, the answer is easy. We look to the Eucharist. Reception of the Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith. When we break bread together it teaches us who we are in Christ. Not being allowed to celebrate the Mass this past year has also taught us a lot about who we are.

On the mountain there are many people that you encounter, from all walks of life. The church is also like that. The Catholic church is universal, located in many countries around the world with a diverse cross section of humanity. We share the same prayers. The prayers of the Mass. I like that. It has been said that Jesus is offered up in the Mass every hour of every day all around the world. I like that, too.

Summiting the Mountain of Divine Mercy

Here is a mountain of a prayer called a litany. After each line, the response is Jesus, I trust in you. It is a litany prayer that is prayed on Divine Mercy Sunday or at any time really. It is often prayed after the Divine Mercy Chaplet which is prayed at 3 pm, at the hour of Christ’s death. I would say the world needs a whole lot of mercy right now.

Divine Mercy Painting

Divine Mercy Litany Prayer

Divine Mercy, gushing forth from the bosom of the Father
Divine Mercy, greatest attribute of God
Divine Mercy, incomprehensible mystery
Divine Mercy, fountain gushing forth from the mystery of the Most Blessed Trinity
Divine Mercy, unfathomed by any intellect, human or angelic
Divine Mercy, from which wells forth all life and happiness
Divine Mercy, better than the heavens
Divine Mercy, source of miracles and wonders
Divine Mercy, encompassing the whole universe
Divine Mercy, descending to earth in the Person of the Incarnate Word
Divine Mercy, which flowed out from the open wound of the Heart of Jesus
Divine Mercy, enclosed in the Heart of Jesus for us, and especially for sinners
Divine Mercy, unfathomed in the institution of the Sacred Host
Divine Mercy, in the founding of the Holy Church
Divine Mercy, in the Sacrament of Holy Baptism
Divine Mercy, in our justification through Jesus Christ
Divine Mercy, accompanying us through our whole life
Divine Mercy, embracing us especially at the hour of death
Divine Mercy, endowing us with immortal life
Divine Mercy, accompanying us every moment of our life
Divine Mercy, shielding us from the fire of hell
Divine Mercy, in the conversion of hardened sinners
Divine Mercy, astonishment for Angels, incomprehensible to Saints
Divine Mercy, unfathomed in all the mysteries of God
Divine Mercy, lifting us out of every misery
Divine Mercy, source of our happiness and joy
Divine Mercy, in calling us forth from nothingness to existence
Divine Mercy, embracing all the works of His hands
Divine Mercy, crown of all God’s handiwork
Divine Mercy, in which we are all immersed
Divine Mercy, sweet relief for anguished hearts
Divine Mercy, only hope of despairing souls
Divine Mercy, repose of hearts, peace amidst fear
Divine Mercy, delight and ecstasy of holy souls
Divine Mercy, inspiring hope against all hope

Concluding Prayer: Eternal God, in whom mercy is endless and the treasury of compassion inexhaustible, look kindly upon us and increase Your mercy in us, that in difficult moments we might not despair nor become despondent, but with great confidence submit ourselves to Your holy will, which is Love and Mercy itself.

[From the Diary of Sister Maria Faustina]

… Jesus, I Trust In You …

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Into the Death Zone on Mt. Everest

Holy Week Meditation

At 29,035 feet, (5.5 miles above sea level), Mt. Everest’s summit has approximately one-third the air pressure that exists at sea level, which significantly reduces a climber’s ability to breathe because of reduced oxygen. At this altitude, the body begins to die off. When summiting Everest, carrying supplemental oxygen is the norm with few exceptions. Without this life-saving necessity, it would be impossible for most people to reach the summit and make it back down without encountering numerous complications. That is why it is notoriously called the “Death Zone,” reaching altitudes at and above 26, 247 feet above sea level.  Most of the 200 plus climbers who have died on Mount Everest have died in the Death Zone.

Dangerous Queues at the Top in the Death Zone

At high altitudes the human body cannot function properly and a lack of oxygen results in a multitude of health risks. When the amount of oxygen in your blood falls below a certain level, heart rates soar up to 140 beats per minute (normal rate is between 60-100), increasing heart attack risk. Oxygen is so limited that the body’s cells start to die. Climbers’ judgment becomes impaired, and they can experience heart attacks, strokes, or severe altitude sickness. To make matters worse, climbing Mt. Everest has become so popular that queues of climbers form at the top before reaching the summit increasing the time spent in the Death Zone and have culminated in more deaths. In 2019, the queues to reach Everest’s summit have been so long that climbers in the Death Zone are dying of exhaustion waiting in line for their turn to climb.

Sometimes in life, what we’ve planned is confronted with the unexpected.

No Man Left Behind Does Not Apply on Everest

You help each other out on the mountain and there are many stories of heroism—and also of tragedy. Often times, climbers will encounter other climbers along the way who have been waylaid for myriad reasons. Depending on where you are located on the mountain and what condition the downed person is in, will determine their fate. When you are in the Death Zone and you only have enough oxygen for yourself to make it down, even if you didn’t continue to the summit, the decision is made for you—you most often must leave your fellow trekker on the mountain, or you will both perish.

Before reaching the upper camps, climbers must cross the Khumbu Icefall. The icefall consists of layers of gigantic ice blocks that are constantly shifting, creating giant crevasses in-between them. Climbers use metal ladders to span these cracks. It is safest to climb the icefall in the dark before the ice begins to wake up under the warmth of the sun. The push to the summit is also initiated in the cover of darkness so that trekkers can reach the summit in the daylight and then descend before darkness falls.

A Host of Physical Ailments

Mountaineers typically spend one to two months at Base Camp, making multiple trips up and down the mountain to acclimatize. If climbers don’t give their bodies enough time to adjust to the lung-crushing conditions in the Himalayas, they could experience swelling in their brain and lungs. When you are at the upper camp levels above the Khumbu Icefall, the potential is there to develop high-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE), in which dangerous levels of fluid build-up in the lungs. The best treatment is to get down the mountain.

One of the biggest risk factors at 26,000 feet is hypoxia, a lack of adequate oxygen circulation to organs like your brain. If the brain doesn’t get enough oxygen, it can start to swell, causing a condition called high altitude cerebral edema (HACE). Essentially, it’s HAPE for the brain. Humans begin to deteriorate, sleep less, lose weight and their muscles begin wasting away.

This swelling can trigger nausea, vomiting, and difficulty thinking and reasoning. An oxygen-starved brain can cause climbers to forget where they are and enter a delirium that some experts consider a form of high-altitude psychosis. Hypoxic climbers’ judgment becomes impaired, and they’ve been known to do strange things like start shedding their clothes or talking to imaginary friends.

There is also glare from the endless snow and ice which can cause snow blindness which is temporary vision loss or burst blood vessels in your eyes. Any exposed skin freezes instantly in the Death Zone. Temperatures never rise above zero degrees Fahrenheit. Frostbite is common and can turn gangrenous. It often takes everything to put one foot in front of the other. Poor decision-making can lead climbers to forget to clip back into a safety rope, stray from the route, or fail to properly prepare life-saving equipment like oxygen tanks.

The Denial of Impending Death

The Sherpa, who do most of the “heavy lifting” on the mountain carrying necessities and sometimes haul up luxuries that some of the more prominent expedition companies advertise to entice clients. Along with carrying the bulk of supplies, Sherpas are there to guide and assess the mountain for their clients. Sherpas indicate that many of the deaths on Everest happen after climbers inadvertently push their bodies past their limits, which makes it hard to climb back down. Some climbers suffer an oxygen-starved delirium and their judgment becomes impaired often times just sitting down and not going any further.

In order to summit successfully, everything must go just right. Around 10 p.m., climbers leave Camp Four at 26,000 feet. The first chunk of their climb is done in the dark, lit by starlight and headlamps.

About seven hours later climbers typically reach the summit. After a brief rest filled with celebrations and photographs, the expeditions turn around, making the 12-hour trek back to safety and arriving (ideally) before nightfall.

A Different Kind of Passion

Why on earth would anyone want to climb Mt. Everest? Maybe it is the risk–the excitement–the challenge. Will it make us happy?

Just living daily life can be a challenge. The world continues to move forward for good or for naught—the battle between good and evil, light and darkness. We sure may feel that way after the Colorado mass shooting inside of a grocery store where 10 non-suspecting shoppers and police officer were brutally mowed down with a machine gun. (Catch the live-stream funeral Mass for Officer Eric Talley here today March 29.) A grocery store, a bastion of the every-day, essential places, and many of the few places we can go during the pandemic, can now be considered a potential threat. We need to remind ourselves that we do not know the day or the hour that we may take our last breath. I am saddened by the incident.

We could look at Holy Week and Jesus’ crucifixion and death on the cross as some sort of death zone. Maybe as Christians, we could die more and more to our sins. We focus on his death because our sins put Him on the cross. Jesus suffered bloody torture and then was lifted up high to hang from a cross to die—he, who was sinless. We examine our lives and any sin or habits that don’t work toward building up the Kingdom of God.

Heavy Lifting in Life and on the Mountain

In life, we may carry a heavy burden like the Sherpas. We unite this burden with Christ’s suffering, who essentially paid the price so that we might have eternal life. When we reach the top of Everest have we made it to our life’s goal? Will we want more after this? Will we be fulfilled? Making it to the top doesn’t guarantee that we will make it back down. Just as in life, and climbing Mt. Everest, one foot in front of the other is required—every day.

Sometimes climbing and summiting don’t go as planned. Such is life. Not everything goes as planned. The important thing to remember is how do we make a difference where we are? How do we give our lives to and for the service of others no matter the position we hold or our vocation? During Holy week when we meditate on the Passion of Christ, we can do this.

Crucifixion painting by Diego Velazquez.

King of Kings movie trailer.

King of Kings movie.

Live-Stream Mass for Officer Eric Talley

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Experiencing a Mountain of Spiritual Dryness

There is only one week left before Holy Week. By now, we’ve gotten into the swing of Lent and may be doing a stellar job or we may have succumbed to not keeping Lenten promises. After all, it’s about Jesus and our relationship with Him and not about what we decide to give up for Lent that matters most. The question we need to ask ourselves, is how did we draw closer to Christ?

“Hangry” Lenten Season

For some, Lent may have gone on as usual. My Lent is turning out to be very different than past Lenten seasons, mostly because of pandemic living. I gave up sweets and alcohol and attachments to certain things. A surprising thing has happened, though. As of this week, I have decided to fast continuously. I am checking what I eat and how much I eat and try to feel the “pangs” of hunger. This is unheard of for me. I eat consistently at the same time each day and do not like to “go hungry.” Or, shall I say, I don’t like it when I am “hangry.” I decided that I wanted to think about and focus on my hunger to draw closer to Jesus. Today, it made me realize how much I think about food. It’s probably because I am a foodie and I love to eat.

Another reason I decided to embark on this hunger deprivation is that I am going through a spiritual dryness. It is a dryness that I have never felt before. It is a draught. I feel like the pandemic has thrown me off track–shaken me up. Initially, when there was no in-person Mass and the comfort of your surrounding church family, it caused me to draw inward. I am working through it by living with it, trusting that God is there. One thing that has helped me is working outside of the house, otherwise I think I would go totally berserk.

Mountaineers on Mt. Everest have to deprive themselves and eat a lighter diet. They are focused on the end goal and come prepared to attempt reaching it.

gray and brown mountain
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Traversing the Upper Camps

After crossing the Khumbu Icefall and making it to Camp 1, many climbers go back and forth between Camp 1 and Camp 4 to acclimatize there body to the lack of oxygen. Gradual ascent is the most important factor in preventing acute mountain sickness. Staying a day or two to rest in one spot for every 2,000 feet of climbing above 8,000 feet is the prescribed method to ward off physical complications.

Success in acclimatizing depends on the speed of your climb and how hard you push yourself. When the body is deprived of oxygen and low air pressure, the body can exhibit signs of mountain sickness which could be mild to life-threatening and can affect the nervous system, lungs, muscles, and heart.

Mild to moderate mountain sickness symptoms include: difficulty sleeping; dizziness or light-headedness; fatigue; headache; loss of appetite; nausea or vomiting, rapid pulse (heart rate); shortness of breath with exertion. More severe acute mountain sickness symptoms include: blue color to the skin (cyanosis); chest tightness or congestion; confusion; cough; coughing up blood; decreased consciousness or withdrawal from social interaction; gray or pale complexion; cannot walk in a straight line, or walk at all; shortness of breath at rest. There are medics at the camps but you are a long way from a full array of medics and medical equipment.

Spiritual Dryness is a Thing

Spiritual dryness is kind of like a sickness, too. In a way, God is like a parent that lets His child go out to drive alone for the very first time or pretty much any time after they get their license. He trusts that the child can drive safely. I am surprised that God does this because it is really nerve-wracking as a parent of teenagers drivers.

Being in a spiritual desert is feeling like we have to rely on ourselves. Of course, we don’t have to rely on ourselves. We can fall back on prayer, attend Mass more often or read daily scripture and meditate upon it. Often times, I may think I can go it alone, but God will be there in the subtlest of voices in the circumstances of daily living. After all, we constantly look for His consolation like a child wanting to be loved but instead we experience a lack of this attention which creates a feeling of desertion. As a mature believer, we don’t always feel this consolation like when we first experienced His loving presence and we might be worried about this sense of being in a spiritual desert.

I take great comfort in knowing that the saints also experienced this dryness but they never lost hope. St. Mother Theresa, of all people, experienced excruciating spiritual dryness for many years! She accepted this as God’s will for her life and she incorporated a blind faith as the dryness continued.

A Master of the Mountain

World-renowned Mother Theresa of Calcutta, now Saint Theresa of Calcutta, a champion for the poor and destitute, experienced a profound spiritual dryness.

1910-1997

Life Is – An inspirational Poem by Mother Teresa

Life is an opportunity, benefit from it.
Life is beauty, admire it.
Life is bliss, taste it.
Life is a dream, realize it.
Life is a challenge, meet it.
Life is a duty, complete it.
Life is a game, play it.
Life is a promise, fulfill it.
Life is sorrow, overcome it.
Life is a song, sing it.
Life is a struggle, accept it.
Life is a tragedy, confront it.
Life is an adventure, dare it.
Life is luck, make it.
Life is too precious, do not destroy it.
Life is life, fight for it.

Let God Do the Heavy Lifting

Sometimes you just want someone to carry that heavy load for you in life. Everyone has some sort of baggage or load they would like to be rid of. News flash: no matter your situation in life, everyone has a story and we all experience the same types of things.

The Mt. Everest Sherpa do a lot of the heavy lifting when climbing Mt. Everest. Without their help, inexperienced climbers would not make it to the summit. Sherpas are a member of a Himalayan people living on the borders of Nepal and Tibet, renowned for their skill in mountaineering. They are part work-horse part guide, carrying heavy loads of food, supplies and oxygen tanks for their clients up and down the mountain. Many unexperienced climbers would not be able to summit without their skill and knowledge.

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In Life, Sometimes We Fall Down the Crevasses

In life, sometimes we fall. Same on Mt. Everest. If you aren’t careful, a 100 mile-per-hour wind can whip up unexpectedly and knock you off the mountain. Or, you could take a misstep and go hurtling down the steep rock face.

Once you reach base camp and begin to get acclimatized, the next step is to start off for Camp 1. To do that you have to cross the Khumbu Icefall located at the head of the Khumbu Glacier. Crossing it is considered one of the most dangerous stages of the South Col route to Everest’s summit.

An Ever-Changing River of Ice

The Khumbu Icefall is a short distance from Everest Base Camp and ranges from 17,060 ft, to 29,029 ft., and is an ever-changing and fast-moving river of ice that challenges mountaineers as they amble up the mountain toward Camp 2. Climbers use fixed ropes and metal ladders to cross the vast crevasses. They also have to contend with huge ice towers, (called seracs) that collapse and send huge ice blocks as big as houses careening down the glacier.

This living mass of moving ice cracks, sputters, hisses and moans. Our lives can kind of be like that of a glacier. Glaciers grow and recede based on the weather conditions. We grow in knowledge, experience, and understanding or sometimes we are bogged down with our emotions and feelings and the state of the world. On a larger scale, from a baby we grow and then we recede to our end of life on earth. It is the cycle of life. Maybe that is why the mountain is calling me, especially now on this Lenten journey, at least climbing it vicariously.

Repent and Believe in the Gospel

A rather large cross on my forehead on Ash Wednesday.

Perhaps our lives are not as treacherous as climbing a mountain, but perhaps they are. It is usually when we are far from God’s love when our lives begin to spiral downward. When we fall or sin we fail God and our fellow man. When we sin, we may think that we are not affecting anyone else, but our actions always have an effect. No matter how we have fallen God always turns it to the good. As Catholics, we have a way to create a clean heart through the sacrament of Reconciliation. However, the whole point of Reconciliation (Confession) is conversion. During Lent we focus on conversion of the heart. When we receive ashes on the forehead on Ash Wednesday the minister tells us to, “Repent and believe in the Gospel.”

When you are on the mountain you are most likely part of a group and develop a team to help each other out. There is a designated leader that will let you know whether it is safe to attempt the summit. There is only a small window of time to attempt to reach it safely and if you are not within that window, your life may come to an end at the expense of refusing to listen. Jesus also gives us guidance on how to live our lives or we might not make it to abide with him in heaven. A simple guide on how we are to conduct ourselves in life is present in the 10 Commandments. It is how we are supposed to conduct ourselves by holding God close-by in our thoughts, in our hearts, on our lips, and in our actions. Sometimes, often easier said than done.

During Lent, we may think about our mortality as we contemplate the Passion of Jesus which is His life, death crucifixion.

Encountering the Crevasses in Our Lives

Many people in the world may think that Jesus and religion is an outmoded way of thinking or believing, but until you have felt His presence you won’t know what you are missing. And the only way to the Father is through His son. Eventually, we are all called but few are chosen. Often times it is in our encounter with the “crevasses” in our lives that draws us closer to the Presence of God.

Sometimes our practice waxes and wanes and changes, not unlike the moving river of ice and may depend on the circumstances of our lives, but God is always there behind the scenes as a constant companion. He is there in the subtlest of ways and the more blatant. He will never leave us. We can choose to be close to Him or not.

The time of the pandemic has been trying and the election year in some ways was worse for me. During Lent I have a particular image in my head of the Blessed Virgin Mary crushing the evil and cunning snake and is a way for me to cope with the injustices in the world. When we pray to Jesus, through Mary, she intercedes for us. We just need to remind ourselves that we are ultimately not in control. That is why I conjure up this image of Mary’s power in the world. It is kind of a lifeline as I don’t think I am in the realm of affecting change on a grand scale. I then realize that I can change the world around me and try to leave it in a better place than when I found it. I might fall or fail to show God’s love from time to time but I don’t want to fall so big and so hard down the biggest of crevasses because there could be no way back from that.

The ever-moving Khumbu icefall beings in the lower left part of the photo and rises up towards the upper right. A link of more photos of the Khumbu Icefall.

Khumbu Icefall on Everest – Satori Adventures Nepal

Nepal Mt. Everest Icefall
George Kashouh Mt Everest Icefall Ladder

The photos from Travelthewholeworld.com and the linked videos give you an idea of the magnificence of the daunting challenge that trekkers face when climbing Mt. Everest. The glacial canyon and rocks are unbelievably tough to maneuver before even reaching Camp 1. After crossing the icefall, trekkers will realize that the 23 mile trail to Mount Everest, excluding acclimatization which slows the process, is a never-ending journey.

Not only will mountaineers encounter a precipitous climb on the expedition but could also experience hypoxemia, sub-zero temperature, and bitter cold. Wet avalanche and rockfall are some of the other threats to the survival of every trekker.

The low atmospheric pressure and the continuous battle against low oxygen and summit fever lasts until the climbers descend to the base camp and into the valley below.

Some Awesome Videos of Climbing the Khumbu Icefall

Back to the ladders at Everest / Khumbu Icefall – Bing video

Chapter 3: Attempting Mount Everest’s Khumbu Icefall In 4KVR | 360 Video | Sports Illustrated – Bing video

Crossing Khumbu Icefall on Everest Climbing – Bing video

 

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About Mary Perkins

Mary Perkins is a blogger who looks for the usual and unusual ways that her Catholic faith resonates with every-day life. She makes connections large and small and shares them with her readers on themarianniche.com blog. Mary is also the content editor for the lifestyle and fitness blog, fitness-well.com. She likes to write and would like to turn her blog into a money-making venture someday.

Mary likes to take photos and has her iPhone camera always within reach. She breaks out her Canon 7D for when she needs to be more detailed.

I do have a store that sells First Communion/Confirmation jewelry and plan on promoting it more soon. If you are so inclined to contribute a donation to my blog I thank you.

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Lenten Journey-Base Camp on Mount Everest

I am not sure how it all began–this fascination with climbing Mount Everest. I remember a while back that I was introduced to a book called “Into Thin Air,” by Jon Krakaur about a triumphant and deadly expedition to the summit of Mt. Everest. I think I was hooked after that. There is also a movie based on the book.

I have long had the desire to climb Mount Everest. I am not sure why. I have only climbed two small mountains in my life, Mt. Roxy Ann in Medford, OR at 3576 feet tall (my in-laws used to live in Medford at the base of Roxy Ann) and Mt. St. Helen in Washington at 8366 feet in elevation. I have climbed other hills sprinkled in here and there.

In an earlier day at Mt. Saint Helen viewing the north side. I climbed the south side with my son’s boy scout troop. Photo top right is at Mt. Roxy Ann.

Mt. St. Helen was considerably more challenging and I climbed it once to the top and another time to the pumice field. The first time climbing it, we made it to the top. I was with my son’s boy scout troop. The second time was with my family and we were not as well prepared. We started late and the weather was foggy and there was a mishap with a pair of boots. You never know what you will encounter out in nature.

Why Would Someone Climb Mt. Everest?

The Mt. Everest’s south base camp in Nepal, is 17,598 feet above sea level. (The north base camp is in Tibet, China at 16,900 feet.) The air is noticeably thinner. Many climbers begin to acclimatize at base camp and at higher camps for months before making the final ascent to the summit of Mt. Everest. It is not uncommon to experience altitude sickness which, at times, can be acute and quite serious. I know that I experienced oxygen deprivation when climbing Mt. St. Helen. The closer we got to the top the harder it was to breathe and every step was labored. Everything slows down at the top.

Mt. Everest is 29,035 feet. People die climbing Mt. Everest.

Some people may be attracted to the risk of climbing Everest, because, after all, your life is at stake and if you make it, it’s a notch in the old belt loop and a feather in your cap. Many climbers who have died on Mt. Everest remain on the mountain because it is too risky to bring them down. For some people, essentially risking their lives makes them feel more alive, exuberant, or having to do with mastering a situation.  If they can approach it in a methodical enough way they will feel in control. I would have to say that I am in the latter camp of taking a methodical approach to attain a goal as well as the notoriety of it, of mastering the often unattainable for most people.

This looks like a forlorn place with it’s “desert-like” appearance. Photo Credit: emifaulk on Flickr

Placing the Focus on Lent

During Lent, Catholics focus on fasting, almsgiving and penance. For Lent, many of us may give up the usual things like chocolate, alcohol, sweets, etc. Or, we may do something for someone. I thought this Lenten observance could be taken in increments just like climbing Mt. Everest.

We are beginning the journey at base camp now. My husband has decided for us that we will give up the usual sweets and the occasional (or sometimes more frequent) glass of wine after work. Lent is really more than that. Don’t we rend our garments and put on sackcloth and sprinkle ashes on our heads? Rending (tearing) of garments, putting on sackcloth, rough clothing made from goats hair worn for mourning, and sprinkling ashes on the head were Hebrew customs expressing great sorrow over grave evils or as a sign of repentance for sin. I think we got off easy living in the modern era–in terms of the sackcloth. Fasting is a way of shifting the focus on God and not ourselves.

Rend your hearts, not your garments,
and return to the Lord, your God.
For gracious and merciful is he,
slow to anger rich in kindness,
and relenting in punishment.  Joel 2:13  

For Lent, I decided that I would write again. I put it down for a while because I felt that there wasn’t much to write about during the pandemic or at least not that much to look forward to. Ok, I will admit it, I am depressed at times because of pandemic living.

As Catholics, we begin the journey on Ash Wednesday for 40 days. Jesus was tempted and retreated to the desert for 40 days and 40 nights. We, too, set aside time to contemplate our lives and long for Easter Day, the Resurrection of the Lord, where we will renew our baptismal vows. By the time we reach Easter Sunday, we may just have a fuller understanding and experience of God’s faithfulness and his salvation.

Grappling with Our Mortality

When you climb Mt. Everest you are confronted with your mortality. One major slip-up or oversite and it’s curtains. At base camp, you are already deprived of oxygen. Preparing for Mt. Everest, I am sure you are contemplating and planning and making sure all of your t’s are crossed and your i’s are dotted before you attempt reaching the summit.

Do we put that much focus on our Lenten journey? We all carry our life’s baggage with us and Lent is a good time to unload that in the sacrament of Reconciliation. We prepare our hearts by meditating upon Jesus’ Life, Death and Resurrection through attending Stations of the Cross or praying the rosary. We place our focus on others by contributing to the Lenten Rice Bowl Mission. We can read Magnificat’s Lenten Companion.

The thing is, our whole lives are like climbing a mountain.

The mountain of the Lord. Meditating on His sacrifice during Lent.

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Reaching New Heights during Lent on Mt. Everest

Rich results on Google's SERP when searching for 'Mt. Everest" 'Lent' "Lenten journey'
Climbing to the top of Mt. Everest during Lent.

Lately, learning everything about climbing Mt. Everest fascinates me. I think it is a way to escape the current reality we are living in. Join me in taking a Lenten journey as we “climb” Mt. Everest.

A decision to climb Everest is not made lightly. Age, physical condition, expense, time allotment, experience, etc., are all important factors. Deprived of the simple amenities of home, camping in tents on rocky hillsides while breathing thin air, traversing over gaping ice crevices, climbing through the “Death Zone,” and ultimately making the final push to the summit, pushes one’s body and mind to the limit.

With the arrival of Lent, I realize that we have almost completed a year living with the coronavirus pandemic. How did that happen?

It has been a weird year for me spiritually. We were unable to attend Palm Sunday and Easter Masses. We experienced outdoor Mass in summer. When the weather turned, we had indoor Mass with limited capacity, tightly controlled, at least in terms of reserving a spot and seating arrangements. No holy water, no communal singing, no Eucharistic cup and no fellowship after Mass. I was thankful for the attempt at keeping everyone safe while trying to maintain some sense of normalcy but after a year, it begins to change a person’s perspective on things.

I have done my share of “watching” televised Mass as we are still allowed the dispensation from attending but I try to go as often as possible. It was so hard at the beginning but over time the acceptance level rises. How long does it take for a new habit to form? I think it is six weeks. Dare I say that it is beginning to feel “normal?” Is it going to be a new way of living? There are many questions that need answering. Time will tell.

Since we are living through a perpetual Lent by pandemic standards and now that we have arrived at the actual season of Lent, I thought I would like to equate climbing Mt. Everest with the 40 days of Lent. I suppose there are some similarities. Both take planning and both lead one on a journey to arrive at a destination, while enduring some hardships along the way.

Over the next several weeks, join me in “climbing” the tallest mountain in the world through a Catholic lens as we make our way through Lent.

A detailed map of climbing the South Face of Mt. Everest
Join me on a Lenten journey as we “climb” Mt. Everest. Photo by Trek Himalayan.

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A Different Kind of Advent Season in a Weary World

art blur bright burn
Photo by George Becker on Pexels.com

I looked at the last time I posted anything. Several months have gone by! I won’t explain why. There are numerous reasons—too many to count. I think my blog standings have diminished but they weren’t very robust to begin with. It takes effort to keep the flow going and my effort in that department has been nil. This inactivity, I will attribute to COVID-brain, and working 40 hours per week at a different job.

I am a spectator of sorts at what the world is presenting as news. I get most of it through screens of various shapes and sizes. I also get it from the reactions and behaviors of other people. The problem is, depending on the source of the “news,” depends on what we begin to believe about the world we are currently living in, and to some extent, what we believe about ourselves.

This Advent will be different for me because I won’t be celebrating some of the days in the usual ways with in-person Mass attendance. That has me thinking about how I will celebrate it.

Sterile Pews

Suffice it to say, Mass attendance has been pretty sterile lately, to put it mildly. I am not complaining but making an accurate observation. I ask myself, sitting in pews distanced from others while my face is masked, if this is what I signed up for? Well, in fact, yes; I did sign up for it as it is a requirement. Of course, being a cradle catholic, the practice of Mass attendance is all that I know. It has been several months of masked Mass attendance, assigned seating after “signing up” for Mass and a multitude of safety protocols in place. Yes, I am thankful for that, but I don’t want it to be the “new normal.” I guess God doesn’t always give us what we want.

The Mass is about our relationship with Jesus, but it is also about our relationship with others. Without “other,” it has been very difficult to have the relationship with Jesus and with ourselves. It is “other” which acts as a mirror to ourselves. Without this interaction, we begin to question our existence. Sure, we can exist virtually, but do we really exist in place and time on a screen? I suppose we are just a summation of our thoughts, feelings and desires anyway, embodied by flesh and blood. I think it is the element of human touch and closeness that we all crave and can be considered a need right now.

Social Mass-Butterfly

When we receive Eucharist, we do receive Jesus, but for me, without fellowship after Mass, it feels as if the consummation of the sacrificial meal has not fully taken place. We receive His Real Presence through the Eucharist but if unable to be in relationship after Mass, I feel the “family” aspect has been taken away. No coffee and donuts, no tacos after Mass. No hi, how-are-you’s. No hugs or handshakes. We are all just robots.

How then, do we carry on this relationship with our church family? We don’t—until it is safe to do so. We have our little bubbles and places of work that become our family. How do we reach out in a time of drawing inward spiritually and for health-related safety? As best we can, through phone calls, Zoom calls, talking to the people in our households, sending cards and letters, giving to the needy. Through it all, He is there in our hearts and when we call on Him. He is there whether there be feast or famine. I would consider this time we are living in a famine.

Just the Essentials, Please

Many people and organizations try their hardest to do virtual programs. I am just not that interested in sitting in front of screen to do it. I have tried it, and it is just not that exciting. Maybe I am not desperate enough for human interaction because I am getting some interaction on a daily basis. In regard to the Mass, we do get the scripture readings and prayers of the Mass virtually, so there is benefit in that.

I have asked myself, what do we really need in life? Food, clothing, warmth, love and clean air, (especially after this fall in the northwest’s smoke-filled air). Which of these is the greatest? We need all of them to survive. Do we need all the extras? Probably not, but I do like the extras. Having them is like the icing on a cake. The extras make life all that much more beautiful. When push comes to shove, the essentials are where it’s at though. What I don’t want is for this way of life to become “normal.” It’s anything but normal. It is a prison. m The longer it lasts, the more the non-essentials are needed.

I Will Still Celebrate

The celebration will still go on. I have my Advent candles to light each week and that bring me into the season of hope and joy. I prayed a small blessing over them. This weekend I tuned into live-streaming Mass. I enjoy being able to listen to familiar hymns and scripture readings, and of course, the prayers of the Mass. That is what is getting me through this desert. After all we are supposed to be in a desert during this four weeks of Advent. It is a little like Lent but rooted more in joy.

I sat at the table today placing the candles in a holder and noticed that they were partially constituted of beeswax. Many things used in liturgical celebrations are made of real properties. For instance, fresh flowers placed at the altar and real altar candles, and incense. Fake candles or flowers are not generally used. I was pleased that my candles had beeswax in them. As I sat at the table, realizing that I won’t be attending Mass, I shed tears. I realized that the tears were a gift. I have been going through a spiritually dry season. The shape of the world has left me lacking in hope but I remind myself, that God is the author of life. God brought to me my tears of desire and me wanting to be with Him.

“The Cloud of Knowing”

Even without the external, physical items, there has been a shift in my heart. My heart “knows” the season. Have you ever gotten dressed for Mass and realized that you have dressed in the liturgical colors without having read scripture? That happens to me a lot. My sense of being just “knows.”

After all, Advent is considered a penitential season. It is a season of looking within and purging and allowing God’s love to work in our lives and through our lives; to be a shining light for others.

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Let your Brain Relax with a Media Cleanse to Decrease Anxiety and Create Peace-of-Mind

Let it all spill out.

Now more than ever, we need to detach from the media, especially if you are feeling anxious. Most times the media just provides opinion and speculation and I always feel that I have to do my own fact-checking. I really don’t have time for or the desire for that.

We spend a LOT of time on our phones. Our smart phones keep track of so many things in our lives and we often carry it wherever we go. Many of us spend upwards of 3 to 4 hours a day or more of personal time on our phones. Just think of all the things we could accomplish if we didn’t cave to the little black screen.

Part of the obsession we have with our phones is that we often look for likes and retweets so that we can stroke our ego. Science shows that the dopamine boost we get from Facebook likes is the same as we get from scoring a jackpot at a casino.

Now would be a good time to take a break for a while since there is so much negative “news” compounded by a kind of vitriolic debate out there which could be the cause of increased anxiety. Here are some surefire ways to lessen anxiety that you might be feeling right now.

Eliminate the Temptation of Picking Up Your Phone

Turn off notifications on your phone unless it’s for work and you are required to have notifications on. We don’t need to respond to someone at the drop of a hat. You can set a time convenient for you to respond if you choose to. Move apps that open on your home screen so that they are harder to access. Leave your phone behind or if you use it to track mileage walked, take it with you but keep it in your pocket.

I never played into the social media game so much until recently. I figured I needed to jump on the bandwagon so that I could remain “social.” I do like getting a glimpse of other peoples’ lives on Facebook but it has turned political recently and posting your views is probably not worth losing a friendship over. Take a break for a week and see how you feel at the end of the week. Set a specific schedule and time limit that you will look at your social media each day and stick to it.

Some people have eliminated social media platforms. You can let your social media friends know that you have decided to change course. Focus on the relationships that surround you and for people who look out for your best interests. Life is short and social media can act as a thief of our free time and often as a thief of our peace-of-mind. You can go on an extended break or delete your account altogether.

If you have decided not to scrap social media during the pandemic it helps to maintain social contact. You can do that in-person while social distancing, having a conversation over the phone, or chat on Facetime or Zoom.

Set Accomplishable Goals

Write down some goals you have and then break them up into actionable steps to get there. Take time to dream about how you want your life to look or what you would like to accomplish. Even though we are collectively going through a pandemic, identify what you would like to accomplish in one week, one month, one year and five years. You may want to begin planning an overseas trip. You can open an account to save money for it, plan the cities and sites you will see or take an online or college course in a foreign language to help you prepare for it.

Think of Different Ways to Relax

Listen to music. I used to listen to music more and I often go through phases with it. The other day, I was doing a repetitive task and decided to listen to music on my phone using headphones. It really lifted my spirits and took me back to a different time based on what time period the music was from. It made the time go faster and I felt joyful listening to it. The only problem is that it was in a work environment so I couldn’t share it. This is a whole other topic but since we all seem to tune into our own individual music, it makes it more lonely since we don’t often share listening to music together.

Curb Screen Time Before Bed

Oh, and I am often guilty of this: viewing social media before bed, during the night and first thing when I wake up. Wow! How did my life lead to this? I use the argument that I am checking up on the news, especially since there are so many volatile situations going on right now. Keep your phone away from your bedside and allow for better sleep. The light emitted from electronic devices before bedtime makes it harder to fall asleep, suppresses levels of melatonin and can affect REM sleep and may reduce alertness the following morning.

We all seem to be in a bit of a slump lately but we need to wake ourselves out of it and create the life that we want even in the midst of a pandemic and a barrage of negative comments.

Now, I just need to follow my own advice.

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My Heart Is Heavy

There is so much heaviness in the world. It feels like the weight of the world on my shoulders. Of course, listening to the media does not help matters. It only illuminates frustration regarding Black Lives Matter and—the violence. I couldn’t take my eyes off the violence—acts of looting, burning and destroying of our prominent cities. The most gruesome act was the police officer; his face will forever be etched in my mind as he systematically blocked the air from George Floyd’s lungs. What happened and is happening is all wrapped up in the gruesomeness of our times.

I do not condone the violence, which from the reports is, resultant of American extremist groups. I do not condone the restructuring of our society to appease the groups who are trying to violently destroy it and shape it according to their errant views. We must work together as a society with those who are peacefully promoting change.

The coronavirus came and changed our lives, but nothing could have prepared us for the civil unrest we’ve been experiencing. I have always valued people on their merits, not their skin color. The values and morals that people hold are the fabric that unites this great country. But like all systems, sometimes they break down or fail to run efficiently; there is always room for improvement.

I am one that likes to dwell on things and the stress has taken a toll on me. Sometimes I wallow in despair. I view live-streamed Mass regularly. A friend messaged me her parish’s Mass and the priest’s recommendation was to get away from the news and all of our devices that project them for a week in order to gain some peace. I gave it a try.

The first couple of days were hard and I was fearful—not so much from giving up the devices and what I might be missing—but from letting the previous weeks compounded fear have an effect on me. When you view the violence it does create a fearfulness. I suppose you could just ignore it but that feels like I wouldn’t be informing myself completely as to the time we are currently living in.

Praying the rosary and other prayers has given me comfort. As one that likes to be in control, I pray for the things that I can control and the things that are beyond my control. That is the only way I can remain sane. I do gain a sense of peace knowing that God is the one who is ultimately in control and is guiding this ship we call the United States of America and the world.

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My Brain is Becoming a Prisoner

I am so tired! I have felt especially tired in the past few days. I am not currently working outside the home and I can set my own schedule. I can rise from bed when I want and go to bed late if I want. I usually watch a live-streamed morning Mass and then go about my day.

I have been following the proposed guidelines of social-distancing and mask-wearing and my outings are fairly scarce except to go for walks or an occasional bike ride. My “big” outings are going to the grocery store. I keep up with the news of the day and I work on my blog and other endeavors. I would say that my screen time has definitely increased since quarantine. Lately, my brain feels like mush! It’s not that I am not keeping my brain active–it’s probably been a little too active. Or, we just may feel like not doing anything.

Today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles speaks of Apostle Paul’s time in a Philippian prison. I would say that we may feel like being in prison ourselves, whether it be in our homes or at work. We aren’t aloud to travel much, eat out at restaurants or go to the gym. We aren’t allowed to attend Mass or get our hair cut or send our children to school. Granted some of these outings were tasks that we needed to take care of but many were just activities that filled our daily lives and gave it meaning. The reality is that our world has changed and we may have not caught up to the fact as to how much. With this type of lifestyle, depression and/or acedia can set in.

An ancient rock-hewn prison
Philippian prison thought to be the one that Apostle Paul stayed in. Picture taken while on pilgrimage to Greece.

Perhaps we are in a prison of “our own making.” During this pandemic, we are focusing on what we allow into our brains and into our lives. We have been able to do a lot of thinking! Sometimes our thoughts might turn in on ourselves. It is good to set sort of schedule along with frequent breaks. If your brain is just not working one day, it is OK to give yourself a break. There has been a lot to process.

Just yesterday, after watching the news, with parts of the country beginning to open and the number COVID-19 deaths declining, with some restaurants beginning to open and St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome celebrating their first public Mass, I felt a wave of what I thought was relief. I became emotional and started to cry. The Mass readings from the past few days have focused on the Acts of the Apostles and I got to visit some of the places that are referenced on a pilgrimage I took with some members of my parish a few years back. I was surprised by this reaction. I think I felt this relief with some trepidation because it is not over yet, nor do we really know if it will ever be “over”. Even if we do end up with a vaccine, we won’t be able to “go back.” The only way we can go is forward.

My guess is that we will probably look back at this time as a blessing and may even long for it again depending on our circumstances. I wish you health, happiness dear friends.

Blessings friends,

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The Grand Experiment: Giant Reset

I don’t know about you but I am starting to get used to quarantining. I rarely go out except to the grocery store or to an essential doctor’s appointment. I wear a mask out in public. When I am walking or exercising I don’t wear a mask but I stay the prescribed six feet away from passers-by when walking outside or down the grocery aisle.

My social activity, pre-COVID-19, mainly revolved around working as a temp for the school district, attending Mass on Sunday’s and maybe going out for dinner occasionally with my husband and our friends. I miss going to Mass and seeing my friends and church family but I have been very thankful for daily Mass which is live-streamed. My sleep schedule is fairly regular but since I am not working I’ve been a little lazy and will sometimes view Mass in bed (don’t tell anyone). I know that is not the prescribed method but I have a love relationship with my phone and it is very easy to use as a device for viewing–especially after having not slept well in the night. I also cast the streaming on my TV especially for Triduum and Easter and Sunday Mass. As catholics, we have our pick as to which Mass we will watch but I have been sticking with my local parish and diocese.

Quit Complaining

At first when the self quarantining started, I complained a lot to my husband about being bound at home but he reminded me that this is just a mere inconvenience and that previous generations had it much worse. There were wars and labor camps and other plagues and the Great Depression. Now we sit on our bottoms whether we are getting our news intake by phone, TV or computer and are riveted to the latest news on the coronavirus and resultant shelter-in-place instructions. If lucky enough, one can work from home by computer and still receive a paycheck. Many are not that lucky.

My days are filled because I am working on my blogs and also intermittently looking for a job. Part of me wonders whether someone else may need the job more than me in this COVID-19 environment. Frankly, I am sick of looking for a job even when it wasn’t in this environment, probably because I don’t want just any job. It is totally so much work applying as you have to create an account for just about every place you apply. Once the economy kicks into gear I will strike while the iron is hot.

Bored in the House-In the House I’m Bored

You may have happened upon a TikTok app dance with the title “Bored in the House-In the House I’m Bored” and you may have gotten a chuckle out of it. I didn’t event know what TikTok was until last fall. I can sympathize with the dancers on the app. I don’t go to the app much but I like to keep up with the world. Even though there are no outside activities except for exercising outdoors or doing gardening since the weather is getting nicer, the day is filled and kind of has a pattern to it—except some mornings are later than others. I also try to keep the weekend normal doing the things I normally would do on the weekend, lingering a little longer drinking my morning cup of coffee while conversing with my husband and also with my son who is home from college finishing up the year. Weekends are a bit more relaxed and care-free.

The world collectively started this sheltering process in denial, then shock and now I think we are onto the anger stage as we are grieving and mourning our former way-of-life. Now, since it has been over a month with this set-up and the entire world is experiencing the same thing or had recently experienced this, there are many questions on the table that will need answering. How is the world going to get through this? All of this—the sickness and death, the economy with the loss of jobs and those in hunger. How will this affect the church?

There is always discussion about when our world will get back to normal but now the language is changing to how will we live the “new normal.” Wait a minute we did not ask for this. Our lives were going just fine and then this! It almost feels like God pressed one, giant reset button for the entire globe. Many of us are home in quarantine with the only taste of the outside world being short jaunts to the store and through screens, phone calls and walks outside. Where do we find our purpose?

What if after all this time, we develop something akin to the Stockholm syndrome and decide we don’t want to go back out again. We’re nice and comfy in our sweat pants, graying hair roots and wearing no make-up and viewing all sorts of entertainment related to quarantining on our social media. We’ve done it for this long, we can do it longer, thank you very much!

Brave New World

Will we really encounter a brave new world where computers and zoom meetings will take over the world? I can’t imagine that we could ever get rid of the human touch, the face-to-face meetings and gatherings that punctuate our lives and that give it meaning. If anything, I think we will come away from this experience a little more thankful for what we have and how important it is to be with the one’s we love and care about. It will make us realize what is truly important and essential. God has his way of getting our attention!

For me, it was God saying, “You know, you’ve been working on this blog for some time now and I really want you to step up your game. Here’s this world pandemic to help you do just that.” It’s true, I have been able to dedicate great chunks of time to working on my blog versus smaller increments where I might not do it as consistently and then forget how to accomplish some of the tasks since I am doing it all on my own with some on-line chat guidance.

There’s a New Shop in Town

I’ve also been making some simple jewelry in the hopes that we all can someday return to Mass and the Sacraments. Check out my new shop. I felt a prompting to make this jewelry and once again God gave me the time to do it. If you run into any kinks for purchasing, please contact me at the email below.

I believe we will see each other again and we will grow from this. Yes, the world and our lives might not ever be the same again—especially in the immediate future—but we know that we have the capacity to make it even better than before. All we have to do is press the reset button.

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Walking the Hill of Crosses

I know a lot of people are focusing on upbeat and positive things right now to get through this ordeal. I think it’s great to do whatever it takes to keep our sanity. Although, sometimes I think we need to come to some sort of acceptance as to the reality of our changed way of life. Perhaps we are all still numb.

During Lent, we walk the way of the Cross and meditate on the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ. At the same time, we examine the crosses in our own lives and lift them up to the Lord. He has walked the same path that we are on.

The path of crosses, which we happen to walk all our lives whether we are aware of it or not, has really hit home. Illness, death, massive joblessness among many other societal ills beset our restful sleep at night and haunt our dreams. What kind of future world will our children live in? Where will Coronavirus leave us? I do believe we will make it through this somehow. The human race is resilient. What other choice do we have? The world will be different but also renewed at the same time. God is on our side.

The pilgrimage site that I visited with my mom and sister and my mom’s cousin in the fall of 2017 was a monument to crosses that we face in our lives. It truly is a sight to behold and it was impossible to view them all. There were a multitude of crosses, crucifixes, rosaries, statues, pictures and effigies. The site was dripping with crosses. It was interesting to think that behind each cross is a story. We brought our own crucifixes with our names on them to represent the family name and any life struggles that we had come to bear. I also looked for a crucifix that I had placed on an earlier trip to the site. It had only been two years and I finally found it but it was practically covered up by newly placed crosses.

pilgrims walking up the steps at the hill of crosses pilgrimage site in Siauliai, Lithuania

In 2017 I traveled to the pilgrimage site with my mom and sister to the Hill of Crosses outside of Siauliai, Lithuania.

I think that writing during this time has given me solace. I’ve been writing for a number of years. As a youth, I had a raspberry-colored, shiny, plastic diary with white pages and a gold-colored lock and key. It is not in my possession now because over the years it became misplaced. I would like go back in time and read it, though.

There is artistry in both the written word and photography. I’ve been a life-long writer and photographer and interested in visual messages. As a writer, one must be some sort of a visual artist but I tend to use photos to convey messages that words cannot. I suppose that is why my college degree is in Advertising.

As a child, I would keep a notebook of fashion magazine pages that I cut out of magazines–striking photos of models posed in the latest seasonal fashion. I would pour over these for hours. I miss fashion, as it is not as prevalent these days and probably not something I should be preoccupied with.

Summers were filled with letters to pen pals. Then came term papers in college. In the work world, I wrote short articles for a military newspaper and radio copy for the military news station. Later on, I kept a journal to record thoughts on paper, write poetry, rant and rave, and keep record of my children’s milestones.

Now, with technology, I get to share my thoughts with anyone who wants to read them.

Maybe this downturn is something I need to kickstart my writing. This period of time will be our cross to bear. It will be a heavy cross, but Jesus has already carried it and, for a time, was securely placed on it. We only need to look up at it. Our stories are written all over it.

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COPING WITH COVID

If you are like me, you’ve probably gone through every emotion right about now, trying to wrap your head around COVID-19. Some of our responses are how the virus has affected our lives and others are a response to the people we care for and who help us go about our day to day lives.

First, it started with just believing this was just like any other flu. Then a couple of weeks ago we were asked to begin distancing ourselves from everyone. Now, with many ill and dying, we are asked to refrain from our normal way of life with practically no outings except to the grocery store or perhaps a doctor’s appointment. Many people are still working and those on the front line in hospitals and serving the community are heroes and saints.

At the beginning, since my work as a temp for the school district went south with the school closures, and social distancing started, it almost felt like a guilty pleasure, to be able to stay home and hang out or work on projects or blog. No commitments, nowhere to be, tasks completed with ease, almost like a stay-at-home vacation. The reality of life has a way of catching up when opening the mailbox to retrieve the latest bills.

The only window to the outside world has been television news, Facebook and Twitter and very infrequent trips to the grocery store. Of course, frequent calls to family and friends are a boon to having some semblance of normalcy in or lives even if we know in the back of our minds that we won’t be able to ignore the fact that we might need to remain physically distant.

Public gatherings, including church services and Mass are all going on-line and what I am finding is there seems to be an influx of churches and businesses getting into the social media “business.” Perhaps it’s becoming the “new normal,” at least temporarily. I am in a Lenten frame of mind, so I suppose less is more right now for me and I am tending to view a smattering of what is offered online.

I have all of these ideas for projects or blog posts but it almost feels like I am out of my element as worry and stress places a toll on energy. Since my husband and I are empty-nesters, we used to eat out occasionally, but now with dining in, we have been taking turns cooking so it doesn’t become so monotonous. I fear for the retailers and restaurant owners.

I haven’t mentioned anger, probably because I haven’t experienced that emotion yet. When you are grieving, you run the whole gamut of emotions over time. I think, as Americans, and I am sure all those around the world, are still trying to gain an acceptance of this silent killer because we are still in shock and grieving our former way of life, at least for the time being. We do and will have to grieve this as many things will be missed or altered-graduations, weddings, birthdays, sporting events, church services, classes on college campuses, dining out. In the end, perhaps we will gain a new appreciation for what it means to be an American with our many luxuries and freedoms as this is the greatest country in the world.

Some things you can do to cope with COVID.

  • Talk to those in your immediate family or call a distant family member or a friend. There are also numbers you can call in your community.
  • Remember to give your immediate family members space and ask for space if you need it.
  • Try to stay in touch with the outside community, be it your church or other organizations through email or phone, Skype or Zoom.
  • Take frequent walks in the neighborhood or local park if there aren’t too many people there. Many of the national and state parks are closed.
  • Listen to music, dance, jump rope, get out of bed and get dressed.
  • Try to watch the news just briefly and limit time with electronic devices, unless, of course, it is your job to be on the computer.
  • Do something for someone else, whether you mail a package of cookies to family members or donate on-line or volunteer (with precautions) which leads to a sense of purpose.
  • Hold those you love in prayer or intentional thought. Have you ever received a phone call from someone you recently had intentionally been praying for or thinking about?

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Easter: The First Sunday after First Full Moon after the Vernal Equinox

COVID-19. It took a week or so to really set in as to what life would look like while we isolate and practice social distancing which includes no celebration of Mass at church! Social media is flooded with virtual Mass and I have limited myself to a my church and my archdiocese.

Early during the U.S. breakout, I was able to go to pray during an approved time for gathering while social distancing at my church on a Friday during Lent. There were just a hand-full of people present. The area where I sat was sanitized afterward.

Right after the outbreak, our main baptismal font and fonts located by the door were emptied. I really miss blessing myself with holy water. Liturgically, the font is emptied or covered during Holy Week but this development was used as a protective measure.

As I was walking into the church that day, I thought back to how many times I have entered my church and the church where I grew up. I thought about the different reasons that I entered the church. How, through my life, the church was an essential part of my life, from attending Mass, to receiving the Sacraments like Holy Matrimony, Eucharist and Reconciliation. From bringing my children to faith formation and volunteering, retreats and pancake breakfasts. The list goes on. Each time upon entering and exiting, I blessed myself with holy water.

I was thinking, even though I was walking into a physical building–the church, the building itself was not the church. Yes, Jesus is present in the tabernacle at all times except for when in repose on Holy Thursday, and he is present whether we are there by ourselves or with other congregants, but how could we carry on with worshiping as a church without each other? We are there as witnesses to Jesus’ love for us as by listening to his Word and being present for Christ’s perfect sacrifice on the altar.

That is why this time is so hard, because it is this relationship with Jesus and with others which “animates” church for us. Humans are made for each other. Why do you think sporting events are so popular?

One of my favorite times to be in the church building is when there is no one or very few people there. I don’t know why that is. It is super quiet and you can actually hear the occasional creaking of the massive wooden ceiling beams. I don’t feel lonely then, because Jesus is present there. Sometimes I pray or say the rosary but most times I just sit in the quiet and “be.”

As the effects of the virus continues onward and the desire to begin reopening establishments by Easter, we need to accept that it may not be possible. Easter, on April 12th this year, cannot be postponed because it is not on the same date every year. Easter is based on the first Sunday, after the first full moon, after the vernal equinox. If it comes to pass that we are not able to attend church on Easter, we will get by and celebrate in spirit with a live-streamed Mass of our choice, preferably with our own parish. Even though many candidates and elect are welcomed into the church on Easter Vigil, I imagine (not completely sure) that they could get permission to be admitted during a different time.

We will relish the day when we can walk into the church building, bless ourselves with holy water and celebrate the test that was given to us. Maybe we came up with a different way of living that we plan to adopt. Maybe we lost a loved one to the virus or other causes and need the healing presence of God and our church community. For it is in community that we fully worship and come to know ourselves.

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Planted Near Running Water

Photo © Mary Perkins: He is like a tree planted near running water.

Thus says the Lord:
Cursed is the man who trusts in human beings,
who seeks his strength in flesh, whose heart turns away from the Lord.
He is like a barren bush in the desert that enjoys no change of season,
But stands in a lava waste, a salt and empty earth.
Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose hope is the Lord.
He is like a tree planted beside the waters
that stretches out its roots to the stream:
It fears not the heat when it comes, its leaves stay green;
In the year of drought it shows no distress, but still bears fruit.
More tortuous than all else is the human heart,
beyond remedy; who can understand it?
I, the Lord, alone probe the mind and test the heart,
To reward everyone according to his ways, according to the merit of his deeds. Jeremiah 17: 5-10

 

Psalm 1

Blessed the man who follows not
the counsel of the wicked nor walks in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the company of the insolent,
But delights in the law of the Lord and meditates on his law day and night.
He is like a tree planted near running water,
That yields its fruit in due season, and whose leaves never fade.
Whatever he does, prospers.
Not so, the wicked, not so; they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
For the Lord watches over the way of the just, but the way of the wicked vanishes.

The miracle of water

I will have to admit, there was a time when I would read scripture morning, noon, and night. The supposedly better and sought-after life of busyness has set in so reading scripture or daily Mass attendance has been less frequent for me. When I do partake, Jesus’ words console me or at times offer rebuke. Even when I am going through these “dry spells,” I am always somehow drawn unexpectedly, to read the scripture of the day where the psalm above is present. Psalm 1 is one of my favorite psalms and it corresponds with the First Reading of today from Jeremiah. It was what I needed to hear in this COVID-19-ridden world today.

I decide to read scripture, especially during the special Church seasons and the Sunday liturgy contains scripture readings. When I do, and when I see this particular scripture, it always surprises me, just like when I walk out a door and suddenly am taken by surprise with the rising of a beautiful, full moon on a crisp, clear evening. The full moon and this scripture always have the same affect on me.

As a people and a country we are being challenged right now but when I go out in public, it still feels pretty much the same, except for the hauntingly empty store shelves where the toilet paper once occupied space. Now, as a Catholic in the northwest, we are being challenged, due to possible exposure to the coronavirus, by not being able to celebrate Mass in which we partake in the Eucharistic meal, unheard of in my lifetime. We must not be downtrodden or devoid of joy because of being shaken out of our way-of-life routine for the Lord is still with us. He is with us in scripture and in prayer. He is with us in the people we meet and care for or socialize with. He is with us in our thoughts and in our memories.

As Americans, I think we like to be in control and when we can’t control a situation we look for someone to blame. I know that I have done that. I am sure you have heard, when one finger is pointing outward, there are three pointing back at you.

Life will definitely change whether it be for the short term or longer. We can take this time, during imposed self-isolation and social distancing, especially during Lent, to determine what is most important in our lives. This will not be an easy task because most of us are so busy we do not have time to confront the mountain of ourselves. Believe me, there are many peaks and valleys when we pull away from “busyness” and sit in quiet to think. Not meditate, but to think or perhaps pray or even “dialogue” with God. It’s probably one of the hardest things to do.

I had a chance today, in this early spring light to clear the accumulated winter dust and cobwebs. I decided to clean the glass items with water and when I did, I was thinking about how easy it was to clean the glass with water. The dust washed off so easily and the glass was all clean and shiny. I thought about washing hands, clearing the germs from them and I was thankful for water! What would we do without water to clean the annoying, life-altering, virus germs. As Catholics, we must take this time to stretch out our roots to the running water so that our leaves never fade.

Blessings friends,

 

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Lent Already?

I am still basking in the limelight, or should I say, pink light of Valentine’s Day. My husband and I usually celebrate at home with dinner, greeting cards, and chocolate, etc. It’s probably a holdover from when the kids were growing up because we always liked to celebrate the holiday with them as well.

Now, we are empty nesters, and this year we went out for dinner and then to a local bar to play pool. It was fun. We were going to stay and dance but the DJ wasn’t playing our kind of music so we left shortly after he started playing. Plus, the bar scene is not one where we usually hang out but my husband knows I like to dance, so he put in the effort to try and find a place.

Lent is almost here! It’s one of my favorite church seasons and I usually run toward it. Having previously been a member on the liturgy committee at my church, I always helped organize the Ash Wednesday services and Lenten décor. It’s been a few years since I’ve been involved with it so I’ve gotten out of the habit of always having the church seasons in the forefront of my mind.

Our then committee started a tradition that is still in practice today of having the parishioners bring in their old palms to be burned and used during Ash Wednesday services. The burned palms did not spread easily so we ended up just purchasing the ashes. However, the tradition is still alive, because like clock-work, the old palms appear every year before Ash Wednesday. At the time we thought it was a good “visual” for people to help them prepare for the upcoming season. I guess they liked the idea because the palms show up year after year.

“Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

The main reason why I like Lent is because it is a turning inward to examine what we need to throw out, just like the old palms. Every year, as the sun begins to make more of an appearance, the dust on the furniture stands out, the clutter in the corner beckons, and the scale tips a few pounds over. It is time to wake up through observing this penitential season, to conversion and striving to reconcile with the Church (confession), creation, and our relationships. The best way to do that is by the three pillars of Lenten observance: praying, fasting, and almsgiving.

We can meditate upon the Passion during Lent by attending Stations of the Cross or walking “The Way” on our own. Of course, the rosary helps us meditate on the Passion as well. Many parishes have retreats and missions that help draw us closer to Christ. We can look to the stark decor of the church and our homes to remind us that hope in the Resurrection is not that far off. There is beauty in starkness.

Aside from fasting from meat on Fridays and Ash Wednesday during Lent, in or culture, we can fast from many things. Many people give up chocolate, alcohol, or TV, just to name a few. Some people are creative and purge items from their homes or give of themselves more by helping at a homeless shelter or visiting the sick. One biggie to give up or curb is social media. It really has become a drug for many in our society. In fact, that is one area that I am going to concentrate on curbing to become more productive with the myriad of little projects I have and to address areas in my home that need cleaning, purging or organizing. Perhaps saying a prayer before starting a project will lift minds to God so He can become part of the project.

Almsgiving is a harder one for me but this year, I have been focusing on my own family so I will continue that by perhaps attending to them spiritually through prayer and otherwise.

Even though I feel like I am not ready for Lent, it comes like clock-work and my body and mind will “kick into gear” to prepare my heart for the journey..

Time for the Lenten Season

 

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Lost in the Fog

I’ve been thinking about the last moments for Kobe Bryant, his daughter, Gianna, and the other passengers on the doomed helicopter flight. I read an article related to flying in fog and how a pilot can lose their bearing because they can’t tell which way is up or down and the best course of action is to rely on the flight instruments or other instruments that the aircraft was not equipped with.

I remember while on a cruise that my husband and I were on, I was awakened late at night by the fog horn blasting. We had a cabin with a balcony and I opened the sliding glass door and was greeted by a thick, ominous fog like I have never seen before. It was so thick, barely making out the hand in front of my face, peering into the darkness trying to make something out in the fog only to have my eyes begin hurting. There was nothing to see. The ship sounded the fog horn every 30 seconds it seemed, with good measure.

This continued for about two hours as I recall. It came to be annoying, but more importantly, necessary. We were at the tail end of our cruise and heading back to port. I couldn’t sleep. It was eerie hearing the ship cutting through the water but not able to “see” it moving. It was scary, especially because I kept thinking we could end up running into something or running aground. I was thankful when we pulled into port. The fog began to lift in the pre-morning light but it was still hard to make out the dock even though you could just make out the obscured lights.

Sometimes we don’t see things clearly in our lives either because we don’t want to face certain situations or we are blinded by something else and can’t see it. Either way, just like with the fog horn blaring through the unseen, it seems unbearable not to see through the fog of uncertainty in our lives but we still need to keep moving forward. Just like in the fog, you need to trust that the captain knows what he is doing just like we need to trust God knows what he is doing because he has a plan for our lives.

Blessings friends,

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I Wore a Face Mask and I Liked It

Renewing Regimen

I don’t normally use facial masks but a sample facial mask packet arrived in the package of an online order for a different product. I gave it a try and I liked it. I don’t remember the brand but it was a light-weight mask and my skin felt truly luxurious after I applied it and rinsed it off. It reminded me of applying mud masks when I was a teenager. I think it was a fad then–at least for teenagers. There is a benefit to taking care of our skin as we age.

Masks aside, my absolute favorite skin care product is Yon-ka which I have used for a number of years. The Yon-ka toner which the company calls lotion is what I live for in the morning! The toner is infused with essential oils and paired with the Yon-ka moisturizer for my skin type keeps my skin feeling its best. Occasionally, I get a Yon-ka facial that includes a hydrating mask. If any men are reading this wondering what a great gift for their wives might be, look no further than an esthetician’s chair. I don’t get a facial as often as I would like but when I do, I go for a Yon-ka facial. The essential oils in the products take me away and the deep hydration is pure heaven! Plus, the facial uses steam to help deep-clean pores. If you are interested in using steam look for a classic European facial and better yet a Yon-ka European facial.

The tried and true

A new year skin care ritual that is easy to perform at home and that I take great comfort in is my skin sloughing regimen. Whenever I tell anyone about it, they get a big kick out of the word sloughing, but honestly, when one takes a bath to soften the skin, the dead skin cells come off more easily, especially if using a towel that is a little on the “rough” side. Towels that are line-dried have this quality or not using fabric softener also works. Since the weather is dismal and the flurry of activity before, during and after the holidays has me feeling a little spent, this ritual gets me revitalized to take on the new year in all its’ newness. Time to clear the old skin away, the old clothes, old papers, old mindsets. etc.

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“O Antiphons” of Advent

The waiting is almost over.

O Antiphons refer to the seven antiphons or short sentences sung or recited preceding the Magnifcat during Vespers, evening prayers, of the Liturgy of the Hours (or the Divine Office). In the Roman Catholic church, they are part of the special preparation known as the Octave before Christmas, December 17-23. December 24th is Christmas Eve and Vespers for that evening are for the Christmas Vigil.

The O Antiphons are prophetic titles for the Messiah and refer to the prophecy of Isaiah of the coming of the Messiah, the soon-to-be-born King of Kings.

The Liturgy of the Hours are beautiful prayers, prayed by monks and religious and also by the laity. They are best prayed in a group. There seem to be different versions of the O Antiphon prayers but the following prayers are from the USCCB.org website.

December 17

O Wisdom of our God Most High,
guiding creation with power and love:
come to teach us the path of knowledge!

December 18

O Leader of the House of Israel,
giver of the Law to Moses on Sinai:
come to rescue us with your mighty power!

December 19

O Root of Jesse’s stem,
sign of God’s love for all his people:
come to save us without delay!

December 20

O Key of David,
opening the gates of God’s eternal Kingdom:
come and free the prisoners of darkness!

December 21

O Radiant Dawn,
splendor of eternal light, sun of justice:
come and shine on those who dwell in darkness and in the
shadow of death.

December 22

O King of all nations and keystone of the Church:
come and save man, whom you formed from the dust!

December 23

O Emmanuel, our King and Giver of Law:
come to save us, Lord our God!

Featured

Preparing the Way

Sunday marks the advent or arrival of the first season of the Christian year leading up to Christmas and the four preceding Sundays. Advent is the beginning of the church year and it is interesting to note that, in the Catholic tradition, we are at the beginning of the 3-year cycle with Year A. Each cycle contains different readings from the Old and New Testament, Psalms and Gospel so essentially we read the entire bible every three years. The Sunday Mass readings are covered in three years, Cycle A, B, and C. The daily Mass readings are covered in a two year cycle. To really hear the majority of scripture at Mass you would need to attend daily Mass for two years and Sunday Mass for three.

As the new liturgical year begins, Christians are called and invited to examine their lives and reflect on how they can become more Christ-like and selfless. It’s less about Me and My and what I want for myself and more about We and Us and how can I help someone else. Better yet, we can ask the question, what does God want for my life? In a society that encourages to only look out for ourselves first, we are challenged by the Gospel to bring Christ’s light to others.

This liturgical season is all about light and darkness as outlined in the Scripture readings, hymns, vestment and liturgical colors and we are told to prepare a way for the Lord. “…it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep. For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed; the night is advanced, the days is at hand. Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light;” (Rom 13: 11-12). Light helps dispel the darkness. Light the traditional Advent candles for each Sunday of Advent to keep track of the weeks before Christmas and to remind us of what the season is about.

Light a candle for the first Sunday of Advent. Violet reminds us of the penitential aspect, while the pink candle represents joy on the third Sunday of Advent also known as Gaudete Sunday.

Advent is both a joyful and penitential season of preparation for the Lord’s coming where we remember the Lord’s first coming during the Solemnities of Christmas and a preparing of our hearts and minds to look forward to Christ’s Second Coming at the end of time. “Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come” (Matt 24: 42).

How can the end of time ever cross our minds? Do we even think that all life on earth will ever end? Perhaps, not in our time on earth. But it will end for us individually someday. It’s hard to focus on anything at this time of year with all the activities, parties, decorating, events, shopping, etc. between Thanksgiving and Christmas but somehow the penetrating darkness of the season, where the winter solstice marks the shortest time of daylight for the year, helps us draw inward. It is the perfect time to SLOW DOWN! Yes, you heard that right. It is OK to sit in silence to be with our inner-most thoughts and confront ourselves or to pray and listen to God speaking in our lives.

Advent can also be a time to reach out to others, the homeless and the downtrodden, even our own family members, and in doing so, lift their spirits as well as ours a little closer to heaven. It is also a wonderful time to attend daily Mass as the readings and hymns are beautiful and help us along the path to Christ’s birth. Check to see what Mass time fits in with your work schedule. Attending morning Mass helps set the tone for the day. Try it!

Suggested Paths to a Meaningful Advent

  • Attend a weekday Mass
  • Attend an Advent retreat for spiritual nourishment
  • Attend a tree lighting ceremony
  • Get involved with Liturgy
  • Decorate your home for Advent with an Advent wreath and candles and with the liturgical color of the season, violet.
  • Pray the rosary or a novena
  • Go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation
  • Pray the Liturgy of the Hours with a group of people
  • Lectio Divina (reading Scripture and meditating upon the Word of God)
  • When watching TV, mute the commercials as most of them are loud and there are so many of them. Better yet turn off the TV and read a spiritual book while sipping a cup of tea or go for a long walk.
  • Turn off the lights and make the room as dark as possible. Keep your eyes open to the silent, darkened room. Remain this way for a period of time. Meditate on the dark areas of your life where you need to wake up from the darkness, things that are off-kilter in your life and that need light shed upon them. Notice how you feel when you come back to the light. Meditate on Jesus as the Lord of life and light.
  • Pray for the special people in your life and ask God how you might interact with them more fully.
  • Use your phone less.
  • Clear clutter from your surroundings. It helps clear the mind.
  • Look people in the eyes when you talk to them.
  • Smile–it is the season of joy!
  • Sing Advent hymns

Advent Hymns to Google

O Come, O Come Emanuel

Let the King of Glory Come

Alleluia, Hurry the Lord is Near

Ready the Way

Blessings friends,

Cover photo: Shutter stock. Advent candle and Christmas tree photo credit Mary Perkins.

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