Monday, December 24, 2012

The Christmas Edition-Mema, Mom, and Me

Christmas eve has to be my favorite day of the year, hands down.  Or, well, it used to be.

When I was little, from my earliest that I can remember, Christmas eve, (among other time, lots of other times) was spent with my Grandparents (Mema and Grandpa).  We even went to Florida one year to visit them for Christmas and when we got home to my beloved Pittsburgh, we had presents under the tree!  Santa came while we were gone!  That is why to this day, at 43, I still believe in Santa.  But I digress.  Christmas has always been, for me, family, mainly Mema.

I don't know when it started, but after Mass, we would go to Mema's.  She made the traditional Croatian, Christmas Eve dinner.  We fasted from meat so the meal was yucky. lol  It was Christmas bean soup type thingy over little bread balls with cottage cheese.  See, yucky.  And, since my sister and I never ate it, my Grandpa would order a Vincent's (the worlds best, although now defunct, pizza) cheese pizza just for us.

As the years have come and gone, my very favorite Christmas eve was when I was a teenager.  I'm not sure how hold I was.  Mema and Grandpa had six kids.  Four boys and two girls.  I've got a myriad of cousins that even though we lived not too far away, we never really got to see.  Maybe once every couple years.  This particular year four of the six kids with there families came to Mema's.  (Note, Grandpa was still alive and kicking at this point.  In fact, he wouldn't pass for many, many years, however, it was and is always called Mema's :D )  Then, Mema used to do this neat thing where she would order surprise boxes from the postal service.  They were full of odds and ends and sometimes, junk lol.  Mema would wrap it all in newspaper, then all the kids would pick a number and viola, a fun game! lol  We got potato peelers, spatulas and cameras that you'd probably find at the dollar store today.  It was always full of fun and laughter.  Having almost the entire family there at Mema's made the small house a lot warmer and not just in my heart.  Dude, you did not need the heat turned on!  It remains my favorite Christmas to this day.

As the years passed and I grew up, we stopped fasting and Mema would make a ham for everyone, but I like to think it was mainly for my sister and me.  Through moves and miles, even if I wasn't there, Christmas eve, for me, would be about Mema.  I'd always call and the phone would get passed around and it would tear my heart out, in a good way. 

Mema has been gone now for too many years than I'd like to remember, even if it is still under five lol.  And, this day, as much as I love it. it just breaks my heart.  I can't call her and tell her Merry Christmas.  I can't make her laugh, I can't hear her laugh.  My heart is so filled with missing her that it's about to burst. 

I also miss my Mommy most at Christmas time.  She's alive and in Myrtle Beach.  And, I only get to see her every couple of years.  Which is not nearly enough for me.   However, I miss her most at Christmas time.  There's this movie we used to watch as a kid Little Lord Fauntleroy.  At the end of the movie (sorry to spoil it if you haven't seen it) the little boys mother comes out from behind the tree on Christmas day.  Every year, Every.  Single.  Year.  I wait in great hopes that my mom will come out from behind my tree.  Even though I'm 43.  Even though I talk to her and know her Christmas plans.  Even though I know she's not coming...the little girl in me, who misses her mommy something fierce, secretly hopes (well not so secret now) that she'll be behind the tree.

I am no different Christmas eve then I am the other 364 days of the year.  The moon rules the tide.  My heart rules me.  So, I will have a good cry.  Enjoy Christmas Mass with my family, and make memories for my wonderful children.  Thank you all for being here for me.  It's been quite a year from graduation to new jobs and everything in between.  Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and the happiest of new years!

Until next time,
Hug everyone you meet.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Advent, Angels, and Indigo Girls

Last time we spoke, I told you of my prayer life and of one of a study I'm doing for Advent.  In doing the study for the last couple days I have been remembering things.  Mainly, my early prayer life after CRHP (Christ Renews His Parish) retreat that I attended 8 years ago.  This retreat lit my fire, my zeal, my zest for God.  I saw these women who had such a personal relationship with God and Mary and Jesus and the Saints.  I wanted that!  After this retreat, I couldn't get enough.  I was in every study I could find.  I collected prayers like trading cards.  I prayed wrote prayers, I cried out to God often.  I spoke with Him all the time.  I saw Jesus just about everywhere I turned.  I learned to bind my pain/struggles with the souls in purgatory.  I was much more sincere in my prayers. 

What happened between then and now?  Why did I forget about the souls in purgatory?  Surely, I have had many aches and pains, headaches and thanks to the accident, back pain.  I could've bound those with the souls in purgatory.  No, my prayer life changed.  I grew in a different sort of way.  I once heard Fr. Corrapi say that when people would ask him to pray for them, he would immediately say, in his head 'I place you in the hands of the virgin Mary and all the angels and the saints'.  He said something to the effect that it was the most powerful thing he could do and his prayers wouldn't do any better than theirs  So, I started saying that whenever I ask people what I could pray for them.  A) It was quicker and b) sometimes I might forget to pray for that person and then I'd feel bad so I'd ask God to pray for all those who asked me too (and sometimes, I still do that).  But, I noticed that for me, that wasn't exactly a sincere prayer.  Sure, God still hears me, but inside my heart it just wasn't the same.

My prayer life, now, while different, is deeper and more shallow at the same time.  It's shallow because I shy away from wrote prayers most of the time.  I want to use *my* words not someone else's (although, wow, have you read some of the Psalms?  I've been using some of those, they're amazing!).  It's deeper in the respect that I am still learning how to pray.  This study is teaching me more about myself.  Yesterday's reading was from Phillipians.  It said 'in EVERYTHING with thanksgiving make your requests known to God'.  I am paraphrasing big time because if I go downstairs to look it up, I'm gonna get sidetracked and forget this post for about a week! lol  Here's what caught me, two words, everything and thanksgiving.  I have not come to God with everything.  Irks, irritations, struggles, sure.  Happiness, dishes, laundry, dinner, nope.  Now, you're probably saying "Gina, God doesn't care that you're doing laundry or struggling for the gazilionth time what to make for dinner (Dear God, please not chicken AGAIN! lol) and you would be wrong.  God doesn't just want part of my day, or part of me.  No, he wants it all.  The good, the bad, and the ugly.  He wants me to come to Him with EVERYTHING (Dear God, please make that person go faster! Dear God, I had so much fun with Sarah tonight making truffles!) 

The other word that got me was thanksgiving.  How many times to I come to Him with thanksgiving.  Sure, sometimes.  There's always "thank you, God for having that work out" but rarely a thank you, God for today, or my morning coffee, or snuggles with the kids.  Sure I thank Him for the big things, but I also need to thank Him for the small as well.

And lastly, our guardian angels.  One of the Priests and I am so sorry I can't remember which one, said we can talk to our guardian angels.  My poor Gabriel!  He's my guardian angel.  I haven't talked to him in forever!  He must think so horrible of me!  I do love him and count on him to be there.  He is like breathing.  You take it for granted that you do it.  I don't always think "breathe in, now breath out" unless my friend Kathy at work is trying to get me to relax lol  In the same vein, I don't think of Gabriel.  And that pains me and makes me sad.  He is so amazing and has always been there for me and will always continue to be there for me.  I'm sure, like God, there's many times I've caused him to drink! lol  And, like God, and my amazing husband, he stays.

So, this advent, I haven't said the prayers every night like I wanted to (a little less than half), I haven't said one rosary by myself or with the family, and I haven't had deep faith filled discussions with the kids.  However, I am learning more about me in my daily prayers.  I am becoming closer to God in my own way and thereby teaching my kids about God.  I used to think prayer was like the Indigo Girls song Closer to Fine.  There's a line that goes "the less I seek the source for some definitive, the closer I am to fine".  Prayer use to scare me.  God use to scare me, death use to scare me.  Now, God and prayer is where I find myself.  And as for death, well, we'll just let that go for today.

Until next time,
Say a prayer for yourself today.  If you don't take care of you, you're no good for anyone else!


Friday, December 7, 2012

Prayer is scary

Prayer is hard.  At least for me it is.  There are all kinds of prayers out there, all sorts of ways to pray.  And, yes, it's pretty easy for me to pray for so and so for whatever they need.  What's hard is the kind of prayer life I am after.  I want the meditative, spiritual connecting, deep rooting type prayer life.  Where I can spend an hour (or even thirty minutes) in the morning so deep in prayer connecting with God that the time flies by so fast I don't know what happened.  And, afterward I am refreshed, renewed, and ready to do His work.  That has yet to happen.  Yea, yea, Blessed Mother Teresa never felt the love of God and she was one of the holiest of our time.  Have you met me?  I am so not her.

My prayer life ebbs and flows.  I'll go from Rosaries to none.  I'll go from study to study.  Group or alone.  The one I started a while ago (and finished a bit late) was the Good Morning Girls one on Collosians.  It said in the beginning how that at the end how we would come to know Jesus better and have a deeper relationship with him or something to that effect.  Well, study is done and the result is I really don't feel all that different as I did when I started.  But I will persevere, sort of a fake it till you make it thing.  And, I started their Advent study...a week late, but I made up good time and as of yesterday, I am on track.

So, I'm in Mass on Sunday and Fr. Tim was the presenting the Mass.  Lately, with my prayer life all whatever, I haven't exactly been present during the Mass.  So, this past Sunday, I finally took out my journal and started writing.  I wrote through the entire Liturgy of the Word (except to participate) including Fr. Tim's homily.  I wrote about everything that's been weighing heavily on me.  Absolutely everything.  During the homily, something Fr. Tim would say would pull me away here or there.  Then, at the end, Fr. Tim read this prayer.  It was a way to begin the first week of Advent.  It was so great, I couldn't write it down fast enough.  I even left my pew to ask that they publish the prayer on the web or Facebook, which thankfully, they did.

I can tell you *exactly* why that prayer spoke to me.  Because it was me.  It's everything I've ever felt.  It wasn't a scary prayer.  "What is a scary prayer, you ask?"  The Litany of Humility.

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,

Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved...
From the desire of being extolled ...
From the desire of being honored ...
From the desire of being praised ...
From the desire of being preferred to others...
From the desire of being consulted ...
From the desire of being approved ...
From the fear of being humiliated ...
From the fear of being despised...
From the fear of suffering rebukes ...
From the fear of being calumniated ...
From the fear of being forgotten ...
From the fear of being ridiculed ...
From the fear of being wronged ...
From the fear of being suspected ...
That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I ...
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease ...
That others may be chosen and I set aside ...
That others may be praised and I unnoticed ...
That others may be preferred to me in everything...
That others may become holier than I,
provided that I may become as holy as I should…

While incredibly beautiful, this prayer is scary to me.  And, for a while I tried to pray it, but I knew in my heart I didn't mean it, so I stopped.  I cannot help it, but I desire to be loved.  Call it baggage from my childhood or whatever, but I have not just a want, but a deep, deep seeded NEED to be loved.  On the flip side, when I am loved, it freaks me out, mainly when it's with friends.  Don't they know who I am?  Don't they know all my failings?  Can't they see how black my heart turns sometimes?  There are so many other people worthy of their love than me.  Even my husband who has seen me at my worst.  There are so many other women smarter, prettier, thinner, etc than me.  

So, you see, it's a scary prayer.  The prayer Fr. Tim prayed on Sunday was this:

Let us begin our Advent Season with an act of personal prayer-a petition, a prayer for myself, that I may have:  A sense of purpose
To make a difference
To be appreciated
To feel God's forgiveness
To live a clean, uncomplicated life
To be assured of your acceptace, O Lord.
To know that my family will miss me when I die.
To know that I am ready to die.
To know that I am taking good care of those who have been placed in my care.
To believe in the future and not worry about the past.
For good health.
For healing.
For spiritual gifts:  generosity, courage, compassion.
And the courage to pray "Maranatha" (Come Lord)
To say it and mean it absolutely.
That we want him to come.

Come, Lord Jesus.
(Revelation 22:20)

The prayer hits on one of the things that I think of most.  I want to know that I will be missed when I die.  I don't want to be forgotten.  Sure you can say 'who will forget you?' or 'of course you'll be missed' but how will I know?  And once everyone who knows me passes then what?  I certainly don't remember my great grandparents.  Do you remember yours?  Exactly.  I want to leave a legacy of love.  To me, this is an honest prayer that I can pray.  I want everything in it and can pray it wholeheartedly verses the Litany of Humility.

I've also found that the more I pray, the more it pisses the devil off.  I have been genuinely happy and feeling more like myself since I started spending morning time with God.  Then yesterday, the devil hit full force.  Of course, I didn't realize it was him till the end of the day.  I just chalked the really, really, really, really bad day up to pmsing and other peoples stupidity.  Patti, it truly sucked pine cones!  But, I have to remember to be alert.  So, I'll try to work on that.

When it comes to my prayer life, like everything else, I'm a control freak.  Sure, it's not the way I want it to be, but maybe it's the way He wants it for now.  I don't know.  He has yet to share His plan with me lol

So, until next time, learn from my failures (Lord knows I don't always! lol) and try praying the Advent Season prayer.  Or if you're brave enough, the Litany of Humility.  And, pray for all those who feel alone.