You’ll Never Guess What Happened

I promise I have a very good reason for not having written here in about 9 months. And I promise I’ll tell you what it is. But you’ll have to wait a minute or so.

We’ve had so many new and different experiences since last year. You can see the highlights on my Instagram (trips to Texas, Rome, Panama, Chicago, etc.), but I’ll focus on the big stuff.

I spent the entire month of October 2018 living in Rome at the North American College, covering the Synod at the Vatican on social media. Some really cool stuff happened:

paul and pope

But it wasn’t all papal greetings and gelato. As the month wore on, I felt more and more uneasy about something. The scandals, the clericalism, it’s hard to stomach for anyone, but when you work for the Church, it takes on a new level of intensity. The Church is made up of humans, and sometimes those humans can be horrific cesspools of sin. Theoretically I’m supposed to know that (I am one, sometimes, of course). And I was already starting to feel demoralized over all of it before my trip. But while in Rome, I snapped.

I ran into a chapel and said to the Lord directly, “If this is your kingdom, I don’t want any part of it.”

Bet you’ll never guess what he did.

Somehow, through some connections, I was invited to go to Eucharist with a community of the Neocatechumenal Way on a Saturday night at a parish in Rome. I couldn’t resist – I just had to see what this was about. I won’t go into detail here but suffice it to say I was floored. This is someone who likes singing in Latin, who loves incense and solemn worship spaces, who prefers silent Adoration to the praise and worship version… and yet, at a little parish in Rome, I fell in love with the liturgy of the Neocatechumenal Way.

When I returned home in November, James and I joined a community here in the DC area. It’s hard sometimes, especially since we hover between two parishes now, but the way that the Way celebrates the Eucharist is what holds me there. And the fact that we’ve met more people in just a few months with the community than we have in years at our other parish.

Outside of this massive shift in the way we experience Catholicism, everything else in our lives was also going crazy. Work was hard. I stopped going to choir because I felt overwhelmed. I began feeling like I had to just tread water. But also, something else was going on all the while.

Last June, when I chaperoned a bunch of teens at a LifeTeen camp in Georgia, I said that my life had been changed forever. I meant it. I couldn’t yet say what it was, because my family reads this blog, and I was keeping this a secret until I was ready to share with them.

My husband and I have a wonderful life. A wonderful, awesome, sometimes challenging, but very fulfilling life. And infertility is a big part of that life. We had attempted adoption about 3 years ago, but we knew it wasn’t where God was calling us, at that time. So we stopped trying to adopt, and we focused on life.

When I went on that trip to Georgia, something happened between me and God. I felt like my heart had been stretched. And… at the end of the week, I decided I wanted to adopt.

We researched international adoption all summer long, and in September 2018, just before I left for a month in Rome, we started the process to adopt a child from China. The entire paperwork process was fraught with many ups and downs, and many, many moment of me wanting to give up. There was even one period of time (December 2018) when our social worker told us she wasn’t going to approve us. I wanted so badly to call my mom and cry but James and I had decided that we weren’t going to tell our family until we were matched, because we wanted to do this on our own, and make these decisions with just us and the Lord.

Throughout the whole process, never once were we at a point where we were “craving” a child. It was more that God had placed this on our hearts and we knew that, if it worked out, it meant that somewhere in the world, there was a child he wanted us to love. And we knew that if it didn’t work out, that would be ok too, and we had often resigned ourselves to that kind of suffering.

But, it did work out. And we will be traveling to China to bring home our 3-year-old SON in just a few weeks.

I’ll share more about the way God has been leading us through this, but that’s a long enough blog post for now. ‚̧
GabesRoom

Bugs, Mud, and Jesus

Last week, a perfect storm of events came together in a way that changed my life forever. I went on a trip that I didn’t plan, and I didn’t even want to go on, but I knew it was what Jesus was asking so I said yes and now…

Ok, let me back up a bit.

Two months ago, I got this text from a priest at church: “Want to go to Georgia with some teens?”

I knew exactly what he was talking about. Every year, our parish youth group drives down to Covecrest, a LifeTeen summer camp in Tiger, Georgia. Our group was mostly girls, so they needed another adult female chaperone.

No. Heck no. Oh my goodness no.

I had seen the pictures from last year. People covered in mud from head to toe. Sunburn. Sweat. Bugs.

“No. Freaking. Way.”

So I resolved to call our priest and tell him no. But as I thought “no,” I also felt a little voice pulling me. I was calling him, instead of texting, because part of me, I guess, was a little open to persuasion.

He didn’t answer.

I went to Mass, thinking I would try calling again after. And, well… I looked at the tabernacle and I asked Jesus what to do and don’t you know it… he said Come to Georgia.¬†

Clear as day, in that gentle voice he always uses so you know it’s him. And his words, “Come” instead of “Go” – he was implying that he was already there waiting for me. It was an invitation, not a command.

I was stuck. I didn’t want to go, but I knew it was him. So I called our priest and gave him my “yes”. He promised it would be awesome, in a way. “No one comes back the same,” he said. I was… a little skeptical.

Knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus himself asked me to go didn’t stop me from spending the next 2 months dreading the experience and sending spiteful text messages to said priest (i.e. if I die of malaria it’s your fault). But he laughed it off, and off I went to Covecrest.

covecrest

“No one ever comes back the same.”

I had never met any of these kids before the trip. I’ve never volunteered with youth group, ever.

The kids were great – very welcoming, kind, well behaved, so much that for many of them it was easy to forget they were in high school. But the activities, the hiking, the bugs, the mud – it was all difficult for me.

snark

My cross was weighing heavily on me, and my heart was being re-broken, it seemed. I had thoughts like, “If I had kids, no one would ask me to do this.” (Sounds a little like something I’ve said before.)

And yet, I loved being there for these teens. I felt like a mom to all of them. At one point in our small group, I opened up about my MRKH, and it was wonderful to see how sharing this story invited others to open up about their deep wounds too. I knew that God was using me, but it was so painful. I sent my daily guilt-trip text to our priest, but now it had become, “I hate the idea of abandoning these kids after this week.”

This time he threw the guilt right back and told me I could volunteer with the youth group on Friday nights.

Dang.

“Mater Misericordiae”

The last night of camp, something beautiful happened. I was with 4 of the kids, and I mentioned that if I had kids, I would have liked to sing the Salve Regina as a lullaby.

They asked me to sing it to them.

I got all choked up, and invited them to sing with me. So we did. And it was beautiful, and wonderful, and a dream come true. I can’t even describe how much that moment meant to me.

“That’s what Jesus does.”

We drove home singing Taylor Swift and Disney and all the latest Christian pop music. We prayed the Rosary and evening prayer, and my heart was about to burst with joy. We finally parted in the middle of the night with hugs and tears and promises of prayer for one another – and I’ve written some of their names in my prayer book.

I felt as though my heart grew. “You’re going to think this sounds weird,” I told our priest, “but I feel as though my heart has been stretched, in a good way. I feel like I want to love more.”

“I knew it!” he said. “That’s what he (Jesus) does! He makes us capable of loving more. You went on a trip that you didn’t plan and you didn’t want to go on, but you were open just a little bit, and that’s how he was able to work.”

(“I knew it.” Goodness. It was all a set up. Looking at you, two dudes in your 30’s with beards.)

And so here we are, a week out from camp, and… I still can’t sop smiling. I even had a moment in the car driving to work where I found myself overcome with joy thinking about the MANY children that I have.

Remember what I wrote last summer, about that feeling that I would have more children than my Nana? I think I’m watching it come true.

I don’t know what the future holds, but I know that God is faithful, and that he is working all things together for my good.

Do you remember?

Do you remember?

Have you ever read¬†Hilaire Belloc’s “Tarantella”? It’s such a fun poem. He uses the words to create the rhythm of the famous folk dance from the Mezzogiorno, where my family is originally from.¬†“Do you remember an Inn, Miranda? Do you remember an Inn?”

This afternoon, I took a little break from work to walk around my alma mater (Catholic University). It was the first real spring day after a long spell of post-winter chill.

 

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Where I live, April is usually warm and sunny, but this year it’s been noticeably overcast and cold. It’s so strange to see people wearing their winter coats to checking out the cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin. (I promise you, if you’re not from DC, it’s not usually like that).

The extended winter of this year has been matched by an extended winter in my soul. More than once in the last week have I asked myself, “Why, if it’s Easter, am I still stuck in the Garden?”

As I began my walk, I said a little prayer and asked Jesus to come along with me.

First I noticed the dandelions, and the tiny little purple and blue flowers peeking out among the weeds.

And I heard that quiet, gentle voice:

Do you remember?

And something began to stir.

Then I saw the tulips, with their bright red petals.

tulips

Do you remember?

Then I found myself among the cherry blossoms, and watched as the little pink petals swirled around me, in and out of the streams of sunlight.

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Do you remember?

Yes, Lord, I do! I remember when dandelions and violets were priceless little treasures, and each new bloom was filled with possibilities.

I remember when I would sit in the grass and make chains of clover, and listen to the birds and wonder what it was that they were saying.

Yes, Lord. I remember. I remember what it was to be a little girl.

You still are, to me, and you can be, again.

Sometimes in the dark and stormy winters of life, we forget that there ever was a spring. Sometimes the chill sinks so deep that we don’t even realize there was a life before grief. Hope? What’s that?

If this is you, I promise you, spring will come. I don’t know how, I don’t know when, but I know it will.

Do you remember?

Nicodemus said to him, ‚ÄúHow can a person once grown old be born again? Surely he cannot reenter his mother‚Äôs womb and be born again, can he?‚ÄĚ Jesus answered, ‚ÄúAmen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of flesh is flesh and what is born of spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I told you, ‚ÄėYou must be born from above.‚Äô The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.‚ÄĚ

John 3:4-8

 

 

Hope is the Thing with Feathers

Hope is the Thing with Feathers

A few years ago (November 2014), I thought of a story of a little bird who couldn’t fly. It was sad, and it was short, because I didn’t know any ending for it, other than the continual sadness of this little flightless bird. And so I put it out of my mind.

Then, over two years later (this past February) as I was praying, the story came flooding back to me, and suddenly there was an ending. I’ve sat on this for two months and, well, I think it’s time to share it. Here goes.

The Little Bird

Once upon a time, in a beautiful green meadow, lined with trees and bathed in sunshine, lived a flock of sparrows.

Free of cares and full of purpose, they spent their days flittering, fluttering, swooping and soaring in the glittering morning sun. It seemed they lived only for the enjoyment of a kind young man who lived in a little cottage at the edge of the field. Day after day, year after year, the birds lived this charmed life.

Yet in the midst of these sweeping, soaring, swooping sparrows, there was one little bird different from all the rest.

Something had happened to her wings, you see. As a baby bird, they seemed normal enough, but when her turn came to fly, something was wrong. She could flutter enough to hop onto a low-lying twig, but try as she might, she could not fly.

Day after day, year after year, she watched as all the other little birds took wing.

I don’t know if birds can cry, but it seems a tiny little tear dripped down her beak when¬†another bird flew for the first time.¬†She wished with all her heart that she could be like them.

The other birds weren’t quick to understand. You see, none of the other birds of the meadow had ever had this problem before, and so she was lonely.

Some birds had a harder time learning than others. And some even complained about the strain that flying put on their wings. “Flying isn’t such a big deal,” they said. “You’re lucky you don’t fly!” And all this did was make her feel more and more sorrowful, seeing as the some birds didn’t understand the gift they held.

Still others saw what a gift it was to fly.¬†They knew that this is why they had been created. And each time a new little sparrow took wing, these birds got together to celebrate the occasion. “Be happy for your friends who can fly!” They said to our little flightless bird. “Why are you sad that our Creator has given other birds such a gift?” This pained her little heart even more. You see, she wasn’t sad because they could fly. She rejoiced that they could fly. She was only sad that she could not. All she wanted was to be like all of them, flying and singing and exploring the distant meadows beyond the trees.

Our little bird grew confused. She asked the wise old bird, “Why would our Creator make me a bird, yet not allow me to fly?” The wise old¬†bird didn’t have an answer, but told her to be patient and wait, for surely the All-Knowing One had his reasons.

Her sorrow continued to grow.

The little birdie was so sad as she watched all the other birds soar and swoop and flitter around in the glorious sunshine. She stopped wondering what she was for, or why she was made, as no answer seemed to be coming. Her little heart grew numb with pain.

One day, as he was watching the birds, the man in the cottage noticed our little sparrow sitting on his porch all alone. He saw her watching the others, unable to join them.

His heart was moved¬†for that little bird, so lonely and forlorn, hanging it’s head and uttering hopeless¬†little distress¬†chirps. He¬†wanted to help somehow, and so he approached, quietly.

When our little bird saw the man come out onto the porch, she tilted her head and gave him an inquisitive look. He didn’t seem threatening. And “Oh,” she thought, “what does it matter, since I cannot fly like the others, if I would cease to exist at all.”

The man bent down and held out his hand, “Come here little birdie.” Our sad¬†little¬†bird took two hops¬†closer, looked at the¬†hand for a few moments, and hopped into his palm.¬†The man¬†gently¬†picked her up¬†and looked at her intently. “What’s the matter little birdie? Why are you so sad?”

He had a closer look at her wings. It didn’t look like there was much he could do, yet¬†he didn’t want to leave the little sparrow alone.¬†So he took the bird into his home and made it a bed out of a shoe box and some cloth, and gave it some water and seeds. “Sleep well little bird. I’ll take care of you.”

The little bird gingerly ate a few seeds and drank a little water. The she peeped out a soft little chirp of thanks and fell asleep.

The next day the bird awoke to a stream of glittering sunshine and the sound of running water coming from the kitchen. The man was cheerful, humming to himself as he¬†came over with new water. “Good morning little bird! Did you sleep well? It’s a lovely morning, did you see?”

The sunshine only reminded her of the heights she could not reach. She let out a weak little tweet. Oh he was a nice man, but what could he understand about being a bird who cannot fly?

Days passed, and after a week our little bird began to look more closely at the man who was caring for her. He was¬†sweet and kind, and every morning, he loved to¬†sing as he moved about the house. What he was singing she didn’t fully understand, but it sounded sweet, like a happy little love song. The little birdie loved this song so much. One morning,¬†without realizing it, she was chirping along!

The¬†man stopped for a moment, and with a twinkle in his eye, he looked at the bird, his little bird, and¬†said, “Little birdie, what a sweet voice you have!¬†Would you like to sing?”

The little birdie tweeted a little more.

He put out his hand, and the little birdie hopped onto his finger.

He said other words to her, but being a bird she couldn’t really understand all of them. She was simply¬†delighted¬†to receive his attention, and¬†tweeted right along¬†¬†everything¬†he said, as happy birds often do.

As the days passed our little bird became more and more confident in her song and her surroundings. She tweeted and chirped and warbled and sang, all for happiness and love for the sweet and gentle man who first sang to her.

Every morning he would smile and say (or rather, sing) to the little bird, “Arise my beloved, my beautiful one. Let me hear you,¬†for your voice is sweet.” And the little bird sang. For with such practice and patience, it truly was a beautiful song.

As time went by, our little sparrow came to see that even though she could not fly, she could sing, and perhaps it was for this that she was made. She was delighted to perch near the Man and be his little songbird, bringing her songs to him every morning.

And even though she could still see the other sparrows flying up above, she was no longer in sorrow, for she was soaring in her little heart. She had a new life, a new purpose. She had finally found the reason for which she was made: to sing for the One who rescued her from her sadness, and filled her heart with song.

Jesus my savior, I cannot fly, but I can sing, and you have chosen me to live close to you and bring you joy with my songs of love. If I had wings, perhaps I never would have learned how sweet this is, how you truly are close to the brokenhearted. You have rescued me from my sadness and given me a new life as your beloved. You are the song within my heart, and it is your own song of love that I return to you.  

It’s 2017! And I only have 12 months left until…

It’s 2017! And I only have 12 months left until…

Hello, 2017! And Merry Christmas, Day 12.

I have so much to share with you all, but I need to get this out of the way first.

I’ve now entered the last year of my 20s.

Yikes!! I know that sounds so young to many of you, but I have a history of freaking out before important milestones:

  • I was terrified of 1st grade because I didn’t yet know how to read. There was nothing my parents could say to convince me that reading wasn’t a pre-requisite for beginning school.
  • I had a panic attack the night before I turned 25. My life was a quarter over and I thought I had nothing to show for it. Nevermind that I had¬†already bought a house, traveled to Europe, and gotten engaged to the man of my¬†dreams.

So, my New Year’s resolutions are also a bucket list of things to do before turning 30. Um I did not just type that number, did I? Ok, here goes:

Personal:

  1. Go to Fatima. (Portugal and Spain trip is happening!!)
  2. Learn image editing and graphic design skills.
  3. Finish the draft of my memoir.
  4. Stop being a perfectionist and just publish stuff.

Spiritual:

  1. Keep up First Friday and First Saturday devotions when possible and totes get to Confession at a minimum of once a month.
  2. Stop worrying about other people and be more confident in my own life.
  3. Forgive those who have hurt me in the past.

Bloggial:

  1. Write more mini-posts (150-200 words).
  2. Share YOUR stories (more on this to come!).
  3. Do more guest-blogging.

I have NO idea if I’ll actually be able to keep most of these. It’s more of a wish list, but I’m putting this here so you all can keep me accountable.

Now, enough about me.

What about you? Does anyone else have milestone freak-outs or major bucket lists for this year? What are your New Year’s resolutions?

Looking forward to a wonderful 2017 with all of you!

‚̧

 

Maybe I fly because I need to.

A few months ago, a friend¬†mentioned that since James and I don’t have children, we’re free to take these amazing trips‚ÄĒand isn’t that just wonderful? Maybe. I started to write this post in response:

Tolkien wrote that “not all those who wander are lost” though sometimes I do wonder if I’m looking for something.

This year we’ve taken a break from Europe to save a little money and relived my childhood in the Outer Banks. James had never been, and it had been 10 years for me.

From our home base in Duck, we visited the Wright Brothers Memorial, climbed to the top of the lighthouse at Cape Hatteras, took a stroll on the white sand beaches of Corolla, and left plenty more to do on our next trip.

James loved it so much he was ready to book the house again for next summer.

And… I’m going stir crazy for Europe. We’re currently planning our 2017 trip to the Mediterranean.

People comment that thanks to our infertility we have this awesome ability to travel. Maybe it’s true, but really, what do they mean by that? Would they really trade their own children just for a chance to fly across the sea every few years? It’s not like we live some glamorous life as jet-setters.

Maybe travel is my rebellion.

Maybe I fly because I need to. Because of grief. Because of pain. Because there is such a big world out there, and maybe if I search wide enough, I’ll find what we’re looking for.

 

Throughout my life I’ve often had this image of myself in the future as a grief-hardened and fearless Diana, sailing around the world with her pack of hounds, running from the hole in her heart and searching for her next escape.

Never mind that Diana was a land-based goddess, not a nautical one. But you know, teenage Connie Ann had an imagination.

I was wondering quite a bit, while writing the above, if I was indeed lost. I don’t think I am lost anymore, or at least, I don’t mind if I am. Still…

“Maybe I fly because I need to.”

Maybe I fly because for as long as I can remember, I can’t bear to live in a world where there is a London/Rome/Paris/Athens/you-name-it and I haven’t actually seen it.

The first time I set eyes on Europe from the tiny window of my airplane, I cried.

I cried because it was real. There was this place I had heard of so often, and it was actually there, waiting for me all this time.

It was almost sacred, like a pilgrimage. I wasn’t fasting and praying and crawling on my knees to get there, but travel is sacred in its own way. God made this big, beautiful world, and even though he (and the world) is much too vast for me to ever understand, seeing more of his creation helps me to understand a piece of him.

How amazing is it that you can be 3,000 miles from home, yet everyone looks like your cousins? How amazing is it that you can be in a place where no one understands your religion, but everyone understands your smile?

How amazing is it that¬†after spending only a week in a country¬†where no one knows your language, all of a sudden¬†you bump into another American, and it doesn’t matter that she’s a democrat or a republican or an atheist or a Jesus freak‚ÄĒshe’s an American. And right away, you’re sisters, you’re friends, because no one else in the room knows about buffalo wings and George Washington and Saturday Night Live and amber waves of grain.

I haven’t traveled very much, and I haven’t lived very long, but I’ve done both enough to know that my life has been better for it.

wales-075

The Vocation of Un-Belonging

The Vocation of Un-Belonging

We just got back from the annual family beach week.

The one we said we wouldn’t go on again, but you know, they invited us, and… beach.

It was really nice.

Honestly though, I remembered why we probably shouldn’t have gone.

It’s like Christmas- lots of togetherness. Lots of food. Lots of alcohol.

And lots of children, including at least one that was young enough to be ours.

As fun as it was, I was basically in a perpetual state of trying super hard not to cry. Between the high sugar diet, the booze, and the continual reminders that my life does not fit the norm, my eyes didn’t stand a chance.

When we got home this weekend and went to mass at our home parish, I remembered a conversation that happened in my 8th grade religion class about vocations.

Our textbook said that there are 3 primary vocations to which we could be called- marriage, religious life, and being single.

Then the teacher (or was it a priest?) said to the class that there is some debate as to whether the single life is actually a vocation. Does God actually call people to that, or is it just something that sort of happens when other things don’t?

What about my single friends who don’t want to be single? The ones for whom being single is a real struggle, a real suffering, a real cross?

Does God call them to this cross? If being single is a suffering, can it also be a vocation?

Is it the same, then, as a childless marriage? Could God really be calling us (and others) to live in this cross as a vocation, whether it be permanent or only for a time?

I don’t know if anyone truly discerns and desires singleness in the same way that people discern and desire the priesthood, religious life, or even marriage. At least, I don’t think I’ve met people like that. I think it’s more like infertility- you have other hopes and dreams, and you desperately want God to show you what he wants for you so you can move on and leave this confusing limbo of un-belonging.

You want a purpose, you want a plan, you want to know that he has not forgotten you.

But maybe, maybe this IS his plan, as much as it hurts. That wouldn’t be without precedent.

I mean, even Jesus asked his Father to change his plan and take away the cross if it were at all possible.

And maybe this feeling that your life is missing the mark will never leave. Maybe the goal of this vocation is to continually pray for the grace to accept your blindness, and to trust your guide, even though it seems like he’s only standing still.

When it looks like there’s no hope- maybe we’re right, in the human sense. There is no cure, there will be no material change. No baby. No spouse. It’s happening‚ÄĒwe’re going to be crucified. And it feels completely senseless and useless and stupid and horrible.

And maybe that’s how Jesus felt in the garden when he said that.

But we do have hope, right? But it’s a delicate thing. I don’t think Jesus would have cheered up that night if you were like, “Don’t worry Jesus, you’re going to rise in three days,” because that would have glossed over all the awful suffering he was going through. No, I think we can tell in the gospels that what really pulled him through in that moment was obedience to his Father and knowledge that this was truly the only way to save his beloved.

And that’s what pulls us through too, isn’t it? Obedience maybe, and trusting that this is the only way, and the hope that one day there will also be a resurrection for us, and he will open our eyes and show us that it all did matter, in some way.

“But not my will, but yours be done.”

Finally a Writer!

Finally a Writer!

Have you ever taken a Myers-Briggs personality test? It’s amazing. Once you figure out your type, you can read so much about yourself. It’ll tell you what things you probably enjoy, what things you probably shy away from, and which careers you would enjoy the most. If you’ve never taken it, there’s a really great free one here.

I scored ENFP: Extraverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Perceiving. Bascially, it means that I have a bubbly personality and an interested in pretty much everything, and my creatively-inclined brain tends to jump all over the place, all the time. “Can’t I be an archaeologist and a religion teacher¬†who owns her own pastry shop and writes music?” It’s no wonder that many ENFP’s are frequently miss-diagnosed with ADHD. Our brains never sit still- they’re always on overdrive. And we hate boring, repetitive, routine tasks- which is probably why my house is a mess.

Since graduating college (6 years ago), I’ve been trying to get into a position that uses my brain and my talents, and doesn’t involve a constant war against my mind’s passion for exploration. It’s been a difficult, lonely road, and I’ve often felt like there was nothing out there for me. Until now.

After years of¬†soul-sucking secretarial work, I’m going to be a professional writer! I’ll be working in the city as a Marketing Content Specialist, collaborating with a team to create conversion-focused content to websites, blogs and emails. I’ll get to use my brain. I’ll get to be creative. I’ll get to write. And I’ll have a chance to be me again. Thank you, thank you, thank you Jesus. Amen.

And I start next week, which means I’m spending this week working on that adoption paperwork. Physical was had this morning. Fire inspection tomorrow. Is there a patron saint of adoptions? I’m going to need all the help I can get!

Also, has anyone else here been through a lengthy career search, or took the long way to finding their heart’s desire? I’d love to hear your stories.

Starting a Prayer Journal

Starting a Prayer Journal

I love my diary. Always have, always will. In fact, I have diaries documenting my life from middle school onward. Some parts are fun to go back and read. Others, not so much. Still, it is fascinating for me to see how much I have grown and changed throughout my small 20-something years of life. Things that worried Miss 15-year-old Connie Ann seem ridiculous to me now. Other times, I marvel at what could only have been the Holy Spirit working in my life.

I record all kinds of things in my diary- things people said, places I visited, achievements, etc., but the most fascinating part for me to read now is the development of my relationship with God. There were times in my life where I was on fire with love for him, and other times when I was not. Things happened. Hard things. Looking back, I can see how God used them for his purpose.

My diaries have been great for tracking my faith journey, but now I think it is time for something more. Something deeper. Something more focused.

Something for recording my spiritual travels.
For recording my spiritual travels

I’ve decided to start a prayer journal. I want to keep track of my relationship with God, and where he takes me, and where we’re going, so that someday I can look back and see all the places we have been together.

Some prayer journals list things prayed for, and the way they were answered. Some prayer journals list things to be grateful for each day. Mine may include these things, but really I’m most interested in paying attention to the way God speaks in this life. I hope this exercise helps me to see these things.

Has anyone here kept a prayer journal of some sort? Did you find it helpful? Was it difficult to keep up with? Any thoughts, tips, and suggestions are welcome!

Constantinople’s Lament

Constantinople’s Lament

My mom still talks about a time when I was a toddler and wanted so badly to see the inside of a church I had spotted on the side of the road.¬†Being an adventurous mom, she pulled over and took me inside. Next thing you know, little Connie Ann is running up and down the aisles from the front to the back, pointing at the cross and shouting¬†gleefully, “Jesus!”

I’ve since learned to control my outbursts (mostly). But I still love, love, love churches. Today I want to talk about my experience visiting one of the world’s greatest, found in¬†the city of my namesake. (Yes, my name is Constance, but when my mom was in a playful mood, she called me Constantinople. And this was before I became a lover of¬†Church¬†history.)

Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia, August 2010, Evening

Dedicated on my birthday, December 27 (though in 537), the Hagia Sophia is a beautiful masterpiece of Byzantine culture as well as an engineering marvel. The ring of windows at the base of the dome amazed everyone who saw it. “What is holding the dome?” they wondered. It looks as though the dome is suspended on a ring of light.

If you squint, you can see the Theotokos on the wall in the back, behind me head.
Standing where the Empress Irene would sit. If you squint, you can see the Theotokos mosaic in the apse.

Apart from the columns, the marble, the dome, and the windows, this church was filled with the most ornate mosaics in the empire. Beautiful scenes filled every wall and alcove, designed to lift the viewer’s thoughts to the world above.

HagiaSophiaMary
Mary and the Child Jesus with Empress Irene and her son, Emperor Alexander.

Visiting this great wonder of the world was a dream come true, though it was also marked with sadness. You see, when Constantinople was overtaken by the Ottoman Turks in 1431, they converted our beautiful home into a mosque. The Christian artifacts were removed and the heavenly mosaics were covered in plaster. Islamic art and writings were hung over the images of our Lord and the Saints. The Glory of Christendom was forced to submit to the Muslims, guarded by four minarets.

In 1935, Mustafa Atat√ľrk had the Hagia Sophia converted once again- this time to a museum. In an effort to honor both the Christian and Islamic history of the building, some of the mosaics were once again exposed, though many remain covered¬†to this day.

Deesis
Deesis Mosaic: Jesus flanked by Mary and John the Baptist.

This is our Constantinople, bound by the shackles of time. Being in this place, seeing what it was, and knowing what it has become created such a storm of emotions in my soul. They say you many not pray in the building- but they can say what they want.

What is there to say when one walks where such tragedy has occurred? What once was the beautiful house of God is beaten down and chained by years of wounds and disenchantment. Would anyone believe the glory it used to house? Will it ever again be what it truly is? How many souls are just like this temple, tragically fallen from grace and seemingly without hope? What glorious beauty hides beneath the whitewash of our conquerors? When will we break the shackles and accept who we were meant to be? Do we have the Faith and Hope to live for the One who built us?

I hope so. And yes, it will always be Constantinople to me.