Daybook: Christmas Season

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Outside my window::

Bright, sunny, and windy. Seasonal–so in the 30s. It was almost 60 degrees on Christmas Eve!

Wearing::

Jeans, grey flats, a blue tank top, a new cardigan (same as the photo below) , and sparkly earrings. It’s the holidays, it means party time in the clothes department. 🙂

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Reading::

Wow, what am I not reading? I got three books for Christmas: The Romanov Sisters, The Little French Kitchen, and Elizabeth of York, about Henry VII’s wife (and Henry VIII’s mother). I’ve finished The Romanov Sisters (good, but nothing really new in there), I’m marking up French Kitchen with stickies to mark recipes I want to try, and I’ve dipped into Elizabeth.

I also bought: In Cold Blood, The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla, and Mastering the Art of French Eating. I’m reading both French Eating and Cold Blood, and I finished Manzanilla earlier today. That one is part of the Pink Carnation series, which I’ve been reading since its inception. There are eleven books in the series and the last one comes out next year. Whenever there’s a new one it always makes me want to go back and read the older ones, so I see a reading of the series in my future. 🙂

Basically, I’m being a Christmas book glutton.

Oh, and I almost forgot! Lara Casey’s Make it Happen. People. Go get this. Now. It’s amazing.

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In the CD player::

The Christmas music. 🙂 I try to rotate through all of them as much as possible, so Renee Fleming’s is up next.

Movies::

I watched Babette’s Feast last night, and I loved it. It’s such a “me” movie–France, Food, Faith. The three Fs, if you will. 🙂 The feast! Oh my gosh. And the part at the end about art….really, it’s a gorgeous movie. It will make you hungry. watch it. Please. 🙂

Pondering::

Why there are tablets everywhere I go. I admit, I’m prone to checking my phone when I’m bored, but I am really good at leaving it in my bag, unnoticed and unused, when I’m in church, when I’m with people, when I’m at the movies, etc. It’s not an umbilical cord for me.
But lately I’ve seen more and more kids with it all the time–at Mass, at nice restaurants, everywherelike they can’t be without it, and it’s sort of ude. What are these kids learning? That they have to be constantly stimulated? That they can be rude to people? (Because it is rude, to ignore the waiter who’s waiting to take your order, if you’re trying to beat level 3067 on Candy Crush, or whatever and he’s waiting for your drink order.)

At Mass I see 8-9-10 year olds playing around instead of paying attention. Guys. Why is this happening? Why have we become so involved in our screens? Why are we not involved in the people around us? Also, why must we be “available” all the time? Really? ALL THE TIME?

Also, I’ve noticed that I’m a lot happier when I’m not on Facebook 24/7. It’s a great resource, and I do connect to people with it. There are things I like about it. But geez, I’ve been so much happier without living on it during the holidays. There’s a lesson there.

(Lara Casey’s new book Make it Happen is huge on this part. Absolutely huge.)

Around the house::

Decluttering, cleaning closets, mopping, vacuuming, putting things away. The general post-Christmas insanity and I’m trying to defeat it. 😛

Food::

Making chocolate gingerbread as a new year’s day dessert, and also the Guinness Cake for a party of sorts on Friday. Tomorrow is sweet and sour pork, because for some reason I eat Chinese on New Year’s Eve. Why is this?

family::

I had a great time with my family over Christmas–seeing all my aunts, uncles, cousins, and my sister, who was here from Houston (she leaves tomorrow) is always fun. Especially when there are cute little children that read books to me and cal my name and ask to sit in my lap. I love that part. 🙂

Faith, Trust and a Long Road, Part 3

Faith, Trust and a Long Road, Part 3

The summer was glorious, and when it ended, it was time to make the big leap.

I had to apply for early retirement.

So I filled out the paperwork, and the nurses and doctors did too. We sent them in. An appointment was made to see a doctor–in Cleveland, at 9 in the morning, in late October.

I saw the doctor had an office in Columbus. Maybe I could go there?

I prayed that night that the doctor would be OK with this. That I could go 12 miles away, instead of three hours, and make that drive mostly in the dark?

When mom called the next day, the receptionist changed the appointment to November, in Columbus.

Thanks, God.

I had started, before this, to pray for just about any difficult situation–that a crazy tax mishap would be dealt with easily (it was), for one example. This was another one. Could I drive to Northeastern Ohio? Yes, I could. Would it be the best thing? No, not really.  So, I prayed about it.

I asked people to pray that the appointment would go well. I had no idea what I was getting into, but I knew that the doctor probably wasn’t familiar with CF, or transplant, or really the reality of my life. And I was right. He wasn’t, and I had to give the “brief history of Emily’s Life (Part 1)” to him. He took copious notes, and asked a lot of questions. He seemed amazed that I had gone from a job for which I was perfectly suited to one that didn’t suit me at all. I told him I hadn’t had much choice.

He pondered a bit, did a very brief examination, and then I was done. I thought it had gone well. I prayed that it had.

In December, I received notice that the board would decide on my application on December 17–the first of the O Antiphons, the day when many monasteries and convents begin the solemn Christmas novena. I had a  novena of my own. Elizabeth Foss had introduced me to the St. Andrew novena, which had begun on November 30th. I had prayed, every day, with this novena, that my application would be approved.

I asked people to pray. I lit candles at church. I prayed that His will would be done, and I tried to cling to that hard-won trust, that had been tended this entire year, with small and big things. I tried to stay calm, and for the most part, I succeeded. I invoked almost every single saint I knew to intercede on my behalf.

Yesterday I opened a letter from the state retirement board. My application had been approved.

Prayers were answered. Trust proved right. God had walked me through every single day of this past year.

I had thought that I knew how to trust. But God showed me I didn’t. I thought I knew how to pray. God showed me how to pray deeply, how to ask for everything. How to truly trust in His providence and in His plan.

Without these past 12 months, I wouldn’t know these things. I wouldn’t be able to tell you that oh, prayer works. That trust in God works. That it’s never misplaced. That God MEANS it when he says that He will give us rest.

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I would never have realized how to trust in His plan–how to really trust. I sort of knew, in the Big Huge Scary Things. But this was even scarier, really. Scarier, to me, than being OK with an early death. That might sound really hard to believe. But it’s true.

Out of this year there has been so much growth, not just spiritually, but in things I’ve been wanting to do–in my writing, in making new friends, and spending time with God in prayer. Roots have grown that I don’t think I can pull up, ever. And I don’t want to!

He is there in every single moment. Everything that happens has a reason, a deep reason, in His plan.

If I’d been accepted to postulancy, way back when, I never would’ve learned this lesson in Trust. I wouldn’t have had to.

If I was married, I wouldn’t have had to either. My “safety net” would’ve been my husband’s salary and his insurance.

Only by being in the place where I am–at such a time as this–would I have learned what I leaned. My faith wouldn’t have deepened any other way.

So I can tell you–His Timing is Perfect. His Yoke is Easy. Trust Him. Prayer works. God is always good.

Do I know how things are going to go next year? Nope. I have no idea. But I’ve learned things this year that will help me in any year, and I hope it’s helped you a bit, too. When God asks you to stand on a ledge and look down…do it. Trust that He’s going to catch you.

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Faith, Trust and a Long Road–Part 2

Faith, Trust and a Long Road–Part 2

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January and February were a blur of snow, ice, and bone-chilling cold, the kind of cold that makes you wear layers of wool socks in your boots, that requires scarves wrapped around your face so the skin doesn’t turn raw at the lightest hint of wind.

Even in 2014, when spring seemed like it would really never come, it came.

After a lot of worrying and prayer and tears, I decided to take a step, and to leave my job, temporarily, in preparation for applying for early retirement. I knew there was no way I could care for my body and give it what it needed while continuing in my current job. I couldn’t do it. But if I left….that was going to be a big leap of faith. I was going to have to Trust God like I had never done before, and pray that I was doing the right thing.

Leaving a job is a big thing for anyone….but when you need insurance, like I do, it becomes almost foolhardy to consider. But I couldn’t stay where I was.

So in March, I worked my last day, turned in applications for short-term disability, and started a new schedule. This one involved pulmonary rehab three times a week, radically changing the way I ate, and making a commitment to exercise, to being healthy, to treating my body well. I was also able to write–really write–write my memoir, which I’ve talked about here before, and take time to get back to a solid prayer life.

In March, Elizabeth Foss’ Restore workshop started, and I am so grateful for that. Those six weeks of lessons in getting back to basics–to establishing a good prayer life, eating well, exercising, taking care of what matters most–are still echoing my in my day-to-day life (in fact, I was just now going through my binder of workshops from the class and making notes. It’s going to come into 2015 with me in a big way). God truly gave me a gift in this workshop, and the women in it.

In April, I went on a silent retreat. I try to make one every year, but I really needed it this year. I needed to get in touch with God, to hear Him speak to me in silence, to fall into His arms and trust Him, to believe what He says in Scripture. He will give me rest? I can lean on Him? Really?

How do I know I won’t fall?

On Saturday, at lunch, there were memory verse cards on our plates. I didn’t realize that until I’d already taken my seat, pulled out my chair and placed the starched and ironed white napkin on my lap.

This is the verse:

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I smiled. How I smiled. Big, face breaking smile that probably led the other women to think I was a bit crazy.

That was the first, big moment when I realized He was really with me. That I wouldn’t fall. I just had to trust in Him.

I left the retreat feeling buoyant. Feeling like this was all going to work out.

The week after the retreat, I turned 32. I was losing weight, I was getting stronger, I was feeling better than I had in a long time. I wrote pages and pages daily. I recommitted myself to prayer, and every day I walked a little further in trust with Him. Somehow I felt like this was going to be OK.

Spring that year felt so warm.

It turned into summer, and Dad and I made another trip to the Happiest Place on Earth.

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Music Man rehearsals began when we got back. I kept working out with Amy, my pulm rehab therapist, whom I adore. I had a blast with my stage family, and met new people. I celebrated my ninth transplant anniversary, and my PFTs were up. It seemed like things were on an upswing. I was doing things right. And God? He was probably laughing at me.

See what happens when you just trust my plan?

But there were some hurdles coming. Because my plan didn’t just depend on me. It depended on other people, too. And that was when I really, vividly saw the power of prayer–and how to ask people for prayer for the big things.

Faith, trust, and a long road part 1

Faith, trust, and a long road part 1

Or: What I learned in 2014

All it takes is faith and trust!

–Peter Pan

2014 started off pretty cold, and not just weather-wise.

I was in a pretty bad place with my job, with my faith, with a lot of things.

When I say this, people usually look at me oddly. “Um, you almost died like lots of times. How is this worse?”

It’s worse because I can navigate medical stuff. I’m good at medical stuff. I trust God when it comes to medical stuff.

Apparently, God wanted me to trust Him with a lot more than just the medical stuff.

Trusting God is one of those things that was always sort of abstract to me. I mean, I did trust Him. In limited areas. But with everything? Yeah, no. I mean, I tried. But a lot of the time I thought I could handle it all.

(Insert laugh track here)

So things came to a head a few weeks before Christmas last year, in that my job description changed pretty radically, and I couldn’t keep up, physically, anymore. It required me to do a lot of standing, a lot of machine fixing, and a lot of lifting things back and forth. These are things I really can’t do. (I loathe saying I can’t do something. It sounds whiny. But it’s true, here.) CF affects joints as well, and mine do not allow me to stand for 5+ hours in an 8 hour work day. My skin-grafted right arm does not allow me to plunge it into the hot depths of copying machines to fix things, because the skin is so delicate (even 10 years later), that it will rip on the tiny unseen things inside the machines. I can’t continually bend over, squat, stand again, and stand for the majority of my day. My body simply does not allow it.

On top of all that, I had been very privileged in my past years of employment to have bosses who were very understanding about my medical needs, which means I will miss more time than the average bear. It was always the first thing I told any new supervisors–this is my reality. I will give you as much notice as I, myself, have. (I have had my dad call my bosses from ER rooms, when I was being worked on a few feet away, to tell them I was going to miss work.) If I have an appointment during the day, I will try to schedule it at the end of the workday, so I am here for the majority of it. I will come to work as soon as the appointments are over, when I have them in the morning. Really, I tried to be as accommodating to my bosses and my doctors as I could be–and sometimes that was quite a balancing act. I was truly blessed with supervisors who let me do what I needed to do, in terms of my health, and were so understanding.

That changed, in my new position.

(I have actually been reluctant to write about this, or talk too much about it, but I think the spiritual lessons I’ve learned sort of demand that I write about them. So I will try to do this as tactfully as possible and with regard for discretion.)

So, in January I had a job that was very physically (for me) demanding, and a supervisor that didn’t understand the nature of my (many) health issues, and was making life rather difficult for me. In February came the diagnosis of chronic rejection, and with that, I came to a  decision.

For my entire life, my health has come last to all the other things I wanted/needed to do. I would push myself beyond my limits and tell my body to keep it together, and usually it wouldn’t, eventually culminating in a long hospital stay or something bizarre. (That wasn’t to say I was reckless. I wasn’t. But the desire to be a normal college student, to participate in all my activities, to do things my friends were doing, like stay out late or skimp on sleep, overrode my health concerns. I would take my meds, and I would do my treatments, obviously. But I didn’t like to baby myself.)

Now, I really had to not do that. It was time to put my health first, and then everything else, second. Chronic rejection is a slippery beast. We don’t really know what causes it, or how to treat it, definitively. It can happen without any warning, like all rejection (chronic and acute). But if it’s not successfully treated, it can lead to a need for another transplant.

Yeah. Emily did NOT want to go there again.

So it was time to get serious. It was time to give my body the sleep, food, exercise, rest it needed.  It was time to put it first. And that meant work–at least work in its current incarnation–was not going to happen.

At this point, I was really displeased with God.

I had discovered, in January, Ann Voskamp’s 1000 Gifts video study. And this had been a raft I was desperately clinging to, that “God is always good, and I am always loved.” I decided to really count 1000 gifts, to do it in one year, to persevere, to not stop as I had in other years.

She also mentioned this:

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Trust God.

How much did I really trust Him?

Well now I was going to find out.

O Oriens (Dec 21)

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The O Antiphon for Dec 21 sung by the Cantarte Regensburg.

O Oriens, splendor lucis æternæ, et sol justitiæ: veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

O Dawn of the East, Brightness of the Light Eternal and Sun of Justice, come and enlighten them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

A meditation on the antiphon by Fr. Roger Landry

O Oriens: “O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.” Isaiah had prophesied, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shown.” (9:1).

This title is variously translated “morning star”, “Dayspring”, “rising sun”, “radiant dawn”, “orient”. All beautifully express the idea of light shattering the darkness of night, of sin and

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O Adonai (Dec 18)

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The O Antiphon for Dec 18 sung by the Cantarte Regensburg.

O Adonai, et Dux domus Israel, qui Moysi in igne flammae rubi apparuisti, et ei in Sina legem dedisti: veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.

O Adonai, and Leader of the house of Israel, Who didst appear to Moses in the flame of the burning bush, and didst give unto him the Law on Sinai: come and with an outstretched arm redeem us.

A meditation on the antiphon by Fr. Roger Landry:

O Adonai: “O sacred Lord of ancient Israel, who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush, who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain: come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free.” Isaiah had prophesied, “But He shall judge the poor with justice, and decide

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Catholics On TV: “The Sisterhood”, conclusion

So Lifetime got a little crazy with the scheduling, and did episodes 3/4 and 5/6 (six being the finale) back to back. I had to watch episode 4 on my computer, because my DVR didn’t record it, and I just watched five and six. The series is over–not sure if there will be a second one?. Here’s a brief re-cap of the last few episodes, and then how it turned out:

  • After their visit in Chicago, the girls headed to Kentucky, where they visited the Sisters of St. Joseph the Worker, a small community in what appeared to be a rural part of the state (Eseni and Francesca were freaking about this–“Where’s Kentucky?” one of them asked). Christie told Stacey as they were leaving Chicago that she wanted to join the Daughters of St. Mary of Providence (the Chicago order), and when their time was over in Kentucky, she would go back to ask for admission. Stacey is happy for her friend, but says she still hasn’t found the convent/order that’s right for her.
  • On the way to Kentucky, the girls stop in Indianapolis. At a restaurant, Eseni and Francesca “change” into high heels and roll their skirts up so high that Christie says she can “see everything” when they’re sitting down. Christie and Stacey are NOT happy with this at all. The talk turns to romance and sex–Stacey is still a virgin, and both Eseni and Francesca seem really freaked about that. Stacey doesn’t understand why they feel that way (And I gotta admit, I felt the same way as Stacey! Um…….no sex before marriage is the catholic rule, y’all). Claire was talking to a young man about Catholicism and religion in general, which Francesca interpreted as “flirting”, but it reminded me of St. Dominic staying up all night with the innkeeper. And as someone who has had those long conversations with guys before, let me tell you–it’s not the same as flirting, y’all.
  • In Kentucky, Claire sees a statue of the Infant Jesus, and is immediately attracted to it. She also loves that the sisters have a school, and the girls visit a music classroom, which is right up Claire’s alley. She immediately plays the piano and seems to be having a great time. The other girls are having some trouble, however, because Stacey and Christie are angry that Francesca and Eseni lied to Mother Christina about “losing” their phones when it was time to turn them in again.
  • This order is smaller–there are only 12 sisters. They run a school (St. Joseph’s Academy) and a senior care facility (Taylor Manor), as well as help people in need in the area. The girls are taken to a woman’s house, where they clean the house, weed the yard and patio, plant flowers, and change sheets on the bed inside.
  • Claire is feeling like she’s called to enter this order. She feels a real kindred spirit with the women in the order and the work they do, so she decides to ask Mother Christina for admission before they leave. Francesca takes Claire aside and asks her if she’s sure she’s doing the right thing, since Claire has never had a boyfriend, or kissed a guy. Claire talks about agape love, which Francesca totally does not get, but….
  • A point about the above: I think you can be a nun without having the physical experiences Francesca is talking about. You can really love someone without kissing them. I think we’ve all had those experiences. I know I have. You don’t need to experience these things (i.e., physical expressions of love)  in order to be a nun, sister, brother, priest, or other consecrated vocation. You have to be able to love, you have to have experienced it(i.e., felt it for another person), yes–but that doesn’t mean just physical romantic love, the way Francesca thinks it does.
  • Claire asks Mother Christina if she can begin the formal process of entrance. After a long moment, Mother Christina says yes (I’m sure there was editing here.). I was so happy for Claire, because I’ve been on the other side of that–when they say no–and it’s so hard. Claire, Mother Christina, and the other sisters were so happy. When they told the other girls, both Christie and Stacey were happy, but Eseni and especially Francesca seemed gobsmacked.
  • The last episode details what happened with each girl once she went home. So here we go:
  • Eseni decided not to continue discernment. She’s still with Darnell and they’re “planning a future together.” (I’m not sure what that means.) She is going back to school to become a pediatric nurse. She has spent more time with her family, including her father ,and says that going to confession while she was on the trip was a huge benefit for her.
  • Stacey initially thought she’d join Christie in Chicago, but then decided that she felt her call was in New York state, where she’s been living, so she’s going to stay there for the time being.
  • Francesca is continuing to talk to the Carmelite sisters, since she felt the closest to them, and even invited Sr. Marie Therese and Sr. Peter to her parents’ for a cookout! She says she’s grown spiritually as a result of the experience and now she’s working in New York City in real estate and has her own apartment. She’s only 21, so she has time if she decided she really does want to join the sisters, but it seems like they have really helped her.
  • Christie  stopped in Chicago to visit the Sisters before going home to California, and formally asked for admittance to the   Sisters of St. Mary of Providence. She has formally been accepted to begin discernment with them, has begun selling her things, and has made several visits to the sisters. She says she’s taking her parents on the next one. Her mom took is very hard, initially, because she’s close to Christie, but it seems like they are becoming more accustomed to the idea as time goes on.
  • Finally, Claire went home to Illinois and told her parents and her family of her decision. Her father was definitely taken aback, because he thought it was a bit fast–she just met the sisters and she wanted to join them. However, he did give her her blessing. Claire is, presumably, going to Kentucky for a retreat soon, and will hopefully be admitted as a postulant, which lasts for 8-10 months with that order.

So that is the end of the series. It worked out essentially how I thought it would–I knew Claire was serious, and Christie’s growth during the series was evident. I hope that Stacey can find her calling, whether it be in or out of a convent. I don’t think Francesca will actually join the Carmelites, but nothing is impossible, and Eseni would be a good nurse.

Most of the filming was presented in a tactful way, and I loved the sisters and the perspective that they gave, not only on the girls, but on being a sister in the 21st century, and on what life of a Bride of Christ is like. They were earthy, funny, real…very enjoyable. I wished the sisters in Kentucky were here in Ohio, too!