This Baby Belongs Here

Right after my conversion I thrived off hanging around Catholic circles. I loved being around people who understood what it was that I was going through in my life after conversion. I have some really great and amazing people in my support system at my parish and online. I am very grateful to have so many people who love and support me. People who loved me right where I was, didn’t put demands on me and who did and still do anything they can to help me when I need it.

There was a time right after my conversion where I worried about how everyone in my family looked and acted at Mass. I am guessing that it stemmed from how I was raised. I was not raised going to Mass every Sunday with my mom, but I did attend Mass when there was a family event of some kind, like funerals or weddings. My mom recently told me that I went to Mass every day of my life until I was 3 years old with my babysitter until we moved and she didn’t take care of me anymore. I’m guessing that she probably had a lot to do with why I know how to make the sign of the cross, how to act during Mass, how I knew to sit, kneel and all that, and I’m sure that she also instilled in me the fact that you do not act up in Mass. Who knows where it came from, but I had this insane fear of people looking at my family and thinking that we didn’t dress/sit/act right and judge us. My kids were told not to make a peep anywhere inside the sanctuary. Not a PEEP. They were to be quiet, sit straight, fold their hands prayerfully when it was time to pray, and take out the missal to follow along. No slouching, no noise, no sighs, none of it.

My heightened sense of people looking at us and sizing us up made me aware of all the ways that those around us were not going to mass “right”. Every child moving, babbling, talking, crying, or the people behind me who talked throughout Mass or the people behind me who sing every part of the Mass so loud that I can’t hear myself think and on and on. Once we even sat behind a family with 7 kids with the parents sitting together at one end of the pew and the boys at the other end farting on each other. True story. I judged them so hard.

I judged everyone. What they wore, how their kids behaved and the list could go on and on. At some point it became clear to me that the problem was not everyone else, the problem is me. How someone else acts at Mass isn’t my business. It is not MY Mass, it’s Christ’s mass. Every person sitting in those pews is someone that HE has called to be there. That’s how Grace works. I have no clue what they are going through in their life, or what they will end up doing with their lives for the Love of God. I really don’t. I have no idea how exactly God is working in their lives at all, but I do know that He is working in them, because if He wasn’t, they would NOT be there. Point blank.  Nobody goes to Mass because the idea of going began with them. It all begins from the Grace of God. It’s how He dupes us. We think that we came up with the idea when in fact, it is God all along.

This week at Mass I had the pleasure of eating humble pie for all that judging. Like I said, I had this idea of how parents should control their children at Mass. I had all these lofty ideas about how I would be so much better at handling a baby in Mass than most of the parents around me.

Then I took my 1 year old grand daughter to Mass yesterday.

She didn’t cry, but she wiggled all throughout Mass. She smiled at me. She tried to sing with the songs and the cantor. She answered Father with “Yaaaahhh”s and she squealed when I made her laugh. I know I shouldn’t have been playing with her during Mass, but this child is the cutest. After the creed she grabbed my face with both of her little baby hands and smacked me on the lips with the biggest kiss ever. It was the first time that she has kissed me and I melted. I just held her and cried. I was so thankful to God for this little life in my arms. For this soul that is my grandchild. Who was at Mass with me. I heard three words of the homily. I got the stink eye twice. Once with the baby drank her juice and slurped then let out an “aaahhhhhh” and a burp. (what 1 year old knows proper social norms on this stuff?!) and then another time when she was babbling during the consecration. I considered taking her to the cry room, but I didn’t. Why? Because she belongs there. Not in the cry room, but in the pew watching her aunt and uncles cross themselves, sit and listen to the readings, looking at the picture of Our Lady on the missalette and hearing what is going on. She even walked up the Communion line for the first time. That is how children learn that this is something special, by being a part of it. So no, I didn’t take her to the cry room, and I never will unless she is screaming bloody murder, which she wasn’t. She is as much a part of the Mass as anyone else who is there. In fact, she is part of the future of our Church.

I am pretty sure that the greatest thing my babysitter ever did for me was take me to Mass when I was a baby. My heart knows that it is at home there because that love of the Mass was branded on me as a baby. I am not gonna let a few stink eyes keep me from passing that on to my grand child. Children learn how to love the Mass, by being a part of it.

 

a at mass

7 QTs School, Life, Craziness

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1.

Life has been crazy for so long that now that it’s getting better, I have so much time to do things that I have wanted to do. Like read, watch TV, write, and spend time with my husband. After getting so much support from friends, our parish family, and people who I don’t even know who donated to our GoFundMe account, we are feeling some relief financially. We still have to work on the 2012 taxes and deal with the IRS and make money to pay all the bills as they come in again. But for the first time in a long time I feel hopeful. I never despaired, although I was pretty damn close to it, but I just held on to hope. That is totally different that feeling hopeful.

2.

I heard this new Audrey Assad Song and dude, yes. This is how I feel about my life right now.

3.

In other music news, my brotha from another father, Sam Rocha, dropped his new album yesterday on the Feast of St. Augustine. Late to Love is the best soul music that I have ever heard. Not only is it Catholic music that doesn’t suck, but it’s soul music that doesn’t suck. And the fact that he’s Noe Rocha’s son just makes it even better. Noe is like a spiritual dad to me. The man loves Jesus like nobody else that I know. His life, his conversion and his ministry has a lot of good fruit: Jennifer Fulwiler for instance. Sam’s album is probably the best fruit to fall from the tree that is Noe’s mission in life. That is why I kind of love promoting it on a 7QTs. Because Jen, Sam and I all have Noe in common. BUY THIS ALBUM. you will not regret it. Support good Catholic art!

sam

4.

I am working on my book again and it feels so good. I’ve also been going to therapy and spiritual direction and I am realizing so much about how my childhood plays such a huge role in almost everything that I do. I still feel like a liar when I say that I’m writing a book. I still do not know what I’m doing other than reading about writing and going from there, but I know that I have a first draft and I’m working on shredding it and starting over. I also know that a lot of great writers have done just that.

5.

I’m also working on speaking more. I am a total newb at speaking, but the only way that I’m gonna get better is by doing it. I’m working my promo materials. It’s very hard to write about my accomplishments. “Before writing Leticia Adams….” I come up blank. Ummm, “was a bartender that hung out with gang members and hoed around” just doesn’t seem right. I also need a new head-shot. The only professional one that I have of myself is in my Hooters uniform. Don’t think that’s gonna work for Catholic speaking materials.

6.

The other day my husband and I were driving down this road where it’s known that hookers work. We have to go there to get chemical for our company because that is where the distributor is. That’s always confused me, but anyway, we were driving and I saw this house for sale. Now, I am in no place in life to buy another house. We could lose our own house any month now. But the idea of starting my foundation planted itself in my heart again. I have always dreamed of having a house in the heart of the worst neighbor hood where people can come and get help. It’s a long story, but it is something that I’ve always wanted to do. Where there are good books, a closet with clothes, a 12 step program, free counseling, a bathroom if anyone needs to shower and food. A place where the neighborhood kids can come do their homework after school.  I tried to shake off this idea because it’s too hard, fall is coming and I fizzle out during the fall, I’m broke, I am a flake and so many other excuses that I could think of, but it won’t go away. I went to my husband who said “I’m down” when I thought he was going to say “you’re crazy, no”. Then I went to my therapist who said “you should do it” when I thought she was going to say “do you really think you could handle that right now?” so I called about the house. Bad news: it sold. Good news: the Realtor cried when I told her my idea and said she wants to help me find a house that will work. So, looks like I’m gonna start my foundation. Please pray for me. It’s gonna be named The Red Door Foundation and the first house will be called The Emmanuel House because Emmanuel means “God among us”.  That is what my mission will be, to take God among my people.

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7.

School started. I am not the emotional mom when school starts, but this year I am for some reason. There is really no craziness going on. The first of the year paperwork is all done, the kids have all their supplies, clothes and new shoes (again, thanks to awesome people who donated money for us to be able to get all that together) and so I’m only left with the complete knowledge that one day these kids are going to be grown and not my babies anymore. I am usually accepting of that, but this year it just seems like it’s going too fast.

rats

For more 7 Quick Takes go see Jen! 

When Saints Pray for You

I’m just gonna be honest here, I did not plan on going to Mass on Friday. It was a Holy Day of Obligation and every single time I saw someone post “Make sure and go to Mass today!” on Facebook, I flipped my iPhone off. In order to have a good “excuse” to not have gone to Mass, I decided that we would take the kids to their grandma’s that morning. It was kind of last-minute decision that I thought was all mine.  I figured that a whole day of driving would be just the excuse that I needed to get out of going to Mass. I had a whole plan and was ready to execute it, no apologies, for not going. I really don’t even know why.

A few weeks ago I decided that after searching for a Spiritual Director with no luck that I would ask my Pastor if he would do it. I love this priest; he’s very much tempered like I am. I had not asked him because he is very busy and because he’s a dear friend to me. But when I asked him, he said yes. When I called him to schedule our first meeting (is that what you call it? I have no idea) he said that the only appointment that he had was on Friday, the Feast of the Assumption at 4pm. I took it not really concerned about not wanting to go to Mass. Going to Mass was really not even on my mind at the time. Things have been so crazy around here and I really would have dropped the idea of even getting Spiritual Direction if I had time to think about it. I didn’t, so I just followed through with it. I am not a follow through kind of person. I did figure that, like therapy, Spiritual Direction would help me sort through a lot of what is happening and understanding why God seems to be MIA and what does He want from me exactly. It couldn’t hurt, that’s for sure. Those were all thoughts that I had before I woke up on Friday plotting my giant plan on how I was going to skip Mass.

I figured that Father would “understand” why I couldn’t make it to any of the Masses, because I drove all day to take that rats to their Grandma’s 3 ½ hours away. That was 7 hours of driving. Totally understandable.

I met Father and we had a great talk and I got so many blessings from talking to him. He had great insights and advice for me on two of the things that I struggle with the most: prayer and holding grudges. At the end of our meeting he asked “Which Mass are ya’ll going to?” Uhhhhh……. I began with the whole plan of how we had driven all these hours but before I could finish he said “Father Jonathan is doing the 6pm Mass”. Fr. Jonathan is my favorite priest. He is the priest who walked with me for years when I started RCIA. He had been assigned to a different parish a year ago, so I had not seen him celebrate Mass in a long time. He is also the priest that married us.

My meeting with my Pastor was over at 5pm because that is when confessions began and then Mass was at 6pm. I still was not very happy about going to Mass, but I sure wasn’t going to go without receiving Holy Communion so I texted my husband and told him that Fr. J was celebrating Mass. That is when things started to get crazy. He texted me back and said he was coming, and he was going to go to confession.

My husband is a faithful Catholic, he is good. He has had a rough, really rough, time lately and I have gotten him to go to confession with me once, but it was my idea. This was the first time that it was his idea in a long time.

We met in the Narthex and he went to one priest and I went to my Pastor since he is my spiritual director. I had plenty of time to examine my conscience, especially since we had just had our meeting, and so my confession was very good. I could feel the absolution wiping my sins away. That doesn’t always happen, so when it does, it’s pretty awesome.

Basically, when I converted, I became a real bitch to my husband. I wanted him to do things the way that I wanted him to do them. I wanted to force him to see things my way and I used the Church to try to put the screws to him about the entire faith thing. Along with that, I wanted him to look and talk a certain way so that the other “good” Catholic women would see that I belonged here. I nagged him about every single thing he did, said, and thought. That doesn’t really go over so well with most men. They will reject every single thing you have to say when you come off as a condescending and rude nagging extremist. Which is how I came off and it did a lot of damage to my husband’s relationship with Jesus and the Church. I have been in the process of getting a handle on this with the help of friends, my therapist and now, my spiritual director. I have started to let go and let my husband make his own choices when it comes to the faith. Like I said, he is faithful, he just doesn’t like having his wife dictate to him when, what, where and how he should do this or that. Everyone’s journey is different and I have failed to respect my husband’s. When he said he was coming to confession and then Mass I was very happy because I have prayed for God to help him understand that what I did wasn’t a reflection of a God who Loves him and the Church that He left us.

As I saw Fr. J processing down the aisle, I  started crying. It suddenly hit me that it was a Marian Feast Day, Stacey and I were married on a Marian Feast day (Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary) so Fr. J was wearing blue vestments, just like on our wedding day.

Fr. J’s homily was exactly what Stacey and I needed to hear. It was all about how when you try to live a holy life that there will be suffering. He said a lot of really great things about the Church being our mother and the Blessed Mother, but the thing that hit us was when he said that none of the powers working against us in this life will not get the last word. We have been through so much lately that hearing those words from our beloved priest really gave us hope. We both had felt hope slip away from us lately.

It is now Sunday, and there is so much more that happened, but I’ve promised myself to limit my posts to under 1,000 words. I’m at 1,170 right now.

Let me just say this: Stacey’s protestant mom is the one who introduced me to St. Therese, because of that Stacey and I made St. Therese the Patron saint of our marriage. On our first wedding anniversary, we began our celebration by going to Mass at the Basilica of the Little Flower. So, we get to Mass today and the opening hymn is Amazing Grace, which is mah SONG and then the priest celebrating Mass was named Fr. Francis Therese. He is a brand new priest so after Mass we got him to bless us. New priest blessings are the best! It was a great Mass and Fr. Francis Therese quoted St. John Paul II. It’s a quote that has been on my laptop for months now with a picture of my Papa. I have never heard anyone else say it in a homily. It was truly a sign from God that He has indeed not forgotten us. I also smelt roses as I went up for Communion. God is so good.

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I Called Out to You

Last night me, my husband, and my 3 youngest children took a break from the crazy that has become our lives and went to the movies. We have had a rough few months since Warren died. My husband has tried to manage his business while grieving for a friend and employee along with all the other things that have come at him. I would be worried about the kind of person he is if he didn’t have a hard time coping after losing both parents and a good friend. Only an uncaring human being could go on as if nothing happened after all that. To also have deal with a lawsuit and an accountant who didn’t do her job which means the IRS and State of Texas are coming after him because of her not doing her job is a lot to deal with. It has landed us in a very ugly place in life, but the thing is, he is still going. I don’t really know how he does it, but yesterday I stopped looking at him like an angry wife and I looked at him like a woman who loves him and I saw a man who has refused to lay down and die. I know that it would be so much easier for him to quit and give up on this company. I’ve been angry at him for not giving up, for putting it before me and our marriage because I tend to see everything through the eyes of a wounded bird. I act out based on that anger and the hurts of my past, and I fail to see a man who is busting his ass to keep his dream. I don’t let him talk and I don’t ever give him time to process his feelings without expecting him to process them the way that I do.

Haley Stewart gave one of the talks at Edel on how motherhood taught her how to love. How to give of herself and how that love of another changed her. I stood there listening to her nodding my head. Yes, motherhood had changed me, but that was something that I expected. I was not raised by women who didn’t change because they were mothers. I have 9 aunts and they all have a lot of kids. While I am an only child, most of my aunts have 3, 4, 5 and 8 kids. And each one of my cousins have a lot of kids. (a lot according to the 2 kid norm anyway). Mothers and kids are not foreign to me. I knew when I had my son that he was mine to give my life to. I knew that I would have to sacrifice some things for his good. When I had 3 more kids, I knew that feeding them and taking care of them was my job to do. I knew that if I couldn’t do it, it was my place to find help. I humbled myself in the foodstamp office, in the doctor’s office when I was treated like an idiot and I worked 12 or 14 hour days waiting tables to feed and clothe them, while missing out on a lot of things that they did. It was a sacrifice. If I wanted to go out, I knew that I would have to get my butt out of bed at 6:30 in the morning, regardless of what time I went to bed, to take them to school. I expected it. I had seen woman after woman in my family do it. Were they all mothers of the year? No, we all had our demons and our vices, but sacrificing yourself for your kids was not a stretch for me.

Loving a man is though. Men are not the same. I don’t know where I got the idea, but I knew that if a man fails to provide or be the source of all happiness in my life that I could leave. That was always an option. I was never scared to be alone, to work alone to feed my kids or to do anything on my own. If one guy was not willing to be what I needed then I could just get my needs met by someone else. If it took two or three guys to fill them all, then so be it. That was how the game was played.

Being Catholic changed all that. Being in a Catholic marriage especially. There is no leaving. I mean, sure, I could technically leave and live separate from my husband. I could take back my life and put all the responsibility of money and bills on my shoulders. I can do it. I’ve done it before and while I don’t really want to go back to waiting tables, I am capable of doing it. But no matter what I do or where I go, this man is my husband. Marriage is about more than just who pays the bills, who works and having sex with another human being. It is about being united by your soul to another human being in a way that means you are always working together to get to heaven. When a man and a woman make a covenant with God, on His terms, there is no leaving. Not when it is valid, and my marriage is beyond valid. I knew the risks, and I stood in front of God, friends, family and my children and said that I was willing to take those risks for the rest of my life to live a life with this man until death do us part. In good times and bad. Never did I think that the bad would cover all the things that we have been through in the past 9 months, but I knew that the risks were unknown. The paradox of marriage, knowing that you do not know what will come and making a vow to do it anyway.

The movie we saw was Get On Up, the story of James Brown. It was a great movie and such a good movie for us to watch now. It’s like God knew that we needed to see our situation on a big screen with some good music. Not because we are anything like James Brown, but the movie made a great point about how childhood trauma can haunt some souls into adulthood.  It was also a story of redemption, of humbling oneself and of coming back from the bottom. So many things have gone through my mind since we left the theater, but one theme that has been stuck in my mind is how God created us with the ability to co-create with Him. Each of us has a gift of creating. We are each artists in our own way, whether it be writing, music, and painting or not, we create. It’s one of the things that the devil hates about human beings. Which is why his number one goal is to stop us from creating what brings glory to God, in his hate of us, he tricks us to use our gifts to create things that bring glory to ourselves.

Jesus knew this, which is why He left us a Church. The Church is where we get our instructions on how to create what will bring glory to God with the gifts that He has given us. She is our protection from that temptation to build what will reflect us to ourselves, idols.  We look at those instructions and think of them as rules that restrict us from freedom, but the reality is that they are the only way that we will ever find and fulfill our purpose on this Earth, which is true freedom. That is why people like Mother Teresa can do the work that she did in a lifetime, because she read the instructions, lives by them and doesn’t ever think of them as oppressive.

God also gives us freedom, which means that we can choose to try and make up our own instructions but that will always lead us away from Him and to a life of self-worship.

Can you imagine if a person who never built a desk opened a box to build desk and threw the instructions away thinking that they could build this desk on their own terms? There would be a serious possibility that the desk wouldn’t turn out so well. That person would end up having to seek out a professional builder to help them fix it. God is the professional builder. Just look in the mirror, He made you. He made me. How can we ever think that He isn’t the professional when it comes to life? Pride. That’s how.

We have to plug ourselves into the Creator Himself to know the instructions on how to use our gifts to create lives that glorify Him and Him alone. The life that I build with my unique gifts will look different from yours, but that’s a good thing because sameness is boring.  They will each be beautiful in their own way, and that is the point.

We cannot let the evil one tear us away from the One who is the source of all life. When we do, we will find ourselves lonely, mourning and weeping. But even then, He will come to our rescue when we call out to Him to save us. It’s how He rolls. We will fall, we will fail, we will end up on the wrong path but that isn’t the point, the point is when we find ourselves there than we know Who’s name to call out to so we can get back up.

Psalm 18:7

In my distress I called out: LORD!

I cried out to my God.

From his temple he heard my voice;

my cry to him reached his ears.

I know where I belong, with my husband, for better or for worse.

Because I’m Broken

I used to work at this bar called Club Baloo in Amarillo as a bartender. The club was owned by a man and his wife and they had 3 daughters. I loved all three girls from the beginning, but the oldest and I hit it off from the minute I told her that 15 year olds shouldn’t smoke and she told me it was none of my business. We grew closer and closer as the months and years went on and one night my ex-husband and I were put in charge of taking all three of them to a Third Eye Blind concert. When the first band was announced we all complained that we had no idea who they were at all. We sat and listened to them and they seemed pretty good but then right before the last song they were going to play the lead singer gets up to the mic and says that they are from South Africa. The girls are from South Africa so they lost it and then he played “Broken” as an acoustic song. The band’s name is Seether and that became our favorite song.

A year or so later, the oldest sister was diagnosed with bone cancer and she almost died. It was really one of the hardest times in my life because there was this girl who was like my sister and I could not fix her pain. The words to the song became so true and that was the only prayer that I could pray for her to get better. I was not Catholic then and I didn’t pray, I had nothing but this song to help me beg God to save this girl.

She did survive.

I was sitting in my car when I heard the radio announcement that Seether would be doing a meet and greet at the Hooter’s that I had worked at for a few years and that the radio personality that was hosting it was a friend of mine. I decided to stop what I was doing and get to that Hooter’s and meet the band. As soon as I walked onto the patio I saw Shaun Morgan, the lead singer sitting at a table alone. I walked up to him and introduced myself. He asked me if I wanted a beer and I said yes and sat down. I told him all about how the girls and I had heard them in concert and about Tash. How she was from South Africa and had just went into remission from the bone cancer. He asked me if we wanted to go to their concert the next day and I said “Hell yes!” I called Tash to tell her the news and he said “Can I talk to her?” so I handed him the phone and right then I realized what a great human being this guy was. He never once hit on me or tried to make me feel like we owed him anything.

We went to the concert which was AWESOME and he dedicated Broken to us at the end of it. To say that was the coolest moment of my life is such an understatement.

Time after time in my life I have come back to the words of this song and time after time it has been a prayer for me. Some people like certain prayers and for me this is one of mine. Because I am broken, and I do want to steal away the pain of those around me who are also broken, and I don’t feel right when people that I love have gone away.

The crazy thing is that I think these are words that could easily be words said by Christ as He went through His Passion and as He hung on that Cross. And also when we sin and choose to walk away from Him.

Cause I’m broken when I’m open
And I don’t feel like I am strong enough
‘Cause I’m broken when I’m lonesome
And I don’t feel right when you’re
gone away

When I open myself up, I show people who I am, they see that I am broken and weak and lonely, and that is so scary. I do not do it because I want people to feel sorry for me or because I want sympathy, I mean, I guess maybe I do, but really I do it because when I was far from God I would look at Christians and see put together people. I didn’t really get that people struggle in life no matter what, but with Christ there is joy and peace underneath it all. I was just looking on from the outside and making my judgments.

When I became Catholic, I decided  that my goal in life was to show people what life with Jesus really is and that I was going to do my best to be a “good” Catholic and still stay “real”. I had such lofty goals for my life as a Catholic woman. What is that saying about telling God your plans?

In my zest to be the bestest, realest Catholic woman EVAH, I think that I taunted the evil one a little too much, didn’t stay close enough to the Sacraments and polished myself up so much that I didn’t even recognize myself. I treated my husband like some ornament that was supposed to help me look a certain way and my kids like they were to act in a way that reflected well on me, even though most days I ignored them so that I could win a stupid debate on Facebook with this person or that person. All of this was complete bullshit.

And because God loves me, He allowed me to be knocked off my high horse. The fall has really hurt. I am bleeding. I am broken. I am tired.

I watched a video of Seether singing Broken and I went back to where I started, praying this song because I have no other words that come from my heart. All the other prayers are just words. Not because they don’t have meaning, but because I feel like a complete liar saying them. I have ignored my God. I have used Him as a tool to boost my ego. I have failed to love so many times that I am surprised that anyone is still my friend. I have turned my back on old friends because of my “best Catholic of the century” complex and I have judged Catholic women as lame, and I have argued with more people and been a bitch to them on Facebook than I can count. Saying the words to the Hail Mary or the Our Father just seems too little for me. The words to Broken are deep. So deep, that I can’t even explain how they fit into what I’m trying to say in this post! They reach into my soul and speak to God in a way that I cannot do on my own.

The worst is over now and we can breathe again
I wanna hold you high, you steal my pain away
There’s so much left to learn, and no one left to fight
I wanna hold you high and steal your pain