The Fear of Holy Week

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This Easter will be 5 years since I came into the Catholic Church. 5 years ago today I was crawling into my bed as I landed from my trip to Rome where I am pretty sure that I met Jesus as a shepherd on a walk on my last afternoon there. That Holy Week was one full of grace and love and mercy and all the things that God does when we are scared little souls who need all the reassurance that everything will be ok if we give our lives to Him. Five years later Holy Week is so much different.

I have been down the road of suffering, of wanting to walk away, and of fearing for my soul and salvation while wondering where that loving God has gone. For so long when I was a teenager in the Baptist Church I thought that if you were suffering it was a sign that you were living a lie, that you were not saved and that there was some defect in you that you were refusing to face so God could not bless you.

As a Catholic I came to understand that all suffering is redemptive because the One who redeems took suffering upon Himself and changed a weapon of torture into a door to salvation. For years I was very happy to know this but in the last few years it has been harder to live it. Not because I don’t know how to suffer. When you are raped and molested at the age of 5 years old, you grow pretty accustomed to pain. I am a survivor, that I know, but what scares me is that God will not show up. That for some reason I am not one of those people who He loves and will come to save. In so many ways I am still that little girl who is waiting for someone to come in and save me from the most painful thing that ever happened to me. I am stuck there, laying on that bed wondering when it is going to be over. Where was God when that was happening to me? I do not know. I find comfort in the words of Jesus on the cross “Why have you forsaken me?” because in so many ways, I ask that question every day of my life.

So Holy Week scares me.  I am scared of the gift of salvation. I am scared that it is not a gift that was ever meant for me, or one that I will never figure out how to accept. Five years ago I could not wait to jump in feet first into this life of being Catholic and now I am scared to death of not being good enough.

There seems to be so much fear in my life now and I can’t even understand where it is coming from except that it is all about me. I am looking forward to this Holy Week and everything that it brings because I really want to turn my attention back to the One on the Cross who died for me. Looking at Jesus there is a reminder that God Himself knows fear and pain. That He did not do that so that He could let me go, even if I am wrong about so many things.

I want to be able to stand at the foot of that cross this year and lay down all of that fear. To say “yes” to whatever He has in store for my life and to be able to be free of what happened to me and use it to help others. For me to be able to take on suffering as a gift of God’s providence and not evidence of my own shortcomings.

The Struggle

I have been reading He Leadeth Me this past week and I can’t tell you just how great of a book it is. Last Sunday my life hit this all-time low where I really felt as if I was at a crossroads in several parts of my life. I had no idea which way to turn and I really felt as if God was standing there waiting for me to make some kind of huge decision. I am not Mary for sure, but I did feel as if God was asking me a question and waiting for me to say yes or no.  The only problem was that I didn’t really understand the question and I could really see where the road to “yes” was going to lead. I felt as if I was blindfolded and expected to decide which way was the right way to turn. And that scared the shit out of me.

My therapist asked me how I felt about it all and all I could say was that I was scared. I was scared that God didn’t really exist and I was also scared that He did and I was failing Him.  She mentioned how that sounded a lot like Jesus during His agony in the garden. I had not thought of that but as I did, I imagined that Jesus did understand exactly how I felt since He had even asked for the cup of suffering to pass Him by, but ultimately He wanted God’s will to be done. What I realized is that I have never really 100% submitted to God’s Will. I have always had all these conditions and I have always had to keep some small control (if I’m honest, a lot of control) in everything that I do for “God’s sake”.

Fr. Walter Ciszek writes about how he realized just how much self was involved in every choice he ever made even if he was saying that he was doing God’s will. I recognized myself in that. So much that it scared me. I have spent these years after my conversion claiming that I wanted to share Jesus with the world, while it is true that I do want to do that and God put that desire on my heart, at the end of the day it is all about me. I wanted to do it so that I would be holy, make myself worthy of love, and be applauded for how great I am. In front of giving God glory was me wanting praise. Not just praise, but money. Money to take care of myself, because God is obviously not going to, sure He said He will take care of everything, but He didn’t mean the light bill.

What I have always wanted out of life was happiness. Happiness meant a nice house, no suffering, a fireplace, people falling over themselves to be around me and my kids all having everything they could ask for. All of that is the opposite of what life with Christ has been. We had that for about a year and then it all slowly started to get taken away or lost somehow. I have spent a lot of time whining about it and complaining to God about how unfair it all is. I have made Him lists of all the great things that I have done that means His allowing me to suffer, after all the suffering I have already been through, is the rudest thing He could ever do to me. I have doubted Him and I have seriously considered leaving the Catholic Church and giving up this entire Christian thing. Last Sunday I came pretty damn close to despair. I didn’t even cry or fight or make a scene, that’s how defeated I was. I get why people leave the Church. Who wants to suffer like that?

And who ever talks about suffering like that? Until I read He Leadeth Me, I had not read anyone else describe the thinking that’s behind the suffering of someone who has given everything to be Christ’s. It was only after reading it that I realized just how much I have kept from Him. How many conditions I put on my love of Him and how much I think that I have to work for Him to love me back.

This Lent I didn’t give up anything except the idea that I had to earn God’s love. I have been working on accepting my life, my suffering, my faults and my gifts while accepting that God loves me more than I think He does just as I am, not as I think I should be. I do not have to do things to be loved by Him. That is harder than giving up anything. I have realized just how much Jesus knows the way it feels to wish that He didn’t have to hang on a Cross but at the same time realize that God’s will is the way to the Cross of salvation. He said “pick up your cross and follow me” and I have spent most of my life running away from that cross or whining about how heavy it is. For the first time in my life, I am learning to embrace it. Reading the story of a Catholic priest who wanted to tell people about Jesus and ended up in a Siberian Labor Camp has made me realize that I’m not the victim of God’s unfair expectations, but I am blessed that He loves me enough to help me work out my salvation in trembling and fear. I would never be able to explain how that works, but I do know one thing: God does not ask anything of me that He Himself did not take upon Himself to do.

The Christian life is the greatest struggle; it is a battlefield. Dying to self is the way to holiness. I have realized this week that holiness is not the same as happiness the way the world presents it, but it leads to the happiness we were made for; the happiness of being a part of the life of God.

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Winner of my First Giveaway!!!

I am so sorry that I’ve taken forever to announce the winner of my first give away!!

The winner of my very first giveaway is (drum roll) Melissa Hunter-Kilmer! Melissa owns and operates the Mayland Pumpkin Patch , which is in the Shenandoah Valley near Broadway, Virginia. She lives with her 26-year-old son and two large dogs in a charming old farmhouse on three acres. Like me, she’s a convert to Catholicism and has a warped sense of humor.

Congrats Melissa, I hope you enjoy Memoirs of a Happy Failure by Alice von Hildebrand! Please let me know how you like it.

7QT: Lice, Dog Bites, and Mary

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1.

So, it’s been awhile since I joined 7 Quick Takes. You know life is crazy when you can’t even write a short post! Crazy isn’t enough to cover my life anymore. There are good days in the middle of the crazy. Like my birthday, which was last Sunday. I got to spend the afternoon with The Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. I got to see their new prayer garden that has the Stations and the most beautiful Crucifix that I’ve ever seen. Standing there looking up and Jesus on that Cross I had the greatest sense of peace come over me. I needed it to prepare for the week ahead of me.

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2.

I have two dogs. Both of them are pit bulls and I pride myself in how calm they both are. I advocate for the breed because so many things are said about pitties that are just stupid. It is not the dogs, but the owners who fail to be responsible owners. I have become one of the owners who failed my dog.

3.

A few weeks ago, one of my kids came home after going to the movies with a friend. She just opened the door and my dog, Bourbon, ran out the door. The friend who was behind my kid tried to stop him from running out the front door and he bit her. He did break the skin and she needed stitches. It could have been worse.  I thought it would be an isolated incident since she was a stranger and had tried to hold him from going out the door. Then this past Tuesday my best friend came down to visit for my birthday and Spring Break. What should have started off as a great visit went bad fast when I opened the front door, with my dog on a leash, and my friend’s daughter was standing there. Bourbon jumped up and bit her. Same place as the other girl and everything. My friend’s daughter was in pain the rest of her Spring Break and that pretty much set the tone for the rest of the week.

4.

Let me make this clear, my dog did nothing wrong. I did. For the last year this house has been full of stress, anxiety and chaos. I have been so focused on something else that I failed to notice the signs that my dog needed socializing and was becoming fearful. I didn’t follow through with training and I haven’t been correcting him for bad behavior. Regardless of his breed, I as his owner, failed  to be responsible for him.

5.

The first thing I did was call this amazing trainer that I know. She works tirelessly to save dogs from shelters. She works with aggressive dogs and has had countless success stories. She is great at what she does and runs a non-profit to help owners train their dogs. She works closely with the rescue that I adopted Bourbon from and she did not hesitate to offer to help me. I am flat broke. Beyond broke, I’m so broke that I can’t even afford to look at the cost of things anymore. I told her this and she was still willing to help me and my dog.  On Thursday, Bourbon and I were off to training class. He did so well and is still pretty shaky around people he doesn’t know, but he let people pet him and seemed happy to be out of the house. Yesterday we went to Petco to do his homework and he was all smiles. We have a long road ahead of us, but it will be good for both of us to get out of the house.  I have been isolated in here for far too long. Thank you so much K9 Mastery for everything!

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6.

After I took Bourbon yesterday I discovered that one of my kids has lice. AGAIN. This child has been dealing with lice for over a year. I have tried everything (and I mean EVERYTHING except this zapper comb someone told me about) and they go away for a little bit and then come back. It is not for the lack of treating or because this kid shares brushes, hats or goes over to friends’ houses all the time either. So as I was combing her out I was praying for God to make me understand why I have the lice plague. As I talked to this kid and said “you have to check yourself for lice and let me know if you see any. I need your help to make sure they stay gone this time.” and this kid just shrugged as if it was no big deal, it hit me. I am dealing with a child who is too old for me to bathe, who is old enough to help me keep up with this lice plague and yet chooses not to. I can not get rid of them without this person helping me. And that is how God feels about my sins and the consequences of them. He can get rid of them over and over (in confession) but until I decide to help them from coming back, we will be stuck in this cycle. The lice plague sin cycle.

7.

I have been looking at Mary a lot lately trying to figure out how it was that she said “yes” to God when she knew what He was asking of her was impossible. She trusted Him even though she had no idea exactly was He was setting before her, she just said yes. It is so hard for me to trust anyone. Everyone that I have ever loved has let me down, not to mention all the people that I have let down. I just can’t grasp how God will never abandon me. This Lent I have been working on accepting myself as I am, that there is nothing I can do to earn God’s love. He already loves me more than I think He does. It is harder than giving up chocolate. It is even harder when things are falling apart around me and I feel as if I have failed at every thing in my life. All I have to hope in is that Man hanging on a Cross.

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****People have been asking if there is anything they can do for me and my family. Yes. You can donate towards Bourbon’s training by going to the A.D.O.P.T website.  Or you can send me anything to go towards it through PayPal. The email is leticia.adams10@gmail.com.

Go see Kelly for more Quick Takes!!! 

Book Review: Gifts of the Visitation, Nine Spiritual Encounters with Mary and Elizabeth

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After my conversion I really worked hard to get to know God: The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. I really had never entered into a relationship with God Himself so for me, Mary and Joseph were kind of in the background. I had always known about Mary because of the Christmas story and because of my mom and aunts. They are Hispanic Catholics which meant there were statues and giant pictures of the Blessed Mother in every house that I ever went to as a child.  You can say that she has followed me my entire life. Plus I have never met an Elizabeth that I didn’t like, so you can say that Elizabeth has always been in my life as well.

A few weeks ago I began to sit in front of the picture of Our Lady at my parish during Mass. Moving spots for Mass is a pretty big deal if you are a regular at my parish. I have no idea what prompted the feeling but I wanted to be close to Mary during Mass. I have felt abandoned by God for the last few months and Mary’s arms seemed like the right place to go with that feeling. I knelt and prayed in front of that picture one day and I felt as if she was truly listening to me and comforting me in my pain. That is when I began to look to her for the answers on how exactly to say yes to God when it seems like what He is asking of me is impossible. For that reason Gifts of the Visitation by Denise Bossert (a Patheos Book Club book) seemed like the perfect book for me.

I was crying by the introduction where Denise writes:

“Mary whipsers to us, come and learn from me. Watch me. Feel what I feel. Desire what I desire. Risk everything as I risk everything. Share Jesus Christ as if it’s what you were born to do—because it is what you were born to do.”

She goes on to write about the gifts of grace that were at the visitation which are: Spontaneity, Courage, Joy, Readiness, Humility, Hospitality, Adventure, Wonder and Awe, and Thanksgiving. But first comes the openness to the Holy Spirit. We have to open ourselves up to the Holy Spirit in the same way that Mary did to say yes to Him. The Holy Spirit then overshadowed her and placed the Word Incarnate in her womb.  When the angel first told her what was being asked of her she asked “how can that be?” and then she humbled herself and said “I am the handmaid of the Lord”. I am still stuck at the “how can it be?” part of being open to the Holy Spirit and then I wonder why God isn’t moving in my life.

In reading this short book with it’s beautiful prayers and novena in the appendix, I have slowly started moving towards giving a solid “Yes” to God instead of a shaky one. I hope that everyone who reads this finds the same courage to begin to follow in the footsteps of that brave 14-year-old girl who said “ Let it be done to me according to Your word”. Let us begin to do what we were born to do, which is to share Christ with the world.