Love: the Fire that Burns

This past weekend my husband and I set out on a trip to Amarillo, Texas for one of my friend’s weddings. I had no idea why this trip was so important to me at all but I knew that it was. I made plans to see friends from my pre-conversion life on the way up, while I was there and then to see my favorite aunt (my mom’s sister) on the way back home. As my husband and I pulled out of town I began to finish reading Heather King’s newest book “Stumble”.  I love Heather’s writing and when I met her a few months ago I was so glad to see that she really is kind and funny. Having dinner with her was the beginning of something and I had no clue what it was and I had no idea that it would all end with this trip to Amarillo.

I moved to Amarillo when I was 14 about to be 15 and I didn’t go there willingly. I didn’t want to go and I hated every minute that I was stuck there as a child who had no choice but to go where my mom made me. I was a stubborn teenager who was very angry, bitter and wounded. Nobody in my family really had the tools to deal with me, since they were all a bit dysfunctional themselves. I spent a lot of years after turning 18  going back and forth from anywhere that I could , back to Amarillo because that attempt to leave had failed. After my divorce I was a hot mess who drank a lot and slept around a lot and ended up in very dangerous places with gun fire and gang fights. I saw things and know things that I can never tell another soul because it would be unsafe, which I was reminded of when I left  there 8 years ago with death threats.  When I saw that red dirt town in the rear-view mirror I vowed to never go back, even if I had to kill myself working to make sure that didn’t happen. I called it “hell” and every time that I did go back it was on stealth mode and not for long.

After a year of therapy and having faced the man who abused me as a child, this trip seemed like something that I really needed in my life. The first line I read in Stumble at the beginning of the trip was Heather saying “I didn’t understand why I had to go”…. Exactly. I had no clue why I had to go to this wedding, other than I loved the bride but that really never made me do anything that I didn’t want to do, but I knew that I had to go.

Through the entire weekend I felt God taking me by the hand and showing me all the places that I had been but with new eyes that could see that He had always been there with me. Even the bar where I sat in a corner anytime that my friend was bartending and prayed for God to help me fix my life. I would sit in front of the bathroom mirror so drunk and in tears begging to be healed. This time, I sat in front of that mirror drunk and in tears because I am healed.

God put all these amazing friends in my life who did nothing but love me and that was exactly what I needed, love. And love burns when you are that broken. Until today I didn’t realize that I have live most of my life thinking that I didn’t deserve to be loved or to even live. I read Joanne’s post and it all made sense. Why I pushed them away, why they never left and why this trip to see them all was something that I had to do. I had to sit and talk and  laugh with people who know me: good, bad and ugly. I talked to a pimp that I’ve known since I was 15 years old, who told me “It looks like you have found Jesus girl!”. No, I didn’t find Jesus, HE found ME.

I went to the bar that me and my friend Homer used to go to. I played his favorite song and “Drink a Beer” on the jukebox and I let myself feel the pain of his death without numbing myself blind. I felt the wave of relief in that and left to go to bed at 10pm. It was like that scene in Forrest Gump where he just stops running after running across the country for so long. He just stopped one day. That was me, the chronic runaway who just stopped running and went to bed at 10pm.

I am no longer so in need of approval and I am no longer scared. I have been scared all my life. Scared of being rejected, of not being good enough, of having to do, do, do in order to earn love, because surely I was not worth loving just as me. It still feels weird that anyone loves me, but it doesn’t make me wanna turn on my heels and run for cover. I am so thankful for each of these crazy souls that have been a part of my life. Gay, straight, white, black, Hooters girls, and ratchet hoes (sometimes I was all of the above, don’t ask me how). Somehow, they are all part of God’s plan for my life and I am thankful for the fire.

No, I am not a Heretic

(Disclaimer: I’m very cranky.)

So people are talking a lot about gay marriage because SCOTUS (The Supreme Court of the United States) is hearing arguments on the issue. What did I do? I got on Facebook in the middle of working and posted some comments/updates and I ended up with a million messages asking me if I supported gay marriage and if maybe I needed to have the Church’s teachings explained to me. I have talked to most the people who sent those messages (if you are one of them and you’re reading this, please don’t message me asking me if I hate you. The answer is no, but I have to get some things off my chest).  I  thought  I should just go ahead and write this blog post.  I think it’s crazy that people can jump to assumptions that I am a heretic and/or need “help” understanding teachings when I express an opinion that is anything other than “gay people are going to hell”.

Here are a few of my thoughts aka opinions. Last time I looked, I was allowed to have opinions. Someone let me know if there’s been a memo that I missed that states that I can’t.

Legally speaking, I think that gay people should have all the same rights as everyone else, even be free to live in committed relationships if they want to. They should be able to work, have a person they love make health decisions for them and keep their kids if they have already adopted them and their partner dies and everything else, just like the rest of us. But that doesn’t mean they have to have a marriage license to do that. Plenty of couples live together and have kids and work and own homes without being married. Think Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. In fact, if you talked to straight couples a few years ago you would have heard “We don’t need a piece of paper to prove we love each other” from a lot of straight couples living together without being married or planning to get married. So why the big deal about that piece of paper now when it comes to gay couples?

Then there are the signs people are holding outside of SCOTUS. I don’t like signs that say “Homo sex is a sin”. Why? Because so are a lot of other things. Like being a self-righteous jerk face who thinks that none of their sins are worthy of being put on poster board, but those of others are. I have been on the other side of those signs and they did nothing but make me never want to be part of a religion who thinks that is “love”. What difference does it make if you are right, if nobody cares and wants to get as far away from you and your faith as possible?  If you are supposed to be bringing people to Christ and your actions make people want to have nothing to do with Christ, then I think you are failing. I know that we are supposed to speak the truth and I know that we aren’t always supposed to say what “feels good” but there is a difference between speaking an uncomfortable truth and being a jerk. We all know that because when someone is a jerk to us, even if they are telling the truth, we are hurt. Think about that when talking to people because hurting others isn’t how to be the light of Christ. Calling them “homos” and blasting them as the end all, be all of sinners isn’t kind, it isn’t loving and it’s not going to help anyone understand that they are loved by God. And that is the first step of evangelization.

For everyone wondering if I understand the Church’s teachings on Marriage. Yes, I do, thanks for asking. I am also aware that mercy and love go a lot further than stupid signs and condemning others. I have great priests who help me navigate through this life of mine which is now ruled by Jesus who doesn’t let me cuss people the eff out anymore which is what I want to do 97% of the time.  I am Catholic, I know the Catholic teachings are Truth Himself, but I also know that I can not force anyone to follow my Lord and even He doesn’t force Himself on anyone. I can’t force Protestants to be Catholic, I can’t force Atheists to go to church on Sunday and I can’t force gay people to understand the difference between legal “marriage” and Sacramental marriage. All I can do is be the best version of myself so that every person I meet wonders what it is that makes me who I am and when they ask I can tell them: Jesus. And if they don’t ask then they know that they are loved even if it’s just because they are a drag queen who had a Catholic ask them how their dress project is going. If that makes me a heretic who needs to be told the Church’s teaching on marriage, then I must have missed something in RCIA because Catholics loving me even when I was a sinner (who, unknown to them, was planning a welcome home orgy party for her boyfriend while going through RCIA), is why I ended up in this Church (and not having said orgy party).

I became Catholic with the help of great priests and people who refused to see me as my sins but instead loved me because I existed. They told me that God loved me just as I was, not that He would only love me if I was “good”. It is  because of those people  that I came to encounter Jesus and fall in love with His Church. Because of that, I am married. And on the days when I want to walk away from this marriage, this Church, this life, I remember that I am loved and I stay.  I was so hard hearted and if I speak against things it is not because I don’t get Church teaching or because I am opposed to those teachings, but because I know what helped break through my deafness. Maybe that won’t work for everyone, maybe some people need tough, in your face, you are a huge sinner, signs to help them see Jesus, what do I know? But I am gonna go out on a limb and say that that doesn’t work. No more than yelling at women going into abortion clinics to not murder their babies works.

Just because I disagree with the use of signs and that I think laws are no way to force morality on anyone doesn’t mean that I am a heretic.

When Your Nightmare is Over

The house

Luke 4:18
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

because he has anointed me

to bring glad tidings to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives

and recovery of sight to the blind,

to let the oppressed go free

Every Spring growing up I would spend my days walking around a field full of Texas wild flowers, new bunnies and beautiful Texas sunsets. I would sit on a painter’s scaffold with piles of books and notebooks around me as I listened to the soundtrack to Dirty Dancing. I would dream of the day that a handsome man would come and take me away from this place. No matter how beautiful the scene around me was or how great the wild flowers smelled in the air, I wanted out of there. I never really understood why, I just knew that I needed to be saved.

Yesterday I went to visit my sick Tia in the hospital and it occurred to me just why I love her as much as I do. My Tia is an amazing woman who always has sought to help whoever she could. And when my uncle found me on the side of the highway when I was 14- and had run away for the fifth time since I turned 13- he took me to his house without even asking her. I wasn’t her niece, I wasn’t her problem, he could have taken me to my house and told me he had to discuss it with her and she could have said no. None of those things happened; he took me home with him, she fed me and made a bed for me. Just like that. Yesterday I told her that I loved her for that and was so thankful for her taking me in and for teaching me how to pray when I was little. She didn’t sit me down and tell me the words to any prayers, but what she did do was sit in front of a picture of Our Lady and pray. She set the example, not by lecturing but by doing.

The reason they took me in was because I had finally had enough of secrets and I told my uncle exactly what had happened to me as a child. As I passed the KFC where my abuser, my mom and I would go every other Saturday while I was growing up, so many memories flooded my brain. I wondered if a lot of people know what it’s like to have some of their greatest childhood memories be laced with the face of the person who raped them for years when they were little kids or if that was something that I only understood. As much as I wanted to hate him, I couldn’t because so many of my memories of him are of us having fun or him buying me things, like two ponies. Because that is what abusers do, it’s called grooming and the guilt from it lingers way after the abuse is over.

On the drive down to see my Tia I read a story of three Catholic Churches in Australia being set on fire and some actress saying that she was “elated” that those places of torment were destroyed. While I love my faith and I know Who lives inside Catholic Churches and what they are, I knew exactly how she felt. I would be elated if I saw the garage where my abuser both fixed cars and raped 5 year olds burn to the ground. I get it, even though it grieves me to know that 3 beautiful Catholic Churches are now gone when it wasn’t the Churches but the evil that takes over men that was the cause of so much pain.

For years I have dreamt of the moment that I would walk up to my abuser and tell him just how much my life was ruined by what he did to me. I imagined what his face would look like when I told him how much of a perverted fuck he was and how I wished him to burn in hell. As my husband and I turned down the road towards the house that I grew up in I knew that it was time to take a walk in that field full of wild flowers. I knew somehow that Jesus was asking me if I wanted to be healed and I was saying yes and the answer to me healing was me walking up to that door. A part of me was sure that he was dead. He wasn’t in the greatest of health when I left, so I kept telling myself it was no big deal. Surely he was dead, someone else lived there and they would let me look around when I told them I had grown up there.

I knocked twice and there was no answer. All the signs around me made it clear that he was still alive and he was in there. My heart was racing and the sirens in my head were all screaming at me to leave. Then my husband knocked and I heard his voice “Who is it?”…. silence. “Do I just say who I am?”, I asked my husband who looked like he was trying his best to not freak out too. He shrugged and I said “My name is Leticia, I grew up here and I would like to walk around with my husband”. Then the door slowly opened. This was the door to the room where my abuse began. I knew exactly what that room looked like when I was little and would go running in and out that door as a happy child who just wanted to chase butterflies and feed my rabbits. Who was that little girl? I had not been innocent in so long and I just wanted to catch one of those memories so I could see what she looked like. Then he spoke and my brain could not even grasp what was happening. Finally I asked “Are you Manuel?” and he said he was and opened the door even more where I could see him standing there in a white tank top and no pants on. Suddenly the picture of him over me flashed before my eyes and I started to cry. I told him that I knew what he had done to me and that I forgave him. I have no idea why none of the things that I wanted to say to him had come out and why they were replaced by the words “I forgive you”, but they were. I knew that I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of knowing the damage he had done to me. I wanted to be brave, but instead I was just a little girl asking if I could go for a walk in my field. For 12 years it had been my field. Where I played and read books. Now, in order to share it with my husband, I had to ask this man for permission.

He didn’t deny what I had accused him of nor did he say he was sorry. He just chuckled and said that I was free to walk around as much as I wanted. So that’s what I did. I walked among my favorite flowers, in my favorite place, hand in hand with my favorite person. When we were done my husband opened the door of his silver Dodge truck, put me in it and drove me away from that nightmare once and for all. That was a moment that I had dreamt of from the first time that Stacey kissed me when I was 13 and it had finally come true.

I put that man in the hands of God Himself to deal with. I can’t even bring myself to pray for him anymore. He will not take anything else from me.No more tears, no more sleep, no more room in my head, no more. Enough is enough. I have lost relationships because of how hard I am to handle from the wounds he left me with, I have drank myself blind and missed out on so many parts of my kids’ lives, I have given man after man pieces of my dignity out of the false sense of what love is and I have lost so much sleep from nightmares about what he did to me. It was time to put an end to it. To hand it to Christ and nail it to His cross and leave it there. Christ walked with me up to that door and every person and every stuggle I have had in the last two years gave me the guts to go with Him.

My husband was the hero that God Himself chose to take me away from there and I am so lucky to have him.

Revelation 21:5

The one who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.”Then he said, “Write these words down, for they are trustworthy and true.”

Test by Fire

fire-of-god

God and I have this weird relationship. Maybe it’s not weird, but I have yet to see anyone describe their relationship with Him the way that mine is. I feel like my relationship with God is a bunch of tests by fire. I pass some and I fail a lot of them.

I don’t really have a hard time getting the Trinity because I have a relationship with God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Each relationship has its ups and downs. The downs are usually because I want my way instead of His way.  I am not really that great of a Catholic Christian but each Person of the Trinity and I have had a chance to get to know each other. Theologically I can’t explain how God is One God but Three Persons, but I know it’s true because of how I relate to each of them. The Holy Spirit is the fun One, Jesus is the One I go to when I am suffering and God the Father is the One who guides me when I am lost. It’s just how it has been for the last 5 years.

If you have followed my blog lately, you know that life has been rough. I knew there was something to look forward to this Lent, but I never expected the Grace that came during Holy Week. That being said, I still have an issue trusting God. Even after everything I have been through and everything He has done for me, I still am so scared of what is going to happen in the future.

For example: I have prayed that we don’t lose our house. Now, I would love to say that I trust God will make sure that we are ok and don’t lose our house or has another house in store for us. And I do believe that to some extent, but…… I don’t trust that my idea of ok is the same as God’s idea of ok. I wouldn’t be shocked if God allowed us to live under a bridge and called it “humility”. I have tried to convince Him that I am humble, but I think it’s backfiring because, like I said in my last post, I’m waiting tables while other people are getting to have real jobs.  I don’t wanna deal with people treating me like shit because they want an extra sized ranch; I wanna travel and live in hotels and get a little money plus be around cool Catholics. It’s obvious to me that God and I do not see eye to eye on what the best avenue to take for me to become a saint. It’s becoming a problem.

I am not really sure how to get over this. It’s not that I think God is smiting me, which I was seriously considering a few weeks ago, but I just don’t want to suffer any more than I feel I already have. I am not even wanting a mansion and brand new Cadillac anymore. I just want a house and a car that drives. I love my death trap at this point; it just needs new tires, insurance, stickers and a wash. Sure it’s a death trap, but it drives, I’m good. I am just not completely sure that it won’t get taken away somehow or that selling the house will not land me in a homeless shelter because God thinks that is a good way for me to evangelize to the homeless. If it was just me, that would be one thing, but my kids are not really down for that. At this point I’m almost sure that God thinks it would be a good team building exercise.

Does anyone else ever feel like God will send you all the suffering you can (or can’t) handle just to do that whole test with fire thing? Or is it just me?

Keep me safe, O God; You are my Hope

metanoia

This year’s Holy Week was amazing in so many ways. I have spent a lot of time lately feeling as if God had forgotten me and then this past week He just made it clear to me that He loves me just as much today as He did five years ago when I was coming into the Catholic Church.

2010 was the best year of my entire life. I went on a great 13 day vacation in Rome with Stacey, I met Christ on the Appia Antica in the form of a shepherd and his herd of sheep, I was confirmed, my kids were Baptized and confirmed at Easter Vigil, Stacey and I were married in the Church and he was confirmed that November. It was a year full of so much happiness and love. I have been wishing so hard to be able to go back to that year and take more time to enjoy all of it more. At the time, I had no idea that life was about to get so very difficult. I had no idea just how much the evil one would work to try and destroy every one of the relationships that are important to me. I really thought that I was getting my happily ever after.

For the past couple of years I have looked back on that year with anger. Anger that God did not let me know just what lay ahead of me. I have looked up at Jesus on the Cross and actually thought about how His suffering was a few days and mine has been two long years. I have been the worst kind of disciple. I thought that I was being a light of Christ when the reality is that everything I have been doing was because I wanted to be somebody who got paid for speaking gigs, had a following and was living in a fancy house while driving a red Cadillac. None of it was really about Jesus and bringing glory to Jesus. It was all about me. About how great I could be and how many lives that I could change.

The thing about God is that He doesn’t really care about all of that. He just lets us go on making our plans while answering our prayers in the way that He knows will bring us closer to Him. For instance, even though my self-aborsbed self was asking for Him to take away all the things that kept me from Him because I wanted to be a popular Catholic speaker, He answered me by having me be a waitress again.  He has given me the grace to let go of my comforts and sometimes has even forced me to let some of them go and then He put me smack in the middle of real life instead of behind a podium. I did not want to go back to waiting tables at all. But I asked Him for His Will even though I really wanted my will, which was a book deal and not a job where my feet would hurt and people would be rude to me over a side of ranch. He gave me this job though and I accepted it as His will and shook my fist in the air.

I started this new job during Holy Week but I asked for Good Friday off. I didn’t really explain why I wanted it off, but I had already made plans to go out to The Mission of Divine Mercy to walk the Stations, venerate a relic of the True Cross and go to confession. I had not been to confession in a really long time and I needed to go or I was not going to be able to receive Communion on Easter Sunday. As I was walking stations I realized just exactly what Jesus had endured for my sins. Here I was whining about having to wait tables but Jesus had been nailed to a Cross for me. Who the hell was I to say no to Him? I had asked for Him to teach me to serve and in God’s typical funny way, He had answered that prayer. Mother Teresa has become a great saint serving the poorest of the poor and in my own way I can do that same by being a Catholic in a group of people who don’t really know any Catholics who take their faith seriously. The very first day I worked, a few people were debating about what Good Friday meant and when Lent was over.  Guess who was standing there to tell them? Me. Explaining my faith to people face to face was a great feeling. I answered their questions and then went on doing my job. I gave them a little bit of Jesus with no applause, no fireworks and with no 235  comment thread on Facebook, but it was still Jesus none the less. And I didn’t make a cent off of it. I am still behind on all my bills, my house may still be foreclosed on and my car still needs insurance, but I did what I was made to do: tell people about Jesus.

I did not know what exactly I needed, but God did and He gave it to me. As usual, I accepted it kicking and screaming, just like I accepted becoming Catholic the same way. Five years later I look back and I realize that I made the best choice to give my life to Christ and live that life out as a Catholic. I have made a lot of mistakes, I have gone far right from far left and I am now learning how to land in the middle. I have been rude to people, I have purposely missed Mass on Sunday, I have been angry at God, I have been angry at other Catholics, I have been jealous of people who make money talking about Jesus, I have been angry at myself, I have been a horrible example to my children, I have tried to force people to believe what I do in order to be a part of my life, I have been a real bitch to my husband and I have sat around having my own pity party when life sucked. All of those things have left me with some pretty serious scars, but they have also taught me that there is nothing I could ever do to earn or lose God’s Love. He is always there listening to and answering my prayers.

Jesus, my Lord, I love you.

Keep me, O God, for in you I take refuge;
I say to the LORD, “My Lord are you.”
O LORD, my allotted portion and my cup,
you it is who hold fast my lot.
R. Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.

I bless the LORD who counsels me;
even in the night my heart exhorts me.
I set the LORD ever before me;
with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.
R. Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.

Therefore my heart is glad and my soul rejoices,
my body, too, abides in confidence;
Because you will not abandon my soul to the nether world,
nor will you suffer your faithful one to undergo corruption.
R. Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.

You will show me the path to life,
fullness of joys in your presence,
the delights at your right hand forever.
R. Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.