Aroma

A story.

When I was pregnant with August, I developed Hyperemesis Gravidarum. That basically means that I couldn’t keep anything down, food or drink, and vomited a lot. I lost weight at an alarming rate. I developed an intense fear of food, based upon what happened to me after I tried to eat even a few bites. To say it was a really difficult time is an understatement.

One day, a couple of ladies from my church asked if they could come and pray over me. I was happy to have them, and they came and talked to me for a bit, then busted out some anointing oil and powerful prayer. It’s hard to describe that day in words, but during that prayer I felt that intense fear let go of me and leave. The oil they used had a very specific aroma to it. I remember after they left, I was relaxing for the first time in what felt like forever, and the smell of the oil was on the back of my couch where I had been resting my head. I burrowed in and breathed deeply, and that very specific smell helped to keep me in that place of amazing peace long after they had gone. Shortly after that, I started recovering and was able to eat again, and my weight loss stopped. I know God was with them that day, and that that hour of prayer helped me cope with the rest of the struggles of my condition.

The sense of smell is an amazing thing.

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Every time I walk into our parish, I am overwhelmed by the aroma. I still am not sure if it is incense or the candles they burn, but it is beautiful, and it awakens my senses and prepares me for the encounter with my Savior that is ahead. That scent used to feel foreign to me, but now it feels like home. It draws my mind upward, that I am about to experience a connection with something extraordinary. As many things are in the Catholic world, the aroma of the church before mass is a physical and tangible way to connect my mind with the spiritual goings-on. It lifts my mind heavenward.

It reminds me of the back of of my couch that I burrowed my nose into, so sick, so desperate, just hoping that the scent would linger for a day or two longer before it faded. Only, at church, each time I enter, it is new and still there and fresh, and powerful. I don’t have to hope it doesn’t fade. It stays strong. And it helps prepare me to encounter the real presence of Jesus.

Another beautiful thing about being Catholic.

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Losing Jesus

I take a lot of comfort in knowing that my Savior knows how I feel, in every circumstance. Jesus knows being misunderstood. Jesus knows being misheard, and misinterpreted. He knows the truth in love he was trying to share, and that he as God and Man embodied, and people being so caught up in the minutiae that they missed the bigger picture. They missed Him. They didn’t understand it so badly that they killed him.

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Me, in my passion and excitement, and my friends, in their concern for me, are so focusing in on the differences between our faiths that we are losing Jesus. And I don’t know how to get the focus back in proportion. Some friends won’t concede that we have much common ground, maybe even more common ground than they realize. Are we never going to be able to grow in our faith together, even through the divide? I hope and pray that it isn’t so.

I have many friends who say they love me, but those same friends are very clearly doubting that I am a Christian, and in some cases, possibly, maybe, that I ever was.

I can honestly say that I respect the Christian faith they are living out, I can even say I understand how they may come to different conclusions on some things. I did that, too. I get it. But some of the most important friendships to me have been the ones where I will be told I am loved, but I have yet to be told that they respect this decision in how JP and I are deciding to live out our Christian faith. But that could be asking too much. It may be unfair of me to ask that. Maybe those that are struggling so much just can’t right now. Or ever. And I need to be okay with that.

I am finding that the depth of Catholicism is so vast, and the misconceptions so deeply rooted, that some of these conversations feel like the childhood game “lava.” I’m jumping around from blanket to couch to table, but one wrong word choice, one thing not phrased just the right way, and I fall. I’m burned.

And it all just leaves me wondering… where is Jesus in that? Is that what Jesus did or how he handled things? And, more importantly, how am I contributing to the misfires?

I am thankful that defending Jesus or the Catholic faith is not a responsibility I bear on my shoulders. God can use me, but God can also defend himself.  It will all continue to be and thrive despite my stumbles in speech, my feeling inadequate.

And I hope, somehow, through this all, I am sustained. Whenever I’m in one of these discussions now, my hands have started shaking. I’ve had some anxiety before, and it’s uncomfortable feeling that way again.

I need wisdom. What I need to step back from? And how? And what should I still engage in? When do I speak and when do I remain silent? How much of these hurts do I let go of? Did I hurt them as well? In trying to stay afloat amidst dozens of questions on dozens of different topics, I, too, probably, lost sight of Jesus. God, forgive me.

I think in most cases people have aired out what they wanted to say. I still have a few people that are important to me to tell this week, but I’m going to try very hard to keep those conversations from going down the same path.

I’m so tired. I’m not even fully able to enjoy all I have access to now as part of this faith. I need rest. I need Jesus to be near. This is part of the path I must walk. Things will settle out, people will have everything off their chest.

What I really hope is that these friendships can be preserved, and that people will be able to see Jesus in me as I grow in faith over time.

But what do I need to do now to preserve peace, and calm. I need discernment. I need to keep sight of Jesus through this all and let Jesus pick me up amidst my own failings and lean on His grace as I move forward.

 

Pro.vi.dence

I marvel. As tired as I am of some of this, so much of it is good. And it’s about time to recall some of that goodness.

To define the term: Providence

noun
1.
(often initial capital letter) the foreseeing care and guidance of God or nature over the creatures of the earth.
2.
(initial capital letter) God, especially when conceived as omnisciently directing the universe and the affairs of humankind with wise benevolence.
3.
a manifestation of divine care or direction.
4.
foresight; provident care.

I mean this word mostly in the sense that God knew what was going to happen to me and JP, and looking back I can see His hand guiding me to where I am today.

First of all… I was baptized Catholic. Boom. Somehow, my parents, who were not devoutly practicing the faith by any stretch of the imagination at the time, had me baptized in a Catholic church as an infant. Providence.

JP and I had a Catholic, sacramental marriage. I didn’t even understand what a sacrament was at the time. I didn’t want to become Catholic. I had gone through RCIA during our engagement and none of it made any sense to me. And yet, somehow, by the grace of God, we got married in the Catholic church. Providence.

I also honestly believe 2 things. First, if JP had understood more the depths of his faith when we God married, and had been able to stand up to the arguments against Catholicism I originally had, it is possible that I would not have married him. But by marrying him, I was exposed to an entire troop of people (JP’s family) who were not only Catholic, but strong Christians who love Jesus. Also, JP was struggling mentally when he was younger with a tendency towards obsessive thoughts. This caused him to have an unhealthy view of his faith as a young adult, and he spent much of his time guilt-ridden. The period of time where he left the faith was when he received help in developing healthier thinking habits. Now, with a better way of looking at things, he is able to return to the faith and use what is meant for good, actually for good. Providence.

God knew what he and we needed, and allowed us on the journey we have been on, knowing it would lead us back to the Church he founded.

I am so thankful!

Weary of The Talks

Well… this is getting … exhausting.  I’m upset today. And tired. The reason these conversations have been taking so long to have with all the people we need to have them with, is that they just plain wipe me out and exhaust me. I can only do so many in a stretch. The goal of this post is to just provide a real and truthful entry into how difficult this has been. In fact, it actually worked in our favor at the end of the Talk today that I was so emotional about it. I was able to say that even though this is clearly so incredibly difficult for me, I am still going. He acknowledged that that meant something. So, here’s an inside look into some of the specific struggles and emotions associated with converting from Protestantism to Catholicism.

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I think the crux of it is that we are, as we were told today, thought of as deep thinkers, and the idea of us making this change is almost inconceivable. How could such deep thinkers become Catholic? I suggest, that is precisely why we are becoming Catholic. It doesn’t reconcile with them. I can understand that would provoke emotion. There is so much more respect for theological differences between Protestant denominations than there is between Protestants and Catholics.

There are so many times when I am in one of the “Talks” and I don’t feel like I have the right words to say at the right moment. We were talking today with someone who has a Masters in Divinity, so there was no way we were going to know more than him in some areas. I respect the time he’s devoted to his study of God.

But… if I could have said everything I wanted to say, at the right moment… I did say some things, but, man, when words fail. They fail too much in my opinion. Right when I need them. Some things I know the answers to, or at least can explain my thinking on, some things I don’t. But I am comforted to know that logical, cohesive answers are out there, and easily accessible to me. Just not in the middle of difficult conversations, unfortunately. And, you know what, maybe that is good for me in the long run. I am not a know-it-all. I have a lot to learn. But, I still feel like it would be nice to be able to explain myself like I can on this blog when I’m in a conversation with somebody.

One of the most hurtful parts of this all is that I have been a Christian since I could comprehend who Jesus was. I have had Catholic people question my faith when I was Protestant, and now I have Protestant people questioning my faith now that I’m becoming Catholic. It’s just difficult.

I respect others as deep thinking people who have good and sincere reasons for their beliefs, even if we disagree. I do believe in Truth, but to push so hard on someone who has so much in common with you such as to make them cry is too much… but then I find myself acknowledging I’ve been on the other side of things- I’ve unintentionally pushed too hard and upset some friends. So it’s on me, too.

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All that to say, we have been very thankful for the support of everyone who has been supportive so far. One of the arguments we heard today was that all of our friends think this is a bad decision, so it should give us pause. He didn’t know about the many friends and family in on the other side of things that are happy for us, and support the decision.

Everyone’s prayers and encouragement are definitely heard and felt. In fact, my Confirmation Sponsor, JP’s Aunt Lorraine, arranged for the Nuns of Our Lady of the Angels Monastery to pray for our family during this time.

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The card from the Nuns of the Our Lady of the Angels Monastery.

Prayer for our family starts today and goes through the 22nd.

Please, pray for our family as we continue this journey. Pray for strength of faith, for grace from and for friends and for relationships to be preserved. For the wisdom of what words to say and what words not to say. For us to be able to provide a different face to Catholicism to our Protestant friends, to break down walls and barriers and to remove misconceptions through our love and our lives. 

Ashed

This was my first Catholic Ash Wednesday service that I can remember attending. I love it. The preparation. The somber acknowledgment of our own frailty and fallenness. All reminders of how useless everything is without what Jesus did on that cross and three days later.

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Ashed after a long day.

Saying, “Yes, God. I’ve failed you. I need your mercy. Even my best to you is imperfect while I am on this earth.” And then receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus right after acknowledging or own beginnings and physical endings as dust. Receiving Jesus and knowing that His sacrifice saves us from futility. That His sacrifice breathes life and meaning into our existence.

Even the small participation in fasting today. Feeling those moments of slight discomfort, of hunger, and being reminded to think on God and to pray. Thinking about how insignificant this fasting is in comparison to the suffering Jesus endured. Thinking about how our sacrifice is so, so small, but how at the same time, it also connects us with something so much bigger than ourselves and draws our hearts and minds to our Savior.

This is the God that makes beauty from ashes. This is the God that takes that which is broken and makes it whole again. This is the God that beat both sin and death in a single lifetime.

A beautiful season, this Lent is. And I’m really thankful and excited to participate in it more fully than ever before in the Catholic Church.

First Communion

Last week, I received my First Communion in the Catholic Church. One of the biggest moments for me was bringing up the gifts. We were asked to do that as a way to sort of help mark the special occasion, where JP was receiving communion for the first time in several years, and I was receiving my First Communion.

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I didn’t realize how cool that would be. To bring up the wine and the bread that would be used in the Sacrament. Just a neat moment where the significance of it all kind of hit me.

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Bringing up the Gifts.

Receiving the Eucharist was very emotional for us both. I think that stemmed from several things… what is happening in the Eucharist itself is enough to make one feel strongly, but that moment was rounding out a week that had begun with some very draining conversations, where we were feeling worn down, and the week ended with First Confession and First Communion for me. So quite a dichotomy! And it was just this whole thing about how on earth everything has changed for me theologically, and how now there is this access to Jesus on a completely different dimension than there was before, and how, in actuality, despite how I know and believe the theology of it, I understand it so little.

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After Mass. Lissie was in Sunday School enjoying her little self. 🙂

 

The nice thing about the Eucharist is it wasn’t a once and done deal… I can continue to grow in my understanding of it, and how it will impact my life. One of my favorite memories looking back will be seeing the emotion my husband was feeling at coming back to a fuller and richer version of his home faith community. And having his whole family there with him, participating in it as well. I don’t think JP knew what he was leaving when he left it, but he does know now, and it made returning that much more meaningful.

In other news…

The separation process in leaving our Protestant church has become very painful, in many ways. We are in such a limited position, and are just praying for some grace from our friends and for ourselves to do this thing we are doing.