day 2: the cross and the call

(if you missed the previous episodes in this series click here:  Part 1Part 1.5)

Today we looked at Mark’s Gospel (with a side of Matthew every now and then), putting into action our new lenses with which we can read the Scriptures through a woman’s perspective.

Now, I’m going to be honest here…praying with Scripture is not usually my thing. Too many words, I end up analyzing it instead of letting it enter me on a spiritual level. Give me images, music, nature, art, clay…anytime, but Scripture…mmmm I don’t think so. Well…one of the tenants of Dominican life is: study. Now, I love school. I love learning and I actually don’t mind studying most of the time, but to integrate that into my spiritual life/religious charism??? Hmmmm….maybe this Dominican thing isn’t for me. Enter, stage left…the voice of a few dear people who have walked with me: “make room for the spirit, listen, notice, experience…”. Oh, yeah! How could I let that slip?

Yesterday, we looked at frameworks (ok, she called them hermeneutics…) on how we might read Scripture in different ways, questions we might ask, imagine, etc. It totally made sense to me and I actually thought this studying scripture business isn’t so bad!

Today, we took learning into practice (sign of a great teacher, and Sr. Barbara Reid is an amazing teacher!) and broke open Mark and the women we encounter and the ones we don’t. I could write pages of what I learned and discussed today, but I’m sticking with relating my noticing and experience to discernment.

Call stories–

Who knew there was a framework for Biblical call stories (give me a framework and I’ll be happy!)?
So, it’s pretty simple for the New Testament : Jesus sees someone, invites them, commissions them, there are signs, Holy Spirit. Or my interpretation: “Yep, I want her”, “Hey you, come with me!”, “Why don’t you try…”, [person still doesn’t get it] “oh! A sign!” “hahaha…we got her!”

I was thinking about my initial call story in relationship to this pattern. Mine sounded more like this:

Nun I know: hmmmm she would make a good sister.
Nun I know (NIK): “Katy, have you ever thought about being a sister?”.
K: ” are you out of your mind?”
NIK: “Why don’t you come to this concert/program/over for dinner…you should really think about becoming a sister…”.
K: “ummmm…no.”. [go back and repeat over and over for several years…].
In Katy’s head: wow! I really feel at home here! Wow! I can be myself! Wow! I’ve never felt closer to God! Na?..none of these are signs!
FINALLY…Katy: “I can’t NOT DO anything else with my life…”

There were the initial thought, many, many, many invitations, many, many, many “signs”, finally an acceptance and awareness of letting the Holy Spirit fill me. It sure does sound like its following the framework! Much like discernment, figuring out your call, responding to it, and living it is a process, not something you check off your todo list.

So what does this mean for me in the here and now? I’ve learned a little since I started acknowledging my call nudges 14 years ago. That makes me happy! When I’m in the trenches or a dark space, I can’t always see the learning or the growth, that frustrates me. Just allowing myself to come here with the expectation of noticing and experiencing (as opposed to signing up and movin on the fast track) is a big step for me. I’m creating a space within for the spirit’s movement.

We also talked about the interpretation of “taking up your cross” from the eyes of women. Without over generalizing(that’s not my intent), often in patriarchal cultures this can be perceived by/about women as “embrace suffering…and suffer in silence”; the differences between denial of self/self-denial and service/servitude. We broke this open pretty deeply today.

One of the questions for reflection was: How do you understand taking up the cross in your circumstance? What came to me surprised me…for me, freely accepting the “cost” of being a disciple, and embracing myself in order to give myself to where God is calling me, said to me, ” Stay on the journey…”

Stay on the journey? Really? What kind of a cross is that? My journey of love (my vow theme, by the way) has paid the price of my heart…in the most joyful of senses and in the most agonizing of situations. It took me a lonnnnngggg time to acknowledge and respond to where I am being called, when I responded freely and wholeheartedly…I knew. I just knew. Then to be hurt, I questioned the journey. I was angry I responded. I ached. I still question the cost of my investment.

Here’s a creative piece I did a few months ago. The text says: she wondered where she belonged and if it was worth searching

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I think risking to continue on the journey with an openness to notice and experience is what I’m being invited to now. I won’t know the cost or the outcome or where I’ll land, but I’m choosing to accept this freely.

real.truth.experience.joy

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day 1; part 2

Day 1; Part 2

(If you missed Part 1)

Enough discernment context, let’s get to the juicy part where I decide to adventure on this 7 day mutually blind date…yep! My first ever blind date, me and 80 nuns whom I’ve never met and vice versa…am I crazy? We’ll see…

My coming here for this experience is a ginormous risk for me; a lot of mixed up feelings. Will I fit in? Will it be fun (will it be the anti-fun?) What if we don’t like each other…or…what if we do? Normal pondering of trepidation before meeting someone for the first time I think. I also was excited! NUNS! SPIRITUALITY! COMMON PRAYER! NIGHT TIME CARDS! I’ve been painfully out of my element, where I feel most at home, and thrive. I truly couldn’t wait to be back in the women religious culture. And…I was a little sad. Moving toward another community means I’m also journeying away from my former community…cognitively, I can say, “oh, that’s healthy, that shows progress, that’s positive movement in the grieving process….”. On the inside, what’s real…doesn’t speak the language of my head.

As much as I only wanted to take the excitement with me, the others have a place in this experience too (growth and all that stuff…) So, I piled trepidation, excitement,and a tiny coin purse of sad into my suitcase…got on that boat and sailed across the lake to experience and notice.

A few observations I had when I planted my feet on Michigan soil and put one in front of the other to begin this experience were…peace, acceptance, and welcome.

So what happens when an ex-Franciscan (who still practically bleeds Franciscanism), who is re-entering the wild world of beginning discernment, and decides to go on her first blind date? Three very interesting things(Bonaventure would be reading into that too…clearly I’m not! LOL!):

1. The sisters gave me a journal. On the back, there was a sticker of the painting of Dominic and Francis embracing! OY!

2. On their motherhouse grounds, there is a meditation walking path called Instruments of Hope…the journey of ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI.

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Oh and…the first stop says: Francis on the road looking for a new life. OMG

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3. The first slide of the speaker’s PowerPoint presentation FOR THE ORDER OF PREACHERS, was “always speak the Gospel…use words if necessary” and in fades a picture of…that’s right…not Dominic, but Francis.

Ummmm…ok. Interesting start. Clearly the sprit is speaking in her subtle ways. I have more to unpack with today and all that’s swirling, but I think I need to take a few steps back and talk about discernment and what this all means for me in my journey….stay tuned…very soon, I promise!

Oh….I guess there was one more thing, but I didn’t want to lose the Bonaventure moment of a Trinitarian moment…I’ll let the image speak for itself….

Oh yeah, sure does have me labeled as an OP….hmmmm what is the spirit trying to say?

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We’ll have to see what Day 2 brings..

real.truth.experience.joy

the dating game…discernment 101

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I’ve decided to start dating again! After a painful break-up and some good ol’ grieving, it’s time for re-entry into the normal world again. Well, as “normal” as religious life gets…maybe I should back up a little and fill in the missing parts. Yes, you can pick your jaws up off the floor!

First, a little context…I’m sitting on the grass over looking a pond at Marywood convent. (You’re what?) I’m here at a weeklong (like 7 days! sun-sat!) spirituality conference with the Grand Rapids Dominicans (OPs). The conference is called: Women and the Word: Preaching with the Mind, Eyes, and Heart of a Woman.

Before I post about today’s juicy details…I think we need to take a gander at Discernment 101. In my other blogs: Nunspeak and Religious Life Rocks: The Adventures of one Fun Nun/Inner Excavation is some more information about discernment as well, I invite you to check those out too.

I’m writing this on my iPad which is not blog formatting friendly…

Discernment 101
Discernment–fancy schmancy nun-speak for thoughtfully, prayerfully, communally, entering into process to help make a decision or choice. Great…now that’s all cleared up! So what does that mean? I think the key words are: process, prayerful, and thoughtful (and if you’re married/partnered/parenting/or religious there’s the communal aspect too).
Discernment is not an impulse or a clear, concrete, correct answer. Discernment doesn’t start or finish…it’s ongoing, it’s a process. Discernment takes into consideration the whole–where am I being called? What are the needs of the community?(interpret that as you need to make it fit) what do I have to give? What is healthy for me? It’s (unfortunately ) not a flow chart (trust me, I tried this…nope, not gonna happen), nor is it a direct path. The serpentine road in this process is “inviting” you to walk gently…sometimes whether you want the invitation to this suare or not. The big “D” does however have stages in this process…now all of you flow chart lovers who just took a sigh of relief…guess again!
My image of the discernment process is more like playing the game Twister. Yes, you know, “right hand on green” “left foot on yellow”, then the times the caller keeps spinning, “right foot on red…right foot on red…right foot on red….”. Yeah…you know what I’m talking about! Sometimes people are in your way, sometimes you can look over at those intertwined people while you have one foot on red, sometimes you don’t have a spinner! Get your comfy clothes on and a pair of socks with no holes, because we can’t have this party without a little Twister! (I’m really jazzed about this image!)
Does all of this sound unsettling? Raise your hands if you think this is resembles a form of interior torture…If you said yes…My friends, consider yourself Discerners.

I’m going to try and blog my experiences this week as much as I can. I’m approaching this writing as I process what it means for me to be basically right in the very beginning of discernment AGAIN. I’ll be sharing my real, my truth, my experience, and my JOY as it relates to my discernment and journey.

Stay tuned….today’s reflections will be coming shortly….
real.truth.experience.joy

zip codes…a story of transition

Today, not unlike a usual occurrence, I was asked to verify my zip code.  It took me a moment to think and I responded.  Then, this strange foggy cloud came over me. 

I don’t mind change; in fact, often times I embrace it.  What I don’t like…one tiny bit…is transition.  It messes with my psyche, my routine, my homeostasis (I’m Type A…don’t do this to us folk!).  I’m tired and off-balance.  Confused and maybe a little lost.  I’m telling you…transition is no picnic…it messes with you, big time. 

I moved a week ago.  I’m inhabiting an absolutely, fabulous apartment, in a hip and trendy, young and vibrant, community-active neighborhood, two blocks from Lake Michigan.  This move was for my ever-continuing process of self-care and growth (ugh.)  Simply put, I needed to get away from my nun-life.  I needed a new space, a fresh start; not constant reminders of my deep aches and grief.  I was semi-excited, semi-anxious, and semi-sad–I’ve lived in the same zip code for the past 13 years, until a week ago. I didn’t really make that connection until this afternoon.

So what is it about transition?  Well, I can start with Captain Obvious flying into my blog: uncomfortable, inconvenient, messy, illogical reactions…do I need to keep going?  No…that’s not it…there’s something more…something underneath those things…hmmm… I contemplated, I walked, I journaled, I tarot-ed (for those of you tarot fans at home: princess of cups…3rd time!), I ate chocolate…nope, nada, at least nothing to describe the connection between transition and my zip code grief. 

Then my friend Parker Palmer, Let Your Life Speak, jumped off my bookshelf.  This is one of those books that I received as a Junior in college, 11 years ago, and have read it several times when I am at a “what-the-hell-do-I-do-now” moment.  Without fail, something new speaks to me every time.  I opened the book up randomly and this is what leapt off the page:

[regarding pilgrimage] “a transformative journey to a sacred center full of hardships, darkness, and peril… challenges…

Ok…I’m listening…

…largely beyond our control, can strip the ego of the illusion that it is in charge…

Pfft…great…just great…

 …and make space for the true self to emerge…

And…here’s the nugget.  That damn nugget of knowledge that makes me squirm, roll my eyes, and attempt to deny the truth of it.  Shucks.  Thank you very much, Parker Palmer.

Not to belabor the darkness of my journey (although, in a blog that’s subtitled: real.truth.experience.joy…this is where I’m at people…this is my real, my truth, and my experience…and for God sakes, it better be leading toward JOY!)…but…this is so painfully true and speaks to me of zip code grief and transition. 

As much as I was sick of sitting in my yuck pile–surrounded by things that remind me of my grief–and know I need to move on psychically, physically, emotionally, moving forward also meant moving away.  I moved away from my grief, but also the things, people, relationships, commitment, etc that brought me the most joy.  Changing my “space” to create space for the new to emerge.  That sounds honkey-dory, but seriously people…it is not a fun, rainbows and butterflies, lets-go-sing-kumbaya kind of process.  You want me to do what??  Embrace the “journey”, give up the illusion of control, and trust that this, thing, this me, will emerge?  Seriously…what a ridiculous idea! 

And yet…my zip code still changed.  Moving away? No..moving forward…5 numbers at a time. 

real.truth.experience.joy

Stand up, Sisters! “Fill Jerusalem with your teachings…”

Infuriorated.  Befuddled.  Disbelief.  Utter disgust.  Some of the thoughts (feelings?) that crossed my mind last night when I read several articles on the Vatican’s decision to appoint a Bishop to “reform” the workings of the LCWR (Leadership Conference of Women Religious)…before I begin my thoughts on this…let me help set some context:

You can read the NCR version of the article or the NY Times version by clicking these links:  National Catholic Reporter       NY Times

NunSpeak 101:  LCWR–Conference of most of the Head Honcho Nuns in the US.  Offer support, education, retreats, and social justice activism for most of the congregations in the country.  Organization was originally set up by the Vatican.  They do great work especially in helping congregations living out their charism (Nun word for “spirit/flavor” of each individual group) and responding to the needs of the time.

I was a member of a religious community (whose Provincials [Nun for: Boss Ladies] belonged to LCWR) for 6 years; vowed for 3.  Religious life is a huge part of me and despite the fact that my “legal/canonical” status has changed, I still have very much spirit and commitment in me as a woman religious.

I don’t even know what to say.  My first reaction was all of this rage-y energy flowing and I posted my fury on FB immediately.  I couldn’t sleep last night…I was so distrubed.  This is MY church…the faith tradition in which I believe, was raised, and continue to put energy into…what are these guys, and I mean GUYS, thinking?  Why the attack on women religious?  Do they forget who has established and maintained most schools and hospitals in this country?  Do they forget teachings of the church like, hmmm…I don’t know…CATHOLIC SOCIAL TEACHING?  Do we ignore the messages of JESUS?  I feel like I’m in an episode of the twilight zone!  Obviously, I’m a bit riled up.

This morning…I decided to look at today’s readings and was immediately struck with the 1st Reading: Acts 5:27-33–AMAZING!  The Spirit speaks to me again.  I guess my rage turned to anticipatory hope.  Knowing I struggle with the hierarchy of the church prioritizing an attack on women religious’ conference speakers when we have real, human, social issues to deal with in the world, this reading reminding me that this is the work of Jesus…no matter how unfortunate it seems.

So using my ragey energy…I pray for our chuch, especially the hierarchy, today.  That we be reminded of the God-ness in our faith and not the “man-ness” of power.  That we see our church as a living organism…changing, adapting, mutating as necessary with the signs and needs of the time.

I pray for my girls–my woman religious family…that you have the courage and strength to continue to “fill Jerusalem with your teachings” and “obey God not man” in just and ways in which benefit humankind…sometimes at a great price.

real.truth.experience.joy

Washing Feet…not mine…not now…

Wash my feet? Mine? Now?

Sorry, they are rough and tired.

Profound gesture, thanks.

(Haiku.  Holy Thursday, 4/5/12.  KML)

It’s Holy Thursday…my “tied-for-first” favorite liturgical feast (the other?  Pentecost).  I find the story, the reflection, and the profundity of washing feet deeply touch me.  My tied-for-first  feasts are so closely related in meaning.  They both are about commissioning, service, mission…values embedded deep within me.  Values that led me to consider and pursue my call to religious life.

A short story insert to help with context:

Once upon a time there was a college freshman named, Katy.  Katy’s family went to Florida every year for Easter and unfortunately, because Katy’s college schedule didn’t allow for that, she was stuck at home.  Katy had to vacate the dorms for Triduum–Easter Monday so naturally she went to the convent to hang with the nuns.  Now, Katy, although growing up mostly Catholic, never went to a Triduum service in her life.  Not only was she churched that weekend…when she woke up on Easter Sunday (to get ready for more church), the nuns had the 8 o’clock MASS on the RADIO.  Katy hadn’t been to this much church, in consecutive days in her life…let alone listen to it on the radio. (although there was that one time she tried to convince her mom watching it on TV was legit because it was the Pope…)

Come to think of it…I think it was Holy Thursday that weekend of Nunning it where the universe united and I began considering religious life as an option.  After (you guessed it…) Mass, Srs. Toni, Guisselle, Kathy, and I sat in Toni’s room and somehow started looking at Toni’s ceremony pictures.  Then I slowly started to ask questions…and I still have the journal entry somewhere…but something changed within me.  That night my heart heard something different…

Fast forward…14 (ugh…) years…

I’m disinterested, not moved, not inspired…I don’t want church, hell…I don’t want faith, prayer, spirituality…any of it at the moment.  I love God and I know God exisists…that’s about it.  It’s painful to think about going to church.  It’s painful to think about a feast which represents my call…my vocation.

Selfish…probably.  Feeling guilty…yep.  Taking care of me, despite my charred insides…you bet.  (My spiritual director says that I’m allowed and I don’t need to be interested in God for God to be interested in me…hmmmm.)

So here I sit…on my favorite feast day, blogging.  I wrote the Haiku above this morning.  I have had many profound experiences with the feet washing ritual.  I’ve had the Jesus–“Hey…I gotta do this to be an example…”, the “Peter”–Wash mine? I should be washing yours…”, the “Collective”–we wash one another’s as communion, etc.  I’ve never felt the–“Disgust and the need to hide my feet (or self)” mode, like I do today.

My feet; they are rough and tired.  My feet have been on a hard journey–over hot coals, thistles, sand, dirt, rocks…you get the point…  They have been beaten up, they have been soothed along the way, yes; however, need to heal a bit more before exposing them again.

This self-care stuff, I’ve been working on for a couple of years now, in a deep way.  It’s hard!  It doesn’t feel right…especially when you feel called to pour out your love for others.  Tonight…I need to care for my battered and blistered feet…and humbly bow before my spirit and let myself be ok with this (and know God is too…). Not easy. Not comfortable…but what journey is easy and comfortable?

real.truth.experience.joy

molting…for the birds?

I live in a great lower flat with a lot of architectural charm (HWFs, leaded glass windows, built-in china cabinet, etc), I have the best land”people” who live upstairs (whom I adore), I’m in a familiar neighborhood where many of the people I love are…sounds great doesn’t it?  It is…it truly, is great, but…I’m moving.

Here’s the problem…I need to reinvent my life; start all over, essentially.  I did a lot of this discerning, searching, and finding once before…started when I was 18 and I found my niche/calling and followed it when I was 24.  Fast forward 6 years and I found myself having to start over (not by my choice either).

Now, I’m 32 and don’t have a freaking clue…all I know is that to reinvent, I’m feeling the need to divest myself of all things clinging to, reminding, taunting, and shaming me of what I devoted my heart and self.  This is excruciatingly painful (Hey, my blog is not named “Land of rainbows and elves” for a reason…) and sometimes down right maddening.  Everything around me in my physical space is attached to my former life…including my silverware!  I mean, c’mon… who eats a bowl of pasta and tears up because their fork reminds them of their broken heart?

So…I’m molting.  I started with finding an apartment, in a neighborhood where the median age is 37, there are fun things to do, beautiful Lake Michigan is 2 blocks away, and my nuns (whom I love dearly, truly) won’t be beeping the horn and waving when I’m out running off rage from my situation.  Ha!  New space/location…check.

Then I did the first grown-up house like thing–I bought a new living room.  It’s my style, my colors, my design…plus they all match and didn’t come from 3 other convents before.  Begin to get rid of nun-household items…check.

I also refinished two of my dressers (knowing I couldn’t afford new everything…how do you turn nun dressers into Katyesque Chic?  Spend hours on Pinterest and rehab them yourself!)  Begin to have own style…check.
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Sounds so glamorous and exciting doesn’t it?  I wish.  Today, I started packing by going through my boxes and bins to get rid of stuff…I have way too much crap.  Goodwill here I come!  Part of this cleaning out stuff is actually quite cathartic and meditative.  I was all good until a few things happened:

1.  I came across all of my ceremony photos and memorabilia.  I wanted to throw it all in the trash; wait, I did throw it all in the trash, and then one of my little voices said that might regret that in the long run.  It went in a bin that I hope I don’t open for a very long time.

2. I began getting rid of all of my nunny books and Franciscan memorabilia.  G’bye Francis and Clare!  G’bye San Damiano!  G’bye Joyce Rupp and Joan Chittister!

3.  I realized that no matter what I divest myself from, how I change my space or aesthetics…what I “molt”, I grow back the same feathers.  You can’t get rid of you or pawn it off on a charitable thrift organization.  I dissolved right then and there amid the boxes of books/paraphernalia ready to be moved on.  Boo!

Simply…I spent ~6 years discerning where I’m being called and then another 6 “integrating” and “transforming” to live out that call to end up unjustly discarded…unfortunately my heart and belief and faith don’t follow suit.  This life, this call, is in me…in a real way.  It brings me back to “Ignite or be gone” post…it was my “true and perfect joy”…I fell in love…I committed my life…ARGH!

Changing my physical enviornment…exterior molting, if you will, is an important part of my healing process…indeed.   Internal molting…it’s going to take a lot more than a box of Francis’, Clare’s, a Joyce Rupp prayer-book, your community’s history book, and the omnibus of Franciscan documents to settle this.  A new exoskeleton may look great, but they sure do come at a price.  What do they say…pain is beauty?  Hmmmm…

real.truth.experience.joy