No Means No

I didn’t think I would get to blog today because of all the everything else. I hit my goal of at least 500 words on the outline front, so here I am.

I’ve been really good about simplifying and selectively cutting back on outside commitments so I can really focus on my family and writing, especially now that Mike is going to start traveling. I need to be around for the boys. I want to be around for the boys.

Mike and I purposely don’t overwhelm our kids with extra curricular activities because we feel the boys should have down time with us. They get one sport and one instrument. For Alex, he’s going to play basketball later this year, takes piano lessons and altar serves. I know. That’s three, but I don’t really count altar serving as an extra curricular activity. Gabriel just decided he would try Cub Scouts and hasn’t come to a decision on anything else yet. For us, that’s totally ok.

That’s not what every family chooses to do and I get that. Do what works for you, I always say.

I am finding that saying ‘no’ to people gets some interesting responses. The most shocking to me is “Why not?” Usually, I respond quickly explaining myself, but why should I have to? I’m an adult and I said no. That’s really all there should be to it. I’m not rude about it either. I always say, “I’m sorry, I really can’t commit to that this year.” That should be the end of it, right? Wrong.

No Means No by @fillpraycloset #responsibility #accountability

I’ve been questioned about whether I was sure I was making the right decision to said requests. I was asked repeatedly over a few days, by different people whether I had changed my mind or for clarification. (I know, right?!)

There’s nothing wrong with cutting back. In fact, isn’t that the best thing to do? Cut back, make more time for family, prayer and yourself? Mike calls it taking a step back and taking a personal inventory. We joke about it when he says that because it seems hokey, but for real, isn’t that what we all need to do at one time or other in our lives? That’s just trying to make the right decision so you avoid burnout, or maybe it’s just coming to a realization about who you are and what you can handle.

If I don’t participate in certain activities, does that make me a less faithful Catholic? Hmmm, that’s an interesting theory. Is that how I am perceived? As not “on fire for my faith”. It’s a shame that that’s the first conclusion some people have come to. Granted, I’ve had some prayer life problems of the dry variety, but that doesn’t meant that I’m considering a lukewarm path to my faith! Come on, people!

It’s almost as if the thought is, by all means, cut back, but not on what I’m asking of you because what I need is SO important. These reactions make me feel as if I’m only as good as the last thing I volunteered for. (Yep, I said it.) The assumption is that I will always say yes, and that’s not really fair. I can’t and won’t always say yes. I don’t think anyone should feel pressured to say yes. Moreover, people shouldn’t try to get my husband to get me to say yes. (What? Yes! That happened too.)

As a full time working mother and wife, my plate is pretty full. I can’t give what I don’t have. What I can give I will, and right now, my boys (Mike and God included) get all I have. Sorry, there’ll be no blood from this stone.

I still attend mass, pray daily, and focus on the few things I have consciously, thoughtfully and prayerfully chosen to keep working toward. I ticked all the boxes in a meaningful way and it’s unfortunate that others don’t get that it’s really not about them or their important thing that they desperately need me for. I’m not even that important guys. All this means, is that other people are now given the opportunity to step up, try something new, or find a new way of completing a task that maybe shouldn’t be on auto pilot.

How about you? What happens when you say no?

#7QT How you Know You’re an Introvert

I go back and forth with this. Am I an introvert, an extrovert, or maybe just a social introvert? I think I lean more towards introversion because, people. Here are some reasons why I think I’ve finally settled on my inclinations.

— 1 —

I get irrationally angry at any and all notifications of voice mail. It’s a struggle. Not clearing out notifications on my personal phone, or getting that red light to stop blinking in my face at the office is outweighed in anxiety only by knowing that I have to listen to said voice mail. I have to punch in numbers, more than once, because how many passwords, pins and codes can one person remember and listen to. I finally get the right combination of shoe size, anniversary and blood type only to hear this…

*click*

People don’t even leave voice mail! All that for a click, or worse?

“Hi Cristina, can you call me back? Thanks!”

My response:

“I just got your voice mail, text me” Over text of course.

#7QT How you Know Your an Introvert #introvert #funny #personality

— 2 —

I work in a corporate office. This means I have to make small talk every.single.day. Do you know what that’s like? If you ever see me walking down the hall in the office, I am usually looking at the wall, because I lean my head toward it to avoid eye contact, or I’m looking down. This is one of those conversations that’s just awkward when it happens:

Hey, how are you? keeps walking

How am I supposed to answer that? Not like they’re sticking around to really hear my answer. What if I wanted to burst into tears, or song? They would never know because they’re long gone. I end up responding to the wind they’ve kicked up as they high tail it to their next meeting. That’s fine with me, I didn’t really want to talk, so no need to ask me anything.

#7QT How you Know Your an Introvert #introvert #funny #personality

 

— 3 —

I eat lunch at my desk. Unless I have lunch plans with two specific people, or my husband, it’s me and the desk. My desk doesn’t ask me a question that requires I choke down food to answer, flinging bits of sandwich in the air or hold my hand up to my face in an attempt to pretend like I have table manners.

#7QT How you Know Your an Introvert #introvert #funny #personality

— 4 —

When in the lobby at the doctor’s office, I take a book with me and keep it high. This way, I’m not tempted to do the “knee-jerk” look at people passing by. I will inevitably have to make eye contact, smile, and then, make small talk. I don’t want to be asked why I’m there, if I’ve been with the practice long and what I think of the wait times. I sign a HIPAA form. I know my rights.


#7QT How you Know Your an Introvert #introvert #funny #personality

— 5 —

We plan events on the calendar with other families, and friends. People I know, ok? And on the day, I am groaning, moaning and complaining that we have to go somewhere, that I have to get dressed (my husband insists I wear something other than my swanky 5-year old velour Old Navy pants) and said outing requires makeup. Ok, maybe that’s just me being lazy. Nah, I just have to slap a grin on and make, you guessed it, small talk. Why God? WHY?!

#7QT How you Know Your an Introvert #introvert #funny #personality

— 6 —

I am so excited that we have no where to be this weekend, except mass. When I feel like being SUPER indulgent, we go to Sunday mass instead of the Saturday vigil mass. This means, I can be inside all day, texting to my hearts content with Tiffany and S, and playing Words with Friends with my friend Cathie.

#7QT How you Know Your an Introvert #introvert #funny #personality

— 7 —

Tweets like this:

 

So I think that seals it, introvert. Why am I this way? Maybe it was growing up in NYC that did it – a place where a look wasn’t just a look, it was a threat, a request or even a whole conversation (as in, too adult for my pre-teen eyes). You learned to admire the subway tile or get excited at new ads placed along the tunnel walls. You were definitely protective and defensive. I’m that way now when I go to places I’m unfamiliar with. I get my “subway face” on where you see everything, but are aware of no one.

I’m a long way from there, but some habits die hard.

 For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Church Triumphant: St. Gabriel, the Archangel

Today I’m linking up with Tiffany at Life of a Catholic Librarian for another Church Triumphant post where we talk about the saints, and share a bit of fact, history and reflection. Tiffany is posting about St. Vincent de Paul, so be sure to head over and check it out.

We originally had St. Padre Pio on our calendars, as his memorial was Tuesday, but when I began to gather my thoughts, I looked ahead and saw that all three archangels, St. Michael, St. Raphael and St. Gabriel are being celebrated on September 29th. My son’s name is Gabriel and we just celebrated his birthday, so I couldn’t resist.

St. Gabriel appears four times in the bible. He was sent share a vision in Daniel 8, and again to Daniel to explain and help him during prayer in Daniel 9:

He made me understand, speaking with me and saying, “O Daniel, I have now come out to give you insight and understanding. 23 At the beginning of your pleas for mercy a word went out, and I have come to tell it to you, for you are greatly loved. Therefore consider the word and understand the vision.” (Daniel 9:22-23)

St. Gabriel appeared to Zachary to tell him of the birth of St. John the Baptist in Luke 1. I like to focus on verse 19 :

And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news.”

He is described in Daniel 10:5-7

I looked up, and saw a man standing there clad all in linen, and his girdle of fine gold.
Clear as topaz his body was, like the play of lightning shone his face, and like burning cressets his eyes; arms and legs of him had the sheen of bronze, and when he spoke, it was like the murmur of a throng.

He then appears to Our Lady, in the Annunciation in Luke 1:26-38 where he says one of the most treasured words among Catholics “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.”

St. Gabriel means God is my strength. No kidding. He goes on to tell Mary not to fear, she is favored by God, the Holy Spirit will overshadow her and help her.

My sweet boy, Gabriel. Have I ever told you the story of when he was born? I don’t think I have. I delivered him via C-Section. He was scheduled with a specific date and time because the doctor knew I wouldn’t be able to deliver naturally. When the scheduled date arrived, I went into labor. No one was going to tell Gabriel what time he was going to enter the world. We were told he was the quietest baby in the nursery. The nurses loved him.

Church Triumphant: St. Gabriel the Archangel #saints #catholic #archangel

The delivery went well, and we were both resting afterwards in my room. Gabriel was swaddled in a blanket to keep him warm and set on his side, facing me. It was late at night, I remember because I was texting Mike and he was already in bed. I thought Gabriel was fast asleep. A nurse came in to the room to check my vitals, and see that my IV was still working properly. I look over at Gabriel, and he’s silent, but almost squinting at this nurse like “You touch my mom and you don’t even know the hurt you’re in for.” I was so shocked usually newborns aren’t this calm, awake and attentive all at the same time. I took a picture and sent it to Mike because it’s something he had to see to believe. Look at that face!

Church Triumphant: St. Gabriel the Archangel #saints #catholic #archangel

Today, Gabriel is still very protective of me. He doesn’t like anyone to crack jokes at my expense, not even playfully by Mike and Alex. He always sides with me, even and especially when he knows I’m wrong and says that I am his bestest friend in the whole wide world. His favorite prayer? The Hail Mary. His favorite place? Mary’s Grotto. He really is my angel, one hug and I am instantly soothed of whatever bothers me. He always reminds us to pray before meals, and to bless ourselves before we leave mass. God is serious business to him.

Last year, Gabriel was chosen to be the Angel Gabriel in his Kindergarten Christmas play, of course!

Church Triumphant: St. Gabriel the Archangel #saints #catholic #archangel

The Dominican Nuns of St. Jude write:

Because it was he who was sent to Our Lady to announce that she was to be the Mother of God, he will help us in our love and devotion towards her. In fact, it is said that each person who makes the Total Consecration to Mary (Montfort) receives a second angel guardian from the company of St. Gabriel. All those who have great devotion to this angel will have him at their side when death comes.

And now to celebrate:

    • I found a delicious Angel Food Blackberry Trifle Cake from Catholic Cuisine that looks heavenly.
    • Learn the Angelus prayer and recite it daily. This prayer is prayed at 6:00AM and 12:00PM daily. There is a partial indulgence attached to those who pray this prayer.
    • Consider making Total Consecration to Mary, the next date to start the prayers is October 19th to finish for the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary on November 21st

Don’t forget to head over to read all about St. Vincent de Paul!

Happy Feast, until next month when we team up again for another set of saints!

The Tulgey Wood of Faith

When you think God is silent, is He really? Or have you just stopped listening? Have you come to a place in your spiritual walk where the path before you and behind you have been erased? Ever watch Disney’s Alice and Wonderland? I can often relate times in my life to parts, characters and feelings in this movie. My spiritual life, I guess, is no different.

The Tulgey Wood of Faith by @fillpraycloset #spiritualdryness #faith #prayer

I know all about the still small voice, and how I should remain still to listen for it. I’ve been still, I’ve been silent, I’ve been calm. I’ve begged, pleaded, waited, screamed and just spoke. I’ve been to adoration and spent time in absolute silence.

We can always look to the saints for help.

Mother Teresa lived in a spiritual desert for years, the more she reached out, the darker and drier her spiritual life became for her. Still, she continued to pray, knowing that above everything else, He loved her. She confessed to her spiritual director in 1957:

In the darkness . . . Lord, my God, who am I that you should forsake me?  The child of your love — and now become as the most hated one. The one — you have thrown away as unwanted — unloved. I call, I cling, I want, and there is no one to answer . . . Where I try to raise my thoughts to heaven, there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives and hurt my very soul.  Love — the word — it brings nothing.  I am told God lives in me — and yet the reality of darkness and coldness and emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul.

Regardless, she followed the Gospel and did what she felt God was calling her to do. I am no saint, that’s for sure. I’m not sitting along the sidelines watching this happen to me, I am a seeker of truth. I needed to know, and diagnose what was happening. I read there are thresholds of spiritual walk, and I think I am what you would call a spiritual adolescent. According to a white paper by John H. Coe of Biola University titled Musings on the Dark Night of the Soul: Insights from St. John of the Cross on a Developmental Spirituality (2000), he writes:

St. John of the Cross explains the dark night as a middle state of experience in which beginners no longer know what they desire. On one hand, they are still so filled with themselves that they are unable to explicitly experience the Spirit as the Spirit. On the other hand, they are experiencing the filling of the Spirit to the developmental degree they are capable. The result is that believers in a dark night feel trapped. They become aware of how little they really love God, how little joy they take in the spiritual disciplines. Yet they also perceive, with a kind of sadness, that the world and its pleasures cannot satisfy. In equipoise, the human spirit does not know what it wants, feeling quite guilty and uneasy about this without knowing how to rectify the problem. The believer begins to lose his grip on the Christian life. What seemed to be easy during the beginner stage is no longer easy at all; spiritual pleasure and growth seem illusive, if not impossible to attain. This is precisely where God wishes his growing child to be.

The Tulgey Wood of Faith by @fillpraycloset #spiritualdryness #faith #prayer

While at the outset, this sounds jarring, coming from me, I can’t be dishonest about my faith walk. I’ve danced around it, confided in others about it, but just as I want to meet others where they’re at, I have to include myself in that outlook. I have to be kind and gentle with myself too. My prayers are often “Lord, help me find you again. Bring me back to where I was before. I am a believer, help my unbelief.” It’s not that I am losing faith. That’s something that could never happen.

Much like marriage, I look at my relationship with God as being in a room, with no doors or windows. There’s no escape of any kind. It’s just a comfortable room. While others would and could feel trapped, I feel safe in this cocoon because there is no where else I would rather be. This room is a sanctuary. I know what the boundaries are, and I am always safe within the walls of our refuge.  I feel like someone drew a window while I was sleeping, and I woke up to a note from God: “Went for a walk. Be back soon. I love you.” It’s in this in between time that I feel desperate. Not desperate to claw at something new, but to cling to the bit of Him he left behind: a shirt, His drained cup of coffee on the table, the note He left and even the pencil He used to write to me, by way of the Bible. I cling to all of it with prayer, and hope.

I fall upon these verses to console me:

James 1:2-4

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,
for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.
And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

2 Corinthians 4:7-18

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair;
persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;
always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.
For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
So death is at work in us, but life in you.

Psalm 30:5

Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.

I will always, always follow the Gospel and pray that I will be able to hear Him again. Until then, I remain in the Tulgey Wood of my faith, where nothing is familiar, and I am finding my way home, just like Alice.