Lisa’s Saint Posse Part One: St. Thérèse of Lisieux

I’ve been asked to be a guest blogger again as some of the guys share about “Patron Saints” this week. But I’m not the only guest blogger this time! Zach and I will be covering the Catholic perspective and Chad will be joined by Shea coving the Eastern Orthodox perspective.

Zach: Charles I of Austria: Last Reigning Monarch of Austria-Hungry and My Patron Saint
Chad: Ephrem the Syrian- patron saint & hymnologist
Shea: Thaddeus and Patrick

But I’m not going to stop there! I decided that I’m going to do a couple more blogs on some of the Saints that I’ve considered as part of my ‘posse’ over the past couple of years. But this one will be focused on one of my two Confirmation Saints since that is the assignment handed to be by the ecumenical boys. Stay tuned for my follow-up Saint posse blogs!

The “Confirmation” in Confirmation Saints

First of all, what in the world is confirmation? And why do you choose a Confirmation Saint? Well, it actually has something to do with Baptism.

I remember when I was a Protestant one of my beefs with the Catholic Church was infant Baptism. In my tradition, Baptism was your public profession of Faith. That moment when you show the world, or at least the group of people who happened to be at Church that day, that you are sold out on Jesus. It needs to be a free-will choice. So infant Baptism seemed somehow…rude. I mean, the kid can’t speak for him/herself. They don’t know what they believe. And who’s to say that they aren’t just going to walk away when they get older? Well, in reality that last question can be applied to anyone who makes a free-will choice to be baptized as well. I’ve seen many in the Protestant Church who have been baptized only to walk away from their Faith. But at least they knew what they were getting into in the first place, right? Well, as much as one can really. What married couple truly knows what they’re getting themselves into when they make their vows? Hahaha! The same can be true for Baptism in most Protestant Churches…and Confirmation in the Catholic Church.

Confirmation is sort of the book-end to Baptism and usually happens in Junior High or High School. (Unless like me you’re a grown adult who suddenly decides to become Catholic.) In the Catholic Church, Baptism is the front door to Salvation. The act of Baptism allows the one baptized to begin to enter into their journey of Salvation. Confirmation in the Catholic Church is when that person, at the right age to make a free-will choice, chooses to officially continue that journey. Or, in Protestant speak, Confirmation is when they make their Faith their own. It’s no longer the Faith of their parents, but it is the Faith they choose for themselves.

And part of that choice is to choose a new name! And so, you go about finding a Saint that you are inspired by, have a particular connection to, or wish to emulate in order to adopt their name as your own.

My confirmation name is Mary Thérèse. I cheated and picked two names. Normally a Priest might stop one from doing this, but Fr. Boyle didn’t and I’m glad for it! I just couldn’t decide between the two. I won’t get into why I chose Mary because I wrote about that in the blog I wrote about her. Instead I’ll focus on St. Thérèse of Lisieux.

Saint Thérèse of Lisieux

St. Thérèse of Lisieux, also known as Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face or The Little Flower, was a French Carmelite Nun who entered the Convent at the unconventional age of 15 and died from Tuberculosis just 9 years later at the age of 24 in 1897.  When it was discovered that she was nearing the end of her life she was asked by her superiors to write a book about her life, which has since been published and is called “The Story of a Soul”.

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St. Thérèse of Lisieux

To be fair, I have to admit that I didn’t care for St. Thérèse when I first learned about her. I asked my Catholic friend Eric if there were any Saints he knew of that would be a good match for me. This is back when I was Protestant and had no intention of becoming Catholic. I just thought the Saints had cool lives and wanted to learn more about them. He suggested St. Thérèse, but I thought she sounded wimpy, especially with a nickname like “The little flower”. Blah. Boring. I wanted him to suggest someone like St. Catherine of Siena – who was bold enough to call out the Pope or St. Theresa of Avila who wrote extensively on suffering and was also a bit more passionate and vocal with admonishing those in the Church who were doing wrong.

Nope. He stuck to his guns and suggested St. Thérèse. So I ignored his suggestion. Maturity is one of my strong points.

Sometime later, when I started to become hesitantly interested in becoming Catholic, I asked my Catholic friend CJ who he might suggest I look into. He immediately ran and grabbed his copy of “The Story of a Soul” and suggested St. Thérèse, but the way he described her peaked my interest. She was a bit stubborn, saw the world simply, emphasized the importance of love in all things, and was unconventional. So far so good! So I started reading.

Young St Therese

St. Thérèse; age 8.

Teen Saint Therese

St. Thérèse; age 15. She put her hair up specifically so that she’d look more grown up when she asked to enter the Convent early.

Talk about a girl after my own heart! St. Thérèse was so in love with Jesus that all she wanted to do was to enter the Convent and spend her days married to the love of her life, but she wasn’t allowed to do that until she was at least 16 years old. However, she was so set in her desire to enter that she took a trip to Rome with her father and sister and even approached the Pope about it during a public audience. She had been specifically told NOT to speak to him and not only did she speak to him, she tearfully collapsed into his lap and asked him to allow her to enter the convent early. Hahahaha! I remember reading that story and thinking, “Girl…I would have done the same thing!!!” The Bishop who had the final say ended up granting her permission to enter a year early.

While in the convent, Thérèse found some of the older Nuns difficult to love, but instead of letting that be what it was she decided instead to see loving them as sort of a challenge and set out to love them even more. She would talk often about finding little acts of love to do for others, even if they were a sacrifice for her. No – especially if they were a sacrifice for her. For her, every loving act was not only for the person directly involved, but each act was also for Jesus – the love of her life.

“Another time I was working in the laundry, and the Sister opposite, while washing handkerchiefs, repeatedly splashed me with dirty water. My first impulse was to draw back and wipe my face, to show the offender I should be glad if she would behave more quietly; but the next minute I thought how foolish it was to refuse the treasures God offered me so generously, and I refrained from betraying my annoyance. On the contrary, I made such efforts to welcome the shower of dirty water, that at the end of half an hour I had taken quite a fancy to this novel kind of aspersion, and I resolved to come as often as I could to the happy spot where such treasures were freely bestowed.” -St. Thérèse of Lisieux

“Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love.”
-St. Thérèse of Lisieux

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St. Thérèse dressed up as St. Joan of Arc for a play she was in while she was a Carmelite Nun. Yes, Nun’s do things like dress up and put on plays! Hahaha!

I think the moment I knew that she was my girl was when I read what she wrote about her discontent with being ‘just a Sister’ given all the love and passion she had in her heart for Jesus. I’m going to copy the whole passage because I love the way it builds. I wish I could have written this myself because it is the same desire of my heart:

“To be your Spouse, O Jesus, to be a Carmelite, by my union with you to be the mother of souls, should content me… yet it does not… Without doubt, these three priviliges are indeed my vocation: Carmelite, spouse, and mother. And yet I feel in myself other vocations—I feel myself called to be a soldier, priest, apostle, doctor of the church, martyr. Finally, I feel the need, the desire to perform all the most heroic deeds for you, Jesus… I feel in my soul the courage of a crusader, of a soldier for the Church, and I wish to die on the field of battle in defense of the Church…

I feel in me the vocation of a priest! With what love, O Jesus, would I bear you in my hands, when at the sound of my words you came down from heaven! With what love would I give you to souls! But alas, just as much as I desire to be a priest, I admire and envy the humility of St. Francis of Assisi, and feel the call to imitate him in refusing the sublime dignity of the Priesthood….

Dreaming of the tortures in which Christians are to share at the time of the Antichrist, I feel my heart thrill, and I would like these tortures to be kept for me… Jesus, Jesus, if I wanted to write all my desires, I would have to take your Book of Life, where the deeds of your saints are recorded: all these deeds I would like to accomplish for you….

At prayer these desires made me suffer a true martydom. I opened the Epistles of St. Paul to seek some relief. The 12th and 13th chapters of the First Epistle to the Corinthians fell before my eyes. I read, in the first, that not all can be apostles, prophets, and doctors, etc., that the Church is composed of different members, and that the eye cannot also be at the same time the hand.

The answer was clear, but it did not satisfy my desires, it did not give me peace…. Without being discouraged I continued my reading, and this phrase comforted me: “Earnestly desire the more perfect gifts. And I show you a still more excellent way” (1 Cor 12:31). And the Apostle explains how all gifts, even the most perfect, are nothing without Love… that charity is the excellent way that leads surely to God. At last I had found rest…. Considering the mystical Body of the Church, I had not recognized myself in any of the members described by St. Paul, or rather, I wanted to recognize myself in all… Charity gave me the key to my vocation. I understood that if the Church has a body composed of different members, the noblest and most necessary of all the members would not be lacking to her. I understood that the Church has a heart, and that this heart burns with Love. I understood that Love alone makes its members act, that if this Love were to be extinguished, the Apostles would no longer preach the Gospel, the Martyrs would refuse to shed their blood… I understood that Love embraces all vocations, that Love is all things, that it embraces all times and all places… in a word, that it is eternal!

Then in the excess of my delirious joy, I cried out: “O Jesus, my Love, at last I have found my vocation, my vocation is Love!… Yes, I have found my place in the Church, and it is you, O my God, who have given me this place… in the heart of the Church, my Mother, I will be Love!…. Thus I shall be all things: thus my dream shall be realized!!!”                                                 -St. Thérèse of Lisieux

When asked what I wanted to be when I grew up I used to say (and sometimes still do) that if I could find a job that just paid me to love people, then I’d do that. So, you can imagine how I felt to read that this Catholic Nun from over 100 years ago pretty much had the same desire.

Up until I read St. Thérèse’s book I still held the belief that Catholics didn’t love Jesus, their Faith wasn’t genuine, they blindly went through the motions, and prayed affectionless prayers. And while for some Catholics, that may very well be the case, I’ve learned that looks can be deceiving. Many Catholics love Jesus, have a genuine Faith, are engaged in each and every motion, and affectionately pray memorized prayers. And St. Thérèse more than anyone helped me to see that. Their faith looked much different than what I was used to but it wasn’t any less genuine than my own.

So when I eventually decided to end my Protest and become Catholic, I had to choose my Patron Saint. I knew that Mary was someone I wanted to emulate given my history of admiring her as well as what I’d been learning from her life of Sacrifice. But St. Thérèse had the same overwhelming Love for Jesus that I did – and so I felt I could relate to her more than any other Saint I’d learned about. So, like I said, I’m thankful that Father Boyle allowed me to take both names. And I hope that as I continue on this journey I can live up to the Sacrifice and Love represented in the name Mary Thérèse.

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Posted in Catholocism, Christianity, Ecumenism, Hope, Love, Spiritual Formation, Theology, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Why I’m Catholic: My Answer is Always Jesus

Introduction, Thanks, and Apologies
First of all, I want to thank Chad, Zach and Tony for inviting me into their dialogue again. It’s an honor and delight to discuss matters of Faith with three men who tread with love and charity into conversations that have a tendency to bring up fear, anger and un-productive conflict. Thank you for being willing to enter into this chat with us. Here are the link’s to the boys’ posts on this week’s topic:

Why I Chose my Tradition:
Chad (Orthodox): The Road Home: Why Orthodoxy Chose Me
Zach (Catholic): How and Why I Became Catholic
Tony (Protestant):

Second of all, for those of you who have been wanting me to write about my Catholic Journey since it first began years ago, I’m sorry I kept you waiting so long. As with most areas in my life, I’ve been waiting on the Lord’s timing and direction so when this invitation was made to be a guest blogger on the topic of “Why I Chose my Tradition” I saw the Lord finally prompting me to speak.

Thank you for your patience with me, or for talking to me in person as you were able. I’ve really appreciated how so many of you reached out along the way to engage with, challenge, and/or try to understand my decision to become Catholic. I saw each of you doing so out of a heart of love and concern for me so even when conversations were difficult, words were harsh, judgements were made, tears were shed – I knew there was love and fear in your heart for me. And I thank you for loving me so much.

The Answer is Always Jesus
As far back as I can recall – I have loved Jesus. For those of you who have known me that long you can testify to this – for better or worse. Sometimes that love was beautiful and innocent, and sometimes it was prideful and arrogant. But whether perfect or imperfect – my love for Him has been consistent. Even in College where I went through a difficult season of Counseling and my Faith in God was challenged to my core I used to sing along with the lyrics of Relient K, “I know I’ll always love you, but right now I just don’t like you.”

And in all these now 37 years of loving Jesus I have been stubborn in my desire to follow Him, which means if He says “Go” I go and if He says “Wait” I wait. Every pivotal point in my Christian Journey and my life – Asking Him into my heart, being Baptized, committing my life to Him, going on Missions Trips, volunteering in ministry, taking jobs, moving, going to College, buying a car, changing Churches, travelling, getting my Masters, etc. – was made because the Lord opened a door, closed a door, or asked me to wait. Some of you have been annoyed by my resolve when it looked like I was unwise in waiting on the Lord only to see my patience turn out for good. Following the Lord has not always been easy, but my trust in Him continues to grow with every step of this Journey. And I approached the Catholic Church no differently, though becoming Catholic was the most stressful, beautiful, emotional, terrifying, peaceful decision of them all.

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Where we going Lord?

So, There Was This Guy
I became good friends with Eric when I was in my Senior year of Bible College. He was already well known on campus and was friends with nearly everyone – due to his sense of humor and ability to get along with almost anyone. Students, staff and faculty all seemed to love Eric – even if they theologically disagreed with him which was pretty common. Eric was a loyal Nazarene and would explain to everyone within earshot all about Nazarene Theology, Camp Meetings, the History of the Holiness movement, his love of Hymns, and his dream of becoming a Nazarene Pastor in a small town.

Our friendship continued after I graduated that year, and even after he graduated the following year and moved to Kansas City, Missouri to attend Seminary. During his second year in Seminary we started a long-distance relationship which ended 6 months later. We told people we were just better as friends, but the reality was that Eric was feeling a pull to not only become Catholic but become a Priest as well so there was nowhere for a romantic relationship to go.

He broke the Catholic news to me mid-way through our dating relationship, and just a little later the Priest bombshell. Despite all of that we continued to date because he was still unsure that was how the Lord was leading…but I think we both saw the writing on the wall. I could tell his love for the Catholic Church and the Priesthood was growing which meant our romantic relationship would be coming to an end. Honestly, it broke my heart. But I loved him and saw how much he loved Jesus and His Bride – the Church – so when he asked to end things I conceded.

You would think at that point the Catholic Church would be my arch-nemesis. I mean, on some level it was at first. While we were dating I would argue theology with Eric, tell him he was a heretic, that Catholics all worshiped Mary and idols, and that I was worried he was going to go to Hell. I dished it out and was always surprised that he graciously took it.  When we broke up we committed to still be friends, but stopped talking for a season in order to heal and transition back to friendship. When we finally picked back up again I picked up where I left off in my Catholic interrogation, and I noticed that his graciousness with my interrogation had increased. He was still a small town pastor of a Protestant Church, but I could tell the Lord was doing much in his heart because of his desire for the Catholic Church. And as I continued to challenge his love of all things Catholic he would graciously field my rebukes. He also started to challenge me as well – especially with what I thought I knew about the Catholic Church.

We would have long conversations about Mary, the Saints, Purgatory, the Pope, Scripture, Statues, Icons, Rosaries, Crucifixes, etc. You name it, we talked about it. Some of my misconceptions about the Catholic Church were resolved after a few conversations, and others took years and, much to his chagrin, many tears.

Eric moved back to Portland the summer of 2013 and became Catholic on April 19th, 2014. By then I found that I didn’t hate the Catholic Church as much as I used to and I’d even defend the Church and his decision to become Catholic to our friends. Because of that I recall several people asking me if I was becoming Catholic too, and I’d always reply, “Nope! That’s his thing. I’m just a supportive friend. Not interested in the least bit!” And I really wasn’t.

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Eric being confirmed in the Catholic Church.

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Supporting my friend! Little did I know that I’d be doing the same thing 1.5 years later!

Getting a Yellow Light and Proceeding with Caution
But even then, the Lord was starting to show His hand in leading me towards the Church. One night as I was driving home after another emotionally charged theological debate with Eric I desperately cried out to the Lord in prayer. I was worried because I was beginning to understand and even believe what the Catholic Church taught about things, and that scared me. Man, I was so scared. So with tears rolling down my cheeks I begged the Lord to show me what He was doing.

“I’m introducing you to my family.”

I immediately stopped crying. I hadn’t heard an audible voice, but that sentence rang clear as a bell in my heart and my mind. I still had questions, but I felt at peace knowing that He was somehow involved in all of this. I knew that it was important that I keep moving forward, questioning, debating, challenging, and learning.

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I reached out to a woman at Eric’s Catholic Church who told me the story about how she became Catholic so that I could get another perspective, I’d occasionally attend Mass even though I knew none of what was happening other than that we read a lot of the Bible at the beginning, and I still had late-night theology argument/debates with Eric. As a side note, I would usually go into work the next morning and vent at my fellow Protestant friend and co-worker Zach. This is noteworthy since it had an impact on his own story.

I even reached out to some Orthodox friends of mine and grilled them about what they believed since I had no beef with the Orthodox Church like I did with the Catholic Church.  I assumed that they would believe differently than Catholic’s and therefore prove that the Catholic Church was wrong. I was surprised and kind of disappointed to learn that their theologies were nearly identical on many of the key matters that had been bothering me.

As I continued to dig around I felt more like a journalist trying to discover the truth, not actually believing the Catholic Church could be what it asserted – the 2000 year old Bride of Christ. I was looking to find facts that would contradict the Catholic Church’s opinion of herself…but under every stone I turned over it seemed to be true.

So of course, my Orthodox friends reading this are probably thinking, “Hey! What about us over here!?!?” which they have every reason to question.  I agree that they too have been there since the beginning. The short answer of why I didn’t feel the Lord calling me East comes down to John 17. That passage – Christ’s prayer that His Church would be unified – had been on my heart since I read it in High School and in my search into the East and West Churches it was important for me to see who was attempting to bridge the gaps and divisions between the East, West and various Protestant fractions of Christianity. Deep down it seemed to me that Christ’s Bride would be looking to fulfill His prayer, and the Catholic Church actively does that very thing. So that is when my journey of discovery took a turn from East to West.

Vespers, Laughter and Conviction
On Sunday March 1st, 2015 my research journey finally started to tug at my heart. I was invited to pray Vespers with Eric and some of his Catholic friends at a Catholic Church across town. I was so nervous when I got there that evening. I had no idea what Vespers was and I’d never met any of these people before including the two Priests, Father Luan and Father Mark, that were there was well. Eric talked me through what to do but I couldn’t retain a darn thing and opted to just follow along.

To my delight and surprise I learned that praying Vespers meant praying/singing scripture! We chanted a few Psalms, read a Scripture passage, read a prayer, and sang a hymn. I was enamored with the experience and took it all in.

Amusingly, halfway through one of the Psalms we were joined by Father Luan’s cat, who decided to sing with us. The small chapel erupted in laughter and Father Mark even rolled off his pew from laughing so hard. The only one not laughing was me! I sat there in shock at the spectacle before me – not something I ever expected to see from Catholics who I assumed to be serious and stoic – heartlessly going through the motions of rote prayer.

After Vespers, Eric’s friends were all happy to meet me and invited me out to dinner at one of their homes. We ate, laughed, and even read a devotional about fasting since it was the beginning of Lent. I shared my opinions expecting them to patronize my Protestant view, only to find that they were all intrigued by my perspective and invited me to share more.

By the end of the night I felt like my old view of the Catholic Church was starting to fall apart. I had assumed that Catholics didn’t love Jesus, and I had judged them for it. However, I found myself in familiar company that evening as each of them shared about their faith and their own personal relationship with Jesus. And I felt convicted when I saw how welcoming they were to me, knowing that if one of them had shown up to a similar event with my Protestant friends we would have been courteous while harboring questions, suspicion and judgement in our hearts. At least, I know I would have welcomed them that way even if I can’t speak for the other Protestants in my life.

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These photos were taken a year after my first visit to Vespers. They are a glimpse into what our after-Vespers meals would look like.

Stations of the Cross and a Green Light
A few days later on Friday, March 6th I attended a “Stations of the Cross” prayer service at Eric’s Catholic Church – again having no idea what I was doing. That night we knelt before the cross at 14 different stations depicting parts of Christ’s passion, each time saying, “We adore You, oh Christ, and we bless You because by Your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world.”

After the first station I had this surreal feeling, like I was stepping into a part of history. Deep down I felt like I was continuing a prayer that had been prayed since the crucifixion itself. I wished every Christian I knew could be in that Church on their knees thanking the Lord for the gift of Salvation!

Afterwards I met the new Priest at Eric’s Church, Father John Boyle, who told me the history of the Stations of the Cross. He explained that Christian’s have been walking the stations of the cross since Christ was crucified and that as Christianity spread and people weren’t able to make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, churches began hanging their own versions of the stations so that the people could at least make a spiritual pilgrimage to walk through Christ’s passion. I was floored. Is that why I had that feeling? If so, how did I somehow understand the historical connection without being told beforehand? My mind reeled, but I knew the Lord was up to something.

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These photos were taken 2 years after my first Stations of the Cross service and features my favorite Stations prayer! I’ve actually memorized it now and pray it in my heart often.

Between Vespers on Sunday and Stations on Friday I felt like the Lord was tapping me on the shoulder and whispering, “Your turn…” I knew deep down He was calling me into the Catholic Church, but my fear of what people would think, what my future might hold, and how much my life might change shook me to the core. After all – I was about to finish my Master’s degree in Pastoral Studies with my goals set on going into ministry!

But instead of getting wrapped up in my fears I fixed my eyes on Christ – who I trusted more than anyone else in the world. I knew that if He didn’t want this for me He would close the door. In fact, there were times that was my prayer. “Lord, if this is not what You have for me I trust You to close the door and keep me from it.” But time and time again the door just seemed to swing open even wider than before, so I’d cling to Christ’s hand and cautiously take another step forward.

The Journey Continues
The next 8 months between March and the day I entered into full communion with the Catholic Church were amazing. I actually picked up a journal in May and began to document every step of the journey because so many amazing things were happening! I attended every Catholic Mass, Service, Vespers, etc. I could. I read The Story of a Soul by St. Therese of Lisieux and felt like I was looking in a mirror – she talked about Jesus the way I did! (She ended up being my confirmation Saint along with Mary)

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I was told recently that St. Therese and I look like we could be sisters. Best. Compliment. EVER!

I met with a couple of Protestant professors, one of whom gave me some suggested reading that helped me go a little deeper – Catholic and Christian by Alan Schreck was the best! I would receive revelations about Catholic theologies that I hadn’t even learned yet (I’m dead serious…it was crazy) and then have them confirmed later as I continued to read and research certain things. I had conversations with Father Mark for hours about the role of the Holy Spirit in the Catholic Church. I read the Catholic Catechism and was surprised how much of it was similar to what I’d been raised to believe in Protestantism. And I experienced profound and miraculous answers to prayer! All of it meticulously logged in my journal. And that’s just skimming the surface! I still have in my heart a desire to write a book about that exciting journey…but like everything else I trust that to the Lord’s hands.

Those 8 months were amazing, but that’s not to say it was all sunshine and rainbows. They were also full of fear, doubt, and painful conversations with family and friends. As I referenced at the beginning of this blog – I don’t hold anything against my dear friends and family. I know they confronted me because they cared and I loved them for it. However, those conversations were still very scary and painful. One of my friends, after asking her probing questions, ended up seeing how much the Lord was doing in my life and became a great encouragement to me. I remember at one point I was talking to her about my desires and doubts and she asked what was holding me back. I remember closing my eyes and welling up with emotion. I could not deny that Jesus was leading me into this, but what was holding me back was the fear of what my friends and family would say, and how they would respond if I actually did it. And that if it was just up to me and Jesus – I’d be Catholic tomorrow. That question helped me put things into perspective and gave me the courage to continue to move forward.

The Big Day
And move forward I did. On Sunday, November 22nd, 2015 on the Feast of Christ the King I ended the Protest that I was born into and entered in to full communion with the Catholic Church. And down to the tiniest details, that day felt like a gift from the Lord. For example, as I was walking up the front steps of the Church a small flock of birds flew out of some rose bushes to my right and passed in front of me. I turned in shock and looked at my housemate who had come with me. “Did that just happen?!?! I feel like a Disney Princess!” She looked surprised at the sudden appearance of the birds as well, then smiled and said, “Lisa, you are a Disney Princess.” And I know it’s cheesy, but that’s how I felt that entire day.

But that day felt like it was much more significant than me becoming Catholic – it felt like a celebration of my relationship with the Lord. It was a culmination of the trust that I placed in Him as a little girl and that I’ve spent my life fighting to hold on to. I had passed through difficult waters of confusion, fear and doubt only to come to a place of peace. And not just a place of peace with Him! It’s like He told me over a year earlier – He was introducing me to His family! And I felt like I suddenly had a new family – complete with the Saints in heaven who I know were cheering for me that day. I had come home.

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I’m being confirmed in the Catholic Church in this photo!

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Father Boyle praying…

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This is a beautiful photo of most of the Catholic and Protestant friends who came to my confirmation! And it doesn’t actually include everyone that was there!

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Eric and me on my confirmation day with a string of Saints hanging behind us. I’m so thankful that this friendship continues to spur me on in my love of Jesus!

Posted in Catholocism, Christianity, Ecumenism, Jesus Dates, Spiritual Formation, Theology, Trust | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Mary and Me.

I’ve been asked to be a guest blogger in an ecumenical blog conversation between three friends of mine: Zach, Chad and Tony. The Catholic, the Orthodox, and the Protestant. This week their topic is on the virgin Mary and while each of them will be sharing from their respective theological perspectives, they really wanted to include a female perspective considering we’re talking about the most prominent woman in Christendom.

Chad kicked the Mary conversation off here: The Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary
Zach followed up here: The Virgin Mary: A Catholic Perspective
Tony’s Protestant view is here: https://tonylhuynh.wordpress.com/2018/08/27/mary-mother-of-god/

So now it’s my turn to bring in the female perspective as well as touching on all three of the above perspectives. I’m a mix of humbled and excited. So here we go!

A Rocky Relationship 
First of all, I have not always been a fan of the Virgin Mary, nor have I always despised her. I spent the first 34 years of my life as a Protestant before becoming Catholic so I was raised with Mary being a typical Christmas sermon topic and nothing more. In fact, my first memory of Mary was when I was a child and I was chosen to portray her in a Christmas play – which I LOVED. I clearly remember wearing a blue and white ‘Bible costume’, holding a baby doll, and pretending he was Jesus and I was his Mom…in front of several hundred people. HA!

As a teenager I respected her poise, self-control and strength when I read Luke 2:19, “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” (NIV) Here she was at the Nativity, having just given birth to the Messiah and surrounded by a bunch of Shepherds who were told by a ton of Angels to come visit her new Son. Now, I would have been quick to tell everyone who had a pulse about everything that had just happened, but Mary didn’t. She treasured everything in her heart. I remember thinking that there was a lot I could learn from her in that one verse.

As an adult I found myself increasingly torn by my youthful respect for her and fear at what I perceived to be worship of her, especially after I encountered a giant steel statue of her down in California on a business trip. My co-worker and I would eat breakfast at the park below the statue before our conference every morning, and while we sat there we would watch folks show up after Mass and lay flowers at her feet. I remember feeling bad for those people who seemed so confused, and I prayed they would turn from their idolatrous ways.

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Me and the 32-foot-tall steel statue of Mary at Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church in Santa Clara, California.

By the time I hit my 30s that fear I had of Mary had turned to jealousy and anger as I watched my boyfriend at the time begin to embrace the Catholic Church and with it – her. We were both Protestants, but he was open with me about his recent Catholic thoughts and experiences and would share about praying the Rosary or asking Mary for prayer. Every time he’d mention her name I could feel jealousy boiling up inside of me. I was no longer a fan of the mother of our Lord.

So what changed between then and now? I mean, I’m writing this as a Catholic…and they tend to like Mary. A lot. Hahahaha.

Well – it’s been over seven years since those early days of jealousy, and much as changed. I’ll spend the rest of this post talking about some of the main things that brought me from anger to admiration regarding the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Misunderstandings and Miscommunication
First came all the theological arguments. But in order to actually engage in them I had to set aside my feelings of anger and jealousy so I could listen and learn. I also didn’t start engaging with the Catholic Church’s teachings initially. Being raised Protestant usually means having an irrational disdain for all things Catholic so I had to check in with a perspective I didn’t hate…and mainly because I knew nothing about it: The Orthodox Church.

I remember pelting an Orthodox friend of mine with questions about what they believed about Mary. It was usually framed in a “Catholics believe this about Mary…what say you?” sort of way. And then my Orthodox friend would usually respond with, “Yeah, we pretty much believe that too” which always left me speechless and thoughtful.

I started to realize that much of what I’d grown up believing about Mary wasn’t true…which meant taking a big dose of humility. I didn’t like hearing that I was wrong – especially when I believed so fiercely that I was right!

Take for example those folks laying flowers at the base of her statue back in California. What I saw as Idol worship was in fact reverence – very similar to placing flowers at the grave of a loved one. However, since Mary doesn’t have a proper grave* they use photos, icons, or statues as a place of memorial.

*(Both Catholic and Orthodox traditions hold that she was taken physically into heaven (known as the Feast of the Assumption/Dormition of Mary respectively) and in the Catholic Church and some Orthodox Churches that anniversary is August 15th – TODAY!)

Deeper Theologies and the Redemption of Women
Not only did I learn that some of my perceptions about her were wrong, I also learned that this woman had some rich theologies involving her that I’d never heard about. And what was even crazier is that they made sense. One of those theologies that clicked for me was her role as the new Eve.

Now this is where my perspective as a woman really comes in to play with this whole Mary discussion.

As a woman who was born and raised in the Protestant Church there was one thing I knew from the minute I learned about the Garden of Eden story – Eve screwed it all up. And as one of her daughters I felt this invisible guilt hover around me like a little rain cloud most of my life. Through the years I heard every sermon angle on that fateful piece of fruit: light-hearted jokes, explanations that Adam should have intervened, and sermons that subtly labeled Eve and all of woman-kind as dangerous.

So imagine how I felt upon hearing that Mary was the new Eve. The news touched a nerve. Suddenly that cloud of guilt faded away as I realized that Mary, in her obedience to God, redeemed not only Eve, but all women. And no, I don’t mean redeemed in the way that Christ redeems. I mean I suddenly felt like it was acceptable to hold my head up as a woman. That original sin may have initially been at our hands, but so was Salvation.

Mary and Eve

This picture/icon titled “Mary and Eve” sums it all up for me. I was so enamored by it that I hunted down the original and purchased one to hang in my office…years before I was to become Catholic. It was actually painted by a Catholic Sister and they’re available for purchase here: https://www.monasterycandy.com/Product_List?c=33  Every time I look at it I feel again that sense of dignity being restored. Ah – it’s just beautiful!

She always points us to Jesus
The third thing I learned was something both Zach and Chad explained in their posts – that Mary always points back to Jesus. This was something I experienced big time when I was learning to pray the Rosary.

I know, I know – I pray the Rosary. I apologize to all my Protestant friends and family who thought that perhaps I wasn’t actually one of those Catholics. I am. Now, please allow me to explain why.

I didn’t start praying the Rosary until after I was Catholic. Like I said before – as much as I had learned about the Blessed Mother I still had a hard time with her. What can I say? 34 years of being taught to mistrust her didn’t fade easily. But a mother of four at Church was dying of cancer and I was desperate for her to be healed so I figured I’d give the ol’ Rosary a go.

Part of praying the Rosary is thinking about certain aspects of either Jesus’ life or Mary’s life. But mostly Jesus. The day I prayed the Rosary happened to be a Friday so the aspects I was supposed to reflect on were called the “Sorrowful Mysteries”: The Agony in the Garden, The Scourging at the Pillar, The Crowning with Thorns, Carrying of the Cross, and The Crucifixion.

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I began to pray for this woman’s healing fervently with each Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be, and especially as I reflected on each of these Sorrowful aspects of Christ’s life. But as I worked my way around those beads and through those sorrowful mysteries I found my heart changing. I felt the Lord teaching me what it looked like to follow Him and that sometimes He allows us to suffer just as He suffered. My prayers for this dying woman changed from petitioning for healing to begging for her to have the strength to endure her trial just as Christ himself endured his own.

That woman ended up passing a few months later and from what I’ve heard of her final months, weeks, and days on this earth – the Lord answered my prayers for her to have strength. And I wouldn’t have had that experience in prayer had I not decided to pick up a Rosary and given Mary a chance.

Trust, Sacrifice and The Pietà
The last thing I’ve learned in my little journey with Mary is that she understands Trust and Sacrifice in ways that I long to emulate.

Over the past couple of years I’ve been wrestling with what the Lord has for me regarding my Vocation. Will I marry? Will I have kids? Will I become a Sister/Nun? Will I become a Consecrated Virgin? Will I die before any of this happens making all these questions pointless to wrestle over? Hahahaha! God knows, but He has been frustratingly silent.

Why am I frustrated though? Because after a lifetime of following Him I still struggle to trust Him with the big and little details of my life. I want to know what the plan is so I can be prepared when instead He asks me to trust Him with both the plans and the preparation.

And then I think of Mary.

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The Annunciation by Francesco Albani

There is nothing she could have done to prepare for the bomb that the Angel Gabriel dropped on her, but aside from being confused as to how she was going to have a child since she was dedicated to being a Virgin (see Chad and Zach’s posts), she trusted God and opened herself up to His plan.  I think Albani demonstrates her openness so well in the painting above of the moment she chose to accept the Lord’s will for her life.

And then we fast forward to another depiction of Mary on probably the worst day of her life. I love the Pietà for SO many reasons but a big one is the positioning of her hands. She isn’t clutching Christ to her chest. She isn’t shaking her fist at God for taking her child. She’s holding Him, but still open. Still offering. This time she’s not only offering herself but her beloved Son as well. While He sacrificed himself in death, she sacrificed herself through her life. It’s the very thing I long to do no matter what my Vocation is. I want to live my life in such a way that it is a daily sacrifice for the Lord and for those I love. It is an example that we can all learn from – no matter our state in life.

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Pietà by Michelangelo is on display at the Vatican in Rome. I actually had the opportunity to see it in person when I was there on pilgrimage back in October 2016. However, for those in the Portland, Oregon area there is a replica of the original at The Grotto.

So in those moments when I’m frustrated that I don’t know what I’m doing next, when I feel like life isn’t going “my way”, when I have to let go of something or someone I love, when I suffer a loss, or when I receive an amazing gift – I think of Mary’s trust and sacrifice – and I keep my hands open.

The Relationship Continues…
I became Catholic only 2.5 years ago, but Mary was so woven into my journey that I chose “Mary Thérèse” as my confirmation name – to honor both the Virgin Mary and St. Thérèse of Lisieux. (Miraculously, my Priest let me choose two Saints even though having two confirmation Saints is VERY uncommon.)

It’s funny, even though I chose to take her name I still wasn’t completely comfortable with her at the time. I’m so glad I did though as I’ve grown closer to her since then. She brings a feminine comfort to my Faith that I didn’t realize I was missing. Mary has redeemed my womanhood, pointed me to Christ, taught me what Trust and Sacrifice looks like, and been a Mother to me in some of my darkest moments.

I was always afraid that if I loved Mary at all it would mean that I loved Christ less. But the opposite has been true. The more I learn about Mary and learn from her, the more I fall in love with her Son.

“Salve, Regina, mater misericordiae; vita, dulcedo et spes nostra, salve. Ad te clamamus exsules filii Hevae. Ad te suspiramus gementes et flentes in hac lacrimarum valle. Eia ergo, advocata nostra, illos tuos misericordes oculos ad nos converte. Et Iesum, benedictum fructum ventris tui, nobis post hoc exsilium ostende. O clemens, o pia, o dulcis Virgo Maria. Ora pro nobis, sancta Dei Genitrix. Ut digni efficamur promissionibus Christi.”
English Version.

Pax et Bonum.

Posted in Catholocism, Christianity, Ecumenism, Theology, Virgin Mary | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Warm Buses

There’s nothing like the hope of a warm bus when you’re standing in the freezing cold. I’ve spent a lot of time waiting for warm buses over the past few weeks and let me tell you, when you know a warm bus is coming you can put up with a lot of pain.

For the past month Portland, Oregon has had an unusual amount of snow and ice storms and I am the first to confess that I will not drive under such conditions. It is for my own safety and the safety of everyone else on the road that I decline my licensed freedom and submit to the public transportation system as well as the kindness of friends.

But given the state of Portland’s roads, the bus schedules have been inconsistent leaving me standing in the freezing cold waiting for a warm bus. Sometimes that wait is only ten minutes so as long as I keep my hands gloved and in my pockets by the time the bus shows up I’m none the worse for the wait.

But sometimes the bus is running late and I’ll find myself standing at the stop for 20-30 minutes.

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A photo I took while waiting for a MUCH delayed bus. Brrrrr……

However, on one particularly cold evening my wait was an excruciating 41 minutes. After about 8 minutes of repeatedly checking the estimated arrival time on my phone app I decided to use my time more productively. I begin to think about others who are caught in the same cold. How many homeless are sleeping in this right now? How many are taking the bus home too? How many are walking in the cold because they can’t afford the bus. The bus, for some, is a luxury.

But I realized that I couldn’t totally empathize with everyone out in the cold. Some would have a warm bus, taxi, or friend to come pick them up. But some wouldn’t. Some would have a warm home, apartment, or shelter to go to. But some wouldn’t. I had both a warm bus coming and a warm home it would take me to.

I wondered, as I felt the skin on my legs go numb and the cold wind slowly creep through the back of my coat, what is keeping them going? I was barely making it after 20 minutes in the below freezing temperature and many would be in it for hours and even days. And then I wondered what was keeping me going? Why hadn’t I broken down crying over my uncomfortable wait?

It’s because I knew a warm bus was coming. (Twenty-one more minutes to go according to my app…) I was able to endure because I had Hope that my experience in the freezing cold would be over soon.

Oh the power of Hope.

Eventually my thoughts turned to prayers, and those prayers were not just for those struggling without warmth, but I prayed also for those struggling without Hope. Whether that Hope was shelter, Love, God, or the eternal Hope of Heaven I prayed that they would all have their own warm bus that would give them the strength to endure the deep freeze of life. Because, like I said before, when you know a warm bus is coming you can put up with a lot of pain.

And I pray you all have a warm bus you’re waiting for as well.

 

Posted in Catholocism, Christianity, Complacency, Contentment, Hope, Spiritual Formation, Trust | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Hope and a Hood

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Eleven years ago as a freshman at my University I sat in in the sanctuary of City Bible Church in Portland, Oregon and watched my very first College Graduation. I was eager to get a glimpse of what life would look like in four years when I walked across the stage and received my own diploma.

I sat there in that sanctuary a broken but hopeful girl. A girl who just started her first semester in College. A girl who a year prior barely felt worthy to apply for College, let alone attend. A girl whose family was in turmoil back home. A girl who suffered from panic attacks. A girl who didn’t trust anyone. A girl who didn’t think she was smart enough to make it through College. A girl who had a hard time believing she could be anything other than a janitor for the Lord.

As I heard the requirements read off for the Bachelor’s degree that was being conferred, and I watched my classmates and friends walk across that stage to receive their degree my eyes welled up. “Lord, could that really be me someday?” I said it as more of a revelation than a question. I knew that was why He had called me to College so I set my sights on meeting those requirements and walking across that stage. I felt energized and ready to tackle the next four years!

I may have been broken, but I was very hopeful.

After the College graduates received their degree and were seated the graduates from the Seminary stood up to receive their Master’s degree and their hood. Since I had never even seen a college graduation a Master’s ceremony was extremely foreign to me.

I sat in wonder as the requirements for the Master’s degree were read and the Seminary students made their way to the stage. I watched as each one was adorned with their Master’s hood before walking on to receive their degree. And at that moment the energy I already felt after the college graduates walked across that stage increased.

Part of me had a hard time believing that I was even going to make it through the Bachelors program let alone go on to get my Master’s degree, and yet deep down that’s what I wanted. I imagined that if I made it that far then perhaps I would be a strong and confident woman. Perhaps I wouldn’t live my life in fear anymore. Perhaps there would be new adventures that He would take me on. Perhaps I’d do even greater things for the Lord.

Two weeks from today I’m going to be sitting in the Sanctuary at Rolling Hills Church in Tualatin, Oregon awaiting a moment that I hoped beyond all hope for. A moment I had to walk through great personal challenges to experience. A moment that came from years of papers and books and classroom discussions and mind-blowing revelations that can only happen when you’re forced to dig deep in your studies. A moment I almost bailed on a half a dozen times. A moment I trained for. A moment I wouldn’t have if it hadn’t been for many supportive friends and family members. A moment I have because I fixed my eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. A moment I have because I followed the Lord all the way to Portland and, more importantly, clung to Him through every valley of death, every refining fire, and every mountain top experience.

Thank you to my family for supporting me, whether near or far, and always believing in me. Thank you to the friends who have made my journey light and my troubles seem momentary. Thank you to those who have also walked with me through fire and reminded me of truth. Thank you to my professors who challenged my views of the world and of Scripture and always pointed me back to Christ. Thank you to the churches I was blessed to be involved in ministry at, or that I simply joined in fellowship with. Thank you to everyone I worked with in Admissions – you all taught me how to grow up and have a big girl job. Thank you to the College and Graduate Students I’ve been blessed to minister to and work with over the past few years – especially those of you who have become friends and even family. Thanks to the Post Office for employing me for a total of 6 years during my time in school. (Hahahaha!) And thank you to this school for being a huge conduit of the Lord’s refinement and grace in my life. Wow. Who knew that a phone call letting me know that I was accepted to college would so shape my life. Thanks for the call Melody! And thank you Lord for all of this and more. Your mercies really are new every morning and great is your faithfulness.

As I write this I still have no idea where this adventure is going to lead…but if the next season is anything like the adventures of this past season then bring it on! God is good and faithful, and I know that He who began this work in me will only ever be faithful to complete it.

“Praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord, my soul.
I will praise the Lord all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
Do not put your trust in princes,
in human beings, who cannot save.
When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
on that very day their plans come to nothing.
Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord their God.
He is the Maker of heaven and earth,
the sea, and everything in them—
he remains faithful forever.
He upholds the cause of the oppressed
and gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free,
the Lord gives sight to the blind,
the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down,
the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the foreigner
and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.
The Lord reigns forever,
your God, O Zion, for all generations.
Praise the Lord.”

Psalm 146 (NIV)

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Allons-y!!!

Allons-y is French for “Let’s Go.”
It’s also a Doctor Who catch-phrase.
It’s also the phrase that the Lord used to revitalize me.

“Allons-y!”

I went home to California for Christmas this year and came back to Portland with an interest in Doctor Who. So I began watching it. A lot. And because my homework load was light at the beginning of the semester I had time.

Something you must know about this show before I proceed is that the main character, The Doctor, never really dies. In fact 12 different actors have performed him thus far each showing a different side or personality of one very old man. You see, the Doctor doesn’t really die. When he sustains a mortal wound his body “regenerates” sluffing off the man he had been and becoming a new man. That’s why you’ll hear people refer to their “favorite Doctors”. My favorite is #10, played by David Tennant. He’s also the Doctor who was known for the catchphrase “Allons-y!”

Doctor's #9, #10 and #11 with each of their catch-phrases.

Doctor’s #9, #10 and #11 with each of their catch-phrases.

During the three seasons in which Tennant played the Doctor he would yell out “Allons-y!” when he found himself in tight spots or when he was about to do something crazy or dangerous – usually in an attempt to save people’s lives, earth, or even the universe as a whole.

“Allons-y!” He would yell and then spring into battle.

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But as the seasons progressed the Doctor also had some hard times that just seemed to pile on top of each other – most involving having to say goodbye to people he loved. Over and over again – as the goodbye’s continued he grew increasingly depressed. Finally, after yet another epic battle he finally suffered that dreaded life-ending physical injury. His next regeneration was coming, and it was time for him to say goodbye because once his regeneration was complete he would be a new man again. He’d still have the same memories and feelings and thoughts – but his personality and body would be different.

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And as Tennant entered into his last few moments before regeneration you saw pain and anxiety cross his face.

His last cry before his body regenerated was: “I don’t want to go.”

After I watched Tennant regenerate and become Matt Smith, Doctor #11, I had to walk away from my computer. Something about that final scene struck a cord with me. For days I could hear his words over and over again: “I don’t want to go.”

His words were my own.

I have a few months left in Portland: this place that I’ve grown to love so very dearly. I’ve changed here. The Lord has done an amazing work in my life while I’ve been here. He has destroyed who I used to be and created me into someone more amazing than I could ever have imagined! I’ve met people here that I will spend the rest of my life with – dear friends who I can’t imagine leaving. My heart is full of so much love for this place and the people here that I don’t want to go.

I imagine the 10th Doctor had the same issue really. He met people during his time that he LOVED – and for a pretty lonely man I can imagine that’s why he had such a hard time letting go. At least, that’s why I couldn’t seem to let go.

So, after a few days of being haunted by that phrase I found myself in a conversation with a friend at 2:30 in the morning. I was suffering from some insomnia (probably because of my fear of leaving) and, 3 hours ahead of me, he was getting up for work. We chatted a bit about sleep and then about the Doctor and finally the spiritual analogies that Doctor Who is drenched in. I asked him for one that he saw, and he talked about the 11th Doctor’s catch-phrase “Geronimo” and that it reminds him to trust the Lord and take big risks.

And as I read what he wrote I remembered my own favorite phrase…

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I have a little over three months left here in Portland until I graduate. And my attitude this past month has been “I don’t want to go.” But the Lord used that middle-of-the-night conversation to change my heart. When I get to the end of my time here I want to be able to look bravely into the future. I don’t know what He’s going to do next or what adventures He has in store, but I want to have faith in the One who has brought me thus far. And as I leave Portland and enter this next season of life I want to leaving it shouting: “Allons-y!!”

I’m coming for you life!

Posted in Christianity, Complacency, Contentment, Fear, Spiritual Formation, Trust | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Avon Walk Day Two: The Half-Marathon

I know it’s been a long time since I post the first half of this walk, but I finally felt reflective enough to sit down and tell you about the second half of my journey. For context read Avon Walk Day One: The Marathon

I slept through the night but not without interruptions. My entire body was in so much pain due to sleeping on the ground after walking a Marathon. Every time I wanted to roll over or change positions I’d wake up, grimace, take a deep breath and push through the pain of moving. I had told Genoa the night before that I wasn’t sure about walking 13.1 miles the next morning, and sure enough, that morning I began to doubt if I was physically going to be able to finish what we started. By the time our alarm went off around 6am my feet were so swollen that I could barely stand.

I remember hobbling to the porta-potties and thinking, “Welp, that’s it then. I can barely move. I guess I’ll just pack up and…” I couldn’t finish the thought. I had come too far. I couldn’t give up. No. I needed to try. I needed to see how far I could get. I mean, if I could walk to the bathroom perhaps I could just keep putting one foot in front of the other and make it to the end of this crazy walk.

Our "Tent Village" and home for the evening.

Our “Tent Village” and home for the evening.

Packing the Tent

Pack it up, Pack it in…

I hobbled back to the tent and fought against the wind to take it down. Genoa finished getting ready in time to help me with the last of the tent. We slowly made our way to the food tent where we had a large, warm breakfast. At 7:30am we set out on day two of our walk. The wind off the East River was cold so I kept a hot coffee in my hand to help keep me warm.

Time for Day Two

Time for Day Two. Yeah, if it looks like I’m in pain it’s because I am. 

That first mile was the worst. Genoa was having some acute pain thanks to the affects of birthing her third kid, and I wasn’t sure how I was even putting one foot in front of the other because of all the pain in my feet. We moaned and groaned a little, but we kept on walking. By mile two our bodies had adjusted to the pace and warmed up enough that our pain seemed to dissipate which made the walk more bearable.

As we ventured back into Manhattan and the Upper East Side, the city was quiet compared to the bustling mess it was the day before. We crossed quiet and empty intersections and a lot of busy Starbucks. With our eyes set on the finish line we didn’t even want to think about stopping for a cup of coffee. We just wanted to reach the end.

We continued our journey up and around the north side of Central Park and then down through the Upper West Side. I remember staring into the park a lot and daydreaming about how wonderful it would be to sit on a bench in Central Park drinking a Pumpkin Spice Latte. I told Genoa that’s what I wanted to do with our last morning in New York. I wanted to sit on a bench in Central Park and do nothing.

My view into Central Park as I walk by it.

My view into Central Park as I walked by it.

We continued around the south side of Central Park and down through Mid-town. This area was pretty familiar as Genoa and I had explored it a little during our first day in New York before the walk began.

Genoa snagged a sneaky picture of me walking through Columbus Circle.

Genoa snagged a sneaky picture of me walking through Columbus Circle.

We got a text from Lizzy saying that her and Abby were at the end, but that their bus back to Virginia was going to be leaving sooner than they expected. Suddenly we had a time limit! We wanted to be able to see Lizzy at that finish line so we ignored our pain, picked up our pace and pushed on through.

We passed mile marker after mile marker, reveling in the fact that our walk that day was almost over, and how easy it was compared to the day before. After you’ve walked a marathon, walking a half marathon feels easy!

Dude. We're almost there...

Dude. We’re almost there…

I recall somewhere around mile 9 or 10 that morning we came to a stop light where we saw one of the walkers sitting on the sidewalk in what looked like a state of shock. We couldn’t tell if she had fallen or collapsed. Either way it was a reminder that this was not an easy journey and we were blessed to have the strength to keep going.

The end of the walk was quiet. I recall walking quickly, ignoring the pain in my feet, because I knew I wanted to see Lizzy at the finish line before she left. I also knew that the finish line meant sitting and eating. You see, at that point I was so exhausted from walking, so physically pushed to the breaking point that the finish line didn’t mean anything more to me than a chance to see my friend, sit and eat. No glory. No great accomplishment. Just sitting. I could almost visualize the chair and what it would feel like to not be standing anymore.

And suddenly we were nearing the end, walking North along the Hudson to the finish line. We could finally feel the warmth of the sun after spending our morning hours walking in the shadows of the infamous New York skyline.

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Nearing the finish line!

I looked down…step, step, step, step, step…one foot in front of the other. I felt mechanical at that point; each step bringing me closer and closer to my friend and rest.

Baby Steps...

Baby Steps…

And wouldn’t you know it…just feet from the finish line and I looked up to see Lizzy on the path and bursting with joy at the sight of us. I remember smiling through the pain. I was happy to see her. I had done this walk for her. She ran and gave us a hug, which caused me to stumble slightly. As my feet shuffled to keep me standing I was reminded of my pain and the basic desire I had for relief.

All of us about heading to the finish line!

All of us heading to the finish line!

“You did it!!!” She yelled enthusiastically. I remember telling her I hadn’t yet. Not until I crossed that finish line. The pain I had been ignoring all morning was quickly consuming me the closer I got to the end. My desire for relief was so overwhelming that since I had seen Lizzy now, all I could then think about was sitting. Lizzy and Abby walked with us those final few feet as we turned a corner to find a line leading up to the finish – everyone wanting their final photo. So we waited to receive ours as well.

A little finish-line photo-op with the woman who first taught me to embrace photo-ops. The woman who fought cancer and won. The woman who sacrificed just to come see me cross that finish line. The woman who was always my biggest cheerleader, cheering me on yet again as I finished one of the biggest accomplishments of my life.

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The moments we spent with Lizzy and Abby after crossing that finish line were so few. I recall grabbing my lunch and my parting gift: a T-shirt saying I was a “Hero”. We grabbed a seat and froze – especially Abby – while Genoa and I chowed down some of our bag lunch. A few more photos and then Lizzy and Abby were off. And Genoa and I, having seen Avon’s closing ceremonies twice before in San Francisco, left before they even began. We found our way to the shuttle bus that would take us to our hotel and a hot shower.

Lizzy + Food + Sitting = Happy Lisa! One last photo before Lizzy had to leave!

Lizzy + Food + Sitting = Happy Lisa! One last photo before Lizzy had to leave!

We had many more adventures in New York that evening – buying ourselves matching bracelets from Tiffany’s, riding a Ferris Wheel in Toys R Us, wandering Times Square in search of Pizza and Beer, and making our way back to our hotel with a slice of Pumpkin Cheesecake and hot tea to fight against a cold walk back to our hotel.

Now that's my version of a "finishers medal"

Now that’s my version of a “finishers medal”

And I got to sit on my bench in Central Park with my Pumpkin Spice Latte the following morning followed by a Carousel ride, and many more adventures before we flew out that evening.

Nothing like sitting on a bench in Central Park...even better when it's a bench dedicated to Jim Henson!

Nothing like sitting on a bench in Central Park…even better when it’s a bench dedicated to Jim Henson!

I may have walked 39.3 miles, but it took a team of folks to get me across that finish line. Thank you to all of you who helped me and believed in me! I couldn’t have done it without you! There are so many people that need to be thanked: The financial supporters who raised $1800+ for Breast Cancer; my personal trainer, Sara, who helped me know how to train and believed in me; Genoa who walked by my side the whole way and refused to let me stop before crossing that finish line; a ton of strangers and volunteers cheering us through the streets of New York City; Lizzy and Abby coming all the way from Virginia to give us the moral support we needed to keep going, friends and family praying for us, and most importantly the Lord walking with us every step of the way. Never once did we ever walk alone, and I’ll never forget that as long as I live.

Thank you to all my Donors!!!

Thank you to all my Donors!!!

Posted in Avon walk for breast cancer, Christianity, Complacency, Exercise, Healthy Living, Spiritual Formation, Weight Loss | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment