Saturday, June 8, 2013

Hello, I'm Back!

...well, sort of.

I'm back in the blogging world after a year-long, self-imposed (and yet accidental) hiatus. This time however, I'm over at Wordpress. Check it out, here!

At some point, I'm going to begin moving content from here to there. For now, I hope you'll join me again. I'm sorry I've been away for so long, but exciting things are happening!

See you over at "Leaving If Necessary."

Peace,

Ashley

Friday, April 6, 2012

Keeping Christ Out, No More

Every year, without fail, I always fight with myself at the Good Friday service. Always. It's the one that nearly gets me, know what I mean?

I wrestle with my emotions and whether or not I should let them loose or keep them reigned in. Since the first time I altar served for Good Friday a few years ago, it's always difficult to keep myself composed. During the Veneration of the Cross, the servers wipe the places where the faithful venerate the cross. Most people kiss Jesus' feet and a handful, the wood of the cross.

The first time I served, I watched people's faces as they came up. One time, a woman came up with tears in her eyes. As she leaned forward to kiss the feet of Jesus, I heard the choir leading the congregation in song, specifically "Jesus, Remember Me." It was the perfect combination of beauty, of love, of faith, of devotion, of mystery. But I held back my own tears and repeatedly swallowed the lump in my throat. I shunned the goodness that was coming out of darkness.

Every year since that first time, I've come up with ways to avoid being emotionally involved. I was always afraid of showing how I felt, and by that I mean, I didn't want to let the tears fall. As I write this now, though, I think it goes deeper than being embarrassed of others seeing me. It's because I was afraid. Afraid of opening myself up and completely giving my entire being over to Christ. We remember His death today, and I can't even bring myself to shed a tear. No, no. Not one.

This year, my strategy was working just fine. I didn't look at anybody, but I would occasionally glance up to see how far along the line was moving. I just focused on the cross and where people touched it with their lips or with just their fingers. At one point, a woman bent down, and I noticed a few tears drip down Jesus' leg and onto the cross.

That didn't bother me that much, just a tiny bit. And the line moved, and it moved.

More time passed and out of the corner of my eye, I saw an elderly woman processing up on her knees, with a friend or relative alongside to steady her, should she fall. The cross was lowered so that she could reach it. For the first time tonight, I looked at someone's face. At her beautiful, weathered, wrinkled, freckled face. Streaming with tears. She ran her hand over the body of Jesus and down the wood of the cross, as she said something in Spanish between her tears. She then kissed His feet and tried to stand up, but she couldn't. Her companion assisted, but it wasn't enough. I bent down to help, and she was able to get to her feet after a few seconds of momentous effort. Before she walked away, she touched the cross again. And you know what song the choir was singing in the background? "Jesus, Remember Me." The song that always gets me.

She turned to leave, and I looked away. I looked at my hands. At the cross. At my feet. At the clergy's arm. I looked in vain at anything that would distract me, but I couldn't find a single object to keep my thoughts occupied. Within seconds, this woman's deep faith and love began crumbling my poorly constructed wall, a wall designed to keep Christ out. Though, the wall didn't fall down all the way because I forced myself not to let it. It took me several times of fake coughing into my arm and many blinks to get rid of the forming tears, but I did it. Once again, like clockwork, I refused to open up and let Christ in. I'm sure that someone who was paying attention to me would've realized the moment/episode I had, despite my best efforts to hide it.

I walked back to my seat in a sort of daze, annoyed and angry with myself that I was too afraid to just be. Then I remembered the part of the Passion in which the crowd participates by reading aloud, "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" I can easily say that phrase and sin left and right like it's nothing. What I can't do was become vulnerable, to become fully open. What I couldn't do was let the tears fall. Tears of mourning, of thanksgiving, of love.

I realized tonight that I have been fighting not just with myself, but with Jesus for a very long time. I prayed that tonight would be the last time I was afraid. Tonight, hopefully, will be the last time that I avoid shedding tears for Jesus.

You see, the season of Lent and the Triduum liturgies have always been my favorite time/liturgical season of the year. Tonight, God provided me yet another reason to love Good Friday, but more importantly, to love Him.

Blessed and happy Easter to all of you.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Some Beautiful Things

This is in (mostly) list format. I should be in bed, got a long day tomorrow as I'll be traveling to Washington, D.C. with about 30 other students from Tyson House for the annual spring break pilgrimage. I'm excited! Hopefully I'll post about it when I get home.

Some things from this past week:

- I was trying to read the Communist Manifesto for history class, but there were way too many distractions pulling me away from an already boring/tedious homework assignment. First, the building has yet to switch from heat to air conditioning (and/or my roommate and I just haven't bothered to mess with the thermostat). Second, I sat on my bed with the window open, admiring the sunset instead of words on a page when all of a sudden every bird in the courtyard (and dare I say, the entire neighborhood!) started a-chirping away! I literally stopped what I was doing and just sat in complete stillness with my mouth slightly agape. It was a beautiful melody, a beautiful reminder of God's awesomeness.

- I went to a rather nice, fancy restaurant with some dear friends who also happen to be non-biological family. It was awesome, but I won't lie when I say that I felt a bit out of place, especially when I dropped food on my lap not once, but twice. The point of that was really, I think, that in my slight uncomfortableness, I'm discovering more and more of who I am and what makes me feel most at peace. Which is a beautiful thing.

- Also, it started to storm, quite heavily, right before we left. I wore the wrong shoes to walk in puddles, so I did what I do best...walked to the car in a thunderstorm, barefoot, holding my shoes in my hand. Beautiful.

- The same night, I walked from my car to the apartment barefoot, shoes in hand. Best feeling in the world stepping over the uneven brick courtyard and sloshing through puddles, climbing up stairs with bits of whatever clinging to my feet. I ran into my roommate in the stairwell. She too was barefoot and holding her shoes. We smiled and laughed at each other. This scene was comically beautiful.

- For the last two weeks, I was able to take care of some horses, more so than my usual shift at the barn. It was a special circumstance with Horse Haven, an influx of more than 30 horses. So much so that we didn't have enough room at our actual facility, so the local fairground/park/thing let us stay there for awhile. I didn't work nearly as many hours as a few other individuals did, but man, am I pooped. But man, was it worth for every hour, every dirty barn booger, for crusty/dusty orange/brown hands at the end of the night...and no amount of washing could make the dirt go away. Smelling like a barn, horses, and hay and feeling tired because of hard work...beautiful.

- I'm dealing with post-concert blues. I'll be okay. It still blows my mind that one of my biggest, happiest dreams came true. Awesomely beautiful.

- Because of Mumford & Sons, I've discovered new music. I'm talking, wicked cool stuff. Ben Lovett, the keys/accordion player, co-founded a live music night called Communion in London in 2006 which has since grown to include more cities as well as a record label. Because of Communion's blog and because of the artists signed to the label, I've discovered so much more music that makes me happy. Beautiful.

So today/tonight/this morning's word of the day = beautiful.

Peace.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Finding Integrity

Not that I didn't have integrity before Monday morning...but I was reminded of what it feels like.

I checked my grades Sunday evening and discovered that my Spanish midterm was added, and I astonishingly made a 97. For about 5 seconds, I was super excited, but then I convinced myself that the grade was a falsehood. But, I shared in my excitement with others and thought nothing of it until I walked into class Monday morning...

My professor handed back the exams, and in reality, I actually made an 87! The blow wasn't crushing, since I had prepared myself. After class, I slowly walked up to her and said that my grade was entered incorrectly. I gushed my revelation and quickly followed it up with, "I didn't want to tell you, but I knew that I had to..."

She smiled and said thank you. A few hours later, my grade reflected reality.

I'm still doing well in the class, even with losing 10 points that were never mine.

I told Fr. David that over dinner, and after I stopped squirming in my chair out of sheer whateverness (I had sunk rather low, so low that my face rested on the dinner table), I told him that I wasn't sure how I felt about the whole thing.

He said, well, that's integrity. And you have it.

I know that the brief sentence seems rather simple, but to me, the concept was far from simple. It took a dear friend and excellent shepherd to point that out to me.

Integrity...it feels weird to remember it, but it feels good.

Also, this has nothing to do with integrity, but I went to see Mumford & Sons last week (finally! a dream come true, to say the least), and here's a new song for ya. Conveniently filmed at the night of my show, which makes this video find doubly cool.

"Ghosts That We Knew" - Mumford & Sons

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Plato & Maclaren

Though this quote is incorrectly attributed to Plato, I still find it incredibly relevant.

"Be kind, for everyone you know is fighting a great battle." - Plato

It is widely believed that the Plato quote came from a legitimate quote by Ian Maclaren, which is "Be pitiful, for every man is fighting a hard battle."

No matter which version you prefer, you can't deny the resonating qualities they share. Over the last few weeks, I have come to know firsthand that the idea is quite beautiful, powerful, and overwhelmingly true. For days, whenever someone did the slightest thing that perturbed me or hurt my feelings, I just wanted to shout at them, Hey! Don't you know that I'm having a crappy day/week/life-situation and you're just making it worse?

I never did that, but I wanted to.

I try daily to remind myself of the quotes and the lesson behind them because when I wanted the world to understand, some parts of it didn't. I'd like to try and do my part to be kind, to loved ones and to strangers, because I don't know what's going on in their lives. As I'm sure we all know, resisting the urge to be a jerk is hard.

Whether or not it was consciously or unconsciously done, the meanness and insensitivity amplified my pain. So now, I'm aiming to lessen the negative impact that I have on those around me. It's been no easy road so far, but I'm trying.

Won't you try to?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Be.

Be still and know that I am God.
Be still and know that I am.
Be still and know.
Be still.
Be.

"We Will All Be Changed" - Seryn

Friday, February 10, 2012

But...how?

"Has anyone who trusted in the Lord ever been disappointed?" -Sirach 2:10

No, at least, I think so. I guess not.

"Those who trust in Jesus are as simple as children. They cling to His garments and in every difficulty have recourse to Him. Filled with trust, they exclaim: 'Help me, Lord Jesus, to overcome this enemy and this obstacle. You alone can help me and I am sure that You want to do so.'" -St. Francis de Sales

Okay.

But how?

How do you do that? How do you trust that deeply? Where does it come from?

I'm struggling with a lot. Obviously.

I'll try to cheer up. But not for you dear reader, for myself. I know I'm being selfish, but I crave some semblance of normality and familiarity. I don't like change. I'm afraid of big messy hard ugly change.

It hasn't been the best week, and all of a sudden I found myself in an extremely foul mood earlier. I couldn't really explain where it came from. It went away, and I'm glad.

All of this jumbled mess to say, good thoughts and prayers would be much appreciated for the undisclosed prayers in my heart.