For we are dust

It’s Ash Wednesday.

Lately, I’ve been having a hard time explaining who I am, as if feeling who I am is so wrong. Mostly it’s because, if I am, who I am; then it might not make others happy. Then there’s resentment. No on wants that. No one wants to cause it. So I’ve been avoiding reality–like the plague.

But I feel it coming. And there’s nothing I can do about it, because this is who I am. I am a woman of God. He’s taken me under his wings and has sheltered me with everlasting love and mercy. My God is forgiving. I am also Catholic.

When I was younger I thought my faith was exhausting. When I was a teen I realized it was a disciplined practice. Now, I view Catholicism as water in a very hot and desperate desert. I need it in all it’s abundant flow.

What better way for me to be myself than through sacrifice, penitence, and prayer. For me, Ash Wednesday represents why I need Jesus so much. As I begin the Lenten season, I’m reminded of Jesus’ great love for me. That helps me cope with my preconceived ideas.

I think of the word sacrifice and wonder why Jesus sacrificed so much for me, for who I am? He gave up his breath, his mother, and his life so that I could live. In that sense I ought to live for who I am.

Yes I’m a Catholic woman trying to live life rightfully, honestly, and faithfully. I must also accept that I’m a sinner, that I make mistakes, and that sometimes I can’t handle the consequences. I must also accept that I’m fun, loving, caring, and helpful. On the other hand, I’m mean, insecure, thoughtless, and crazy.

I like my cake and I like to eat it too.

But, Jesus calls me to love the cake, to savior it, to admire it. He wants me to pray that baking that cake goes well. But at the end of the day, he wants me to sacrifice the cake. In doing so, my exhausting and discipline practice will go towards a greater good.

I want to be like that. I’m trying to be like that.

The ash reminds me of who I am, but the cross also reminds me that I am His.

That’s who I am, apologetically.

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Powerful

I’ve been absent for more than a week and I’m not complaining.

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Believe me, what I went through wasn’t anything too alarming, on the contrary, this situation helped me build up my survival skills. It didn’t work much, but at least now I know that those skills are nonexistent.

None-the-less,  southwest Kansas experienced a trace of the Jupiter Storm winter front that I’m guessing a lot of states across the nation underwent. Nothing to crazy happened in my area of Kansas other than more than 5,000 homes were powerless for approximately four days. (I’m being sarcastic, it was pretty bad) Our linemen worked day in and day out to get everyone’s light restored and it all worked nice and dandy during the day, but then the harsh night would set everything back.

We lost power about Sunday around 11 a.m., school was cancelled Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, so I didn’t have to necessarily wash my hair or be presentable because trust me, I didn’t leave my house much. Finally around 9 p.m. on Wednesday, we had power. I slept with a night light just because I could.

But before the power came back on, I did nothing. Yippee for me.

At one point in time, all the laziness I was feeling got to me people! The pleasure of doing nothing wasn’t fun anymore. Man, I was worn out from being worn out. I started out reading. When that bore me, I colored. When that put me to sleep, I slept. When that began to make feel restless, I stared into space. And when that happened, my mind went where it didn’t need to go, but I took it there, probably on purpose because there wasn’t anything left to do.

Thankfully, the church I attend had a “Parish Mission” where Deacon Ralph Poyo shared his devotion for the Lord and his knowledge of sin, love, and mercy. It was truly insightful. Then he hit me with the truth. He talked about these walls we put around our heart. The ones we use to shield our true emotions. The emotions I often hide so that my family, friends, co-workers, and even Micah won’t see. Yes, I admit, I put up that wall thinking I’m okay.

But according to Jesus Christ, it’s not okay. Deacon Poyo went on to explain that God wants to help heal us of insecurities in our lives because the only way that we can fight against sin is with the truth. Wow, powerful. So now he’s got me thinking. God already knows my struggle. He knows what my insecurities are. So what? Who else will care?  However, if I don’t communicate, if I don’t seek to reveal the truth I’ll never make my family happy, or worse, Micah and I won’t be happy. Fair enough. I don’t want that to happen.

So, while I’m sitting there again in the dark with all of my evil thoughts and emotions, my good ole pal insecurity comes back to lay with me. He’s pretty strict. He loves to tell me that I’m no good. I’m not smart enough. I’m not talented enough. I’m not pretty enough. For the most part I take punches, I put a smile on my face, and I tell the world that I’m okay. I’m living a lie because deep down inside I’m broken. Shattered. Alone.

Except, I’m not alone. At that moment, the words Deacon Poyo said came back to uplift me. We always ask where is God in the mist of our self-destruction? I always thought, because I’ve heard it said that He’s with us, ever present and that is still true. But the good Deacon said, no He’s on the cross. Shivers.

Then I imagined Jesus on that cross, my sins nailing Him there. If I just give Him my struggles, if I just reveal the truth, if I just invite Him into my heart, and believe that He’s there for me; then I can push those insecurities away.

How hopeful and powerful. While it might be difficult to understand how to withhold from sinning or from putting up those walls of darkness up; it’s time we begin to understand just how much Jesus loves us. I mean just look at the cross.

Sure the tunnel is dark, but there is a way out, there is light and at the end He stands there holding the light of eternal light.

How did you weather the storm? And if you were in some sunny beach tell me all about it, I’d like to be all kinds of jealous.

The storm pictures featured were taken by friend and colleague Trista Fergerson.

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Health Week Day 4: Spititual Intake

Being health means a lot of different things and believe me there’s a million different aspects when it comes to being in complete health. Sure, we need to take care of our skin, hair, and body, the stuff that’s on the out and inside. Because yes, that stuff is really important. One thing I’ve also learned is that we also need to be healthy spiritually.

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It’s so true, we often look as health as being some strength that comes from our physical appearance, but what about God’s portion? Now I’ve talked about Holy Habits on here before, so I again I’ve challenged myself to look at my spiritual health and consider how I’m going to win this race.

For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.

1 Timothy 4:8

I think it’s very important to run, to jump, to leap, and dance, but everything that we do let God give us our ultimate health and strength. There were so many occasions in my soccer days where I would give every game to the Lord and He blessed me game in and game out. If I would get hurt; I would surrender it as God’s will. In the end, he never let me down because I continued to play up until college on a paid scholarship. I suppose it was my reward for being faithful to him.

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

1 Corinthians 10:31

And that’s exactly why I give my life to our Lord and Savior. In whatever I do, whether it’s a tough situation or one with a positive outcome, I pray God gives me the strength. Not the physical strength of course, but the strength that keeps my spirit uplifted.

In addition, I pray often, Micah and I do bible studies together, I attend church, I form part of a young adult group at church, and I talk to God above and beyond prayer. Now, where I fail is with consistency. It’s hard to continue the routine because after all we are human, we get caught up, we get tired, but God knows our intentions. If it’s for Him, He’ll never leaves us.

Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.

3 John 1:2

It’s my hope for you, that you find God in everything that you do. It’s healthy and it’s a good thing. Again, I challenge you to create those Holy Habits. And do me a great favor, keep me accountable in my fight to cover myself with the Lord.

See you tomorrow as I wrap up Health Week. As always.

Theology Thursday: I am a woman who loves the Lord

Brr, we got some snow today. The entire day was filled with the falling cold, which made school just a little be deary, but just like the students I powered through. Being back in school today was so uplifting. It’s so surprising that motivation comes from being up and about– moving. All the same God dwells in all things good and for that I’m every grateful.

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This morning, my devotion asked me to reflect, “what, in deep things of God, do you still have to discover and see?” For the longest time, the answer to such a question lied in myself and really it’s silly because it’s a question in itself.

The answer: I want to see where I, woman, Alejandra, person, self fit into the realm of God, Jesus and Holy Spirit. What’s my role? I’m discovering that aspect more and more as I grow in faith. It’s interesting. For now God has called me to love without question and fault. Secondly, God has called me to be a servant. This one I’m actively discovering. From the looks of it, it’s so fulfilling and rewarding.

Figuratively speaking one aspect I’d really like to further study is the way women not only served the Lord, but what their role was in the Bible is. It’s difficult for me because Catholicism brings forth the male priest. So on the outside, I don’t see women as the head of church, and that’s okay. However, where do we stand?

During confession, I explained to my priest that my faith was being rocked. It’s natural for society and some relationships to sometimes test our faith. I’ve been there, I’m guilty, and I take blame. The priest told me to read the book of Esther. “It’s short and to the point and once you’re done, you’ll know what God wants from you,” he said. Fair enough.

“Be mindful of us, Lord. Make yourself known in the time of our distress and give me courage, King of gods and Ruler of every power.”

Esther 4: Chapter C: 23

Goodness, was Esther full of courage and hope, but all that strength didn’t come from her own. No way, it came when she trusted the Lord, when she prayed. I’m always a sucker for a woman of prayer. She put all her hope and faith in the Lord and she stood up for what she believed in and guess what? God answered. He’s so amazing and He will always keep us in mind. Again, how beautiful.

As I read further into the book of Esther, I was filled with wonder. She truly did extraordinary things, but she was so successful because of her devotion to God. Her faith was never rocked, her faith was firm and never ending, and even more so she encouraged me to speak about what I believed in.

“Put in my mouth persuasive words in the presence of the lion, and turn his to hatred for our enemy, so that he and his counter-parts by perish. Save us by your power, and help me, who am alone and have no one but you, Lord.

Esther 4: Chapter C: 24-25

In the past, the hardest thing for me was to talk about my faith, not because I was ashamed or embarrassed. Simply, I felt it was an inappropriate subject, come to realize that I was foolish and down right naive. Ha! How can the Lord be poor timing? And that my friends is where discovering the word for me came about. It’s hard to tell people about your faith, but seeking God in these situations allows us to speak with confidence. Plus, God puts the words in our mouths.

I strive to be like Esther, courage and faithful. And if you’re wondering there are more woman like her in the Bible. Women like Mary Magdalene, who was not only the first person to discover Jesus’ tomb, but she was also chosen to go deliver the good news.

Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

John 20:17

Can we just take a moment to realize that Jesus choose a woman to declare that He was risen. This alone gives me shivers. Indeed, we “women” don’t fall behind. That in itself should challenge us to advance at work, to take control of personal struggles and life, to strive, to accomplish beyond measure, to seek the greater good, and to not give up.

Then there’s Ruth, Joann, Susanna, Martha, and of course our Blessed Mother Mary. The list goes on. So good women, I challenge you to discover not only your place in the spiritual world, but also to establish your ground in faith. And keep me updated, cause I’m here for you, cheering you on.

Theology Thursday: Why evil exists

I’ve pondered on this thought multiple times and it’s been the topic of conversation in various bible study sessions: Why does God allow evil in this world?

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That’s a good question. It’s natural to think that if God is filled with good and He loves us so much then why does he allow us to suffer? Trust me when I say that I’ve been there before; I’ve suffered enough times to blame God for my misfortune.

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

James 1:13-15

One thing I’ve learned about this “evil-existing-in-our-world” business is that when we are suffering and we are crying, God is present. Remember God loves us so much, so when we suffer, so does He and when we cry, He cries too. Just like James proclaims in the verse above, God didn’t create evil; he doesn’t lead us to sin; he doesn’t tempt us, God gives us free will. He wants us to choose Him and good. But sometimes (and because we are human) we are fueled by our desires. We don’t want to necessarily want to wait for God’s will, but instead we want to do things our way and in our time, hence misfortune taking place.

 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28

And it’s hard, it’s very hard, because we think sure it’s easy to love God when He’s good. But, when things aren’t, we turn against him, when in reality all He really wants is for us to trust him and to seek Him. Also, what we fail to understand is that God puts us through situations so that we can endure and be faithful.

Right now there are a million and one tragedies happening all around the world. It seems like everyday there are mass shootings, natural disasters, corruption, despair, and famine, which are tormenting, alienating, and killing mankind.

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

Romans 12:12

But there is hope in prayer because God has hope in us.

We are his creation. We are like a 16-year-old rebel adolescent who doesn’t understand his parents. He implore to be understood, he talks back and mistreats the good parents, who only want what’s best. He fails to see the lesson, so he leaves home in search of his own purpose, meanwhile the parents weep and antagonize themselves. Day after day, the parents cry and pray for their child’s safe arrival. They wait patiently. Then, that adolescent returns, and the parents rejoice.

I imagine that to be our relationship with God. He wants us to learn from our mistakes. In doing so, we will stumble, and many of us will fall gravely; we will see much despair and faithless actions, but God will always be there with open arms. He will welcome us into his glory. All we have to do is pray and be merciful.

Theology Thursday: His Will

First of all Happy Immaculate Conception.

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When Gabriel the angel appeared and informed Mary of God’s will for her, one can imagine the utter shock she went through. She was conflicted and thoughtful. However in order to understand God’s will, she prayed. Today more than anything we celebrate Mary and the way she so diligently carried God’s will for her life and ours.

“You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

John 13:7

Many times I have found myself like Simon Peter (Mary was probably caught in this thought herself), unable to understand the purpose, the journey… His will. My life has become a mixture of deep contemplation and deep sighs. I often look beyond my surroundings and ask out loud, “Lord what is your will for me?”

It’s hard to listen to the Lord when it comes to full filling His plan for us. My main problem is standing still and having patience.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

Galatians 6:9

And that’s the key, not giving up in our search for God’s will, because it’s there. Right  now, I’m going through a weird moment in my life. I don’t consider myself too old or too young; so it’s weird for me. I’m not married and I don’t have children so finding individuals, my age, to relate too is hard. And again, weird. I’m finished with grad school and I have a wonderful job (God’s blessed me with it) and I get to learn each and everyday what the meaning of living is. I live a grand life. There’s nothing difficult about being me.

Yet I find myself stuck for some reason. For me, the feeling of being comfortably still, frightens me. This makes me feel like I’m either being complacent and that I’m not challenging myself enough. It’s not that my life is boring in way; this just leaves me questioning myself. Surely God’s not done with me at age 28. Surely, there’s more out there for me, just having the patience to get there (to whatever it is) is killing me.

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” 

Matthew 6:34

But, I worry people, I do. I can’t help it. I suppose more than anything I need to pray; it’s just so easy to be discouraged when nothing is happening. It’s easy to give up the good fight because it seems like there’s no progression.

To uplift myself, I think about all the wonderful things God has gifted me with and I think, “He put me through it and he will help me through it.” Then those big-deep sighs come back. Right now, I can only hope that I’m living God’s will. Right now, all I can do is pray and fill myself with His word. And if God’s will for me is to be hush up, to study His word, and to watch for a sign, then I’ll happily wait as long as it takes.

Theology Thursday: Advent

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Ever since I can remember, during the month of December, something wonderful would take place every single year.

The church would dress in purple. My favorite color. I would marvel at the drapery, the candles, and the priest in the most wonderful shade of purple.

Later, this sudden change at church would mean that Christmas was right around the corner.

While my family instilled that the true meaning of Christmas wasn’t just about getting presents, but the most significant present we would receive was the birth of our Lord and Savior; I wasn’t too sure of the true meaning of Christmas and advent.

Yes, I knew that Jesus was born for the sins of this world, and that it wasn’t easy for Mary and Joseph to make that journey. At home, we had the nativity set up underneath the tree and only a handful of presents. In addition, our family celebrated Posadas and we prayed rosaries leading up to Christmas Eve. That was routine, it was scheduled, it was always present. I understood that we “had” to do those things.

It wasn’t until recently (remember my faith is maturing) that I realized what all that actually meant beyond the sole significant purpose.

The wreath, the purple, the nativity set, the praying, that was all in preparation. It was a preparation for what’s to come– peace, joy, and hope.

Now that’s a merry season!

 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting  Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6

 As of Sunday, I’ve been contemplating how I was going to prepare my soul for Christ in a way that would be dignifying . It’s a hard thing to do when in reality it shouldn’t be. What I didn’t realize was that Jesus already had it all planned out. It’s wonderful when he sneaks up on us like that. Like Isaiah said in the verse above He is our wonderful counselor.

My preparation for his coming will be a part of this year’s Christmas Play my church puts together every year. The role I’ll be playing is none other than Virgin Mary. What a blessing!

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be done to me as you have said.”

Luke 1:38

This year for Christmas I’m hoping to gift my time to the Lord through this play and through the role of Mary. I’m offering this as pure servitude. God has called me to play this part because he want me to be like Mary, faithful and hopeful of what’s to come. And like her, He wants me to pray. I can’t think of a better way to prepare for this holiday season than to be my Lord’s servant.

How do you prepare for advent and Christmas?