A Love Letter to Lent

Dear Lent,

Every year, I feel like I fail you. You are 40 days (plus 6 Sundays) for me to really restart my faith. This year, in particular, I feel like I didn’t do enough. I should have tried harder. Prayed more. Given up something more challenging. I’m just not as different now as I hoped I’d be. And yet, I had my priest encourage me to look at what God has done this Lent, not what I’ve done. When I look at you that way, I see how beautiful and fruitful and unexpected you have truly been this year.

Today is Holy Saturday. You are drawing to a close. Tonight and tomorrow we will stand in our churches and proclaim an earth-shattering truth that we’ve heard so many times, it doesn’t shake us. We’ve gotten used to it. But it is still true and it is still utterly amazing. Christ is risen.

I remember, probably a decade ago, I came to a realization during Holy Week that Jesus actually died. Maybe it was seeing the bodies of my uncle and great-grandmother at their funerals that convinced me how astonishing that was. That Jesus was really and truly dead. His soul left and what was taken down from the cross and laid in the tomb was nothing more than a body. This realization felt stupid; duh, Clare, you’ve heard this at every single Mass you’ve ever been to in your life. But God assured me it wasn’t stupid. It was important. It was good. What would the Crucifixion be worth if Jesus had just been kidding?

Last night for Good Friday, I watched Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ for the first time. It’s hard to explain how powerful that was for me, but I’ll try to put it this way: As I watched Jesus being scourged nearly to death, suffering unimaginably before he’d even taken up His cross, the thought that kept going through my head was, “I don’t feel worth this.” And what God continually responded to me with was, “This is how much I love you. This is how much you are worth.” Whether or not I believed it or felt worthy of it, I knew it was true.

As I type this, I’m listening to ‘Pieces’ by Amanda Cook on repeat. I think this song captures what Jesus was expressing with every step, every drop of blood of His Passion. He gave Himself fully, completely, holding nothing back – for me. That ‘for me’ statement is true for all of us. For me, as though I were the only one in the whole world. Jesus would have gone up on that cross and died the definition of an excruciating death if I was the only sinner in existence. He would have gone the whole nine yards whether or not I ever loved Him back – whether or not I even believed in Him.

Unreserved, unrestrained, your love is wild Your love is wild for me
It isn’t shy, it’s unashamed, your love is proud to be seen with me
You don’t give your heart in pieces, you don’t hide yourself to tease us
Uncontrolled, uncontained, you love is a fire
Burning bright for me
It’s not just a spark, it’s not just a flame your love is a light
That all the world will see
You don’t give your heart in pieces, you don’t hide yourself to tease us
Your love’s not fractured, it’s not a troubled mind
It isn’t anxious
It’s not the restless kind
Your love’s not passive
Its never disengaged
It’s always present
It hangs on every word we say
Love keeps it promises
It keeps its word
It honors what’s sacred
Cause its vows are good
Your love’s not broken
It’s not insecure
Your love’s not selfish
You love is pure
You don’t give your heart in pieces, you don’t hide yourself to tease us 

You have been a very good Lent, whether or not I feel it. Throughout these 46 days, God shook me down to my deepest wound, challenged me, grew me and blessed me beyond anything I could ever imagine.

So, thank you. I’ll see you again next year.

Love,

Clare

 

More like this:

A Love Letter to Anxiety

A Love Letter to Advent

A Love Letter to God

 

Some Thoughts on Patience

This week I’ve been thinking a lot about patience.

If there’s one thing I could use more of, it’s patience. I need to be patient with my writing because it’s happening, even if it’s happening slowly. I need to be patient with God and trust His timing in my life. I need to be patient with myself as I struggle against anxiety and try to figure out my next steps in life. I need to be patient with the people I love because they are just as imperfect and incomplete as I am.

Sometimes I just want to be done waiting and get to the part where I’m there, having done/doing the thing or living the life I’ve been waiting for. Today I had a conversation with my boss about how the tough thing about patience is that you’re never DONE being patient. Even if you get to the the thing you’ve been waiting for, there’s always something new to have to wait and be patient for.

So then I guess life is one long string of waiting for something…unless you stop just living for the next thing and start being present in the moment.

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I’m really bad at this. That’s why I bought this shirt, as a wearable reminder to myself.

I tend to live in the theoretical someday because it is either more interesting or more concerning than the present. The older I get, the more I realize how much time I waste and how much I miss by doing that. True, a lot of the time, the present moment is painful or hard or even just boring, but it’s only going to happen once and if I miss it, that’s it, it’s gone.

It becomes easy to live in the past, which has already happened and we can replay, or the future, which hasn’t happened and we can imagine however we want. Living in the moment is hard. The moment is happening now and it’s always moving. It takes patience. It takes conscious effort. I’m trying, but I know I still have a long way to go.

I started thinking about this quote from Rainer Maria Rilke this afternoon. I think it captures what I mean.

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“Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as though they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future. you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.” – Rainer Maria Rilke

So, here I am, waiting, trying to live in the moment, to love the questions, and praying for patience.

 

Thanks for reading, God bless!

Clare

Anxiety, Gratitude & Self-Compassion

Late in the day, but here is my post, as promised. I’m currently committed to doing a blog post every Tuesday and Friday, and today my little dinosaur-themed reminder went off on my phone, telling me that this is a blog post day.

Today was weird. So was yesterday. I had a horrible hair day that turned my self-confidence into a little pile of mush, I learned that a friend’s father passed away, I learned a man from my parish also passed away, I didn’t get enough sleep, I ate too much sugar, and my roommate has left town for the weekend.

I feel troubled, disoriented, anxious, not myself. I’m reflecting very hard on life and death. Everything feels too scary and hard right now.

As I thought about what I could possibly bring myself to post while I’m feeling all these messy, complicated things, I decided this was what I needed to write.

Here is a list of things I’m grateful for, and some reasons to be compassionate towards myself. Maybe my lists will help you. Maybe they will prompt you to write your own.

Right Now I Am Grateful For…

  • This Nature’s Truth ‘Happiness’ essential oil blend I just got.
  • These growing pains. All I have grown and will grow into.
  • The gift of writing that God has given me.
  • Hope. This hope that what is broken can come back together, what is messy will be beautiful, and that I know who I am and where I’m going, no matter how lost I feel in this moment.
  • The fact that Joe and Tweetie will be back in town this weekend. I’ve missed them.

Reasons to Be Compassionate Towards Myself…

  • You only just moved. The change is catching up with you. You are adjusting to your new place and in some ways a new life.
  • Death is scary. It’s sad. Don’t let it become an anxiety that eats you up inside. You can use this awareness of how fragile and uncertain life is to foster gratitude, love, and mindfulness.
  • It’s okay to feel disoriented and not like yourself. You are changing and growing. Growing can be painful. But you have changed and grown before; you will come out better and more beautiful in the end. Eventually, you will feel like yourself again, even if she is someone different in the future.
  • God’s got you, and you are where you’re supposed to be.
  • Life is always changing. Tomorrow is a new day. You will be okay.

 

What are you grateful for? What are some reasons to be more self-compassionate? Thanks for reading, new post coming Tuesday. God bless,

Clare

 

Other Posts On Anxiety:

A Ride Home

Winter

Journal Entries 1

How I Journal – Prayer In Spite of Anxiety

How I Journal – Prayer in Spite of Anxiety

First blog post of 2018!

Today I decided to share how I journal, specifically for prayer. As a person who suffers from a lot of anxiety, for a long time, I found it very difficult, sometimes impossible, to pray. A little over two years ago, I was feeling really anxious and out of it and just not myself, and I remembered this widely recommended grounding exercise for people with anxiety:

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I started journaling, sort of following this method, only instead I wrote HOW I AM FEELING RIGHT NOW… followed by writing out how I was feeling Mentally, Emotionally, Physically, Spiritually.

It helped so much to keep me in the present moment, sort through my thoughts and feelings, and quiet myself. Prayer became possible because all I had to do was sit down and start writing tangible things, then relate those things to the Lord. Over time I’ve modified it to fit where I am in life.

How I Journal

Step 1: Open journal, blank page (string lights totally optional). My journal is a 3-N-1 from Markings and was purchased at Walmart.

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Step 2: Date, time, and location on the top of the page.

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Step 3: I write FEELING. Underneath that, I write out every feeling I can articulate.

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I bundle my physical and emotional feelings here, so whether its tired and hungry or happy and hopeful, they go here. I elaborate on whatever I need to, like what is making me sad or what I’m feeling excited about.

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Step 4: I write THINKING ABOUT.

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Here, I pretty much empty my mind onto the paper. Work, a conversation I had, a movie I saw 7 years ago, song lyrics and book characters…whatever is in my head, I write it down.

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Step 5: I write SPIRITUALLY.

howijournal7 (1)I write out how I am feeling spiritually. Empty? Dry? Far from God? Joyful? Hopeful? Aware of His love and presence? Whatever it is, I write it down.

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Step 6: Relate all of this to God. Write down anything and everything, but take time to just be quiet and be with Him.

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I’ll often read scripture and reflect on it here as well. As difficult as it can be, I try to let God lead this conversation. I praise Him, I thank Him, but I invite Him to be with me and to speak to me.

BONUS: GRATEFUL FOR…

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This is something I just started doing recently; taking time to write down a few things I’m grateful for every day. Gratitude can be an excellent remedy for anxiety because it moves your focus out of your anxious head to all the blessings in your life.

 

And there you have it: How I journal and pray in spite of anxiety. If you try this, I would strongly encourage you to tailor it to you. Maybe you want to be more specific. Maybe you want to just write down your thoughts. If you are severely anxious, you could actually go through the original 54321 grounding exercise and then just sit in quiet with God. That would be a perfectly beautiful way to get into prayer in spite of anxiety.

I hope you enjoyed this. If you have any other insights on praying when you are an anxious person, please share them!

New post coming Friday. Thanks for reading and God bless,

Clare

 

Other Posts On Anxiety:

A Ride Home

Winter

Journal Entries 1

 

Blogmas 2017 – Day 30/31 – 2017 in Review

As the year winds down, here are my Top 7 of 2017. Enjoy!

7. Solo Trip to Rochester June 23

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I had never gone on such a long road trip all by myself before, but I was free one weekend so I made plans to go back for a visit to one of my favorite cities: Rochester, MN, where I lived for nine months back in 2014-15. Originally I had hoped my teenage brother and sister would be able to come along, but the timing didn’t work out. I went anyway. I had to navigate and plan all by myself, and while there were some less-than-perfect moments, it was a huge growing experience.

I got to see a group from the theatre I interned at perform music at my favorite coffee shop and hang out with a few very good friends. It was so much fun and I proved to myself I was much more capable than I’d ever thought.

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(My friend Rae at a pop-up sale we went to together!)

6. Good Morning Bedlam Concert July 15

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This might have been the most fun I had the entire year. I heard that two bands I absolutely love and have really cool memories with, Good Morning Bedlam and Harbor & Home, were playing in Willmar, MN for Market on the Farm. I desperately wanted to go but lacked the confidance to go on my own. I was asking around, trying to find someone who wanted to go with me and at the last minute my sister Terese agreed to come along. It was fantastic. We had an absolute ball and I got to hang out with Good Morning Bedlam, four of the coolest people I know who I am proud to call friends.

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5. Total Solar Eclipse August 21

This was memorable for many reasons. Historic celestial event on the one hand, and seeing a best friend from high school who I hadn’t seen in years on the other.

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It was a rough road trip filled with rain and uncertainty and a lot of boredom and frustration, but I’m so grateful I got to experience it in person.

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I will always remember that little halo of pink light around the moon as it totally eclipsed the sun.

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4. Thanksgiving 2017

My whole family hadn’t been all together in four years or so. This year my oldest sister came with her husband and son from Ohio and my second older sister came from Arizona and we all got together for Thanksgiving at my dad’s parents in Rochester, MN. It was messy and loud and chaotic but it was ours and it was beautiful. The best moment of that week for me was getting drinks with my two older sisters downtown. We had the most amazing conversations and it made me realize all over again how blessed I am to have them in my life.

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3. Wedding October 15th

My oldest friend got married and my sister and I were bridesmaids! From navigating two airports and an hour and a half Uber ride, to getting all dolled up together in the bridal suite and posing for countless photos, it was a beautiful experience and so many happy tears were shed.

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2. Moving Out December 13

This was a totally unexpected thing. I had set a goal to be moved out by March 30th 2018, but the oppurtunity came up to move into an apartment across town from my family. I thought and prayed and asked for advice about it and I decided to take the leap.

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(New bedroom!)

I am so grateful I did; I can tell this was something I needed to keep moving forward and growing as a person. My roommate is the best. Just this morning I woke up to her starting the movie You’ve Got Mail and we watched it together while eating breakfast. Quality.

1. Publishing Good You Were Here May 17th

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I had no idea until March of this year that this was even on the horizon for me. I had committed to writing every day in December 2016, and then I learned about the Kindle Storyteller competition in March 2017. I committed to finishing and publishing this book in time for that contest, and while I missed the deadline, I did it. I published a book!

This book. Goodness. What to even say about it. It has challenged me, grown me, changed the course of my life. I’ve gotten so much amazing feedback on it from people. The most notable and meaningful response was from the mother of one of the other bridesmaids in that wedding back in October. This woman had never met me before but was in the middle of reading Good You Were Here and was practically in tears as she told me how much it meant to her and how beautiful it was.

Dang.

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I love this book, for all that it is and all that it’s done for me. No matter how little money it’s made me, no matter how many little grammatical errors I’ve found after the fact, I consider it a triumph. By the grace of God, it is a triumph.

Other highlights include starting counseling, seeing the musical Matilda in Cincinatti with my older sisters, discovering the album Gone Now by Bleachers, going to a Murder Mystery Dinner Party for Halloween, making some new friends, going on my first date in two years, having a surprise birthday party thrown for me, and seeing the movie Kubo and the Two Strings for the first time.

And there you have it. My 2017 in review. What a year. God has blessed me so much and I’m grateful beyond words.

Tomorrow I’ll post a lookback on Blogmas 2017 and my revised 2018 goals.

Thanks for reading, God bless!

Clare

 

Check out the rest of Blogmas 2017

Get a copy of Good You Were Here

Blogmas 2017 – Day 25/31 – Merry Christmas

Christmas is here! Hurray! So far I’ve gotten to wake up to my first Christmas in my own apartment, talk to my older sister who is out in Arizona (where she is freezing to death because it’s 48 degrees, poor thing), had a delicious lunch, and played with my three youngest siblings.

As I sat down to write a blog post just now, I went back to my tumblr to see if there were any memories from Christmases past that I wanted to share. This is what I found.

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Can you ever just tell when someone is painfully lonely? Tonight I waited on an elderly gentleman who just started telling me about himself. He began by saying he’d been doing his own grocery shopping for 19 years. Eventually he said he was divorced. He just kept coming back to his main point – that he did everything for himself – his cooking, cleaning, doing his laundry, everything. Because he was ALONE, and when you get divorced, people really come down hard on you. At first I was annoyed, because it made me uncomfortable. What am I supposed to do with your troubles, sir? I’m just here to ring up your groceries. But I looked at him and I realized – this man is LONELY. I asked him if he would get to see any family for Christmas. He very adamantly said no, because, like he said, when you get divorced, people really come down hard on you, even though they don’t know the whole story. I told him that was too bad, when people decide to take sides with something like that. He said they do, they really do. I listened to him and I said what I could to just let him know I was happy to be talking to him. He opened a window into his life, and I saw the story of a man whose friends and family sided with his wife when they got divorced, and so he was left alone in the world. As I wished him a Merry Christmas and watched him go, I said a prayer for him. I recognized in him a great hunger to be seen, known, loved – a hunger I couldn’t fill. I couldn’t be a friend to this old man. I could only be a very kind, helpful cashier at a grocery store to him. I hope my kindness made his day a little brighter. 

His name is Larry. Please pray for him, and everyone who is isolated or feels alone this Christmas. I pray they will all receive comfort from the Christ Child. 

Thank you, God bless. 

Clare

I’m glad I wrote this down. It’s easy to forget moments like these, important moments, where God reaches into our lives and touches our hearts, teaching us to love a little bit more like He does.

Something I learned throughout Advent was that God truly meets us in the middle of our mess. Jesus was born into a messy world that was so unprepared for Him, Mary had to give birth to Him in a stable. But still He came. He came and made the stable, the manger, the mess, sacred. Worthy of Himself.

As He does to our hearts when we welcome Him in, regardless of the straw and the cow poop and all the other things filling us up to capacity. Whatever space we make for Him, He will come and fill and make beautiful.

I pray Larry, wherever he is this year, will find Christ in his mess.

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I pray the same for all of you.

Merry Christmas!

Clare

 

Check out the rest of Blogmas 2017