Monthly Archives: September 2018

Idols And Heroes

Last night, my dad and I ended up laughing at a musician we heard on a Spotify playlist who was trying to be a poignant country singer, but really just came across as whiney and corny. His lyrics were really quite terrible. Then, of course, because I’m a musician, we ended up talking about songwriters who are actually good at what they do. A songwriter I admire very much is Eddie Vedder, lead singer of Pearl Jam. My dad agreed that Pearl Jam was a really good, original band, but, he said, Eddie can try to hard to “be his idols” when it comes to his own side projects. I know, for example, that he “idolizes” Neil Young. I don’t know that I totally agree with my dad because I love Eddie’s music, especially the weird stuff, but I also love Neil Young, so there’s that.

Our conversation then moved to an idea my dad had for our house in Maine. He said we should have a bookshelf with work from all of our “Idols.” He started listing off people he admired, and I noticed, he stopped using the word “Idol,” and switched to “Hero.” It’s an interesting distinction. Our God commanded that we are not supposed to have idols because there is only one God, and only He is worthy of worship. Another interesting question is: when does one cross the line from admiration to worship? I have a very long list of people I admire, but I don’t worship any of them. I don’t worship them because I know my God, and I know what worship is, and how to worship. I had to be taught, though.

I think worship invariably has to be taught, whether it is worship of God, or worship of some other human or thing. Catholics, for example, have specific religious practices that are forms of worship. Perhaps worship of a certain musician, for example, would involve getting a guitar and learning to play all of their songs, playing them at open mic nights, and listening to their songs all the time, and seeing them live whenever they’re in the area.

This is not to say one cannot do all these things and be an avid fan without worshiping them. A better example than Pearl Jam for me might be Tenth Avenue North. I know and love almost every one of their songs. I’m more of a singer than a guitarist, and I can harmonize on plenty of them. I recently went to see Mercy Me just because Tenth Avenue North was opening for them. I’ve seen them several times by now. Still, they’re just dudes, and I don’t worship them.

In the end, whether it comes to awesome humans or awesome things, I think everyone at one time or another needs a reality check. Everything and everyone in the world, whether it’s a black hole, or a baby has an ultimate Source, and if the effort is taken to find that Source, there’s not much that can be done but to worship Him. The uncreated God created this universe and everything in it out of love because He wanted it–wanted us–to exist.

Truthfully, I think that’s why I love mythology and I admire good fantasy writers so much. If there is any writer I aspire to be like, it’s J.R.R. Tolkien. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, and the universe it takes place in is genius. Right now I’m rereading the four books of the Inheritance Cycle, by Christopher Paolini. I admire this writer, too, not because his universe is genius, but because his style is eloquent, but easy to follow, and his story is enjoyable.

I loved my dad’s bookshelf idea because I do have heroes. I have a long list of heroes. Some of those heroes are Catholic, some are non-Catholic Christians, and many are not Christian at all. In fact, I have no idea what they believe, or believed, but they are or were admirable. There are still more whose names I don’t even know, but whom I consider heroes. With all this in mind, I submit to you all my list of heroes. These are in no particular order, and are not separated into categories. It’s also probably not exhaustive, but these are the people who come to mind as heroic.

-J.R.R. Tolkien
-Seamus Heaney
-William Wallace
-The Astronauts of the first Apollo mission
-J.K. Rowling
-C.S. Lewis
-Fyodor Dostoyevsky
-Christopher Paolini
-Eddie Vedder
-The members of U2
-The members of Tenth Avenue North
-Neil Young
-The Indigo Girls
-Any martyr of any faith
-Anyone who stands up to injustice in any way
-Saint Faustina
-Saint Dismas
-James Gallagher, the first person to fly nonstop around the world
-The crew of the HMS Challenger

NOTE: Jesus and His Mother are not on this list simply because they’re too obvious and I didn’t think I needed to put them on here.

Humility Lessons

Yesterday the people working on our car got us a rental. Our piece of junk is in our driveway at the moment because they’re waiting to get an expert mechanic in from I-forget-where. Having the rental is such a blessing, though. I was able to easily get to the studio last night, and we recorded harmony, as well as a potential guitar solo down on my song Autumn Hero. We also got quite a lot of mixing done. For those who don’t know, mixing is where you take each individually recorded piece of a song and get the “levels” or volume of each instrument or voice part right, as well as putting any effects on things.

It’s really awesome that Ken, my producer, happens to be Christian because we pray at the beginning of each session, and we always end up going on ten minute long God-is-awesome tangents. The title of the album that Autumn Hero will be on is, A Song To Sing In The Dark. It’s meant to be a musical declaration that there is always hope because the God of the universe, who is infinite and omnipotent triumphed over darkness, chaos, and death.

So why do I mention the rental car? It has tie-down straps to hold my wheelchair in place. Our regular car does not. I got in a bit of an argument with my mom yesterday because it takes a minute to tie my chair down. I am impatient, and I know that. I realized something else, though. The straps make me feel like I’m on a leash like a dog. They’re a bit of a blow to my pride. I still say that the rental, and even the straps are a blessing because I evidently need to work on humility, as well as patience.

This week we had to be out of the house on Tuesday and for a few hours yesterday because we were having some work done. We’re going up to Maine on Saturday, and we’ll be staying over for the first time. By no means is the house anywhere near permanent livable conditions, so it will basically be like camping. Between working on music, and simply being stuck  out of our MA house quite a bit this week, though, I haven’t got much work done on my book. I was hoping to work on Saturday to make up some lost time. I can obviously bring my laptop to Maine, but we’re going to have company, which means I might not get a whole lot done. I think this is another chance to let God work on me. To be perfectly honest, I do think camping out in the house will be fun.

I could have worked on my book today, but I ended up spending the whole day managing my online music stuff. It took much longer than I thought it would. It was a productive day, though, and I think it was worth the time. What I do, I do for God, not for profit. If profit comes in the end, then that’s a plus. Any creative endeavor is a bit of a dangerous business, though, because it can naturally feed a person’s pride. The other day, I was working on my book, and I had writer’s block. At the end of the day, I gave up, then an idea came to me, and I knew it was from God. I thanked Him, and I later realized that he hadn’t helped me earlier because, though I had asked for help already, I hadn’t really admitted that I couldn’t do what I was doing without His help. I’m good at writing because He gave me that talent.

He Meant What He Said

Our car was in the shop for most of the summer. No one could figure out what was wrong with it. We had it back for about ten days. As of Sunday, it’s dead and in the shop again. I wrote a post about this, and about patience and forgiveness when we were first having these problems. Jesus has been teaching me things this summer, partly through this experience. He’s taught me that this is my cross to carry, and I can carry it with Him.

I’m mostly stuck at my house, but I can still work, and thankfully, I have a portable wheelchair that my dad can get in his truck, and I was able to get to the studio and cut the lead vocals and two guitar parts for my new song, Autumn Hero last night.It’s a worship song, and I call the Lord my Autumn Hero in the song because, for me, it evokes the idea of a world that has been saved but isn’t perfect. We’re still clinging to Summer, and the idea is that Summer will come again, but right now, we’re in an uncomfortable time of waiting. Admittedly, it’s not a perfect metaphor, but I like it, because Autumn is also a beautiful time, even though we have to “taste the cold.”

I slept really late today because I went to bed really late. As I’ve said before, I’m nocturnal. I’ll just stay up late tonight to get my work done. When I woke up today, my prayer was this: “Lord, I’m a mess, but I’m Your mess. I’m not leaving You. If I were to leave, I’d have nowhere to go. You are my Home. I literally can’t leave. I’m staying right here.” I don’t need to tell Him that, but I wanted to tell Him anyway. When you love someone, you tell them, even if they know it. What I meant was a little more than that, though. My Catholic faith is so ingrained in who I am at this point, that I can’t imagine going to another church. The Church is a mess, but it’s His mess.

Sometimes it seams like the world is out to get us. A bunch of bad stuff happens all at once, and it can feel like we’re drowning in it. Between the car and the problems in the Church, it does kind of feel like the world is trying to beat me down, on an emotional, if not a spiritual level, also. A lot of times, I end up waiting until the end of the day to commit to serious prayer. Lately I’ve been committing to praying the Rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet before work, as well as some “off-the-top-of-my-head” prayer, and that has helped a lot. I also pray when I start work, and while I’m working. I call it “picking a fight with the universe.”

Father Mike Schmitz often posts videos on YouTube, and a lot of them are really helpful. In one, he talked about having “anti-fragile” faith. He said that fragile faith is faith that gets broken when it comes up against difficulties. Then there is strong faith that can withstand difficulty and is no better or worse for it. Then there is anti-fragile faith, which gets stronger when it comes up against difficulties. This will probably sound like bragging, but I’ve been surprised to find that these frustrations I’ve encountered lately have, in fact, made my faith stronger. It honestly does come as a surprise, and it has nothing to do with me.

When God made me, he made a stubborn woman. I can at least say that. I think being stubborn is often only perceived as a bad thing. My own stubborn nature has been a huge help when it comes to trying times. The thing I’ve come to realize lately is that if we want Jesus, that automatically means we want the Cross. When He said to pick up our cross and follow Him, He meant it. For the longest time, I wanted Him, but I didn’t want the Cross. I realize now that it doesn’t work that way.

Learning to accept and carry my cross, whatever it might be, whether it’s the car, or my epilepsy, or something else, I try to carry it because I have to. I have nothing to prove. I just want Jesus, and I’ll follow Him through whatever mess I have to because I’m stubborn. I can’t do this on my own. I need His help, and I have to remember that, and it’s humbling, but I’m stubborn for Him. We carry our crosses because this is Friday, but Sunday will come. With that in mind, I want to end this post with one of my own songs.

https://writered.bandcamp.com/track/good-in-things

Love Stories

The past two days have been pretty amazing. Yesterday was the second meeting of the Carmelite group I attended last month. They have Mass at the meeting, which meant I got to receive the Eucharist two days in a row. I didn’t go to our regular Mass yesterday afternoon, so I went this afternoon. That means three days in a row receiving Jesus in communion. I’m planning to go to the worship thing tomorrow, so that will be pretty awesome. I’ve just been really happy this whole time. I went to bed last night with the thought, “I am loved,” in my head.

Before I got up today, I watched a short video of something a priest said. He was reading from the diary of Saint Faustina. She had written of a conversation she had with Jesus in a moment of despair. Jesus explained to her that He will call a despairing soul to Him several times, and even if that soul despairs of His mercy, Jesus will make a huge effort to prove He is loving and merciful, and that no soul is beyond His love. It’s only if the soul willfully rejects His mercy that He will let that soul go. In that conversation, Jesus refers to Himself as the soul’s best friend. Though I’ve been really happy over the past three days, I wondered for a moment at lunch today: could He really be my best friend? Then I thought, “Well yeah, I know He’s my best friend. It’s just weird because He’s God and I’m just me, and He’s perfect and I’m not.”

Yesterday I had to be at the monastery for the meeting at eight AM. I’m nocturnal. This is entirely against my nature. We didn’t really have much food in the house for breakfast, but my dad threw together an omelet for me, which was actually pretty good because it had broccoli and onions in it, but it didn’t have any meat. I don’t know why, but if I don’t have any sausage or chicken in an omelet, it does not fill me up. I ate some toast on the way, thinking this would help, but it didn’t do much, and I had a seizure in the car.

I was able to think coherently enough to pray a little just before we got there, so I said, “Lord, I want to do this for you, and I think this is what you want me to do, but if I’m going to do this, I can’t be fuzzy.” When we got to the monastery, I took an extra pill, and I was mostly back to normal by the time we got through morning prayer. Incidentally, yesterday was a celebration in the Church for the birth of the Blessed Mother, so we had cake. This obviously helped alleviate my hunger.

Several of the people there know about my epilepsy by now, and they’re really helpful and understanding. I have to take my medicine at ten and eleven AM, which are kind of inconvenient times during the meeting, so again I prayed. I said, “God, I’m nervous. You are a merciful God, and I know you want me here, so I need you to take care of this.” As soon as I finished praying, a girl whose name is also Katie came over and asked if I needed help getting my pills.

God’s mercy, love, and goodness really are unfathomable. Last night I started really thinking about a kind of love I’ve been feeling lately, but still don’t quite understand. I recently got a text from my “cousin,” with a picture. It was a sonogram of her son–my godson. The funny thing is, I was kind of hoping for a girl. When I saw that sonogram though, with the confirmation that he was a boy, I immediately fell in love. I had been praying for this kid all along and I was joking with my “cousin,” saying that it’s been awkward not knowing which pronoun to use. Now I know that I’m going to be the godmother of a little boy named Max, and I am ecstatic.

Just thinking about him makes me happy. This makes no sense to me. How can I love someone I’ve never met before? The craziest thing about it is that I don’t even like babies. I just know that somehow Max might change that. Earlier I was thinking about something I had heard from a musician I admire very much. He said, in a nutshell that it doesn’t really matter what we do. It just matters why we do it, and who we do it for. I’m starting to think there isn’t really one particular thing God wants me to do with my life. I do know one thing, though. I do what I do because I love Him. I don’t always love Him the way I should, but ultimately, that’s what God’s will for everybody generally is. Jesus said to love God, and love the people around us.

Looking back, I see the line of strangers I’ve befriended, and I see that most of the time, they have been people that the rest of the world passes by. After Mass today I was talking to my dad and laughing because I was thinking about how, when I was a teenager, all I wanted to be was different. I wanted to be nothing like everyone else. At the time, that actually meant befriending the people that others rejected. In fact, between my Junior and Senior year, I took a summer program for highschool kids at Berklee in Boston, and I made a very memorable friend. He was a homeless man with some form of Autism or something. I never knew his real name, but he called himself Polliwog.

I never made friends with any of the other students, but I saw Polliwog every day between classes. I played guitar for him, and he danced, and it made both of us happy. Though I didn’t recognize Him at the time, I think I saw Christ in Polliwog, and I’m convinced that that was the first step towards changing my heart so I’d let Him save me a couple years later. I still think about him from time to time, and I hope he’s doing well. When I was talking to my dad on the way home from church I joked that I always wanted to be different. I got what I wanted. I am different than a lot of my peers. I just never thought being different would look like being madly in love with Jesus.

In the end, though, being in love with Jesus automatically means striving to be like Him. That means loving like a crazy person. Before I knew Jesus, I befriended those the world rejected because the world rejected me, too. Now I love because I love Jesus, but also, I think, for reasons I don’t even understand. John the Baptist said that he had to decrease so Christ could increase. To live like Jesus means letting Him live through me, and love through me. God’s love and mercy are infinite. I am not infinite, but God can work miracles through people like Polliwog, and he can teach love through Max, and He can show His mercy through my hopeful prayers.

There is so much reason to trust and love the Lord, and to love those around us. All we have to do is choose peace when the world chooses violence; choose forgiveness when it’s easier to hold a grudge; choose faith when the night is at its darkest; choose love because love saves the world and love sets us free.

Stars In The Night

Remember that the stars are brightest on the darkest nights.

Today I went to Mass for the Devotion to the Sacred Heart that I’ve been doing. During Mass, our priest said something that I thought was really helpful. He said not to focus solely on Judas because that will lead us to despair. When things look bleak, we need to focus more than ever on Jesus. There will always be Judases in the Church, but the Church is the Body of Christ, and Christ can’t be defeated.

After Mass, there was time for Adoration. The other night, Jesus said to give to Him what was on my mind, so I let Him have it. I told Him my feelings are complicated. I’m angry and afraid and upset. I keep telling myself everything will be okay because He can make anything okay again. Then I realized that, up until now, I have not acknowledged that things are very not okay right now, at least not really. He helped me to understand that it’s important to realize that things will be okay, but also to simply be in the crappy situation you’re in at the moment.

On Good Friday, I don’t think Jesus just “muscled through it.” I don’t think His thought process was, “I just have to make it a few more hours, and my Father will do the rest.” His thought process was probably more along the lines of, “I’m scared, I’m miserable, I’m dying, and I will die. I know it will be worth it. I know that, but right now, I am dying.”

Hope requires imperfection. You can’t see light if you’ve never seen darkness. If everything is perfect all the time, there’s nothing to hope for. We hope because we have to. There is darkness, especially right now, but if you’ve ever been camping in the middle of nowhere, you know that the stars shine the brightest on the darkest nights.

Praise the Lord.

Do You Trust Me?

Isn’t it annoying when you forget to do something, or make the same silly mistakes over and over? Isn’t it even more annoying when a parent or a spouse or someone reminds you how to do it right over and over? I actually have a pretty terrible memory, so when you’re me, this happens a fair amount, or at least it used to. I’ve been good about simplifying things so I don’t have to remember details as much. I’ve also been pretty good at delegating things to people who can take care of stuff better than I can.

There is one thing that I haven’t quite mastered yet, and I can’t really give it away to just anyone. That one thing is worry. Two weeks ago I started going to worship thing at a church one town over. I was used to going to Adoration at my church where everybody sits in silence and prays silently for an hour. Occasionally there would be quiet music, but not always. When our priests got reassigned this past spring, and while our church is still transitioning from an individual parish to a collaborative with the other Catholic church in our town, weekly Adoration was put on hold. I missed it a lot.

Finally I decided I needed to find some place to go. I occasionally go to Mass at this church, so I decided I’d go there. I went two weeks ago, and it was not what I expected. I loved it, but it certainly took me outside my comfort zone. There was lively music, and the people sang along and danced. There was also a quiet time when someone read from Scripture, or something Jesus revealed to a saint. I decided to come back this week, and this time I knew what to expect. I prayed when I got there that God would help me come out of my comfort zone, and by the end, I was comfortable enough to dance and yell.

During the quiet time, one of the readings was about worry. In fact, the final sentence was a command: “Do not worry.” That struck a chord with me. I’ve heard it a thousand times in a thousand ways, but I still worry. As I sat there, though, Jesus said to me, “Give it to me.” Obviously I didn’t hear Him with my ears, but I know what He would sound like. Those words were full of compassion, and love, and, surprisingly to me, sadness. It bothers Him when I don’t let Him “worry for me,” in a sense. That’s crazy to me.

Worry is a twofold problem because it is distracting, and it builds on itself. It leaves us with unanswered and often unanswerable questions. Lately, of course, my biggest worry has been about the current state of the Church, and what on earth our future might look like. This is actually a pretty complicated issue on a personal level because it becomes a matter of trust. Jesus promised that He would always be with us, and that, though we would face major difficulties at times, the Church would not fail in the end. The question then is, how much do I trust that promise? I think when He spoke to me on Monday, it was also a kind of reassurance. Though I hate to admit it, I intellectually knew that Jesus is still here and working constantly to make things right again, but I wasn’t emotionally feeling it, and a part of me had to be reminded that evil will not win. Jesus has the final say, so I choose to trust Him.

Starting Again

The other night my guitar and I had an appointment at the studio where I recorded my first album, after a three year hiatus. My guitar had been staring me down for those three years while I’ve been writing my book, and the musician in me decided she had finally had enough. Thus, I got my guitar, and at eight o’clock last Wednesday night, I picked up my guitar, and headed to the studio.

My new project is called, “A Song To Sing In The Dark.” My first album, “Replace These Empty Spaces,” featured personal songs about a myriad of experiences and ideas. My new project, while also very personal, is ultimately a worship album. We’re going through a dark time right now, and we need songs to sing in the dark. I’ve been holding off on doing this because I wanted to finish my book, but I need to write these songs for me, and also so that the rest of the world can hear that there’s at least one kid who’s not afraid of the dark.

I also decided to start on this project for two other reasons, however. The first is that, I took lessons from, and worked on my first album with the guy who owns the studio, and I’ve missed him. I’ve been dying to stop into the studio and say, “hi,” but I never know when he’s going to be working. The other reason is that, I’ve had songwriter’s block for the majority of the three years I’ve been working on my book, but I knew that working with my friend would help me alleviate that. I’m not always good at being my own boss, and lately, I’ve been finding a lot of excuses to take the day off or hang out with company. I think having an extra project to keep me busy and keep me motivated will also keep me focused.

We’ve already got a decent head-start on three of the songs. One is written and composed for the most part, and another is at least partly composed, but I have to finished writing the lyrics. The third, I’m going to sing acapapella. I want to do thirteen songs total, and right now, I have ten ideas at least loosely figured out. I’ll be headed back over there tomorrow, and I’m hoping we can start recording some stuff.