Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Day 7 - "He lives in the Emerald City, and that's a long journey from here"

I slept until 9 am. Glorious.

I woke up in a dream world, after having awakened in one of the most beautiful cities in America - Savannah, Georgia. If you've never been, you should go.

Leaving Peachtree City yesterday allowed me to drive for about 5 hours going southeast across Georgia...pretty much downhill all the way. Those 5 hours were great. I really do love driving, and am tolerating being alone in the car. Those 5 hours weren't filled with intense dialogue with Jesus. I listened to the Wizard of Oz on an audiobook.

I love that story. Clearly. I've loved it for a long time. I've owned a few pairs of ruby slippers. (The photo on the right is of my current pair.) I wrote a Theology of the Wizard of Oz, called "Ozology". I even had to write a huge paper in college about an epic story (sparing the Iliad and the Odyssey, or course) and I chose the Wizard of Oz. Clearly, I am a fan.

Listening to the story as I drove past thousands and thousands of the greenest trees, I felt like I was en route to the Emerald City. In the story, when Dorothy comes up against the Lion (who tries to hurt poor Toto), her heart swells with love and flies to the defense of Toto, despite her fear of the beast. She jumps into action and swats the Lion away and calls him a coward for trying to hurt little Toto. Dorothy is brave, and quite honestly, I have felt brave these past few days...mainly because my mom said she couldn't believe I was doing this and that she'd never be brave enough to. AND, to make my life more and more like Dorothy's, I noticed I was on a yellow brick road! Okay, not a literal one, but have you ever noticed that the sides of highways have that thick yellow line painted on them?!? Maybe you have and you think "Becca, seriously, everyone know're not a character from a storybook" but I felt transported into a fairy tale epic. I feel like I'm living in an epic. I mean, we all are, but it hit me in a new way.

My "Wizard of Oz" is not a poser though. He doesn't change. He doesn't hide behind a curtain. He is who He says He is. He can do all He says He can, with no catches or hidden fine print. And I know that I am safe from all harm through my own "kiss on the forehead from the Good Witch of the North that doesn't allow anyone to hurt me", aka, the indelible mark I received at Baptism and Confirmation.

I could go on and on, but I will not. I've got an adventure to live today in looks like my very own Oz. Seriously, it's so green here. It's colorful and filled with newness. And it makes me feel like anything is possible. That sounds so cliche, huh? Oh well. Adventure is meant to be lived and THEN written about, not the other way around. Hasta luego mis amigos.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Day 6 - "If the Wizard is a Wizard who will serve..."

Currently as I write, I'm sitting in a Starbucks (yes, I'm giving into "the man") in Peachtree City, Georgia - home of the world famous Stephen Lenahan. I have heard for some years of the mysterious "city of the peach trees"and in all honesty I didn't believe such a place existed.

Allow me to explain.

Peachtree City is a golf cart town....yes, they ride golf carts. Everywhere. There are paths for the carts. (Is it carts or karts? I think "karts" is reserved for the "go" kind.) There are tunnels that go under the main roads. In fact, it's faster to get from my friend Michael's apartment to McDonalds via golf c(k)art than least he says it is. It is a sprawling metropolis of a planned community. Boggles my mind. Consider me boggled.

Last night I stayed with Michael, his wife Crystal and their children Noah and Ruth. Totes presh. When I woke up this morning, Noah gave me $10. Okay, so it was fake money, but what a way to wake up, right? If only I could get paid to wake up in the morning....

Monday was filled with a lot of thoughts of the world. That sounds existential, I know. Stay with me. I left NOLA at 8:30, stopped in Pascagoula (yes that's a real place) and saw my sister Christie, my contemporary hero of social justice in action. She was randomly in town doing a fundraiser for Kenya. Yeah, small world. I trekked on to Montgomery, AL. (As a side note, Alabama is one of the most beautiful places I've ever driven through. Check it out if you have the opportunity. And...."trekked" looks wrong and reminds me of Star Trek.) In Montgomery, I parked at St. Joseph's Catholic Church downtown and walked for a bit.

You see, I love history, and the south is full of it. I remember being a junior in High School, and my US History teacher, Mr. Smith (real name, not an far as I know) got us all fired up for history. We had to make a music video to a civil rights song. My 3 girl friends and one guy, Suraag (again, real name, not an alias....he's from India) did "Respect" by Aretha Franklin - not so much civil rights, as equal respect for women and as an aside, it was funny to have Suraag dress up in a slinky dress. Anyway, the point is, I love history, stats, civil rights movement, etc.

Montgomery, AL is home to the Civil Rights Monument. See photo below.
It marks the dates of major movements in the 50s-70s. I felt so nostalgic and as if I was on holy ground. It's where Rosa Parks was arrested for not giving up her seat on a bus. MLK Jr led a march in Montgomery protesting the Jim Crow laws to petition free voter registration. Crazy things happened in this town and I was transported back in time to pay tribute to those who fought for freedom.

I felt very American on Monday, and proud to be. (Thank God for inspiring the First Amendment, otherwise, I wouldn't be able to write about the Faith.) Because of MLK Jr, I was able to grow up in the multicultural city of Houston, and was able to know my friend Suraag. I was able to be exposed to a world of cultures in the tiny microcosm of Houston. I'm free today because of people who fought for my freedom. We are all free because of Christ. He paid the highest price and we are asked to do likewise for our neighbor, which is what MLK Jr did. Service in love. Those who have are to give to those who do not. Jesus did it. MLK Jr did it. I should do it.

This Lent has been, for me, a lot about letting God love me and actually loving Him in a more authentic way. Appreciating Him. Giving Him my heart. That scares the hell out of me sometimes. But flashing back to the time of Rosa Parks and MLK Jr, I am reminded of the beauty of bold abandonment and total giving of yourself.

"So if a son frees you, then you will truly be free." - John 8:36

We are free to love. And not just love God and abandon ourselves to His Will, but we are free to love our neighbor and defend him at all lay down our lives for Love.

Freedom and Love go hand in hand. Serve those you meet with Love today.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Day 5 - “That's the scary part. I didn't know if I should smile, crack up, scream or run.”

This is how I feel.

Yesterday was rough. Day five.....who knew, it'd be so hard? It's only the fifth day?....Lord almighty. Do I smile, crack up, scream or run? Screaming feels good and is fun...and releases toxins. Try it in the car today.

I found myself in the Adoration Chapel yesterday afternoon - a cute little chapel by the way. There were only 6 chairs - 6 comfy chairs! - in this small intimate building with a Monstrance so close to me, I actually felt kind of uncomfortable. Please don't judge me.

I sat and prayed my Rosary and, of course, was super distracted. It always happens - every little thing pops in my head and every little thing distracts me in a room. I try to pray for whatever pops in my prayer, but nonetheless, I'm thinking about a million things. I even noticed that I was pretty much rushing through the I was running from praying it. No reason. I just caught myself doing it and feeling that way. I was kind of restless. This wasn't fun anymore.

As I sped up my words faster than humanly possible, I wondered why I felt so restless....and it hit me.

This is hard. Not praying the Rosary at lightning speed. Not sitting in the chapel. Not even the distractions.

This trip is hard.

I wondered why on earth is this so hard? I mean, God asked me to do it, right? "We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28) If this was what God called "my purpose" at this point, then why the heck was it sucking so much? Was I not loving God? (I mean, that's what I'm working on right now, but really?

And then it hit me. Again. Correction, God hit me again. Not in an abusive way. In a "Hey, stupid, what are you doing?" kinda way.

Just because God asks you to do something, doesn't mean it's going to be easy. In fact, it probably won't be easy.

Look at Scripture.

Abraham is called to sacrifice his only son after God promises that his descendents will be as numerous as the stars of the sky, taking away "his only shot" at procreation. - Not easy.

Jacob is enslaved to Laban for 14 years so he can marry the right woman for him and God eventually brings about Joseph (of the technicolor dream coat fame) - Not easy.

The prophets were prophets when no one wanted to listen. - Not easy.

Mary found out she was having God's Son. Joseph freaked out and then an angel appeared in a dream to tell him "what was up". They got married and raised the Lord of the Universe. - Not easy.

Jesus asked that His Father take "this cup" from Him if it be His Will, but accepted it and gave everything on the Cross and died. - Literally, not easy.

All things worked for good.

Just because God calls you to something doesn't mean it's going to be a cake walk. Or even fun all the time. But (and this is a biiiiigggggg but, like, Sir Mix-A-Lot big).....He never gives us anything we can't handle OR He can't bring us through.

So here we go, Big Guy. Bring me through.

I don't have a video today, but Emilio Estevez does. Let's take a trip to the Camino, shall we?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A great prayer...

The following prayer is taken from another blogger, Kristen Lippert-Martin
Check her out, especially if you are trying to write ANYTHING at all 
A Writer’s Prayer

God grant me the serenity to sit my twitchy rear-end
down in that chair once again
and make that cursor move
across the computer screen,
even if the only way I can do so
is to repeatedly apply my forehead
to the keyboard like a chicken
pecking the ground for meal worms. 

Lord, please help me to accept the things
that cannot be changed,
like the fact that the entire premise of my next book --
the one I'm super excited about –
causes most people to either shrug with indifference
or say, “Ooooh-kaaay. Sounds, you know, interesting.
Good luck with that.”

Give me the courage to change those things
that should be changed,
even though I have damn well changed them enough,
and I don’t want to change them again.
No, I don’t.
I don’t, I don’t, I don’t.
La-La-La-La-La…I’m not listening.
I’m not listening to that little voice of doom in my head
(and my gut better shut up too if it knows what’s good for it).

Help me to see the difference between something
that’s actually funny and
 lame jokes predicated on esoteric references
to “BJ and The Bear.”

And when I am in the darkest hour of Querying,
walk with me, Lord, and be my rock and my shield.
Also, this would be one of those times
when I could use some serious smiting of my enemies.
May I suggest one of those plague things You do so well?
Or a flood.
 Whatever You’re in the mood for. Feel free to improvise,
 but be sure to make it extra, you know, vengeful,
since vengeance is exclusively Your thing
and not for me to indulge in
 no matter how much I might really, really want to.

Lord, grant me some more of that serenity
so that I might not freak out at my agent
 when she tells me that I need to revise
based on feedback.
Because You of all people realize
that even if that poor woman were getting
an 85% commission on the sale of my work,
it wouldn’t be enough to compensate her
 for having to listen to all my whining.

And lo, though I may walk
through the valley of the shadow of rejection --
which incidentally is a long-ass
and extremely shadowy valley
and not to complain but, geez, WTF?
How about the occasional peak now and again
just to break up the scenery a bit
(just something to think about
-- even You aren’t immune to suggestions for improvement) –
Yes, O Lord, be at my side during these desolate hours
and try not to take it personally when I lash out
at You, the world in general, and all those
who don’t “get me.”

And finally, Lord, grant me the wisdom to understand 
why it is that I do this writing thing,
 because there must be a damn good reason
or else I wouldn’t keep sitting here,
 day after day,
watching that little cursor winking at me
 like it’s in on some big cosmic joke
that I don’t know about.
 Because it’s not all one big joke, right?


Anybody there?

Day 3 - There's no place like home

Yesterday was only my third day and I'm homesick. I NEVER get homesick. But I sit here typing and am homesick, nonetheless.

It's a peculiar feeling, this homesickness. It's funny because I don't really feel like I even have a home. Maybe it's because I basically live out of a backpack. Maybe it's because I haven't stayed in one place for more than a few months. Whatever it is, it feels strange. "There's no place like home" - I haven't had a "home" in so long. What am I missing? Feeling alone and homesick led me to look at a picture of my old house in Houston, the one I grew up in.

I miss this house. Whenever I hear Miranda Lambert's song "The House That Built Me" I think back to my life in this house. I learned to play guitar in the living room downstairs. I was asked to the Eighth Grade Dance in the driveway by forgot his last name (oops). I sat in our office upstairs and listened fondly to the dial up sound of AOL back in the day. I painted my room too many times to count. I would sneak into our kitchen late at night to bake brownies with my best friend on the weekends. I literally grew up here. When I couldn't sleep in high school, I would sit up in my bed and read Scripture.

I wish I could go back there, but I know it won't be the same. It's not that I want to go back to being 17 or anything. There is just so much of me tied up there...things that God did.

Thinking about homesickness and loneliness, it only makes sense to turn to Jesus. He felt those things too. But if I'm being honest, it's hard to break down my own pride and do it. He is "The House That Built Me".

It's Lent and now is the perfect time to look back at the old house of my heart to see what all Jesus has rebuilt time and time again. Lent is a time for restoration and revisitation. Day three was about looking at my heart and trying to get comfortable in the Home of Christ in the midst of feeling homesick.

How has Jesus been rebuilding your house? Where do you find your home?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Camino Day 2 - Video

Day 2 - Ease on down the road

On the second day of creation, God separated the water with a dome and created the sky.

I didn't create sky today, but it was a beautiful day! Gorgeous, even.

I got up early...6 am! That is waaaaay out of my comfort zone. I was so tired my face hurt, but I was so excited I didn't care. Before going to bed the night before, my friend Laura and I rewrote "No Woman No Cry" for her students....on the ukulele. I fulfilled a childhood dream to write part of a rap. Check! We performed it for her classes later in the morning. I gave a testitalk (just coined that phrase....copyright pending) on the hemorrhaging woman from Mark 5 in her first period and the need for honesty with God with respects to Psalm 34:18-21. It was a great morning.

I took a side trip between classes to St. Joseph's Abbey in Covington to get some research done for my book. I got to sit down with one of the monks - Father Raphael. We talked for a while about what he did everyday and what I was doing. He was jazzed that his name was in my book and that made me excited to see him excited. He was precious.

In the afternoon, Laura and I headed to the French Quarter Festival in New Orleans. At one point, I felt like we were at a Dave Matthews concert - never seen so many older hippies wearing tie-dye and dancing around in my life.

At one point during the night, we got some grub - crawfish bread. It. Was. Heavenly. I love New Orleans for many reasons, but this bread creeps up near the top of the list. After some dancing to the Mardi Gras Indians and a great brass band and heading home, I thought more about that crawfish bread. Laura and I would just look at each other and sigh, "that bread!...."

This may seem kind of trivial to you, but I knew God loved me because of that crawfish bread.

It's true. He does.

It says in Romans that "God proves His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us". There should be an asterisk attached about the crawfish bread. Yes, God's sacrifice of His only Son is the ultimate sign of His Love and all, but there are so many little things in life that God shows His love.

Some of my favorites include:
Crawfish bread
Humidity (call me crazy but I love it)
The Flip Video
My friend's son Anthony laughing at me, and getting the hiccups
Being able to weave in and out of traffic
Getting great gas mileage
Seeing sunflowers on my trip
...and much more

Today I felt loved by God, even when I wasn't so confident in myself. It's the little things that add up and mean a lot. Look for the little things today.

**There is a video coming...promise**