Sunday, March 9, 2014

Cat Whiskers and Tales

Trying to teach a 13-year-old cat new tricks takes a lot of patience. I got it in my head this winter that I should try taking Ginger outdoors for walks when it warms up – in an effort to help her shed the extra pounds she put on since fall. When I adopted her in August, I received a harness along with her things from the previous owner, so I assumed that she was used to taking walks, or at least had gotten out once in a while. In fact, I also heard that she used to be an outdoor/indoor cat and that's why she still had her claws. All of that information sounded like the perfect recipe for taking her out-of-doors for exploration around the city neighborhood.

Yesterday the temps reached the 40s, so I got Ginger into her harness and attached the leash. Mind you, this took probably 20 minutes, coaxing her, chasing her and giving her treats so she’d let me put the thing on her. You’d think I was torturing her. When I had finally strapped her in, she glued herself to the wall in a bundle of fur, refusing to budge. Apparently, she thinks the harness is a strait jacket and her limbs are paralyzed in it. I decided to just pick her up and take her outside. 

We went down the stairs, opened the front door and stepped out into the fresh air and sunshine. Oh did it feel great! But Ginger leaned back against me, her eyes wide, her heart beating hard against my hand and her nostrils flaring in and out with all the smells. She shivered, whether it was from fear or cold, I would guess the former. In an instant, I had become, not her torturer, but her fortress of safety, from whose arms she could dare to peak out at the world. I didn’t have to worry about having her on a harness and leash – she wasn’t going to be doing any leaping out of my arms. Finally, I set her down beside me on the front steps, praising her for being such a brave girl. But she instantly turned back to me, putting her paws on my knee and then on my shoulder, begging to come “up” again. And then, when that wasn't good enough, she turned back to the door, reared up on her hind legs and heaved herself, arms and paws, against the door, letting out a whelping “meoooooowww.”

Ah, well. Maybe she just needs a few more times of "getting outside of her skin" to acquire a new habit and pastime, as I need to re-acquire that little, old writing habit of discipline. Putting on that old habit again scratches on the skin, like a rough wool robe, but once I've worn it a few times again, it will get easier to put on, just a part of me, grounding in a way. As for Ginger, I will extend her mercy and wait for spring and warmer days before teaching her those lessons.

In the meantime, she's sharing some sage life advice with me: 

Don't be embarrassed to take long and frequent naps. They're good for you.

Foster curiosity. It keeps life interesting!

Love one another.

Hm, what's this? "Shorter Christian Prayer..."

You weren't praying it, Mom, so I thought I would!

Resting in the spirit
(Honestly, I did not stage these pictures. I found Ginger curled up with this Liturgy of the Hours prayer book on the day I pulled it out to remind myself to get back into that habit.)

Obviously, I couldn't do it without her. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Christina Returns to Blogging, 4 Monts Later and with a Sense of Mission!

After making futile attempts to blog over the past four months and getting discouraged, I am hopeful that tossing this one pebble into the water will cause a ripple effect with more to come. This little pebble I toss in today is of a spiritual nature, because that is where a lot of my personal growth has happened lately. And perhaps that is the most appropriate place to start after all, as it is what brings the other ripples of my life into being and sets them into motion.

After a six-week study at my church called "The New Evangelization" series by Fr. Robert Barron, we were each posed with the question, "Why am I Catholic?" and invited to find an image (photo, art, film) that would capture our answer. While there are many reasons I could give on why I LOVE being a Catholic, many elements of the Creed, the Church and tradition that I love, and many reasons I could give for staying in the church, it seemed to me that there had to be one above the rest, one that would encompass everything.

Two days later, I was sent this image, forwarded to me from my grandma, because she said she thought of me when she saw it. I read it as words coming from the Lord's mouth in answer to my questions lately regarding the direction my life is taking.

You see, this young man on the mountaintop (my favorite landscape!), who stops to take in the immense and a beautiful world around him on his pilgrimage (see backpack) is like me, and the spirit and theme that comes forth on this blog. Here I am walking, step by step, over the mountains, through the plains, up to the heights! Walking, on a God-given mission, to use my talents and gifts to inspire and change the world. You see, I don't have to search out a mission or make one up but rather just discover what indeed it is.

Being a Catholic from the cradle is not so much about me choosing God, as it is He choosing me and baptizing me into a mission from the very beginning. (Yes, I do choose God every day in ongoing conversion, but that is the continual and active acceptance of his invitation.)

Faith is learning how to follow Jesus Christ in this mad and beautiful dance through life. In the best and purest moments, I'm letting him draw me close, my hand trustingly in his, my heart close to his, feeling his strength leading, his frame protecting and guiding, his feet going where I’m going, with me every step of the way. Other times, I’m only connected by the fingertips. I’m spinning out there on my own for a time, until he catches me back to him again, and we share glances that express our sheer joy of being in the dance together, of moving in sync and anticipating each other’s moves and responding with grace and beauty and power.

Is it no wonder that I love to dance? “The glory of God is the human being fully alive” (St. Irenaeus). And I see that all around me when I’m ballroom dancing. It's one of those rare and heavenly experiences where so many different people collide and are caught up together, laughing and dancing to the same beat. For it’s the same song stirring our hearts; it’s the same image stamped into our being; it’s the same grace working in all of us. 

“You’re like grace in motion!” exclaimed a stranger to me once when we were dancing.

Hmmm, grace in motion....that's what swept an ambitious, hard-working and driven young man named Saul off his horse one day, and, blinded by light, he heard a voice calling to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" Grace in motion was how Saul turned his life around that day and suddenly saw, with eyes of faith, his true mission in life was not to wipe out Christianity but to evangelize the world with the Gospel and to save souls. He'd found the answer he'd been hungering after. "You said to me that you wanted to find your mission in life, let me remind you, you do not choose a mission. You are sent on a mission." - Matthew Kelly

Just think! What mission is God inviting you into? And are you ready to take the first step - with Him?