Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Happy Easter Thursday!

This Easter Vigil marked five years for me as a Roman Catholic. For the first 22 years of my life, I was a Protestant, raised in the Christian Reformed Church. I went to a Lutheran school through eighth grade and dabbled in the Evangelical church during college. Needless to say, my walk as a Christian has been colorful and varied.

My journey into the Church was filled with uncertainty, angst, and surprise. During the RCIA process, Kevin and I went on a walk after one of our preparation classes. He asked me, "So, do you think you're going to go through with it?" Looking back, answering "yes" or "no" was so much more than deciding whether or not to go through a ceremony on the Saturday before Easter. The implications of this decision were infinite! What will happen if I become Catholic and Kevin doesn't or vice versa? What will happen to my relationships with Protestant family members and friends? Will I "lose" people I love? Is Jesus really present in the Eucharist? Is all that the Catholic Church teaches on contraception, abortion, marriage and the all-male priesthood really true? If I aligned myself with this institution, I would be taking a stand-an unpopular stand-on many faith and moral issues.

In the end, joining the Catholic Church was the best and most monumental decision of my life. I have heard it said that we all have a God-shaped hole in our hearts that can only be filled by his perfect love. Recently, I heard a fellow convert go even further to assert that we all have a Catholic-Church-shaped hole in our hearts that can only be filled by the sacramental graces Christ offers through the ministry of the Church. And to this, I say "Amen!" As difficult as the transition from Protestant to Catholic was and is with family, friends and within my own sensibilities, the sacramental gifts of the Church-Eucharist, Reconciliation, Confirmation, and Marriage-have brought so much love, hope, peace, and blessing to my life that, like Peter, I often ask, "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." (John 6:68)

Happy Easter Season to you all, and may Christ's love and joy continue to deepen in your hearts!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Kevin's Pre-Easter Rampage

Today I asked Kevin to pick up some sausage on the way home from work. He came home with sausage and this:

Yes, there are three varities of jelly beans; not to mention two others we have in the candy stash. Total jelly bean varieties in our home: 5 And just a reminder, we don't have kids. Apparently, this is all intended for the two of us.

I can feel my teeth rotting already.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Flamenco Beach-Culebra, PR

In a post just before we left for Puerto Rico, I displayed some pictures of Flamenco Beach. Here are a few more, but I don't think they can do justice to the beautiful aquamarine water and white sand.

Today, as I watch the snow fly, I really wish I was back there soaking in the sun!

Rusty ol' tank on Flamenco

Extreme Reading at its best

A leisurely run on the beach

Monday, March 17, 2008

"Into Great Silence"

On Friday night, Kevin and I accomplished a great feat; we finally finished watching "Into Great Silence," a film documenting the life of the monks at the Grand Chartreuse, the head monastery of the reclusive Carthusian Order in France. It took us three sittings to get through it. I felt a bit ashamed that we could not seem to muster the discipline and interest to watch it all the way through in one night! Kevin and I don't watch copious amounts of TV; we don't play video games, and we're not people who need constant entertainment. But for some reason this movie was like penance! I had to force myself to sit on the couch and stay awake as we watched the happenings at the Grand Chartreuse: changing weather, monks praying in their small, wood-paneled cells, shaving each others' heads, chewing their food in silence, and chanting together in the darkness.

They're way of life is simple and beautiful but so foreign from my everyday existence. I can enjoy 30 minutes of silence and solitude, but a life that is lived that way 90% of the time was difficult to take in. I can honestly say that watching (or attempting to watch) this movie was one of the most humbling exercises in all my lenten activities.

In my opinion, the best scenes were in the last half hour. One segment showed the brothers during recreation in the mountains surrounding the Grand Chartreuse. They hiked the peaks in their white, flannel habits and snow shoes and went sliding down the mountainside, falling head over heels, laughing and knocking mercilessly into one another. Throughout the movie, as I looked at the faces of these men, I found myself wondering what they were like as children. Were they as silent and austere as they are now? Watching them slide in the snow, laugh, and call to each other reminded me that we all need a bit of "rough and tumble." I was glad to know that life for these monks, while very ascetic, allows for play as well.

And this video is my favorite scene. It's about 5 minutes, but so worth the watch:

Even through the screen this monk's manner, his words, his voice which is so little used, pierced me. How often do I curse God for a traffic jam or a trifling cold? "Had it been up to me, none of this would have happened!" I think. And I must remind myself that it is not up to me. That like this monk, I am invited to acceptance and joy in God's infinitely good presence. But just as you must accept or decline an invitation, the joy of knowing that God has my eternal best in mind at every moment must be accepted or declined. And Lord help me, I want to accept this truth because as the wise monk said,

"This is all one must do and then one is happy."

I believe this is true because the more I am able to accept my life as it is, with all of its tumult, the happier and more free I become. And that is why Christ came in the first place, to set us free from sin, from Satan, and from our self-tyranny.

I'm glad I did not give up. I'm glad I finished the movie. Though humbling and challenging, it was worth every moment to witness the love that God has poured into those men at the Grand Chartreuse. I may not fully understand their way of life, but I am glad they are out there, praying for all of us.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

For the Record...

I saw a dirt and peat moss packed 18 wheeler on the highway again! I think this harbinger may be looking to take the place of ol' Robin Red Breast.

The Palmetto Guesthouse-Culebra, PR

Here is my first installment in Andrea and Kevin's Culebra Extravaganza! It really was a great vacation and one major reason for that is the Palmetto Guesthouse.

The Palmetto is run by Mark and Terrie, a married couple originally from the Boston area. They were in the Peace Corps and then lived in Samoa and Tortola before recently settling in Culebra to run the guesthouse. When they arrived last summer, they gave the villa a facelift and opened for business. The Palmetto is clean, conveniently located close to Flamenco Beach and Dewey, Culebra's little town. Mark and Terrie were very helpful in helping us plan our beach outings, finding good snorkeling spots and loaning us beach chairs, snorkels, masks and flippers.

Another bonus for the guesthouse were the other guests! We had our own room and shared kitchen and living space with the other guests. There were three folks from New Hampshire staying at the Palmetto and we traded stories and tips about our travels around the island. They were a lot of fun and getting to know the other travelers only added to the adventure!

If you decide to take a trip to Culebra, we definitely recommend the Palmetto Guesthouse for an affordable and hospitable stay during you time on the island.

Mark and Terrie

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Harbinger of Spring

Robin Red Breast seems to be a reliable harbinger of spring, and I've seen a few of them hopping and twittering about in the past few days. However, on my way home from work yesterday, I saw a close second: an 18-wheeler stacked high with plastic-wrapped bags of this:

Now, I know spring will be here soon!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

There's No Place Like Home

As much as I loathe winter at the beginning of March and as much as I enjoyed beaching it for a few days, there is still nothing like coming home. Here are some things that I always appreciate about "home" no matter where I roam.

1. My own bed. Falling asleep and waking up in your own bed cannot be matched, even at the Ritz.

2. My pooch. There are many days when I don't particularly appreciate caring for ol' Buck: his muddy paws, pooper scooping, shedding and stinkiness. But let me tell you. When he came bounding in the house after Kevin brought him home from the place he was boarded, I was just overjoyed to see his little doggy face and to give his little doggy self a hug. He is so great.

3. The kitchen. Eating out for a week straight really gave me an appreciation for being able to walk in the kitchen and just get something healthy to eat, instead of paying $12 for a greasy piece of a pizza and rotting lettuce at the airport.

4. Familiar faces. The office may not be my favorite place in the world, but it's nice to walk in the door and know that you'll be dishing about American Idol and discussing the merits of different coffee roasts with people you enjoy.

5. Routine. Getting away from "it all" really helps me to appreciate "it all." I come back and notice the sunrise during my commute, the soft warmth of the throw blanket on my couch, and the freedom of having a car I can depend on. I come back and realize how much I have, and in turn, how much I have to give

Praise God for Home Sweet Home.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Back and Tan...

...or maybe a bit burnt and itchy. Either way, it was a great vaca! However, the journey home was less than smooth (read: a canceled flight followed by a one-way car rental.) And, we came back to this:

Back to March in the North. But we're used to it, right??

Pictures of beautiful, sunny Culebra to come!