Category Archives: memories

Beginning a Practice of Forgiveness

Last week I went to a writing class. It was not your big name, large audience type of writing class. There were no big name authors, no fan girl types in the group. No large audience attended, we were not in a big conference center. But that didn’t stop the class from having a very powerful impact. Instead of the big name/big room, we had something smaller. Something a little more intimate. Something a little more special. We met at a small studio in downtown Greenville, SC.

When we signed up for the event on Facebook, we were told: “Using creative writing techniques, participants will explore moments of their past that have caused unresolved hurt or shame, will write what acknowledgement, apology or reparation they might want, and envision what their lives might be like if they could relinquish resentment, indignation and anger.” Sounds pretty straight forward, easy enough. I thought about a few things that I could work on (I wish I only had one thing, but that’s just not realistic. :) ) So I had something in mind to work on, and even though I debated a couple of times throughout the day about going, I headed out to meet a friend and we drove over to the studio.

Now, any of you that follow my blog or pop over from time to time will have noticed that I haven’t had much to say lately. I really can’t say why either, other than a couple of little points I made in my last post about missing Paris and feeling depressed off and on. It’s not like me in real life to be silent for so long either, so I went to this class hoping it would prime my pump so to speak, for writing and sharing again. The class was also part of a bigger event called “The Forgiveness Project – The ‘F’ Word” which was being hosted by Greenville Yoga and Raspberry Moon Skin Therapy. I hadn’t had time to view the exhibit before the class, so I spent a few minutes with my friend beforehand reading through part of the stories the exhibit shared. It was touching and inspiring and awesome and a little scary all at the same time. You can read lots of stories of forgiveness overcoming tragedy on their website too, so pop over there and dip your toes in too. We had been greeted as we entered the class by Heather, who was our facilitator that night and we started preparing our space for our class.

With a combination of a little of the stories from the exhibit still running through my mind, as well as the bits and pieces of stuff I had been thinking of working on, I sat down on a mat and leaned slightly against a wall for support and listened as Heather began to explain, to open the door to the wonderland she was preparing to take us into.  She asked for us to settle on an intention for ourselves, what we wanted or hoped to get out of the class. She wanted us sitting comfortably, opening ourselves up to this experience and helping us relax and breathe, just breathe and let go. I was trying to follow her, but was still having a little trouble doing that. But I made myself sit still and start to take deep breaths and voila! I was able to relax and my focus and clarity on what I needed to work on came very quickly. Surprisingly enough it wasn’t any of the things I had thought of before hand. It’s amazing what taking just 3 deep, long breaths can do to calm your body and your thoughts down. There are all sorts of medical studies that prove it works if you want to Google them, but even with that evidence and the Heartmath work I used to do more regularly I forget this simple thing quite often. Yes, I’m sitting here laughing slightly at myself as I type this. A few deep breaths help ease our tension in almost every situation. Remember when you were told to count to ten before your let your anger go? I bet that’s so you can breathe a little to calm down, don’t you?

Anyhow, I breathe and I focus and I listen to Heather’s gentle instruction – Put yourself in your perfect place. The beach, near a river, in the mountains, wherever. Imagine yourself as part of this place and begin writing: “I am…” and include a color, a smell and a texture. She gave us a couple of examples and then gave us time to write. My place was the beach, and the position I saw myself in surprised me but was very illuminating for me. I’ll share my little piece with you tomorrow.

The class continued through 5 writing steps that led us through what the description promised: exploration, acknowledgement, what we hoped from the experience for ourselves, what we hoped for the other person/situation, and writing to let go and move forward. The class was very encouraging to me and I did feel like I can start to write again. I had to shake my head and laugh a little at the end of it though. I didn’t pay anything for this class, we were told we could make a donation as we entered the class if we wanted, but it wasn’t required. Several weeks ago I did pay for a writing class, writing through grief so a little similar in theme if not emotion. However, that class was not as fruitful for me. It goes to show you never know where your muse or inspiration will land sometimes.

I am really thankful and very happy that I joined the class that evening. I hope to share some of my writings here with you as I continue with my practice of writing through my forgiveness. Who knows? Maybe my muse will talk to your muse, and all of our muses will have our pumps flowing shortly. Talk to you later, Angela

Sunset November 2010

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In a Paris Frame of Mind . . .

Saudade pinterest size

Over at abeautifulmessinside, The Mess offered us a challenge. “I’d like you to pair the right words or a favorite quote with a selfie and share it with us.  Be creative.  You don’t even have to show us your face. Let’s be intimate and try real “in-to-me-see”. I hope you’ll share with us because it helps us see more clearly into ourselves. I know you. You have lots to say and this is a safe place for you to be heard.

Well, I decided to take her up on it. It has taken me a while today to figure this one out. To start off with, I didn’t have a picture or a quote to use, just a realization that lately I am constantly think of myself as SAD! This is truly a revelation for me today, and I have decided to stop thinking this way and start forcing myself to see me as a happy me. Time to stop the sad train and get on board with a better frame of mind. My head knows I don’t have to let current circumstances dictate my mood or feelings for my day, but it’s really easy to let that happen in your heart isn’t it? I’ve fought depression off and on again for a lot of this year, and it has definitely colored my self perception.

The picture I decided to use is from that very happy trip earlier this summer we made to Paris. I thoroughly enjoyed our time there and want to go back quite often. Hence the quote, er, definition of saudade. Very often when I have traveled over my lifetime, the places I visit capture my heart….apparently forever! I promised you guys some pictures and stories of that trip too that I’ve never been able to put together. I truly feel like we left there too soon. :) I’ve even had trouble going back and looking at all of our pictures. However, I have managed to get through 2 days worth of them (around 1500 pictures!) in the last few days, so maybe…..maybe…..I can get back to sharing. No large promises or dictating deadlines to myself though. That doesn’t seem to be working for my post writing. :D

I’ve already thanked The Mess for this in my comment and share on her post, but I would like to say it again here as well. Thank you Miss Mess for making me think today. I don’t want to live my life thinking I’m suppose to be a sad woman any longer. We are made for so much more than that!

Until next time, Angela

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Can Suffering Be Redemptive? Is It All Our Fault?

I want to share part of my story with you today, as well as my thoughts on an article I have recently read. The article is the bottom half of this post and is a post on the Catholic view of suffering being redemptive, and not “proof” of one’s sinfulness. A friend who has been through a lot of life’s trials with me thoughtfully sent it my way (Thanks Val!).

I’ve not been exactly in the valley of regret, but maybe on the hillside? I have lost and continue to lose so much it’s hard for me not to think and feel sometimes it’s all my own fault. Sin does have consequences, but this helped me remember not everything bad is my fault. Jesus didn’t deserve what He went through for us, and no one has nailed me to a cross lately either. This article put some of this back into perspective for me.

I am a Christian, but not what most people think of one. I am not gonna sit around and judge you for your actions. I love you the way I want to be loved, and you either love me back or you don’t, the choice is yours. I was raised in a very strict religious background, and I am a little OCD and have perfectionism problems. Well, maybe more than a little OCD.  That being said, I do very often blame myself for what happens because perfectionist do, whether they are raised like me or not. It’s not all our fault, we don’t bring it all on ourselves. I (and probably you too) need to stop blaming myself for everything bad that happens. I don’t take credit for all the good, so why in the world should I blame myself for all the bad?

Some of the points in the article that touched me the most were:

One person’s decision to commit the sin against me is not my fault any more than the terrorist attacks were the fault of the victims.

“Being a Christian does not provide immunity from suffering.”

“(We suffer being)…rejected, betrayed and abandoned. (Then) realize, ‘This is what they did to Jesus.’ ”

“Whether you follow well or badly, just follow. We may have to descend into Hell with Him, again, and again, but if we remain with Him, Easter is assured.” (I follow badly I think, I make so many mistakes. This part was very reassuring for me. “You sin, you ask forgiveness. You sin, you ask forgiveness….” A friend shared this with me a few years ago, and it spoke very simply to my perfectionist’s heart that never wants to do anything bad. There are Christians who will tell you that you have to live their kind of life to be forgiven. I am learning that I am resposible for living the life God called me to, not theirs. He loves me enough to help me through anything, and He does.)

“Being without Christ is the worst thing that can happen to us.” – this statement and the paragraph before it near the end of the article were also very encouraging for me.

Read the article below or go to the original link here.

By John Mallon
© 2005 by John Mallon
Catholic Online

Most of us in the West have been raised on sort of a reward/punishment system. In a nominally functional home if we were “good” we were rewarded and felt good, if we misbehaved we were punished and felt bad.

Consequently, as adults we tend to carry those paradigms around with us. This can be a problem in the spiritual life if we project these patterns on God’s care for us. When things go wrong, or painful things happen in the normal course of life, for example, the death of a loved one, a brutal financial crisis out of which it takes us years climb, a bitter divorce, etc. We think if bad things happen to us we must have done something wrong. We may tend to cry, “What have I done to deserve this?”

We are not perfect, but very likely, we’ve done nothing to deserve it. These things happen in a fallen world. This is especially poignant when an innocent person is the victim of violence. People sin. And sin results, ultimately, in death. When someone sins innocent people suffer. The sinner suffers too, but that is the subject for another article.

A terrorist blows up a building killing hundreds or even thousands of innocent people including children, plunging the survivors and their families into a lifetime of trauma and grief. They did nothing to deserve this. One person or a group of people made a decision to commit the sin of murder and the result is dead and suffering survivors and families. Victims.

Sometimes we have a tendency to think that if we make the decision to follow Christ and grow in the spiritual life our lives will smooth out. And this will happen to a degree if we abandon a life of chaotic sin. As we grow in repentance and transformation there will be healing from the damage we’ve done to ourselves. But sometimes others damage us. We are sinned against. Being a Christian does not provide immunity from suffering. Following Christ necessarily leads to the Cross.

While we may be tempted to ask what we did to deserve suffering, the fact is we may well be suffering as the result of doing the right thing, as opposed to doing something wrong. Christ never sinned, yet the Prophet Isaiah said the Messiah would be a Man of Sorrows. St. Paul said as part of His Body we share in His sufferings.

Life doesn’t always go our way, even when to the best of our knowledge, ability and understanding we are trying to walk in God’s way and God’s will. A good, dutiful, faithful Catholic wife or husband wakes up to find their marriage has collapsed, and feels rage, hurt and anguish as though all their sacrifices were in vain, and that they’ve been had. Like Jeremiah the prophet they rage at God, “You duped me, Lord, and I let myself be duped!”

A gifted lay person places his or her life and talents at the disposal of the Lord only to find themselves on a dung heap like Job, feeling as if they were the one disposed of, unwanted and unable to make a living. Bewildered, they wonder, like Job, as to how they landed there, thinking, “I was faithful! How did this happen?” It may be that is precisely because they were faithful that they landed there—rejected, betrayed and abandoned. Until they realize, “This is what they did to Jesus.”

What a shock to find that all your efforts at being Christlike have been fulfilled! And your feet are fully in the footsteps of Christ and the Saints and Martyrs! Yes, you!

What then?

For the true disciple there is no choice but to just keep following Jesus through the darkness, though you can’t see Him or where He is going. It may be best that you don’t know. Just follow. Whether you follow well or badly, just follow. We may have to descend into Hell with Him, again, and again, but if we remain with Him, Easter is assured.

There may be a temptation to throw in the towel, and give up, but then what? If like St. Peter you can genuinely ask “Where else are we to go Lord? You have the words of Eternal Life,” then you know the Darkest Night of Suffering with Jesus is much better than a good day without Him. “Better one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere.” (Ps. 84:10)

Persevere! Endure! Better to suffer with Christ than rejoice without Him, for without Him all is folly—there is nothing to rejoice over. There is nowhere else to go but horror; suicide is out of the question for any Christian. It doesn’t work. With Him is always life and hope and the Great Adventure of Redemption, Salvation and rescue. We must cling to Him and refuse to let go.

Being without Christ is the worst thing that can happen to us.

The will of God is that you be with Him forever in Paradise. So we stick with Him now through the worst of trials, by His grace.

John Mallon is Associate Editor for Inside the Vatican magazine. He can be reached at realitycheck@catholic.org

Contact

John Mallon
http://www.catholic.org/featured/reality_check.php OK, US
John Mallon – Columnist, 405 720-2575

Email

realitycheck@catholic.org

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Remembering Friends….

Friend time!

Back on October 30, 2010 I shared about my friend Kathy Gass. My feisty silly friend of 20+ years. Today would be her birthday, so even though it’s been a few years I still think of her often. I don’t know how to do the re-post thingy, but I would love for you to pop over to that post and read about her. This is the link. An amusing little postscript to the post is that she and I both love Peanuts by Charles Schultz. When I gave my daughter her baby shower for the youngest grand, Kathy and I both bought the same Snoopy onesie for her. :) I took mine back and got a different one.

We’ve all lost friends and family over the years, and I miss all those who have gone on from time to time. I also have some great stories about these folks, so I will try to write some of those down and share them with you so you can enjoy them too.

It’s being a very rainy and cloudy January here so far for us. I hope you are warm and safe at home with your loved ones. I am. Gnite. Angela

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