Lent is Right Around the Corner!

Here we are again, Lent is right around the corner. For as long as I can remember Lent has been a significant thing in my life. Even before I was a practicing Catholic. My family was culturally Catholic and I observed Lent as part of my culture even though I had no idea what it was really about or why we didn’t eat meat on Fridays during Lent. Also, when I was sixteen I got a job at Long John Silver’s for two years so Lent was this big huge deal at work. To be honest, those years of working the drive-thru at LJS really made me sure that the one thing I never was gonna be was Catholic.

Then I became one. HA HA HA God is hilarious.

Lent as a Catholic was this incredible thing. But then we got the Lent Lice and then Lent Crisis after Lent Crisis happened and it became increasingly more and more difficult to focus on anything other than “LENT SUCKS”. Lent felt like a new school year where I would get all my supplies together and ready to go because THIS year was going to be THE year that I used them and did things the “right way”.

Then Lent of 2017, one week exactly after Ash Wednesday, my son Anthony hung himself in our family home in the garage. It is the year that we had a family dinner for Fat Tuesday and our first King Cake. Anthony’s oldest daughter found the baby. It was the last time that all my children would be together. Talk about Lent going downhill.

I had decided to give up Dr. Pepper and cussing for Lent that year and the second that my pastor got to the house, which was right behind the ambulance after we found Anthony, I said “I gave up cussing and Dr. Pepper for Lent but (insert f-bomb here) this, I am not giving up shit this year!” and he looked at me with the most merciful look on his face and said “I think you are covered for Lent this year and probably every Lent from now on”. As soon as the coroner took my son’s body I got in my car and drove to the nearest 7-11 and got me a Dr. Pepper. I never even finished it and it sat on the table in my bedroom for a year until I got the courage to throw it away finally. It was never about the Dr. Pepper. I was just so angry at God. Buying that Dr. Pepper was my way of flipping Him off.

Last year was a haze, but the one devotion that has truly helped me process my grief and to understand that God did not punish us with death, but death is a consequence of sin and God in His love and Mercy sent His Son to redeem and conquer death, has been Sr. Theresa Nobles’ Memento Mori social media takeover. You can read more about what this devotion has done for me in my review of her Momento Mori journal.

This Lent she has just released her Lent Devotional. I think I am ready to gather my supplies and try to observe Lent again and I with this devotional, I can do that while also observing the anniversary of Anthony’s suicide. Which is the first Friday of Lent this year so there is no way to ignore it. It’s right at the beginning and I am hoping Sister’s devotional will help me to use Lent as a time to process my grief and help me to spend that time praying for Anthony.

I am planning on sharing daily reflections throughout Lent using this devotional and the Memento Mori Journal on my Patreon, If you would like to join in, please go check out my Patreon and become a Patron. And if you know of anyone who is grieving this Lent, please consider gifting them with this Memento Mori gift set for this Lent. It is beautiful and so so helpful in understanding death and looking towards God who is on the other side of it for those who love Him.

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The Pain of Healing

I started going to therapy for the past five years. I have faced everything that has happened to me from my childhood sexual abuse, bullying, trauma and then of course the suicide of my oldest son Anthony. It has been difficult to say the least to look at all the ways that I have been hurt in my life.

It often feels like I am standing in the landfill that is my emotional well being sorting through the piles of trash looking for the source of the strongest stink. What wound is causing all this trash to pile up? That is often the question I am asking when I am sitting in the chair in my therapist’s office.

I have identified quite a few wounds and I can trace so many of my self destructive actions to them. For one thing, anger is how all of my pain presents itself. Growing up I was laughed at a lot for different reasons. Not having a dad, my mom living with a man, being poor, not having the latest brand name clothes plus I was a dork. Because I felt alone in the world, having the kids at school make fun of me instead of being my friends made me feel even more alone and instead of standing up for myself, I just shoved my anger down. Once I grew up and realized how anger could help me feel safe, well that is what I used to cope with situations where I felt unsafe. I still do that to this day. When people lie about me, lie to me, just lie which proves they are not trustworthy or make fun of me, I get angry. When I see injustice anywhere, I get angry. Anger is my coping mechanism.

The problem is that I no longer need anger as a tool in my life. With therapy and maturity and a lot of pain, I have come to realize that I do not owe anyone anything but love. Love does not mean friendship, relationship or space in my life either. I can hope the best for a person and set up a boundary to keep them out of my space at the same time. Not only is that possible, but it is the healthy way to be. Much more healthy than cussing people out and destroying my own reputation while disrespecting the dignity of that person.

I can stand up for myself and still respect the person who is doing something hurtful to me. I can forgive someone who has hurt me and still not like them or let them off the hook for whatever they did to me. They can be forgiven and still held accountable at the same time. I do not have to lower myself to their level to do that. In fact, I do not even have to give them any thought at all. I can hand them over to God and walk away from the whole thing. Block them from everything and move on with my life. It is that easy. Again, I do not owe anyone space in my life.

Healing is hard. It hurts. It is way more painful before it starts to feel better. And as I heard on an episode of Grey’s Anatomy “Healing is not a team sport”. It is often a lonely journey. But I can tell you for a fact that it is so worth it. Especially when the fruit of it is breaking generational chains of trauma and bad coping skills.

Who We Really Are

This weekend a video of some high school kids at the March for Life and a group of Native Americans went viral. As usual, the first narrative turned out not to be the whole story and then what followed was a debate on “what really happened” full of other narratives. I always bow out at that point because what I have come to learn is that there is no way to find the truth once a story like this one implodes. I have such a horrible habit of jumping on the outrage bandwagon and then I have to admit I do not know what happened and bail because I do not have energy for chaos. Chaos is the only thing that comes from these stories these days. You mix kids, MAGA hats, abortion, racism and the opinions of everyone on the internet and chaos is the only possibility.

In the middle of these debates on Facebook my son’s fiance sent me a picture of him a few weeks before his suicide. Just like that, in a matter of a breath, I no longer cared about whose narrative on the story of the boys and the native American man was right. I was quickly reminded of how fast life goes and how quickly things can change. How the death of a child can open your eyes to how little all of the faux outrage really matters in the grand scheme of life. It matters so very little.

Here’s the thing, the day that my son died the world stopped for me. Nothing mattered. Not what bills I owed, not the fact that my lights were about to be shut off, not whatever arguments was going on online. Nothing. And not just for me. The world stopped for a lot of people who flocked to work together to help me and my family and pray for us. People who I have since seen online arguing with each other or insulting each other. People of all political leanings and who disagree on pretty much everything. People who don’t even like me. People who I don’t even like. People who I cannot follow online or who can’t handle all my opinions. Yet, when push came to shove, in my greatest need, they all put all of that aside and helped me in my darkest moments.

That my friends, is Catholicism. We should not wait until someone’s son hangs himself to show up for people. If we would stop arguing and do what people did for me and my family everyday, without it having to be a tragic reason, we would get so much further in changing the world than we do by fighting on Twitter or Facebook. That is what Jesus calls us to do. He does not call us to win debates on the internet or to protest or to get caught up in the latest anger. Anger is not a sin, we ought to be angry at injustice but that does not mean wrapping ourselves in anger 24/7. I learned that lesson the hard way. Do not wait until something that awful happens in your life to learn it.