Why I Say Merry Christmas...and it may surprise you!

I just did a quick Google search for religious holy days and holidays in December. I found 14, and I'm sure there are a few more that I'm missing.  For a point of reference, those of us who trace our faith roots back to Abraham; that means anyone who is Jewish, Muslim or Christian--we all have celebrations in December. One of the world's oldest monotheistic religions, the Zoroastrians honor the death of their prophet, while Buddhist friends celebrate Buddha's decision to sit under a very special tree waiting for enlightenment--which he did receive. All of these celebrations are poignant, beautiful and special to each faith tradition.

 As Catholics, we have a unique strong hold on December, in addition to Christmas, we celebrate a special holy day devoted uniquely to Mary on December 8th, we have a whole bunch of saint's feast days, and if that wasn't enough, we take all four weeks leading up to Christmas and call it Advent.

Despite what the advertisers tell you,  for Christians, the Christmas season isn't our holiest of times--no we save that for Easter.

But that said, I'm a big fan of Advent, I love that we are reminded to prepare for the birth of the Christ child. We need to make our hearts ready, we are also required to pray... To slow our lives down and be open to hearing the voice of the Divine. Those requirements are a tall order in a world fueled by consumerism.

Advent begins the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Often folks are still celebrating with family when we all roll into mass. For Christians, it's a our New Year, our calendar begins again, and it ushers in a time of reflection, repentance and preparation. Each of the four weeks of Advent provides Christians a chance to refocus our gaze on a stable in Bethlehem and the birth of our Messiah--not on Santa, and our ridiculously long shopping lists.

As parents, its hard... Let's just be honest.

To raise humans that are focused on the "real celebration" of our holy days and not the pursuit of stuff.

We are all also striving to teach our children about gratitude. Being grateful comes in many forms; one of the best is to say, "thank you". This year in an effort to assist in the focus--both of the Beauties are writing four letters. The idea is that each letter represents a week of Advent.

As a family, we sat down and discussed who would be the recipients of the letters. Our requirements were simple, each letter was to be to an adult, someone over 18. They needed to be someone the Beauties admired and were instrumental in helping them on their path to adulthood.  They could be a couple or individual, teachers, family member or adult wisdom figure (insert awesome family friend). What captivated me was as the Beauties assembled their list (of the 8 letters) only two are being sent to Catholics. Which is why the letters are so exciting. My children are being raised in faith, but the people who influence, challenge, and love them-- offer a beautifully full picture of the world. We remind the Beauties all the time, you are constantly building your tribe, the people who will stand with you in the storm and eat cake and toast you in times of celebration. That is an awesome job, so it's our job as parents to help you (them) identify the qualities that they will need in their adult tribe.

Which gets me back to the reason I wish folks a, "Merry Christmas".

In our culture, we work very hard to create a world that is more respectful of diversity. In doing so, we have turned away wishing friends specific holy days, instead we turn to the generic:

"Happy Holidays."

I'm not a fan but, when someone wishes me a "Happy Holidays," I say, "thank you," with love in my heart.

I'm what you would call a multi-cultural friend, I love celebrating holy days with others. I have celebrated oodles of holy days with friends who aren't Christian. I've celebrated Passover, enjoyed lighting candles for Hanukkah (Norah's best friend's menorah is beautiful). I have been wished the joys of the Hindu celebration of Diwali by my friend in London. She wished me prosperity, the joy of hope over darkness, and the removal of negative forces from my home and life!  If had been lucky enough to be in London; I would have feasted on delicious food, seen her home illuminated with candles to remove the negative forces from her home and her life-- I would have gotten to celebrate the joy of her holiday.

Don't you wish you were wished a Happy Diwali?!?!

NOTHING makes me happier, then when one of my friends wishes me the joy of their faith's holy day!

Have you ever stopped to think how much love comes from someone when they share the joy of their tradition?

So if I were in a shop and someone wished me a Happy Hanukkah; I would say thank you!  I would be delighted that someone would wish me the joy of their Festival of Light!  When I wish someone Merry Christmas, whether your Christian or not, I'm wishing you the sentiments of my holy day and my faith tradition which is Peace, Joy and Love.

Let me be clear about what I'm not saying:

I'm not saying, sorry your messiah hasn't come and mine has. Nor am I saying that because I'm a christian and maybe your not, you are destined to some ring of hell; because you don't believe what I do.

GOODNESS NO!

I'm sharing with you that I meet the Divine through my Catholic tradition. And in December it's a special time for me. It is a beautiful season that by its very origin celebrates love. It is a holy and special time in my faith. So when I want to share that love, that joy, it's not me being unkind--it's me trying to be gracious, loving and thoughtful.

In the same token, when my friends wish me the joy of their holy days, I'm humbled, touched and deeply moved that they would share the very love of their tradition with me.

As I have shared in earlier post, the world has been showing profound ugliness of late. I will be the first to share that my faith tradition has done some horrible deeds in the name of religion. The humanness of the world is painful in all its forms. I know in my heart that the Divine shares that pain and sorrow; when as humans we spread darkness, hate, evil-- not light, peace and most profoundly LOVE.  I stand by my assertion that the world is full of way more beautiful people (because I have meet so many of you)!  When you surround yourself with the goodness of the world, it then becomes our duty, as the good ones, to stand even taller and share our love and light with others.

AND I will further add....

No one who has wished me the joy of their holy day has ever tried to convert me, disparaged my faith tradition or my families....or told me my traditions are wrong or another faith is superior.

That has NEVER been my experience--ever.

Along with my family, we will attend a program at Norah's school called a Festival of Light, where we will go and experience other family's holy days for the month of December. What makes it so special is that afterwards, we come home and discuss the commonalities of our other friend's faiths. My Beauties will then explain that some of their friend's celebrations are way better than our traditions. Where we remind each other, it's yet, another reason why we like to celebrate with our friends!

As you hustle and bustle this year; share your love and light... And to everyone who is expecting my Christmas card, consider this post your card. Here's hoping, I'm less disorganized next year!

With all the love I have, I wish you and yours the blessing of my tradition; the beauty of a season filled with peace, joy and love.  I send this wish by saying the simple words, "Merry Christmas."

The Divine in me bows to the Divine in you, today and always.

Xo,

Kathryn

PilgrimageGal

photo credit: Katrinitsa

Christmas balls

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Angry With The Divine...

Looking for the Divine at the beach...

Happy Thanksgiving, hope it was beautiful and magical and you had way to much pie. It's my favorite holiday of the entire year. It honestly is, I just love a meal with the people I love surrounding me. I especially love eating pie with coffee the day after.

My endless love to any of you who had a less than stellar Thanksgiving.

I received messages late yesterday and early this morning from three women that I adore. Each shared with me some tough news. Ugh, men behaving badly and sick grandparents are NOT what any of us want for the holidays.

But, the third call brought me to my knees.

I got a text from one of my most trusted inner circle. A simple text asking if I could chat. It was the perfect time, I was cooking in the kitchen still in pjs at 9am and there is nothing more delightful than a good post big weekend gossip session. I dialed immediately.

Now I have a quirk that most of my close friends know about me and find enduring... when I hear them answer on the other end, I begin my banter. I don't say, "Oh, Hi so-so and so how are you, blah, blah," I just jump in with some funny quip, mid story...." And just as we normally do I did that with my bestie.  But, she cut me off saying something to the affect of, "We don't have time for this, I need to tell you something." My first thought was it was her mom. My bestie has had an "Annus Horribilis" for all you non-Latin scholars its "horrible year".  I can't wait for December 31 to call her with champagne, telling her how happy I am to kick 2016 to the curb. All done 2016 for you!

Let me sum it up, three weeks ago she had shoulder surgery on HER BIRTHDAY, because it was the only day free with all the other stuff going on. Let me also share that my bestie is no martyr, she didn't have surgery as a woe is me. Honestly, it was the only free day in her life that she could schedule surgery. Cross off family dinner and cake, get her broken shoulder fixed. Check and check. Well you are starting to get the image, she has had a horrible go of it. With all of us, when life throws us a curve ball it's never the ball that stops you in your tracks. No, its most often that the ball knocks all the other things that are teetering, and it's that force that tips your precarious life out of whack--And so it was with this call.

So I stop mid banter and she blurts out the news. I will only share that it was a medical diagnosis related to one of her four children. It's a game changer. A life long medical diagnosis. It was a sucker punch to the gut. We have been here, it's familiar and its primal. It's not something that you ever get a day off from. It's the diagnosis that fills me with such rage that I want to break every glass, dish and plate in my entire kitchen.

This is the kind of friend that I am... She shares the news and my first response was not, "I'm so sorry, how are you? How are the girls?  Your husband?"  Nope if you want that in my friendship, call someone else... Because, she got, "WELL THAT IS (insert F-ing expletive) UNACCEPTABLE!  THAT IS NOT (insert F-ing expletive) OK!"

(If you want to see the expletive in all its NSFW glory, read my earlier post where I describe its use in detail...  

LINK

)

And her reaction to me was something along the lines of, "I knew if anyone would understand it would be you..." And she laughed her beautiful laugh and thanked me for just dropping our favorite curse word like you would say hello and telling her that I loved her a few hundred times.

We spent the next few minutes getting the specifics. The trip to the hospital, and checking in on everyone. Now I love these four girls as my own. I love these girls without limits... Perhaps it's because I love their mother so deeply.  Interspersed throughout our conversation was the ever present expletive.

We just let it rip. Locker rooms would have blushed to hear us...

And in the course of this 15 minute phone call we had mentally escaped, sitting in a bar, drinking shot after shot, smoking cigarettes, the cigarettes just dangling out of our lips as we cursed, feet up on the table, spitting on the floor, getting angry drunk. And of course, beating up every tough guy who looked at us sideways.

For a few short minutes we were raw, numb and unrestrained...

Which means I now need to dust off my soap-box.  I've said it before and will say it till every person on the planet stops putting that meme up on social media and needlepoint-it on pillows:

"God doesn't give us more than we can handle."

Bull-shit. Bullllllllll-shit. (Sorry for letting an expletive slip through, but I'm a little fired-up.)

Sometimes this life gives us more than we can handle. It's just that simple and in these moments, you had better get good and angry with the Divine. When I get angry with the Divine-- I'm always talking to a male image. I have a much easier time getting mad at men, just being honest.

But hold that thought for just a second...

Small tangent:

I want to share, one philosophical understanding of the soul with all of you. It comes from my friend Bob, who is in my prayer group. He maintains that when the Divine makes each of us, he takes a peace of his God-ness and places it in each one of us. I have interpreted that concept to mean our souls are part Velcro, the Divine is one part and we are the other. We move through the world as 1/2 a piece of Velcro, and when we die we return to heaven where we stick to God. It does jive with that understanding that we are all, "made in the image and likeness of God."

I have gone to take it even further, if our souls are part Velcro, perhaps we can share parts of our souls with others here in our lifetime. When we love, we give part of our soul to our friends and love ones, and that part of us connects with theirs and we glob together in a big Velcro ball.

In my soul, I can often feel that sacred connection with those I love most.  It is that sacred connection that I feel with my bestie, which is why I was so angry. I was filled with such profound sadness for her, that her life is really stinking hard. And I was pointless to ease her suffering.

After hanging up, Jeff walked through the kitchen--I told him I needed to go to the beach and pray. I was furious, absolutely furious.

It is in these moments that many ask, "What is the point of believing in God, if life is going to be like this?"

And my answer is always the same, because we can meet the Divine in the lowest moments too.

And today I met the Divine on a beach in California... and we had much to discuss.

I got to the beach and put in my earbuds and went walking with The Rolling Stones, Eagles and Joe Cocker blaring in my ears. Each song was as angry as I was.  The sky was grey, the wind was blowing, and the waves were crashing. I could look out on the edge of the horizon where the sky was clear, sunny even, with soft clouds and endless sun, but I was in a different place and the contrast was stark.

Halfway into my walk the wind was so strong it was pushing me back, I noticed a few yards away from the surf a bend in the sandstone cliff--which could protect me from the strong wind. I ducked up against the cliff and dropped down onto the sand. To my left the cliff was my protection, my refuge from the wind and I could sit and focus my attention on the ocean. And for a long time, I sat and watched the wind and the surf claw toward the shore. I could feel the ferociousness of the wind, the anger of ocean as she formed the waves, and then witnessed the rage as each wave crashed onto the beach. When I was walking, I could see the tiny shards of shell that were littering the beach. It was the same intensity at which I would have shattered every dish in my kitchen. Nature had mirrored my rage and tossed it at my feet.

As I watched the waves, the wind would hurl towards me, casting sand in every direction, I would bow my head down, and yet the sand would still sting my face, my lips were coated with sand, and my mouth was gritty with the taste of salt. But I continued to sit, and listen, and then in the midst of all of the noise, deep in my soul, the voice of the Divine spoke to my soul.

"Don't you think I'm angry too?  Let me show you how angry. Watch all of this creation and see my rage. Look at the ocean, feel my presence in the wind, feel the cold in your bones." 

I never have had an encounter with the Divine in which I understood the depths of the power of God. That in my suffering, I was missing the fundamental nature of the Divine, that she too was suffering with me, and that she too understood my pain in a place so fundamentally raw.

Because she showed me hers too. I was reminded in the pain, the Divine wasn't just the soft place to fall-- she was the place to safely unleash my anger, my hurt, my disappointment and know that she understood it because she had given me that piece of her. That piece to love so completely, why wouldn't that same being of love struggle with me too.

I'm reminded that in all the hardness of life, the beauty is often hidden from our view. As I walked back to the car, I snapped photos of the sand blowing and looked at the pain of broken tress littering the beach from lost storms. As I passed one tree, I was drawn to the roots and the decaying of the bark. As I looked at the tree, I marveled at the seaweed and all the different forms of life that sprung from its decay, and then I saw something that caught my eye.

A white object between all the brown. I thought it was a piece of a Styrofoam cup that had lodged in the tree. When I picked up the "Styrofoam" base I realized it was a large white shell covered in barnacles of seaweed.

As I rubbed off the seaweed, the beauty of the shell reappeared, it would forever be changed by the seaweed, but what made it so stunning was that the brilliant whiteness of the shell now had more silver, green and brown tones.

When he came home from school, Ian looked at the shell and replied, "Mom it's perfectly imperfect, like us..."

That summed up the thought of the day. In all the darkness that surrounds our bad news, the decay of life, in between all of the mess, there hides beauty.

The beauty of two friends that could have a smoke and drink in an imaginary bar and make each other laugh in what was a very difficult conversation.

The love of friends, who you know always have your back and the faith that even in the darkness, you are never alone.

Finding peace in the perfectly imperfect in our midst.

The Divine in me will forever Velcro to the Divine in you...

Namaste

Kathryn

PilgrimageGal

Photo Credits: PilgrimageGal

Moving Past Division...

To say the last few months have been painful in our democracy would be an enormous understatement.

Many say we are a Nation divided.... You pick up your iPhone or turn on the television and you see and hear hate speech, protests, and division.

I understand why many say that we are fractured; but in my bones, I see a world that is searching for healing in so many areas.  Please understand, I'm not sugar coating it, I can see our scars, and in no way am I trying to gloss over the deep divisions of our wounds.

I see with my heart a world full of hope and love.

In the same breath, I have to say what saddens me at my core are the social media posts that say something along the lines of:

"If you don't agree with me... I will unfriend or block you."

Those my fellow Pilgrims, are at the core some of the scariest words on the internet.

I wasn't a math or statistics major so bear with me. There were about 60 million on each side of the aisle that voted in this election. For the sake of argument, let's say 5 million on both sides or 10 million are absolutely unreachable. They are <insert every horrible label here>, just go for it--they

are not the best of us. Period. When these folks speak it's always hate speech. It is our duty to use our voice to condemn this discourse. Just today I learned that a restaurant that I have frequented (in Maryland) a white woman told a woman of color that she was happy that Trump won because he was, "making America white again." This woman is so fortunate that I wasn't there--I have no tolerance for such hideous behavior. In my view her words were hate speech.

I understand that many folks encounter the worst of us more than I do. I recognize and acknowledge that my experiences differ from many others. But in my soul, I believe that most of us see more good than bad, and it is equally important that we stand together to support the good. We each need to use our voice to stand as citizens and deplore all acts of violence and unrest. I completely respect the rights of individuals to protest, but not to vandalize or harm others. In the same way I would have absolutely stepped in and called the woman entering the restaurant for her use of hate speech.

If we now take the 110 million and toss in tens of millions who couldn't stomach either candidate and sat out the election. You will see that there are more good folks by sheer numbers.  You, yes you, my fellow Pilgrims are fantastic people--because I see you every single day quietly moving among us. Doing the good work that makes the world a better place.

And that my friends is who I want to talk to.... The 110 million or so among us. So before you delete everyone on your feed and dump your book club neighbors because of their "wrong" campaign yard signs, let's settle in for a little chat...

On election night my phone was on FIRE. I received so many calls and text messages that said:

"HOW DID YOU KNOW?!!"

Because for the better part of a year... I told folks, Donald Trump would win.

I WOULD NEVER vote for him, but I knew he was going to win.

Keep in mind this is way back in Iowa and New Hampshire, before wiki-leaks, before the first FBI investigation.

But, I have tons of normal, (non-racist, not homophobic, you get the idea) exceptional humans, that I love that will/did vote for him.

AND I still love them on November 9th.

The faces that heard my prediction were always fanstastic: My friends on the left would have a nervous laugh and say, "Dear Lord I hope not" and they aren't pray-ers. Still others told me I was "CRAZY...."  but the majority of people thought I was just wrong.

One of my dear friends in California, was at a fancy book launch the Saturday before the election. When conversation turned to the election, Bob brazenly told his room full of liberal friends:

"I know this woman who grew up in DC and she knows that Trump will win."

Bob told me there were audible gasps--I wish I had been there. I would love to have talked them thorough it with my liberal lens.

Now mind you, Bob is almost 70 (but you would guess he was 50), and the party was for the book launch of a man's account of a highly decorated Pearl Harbor survivor. You can imagine a room filled with highly educated folks; consuming alcohol in liberal California. They didn't like it--at all.  

You see for months I read articles, talked to folks, watched rallies, and listened... When I did, I heard the arguments that resonated. Did I agree with all of the arguments- Goodness NO.  But, I understood why they resonated.

To all of my fellow citizens who were blindsided, I ask you with love in my heart, this one question.

Who are your friends?

Let me explain.

In order to pay for college I worked in a hotel at the front desk, but nearly all of my college was payed for by being a waitress and a bartender.  I studied classical rhetoric--which means this post is actually what I majored. The "Art" of a well constructed argument. To this day, bartending was the most extraordinary job I have ever had. I never worked longer or harder than the years I went to school and tended to oodles of adult beverages. I worked with people from all spectrum of education. There were college educated school teachers who needed to waitress to pay rent; I worked with Ivy league frat boys who worked for beer money, working along side immigrants, who were dishwashers, or prep-cooks who spoke little or no English, the head chef who had never finished high school. I have never met people with a more dedicated work ethic than the individuals I worked with in the service industry.

My boss in the restaurant was Cynthia, she was the head bartender and was doing graduate work. I was 19, Cyn was 29 and didn't like me.  I was everything she wasn't, I was (then) Republican, wore a ton of pink, green and pearls. I was religious, the goody-two-shoes girl of privilege. Cynthia's life was very different and she didn't think we had anything in common. Cyn had lived in the world--I hadn't. One morning she came in and while we were setting up the bar, she said the funniest thing ever.

"Kathryn, I read an article that said the key to happiness is to develop friendships with someone you have nothing in common with...That's you!"

I remember nervously laughing, but also being ever so excited. Cynthia is/was unbelievably cool, poised, crazy smart, and beautiful. Without Cyn, I never would have married Jeff; she got us together. Cyn was with Jeff when he selected and bought my engagement ring.  My friendship with Cynthia, forged at 19 is one of my greatest life lessons. I learn more about the world from folks I think I have nothing in common with than with the people I do...

If you want to have a full rich life you need deep close friendships with folks you think that you have nothing in common. That means folks who have lived in different parts of the country or world; who don't look like you, who don't vote like you, and don't worship like you. I can promise you no matter where you live--these folks are among you!

Now I can hear my friends on the left screaming at me, "our life is diverse!"

BUT Kathryn I have friends from all parts of the world.

I say this with love... If you were at all surprised by this election, than a big fat NOPE...

Your world is not diverse.  You may be one of the greatest examples of multiculturalism, but not true diversity.

Diversity means ALL ideas. Can you sit in a room with a wealth of divergent ideas and leave that room with every spirit intact--not just yours. AND not want to verbally kill anyone.

You also may want to ask all your friends what the definition of diversity is... and start finding some friends who have a different definition than you!

I can also hear many of you yelling at your screens telling me... Well in two weeks, I will be spending Thanksgiving with whole parts of my family that don't see the world as I do...

News flash... not the same.

We all have families.

And in each and every one of them we have that one relative that is filled with CRAZY.

Everyone has a relative that plucks their nerves. But, we all have an understanding that we are there to eat Aunt Betty's (I don't have an Aunt Betty) delicious apple pie and not discuss (capital punishment, gun rights, terrorism, climate change... you get the idea.) with Uncle Bradley (I don't have a Bradley either). You love Uncle Bradley because every year after dinner he still can make your kids belly laugh with his silly jokes, toss the football around the backyard, or pour you the best 25 yr old scotch. But deep in your heart you look past your disagreements with Uncle Bradley because he is yours... and he is family.

For many of us we can look past a great deal for the beauty of family. We don't have to agree, we just need to tolerate for the sake of lovely Aunt Betty. We love Aunt Betty, far more than we are willing to have a heated discussion. However, for some of us it's even deeper; we will clearly say to Uncle Bradley we won't discuss certain topics because our views are too divergent. Then sadly for some, our Uncle Bradley may be part of the 10 million that isn't the best part of our country/world. And knowing that in our broken hearts, we don't even go to the family dinner or allow him in our homes. For those Pilgrims, my heart breaks for you and your entire family. That such hate lives so close to your door. Please understand in your firm stance know this--you are setting a great example for all that know you and your family.  You are standing against hate in all it's forms and will not allow it in your presence; or in the lives of your loved ones. When you make this decision, feel peaceful in choosing light over darkness.

The real question, is how often do you sit across the table from someone that you LOVE that has a definition of diversity that differs from yours, or more bluntly, they just see the world with a different lens.

Which leads me back to the election.

We talk with the Beauties about politics all the time. The children had to watch portions of the debates. We shared with them that we would vote for Hillary and why. We also shared with them individuals we suspected would vote differently, that would agree with Mr. Trump.

My Beauties eyes got really BIG. Because they LOVE these members of our tribe.

On every issue in this election. If you can peel the layer back of the vitriol and look at the argument: Illegal immigration, health care, abortion, defense, ISIS, budget, jobs..... And you then sit down and try to understand the other person's perspective you will find a kernel where you will find common ground. Embrace it.

We must stand up against hate, but we must also find paths to connect.  Neither side can just block and ignore 60 million people, just because they voted the opposite way...

What I can tell you is that for every topic you passionately disagree, you can find three you can agree on. And when you focus on the three you agree on, it will make it a whole lot easier to then talk about the one you don't.  

As a Catholic, I face these issues frequently. The divisions in the Catholic Church have some enormous gulfs. There is a lot to disagree about; the role of women, divorce and remarriage, married priests, LGBT issues, the future of our religious orders, the role of the pope, etc.

BUT...  Every time I walk though the doors of the Catholic Church I enter, I don't look at the people surrounding me and look for people I agree or disagree with--No, I join my hand with theirs; pray with and for them as they do for me.  I give thanks that as a community of believers we are there, the broken and more broken, for spiritual nourishment and grace.

As we move forward this season, the season in all our faith traditions that is focused on love and light; m

y prayer for all of us is we, the best of the world continue to share the abundant love of the Divine.

And finally, I will share with you the prayer I created for our family:

We pray for our country, her allies and enemies. We pray for all our elected leaders that they may find wisdom and common ground. We pray for peace. We pray for wisdom; to open our ears to listen and not to judge; to open our eyes to see truth in all its forms. We ask that our eyes never close, or look away from hate, violence, or evil. We pray to use our voices to spread faith, hope and love.  We pray when called to speak; that our voices are clear when we speak against hate, violence and division. We pray that we always walk in justice for all. We pray, that we use our hands to build and not destroy; to hold, comfort and to heal. We pray that we see the face of the Divine in others and that they see the Divine in us. Amen.

To each and everyone of you... The Divine in me bows to the Divine in you today and always. Which means more simply:

Namaste

xo, Kathryn

PilgrimageGal

Photo Credit: PilgrimageGal

When Life is a Little Complicated...

When life is complicated, be open to the Divine...

Hello my fellow Pilgrims...

I got a text message from the Holy Spirit today. Did you know she texted? Well she does.

The Divine reaches out in ways large and small. Today she reached out to me in the fingers of my 4th-8th grade teacher, confirmation sponsor, the woman who proclaimed the reading of First Corinthians to us at our wedding 24 yrs ago. This spiritual teacher has also attended the baptism of my children and the woman I lovingly refer to as my second mom. I call her Momma G.... or MG. I wrote about her a while ago in a post about

amazing teachers

.

MG sent me a text late Sunday from the East Coast. Before I had my second cup of tea Monday morning we were on the phone having a lengthy conversation. MommaG had cleared the decks to talk to me. That is a gift. As with all her communications, the Sunday text was sweet and loving. To paraphrase,

Just checking in, want to make sure I haven't missed any of your blog posts and that all is well...

We don't talk often enough; because we don't know how to have quick chats. Jeff questions if I know how to have any quick chats! Calls and texts from Mrs. P are gifts, that I tie up into a little bow and get stored as

exquisite everyday moments

.

The text was sweet as pie; it was a check-in. A pulse check to make sure that all was well... The Spirit never fails to send you an invitation and an opportunity for connection.

I wish every person could have at least one person in their life who sees them as the best version of themselves. Who sees you as the Divine sees you, beautiful, whole, worthy of love. This person who looks past your imperfections to see them as the gifts that make you stunning, whole, loved and as a precious child of God. MG has been that guide for me since I met her at age 9. A remarkable gift to be loved so completely...

Perhaps you can begin to see why I call her a blessing.

MG was wondering what so many of you must... Where the heck is Kathryn?!?!

I haven't shared any of my journey with you for a while. It may be in fact the longest I have gone with out sharing a tale from the road.

It's not that I haven't been writing--I have been.

Can I just say...

Writing is hard.

It honestly is.

When you write, you are sharing your soul, it's intimate. I share with you what is in my heart, where my soul is and how I see the world. It can be a tad bit frustrating when you can't get out of your own way when you write. You must be able to quiet your mind and still be open to listen. Writing requires you to get to your truth, find your sacred space where your mind and soul meet your fingers on a keyboard.

Perhaps that's why you hear so often the stories of great writers (I don't put myself in their company) and how they all drank. Many of them also used other tools to try to access that place that generates the words. They weren't healthy either. Thank goodness I have chocolate, goodness if we have a world shortage of chocolate-- I'm in trouble.

I find my writing to be my safe place, it can also be a place of prayer for me. The things I share come from my own prayer life. What I have learned and what I still need to. This journey isn't easy, as a woman, wife, friend and mother. I too am plagued by insecurities, worries and get caught up in my own humanness. I petition the Divine for my way, for the outcomes I desire, not the ones that are best for me. I want the outcomes that I KNOW are the right choices. For some strange reason the Divine often has a different plan.

I'm currently in that space of jumping up and down, hurling profanities and having a 46 year old temper tantrum. Wondering why are things not going my way, why can't it be easier, why is life just so darned complicated some times!

That is where you meet me today. On the Island of Unacceptable.

Let's be clear, my life isn't any different from any of you. I don't have all the answers. I too am a Pilgrim. The only way I differ from all of you is I don't seem to mind publicly airing my foolishness. That is till recently.

After speaking with Jeffrey, I asked him why this time was different? Why was I having so much trouble putting my thoughts and feelings down in a blog post? Looking at me with a warm beaming smile, he answered:

"With you it's never just one thing--it's always a little bit complicated."

What Jeffrey is too sweet to say is everything with me is a wee bit more complicated. It's never just one thing, but a mosaic of a hundred little things that intertwine. My life is really hard currently. I will share the details in a second-- but it almost doesn't matter. Some of you will read my list and think...

Yep, that's hard.

Many of you will be in a far more difficult place.

UGH. My heart hurts that you are on your own Island of Unacceptable. I wish we could pull them all together and make a little community of unacceptable. I think that is why I'm finally sharing all of this with all of you.

MamaG listened to me share my truth and she paused for a second then said, "You are in transition."

I explained that I'm ALWAYS in transition. And without even seeing her face I can see her knowing smile. As we continue to chat, my heart becomes full knowing, that even while I struggle, this transition is part of my journey with the Divine. My life will always be transitional. I will always be the PilgrimageGal, I will never be satisfied. I am a seeker, I need to understand, to look, to go deeper, to understand the depths of the Divine that I will never fully grasp in this life. Please understand that doesn't mean I'm not happy. While this time is hard; it's also extremely joy-filled. Because while I'm struggling, my path is filled with so many opportunities to see God's hand in all of it.

My life has been a little complicated, which may in fact be why my writing is hard. Before I bore you with my details. Let me say this, the fact that I wrote this post is the reason that I will write another one. It may take me a couple of weeks-- but I will be in touch, that I promise.

Ready... Here goes:

I've been sick, actually really sick. My West Coast doctors have only known me fairly healthy, not nearly as sick as I was back East. And since I have been doing well, there were conversations with the entire team about me trying to ween off some medications that I have used for years. The hope? That some of them would no longer be necessary for my day to day wellness.

When you are a long-term chronic disease patient, you daily, monthly and yearly make choices about treatments/meds. Many have long term side effects, but with a skilled medical team; you weigh the options and make informed decisions. As a team, we all agreed to the decisions, I stand by them... the problem is that I'm the one who lives these decisions made by my team, it's my body. I can say without hesitation this process has been a a train wreck. Before all this foolishness, I would wake to my pain at usually lower than a 4 out of 10 and by the end of a bad day it would be a 8. For far to many days lately, I awake to pain north of an 8. There is no way you are going to turn around an 8 when you haven't even peed, brushed your teeth or seen the coffee pot. Two things that make me not so joyful---pain and my flipping cough. This process began in June and has continued through August when I had successfully come off all the meds in question. As I sit here in mid-October, we are sorting out the foolishness of these choices and hopefully, fingers crossed will have me better duct-taped together within a few weeks. This experience has been brutal.

 Insert sad face emoticon here...

Meanwhile while having ever so much fun, in mid-August my mother was diagnosed with a re-occurrence of cancer. It was clear in early August while she visited us in California that there was a significant issue. At mom's request, she differed treatment till she returned to the DC area and her medical team. Jeff and I weren't happy, out of respect for mom's privacy I won't go into the details. My mother is the toughest human alive, honest to goodness, and while she is facing a serious medical issue-- it will never slow her down nor do I anticipate that this will kill her... I may kill her for being stubborn, and foolish, but that is a totally different issue. I love you mama! You are the bravest and the best inspiration a daughter could ask for. xox

Thanks to the cancer diagnosis my mom got an emergency visit from her favorite daughter (I'm her only daughter) less than 8 days from her leaving California. The upside, I got to celebrate my 46 birthday alone with my mom. We went antiquing, had lunch, and watched old movies in bed eating potato chips and drinking classic coke! It was so incredibly special to spend my birthday with my mom-- That visit put life in focus.

My sweet little gig at the mission wasn't working for me and the family. The day after returning from my visit with my mom, I resigned. While visiting with my mom, she told me to walk away from the job. My mother has never told me to walk away from anything. When I told her I resigned; she was relived and happy.

"Good, it needed to be done. Focus on Jeff and the children."

I don't think I will ever work where I feed myself. I explained to one of my friends, you never want to work at your favorite restaurant. You don't want to go into the kitchen perhaps and see that it's a little dirty, or view your favorite romantic spot with the harsh florescent lights that come up at the end of the evening. You want the experience, not the reality. Meaning where I worship and work need to be two separate places. No words can describe how I loved the parish families and working with educating the children. The experience is the signal greatest joy in my life outside of my husband and Beauties. Nothing gives me more pleasure than incorporating my love of faith and sharing it with others. What I'm not good at is the humaneness of the church. We all know of her imperfections, I just didn't like seeing it. Let me be clear there was no crime, nothing illegal and nothing immoral taking place. Just the mundane bureaucracy, reorgs, budget discussions and other day to day "corporate" stuff, was not how I want to spend my spiritual life. In the corporate/business world it's easy to be political-- I'm not interested in doing that in a religious setting.

I mentioned joy a little while ago. There is a little jar in my living room that says: "It isn't Joy that makes us Grateful; It's Gratitude that makes us Joyful." What an apt description of how I see the Divine in my daily life. Gratitude for the text message from the Divine in fingers of someone who loves me for me. We are always being guided, listened to and directed to the path that was created entirely for us.

My journey has been a little complicated lately. I've made a promise to myself, that complicated or not, I'll document the journey a bit more frequently moving forward.

Thank you for walking with me on this journey...

Will talk again soon, that I know for sure. xoxo

The Divine in me bows and honors the Divine in you.

Kathryn

PilgrimageGal

Saint Teresa of Kolkata and her BFF...

When Jeffrey and I moved to Santa Barbara; I emailed one of my dearest friends and influential thinkers, Father Michael Ryan, Pastor of St. James Cathedral in Seattle, Washington. Sharing that we had embarked on yet another adventure. I was hoping that perhaps Fr. Ryan's vast network extended to Santa Barbara and I could connect with some new spiritual friends. Fr. Ryan is the real deal. I could spend hours talking about his character traits or of why he has influenced me and shaped my world view. I can tell you that I go to the

web page at St. James

and read his homilies to gain his wisdom and relive the joy of attending his masses when we lived in Seattle.

What Fr. Ryan has offered me for over 20 years is just simply love. I know without question that when Christ was teaching his early followers about the nature of love... It was with friendships like this in mind.

In one of our email exchanges, Fr. Ryan told me to get over to the Mission and get connected with one of his life long friends from Seattle, Fr. Larry.  Fr. Ryan called Fr. Larry, "A very holy man and dear friend."

What Fr. Ryan didn't know was that I had already found Fr. Larry--and instantly knew why Fr. Ryan loved him.

People of Faith know there are no coincidences, only the the opportunities that the Divine has placed in our midst--and that we have had the good sense to uncover.

Both of these men will forever be etched on my soul as great teachers. I have had the gift to spend nearly everyday getting a hug from Fr. Larry Gosselin, OFM, having him hear my confessions, attending mass with him or even just sitting next to him in our staff meetings. Fr. Larry has blessed and anointed me when my health issues have been more than I can carry alone.

What makes my friendship with Fr. Larry so unique, is that it's ordinary and everyday. We laugh all the time about everything--about coffee and chocolate cake, about our shared love of great music, and when Fr. Larry tells a story about his life long adventures, you just want to curl up on a chair and listen. Because when he shares his truth about anything you are left forever transformed. In today's world, we place stars and celebrities on pedestals, we make them something other than what they are...

What makes holy people Saintly, is their humility. We often overlook them because they are quiet in the good works.

In keeping with the spirit of St. Francis and the Franciscan order, Fr. Larry is a humble man.  He has been a witness to many moments where the veil that separates us from God is ever so thin. It is in his holiness and his grace that I meet Christ. Early this Spring, I learned that Fr. Larry had written a book about his friendship with Mother Teresa. He gave me an advance copy before the books went on sale and I read it in a day. I devoured it.  I was stunned by the book.  It is an amazing story about his deep friendship with Mother Teresa and how it developed.  I pestered him about getting the word out so others could read it. I also said that I would be happy to do anything to help him. That is how I ended up interviewing him in this little video.

Without question after I'm gone; the Church will spend time studying two great saints and this book will mark that friendship and be studied by scholars and believers alike as the guide to a friendship in our midst.

My grandchildren will be able to say their grandmother was loved by a saint and made a video about one of his unique life experiences.

So now watch this little interview and go buy the book!

I have been Waiting for You...

Peace be with you,

     Kathryn

     PilgrimageGal

Independence Day...

Happy Independence Day!

Today is the day I give thanks for the 56 men who signed what could only be called their own death warrant.

They sacrificed their safety, their fortunes and livelihood. I recognize that this group of white men--educated and privileged weren't perfect. I'm sure out of the 56;  I may have only liked a handful. We know thanks to our history lessons, among them were slave owners, alleged rapists...  They were imperfect, but they were also risk takers.

The decisions that they made on a hot and humid July in Philly were the catalyst for change. A paradigm shift that still reverberates across our country and around the world. The documents and the ideas that came from this meeting and the conversations that continue, have provided me far more than they could have ever imagined.

As a country, we have made some startling changes since these 56 signed their names. It stops me in my tracks to think that the choices of these few could enable me to have so much.

Jeff and I took the Beauties for a walk on the beach today. In between watching Serena win at Wimbledon, gluten-free beer and hot dogs, and of course watching some guy eat 70 hot dogs in an eating contest on Coney Island, we did try to discuss the real Independence Day. I asked the Beauties what they were thankful for:  It's my family so of course the comments always have a touch of the random...

Ian was thankful for his sister, Big Mac's and religious freedom.

Norah was thankful for her education.

Jeff just laughed at me for trying to make a family walk into a philosophical discussion. Then he said, "that our children can be anything they choose to be."

My list was a little too long... But I always come back to my right to vote. Because if you can't vote, you can't get anything changed.

Because of 56 men who signed a document that started a revolution of thoughts, ideas and progress.

I was born free. I have never know a moment when I didn't have the freedom to worship freely. To read what I wanted. To pray however I choose. To attend school. I had the freedom to work. I worked in a bar. That job afforded me the best pay and schedule to attend college. I interacted with men and men who were not my family.  I wore clothes like a bathing suit, mini-skirt, halter top, that others would deem sexy or even inappropriate. I went to bars, flirted, drank alcohol and danced. I had the choice to marry who and when I wanted. I married the man I loved regardless of his education, religion, gender or color of his skin.

I vote. Own property. Drive a car. Openly discuss my faith and where I attend religious services without fear of reprisal or persecution. I choose my political ideologies and can argue openly. I have the ability to travel unaccompanied throughout the country by driving my car or flying without an escort. I have my own bank account, credit cards and credit rating. I can drink anything from diet coke to a scotch or anything in-between.  I work and get paid for my work and talents. I made the ultimate decision about the size of my family--I wasn't limited by government pressure, imposed religious ideology, or the will of my husband.  I have chosen where I live, what media I read or watch, I listen to the music or talk radio that I choose.

I can use a computer.  Surf the internet.  Write and publish what I believe without worrying about a government agent knocking on my door.

It is humbling to list all these amazing freedoms I have in light of all the struggles we face here and around the world...

All these freedoms I enjoy, come from the seed planted 240 years ago, when 56 brave men signed their names to a Declaration of Independence.

It just goes to illustrate that a few can dramatically change the world for the many.

Happy Independence Day,

Kathryn

PilgrimageGal

Photo Credit: Mr. PilgrimagGal

Wisdom From the Good Doctor...

Dr. Seuss has always been big in our house...

Helloooo my fellow traveler...  How I have missed all of my fellow Pilgrims. Let's get the big stuff out of the way. I'm here, my health is good, my Beauties are good; Ian graduated from 6th grade, Jeff is still the love of my life.  I have been too busy and that has kept me away from all of you. I thought this post would be a tad different... Hope it resonates. xo

I wasn't a Dr. Seuss fan as a child... It just wasn't the books of my childhood.  My fist real exposure to the Seuss was sitting on the floor of a Barnes and Noble with Jeff in California, four months after we started dating. We had flown out the day after Christmas and I was meeting (for the first time) the entire Ferguson family. We had gone into the Barnes and Noble to pick up books as Christmas gifts for his baby niece (now a lawyer) and nephew (who is working on becoming fluent in Japanese--for funzies!). Want to learn about your new boyfriend ladies?, go to the children's section of a bookstore. Jeff was insistent that the children were each getting a selection of Dr. Seuss books. So there we sat and Jeff read the stories that I had missed from my childhood. I on the other hand pulled out my favorite childhood book; "The Giving Tree".

Jeff of course had never read it--all the other Shel Silverstein books; but not that one. So there we sat; as I began to read my book; you guessed it, I began to ugly cry. Bad blue-eye liner ran down my face. Oh Lord, save us from the early 90's.

Both authors have remained integral parts of our married life. Dr. Seuss is quoted as much as world figures, saints and the lessons of the Giving Tree are evident in my marriage; so much so that Jeff proposed to me by reading me the Giving Tree before he presented me with my "sparkle" or engagement ring.

We have had so many Seuss books to call favorites, maybe because we read them so many times to the children. Or maybe just because the message is so clear. One of the most common graduation gifts is Dr. Seuss'; "Oh the Places you will Go" and it certainly holds up in my top 10 list. I realized that I have needed to pull many of the theme and quotes lately. We use the words from the book as mini-mantras in our home. The quotes seem to encapsulate where I find myself today.

This quote has helped me as I touched my toe back into the working world:

"You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go...” ― Dr. SeussOh, The Places You'll Go!

I do have brains in my head and I do have very cute shoes, which has made it ever so easy to tip-toe back into the working world.  In returning to the working world; I didn't realizes that having children has made me more confident then I ever realized. I think motherhood has made me at my core, critically aware of my strengths and weakness. You develop a real understanding of what you are--perhaps we all become titanium. I know who I am; I know what I need, I know where I want to go...

I also have learned when to identify my non-negotiables. I know for example, I can't sew a costume, but I'm amazing at ordering through Amazon.  I can cook an amazing, dinner but sometimes take-out is a better choice. Prioritize. Strengths and weaknesses. That has been such a gift that I didn't have about myself in my 20's... I now know my strengths, I now understand how to play to them. Returning to the workforce has also provided me with a better pair of glasses to see when things are not about me (at all), or when they are and how to know the difference.

Those skills have helped me work on my balance. But even with the best skills and paying good attention to my abilities and health and family; we can still stumble. Which is why it has occurred to me that recently I have stumbled into a slump.

"When you're in a Slump, you're not in for much fun. Un-slumping yourself is not easily done.” 

“You'll get mixed up, of course, as you already know. You'll get mixed up with many strange birds as you go. So be sure when you step. Step with care and great tact and remember that Life's a Great Balancing Act. Just never forget to be dexterous and deft. And never mix up your right foot with your left.” ― Dr. SeussOh, The Places You'll Go!

While I have been working on my balancing and foot work, it has taken me away from all of you.

Balance, it often seems is the hardest skill to master...

The beauty and the difficult aspect of balance is it always changes. What works this week; may not the next. I have found that it is something that I constantly need to work on and rework.

I have also challenged myself to stop looking at the quantity of my work and take a better look at the quality of what I give of myself and look for in others. I for some reason have not recognized that everything I touch, every part of me is important. I use that trusty red pen to provide a failing grade on myself, because I don't value my contributions. I'm not a brain surgeon, a pilot, lawyer, or chemist... yet I look at these individuals and question my worth. That, what I contribute in the world isn't enough. And it is with that negativity about myself that I look to an amazing young woman and Saint/Doctor of the church St. Theresa the Little Flower

"When one loves, one does not calculate.” ― Thérèse de Lisieux

And there it is...      I'm calculating,     I'm questioning.      I'm fighting with myself.

I'm slumping because I haven't let my faith drive me. I'm once again, trying to wrestle for a false sense of control. For an understanding of this world that is fruitless. I have lost my vision to see that I need to be focusing on a deepening of my prayer life, a greater union with the Divine.

In an effort for that connection, I found the medicine that I need. I have been attending daily mass. For me the connection to the Divine is strengthened in the mass. In the 30 minutes daily where I meet Christ in his most human and Divine form. It is through that gift that I have shaken off the slump and met myself.

And will you succeed?

Yes! You will, indeed!

(98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)” 

KID, YOU'LL MOVE MOUNTAINS!

So...

be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray

or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O'Shea,

you're off to Great Places!

Today is your day!

Your mountain is waiting.

So...get on your way!” ― Dr. SeussOh, The Places You'll Go!

May you find the Divine in your journey and stay away from the hidden slumps of this world.

Your mountain is waiting...

The Divine in me bows to the Divine in you.

Kathryn

PilgrimageGal

Photo credit: PilgrimageGal

This is the 4th anniversary of my first blog post.  On this day especially, I want to thank you for walking with me.

Patient Worthy...



As you all know, I did an interview with Patient Worthy in the Fall. I spoke at length about being a Rare Mom, a good chunk of the interview was held back for Mother's Day.

We all have struggles, some are big and some small but, they are ours. It is my hope that the videos help support you and the ones you love on your journey.

In addition I wrote a blog post for them too...

Here are the links, and I would love your thoughts...

My Mother's Day post: http://patientworthy.com/...Mother's Day reflection/

My video: http://patientworthy.com/...on-being-a-rare-mom/

Another video: http://patientworthy.com/...advice-to-other-rare-moms/

Much love to all of you and Happy Mother's Day.

xo
Kathryn
PilgrimageGal


Who is Your Anam Cara?...

Jess and I at Mom2.0 Summit

Jeff insisted that I run away from home this week!

I attended a women's blogging conference. It's called the

Mom 2.0 Summit

, a yearly gathering of women who are social media goddesses. I learned about blogging, technology, content creations and relationship building. All of the materials and contacts were amazing.

But, the real reason I attended was to spend three nights away from home with my East Coast bestie, Jessica. I'm abundantly blessed with some amazing female friends.  And to be honest, there are only a few women that Jeff would insist that I run away from home to be with.

My Jessica is at the top of the list.

I had a handful of friends that I could barely say the words, "we're moving cross-country" to... Jessica was one of the easiest and hardest. Easy because I knew she would cheer for my good health and as she always has, wants only the best for me. Hardest, because leaving her left a huge hole in my daily life. She is special, she is my Anam Cara (more on that in a second.)

Jessica and I have know each other since our boys were in pre-school. They are now finishing 6 grad.  Our friendship is much longer than the years acknowledge. I can share too many stories of the dinners she made while I was trapped in bed, the times she has kept my children for play-dates, the movies, zoo trips, or ceramic classes. I can tell you of the millions of phone calls about when my son would bite hers, or when her's did something to mine... The time I realized she was pregnant with her now 5 year old princess before she told anyone... We have stories, we have shared prayers, we have shared a lifetime of joys and tears.

We share something even deeper, we share our souls...

Now for the record, if you are just tuning in--Jessica and I are straight, happily married to smoking hot tall introverts. We love our life and our marriages.  Many have used the term "soul mate" to describe a great love or a person who loves you completely. It's the talk of numerous love stories, chick flicks and novels. Some even use the Gallic word "Anam Cara"  for soul mate.  If you

search

it, you will find tattoos, wedding vows, ring sets all using the word.

I'm going to let you in on a little secret... That use of the term is incorrect.

Can two married people be in an "Anam Cara" relationship?  Sure; but the Gallic word was originally attributed to a relationship between a student and teacher in monastic life. I have been blessed with just that relationship with several of my spiritual teachers. The term Anam Cara, however can mean even more. In the Celtic understanding of the words "Anam Cara", they literally mean "soul friend".

In the 90's, John O'Donohue, a one time Catholic priest, wrote a book on Celtic Mysticism and Spirituality called,

Anam Cara.

 John O'Donohue explains friendship so beautifully:

"In everyone's life there is a great need for an Anam Cara, a soul friend. In this love, you are understood as you are without mask or pretension. The superficial and functional lies and half-truths of social acquaintance fall away, you can be as you really are... when you are understood, you are home. Understanding nourishes belonging... Love is the only light that can truly read the secret signature of the other person's individuality and soul... Consequently, love is anything but sentimental. In fact, it is the most real and creative form of human presence." 

The author explains: "

The Anam Cara is God's gift. Friendship is the nature of God."

I love this definition of friendship. Every so often in this life, we are blessed to meet people that our souls recognize. It's as if they have know each other for eternity.  These individuals speak to our souls before we can audibly hear them.  It's as if our soul has been searching for another's light. I believe strongly this is what O'Donohue means. The individuals who know your soul as well as you; and you theirs. That's Anam Cara. That is my Jessica. She has known my soul longer than she has known me.

Our friendship is a special gift from the Divine.

When Jessica contacted me last Fall about this trip, my soul instantly said "yes!", but my brain started to make excuses. It's not the best time, it's a little expensive, my blog isn't popular enough, what if I get sick...

Then shortly after Jessica and I discussed the trip, Jeff and I had a quiet moment and he wisely said, "You need to go... You really just need to do this."

He is not only smoking hot, he is filled with wisdom. Jessica speaks to me in a voice that enables me to stop and listen. To be open to what the Divine has been trying to tell me. I hear the voice of the Divine in the voices of those who love me most. The gentle reminders, the encouragement, the happiness, the nudges that I should focus my attentions in certain areas. Often that is how I open my eyes and heart to see the path intended just for me.

While we were together, Jessica and I attended working sessions, listened to great speakers, and got to eat some amazing food. The best part of the the three nights, sharing our hotel room and just being in the same room together. It was as if my soul got a re-boot especially designed by Jess and the Divine. She shared her wisdom, her love of me at my core, her happiness for me in our transition... We laughed and laughed... She cared for me when I was nauseous and tired. We watched a movie our husbands would never watch, we ate cheese and chocolate... All the while enjoying room-service with burgers, fries and cokes! We spoke of our spirits and shared where we felt pulled and pushed... We helped each other find the breadcrumbs on our path.

We didn't cry when we parted, we just hugged and knew that it won't be long till we are curled up on a sofa or a bed in some part of the world re-connecting...

The best part of the friendship is the confidence that our old souls never stray too far from one another...

Happy Birthday to my Anam Cara, Jessica...  The Divine in me bows to the Divine in you, always and forever.

I'm grateful for you in this world and the next.

Kathryn

PilgrimageGal

If you don't know Jess's great work, please visit her at

aparentinamerica.com

.  She is amazing!

Thank you for walking with me this week and always. I do use social media to keep in touch. You are welcome to find me on

Facebook

Instagram

or comment below. I personally answer all my correspondence... and I'm always glad to meet another traveler.

Photo Credit: Jess

My Duets with Mick...

What awaits me at the end of my commute...

I listen to Mick Jagger every morning when I drive to work...

I'm sure it's not the play list of everyone who works in religious education.  When you pass me on the road; I'm belting out the lyrics to "You Can't Always Get What You Want", "Beast of Burden", "Sympathy for the Devil"  or even "Satisfaction". It's my morning therapy, I get everything out, all my stuff/worries for the day. And get ready to launch myself into the best day ever!  I have a personal rocking party on my 15 minute easy-peasy commute.  I have to be careful when sunroof and all four of my windows are down, I turn into the tranquil and peaceful mission grounds. I don't think anyone else has their sound system as loud or is singing with my intensity. Just me chill-axing with Mick.

I turn the music down, really low and gently pull into my parking place. I close my windows and grab my bag and start my day by greeting as many people as I can with a big smile!

My job title is Coordinator of Religious Education, some folks know it as its more formal name DRE: Director of Religious Education.  I'm in charge of the children's religious education for the parish. I work with the priests, parents, volunteer teachers and my favorite part--all the amazing Beauties of the parish. That's right, I get paid to hang out with kiddos! Teach them about God, the Church, and faith. I'm the Julie McCoy of religion. I get to be a cruise director of kiddos. (You are so welcome for the Love Boat reference!, younger readers, go ahead and

Google

it.)

It's as if the best job in the world fell out of the sky just for me! I love what I do. Every morning, I wake up with a smile on my face and thank God for creating a place where I get to be me. Where the very Kathryn-ness of it all get's to find a home. I'm tasked with helping parents raise their kiddos in the faith, that is such a part of me, it's not something I can separate. I can honestly say, I've never been happier.

And finally scoring the Religion award in school makes sense! All that education has come full circle. I'm the girl who had to download the Pope's document on the family 

Amortis Laetitia

 t

he "Joy of Love" and plowed through it the same day. Hello, geek alert! Next time I'm going to figure out how to get press credentials to read it in advance of the public release!

For some of you who know and love me, this job makes you giggle. Of course that is what Kathryn is doing. It makes sense. It's what I feel called to do, in the same way I knew I would marry Jeff or have the Beauties or that Santa Barbara was going to be amazing. I have found inner peace.

But, you may be asking, "how do I, find that in my daily life?"

If I can. You can too.

I'm not sure where the phrase follow you heart comes from. But, it really should be, follow your soul. When you begin to trust your heart, your gut, which thoughts are really your soul trying desperately to get your attention. You will find that these opportunities begin to appear. It's not luck--I promise you. It is your soul connecting with the Divine and you listening to where you are called to be. The voice isn't loud at first. It is this series of what some like to call coincidence that just keep happening. They are the bread crumbs of the Divine trying to get your attention. Have you ever noticed that sometimes when you keep walking away from something, you eventually have that hammer moment where you realizes you should have been here all along?

I often think that for women, we struggle to claim what is ours. To say, yep I'm good at that, I want to do that--to put ourselves first. We make excuses why we shouldn't try something new or convince ourselves that we need to just keep doing what is safe. That it's not practical, now isn't the best time or one of a hundred other excuses.

Life isn't always practical.

What ultimately gives us joy? That sometimes takes trust, a leap of faith, digging deep and making it all work. Is that hard, even scary? O'my goodness yes. It is all of that and more. But the rewards... They aren't measurable.

For the longest time, I thought I was supposed to write a book. A book that would share what chronic disease, my Beauties, and my marriage have taught me. How my faith shapes my journey. Maybe, in time, that is what the Divine has planned for me. But, today I'm called to be Ian and Norah's mom, to help some beautiful families nurture their faith and to share that journey with all of you...

And the New York Times bestseller? Oh that may still happen, just not this week. The Divine has sent me off on a different path.  It may still happen and if the time comes, I will trust my gut (and the Divine) and jump in with both feet.

May you find the peace in the journey, jump in with both feet and feel the sunshine warm on your face.

The Divine in me bows to the Divine in you... Always.

Kathryn

PilgrimageGal

Thank you for walking with me this week and always. I do use social media to keep in touch. You are welcome to find me on

Facebook

Instagram

or comment below. I personally answer all my correspondence... and I'm always glad to meet another traveler.

Photo Credit: PilgrimageGal

Do You Believe in Coincidence?...

Coffee and the Holy Spirit

Do you believe in coincidence?

I don't.

You see for me, a coincidence is an encounter with the Holy Spirit. When you start to recognize the amount of special moments that occur in your life, moments that others call a coincidence, you open your mind to seeing the Holy Spirit actively moving in your life.

Let me give you a real world example.

This week on my way to work, I stopped at Starbucks. As I approached the door, I noticed oodles of young kiddos; 13-14 year old middle school-ers. Our local middle school is just a quick walk from the Starbucks; a perfect place to dash in for a sugar loaded, whip cream topped, caffeine infused faux milkshake on the way to first period. As I opened the door, I realized I couldn't walk in thanks to the line backed up to the door as I opened it! It was dilemma time; I neeeeeeded coffee and as I turned to walk away to find another coffee vendor with shorter lines--I realized the line was forming behind me. I was stuck. Standing in front of me, two young girls discussing girl's gossip and behind me a young man about 13 texting.

As I waited, I admit I couldn't help myself, I started to chat with the young man. After covering what he was ordering (an egg, bacon and Gouda sandwich), we discussed his first period English writing assignment and his future goals...  This charming young man asked me about my job, and I shared about my family, I shared that my kids went to a different local elementary than he had and how I worked for the Mission. We got up to the counter and I told the perky barista that I would be buying this young man his breakfast. I told him I couldn't recall a more delightful conversation with a young man. I can honestly say, I have never done that. And I honestly just couldn't help myself... The words just fell out of my mouth when I got to the barista. You can imagine his shock... A somewhat normal looking, but clearly crazy mom was trying to buy him breakfast.

In an effort not to appear any crazier... we exchanged formal greetings. I told him my name was Kathryn and he told me his name was "N".  "N" then went on to say that he was shocked that I had bought him breakfast. I told him that he was too kind and polite not to be rewarded with a free breakfast. He told me another time he would, "pay me back."

I explained, he already had.

My drink was ready first and I wished him a good day and good luck.  And I walked to my car.

Now as I walked; I instantly thought of his mother. If that was me, I would have been worried. Was I a stalker or crazy? It's hard at times to see the good in the world. And I said a little prayer that the mom would opt for interpreting my act as nice, not crazy.

The next morning after working for several hours the phone at my desk rings. A lovely voice on the other ends says something to the effect of:  "My name is "L" and you don't know me but I think you bought my son breakfast at Starbucks. I'm calling to say thank you."  How crazy is that Pilgrims.... right?

Well L was even more lovely than her son. It wasn't hard to realize where he got it from. We both laughed and I just told her she and her husband had done an amazing job raising their son. I only hoped to do as well with my two children. We chat for several minutes where we discussed whether she thought I was crazy (only for a second.) Besides, she really trusted her son's ability to read character and she trusted that a Mom of two and someone who works for a church was more nice than crazy. Thank goodness, right?, (but she still called to check, right?...)

As we were delighting in each other, she mentioned she wanted to meet me and that she would come to the mission for a formal introduction. She shared that she was a teacher at the other elementary school. I went on to share we had recently moved from DC...

L suddenly stopped and said, "This is going to sound crazy Kathryn, but do you have a daughter named Norah and does she play tennis?" I burst out laughing... Yes! She said, "Kathryn, I KNOW YOU!"  I'm V's mom!"

Turns out, we had several lovely chats during tennis lessons last summer when our girls were taking lessons together. I had that moment when my cheeks hurt from smiling.  L is one of those girls you meet and wish she had been your college roommate because she is so kind and loving.  L went on to say: "Of course it was you who bought breakfast for my N. Wait till I tell him-- I know you! I love the small town of living here!"  Her daughter had an injury over the summer and had to stop playing tennis. Norah and I missed these two. We discussed getting together and re-connecting...

Coincidence?, I don't think so...

Just the Holy Spirit reminding me to do a little something, a little act of kindness, like maybe buying breakfast for a polite young man.

A little act that takes just a moment, but grows into the best thing that happens all week.

Peace be with you,

Kathryn

PilgrimageGal

Thank you for walking with me this week and always. I do use social media to keep in touch. You are welcome to find me on

Facebook

Instagram

or comment below. I personally answer all my correspondence... and I'm always glad to meet another traveler.

photo credit:

Coffee break - Wellington

via

photopin

(license)

Spiritual Leadership...

The kitchen table is a great place for family discussions on faith...

Hello my Pilgrims... It's been too long. First, let's cover the important news of life in California.  All is extraordinary, the weather warm and delightful, and we are all healthy. While I haven't been writing, you are not far from my thoughts and are always in my prayers. A quick recap on my journey.

Since early January, I have taken on more volunteering opportunities at the Mission. The duties of my volunteer work has shifted my time from my writing to sharing my gifts with fellow parishioners.  I'm coordinating small faith sharing groups; about 80 of my fellow parishioners are participating in a six week program. The program runs on Thursday nights and Friday mornings. I have loved meeting so many of my fellow parishioners, while still running my own small group. And I still teach my weekly first grade religious education class; my student Beauties are adorable and I love the time I spend with them and their parents. Which means my weekdays are full with prepping for all these responsibilities.

That gives you a full sense of my "professional life"-- but I'm sure you really want to know how my walk on the pilgrimage is progressing.  I have answers for that too! Jeff's travel schedule has been consistent and just this past week he was in DC for a full week of meetings. I have shared that Jeff travels! He travels one to two nights every week; we have accepted that level of travel. When Jeff and I reminded the Beauties that he would be gone for a whole week... well that didn't go as well.  Ian my schedule keeper, expressed his disappointment, "A whole week?!?!".   We reminded the Beauties that Dad is the breadwinner; that his traveling is part of the responsibility of his job.  I made some off hand 1950's comment that Dad is the Head of our Household and with that Mini-me spoke up, "Well that makes sense. Dad is the Head of the Household, but Mom you are the Spiritual Head of our family."

I guess I am...

One of my dear friends, told me the story of the meeting she and her future husband had with their rabbi. The rabbi explained that as a couple they would determine how religious/observant they would be as a family. It's a wonderful comment, that I wish more folks would consider. I think for most families, their faith participation isn't considered--it's just done.  Done out of routine, or out of guilt, or the expectations of others...

Like taxes. You don't think about it, you just do it.  That Pilgrims is what we need to discuss.

If you aren't actively navigating you and your family's spiritual journey--Don't panic, I'm going to help you fix that today. It will be the easiest and most joyful change in your home life, if you are willing to make a few simple modification to your daily routine. I'm asking you to change the order of your to-do list--not add anything, just re-prioritize.

As the "Spiritual Head" of this household; I try to focus most of my daily life to recognizing and improving our spiritual life. I'm thinking about it during laundry, before dinner prep, many times throughout the day, I'm considering their faith life. How am I developing their faith?  Is it working to ensure they have a personal relationship with the Divine? I don't need to nag Ian every time to say grace before he dives into dinner (Norah does that.)

No, I'm in the tool box business. Yes, learning your prayers are important, but what matters most to me is that you have the Divine in your thoughts throughout the day. That the Divine is in your decision making process, in your encounters with strangers and friends alike.

I give my Beauties the same marching orders daily. You know the amazing morning routine of bickering, backpacks hitting ever surface, complaints about lunch boxes, violins, doors being opened with too much force--I lovingly remind them the hammer question that they know is coming at dinner:

"Who was the face of Christ for you today? And were you the face of Christ for someone else?"

Boom... that is Divine in action, no matter your tradition, it is the question that resonates. It's not just Sunday that they consider the Divine--it's hopefully in all they do, daily.

Another way to say it, "Where did you see the Divine/God in action today?  How did the Divine/God work through you today?"

I went to Catholic schools, I loved every second. It was my plan that my children would do the same. They aren't, both my children needed academic supports that our Catholic school could not provide. That's not a criticism, it was just our reality. That decision has given me a different world view and different challenges. I have had to use different muscles, I have had to take on more of the religious education, but more than that; I have had to work harder to create the opportunities of living in faith.

I admit that my weekly priority is faith, but it's not theirs. They are worried about sports, extra-curricular activities, school, homework, even Jeff's travel.  The question is, how can I weave the gift of faith into their daily living?

How do I do that?

Well it's more than just words and it's more than simple actions. It's about the priorities in our family life. You can take your children to religious services every week; but if it's not in your home all the time, you are not living in faith.

You can't farm it out. This isn't an activity that you can pay someone else to complete. 

You have to be active at living it. Are you discussing tough subjects with your children and explaining how your religious views frame your political, social and civic duties? Are you actively making prayer a part of your daily journey? Do you explain that you read articles or books on your faith? Are you discussing the homily/sermon after you go to religious services?  And if it was a crummy homily/sermon are you offering a different take?  I ask my Beauties what did you hear the priest say? Then Jeff and I offer what we have learned.

These are simple first steps.  Their are so many other opportunities that I'm sure oodles of you are doing. So share away. Let's not keep our ideas a secret, let us share how we are raising faith filled humans to live and support our world.

And I promise to be in closer touch.... I have missed all of you. Till we meet again on the road.

The Divine in me bows and honors the Divine in each of you.

xo

Kathryn

PilgrimageGal

Thank you for walking with me this week and always. I do use social media to keep in touch. You are welcome to find me on 

Facebook

Instagram

 or comment below. I personally answer all my correspondence... and I'm always glad to meet another traveler. 

photo credit:

One of Soft Details

via

photopin

(license)

New Year and Spiritual Retreats...

My walk on a rare cloudy day...

Happy New Year my follow Pilgrims.

I hope your holidays were filled with the light and love that only comes from the warmth of the Divine. I have had a beautiful season. My mother was visiting from December 16 to January 16. We celebrated Christmas, New Year and her youngest grandchild's 10th birthday. It's hard to believe that my baby is 10.

So after saying goodbye to my mom and trying to locate and pack away the last of the errant Christmas decorations, I finally cleared my schedule for a few minutes alone with all of you. I have so many things to share about my plans for this year; but for now I thought I would share some details of the inner workings of my daily faith life.

I don't know about you; but there have been times when I thought I was doing this prayer thing all wrong. Honestly, I don't meditate everyday, don't sit down with Scripture for even a few minutes most days. I admit sometimes I choose sleep over prayer, or coffee with a girlfriend or even just to watch something mind-numbing streaming on my screen.  So the question becomes, how do you stay connected with the Divine when so much noise and distractions are surrounding your daily journey?

First, we need to re-frame what most of us consider time with the Divine. I'm not sure why, but many of us have grown-up believing that prayer time needs to be in a house of worship. While that can be a beautiful place to pray and for some among us, it centers us quickly, it's not always the best place. For many of us with Beauties, going to a service for years was part wrestling match, part hairy eye balls; washed down with many threats. A wonderful way to meet the face of the Creator.

Just this past Sunday; my family of four was so irritated with one another I replied while getting ready for church:  "We all need to talk to Jesus, because I don't have anything nice to say to any of you right now."

We then spent the 10 minute drive to Mass flicking and bickering with each other.  Mass was an hour where we couldn't talk to each other--which was a gift.  I'm happy to report that we were all smiling well before communion. I take great comfort in knowing, I'm not alone in having a bad day with my Beauties.

Which gets me back to your prayer life. Sometimes I'm distracted. So creating the space where I can be open to hearing the voice of the Divine can be tricky.

One of the best things about the move has been my ability to spend time outside year around. Before the move, I literately spent months inside in bed; too sick to move. The more temperate climate has changed my life. Within my neighborhood is a protected wild life preserve, Jeffrey created a simple walk for me that is a couple of miles. It's an easy walk, but filled with such beauty, mountain views, a small lake, birds and plants I have never seen. The walk brings me peace for which I had been searching--this special place is my Spiritual retreat.  I leave everyone and go for a lovely walk meeting the Divine in every view.

What makes this walk a retreat is my smartphone. Crazy as it sounds, it's an integral part of my walk. From the music I play, to the meditations, or even the podcasts by religious thinkers. My i-phone connects me to the Divine on this walk.

Many of us aren't smartphone savvy; I admit I'm not the best on my i-Phone; but it's easy to find great tools on the App Store.  One of my favorite apps is "On Being with Krista Tippet", which includes podcasts of Krista interviewing speakers that I love like Fr. Richard Rohr, Fr. James Martin and others.  Or I simply download some Gregorian Chants to help me meditate on my walk. Each of these offer me an escape. Each offer me a beautiful walk with a friend. Here is the best part, most of the podcasts are free! If you are looking for a new way to change your prayer life, look no further than to technology to connect you with voices you need to hear.  I also like that it's a two-fer, I'm getting sunshine, fresh air and building my prayer life.

So consider it my New Year's Gift to you... Enhancing your prayer life is as easy as a walk and a listen.

Till we catch up on the trail again. All my love my Pilgrims

Xo

Kathryn

The Pilgrimage Gal

My Christmas...

Santa Barbara Mission at Christmas...

On Friday my mother and I attended a mini-retreat at the Mission. The retreat covered one of my favorite readings. The reading from Luke on the birth of Christ.

In case your forgot or don't know it...

Luke 2:1-14

"In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus

that the whole world should be enrolled.

This was the first enrollment,

when Quirinius was governor of Syria.

So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town.

And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth

to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem,

because he was of the house and family of David,

to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.

While they were there,

the time came for her to have her child,

and she gave birth to her firstborn son.

She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger,

because there was no room for them in the inn.

Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields

and keeping the night watch over their flock.

The angel of the Lord appeared to them

and the glory of the Lord shone around them,

and they were struck with great fear.

The angel said to them,

“Do not be afraid;

for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy

that will be for all the people.

For today in the city of David

a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.

And this will be a sign for you:

you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes

and lying in a manger.”

And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel,

praising God and saying:

“Glory to God in the highest

and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.""

What I find so moving about this reading is well..., it's frankly so ordinary. Of all the mysteries of faith, this is so easy to understand. A young woman giving birth to a child. Perhaps that is why it still moves me each and every time I encounter it. I can imagine a young woman suddenly in labor: no ER, no midwife, no doctor available--It happens everyday in the world. It is the most simple of concepts, but no other event in our history has a more profound meaning. Perhaps that is why every Christmas Eve when I stand in my most uncomfortable but stunning shoes and hear this reading--I ugly cry.

You see, I look around in whatever church I have the good fortune to attend and I see myself in every face. I see my beauty and my brokenness, my love, my pain, my hurt and hope. In friends, in strangers, in my family, in the face of my Beauties, my husband and my mother. I see my faith, my community...

I'm reminded as always, that we are all saints and sinners.

I see little ones so excited they can't sit still, I see babies sleeping on parents, I see proud grandparents, I see the elderly couples sharing what may be their final Christmas mass together on this earth. I see young love and hearts that hunger for love.

I see Christ in every-face.

The folks who are in church to please, and faces that are in the same pew every Sunday, and I see the beauty of little ones having their first Christmas.

This my fellow Pilgrims is what Christmas is for me... The Community of Saints.

I have but one thought to offer you this Christmas. For those of you searching for a little comfort, for those of you searching the world to find the Divine, for those of you looking for a love to complete you. You already have it.

You see as you search to find the Divine, the Divine is already here. In you and in me. You just have to be willing to open the door, the door that sticks just a bit. To open yourself to the places in your heart you don't feel comfortable opening. That place that you think is dark, scary and unlovable. Because it is that place Pilgrims, that place that you can't imagine love, is where you meet God.

You see there is a similar place in a small and dirty stable in Bethlehem where God chose to share his unending love with us. It's in that stable where Christ became one with us. I often find it surprising that folks don't realize that God is in them, that love is God. That God is joy. That in community we support, we walk together, we serve, we are the face of God to one another and that God is in us.

So as you rush and run, wrap and toil, clean, make the beds and set the table, as you iron the dresses and shirts for your prince and princesses; remember God is with you, in you and around you always. That HIS love shines on us....

Remember that the beautiful translation of the Hebrew word Emmanuel is; "God is with us," and that, is the true meaning of Christmas.

May the light of the Holy Christmas season shine on you and all you love today and always.

Merry Christmas.

Kathryn

PilgrimageGal

Photo Credit: Mr. PilgrimageGal

Advent Candles...

 A long time ago, in a state far, far away...

My Pilgrims, how I miss you. I have been keeping an unbelievable pace since my trip back East at the end of October.  Each and every activity has been filled with many joys... I thought I would take this third week of Advent to share them with you.

Some people call the third week of Advent, "Pink candle week," but its actual name is Gaudete Sunday. The word "Gaudete" comes from Latin which means simply "Rejoice". That seems like a spectacular idea for this post. To offer some hope, some joy and to just rejoice this Advent and Christmas season.  Here are a few of the times thus far, I've been able to "Rejoice" and see the Divine this Advent.

I remember telling Jeff before we had the Beauties, that we wouldn't be "Santa" parents. That we would be raising our children so they would understand that Christ was the ONLY reason for the season. Ian was born in August, the first Christmas card we sent was a photo taken at home with Ian in his baptismal gown. (The gown made by a dear friend from the fabric of my wedding dress.) First year was amazing, I patted myself on the back.

Then along came year two, when Ian was a chubby toddler. I put him on the back of a little tractor with a Santa hat and Christmas tree.  I fell down the Santa hole and haven't turned back.  Both my Beauties believe Santa brings their gifts and that Jesus is what we are celebrating.  Since the second Christmas card, Santa and Christ have been a part of every Christmas... The greatest lesson I have learned with time, and Jeff's patience, is that you can create the Season that offers a multitude of gifts. Not just the ones that you thought you needed. Once again, with the grace of the Divine, I have learned their are oodles of reasons to rejoice this Gaudete Sunday.

As a family, we like having the traditional southern Sunday afternoon dinner, just like the one my grandmother used to host. While I will never master her friend chicken and gravy.... If only. We have created a space where Sunday is for God, family, a little football, and dinner at 4:30. That is Sunday in sunny Cali. Last weekend we were a disaster, all of us going in different directions, and Jeff made the executive decision that what I needed was hot tea, a bowl of soup and my bed. So in lieu of Sunday dinner, Jeff whipped up a kiddo dinner. Our rental cottage is tiny. You can roll over in your bed and all of us can hear you. I was sitting in the living room and Ian was in the kitchen and I heard Ian singing. He was singing the closing song from the family Mass. And he was something! Belting it out from the kitchen. You can hear in some churches the clapping, and swaying and just belting out in song... Ian offered us that from the kitchen.

"Soon and very soon,

We are going to see the King;

Soon and very soon,

We are going to see the King;

Soon and very soon,

We are going to see the King;

Hallelujah, Hallelujah,

We are going to see the King."

I said Ian, you sound great. Ian's reply was a classic. "Mom, I've got an ear-worm and when you have an ear worm... well you just need to sing." An ear worm for all of you who don't know, is that song or commercial that gets stuck in your head and you can't shake it.  As a mother, nothing is more gratifying that hearing that your child has a religious ear-worm stuck...

A classic Advent moment to rejoice.

Last Monday, Norah and I were invited by our dear friends to light the second nights candles of Hanukkah. Norah's classmate and her family are our soulmates, we share the beauty and love of God. Norah and I each got to light the candles of the menorah and to celebrate with joy the miracle of God's unending love.  It is so affirming to share the deep love of faith with good friends. The children singing, playing with the dreidel and of course the yummy food! Our friends were gracious and loving hosts, opening their home to us to love and worship together. It will always be a special part of our Advent season to rejoice and celebrate Hanukkah with such dear friends.

Friday, I met with my prayer group, I made a simple box lunch for each of us and we had some egg nog and prayed together in our special little room at the Mission. Whenever I'm with my little prayer group, it is never lost on me that this was how the early Christians gathered. They ate, prayed and celebrated the joy of small faith communities. Having never visted the Holy Land, living in Santa Barabara often makes me feel closer to the world Christ lived. With our sunshine, the ocean, the terrain filled with fruit and olive trees. Many of my friends who have visited have also commented on the similarities.

But even more, I'm left to realize that in all parts of the world, individuals just like us are gathering to light the candles of Hanukkah, or light an Advent wreath and pray. Many of us take for granted that we can worship in the open.  But, across the globe, far too many worship in places that are not safe, where persecution is the norm, where safety is not guaranteed.

A powerful reminder to be the best of your faith tradition. Don't hide it, wear it with love, honesty and be willing to share your faith, your traditions.  Less fear, more love.

That friends is what is at the heart of a stable in Bethlehem.

My prayer for you is simple, may your face be washed in the love and light of the Divine. May you recognize it and rejoice in all the moments.

Merry Christmas from my family to yours.

Kathryn

PilgrimageGal

Intimacy...

Have you ever stopped to think about your understanding of a word as a youngster and how the meaning changes as you age?

That is exactly what I have been doing lately.

Intimacy is a word that has changed many times in my life. It went from an "intimate dinner for two" and then more recently, "they got intimate," to me stopping and considering, what is true intimacy? And for me it's not a violation of my marriage vows; I'm not talking about a salacious relationship. I'm discussing the ability to be open and honest with those you love.

I don't see intimacy tied to sex or physical contact. I see intimacy as one's ability to let down your guard and show yourself as you are; without artifice.

Jeff used to make a joke that our Beauties would never learn "stranger danger," because their mom will constantly strike up a conversation with random people on the street, in the doctor's office, at the store...

Regardless, in my life some of those strangers have shared their amazing truths.  I understand that I'm a little unique; one of my gifts is my openness to others. My family has learned the look I give when they need to wait. Because sometimes, I'm surprised what folks share. And sometimes, It stops me where I stand and I need to be present.  I need to take the time to listen.  You learn quickly how to compartmentalize certain truths, carry others, and most often let the feelings flow in and out of you. I would imagine that I'm open to more folks than many of you; and that is my choice.  What I'm offering, is that in creating greater intimacy in your life, you will indeed feel more love, more openness and more connection to the Divine than you can possibly imagine.

I ask you the question, "with whom are you intimate?"

And again, this isn't about your partner, or lover. It is more, it is larger, it is about those with whom you share your journey.

I have a series of questions that I ask the people I love. It gives me a chance to take their emotional pulse. I learned from one of my closest friends, my Hawaiian Beauty, that I'm the only person who asks her about her spirit. I was stunned. She went on to ask me, "Well who asks you about your spirit?"

How are you at your core? With what are you wrestling? Where you are on your journey? What is your barrier to sustained happiness?

How's your spirit?; is just one of a handful of questions I ask. That way I know where I'm meeting the people I love. In addition to the spirit question, I often ask, what is currently your biggest challenge? What is keeping you up at night?

I spent last week back in Maryland and my entire week was filled with lunch and coffee dates, asking people in my circle that question. Each friend has a different faith life, each has unique challenges and joys, each feeds me in a uniquely, beautifully and dynamic way. From my week at "home" I also now know what texts to send to check-in, who I need to call or contact more frequently. Because I now have a baseline, I know where they are and they me. It is what makes my life so big, beautiful and filled. I feel in my soul LOVE daily from the individuals who make up my world.

So my question to you: Why is it that as spiritual beings we don't ask these question more often?

The answer is simple. We don't take the time. We aren't always as present as we believe. We are texting, talking on the phone, answering emails. We are lost in our own attachments; longing for relationships that yield truth and intimacy. But do we ever take the time to ask something more profound? We are too busy asking the pedestrian: Hows the weather, the kids or the job?  We don't take the time to dig deeper.

Do we honestly want to know the truth?

Have you ever noticed that we are paralyzed by our own activity?

That is the real question of intimacy. With whom are you asking the personal questions?

Are you willing to? Are you willing to answer truthfully, when someone asks you?

It means digging a little deeper, pausing a little longer... being intimate...

Often people tell me, "Kathryn, I don't want to intrude?" I can honestly say that when you lead with your heart; people tell you their boundaries. And often those boundaries are not where you think. My marching orders are simple, "Lean-in" as Sheryl Sandberg coined the term, but I define it differently.

Lean-in to love, to connection, to your intimate community. The richness, the beauty and the love is waiting. And in this love you will find yourself closer to the Divine.

I lovingly wait to hear of your success.

As always I love walking with each and every one of you. I'm a better mother, wife, daughter, sister and intimate friend because of your gifts and talents.

Namaste.

Kathryn

PilgrimageGal

Thank you for walking with me this week and always. I do use social media to keep in touch. You are welcome to find me on

Facebook

,

Instagram

or comment below. I personally answer all my correspondence... and I'm always glad to meet another traveler. xo

Photo Credit: PilgrimageGal

Breathing Space: The Mission Church That Inspires Father Richard Rohr | ...







This is a beautiful look at my spiritual home, The Old Mission Santa Barbara. This is where I spend as much of my free time as possible. I love sharing little glimpses into my daily journey and Fr. Richard Rohr is one of my favorite authors and theologians. While he was just visiting when he made this video, I look forward to meeting him the next time he is in town.  Hope your world is filled with much love... Always.



Kathryn