What Does Your Sign Say?...

Love is the easiest and the hardest thing you will ever do.

I have found it much easier to love in my 40's. Love in my 20's, it scared me. Why?, because love means you have to be willing to be naked. I'm not kidding. Love means that you show your true-self, you acknowledge your weaknesses; stand naked; openly sharing what they are. Love means being you. For many of us, we struggle with not being "good-enough," we want that perfection. Unfortunately, it's just not possible.

I could easily walk around with a sign on my chest listing all of my weakness. My sign would say:

"Hi! I'm Kathryn. Sometimes I'm a mess. When I'm a mess, it's because I let this foolishness slow me down."

Here's my foolishness:

I worry I will die and leave my children without a mother.

I'm painfully insecure--seriously insecure and that means I have some anxiety issues!

I want to love everyone and for everyone to love me.

I'm super embarrassed about my weight. I mean look at me...

My husband is so amazing, I can't for the life of me comprehend why Jeffrey loves-me.

I worry; I'm a lousy wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend...

I worry; that folks don't understand my illness and think I'm a big faker.

I don't think that I'm smart or beautiful.

I have huge guilt that I don't work.

I'm a huge slob... I'm super duper messy.

I often feel like I'm an impostor.

I can't comprehend why people read or listen to what I have to say.

Here is the thing. Most days I shut these negative feelings down. I don't let them bubble-up. Period. End of story.  Everyone has a bad day and I'm no different.  When I have a bad day, I reach out to the people I trust more than myself. I know these aren't rational feelings, but they are part of being human.  I share that my anxiety and worries are bigger than me.  It's in these rare moments that I fully trust others. The people I love.

I work hard to acknowledge these fears and set them aside.

My fears rarely slow me down. Why? I will tell a person on the street what my fears are.  When you "wear and own" your fears, they no longer hold you back. Today I find my fears self-propel me and make me work a little harder. They don't stop me. It has taken a ton of internal work, but it has enabled me to be fearless.

The fearlessness of acknowledging your struggles, makes it easy to love. I have nothing to hide, so that means I can be transparent.

Transparency is freedom.

Freedom not to judge you and the freedom to allow you to love me. I get that you have messy too. So just tell me your messy, and let's get it out. When you share these "triggers" it also explains why some things make us a little crazy. When I know you struggle with your weight, flying, fear of hospitals, or public speaking. It means I'm never, ever, ever hurt you with that.  It means I love you so much that we will protect your soft spots together. I will hold your hand and never leave your side. It means I know this is hard and I have your back.

My mother-in-law shared with me that she is amazed how I just meet strangers and they become good friends.  I laughed, it's true I do make friends in the most unusual places; but my response is, why doesn't everyone? Life is so much better when you have a big circle of happy people who love you and you love them back.

I want everyone I meet to feel special, to feel important and that our interaction was significant in my journey. Don't you?

Don't you want everyone you meet to feel your love, your connection of happiness and your touch of a little joy? Do we all fail at this everyday? Sure. But, isn't it worth trying?

If you are looking at your life and questioning why your relationships aren't where you want them...perhaps you need to ask yourself the question: What are you really afraid of? What don't you want others to know about you? What are you hiding? Are you open to honestly listening to others? Or are you making fun of or worse minimizing the very things you promised to protect (their fear of flying or fear of hospitals).

Keeping some things under wraps may be preventing you from the greatest loves ever.

Peace be with you,

Kathryn

PilgrimageGal

Photo Credit: PilgrimageGal Daughter

Happy 3rd Birthday Pilgrimage Gal...

I started my little blog on June 1, 2012. I then spent days looking at a blank screen wondering what to say.

Pilgrimage Gal has evolved in three years. I have grown in confidence, witnessing my health dramatically improve and along the way I found my voice. This space began with the support of my Jeffrey and my dear friend Jessica; both encouraging me to share my truth. What began as a sick and frightened women's journal, changed into a place to find hope, courage and little faith. Back in the beginning, I wasn't scared of sharing my truth, I was scared of

dying

.  In my heart, I felt death chasing me and it was terrifying. The blog became a place to share the fear that filled my heart in the darkness of night.  The worries that didn't go away when I woke. I needed my Beauties to know their mom. So as adults they would have my truth of their childhood. The blog would allow them to see in my own words that I loved them with everything that I had. That I fought everyday for their Dad and them.

When I left this world, they would still hear my voice.

A record for the Beauties of what my life, our life was all about.

Total truth.

I never honestly expected to be here to celebrate this blog turning 3. While I was making peace with my death, the Divine was creating my way to life. Each doctor at every turn was a tiny grain of sand to wellness. You never see the beach when you are focused on individual grains of sand, you can't find the ocean--you can only see the grains.

No one has had access to better doctors. No one. I have fought, challenged, cajoled, and laid out a few. I have listened, cried and screamed when I needed to, I did what I was told, and I never stopped fighting. Never given up. Have I had dark moments? Good Lord, yes.  I looked at my Jeffrey and my Beauties and knew NO ONE would ever love them the way I do. No one possibly could. They are as much part of my soul as I am theirs.

I have meet brilliant minds, doctors who love me more than they should. I have given too many of them sleepless nights. My husband who never once has said it's too much. A doctor, Harvard, who stood next to my hospital bed in the darkest moments and who wound't give up on his most unique patient.  I know no person on earth that has more loving friends, soul sisters, more perfect Beauties and my mother who drops everything to support me.

My riches are too vast to imagine. I may never win the power-ball, but I have won more than my share of grace and love.

So as I step back and give thanks for medical interventions that keep me stable. Teachers who love my children as their own, friends no matter my geography that have my back, a husband that loves all of me, every broken part and every super power.

I know one thing that is true, that none of this is possible without my faith. A faith that humbles me. That in all of my abundance, I have been able to walk with LOVE. My greatest gift in all of this is faith that is built on love.  I have a faith that never falters. That faith has enabled me to see love hidden, love flourishing, and how to find it, keep it and make it grow.

It's all of these gifts that make Pilgrimage Gal my safe place as I hope it is yours too. The Divine gave me the love of all of you. My Pilgrims near and far. Thanks to technology, I have virtual tea dates around the globe. Someday the Divine will connect all of us, in London and in Finland and too many of you to mention in Canada and the States. Each and every one of you take a moment out of your busy daily life to walk with me. To share your truth, to give me insight in your life. You share your Beauties, your dreams, your faith and struggles. Thank you, for walking with me; sharing your exquisite every day moments. My life is richer with your love.

Jeffrey surprised me with a huge Pilgrimage Gal birthday cake, chocolate with salted caramel, no words for the yummiest cake ever. The cake was from the talented cafe and my newest Santa Barbara friend Gillian of

Lilac Patisserie

. I washed the cake down with a toast and small sip of champagne (I'm on crummy antibiotics) toasting each and everyone of you. Without you I would just be some lonely girl jotting musings in her diary.

Your loves, your likes, your comments, your shares, and your amens have made me productive, open, more honest and the best version of myself.

I'm beyond humbled by my life and look forward to celebrating all of our joys, celebrations and struggles for years to come.

Cheers, to you all! To Jess and Jeffrey, I love you both with all that I have, thank you for encouraging me in the darkness. You both give me more than I ever give you!

Peace be with you all.

The Divine in me bows to the Divine in each and everyone of you.

Happy Birthday from the Pilgrimage Gal and our journey continues.

xo,

Kathryn

Photo Credit: Mr. Pilgrimage Gal

Tool One: LOVE Times Four...



Happy first Monday of Lent 2015

As promised, here is my first post in my Lenten Series. I have never done anything like this before; and to be honest, it's hard.  I like to remind myself, you have to make yourself uncomfortable. You have to push out of your comfort zone.  So Eeek, what nerve it takes to say, "I've got my life all figured out and I'm going to tell you how to fix yours."  Anyone who knows me; knows I really don't. I'm just like you. Truthfully.  What I have been told consistently is; Jeffrey and I share skills as a couple and as individuals that have allowed us to live a beautiful and happy life, in spite of our struggles.  We don't often get down and when we have problems, we have the ability to right our ship.  We of course maintain that a big piece is due to our faith life.  We are resilient as individuals, as a couple, and as parents.

Along with an active faith life, I think the most important skill we try to teach is resilience.  We need to own this and teach it in our daily life.  We choose how we are walking in this world.  We tell our Beauties daily; life is flipping hard and you have to have tools and skills to make it through the tough times.  That's resilience.

As we work through the Lenten season, which traditionally is a time for reflection and sacrifice, maybe it's also a good time to share my/our ideas on compiling the tools to live in this big old crazy world and make you and yours more resilient.

What tools do you need in your tool box in order to build a resilient life?  Over the next few weeks, I will share my thoughts on several of the tools, including; Love, Community/Tribe, Faith life, Sense of Humor, and Vulnerability.  I will do my best to keep the posts topic based.  But, this is new for me, so we will see how it goes.  Let's start with the most important tool:

LOVE

We are built to love.  Hopefully, you do it daily without much thought, to be honest.  But, often it is just on the surface and superficial.  We need to dig a little deeper.

We know in scripture there are four types of love: The Greeks they love BIG. A quick review includes the following types of love:

 Storge: Brotherly love, familial love.
 Philia: Friendship.
 Eros: Passionate/romantic.
 Agape: Unconditional/selfless love.

I'm not an expert in Greek; I'm not trying to offer a new thesis on the biblical uses!  We are going to keep with the simple; Us Weekly/People magazine worthy definitions.  Nothing heavy here! I'm good with easy.  I'm not looking to footnote with scholarly definitions.  I'm not even going to go into each one.  I just ask you to consider how do each of the four touch your life?  And I don't think you need to have all four; what I do believe is that you can never have too much!

No one dies thinking I wish I had loved less... I think everyone wishes that they had loved more.

That leads to the first series of questions:

How do you LOVE?
Are you a consumer of love or a generator of love?  Do you make room for love?  Do you close yourself to loves' invitation?  Are you not good enough to be loved? (that is the lie so many say to ourselves.)  Do you love yourself?  Your imperfections, your weaknesses and strengths?  Do you surround yourself with lasting relationships that include love?

There are no wrong answers here.  It's the opportunity for a wee bit of self reflection.  There is no scale at the end to rank your "love quotient".

Also for this reflection, please take Eros off the table and the Agape form of unconditional love for your children.  If you have it, more power to you.  But, you don't need it to live well, to have fulfillment or frankly to love fully.  Keep the Agape in your heart and mind for the Divine's love for you, though.

The relationships that include service to others; that is Agape too.  When you give of your time and talents to others, you serve, you are knee deep in others, wanting nothing in return.   It is this ability to be selfless that fills your love bank.  It does the heavy lifting in good times.

You have to put your money where your mouth is. You have to work on filling your love bank on the sunny days.  When you are at your best.  Do you send that text, do you call when you have five minutes (or 2 hours) when you're needed?  I try my best, but can always do better.

I got one this week. I got a text that told me to "call me when you get up!"  It was all that I could do not to call immediately at 1 am EST.  Do you have folks that can count on you?

One of the most important lessons I have learned is that in my darkest, darkest times.  There was ALWAYS someone who had it worse than me.

And that is the grocery store moment.  Have you ever been in line at the grocery store at 5 pm on a weeknight gritting your teeth for the one flipping item you need to pull dinner together.  Have you ever looked around at the folks surrounding you?  Everyone has struggles, some are big and some are huge.  For the love of all that is good in the world... Stop judging people.  It's the surest way to cut an enormous hole in your love bank.  Everyone has a "cross."  Be grateful that you don't have theirs. And when you can, reach you hand out and offer it to another.  It will make all the difference; I promise.  Because no matter what my trial; I have always had someone who could take my hand and walk with me.  Who loved me, even with all the Kathryness of it all.  And that makes the journey so much more beautiful.

I have held out my hand so many times to find someone else holding mine.  Just this week, I've been worrying about the blog.  Is this really what the Spirit wants me doing.  I guess you could say my love bank was running a little low.  I don't feel my best, my Jeffrey is traveling.  And what do I have to offer?  Does it really resonate with anyone?  And that's when the email appeared in my in-box; the email that made my heart sing, the one told me that I helped them, that my words "resonate FULLY" and that my writing is a "blessing to them."  Now that is some good love and it was just what I needed at that moment.

So that is what this post is asking:  How well are you loving?  How well are you allowing love into your life?  Who are you holding out your hand to?  And have you welcomed, accepted and allowed yourself to feel the glorious light of someone elses love?  I promise it makes all the difference.

When you love, it keeps your scales balanced, it keeps you giving and receiving love, and with a little love everything's easier.  The good days are great and the tough days are tolerable because you can feel the love and you've got a whole bunch of folks holding you up!

If you feel that your "love bank" is more than half full, then take a second to pat yourself on the back. That's the first step to mastering this crazy thing called resilience.

Till next week...

Love,
Kathryn
PilgrimageGal


photo credit: Love via photopin (license)

Love...

I have started and deleted three or four posts on my sweet Jeffrey since New Year’s.  I can’t seem to put on paper what his presence in my life means; it’s too vast.  Jeffrey is a simple man; and for a very complex girl, it’s hard to understand his willingness to step back, to be the nurturer, to simply and quietly move in the world.

Read More

In Defense of Cafeteria Catholics...


Sometimes I’m reminded that it’s not an easy road to be a Catholic woman in 2013.  It is very clear to me that I’m not in step with the Church on some fundamental issues. 

Some would call me a Cafeteria Catholic. 

I find the term offensive. My Church has always struggled with those who have dissented and we are known for our colorful history. 

Why is it wrong to question? Why does it make me fringe? When did it become wrong to talk openly about issues? Why does it seem that many of our community don’t want to hear another or different faith filled voice, or consider a different opinion?  And why does my disagreement make me a bad Catholic? I attend Mass, benefit from the grace of all of the Sacraments. I was married in the Church and have openly and honestly raised my children in the faith. 

In our Church history, we have had councils that went on for years discussing the divinity of Christ, the role of Mary, the role of the Sacraments, the role of salvation...

But not today... We have meetings behind close doors, not open for debate, and are becoming extremely cut and dry. 

And yet we struggle as a community to offer transparency. Our Church of late doesn’t have a ton of good PR.  She has struggled to clean up scandal after scandal that has left many shaken. But, while I’m appalled by her missteps, I love her all the more. It is simple to me, the problems in my Church are human, not Divine.  

Despite the name calling, I remain a proud and committed Catholic. Because this is my home too, for much more the better than for worse. I find safety, and most of all I find the Divine.  When my world spins, it is the silence of a chapel, the pull of prayer, the stillness of the rosary, that holds and comforts me...  It is the peace and the grace that is not available anywhere else. It is this faith that warms my soul.  It is the beauty of receiving HIS body and blood; HIS grace, HIS complete forgiveness in the sacraments.

I remind myself everyday that I have seen Christ in the works of others.  I meet Christ in his Sacraments, in the touch of those who work to make me well.  In the work of priests that I love, and admire, in the work of sisters that I hold dear. In the commitments of friends and loved ones who grow their families in a community of faith. 

I see Christ, every single day.  

My dear friend left with her family today for an extended vacation and as she blew me kisses from her walk and I back to her; I realized that this is what community looks like... The unquestionable love for one another.  

And why do you ask would I be labeled a Cafeteria Catholic?

I openly maintain that my Church is wrong on the issue of Gay Marriage.  I just can’t recognize in my core that when God made each of us in his image and likeness; he made a mistake.  My sisters and brothers who Love their partners are my brothers and sisters, too. They could be my parents, my siblings, my children and my grandchildren.  And I will stand beside them till we no longer see these children of God as anything but whole, beautiful and graced.  We must refrain from the use of language that is used to belittle and tear one another down. 

As a mother, I’m enraged that a mother would close the door on her child because of the person that they are called to LOVE.   When you are given the gift of life, YOU as a parent are tasked with loving and raising that person into the best person they are... The person they are CALLED to be. Not the person you want them to be...

As a mother, we don’t get to modify the gift, nor do you get to exchange this gift. You are called to LOVE your gift. When you have children, you don’t change them; you raise and love them. You enhance their gifts to make them successful as human beings made in the image and likeness of the Creator. Not your image, the Creator’s image.

You see, we are all blest with the gift of understanding, empathy and the ability to love. And when you look in the mirror and begin to say you love only this person and not that one, you are fundamentally breaking with God’s gifts.

We are called to LOVE one another.  Christ called all of us, not the easy way, Christ didn’t say only the smart ones, or the pretty ones or the easy ones, or only the straight ones... He called all of us, to Love each other. 

“A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so must you love one another. By this everyone will know you as my disciples; if you love one another.“  
John 13:34-35 

That love is not conditional, it is not exclusionary, it is crystal clear... LOVE EVERYONE. 

Now I can hear a whole bunch of folks who say, “I love the “sinner”, not the sin,” and to that I say, when you accept that we are all made in HIS likeness, how can the love of two people committed to each other be a sin? 

We are loving, when we are unselfish and put others needs before our own. And we are loving, when we appreciate and embrace our differences. 

One of the key components of the argument against Marriage Equality is that it betrays the natural Law and fundamental belief that marriage is for procreation and for the children. I heard a great argument that has stuck with me, answer this question, “If my husband and I were not blessed with our biological children would our marriage be any less of a Sacrament? Would we still not be entitled to the benefits of marriage? All those couples too old, too frail, not able to have children, is their sacramental commitment any different?”

Others argue that Marriage is a Sacrament, because it is a gift from God.  I don’t believe that we pick our spouses, I believe that He has a hand in it.  I think we choose to marry, but through God’s grace we are enabled to find our partners. So why wouldn’t that be true for our Gay and Lesbian siblings. Because you are gay, you are not entitled to God’s grace? We know that is simply not true.

Why is the argument that equality means the dissolution of “traditional” marriage? Perhaps it will give the Sacrament a boost. No valid Sacramental Marriage suffers from the result of a Gay couple's union.  

Instead of worrying about how Marriage Equality may hurt marriage, we should be talking about how it strengthens it. When we offer support and loving embrace, to all marriages, and see that they are forged by God’s loving and powerful grace. The same grace that I benefit from in my marriage.  

So as we look forward, may we continue to be called to be representatives for Christ.

And continue to work to protect all, no matter our views... 

And know that above all, we must LOVE first... 

God Bless,

Kathryn
PilgrimageGal

photo credit: FotoRita [Allstar maniac] via photopin cc