jueves, 27 de julio de 2017

Beating Insecurity: Why Not?

friendly signsHave your insecurities ever stopped you from doing something you really wanted to do?

It's happened to me countless occasions.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, my insecurities were a driving force in my life.  Or, better said, they were a paralyzing force in my life for far too long.  Fortunately, for some time now, I've gotten better and better about pushing myself into uncomfortable situations, if, at the end, it gets me to do something I've really wanted to do.

However, every once in awhile, insecurity still gets the better of me.

Two years ago, it almost robbed me of a chance to take advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  Looking back, I´m still surprised by the series of events that led up to this opportunity.

Twelve years ago, my husband left Mexico for a year to study his master's degree in Sweden.  (Thank you, Sweden and your marvelous system free higher education--we will forever be grateful!)   After he finished his classes, he came back to Mexico with the intention of finishing his master's thesis while he was working.

Ten years later, his university decided that it was time he finally finished and presented this thesis.
downtown Linköping
Therefore, two years ago, we spent two weeks in Sweden in June, so he could FINALLY finish that degree.

Sweden is a lovely place to be in June.  His university was in Linköping, two hours southwest of Stockholm.  (It's pronounced "Lin-sho-ping" NOT "Link-o-ping."  If you need further proof of the goofiness of the Swedish language, check out this video, explaining Swedish pronounciation.  When Mexicans complain that English pronounciation is hard to learn--which it is--throw this video into the discussion!  See--English isn´t the only goofy language!)
historic boat restaurant Linköping

Anyway, in Sweden in June, the grass is green, the flowers are in bloom, the trees are lusciously, leafy green, the sun is ALWAYS out, the birds are singing, and--in Linköping--a river runs through it.

Yes, a river runs right through the downtown area.  There is a system of locks, so people can take boats on pretty extensive river tours.  On the north side of the downtown area, the city put up a beach, so those sun-loving Swedes can enjoy the warmth and the outdoors as long as they possibly can before winter locks them inside again.

But since I was there in June, people were taking full advantage of the river area.  Of particular interest to me--a man was renting kayaks one of the first afternoons I was exploring the city.

I am pretty well-versed in canoe (for being a suburban girl).  But I had never had the chance to kayak.  I really wanted to.  I love the feeling of floating on the water, skimming the surface as if I were flying.  Pushing myself through the water with a paddle, the effort is usually minimal for the amount of distance I can travel.  (I´ve clearly never gone against a strong current.)

And kayaks, being so much smaller than canoes, make me almost positive that that feeling of weightlessness and flying could be enhanced.  I decided that yes, I wanted to kayak.  In Sweden.  Under the leafy trees lining the river in downtown Linköping.

Then, in walked insecurity.

1)  Maybe this was more expensive than it was really worth.
2)  Or maybe I had better wait until next week.  After all, it was my second day exploring the city--that was exciting enough, right?
3)  Or maybe the rental guy didn't speak English.  (Oh, please--Sweden continued to floor me not only about how all Swedes speak perfect English, they also didn't seem to mind that my Swedish vocabulary consisted of five words, of which only two ever found their way out of my mouth.)
4)  Or this . . . Or that . . . and maybe this again . . . ad naseum!

So I sat on the bank and did what I do best--observe.


Then something that caught my attention.  The kayak rental guy looked strikingly similar to Levy, a guy I spent a year volunteering with at NPH in Morelos.  Furthermore, rumor last had it that he was in Sweden.  There was a carseat this guy's car, for a girl who was probably just about the same size of Levy's kid.  And renting kayaks and sponsoring other outdoor recreational opportunities would be EXACTLY the kind of thing he'd love to do.  (Having very few personal funds when we volunteered, he managed to start a successful tae-kwon-do program at the children's home, which he kept running for at least five years on his volunteer's stipend.)  He gets things done, and he does what he wants to do.

Swedish daisy

I realized that if this guy really was Levy, he'd roll his eyes at my indecision, then look me in the eye and tell me, "Jill--get your ass in that kayak."

So I bit the bullet and decided I was going to do it.  Plus, the more I watched, the more I was convinced that I knew this guy, and I´d regret it if I didn't go and find out if it really was him or not.

I weaved my way through the kayaks on the beach and groups of twenty-somethings getting their lifejackets on.  Finally I got over to Levy and got his attention.  I was within arm's length of this guy.

He was shorter than Levy.

Then he started talking--definitely not Levy's voice.

But his English was excellent, and he was clearly happy to have another kayaker for that hour's tour.
After a very basic round of paddling instruction (all in Swedish, which I could mostly follow--thanks Duolingo and body language!) we threw the kayaks in the river, got in, and headed downstream.

It was every bit as wonderful as I imagined.

The freedom on the water, the effortless slice of paddle through the water, the blue sky and the sun glistening off the river--kayaking down the Kinda Canal was hands-down the highlight of my two weeks in Sweden.

These kayaks were only out to be rented on Thursday.  I had considered waiting until the next Thursday.

It turned out that it rained all day that next Thursday.

I'm so glad I took advantage of the opportunity I had when it presented itself.

It's easy to get bogged down in numerous reasons not to do something.  Had I listened to all my doubts, or even the benign "let's put it off until next week", I would have missed out on what turned out to be my most memorable experience of that vacation.

Traveling is a great chance to seize the day.  Let's all channel our inner Robin Williams and "CARPE DIEM!"

Traveling is also a great chance to get overwhelmed.  Everything is different, everything is new.  While the vacation may have been the source of dreams while at home, it can be exhausting to live the experience.  But, so many times, experiences we can take advantage of while on vacation are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.

Don't prioritize comfort so that it eclipses growth and joy.  Seize the day.

As a friend of mine, who got talked into a cross-country camping trip with her husband and six kids said recently, "Why not?  It´s the new theme for my life."

Ironically, asking that question rhetorically diminishes the pull that all the reasons "why not" have on our decision-making processes.

I think I´ll adopt that motto, too.

Why not?




¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨
This month, the South of the Border Sisters Bloggers are having a blog hop with the theme "Travel".  I meant to keep my post south of the border, but it IS certainly about travel!

And let's face it--insecurities keep us from traveling.  But if traveling--even south of the border--is what you want to do, go for it!

Why not?




martes, 18 de julio de 2017

Little by Little--Instilling a Faith Life in Children

Like any parent I have hopes for my kids.  Most notably:

1)  that they grow up to be thoughtful, caring, and compassionate human beings.
2)  that they claim Christianity--any form of Christianity--for their own.
3)  and if they decide to be Catholic--well, that´s just icing on the cake!



But what am I doing to help them turn out this way?




Example

If I want them to be thoughtful, caring, and compassionate human beings, they need to see me being thoughtful, caring, and compassionate.

But I´m human, and I mess up.  I probably mess up most often with them.

So if I know I´ve been wrong, I don´t hesitate to tell them I´m sorry.

They see me reading, they see me writing.  We read together.  We talk about things--politics, religion, social situations, adoption (friends recently adopted two little girls), death, future plans, crazy stories (that´s mostly provided by the five-year-old)--nothing is off-limits.

But writing this down, I´m noticing that we might be falling short on the "compassionate" section.  I'll have to get to work on that and turn some of this talking into action--with something the kids can participate in, too!

Mass

If we want our kids to grow up to claim the Catholic faith as their own, we go to mass.  Every week.

However, this last year, our oldest led the charge in getting us to mass regularly.  Our parish has "children's mass" every Sunday at 10:30.  This year, Clara was invited to be one of the angel dancers that stand in front and lead everyone in motions to the songs sung.  She's up there with her best friends, and soaking up the fact that she gets to dance in front of everyone.

I hope she´s soaking up some of the deeper meaning of the mass, too.

But, one step at a time.

Catechism

Now that the kids are school-aged, they´re also going to catechism every Saturday.  At first, we´d send the kids every other week, and as the school year dragged on, we tapered off our participation when Lent rolled around.

Oops.

But the teachers keep track of attendance, and last year the kids with the best attendance got prizes.  So, this year, Clara is insisting on going every week.  I´m glad that she´s motivated enough to go.  It helps that her best friends go, too.  

Joey's still in kindergarten.  Sometimes I make him go.  Sometimes, when he says he'd really rather stay home, I let him stay home.

But that ties into Point #4--

Not Shoving It Down Their Throats

I really, really want my kids to have a personal relationship with God.

I really, really want them to be personally motivated to read their Bibles regularly, so they know what they believe and why they believe it.

I really, really want them to develop so many spiritual practices, but I know that one of the best ways of turning them away from religion is to shove it down their throats and beat them over the head with it.

Let's not be counter-productive here.

In the home I was raised in, we went to church regularly, we went to Sunday school regularly, and when we were older we were involved in youth group.  However, we didn´t talk about God much at home, and we rarely prayed together, apart from meals on major holidays.

By the grace of God, as adults, both my brother and I are both practicing Christians--so that approach worked!

But, let's be honest, "shoving it down their throats" goes by a case-by-case basis.  Much like everything else, we need to be attentive to our kids, let them talk, listen to them, understand their perspective, and they´ll be more receptive to being receptive to us.



Memorable Baptism

This is another carryover of my upbringing.  It´s not necessarily the right choice for everyone.  In fact, I´m not even advocating this for others.   It just worked out well in my case, and I´m hoping that will play out equally well in my children's lives, too.

When I was very small, we didn't attend church regularly until I was 4 or 5.  Therefore, I was not baptized as an infant.  Just before we moved across the midwest, my parents decided to get my brother and I baptized.  I was on the older end of 7, so I had to answer for myself whether I believed in God, renounced the Devil, and all that.

While it wasn't my idea to get baptized, I was in agreement with it, and I remember it.  While I didn't understand all the symbolism surrounding the sacrament, I knew that I was spiritually washed clean and officially a child of God.  And it wasn't that I just knew in my head that I was spiritually washed clean.  When the pastor poured the water over my head, I honestly and truly felt clean inside!  It was a great feeling, and I feel blessed that I do actually remember it.

And now, after Easter, when the priest sprinkles us all with water before mass, reminding us to remember our baptism, I love that I literally DO remember mine!

Sometimes I wonder if some of the draw for Catholics to turn to other denominations is that (in some churches) they´re encouraged to get baptized again.  It's a sacrament filled with such symbolism (in Protestant traditions--as Catholics, we tend to take things both  symbolically AND literally!).  But, either way, it's so important and so loaded with meaning that I wonder if some don't get re-baptized in other traditions just so they can remember experiencing the beauty of being baptized.

Now, don't get me wrong--I believe that infant baptism is just fine and dandy.  (OK, for full disclosure, I used to be strenuously opposed to it, now I´m OK with it, and just last week I found myself defending the practice of infant baptism to my Jehovah's Witness friend.  So I guess I've been fully converted!)  The Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1250 beautifully states, "the sheer gratuitousness of the grace of salvation is particularly manifest in infant baptism.  The Church and the parents would deny a child the priceless grace of becoming a child of God were they not to confer Baptism shortly after birth."

Oh, I feel the weight of that statement!

Full disclosure--my kids are still not baptized.

My husband and I agreed that we want them to decide for themselves.  I do feel some guilt about not baptizing them as babies.  But it's a gamble that I'm hoping will pay off in the long run.

After all, nothing has been more precious so far than hearing my son decide that he does want to get baptized.
     
        "Why do you want to get baptized?"

        "Because I love Jesus, and he told us to get baptized."

(I promise, he came up with that response on his own!  Isn't that the most wonderful and profound thing that he's ever said?)

I'm so excited that next Easter, my son will be able to remember his baptism, too--not just figuratively, but literally!  And I hope that experience will stick with him, that feeling of being washed clean and being accepted, so that when other opportunities or doubts or antipathy arise, he'll have that experience to remember and cling to.

My daughter, on the other hand, will be entering 3rd grade this next year.  In our parish, kids receive First Communion when they're in third grade.  Her friends will be doing their First Communions.  But Clara is aware that, unlike her friends, she has to get baptized first.  She's got her godmother all picked out.  She's been eyeing those gorgeous, white dresses for awhile.

But she still hasn't made a commitment one way or another about getting baptized yet.

And we've let her know that's perfectly fine.  She can always get baptized and receive First Communion the following year, or three years later, or whenever she decides she's ready.  She knows it's her choice, and we'll respect her decision if she chooses not to.

Peer pressure may pay a powerful factor here.  That may be a good thing, it may not.  I want her to both be baptized and receive First Communion for the right reasons.  She knows the decision is up to her.  And she usually makes good decisions.

Whatever she decides, she will be required to attend catechism until she finishes junior high, though!

What's Next?

My kids are 8, 5, and 1.  We've all still got a lot of growing to do.  We've all got a lot of learning to do.

It's mid-July, and we're still working our way through our Lenten prayer chain. (But, we are still working on it!)

We often forget to pray before meals.  But something is rubbing off, as about once a week, my son reminds us to pray before meals.

As the second-grader was borrowing my Bible for catechism this last year, we'll buy her a Bible of her own this summer--a REAL Bible, not one of the kiddie picture-Bibles!  It being summer, and we're not bogged down with homework, it would probably be good if we read our way through a Gospel together, too.

Beyond that, I'm open to suggestions.  I've been involved in a Bible study for years, with women of all ages.  When we're off on tangents, the comments that stick with me the most are from the moms that regret not instilling an active faith life in their children while they were young.  I take their laments to heart.

So I´ll do what I can now.


*****************************************
This month, the Catholic Women Bloggers Network is blog hopping with the theme "What I Am Doing Now In the Hope of Keeping My Kids Catholic".


domingo, 14 de mayo de 2017

Discovering My Passions

But I Don´t Know What My Passion Is!

Ten years ago, I was in Jesus Christ Superstar in at a local theater.  While trying to psychologically understand the characters, the director reflected, "Who takes 30 years to understand their passion?"

He was talking about Jesus, of course.  But I was ready to raise my hand.  I was knocking on 30´s door, and had no idea what exactly I was passionate about.  There were topics I was more interested in than others, of course.  But a driving passion?  Nope.

Maybe some people are just born knowing what they are passionate about, like Thom the Director.  Maybe some people have a pretty good idea, but are just waiting for the right moment (like Jesus, I´m guessing).  Then there are people like me, who feel like we´re muddling through life, vaguely interested in all kinds of things, but not on fire for any one subject in particular.

No worries.

Take one of those interests, and pursue it.

I´m in the process of pursuing a few interests.  And I´m discovering quite a lot about myself along the way.


Why Am I Doing This?

After another day of having "practice the flute" hanging over my head on my personal checklist, and stressing out all the while I wasn´t getting it done, I stopped to ask myself, "why am I doing this?"

I don´t really know.


Now, don´t get me wrong--back in January, I listed "getting better at the flute" as one of my New Year´s Resolutions.  Through a number of coincidences, I found a marvelous flute teacher, and I really am enjoying the process of improving my skills.  But, instead of simply dreaming of being better, this is the part where I drag out the blood, sweat, and tears and actually work on improving.  But why am I investing all this time, energy, and money?

I can´t really say.

I have no concrete goal.

But that may be a good thing.  Eight years ago today, I sat down at my computer and, on little more than a whim, and began this blog.  Over the last eight years, I´ve discovered that I really enjoy writing.

Then I found out that I really enjoy writing about Mexico.  In fact, I´ve come to the point that I joke about being evangelical about Mexico.  I say that jokingly, but I really do want others to appreciate Mexico the way I do.  Or, for those who may never appreciate Mexico, I like having a means to explain why I love living here.  

Furthermore, I´ve met some of my best friends through  this blog.

Thanks to this blog, I´ve helped a number of people transition to life in Mexico--which spurred another project, SaltilloExpats.

Thanks to this blog, I´ve submitted articles to other sites and magazines.  Some even pay me for it!

I´ve read that 85% of blogs sputter out.  This one is still going.  And, much like with my flute lessons, I´m not exactly sure why.

I didn´t start out with any goal in mind.

I just thought I´d enjoy it.

And I still do.

So here´s to another eight years!


At the End of the Day

Some projects sputter out, some we continue to work on.  Sometimes projects aren´t always fun, but soldier on!  (Trust me, I´m getting tired of playing endless variations of scales in the key of G--but I know it will pay off eventually.)

If, overall, the project is enjoyable, continue.  The farther we go down a path, the more avenues we´ll find to persue.  Who´s to say where any particular adventure could lead?

I never thought this blog would lead to much of anything practical.  But, thanks to this blog, I have started to organize meetups for the English-speaking foreigners in Saltillo.  Yesterday, twenty of us went to a baseball game together!  Sure, I´m not saving the world, but getting people together to explore unfamiliar surroundings (and to ward off loneliness) is good for all of us.

Who´s to say what else I may be doing, thanks to the influence of this goofy medium, in another few years?

The adventure is in the journey.

So keep at it, whatever your journey may be.

Still not sure what your passion is?  Start a project, any project.  Complete the project.  And see what other projects may grow from it.

To paraphrase Paw Patrol, "No project is too big (or for that matter, too small)!"

Passions don´t need to earn us money.  (Although that would be nice.)
Passions don´t need to excite anyone else.  (After eight years, my husband still doesn´t understand why I spend so much time on the computer.)
Passions don´t need to be easy--or even achievable.

They just need to be pursued.

So go chase that dream.
Or, in my case, run away with that whim!









¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨

Need Additional Food For Thought?

Ten years ago (when Thom the Director challenged me), I stumbled upon What Color Is Your Parachute?  It´s a step-by-step guide to help people consider about where their passions are.  While it didn´t give me any concrete goals to shoot for (like the career-changer it claims to be), it was an excellent starting point.

Interested?  Click on the picture to read more about it, or order your own copy!

martes, 9 de mayo de 2017

Learning Geography

Today I overheard my five-year-old belting out, "I´ve got Hawaii!  I´ve got New Mexico!"

Yes, my kindergartener knows his states (well, some of them)--and he doesn´t even live in the United States!

Last summer, I was at a garage sale, and came across The Scrambled States of America card game.  It´s based on a children´s book of the same name.  (I haven´t read the book.)  But I picked up the card game, as I´ve been looking for a states puzzle for my daughter (who´s in second grade), so she could start to learn her US states, as she´s not going to be drilled on that in school here.

We played it last summer, and it was a hit.

Last summer, it was a little too difficult for Joey, who had just barely turned five.  But now that he´s almost got kindergarten under his belt (and therefore knows his letters, and can count, etc.), he´s able to play on his own much better, with minimal help from me.



How to play

Each player has a set of five state cards.  There´s a stack of question cards.  On each turn, a question card is turned over, and everyone has to find a state in their hand that starts with the letter N, or touches 5 other states, or is blue, or is the closest to Missouri.  (Each player gets a US map for reference.)

The first player to answer the question correctly gets to keep the card.  The person with the most cards in the end wins.

Now, normally, the second-grader wins by a pretty large margin.  However, there are some questions, like, "which state is blue?"  or "Which state is wearing something" that are easy for the not-quite-literate set to answer correctly.  Futhermore, the "which state is closer to [insert state name]" questions aren´t timed--the person who has the closest state wins, so slower players get a shot, too.


For younger kids, this could be frustrating.  (And it has been for my own little guy.)

But he keeps hanging in there.

And it´s paying off, because he knows the names of a number of US states, and is getting an idea of North, South, East and West, and the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans!  I´m pretty impressed.

I think I´ll have to make a Scrambled States of Mexico!

¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨

Want a Scrambled States of America for your own?  Click on the picture of the game box shown above, and an additional browser window will open and connect to amazon.com.

Or, better yet, find an independent toy store or game store in your town, and if they don´t have it in stock, I bet they´d be happy to order it for you.  That way, your money stays in your community.

But if that´s not an option, I can hook you up here.




lunes, 24 de abril de 2017

New Beginnings--or Final Sprint?



For April, the South of the Border Bloggers decided that their monthly blog hop would have the theme of "New Beginnings".

Really?  New Beginnings?  I´m just not feeling it.

Now, I love new beginnings as much as the next person.  But my personal calendar of new beginnings does not coincide with nature´s calendar.  (Although, as an aside, I am loving that I live just barely north of the Tropic of Cancer, so I do get to enjoy Spring bursting forth.)  Furthermore, as the heat cranks up this time of year, no one has the energy to start new goals and projects.  At least, I don´t.  

But, let´s not kid ourselves--I´m really just counting down the weeks until school gets out.  Twelve long weeks.  Let´s take a deep breath, and run with all our might though this home stretch!

Thinking about it, when do I celebrate fresh starts and new beginnings?


  • Summer vacation
  • the beginning of the school year
  • October (oddly enough--it gives me time to get used to the new school schedule and make my own plans!)
  • Advent
  • New Year´s
  • Lent  
But Spring?  For the reasons listed above, I´m just not feeling it.  

However, last week, I was shaken out of my complacency.  What happened last week?  Right, Easter!

I´m a big fan of Easter.  I always have been.  But fifteen years ago, my appreciation of Easter reached a new high when I discovered the Easter Vigil.  Why?  

The Easter Vigil--at any Roman Catholic church throughout the world--is always started with a bonfire.

Bonfires are one of my favorite things.  

Bonfire + Easter celebration?  I was sold.  

This bonfire is a New Fire--a symbolism of how we´re all reborn, how life starts again, and Christ´s resurrection makes a fresh start possible for each of us.  Then, throughout the service, Father Gustavo kept mentioning this new beginning, the freedom we have to start over.  The readings reiterated how God wants us to return to him and start over.  

All these fresh starts kept smacking me in the face.  

Renuevame Señor, con tu Espiritú
Renuevame Señor, con tu Espiritú
Renuevame Señor, con tu Espiritú
 Renuevame, renuevame, Señor. 
//Y dejame sentir
 el fuego de tu amor
aquí en mi corazón, Señor//

 Renew me, Lord with your Spirit
 Renew me, Lord with your Spirit
                           Renew me, Lord with your Spirit
                               
                           Renew me, renew me, O Lord

                                 //And let me feel
                                 the fire of your love
                                 here in my heart, O Lord// 




OK, I guess I needed a new beginning more than I realized.  

I´ll work on enjoying this season and savoring every day--not just racing to the finish line that is this school year.  







martes, 18 de abril de 2017

Free to Live Life--Not Worry About It

-The Catholic Women Bloggers Network decided that their blog hop for April would answer "How My Faith Helps Me Worry Less."

Oh, man--this topic was made for me!

When I was a kid, I was anxiety-riddled.  Had they diagnosed kids with anxiety disorders back in the day, I might have qualified.

OK, maybe.  I was still able to function.  Most days.  But I do remember that we had gym class twice a week in 6th grade, and toward the end of the year, I would regularly get early symptoms to panic attacks--shortness of breath, increased heart rate--while standing in line, waiting to go into that dreaded gym.

Or, when I was 10, I was so traumatized by the thought of getting a shot that I spent many sleepless nights worrying about it.  That, and decided to start plucking my eyebrows to get myself used to the pain of that dreaded tetanus booster--despite the fact that I knew I didn´t need the booster for another 5 years!  "Only 5 more years, and I´ll have to get that shot . . . only five more years" . . . as the tears rolled down my face.

Or the summer I spent the entire summer flat on my back, reading on the couch.  Partly, it was because I liked to read.  Partly, it was because I was afraid of going outside as one of the neighbor boys would ride past on his moped a few times a day.  Whenever he saw me, he felt compelled to honk and shout at me--not complementary honking and shouting, of course.  

Worry and insecurity.  Those symptoms dominated my childhood.

I was confirmed when I was thirteen, and went through most of the confirmation process believing Conformation to be a personal acceptance of the faith I was brought up to believe.  Taking the faith I was raised in and professing it as my own.  A Protestant Bat Mitzvah, if you will.  I took it seriously, agreed that "yes, I believe this" and, more importantly, "yes, I WANT to believe this."  As an adult, I was relieved to know that there is a bit more to Confirmation than that.  Nonetheless, it was an important step in my faith development.

Like I said earlier, I liked to read.  When I was fifteen, I decided that I was going to read through the entire Bible.  And I did.

Now, most people get stuck not long after Exodus.  The books of Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy are pretty much a list of rules and regulations.  While I didn´t read those books avidly, they changed my life.  Reading about all the sacrifices that the Isrealites had to make for every single sin they could possibly commit, Christianity--and most importantly, Jesus--began to make sense to me.

Now, don´t get me wrong.  I thought I had it all figured out.  I had been confirmed, after all.  But, after reading all those rules and regulations, it suddenly became clear why Jesus was necessary, why exactly he died, and why it is that we don´t have to make those sacrifices to be made right with God anymore.

Jesus did it all already.  All those sins that are recorded in those books--and so many of them are so off-the-wall it wouldn´t occur to most of us to think of anyone committing those acts--are wiped clean by Jesus dying on the cross.  And all we have to do in return is to believe and follow him.

Or, as Mary said to the servers at the wedding in Cana, "just do what he says."

In comparison to what he did for us, that isn´t much to ask of us.

While this revelation made my faith more profound and more understandable, It had a tremendous impact on my anxiety and insecurity issues.  Understanding my faith better liberated me--all of a sudden, I wasn´t plagued by worry, or consumed by anxiety.

Of course, I was in high school, and still cared what others thought of me, but not near to the extent that I did earlier.  More importantly, this revelation helped me accept that certain issues are out of my control.  Accepting this, I was able to live my life instead of worry about it.

Knowing better who God is and who Jesus is made it possible to accept that I am not in control.  And, knowing them, I realized that that´s OK.

Now, more than twenty years later, people who know me remark about how laid-back I am.  I joke that I barely have a pulse.  But that wasn´t always the case.  I used to be a high-strung, Type A.  Some think that moving to Mexico mellowed me.  There may be a lot of truth to that.

But if I hadn´t realized who God is and why Jesus died, Mexico would have broken me instead of mellowing me.

Every day is another step of faith.  I can take those days and trust.  Or I can pretend that I have control of my universe and unnecessarily stress myself out.

Trust seems harder.  But it really is so much easier.


""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""

For those reading this, who are still stuck being a big ball of worry, I wish I could explain this better.  Pray.  And if you comment, I´d love to pray with you.  (Even if you don´t comment, I´ll pray with you.)  It sounds simplistic, and maybe it is, slowly but surely, those worries that turn into prayers do get resolved.  We put those worries into hands more capable than ours.  And when we give away those worries to God, we don´t have to hang onto them ourselves.

Trusting those hands is tough.  But God has proven time and again that He is trustworthy.  (Even thought he´s God and he certainly doesn´t have to prove anything to anybody.)  But because he wants us to trust him, he´ll continue to prove himself trustworthy.

God lets us live life instead of worry about it.

¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨

Other reflections on "How My Faith Helps Me Worry Less" are on the Catholic Women Bloggers Network blog hop for the month of April.

domingo, 2 de abril de 2017

Destination: Veracruz




The port of Veracruz (otherwise known as Veracruz, Veracruz) is one of my favorite cities in Mexico. When I lived in Puebla, we drove the five hours to Veracruz about once a month, leaving after Mario got off of work and arriving about midnight.  We´d first stop at El Gran Café La Parroquia and have a café con leche under the stars while watching the cargo ships in the port.

Taking the kids this time, the malecón (boardwalk) is still the best place to enjoy Veracruz.  The main reasons for this:  nieves and café con leche at the Parroquia are both very near the malecón.


El Gran Café La Parroquía


Café con leche at El Gran Café La Parroquia is a bit on an institution in Veracruz.  One waiter brings a tall glass, filled with just a shot of espresso.  Then they ring for the milk man, who comes to the table armed with a kettle of steaming milk.  He then tops off the glass.  Mexicans generally prefer their coffee insanely sweet.  So don´t be shy--go ahead and add those three generous spoonfuls of sugar, and enjoy the Parroquia´s café con leche as it was meant to be enjoyed.


Nieves

Nieves (sherbets) are Veracruz´s other taste sensation.  Decent sherbet is easy to find throughout the country, but the jarochos take their sherbet to a whole other level.  Furthermore, they have flavors that aren´t found readily elsewhere.  The nieve stands are happy to combine flavors in one cup, and that really is the way to go.  Try a coconut and passionfruit combination, mamey and strawberry, or vanilla and lime.  Trust me, vanilla sherbet is not at all related to that ho-hum vanilla ice cream!  My mother fondly remembers a peanut sherbet that she had in Veracruz 15 years ago--these sherbets are that memorable!


The road leading to the malecón from the zocalo is dotted with nieve stores.  Most have employees out on the sidewalk, trying to attract customers, belting out, "¡Güero, güera--nieve, nieve, NIEVE!"  At first that´s a little overwhelming, but it´s another of those decidedly Veracruzian touches.  May they never change.


Beach

The beach at Boca del Río
Being on the Gulf coast, stopping at the beach was a must.  There are decent beaches north of the city, others within walking distance of the malecón, and others by large hotels on the south end of the city.  Being blessed with a nearly endless supply of gorgeous beaches, most Mexicans consider the beaches near Veracruz to be substandard.  However, after visiting other beaches, on returning to Veracruz this year, I´ve reaffirmed my opinion that Veracruz´s beaches are still my favorites.  The sand might not be as pristine as the Yucatán, the waves are certainly calmer than on the Pacific (thank goodness), and in Veracruz there´s the ever-present cargo ships on the horizon.  But I think that´s precisely what I like about Veracruz.  Beachgoers don´t have to drive very far (if at all) from a busy, thriving city.  That, and the fact that crabs pop their heads out of the sand and scurry off sideways, fleeing curious children.  As ubiquitous as picture books make them, real, live crabs are hard to find on beaches today!

History

San Juan de Ulúa
Veracruz is one of the oldest cities in Mexico.  In fact, they´re gearing up to celebrate their 500th anniversary in 2019--they´re already selling commemorative T-shirts on the malecón!  But throughout history, Veracruz has been a great foothold for invaders coming into the country.  The Spanish established the port here, as they began their march to Mexico City, on their way to destroy the Aztec empire.  The French used the same port when they invaded in 1862, as the the did US when they invaded Mexico in 1914.  Pirates were also attracted to Veracruz.  So early on in Veracruz´s history, the fort of San Juan de Ulúa was built.  It no longer serves as a fort (or a prision), but is now a museum, giving visitors a glimpse into Veracruz´s history.  

Veracruz is a great place to visit, offering a little something for everyone--a modern city with a well-preserved colonial past, surrounded by accessible beaches, and filled with delicious restaurants and sights for visitors.  On the zócalo, it´s likely visitors will catch groups of older couples dancing danzón.  The cathedral´s stations of the cross are worth a view--they capture the passion of Christ with pictures of only Christ´s hands--impactful in its simplicity.  And for families, Veracruz boasts Mexico´s largest aquarium!  There´s something for everyone.

¡Viva Veracruz!


The Juárez Lighthouse

The Port Authority

Watching ships load while enjoying nieve.  

The road from the zócalo to the malecón.