Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Nine Days

The past few days, I’ve been having a nagging feeling.
Even in the midst of laughing my head off over something (I have the goofiest and most entertaining friends), cramming to learn 13 pieces of music in just a few days (Mozard, Handel, and Proulx among others) and feeling tremendously hopeful about a great many things ….. I’m feeling …. What is it? Anticipation of something about to happen?

Do you ever wish you knew more… about a situation, about a person, about a relationship, about SOMEthing in particular. Have you ever wanted an answer… a resolution to something moving your heart, mind or both? At the very least, perhaps a certainty that you are heard, that someone bigger than you sees everything and reassures you that everything is in GOOD hands. Or maybe your gut is telling you something, but you’re not 100% clear how to interpret it.
Well, when these things happen to me I pray.

Yes, I believe there is a God. No, let me clarify. I know there is a God.

Many years ago, I didn’t know that. I wasn’t raised with a faith in anything, except what a person can do by himself and for himself. Spirituality was discussed, but only in a generic, vague sense… or in a way that had to do with being in control of one’s environment (my father studied martial arts intensively due the requirements of his work and wanted me to embody those tenets).

But then one gorgeous summer day when I was 14 and "browned out" from a long summer in Hawaii, I experienced a moment of "strange". I felt compelled to do something. I didn’t know what it was, but I knew it was important. (something close to what I’m feeling now)

I decided to go for a walk and found myself at the front door of St Jude’s in Westlake Village, California. I found myself planting my feet in the middle of the doorway, looking around to see if anyone else was in the church "building" and found myself saying pretty loudly,
"Okay, if there is a god, and this place has anything to do with this god or gods, then I need you to prove you’re real. Because from where I’m standing, you’re not. I don’t know if there’s a "you". I don’t know if "you" can hear me, but if there is a "you" and "you" exist, prove it." And I turned on my heel and walked out. I figured I had nothing to lose so why not put it all on the table? Right? I had no idea………

Fast forward, a few months later… and I found myself in a position of being talked to… A LOT … about God, faith, religion,… everything, by people who suddenly just "popped up". (It’s ironic how this kind of thing happens when you ask the kinds of questions I asked that one day.) This gal came forward and volunteered to answer as many of my questions as I could throw at her. I kept asking, but I wasn’t convinced. It seemed a pleasant entertaining fiction, but little more. Intellectually, it was making a certain amount of sense, but emotionally… it wasn’t registering.

Then she asked me to go to something called a "retreat". People pray and talk at these things, so I figured…. What the heck, why not see where they’re coming from? I went. Naturally I was curious, but the first day I simply observed and kept my distance. People were throwing themselves into these open-hearted devotions and I was a bit amazed at how fearless they were in wanting to express their hearts towards this God I wasn’t even sure existed ....in front of everyone (being public about what I considered "private" was a no-no in my book at the time). It was new to me. Nevertheless, the next day I woke up and …. I knew. KNEW. I even understood that KNOWING can’t be confined to a dictionary. The word itself... has a magnitude I can’t express.

It was a Sunday morning. I woke up and found my mouth uttering prayers, and my heart was echoing. Crazy. My body felt completely rested, to the point that I didn’t even recognize it. I don’t think I received that kind of rest since I was … oh, 4 maybe??? By nature, I was incredibly energetic and I’m sure that was a factor in not resting completely. There were other factors, of course… but that morning it was as though I woke up for the first time. I remember it as though it just happened.

I found myself dropping on my knees and making a very clear statement of commitment and acknowledgement that I would spend the rest of my life giving myself over to … this. This person. That I would do whatever it took to understand and love them, to figure out how to do it … NOW, in my lifetime. Strange, no?

Now, there’s a lot of people who would say that my experience was the result of "suggestion". Or that my body and mind were simply awakening to their true potential as a result of my efforts to discover and understand what was driving these people. That I had simply uncovered my own potential capacity for divinity that is innate in all creatures... etc etc ad nauseum.

I know all the rebuttals. Trust me, in almost 20 years of trying to walk this life, I’ve heard them. I have a father who is ultra-"rational". ULTRA. He raised me to question EVERYTHING. Nothing is sure, nothing is impenetrable, nothing is unattainable, nothing can withstand the pressures of life, all things change ... and love is never enough. There are no absolutes. (Except that statement of course. =))

But one moment, all of life is a question mark and blurry… the next everything is crystallized in form, shape and matter. REALITY. Pure unmarrable clarity. Incredible energy fully grounded. It was so fantastically sharp and filling that I started crying from the intense beauty of it.

I had heard from a few people it could be like that, that it might be like that…. But I’d just nod without understanding, because what could I say? That what they said made SENSE to me? Of course they didn’t make "sense"! They were talking about something I couldn’t even see… let alone believe? Absolutes. There’s no such thing. But, in that moment, I saw everything.... heard everything..... felt everything... at the same time. Reality.
It was so many years ago. Since then, I’ve questioned and I’ve read everything I could get my hands on. I had to know WHY I was so clear. I had to be able to back it up. As time went on the more I learned, the more I discovered how and why everything made sense in that one .... small.... moment.

Have I been tested? 100%. It’s a guarantee, when you make that kind of commitment. Even when I want to give up on it, I can never shake the clarity that doesn’t come from me. I’ve done some ridiculous, idiotic stuff (really, really, really dumb), but through it all the commitment has remained. Remained and intensified.

Have I learned anything? Well, I have an unusual amount of tools and access to knowledge and resources that most people wouldn’t be aware is there. It’s quiet, it’s behind the scenes, but it is very strong. But honestly, I, as a person, am now only at the beginning. I’ve been preparing to end up at this starting line.

Which leads me to today….. and this nagging feeling. This deja vu.

There are some prayerful people who exercise something called a novena. This novena is basically a concentrated effort of praying for a particular intention for 9 days. Everyday, the person goes to their knees and offers up a sincere prayer for the same thing. There are many forms, many expressions of different kinds of prayers and different kind of patrons (people who have gone ahead of us, who understand and identify more closely with what your heart is praying for…. And are "experts" in knowing HOW to pray more truly for those intentions).

I hear 9 days calling to me…. I wonder what’s about to happen? =)

"Give reason for the hope that is in you."

Friday, March 07, 2008


(About 5 years ago, I made a trip. In October of last year, I finally felt the comfort and peace to sit down and digest all that occurred by writing this blog for the first time. Somehow I get the feeling that now is the beginning of the fulfillment of the promise I was given Oct. 21st, 2003. Today... for myself, I'm republishing it with a lil' bit of cleaning.)

This might seem a strange way to start blogging, but I wanted to start with an event that occurred 4 years ago. For some reason, it's been heavily on my mind the last couple of months.... and increasingly more so, the last 3 weeks. I've been so caught up with emergencies, I haven't been able to "process" or "sit with" any of the experiences which I recognized as laying a foundation for my future. My intuition tells me it's important I do so.

I apologize in advance if this seems badly edited and rather long. It is. I'll clean it up later, but for now need to let it come out on its' own.

In October 2003, the Holy Father arranged to coincide the timing of his 25th anniversary (16th), the Beatification of Mother Teresa(19th), and a Consistory (21st- 22 bishops were made Cardinals).

For some strange reason I ended up going. It was strange for the simple fact that 1) I couldn't afford to go, 2) Was probably the worst possible time to plan for this kind of trip on such short notice and 3) I knew I was going to go anyway.

My travel story began in the end of September 2003, not long after my birthday. I was working in this quaint little Catholic bookstore at Domino's Farms in Ann Arbor, MI. Being a lifelong bookworm, surrounded by books that contain my favorite subject matters; a chapel I could duck into at any time less than 5 metres away; a catholic radio station next door to throw ideas around; and with the ability to talk about the faith all day to different kinds of interesting people ... and get PAID… gave a tremendous sense of relief. Granted I made next to peanuts, but in my mind it was a SERIOUS upgrade from the bookkeeping desk job I had quit the year before. Between the store, Legatus and a small bookkeeping job on the weekends with Steve Ray, I was making ends meet and was very, very content. I felt I was getting my sea legs back and was eager to see how God and I were going to move forward from that point.

Well, one day as my friend Angela and I were checking in new product and re-arranging the store, another friend of ours who worked at the radio station popped their head in, stared at us for a second and proceeded to say, "soooo..... I was just praying in the chapel and it became very, very clear that not only am I supposed to go to Rome for the Beatification, but you guys are supposed to come with me. "

We laughed and exchanged looks, but inside I knew she was right. I hadn't been to Rome yet. I was waiting for the right time, and often told people that I wouldn't go until God made it CLEAR that it's what He wanted. I don't like to force things. I've learned that my strongest experiences happen when I treat them like catching the right wave at the right time. You sit on your board in the water, gauge the currents, and when the moment is right you angle your board into that sweet spot in front of the wave, balance and pop up.

Traveling, has always possessed this dynamic for me. "Hey, what do you think of driving cross country with me in a month?" "Oh sure, it just so happens it works out that I can take the time off, and just got some xtra money." "Hey, I can't make the trip up to Vancouver, mind if I switch this ticket in your name?" "funny, I was just praying about that 10 min ago." "Mo, are you up for a trip to Mexico this weekend? We just got some time off." "Oh yeah. Funny thing, so and so just cancelled our plans, so I'm free" and so on and so forth. Every time I've ever tried to PLAN something, 9 times out of 10, the "plan" falls through at the last minute.

This time how was I supposed to afford going, let alone take the time off?? etc. etc. etc. But……

Do you ever get the sensation at times that something is happening for a particular reason and even though you don't completely understand what the reason is.... you go with it. Your hair prickles, and your body is resonating as though you were a bell that had just been struck. You just... KNOW.

Well, the snowball rolled quickly after that. One friend invites us and another person paid for the plane ticket insisting that I'm supposed to go. Then another friend pops up and says they just located a nice rental apartment above the Vatican in Monte Mario for less than peanuts. I don't have to pay for lodging. Everything materializes in less than a week. Surprise??

The entire time, I'm holding in my mind "Why am I going? Why is it so easy for me to attend, and what exactly is God trying to show me? to tell me?" "Is Mother Teresa orchestrating some kind of meeting I need to know about??"

I've always admired her but certainly nothing to justify her praying for me like this. So I began looking at her life again and one word bannered itself in my mind…. "JOY"… true joy. It's not an easy concept in today's world, and certainly not one I apprehended well. The experience is much different for me now, but when I went to Rome I was more deeply immersed under that silly cloud called self-reliance. "I create the situations that determine where my life will go... I make my heart ready, my spirit ready... noone else is responsible". Meanwhile, God is tapping his foot at the front of the classroom and clearing His throat in preparation to tip over my pride. And ... with a HUGE smile on His face.

So that was Rome… a joyful experience. People I hadn't seen in years ended up crossing my path during that week. Old bosses from Cali; Old friends I hadn't seen in over 3,5,10 years; some of whom instigated key changes in my life; an old best friend with whom there had been little resolution in an odd break that occurred when I left Los Angeles in 2001; friends from my local area (Ann Arbor, MI) who didn't have to call me to coordinate meeting up for dinner/lunch/breakfast, because we crossed paths at St Peter'/NAC/St John Lateran/the bench in the middle of the road near the Piazza del Risogimento, or any of the other numerous places in Rome. Who needs a cell phone when God and your guardian angels are coordinating everything? You name it, it was as though the last 10-12 years of my life converged in Rome during this one week.

By God's providence, we got on a Scavi Tour at literally the last minute with a very holy priest. When my friend and I requested to spend some private time alone with St Peter's Bones, it was given. None of this was normal. Neither getting on the Tour last minute (this is a private catacomb), nor the type of guide we received, let alone the private minutes of just 2 of us left in an underground cavern with only a piece of plexi-glass separating us from the "rock". We were given tickets to the Consistory the day before it happened after bumping into sisters we're friends with back home; and were invited to a private screening for the official film on the life of Mother Teresa the day before it was screened.

Every day, carried little unexpected surprises and coincidences. The day of the beatification my friend Angela and I ended up getting down to the Vatican late. The trains were off schedule (this is a normal thing), and we ended up making friends with this beautiful lady (a judge in her native Spain) who had rather intimate contact with Mother Teresa. We discovered we had many things in common as I translated back and forth hearing some amazing stories, including her own son's healing of a spinal deformity just a couple of years back through Mother Teresa's intercession. Due to an emergency, she was flying out immediately and would miss the beatification. She offered us her 4th or 5th row ticket, but as there was two of us and only one ticket we thanked her and exchanged hugs instead. It was a blessing of Providence to make the acquaintance of such a gracious, elegant and refined woman. She's the personification of who I would like to become.

We finally got down to the Vatican and found ourselves at the back outer edge of the Colonnade closer to Via Aurelia. It was packed to that point, but I couldn't shake the thought that I was to act in faith and move closer. Upon explaining this, to the English-speaking gentlemen in front of us, he began cracking up in laughter and made the announcement to anyone who could hear that we were delusional. Everybody around us was shaking their heads at us and chuckling. "Yeah, GOOD LUCK!! Take a picture for me, will ya??" "Well, you never know!! Anything can happen =)"

So with a quick prayer for the impossible, I took a moment to step on a pillar to overlook the crowd and figure out what to do next. After looking around and snapping a few pictures from that height, I heard my name being called from below. Looking straight down, the faces of some of our friends in the media materialized. What are the chances?

After a bit of laughter upon jumping down, they mentioned they had 2 extra press passes that they hadn't planned on possessing. Would we be interested in using them?? Hmmm…. Access to all areas, complete lack of obstruction to any vista point and freedom from being crushed in the masses?? Let me think about that….. =)

As it turned out, I was able to get some fantastic shots I wouldn't have otherwise gotten. And…. Bumped into many old friends I hadn't seen in years in the media section. It felt like reunion central. Individuals I had shared some of my most powerful spiritual experiences with back in the day, appeared out of nowhereand the joy of running into them on such a day and in such a place was pure delight. In fact, the woman who took me aside into her private study when I was 19 y.o. to evangelize me about Mary being my Mother, appeared at the end. She told me many mysterious things in her study years ago, and October 19th, 2003, she's standing next to the reuters crew and smiling at me. That was certainly a SURREAL moment.

Would you believe everyday was like that? Now, I've never believed in coincidences, and am accustomed to "strange" situations occurring. But Rome took that to the next level. I didn't have anything to do with it. All I did was wake up each day, say a little prayer and ask God and my guardian angel where He'd like me to go that day and who would he like me to meet and voila…. Hello, old friend. =) Doors opening left and right... and everything working out perfectly.

Going with the specific intent as going as a pilgrim had its' fun moments though. It was hysterical trying to explain to the Immigrations Officer as I boarded the flight, that "Yes, I only have $120 on me, no credit cards and one small suitcase." "No, I don't plan on doing much shopping." "What are my plans? Other than the Beatification, I don't have a plan. I'm a pilgrim. I'm going to pray??" "I'm staying with friends not a hotel." "Yes, I plan on coming back to the States… when? Uh… about a week and a half?". In regards to my dark skin, "What's my ethnicity? Everything???" "I'm going as a pilgrim, isn't that what you do…. Bring little, take little, keep your eyes open and hang on for the ride?"

Naturally, he stood there confused with a comical look on his face. I'm standing in front of him dressed from head to toe in a simple black top, long thin black skirt and flip flops (it was my comfy travel gear) and little to no plan. (Hey, I was ready for a God adventure. Past experience tells me, "strap in, keep my hair from getting caught in anything and have fun") It would've cut through the red tape to pull my Dad's business card out, but experience has taught me that's not always the wisest route.

So I had this mantra going through my head--- "He's only doing his job. He's only doing his job. It's OKAY." After "20 questions", and quite a few passengers staring at us as they walked past in the corridor, he finally gave up and let me board the plane. Hopping over to my seat in coach, I happily kicked back and got ready for another pleasant plane ride.

The journey began, ..... and during the course of that journey a roadmap was unveiled that unexpectedly brought me back to my roots… my own family. How is it that a person can travel a few thousand miles only to wind up facing the very place that they came from? My last full day in Rome, before heading for the countryside, was a series of revelations I still am unable to put into any "real" context. Today, it's a little clearer, but there is quite a bit that needs to reveal itself.

Starting with the Consistory, the day was one odd occurrence after another. By the end, all I could do was go and sit in front of the Trevi Fountain, eat a lemon gelato and veg-out. I kept feeling my attention being pulled to yet another strange occurrence, but I couldn't have handled anymore. Steam was rippling down my body, and I remember saying "God, I'm sorry. This is too much. I can't handle learning anymore. I wouldn't know what to do with it. I don't know what to make of what you've been telling me all day. Please… if you really want me to pay attention to this…. "Situation", can you save it for me later? It's so different than what I planned. I need a little time. Please, give me a little time to adjust to it all."

He was kind. The Fountain was beautiful. I had time to breathe (well, sort of). And I had free entertainment in this adorable curly haired Mexican boy of 2-3 yrs old who kept swinging around the metal bar at the edge of the fountain trying to get my attention with goofy faces and making me laugh. His giggles topped off my day. Pure uncomplicated sunshine!!

The day I got back from Rome, I found family nobody knew existed. And the situation I was told about that last day, partially proved itself within 1 week. Which told me, the other part would be coming… someday. (one door closes,... another one?....)

That "thought" I had while sitting at the Trevi, was that the past, present and future really does converge in the Eternal City. Actually, it would be more accurate to say "knowing". I went to Rome and was reminded .... that beginnings and endings don't really exist, there is only Presence. It's only Him. His will is forever being fulfilled .... always!!! Especially when it comes to our families.