A Christ Follower

Being the nerd that I am, most weekends, I spend a decent portion of my time watching documentaries. Sure, I could watch any old thriller or comedy… but I’d much rather learn something… anything… if I’m going to stare at a TV screen for a couple of hours.

This weekend, it was learning all about eating disorders in “THIN” and the process of a proper Amish shunning in “The Amish: Shunned”. It was during the latter that I heard the following quote:

“For the Amish, Jesus alone is not enough. Working, trying your best, following the rules and traditions of the forefathers. You do it all just right hopefully, you’ll make it into heaven. To me, all the good works, and traditions, and rules, and regulations covered up the simple, easy play of salvation…. Are we going to follow man or are we going to follow the scriptures?”  –The Amish: Shunned

This quote, oddly enough, describes much of my experience within the Catholic Church. The church would claim that they too, believe that faith alone in Jesus Christ is what is necessary for salvation… BUT… it is the good works that aid us in our journey toward heaven. To counter that, the Protestants claim that the good works are a direct result of faith in in Jesus. So, to simply things… Catholics believe that good works aid in our salvation. Protestants believe that salvation aids in our good works.

That was something I struggled with entering the Catholic Church. Yes, I believed in the teachings of Jesus. Yes, I wanted to serve and honor God in all I did. Yes, I had faith and a relationship with my Lord. BUT, it was my baptism that first sanctified me, and it was the works that I did that further sanctified me and fully prepared me to be accepted into heaven.

IF I went to church every Sunday. IF I received the Eucharist worthily. IF I went to confession once a month. IF I did corporal works of mercy. IF I prayed daily. IF I asked for the intercession of the saints. IF I observed all Holy Days and Feast Days. IF I kept up with the daily scripture readings of the church. IF I tithed and fasted and lived well and kept a good witness… THEN, I would at least be accepted into purgatory to be further sanctified and perfected until eventually I would earn my heavenly merit badge and be accepted to be with Christ for all eternity.

It was a long year and a half of walking on egg shells. I couldn’t miss Mass. I couldn’t miss confession. I couldn’t forget to say grace. I couldn’t refuse to learn more about the saints. I couldn’t not know my catechism front to back. I couldn’t read a non-Catholic Bible. I couldn’t listen to Christian music, (but rather, it was best to listen to Catholic pod casts.) I couldn’t forget my Holy Days of Obligation. I couldn’t go to another church. I couldn’t receive communion anywhere else. I couldn’t not appreciate or embrace suffering. I couldn’t not silently judge and pray for the salvation of my non-Catholic brothers and sisters. I couldn’t not perform to my full ability. Anything less would mean not offering all of myself to Jesus. Anything less would be one further step away from purgatory. Not even heaven, but purgatory.

Looking back, I can’t believe how tied up in knots I was. Every day… trying to prove my worthiness. Every day… worrying that if I were to die that day would Jesus still want me? Worrying that I hadn’t done enough to merit His grace and mercy and love. I needed to earn it. I needed to trust the teachings of the Church, follow the rules, and hope for the best. That’s all any of us could ever do.

Admittedly, I feel like a good portion of churches all around the world have begun to rely too heavily on the grace of Jesus Christ – as though it’s a Get Out of Jail Free Card. We can do what we like, forget about God, and somehow His grace will see us through. Yes, His grace is a gift – it’s not something that can be earned – but we’re still expected to live rightly.

I think some Catholics fail to understand that Protestants don’t view salvation as a “One and Done” deal. I haven’t met a single Protestant who believes that. We still believe we have to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling… but we don’t believe that we can earn brownie points just by doing the right thing. We don’t think we can shave time off our sentence in purgatory simply by praying for the dead. We don’t think “work” of any kind will ever make us more worthy. Because our righteousness is as filthy rags. There’s nothing we can do to deserve His grace. It’s a gift. A true gift. No matter how much time I spend in church praying, no matter how much I give to the poor, no matter how consistent I am with confession and communion and charitable works… I still won’t deserve it. I’ll still be unworthy. And God knows that. That’s why He sent His son to die on the cross as reparation for our sins. So, why are so many of us working so hard to EARN it?

I look at my time in the Catholic church and sometimes I wonder, “What was I thinking?” and yet other times I think, “Meh… you know what? They’re right about that.” There are things I vehemently disagree with within the Catholic church and things I downright love. Thus the struggle. This “breaking” so to speak with the Catholic Church wasn’t a sudden, overnight epiphany. I didn’t wake up one morning and realize, “Huh. Maybe I’m not Catholic after all.” It’s been months of praying and seeking and reading… and I still don’t know all the answers. All I know is that I want to throw these expectations of what a Catholic is and what a Protestant is right out the window. All I want to be is a Christ follower. What’s so wrong with that?

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Annie and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Week

So, to summarize my week….

On Monday, while in the midst of planning for a coworker’s baby shower and doing laundry and grading papers, Sir Winston started dragging his butt across the floor. Just like he had been doing in February. Just like he had done in December. DANG YOU, ANAL GLANDS!

On Tuesday, I had a complete meltdown because of all the things I have yet to do as a teacher this year… and there is no possible way to get it done by NEXT THURSDAY. And despite my control freak tendencies, I was forced to ask for help and delegate responsibilities for both the field trip and baby shower that I had PROPOSED AND PLANNED. (It nearly killed me. I’m not gonna lie…)

On Wednesday, the noises my car was making got so bad I realized I better bring it in before the wheels fell off. And then I spent the evening curled up in the fetal position waiting for the mysterious waves of nausea and light headedness to pass

On Thursday, I brought a bus-load of hooligans to meet some sisters and tour a cathedral amidst waves of nausea and light headedness. Let’s just say it could have gone better.

On Friday, I was forced to cancel the trip to the cabin, the car appointment AND the hair appointment in order to figure out what was up with Winston’s Butt Scootin’ Boogying… and now I am forced to stay home, hawkishly watch his every move, ensure he’s still eating and drinking, and force feed him medicine twice a day while he froths at the mouth. Oh, AND my principal decided yesterday was a good day to pop in for a surprise observation… while I had NOTHING to teach. (I seriously can’t make this stuff up.)

Meanwhile, the man came in with a carpet cleaner to get the remnants of all the CAT DIARRHEA out of my carpet, while I scrubbed everything by hand… and YET, after ALL that, I awake this morning to the scent of cat urine. ARE YOU KIDDING ME, CAT?!

And to top it all off, my shower drain is completely clogged because of all the baths I’ve had to give smelly Sir Winston, the man thinks I’m a complete fruit cake because I’ve been crying about EVERYTHING, my neighbor keeps bothering me and asking me for help despite the fact that I have NOTHING else to give at this point of the week, and the man gets to spend the weekend with the kiddos up at the cabin WITH the boat AND the dock in, while I sit half-heartedly watching TV and staring at Sir Winston to make sure he doesn’t DIE.

Oh, and the cops were called to my apartment building yesterday.

IT HAS BEEN AMAZING.

Happy Memorial Day Weekend, ya’ll.

But, I don’t wanna be Jennifer Aniston!

You guys…

I just remembered why I hate the 23rd of June.

This was the day the ass hat left.

2 years ago.

2 FREAKIN’ YEARS AGO.

How is it possible that it’s been two years already?

I think this is where I’m supposed to take stock of my life and compare how much better off I am now than I was then.

But I can’t. Even if it is true, I can’t help feeling like a bit of a failure. If the *bleep!* (c’mon kids, let’s keep it clean) hadn’t hit the fan, I’d have a house, a dog, a KID, and some semblance of a happy marriage.

Or not.

Maybe if the *bleep!* hadn’t hit the fan, I’d still be living in the same apartment, tripping over Legos and dealing with harrible in-laws without a dog, OR a kid, just biding my time until sweet death took one or the other of us.

Who knows?

But I totally wish I knew.

I mean, if I’m being honest about comparing my life then and my life now? Well, there’s no comparison. I’m happier than I’ve ever been. I have a job that I’m not only THRILLED with but thriving in. My faith is stronger and deeper than ever before. I’ve finally figured out who I am and what I like and what I stand for. I’m not afraid of things anymore. And I feel happy in my own skin.

And yet…

There are some days where I can’t seem to see beyond the things I don’t have anymore. I mean, I’m 32, you guys. I should have a husband. I should have a house. I should have kids. And I was totally on the fast track for those things when…

You know. The *bleep!* hit.

I’m sorry… give me a minute.

*Deep breath*

Okay. It’s all good.

I guess what I’m saying is…

I don’t wanna be Jennifer Aniston!

Why can’t I be Rita Wilson?

Or Sarah Michelle Gellar?

Or Faith Hill?

WHY JENNIFER ANISTON, DAMMIT?!

I DON’T WANNA BE JENNIFER ANISTON!

Even if Jennifer Aniston DOES get Justin Theroux in the end, that doesn’t make up for-

Oh.

Wait.

That totally makes up for everything.

Dammit! Where is my Justin Theroux?!?!

 

 

 

And this is why I’m going to hell…

There have been some firings and hirings going on at work.

(No, not me, you idiots. I’m awesome.)

But it’s been happening to other people. People have been changing positions, leaving for more pay (translation: minimum wage), getting “let go” because they suck… You know, the usual.

I had the opportunity to meet one of the new hires yesterday.

At first I was pretty sure I was going to like him.

And then he said this:

“Oh, I hate when students get me gifts. I’d much rather they give that money to charity.”

As I’m standing there holding my condensating iced mocha from Starbucks purchased with the gift cards I received from my students at the end of the year.

Another teacher piped up with, “Oh, I know! I tell all my parents at the start of every year that I really don’t need gifts. I’d much rather see that money put towards classroom supplies.”

And while they’re being all…

“Aren’t I so holy? I’m such a good Catholic. No purgatory for me. I even get an indulgence and a ‘Pass Purgatory, Collect $200 (that I don’t need)’ Card. Isn’t that lovely?”

With their spouse’s income and money to put towards savings and emergency funds and “extra spending money”…

I’m all standing there like,

“What the hell?! Do you KNOW how much we get paid?!?! The only reason I could purchase this drink is because of CHARITY. Otherwise, Winston would be without food until my next paycheck. Whores.”

With my jeans from COLLEGE, my bra from 1993, and a pair of old prescription glasses which pretty much make me a danger behind the wheel.

Oh, and did I mention I JUST got a $1,000 bill from the clinic thanks to the AWESOME health coverage I get?

So, yeah, I’m gonna take the gift cards, AND the school supplies, AND any money they bring in for Mass offering. You alright with that?!

Step. Off.

Clearly, this was quite traumatic if I’m still worked up about it 6 DAYS LATER.

In other news, I just found out from a Catholic acquaintance that Catholics can actually EARN a PLENARY INDULGENCE for a HOLY SOUL if they…

  • Pray for the pope
  • Go to confession every 21 days
  • Attend daily Mass and receive daily communion
  • Stay in a state of grace

I don’t know if this acquaintance is accurate on this point, but if they are, isn’t that the equivalent of a “Get out of Purgatory Free” card? Isn’t that the equivalent of EARNING ONE’S WAY INTO HEAVEN?! Isn’t that EARNING SALVATION BY WAY OF WORKS?!?!

Isn’t that just a….

TO EVERY PROTESTANT EVERYWHERE PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE?!?!

I MEAN, WHAT IS THAT?!?!

AM I THE ONLY ONE WHO FEELS THIS:

ABOUT THAT?!?!

And I found that out a WEEK AND A HALF AGO!

Clearly, I am not in a good place with this…

To top it off, I have to talk to one of the fathers this week about the religious education curriculum. And I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to address this if only to get some answers. And I’m kind of afraid of the answer they’re going to give me. Plus, I have a raging case of PMS, so let’s just hope I don’t burn the place down.

Don’t get me wrong… I love my job, I love my work peeps, I love the church peeps, I love the Catholics, I love everyone and everything… but… SERIOUSLY?! All of the above was just TOO. MUCH.

SO… if we’re keeping a tally of what sins are going to send me to hell in a single blog post (I figure I better keep a record for confession purposes in case I ever decide to take the leap and join the Catholic church..) here’s what the current total looks like:

  • Called you guys idiots (Slander, 5 demerits)
  • Called myself awesome (Pride, 2 demerits)
  • Used gift cards with too much relish (Greed, 10 demerits)
  • Recalled my story to others whom it did not concern (Gossip, 5 demerits)
  • Mocked people (Mockery, 35 demerits – because I did it repeatedly)
  • Insinuated violence (Wrath, 55 demerits – ’cause that’s like a mortal sin, right?)
  • Used church inappropriate words (Profanity, 10 demerits)

For a grand total of….

122 demerits

And this is why I’m going to hell…

Any Catholics out there with a “Get out of Purgatory Free” card? I’ll pay you for it.

(DANG IT! BRIBERY! Another 20 demerits! I gotta get this under control…)

 

 

Be careful what you wish for…

Be careful what you wish for… you might just get it.

Isn’t that what we’re always warned about? You wish for something, that wish comes true, and it turns out the grass really was greener on the original side of the fence?

I wonder if the same thing goes for what you pray for. Be careful what you pray for… you might just get it.

But I suppose that’s how things work in an imperfect world. Nothing is perfect. Therefore, if nothing is perfect, then the after-affects, the consequences of an imperfect world must be imperfect as well. Even with perfect intentions, there are pluses and minuses, pros and cons. Nothing is perfect. Perfection is impossible in an imperfect world. So, even if you wish for perfection, you’ll never get perfection – you’ll get reality – and that’s the downside of the whole thing.

It’s funny when you look back on the things you once wished for – things from long ago, and things more recent. Sometimes we wonder, “Why did I ever want something like that?” Other times we wistfully think, “If I could only grasp that one thing…” That was my mood today. While waxing philosophically, I was thinking back on things I wished for… things I prayed for… and I was taking account of answered prayers and unanswered prayers. Some of the unanswered prayers were blessings in disguise. (No, scratch that. ALL of the unanswered prayers were blessings in disguise.) While some of the answered prayers were among the greatest challenges, the things that forced me to grow and stretch – especially when I didn’t want to.

Case in point: When I was younger (Okay, not that much younger. I’m not that old to begin with…)… college-aged… young and naive about my future… restless and adventurous and slightly rebellious… I used to pray for a life less ordinary.

I didn’t want an ordinary life. I wanted a life full of surprises and adventure and wild expectations and miracles. I didn’t want a house in the suburbs with a stable job and 2.3 kids, a trustworthy husband named Stewart, a golden retriever named Lady and a reliable car that got 15 mpg. No. I wanted to live by faith, and I wanted to see God do great things and I wanted to achieve great things and go where God led me.

And now… 10 years later… I think I actually got what I prayed for. Which at 32 years old isn’t what I really want at all. At 32 years old what I really, REALLY want is a house in the suburbs with a stable job and 2.3 kids, a trustworthy husband named Stewart, a golden retriever named Lady and a reliable car that gets 15 mpg. But instead I have an apartment in a podunk farming town, no kids, a husband who left me, an emotionally insecure cat and a 10 year old car whose rusty bumper is about to fall off. I work at a CATHOLIC school for very, VERY little pay, I have zero financial security, a ridiculously boring social life, my parents are gone and I have zero family nearby and… and… and the highlight of my days is going to Mass with my second graders. I’m excited about possibly becoming Catholic, and taking my kids on a field trip, and getting them involved in their church, and learning all I can about all the things I never knew about my faith. And here’s the really bizarre thing: I. LOVE. IT. It’s exciting and adventurous and miracles (big and small) are happening every day and I’m literally hanging on for dear life not having a clue which direction God is going to take me in and yet loving every single minute of not knowing and not having a plan but feeling all giddy because I know it will be good. It might be slightly uncomfortable at first… it might require me to stretch and grow… it might force me out of my comfort zone… but it thrills me!

It’s… in no uncertain terms… a life less ordinary. And there are days when I hate it and lament it and abhor it. Days when I want to get off the roller coaster and get back on the swing set. Days when I ask God (like I did just last week), “Can I PLEASE stop growing now? I’m about as strong as I can get. I’m good here. Just… let’s just leave it be… seriously. I’m tired. All done. Annie go nigh-nigh.” But that’s what you get when you ask for a life less ordinary. You might just get what you ask for.

And most days? I wouldn’t change it for anything.

Ms. Evans needs a time-out.

Teachers…

Have you ever had those times when no matter how many ways you approach a subject or how many techniques you use to teach it, or how many times you go over it, or how often you review it, or how often you beat your students over the head with the information… THEY STILL JUST DON’T GET IT?!

And you’re all…

This is not happening…

So, you’re like, “Clearly, I need a different approach. And we need to review. And we need to go over this. One. More. Time.”

And so you do. And you spend ANOTHER two weeks on it and still they’re…

As though this is an entirely new concept they have never even heard of before.

Until you’re just…

Seriously. You are clearly incapable of learning anything. Unless it’s the new Taylor Swift song. Whatever. Just… go away.

And then YOU get blamed for being the reason why all of American society is so stupid because clearly you don’t know how to teach, when you just want to scream, “Um, DID IT EVER OCCUR TO YOU PEOPLE THAT YOUR CHILDREN ARE JUST STUPID?!?!”

And then you’re put on unpaid leave because apparently that’s not okay to say or something…

Okay, so clearly I don’t feel that way about my kids. I adore my kids. They are the best things about my day. But if I have to teach SUBJECTS and PREDICATES ONE MORE FREAKIN’ TIME… HEADS ARE GOING TO ROLL, PEOPLE.

How hard is this? HOW HARD?!?!

On my last test, I asked them to circle the subjects (the thing the sentence is about… it’s usually at the beginning of a sentence) in the sentences that followed. You see the part I put in parentheses? I actually put that ON THE TEST. So there would be no confusion. And a bunch of them failed it. Then on the retake, I put the same thing in BOLD LETTERING. They actually did WORSE on the retake, than they did on the original.

That’s not even humanly possible.

Why do I even bother?

I just… I just… it’s not even… I mean… why do… how come… how can… what the…

See?

No. Words.

Clearly, Ms. Evans needs a time-out.

 

Dear Coworkers:

So…

Do you think…

Maybe…

We could just…

You know…

Sort of…

NOT have complete meltdowns over really mind-numbingly STUPID stuff?

I mean…

Really?

I get it. I do. I mean… it’s like… really HARRRRRRRRDDDDDDD n’ stuff to like… walk outside n’ stuff…. when it’s like… really cold n’ stuff.

And like… I totally know that, you know, we like… have kids with us n’ stuff… n’ like they get cold n’ stuff too…

N’ like with this whole El Nino thing going on again, there’s like all this rain and slush n’ stuff… n’ like the kids shoes could get wet n’ stuff, n’ like the bottom of their pants too… And it’s just not fair to hafta come in the back entrance of the auditorium for the Christmas play n’ stuff because… you know… like… weather. You know?

But… you know when my 8 YEAR-OLDS started complaining about it… you know what I told them?

No, no… get this. I told them to…

You know…

DEAL.

I cannot believe I am having the same conversation with grown-ass adults. (If early 20-somethings can be considered grown-ass adults. I prefer to refer to them as overgrown teenagers… But I digress…)

SERIOUSLY?!

I just wasted 15 minutes of my life listening to you WHIIIIINE about having to walk OUTSIDE… FOR FIFTY FEET?!?!

And then you try to hide your diva-like behavior and say it’s “for the kids”… because it’s not good for them to “be cold.”???

For 30 seconds?!

Hang on… let me check…

Uh, yeah… pretty sure they’ll live.

I just can’t even deal with that level of stupidity. You have nothing better to complain about so you need to complain about that?!

Oh, Lordy, we MUST alert the church elders!

And the authorities!

And OSHA!

Because… COLD.

Just… go away… before I punch you in the face.

THEN you’ll have something to complain about.

Love n’ kisses,

-Annie