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Spinster Is An Ugly Word

 

 

Spinster Is an Ugly Word

Recently, I watched a BBC video of Jane Austen narrated by Lucy Worsely. For almost an hour, Worsely explains what it would’ve been like for young women to live in the British social class of the 19th century. In short, Austen never had a chance at the life she dreamed of. Daughters were to be married off, but Austen mostly due to her father being a pastor couldn’t offer much in a dowry to any eligible man who had an interest in her. It was also a hard sell for women who wanted to write and sell fiction. As they weren’t taken seriously as a man would’ve been in her position. I suspect it wasn’t expected for women to dream of more than a husband and a family of your own. I wonder if she had married, would we still know Jane Austen the author who changed the world of literature.

At the relatively young age of 41 years, Austen died penniless, alone and a spinster. Never to experience the life and lavishness that the characters in her books did. From a quiet and unknown woman came stories that have and will continue to entertain and foster her reader’s appetite for the kind of life that she hoped and dreamed of but fell short because fiction isn’t reality.

Austen was so much more than just a spinster, she had written novels that would transform the world of literature and even beyond. Sadly, she was never able to see or enjoy the status her writing gained years after her death. I could say I have a lot in common with Jane Austen but I don’t. She didn’t live past her 41st year, she lived in the UK, and most importantly she in the 19th century. But as I watched this video, I realized how fortunate I am to live in the present. I don’t know where the ideas came from those women who in the eyes of that particular era had no potential beyond the roles as a wife and mother.

Dejected and Sad

That was the one emotion that fluttered its wings inside of me as I watched an actress play act out (in the documentary) what Austen might’ve been thinking or hope for. In her situation, hope was in low supply. She didn’t leave home to start university or, nor did she harbor dreams to live on her own, however, Austen did for a period of time. She worked on her writing and kept sending her manuscripts out to the publishers.

I’m single, and I am 41 years old turning 42 in less than two months. As I viewed this video, I didn’t see the similarities to Austen rather all the opposites. If I had been alive in the 19th century I might be more like Jane Austen relying on the kindness of others. Instead, I live on my own and I don’t rely on others to pay my rent, bills, groceries and any other extras. When I think about all I have compared to young women in the 19th century without a substantial dowry to catch the eye of an eligible man of the marriageable age. I don’t have a lot in savings, I have a school loan that I am slowly chipping away at. I would like to plan for the future but I don’t have plans for the single version of me. I have plans for the married version of me, and even that has grown smaller as I am trying to remain in the present, trying to enjoy myself now. I love living on my own and having my own space. In the last ten years, I have been able to see why it’s good to be single, and just do what I want and when I want.

Sometimes I feel this stigma of being single, even though statistics tell me that I’m not in short supply. But I am not a part of the hookup era, nor am I looking for a filler until the real deal comes in. I’m in this obvious meanwhile I wait phase, the place where you wonder, you dabble in things that you might not do when you’re otherwise married. This is my time to fly, to flourish but like Jane Austen, it is a hard place to occupy.

A lot of women like reading about the Regency era because it’s time period has this romantic element to it. It’s so foreign to our understanding. There was no rush, no time restraints as we experience them now. We have answers to a lot of what made life hard and difficult. I could list pros and cons to both periods. Most women want the romantic daydreams of their childhood even if no one is able to truly live up to those ridiculously handsome and debonair men.

And sometimes I have these tiny voices echoing all over the place reminding me that where I am and who I am isn’t enough when I know it is more than enough. Just being in a place and liking, even enjoying where you have been placed. Not worrying about society’s expectations. Don’t get me wrong it is important to keep those hopes and desires, but to many of us, it’s a heavy burden to carry as the years continue to pass. I’ve told God more than once to take the desires away, but they remain and so it tells me a couple of things…

Persist. Hope. Trust.

If you were in my interior like God is, you would know this not what I want to do. This is not natural to me because I have made living my life the very opposite of these three things. It’s slightly annoying but I think it’s a bit of an inside joke on me. I can’t see my potential but I am going forward blinded to what is possible. What is conceivable is that yes my prayers will be answered. If I have learned one thing about God it is that He isn’t in a rush. My perceived deadlines are just my impulse to want to control a situation that isn’t in my doable skills set. I don’t think I will next Jane Austen, far from it, but her tenacity to continue writing despite her situation is a token to me that hard work doesn’t go unnoticed to least of those.

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Confessing Your Heart

The associate priest at my parish dispenses the sacrament of Reconciliation, or better known as confession every second Saturday. He’s been pastoring at my parish for almost three years, normally it’s two years for the new priests, but sometimes they stay longer like three or four years. I was taught that it’s good to have a regular confessor to regularly hear your sins so the priest might be able to see certain paths that cause you to commit a particular sin. So when I go to confession, I make sure it’s the week that Fr. Bryan is celebrating Mass, which means he will be in the confessional from 4 p.m. to 4:45 p.m., Saturday afternoon.

Becoming acquainted with the language of your heart should be easy…right? Is riding a bicycle easy the first few times, not usually. I am trying to learn the ways of the heart, accepting what is in front of me and go! But sometimes I am left still watching everyone in front of me. Still trying to copy what they do, still not getting that the journey I am on is different. I might be similar, or have something in common with others.

Sometimes I don’t want to know what my heart or what the Lord wants of me. Inside of me, something is not right. Fear has leaked in, mixing in with peace and love. The tips of my toes wobble back and forth as something is played out in my mind. Am I ready to run or am I steady with courage?

What stops me from running the race?

Not knowing the end result even though it’s the depth of the journey that matters the most. In many ways, the destination doesn’t exist outside of a place to rest in His plan. Sometimes, it’s the running that makes me aware that I can talk about, and that I need to talk about why I keep my heart in seclusion. The language of your heart wants to live out loud, not in darkness or in anger.

I kneel on the one side of the grille, and the priest is on the other side. Most won’t look at you, but once I have listed the sins I remember committing, I will pick a ‘sin’ to discuss. There is no life, no fresh air in what I talk about. I am held back by doubts, fears, unknowns, and other people’s judgments on themselves. Maybe it is a judgment on myself, but the other is more likely acting something out that was planted in their life, long before you enter into it. Yes, I need to take responsibility for what is my part, but I also must let go, of my anger to see my part, my place in what is called this present time.

There is no man on the other side of your heart but Jesus. In the secret places of our heart, we render to what is God’s. Nothing that I take is forever. I may stash away what I believe are parts of my heart, but nothing physically can claim the language that takes an area in the place that is only hinted at.

But what if you speak and no one hears you… I mean really hears your heart

Do it anyway. It’s like a dialect with different clicks, nuances, and tones. Keep speaking it until someone, a small group of intelligent individuals nods their heads in appreciation.

 

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Don’t Ignore the Signs…

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Whole

I asked that I be made whole, and 16 years later I think I may be at that point. Don’t get me wrong, I am nowhere near perfection.

Six years ago

I had just graduated from a Professional Writing program, and I was looking for a job to cover my rent and bills so I could continue to look for a job using the skills I had gained through the program. The first job I started was at Subway.  It should’ve been a no-brainer because I had prior experience working with food. But this was the real world, and I hadn’t spent much time on it after spending a whole year off (on medical leave) from work. The world and depression don’t mix, kind of like water and oil. One always sits on the top and refuses to move. In school, it was nicely warm and way too comfortable, I didn’t have to worry about a job, and I just did assignment after assignment.

The problem wasn’t Subway per say, but the owner who watched me like a hawk, and when I am watched I always mess up. Did you know that you have to memorize each sub and what is on it? And that’s not the only thing you need to remember. I could feel my anxiety kicking in and I wanted out. I felt like I had just come out of being in the warm waters for way too long. I was cold and wrinkled.

In May 2010, I applied to an organization that provided services for and to seniors. I personally knew some of the Homemakers, so I asked one the girls if I could have the name of her manager. Honestly, I didn’t know what position I was applying for. I had this desire to work att his organization, and I had no idea why. Nothing I could put into words. I gave my resume in, only to find out that they didn’t need anyone at the moment…

Fast forward to September 2010

I was working part-time in a call centre and not liking it at all. I needed something that would pay my rent and bills, I didn’t think I was asking for too much. I didn’t want to work in retail as I looked for a writing job. Preferably, this job would be Monday to Friday with the weekends off. Then out of the blue, I got called in at the organization that I had originally applied back in the spring.

In the first couple years, I would question the Lord as each year passed, but He remained quiet, so I continue on working as a homemaker. Taking the time when I got a case of, ‘I don’t want to be here!’ I would remind myself of all that I had, and all of it was good. This job has given me much as it has pushed me to be a better person, to practise my active listening skills and so much more. However, the last couple months has brought some things into the light, and it initiated me to wonder: is the Lord asking me to leave?

Chaos Ensuing

For six years, I have worked under the same supervisor, and we worked well together. Sure, there were some things I wasn’t a fan of, but in general, things ran well. About the end of September, something happened and be honest I don’t know what it was except my safe and reliable supervisor wasn’t around when I needed the support.

About a year ago, I read about a Virtual Assistant, someone who could work anywhere in the world, and have their clients situated anywhere…Kind of like a personal assistant, but your clients are all over the world. At first, it didn’t interest me as something I could do, but the last time I spoke with my Spiritual Director she brought up my desire to work from home. At this point, I had no idea what to do from home, but I knew it was a desire. I know I could potentially do well working from home. I know that I can structure my days to work, and it’s something that interests me.

I keep reminding myself that God takes His time when it comes to answering specific prayer requests for me. They are the ones that are close to my heart, therefore even nearer to His. Under his care, every little detail will be taken into consideration. It’s custom built.

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The Art of Friendship

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A friend is long sought, hardly found, and with difficultly kept.
St. Jerome

 

I’ve always believed that it’s important to pick you battles because some are not worth either person’s time. Sometimes towards the end of June, I had what you could call difficultly keeping a friend.

For a long time I wasn’t interested in having a friend, at least one who was committed to her faith. That’s crazy, because who doesn’t want a friend? But to my defence, I was frustrated with women who weren’t committed to maintaining relationships with other women.

The difficulty of maintaining a friend, and I could blame it on a lot of things, but I think sometimes there are things that God doesn’t reveal to us right away.  I don’t claim to understand all the facets of how to have a friend. At least to me it was simple; I wanted one good friend who was committed to her faith, and I thought the Lord had brought her into my life.

We had many similar interests, and we could talk to for hours…

But that was the first two years when my friend started up and maintained a women’s ministry in our church, but when she left, things changed. I was aware they would, but I didn’t realize it would be so drastic.

In the beginning, we met once a month, we loved reading and we would discuss the books we had both read. I am a huge reader of fiction, and when I first met her she only read non-fiction, but she read one of my favourite authors, and in no time, she was reading fiction as well. This was the first time I had the opportunity to speak with someone who was reading the same books as I was. It was fun to hear her opinions. Often this would lead us to speak about topics that lead  from reading the books.

It wasn’t picture-perfect, but no relationship/friendship is flawless. She is married and homeschooled her children. I never expected to be her first priority, plus she lives in the country, so the only time I would see her would be on Sunday. I tried to be a good friend by accommodating to her situation. Even though I avoid crowds, I would go down to the hall in between Masses to say hi to her. Her family went to the earlier service, and I attended the later one.  I found it rude when people would angle themselves just so I was aware that they were waiting to talk to my friend.

I have felt the brunt of friends getting married and just disappearing …

Her world was one of husbands, children, running households and I didn’t belong. There are people who attract others. She has this unique quality that brings everyone to her. She was doing what the Lord wanted her to do. Before she came to Canada, she had planned to live a life as a contemplative nun in a convent. We had many differences, but I was aware of this at the beginning. I was trying to focus on what interests we shared.

I try avoiding conflict at all costs, but situations would bubble up, and I decided to write my thoughts down. I shared these thoughts with her. From the beginning I was open and honest to her about who I was, I communicated what I felt, and she listened. But what I didn’t know then, it seem as if I was speaking a language that she didn’t truly understand.

Three years

We met when it was best for her, but I would hesitate to go over to her when I saw her upstairs in the church. I would mentally debate whether I would go over to her. She stated to me that she invested more in our friendship than she had in any relationship. For reasons I can’t quite explain, it didn’t make me feel any more secure in my friendship with her.

I assumed she knew how a relationship worked, she was married but maybe she didn’t. In all the time, I tried to explain to her what I needed, she never once told me what she needed. Gently, the solid connection we had begun, started to unravel. I asked her what she wanted out of the friendship, but she has never given me an answer for it. Gradually over time, I felt myself holding back from sharing with her.

I was weary of accommodating her needs

One of my main love languages is quality time, I thought if maybe she knew this…so I began writing down my thoughts. After a long day at work, the last thing I need to do is go walking around the neighbourhood. She seem to get what it was that I was asking for. But things don’t always work out even though I did try to communicate my needs as well I could. However, words couldn’t quite convey what was going on between us. The old me would’ve slapped blame on myself for our deteriorating friendship. Maybe  it was my miscommunication to her who I was. It’s easy to say I was in the wrong because it’s easier to put the blame on yourself. But a relationship is made up of two people not just one person.

What happen to spark this divide between us?

An  inappropriate email from her jolted it for me, but I could feel the tension between us weeks before.

I waited for a while to write a post on this twist on relationship in my life. It wasn’t until I came upon, the above quote by St. Jerome, and how I felt that he was speaking exactly into how I have experienced present and past friendships. I want someone who has hopefully equal footing in the friendship.

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Deep Beauty – Part 1

Ever since I was a little girl, I long to know I was beautiful. I desired to know that I was lovely. I even asked my Dad if he thought I was. I didn’t see my beauty or worth, and I ached to have someone like him to help me make sense of where I fit in. Everyone else was more important than I was, and on the road to somewhere. I wanted to jump on the fast track too; it’s just that Jesus had other plans for me. Living in poverty doesn’t just have to be material, most of us live in poverty because we haven’t experienced His love, which heals our invisible wounds.

The last two years, I have been wandering in the desert. Jesus is the driver, and I am the passenger letting the wind whip my hair all over the place. I am a passenger on this journey, longing to be a part of the beauty that exists here in austerity.

It’s the surface that many people live in, most of us are too busy with work, relationships,

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and stuff considered more important. Letting the world dictate what you should do, eventually will push the desires of your heart further away until it will not be a part of you. This desire will float around you like an oasis that you can no longer reach onto what is good.

 

I completed a Lectio Divina. I don’t remember the verse, but what stayed with me was how I would respond to what I had received. Jesus wanted to teach me how to dive into the deep with Him, to trust in him, and in the process taking my ability to love Him deeper. Taking my fragile trust, and plunging it into deep waters. I guess you could call it freestyle diving. Essentially, I felt the Lord was calling me to do the same, except He would be my oxygen.

What I wanted the most was to love Him with all my heart, mind, and soul. Still, I am out of breath and the strength to love Him as I know He desires, but I am learning where and when to rest, and listening to him when he says, ‘Let me do it’.

I know that I can trust the Lord with all my heart, but then comes ‘lean not on your own understanding.'(v.5)* Interiorly, I am learning that my physical beauty pales in comparison to the beauty that lies on the inside of me. Much like the burning that the men from Emmaus** experienced, who spoke with Jesus, and yet did not realize their hearts burned within themselves until Jesus revealed himself, only to then disappear from their sight.

 

*Proverbs 3:5

**Luke 24:31

Published previously in 2014

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Are We There Yet?

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I’m only going to admit here: I’m bit of a romantic when it comes to waiting, but I’m under no illusions that waiting is a glamourous thing. Maybe if a documentary was done on the journey of my waiting then could I term my ‘waiting’ with a bit of romanticism? There would be sweeping and haunting music in the background, only the best shots of my waiting, and then of course the glorious end! But when is my waiting done?

We live in a culture that abhors to wait, the mere mention of the word, and we start becoming someone we aren’t. Nasty, belligerent and impatient. No, one gets away with this one because well, only the Lord is patient in waiting, which is why waiting is something to be learned and valued. But waiting is only the conduit from which we learn what we need for this life. It breeds character, virtue, fine manners for dinner etc. There are so many reasons for waiting, and most of us are still waiting for the Lord to explain it.

Pulling and Pushing

The Lord can and will use this time to turn our direction from outward to inward. To bring us to a place where we see what he sees in us. As I mentioned, I’m a bit of a romantic when it comes to waiting, but I seem to push out of my mind, all the pain that accompanies waiting.

We can push away the pain of unfulfilled dreams, and pretend that we are in control, pretend that the peace that only comes from the Lord doesn’t satisfy our empty wants and needs. We want to live our lives in harmony with Him or we take off on horses that imitate and mock his beauty. We don’t breathe in His spirit and we can squander what he has given us because we don’t consider why He is waiting.

A Fine Suffering

No, I’m not done. In fact, as long as we are alive, we wait for His return, his glorious return to claim what is His. But in the meantime what are we to do? What are we to say when it is asked of you why you wait, why you struggle with what you can’t seem to get from life. Well, life isn’t here to serve you, you are here to serve those around you. As the chisel in the Master’s hand continues to allow the absence of your desire. How does this absentia create havoc in the crevices of your soul? For long periods of time nothing will speak of what your heart longs for, or what you are seeking with your eyes. Sometimes you wonder if the hunger that lives inside of you will ever be tamed. The gnawing is like a flickering light that refuses to be blown out.

For a long time I’ve wanted to write about waiting because too many of us – just don’t get it. Learning to wait isn’t a punishment, it’s more of a time to be waited upon. We want to be where everyone else is, and that isn’t always the best place for us. Until our time is done, life is one big waiting period because we are simply being prepared to go home.

Most of my life, I have jerked myself around trying to be someone, something that I am simply not. It is in the periods of waiting that I have been taught who I am. We’ve been taught by everything that is around us, that it isn’t good to wait because you could have ‘it’ now! During this long season (and still continuing!) of waiting, that what I need and want are mistakenly not materialistic but of a eternal reward.

PASSION

There are many things in life that will catch your eye, but only a few will catch your heart… pursue those.

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Not Yet

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In the beginning, when I began working in my current job, most clients would ask me if I was married, did I have children…but as time passed, it happened less. Just this past week, I gained a new client and she asked the question of the hour:  Was I married?

I told her no.

“Good for you!”  This answer shocked me because I wasn’t expecting from it her. She is Muslim, so it really mystified me. I have never had a client be happy that I was still single. It threw me off for a minute.

Before I continued the conversation, I choose my words carefully, “Did you choose your husband?” I asked this question gingerly because she is Muslim, and I didn’t know what might be the custom. She is originally from Iraq

“No, I was in love with my husband for four years before we married.” She paused and then continued. “When l married I died.”

She didn’t offer anything else, and I didn’t ask since this was my first time meeting her, and I thought  curbing my curiosity would serve me well.

I must admit I don’t know much about the Muslim religion except what I hear from media, online resources and acquaintances

Usually my clients want to know if I’m married, or when I am getting married. If I knew God’s whole plan for me, I would be planning ahead, but I don’t so…I wait and persist.

I am not really that good at being persistent or persisting in an activity, or situation, but I have also learned that God is not in a hurry, at least not in my life. Maybe in yours He speeds through all the red lights, but in mine, He stops when he sees the green light turn to the yellow caution. If I was in charge, God would only get green lights, and there would be no reason or thought to stop. So I am trying to take pleasure in all things, even the not so good because this time won’t ever return to me.

From outside appearances, everyone looks polished and great in their spiffy new outfit, but I am still wearing the same tops that I had last year. Truly, I shop at second-hand shop which is by necessity and choice. I love scoring a deal. Last Saturday, I bought three tops, one skort and one pair of slacks for $18.75! Yes, living below the poverty line does have its advantages. It allows one to live simply without out all the deemed ‘extras.’ And right beside me is a list of all the things I need when the Lord deems to give me my very own money tree.

As I wait for the Lord, he reminds me to thank him for everything, even the things I  do not like or want. I am thankful for what he has done in my life. For all the things I didn’t think of, like him healing my heart that needed a lot more attention than I was willing to give it. For over ten years, God hasn’t been idle in my life, not that I can say the same thing about myself, in my trust in Him and to see how He can truly make the broken pieces in my life to appear better than they were.

I am starting to see why I need to trust, why I need to wait because whateverHhe has planned, it will take my trust and His strength to bring everything together in His timing.