Wednesday, December 28, 2005

merry christmas

this is my first christmas without my mom. i was lucky enough to be invited to spend it with my half-brother (from my father's first marriage) and his family in north carolina. i had a nice time, they are a really nice family. i grew up ... i suppose "alternatively" being a new yorker, so it's always interesting for me to see how people live in america.
my brother's family go to the methodist church and i have been with them during a prior visit. we went to church on christmas day but there was no communion! i have to say i feel pretty weirded out about not receiving communion on christmas. i know it's not like easter or anything, but still. i guess i'll have to wait till this coming sunday, new year's day.
the first anniversary of my mother's death is coming up on jan. 8 and i'm finding that this whole first year i have felt mostly relief and that's pretty much it. taking care of her was difficult. before she got ill she was really difficult. alcoholism is such a devestating disease.
now that this first year is winding down, i'm starting to separate the person from the disease of alcoholism and i'm starting to miss her, the person, my mother. she was so entrenched in her disease it's taking me a long time to remember her apart from it.
i think that god has completely transformed her, removing her soul from her body, which truly was a prison, she is completely god's light.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

confession dread

i'm an associate of the community of the holy spirit, an episcopal convent, which means that i'm a lay person (although there are ordained associates) who follows a rules of prayer, goes on retreats, and goes to confession twice a year. i hate confession. it ties in with my confusion over the concept of sin, redemption, salvation. i was told as a child that i am bad and i have so tied that in with my concept of sin that i think of confession as a chance for the priest to hear how bad i am. it's an internalized message that no amount of intellectual understanding will erase.
so, i've been making this a focus of my prayer and meditation. one thing i heard today in an al-anon meeting helped me look at it in a new light. the meeting i went to was on the first step, "we admitted we were powerless over alcohol, that our lives had become unmanageable." the reading was about how we may not have an issue with alcohol, or may not have an active alcoholic in our lives at present, but we can sustitute the word alcohol for other words like people, places, things. what i heard at the meeting is that when i think i can control other people, places, or things, i get far away from the one who really does have that power, god, and my life becomes unmanageable. i suddenly thought that maybe one definition of sin that i can relate to is that when i think i'm the one in charge, that i have control, that i am powerful, that is sin.
i am just starting to get a concept of how far i have to go yet. i feel like plato's man in the cave.
fortunately, i'm not the one in charge. there is a god and i'm not it.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

katrina dog for adoption

isn't he adorable folks? his name is foxy and he is from new orleans. i am fostering him through the companion animal network, who sent volunteers down there to rescue him. he is 1 and a half years old, friendly, gets along well with children and other dogs. there are hundreds or even thousands of dogs completely on their own in the areas devestated by hurricaine katrina. god alone knows what he did to survive, but survive he did. and now he's living in luxury on the upper east side, lounging on the sofa, playing with my dog, waiting for a permanent home.
it's so easy to associate foxy with mary and joseph during the advent season. joseph and mary, like foxy, feared for their lives, had no place to stay, were watched over by god. which is dog spelled backwards. it reminds me that god watches over us all, the holy family, dogs in trouble, lillies of the field, birds of the air, you and me.
if you or anyone you know is interested in adopting a dog who needs a home like no other dog before, email

Sunday, November 27, 2005

somebody special is coming!!!!!

someone is coming ...

who could it be???


it's ... JESUS!!!!!!!!!!


he's so cool! i'm so glad he's coming.

get ready!!!

happy advent,
sr. m.a.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

music, my golden retriever, and rocco, the neighbor's dog.

turn it over to god

i have heard that there are basically two prayers. one is "help me, help me, help me" and the other is "thank you, thank you, thank you." yesterday i had one of those "help me" moments.
there are new print ads in nyc for the aspca which show a picure of a brick, and underneath that a sack, and underneath that a puppy. the slogan is "whatever you can imagine, we've seen worse." it really freaks me out and i plan on adopting an older dog as soon as i'm done babysittin my neighbor's dog, rocco.
i saw that ad in the subway on my way home yesterday and started to freak out. earlier i had heard on the radio a story of a 7 year old girl in foster care who was given back to her biological father who then beat her to death. i focused in on that and soon went down the path to my own childhood abuse. i felt really vulnerable and alone. i got scared and couldn't "think" my way out of it. i asked god to help me, help me, help me.
i have episodes like this maybe a handful of times per year now. i once heard someone at an al-anon meeting say, "i've worked damn hard to feel this pain." that holds true for me. i was out of my body until i was 30 years old.
this morning, i took my dog, music, and rocco for a walk in the park. it was a beautiful fall morning with bright yellow and red leaves and warm sun and other dogs to play with. i felt much lighter. on the way home, i stopped by my church for a sit down with god.
i sat down and read the prayers in the book of common prayer from pages 814 - 841, my favorites. when i finished, i looked at the stained glass windows and meditated. i didn't think about the experience of the day before too much, just sat with god and was open. then, i heard that voice in my head that is familiar, but not my own. she said, "your childhood is over. now you are working with children, some of whom are in turmoil."
sometimes i feel like i'm living a very sheltered existence. i'm a very optomistic person, generally, so when evidence of torture and evil are made clear to me, i almost can't take it in. yesterday i felt like my optomism was really naivite, which is what pessimists always tell me.
yes, there is repellent behavior in the world. horrible acts are done all the time. but, i can "let it begin with me." i can create peace in my heart and in my classroom. i have students that i suspect are being abused in some way, shape, or form. the statistics alone say that it is so. there is one girl in particular who is totally not in her body. she is not just daydreaming, she's simply not present in her life. she bought a book at our school bookfair recently that, i swear i am not making this up, had Barbie, as a princess, figure skating and RIDING ON PEGASUS, THE FLYING HORSE!!!! this book was like romance novels, escapist literture for second graders. this kid is living in la-la land. i know, i used to live there too. it sure beat where i was living in reality.
the best i can do is to make my classroom a safe place, to be present for my students, to make it clear that i love them. i know i can't "save" any of them, that's not my job, that's god's job. but, i can be kind. i remember my kind teachers. they had a real impact on me.

Friday, November 11, 2005

heaven on earth

last week my boyfriend and i were "having a lie in" as the irish call it, sleeping late. my dog, music, the golden retriever, waited patiently for us to wake up. i am babysitting my neighbor's boston terrier, rocco. he's not so patient. he stands up at the edge of the bed and stares at us with big googly eyes and snorts. we told music to "hop up, pup" and she crawled in between the two of us on the bed and snuggled in for petting. rocco started to whimper and cry (sounds like whale song, i swear) so we pulled him into bed with us. music doesn't think much of this but tolerated it. we all lay down for dozing and snoring and i said to john, "this is like heaven."
i have a visual meditation i like to do when i am feeling stressed. i imagine myself as an adult, resuing the three year old me. i go to her, wrap her in a warm, soft blanket, and take her away to a big, white, soft, warm bed with flannel sheets and we have on flannel pyjamas. every dog i've ever had in my entire life is in the bed. it's one BIG bed. three year old jenny and i climb in and eat cocoa pebbles cereal and watch cartoons. then i imagine god is holding that bed in her arms, surrounding us in an embrace.
i spent most of my life terrified of men. the fact that i have a boyfriend right now is a miracle and due entirely to surrendering my will and life to god and then working my ass off with god's help for several years. to feel safe with john, cozy and warm in the bed with all the dogs is a blessing and a gift. it's like a salvation from perpetual victimhood and prejudice against men.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

sin and the postmodern girl

i'm still working through my concepts on sin and salvation. i think i need to see my spiritual director. i have been getting some really great insights since i opened up to this contemplation though. i went to an al-anon meeting yesterday that's on the third step (made a decision to turn our wills and our lives over to the care of god as we understood him) and the speaker talked about searching for parents who would take care of her (unlike the actual parents she had growing up) and how that puts her in the position of being a little girl, being a victim. that really hit home for me.
i have meshed in my mind the concept of sin as being bad and i can't "think" my way out of that. part of the reading from yesterday's meeting included a quote from Aurelius Augustinus which said, "understanding is the reward of faith. therefore, seek not to understand that thou mayest believe, but believe that thou mayest understand." i have been trying to intellecutalize or analyze my way out of this stinking thinking and it's not going to work.
this is where my trust in god really has to come in play. i used to know a priest who said, "how big is your god?" is my god big enough for this? to write on my heart a new understanding of sin and salvation?
the speaker from the meeting yesterday said that she's no longer looking for surrogate parents, but she is looking for a god of her understanding. sounds like this is a good opportunity for me to look at how big my god is and let her be bigger.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

theology quiz

theology quiz

You scored as Emergent/Postmodern. You are Emergent/Postmodern in your theology. You feel alienated from older forms of church, you don't think they connect to modern culture very well. No one knows the whole truth about God, and we have much to learn from each other, and so learning takes place in dialogue. Evangelism should take place in relationships rather than through crusades and altar-calls. People are interested in spirituality and want to ask questions, so the church should help them to do this.

Emergent/Postmodern 79%
Roman Catholic 64%
Neo orthodox 61%
Modern Liberal 54%
Classical Liberal 50%
Charismatic/Pentecostal 50%
Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan 39%
Reformed Evangelical 7%
Fundamentalist 0%

What's your theological worldview?
created with

it's fun. i had to wikipedia some of the things they referred to in the quiz but it was neat. and now it's official, i'm an emergent church/postmodern.

Sr. M.A.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

salvation contemplation

i have been thinking a lot this week about my understanding of salvation. i met with my rector yesterday and talked with him about it. i need to schedule an appointment with my spiritual director as well, an 80-something year old nun from the community of the holy spirit.
my priest had some interesting insights about looking more to the small "s" salvations that happen during a lifetime, al-anon being one for me, that certainly saved my life. i've had other experiences of small "s" salvation as well.
in talking with him i articulated my two understandings about sin. intellectually, i understand sin to be the delusional belief that we are separated from god and then we act out in that belief and that f's things up really amazingly. i believe that christ and other religious or spiritual traditions work to help us get past that fallacy. through al-anon, i turn my will and my life over to god on a daily basis, several times a day in fact.
i get to talk about god and my personal experience of god in al-anon, in ways that i can't do at church. i get to act out that experience of god in church, which i can't do in al-anon as it's a spiritual program, not a religious one. in monastic orders you get to do both.
in my heart of hearts though, i can't get past my belief that sin is bad, a part of me that's bad. i go to confession once a year at holy week and it's always a gut-wrenching experience because it's so tied up in this belief that there is something bad in me. on a personal level, this comes from messages i got from a very crazy family member when i was really young and they are so internalized, i don't know that in my whole lifetime i will really get completely though that. but, there's something traditional and archetypal about it as well. the church kept people under control by selling them the idea that we were intrinsically bad and needed saving and only jesus does that and you need to go through the church to get that salvation. and of course, women are lower than men and "worse" and need salvation big time, salvation according to the european, patriarchal church. my church is not like that, i am not like that but the hangover of that ancient idea exists in chrisitianity today.
i am turning this all over to god. i'm working with god to loosen up these historical hysterical beliefs and get to peel a layer off the onion and get to know god in a closer way.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

"doing church"

i just went to a conference at the cathedral ofst. john the divine which is for clergy and regular episcogeeks like me in the laity. the topic headings were admin and finance, altar guild, church growth, communications, life-long learning, mission, music and liturgy, parish dynamics, stewardship, just to name a few! it was a good day and got me really thinking about stuff i hadn't expected to think about.
the first panel i went to was on the church's 2020 movement pertaining to people in their 20's and 30's specifically. the panel consisted of several cradle episcopalians and two or three converts from other christian traditions. an older priest asked why the panel didn't include any 20's/30's people who are unchurched - people who grew up with no faith tradition or practice at all. the answer was that the people in parishes that the panel members knew who were unchurched were not firm enough or confident enough in their place in the episcopal church to speak on a panel.
i mentioned that the first two to three weeks after sept. 11, 2001, our church was packed to the gills with people from the neighborhood - mostly in their 20's and 30's. after those intial two to three weeks they just didn't return.
if you go to starbucks or barnes and noble cafe or a yoga class on sundays at 11 a.m. you will find them packed with people in their 20's and 30's - both churched and unchurched! i do believe that everyone is a spiritual being and that many people are wandering around on their own, looking for a spiritual home. in what ways is the episcopal church not providing that? how can we provide that?
i talked for a bit with the older priest who had attended the panel about the point he made during the q & a part. he said he became involved with the church when he was young because he it met his idealism, it gave him a place to act that out. he also wanted something bigger than himself. it made me think of the episcopal church during the civil rights movement. that was a church where an idealistic young man could really plug in. i told this priest afterwards that i'm not so sure this generation (x and y?) is idealistic. i think we're cynical and mistrusting of large institutions. i talked to him a bit about episcopal blogging and the emerging church and post-modernism and - i totally lost him.
one thing he said really has been buzzing in my brain - i mentioned that i think this generation is searching for spirituality and self-improvement, that we are focused on ourselves but not in a "me generation" totally selfish way, in a "how can i become a better human being?" way. the priest said, "yeah, but that's what salvation is for." ah. now i get caught on the sticky concept of salvation.
this is where i put the alternative in sr. mary alternative.
what am i being saved from? what is the resurrection about? what is sin? i am so not clear on these concepts. i am not looking for pat answers, or i'd be a pentecostal and check my brain at the door. rather i am an episcopalian looking for new ways to approach these concepts. or maybe they are old ways that seem new to me. or different ways.
how does jesus dying on the cross absorb my sins? what is the real message of my faith tradition? that christ died for my sins? that god is love? that i can be redeemed and/or saved by pledging myself to christ. who do i worship for that matter? christ or god? i believe in the trinity but when i pray, i gotta tell you, i pray to god. i may ask god to send her holy spirit into me or a situation, but i pray to god.
i'm still trying to figure out all this stuff about post-modernism and the emerging church, it's still a little confusing to me. maybe that's where i'm heading with all this. i don't know. i really would appreciate your comments and esp. refer any books, magazines, websites, media that relate to any of these topics i have mentioned.

Friday, October 14, 2005

"th" words

i teach 2nd grade esl in queens and i gave a homework assignment - write 5 words that start with "th." most kids wrote words like, "the, that, this, they ..."
one kid wrote, "theology."

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

st. francis day

we celebrated st. francis day at my church, holy trinity this past sunday. we have a special tradition of blessing animals. people from all over the neighborhood bring their pets to be blessed. people always think that nyc is no place for a dog. apartments are small. most people are at work all day and a dog needs to be outdoors a lot. i once heard a stand-up wondering why he chooses to live in a way not fit for a dog!
but for every third new yorker, there is a dog. and in the upper east side it's an even higher ratio. i think here there are two dogs for every human! when i'm not home, my dog sleeps. that's it. i once moved from a two bedroom to a studio and i had two big dogs. i thought, how will they manage in a small space? and then i realized, dogs are always in the same room with their human. it's not like they're off wandering around the east wing or something. it worked out just fine.
i can't tell you how packed our church is on st. francis day with all those upper east siders and their pets. dogs, cats, turtles, birds, ferrets, pictures of pets who either can't leave home or have died. it's amazing. and you know, they all quiet down after the initial hub-bub of the procession. animals really like church. our church is kind of dark, so that's soothing for former cave dwelling dogs and for the birds.
i brought my dog, music. normally my mother would be with music in the pews and i would acolyte. there's a run on teens at my church so acolytes are mostly adults. i've been acolyting since i was 12. it got my interested in church (i get to wear a costume and look like an angel and everyone is looking at me! cool!) and i've enjoyed being an active part of the liturgy ever since. now that my mother is gone, i thought i would bring music to acolyte with me. after all, we have dog ushers on st. francis day and now that music is a dog of a certain age, she is mellow enough to handle it. she's certainly used to church. we are allowed to bring our dogs to church any sunday, for most services, so i bring her a lot.
soon as i get the one picture someone took for me ( i forgot my own camera!) i'll post it. i found a child's cotta (sp?) and put it over music's head and pulled her paws through the arm holes so she could be "vested". she looked so freakin' cute! i always thought i'd have kids who would become acolytes at holy trinity so this is the next best thing. mommy's little acolyte! i'm so proud.
st. francis is such a cool saint. i don't know much about him, i know there are st. francis fans out there who know him backwards and forwards. i just dig what he said about preach the gospels, use words if necessary. and the st. francis prayer kicks butt.
Lord, make us instruments
of your peace.
Where there is hatred
let us sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is discord, union;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.

Grant that we may not
so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood
as to understand;
To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving
that we receive;
It is in pardoning
that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are
born to eternal life.


Wednesday, September 21, 2005

nuns in the blogosphere

i got my newsletter from the community of the holy spirit, of which i am an associate, in the mail this week and read that a few of the sisters are blogging now. oooh! more blogging nuns. i'm telling you, this nun blogging thing is going to change people's opinions about nuns. i know the three nuns whose blogs i have included on my list of blogs i like and i would say they are sr. mary alternatives, especially sr. catherine grace, who is a snarky nun. she writes about the sacred lessons learned from getting duck doo-doo on her shoes.

i would like to report that i am now keeping my feet on the edge of the seat opposite me on the subway this week, rather than plunk down in the middle of the seat.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

a very un-nunlike moment

i'm stressing out big time. i have an old great-auntie in hospice in florida. i am maintaining her house and about to start working out probate (no will) which is a nightmare of epic proportions. i'm pretty broke and paying the bills on her house, let alone my own home, is hard.
i was on the subway after a complete day of teaching 19 seven-year olds, on my way to grad school for the evening. i had my feet up on the seat across from me. i'm on my feet all day and just sitting is not enough of a relief. i need them up and the subway in nyc is disgusting anyway so feet up is not too frowned upon.
except to the lady who got on at the next stop. she snapped her fingers in my face and told me to get my feet off so she could sit in the seat next to where my feet were. nyc is pretty intense. the energy and pace of the city is fast and stressful. tempers flare easily. hers and mine. we ended up screaming at each other and cursing. grrrrrr.... it's one thing when a nut job yells at me - goodness knows we have plenty of screaming mimi's here. but I was a nut job too this time. i did not take the higher ground and keep silent or move to another car. i didn't even take my feet off, just for spite! oohh, it was a bad day and may even end up on my life confession when i get to that point.
nuns have to make a confession to a priest of THEIR ENTIRE LIVES!!!
nowadays when i am encouraged to take part in something i know is not spiritually sound but sounds tempting, i ask myself if i want to confess it to a priest. if the answer is no, then i don't do it. i've got enough to keep a priest busy as it is. i don't need to add more.
when i got to class i told a friend about my subway argument. she said, "that's not very nun-like!" i told her to shut the fluff up. to which she replied, "and that's not very nun-like either!" ugh. hoisted on my own petard!
last night i worried so much about money and how i was going to manage all this i could barely sleep. i woke up at 4 am from a nightmare and could not sleep again. i told god, i really can't handle this. my life if unmanageable because of my fear and bad attitude about money. i need help and badly. i need help to feel better about this, and i need money. i was starting to doze a bit and i heard a soft voice in my head (but it wasn't my own voice) say, "oh, jen. oh, jen." it sounded slightly exasperated but strangely reassuring at the same time. the tone of "oh, jen" was as if to say, "everything's going to be alright. you'll see. you've been in tight situations before and i've always taken care of you. i will take care of you here, too."
when i got up to go to work i meditated and turned all my money worries over to god, while promising to act according to god's will as best i can understand that.
i took some actions today, calling a lawyer and starting to map this mess out a bit. i also spoke to a trusted friend who is going through something similar. just talking with her made me feel so much better.
i feel alone in taking care of this, but, of course, i'm not. i have god. i have friends, really good friends.
my attitudes and my fear are my worst enemy. i read that the opposite of love isn't evil, it's fear. i need to remind myself of that around this house business.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

katrina update

i heard on npr that craigslist had a lot of help for katrina victims. i just checked out craigslist for new orleans and there were literally hundreds of offers for free housing in people's homes all over the u.s. for victims of katrina. however, i also heard that if people do take that option, there's no food for them, like there is in shelters. ugh! and since people from the hurricaine area can't get to their bank accounts yet and have probably lost their jobs and have no income, they are screwed in that respect.
if you can shelter pets that have lost their homes while their owners look for a new situation, craigslist has a list for that.

Saturday, September 03, 2005


episcopal relief and development

my great-aunt lives in florida and is in a nursing home so i'm trying to see how her empty house can be used. if you know any snow birds, suggest the same to them. soon as i find out, i'll post more info.

pray. esp. for the children who are being abused in the shelters. and the rape victims in the shelters. it's pretty creepy.

Monday, August 29, 2005

prague in the 90's

i was visiting with some friends from my days in prague yesterday. we all live in the u.s. now but we all lived in prague in the mid 1990's. one of my friends referred to me as an artist. i think a few people thought of me that way, although i never created art in any form like painting, music, photographs, sculpture, etc. i didn't even write. but, i did live life to the absolute f'ing fullest and told stories from my own life and from the lives of my family on my mother's side, which was a matriarchy - all strong, independent, entrepreneurial women.
in some ways i am completely different from that woman. i started out bold and brash but spinned towards frenetic energy, vampiric energy. i was scared but not sure of what exactly, because it was too scary to even go there. but, there are aspects of that jen in prague in her 20's that i really respect. i was totally fearless. i still am. i am, however, more private now about certain aspects of my life, i have boundaries.
i believe we are all called to become the man or woman that god has in store for us. i strive on a day to day basis to become that jen that god sees when she looks at me.
living life fully, humbly, the way it's meant to be lived, is an art. i want to live that way, turning my will over as often as i can remember and submitting to the infinitely more intelligent will of the god of my understanding.

Monday, August 22, 2005

if you want to see if god has a sense of humor ...

i am living in the apt. i grew up in here in manhattan's upper east side (for those not familiar with nyc, i live near carrie bradshaw of sex and the city).
when i was growing up, everyone in my family was an alcoholic. this made for a slightly grim childhood - actually, i was pretty adult with adult responsibilities from my earliest memories. but, i did get along well with most of my family and esp. my mother.
when i would get annoyed with her drinking and morose behavior i would think about how happy i would be without her. i was waiting for her to die so i could start my own life. i moved halfway around the world to get away but that didn't make me a grown up - quite the opposite really. while she sat passed out in her chair i would imagine having the apt. all to myself and mentally redecorate!
fortunately, i was able to go to al-anon , a 12 step program for families and friends of alcoholics, and get some clarity on the disease of alcoholism and have compassion and love for my mom before she did indeed die of drinking this year.
i miss my mom but i sure don't miss that disease.
now i do have the apt. all to myself and i must say it's very peaceful here without alcoholism hanging over everything. i am redecorating ... and i wish my mom was here to see it, she would like some of the changes i'm making. maybe even a lot of the changes. oh, who am i kidding. she hated change!
one of the things i wanted to do was repaint. a lot of the apt. was painted yellow and there's not a lot of sunlight (typical nyc) so, i felt like i was living in a yellow submarine. i decided to change the color. the landlord is supposed to pay for painters to paint your apt. every 7 years. it's been that long and i arranged with the management office for the painters to come. then the office wanted the paint chips to approve my colors! then i had to sign a waiver saying that when i move out they will be able to paint the apt. white because the colors i'm choosing will be so soft. whatever. then, the painters came and took one look at the size of this place (1800 sq. ft. which by nyc standards is ginormous) and told the office it would cost $1600 to do two coats. cut to the part where i am now painting myself. i have never painted an apt. before. i am crap at it. i started with the guest room b/c if i screw that up, well, i don't have to sleep there.
i am thinking of this as the universe testing my desire to change the apt. and make it my own. do i really want this? yes! this does remind me of my favorite expression, if you want to see if god has a sense of humor, make plans.
painting myself also gave me an opportunity to grieve my mother a little more. mostly i feel relieved, which doesn't leave a lot of room to grieve. while i was painting the master bedroom i realized, my god, she's really gone. b/c the only way i could ever paint what was her bedroom the color that i chose would be over her dead body! that sounds funny, but i did really cry.
i truly believe god is calling me right now to simply live my life. go to work, come home, play with the dog, cook my meals, see my boyfriend (yes, sister mary alternative has a boyfriend because i'm not a nun yet!), see my friends, live my new life without mom. i did become a grown-up through grace before my mother died, but now i'm entering a new phase of grown-up life. it's very difficult to lose one's mother. i do see that it's much more difficult when you're not married and have no children. i feel lonely at times, and that's where god is calling me - to sit and be in that lonliness, in that grief. it's a true and honest feeling and that is how god really communicates with me, through my feelings.
sitting in my garden or my apt. alone, letting my feelings work through me rather than denying them or running away from them or simply tuning them out, that is the tension of the cross for me. and, of course, i'm not alone. christ is with me. although it's hard to feel that some of the time.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

st. hilda' abbey ruins, whitby Posted by Picasa

Saturday, August 13, 2005

order of the holy paraclete

ohp whitby Posted by Picasa

i went to visit ohp in whitby, england as an enquirer for a week. i was so excited to go and the trip there, though long, was incredibly beautiful. the bus from york went through the moors - very dramatic, barren looking landscape that lies flat and suddenly falls down in large, steep hills when you're least expecting it. sheep all over the land and in the road. low clouds - they look as though you could get up on a very tall ladder and brush them with your fingertips. it reminded me of connemara in ireland.

as soon as i walked in the doors of the convent, a voice in my head shrieked, "Aaaahhhh!!!!! i don't want to be here!!!! run away, run away right now!!!!" i decided to ignore that voice. it was not the still, small voice of god but the childish tantrum of my ego.

the sisters have 4 prayers of the daily office (lauds, mid-day office, vespers, compline) and the eucharist every day. their chapel (to the left of the photo, next to the CASTLE!) had kick-a$$ accoustics and their sung office sounded so beautiful.

i'd really like to go to africa and work with aids orphans which is how i came to this order. their mother house is in england, but they have houses in africa and one, in swaziland, works with abused girls. i met with the prioress who had lived and worked in swaziland and she told me about the work they are doing there and showed me pictures and articles. every molecule in my body jumped up and down for joy at that. but, as the week went on and i listened to my heart about this order and me i realized this just was not the place for me. there's no specific thing i could put my finger on. i mean, it's really fabulous there. i've heard some sisters say that when they walked into their convent for the first time, they felt like they were home. when i thought about leaving my beautiful garden apartment in nyc and my life here i couldn't see it. i would have to live at whitby for years during novitiate and who knows if i would indeed go to africa? actually, i'm wondering more and more how the schism between african theology and western theology in the anglican communion is going to work out. is there room for an alternative anglican in africa?

i was disappointed at first. i really wanted this to be home. my mother died in january of this year and once i discerned i would not be joining this order i realized that i felt even more alone, even more "homeless". but i feel better now - because it's so not up to me. i just remember that i'm not in charge here and more shall be revealed. and perhaps god is calling me right now to just sit in that lonliness and missing my mom and feeling like a 36 year old "orphan" instead of running to a new home and family. one of my favorite expressions is - when god closes one door, god opens another ... but it's hell in the hallway. i think i'm about to enter the hallway for a bit. i used to hate the hallway ( i've had really long stretches in the hallway, years at a time and that really is hellacious). but, i've come to appreciate the hallway more and more. it's a place of rest, whether i think i want a rest or not!

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

blogging fool

i am wrapping up a summer semester of grad school (masters in ed. esl) and am free to really check out all those religious blogs out there! as i'm new to blogging everything i find is FASCINATING!
i just joined a new blog ring;action=list
which is the revgalblogpals. i've found other women who are checking out their religious vocation. musings of a discerning woman can be found at and i'll add it to my links soon.
i'll explore the convent files at in more depth - probably tomorrow during class.
i'm leaving for england on friday to visit the order of the holy paraclete at whitby which i am interested in joining. well, i guess i'll find out if i'm really interested in joining after my visit there, but i trust my instincts a lot, since that's where god talks to me the loudest.
a lot of people ask, since i'm an episcopalian, why don't i become a priest and then i can get married. i can understand why people would ask that. when i was 16 i thought about becoming a priest and i realized i didn't want to be an administrator. i just had no calling to it at all. i do have a calling to religious life however. in another entry, i'll explain what one novice i met called the nun conspiracy, in which god sends reminders to me about my vocation. sometimes these reminders feel relentless, but i've developped a sense of humor about them.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

checkin' out the call

i went to the cloisters ( in early sept. of 2001 - a few days before sept. 11 as it turned out. the cloisters is a museum, part of the met, and it is like a medieval monastery. it was a beautiful day, sunny and warm but not outrageously hot like nyc gets in summer. i was standing in a herb garden and the pamphlet i read said that this garden was typical of a medival monastic herb garden. i thought, what a wonderful way to live. i would like to live this way. then a thought came into my head that was from beyond myself. the thought said, "you could live this way. you could become a nun." to which i responded, "NO WAY!!!! that's not what i want. what about that wedding i've been planning for the last 32 years?! i was going to be queen for a day and get married and have kids! i want to marry a pediatrician/veterinarian and live in a townhouse on the upper west side. i don't want to become a nun!"
except i knew that i really did want to do that, i just hadn't realized it before god popped that thought into my head, like a pop-up video. i've heard god call me to stuff before and it usually sounds like, "hey, whaddya think of trying this out?" that's what the nun call was like. not a deep voice from a mountain-top saying, "THOU SHALT NOW BECOME A NONNE!" i had the freedom to say no for ever and ever. i said no, well, maybe. give me time to think about it.
i have spent the last four years since then talking to and listening to god (mostly talking). i've been slowly coming round to the idea of being a religious and god has given me all the time and space i want. once, when i was in a yoga class i heard god say, "you know, it's really you who wants to be a nun." i knew it to be true but i still said, no i don't, you're wrong. thank god for god. she is very patient.
now i'm getting ready to go the the order of the holy paraclete ( for a week's visit to see if that's the place for me and vice versa. i'd really like to work in africa with aids orphans. we'll see.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start

i went to catholic elementary school in nyc and studied cathechism, did confession in the second grade, took my first holy communion with my class in the church attached to the school, and then never went to church. my father was baptised presbyterian. my mother was a roman catholic. no one attended church when i was growing up.
when i was 12, the school gave us a form for our parents to fill out at the beginning of the year. it included parents' daytime contact info., home address, etc. i was old enough to fill it out. one line on the form asked for the name of the church i was baptised in. despite not being a regular church-goer, i did know the answer to that. i was baptised at st. peter's in chelsea. i wrote that down (in bad, palmer method penmanship) and handed it in to my teacher.
a few days later, sr. helen, the principal, took me aside. she asked if i was indeed baptised at st. peter's and when i said yes she told me that st. peter's is not a roman catholic church. i told her there had to be some kind of mistake and i'd ask my mom when i got home.
which i did. my mother confirmed that indeed, st. pete's is not r.c. and indeed, i was not baptised r.c.
this is like finding out you're adopted, or, not black.
i asked what religion i was baptised in and she told me episcopalian. i asked what's that? by now i was starting to panic because i knew that everyone who was not catholic ate their babies and were going to hell more or less. mom said that episcopalian is a lot like catholic, but without the guilt. this is why she chose to have me baptised episcopalian, not r.c. like her. this started to sound better than baby eating, spit turning.
i asked, where's the nearest episcopalian church. suddenly, going to church with all the pomp and circumstance and none of the guilt sounded good. she told me of one a few blocks away, next door to my summer camp. Church of the Holy Trinity
i went. by myself. i was 12. two things happened that sunday. one, a homeless woman came into the church after the service was well underway. she shuffled up the center aisle with her bags, looking pretty scruffy. i held my breath, wondering what people would do. i guess i thought they would throw her out. everyone else looked pretty smart. instead of throwing her out, a woman in the pew ahead of this woman turned around. she was tall, thin, wearing a nice dress, pearls, coiffed hair - really, a classic wasp. i remember watching all this agog. she turned to face the bag lady and her face lit up! she smiled and threw her arms around this homeless woman and hugged her as if she were an old friend she hadn't seen in years.
i was hooked from that moment on. i couldn't have articulated it at the time, but i was watching the very essence of christ in both these women. it was absolutely compelling.
the liturgy was so familiar and comfortable. i felt really at home.
then, the other thing happened. we got to the lord's prayer and i was chiming in by heart, as you do. i finished but THE REST OF THE CONGREGATION KEPT GOING. "for thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever."
PROTESTANTS! i had heard that this was how prods. finished the lord's prayer. oh my god, i'm among protestants! luther and calvin could be lurking behind a pillar, waiting to get me!
i actually panicked so much that i left the church before the eucharist. it took me a week or so to calm down and accept that, not r.c. generally means protestant. i later learned about all the inbetween.
but i came back. and it's almost 25 years that i've been going to holy trinity. it's my spiritual home. i'm so blessed.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

sr. m.a. on the blog scene

i decided to check out some episcopalian blogs to see if any nuns were blogging. so far, no nuns. now, i'm new to the world of blog, so i may have just not found them yet (i hope). i also noticed that most of the episcopal blogs were by men who are seminarians and priests. hmmmmm.....

i have a religious calling and am just starting the journey to finding a religious order; seeing if this is indeed god's will, listening, not always liking what i hear, and kvetching to god about it.

my nickname for myself is sr. mary alternative because my theology is so very left of center. i consider myself a spongian episcopalian. on the belief-o-matic quiz on i scored as a pagan, then a hindu, then all sorts of things but, actually, episcopalian never even showed up on my list.

funnily enough, i love the episcopal church, believe in the trinity, surrender myself to god's will through jesus. in short, i'm a total episcopalian. i love that there is room for someone like me in the church and i gladly share it with people on the total opposite end of the spectrum and everyone in between!

i am looking forward to comments and please do tell me if there are episcopal/anglican nuns (sisters) with blogs.

with love in christ,
jen the hen

sr. mary alternative at the five and dime in asheville, n.c. Posted by Picasa