Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Soul Aflame ~ Thursday ~ Lauds

It was the wind that gave them life,
It is the wind that comes out of our mouths now
that gives us life.
When this ceases to blow we die.
In the skin of our fingers we can see the trail of the wind;
it shows us where the wind blew when our ancestors were created.
Washington Matthews (American, 19th Century)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Soul Aflame ~ Wednesday ~ Lauds

My soul is an enchanted boat
Which, like a sleeping swan, doth float
Upon the silver waves of thy sweet singing;
And thine doth like an angel sit
Beside a helm conducting it,
Whilst all the winds with melody are ringing,
It seems to float ever, for ever,
Upon that many-winding river,
Between mountains, woods, abyssses,
A paradise of wildernesses!
Till, like one in slumber bound,
Bourne to the ocean, I float down, around,
Into a sea profound, of ever spreading sound...
Percy Bysshe Shelley (English, 1792-1822)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Soul Aflame ~ Tuesday ~ Lauds

I think over again my small adventures,
My fears,
Those small ones that seemed so big,
For all the vital things
I had to get and to reach;
And yet there is only one great thing,
The only thing,
To live to see the great day that dawns
And the light that fills the world.
Anonymous, 19th Century

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Soul Aflame ~ Monday ~ Lauds

I don't want to be the only one here
Telling all the secrets --

Filling up all the bowls at this party,
Taking all the laughs.

I would like you
To start putting things on the table
That can also feed the soul
The way I do.
That way
We can invite
A hell of a lot more

Shams-Ud-Din Muhammad Hafiz (Persian c. 1320-1389, version by Daniel Landinsky)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Soul Aflame ~ Sunday ~ Lauds

"Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting;
The Soul that riseth with us, our life's Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And rises from afar.
Not in entire firgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing coulds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!...

O joy! that in our embers
Is something that doth live,
That nature yet remembers
What was so fugitive...

Hence in a season of calm weather
Though inland far we be
Our souls have sight of that immortal sea
Which brought us hither,
Can in a moment travel thither,
And see the children sport upon the shower,
And hear the mighty waters rolling evermore."
William Wordsworth, England (1770-1850)

This is the first entry in the book The Soul Aflame, a modern book of hours. I have often tried to meditate on this collection of poems and quotations, insights into the wisdom of ages collected in this book. Sometimes it takes me a little while to wrap my mind around the underlying works in the pages of this book.

I open the conversation up to you...

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Where is My Faith These Days?

This is a good question...

The answer? I'm not sure. Last night I was trying to describe where my faith is, and I couldn't- the best way to say it is that it's on a whole different level than anyone I know, for reasons that I'm not going to get into right now... I'm not practicing any tradition right now, I still define myself as Christian-Catholic, but the thought of setting foot in a Catholic church right now is something I don't even want to think about. Why? Because it means accessing so much that I've kept bottled up inside, so much that I've journaled about but haven't actually "let out".

How can I heal myself? Answer- I can't, my faith in God is what has to heal me. And so the question comes 'round again, where IS my faith these days? I know that I have a long way to go, but I know that I've been there before, and I think the big part of being okay with it again is realizing (just now) that I won't be able to get back to that place- I'm different now, my experiences have deepend who I am, and so I need to be looking forward, not back.

So where am I looking to:
The future? No, this is much bigger than that.
The heavens? No, it's more real, more attainable than that.
The Church? For guidance, perhaps, but not yet.
My Self? Yes, but not entirely...
My heart. This is where the answers lie, right now. This is where the Spirit dwells. This is where Love is.

Sorry this is sort of scrambled, I'm typing as my mind is thinking, no form or flow... perhaps I'll revise it later, or perhaps I'll leave it raw.

My challenge to you, define where your faith is. Can you? If not, try to map out the path you will need to follow to find your faith. I'll walk with you, for we're all on the same journey.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

A Soul Cries Out...

I have so much pain in my soul, I don't know where to begin, and so I pray- a raw, passionate plea.


I have been selfish in turning away from the gifts of vision, insight, and compassion that you grant me. Please forgive me, Lord, Father, Jesus, Spirit, Mind, Body, and Soul. I am yours again. Use me to reach people and heal people. I am placing my life in your hands and once again am trusting in your will. Please use me, guide me, help to become a guiding light for others on their journey towards finding your truth. I am so sorry, Lord, for pulling away and choosing to ignore you. Please, please forgive me. Please, please, please heal my heart, my soul, and help me to find the strength in you to witness to others again.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost


I truely believe that I am an ordinary person set to live an extraordinary life... but who am I anymore? I don't know that I can answer that, I don't know that I know. My friends who know me do not know all of me. They know the injured, the broken, the scarred and the never-quite-healed Melinda. This is why I have been yearning for the friendships I had while I was at PLU. I was a whole person then, a magnificent, growing, knowledge-thirsty woman of God with undying Faith, who withstood and overcame constant struggles, and a person full of Grace and God's Love. I held nothing back, I hid nothing from anyone, and I was happy. I sang, I worshiped, I prayed- many times a day... but what happened? Where did that person go? And who have I become?!

Too many people died, and I felt their family's pain. Too many times I knew how bad their souls were hurting, and every time I helped them, every time I used that "gift" of compassion and embraced the idea of empathically connecting to heal their pain, I lost a little of my own strength, the emotions of others, the intensity to which I surrendered my heart to heal theirs was so much... words cannot begin to describe... And when I would reach out to others who swore they were with me in Christ, that they could help me discern everything I was experiencing, it was too heavy for them. (I realized now that perhaps it's because this is my gift to bear- not a burden, not a cross, but a gift, and that I must learn to find that strength to renew my very own Spirit in God Himself, God Herself.) By me sharing, turning to my friends for help only pushed them away- or scared them and I pushed myself away. This left me to grieve- not only the loss of so many dear and cherished lives around me, but the loss of what had been professed as undying friendships. I found that I was no longer able to trust in God, I was afraid that He would leave me standing raw, bewildered, broken and alone as my friends in Christ had done.

That fear, once it sunk its teeth into my bleeding heart, was a parasite that drained and depressed me. It alienated me from my friends, my family, and all that I loved. I no longer sing in worship. I rarely truely pray. And, perhaps the saddest fact, I have not opened myself or my heart, I have not allowed myself to get even remotely close to having a vision or using the God-given gifts to help anyone. I have turned myself 3/4 away from God. I didn't shut the door or turn my back completely, but I have been damn-near close.

I am slowly turning back to that door, and have been gingerly pushing it open again. Much to my mind's surprise, and my heart's content, there is little resistance from God- DUH! I find myself- my SELF- hesitating, and am recognizing that it is my own fear that holds me back, the fear of actually letting go and falling- blindly, with trust- into God again.

Tonight, for the very first time that I can EVER remember, I made the choice to deny myself Holy Communion. It's something that is sacred, and as a Catholic, the belief in my Faith makes it so. No, I don't believe that I'm a canibal eating human flesh and drinking blood, but I do believe that my soul needs to be in a more natural and healthy relationship with Christ again before I can genuinely feel the miracle of the Host. Instead, I prayed- really prayed- for the first time in 5 years, and I wept. Silent tears, so as not to draw the attention of anyone in the congregation, poured down my face, soaking my shirt, and cleansing my being. They were not only my tears, but God's tears- for Jesus wept too... the shortest verse in the bible, "Jesus wept." He cried for the pain I put upon myself by isolating myself. He cried for joy that I was finally coming home, that I was finally trusting him again, realizing that he is my friend, my brother, my guide, the one and only.

Today, as everyone else sang and worshiped and shared Holy Communion, Jesus and I wept together, and the Holy Spirit took my hand, and together we are starting a journey back to the path I am meant to be on.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Ok, Here We Go...

The much anticipated blog is here!

"Being In-Tune with Your World"

So- I've recently moved to a new apt, in an old (and allegedly haunted) building.  Since it's my first time without a roommate, I fall asleep listening to different movies- the movie of the week, Failure to Launch.  There's one part where Tripp's friends tell him that he's not in tune with the universe, that Nature's lashing out at him.  While I don't think that Nature actually lashes out at anyone, I do think that we have a harder time when we are not in tune with OUR world, our habitat. 

Having the preasure of needing to be in tune with the world is completely overwhelming and almost intimidating for me!  In all honesty, I've been terrified to go to church for the last year or so and yet yearning for it- the dissonance has been driving me nuts.  Now, while I'm not sure I'm ready to head back to God, I do feel like I'm taking baby steps closer and closer to being in tune with MY world.  My first step was living in the condo last year with Dana (and then Rick), the second step was moving into my own place, with only myself to take care of, and only myself to blame if something didn't go right.  The third step was taking the train to work- not having to drive every day was so liberating!!!  And yet, something was missing...

And then I started walking to the Link, taking that to the train, and then walking to work from the train station. (reverse that in the afternoons)  Walking to work, watching the sunrise over the water, smelling the salt on the air, listening to the sounds of Tacoma waking up.  I smile and give a silent greeting to the few homeless people I walk by on my way to the Link, and just as I approach the Spanish Steps, 1916 (Haven't found the story behind those yet) I see the water.  I love the water- I'm sure I've mentioned it before!  I listen to my Zune, I knit or read a book, and I let the city show itself to me, fold by fold, street corner by street corner, person by person. 

There is a sense of harmoneous "OM" that I'm feeling starting to come over me... part of me relishes in it, part of me is in awe, and part of me fears it like the plague, just waiting for something to blow up.  But really, it's ok to trust in all that is good... right?  RIGHT! 

Now, I'm not writing music or drawing or painting just yet, that will all come back in time, I think there's still more internal work that needs to be done, but this is a HUGE step. 

So now I'd like to challenge you to take steps in the direction of being in tune with YOUR world!  You may be pretty darned close to there, or you may not be... if you need to, please feel free to talk to me- we can help each other.

I know, I know, it's kind of touchy-feely, but whatever.  You all love me and you know it, otherwise you wouldn't be reading my blog.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Where Do You Find Peace?

For me, it is the water.
(more to come, soon!!!)
Somehow I've lost a piece of me, and I long to go back to the water; Lake Crescent, with the Confirmande and the Prayer Chapel that overlooks the lake. No technology, no phones, no other people, just a space to listen to silence, listen to my soul, and pray. Earlier today I'd described it as a Q & A with God...

Once again, more to come soon...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Cross - 02/11/2008

You are here to console, not so much to be consoled.

(when the Little Monk was drowning in a sea of melancholy)

Life: What a Day.

Above is a link to a blog I wrote last week, and what a blog it was... the Little Monk inspiration today makes me think of the events of that day; it also makes me recall the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi. It seems like, over time, I am called to be there for others. And it's not that there's nobody there for me when I need it, but usually- when it gets to a point where I need someone- whatever is going on in my life is too intense for anyone to process... My priest calls me a modern mystic, in a sense, being able to feel the Spirit, to channel people's needs the way that I do, to be able to identify with their emotions the way that I do.

At first it scared me. What does it mean, to be a "modern mystic"? To be able to see visions, to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit, to know when a person's soul is crying out before they even know that their soul is crying out... who am I to be so special, so "special" that God feels I need to be a part of this??? I have a lot of books that I've been reading, but they're intimidating, all these men and women who had these awesome and amazing experiences... sometimes it seems like too much, but lately I've felt that I have the strength to open myself up to help God.

I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

...from the apprentice years of the Little Monk... 03/22/07

I. You are always on call

(when the little monk didn’t want to be inconvenienced)

Such a simple phrase, so much meaning! While most of society hasn't taken the vows of the Little Monk, and have not voluntarily said they would always be on call, I think that it still applies- we are always on call, there's always someone who will see your actions or hear your words, always someone who's life you will impact whether or not that was your intention, just as there is someone who will do or say something without even thinking about the repercussions it might have in your life.

Everyone that I do and don’t meet has an impact on my life, who I am, where I’ve come from, and where I’m going. They might not know that their very presence- or lack of- helps to shape my being.

Who has shaped you? Who have you shaped?

II. Better to pray for others than to judge them

(When the little monk’s nerves were being tested)

As important as it is to understand what you're doing, I think it's also important to understand the why and the how of it, and be genuine in these answers. The college experience comes to mind, for me. I went to a private, religious school, and there were numerous faith-based groups on campus, some of them very vocal and boisterous about preaching their beliefs to the student body, at any expense. This caused a lot of controversy on campus, especially when one of the groups began to pray for the souls of students outside of their dorm rooms because they "lived in sin".

Let's take a look-

WHAT: praying (publicly forcing others to be exposed to their beliefs)
WHY: because it went against what their religion preached (the students felt it was their job to judge the "sinner's" soul and save it)
HOW: passively protesting (and alienating the students who did not choose a lifestyle that fit their "rules")

These students felt they were being good Christians, showing everyone that they were strong and secure in their beliefs, hoping to bring more people to their belief system.

To someone questioning their faith, their beliefs, how did these "prayerful students" witness to the community? They alienated those who were different, they passed judgment without understanding, and they flat-out hurt a lot of people. As an outsider, why would you want to be involved with that kind of community? They let their need to make a statement tarnish their intent. As it is, they created more of a rift between the communities, students felt the need to either keep their “self” a secret or to come back strong and choose sides, resulting in very hurtful and hateful events.

People, protestors, pastors- they all say “love the sinner, hate the sin.”

I say “love the sinner, accept the sin” because it’s not our place to judge. Hate is a strong word, and if the “sin” is just as much a part of the person as their left arm, how can you separate that?

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Prayer - 03/21/2007

When you go to the ends of the earth, you will find traces of God; if you go to the depths of your soul, you will find God Himself. (When the little monk dreamt of finding God)

I wrote a poem for a Spanish Speak-Off in high school (actually took first place with it):

Busco por mi alma,pero mi alma no buscaría.
Busco por mi Dios,pero mi Dios me eludío.
Busco por un amigo,y entonces descubré todos a tres.

I looked for my soul, but my soul I could not see.
I looked for my God, but my God eluded me. I
looked for a friend, and then I found all three.

It's amazing how inter-connected these things are - Soul, God, a Friend in your Self - and I think that today's blog can directly intertwine with yesterday's topic. How often have you really, truely looked into the very depths of your soul? It can take as little as 5 minutes of calm, where you hear nothing but your heart beating; tune everything else out, and just see WHO you are....
I haven't done this for quite some time- it means listening to the silence, and for me that's still a place I'm not ready to go alone. Once again, afraid of the weakness, I have pushed away my "self", and I have pushed away my God. Not to say that they are synonymous, by any means! I just mean that they go hand in hand, for me. Even when I have doubted the existence of a God, even when I have felt that life is one big cosmic joke, there has always been a bit of faith that remains lit, deep inside. That faith helps bring me back and allows me to see that I am not alone, for in the depths of my soul, I find God was there the whole time.

Find a place at the "ends of the earth" where you can go to search. I turn to the water- a bath, a pool, a creek, a river, a lake, the ocean- there's something about the water that calms my soul and helps me listen to the silence, helps me to find God Himself- or Herself, depending on the day.

Where is your "end of the earth"?

Silence - 03/20/2007

Rather than trying to keep quiet, listen. (when the little monk had something interesting to say)

In my building here at work, we have speakers in the rafters that put out "white noise" to help us focus... and I have my radio on, and my fan at my desk, and am usually tapping my foot or clicking my pen or making some other sort of noise- swearing that it helps me focus on what the client is saying.

I've come to find there is a fine line between the balance of noise-to-focus and actually spinning out of control.

What's so scary about silence?

For me, I've found, at times, that being alone in my head can be terrifying, although usually it's not so bad. It's a place to find healing, to work through the day's events, and to prepare for what might be lying ahead. It's most often where I hear my faith ring true. So why am I so afraid? Silence scares me because it makes me feel weak. There's a verse somewhere in the bible that I've heard TOO many times- in our weakness He finds strength, or something like that. That's a hard concept to grasp, blind faith, especially if you're questioning your faith, your beliefs, and your support system that you always thought was there doesn't feel as strong as it used to be...

These are the times when it's most healing to listen to the silence.

The image comes to mind of a jar full of odd and randomly shaped rocks. At first you can see spaces in the jar, and so you add more rocks, smaller rocks, even sand. The jar's going to be heavier when it's filled like that, it's going to be harder to carry, and it will wear you out fast.

Sometimes that space is ok.

Silence is not easy to listen to, and sometimes it can be more difficult to listen to what we hear in the silence, but I challenge you to try it.

The Cross - 03/19/2007

When you weep for others, are you certain you're not weeping for yourself? (on a day of anxiety)

My grandmother is dying. She is in her early 80's, has severe depression, and is now the sweetest, simplest, shadow of the Italian Spit-fire she once was. These last two years have been quite a tale, but I wouldn't trade them for the world. Her most recent stay in the hospital has been the most dramatic so far.

Her liver count is off, her kidneys are shutting down, and she has a huge blood clot in her thigh. It started last Thursday, and after being in the emergency room for 7 hours they said the beds were full and they sent her home. The next day her doctor called and said to get her in asap, that she should have been admitted no matter what. So... back to the hospital she went.

At some point in time, all of us cried. Raffaela Lina (Donzeli) Mitchell is my mom's mom, she's been my dad's mother in-law for 30-some years, and she's been "Nonna" to my brothers and myself all our lives... but I don't think that any of us cried for the loss of what could have been if she was healthy... we've been watching her die a little more every day. This time around, I think we've cried for ourselves. Perhaps Dad hasn't cried yet, but you can see it in his eyes. His mother was killed in a car accident last January, and Lina's the last link to that era for us. My mom had her breakdown over the weekend, just before we brought Nonna back home. I don't know that I have cried for me just yet, but I know I will.

I've been able to identify that my guilt comes from what I've been looking forward to doing after she passes away. For the last two years I have not been able to work overtime, I have not been able to go swing dancing on a regular basis, and I have been living back home with my parents to help them. Will I be able to rejoyce in participating in the things I love, working and earning a few extra bucks, and look forward to a place of my own? I didn't think so, at first. But then I remembered... Lina Mitchell was the very image of an Italian beauty, a lively and vital woman who sang and danced and survived her way through WWII and Nazi occupation, raised 5 wonderful children after her husband left them on a farm in Joyce WA, became an "American-a Citizen" after being a contributing member of society for 40-some years. Up until last August, she still let me lead her around the kitchen, tried to Charleston when I played my swing tunes, and knew every word to Torna Surriento, O Sole Mio, and every song Dean Martin ever sang. These are the things I'm going to remember, and I am going to celebrate in her life. The tears you will soon see- that might spontaneously trickle down my cheek- are tears of joy more than anything else.

When you cry with someone, are you crying for them, or are you crying for yourself? Either way, it's ok to cry.

The Little Monk

Ok- So, a few of these blogs that I will be posting are old, I'm re-posting them from my VIRB blog because I think they need to be shared... The insipiration comes from the book "The Little Monk", and this is a copy-paste of the first blog.

I really feel like I can identify with the author on this one- the love of her life left her for the church... This is a collection of her aphorisms that I plan on using to inspire musings to share with you all and help me process and cope with the curve balls that life's throwing lately. Please, feel free to comment and contribute!

Love and prayers