Rite of Election One Year Later

Sitting in the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Nashville, I watched as catechumens and candidates stood before God and the congregation to go through their Rite of Election, an affirmation of the intention to join the Church. I reflected on my Rite of Election a year ago at Christ the King. My sponsor placed her hand on my shoulder as I signed the Book of the Elect (a tangible sign of my fidelity to my intention). My heart filled to the point of bursting. My head swirled. Cliché, I know. J A feeling of light permeated every part of my being, and I thought, This is what it feels like to wholly join your life to another!

A year has passed and I can say I am still very much in love with God and his Church. His love has never wavered for me. Gazing up at the crucifix in this beautiful cathedral, I am reminded He still pursues me and longs to have a relationship with me even on the days I am grumpy, a bit sulky, and demand my own way. Contemplating his sacrifice for me, my heart aches. Pondering his time in the desert where he faced temptations, I cannot hold back my tears. He knew the pain and agony that was to come, and he had the power to change what would happen. Yet because of his love for me stayed faithful to His father’s will. This is a gift I am unworthy to receive but will accept it as His grateful child and allow it to transform me.

Nashville Trip 2015

Nashville Trip 2015

Thoughts on Ash Wednesday 2015

A year ago I sat in pretty much the same spot I am right now (my big, brown comfy chair) and pondered what I should give up for Lent. This would be my first real attempt at Lent because I wasn’t raised in a household that observed Lent or any religious traditions beyond Christmas and Easter and those were just an excuse to exchange presents and eat chocolate bunnies.

My first Lenten experience didn’t feel like I “gave up” anything. I was still going through RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) and spending lots of time in prayer deciding if I should become Catholic. This time was filled with parish mission services, soup dinners with special speakers, and the Stations of the Cross. These were all new and exciting things to be a part of. But most importantly I received a new understanding of the relationship I could have with God, if I would allow Him to truly be a part of my life. It seemed I had gained so much during this time of self-denial and penance. But what had I given up? Wasn’t I supposed to deprive myself of something? Punish myself for the wrongs that I had done? Maybe I had missed the point of Lent.

As I am about to embark on my first Lenten season as a Catholic woman, my notion of what this season means has been completely transformed. Lent is not about giving up chocolate or wine or swear words for 40 days only to return to these things on Easter Sunday. It is also not a time to punish myself for every transgression I’ve ever committed. This time is about conversion. A time to turn away from sin (the things that take me away from God) and turn back to Him. A time to go into the desert, into the wilderness, into the darkness and wait expectantly for God. To venture into the wilderness, there are aspects of my life that must change. Things I need to “give up” to hear God’s voice. After much prayer and an attempt to bargain myself into a “doable” sacrifice, I was left with the only thing that brought peace. It was total and complete. Will it be hard? Absolutely! Will I slip up? Probably. But I trust when I come to God with a contrite heart and ask for forgiveness, he will forgive me, pick me up, and set out with me once again. Will I share it on my blog? Not this year. :)

As the darkness begins to surround me, I believe that God will draw close and guide me until the light returns.
Lent2015

Thanks to MD for the beautiful photo!

Quick Change on a Street Corner

 

A little slice of life piece that I wrote is included in “The Personal Issue: Essays and Memories”  over at the the Dead Mule School of Southern Literature.  Sorry for the brevity of this blog post. Stacks and stacks and stacks of student essays are calling my name.

Happy reading!

http://www.deadmule.com/essays/quick-change-on-a-street-corner-by-a-j-tierney/

What Teaching in a Prison Taught Me

Dearest friends,

My essay, “What Teaching in a Prison Taught Me” is now available on The Wordsmith Journal website. It’s been two years since I’ve taught at the prison, but I still remember my time there as challenging and ultimately life-changing.

Enjoy!

Sorry for the blandness of the post. Teaching has consumed life once again. In a good way of course. :)

What I Can’t Throw Away

Another great writing exercise created by Steff: “What I Can’t Throw Away”

Prompt: What is the one piece of clothing (or a pair of shoes) that you know you will never wear again but you cannot bring yourself to throw it away and why. 20 minutes.

Each season I pull clothes out of my closet evaluating whether they should stay and be packed away or go in a black garbage bag headed for the Goodwill. I have long let go of the notion I will ever be a size 4 or 6 again. I am solidly a size 10-12 and I have come to embrace this reality. So I don’t hang on to clothes that are too tight. I’m too into comfort to be squeezing into jeans that I have to lay down to zip up. I’m no fashionista. I actually get most of my clothes as hand me downs from my sister so whatever was in style in 2010 is my style in 2013.

All this is to say I don’t hang on to clothes I won’t wear again. But there are a couple of things I haven’t been able to part with even though in all likelihood I’ll never wear them again. I’ve held on to all of my Irish step dancing costumes. And in all fairness to me, if the opportunity arose to do a show and tell about the skirts I could wear them and explain little details about the skirt. But my Irish dancing hard shoes are something I know that I will never wear again, but I can’t throw them away, give them away, or part with them in anyway.

My right foot is such a skeletal mess that even sliding on the shoe is a challenge. I just wanted to see if I could shuffle around a bit. Nothing too fancy, maybe just a cramp roll or some heel clicks. Not to be. I slid the shoe off and ran my hand over the broken in but still shiny leather remembering the last time I wore them during a performance at Oktoberfest. The performance where I came down wrong on a high kick and injured my foot, ankle, and knee but kept dancing on it.

So now I’m left with these scuffed, Irish hard shoes but can’t wear them. I turn them over and run my fingers over the engraved brand name of Rutherford on the sole. It looks like the name is hand-tooled into the leather. My name and phone number are written in a clear, legible print in case I ever forgot them at a performance- a holdover from the time my mom would write her name and phone number inside all of my dance shoes when I was little. I slide my hands into the shoes and clack the heels together simulating the action of my feet. I bend over and continue with a stomp and shuffle all as if my feet were dancing.

I lean back in my chair and let my mind drift back to moments dancing in competitions and pageants, hot and sweaty for hours in dance studios, auditioning for a spot in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and making the top 32, twirling around in a full nun’s habit as Sister Mary Leo, in a corset and pantaloons in the musical Oklahoma!, in a short can-can skirt, throwing my leg up as high as I could, high kick after high kick in Guys and Dolls, and my heavy straight arms nearly glued to my sides, as I executed near militaristic stomps, kicks, and jumps in unison with my Irish step dancing group.

I keep these shoes, these worn out and tired shoes, that I can no longer wear because they remind me of where I’ve been and the ground I’ve covered. The shoes represent the determination, persistence, and tenancity that I showed with every dance I had to master. When I have an “I can’t do this. It’s too hard” kind of day, I can look at my shoes and know that I can.

Irish Hard Shoes

Part Love Letter, Part Shameless Self-Promotion

Each week, I spend two to three hours with my writing buddy, Steff. This week the morning was filled with chitchat, iced coffee, gluten-free, caramel and sea salt macaroons, and a great writing exercise. No! You cannot have my writing buddy!

We met two years ago at a writing conference and let me tell you God’s hand was on this from the beginning. In short, I love this woman. She is part supportive writing buddy, part tough big sister, part loving mother, and she does it all in an impossibly classy way. I mean she has matching luggage and matching notebooks and pens and always, even at nine in the morning, looks amazing!

We have shared the loss of loved ones, phenomenal food (AWP Chicago), stories of our daughters morphing from little girls into young women, and, unfortunately for Steff, nursing me back to health with bottles of Ginger Ale in Boston (AWP). I promise I will be healthy for Seattle next year!

Yesterday, I received news that Wordsmith Journal accepted my essay on teaching in a prison for their September 2013 issue. Then a couple of hours later received word that River Lit was publishing my flash fiction piece “My Mother’s Room” on their site today. http://riverlit.clymergallery.com/

To say that I was excited would be an understatement. Writing is my life. I have bins and binders filled with writing that will never see the light of day. Although, Steff has seen most of it- the good, the bad, and downright awful. I write during Bellina’s violin lessons; I write in between the classes I teach; I write while waiting for appointments; I write on napkins, paper towels, receipts. But the lovely, beautiful, awesome thing about this all-consuming writing endeavor is I get to share my frustration over the 20th rejection and the joy of the one acceptance with my writing buddy, Steff!

“Stuck Like This Forever” finds a home…

A year ago, on Memorial Day actually, I got a “vision” for a new memoir piece. My butt didn’t move  from the chair for the next five hours while I tried furiously to keep up with the deluge of memories. The first draft was 16 pages. Through many, many, many revisions, today the final version appears on The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature site. I almost gave up on this piece, but after having my confidence boosted at the Scissortail Creative Writing Festival this year, (thank you, Ken Hada) I doubled down and started with a fresh round of submissions. Everything turned out as it should. Happy Reading! :)

http://www.deadmule.com/essays/