Category Archives: Catholic

Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return — 40 days of gratitude, a renewed lenten promise

Today marks the beginning of the Lenten season in the Christian faith. A common tradition for this time of fasting is to give up one (or many) of your vices as a reminder of your humility and devotion to God.

Fact: I was born and raised Catholic. I was baptized in the Catholic faith, I received First Holy Communion and was EVEN confirmed in the Catholic church. I have given up everything from chocolate and candy bars to Facebook for Lent, and yet somehow I know next to nothing about the significance behind this important Catholic tradition. What I was doing during my 16 years of Sunday School is beyond me… I was mildly interested, and that’s a generous statement. But in the latter part of my life, I can say in all honesty that I have have struggled to claim this part of my identity that I was brought up with.

So today, as the priest on our campus offered the traditional blessing, the marking of palm ashes in the shape of a small cross on one’s forehead, I hesitated. I felt a mix of Catholic guilt and my new agey beliefs overwhelming my decision making processes. Was it possible to reconcile my Catholic identity with my spirituality? Part of me feels that I can have a relationship with God without having to smear a big black cross on my forehead as a symbol of my devotion. Yet another part of me felt particularly uncomfortable not receiving the ashes.

I waited until the very last minute and dashed forward to say that I would like to have mine. All the while I was making excuses to myself and those around me as to why I hadn’t come forth earlier. The priest marked my forehead and I mumbled an unconvincing “Amen,” not sure if I was supposed to even say that or not. And then I stood there in the middle of the school cafeteria with my big-black-smudged up forehead, feeling a mix of humility and shame. I felt humbled by my ego and ashamed that I had no clue as to why receiving ashes was even a tradition.

So, like any unknowing fool, I promptly wikipedia’d the significance of the Ash Wednesday.

#ashtag

My search quickly unveiled most of the uncertainties I had about the significance of Ash Wednesday and left me with this tidbit that my new age spirituality could really vibe with:

Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.

It struck me in a very non-denominational way, and cut straight to the point.

To me this read: you, human being, are made of the universe — hydrogen, helium and other trace elements. You were created in this form to live a human experience, and when you die, your body will return to where it came from.

I found this elegantly simple and in line with the natural cycles we experience all the time. It is as if to say that the daily rising and setting of the sun or the 28 day moon cycle or the turning of the seasons is as much an innate part of our experience as our life cycle–ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

As I began to reflect on the cyclical nature of life, I found myself contemplating the renewal of a cycle I began last year during Lent. Last year I made a commitment to my writing and to an attitude of gratitude, and I wrote for 40 days, each day outlining what I was most grateful for during that day. It was one of the most rewarding challenges I ever set for myself, and it genuinely changed the way I perceived my daily level of happiness. Not every day was perfect, but I was so focused on what I was going to be grateful for that day, that I learned how to transform my hardships into lessons, my lessons into gratitude, and my gratitude into happiness. Things such as loneliness and heartbreak became positives, and I learned of my capacity to turn the smallest moments of my day into powerfully meaningful blessings.

There have been scientific studies demonstrating the power that gratitude can have on a person’s happiness, and I truly believe that it is not happy people who are thankful, but thankful people who are happy.

And so, I recommit myself to this cycle. Another Lenten season, another 40 days of gratitude.

Today I am grateful for my kickboxing class. Not only do I leave feeling the benefits of a good workout, but I am also able to interact on a social level with members of my community. It is a time of day where I can focus all of my attention into the present moment, to dance around a punching bag, to inhale and exhale, and to focus on my form. I get to be serious and to laugh at the same time and to allow all of my external worries melt away.

I am grateful for this channel of expression that allows me to tune into the present moment. Instead of being an escape, it is an hour and a half of complete awareness. Thus, I would like to offer up my gratitude today to the confidence, power and energy that I receive from this class, and to the people with whom I share those sacred 90 minutes.

#attitudeofgratitude

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Attitude of Gratitude–Day 31: A New Take on the Last Supper

Maundy Thursday (the celebration of the Last Supper, which took place on the eve of Good Friday) is a little less than two weeks away, but tonight I partook in a “last supper” of sorts. Tomorrow, I begin a 5 day juice cleanse, in which I will drink all of my nutrients in order to purify and reboot my digestive system. Combining the, “you are what you eat” philosophy with some Eucharistic theology of Christ’s Last Supper, the aim of my juice fast is to forgive,  purify and raise myself up in humbled grace.

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According to Saint Thomas Aquinas, the last supper symbolizes. among many things, Christ’s humility; refusing to prove himself the Son of God, he humbly chose self-sacrifice over exhibiting external, miraculous powers. At supper, he broke bread with his disciples whom he acknowledged as his friends. The breaking of bread being the symbolic foreshadowing of Christ’s broken body, and the wine, the blood he shed to forgive the sins of humanity.

And though Christ may have expunged our sins upon his crucifixion, we continue to sin nonetheless. It is my belief that one of society’s greatest sins is our utter lack of appreciation for our vessel–the human body. In the United Sates in particular, where nearly 1/3 of children and adolescents are considered overweight or obese, large agricultural and pharmaceutical  industries are doing their best to make us sick.  Our diets are now scientifically linked to the sharp increase of  obesity related diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and cancer.  We are encouraged/ duped to mindlessly consume processed sugars, foods pumped full of chemicals and preservatives, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and growth hormones; as a result, our generation is the first expected to live shorter lives than those of our parents! I find it outrageous, gluttonous and sinful that we actively disregard our privilege and participate in our own systemic demise.

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Thus, tonight, after my “last supper,” I began to think of a juice cleanse as being my way of offering some forgiveness to humanity for what we have done to our bodies as a result of our consumptive attitude. The Christ-like qualities I would like to embody–humility, self-sacrifice, friendship, love and divinity– will be the subsequent themes for my next five gratitude posts, as well as each day’s meditative intention while I fast.

Tonight, I give thanks to my belly full of  curried tofu and vegetables, roasted brussel sprouts and sweet potato wedges, and I look forward to revving up the Vita-mix, and experiencing all the challenges and rewards of purifying my body, mind and soul!

Amen, right on, shalom, salaam, namaste!

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Attitude of Gratitude–Day 27: N-om-ad

I don’t know how I made it through 26 days of gratitude without being grateful to the place I inhabit in the deep, dark enigma we call cyberspace. This blog has been one of the most surprising and delightful projects I’ve ever taken on. It has been a place for me to chronicle my travels, reflect on my life and grow as both a writer and a human being.

When I began this blog in August of 2011, I was preparing to move to France, and to live abroad for my first extended period of time as an English Assistant in a small French village. At that time, my blog was more for the people at home than it was for me. It was a way of letting my Mom and her friends know I was alive and for perhaps making some snarky comments on the differences between French and American culture.

By 2012, my blog started to become a place for me and my more academic thoughts, as I began to use it to make social commentaries on my new foreign home, Morocco. Here I found a place for me to carefully construct posts about Moroccan culture and identity. At this point, my blog developed into a space for me to hone my writing skills. Being recognized for my post, Mi-chemin; At the Intersection of Tradition and Modernity, by WordPress gave me a boost in my confidence, and ignited a passion for writing that I never knew existed. As my readership sky-rocketed I began to feel like my writing was reaching the far corners of the earth, and I knew that I was achieving what I always wanted, connecting with people far and wide, and sharing some of my learned wisdom on them.

When 2013 rolled around, I had soundly developed my social and cultural commentary, which lead to my spiritual growth spurt. In this time, my blog morphed itself into a house for my spiritual reflections. In the first three months post walking El Camino de Santiago, this blog became a crutch for me. It was the a place for me to purge all of the thoughts in my head into a word processor, and hope that said processor had caught each and every thought and transformed them into something cohesive. There were so many posts that came from the depths of my soul in that time, especially, Falling or Flying; Uniting the Yin and Yang of Life, which ultimately made its way into the Elephant Journal and solidified my quest into blogdom. This post was written as fast as my fingers could communicate with my head and my heart, and the result is something that I am incredibly proud of.

2014 started slowly, with blogs few and far between. My passion for writing remained, but my creative juices had become stagnant and I lost some perspective as I struggled to navigate a very vague transition with a very limited idea of my direction forward. At this time, my blog became a space where I could re-read and re-live. I was not creating, but I was living off of my creations. All of my thoughts, which had been so diligently saved in cyberspace, were easily a click away, and I often would revisit them in order to reap the boon of their wisdom. I also used them as a comparison from the then to the now.

My current project, Attitude of Gratitude, was taken on as my Lenten promise in order to reconnect with my Catholic faith, to get me back on track with my writing, and ultimately, to practice what I preach. These past few weeks have been unique and fulfilling,  as a result of the thanks I’ve offered daily. This blog and all of the gratitude I’ve expressed have helped me process an incredible life transition. These daily acts have increased my over all happiness and are steering me forward from this present moment into future present moments.

Thus today, I am grateful to my blog, N-om-ad, for it has provided me with a canvas to create my art, as well as a place to reflect and grow. I am also grateful to all of my readers; whether you are strangers, friends or family, thank you for taking the time to get to connect with me!  Fun fact:  N-om-ad has been read in over 110 countries and is followed by 333 (and counting) bloggers! And last, but not least, I am thankful to my ever changing life. Each day is a journey, and just as nomadic tribes navigate across deserts in search of fertile lands and watering holes for their herds, I, too, have been navigating across countries and, of course, across my soul–Can you keep up?

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Attitude of Gratitude — Day 13 : Letting Go and Letting Long Island

Today I was given a very valuable insight, which came in the form of an improvised mantra–Let go, and let Long Island.

For a little bit of context, my recent move to Long Island is probably the biggest culture shock of my life. I’ve traveled to, and lived in places that many people can hardly pin point on a map, let alone pronounce. Ouagadougou anyone? However, the contrast of my lifestyle and where I am now living  has never felt more stark and pronounced as I feel it here. Pretty much everything from the accent to the driving etiquette is a foreign to me.

I can honestly say that I am SO grateful for my new job and all of the opportunities for self-growth that it is affording me. However, I have felt myself resisting this culture shock deep down in my DNA. Upon analyzing it, I see that the resistance is coming  from my ego.

What do I mean? I mean that my whole story, everything that I identify as me, contradicts the Long Island stereotype. I wear my travels like badges of honor and boast my Vermont roots proudly.  Seriously,  I’ve been drinking my water from mason jars since before it was hipster, and today I wore my clogs because they are comfortable AND I think they’re cute.

Something about being here has brought out the crunchiest granola parts of me, as if my identity feels the need to hyper exert itself as a defense mechanism against the drunk Rangers fans on the train, the inconsiderate drivers and the mile long strip malls filled with Starbucks and nail salons.

So this evening, when I wound up with my colleague, Caitlin, at a Miller’s Ale House chain restaurant in an Outlet Mall, I could feel myself about to go all judgmental on the place. Intuitively sensing this within me, she said, “Let go, and let…. Long Island.”

???

I laughed, partly because it was really funny, but mostly because the mere thought made me incredibly nervous. To be honest, though, I was instantly humbled by the advice. So much of me has been actively trying to make myself feel at home in my new apartment and with my new staff, but I hadn’t quite accepted the fact that Long Island (in all its glory) is going to be my home for the next few years. I kind of just assumed I’d delve head first into my job, make friends with my staff and escape to New York City  when I needed a healthy dose of culture and entertainment. No part of me had even considered giving Long Island a chance…OK, well maybe some vineyards on the North Fork or a swanky day in the Hamptons, but aside from that, no way.  Fortunately, as we pulled up to Miller’s my ego awareness switch flipped on and I realized that if I wanted my life here to be pleasant, I would need to nip the ego in the bud,  drop the judgement and adopt the mantra, “Let go and let Long Island.”

So today, I am grateful to Caitlin for the humbling, to my awareness for recognizing my ego and actively choosing to let go of the judgement. Furthermore, I’m grateful for the reminder that resistance to change amplifies negative energy and that it’s healthier to go with the flow.

I’ve learned this lesson a million times over, and somehow throughout every period of change in my life I have to continually be reminded to let go. Let go of your ego, let go of your story, let go of expectations, because if you can you can approach each situation from a place of higher consciousness. When we are in tune with the Self that is within all of us, there is no limit to what we can achieve.

So I am going to get down with Long Island and embrace all of its quirks. The non-judgement will be a practice, but I think I can honestly say I’m up for the challenge of going with the flow, and of course, adding some Lizzie flair to Long Island!

ImageOk, not judging starting………………………………………………now.

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Attitude of Gratitude — Day 7 : Exhaustion

I’m going to keep this one short and sweet…perhaps you can guess by the title that I’m exhausted. SO, I’m going to offer some gratitude to that!

Today, after 12 hours in the office meeting teachers, welcoming visiting staff, observing, taking notes, learning the new spread sheets and systems galore, my eyes glazed over and my brain struggled to absorb more information. The key to my success in this job is attention to detail. In the beginning, every detail is a new detail. So naturally I’m tired. However, I want to send some thoughts of gratitude for the initial growth spurt.

Starting a new job is like being an infant again–brand new to the world. Everything is new. Each experience is unique, never before experienced. I have no schedule. No wrote routine, Nothing is boring. The challenge for me is to stay alert, and to be the fresh eyes. To grow quickly into my role as a manager and mentor.

I am grateful for feeling the potential energy so deeply in my bones, and for having the keen awareness that this is a period of immense personal development. Yes, I may be tired, but it’s a good kind of tired; it;s the kind where your eyes are droopy and your brain feels incapable of absorbing anything else.

Actually, I’m quite impressed that I even managed to write this post tonight. Kudos to me. Kudos to learning. Kudos to exhaustion. Just….a Costco sized box of kudos.
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Attitude of Gratitude — Day 5: Camino Magic

Today, as I nested in my new apartment, I felt twinges of nostalgia and melancholy. While I neatly organized  7 years of photographs and items I’ve collected in my travels, I thought long and hard about each adventure and its respective boon. The grand picture that came into focus today was of the series of events in my life that have led me to where I am now. Each step and each decision has a cause and effect as well as an alternate reality of what could have been. Looking at all of my things, I recognize that they are not me, just mere symbols of my identity. However, the purpose they serve is to remind me how far I have come. 

To me, though, gathering all my things together is not just about how much I’ve done and how many “successful” moments I’ve lived. I believe, rather, that these belongings are filled with energy, and they release it into my present surroundings in order to elevate my own personal energy field. 

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As I crafted my symbolic ode to one of my life’s most significant experiences, El Camino de Santiago, I began to feel emotions of deep gratitude. El Camino changed my life because it taught me to trust the unknown and to faithfully believe in the mantra, “the Camino provides.” As a metaphor for life, El Camino showed me that it’s crucial to take your time and to open your eyes, ears and heart to the energy of the Universe. The feeling of magic, which pilgrims experience whilst walking the camino is difficult to describe. The only way I can explain it is that each day, the collective energy of past, present and even future pilgrims pulses along the trail bringing to each person a valuable lesson or gift.

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With my shrine put together and the camino on my mind, I began to radiate the magic, and the energy was felt world-wide. 

This afternoon I spoke with a dear friend of mine from the trail. He is someone whose brief sojourn into my life changed everything I knew to be true about life and love. Every discussion we’ve ever had has given me deep insight into my Self. Speaking with him today, we talked about the fact that had I not walked, I wouldn’t be in the exact place I am at this very moment–nesting into my new apartment on the eve of my new job. I explained to him how grateful I was for the series of heart-opening events that has led me here, and how, even though I’ve been feeling a little nervous about this transition, I am confident that I am capable of taking on this huge responsibility. 

As the evening came round, I received an email from a woman whom I had met at the airport departing from Santiago de Compostela. The day after I reached Santiago, I was scheduled to fly. With almost no time to process that I had completed my pilgrimage, I took off for the airport hustling to get to Barcelona. That early September morning, everything seemed like a blur. I couldn’t actually believe that after a year of preparation and 33 days on the trail, that this portion of my journey was coming to an end.

As I stood in line to grab a croissant and a juice, I crossed paths with another pilgrim. I asked her if I could eat breakfast with her. As we began to chat our hearts opened and poured out our stories to each other. Though we were complete strangers, we both desperately needed each other’s company on the brink of transition off of the trail. I told her how I had fallen in love on the camino and was flying to Barcelona, she told me about her son and how he was experiencing a rough patch in his life. Then she showed me photos of the people she walked with and told me stories of her journey. As we walked to security she asked me what seat I had on the plane. “34C,” I said. She was in seat 34D. We laughed at the serendipity, though we both knew it was the Camino’s magic. When we landed in Barcelona, the song “Home” by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros played softly over the speakers. I hummed along thinking about the times me and my best friends danced in the kitchen to this song and thought about the perfection of their lyrics. 

Upon our arrival in Barcelona, I gave her my email address and we parted ways. 

Every so often I thought about her, wondering how she was, but she had my email, I did not have hers. Today, as my phone chimed to let me know I’d received a message, I imagined it was one of the hundreds of e-newsletters I’m subscribed to. I didn’t recognize the name, and there was no subject message, but when I opened the email, this is what I read: 

Hi Lizzie,

 
You remember…on the airport of Santiago de Compostela… we both had to cry..
Today i was thinking about you, I heard the song from the airplane in Barcelona, you were in love..
How are you?
 
Kind greetings from Ineke (Holland)
 
I burst into tears feeling overwhelmed and in disbelief. Not only had I spent the entire day thinking about the camino, I had also spoken  with my friend from Barcelona for the first time in a long while, and now I was receiving this message from Ineke. It seemed to me, that the energy I was putting out into the Universe was that exact kind of Camino magic we had felt on the trail–pure love. Her message came to me in a time of self-doubt and transition as if to say, “Remember how strong you are? Remember how far you’ve come? Remember all of that trust you’ve cultivated?” Her message shouted to me to keep my heart open and to proceed slowly with alert awareness of my surroundings. If I do, it seems, the magical lessons and gifts will keep presenting themselves for me; there will be more peace, more generosity, more kindness, and above all more love. These are the real things of value I want to gather in around me, because with them, I can make my own magic straight from the divine source . 
 
Grateful to Ineke and her timely reminder of the Camino’s magic. Lots of love to you and your son, my dear! 
 
 

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Attitude of Grattitude — Day 4 : Putting Down Roots

Bearers of the astrological sun sign, Cancer, such as myself, are known to be very domestic beings. They like their house, and the comforts of their possessions gathered in closely around them. I have felt the urge for years to own a bookcase, my own queen-sized bed, and to hang pictures of my friends and family on my walls. But since I left “the nest” 7-years ago, I’ve hardly had the time to lay some roots. I’ve lived in college dormitories and a smattering of foreign counties, and have never lived close enough to home to warrant more than two 50-pound suitcases full of possessions.

Whilst living abroad, my cancer crab self hoarded little nick knacks with the hope of some day placing them neatly on an alter in my very own sacred space. I’ve collected tapestries, rugs, soap dishes, hand towels, place mats, etc… and have finally (FINALLY!) gathered all of my belongings in around me into my little shell, and have started the process of growing my roots.

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Today, for the first time ever, I have begun to weave my nest in a location that has the potential life span of 2+ years. The feeling has been mildly overwhelming, as roots are the antithesis of my nomadic lifestyle, but I am excited to embrace the transition from drifter to bed owner, and sigh knowing that from here on out (unless I join an order of monks) I will be hiring a U-haul truck to move me from one shell to the next.

But the feeling of change and rootedness are the things I am grateful for today. Not to mention my stellar family and friends who helped me transport and carry my entire life into my new apartments.

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So much gratitude! Let the nesting begin!

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Attitude of Gratitude — Day 2 : Community

Today I am grateful for community

Growing up in a small town. my family, teachers and fellow community members helped me to build a strong foundation and have positively impacted the way I move through life. They taught me that if I’m in need, to reach out for help. Conversely, they also helped me hone the skill of unconditional giving. When I sense that others are in need, I jump quickly at the opportunity to give back to the communities that have supported me through and through. From an early age it was instilled in me that a strong sense of community is paramount. I recall the words of a song we sand in elementary school vividly,

“What makes a community, is all of us together. Night or day –work or play– in any kind of weather, we’re all birds of a feather.”

From sports teams to marching bands, drama productions to community service projects, the notion of the collective was always emphasized. 

I have been so blessed to feel such a strong sense of community in the many different places I’ve lived. As my journey has unfolded before me, I have made communities of faithful supporters  and friends in Vermont, San Francisco, France, Morocco, Spain and most recently New York.

With all of the enormous transitions I’ve been making into my new career, I have felt so deeply grateful to the people in my life who have been there for me as cheerleaders and role models. Feeling so deeply embraced by all the different communities in my life, I am given the strength that propels me forward and has consequently been responsible for the enormous successes I have achieved. 

In the words of Tupac Shakur, “I am a reflection of my community.” 

When I look in the mirror I see so many things I am proud of. So many successes and achievements, so much growth and development. All of this is a result of the communities who have supported me during critical periods of life transitions.

Thank you for pushing me outside of my comfort zone, thank you for listening to me talk through my thoughts, thank you for the encouragement, thank you for the financial support, thank you for the infinite inspiration. 

Love, 

Lizzie

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40 Days Catholic: My Lenten Promise — Attitude of Gratitude

I’m Catholic.
I’m Catholic?
I grew up Catholic.

Catholicism has been a label attached to my identity since my infantile baptism. It was not a choice I made cognitively. Nor were the wrote memorization of prayers, Sunday school, or First Communion. It wasn’t until the 10th grade that I took any leadership in my Catholic identity. By this point I had been a Catholic for 15 years, and the decision to proceed with my confirmation was one of blind acceptance. No internal questions were asked; I did it because I wanted to, and because it was the next stamp in my Catholic passport.

Church in my family was a regular Sunday event growing up. It was never any fun, but I went and I followed all the rules. I stood up, I sat down, I knelt, I sang, I prayed. After church I got to eat donuts…so that was cool. If I wasn’t scraping the nail polish from my nails, I was playing interior decorator and imagining how the sacred space could house my four-poster bed, comfy plush couches, dressers, lava lamps and a closet that would make Cher from Clueless jealous.

Let’s face it, I was there because I had to be, not because I wanted to be.

As my journey with religion and spirituality progressed I drifted away from the Catholic church. I felt disenfranchised and unsupported. I equated the church with intolerance, patriachy and greed. I disassociated myself with the term Catholic. There was too much guilt attributed with my identity and I wanted to purge myself of it.

This is when I disovered Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco’s Ternderloin District. It was a place of acceptance, tolerance, and most importantly LOVE. Their weekly celebration uplifted the community through song and praise. They talked the talk, and they walked the walk. With liberation theology as their underlying tenet, they work to combat social injustices caused by poverty and social inequality.

Finally feeling connected to spirit and Self for the first time, Glide became my primary sacred space to worship in. As my journey into yoga started around the same time, the two spiritual practices began healing me of my Catholic guilt and began molding me in the spirutal being I am today.

Many years later, the concern about my catholic identity still lingered. Catholicism was my foundation. I can still recite the prayers and take comfort in the hymns, though it has been many years since I’ve stepped foot into my local parish. My journey along El Camino started with the intention of reconnecting to my Catholic identity, and in preparation I attended mass all summer long in France and Spain.

And then I walked.

I walked through all the questions and I came to recognize that my spirit is not Catholic, but that my identity is. My identity is also many other things now. As a result of my travels abroad and my daily practices I now identify as a yogi, a buddhist AND a muslim…and so much more. I see myself as part of everything and follow my own religion, the religion of my heart.

With all that being said, I can now explain my 40 day lenten promise. This practice was something that I grew up with as a Catholic, and I’ve given up everything from chocolates and candy to Facebook over the 40-day fasting period leading up to Easter Sunday.

This year, however, I have a new lenten promise. It’s not to give up anything, but rather to take up something. I racked my brain over and over and came to the conclusion that there are many things I want to do more of. In order to not overwhelm myself and to stick to my promise I’ve decided to write every day for 40 days. But not just to write about anything, I want to write on the theme of gratitude.

So, for the next 40 days I will be posting one blog a day about something that I am grateful for.

Attitude of Gratitude — Day 1: I am grateful for Glide Memorial Church for taking me in, opening my heart and allowing me to see that religion is not about intolerance and greed. Rather, it is about community, solidarity, radical inclusiveness, truth telling, hope, celebration and love. I am eternally grateful for that sacred space of worship as I consider it to be the catalyst of my higher spiritual journey. Thank you Glide, Reverend Cecil Williams, Janice Mirikitani. Rev. Karen Oliveto and all the beautiful souls who regularly accompanied me to Sunday service — Jessica Roach, Allie Thompson, Zannah Herridge Meyer and Erika Myszynski. I am grateful to your sources of inspiriation and your spirit!

lizzie

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