Hospitality and Shame: why we must open our homes and our hearts

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Since becoming a mother, I have struggled with hospitality.  This seems counter to the way things should go.  To be maternal is to be nurturing and hospitable, right?

I come from a long line of people who turn the house upside down in a massive clean up effort before leaving for vacation.  A family gathering requires days of dusting, vacuuming, mopping, scrubbing, scouring, sorting, organizing, putting away, and arranging.  And that’s just for the interior of the house.  The lawn must be mowed, the garden weeded, the front porch swept, everything pruned and pristine.  This is my background.  But this isn’t me.  Somehow this compulsive clean gene was not transferred to me.

Perhaps I should rephrase that.  The desire to be clean and neat is there.  The frustration and anxiety that comes from a messy and disorganized house is there.  I just don’t seem to have the ability to care for my children, work, feed the family, maintain a certain minimal level of basic self-care and hygiene, and have a home that is spotless.

Consequently, my default is I can’t have people over.  People should never seen your dirty dishes.  When a friend sets a foot on your floor, it should always be spotless.  When they walk up to the front door, there should never be a scattering of Tonka trucks, a collection of autumn leaves, and nubs of sidewalk chalk to greet them.

Basically, they should never see how you really live.  So I have to ask myself—how do you truly build friendships when you must deny the daily workings of your life?  How do you nurture intimacy when you must hide the real way you live?

On Sunday, I had friends over.  True, beautiful, wonderful friends, whom I trust and love.  We tidied a bit, and I cooked a quick and easy (but tasty) chili.  In my single days, I threw elaborate dinner parties and prided myself on my cooking.  But on Sunday, I put out wine, cheese, crackers, Cheerios, and sippy cups.  And guess what?  We had a blast.  No one seemed to notice the imperfections of my home.  No one seemed to need it to be pristine.  What we did notice—what mattered—was the laughter, the great conversations, the warmth that came from being together.

I thought about my hesitation and dread when it comes to welcoming people into my home.  I really examined it and tried to get at the root of my worry.  I discovered fear.  And then I realized that the source of that fear was shame and pride.

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When I have a clean house and cook an amazing meal, I feel pride.  Conversely, when my house is messy, and I throw together a meal, I feel shame.  My dirty floors elicit deep shame within me.  When friends enter my home and see how I manage—not slovenly, but not especially neat, either—I feel vulnerable and exposed.  But this shame gets in the way of building relationships.  It separates me from my brothers and sisters in Christ.  It leaves me alone, alienated, and disconnected.  This is not what Jesus wants for me or for any of us.

According to St. Pope John Paul II, “Shame limits our ability to see each other fully.  But Genesis 2:25 tells us that Adam and Eve were unashamed.  They were not afraid to open up to each other, to become vulnerable.  They saw and knew each other intimately, in the peace of their interior gaze.”

Vulnerability is the key.  We will never form true friendships, never develop intimacy with those around us, and never experience connection with God and our neighbors unless we open ourselves up to them.  That means being vulnerable.  It means letting them see us in our yoga pants and make up free face, with dishes in the sink and children’s blocks lining the living room floor.

Do you really want a friendship with a person who will judge you because of your floors?  Do you really believe that you can be close to someone who holds you in contempt because your baseboards have dust on them?  True friends don’t care about these things.  Real friendship isn’t built on this.  We need to set aside our shame and be vulnerable.  We need to stop fearing rejection.  The people we were meant to be with—the real friendships that will stand the test of time—will not care a bit about unfolded laundry.  I promise.

Let’s learn to overcome our shame and open our hearts to Jesus and our homes to his people.  He loves us no matter how full our sink is.  And so will they.

Memorare

It means to remember.

Today I conclude a Novena.  I dutifully prayed the Memorare for nine days.  I know what my intention was when I started.  It’s still my intention when I awaken in the morning and when I lie down to sleep at night.  But somewhere around 2 a.m., awakened by my infant’s cries, groping in the dark, I start to wonder.

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The loneliness, the utter stillness, the foggy, fearful, heart wrenching jolt from my sleep causes me to question.  Perhaps it is all wrong.  What if I’m asking for the wrong thing.  It’s happened before, and I lived to thank God for denying the very things for which I begged him.

I first truly learned and embraced the Memorare four years ago when I was expecting our first child.  Well, that’s not entirely true.  This statement always comes with an amendment, one that used to cause a sharp pain but now is more a dull acceptance.  I miscarried our first child.  Twenty-three days later, I found out we were expecting our daughter.  It was stunning and miraculous and terrifying and joyful all at once.  Almost too much for me to take in.  I spent the first months of my pregnancy just trying to comprehend it all.

At the time I was teaching and the job necessitated an hour-long commute across the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, a 24 mile long bridge, and then a fight with rush hour traffic into the city.  I left the house in darkness, scraped ice off the windshield of the car, and was exhausted before I even arrived to work.  The day stretched before me as one endless trek I had to push my way through.  My classroom was on the second floor, and I climbed those stairs too many times to count.  Everything was downstairs except our classroom—the office, cafeteria, gym, music room, library, bathrooms, all essentials.  Once I actually tried to keep track and when I had reached 10 times up and down the stairs before 8:00 am, I decided to keeping track.

The Memorare was almost foreign-sounding to me, exotic, almost medieval.  Though a cradle Catholic, I had not been exposed to it before.  But in the midst of this constant, laborious, exhausting climb towards the end of my pregnancy and the end of those long hours teaching and commuting, I turned to the Catholic radio station.  Every day as my car’s wheels met solid ground and I emerged off the bridge, the station would broadcast the Memorare.  And just about at the same time, the sun’s rays swept across the lake, glinting bright against the waves, and broke across the high rise I steered onto.  The whole vista of the city lay before me, the breaking dawn enveloping us, and the ancient words to Mary spoke to my soul.

So every day when I heard the Memorare I would place my hand on my growing abdomen and beg—please, heart, keep beating.  Please, my sweet baby, live.  Stay alive.  Grow and thrive and be born and be placed in my arms and live long, long after I am gone.

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She was born.  And she lived.  And I did, too.  But it wasn’t easy.

Severe preeclampsia, a placental abruption, and an emergency C-section.  We survived.  For a moment, it wasn’t guaranteed.

I am six months out from having my son.  Our second baby.  Polyhydramnios, preeclampsia, and my darling boy born not breathing and unresponsive.  He is fine now.  I am fine now.  Well, almost.  My blood pressure has not returned to normal.

I know this should mean no more babies.  I know that two difficult, complicated, dangerous pregnancies should mean that I have no interest whatsoever in going through it again.  Intellectually I understand.  Too risky.  I have two beautiful children.  Count my blessings.

But oh how I long for a third.  At least one more.  Honestly, I long for more babies with all my heart.  But I would take just one more.  Every day I struggle to make peace, to accept that this must be God’s way of telling me that our family is complete.  And every day my heart hurts.

My intention was for my blood pressure to normalize and for us to be able to have one more baby.  For me to be healthy and the baby to be healthy.  For us both to live.

Was this right of me?  Is it a good intention when I already have two healthy, beautiful children lying in their beds just down the hall from me and other women, suffering from infertility, are desperate to have just one?  Should my intention have instead been for God to help me make peace, for me to accept what must be His will?

I don’t know.  But I’ll keep praying.  To remember.  To remember what I went through, what my children went through, what my husband suffered with worry.  But also to remember God’s mercy and love.

My Sunday Best Fourth Edition

Today I wore my new skirt from E-Shakti.  They described its color as “hydrangea.”  Isn’t that dreamy?  [Sidenote: We still have hydrangea blooming on the side of the house.  This is the latest they have ever gone.]  My shirt was from Amazon.com, brand Polo Association.  This was the first time I wore this outfit.  I spent the whole time imagining I was in a period piece, possibly Grantchester or Call the Midwife.  If I had unlimited funds, my entire wardrobe would look like something out the 1950s or early 1960s.  I’m particularly fond of the first season of The Dick Van Dyke Show; how lucky was Mary Tyler Moore?!

E was gleefully pointing at the moon, which was still faintly present in the sky.  The moon is one of her top 20 favorite things.  She’s mildly obsessed.

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Today everything clicked.  E behaved just as she always does.  In fact, I forgot to bring her sippy cup to church, so my husband headed home to get it as E compulsively mumbled “Wawa Wawa Wawa.”  Good thing we only live 5 minutes away and are always early.  Something like that used to feel like a setback, but now I roll with it.  It’s amazing how a change of attitude alters your perception and sets up your whole day for success (for the most part).  Despite juggling and wrestling with and chasing E and spending a good portion of the time in the narthex, I felt at peace.  I keep coming back to the word ENOUGH.  I felt full of God, satiated.  He was enough, I was enough, the simple pleasures, challenges, and work of this day that He gave to me were enough.

Today’s gospel was a beautiful one, and the deacon gave a remarkable homily.  I actually got to listen to it because it was my husband’s turn in our rotation/dance with the toddler, and he was in the narthex at the time.

The deacon said that to delay God’s call was the same as denying it.  We are all called to say YES to God, just as Mary did.  FIAT.  She gave him all of herself.  There is nothing on earth that matters more than God.  We are called to follow Him first and foremost, even if it means turning our back on the conventions of this world.  He comes before job, finances, personal preference, comfort, even family.  If we embrace this kind of existence, it will completely transform our lives, and force us to reprioritize all aspects of ourselves.  We have free will.  God gives us a choice.  In choosing Him, we always gain freedom, though it might not be the world’s idea of freedom.

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I listened and felt even more peace.  Why put off what God is calling us to do?  Why delay what we know is best and deny our love?  My husband and I have longed for another child, and we have decided that despite what the world might deem practical, in direct opposition to a culture that values granite countertops and luxury SUVs more than sticky little fingers and carseats, we will be open to life.  Had we waited for the “right” time—when our careers were perfect, when our bank account was perfect, when our home was perfect—we would not have had our sweet baby girl E.  She is the joy of our lives, and produced a perfect love that cast out all fear.  There is no perfect time.  But God’s love for us is perfect.  So we unite our will with His and wait to see all the joy that He will bring us.

Linking up with Rosie at A Blog for My Mom!  Go check out everyone’s Sunday best.

Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real in Early Summer

[Pretty]

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Our summer roses are in bloom.  We are enjoying this rose bush that was planted decades ago, was here when we moved in, and has required nothing from us but a good pruning twice a year.  It smells divine, as a rose should, not like roses you buy at a store, and reminds me of the old man who lived across the street when I was a little girl.  He would give me beautiful roses that smelled like heaven.  I’m sure St. Therese would agree!

[Happy]

Enjoying mojitos made from fresh mint in our garden while watching baby girl splash in her pool on a quiet summer afternoon.  Having the woods back up to our yard makes life grand.  Bird songs, frogs, and crickets.  Yes, please!

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We are also enjoying fresh produce from my father’s garden that makes the tastebuds sing.  How wonderful to have delicious tasting tomatoes and cucumbers as opposed to the sterile offerings of the grocery store.  I made this summer corn salad from Taste of Home, a favorite!

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[Funny]

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Baby Girl’s laughter as Daddy squirted her with the hose!  E has discovered the water, and she loves it!  Wawa, wawa, wawa.  I hear it all day long!  I ask her if she is a baby; she answers with an emphatic “NO!”  “Well, are you a little girl?”  “No, no, no.”  So then I take another route, “Are you a big girl?”  She looks at me like I am crazy: “No.”  “Well, what are you then?”  MONKEY SOUNDS.  Yes, Baby Girl is a monkey.

[Real]

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The seeds I believed would never come up have sprouted.  In fact, they were coming up a day and a half after they were planted!  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  I’m taking this as a sign from God and a metaphor for life.  My husband and I have planted seeds, are trusting in God, and something will come from it all.  God has a plan for us if we trust in Him and have hope.  He will provide.

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What We are Reading 6/14/16

Books are a big deal in this house!  I’m pretty sure I was born with a book in my hand.  I was the kid who stayed up late into the night reading with a flashlight under my blanket.  When we would go shopping or run errands, I had to take at least two books with me.  Books have always been my constant companions, comfort, and joy.  I cannot fall asleep without reading at least a few pages of a book; most nights these days I count chapters and not pages.

My baby girl has brought many surprises into my life.  She is not a carbon copy of me, nor would I want her to be (believe me—I have my issues, and I would not want to pass them on!)  She is a very shy child; I was outgoing.  She is into things like swimming and cats and eating stuff off the floor, none of which I’m took keen about.  But I am so thankful, thrilled, yes, ecstatic even, that we share a love of books.  We probably read about 30 stories a day.  Not kidding.  I am very grateful for this shared experience, our time together, interacting with her over a story, and, best of all, the fact that she is actually still and sitting during this time (doesn’t happen frequently!).

As a former elementary school librarian and teacher, I have MANY, MANY books.  Shelves full.  So E has benefited from a vast selection.  The two I am highlighting this week have been in the rotation since she first came home from the hospital and will probably be read for many years to come.

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault

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This was the first book in which E showed an interest.  At 10 months old, she crawled over to me with it in her hand and wanted me to read it.  At that point, I knew that all the wrestling and reading while carrying her and pacing had been worth it.  She was hooked.  I credit her knowing her letters and their sounds at the age of 19 months with her obsession for this book.  [She doesn’t talk much, but the girl knows her ABCs.]  She loves the rhythmic nature, the bright colors, and associating the letters and their sounds with the names of people in her family.  I am convinced that when I am 93 years old and battling dementia in a nursing home, I will be giving recitations of this book to my caregivers.  Because it is now embedded in my psyche.

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Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown

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At one point, my husband actually groaned, “Not Big Read Barn again!”  There is something about this book that entrances her.  She loves pointing out the animals and making their sounds.  She has the Fisher Price barn with animals and enjoys playing with it after reading the story, acting it out in her own way.  She will “read” this book on her own now, flipping through the pages, pointing to different things, and making obscure noises that mean very specific and important things (to her).

And what about Mama?  What’s on my nightstand?

God Will Provide by Patricia Treece

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I just finished this.  It was a good read and highlighted modern saints with whom I am not that familiar.  It inspired me to go further and look into their lives more.  Treece also reminded me that I need to trust more and surrender to His will.  Looking to the saints as a model is always the answer.  There are so many of them, with so many different personalities, that you are bound to find someone whose spiritual journey and struggle resonates with your own.

 

Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton

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Umm. . .so, wow!  Heavy bedtime reading, but so worth it!  Obviously Chesterton’s message is hugely significant, but his use of language while making his argument is amazing.  Why can’t I be British and speak with wit and eloquence?  So many quotes I want to underline, but alas, this is a library book.  Some of the highlights so far:

There is a notion adrift everywhere that imagination, especially mystical imagination, is dangerous to man’s mental balance. . .Imagination does not breed insanity.  Exactly what does breed insanity is reason.  Poets do not go mad; but chess-players do.  Mathematicians go mad, and cashiers; but creative artists very seldom. . .Poetry [is] not the disease, but the medicine. . .Everywhere we see that men do not go mad by dreaming. . .Poetry is sane because it floats easily in an infinite sea; reason seeks to cross the infinite sea, and so make it finite.  To accept everything is an exercise, to understand everything a strain. . .The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head.  And it is his head that splits.

And a wonderful quote conveying why the mystery of our faith is so important, sacred, and crucial to our lives, why I am thankful I am a cradle Catholic and why I am raising my daughter in the Church:

Mysticism keeps man sane.  As long as you have mystery you have health; when you destroy mystery you create morbidity.  The ordinary man has always been sane because the ordinary man has always been a mystic.  He has permitted the twilight.  He has always had one foot in earth and the other in fairyland. . .If he saw two truths that seemed to contradict each other, he would take the two truths and the contradiction along with them. . .Thus he has always believed that there is such a thing as fate, but such a thing as free will also. . .He admired youth because it was young and age because it was not.  It is exactly this balance of apparent contradictions that has been the whole buoyancy of the healthy man. . .The morbid logician seeks to make everything lucid, and succeeds in making everything mysterious.  The mystic allows one thing to be mysterious, and everything else becomes lucid.

More of this, please!  Looking forward to savoring this work.

 

 

My Sunday Best:Love and Mess and Angels

So this picture is rather apropos considering our current state of affairs—which is a mess!

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Blurry, me stooped, E not looking, photobombed by a broom, my bow untied after wrestling with a toddler through a bunch of even worse photo outtakes.  Yeah, that’s about right.  My dress is from Forever 21; I wore it to my bridal shower a million years ago (alright, almost 4 years ago, but it feels like a million!)  E’s dress is from Stelly Belly.  It was her birthday dress from a year ago but is only now fitting properly.  [Did I mention the theme for today is MESS?]  Ha!

I spent the week consumed in prayer, in a good way.  I felt His loving arms around me every single day.  I even made it to morning Mass on Wednesday and Friday, which provided me with so much comfort.  Still praying for change, still operating with worry just under the surface, but ultimately hopeful and abiding in Him.  I was trusting and positive, and it felt so good!

But then yesterday came.  Sunday, a day of rest, a day of worship, and the one blissful, blessed day that my husband shares with us.  And I hit a wall.  Instead of prayer consuming me, I was consumed by worry.

I suppose the day could have gone either way, or possibly just ended up with me being a little grumpy, had things transpired differently at Mass.  I have become accustomed to our routine of rotating back and forth in the narthex, chasing and juggling and whispering and hushing our baby girl.  But this time she didn’t even make it through the entrance hymn without crying and fussing and actually demanding to leave.  (Ordinarily we can get her to the homily or at least to the Gospel reading.)  She was an absolute mess the entire time.  As a result, I was a sweating, begging, heart racing ball of chaos myself.

I am used to my almost 2 year old behaving like an almost 2 year old.  But yesterday was enough to leave me in tears.  At Communion, E actually tried to grab the hand of the Eucharistic minister and pull out the host.  She wanted to have one just like mama and yelled her own name.  Sigh.  E spent the entire time she wasn’t confined to the narthex trying to run up the aisle to the side altar.  She is in love with the two beautiful, enormous angels up there and the candles surrounding them.  She wanted to see them and be with them all Mass.  At the end of Mass, after comforting her following a trip and face plant on the marble floor, we brought her up to see the angels.  We approached the altar very respectfully, and she said hello to the angels, never touching them, just happily beaming in their beauty.

 

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These angel photos aren’t the ones our our altar, but they are reminiscent of them.  The ones on our altar are so beautiful and old.

My husband and I noticed two women staring at us in horror.  As if we were doing something terribly wrong.  One approached me and said sternly, “Those aren’t secured.”  I assured her we would never let E touch them or run around the altar.  I even introduced my husband, E, and I, but she maintained her stern, disapproving demeanor.

I know she is probably a very good person.  I see her at morning Mass.  Normally I always give people the benefit of the doubt.  After all, I’ve said and done things I regret.  But after this hard morning, and this week of strained optimism, all I wanted was some peace and welcoming in God’s house.  I could have burst into tears.  Then I remembered that E is a child of God, a member of our church parish just like everybody else there, and Jesus said let the little children come to me.  E is little and learning.  In my own way, I am still little and learning.  But we were as deserving of a place at God’s table as anyone else and perhaps more than anyone else there that morning needed to see those angels and be reminded of how they are working in our lives RIGHT NOW.

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Our dwindling bank account, my husband’s long, grueling hours, our desperation to have another child despite financial circumstances that make it impossible, our struggle just to make it through each day choosing love and hope over fear and worry.  That woman couldn’t know those things or how much we just sought sanctuary in God that morning.  I tell myself she had good intentions.  I try to maintain perspective.

Then I realize that’s the real issue—trying to maintain perspective.  In the midst of all of this chaos—our personal worries and a world in which a person can pick up a gun and end the lives of so many in so little time—it’s hard to remember that God’s mercy and love conquer fear and worry and evil.  We pay a price for free will.  Yet just as there are people who use that will for terrible, evil things or perhaps just for seemingly small, inconsequential acts that lack kindness, there are people out there whose wills are united with Christ’s and who are choosing to show love in all that they say and do every single day.  I encounter far more of the latter than the former.  I need to remember that.  And I need to remember when I start to make choices or behave in a way that turns little children away from angels.  We are ALL children of God.  I can never know what is in the hearts of those before me.  But I can always trust in kneeling on the altar and opening my heart to God’s angels.

Linking up with Rosie at A Blog for My Mom For My Sunday Best.

 

My Sunday Best and the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

Sundays are treasured days because Daddy is home and we all go to Mass together as a family.  I used to somewhat dread the chaotic nature of Mass with a toddler; I would cringe when she was loud or sigh and grumble because instead of peacefully focusing on the homily I was busy keeping her from putting down all the door stops in the narthex.  But now I cherish that time, the three of us together, savoring these crazy days of early childhood and our young family, my husband and I deep in the trenches of raising this child and setting an example for her and laughing at her antics even as we try to gently guide her.  It helps to be sitting next to good friends who are in the same boat.

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My skirt is Express, my blouse from Target, and E’s dress is from Zulily.  This is the first time I dared wear a white skirt since becoming a mother.  I guess I’m more confident in my abilities now, or I’ve just decided to throw caution to the wind and live my life!  Probably the latter!  Ha!

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She is obsessing over a mockingbird and saying “daadada” (her interpretation of birds’ songs).  Just seconds later, she bolts out of my arms and into the street after the bird, her daddy sprinting after her.  She keeps us on our toes, and scares us to death sometimes!

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Yesterday my husband had work 13 hours, so Baby Girl and I were on our own.  We packed in a very full day—read books, did puzzles, went to Walmart, the bank, Lowe’s, a local grocery store, and went for a walk—and then realized it was only 10 am!  Sigh.  So we did what works best for us.  We turned to the garden.  E, adorable little dictator that she is, does not let me accomplish tasks inside the house, and cleaning by myself with her is next to impossible.  But she loves to garden!  We could be outside for hours in the garden, and she remains content and occupied.  She was my little helper yesterday.

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I am convinced that there are few things as wonderful in the world as roses and lavender.  Having them in the garden makes me blissfully happy.  I love pulling up to our home and having them welcome me.  I love sitting on the porch and marveling at the bees hovering on their pink and purple blooms.  And I love glancing out the window and seeing these plants as a backdrop to our daily lives.

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For so long I dreamed of having hydrangea but lived in a condo without a yard.  When we bought our house 3 years ago, there were already hydrangeas all along the side of the house, as if someone knew I was coming and had planted them for me.  And blue!  Perfect!

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My little garden helper’s favorite part is watering.  Because she usually gets wet.  And getting wet is super fun.  In fact, she goes out of her way to do it, standing underneath the hanging basket and imagining she is taking a shower.

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We are probably too late in the season, but a couple months ago I had purchased seeds.  I was going to start them in the house, but then our lives were suddenly thrown in upheaval (see my last post) and I didn’t get to them.  So I just threw them in some pots, and we will see what happens.  It was more an experiment and something to do with E than anything else.

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Later that evening to celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Heart I baked a heart shaped  blueberry cake.  I spread Cool Whip all over it, made flowers out of blueberries and mint, and inserted a cinnamon stick sword in it and called it a day.  Perhaps next year there will be flames coming out.  We will see.

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Not too bad for an impromptu bake.

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Linking up with Rosie at A Blog for My Mom for the My Sunday Best series!

 

 

 

Casting Out Fear

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I picked up the pregnancy test from the store almost as an afterthought.  It was impossible.  I had had a miscarriage less than a month before.  Yet I felt so different, so strange, and oddly enough, so like I had felt when I had first discovered we were expecting the baby we had now lost.  I assumed the strange compulsion to purchase the test came from some misguided notion born of my raw, wounded soul.  Perhaps my hormones were still fluctuating, causing me to misinterpret things, prompting symptoms that were just traces of what had once been, ultimately signifying nothing. Just a reminder of the loss.  As I had learned weeks before, my body had betrayed me; it was probably up to some underhanded trick, inflicting still more pain.

I unloaded the groceries on that ordinary, tiresome Monday in late October, then went to the bathroom to perfunctorily perform what I knew to be a useless task.  And then, incredibly, impossibly, unbelievably—there were two lines.  The test said I was pregnant.

It was just old hormones still in my system.  Vestiges of the child longed for and lost, mocking me.  I wondered how much more pain I would have to endure.

But then I asked myself—what if this was real?  There had only been one time.  The doctor had told us not to try again until I had had a full cycle.  We had risked one time, certain it would produce nothing.  And yet. . .what if?  Could it be true?

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I recalled what I had done the last time, which was the first time.  I remembered sinking to my knees on the faded linoleum floor of the bathroom, and using the side of the bathtub almost as a kind of altar, putting my hands together in prayer.  I had looked out the large window at the green woods beyond, the sun peeking through the trees, and I had thanked God with my whole heart.  But that miracle was not meant to be.  We had lost that precious soul after a mere 7 weeks.  Quickly I did the math.  If the test I held in my hand were true, it meant that a mere 2 weeks after our miscarriage another life had been created.  2 weeks.  2 babies.  One gone, another possibly just beginning to be formed.  I couldn’t begin to wrap my mind around it.  And if it were true, wouldn’t it mean that something would go wrong again?  They were too close together.  The doctor wouldn’t be happy.  What if I lost this one, too?  What if I got my hopes up for nothing?  It was more than I could bear to think about.

I lay down in bed and reached out for my New Testament on my bedside table and turned to my marked place.  I was reading through the New Testament, working my way through, and thought I would just continue in this moment of complete shock and terror.  It would be easy to just read the next few verses, resume where I had stopped.  I was sure they would be something mundane.  Nothing of significance.  And the first line I read, the line I was meant to read, was from 1 John 4:18:

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear

The love my husband and I share, the love given to us by God, the love that came together to make this soul and to create the last one—I felt overcome by it all.  All my feelings of abandonment and loss and betrayal came before God’s boundless love for me.  I could not even begin to comprehend all that was contained within that small verse.  As the months passed, as our baby grew inside of me, I would repeat that verse to myself over and over again.  It became the anthem of my pregnancy, the basis for my whole life and the life of my husband and child.  When the terror of another miscarriage would creep in, I would repeat the verse to myself.  I leaned hard on perfect love casting out all my fear and put all my energy into loving God, my husband, and my unborn daughter with a love that refused to know fear.

 

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These days I need that verse again.  My daughter is almost 2 years old.  She is strong and healthy and kind and smart and the joy of our lives.  We were ready to give her a sister or brother.  We had opened our hearts to bringing another life into the world if God willed it.  But then my husband lost his job.  He found something new, a sales job based on commission.  He is trying so hard, working grueling hours, gone more than he is here, and doing his best.  I admire his courage.  My heart aches as I watch him give all that he has to this new endeavor.  But we are struggling.  Money isn’t coming in.  These are tough times.  We have had to set aside our dream of another baby.

Marianne Williamson says that moving from fear to love creates a miracle.  It reminds me of perfect love driving out fear.  God knows we need a miracle right now.  Every day I try so hard to trust in Him, to choose faith over fear, to let love grow in my heart instead of panic.  Some days are easier than others.  When I want to get up, I remind myself of that moment of complete unknown and utter fear, putting down the pregnancy test in the bathroom, opening up my Bible, and reading about love and fear, hearing the exact words I needed at that time.  I think of what God did for me then.  I know He is doing it again.  I hand my life over to Him and wait to see the miracles.

 

Corpus Christi

Happy Feast of Corpus Christi!

E and I were very happy to have our husband/dada at home with us all day.  He has been working very long hours, and we have been missing him.  Something as mundane and previously laborious as a trip to Walmart after Mass is now a fun family bonding experience.  We cherish the precious moments we have him to ourselves.

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I wore dress I bought from Forever 21 back when I was much closer to 21 than I am now!  E wore a precious orange seersucker dress I picked up at a rummage sale at the church where I used to work.  I love a good deal, especially on seersucker or smocking. My husband commented afterwards that he had never seen me in this dress.  For some reason, I used to think it was too short and didn’t care for it.  Now I have discovered that I enjoy wearing it and will probably break it out more this summer.(Especially when my husband actually takes the time to comment on what I’m wearing—a rarity—it means he really likes it!  Ha!)

Our priest’s homily was very good, and though I spent all of it in the narthex chasing around my 22 month old daughter, the speaker system allowed me to hear all of it and enjoy it.  I’m learning to be able to concentrate both on the homily and my child’s simultaneous hugging of holy water fonts.  I hope they would sing “One Bread, One Body,” as it was played at Communion during our wedding, but alas, it was not to be.

 

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This afternoon our dear friend and her two children walked up the street to our house and visited with us.  They are our neighbors, our friends, and our Mass buddies.  Usually we occupy the last two pews on the right side of the church, corralling our littles and making our way through Mass one stuffed animal and Cheerio container at a time.  It feels amazing to truly be part of a community, with neighbors who are also good friends and who worship with us.  It really drove home the message in our priest’s homily that we are all one body in Christ.  When we receive the Eucharist, we not only take in Jesus, we become part of Jesus, as does our neighbors and friends.  They’re fun to share a glass of wine with, too!

We ended the day with a walk through the neighborhood, listening to Baby Girl call out for kitty cats, and admiring our newly cut lawn.  The roses are blooming like crazy!  Now it’s time for some homemade peach cobbler and ice cream.  Summer is upon us!

Linking up with Rosie at A Blog for My Mom!  Check out what the rest of the Catholic mom community wore.

 

Prayer Life in Real Life

And suddenly it’s March!  Nearly mid-March!  And Lent!

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My birthday has come and gone, and I’m another year older.

Christmas day marked the arrival of respiratory illnesses and allergies that would remain with our family for 2 months.  I began the serious work of designing an exhibit for a small museum, a dream of mine fulfilled.  Simultaneously my 19 month old daughter’s back molars—yes, her final set of teeth, the ones most children don’t get until 2 or 3—began erupting.  What was once a (somewhat) balanced and ordered life became intensely out of sorts.

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It’s tough to complain.  In fact, I’m not supposed to complain.  I gave it up for Lent.  I’m in the middle of my life’s work, the greatest work of my life, my dream jobs—historian and mama—and am loving every moment.  Really.  I promise.  I actually have moments in the midst of intense work—whether that be crafting a series of captions to accompany artifacts and period photographs OR making the letter sounds and offering a bit of guidance here and there as my daughter completes her alphabet puzzle—when I literally say out loud, “This is so much fun!  I love this.  I’ve waited so long to do this.”  Life is truly amazing, and God is good.

Yet even in the midst of this great joy I have moments of great anxiety.  Life is very full right now.  So full that much of it is often in disarray.  This is natural.  I work, I mother, and I struggle, as do we all.  The house looks like a 19 month old baby and a dog and two non-Type A people reside here.  Who isn’t tired these days?  Who doesn’t have a never-ending to do list?  I think of the projects I want to do and don’t get to.  I aim too high.  I get ambitious and then disappointed.

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I have to remind myself that I am living my life right here.  Now.  I must pause—I have to pause—for prayer.  If not, I am no good for anyone and certainly not myself.  Prayer must be part of every day for me, scattered throughout the hours, as natural as brushing teeth or cooking dinner.

Have you ever been so exhausted you can’t seem to muster up the strength to cook dinner?

Sigh.  So I need a routine.  And nothing ambitious.  Something simple, readily available, and easy to implement.  I see all kinds of wonderful Lenten studies and groups out there.  But I know in my heart in this season what is best for me.

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The Magnificat Lenten app on my phone.  My phone is always with me.  I can sneak a glance at it while playing blocks or pushing the stroller on our walk.  For a few moments when we pull into a parking space and she is restrained and content, I can scroll through the readings.

Morning prayers.  Mass Reflection.  Evening Prayers.  Night prayers.  My soul craves these things, longs for this order, the regular reminder of God’s presence in my life.

The liturgy of the hours makes order out of chaos and shines light in the darkness of fatigue and angst.  These prayers slow down the rush and bring me back to what really matters.  This universe was created by God, and as mad and paradoxical as the universe may seem, His wisdom and order binds it all together.  Why not bring some of that to my own small, humble, personal universe?

Psalm 25

Lord, make me know your ways.

Lord, teach me your paths.

Make me walk in your truth, and teach me:

For you are God my savior.

 

In you I hope all day long

Because of your goodness, O Lord.

 

The Lord is good and upright.

He shows the path to those who stray

he guides the humble in the right path;

he teaches his way to the poor.