Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Blessing Of A Child

Yesterday was my daughter's 12th Birthday. It was also the Feast of the Annunciation. I had a kind of "double vision" throughout the day. I went through the normal events of the day. At certain moments, I could see things with "God vision". It felt stunning and overwhelming.

My daughter was conceived at a time when I was preparing for my first trial as an attorney. Trials are the high point of training to be a litigator. Trials are also exceedingly rare. Almost all cases settle well before trial. I had waited 2 years after law school to get a chance to be "first chair" at a trial. Most of my friends outside of public interest law had to wait 5 years to handle their first trial.

What I remember most about preparing for trial is looking at the clock in my office. At soon as the clock hit 7 PM, I would make myself leave my desk. It felt like a physical struggle. There were piles and piles of evidence on my desk that I felt all needed to be neatly organized and labeled for my trial notebook. No matter what felt like it was still "undone", I obeyed the clock.

"I need to have dinner with Jon tonight!" I told myself. "We're trying to have a baby!" For two weeks, I worked really hard at prepping for my first trial. But I always came home for dinner. I ate my husband's excellent stir fry and then we had fun making out as newlyweds.

I looked at my daughter in the kitchen the other day and the memory of watching the clock in my old attorney's office came back to me. I heard a quiet thought in my heart say "Good thing you put first things first!"

I felt stunned. It would have been so easy for me to have missed the conception of this child. I was in the middle of my first trial. I had worked through 3 years of law school and 2 years of firm life for that moment. Nothing in my family of origin had prepared me to put my vocation as a wife ahead of my career dreams. I couldn't even explain in words why I was drawn to having my first child at age 27. The whole thing was a mystery. The only thing I can point to is that six weeks beforehand I became a member of the Roman Catholic Church.

Good thing you put first things first!

I could have missed out on my daughter. What is a spunky, funny, beautiful, unique human soul compared to a few days of showing off my lawyer skills inside a courthouse? There is no comparison.

I don't know what other things I'm missing out on in my current daily life by trading the less than perfect "God's will" things for the more important "God's will things". I'm sure its a lot.

Good thing you put first things first.

God, I want to do more of that! Please help me better follow you this Easter Season!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Annunciation

"The Angel Gabriel was sent to the virgin Mary, who was engaged to be married to Joseph."

Gotta love those Gospel writers! What brevity! But what happened exactly? What was Mary doing right before the Angel appeared to her? What did he look like? How did she feel? How could the most important event in human history happen inside an ordinary, rather shabby, house and to a girl most likely under age 15?

The Annunciation of Our Lord! A quiet moment with endless depth.

Mary, the Mother of God, pray for us! St. Gabriel, pray for us!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Question for Lent: Have I Been A Good Friend to Myself?

My third child had her First Confession this Lent. Our two parish priest did such a beautiful job leading a community penance service that appeals to both second graders and their parents. For his homily, the priest lead us in a meditation on this painting by the artist Rembrandt.

For the Examination of Conscience, the Priest had us look deeply into 3 basic questions. Am I being a good friend to God? Am I being a good friend to others? Am I being a good friend to myself?

I was shocked at how badly I failed at being a good friend to myself. Lack of exercise. Perfectionism (a failure to be patient with myself). Lack of time to develop my talents and nourish friendships outside my family.

After that experience, I started paying more attention to self-care and my own nourishment. This morning I did a good job on quiet prayer. I ate a real breakfast. I gave myself extra time to do my hair, put on lipstick and change my earrings. After the good example of the nuns of St. Emma's, I focused on doing one small, achievable domestic task at a time. When my 3 year old and 4 year old started fighting at the breakfast table, I easily had mental space to help coach them through their disagreement. The three of us didn't just solve a one time problem. We affirmed a system of how to approach a breakdown in the social contract.

I turned back to doing the dishes in utter shock. It's so easy to be a good parent after I take time for myself. I go to CODA meetings every week. I hear a legacy of painful family memories passed down for generations. I wonder now if the pain of codependency is as simple as a generational legacy of a lack of self-care.

It is good to care for God. It is good to care for others. I also have a responsibility to take care of myself--especially in the cause of chronic illness (infant reflux) and chronic "there is always a needy toddler in my life".

I love Lent! I love coming home to Christ again and again. I love always finding an easier way to do his work with greater joy. St. Joseph, the worker, prayer for us!

(For my daughter's First Confession, my parish priest just held up a copy of this painting and helped us experience it deeply for a few minutes. I can't imagine a more beautiful way to encourage more people to experience the joy of reconciliation with God. I love priests that are so connected to Beauty. It was such a St. Bernardino of Sienna moment. (We love him dearly because he is the patron saint of graphic designers, my husband's profession).

Sunday, March 22, 2015

"Refueling in Mid Air": Learning How To Rest While Working Hard

One of the things I learned while hanging out with the Benedictine Sisters is to appreciate how hard they work. Every single task they do is with God---Singing in Church, Setting the Table, Greeting a Guest. Since I've been home, I've up my work output significantly. Even when I'm tired, even when I'm crappy. I get out of the cozy bedroom that I've been hanging out for five months with my newborn and I do the yucky grunt work that has been mostly gathering dust since I went on bed rest in September.

To my shock, I've found that once I get over the painful start of "Oh my goodness, its been another night of no sleep", I do feel better after I get some small tasks accomplished. Work is restful. More restful, than sitting still and watching TV, drinking coffee, reading the internet, or complaining about how little sleep I get with a newborn in my house.

It doesn't make any sense to me that small amounts of proper, focused work for God can make me feel better than totally relaxing after a hard night with my baby.

I've starting calling this God paradox "refueling in midair."

Work is prayer. Prayer is rest.

The Benedictine Sisters taught me to "work at prayer, and pray during work."

In Tennis, it's always better to play tennis with someone significantly better than you. I think that principle applies also to the spiritual life. Whenever I hang out with someone significantly higher than me on the spiritual plane, I am so excited. I feel like I come back to my regular life with six new power serves. Thank you Benedictine's for being a place of focus and encouragement in the world!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Easter Sunday TV Viewing Options: AD The Bible Continues

Easter Sunday is coming! There is a fantastic way to continue our Lenten Journey of Faith using mainstream TV. NBC will air "AD: The Bible Continues" at 9 PM on Sunday, April 5, 2015.

This 12 part TV series is enthusiastically supported by the US Catholic Bishops. There is a book by Mike Aquilina called "AD Ministers and Martyrs" which outlines the lives and sacrifices of 1st Century Christians. There is also an official Catholic Viewer's Guide to this series.

Put this 12 part TV series on your families' calendar! Be prepared to host your family's spiritual development on Sunday night. Get some snacks. Have some books on the table for both children and adults. Get out your Bible. Be inspired!

We are a part of God's Easter Message of Hope! There can't be any better way to move forward in 2015, than to spend an hour being reminded of our ancient church's thrilling early history.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

How Do I Love St. Joseph, Let Me Count The Ways!

There is a St. Joseph statue still buried in the frozen ground outside my home for the house sale that didn't happen last December. The statute came from my Mother-in-law, who house sold in an impossible small town market a few months after she unexpectedly became a widow.

My Mother-in-law is not a big Catholic. To talk to her about her belief in God and the Saints is a rare delight. Even my Mom trusts St. Joseph to help sell a house. We got her package in the mail and buried her "lucky" St. Joseph statute underneath our For Sale Sign in the front yard.

After 10 months of hard work, our dream about changing states fell apart a few days before Christmas. In January, I took the For Sale sign out of our yard. I marked the place where the St. Joseph statute sat with a big rock.

My husband and I talked about the fact that so many people we knew sold their house quickly after we asked St. Joseph to look after them. Yet for us, our home sale not only didn't happen as expected, but got delayed 2 to 3 years.

This thing that happened to me increased my trust in St. Joseph. Prayers to St. Joseph are not "magic." I don't just pray to St. Joseph for cash, for help with bill, or for a new house. St. Joseph reminds me that "All things work for the good for those that love God." Sometimes St. Joseph helps me gain what I want to with prayer. Often, a St. Joseph prayer changes me. I learn how to be more patient, more humble and a greater lover of poverty.

The Scott Hahn book, Joy to the World, changed my theology of St. Joseph last year. I no longer call St. Joseph a "foster father." He did not contribute biologically to Christ. Yet he was in every other sense of the world Christ's true "father." St. Joseph raised Christ, he protected him, he provided him and he loved him.

I love the church statues by the alter that have Mary, Our Lady alone and prayerful, and St. Joseph holding a toddler Jesus. St. Joseph often holds Jesus up to his cheek in love and shows him a lily. I am reminded of the Old Testament reading "Oh, how I have loved you. I was like one who held up infants to my cheeks."

Jesus Christ, our brother, gave the whole church his mother. He also gave us his Father on Earth, St. Joseph. We can turn to St. Joseph in times of financial uncertainty for help. We can also ask St. Joseph to pray for us when the daily grind gets boring and for a happy death.

St. Joseph, pray for us!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Oh St. Patrick, How I love you! I had the grace to travel to Ireland a few weeks after my entrance into the Catholic Faith thirteen years ago. It was crazy cool to be thinking about St. Patrick and all the great Irish saints as a new infant in Christ. I'll be eating my corn beef with joy tonight and telling my kids about what I learned about Ireland. St. Patrick, bishop of courage and love, pray for us!