Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Signing Off

I'm celebrating Pentecost Sunday by actually following one of my directives from the Holy Spirit. I'm stopping my blog.

It's so beautiful, actually. When I started this blog I felt like stay-at-home mothers were as rare as unicorns. I eagerly searched out fellow Catholic moms on remote corners of the Internet. Reading people's blogs and writing my own was an important part of staying sane in dramatically unfamiliar territory.

Two years later, I've finally have a Catholic home. I've got a home church and Carmel. My family chats regularly with priests and religious. There are Catholic home-schooling friends and neighborhood pals. So there are so many new friends and wonderful prayer thoughts to fill my day.

I don't know how long a "break" this will be. I'm no longer directing my own ship. I just know that I don't feel right blogging until I get more steady at my prayer life. (As a chatterbox, I find writing much easier and more enjoyable than doing my daily 1/2 hour of the prayer of the quiet. Until that passion gets flipped around, I'm going to radically detach from blogging.)

Lots of peace to everyone!

A special thank you to everyone who has read my thoughts over the past two years!

Remember, I'm working on becoming a true Carmelite. So if you have any prayer requests, please send me an email:

Acquiring A Taste for Heavenly Bread

This morning I had one of those lovely "life comes full circle moments." My kids clamoured for leftover chocolate birthday cake for Breakfast this morning. After boring oatmeal, I portioned out the last slices from the cake with homemade frosting made by one of Jon's co-workers for his birthday yesterday. Soon we had three messy, chocolate covered faces bopping along to the Aussie band My Friend the Chocolate Cake.

"We're eating chocolate cake for breakfast while listening to My Friend the Chocolate Cake," I shouted happily.

That CD has languished in the back of non-played CD collection since Hannah's birth.It got freed during a massive Spring cleaning spurt recently.

I first heard this Melbourne band from my Aussie friend I met in Europe. We took an overnight ferry to Crete. (I did my study at the University of London on Modern Greek History and convinced my friend Christine that I NEEDED to see Kazantzakis homeland in person before I could write an inspired literary critique of his novels. She agreed to spend her Spring Break running around Greece with me. Writer friends are good like that.)

Even though we were in the beautiful setting, the ferry ride was awful. I had my heart smashed up by an American. Christine felt badly that she'd never been kissed. We were both in a sorry state without the sickening smell from the cigarette smoke from the Russians next to us. I borrowed her CD player and went up alone on the deck. I listened to the unfamiliar band, My Friend the Chocolate Cake, while feeling so lost and empty under the moon.

In 2000, I visited Christine in her homeland on the eve of her wedding. She married a lovely "lad", a music teacher. On the last night I spent in Australia, Christine ran out and bought me a CD of my favorite Aussie band.

That trip to Australia was the last trip I took without a certain new boyfriend. I missed him when I went to snorkeling at the Great Reef. I missed him as I contemplated Aboriginal Art in the Aussie National Gallery. Everything thing of beauty that I saw, felt a little diminished because I couldn't talk to him about it. "I'm never taking a trip without Jon again," I declared on the flight home. Three weeks later, Jon proposed!

So anyways, all these feelings came full circle this morning.

There I was listening to old, old music from a time in my life when I thought I was useless in love. This morning, I had a newly minted 37 year old husband at my side and three funny kids.

This the mark of my days now. There are no more trips to Australia or Greece. I don't have time email pictures to my foreign friends. Yet everyone sits together happily in my heart. Christ's peace felt a little "anti-climactic" at first. Now, however, I'm so joyful to be home.

God is good!

My Friend The Chocolate Cake - I've Got A Plan

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Going Home

My mom announced a surprise twist in the sleeping assignments during our visit to grandma's house this past weekend. "Abby, you and Jon have your old room tonight."

When I turned 14, my father changed jobs and I moved into this drab bedroom in a new town. I promptly painted the room electric blue, with a white ceiling border and a teal ceiling. After I left for college, my little brother and later my maternal grandfather both took over "the blue bedroom." I hadn't even looked inside this room for over 15 years.

In the middle of the night, I touched the wall by my childhood bed. There was a jagged crack in the plaster and actual cobwebs flitting on the ceiling rail. I flashed back to being 14 again, filled with loneliness and loathing in a strange place. How times did I stare out the widow at an unfamiliar apple tree and wish that I could go back home?

It was overwhelming to know that every moment I sat filled with loneliness in my bedroom, an angel sat with me. My guardian angel, Angela. The one who I chitchat with all the time now. The angel who points out dropped pacifiers and reminds me about doctors appointments. The angel who swats away those nasty distractions during my Holy Hour and keeps me chugging up a long Mount Carmel.

That same angel was with me in my lonely bedroom. Only at that time I was a Protestant and didn't believe in all that "silly stuff" so I didn't talk to her.

There was a time in my life, before I had named my guardian angel. A time before I talked to Our Blessed Mother in a rosary. A time before I read the Lives of the Saints or poured out my troubles to a priest or took tea breaks with Catholic friends.

And so, during my freshman year it was just me and the Holy Trinity. Slogging it out. In my blue bedroom.

I hated the place God had moved me. I wanted my high school experience to be about theater auditions, and choir songs, and writing new poems and lots of fun parties. Instead my assignment was xenophobia, extreme poverty, and classmates who spit wads of chewing tobacco into the school water fountains.

God wanted to hollow out a giant empty space for prayer and contemplation, in a giggly, social fourteen year old girl.

The amazing part, was that God heard every prayer of complaint and answered it graciously. Twenty years later, I was back in that room, with a husband, three babies, a new faith and a full heart.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Night of the Senses

It's hard to write much, because I'm in such a weird place. It feels like depression, but it's not. I'm slow moving and my head is in a pea-soup fog, yet inside there is this small piece of pure light. I don't feel morose, as in real depression. I do feel agitated, afflicted and restless.

None of the old comfort tricks work one me anymore. There's no looking forward to movies, or bowls of ice-cream, or reading books or dreaming about the pristine leather couches I'd get from IKEA if only we had the money.

Instead, there is a lot of drudgery. I wash cloth diapers twice a day. I pick up legos. I cook "unfun" food from the cheapest ingredients possible. I conduct AP Socialization for 4 year olds, as in "please don't hit either sister or the dog, even if everyone unfairly swiped the last pretzels from your plate."

And I celebrate the Mass. I adore at Adoration. I struggle through Morning, Evening and Night Prayers of the Daily Hours. I say my rosary without my old enthusiasm.

There are brilliant moments during every day that are beautiful.

Then there is much dampness. There's the daily drudgery. My endless complaints of "this is not the life I ever wanted. Why is it so hard?"

On Sunday night, as I walked my dog, I complained yet again about my life to God. I imagined writing him a letter. My "assignment" as a young mother in suburbia seemed as foreign and difficult as a missionary post in a tropical climate. "Conditions are so hard here," I thought. "I'm not having any fun here. I must be working on the wrong assignment."

Then I felt this gentle hug and a picture of my dearest saints, the ones who went through hard times interiorarily came to mind. I thought about Mother Theresa and St. Therese. "You're sisters didn't have fun in their assignments either . . . The fact that you're not having fun means that your one the right assignment."

He speaks the truth to our hearts. The truth is usually not what we want to hear. I want to hear that my suffering is almost over, that material aid and comfort is around the corner. Instead I keep stumbling upon passages like this:

"For true Eucharistic devotion, the Pope calls for a total detachment from all earthly values and austere attachment to the Word of God. St. John of the Cross teaches that one can come to the vision of the Holy Trinity only by entering into a two-fold night; the night of the senses and the night of faith. He explains the spiritual poverty required of the night of the senses: "To reach satisfaction in all, desire statisfaction in nothing. To come to possess all, desire to possess nothing. To be all, desire to be nothing." (pg. 26)

Reassuring that I'm on the spiritual path up Mount Carmel, yet not reassuring that my requests for new contact lens or a house with three bedrooms are going to be answered any time soon.

My prayers are with all of you!

For my dear friend who worries that she spends to much time writing about the Eucharist

"How many Catholics have walked away from the Church and never come back because they really didn't know what they are losing They really do not understand the grace, the wonder, the power, the beauty, the love in that piece of bread that has become the body of the Living God and that cup of wine that has become His blood offered up for us in sacrifice."

His Eminence Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, Homily at 2004 Congress of the Eucharist.

Monday, May 4, 2009

We Passed Kindergarten!

Many thanks for all of my friends and blog readers who listened to my pitiful complaints during this first year of homeschooling. I took a teeny portfolio and Hannah herself to our second semester review session. We passed! The reviewer actually said "You did the right thing by keeping her home this year. Look at her!" How is that for Holy Spirit confirmation?

I must have read 10,000 articles on "how to homeschool" in the past year. Not one had this suggestion, "pray fervently to Saint Anne and Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton to give you a sympathetic reviewer." Yet, that is the advice I want to hand out. Having a public school employee who is encouraging and helpful makes all the difference for the faint of heart.

We I got pregnant with Hannah seven years ago, I did not dream about entering into a homeschool adventure. In fact, I looked forward to many parent-teacher conferences happening in uncomfortably small chairs. Many thanks to God who knew me better than I knew myself.

If God wants you to do something that is clearly impossible, do it. As the priest said on my Catholic retreat. "Get out of the boat! God didn't call you to walk on water because you were already a saint. He called you because he wanted to do something beautiful in your life."

There are so many benefits of homeschooling, but one that I like best is that it develops perseverance.

"We should be grateful to the Lord our God, for putting us to the test, as he did our forefathers. Recall how he dealt with Abraham, and how he tried Isaac, and all that happened to Jacob in Syrian Mesopotamia while he was tending the flocks for Laban, his mother's brother. Not for vengeance did the Lord put them in the crucible to try their hearts, nor has he done so with us. it is by way of admonition that he chastises those who are close to him." Judith 8:25-27 (from today's daily hours)

This first year of teaching has been a "crucible of the heart."I look forward to many more years of "heart crucibles" to follow.