Wednesday, March 31, 2010


It's Holy Week!

How are is the Benjamin family spending their time? Going to Adoration? Extra hours in prayer? No, it's an ob visit and an emergency trip to the dentist.

This morning I heard the five most dreaded words in the English language for a pregnant mommy, "Nurse, go get the sonogram machine . . ." After five minutes with the hand-held monitor, my doctor couldn't find my baby's heartbeat. For those long minutes, I just mentally said "I'm on the cross with you, Jesus." Finally, as the nurse wheeled in the sonogram machine the doctor found a strong heartbeat. My baby was just hanging out so low in my uterus that he was below my c-section scar.

After that scare, my nerves were a mess for the rest of the visit. My husband compares my post-miscarriage fears of finding a lost heartbeat at a routine ob visit to soldiers returning from war with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. I'm not sure I'm ever going to be cured of that anxiety. At least as a Catholic I can offer up that pain and save some souls during Holy Week.

This afternoon, I'm taking my 5 year old to an emergency trip to the dentist. Did you know that teeth can bruise? Alex had a bad fall on the concrete Subway steps two weeks ago. Last night we noticed that two of his teeth are discolored. He needs x-rays to determine if his teeth are simply "bruised" or "dying." I'm hoping for "bruised", since otherwise that would make our 8th root canal (between 2 kids) within the past 3 years.

Kiddie root canals and Holy Week.

As my husband said, "God must think that we're still too little as Catholics to chose our own penance during Holy Week!"

May you all have a blessed week!

(Update: Alex is fine!)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Faithful in the Little Things

As a pregnant mother, I struggle with guilt over saying no. Can I help a single Catholic mom by babysitting every Saturday? No. Can I chair the Women of Prayer's Spirituality Committee? No. Can I volunteer to stack canned goods at the Food Bank on Monday afternoon? No. Can I attend the Pro-Life Talk at 8 PM? Ha! I'm usually in bed by 8:30 through a combined state of nausea and total exhaustion.

In February, I had the humiliating realization that I can't even be counted on to bring a Vegetable Tray to our monthly Carmel meeting. As Jon explained to me gently, "Abby every second of our life is spent on our family right now. And our grocery budget is spread so thin that our 70 year old neighbor is getting great grace by following the Holy Spirit promptings by running us over raisin bread whenever our fridge is down to the bare bones. We're not in a position to volunteer to bring refreshments to Carmel right now. That's other peoples' job. Our job is to receive their charity with grateful hearts."

It's hard to be the one who accepts charity, rather than the one who acts as a cheerful giver.

Yet underneath this guilt about constantly declining invitations to help holy causes, there is also this nagging fear "am I doing enough?"

At the Last Day, we will be judged on whether we gave drink to the thirsty and food to the hungry. In my overly active mind, it seems much easier to volunteer for a weekly shift at the Food Pantry and send a large check to restore clean drinking water in Haiti to Catholic Charities. While I'm at it, why not add weekly Adoration time and a pilgrimage to the Holy Land to make sure that I'm prayerful enough for Jesus this Lent?

In my small mind and hard heart, my daily work seems so little and useless. I force myself to drink 10-12 glasses of purified water for my little baby. I feed hungry kids fish sticks on Friday. I match my husband's dress socks. I order groceries online. I attempt to remove "rainbow putty" from our company table cloth. I enforce the bike helmet rule and the "no hitting your sister" rule.

At a time when parenting four kids under age 8 means that my family is doing less and less work at Church and our wider community, it's hard to see sometimes that I'm actually following God's will more and more.

In my faith journey, I always stumble around my the hard inner changes a little blind and unsure at first. Poverty and sickness are a great help.

Last Sunday I ran into a friend before Mass. "We miss you! You'll teach VBS (Vacation Bible School) again this summer right? My girls can't wait to take your class!"

"I don't know, I'm pregnant now and expecting a baby this summer" I answered. I looked to the Tabernacle for some contradiction on my statement. I wanted to hear a giant "No Abby! You'll have plenty of strength for my service this summer! Just rely on my grace" on other such reassurance in my heart. However, in my friend Jesus continued his strange silent on the subject.

I love teaching Bible School. My favorite old job was as a summer camp counselor, and VBS brought so much joy last year. I've got a gift for teaching and I love introducing little kids to the wonders of our Catholic faith.

Yet this winter, I gotten nothing but silence from God regarding my exciting plans for VBS. In the deafening silence, I've started to talk over with my husband, that maybe I'm not supposed to teach this year.

In June, I'll be 7 1/2 months pregnant. Handling a 3 hour bus trip in the broiling Southern Sun while pregnant seems idiotic. Even if I coordinate rides to our old church among our many Catholic friends, I'm sure I'll have the stamina to teach 8 hours for five days. What happens if I get myself exhausted less than 8 weeks before welcoming a newborn into our home? Maybe this is the year for Mama to stay home and send Hannah to VBS alone.

I make this painful sacrifice, the sacrifice of rejecting the "good" in favor of the "better," again and again. I stay at home. I conserve my strength. Instead of doing fun things for God, I swallow pregnancy vitamins,. I go to bed early. I teach my seven year old spelling words. I invent easy crock-pot meals. I ignore the legos on the floor, the three week old sheets on the bed and the wilting flowers on the kitchen counter. I say no to lunch dates and skip parish parties. On bad weeks, I rarely leave the house.

I makes these sacrifices to vanity and pride and self-interest, more as a result of my sickness and poverty than out my joyful love of God.

It's okay. God loves me anyways.

By saying "no" more times to people outside my family, I have more energy to say "YES" to charity at home. Last week, I helped my husband bake Irish Soda bread from scratch for a St. Patrick's party at his office. I read aloud the story of Jonah and the Whale at dinner. I dribbled Holy Water of my daughter's bed to protect her from bad dreams.

Today, I read something that applies to my humble Lenten Season.

"To go to church, pray, and visit the sick are fine things, but if you do them when the duties of your state require something far different of you, can you claim to be doing God's will?" pg. 166, The Imitation of Mary.

"The master of whom the Gospel speaks says to his servant: "Come and share your master's joy,' not because you have done great things, but "because you have been faithful in small matters." pg. 167.

A Lenten reminder for me to keep focused on doing little things with Great Love.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Always Mary's Girl

I recently attended a Memorial Service for my grandfather.

It was an amazing miracle that we had a chance to say goodbye in a church service, actually. My Grandpa had Christianity stamped in his soul. At age 94, Grandpa arrived over an hour early each Sunday to the living room of his nursing home, snappily dressed in a shirt and tie, eager to be taken to his Sunday School Class at the local Methodist Church.

For some unexplained reason, my Mom nixed all funeral services inside a church or funeral home after Grandpa's death. Instead, she directed the family to gather around Grandpa's grave site in early January in an event I uncharitably nicknamed in my mind "rolling the old man into the ground."

It seemed to me, highly unjust to bury a man who loved his Methodist Church as much as Grandpa without the final blessing of a Methodist minister. However, the Lord is hard at work on my difficult heart.

All my Carmelite prayers have started to show me the virtue of Silence. The night of my Grandpa's death, I silenced my tongue. Instead of arguing with my Mom, I took all my concerns about Grandpa's missing funeral service to the Lord in prayer.

God answered my prayer through many loving acts of my Grandpa's Christian friends. Grandpa's friends insisted on holding a Memorial Service at his old church. Grandpa's old minister put together a lovely service. Grandpa's old choir cheerfully volunteered to sing one of his favorite hymns. The United Methodist Women threw a lavish potluck in the church basement modeled on an "OSU Tailgate Party," my Grandfather's favorite football team.

At the Methodist Church Service in my Grandfather's old church, I finally felt peace and comfort after his death. I felt honored to share in the legacy of my grandparents faith. I felt reunited with my Mom and my siblings.

In the middle of a choir hymn, I looked up at the familiar stain glass window that I'd watched throughout my childhood. It's a beautiful Rosetta window with a moving picture of Christ Crucified. It's unusual to have a Crucifix in a Methodist Church. All the other churches I've ever attended had a plain cross over the alter, maybe adored with a sea shell or dove. It was comforting to see Christ's body present in this church.

As I looked closer, I saw something new. Underneath Christ, were two small figures- St. John and a figure dressed in a blue veil, My Blessed Mother Mary.

Never in my life, have I ever, ever seen a depiction of Mary in a Protestant Church. It just isn't done. Yet here was a picture of my spiritual mother directly over a Protestant alter.

I felt so much grace in my soul. This is the church where my grandparents faithfully worshiped together, each and every Sunday for over 60 years. This was the church were I got baptized. Directly under this beautiful stain glass picture of Mary is where my parents said their wedding vows 39 years ago.

It was if Mommy Mary smiled down on my conception before I even existed.

Sometimes, my life as a Catholic feels like a random accident. How did I get here? Why is a former intellectual show-off suddenly a stay-at-home Mom who rarely leaves her house? How did an easy going Methodist girl suddenly end up becoming a Discalced Carmelite who volunteers for extra penance, extra fasts and hours of extra prayers each day?

It's always a gift to be reminded that my faith isn't a random accident. I was always Mary's girl.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Saying Goodbye

St. Joseph Cemetery, Malone New York
Burial site of Robert E. Benjamin

Jon saying a last goodbye to his father

On September 20, 2009, my husband's father died 90 days after his first cancer diagnosis. I held my husband's hand as he threw a clod of dirt on his father's grave. Then I snapped this picture as he said a last goodbye before we started the lonely car trip home.

When I snapped this photograph, my heart hurt. I couldn't imagine driving way and leaving Jon's beloved Daddy six feet under the earth.

Then a silly grave marker caught my eye. Directly behind Dad's grave is a huge, vivid green shamrock with the name "Burke". I'd written earlier about Mr. Patrick Burke, a banker at our church whose sudden death shocked our parish choir. For the past year, I've watched his widow and his children grow in grace and faith. That sight of the Burke family name was a little nudge from my friend in heaven, reminding me that "death is not the end of the story."

My life is filled with big and little hurts. There are backed up garbage disposals, stubbed toes, and toddlers who can't sleep. There's a dead son and a Father who suddenly disappeared. Yet the life of a Catholic is filled with beauty and hope. Every time I think I reach the end of my strength, a moment of grace happens- like a rope ladder dropped from heaven.

Foiling the Enemy With Good Sausages

I found this interesting biography of Simonne Jeanne Michenon, a member of the French Resistance who is buried in a local cemetery in D.C.

"Her friends remember one particular story she would tell of German troops storming into her family home at the vineyard. Ms. Michenon was cooking at the time, making French sausages, saucisson. She diverted the soldiers with food, wine and entertaining conversation until, at last, they conducted their search of the house. Feeling the effects of good drink and full stomachs, their search was cursory at best, and they left never having looked in the cellar where refugees were hiding."
-Person of Interest, Ivy Hill Cemetery Newsletter, Winter 2010.

I love how stuffing enemy soldiers with fresh sausage, wine and good conversation is an effective way to fight for the French Resistance!

May we all pray for good blessings for the enemies of our families and our Church this Lent.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St. Patrick's Day

A glorious Irish greeting to you! St. Patrick is one of my favorite saints. My husband and I made a trip to Ireland six weeks after my conversion to Catholicism. I returned home on fire for my new faith. I give credit for my radical change of heart from the prayers of that great Bishop!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Prayer for Cheerful Insomnia

My two year old daughter, Maria, has sleep problems. Very bad problems.

One of the lasting effects of colic is that it disrupts the natural sleep rhythms first learned at 4 months. Instead of waking up, taking a snack and then gently drifting back to sleep, our Maria woke up hungry as a baby, took a drink and then screamed with burning, painful reflux for the next twenty minutes. She outgrew the colic and infant reflux at age one, but sleeping through the night is more of a challenge.

Two years later, we're still dealing with a child who wakes up frequently in the night and has trouble getting herself back to sleep.

This winter, Jon and I have spent a lot of time awake at 3 AM. Our baby wakes up with cough or a sneeze attack and neither of us can get back to sleep. Six months ago, I would have called my pediatrician and read every self-help book on this subject. I don't know if it's Carmel or my tired, pregnant body, but I've embraced this cross. I simply think this current insomnia is good practice for the newborn that will be coming into our lives this summer.

A prayer by Saint Thomas Moore, that I gleaned from watching "A Man of All Seasons" has made all the difference.

"Lord help me get a good night's rest. If that is impossible, please make me cheerful in the morning."

Now, when I'm up in the early hours of the morning, I pray for the dying. I catch up on my spiritual reading. I clean up my messy house. I trust completely that the Lord will make me cheerful the next day, despite my exhaustion.

That prayer has never failed me yet!

(I love that living in the spirit of Carmel is much easier than following the complicated parenting advice of today's experts. God knew I was to stupid and slothful to follow an elaborate parenting plan for four distinct children, so He wisely put me in "the special reading group" that is my Mother Mary's heart.)

Sunday, March 7, 2010

A Touchy Feely Mass

Every Benjamin came down with a nasty head cold this weekend. Jon and I took one look at our toddler with the greenish skin tint, puffy eyes and tuberculous sounding cough and decided that we'd better "piggy back Mass" this morning.

Jon kindly made us all pancakes and then jumped on the bus at 7:45 AM. As a solo parent, I enforced citrus consumption at breakfast, handed up lollipops as replacement to unwanted cough drops and hit play on multiple library videos.

In the middle of all this chaos, I tried to get my half-an-hour prayer of the quiet done. Needless to say, this was not one of my best prayer session. Just as I was about to faint from pregnant lady exhaustion, my spouse knocked on our door.

Jon was luminous after Mass. He said he missed us in the pew. "It was too quiet. Besides every at church hacked and coughed during Mass, we have fit right in today."

"Ha Ha!" I thought. "I'm NOT going to be complaining that Mass is quiet today." I happily grabbed our Lenten Liturgy of the Hours from my husband and volunteered to leave for the bus stop 17 minutes early today.

Alone in the "quiet" of a busy city street on one of the first warm days of Spring, I read a beautiful account of the Samarian women by the well. A reading today said "Her righteous was caused by her conversation with Jesus." At first, I misread the passage as "her righteousness was caused by her conversion." Then I reread it as properly as "conversation."

Somehow my slip of the tongue, made everything clear this Lent. I keep getting confused with "conversion" and "conversation." I mistakenly think because I'm now a formal convert to Catholicism, I'm supposed to be perfect. I'm horrified by my many sins and failures. Yet I realized this morning, I need to keep focused on my "conversation" with Jesus. It's the daily chat's with Jesus that will lead to my righteousness. Prayer leads to sainthood. You don't need to wait until you're a saint to be a Carmelite who prays on a regular basis.

I hugged my Daily Liturgy, got on the bus and looked forward to a happy, holy Mass.

I walked into Mass alone. I didn't need to remind anyone to dip their hands in Holy Water or to stop running down the aisle. I sat in our usual front row pew. I had time to finish my Daily Liturgy in front of Jesus in the Tabernacle and said a long pre-Mass pray from St. Thomas Aquinas. I picked up a Mass booklet for the first time in four years. My hands were unusually free from finding dropped crayons or ending sibling wrestling matches.

"I'm alone with Jesus," I thought happily. I opened my heart for a glorious, silent, focused Mass.

Just before the Procession, an elderly couple slipped into the pew behind me. "These are good seats" the man remarked loudly. "Yes they are," the woman responded. The couple proceeded to loudly argue during the entire Mass. They argued over the page number of the Hymns. They argued over which Sunday it was in Lent.

There was a ten minute debate over whether the Lector said it was the "First Sunday" in Lent or the "Third Sunday." I cringed all during their argument. I debated about turning around and showing my page number, but decided to practice the virtue of Silence instead.

"There goes my quiet Mass. I guess the Lord wants me to praise him among noise and distractions each and every Sunday. Why should I get used to a quiet Mass this week."
I took the disappointment in stride. I kept my heart cheerful.

Then the lady touched me.

Someone touched me on my back shoulder. I turned quickly and saw a lady's arm. It was that lingering, purposeful movement some ladies do when they kindly tuck your tag back into your sweater neck. "I must have had a tag out" I thought. I was sort of mystified as to what tag could have been poking out of a silk scarf. I quickly dismissed it from mind and got refocused on Mass.

Then I got touched again.

And again.

At the fourth time, I became furious. "Someone is touching me during my ALONE Mass. I get poked, and kicked, and hugged, and touched by three kids every single Sunday of my life. This is supposed to be MY Sunday to be left ALONE!"

At the fifth touch, I decided that I must be going crazy. It had to be my imagination. I didn't know the couple behind me. Surely no stranger would be so brazen as to repeatedly rub your back. I must be feeling some phantom pregnancy pains or something.

By deciding that I was crazy, I could sweetly greet the elderly couple during the passing of the peace. I saw a couple who were in their late seventies. "They are probably hard-of-hearing, that is why they couldn't whisper during Mass," I thought cheerfully. I didn't want to spread germs, so I just held up my handkerchief and said "Sorry, I'm sick." I gave them my best smile as a replacement for a firm handshake.

Then the lady grabbed my shoulder. "I love your scarf" she said, fingering the silk with longing. "Its so beautiful, I couldn't help touching it all through Mass."

I recoiled with horror. You were the one touching me? During Mass? Someone who had never seen before?

Immediately, it was time for the most holy part of Mass. I gave my uncharitable heart a firm talking to. "Look, you've got to shake this off Abigail. You've got to offer it up. You can eat the Holy Eucharist with this much anger in your heart."

I forced myself to forget the incident and refocus again the the beauty of this Sacrament.

I took the Eucharist. I prayed my Animus Christie in thanksgiving. I tried to mind that my actions seemed routine and ordinary. "He's really in there," I told my soul. "He's really in you."

And then a miracle happen, like those subtle miracles that aways happen to remind me that the Eucharist is real, and not something from my hyperactive Catholic imagination.

After the closing hymn, the elderly couple stayed to greet me. "I love your scarf", the woman said touching it again.

As easily as I'd hand a piece of banana bread to a hungry child, I took off the sentimental silk scarf I'd owned since eight grade. "Here take it," I said and put it in her hands.

Her husband was horrified. "No, no, we just mean that the scarf looks good on you. You wear it."

I decided that this must have been what it feels like to be a Franciscan and give away your cloak to whoever asks it from you. I'm a Carmelite. What do I need a silk scarfs for? I can't wear it to church on normal Sundays because soon there will be a little newborn to throw up on it. I'm a simple cotton dress girl through and through

"No, you keep it. When you wear it you'll will remind you to pray for me to Our Blessed Mother. I'm pregnant with baby number four" I said, rubbing my belly. "I need lots of prayers this month."

Suddenly, standing face to face in the pew we became friends. The couple are the parents of six children. I told them my oldest three were home sick with my husband this Sunday. The elderly couple were so happy to see a pregnant Catholic mommy. The husband inquired of my name and promised to pray a rosary for me each night this week.

"I'll remember to pray for the lady who gave me the pretty scarf," my wife agreed.

"You've got hundreds of scarfs at home, you don't need another," the husband said firmly.

The lady kept all ten fingers clutched on my scarf as her husband yanked it from her hands.

The lady looked at me. "You wear that scarf next Sunday when I see you with all of your lovely children. I'll tell you next week whether I really want it." She winked at me.

I laughed and hoped I would remember to pack in it my pock next week to hand to her after Mass. I nodded goodbye.

I turned back to Jesus to say a better thank you for the Eucharist. I'm a small, selfish girl. I've got a mean heart, and a stiff neck. I commit many sins. Somehow, in the silent conversation of the Eucharist, our big brother Jesus still enters into my heart and transforms into something unrecognizable and strangely beautiful.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Life on the Bus

Last Sunday, my husband shouted to me "I can't believe we both have Graduate Degrees!" as we waited at a bus stop for an extremely late City bus.

His statement was provoked by the behavior of Maria, our youngest. My toddler cried as snow soaked her polka-dot stockings and pink dress shoes. Maria demanded to at home with warm clothes and a cup of hot chocolate. Helpless, my husband picked up Maria's wailing body and tried not to mind that her dirty shoes left tracks on his black wool coat. Jon looked at his wrist watch and grimly confirmed to our bus was now 22 minutes late.

"I can't believe we're in this situation and I've got a Graduate Degree! We BOTH have Graduate Degrees" he told me.

I looked at Jon in confusion. I didn't immediately understand the meaning of my husband's statement. After all, it was our gigantic $200,000 joint student loan debt which necessitated us taking the City Bus to Mass in the first place. What Catholic parishioners would be in this situation without two big debts and one modest income?

When my husband started recounting painful stories of graduate school, I suddenly "got" the irony of our current situation. In grad school, we'd spent hours hunched over lap tops in dimly lit libraries. We mastered courses in vague Latin terms and 18th Century Japanese Landscape Painting. We wrote term papers. We passed finals. We aced hours of job interviews. If not tons of wealth and worldly honor, there was supposed to be some sort of comfortable middle class existence that came as a reward to all of that hard work.

Never once, in all those years of study, did we consider that our future children would wander snow banks in their church clothes as we waited for a late City bus. In America, people with graduate degrees are not supposed to live lives without a car.

Filled with the Eucharist, I chose the right response. Instead of lapsing into self-pity, I started teasing my husband. "I'm the one who wore silk honor cords at graduation. I'm the one who is really not supposed to be here. Do you think they'll find out and revoke our diplomas?"

Over the head of a furious toddler with corkscrew red curls, Jon met my smile.

The bus arrived. We entered into a swirl of humanity. A babble of French and Mandarin and Creole surrounded us. Baby Maria stopped crying. Within five minutes we were home and happy again.

In truth, I love to ride the bus.

It's hard in the winter. It's hard that our bus system is either 25 minutes late, or worse, 11 minutes early. Yet even in the cold, playing extra rounds of "Mother May I" beat trying to strap uncooperative children into their car seats.

Surprising, my kids love the bus. I lived through countless crying fits while driving in a car. Yet we've only had one awful trip to Mass where Maria cried the full 35 minutes. Usually the kids adore the bus and become cheerful angels while swished along with strangers in a large City bus.

Yet the best thing about the bus is that it puts you firmly on God's time line. When we ride the bus, we are NEVER, ever late to Mass. Can you imagine? Trying to get to get three children church on time used to be awful. Now our bus drops us off at church 20 minutes early. We have time to leisurely check out our parish library and spend time praying before the Eucharist in a silent church. If we're ever so late that we miss the bus, we have to attend a later Mass.

Having to factor in a bus trip makes it easier to say "no" to unnecessary activities. I've dropped book clubs and church committees. I'm the only mother I know whose elementary age kids aren't on any sports teams. My groceries are ordered online and delivered to my home. My husband bikes to work. We spend only $60 a month on bus passes rather than endure car payments, car insurance, gas, car repairs and parking fees. Riding the bus is what keeps our family budget in the black each month.

Besides all of these practical things, there are amazing moments of Grace that keep happening on the bus. Once I sat next to a pregnant Catholic who was about to give up her baby for adoption. The conversation we had about our Blessed Mother was beautiful and something that would never happened if I drove my own car to the local library. Our new dentist, for example, is next door to an abortion clinic. Now as I wait for my kids to have their teeth cleaned I have a beautiful chance to pray for life.

I love having the chance to know my city on foot. I love knowing that the immigrants who speak the least English will give the kindest smiles to my noisy children. I love having gallant Latino men hold open bus doors and fix stuck strollers for me. The whole city has become more friendly since I started riding the bus alone with 3 small children.

The most amazing thing about the virtue of poverty, is that when you ride the bus, you can easily fit in another baby.

In my old life in a plush suburbia, I heard a Catholic mother remark that she couldn't possibly have a third baby at this time because they would have to buy a new car. I registered that comment in confusion. I was the Mom who purposely bought the most narrow car seats possible in order to wedge three small bodies into my back seat.

Then this past summer when our ancient, five seat belt car died three days before Vacation Bible School, I had another confusing car conversation with a fellow Catholic. This time a dear friend tried to sell me on the idea of emptying our retirement account to pay the $6,000 repair bill since "a rebuilt engine can last another 10 years. You'll be driving that car forever!" he said with cheerful certainty.

I looked at my friend with confusion. I didn't know how to express the sad cry in my heart. "I'm only 34!" I thought. "I don't want to drive a newly, repaired five seat car for the next ten years. I want another baby!"

Long story short, while I schlepped three tired kids on an awful 1 1/2 hour commute to Bible School, my husband sold our broken car. We canceled our car insurance and bought monthly bus passes. We found a new dentist and a new doctor on our local bus line. We ordered groceries online.

Sometime in heat of August, we decided that we need to switch to a new Catholic Church with an easier bus commute. We left the church where we were well-known. We resigned multiple church committees and volunteer posts. My husband is no longer a Lector. I stopped washing purificators. We quit attending our weekly Adoration time slots. We stopped seeing dozens and dozens of dear friends. The sacrifice of our "church home" hurt.

Now we're anonymous faces in a large City Church. Six months later, the change couldn't be better for our family. The graces are huge. We attend Daily Mass in a small, historic chapel that is a beautiful setting for Mass. We fallen in love with new, dear, parish priests. My daughter is getting First Communion with a CCD program that loves homeschoolers.

Even better, for two Carmelites that are poor in time as well as money, our new "rich" church is well run with many volunteers. There are no longer painful pleas for more Lectors at Lent or more members on that teeny purificator committee. Our big church fits this season of our Catholic life as parents who have overwhelming responsibilities for young children. We go to church to get refreshed and renewed by Christ. My only donation of "time and talent" is a warm smile to my parish priest after Mass.

By God's grace, I'll deliver a new baby this summer. For our first trip home with the new baby, we might hire a cab. We might rent a car. Or, we might ride the City Bus.

My husband happily discovered that the City Bus stops at our hospital entrance. Jon loves to picture shocked face of the volunteer who will carefully wheel a newborn and his mother from the hospital room to the driveway. Instead of pulling up with a scrubbed Honda or new Lexus, my husband, the man with a graduate degree, may carefully strap a newborn into an infant carrier and lead his sore wife onto the City Bus.

Humility. Poverty.

Four perfect souls as free gifts from the Lord for two parents who could never afford even one adoption fee.

God is good!