Monday, January 31, 2011

Happy St. John Bosco Feast Day!

I'm a firm believer that we don't chose Saints, the Saints choose us. One of the Saints that has recently befriended my family is St. John Bosco. He's come to the rescue for my frustration about a lack of obedience in my kids and my general lack of meekness in my own soul.

So far I'm 3 for 3 in producing extremely strong willed, spirited children.
(Jon thinks Baby Tess is more laid back, but considering that she almost died on me in infancy, I refuse to count her yet as my "easy" baby).

I love St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. I love St. Francis Cabrini. Their gentle method of loving discipline called to my heart. But they didn't quite do it for me.

Enter St. John Bosco. The Saint of Juvenile Delinquents! Surely if St. John Bosco could advocate the "preventative method" of discipline as the right one for children recently released prison, then I've got a harder time arguing that this gentle method won't work for my strong-willed brood.

This passage from the Divine Office is made me cry when I first read it last week. It's a far, far off goal--but I'm committed to making it a reality with Christ's help.

(Reading from Divine Office Jan 31, from a letter by St. John Bosco, priest)

"My sons, in my long experience very often I had to be convinced of this great truth. It is easier to become angry than to restrain oneself, and to threaten a boy than to persuade him. Yes, indeed, it is more fitting to be persistent in punishing our own impatience and pride than to correct the boys. We must be firm but kind, and be patient with them. . .

See that no one finds you motivated by impetuosity or willfulness. It is difficult to keep clam when administering punishment, but this must be done if we are to keep ourselves from showing off our authority or spilling out our anger. . .

They are our sons, and so in correcting their mistakes we must lay aside all anger and restrain it so firmly that it is extinguished entirely.

There must be no hostility in our minds, no contempt in our eyes, no insult on our lips. We must use mercy for the present and have hope for the future, as is fitting for real fathers who are eager for real correction and improvement.

In serious matters it is better to beg God humbly than to send forth a flood of words that will only offend the listeners and have no effect on those who are guilty."

St. John Bosco, pray for us!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Poor in Spirit = Openness to God

Blessed are the poor in spirit, the kingdom of God is theirs – Who are the poor in spirit? They are those who, by God’s grace, shun anything that would deprived of the joy of being totally dependent on God. Now, all of us are dependent on God, we just don’t know it. The poor in spirit are those who delight in the experience of dependence on God.Those in the flesh strongly resist any such sense of dependence or lack of control. As such they acquire wealth, power, and resources to create the illusion that they are in control. But they are not and ultimately their whole system will fail. It is a recipe for frustration and unhappiness.

From the Archdiocesis of Washington D.C. Blog

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Why He Puts Me Under Water

Friday afternoon was a rough time in the Benjamin household. When my husband came home from work and I said "I feel like I'm underwater."

I often feel "underwater" as a new Mama of a newborn plus 3 older kids. I'm not drowning. I'm not sinking to the bottom of the pool with anxiety or depression.

I'm in the "uncomfortable" part of new motherhood. I'm a few inches below the water surface of my life, lacking a comfortable pace, missing some important breaths, feeling tired and sore in my mind and my body.

Later that night, I wasn't even praying exactly, but a comforting image came to mind.

My husband often rides over broken glass in the city streets and ends up with a flat tire on his bicycle. The cracks are so small, he can't see them. Jon only knows the cracks must be there because the result on his bicycle wheel.

Jon's got a funny trick to fix a flat tire.

Jon will fill up our kitchen sink with about ten inches of water. Then he places sections of the tire underwater and squeezes. When a tiny stream of bubbles emerge, he marks the place. Then he dries the wheel, takes out his patch kit and glues new rubber onto the broken places.

When I'm living my life "right"--open to life, detaching from the world, working hard at my vocation and I still feel "underwater", I'm tempted to blame God. "I'm doing everything you ask me to do, why don't I feel better while I'm doing it?"

That bicycle metaphor made me feel better.

I'm underwater right now, so that God can put fix the hidden holes of sin that are giving me a flat tire. Submerge, squeeze, patch. Submerge, squeeze, patch.

Submerged in the demands of motherhood, find the hidden bubbles of sin, say an act of contrition.

Submerge, sin, confession.

Easiest way to find the hidden holes on a bicycle tire, or the weak spots in a human soul.

2011 March For Life

God bless everyone who stood outside in the cold weather yesterday to March for Life!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Prayer Changes Hearts, Prayer Saves Lives

Please join me in prayer and fasting for the overturn of Roe v. Wade this weekend.

(And when you see the angry girls waving their "It's my body, It's my right!" signs at you during the March for Life on Monday--love them, smile at them, pray for them. I used to be one of those pro-choice girls. Change is possible!)

From How I Became Pro-Life

"I remember so clearly when that all changed. It was a Saturday morning in July. I was fooling around on my husband’s computer and I found this great pro-life site that had real pictures and descriptions of each of the stages of fetal development. We were eight weeks in, and the baby’s heart had just started beating. I remember jumping around and telling my husband “the heart has started, the heart has started!”

We went for a walk downtown to celebrate. I remember so clearly, the bright sunshine, and the feel of my husband’s hand and the rough slope of the sidewalk and this electric feeling that there was a baby’s heartbeat inside of me. A heart beat that would go on her whole life, and it had just begun inside of me!

Then my next thought, "But she’s still a chicken! She’s in that chicken stage of embryonic development, so she’s not really a baby yet."

Then I realized with this all over clarity which somehow sort of hit my whole body at once, rather than just my brain, all chicken embryos are babies. Why should this baby be different? Why are we celebrating the start of this baby's heartbeat just because of a few external factors of her mother? I was white, married and had a graduate degree. As a poverty law attorney, I’d dedicated my life to fight for equality for people who didn’t look like me. I’d helped poor women get food stamps and housing and a decent education. Yet if one of my clients was unmarried, younger, with less education, she wasn’t supposed to be celebrating her baby starting a heartbeat. This was supposed to be a “problem” she should be busy getting rid of.

So that started me on the road to becoming an obedient Catholic, one with a capital “C.”"

Read the whole thing here.

Our Lady's Strength

"Resist anything that leads to moodiness. Our prayer each day should be, "Let the joy of the Lord be my strength." Cheerfulness and joy were Our Lady's strength. This made her a willing handmaid of God. Only joy could have given her the strength to go in haste over the hills of Judea to her cousin Elizabeth, there to do the work of a handmaid. If we are to be true handmaids of the Lord, then we too, each day, must go cheerfully in haste over the hills of difficulties." Mother Teresa: Her Essential Wisdom, pg 74.

"Joy is very infectious. We will never know just how much good a simple smile can do. Be faithful in little things. Smile at one another. We must live beautifully." pg. 75

Friday, January 21, 2011

Another Thoughtful Facebook Update

from my Carmelite buddy, Father Dan . . .

‎"Maybe the greatest threat to the Church is not heresy, not dissent, not secularism, not even moral relativism, but this sanitized, feel-good, boutique, therapeutic spirituality, that makes no demands, calls for no sacrifice, asks for no conversion, entails no battle against sin, but only soothes and affirms." -- Archbishop Timothy Dolan (2007)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Update on Losing Friends

I'm still collecting interesting comments on my "Losing Friends" post. Here's an update.

Thank you for your kind comments and prayers. Since that time I've spoken to all the "lost friends" in person. I've had a calm and peaceful heart during each of those interactions. Since y'all know my normal fiery St. Jerome like temper-- that was one more example of God carrying me over a rough patch.

Some of my old friendships have changed dramatically--but each one for the best. (I'm probably the most clueless Catholic Mama in the Northern Hemisphere, but just in case there is another "Abigail" in the NICU please remember this following story. Be gentle with yourself!)

I had really intense feelings about the "abandonment" I felt by Tessy's intended Godparents during her NICU stay. I'd either sob hysterically after each interaction ended or tell Jon that I felt like punching someone in the nose. I thought that my feelings weren't "normal" and weren't Christian.

I was ashamed of feeling that way. I asked people to please pray for what I assumed were "Devil attacks" that were trying to pit me against Tessy's Godmother. I felt like obviously Tessy's Mom and her future Godmother should be on the same page at all times during her health crisis. I brought up this sin against charity at every confession.

Six weeks after Tess was home safe and sound from the NICU, Jon and I made the final decision not to have any additional baptism services in the Church. (It took so long because I'd agree with my husband that Baby Tessy's emergency baptism was perfect just the way God planned. Then fifteen minutes later, I'd see the new, never worn baptismal garment intended for Tess hanging in our closet and burst into tears.) As a part of that process, we also decided to let the "temporary" godparent arrangement of Sister Kathy stand.

Once we finished the awkward task of uninviting the couple we originally intended to be Tessy's Godparents, every single trace of ill-will immediately left my soul. It was so dramatic. It felt like someone switched on a light switch to my heart.

Suddenly everything was totally fine. I felt "not everyone has the ability to handle an emotional visit to the sick" or "its understandable that people didn't want to bond with Tess until they were sure that she'd make it." Once we acted to protect Tessy's future spiritual well-being, all my anger and disappointment against the prospective Godparents left. Forgiveness came much more easily to me.

I'm sharing this humiliating story because I think one of the graces of the NICU is that it's an intense hothouse that brings a lot of uncomfortable and hidden feelings to the surface. Things that might have taken me 3 years to process, suddenly became super clear in a matter of three weeks.

The intensity of the NICU burnt out some friendships in my life. I've "lost friends" no question.

But now, three months later I'm not crushed. I'm not still hurting.

I think of the NICU as a sort of forest fire that ravaged through my family. All the underbrush of superficiality and fakeness got burned away. The true friendships still stand like Lebanese ceders in my life. They are tall and luminuous.

Then in the clearing -- there are all of these new saplings that start growing in the cleared soil. New friends, who are founded in a more pure soil of mutual faith and greater honesty.

And Baby Tess is home! And her smile makes me love the world again.

I guess my take-away lesson is that every single one of us will suffer bone-crushing loneliness during the great trials of our life. It's human nature to flee from sad situations. That happens so that we can relearn that God alone is our friend. And He will send us friends-- not a new visitor for every single lonely night in the NICU, but enough visitors so that we don't feel like total freaks while we stand vigil next to our sick baby's crib side.

Everyone will always get some shepards to come and adore their little newborn--Even in the NICU. Every baby has Wisemen who bring her presents and love from afar.

Thank you all for praying for me and Baby Tess.

What Scripture Passage Helped You Through A Rough Time?

Yesterday, I chatted with another Carmelite Mom whose darling baby Joey is a fellow "Dr. Bear Kid" (read National Children's Hospital Patient) with Baby Tess. Kate told me that she had a post in mind to write about the Scripture passages that came to mind to help her during Joey's many, many heart surgeries. (Can't wait to read it, Kate!)

Then I just read Danya's wonderful comment about how a specific Scripture passage helped her trust during the difficult days of an adoption procedure.

Same thing happened to me many times during Tessy's illness!

So my basic question for all of you readers is this.

We know that Jesus is the WORD of God. What if he manifests himself to us in times of trouble as a specific Scripture passage? In other words, in time of doubt I could picture Jesus giving me a warm hug when I close my eyes to pray in the surgery waiting room of Children's Hospital. If I'm also open to the Holy Spirit, however, my warm "hug" could also be suddenly remembering a specific Scripture passage that helps me maintain trust in the Lord during a scary situation.

Jesus is the "The Way, The Truth and The Life". Scripture then isn't some "generic" good for you advice from the Bible that we Christians get an A+ for memorizing. Scripture is more like specific trail head markers for our individual path up to heaven.

When you are in real trouble, the Scripture that you've heard years before in church or in the Divine Office, can sort of rise up in the forefront of your mind, smack you in the head, and lead you out of danger and onto the path perfect safety.

Does that experience resonate with anyone else?

If that is the case "meditating on the Word, day and night" isn't this impossible standard for the Monks on Mount Carmel. Reading Sacred Scripture often is also important for us basic, normal Catholics as we stumble through this amazing, unpredictible faith journey called "Life".

Homework: Write a post about "What Scripture Passage Helped You Through A Rough Patch" and link in the comments so we can all marvel at the beauty and wisdom of God!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Leaving the Land of Rivers for the Land of Little Rain

"After Abraham arrives in Haran, God suddenly speaks to him, saying, "Go forth from your native land and from your father's house to the land that I will show you." This is remarkable request on God's part. He asks Abraham to leave everything that he knows but doesn't even tell Abraham where he is going.

So what does God promise in return? He promises that if Abraham goes on this journey, then he will give him what Abraham most wants; a child. What's more, he promises to make Abraham a "great nation" and to bless all the families of the earth through him. THis is one of the most important moments of human history: God offers Abraham the chance to be his partner.

. . . "What is remarkable about what Abraham did is that he leaves the land of rivers, the land of water, Mesopotamia. In the Promised Land-down in Israel, where God tells Abraham to go-there are no rivers. There is little rain. But Abraham no longer needs the water. He has God.The message is clear; If we believe in God, we will be rewarded."

Feiler, Bruce, "Walking the Bible" pgs 38-39.

In this book, a Jewish author decides to tour the importance places of the Old Testament on foot. His reflections are unique and memorable.

The image of Abraham leaving "a land of rivers for a land with little rain" really touched me.

In my faith journey I've left the "known" for the unknown land with little rain in so many things-- my embrace of poverty, homeschooling, stay at home motherhood, and Catholicism in general.

The more I'm willing to let go of the typical American dream of a big career, nice cars, solid retirement accounts, and plenty of "me time" --the more I'm following God into the Promised Land. It's a little scary out here, but I know for certain in the marrow of my bones that the One True God is holding my hand.

Father Abraham, pray for us! Help us to better model you!

Met with the Personal Trainer Last night

Our gym membership came with a free "smart start" session with a personal trainer. I was so tired after a rough day with Miss Tess that I came inches from staying home last night. I'm so glad I went.

First, God assigned me the only English Major in the gym as our personal trainer.

Second, our new buddy Colin crafted a gentle routine for Jon and my life-long "better health" goal on the elliptical machine, the rowing machine and easy abdominal work-out including "the superman" and


No push-ups. No sit-ups. No crunches.

An ab routine that I can easily do at home with my best friend to fight post-baby belly flab until I'm 82.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

No Snow Days for Daddy

The only downside of having a husband who can walk to work . . .

is that when the rest of the city is shut down because of icy roads, our Daddy still can't take a snow day. :-(

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Tessy's Story

In Honor of next week's 2011 March for Life, here is my daughter's story.

Pre-natal diagnosis of birth defects for babies in the womb often results in counseling for abortion.

However, there is great faith, hope and love in the NICU

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Tears and Hope

One of my little buddies from the NICU received some sad news this week. Miss Skylar Elizabeth was officially diagnosed as being deaf, a complication from being a "micro-premie" at birth. You can read her brave Mom's post about receiving the news from Children's Hospital here. Sky's on a journey now to get hearing aids and ultimately a cochlear implant.

Please say some extra prayers today for Skylar and her Mom, Tharen.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Hitting the Ball Out of the Park

Today was my home school review.

Long time readers know that I've been a bit hysterical about being having my home school methods evaluated by the public school system.

Today, in the wake of being a post-NICU mother. No butterflies! Now, if no one currently has a PICC Line stuck in their heart, then it's automatically an easy day in Miss Abigail's book.

I filled out the portfolio of my kids school work with calm and trust. I knew we didn't have a great semester, (Baby Tessy's long hospitalization through our normal home school routine out the window for almost 3 months) but we survived. I was calm in getting a lack-luster review score considering all the special circumstances of our crazy Fall.

Imagine my surprise when Baby Tessy's hospital stay IMPROVED our score.

My reviewer is an Asian immigrant who is all about the extended family. When she found that the grandparents were heavily involved in my kids education this semester, she was SO excited. That fact got mentioned twice in the formal comments on my kid's permanent school record.

(The fact that my kids HAD to live with their grandparents for 3 weeks because their Mom and Dad had orphaned them during a younger sibling's NICU stay, never even got mentioned.)

According to our Japanese reviewer, "grandparents are everything!"

I just sat there and tried not to laugh out loud. What a funny guy our Jesus is! Here I thought that Baby Tessy's illness ruined the school year, yet her little emergency hospital episode is exactly what won us a ton of extra credit points today.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Letting Go

There's a distinct possibility that we might need to empty out our retirement account to pay for Baby Tessy's medical bills.

God is in charge.

I'm applying for charity from two hospitals, so we might not need to zero out the IRA.

Yet, because God is in charge, not me--I need to be ready to make that sacrifice.

(It's not a lot of money, we're poor Carmelites. Our IRA is small. Compared to the gigantic hospital bills that Baby Tess incurred from a 26 day NICU stay, our co-payment portion is equal to a single day of her NICU room & board charges. Everything else is already paid for by our health insurance company)

The sacrifice of our IRA is painful because it represents a sacrifice of my dream of buying a house soon for our family.

For the past three years, we'd saved a tiny bit of Jon's paycheck in an IRA hoping to use the proceeds for a down-payment on a real house.

I've puttered through my life afraid and bitter for a week. "This is it! Apartment Living FOREVER!"

God loves me so much. This week he healed my heart through episodes of Reality Television. (Yeah, this is the productive way I've spent my time this week. Tessy has a cold. We've been stuck in my bed nursing CONSTANTLY. Instead of doing my prayers, I've been watching hours of old reality TV shows on Netflix. I love Jesus because He meets you where you are!)

I saw lots of families who had beautiful huge houses and were very unhappy.

I'll take my healed Tess, my large family, and my small apartment. I'll detach more from wealth and my selfish, tainted dream to become a more "normal" housewife--one who owns an actual house, on an actual block, with real neighbors next door. I'll trade it all for greater "freedom of the heart."

The Queen of Heaven Was Once the Queen of Housekeepers

(This passage from "Our Lady Came to Fatima" made me cry with recognition. I'm so similar to Tia Olimpia, the mother of two of the Fatima children. Immediately after the great "Miracle of the Sun" she is consumed with the mundane cares of housekeeping. How tenderly does Our Lady sympathize with us poor mothers and how quickly does she come to our aid!)

"But to the weary Tia Olimpia it seemed that at least three-quarters of the whole seventy thousand were jamming the road that led back to Aljustrel and trying to catch a glimpse of her children. She found it almost impossible to think straight about what had just happened. When she looked back over the events of the past five months, her mind simply bogged beneath the weight of the mystery-- the visions, the messages, the secrets, and now the miracle! And her own little ones at the center of it all! Now, as she trudged along through the crowd, trying to keep her footing in the slippery mud, trying vainly to catch a glimpse of her husband and children, Tia Olimpia's mind took refuge in a most unmysterious thought

"Now I have to go home and clean up the place!"

She groaned out loud. It would take a week at the very least, she thought. At the moment it was impossible to tell the inside of the house from the outside! Even the beds were filthy! [My note: Everything was dirty from the vast muddy crowd that visited the children before the Miracle of the Sun] Tia Olimpia tried to keep her mind fixed on the fact that the Mother of God had just performed a miracle for the sake of her children. But she could not entirely banish the thought of her mud-caked kitchen floor.

At the door of her house she finally caught up with Ti Marto and Jacinta, who he carried in his arms. The little girl seemed faint with weariness and her mother whisked her into the house and started the teakettle before she noticed anything peculiar about the place.

She looked around curiously, then turned to Tia Marto. "Who's been here while we were gone?"

"What do you mean," Ti Marto asked distractedly. ..

"Well look around a little" Tia Olimpia exclaimed. . .

From one end to the other, the house was clean, spotlessly clean, sparkling and fresh as though the fall housecleaning had been finished five minutes before. Not a trace of the mornings mud was left. Not a single print of a single boot was on any of the floors or beds. The bedspreads looked as if they had been freshly washed, starched and ironed.

"Who cleaned this place up?" Ti Marto asked. "Teresa? Was it you?" He turned to the children's godmother.

"Of course not! I was in the Cova all morning!"

"Victoria? Maria? Gloria?"

The ladies simply looked at him. They had seen the place-before and after. They knew perfectly well that no one of them could have put it into its present shape in the length of time the family had been away. Not with all that dirt!

Ti Marto ran his finger over the kitchen floor. . . .He looked at his wife and shrugged. "Well," he said, "Our Lady can do big miracles for the children and little miracles for the parents."

Tia Olimpia did not say anything. . . She had good reason to be pleased with the Queen of Heaven for remembering that she had once been the Queen of Housekeepers."

pg 129-131, Our Lady Came to Fatima. (If you haven't yet checked out the 1950s Catholic Series called "Vision Books" for your kids, hurry to order one online at Barnes and Noble. Each one book is such a treasure. I learn even more than my kids.)

How to Tell that Your Married to a Carmelite . . .

In the middle of my lament at Breakfast about the impossible, yucky day I have in front of me . . .

my husband cheerfully says "Wow! You'll have so much to offer up for Vincent! I hope I get to match you in suffering today!"

(Honey, if my whiny, pathetic soul makes it to heaven ---its all thanks to you!)

Mother Teresa: On Prayer

"When I was crossing into Gaza, I was asked at the checkpost whether I was carrying any weapons. I replied: Oh yes, my prayer books."

Mother Teresa, Her Essential Wisdom, pg 57.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


I probably just finished my last conversation with my friend Vincent this side of heaven.

He's leaving Mount Saint Mary's Seminary to head back to Africa tomorrow. He's studying for the priesthood with an ordination date that is still uncertain. He asked me to pray for "a safe journey" and for "him to stay humble." Will you join me in prayer?
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Sunday, January 9, 2011

It's All Greek to Me-- An Absolutely True Story

This morning I found myself praying the Divine Office at my gym's "smoothie bar." (Tessy had a cold, so I kept her out of the gym's babysitting area and Jon had run home to pick up the forgotten swimsuits.)

I held Baby Tess in my lap and marveled over then deep reflections on Our Lord's Baptism. Then I started softly chanting the passages from the Psalms.

A lady sat down next to me at the microscopic size tables.

I got a weird vibe from her from the start, but I just kept focused on my prayers.

Finally, I look up.

Guess what she is reading?

"The God Delusion."

The irony was so funny. The Carmelite and the Atheist sitting side by side.

After a while, I said something. "Do you like your book?" It was so strange because she was so active in liking her book but she sort of fell apart in her defense when she looked at me. It was as if something shiny was distracting her. (Baby Tess? The new wedding ring that I had just asked a priest to bless after Mass 20 minutes earlier? Who knows.)

I am so NOT articulate and strong like my Leila from "The Little Bubble" or Jen from "Conversion Diary". In the middle of trying to be "overly" agreeable while a total stranger explained to me that while she agrees that reason proves that God doesn't exist she didn't like the authors insinuation that all believers are idiots-- I actually said "Cool!" (Sorry Jesus!)

I didn't say anything about chanting 5,000 year old ancient prayers to the scientifically proved "delusion" while sharing her same gym smoothie table.

Then my husband came in. We chatted about our family's work out plans. The lady nearly fell off her stool when she heard mention of 3 other children. I left to change into my work out clothes.

When I got back, the lady had returned to her book and now my husband was praying his Daily Office next to her.

I am SO out of my element in this gym. But God has something going on here that I can't see.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

God's Ways Are Not Our Own

I'm constantly amazed at the depth and beauty of God's plan for my life.

Two weeks ago, my husband signed us up for a family gym membership I initially feared we'd never use. Today, I sent my husband out to swim laps solo for the first time in ten years. My older kids went to "kids club" at the gym. Hannah had a "Sport & Kids" Class with a young woman who recognized our family from Daily Mass.

Baby Tess has her first cold, so I elected to stay home with her. I thought I was dodging my exercise for the day. Yet when all the Benjamins joyfully reentered the house, I felt something drawing me to the gym. "I think I'll go today too!", I said. I changed into my exercise clothes and gently yanked a needy 3 year old from my leg.

I got to the gym just in time to watch early CNN reports on the "death" of Congresswoman Gifford. (We don't have a TV at home, so this is my only brush with the regular news). I unplugged my headphones from the TV console on my treadmill and instantly started praying rosaries for her soul.

Maybe she's not really dead, I thought. I switched to a Divine Mercy Chaplet.

That was my Saturday, a few minutes before the Mercy Hour of 3:00 PM. Closed eyes. The steady thud of my new sneakers on a treadmill. An urgent prayer after prayer going through my head to God's heart.

"Please don't let her die without the Sacraments, Lord. Please don't let her die . . ."

I worry about the gym. It seems pretty "Greek" to me. There's little signs warning against "gazing" at other members. There's a lot of vanity and pride floating around the atmosphere.

Yet for now, I'm hanging out where God placed me. One poor Carmelite, with a large spare tire "baby belly", running on her treadmill and helping out Jesus by praying the news.

Friday, January 7, 2011

My turn to pray for her!

My friend, Conversion Diary Jen, is off to the Emergency Room to check out some pain in her legs. Can you pray for her today?

How a Marriage Improves with Time


Him: "Sweetheart, is there a reason for the limes to be in the freezer?

Me: "I put the limes in the freezer? What was I thinking? Well . . .I guess its been that kinda day."

Him: "I could tell it was a rough one for you I walked in the door tonight. That's why I made sure my question tone was extra gentle."

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Britt Nicole - The Lost Get Found

To the friend who asked me to pray for her to "get her spark back!"

This song always makes me happy. We have "dance party" at my house with my 3 girls whenever this song appears on the radio. I think it's perfect for you!

The Best and the Worse of City Living

Today was my first "ZUMBA" class at my new gym.* Picture 80 elderly Asian ladies and Miss Abigail sweating out Latin Dance Moves to Indian Techno music. (Who else is home at 12:30 PM in my neighborhood except for the Asian grandmothers and the solo stay-at-home Mom, right?) The class was super fun!

There was even one 50 year old Mom there with her teenage daughter. It's moments like this where the reality that I now have 3 daughters starts to sink in. I watch that mother/daughter couple with such joy. I can't wait to be doing ZUMBA workouts with my girls.

As much as I loved the class, I'm not sure I'll be back. The daytime child care arrangements at the gym left a lot to be desired. At night, the gym daycare is staffed with the sweetest group of happy teenagers. This is every one's dream high school job. The staff seems like they are having so much fun and all really adore kids.

The atmosphere in the daytime was a completely different vibe. The morning shift was all adult women and each one was so sad and so stressed. Tess had one on one care with a lady in the infant room, but the look on this lady's face was so "dead" and "depressed." I don't judge these women because caring for kids is rough and everyone has a rotten day. I just felt very uncomfortable leaving my tiny baby in that environment.

Worried about Baby Tess, I ended up leaving my class 20 minutes early. She gave me such a big smile when she saw me. My other kids, who were entertained running around on all the cool gym equipment were so bummed. "Do we have to go home so soon!"

I'm really, really blessed to be a stay-at-home Mom who only hands off her children occasionally to people who always say "What a beautiful Baby, bring her here!" Instead of "Hasn't she eaten yet?. . . (sigh)." Today's experience really reminded me today that "choosing" to not to work isn't about depriving my kids of fun ice-skating lessons and cute Gymboree clothes. Its about making sure that the only who is ever grumpy around them is me-- the Mama who shares 50% of their DNA.

*(By the way, Miss Betty Beguiles. A recent immigrant in my class had the cutest modest workout clothes--black yoga pants with a little skirt. It totally beat my own stab at modest coverage for the post-partum Mom, alo pants (the organic cotton line from Nike, I think.) I want what she has!)

Prayer WORKS!

I just got an email update from a blog reader from the U.K. Sarah had baby Noah on December 23rd and this bouncing baby boy is already home from the NICU!

A special thank you to everyone who prayed for her to have a safe emergency c-section over the Advent season.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Happy St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Day!

This Saint was a Protestant Convert, a mother of 5, a home-school teacher (to her orphaned nieces) and she lived in a small town near my house. I love her!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Turning Into Sporty Spice, Part II

This is day two of my new exercise routine--Wow!

First, I've got to explain before this week I would have labeled myself as absolutely allergic to exercise. My experiences as a cross-country runner in High School were not good. I believed the world was divided between "jocks" and "bookworms." I firmly planted myself in the second category.

So tonight was a total surprise. I enjoyed myself! I left the house at the grossest part of the day for me (6 PM), dropped off 4 happy kids to the kiddie gym playground and then had almost an hour of rare time alone with my husband.

I did 20 minutes on the cross-country skiing machine, 10 minutes on the rowing machine and lifted (teeny tiny) weights. At the end of my 45 minute exercise routine, my boy bought me a strawberry "recovery shake" at the gym smoothie bar.

My virtue I'm working on in 2011 is "fortitude". That skiing machine was rough. Every time I'd start to fade a bit, my husband would cheer me on with the chant "Fortitude! Fortitude!"

The rest of the time I got to hear about my husband's day in real time. (Usually, we only get to talk after all the kids hit the hay at 9:30 PM.)

Life with God is nothing but surprises. Finding a new way to visit with my best friend everyday is a good one!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Feeling the Itchy Straw on Your Back

This Advent season I really meditated on the image of the baby Jesus in the manager. Not the sweet plastic image slapped on a Greeting Card--but that real manager.

Itchy Straw.

Cow Slobber.

The smell of donkey dung in the air.

My question for Mommy Mary at the start of Advent is "Why did you put your baby down in a manager?"

Because I have a newborn, and the urge to protect her is pretty strong.

Mary could have just held the Baby Jesus in her arms immediately after his birth. That's the place where most newborns normally want to be. Jesus could have just come out in his special way, nursed, and they fallen asleep in that warm nook between his mother's chin and her round shoulder. That cozy place is Baby Tessy's favorite spot to nap.

Instead, Our Lady put her newborn son down.

In a real manager.

The one filled with itchy straw and cow slobber and odd donkey germs.

This newborn was not ordinary. Christ was divine. He came to earth for a purpose. To suffer greatly for love. He got down to work moments after birth starting with a strong preference to itchy straw rather than the smooth skin of his mother's neck.

Mary was a real person. Filled with grace. She somehow got Christ's mission. Against all her natural instincts she laid that newborn in the straw. Then she prayed beside his poor uncomfortable bed in wonder and awe.

This Fall, my newborn Tess spent 3 weeks recovering from her near death in the NICU of one of the world's best hospitals for Children.

Tess endured countless needle pokes from IVs and blood draws. I never thought of those needle pokes as itchy straw during her NICU stay. I'm not "More Like Mary" yet. I flinched at each and every poke Tessy received. I never shrugged off an opportunity to hug my baby girl in some intimate kangaroo care.

I hope that next time a kid of mine is in tears, or pain, or emotional suffering--I can be just a tad more holy in my reaction. I don't have to understand suffering. I don't have to like it. But I do need to realize that redemptive suffering is a great mystery that even tiny infants participate in to bring more love into our broken, cold world.

The Gospel According to Mimi

Me: Today is a special day for the Wiseman. Can you see them bringing gifts to Baby Jesus up there? Do you remember what gifts they gave?

Mimi: Chocolate?