Sunday, July 31, 2011

Fighting the Devil

When I came to church this morning, I had a shock. A heavy white marble statue of Our Lady had been hacked into pieces and thrown into the mud.

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It caused me physical pain to see my Mom's face pressed into the mud.

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At first I felt awful, then suddenly I felt better. It was like proof that "evil is real" and we're all in this together as the Body of Christ. The little injuries I received over the past two weeks were apart of this larger attack on the Catholic Church. How can I feel alone in my misery when my own Mom's statue is face down in the dirt?

I immediately asked my family to pray with me by this statue. We promised to do acts of prayer and reparations for this sacrilege. We talked about how it was no surprise that vandals chose this statue of Mary, out of all the other things in our Church to attack. The Devil hates Mommy Mary because she is so powerful!

If you look closely, you can see that this was a memorial to a 26 year old son who died in a car accident 30 years ago. What a beautiful statement of hope after tragedy his mother left for the parish.
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Later, I went back to church at 3 PM and took some photos. I couldn't stand to see Our Mom doing a face-plant in the dirt. It took all the strength I had to flip her over. Marble is heavy!

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I called in a few of my friends to help me clean her up.

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My cleaning crew hard at work

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It was a "coincidence" but the Sister of the deceased brother whose memorial this was came over to chat with us during our cleaning session. She was very heartsick that "people could do this." She was really touched however, that we were there cleaning up her brother's statue.

We left a note for the vandals.

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(Dear Vandals, We are praying for you, St. Joseph's)

We know that the Devil is real and he does mean stuff! But lets not give up Hope. Let's keep with the fight. The Devil hates our Mom because she can crush him with a bare toe. If the Devil hates us because we're starting to have a "family resemblance to Mom" lets rejoice, instead of being disheartened or scandalized!

Update: Found out that his statue weighed 800 pounds and yet was dragged into the middle of a city street.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Stress: A Pathway to Prayer?

Stress: A Pathway to Prayer?

This piece is completely amazing.

I'm getting ready to make my temporary Carmelite vows and I'm so frustrated that all this extra stress from the move is "interfering" with my prayer life. I keep thinking "God, why is all this happening now---right when I'm supposed to be concentrating more on You?"

This insight is so cool. What if all this "extra stress" is God's way of calling me INTO a deeper prayer life, rather than simply being an unwanted distraction from it?

ht: the anchoress

Today is My Favorite Second Reading!!!!

Happy St. Martha Day!!!

Wow, does this zinger from St. Augustine always put me in a great mood:

"But you, Martha, if I may say so, are blessed for your good service, and for your labors you seek the reward of peace. Now you are much occupied in nourishing the body, admittedly a holy one. But when you come to the heavenly homeland will you find a traveller to welcome, someone hungry to feed, or thirsty to whom you may give drink, someone ill whom you could visit, or quarrelling whom you could reconcile, or dead whom you could bury?

No, there will be none of these tasks there. What you will find there is what Mary chose. There we shall not feed others, we ourselves shall be fed. Thus what Mary chose in this life will be realized there in all its fullness; she was gathering fragments from that rich banquet, the Word of God. Do you wish to know what we will have there? The Lord himself tells us when he says of his servants, Amen, I say to you, he will make them recline and passing he will serve them."

Am I Content with Weakness/Mistreatment Yet?

A charge from St. Paul to go beyond the beyond today in our First Reading today:

"As to the extraordinary revelations, in order that I might not become conceited I was given a thorn in the flesh, an angel of Satan to beat me and keep me from getting proud. Three times I begged the Lord that this might leave me. He said to me, “My grace is enough for you, for in weakness power reaches perfection.” And so I willingly boast of my weaknesses instead, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Therefore I am content with weakness, with mistreatment, with distress, with persecutions and difficulties for the sake of Christ; for when I am powerless, it is then that I am strong." (Second Corinthians)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Am I A Crazy Post-NICU Mother?

It's less than a month before my Teresa's first birthday.

I haven't planned a thing for her first birthday party.

That's really odd for me. I LOVE hosting parties. But every time I think about Tessy's upcoming day, I get a little sick to my stomach.

On August 30, 2010, my daughter had a beautiful, holy birth.

On September 5, 2010, she started dive bombing towards death. I watched my daughter's condition freak out otherwise calm and hopeful pros at Holy Cross NICU. I was suddenly marked as the "mom who was going to lose her kid in a matter of hours."

And then she was fine.

Baptism? Prayer? Her godmother having a special in as a Bride of Christ?

I don't really know what flipped my baby girl 360 degrees around, but I'm beginning to think the awesome "medicine" part of her treatment at Holy Cross and Children's National Medical Center was almost the smallest part of Tessy's recovery. That was the tangible part we could see at the time-- but there was some powerful invisible stuff happening behind the scenes.

And I'm grateful.
But I'm also scared.

Those were super intense moments that I spent with my baby girl during her first week of life.

I'm not eager to go back there and go relive them.

In fact, I sort of want to pretend that my little girl is totally normal kid and brush past the birthday party thing all together. I'm want to whistle in the dark and pretend those scary alternative outcomes never could have happened.

But then, this was a "public miracle" of God. And there are all of these wonderful people who were a part of Tessy's journey towards healing--that I want to acknowledge and remember and celebrate her remarkable NICU journey together.

So what does God want me to do? Private family day? Big public party? Am I just supposed to let go of my vanity? What is the big deal if I do start to cry at odd moments during Tessy's party in front of a lot of people?

Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity: On Children

It's so lovely to have a religious sister really appreciate the beauty of the sacrament of marriage and write such hopeful words to her lay sister.

"Oh, little sister, how He is blessing your little nest, how He loves you in entrusting these two little souls "whom He chose in Him before creation that they might be holy and spotless in His presence in love" (Saint Paul). You are the one who must guide them to Him and keep them all His.
(Letter 227 To her sister, vol. II, pg. 198)

How I love to hear that! You are the one who must guide them to Him and keep them all His.

I get sort of overwhelmed easily at the spiritual responsibilities of motherhood. I'm a poor Mom in my emotional, physical, and spiritual resources, in addition to my limited economic means. I'm the Mom who often forgets to trim her kids' fingernails. And yet God handed me four, mostly helpless, kids under the age of nine!

With my forgetful, distracted personality it can be totally terrifying to think that I've got full responsibilities for four souls for finding their way into consistent and perfect friendship with our Lord, Jesus Christ, both now on earth and in heaven.

Especially since there is just such a GLUT of happy, committed, pure-hearted Catholic in the United States today to encourage me, a poor mother, in every single sense of the word!!!

But just when I start to get dizzy with fear, along comes my cheerful bff Elizabeth of the Trinity. "How He loves you!" she says. She reminds me my "mothering job" with all it's appearance of chaos and contradictions is actually quite simple.

You are the one who must guide them to Him and keep them all His.

Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity, pray for us!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Lee Ann Womack - I Hope You Dance

To my precious "in real life" friend who is newly pregnant after years of infertility and a recent (and emotional painful) third miscarriage--I say HURRAH! You are a brave woman and I love you!

For everyone out there who is struggling to stay "open to life."

After infertility....


a failed adoption...

infant death....

or a scary, bone-rattling ride with an older child through Children's National Hospital,

my strong Carmelite prayer for each one of you is:

"if you get the chance, to sit it out or dance...
I hope you dance!"

Because babies are worth the risk!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Happy Feast Day of Mary Magdalene!

"We should reflect on Mary’s attitude and the great love she felt for Christ; for though the disciples had left the tomb, she remained. She was still seeking the one she had not found, and while she sought she wept; burning with the fire of love, she longed for him who she thought had been taken away. And so it happened that the woman who stayed behind to seek Christ was the only one to see him. For perseverance is essential to any good deed, as the voice of truth tells us: Whoever perseveres to the end will be saved." (From a homily on the Gospels by Gregory the Great, pope. Today's Second Reading. Hom. 25, 1-2, 4-5:PL 76, 1189-1193)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Something from my retreat

(a thought I had in my room during my recent retreat)

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta had the chance to say "yes" and give Love to a million different children during her lifetime.

But I have the chance to say "yes" and show Love to the same four children in a million different moments during my lifetime.

(Do you get it? Both of us have an equal opportunity to showcase God's love. Mother Teresa showed the world that "everyone is a child of God." But I have a chance to show a few very specific children that they are loved by God "all of the time!")


It's funny how many things change once I got into Carmel. Climbing Mount Carmel seems very ordinary. I say some prayers. I go to some monthly meetings. I read the words of some interesting saints. The road is often hard, boring and repetitive. It's easy to think that I'm "not really getting anywhere."

Then I see how much my entire inner viewpoint has completely changed on something that previously was a major irritant. It's always a surprise like "oh, I've guess I have grown in my Faith walk after all!"

Silence is one big example.

I'm a natural socialite and the profound loneliness of stay-at-home motherhood really bothered me. I remember my buddy Conversion Diary Jen having a post lamenting the lack of social connection for stay-at-home mothers. Our lives seem so different from when our grandmother's stayed home in the 1950s. Back then there were hordes of neighbors to have a coffee klatch with at 10 AM. Now in many places in suburbia, a stay-at-home Mom might be the only person at home at 10 AM for entire city blocks.

I read that post and really though "Yeah, we should do something to get that old way back." I was constantly thinking the old way was better and we should "build bridges" and "reinvent community." In the past I've read so many great posts from all of you dear readers and thought "I wished that person lived close enough to invite over for ice-tea tomorrow!"

But now, instead of always thinking isolated Stay-at-Home mothers have it so rough--I'm starting to think that we're really blessed.

We have all this opportunity for SILENCE.

(And before you laugh out loud, let me assure you that Silence is a virtue that CAN co-exist with loud crabby teething babies and whiny eight year olds who complain bitterly that they've lost their favorite pony tail holder).

Silence is an "interior" virtue. I can be talking to all four of my children, at the same time that I have "silence in my heart." To me, at the very beginning stage of my formation, silence means

a) keeping my eyes on Christ and
b) being detached from worldly things and my own selfishness

So you see how stay-at-home motherhood is SO profoundly privileged as a place of spiritual growth for a Christian. I mean can you get a profession that has the potential to make you even LESS SELFISH? I mean, have you had a teething infant who needs to be carried next to your heart for an entire day? And is there anyone else you can serve where you can more easily imagine as the "Christ Child" than young children?

Silence means "humbling doing the tasks God wants us to do, and not listening to the competing viewpoints of the world."

Let me tell you, the world does NOT see stay-at-home mothers (or stay-at-home wives) as cool. We're lazy. We're parasites. We're wasting our "human potential" doing slop work that is better suited for a young au pair.

But all that time alone, cleaning up spilled chocolate milk and reapplying sunscreen, is time that we're NOT pleasing the world and we're NOT pleasing ourselves. Instead, it's the perfect time to get to know Christ.

He talks best to the silent heart.

Keep Calm & Carry On Blessed Elizabeth Style

Context: Elizabeth wrote this letter to a 14 year old friend who had trouble keeping her temper-but whenever I read it I feel like she wrote it just for me!

"Yes, my darling, I am praying for you and I keep you in my soul quite close to God, in that litter inner sanctuary where I find Him at every hour of the day and night. I'm never alone; my Christ is always there praying in me, and I pray with Him. You grieve me, my Framboise; I can well see that you're unhappy and I assure you it's your own fault. Be at peace. I don't believe you're crazy, just nervous and overexcited, and when you're like that, you make others suffer too. Ah, if I could teach you the secret of happiness as God has taught it to me. You say I don't have any worries or sufferings; it's true that I'm very happy, but if you only knew what a person can be just as happy even when she is crossed. We must always keep our eyes on God. In the beginning it's necessary to make an effort when we're just boiling inside, but quite gently, with patience and God's help, we get there in the end.

You must build a little cell within your soul as I do. Remember that God is there and enter it from time to time; when you feel nervous or you're unhappy, quickly seek refuge there and tell the Master all about it. Ah, if you got to know Him a little, prayer won't bore you any more; to me it seems to be rest, relaxation. We come quite simply to the One we love, stay close to Him like a little child in the arms of his mother, and we let our heart go. You used to love sitting very close to me and telling me your secrets; that is just how you must [go] to Him; if only you knew how well He understands... You wouldn't suffer any more if you understood that." (L. 123)

(Note: a large "Keep Calm and Carry On" sign posted on the office door of the director of Mount St. Mary's seminary where I had my July retreat. I LOVED it. What a slogan for future priests and for all mothers!)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Abigail's "You Come Too" Prayer Challenge

My Prayer Goal for Day One of "Back in the Carmel Saddle Again"

Get up early
Find the Bible
Read Something in John
Pray "The Prayer of the Quiet" for 15 minutes*

(I'm going back to 15 minutes in morning/15 minutes in the evening because 30 straight minutes is too hard for me right now. If you'd never prayed "mental prayer" before just start with 5 minutes. If mental prayer is super hard for you, try to go 7 to 10 minutes).

Mental Prayer is "placing yourself before God in silence." Try to clear your mind and listen to God. If you get distracted, gently bring yourself back to the task of "listening in silence." When you are still, the intellect will come up with all kinds of "urgent" tasks to do or serious problems to think about. St. Teresa of Avila said "pay no attention to this chatter than you would to a mad woman talking in your attic." DO NOT BEAT YOURSELF UP FOR SUCKING AT THIS PRAYER! Prayer is hard work. Practice makes perfect.

Update: Well, I didn't get up on time. So I prayed alone at 6:05, instead of 5:30 with my husband. UGGH! I'm so weak I can't even sit still physically for more than 5 minutes. I'm a Carmelite who watches the clock--even for only 15 minutes. But at least I did it and got through Morning Prayer, so today counts as a "personal best" right? (That's what my Cross-Country coach, Miss Jane Poundstone used to say to me. The first timed run of a season always stunk, but it counted as a "personal best"--something to track your progress in for future meets.)

Thank you for everyone who is training in prayer with me!!!! Just keep going!

You come too!

My recent move--

the scary, sixty day looking for a new place to live hunt, the thirty days of living with my brother during the stop gap and the WAAHHH!! my husband is now a long-distance commuter who lives apart from me for 14 hours a day--

has seriously messed up my prayer life.

It's gone!

I'm back to square one.

I can't meditate for more than 5 minutes at time.

I hate saying Morning and Evening Prayer, I'd rather watch a Netflix movie.

And I never go to Daily Mass.

I stink!

And its especially painful because this month I'm supposed to be writing my prayer life "autobiography" to ask my superiors for permission to say my three year temporary Carmel vows in November.

This November, (hopefully, through God's grace) I will be promising to pray 30 minutes of silent prayer a day, say two Divine Offices a day and go to Daily Mass whenever possible. For Three Years. That's sort of like running a prayer marathon every day FOR THREE YEARS.

So I was thinking during my last Carmel retreat how much it stunk being back in the beginner row again, (and by beginner I truly mean "I can not sit still for more than ten minutes in front of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament without becoming all distracted and twitchy even WITHOUT small children sitting next to me.")

But then I thought, "Hey, I get to start building up my prayer life from square one and this time I get to take my blog readers with me!"

You come too!* (from one of my favorite Robert Frost poems)

You want a better prayer life also, don't you? Even thought its not Lent, even though its not Advent. Boring Ordinary Time is just a great a time as ever to start adding some endurance and hill sprints to your daily prayer routine.

You come too!

It's more fun to pray with friends!

*The Pasture

I'm going out to clean the pasture spring;
I'll only stop to rake the leaves away
(And wait to watch the water clear, I may):
I sha'n't be gone long.—You come too.

I'm going out to fetch the little calf
That's standing by the mother. It's so young,
It totters when she licks it with her tongue.
I sha'n't be gone long.—You come too.

Bl. Elizabeth of the Trinity Prayer to the Trinity

(This was Elizabeth's personal prayer that she wrote out for herself on a special feast day. We prayed it multiple times during our retreat. So powerful!)

O my God, Trinity whom I adore;

help me to forget myself entirely that I may be established in You as still and as peaceful as if my soul were already in eternity.

May nothing trouble my peace or make me leave You, O my Unchanging One,

but may each minute carry me further into the depths of Your mystery.

Give peace to my soul; make it Your heaven, Your beloved dwelling and Your resting place.

May I never leave You there alone but be wholly present, my faith wholly vigilant, wholly adoring, and wholly surrendered to Your creative Action.

O my beloved Christ, crucified by love, I wish to be a bride for Your Heart;

I wish to cover You with glory; I wish to love You...even unto death!

But I feel my weakness, and I ask You to "clothe me with Yourself," to identify my soul with all the movements of Your Soul, to overwhelm me, to possess me, to substitute yourself for me that my life may be but a radiance of Your Life.

Come into me as Adorer, as Restorer, as Savior.

O Eternal Word, Word of my God, I want to spend my life in listening to You, to become wholly teachable that I may learn all from You.

Then, through all nights, all voids, all helplessness, I want to gaze on You always and remain in Your great light. O my beloved Star, so fascinate me that I may not withdraw from Your radiance.

O consuming Fire, Spirit of Love, "come upon me," and create in my soul a kind of incarnation of the Word: that I may be another humanity for Him in which He can renew His whole Mystery.

And You, O Father, bend lovingly over Your poor little crature; "cover her with Your shadow," seeing in her only the "Beloved in whom You are well pleased."

O my Three, my All, my Beatitude, infinite Solitude, Immensity in which I lose myself, I surrender myself to You as Your prey.

Bury Yourself in me that I may bury myself in You until I depart to contemplate in Your light the abyss of Your greatness.

-Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity, 21 November 1904


What phrases jump out at you when you read it?

I love "O my beloved Star, so fascinate me that I may not withdraw from Your radiance" because I have such trouble staying focused right now in prayer and Adoration. I like saying "It's all on you Lord Jesus, YOU fascinate me so that my wandering mind ceases to lose focus during the day." :-)

I also was struck hard by the phrase "I surrender myself to You as Your prey." Don't you just feel sometimes that God swoop you up out of your life like an Eagle catching a little mouse? "Surrendering" is a big thing for me this month.

Pull Out the Hankies..."Let Yourself Be Loved"

Just a little sample to introduce you all to my new bff Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity

(This is her goodbye note to her Mother Superior)

"You are uncommonly loved, loved by that love of preference that the Master had here below for some and which brought them so far. He does not say to you as to Peter: "Do you love Me more than these?" Mother, listen to what He tells you, "Let yourself be loved more than these! That is, without fearing that any obstacle will be a hindrance to it, for I am free to pour out My love on whom I wish! Let yourself be loved more than these is your vocation. It is in being faithful to it that you will make Me happy for you will magnify the power of My love. This love can rebuild what you have destroyed. Let yourself be loved more than these."....

"Mother, the fidelity that the Master asks of you is to remain in communion with Love, flow into, be rooted in this Love who wants to make your souls with the seal of His power and His grandeur. You will never be commonplace if you are vigilant in love! (vol 2, pg 179-180)

(I put in bold the lines that really jumped out at me)

This letter is so beautiful on so many levels, but it really helps overcome my "survivor guilt." I don't know why I was the one plucked out of my fame obsessed, sinful and totally selfish lifestyle as a college grad and placed in the middle of Catholicism, a sacramental marriage, abundant motherhood, and Carmel. I REALLY don't deserve it and I'm not doing a great job here on earth living up to my spiritual riches.

Yet there is my gentle buddy 'Sabeth coming to my aid. "Hey, Miss Abigail", she says gently. "Don't get frightened of those Carmel vows you'll be making in three months. Your job is to just let yourself be loved more than these. God's got a plan for everyone's salvation. Your part is to be the 'turned around' Mary Magdalene who gets the unexpected reward of seeing her Savior first on Easter morning. Just sit back, honey, and enjoy the ride!"

Reasons to Love Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity

This is my new BFF! (Thankfully there are no jealously in heaven because I currently have those cheesy "best friends forever" necklaces traded with Teresa of Avila, Therese of Lisieux, Mary Magdalene and now Elizabeth of the Trinity. I only ADD new saint buddies to my entourage, I never delete them!)

When your close you can call her "Sabeth", as in "eli-Zabeth"-- her childhood nickname.

She's a new Blessed (the step before becoming a recognized Saint) recently recognized by our buddy Blessed John Paul the Great. (Did you know that JP II was a Third Order Carmelite like me!!! Seriously! He made us like a THOUSAND Carmelite Saints during his time as pope. I love it because our Carmelite Saints basically never "did anything." Most of them sat around, loved God, barely wrote a scribble, and died young. I sort of feel like "it takes a Carmelite to recognize a Carmelite" so I'm glad he fast tracked a bunch of new Carmelite Saints for us.)

She is a contemporary Carmelite of Therese of Lisieux. They are both French nuns from basically the same geographical area. Elizabeth received "the Story of a Soul" during her novitiate (when it was not yet widely available) and was very much impacted by St. Therese's "little way."

Here is the thing, Blessed Elizabeth is ACTUALLY cooler as a saint for those of us "in the world." My retreat master described her as "a post-modern saint, as compared to St. Therese who was a modern saint." Blessed Elizabeth's theology foreshadowed the Vatican Two Council which placed equal value on all the sacraments. In other words, while St. Therese is begging God to let her Sister come into the convent since "there is nothing good in the World." Blessed Elizabeth is thanking God for her Sister's marriage. She believed that Marriage and Religious Life (being a Nun) were both equally valued paths to reach God. One wasn't better than the other.

So when Elizabeth wrote to her friends who were "in the world" she wrote with friendliness and dignity. She assumed that the insights that she gained in Carmel were of equal validity to her friends lives outside the convent.

Elizabeth knew that her Sister's life as a married woman with many children was different from her life as a cloistered Carmelite nun--but she believed whole heartedly that they could have the same intimate experience of God in their every day life.

It's very inspiring to read Elizabeth. She wrote intimate letters to her Sister, her Mother and her friends. When you read her letters its easy to imagine her as your trusted Sister, your holy daughter or your dear friend. She frets about teething babies, and a niece's sore finger. In fact there is a super fun letter written basically on her deathbed where she writes for 3 pages about the wonderful delights of spiritual union with God, and then abruptly says "So happy your daughter's finger is healing nicely." Because that is typical of my bff Elizabeth. Completely in rapture with the highest part of heaven and also intimately grounded with the little joys in the midst of the "daily grind" of life on earth.

I find her inspiring.

Oh and it helps that she has my sensitive personality. She was a natural chatterbox who feel deeply in love with Silence. And she had terrible temper tantrums that she learned to control only through grace.

Of course, 'Sabeth made a complete transformation of her natural sins by her First Confession at age 11 and I'm still very much "the old Abby" at age 36. But I feel encouraged that there is a saint who "gets me" and that piety can come, even to those who are not naturally "peaceable, still or quiet."

If you'd like to read Elizabeth's letters (which I affectionately call "her 1905 blog") you can order it here.

Good Stuff!

Today's Second Reading from the Divine Office is taken from the Imitation of Christ
(Lib. 2,1-6)(This was the Little Flower's Favorite Meditation Book)

"Turn to the Lord with your whole heart and leave behind this wretched world. Then your soul shall find rest. For the kingdom of God is the peace and joy of the Holy Spirit. If you prepare within your heart a fitting dwelling place, Christ will come to you and console you.

His glory and beauty are within you, and he delights in dwelling there. The Lord frequently visits the heart of man. There he shares with man pleasant conversations; welcome consolation, abundant peace and a wonderful intimacy.

So come, faithful soul. Prepare your heart for your spouse to dwell within you. For he says: If anyone loves me, he will keep my word and we shall come to him and make our dwelling within him.

Make room for Christ. When you possess Christ you are a rich man, for he is sufficient for you. He himself, shall provide for you and faithfully administer all your cares. You will not have to place your hope in men. Put all your trust in God; let him be both your fear and your love. He will respond on your behalf and will do whatever is in your best interest.

You have here no lasting city. For wherever you find yourself, you will always be a pilgrim from another city. Until you are united intimately with Christ, you will never find your true rest.

Let your thoughts be with the Most High and direct your prayers continually to Christ. If you do not know how to contemplate the glory of heaven, take comfort in the passion of Christ, and dwell willingly in his sacred wounds. Endure with Christ, suffer for him, if you wish to reign with him.

Once you have entered completely into the depths of Jesus, and have a taste of his powerful love, then you will not care about your own convenience or inconvenience. Rather you will rejoice all the more in insults and injuries, for the love of Jesus makes a man scorn his own needs."

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Retreat Update


Trying to find some time to write about it properly. I'm still a bit behind in "moving in" projects.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Silence--Can I do it?

Got my Carmel Retreat Schedule today. This sort of jumped out at me.

7:00 - 7:15 PM Friday (BEGIN SACRED SILENCE)

6:30 - 7:20 PM Saturday

Question Box – silence broken;
related to prayer & conference

12:00-1:00 PM Sunday


So we're not talking to anyone during the retreat, not even during our meals? Is it even possible for "Chatty Abby" to go 46 hours without talking to anyone? Um, particularly when I'm around my dearest Carmelite friends?

This is going to be interesting--but I'm up for the challenge.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Pretty Much Sums Up All of the Beauty of Redemptive Suffering in A Few Lines...

My friend wrote a beautiful letter describing her experiences with premature birth for Children's National Hospital. (Her daughter Skylar was a NICU roommate with my Baby Tess).

"You have the choice to make this a hopeful time. It's an unexpected event that has already changed your life. You have the right to feel robbed of what others have gotten to enjoy, but you will also be thankful for things your child will do that "normal" parents will never understand. You will be grateful for the first time you hold a naked baby without any leads, the first time he or she smiles at you, the first time he takes a bottle and the first time they get into a carrier you bought. Yes, it's a big deal to everyone but it means even more to us."

Go read the whole letter. It's awesome! (Click here, go to "Skylar's Mom"

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Going to Mount Carmel This Weekend!

Ahh! It's been a rough moving week. Sort of can't believe that I get to slip off to a SILENT Carmel retreat for three days this weekend.

I love my husband because he signed up to go to our Carmel retreat himself. The man took one look at me coming sobbing out of our new grocery store (have I mentioned yet how much I HATE change?) and graciously said "You go to the retreat while I stay home with the kids, you need it more!"

Devil that I am, I didn't even pause to argue with my spouse.

I took his offer to spend some refreshing time alone with Jesus and RAN WITH IT Baby!

So prayer intentions? I'll pray for you!

You come too!

We're studying Blessed Elizabeth of the Cross. An excellent Carmelite saint for all of us lay people, especially parents. Elizabeth had one sister, Marguerite. Her father died when they were young, so Elizabeth, her sister and her Mum became a very close trio. When Elizabeth joined the convent of Carmel, she mentally took along her married Sister with her.

Elizabeth very much appreciated the equal dignity of vocation between married life and religious life. She didn't want her Sister to miss out on any of the splendid insights Elizabeth was gaining during long hours of prayer, simply because she was busy carrying for a large family. On her deathbed, Elizabeth wrote out a very sweet 10 day "spiritual exercise" for her Sister to complete which easily fit into her busy life as a mother of small children.

Hopefully, I'll be able to post that 10 day retreat for everyone on this website soon.

Meanwhile, get a head start and read this luminious author yourself. You can order
her complete works here. (Last Retreat is in vol. 1).

(Special note for my friend Tharen. A religious person told Elizabeth that her name meant "house of God" She took that so seriously she mystically started to understand "the indwelling of the Trinity"--a deep Catholic doctrine. Anytime I read her work I think about our own dear Skylar Elizabeth. You've definitely got a little "house of God" with that dear baby!)

Mary Magdelene

For a beautiful and unusual icon of this wonderful saint, click here.

The Cherry On Top

Ever since his older sister started reading "Dick and Jane" readers three years ago, Alex has consistently prayed for us to adopt a "cocker spaniel like Spot."

After morning prayer on Monday, guess what I just "happened" to find in the local paper?

An ad for a free 3 year old English Cocker Spaniel (with a pedigree!) from a family who was moving back to Maryland.

Our new dog is the "cherry on top" of the move.

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Saturday, July 2, 2011

My new writing desk!

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Wow! "Abigail's Alcove" actually has an alcove!

The coolest thing happened to me today. So forget "Design on a Dime" this Carmelite has NO dimes and NO time. We moved with absolutely nothing. Seriously, all of our possessions had to fit into a 10 feet by 5 feet storage locker for the past 30 days. Basically we moved into our house with five beds.

In the middle of the move on Thursday, my whole family of 6 stopped by IKEA to buy everything we needed to furnish a house in 2 hours for less than $1600. (Poverty is all about constraints. Thursday was the only day we had a U-Haul truck, so it was the only day to purchase all the big ticket items). Thankfully, my graphic designer husband taught me that "constraints make good design."

It's been crazy. Interior design stuff that should take me months, is instead taking me minutes. I just pray, plunge in, find great deals, bring it home and am SHOCKED at how much "Serendipity" (or the Holy Spirit) can make a new home look amazing.

Ikea had this amazing leather couch deal: $400 for the couch and $150 for a matching chair. I got this cool black and white photograph of cherry blossoms to put over the couch (to remind us of D.C.'s Japanese Cherry Blossom Festival). Then I found these fun light blue circle curtains at Target.

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Curtains have been a real struggle for me this week. The only real place to shop in town is Target and for some reason the curtain section is picked over bare. I'm such a former city girl, if an item is missing from the shelf I flag down a Target employee. I just assume it's back in storage and they can bring it out for me. I got told the three times about "the truck delivery dates" before I figured out "oh, they don't keep all there items in stock out here. It's hit or miss."

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So the problem with picking out curtains is that you have a more limited selection to start with and then many of the colors or sizes that you want are "out of stock." As a result, instead of double curtains, we have singles in the living room. I wanted to get matching curtains for the living room and dining room--but that was a no go. (Yes I could have waited, but our houses are literally six feet apart and I couldn't imagine waiting 7 to 10 days without privacy in my house. Plus, I'm simply an impatient girl in general.)


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I almost didn't buy this house because of this ugly view. Our neighbor's grill is like three inches from our dining room window.- But now it's fixed!
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Instead of waiting for the right curtains to arrive, I prayed and went with PINK.
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I LOVE it. I have such a girly dining room. You have to simply imagine my delight. I was a child raised in the 1970s my Mom dressed me in pants and didn't let me play with Barbie dolls. I certainly was not allowed to indulge in pink decorations since that was all "cultural nonsense" that was best squished out of a girl as soon as possible.

I now have pink silk (looking) Shabby Chic balloon curtains in my dining room. They are darling. I've got two built in china cabinets which are show casing my grandmother's pink floral wedding Tea Service. Jon found this amazing white metal dining room table that was $35 at IKEA. We found this sweet "shell shaped" retro dining room chairs for $20 each. (For all of my friends whose kids fell out of my wobbly former folding chairs come visit me now!) I picked up sea shells in the corner which my four year old loves to line up along the window sill. (So happy my Cape Cod house can feature "beach" stuff without the ketch factor.

I didn't even know until I started to unpack my picture frames that the new dining room show cases my Blessed Mother pictures --beautifully! It is like a Mommy Mary love feast going on. I love that I can meet someone new at church and bring them home to an instant "Marian Tea Party." Any of my readers want to stop by for a house-warming party soon?

And my husband figured out our new wireless internet connection---so now I feel like a rich woman who can blog and write letters in her sunny morning room. (Which I kindly share with my large family for three meals a day).

Thank you to my husband and my son who let a family of four girls have a pink dining room. You men are the best!

(PS I LOVE that during the summer of "gender equality" where they are actually raising little kids to be without a sex, two formerly hip college students have now designed a house with a pink drawing room for her and leather "club chair", cigar smoking feeling living room for him. It's like we're going back to the Victorian Era and I love it!)

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Taking Advice


Yes, Miss Lauren. I carefully noted all of your advice on proper nutrion for a nine month old baby. Then I promptly fed Baby Tess "Reese's Chocolate Cereal" while I worked on decorating the dining room today. Desperate times equal completely rotten nutrition. Hopefully, we'll be back to our yummy organic ways soon!

My Tess!

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