Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Nice Plug for the Servants of the Lord and of the Virgin Matara,

The Anchoress has a nice plug for the Servants of the Lord and of the Virgin Matara. I love the picture above!

Monday, November 28, 2011

I Feel Like I Have Never Ever Done This Before...


I feel like I have never, ever done this before.

Which is crazy, right?

My youngest is 15 months old. My house is filled with four biological children, who clearly didn't drop in from outer space or hatch from eggs.

Yet this fifth pregnancy, in the 22nd week, still feels so alien to me, so strange.

I still don't have "my pregnant Mama groove" on yet.

It's like I've never been pregnant and tired and had to go to the grocery store before, or had to teach school while I feel distracted, or changed a diaper while my pregnant stomach was feeling extra nauseous, or searched for a maternity dress that was both modest and pretty....

Instead of feeling like I'm on well-traveled ground, I'm constantly shocked that this process of "co-creating a new soul with God" isn't easy.

Mommy Mary, pray for me! This Advent, give me your generous heart!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Christmas Tree Shopping


We went "local" this year, getting our tree from a local Christmas Tree farm. A fun switch from artifical trees in a small City apartment. One of the many benefits of moving to the country!
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Friday, November 25, 2011

Freedom From Want

This morning Tess stole the breakfast of her three older siblings
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and actually demanded more donuts!

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Hard to believe that in September 2010
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this same baby almost died after a birth defect left her unable to eat for four weeks..
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God answered this Mother's prayer for healing--in abundance!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Prayer Is A Battle

(This post is also entitled "What I wish someone had told me three years ago when I started Carmel because I have spent a long time banging up my shins wandering around in the dark, totally confused as to why praying is so hard for me.)

Gentle readers, did you know that our dear Catechism defines prayer as a battle?

It's a fight!
It's a bloody, no gloved, unfair bar room brawl.
The fight goes back to Genesis, when our ancestor Jacob fought all night with an unseen force and "refused to give up until he had been blessed."

It's important to remember that Jacob, walked away from that successful fight --LIMPING because his thigh socket had gotten thrust out of joint. (Did it ever heal, I ask?)

Here are the elegant, inspiring words of our Catechism:


2725 Prayer is both a gift of grace and a determined response on our part. It always presupposes effort. The great figures of prayer of the Old Covenant before Christ, as well as the Mother of God, the saints, and he himself, all teach us this: prayer is a battle. Against whom? Against ourselves and against the wiles of the tempter who does all he can to turn man away from prayer, away from union with God. We pray as we live, because we live as we pray. If we do not want to act habitually according to the Spirit of Christ, neither can we pray habitually in his name. The "spiritual battle" of the Christian's new life is inseparable from the battle of prayer."
(Read the whole glorious section on Prayer is a battle here.)

When we pray, we need to battle distractions. We need to battle discouragement. We need to battle our inherent selfishness. We need to overcome obstacles both internal and external in order to seek union with God.

Indeed, the whole thing is so impossible for mere stupid mortals, the Holy Spirit has to come down to be our Advocate.

Prayer is not something easy and relaxing to do in your spare time--something like scrap-booking or crochet, my darlings. Prayer is hard work that makes us fit Marines for Jesus!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Jon and I are Carmelites!!!!!


November Profession Mass in Frederick, MD
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My Temporary Promise

“I, Abigail Benjamin, inspired by the Holy Spirit in response to
God’s call, sincerely promise to the Superiors of the Order
of the Teresian Carmel and to you, my brothers and sisters,
to tend toward evangelical perfection in the spirit of the
evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty, obedience, and
of the Beatitudes, according to the Rule of St. Albert
and the Constitutions of the Secular Order of Discalced
Carmelites, for three years.

I confidently entrust this, my Promise, to the Virgin Mary,
Mother and Queen of Carmel.”

(PS I'm wearing the cross I got in the first grade for singing in the Methodist Youth Choir. I can't believe this "non-crucifix" Protestant cross was actually a perfect replica of the special crosses that hang inside the Carmelite convents!)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not - Lyrics-

I heard this song today in a special place after Daily Mass. I could just picture Jesus singing this to me in jest after all the dithering I've done the past two months about joining Carmel on Sunday. The Lyrics are so perfect!

"Are you gonna kiss me or not" (i.e. make my temporary Carmelite vows to Him)
Are we gonna do this or what?
I think you know I love you a lot
I think we've got a real good shot
Are you gonna kiss me or not?"

He makes me laugh, that Jesus. He loves me with such special affection!

Here's to all of my Carmelite friends and all of the dear readers who follow the Lamb of God wherever He leads us!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Prayer Request

My favorite former premie is getting cochlear implant surgery tomorrow at Children's Hospital. Please pray for Miss Sky and her Mom, Tharen. Thanks!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

5 Days to Go

Five days to go before my temporary vows (for three years) to become a Carmelite.

Monday night the phrase "evangelical perfection" gave me pause. Can I really promise to "continue to strive for evangelical perfection" for the next three years? I mean, it sounds so hoity toity, at the same time, COMPLETELY IMPOSSIBLE.

Then my sweet husband came home from work and straightened me out.

"Are we really going to give up on trying to get better? I mean, are we ever going to go back to thinking that we were fine and be content with keeping our spiritual life on a straight plane."


So I'm back in.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Emergency Prayer Request--Update

Please say a prayer for my bridesmaid's little boy, Raphael Balint-Smith. He just got diagnosed with a brain tumor at age 3 and has to undergo surgery today. Poor Baby! Poor parents!

Glorious Archangel St. Raphael, great prince of the heavenly court, you are illustrious for your gifts of wisdom and grace. You are a guide of those who journey by land or sea or air, consoler of the afflicted, and refuge of sinners.

I beg you, assist me in all my needs and in all the sufferings of this life, as once you helped the young Tobias on his travels. Because you are the "medicine of God" I humbly pray you to heal the many infirmities of my soul and the ills that afflict my body. I especially ask of you the favor (here mention your special intention), and the great grace of purity to prepare me to be the temple of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Update from my friend Christine:

Thank you so much. It means such a lot to us that there is a community of wonderful people praying for our little boy on the other side of the world. I wanted you all to know that he had the best possible outcome for the actual surgery yesterday. The surgeon is hopeful that he was able to remove the whole tumor, or very close to it. He came out of the anaesthetic beautifully (he mumbled: "I'm ready to go home, now.") and was able to move all his limbs. Through all of this he has been so patient and cooperative. The night before his operation he was worried about the other children he could hear crying on the ward. We are blessed to have such a special little boy. Test results in the next few days will determine further treatment. In gratitude, Christine and Rupert

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Why I Love My Husband- Part V

Because, today I emailed him a 500 word essay on how a November budget hiccup was going to cause our family all sorts of dire problems in the next three weeks. He emailed me back a three word message

Jesus, loves us!

(He is the ONLY man who could get me to better embrace our Carmelite vow of poverty!)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Jon's Soccer Cake


He designed this entire concept. I was super doubtful, but it ending up looking good and tasting great!
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Saturday, November 5, 2011

Taking the Road Less Traveled

On Thursday, I grabbed this book from the library.

The first couple chapters are a really hilarious read on a bad motherhood day. Some ex-Advertising gurus interviewed a bunch of mothers about their lives. For the first twenty minutes they got all sunshine and roses. At the twenty-two mark limit, moms let down their hair and started telling the truth about the cracks in the facade. My favorite quote was "I love being a Mother. I just hate doing it!"

It was a great read. Super fun. I thought it hit some of the emotional problems I face in my conception of motherhood right on the mark.

However, reading it left a bad taste in my mouth.

The problem is that the author's conclusions are things that are either unethical, or basically impossible to do as a practicing Catholic. Their cure for the "insane" expectations of modern motherhood were to "just drop a few things.

Here are some actual quotes with my reactions.

"My husband and I initially wanted to have three kids, but we decided after a long honest talk that we could really only handle two." (Ah, contraception is not really an option for me).

Or "if family dinner is too hard, why not aim for family togetherness at a nightly back-yard soccer game instead." (Sorry, much as I hate it, my crew needs to eat.)

Or "just say no to doing hosting a kid's birthday party." (Hmmm, tempting...)

This 'just drop all the unnecessary things" really ate me up.

But here is the thing, on Wednesday night, my kid's soccer coach put out an APB begging a parent to host a post-soccer season celebration party. After talking to my husband, I unenthusiastically agreed.

On Friday, I started throwing up at 8 AM and didn't stop until 2 PM. (Hello, morning sickness. Did you get the 'we are now firmly in the second trimester memo?) The house is a mess. I practically crawled through the Target birthday aisle on all four picking up party supplies with 4 kids in tow.

The whole time I thought "this is so stupid! Why is the only pregnant girl on the team hosting a party? And I'm the poorest one who has to give up her HEATING OIL money to host a party that no one has RSVP'd for? This is exactly the sort of 'crazy mothering thing' the book says to avoid!!!"

But in my heart of hearts I knew the truth. No one else had volunteered. Zip. And I knew why. No one else was going to clean their house for a bunch of total strangers except me, this silly Catholic girl who sometimes takes random stabs at extending "charity" and "hospitality."

Then my son's team won a ticket to semi-finals unexpectedly on Friday. That put me in a better mood. But I mean, I was still cooking a soccer cake at 10 PM (because of course, I had forgotten to buy vegetable oil and toilet paper, so my hubby had to make at 9:30 PM grocery store run).

Then this morning, an impossible thing happened.

We WON SEMI-finals.

You guys have to understand. We beat the team that hadn't had a single goal scored on them all season! My team, the guys that just believe that soccer should be fun, and use all the players on the team in every single game. We beat the intense coach who hand picks all of his players each year. And we didn't just beat them, we shut them out! The final score was 3 to 0.

(I sort of credit massive prayers made to Blessed Pope John Paul II. He was a soccer player in his youth, remember).

Then, almost as an anti-climax, we won the championship game 5 to 1.



So after this major Cinderella victory, everyone came over to my house. My tiny house. The adults sat in the living room and the kids played old fashioned party games that were really fun.


(trying to pop each other's balloons)
It was a fantastic time.

And it was all grace. I mean the angels cleaned our house, cooked the food and gave me energy to be "camp fun director" for three hours today.

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This kid, stuffing his face with my husband's homemade soccer ball cake just lost his mother to cancer four weeks ago. (I actually cried when I bought him chicken nuggets at the soccer field today. I was so honored just to be able to do something tiny for him. Then he actually came over to my house!!!)

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And this girl has a tough life and rarely smiled the whole soccer season. Look at her today!

I would have missed it all, if I had tried to be "sensible" about my limitations in motherhood. Thank the Lord we are Catholics. As Saint Paul said "when I am weak, then I am strong."

Friday, November 4, 2011

To My Special Carmelite Friend....

Darling, not just anyone can get me to post a video that advocates heavy drinking on my blog, but this song hook is seriously the best mantra to fighting the Devil of Despair. "I get knocked down, but I get up again! You're never gonna keep me down!"

Remember that putting on our brown scapular paints a giant Target on our back. In the words of the late, great Peggy W. "don't tell anyone the truth about suffering in Carmel. Keep it under wraps. Otherwise, they'll never come in the door."

I'm your personal prayer warrior. I've totally got your back in any bar brawl with the Devil!

Chumbawamba - Tubthumping

(PS Everyone else, please pray for all the Third Orders and all of our dear priests and religious. It's unbelievable how much stress we endure before making vows of obedience.)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

On the Bookshelf: Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations On Life with John F. Kennedy

I've really enjoyed listening to this recently released oral history on Jacqueline Kennedy. Four months after her husband's assassination, Mrs. Kennedy sat down with noted historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr had had a series of seven "conversations" about her husband's presidency. These conversations were quite candid, because she knew they were not going to be made public for at least 50 years. (This was also basically the only time she allowed herself to be interviewed about her life as First Lady.)

There are all kinds of unexpected gems which put a more human face on the imposing political figures of the day. Here is one I enjoyed about Mrs. Kennedy's meeting with Khrushchev. After running out of conversation topics with Mr. Khrushchev, she mentions that one of the famous Russian "space dogs" had puppies...

"I knew all the names of those dogs- Strelka and Belk and Laika. So I said, "I see where-I see one of your space dogs just had puppies. Why don't you send me one?" And he just sort of laughed...

We were back in Washington about tow months later, and two absolutely sweating Russians come staggering into the Oval Room with the ambassador carrying this poor terrified puppy who'd obviously never been out of a laboratory, with needles in every vein. And Jack said to me--I had forgotten to tell him that- he said, "How did this dog get here?" And I said "Well, I'm afraid that I asked Khrushchev for it in Vienna. I was just running out of things to say."

(pg. 210)

Because Flying Around the World With Me, Enduring the Kidnapping of the Century and Bearing Me Four Children is Evidently Not Enough!

I'm reading a biography of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, a bookish Smith Grad who married famous aviator Charles Lindbergh. (First guy to fly across the Atlantic Ocean in the 1920s).

This quote made me laugh out loud. Turns out the dashing Charles was NOT a perfect husband. During her pregnancy with their fourth child, he turns critical of the "slowness" of her poetry output. According to Anne: "He goes over the record-nine years and only two books and wonders why it is. Has he not given me the right kind of environment?"

Anne replies in her diary:
"But you ask for too much, I want to cry out. I cannot be having a baby and be a good housekeeper and keep thinking and writing on the present times (in my diary) and be always free to discuss anything with you and give to the children and keep an atmosphere of peace in the family (the bigger family which is so scattered and distraught now, all of us disagreeing) and keep my mind clear and open on present day things and write a book at the same time. I cannot be an efficient woman and housemanager and an artist at the same time.

Yeah, Chuck. You want to much!

Interestingly, Anne admits to herself that having children is a mark of improvement as a writer. She also states:
"the richest writing comes not from the people who dedicate themselves to writing alone... For instance, in spite of my admiration for their beautiful writing, I think there is a kind of fungus quality to the books of Vita Sackville-West and Virginia Woolf. I know they are marred. V.S.W. has children, but it is a question of attitude. They think of themselves as writers, not as mothers or wives ever (what a statement!), so their point of view, it seems clear, is always the same.

(Herrmann, Dorothy, "Anne Morrow Lindbergh: A Gift for Life", pg. 237)

Here's to all of us writers who dedicate themselves "not to writing alone," but to primarily following the bigger adventure which is the Christian Life itself!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Me and My Tiny Tumbler

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Maria had her gymnastic show last night. I love age 4!

I Made It Into Carmel!

I got an email today confirming that Jon and I have a place in the Profession Mass on November 20! Hurrah! Thanks for all of your prayers!!!!

(Seriously, I had some doubts that I was getting in after an awful, awful interview last month.)

To my dear Jesus, "I used to think maybe you loved me ----now baby I'm sure!"

(PS If you're a member of my Carmel profession group and didn't get a confirmation email, don't fear. Your letter is coming by snail mail. It's just that I'm anal retentive and asked Mr. A to send me proof that the post office delivered my temporary promise letter.)