Friday, January 27, 2012

Better Than I Used to Be -- Tim McGraw (Lyrics on Screen+Download)

A rough week for me. But I thought this song is inspiring and pretty reflective of where I am in my spiritual journey right now.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

March for Life

God bless everyone who is marching tomorrow. This pregnant Carmelite will be holding you, and our whole nation, up in prayer.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Great Reads

Still climbing out of eight days of the stomach flu in our house. Surprisingly, by NOT reading the internet very much this week I stumbled upon some truly excellent reads. (What is this, a sign of "less is more?" my Jesus?)

Here is a totally inspiring conversion story from Secularism to the Catholic faith. (My dear Carmelites even provided a setting for a stranger to meet face to face with our Jesus.) This line made me cry:

"These days, when I pray the Rosary, I find myself wondering which woman was the last in my line to do so, and how easily she gave it up."

(h/t Father Dan Gallaugher)

Here is an inspiring piece from the Desert Nuns on sanctity that got me kick started this morning.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Your Husband Might Be a Carmelite If....

his compassionate response to your puking sessions from a stomach bug while being 29 weeks pregnant with his child include saying deep St. John of the Cross quotes on the joy of suffering for Jesus.

I'd like to say its a mark of my own increased Carmelite formation that I didn't slug him in return for giving me all of this uplifting spiritual advice while I hugged the toilet bowl. I just kept muttering "I know I'm supposed to feel this way, but I don't!"

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

What Is On My Plate This Week--Update

This kid, so cute.....
Posted by Picasa much trouble!

I had a stupid idea that the more kids you had, the easier it was to be a parent. I would have all this "experience" right?

Yeah, right.

Then came dear Miss Tess.

So my kiddo flunked her hearing exam in her right ear last week. Because Tess was on such strong drugs during her stay in the NICU there is an ongoing concern that she might be deaf. We're off to see a hearing specialist for more tests on Thursday. I specifically promised Jesus that I would NOT freak about about this. My mantra has been "no need to panic until we have a specific problem identified."

Then this morning, my darling starts throwing up.

For most kids, just a stomach bug.

For my post-surgery kid, vomiting when no one else in the family shows signs of the stomach flu could mean intussusception or "telescoping of the gut." According to her surgeon anytime she throws up I'm supposed to race to the ER to have an x-ray to confirm that her little small intestine hasn't folded in on itself.

It's 6 AM. My husband has already left for his long commute to work, I'm alone with three sleeping children and one sick toddler. My usual Carmelite prayer time was spent asking Mary "What am I supposed to do here?"

I didn't end up going to the ER.

So far, Miss Tess seems like she's back to her old self. I'm assuming that "intussusception" comes with a few more symptoms than messy sheets at 3 AM and 6 AM.

So that is what we are up to this week. Taking down the Christmas Tree. Teaching a reluctant reader how to enjoy Judy Moody. And waiting to see if my darling toddler is deaf or needs additional small intestine surgery.

At least my life as a housewife is never, ever dull!

Update: Tess passed her hearing test. Thanks for your prayers. When we started the test Tess was having the same odd response difference between her right and left ears. Suddenly, my extra shy girl pulled it together and started to actually cooperate with the audiologist. So her final, clear hearing test result was ranked "excellent." Praise God!

We also ended up having the stomach flu in our house, not intussusception. Of course my four year old confirmed Tessy's alternative diagnosis by throwing up on the way home from the audiologist while our new mini-van was stuck in the middle of the HOV lane on I-270. But hey, your minivan doesn't legally belong to you until it absorbs some puke stains, right? :-)

Monday, January 9, 2012

What the Poor Need More than Money

One of my Sunday School students stopped coming to class this winter. When I called to check in on her, I heard a rough story. Her Mom is a widow with five children. My student and her siblings had been out of school for more than two weeks with "walking pneumonia" and her Mom was having trouble finding contract work with so many needy, sick kids to care for at home.

I called our Church to see if we could give this family some help and first person I talked to was not so helpful. (It's hard to explain but in very poor parishes, versus more wealthy ones--there is this strict line between the "deserving and undeserving" poor. Charity doesn't just go to whoever scores low on an income-asset test. When an entire parish is poor the poor box money often goes out to the "good" poor and not the "bad" poor. The "good poor" are widows who show up reliably at Mass, serve on the Social Concerns Committee and are poor through "no fault of their own." The bad poor are the ones who show up irregularly at Mass and Sunday School, have children far behind the neat sacramental schedule and constantly "need charity instead of give charity.")

I'm a horrible, messy, distracted, barely able to stand on my own two feet Catholic myself. I'm the one in Mass with a pregnant belly, a toddler with mismatched shoes, and a naughty seven year old who sometimes KICKS his sister's dropped bottle all the way down the pew instead of handing it gently to his mother when asked.

As a result, I have soft spot for the "undeserving" poor of my parish. I wasn't about to let this needy family go unaided. At this point, I could either "fight" with the parish, or just handle the situation myself. I asked Jon and we decided to send a good gift card from Target in case they needed Christmas presents, clothes or food.

The actual gift card purchase was so fun. My kids picked out the "scratch and sniff" Merry Christmas Card. I wrote a nice note saying "God see the work that you are doing for your family" and attempted to disguise my handwriting. Then I put our Catholic Church on as the return address and popped it into the mail.

On Christmas Eve the Mom called me.

I freaked out when Jon handed me the phone. I thought that she had figured out that it was our family who sent the gift card. I felt all squeamish inside. "It was supposed to be a secret" I complained mentally to Jesus.

The Mom never mentioned the gift card. Instead she was calling all apologetic that her family couldn't come over for Christmas dinner. (Honestly dear readers, I forgot I had mentioned that as a possibility three weeks earlier). She couldn't come because her 15 year old son who suffered from Depression was committed into a Adolescent Psych Ward over the weekend. My Sunday School Student was going to be spending Christmas Day visiting with her brother in a mental hospital in another state.

I was stunned.

I was stunned because of the glory of the Holy Spirit. Here I was concerned that this family was unemployed and recovering from pneumonia, when the cross they were really struggling with was so much harder.

And I was stunned that my "almsgiving" task, for which I was busy patting myself on the back-- was the least important thing I was giving to this family.

This woman was in tears on Christmas Eve because I had invited her family into my home. I wanted them to visit.

I took a deep breath. I do not know this Mother well at all and there seemed to be all sorts of hidden minefields in a conversation about a child's commitment to a psych ward. But I just asked the same caring questions that I ask if one of my friends was going to Children's National Hospital with a physical illness. I asked if she trusted the doctors. I asked if she was scared to bring him home. And that was the right questions to ask.

I'm so freakin' grateful to be a Catholic. To be a Secular Carmelite like Mary. I keep wanting to do something "big" to fight poverty in Appalachia. I want to join a committee, or volunteer at a legal clinic or sew sleeping bags for the homeless. God keeps reminding me about the virtue of Humility. He brings me people to serve--I don't need to go out in search of them. The tasks he asks me to do for them are always simple and light. Invite a stranger to Christmas dinner. Listen to a Mom talk as she drives back from the hospital where she just left her sick son.

St. Bernadette, please pray for Family "X" to heal. Please help my fourth grade student make her First Communion this Spring despite all the health challenges that her family faces. This is a cause so close to your own heart!

My First Advent as a Carmelite

This Christmas was my first as an official Carmelite. I found myself making some daring changes.

First, I bought the gifts for the grouchy people on my list first. I stretched myself and bought "nice gifts." I didn't buy cool gifts made by nuns this year. I didn't try to make myself look "hip" or "holy". I didn't buy things that were irresponsibly expensive with the hidden hope of getting "liked" this season, but I put myself out there. I spent the more money on gifts and postage than I was normally comfortable spending and I (the girl who HATES shopping) spend some uncomfortable time hunting extra hard in fro-fro stores. I spent the money on others and didn't fret about what was going to be left to buy stuff for my own children. And then I stood in long lines with a pregnant belly and four grumpy kids to get those gifts shipped out at the Post Office by Dec 6th. Ahh! Advent got easier with that hard task off of my plate.

Then it was on to sharing love with the neighbors.

I live in a kennel. Seriously. The neighbors on each side of my leave their very large, very noisy dogs outside for hours and hours at a time. The poor dogs never stop pleading to be let back inside. Did you know that a Great Dane's bark can be heard inside a brick house even when all the doors and windows are shut? For the past five months, this constant barking has been driving me insane. (Don't even ask me if I've talked to the neighbors because the answer is yes and obviously it's just a mark of my "city ways" that I walk my dog on a leash around the neighborhood myself instead of "tossing him out into the back yard for hours to poop.")

So here is the thing, I needed to get a gift for the neighbors for Christmas. So I prayed to St. Francis of Assisi and I got all the neighbors cute organic dog treats for Christmas. I wrapped them up in pretty Christmas bows. I wrote nice notes. I dropped them off at all the houses secretly in the middle of the night. Amazing reaction!

I didn't realize that since none of these neighbors have kids, they feel like their dogs "are their kids". Sending treats to the dogs was received with such appreciation.
The best part was that it made me feel so better. Now when the Great Dane starts going I have affection in my heart for him.

This Advent I spent most of it very sick. I think pregnant ladies have a lower immune system, right? Anyway, I caught a bad cough on Dec 8th and I was like the walking wounded for all of Advent and Christmas. It was sort of relaxing because I didn't stress out about making this Advent "prayerful." I didn't worry about "making memories."

I knew in my weak state, I had to peacefully take whatever I could or could not get done that day. (I couldn't even really have a plan because this virus came with a nasty habit of starting a coughing fit so bad that I'd suddenly have to throw up. I never knew when I was going to have to retreat into my bedroom for a few hours.)

Becoming a Carmelite has made me more peaceful about Advent. I don't feel like I have to "try hard" to be holy, or force my family to "connect with Christ." I'm more trusting. I know that He's looking for me far more than I'm looking for Him! I've just got to relax and open my heart to the grace He's already poured out into my life.

The "no plan/not trying to hard Advent" ended up being so beautiful. I hope I get the grace to repeat it again next year.