Wednesday, June 27, 2012

"The Leader of the Little Girls" (Mimi's new nickname)

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Alex's Backstroke Is About On Par with My Current Prayer Routine--Messy

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Why Will We Win? Because of Technique!

This is the first year my nine year old and seven year old kids are on Swim Team. This is their first activity that has made me realize that my formerly tiny babies are now huge! It seems like just last summer when I fished them out  of the deep end, worried about them drowning. Now my babies strap on goggles, jump off a starting block, and swim 50 yards to get a second place ribbon! It's astonishing! 

Last night, my blue collar town had a swim meet against a flashy Maryland city. (We lost. But we lost with honor!) To get the kids psyched up before the meet, Coach Nick kept calling out "What are we going to do?" The kids would answer back "Win!" Then he'd say "Why  are we going to win?" The kids would scream out "Because of technique!"

I thought this cheer was so perfect for me to internalize as a Carmelite. I'm not going to win my heavenly reward based on my powerful speed, great wisdom, or brilliant good works. I'm little. I'm puny. I'm weak. 

But I can count on winning heaven based on my technique.

Stay little. Stay close to Him. Let Jesus do all the heavy lifting in my life!

Signs of Growth in a Carmelite Vocation

In a measure of progress, my law school alumni magazine no longer inspires feelings of envy. Instead, I flip to the back and start reading its "In Memorium" section for new prayer requests.

Please join me in praying for the soul of Professor Jane Larson. It's hard when a young professor, who was very well loved when I was a student at the University of Wisconsin, has an obituary that highlights her pro-abortion casework and a popular legal treatist that argued "lies are not an inherit part of the sexual revolution."

Professor Larson, I hope you are in heaven. I'll be nursing my Miss Colic girl in your honor this week in case you need help getting out of Purgatory. That Devil has a nice pack of lies going about the whole "sex is without consequences" thing. He once mucked me up real good too!

Mary Magdalene, pray for us!

Prayer Works: The Case Study of Dominic G.

Last week, I started praying hard for a NICU baby named Dominic. Just like my daughter Tess, he had a small hiccup in his fetal development in the womb which lead to major complications. He's missing a bone in his face which caused his brain to become displaced. The doctors gave this Catholic Mom dire predictions. Her son was either supposed to die in the womb, or at birth, or a few days after his birth.To the secular mind, this was a case were abortion was totally justified.

Instead, Mr. Dominic emerged from the womb "kicking and screaming." Rocky II got a 9 on his APNAR. He's off oxygen. He's eating from a bottle. He is expected to go home on Thursday! Can you imagine?

His Mom wrote a post saying there was a sign she wanted to put around her special needs kid's neck:

This child is fiercely loved; please respect him.
This child has not made me sad, in fact, he has brought more joy than I could ever imagine.
This child is a true gift, not less of a gift in any way because of his health problems, he is an absolute gift.
I am not burdened by this child, in fact he lifts me up to a higher place than I ever imagined. 
Do not feel pity for him or our family, you have no idea what he brings to our lives.
I am not sad about my child, I am so grateful God saw me fit to be his mother, I am honored.
I love this child so much...
The NICU is such a special place. It's the heart of the cross. Please join me in pray for my brother Dominic and his family. During this Fortnight of Prayer, please be encouraged. One mother's act of obedience, one pro-life witness, one heartfelt prayer can turn our country around. Mary, Mother of God, pray for us!

PS Dominic's Daddy's eyes at the birth of his son are arresting. I hope to see joy like that in heaven some day!

Raising An Olympian - Jessica Ennis

Thursday, June 21, 2012

An Emotional Father's Day

This past Father's Day, I went to the First Mass of my first seminarian, Father Mario Majano. His mother Rosa went to my old parish. She asked me to pray for her son when he started seminary in Rome. I remember her grabbing my hands (at the time we were relative strangers) and saying "you must pray for him."

I started praying for this priest before I even knew I was a Carmelite, someone with a special job to pray for all Catholic priests around the world.

I was an emotional mess during the Mass. It was so beautiful. Father Mario's younger sister is already a professed nun. She has a special friendship with my daughter Hannah and our family. I had a letter from her sitting on my mantle after receiving Baby Abigail's birth announcement.

It was unbelievable to watch this sweet priest celebrate his first Mass. To know that his Mom and his Sister had prayed so much for him. His whole parish family had nurtured this vocation since he was 8 years old. One of the first people he told about his vocation at age 8 is a African missionary originally from our parish who I love, Father Bill. It was so incredible thinking about how Father Bill's loving interaction with a young alter boy lead to the beautiful priest I saw before me. Those of us to have daily contact with the 'infant Christ child" are so very, very blessed.

Me and the New Priest's Mom

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Fr Mario Blessed Sister Immaculata

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Complaining about my day with the kids = disrespecting my husband

I posted a scene from Fireproof that really flipped me out last week. When I watch the scene first "fight scene" in Fireproof, I think the wife is acting perfectly fine for the first two minutes. I would actually say she's being pretty "mild". On a daily basis, (especially during  pregnancy and this colic thing) I am WAY more irritable with my husband.

But her 'nagging' complaints hurt her husband. She's throwing punches in their marriage without even realizing it.

My chronic complaining about my hard days are a form of disrespect to my husband. It wears on him. I'm not coming to him, asking him to pray for me to have more energy and peace. I'm not asking him to problem solve a specific aspect of my parenting.

For the past seven years, my poor husband walks into the door at 6 PM he gets a litany of how my day sucked as a stay-at-home mom and why this job of raising his kids is so impossible. It really sobered me when I thought about how it would be if I was a paid babysitter watching his children, instead of his wife. Would my husband feel good if every day, a babysitter constantly complained about tiny "mistakes" his children made during the day?

My bitterness is really harmful. I hadn't realized that chronic complaining about my kids was disrespecting my husband because they are also his kids. The greatest act of love I do for him on a daily basis is breastfeed Baby Abigail, watch toddler Tess and homeschool Hannah, Alex and Maria. As a wife I wouldn't think it was okay to constantly complain "Do you know that I had to wash your dress shirts AND hang them up on the hanger to dry. Oh, AND I found a black sock on the floor? Can't you get them into the laundry basket?"

Yet in my head it was okay to say at 6:02 PM, (right after my husband walks into the door) "Did you know that Maria broke her goggles today! The Speedo ones that cost $14! She left them on the bathroom floor--after I told her not too-- and I stepped on them! Can you believe her!" in an irritated tone that would peel paint.

So for Father's Day, I'm giving up complaining. I'm leaning on the deep breaths of patience and prayer instead. I'll keep you posted.

FIREPROOF fight scene 2

Love is patient. Love is kind.

The movie Fireproof is on Netflix now. It's so worth a second look! If you go to the movie website, there are great marriage resources specifically for Catholics. I also found the Love Dare (used by the main character in Fireproof) free online. The first two pages knocked me out. It was like translating Greek. I've heard "patience" and "kindness" described all my life-but this one description packed a wallop.  I had no idea this is what I was supposed to be aiming for as a wife and mother.

"Love is built on two pillars that best define what it is. Those pillars are patience and kindness. All other characteristics of love are extensions of these two attributes. And that’s where your dare will begin. With patience.

Love will inspire you to become a patient person. When you choose to be patient, you respond in a positive way to a negative situation. You are slow to anger. You choose to have a long fuse instead of a quick temper. Rather than being restless and demanding, love helps you settle down and begin extending mercy to those around you. Patience brings an internal calm during an external storm.

No one likes to be around an impatient person. It causes you to overreact in angry, foolish, and regrettable ways. The irony of anger toward a wrongful action is that it spawns new wrongs of its own. Anger almost never makes things better. In fact, it usually generates additional problems. But patience stops problems in their tracks. More than biting your lip, more than clapping a hand over your mouth, patience is a deep breath. It clears the air. It stops foolishness from whipping its scorpion tail all over the room. It is a choice to control your emotions rather than allowing your emotions to control you, and shows discretion instead of returning evil for evil.

If your spouse offends you, do you quickly retaliate, or do you stay under control? Do you find that anger is your emotional default when treated unfairly? If so, you are spreading poison rather than medicine."

Kindness is love in action. If patience is how love reacts in order to minimize a negative circumstance, kindness is how love acts to maximize a positive circumstance. Patience avoids a problem; kindness creates a blessing. One is preventive, the other proactive. These two sides of love are the cornerstones on which many of the other attributes we will discuss are built.

(bold were the sentences that really jumped out at me.

Friday, June 15, 2012

How Colic Hurt My Marriage, How God Heals It

My husband is mostly likely mystified as to why I'm suddenly craving romance so desperately at year eleven. Right after our anniversary date I started running around reading romance books, shedding tears while watching Fireproof on Netflix, lighting candles in the bath, research Catholic marriage sites on the internet, and praying for greater insight into my role as a wife.

Why the intense focus? Why the hidden panic?We're married!  We're best friends and Carmelite confidants. My husband isn't going anywhere.

It's just that my newborn's case of colic hurts me. And I feel alone in my hurt.

My husband Jon is kind and empathetic. My pediatrician (John with an "h") is also kind and empathetic. But they don't really "get it".

When little Abigail cries it hurts my heart. When I can't get her comfortable after hours and hours of trying, I start to despair. I can put her down and take a bath. I can leave the house to drink a coffee. Those things help me stay sane, but my heart still hurts. I know my baby is crying. When she sleeps through the night, I don't tell myself "we're finally lucky!" My first thought in the morning is "she must be dying!" I know that she's cried so hard in the past 48 hours, that she's exhausted herself into sleeping for 10 hours straight. This isn't the pattern of what normal newborns do.

I can't believe I'm thinking this, but I actual miss the NICU. I don't want Baby Abigail to be dying. I just miss the camaraderie. I miss the reassurance that other experts are watching this puzzling list of symptoms and trying problem solve. Right now it's so lonely. Its just me, staring at a newborn girl who is often red with rage, and has a hard belly, gives impressive man belches and has powerfully explosive poop. Baby Abigail's G.I track is clearly off--but what can I do about it?
My husband is right here with me. He's tired. And kind. And calm. Little Abigail's chronic crying doesn't effect him in the same way that it affects me. In my intellect, I'm grateful for that. Who wants two parents ready to jump off the same ledge? Instead, it's better for my husband to serve as the anchor for our family right now.

At the same time, as a wife, I am so lonely. Physically, my husband and I are in the same home. Emotionally, I feel ten thousand miles away. Alone on this cross, with this suffering baby who I can't succor, who I can't "fix"-I'm far away from everybody.

As fellow Carmelite, who has a son with autism, a far different and more difficult cross than mine posted this article on FB called Battling the Bitterness of Parenting a Disabled Child with this a beautiful paragraph

St. Augustine describes God as being "closer to me than I am to myself." Because He knows us intimately, He also comforts us that intimately. He fully enters our pain because, unlike most humans, He can fully handle its weight, emotion, and complexity. We can go to Him and be understood. And that is when our pain is eased. From Him, we gather strength to face another day. 

I'm in a place where I can't find understanding or refreshment with my husband. It's not because he's not trying to listen or he's not a great guy. This cross of having a colic child is so subtle, so maternal that I can't even share it with the other parent of my child.

In the middle of that horrible "aloneness" there is God. The only being that can truly hand the weight, emotion and complexity of my individual struggle with Baby Abigail.

When I let my husband off the hook. When I stop being mad that he "just doesn't get it." I have space to beg God --Help Me! Be There! Pick me up and make me feel better.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Giving My Husband More Respect

The backlash against the US Bishops makes me cry. Those poor dear shepherds. They are trying to wake us up to the dangerous limitations to our religious freedoms. Yet all anyone seems to do on the internet is yell that they have no business telling women what they can and can't do with their bodies. (Didn't all these bloggers have Fathers what told them what they could and could not wear as teenagers? I know my Dad and I had intense discussions about the appropriateness of eye make-up and miniskirts when I was in the seventh grade. That's a Father's job to tell his daughter how to tow the line).

Since the HHS mandate stuff began, I've been praying, and reading blogs, and signing FB petitions. Everything I read or hear tends to make me fall into despair.

Lately, I've started working on the micro-level. The Bishops are married to the Church. Its their job to guide and protect her. It's heartbreaking when the Church is defiant and close-minded to their call.

In the proper order, children learn how to be obedient to their Father. That natural obedience translates gradually into respect for the spiritual headship of the Pope and His Bishops. But what if no one grows up learning how to respect their loving father?

When so many Catholic complained that Obama didn't listen to the US Bishop who visited the Oval Office (I think it was Cardinal Nolan) about ending the HHS mandate, I was rich in sympathy. We're talking about a president who was abandoned by his own father at age 2. How was this man supposed to take a spiritual father suddenly directing him in his late 40s? How can we expect an unbaptized President to suddenly start showing a supernatural pattern of respect and obedience?
I'm praying for Obama's conversion. I trust God to hear the prayers of our entire nation--(especially during the coming Fortnight of Freedom prayer jam from June 21 to July 4th).

In the meantime, I'm working on myself. To help my beloved Catholic bishops, I'm reexamining the patterns in my own home, and in my own marriage. St Paul tells us in Ephesians "Husband love your wives, wives respect your husbands." I know that my own feminine nature delights in being "cherished." I love the cuddles, and the flowers, and the sweet emails for no special reason, and the twinkle my husband gets in his eye when he greets me at the door after a long day at work. I love being "loved."

I also get that men and women are complimentary, but fundamentally different. So it made sense to me that my husband's love language would be this necessary thing called "respect"-which is different than mine.

As a thoughtful wife who does far too much internet research, I read about this "men need respect" thing on a Catholic marriage enrichment website. So I went downstairs into our laundry room where my husband was newly experimenting with starching his work shirts, and said cheerfully "Okay, so talk to me about this male respect thing and how I can better show it to you." Then my husband and I spent 20 minutes drawing a perfect blank! What is respect for a husband and father? How does that translate into normal family life? We both had no idea!

His father was a Cop. My Father was a College Professor. Both men commanded tons of respect from the community at large. Both men got next to zero respect inside their own homes. My Mom spent most of my life saying loudly that her husband was a giant nincompoop who does everything totally wrong and would be totally lost without her.

Thankfully, I have a steadier relationship with my own beloved husband, but I'm also not someone who actively promotes his spiritual leadership over our family either. My husband and I tend to make joint decisions comfortably together. However, if there is an issue that we seriously disagree on, I don't take his direction willingly. I tell him he's wrong, I roll my eyes if he doesn't listen and wait for him to change his mind. I'm not naturally obedient, flexible, or accepting that my husband may have a special connection to the Holy Spirit that is not readily apparent to the naked eye.

In a radical experiment, I'm trying to change my tune after 11 years of marriage. I'm praying to have a greater respect for my husband. I'm asking him to give me direction on what he needs.

When I asked Jon for three things I can do to better respect him, I pictured him saying something easy like "starch my shirts" or "keep your hair goop out of our sink." Instead, my husband said that he'd like me (a) to pay our tithe, (b) say evening prayer with him, and (c)  stop using my father's credit card.

These are all things that are very hard for me (I steal the money we budget for our tithe to pay for our overages on our skimpy grocery budget often. I feel like my evenings with colic girl are still way to crazy to restart saying Evening Prayer. The credit card my Dad gave me for emergencies is currently funding the "I'm totally stressed out by all my children and need to dump everyone at the Chic-Fil-A playground for an hour while I sip a Sweet Tea and regroup" emergencies.) These three things are all my little hiccups in my spiritual life. Deep down I know my husband's right--but inside my stubborn head I also arguing "giving up anyone of these three things is impossible! Besides, doesn't God understand? My life is so hard right now!"

Self-delusion. Attachment. Clearly my husband knows me better than I know myself and has my best-interest at heart. It's still really hard to trust him. It's hard to give him respect in the big things, the hard things.


Its hard. Good things are hard. Respect for my husband must be a great spiritual good because that seems totally counter-cultural.

You gentle readers are so ahead of me on the spiritual path. Anyone have stories or insights about St. Paul's directive to "respect our husbands?"

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Prayer Request

I'm running a Rosary Camp at my parish church this summer with a friend. Can you spare a prayer for me?

My experiences teaching the rosary haven't gone well in the past. As a Sunday School teacher, I found out one of my students had never heard of the rosary. As I started to teach her the rosary after class, two people came by and said such mean things that I ended up crying later on the drive to Carmel. Then the student's siblings came by and aggressively yanked her out of my classroom. Within a few weeks, my beloved student and her entire family totally disappeared from my parish. It was like one of those Sci-Fi movies where a character gets yanked into outer space, never to be heard from again.

Satan hates the Rosary. I'm not really tough skinned yet to handle all of his tricks. So please pray for me to have extra grace.

To All The Infertile Dads on Father's Day While I'm Waiting by John Waller {Fireproof music video with lyrics}

Praying For the Dads Who Don't Get To Be Dads

On Mother's Day week, I always spend so much time in prayer for infertile women.

As I drove to the library the other day, I thought "Oh, I never remember to pray for the infertile Dads. . ."

Immediately, my heart broke open. There are so many different types of fathers who are denied their fatherhood.

There are the Husbands in an infertile couple who long to receive messy crayon scribbled Father's Day cards....

Then there are the boyfriend who found true love only to have their girlfriends announce that they "aren't ready to be tied down to marriage!"

There's the husbands that are eager to have children, but the wives "aren't ready to ease back on their careers!"

There's the loving Daddy's who want "just one more" when their wives said "There is no way I'm going back there--back to pregnancy, and child birth, and breast feeding, and sleepless nights and spilled sippy cups in the back seat!"

That last category is so heartbreaking. I wore 11 week old Baby Abigail strapped to my chest at a Swim Meet yesterday and had two of these heart breaking conversations with complete strangers. It's so random. One second I'm happily cheering on my favorite back stroke swimmer, when a stranger next to me will look at Baby Abigail and start saying "Well, these are the reasons why myself, my wife, or my mother says she can't have more kids......"

Almost every time a mother, a husband or a child will seem to think that they are describing some rare aliment equal related to the individual medical history of a specific woman.

Meanwhile, the "reasons" are totally common.

Verbatum, here is what total strangers have said with tears in their eyes why they can't have more kids

"I barely have time for the two kids that I have right now"
"Every year he says he wants another, but I think I'm not ready yet"

Last night, 15 year old girl comes over. She spends 20 minutes drooling over my three little girls. She tells me all about how she loves kids, loves her little sister, volunteers at the nursery at church and then says "My Mom said ten hours of back labor with my sister were enough! So I guess when I get married, I can only have one kid."

This 15 year tell me this with all seriousness as if her Mom physically passed her on this one-of-a-kind female problem. I so wanted to tell her, "Everyone woman feels this way after labor! Every Mom says "I'm so never going to have another baby." Some of us just keeping having more kids despite the sentiments contained in that sentence."

 Here's the heartbreaking truth, if your wife isn't one of those woman who the Holy Spirit shoves into having more babies (and believe me, Mr Jon Benjamin so easily could be one of those men) then you don't get to be a Father to more children.

My husband has a girl and a boy 18 months apart--aged 9 and 7. He can be the best Swim Coach, the kindest story reader, the best First Communion prep Dad. But if I choose to use contraception, as I did early in my early marriage, he's powerless. There would be three tiny girls my husband never got to Father. He'd never get the joy of filling up a church pew on Sunday, or the responsibility of buying new minivan when the old van gets filled, or the delight in bringing little sister Tagalongs to Boy Scout meetings. Have we ever heard someone tell us "Come on, your husband is such a great Dad! Risk another c-section to give him another child!"

Instead, our culture is like "two kids, especially one girl and one boy--that's all any man can rightly expect from a wife. Kids are hard."

When I'm alone with Baby Abigail in the Bijorn, I can tell immediately which 20 something wife in line at Starbucks is longing to have a baby with her husband. When I'm driving around with my messy minivan filled with four girls (and one boy), I start to notice is the joyful longing in the eyes of some Dads. My husband is a blessed man in their book.

This week I'm praying hard for the "Dads who don't get to be Dads." I hope you'll join me.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

An Edna St. Vincent Millay Poem

Yesterday was a very bad day. At the end of it, I got a smiling husband, sweet letters from TWO nuns, and a surprise discovery of a new Edna St. Vincent Millay poem. Okay, God, you do love me. I'm yours for another day.

The world stand out on either side
No wider than the heart is wide;
Above the world is stretched the sky,-
No higher than the soul is high.
The heart can push the sea and land
Father away on either hand;
The soul can split the sky in two,
And let the face of God shine through.
But East and West will pinch the heart
That can not keep them pushed apart;
And he whose soul is flat-the sky
Will cave in on him by and by.

-Edna St. Vincent Millay

A Sign That I'm Still a Novice Parent

Jon and I just took 20 minutes to decide that we were NOT sending our 7 and 9 year old children to their first swim meet at 6 PM tonight at a pool over 2 hours from our house in the middle of a rainstorm!  

I'm a little freaked out to discover this morning that our hometown swim team thinks that both a) traveling 2 hours for a swim meet and b) swimming in the pouring rain (as long as there is no lightening!) is fine. But I do not have to follow every other parent out there. I can make my own determination not to let my children risk coming down with pneumonia. We are not yet that level of serious youth sport parents.

Update: So at 3:30 PM I changed my mind and totally ended up having the time of my life at a 4 hour swim meet, that surprising ended up being held indoors! Hmmmm. I think one of my purgatory moments is going to be that God reads my very long list of complaints about His Will which always ends up totally perfect for me!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Why The Christian Walk Is So Darn Lonely

"In falling I had many friends to help me; but in rising I found myself alone."  St. Teresa of Avila. 

Have you all had first hand experience with the sentiments contained in this quote yet?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Mary as a Wife, Rather than Solely a Mother

During my anniversary week, I kept thinking about Mommy Mary as a wife. I focus so much on her being a Mother to Jesus and to myself. As a chaste virgin, however, she didn't choose to be a mother as much as she chose to be a wife. That's startling to me because I don't concentrate on being a wife nearly as much as I focus on being a good mother.

Yet, before the Annunciation, Mommy Mary promised to be a wife to St. Joseph. Because of her Immaculate Conception, she is uniquely qualified to do anything for God. She's humanity's brightest star.

You can't tell me that a woman who was so virtuous and so beautiful didn't have her pick of suitors. She probably even had seriously virtuous Jewish guys after her hand--not like the rabble I dated before my husband. She could have married anyone. She could have married a rich guy and given money to the poor. She could have married a freedom fighter and worked to cast off the yoke of the oppressive Romans. She could have married a Talmundic scholar and spent her days praying at the Holy Temple in Jerusalum.

She had all of this grace, all of this potential. Yet she is one with God. God loves the humble. So she loves the humble. Mary is chaste. She's not taken with St. Joe's beefy carpenter arms. She loved his soul. She loves his work. She loves that this poor man of good stock (the family of King David himself) is trying to be a man Holy Man of Faith against all odds.

Which pretty much comes down to the mantra in my mind that Mary thought the greatest work for God was not spending her life as a prayerful hermit, or building the world's first hospital--love of God was best shown by washing St. Joseph's underwear!

That's shocking to me, because I live her life. I wash my husband's underwear. I cook him meatloaf from the ground beef I bought on sale at Wal-Mart. I wash the floors and clean the bathroom mirrors. I give a comforting hug when a customer is displeased with the handiwork he spent so much time carefully perfecting. I'm there at 6:35 AM when my husband leaves for work. I'm there at 6:05 PM when he comes home. Day in day out, I'm his best friend, his cushion, his confidant.

In this 11th year of marriage, in the middle of caring for five needy children,  I'm trying to get back to that core sense of vocation that Mommy Mary never doubted. I'm a wife--and that is important work for God.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Coming Home from the Monastery

My husband is home from a weekend retreat at Holy Cross Abbey.  It's a Carmelite's duty to go on retreat once a year. This was his first time, and really the very first night he's ever spent the night away from home. It was hard to see him off, especially knowing I'd be alone for two nights with Miss Colic, but I was super excited for him.

I told my husband not to have big expectations of himself. Last year, I went off on retreat with big plans to stay up all night at Adoration, etc. Instead, of deep spiritual insights, God really took care of my physical needs. I mostly enjoyed napping and eating real meals for 48 hours after our crazy month long move. I felt a little guilty, until I realized later that same weekend I was newly pregnant with Baby Abigail! God knew I really needed that physical R & R more than deep interior conversations about the purpose of my vocation.

Considering that we are currently on week 11 of colic with Baby Abigail, I told Jon "you might simply really enjoy sleeping through the night at the monastery and eating dinner without stopping to become a human baby swing!"

Jon came home very happy. He said a surprising thing.

"It wasn't that different over there!"

Which was such a cool insight. I've spent so much time longing for a monastery. It seems so beautiful. So silent. So perfect. Who can't rise to heaven with hours of silent, daily prayer? Yet my husband said, it didn't feel that different from our home.

...our home with five, very young, very noisy, boisterous children!

It's the same God--in the monastery and in the Catholic home.

It seemed to me that he got to a very Brother Lawrence place, where pray to God and work for God is very much one and the same. What a beautiful place to be.

We talked about "Silence"--how silence is an interior thing. You can be in a quiet monastery, with nothing but the moo of cows for miles around. Jon said it was so quiet he could hear "the buzzing in his ears." Yet, you can be in a place of exterior silence and still have a whirl of conflict and noise in your own soul. Alternatively, you can be in the midst of a noisy Catholic household with colicky babies crying, doors slamming, and fights over who gets to sit shot gun--and have interior silence.

Silence means listening to God.

And what else do we Catholic parents do all day but constantly plead to God for help in civilizing our unruly and charming children?

(I'm so happy to be in this place where I'm at peace with my vocation. I don't long to be a hermit anymore. Well, only on Sundays and special occasions! Still, I have peace that any spiritual insight the monks gain over in Berrysville is equally attainable right here, in my common Catholic family life. Suddenly, all those annoying things about motherhood--how I never have a chance to finish a thought uninterrupted, how I'm constantly dealing with cleaning human waste products--suddenly seem like a valuable means of breaking my self will. Those Trappist monks work hard at breaking their selfishness, their desire to sleep well, eat well, and get their own way. Meanwhile, I've got a baby--with colic! It's like God freely hands out powerful cleaners to erase all the selfishness in my soul! )

My husband said his weekend was "okay", "comfortable" but not this overwhelming bit of peace like going to a spa or an expensive vacation. He said he wasn't eagerly counting down the minutes until his next retreat. I'm so happy he feels that way. We talked about a yearly retreat being like a "realignment" for your car. After that service, you don't automatically notice a difference while driving your car, but its necessary. Going in for a regular soul "realignment" keeps your vocation on track.

My yearly retreat is in July with the Carmelites. I'm taking Baby Abigail and her all important baby swing to Mount Saint Mary's retreat house. If I set her up in her swing in front of the Blessed Sacrament, I'll take a picture.

(PS There seriously is a retreat for every need and for every budget. You can even just make up a retreat yourself with a few hours of Adoration at your local church. Give yourself a "Soul Summer Vacation!" Anyone have any favorite retreat spot?)

Saturday, June 2, 2012

11 years ago I married this man!

And he's still so good looking at age 40, I keep giving him new babies to hold!
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Friday, June 1, 2012


I sent my honey on a retreat this weekend at a local monastery. This is his first and it feels so weird for him to be away. Yesterday, I got worried about physically surviving the stress of caring for all five kids without a break. Now I'm worried simply about myself surviving emotionally. I'm sure Jon's "Business Trip with Jesus" will be a great source of growth for me as well as him.

While looking over the Trappist website I found this beautiful description of monastic life.

What, then, is the monastic life?
The monastic life is a communal way of life in which men and women seek to respond to the conversion, the turning to God, offered by Jesus in the Gospels. In the monastic life, that turning to God is accomplished by means of renunciation. The various forms of renunciation are rooted in the teachings of Jesus and are not taken up for their own sake, or to be better than anyone else or to demonstrate one’s endurance. They are not embraced to prove that one is flawless or to draw down God’s grace like a magnet. Rather, the renunciation of one’s will, of marriage and family, of ownership, self-determination – ultimately, of oneself – are like an athlete’s training, to render body and soul a more responsive organism to God’s work. Just as athletic training doesn’t guarantee winning the game, this renunciation doesn’t guarantee sainthood. But such renunciations could focus one’s attention and reveal how much we depend on God. They can also free us from what would distract us from serving God and allow us to serve our community and the Church by prayer, sacrifice and living the communal life.More importantly, these renunciations are rooted in the teaching and example of Jesus. No matter how imperfectly we live them, they orient us to Christ and open us to his support and mercy and grace.

I liked this quote too:

"Life can be good in the monastery, but it’s not always fun. Remember, we are living a life of conversion – we even take a vow of continual conversion; but people in the process of conversion are not always the most pleasant people to be with. In fact, they can be just like you and me on our bad days. But I’ve always been able to find patience, support, direction and helpful challenge in the community if I looked for it. So, yes, life is pretty good here."

I laughed when I read the part in bold. That is SO ME right now. Caring for Miss Chilipepper is ripping the emotional skin off of me--I constantly feel like I'm showing the not very pretty parts of my soul to others. But she's pushing me into greater conversion of heart. Somewhere in this mess are my butterfly wings!