Sunday, September 30, 2012

For a History Lovin' Mama

My little family of seven fit right into the 150 Anniversary Celebration last week.
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How God Helps Me, Part IV

This is a photo from Stonewall Jackson Lake in Weston, WV. Out of nowhere last week, Jesus blessed me with a free hotel room for one night--with my husband, and one tiny baby--and free babysitting for my four older kids ages 9 to 2. You have to understand, I have not been alone with my husband for a coffee date in the past 12 months. Our last alone "overnight" happened 2 years ago in the NICU--and before that our last night alone was celebrating our 5th anniversary IN THE HOSPITAL giving birth to Miss Maria. God is so very, very good. (And so deliciously surprising!)
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My Life in Still Life, Part II

This is the shoe rack that is in my dining room because my 1950s built house didn't come with a Hall Closet. The shoes spill out everyday and drive me totally crazy. Lately, I've started praying a prayer of Thanksgiving everytime I see the shoe mess because it reminds me that I'm blessed to have so many family members in my home. I often say a prayer for women struggling with infertility.
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My Life In Still Life, Part 1

Embracing the real life clutter in my home. This is homeschooling, Girl Scouts, unpaid internet bill, orgami paper and some sort of import bionicle piece, Tibetan prayer glass and Holy Family Statue.
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Why I love my husband.....

Because he has this look on his face when he reads the Bible to our kids!
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Scripture Studies Going Slightly Better

Early morning time period, or did Orgami Yoda help? :-)
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Orgami Yoda

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Baby Abigail

So tough, but so cute!
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Tess at Two

The face I see everytime I tell her not to do something!
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Dance Party

Saturday night dance party in the kitchen! Jon was making Nutella crepes. Yum!
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Teaching Scripture

This is my brown scapular wearing husband trying to read Holy Scripture during dinner. I love the kids' expressions. Maria is ready to fall asleep. The other three aren't listening. Typical. I love that the Lord asks us merely to plant the seeds of His Word, He promises to take care of the rest!
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Friday, September 28, 2012

How God Heals Me, Part III

It's taken me a fourth daughter to finally feel comfortable being "a girl."

Sin never makes sense--so this is weird to explain. Yet in my head there was a sharp division between being "a pretty girl" and being "a smart girl." I was totally on the side of being a "smart girl." I wore glasses. I didn't wear make-up. I didn't care about doing my hair. I wore a simple dress and simple, practical shoes everyday.

I was all about intelligence.
And personality.
And love.
And service.

The frilly stuff about being a girl didn't hold my interest for long.

When my three older daughters rejoiced in being a girl--with their pink tulle skirts, and ropes of fake pearl necklaces and glittering nail polish--I rolled my eyes and said they took after their paternal grandmother!

Then came "Miss Chilipepper", my colicky fourth daughter.

I started living in a life of straight grey--the grey of sleeplessness, the grey of "utility"--I started craving something...

So I went shopping for lipstick
I went shopping for perfume
I went shopping for pretty nightgowns
I went shopping for flowers
I went shopping for the right curly hair products

Somehow in the middle of all of this dreary colic episodes, I started finding my inner girl--and discovered that I LOVE HER!

Now I'm in the middle of exploration of all things feminine and they are delightful!
I'm planting bulbs in my garden.
I'm learning how to arrange flowers from an elderly artist in my parish.
I've got pink peony lipstick in my medicine cabinet and a new giraffe print dress to hide my post-partum tummy.



It's a big change and I'm happy about it.

How God Helps Me, Part Two

In the middle of all of this colic stress, my only son's behavior problems have killed me. I straight out admitted defeat. My son appeared to met almost every criteria for "Oppositional Behavior Disorder" and I told my husband I was ready to get him into therapy.

I don't know what Jon said--but it was something like "just give it one more week to pray about it."

Then somehow this article came to my attention, "The Joys and Challenges of Raising A Gift Child."  This quote really helped me, "gifted kids are almost comparable to special needs children. While their IQs are high, they have behavioral aspects that need special attention and the right teachers with the right understanding to guide them."

The article had a link to NAGC, but what really helped me was the link to SENG (Supporting the Emotional Needs of the Gifted). I can't even tell what that meant to me to find that site. I not only had a checklist that described my son--I had a checklist that described MYSELF.

Suddenly, my anxiety, my perfectionism, my extreme environmental sensitivity--those weren't just negative personality traits I needed to rid myself of to become a Saint--they weren't part and parcel of an artistic soul and a prayerful heart.

So now this home-schooling journey that I'm on--its really, really healing.

I learned that if I give my son stimulating engineering projects during the day- he's a super sweet kid who gets into NO trouble with his younger Sisters.

I've learned that STEM Movement (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) for elementary school students really mean "throw a couple of addition dittos and a volcano explosion at an 8 year old kid. That there is reason that boys are sucked up into computer games--it scratches that technology itch. I've learned that outside of legos--there is next to nothing for young Civil Engineers. (This being the exception). I've learned that if I want to engage my son, I've got to learn how to be an engineering teacher--and if I'm learning it for him, I might as well share it with his cub scout pack, our parish's Catholic School and our local public schools. (There are more "Rocket Boys" out there who need encouragement).

On a deeper level, I'm figuring how to gently love myself and my husband, and my five children.

(It's weird to write about this because I was taught very firmly by my mother that I wasn't gifted. I was "talented". But now the experts are saying that is the same thing. Moreover, my difficulties with simple math problems and my spelling mistakes and my poor organizational skill are not a sign that I'm not gifted--it's rather a common problem for gift students.

I'd started researching gift education many years earlier--but I sort of dropped all of that when I discovered that my kids had such terrible trouble learning how to read. How can you be considered gift when you can't read, right? But it turns out that 20% of all gift kids do have trouble reading. It's the same problem my kids have--phonics work is so boring they don't have stamina to do it even for a few minutes a day. That is the same problem both Jon and I had--we love to read now, but we hated it in elementary school. So now I'm tweaking my unschooling method to be more direct in reading instruction because truly, their life will be so much easier once they start really learning how to read).

How God Helps Me, Part One

God handed me a really tough baby.

It's embarrassing to write that sentence because I'm a former NICU Mom. I had a kid that almost died on day six of her life.

Yet Infant Reflux (or Perpetual Colic as I've nicknamed it in my mind) is even harder for me than a NICU stay. My baby is in chronic, perpetual discomfort. I'm all alone with her for 12 hours a day. There are no doctors around or kind nurses to reassure me that she's fine and I'm doing a great job as her Mom. We've carefully ruled out any serious health problems--the new medicine is working most days--I'm just left with a sensitive, mostly crabby child who says "I hurt Mommy! I hurt!" over and over again for hours every day.

And I've got nothing.

I've got breastmilk. And hugs. And walks in the stroller. And tender smiles from her older sisters.
Sometimes that works to soothe her tears, but the second I stop--it doesn't.

When I get tired, I tuck her into her bassinet that I've moved into our dining room, turn on my bedroom air conditioner so I can't hear her cries, shut the door and go to sleep.

When I get up to check on her at 5 AM, she's up looking around, her voice horse from crying. Then I think "You've been crying non-stop for three hours. I'm the worse Mother in the world."

Which I know isn't true, intellectually.
But it "feels" true in that moment.

So I'm failing over and over again.
My prayers for my baby's healing or my better coping skills are going no where.

But here is the strange part--all around me--the unseen, major problems in my life ARE getting healed.

It's as if God says "Well Abigail, I'm not going to end this cross--but I will pick up a bunch of your other crosses in order to lighten your load."

So here are a few journal entries into the many "healings" in my life.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Rejoice Angela Faddis, Part 2

I can not be sad about Angela's death.

There are so many Carmelite friends on Facebook who write "Oh it's such a shame", "Oh it's so sad."

Her death was glorious. I can only hope that I will have that much grace and perseverance at my own death. As for her kids, she left them a far greater legacy than 50 more years of hugs and kisses and Alleluia's sung a Midnight Mass. She died with Christ! Whatever pain they have--and there will be lots, and lots and lots of pain, at the moment of their death, they have their Mom as an inspiration to die well, to die with Christ.

I don't think we reflect enough on the fact that we are all going to die someday.

Some times we parents have to bury a kid. That sucks.
Sometimes a kid will bury a parent at age 3, or 7, or 19, or 37. That sucks too.

Death is always too soon. It's always tragic. Death was not supposed to come into the Original Plan--so this idea that somehow it's more "okay" because it happens to Mothers aged 70 or 85 is a facility. Death always hurts, because Death is not a part of God's plan for our lives.

But Life. The Resurrection.

That is glorious. That is beyond understanding.

When she was diagnosed with terminal cancer at age 31 on Holy Saturday last year, Angela Faddis said "Jesus still rose, and so we trust."

That woman is going to be a recognized Saint someday.

Angela, pray for us. Help us to have your courageous hope!

(A beautiful summary of the high points of Angela's Facebook page are posted in "Angela Faddis, Thank You" from Accepting Abundance.

Rejoice, Angela Faddis Part 1

(this writing accompanied a beautiful picture of the husband and dying wife hold hands. I can't figure out how to get it posted yet)

“Till Death”
As if I could keep you longer, I placed this ring back on your finger today – it had fallen off a few times.
Oh that this ring could keep you here longer. It is a mark of our commitment, it is my promise to love you with my whole heart, and yet there is a love greater than mine that will take you soon. How could this mere piece of gold compare to the love of God which loves you completely, wholly, and perfectly?
It cannot, so I will hold your hand a little while longer, I will keep putting this ring back on your finger. But when the time comes and he asks you for your hand, you can go. Go to that perfect love which makes all things new. Go and be whole again. For now, till death do we part. -Chris Faddis 9/17/2012

Thursday, September 20, 2012

"Our Lord Jesus Christ was a Public Relations Nightmare!"

"Our Lord Jesus Christ was a public relations nightmare. He didn't promise easy triumphs, earthly glory, or a comfortable life. He didn't promise lower taxes or better social programs or safety and security. If someone says to you, "I don't know why you're a Catholic: I could never do that; it just seems like so many burdens and suffering and restrictions and sacrifice, like you have to lose your very self"-you can't say they're wrong, because Jesus said the same thing!"

-Father Dan Gallaugher

Read his whole homily "Jesus has a Few Questions For You" here.

Prayer Request

Redskin's player, Adam Carrikar, is going under the knife for a severe football injury today. Please say a prayer for him and his wife Angie. They are a great Christian couple and Angie is pregnant with their third baby. Angie sent the kindest Facebook update after Adam got injured that basically said "your family is your Number One Fan Club and we love you injured or healthy."

Prayer of St. Mary Magdalene "Lord, the one you love is sick."

Update: Looks like Adam's surgery went well. Now Angie is worried about the possibility of a very premature birth. Please pray for her and the baby.

Morning Prayer

In the morning let me know your love
for I put my trust in you

Make me know the way I should walk
to you I lift up my soul

2. Corinthians 13:5

He comforts us in all our afflictions and thus enables us to comfort those who are in trouble, with the same consolation we have received from him.

3rd Letter of John Verse 11

Beloved, do not imitate what is evil but imitate what is good. Whoever does good is from God, whoever does evil has not seen God.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Eucharist At Work

Today, I took my five kids to City Hall. Outside three women stood smoking on the sidewalk. There was something about how they jabbed their cigarettes into their faces for each inhale that suggested severe agitation. My heart went to them. "Those women really need prayer," I told God. I knew City Hall contained our Municipal Courtroom, so I imagined all kinds of hard challenges that might be going on from a utility cutoff to a relative with jail time.

When I got closer, I saw that one woman had a long burn on her arm. She had it covered with a homemade bandage made out of saran wrap, instead of one of those common dressings sold at Target. "Oh man, she is really poor!" I thought. "I really, really need to pray."

I smiled when I got closer and tried to establish eye contact. The woman turned away. Then I noticed something strange. I live in West Virginia, so anytime I see a group of Senior Citizens, someone is bound to come over and coo over my baby. (The elderly in my small town just adore babies.) Yet instead of a friendly greeting, all three of these women were slinking away like they were afraid or something. "Wow, what an unusually cold reception" I thought. Then I dismissed it. "Stop taking things personally. They must be really stressed out." I start to pray even harder.

Finally, when I get up close, a woman says "Come on Cheryl, our smoking break is over." All three women drop their still burning cigarettes on the sidewalk and walk into their place of employment---

the Porno Store.

I started laughing so hard, I doubled over while pushing Tessy's stroller.

My heart was bleeding on the ground for these three. I was praying so hard--imagining all sort of sympathetic and horrible scenarios that commonly afflict the poor, and not once did I imagine that I was urgently praying for employees of a Porno Shop.

But that's Jesus, right? Spiritually those three woman are in more danger than a poor family without the means to pay their rent. Those are the people He cares the most about, and so He wants me to care about them too.

(Yes, my town of Martinsburg, West Virginia has a Porn Shop called the Cherry Bomb right next door to our City Hall. I hadn't notice the ironic juxtaposition until today.  Pray for us, Mary Magdalene.)

Abortion Inside a Marriage

I wish we Catholics would talk and pray about this more--abortion inside a marriage.

I know when I became a Catholic, I pictured abortion mostly happening outside of marriage. Because I was someone engaged in pre-martial sex and using birth control--that's what I easily pictured other people doing. Once I came to know Truth, it seemed so easy to pray for others. Sex truly sucks outside of marriage. It's easy for me to have my spiritual and psychological arguments for chastity all lined up in a row.

This new poke about abortion being okay INSIDE a stable, long-term marriage. This is what hits me now when I'm with strangers in the grocery store, or at Swim Team Meets, or even some unspoken hostility with Senior Citizens at my Catholic Daughter Socials. I walk around with Baby Abigail strapped to me in her Bijorn and suddenly I'm privy to all sorts of personal disclosures about why women choose not to have another child.

For some reason, a mother's decision to abort her baby after a she already has two or three children always hits me deeper in my gut.

It is not easy to have kids. I have five. I fail down every day, multiple times a day.

I have friends on my constant prayer list who have children with Autism. I have friends with Down Syndrome kids. Some Catholic woman on my Facebook page have kids that are super, super disabled babies in the womb and will likely die moments after birth.

These crosses aren't just something that happen "out there" to other people. I know I personally face these risks, and even serious complications to my own health, with each and every pregnancy.

And yet to truly choose to murder your baby--not just this vague we're taking birth control to avoid having a baby--but to say to your OB, I'm going to have an abortion.

That's got to hurt worse.

Because you already have your kids.
You already have your man.

This isn't some stranger you have to worry about adopting from the Ukraine (when you have to discern carefully is this God's will, or my will)

God handed you a baby.
Made out of the same DNA combo that resulted in your older, fabulous children.

Where did we get this idea that marriage was so fragile and our teenage children were so needy that adding one more baby to the mix would make it all fall apart?

But then, I'm living the reality of it all falling apart. Newborn babies are hard. Colic babies are even harder. My husband and my kids have had tangibly "less Mom" for the past year as I nourished this new Baby Abigail inside my womb and at my breast. I've become a quote "worse" person. I've picked more stupid fights with my husband. I've dropped the home-school ball. I've let my kids watch too much TV and skip out of their chores because I didn't want to do battle after I finally got a sobbing newborn to sleep.

In the end, isn't my baby's life worth it?

My Abigail Clare is six months old. She's already changed the world. Her older sibling (by only 18 months) Tess had a horrible start with a month long stint in the NICU. Tess was so grumpy and bitter with strangers. If I ever thought someone needed years of intense attachment parenting to make up for a hard start in life--it would be my Tess.  She's gotten so much less of a pampered babyhood--but one beautiful younger sister. My Tess is a different girl. She's affectionate. She's loving. She's happier. Because she's got this tiny sister right behind her.

God broke every "parenting rule" by giving us two special needs kids next door to each other--and to a mother who is NOT the most emotionally stable girl on the block--yet it somehow His plan always works out better.

Isn't our God trustworthy and faithful in the extreme?

I feel this responsibility on my head as I go through the Wal-mart check out line. In the end, it's not about writing sweet comments in the NY Times comment box. It's about digging deep and finding joy in my vocation. There will be time to witness to other older women in  menopause, if I get there. For now, my job is to be a loving "echo" of our Lord Jesus Christ at age 37 with my imperfect, stupid, and silly heart.

Mother Mary, pray for us. Give all American women the trust you had at the moment of the Annunciation.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

On Being "The Pot"

My favorite second cousin, "Annie", just joined facebook this summer. It's surreal to suddenly see daily pictures of her life after being out of contact with her for a couple of decades. As teenagers, we used to sit together at our yearly family reunions and talk, talk, talk.

We're so similar, that sometimes when I click on her Facebook page, I feel like I'm looking at pictures of a life I used to want to live--before Catholicism changed me. My cousin is an artist. She told me that she chose to have "no more than two kids"in order to save time for her art. Meanwhile, my Carmelite prayer journey got me to the exact opposite conclusion. I keep stuffing more and more children into the center of my heart, and delegate more and more of the "essential things that used to make up Abby" to the outer rim of my life and my thoughts.

A few weeks ago, I was at Daily Mass when the reading was about God as a potter at the potter's wheel. (Is that from Isaiah?) My priest was talking about being as flexible as clay in God's hands. An idea came to me "Annie's the potter. Abby's the pot!"

I love that!

I miss being an artist sometimes. Creativity is a lovely thing. Creating something bring us close to God the "Creator." Yet even more beautiful than my old dream of writing brilliant novels late into the night or sipping white wine at my husband's Art Gallery Openings, is this idea of letting my entire life become a beautiful piece of artwork in "the Master's hands."

St. John of the Cross for a Rainy Tuesday

Yet you inquire: Since he whom my soul loves is within me, why don't I find him or experience him? The reason is that he remains concealed and you do not also conceal yourself in order to find and experience him. If you want to find a hidden treasure you must enter the hiding place secretly, and once you have discovered it, you will also be hidden just as the treasure is hidden. Since, then, your beloved Bridegroom is the treasure hidden in a field for which the wise merchant sold all of his possessions (Mt 13:44), and that field is your soul, in order to find him you should forget all your possessions and all creatures and hide in the secret inner room of your spirit, and there, closing the door behind you (your will in all things), you should pray to your Father in secret (Mt 6:6). Remaining hidden with him, you wil experience him in hiding, that is, in a way transcending all language and feeling.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Hidden Art of Hospitality

(for Joann)

I started teaching First Grade Sunday School today. (I'm supposed to call myself a "Religious Education Instructor, but old Protestant habits of the tongue die hard). God played a great joke on me. My favorite grade got "stolen" from me during our RE planning meeting. I was so sad and convinced that I would find teaching the "little kids" exhausting after spending 50 hours a week caring for my own small crew.

I trudged up the stairs to an new classroom with a heavy heart this morning. Instead, I walked into a delightful group of four smiling faces, two boys and two girls. I love my class! They are so sweet. They are so talkative. I found our discussion today to be joyful and creative.

My job today was to "introduce Jesus Christ" and teach the Sign of the Cross. Jesus is our "friend" was the theme. So I started in this generic attempt to say "who has a best friend?" "what are some things that we do with our friends?"

The kids told me "My best friend is mean." "I have three best friends, one is mean, one was mean but now is nice, one is always nice but I'm not allowed to play at their house anymore." "I don't have any friends."

At first, I sort of thought they misunderstood the questions.


Going over to their house. Sharing toys, etc.

My hidden agenda was to say "just like we go to our friends house to play, Jesus wants us to come to his home in heaven forever!"

But the kids just stood there.

This playing at other peoples house, that wasn't something any of them did anymore.

I started to object--I remember going over to lots of friend's houses as a kid. But then I remembered. I HOMESCHOOL, and know lots of other sweet homeschooling families in my parish and its still like pulling teeth to get anyone to come over our house. It's once in a blue moon to get an invite to go over to THEIR house.

Hospitality is mostly a dying art.

Then it hit me that the Devil was pretty sneaky. Because if we're all "too busy" to have friends over to play. Or if all the Moms are too embarrassed to have people over because of the mess. Or if you have to set limits on "going over to X's house" because they have sinful MTV video's playing, or snacks with dangerous peanuts, or whatever else is going to harm your kid's spiritual, physical, or emotional health--

then when your Sunday School teacher says "Jesus is your friend and wants you to come visit his house in heaven" you give her blank looks. They don't have friends they can see. How are they supposed to understand a friendly Jesus they can't see?

Today at 11 AM, I just looked at four kids who all attend a small town elementary school and yet have no play dates to look forward too in the coming year--and said

"Oh no! Well you can all come over to my house!" (I meant it too!)

The smiles I got back were priceless.

I'm 37. I'm not in the least bit cool to a six year old. But Jesus wants me to extend friendship to 6 year olds and 86 year olds. My house is Mary's house, which means we're open for play dates and no one is a stranger in my parish family. It's a blessing to learn the art of hospitality late in life.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

St John Chrysostum

 I have only contempt for the world’s threats, I find its blessings laughable. I have no fear of poverty, no desire for wealth. I am not afraid of death nor do I long to live, except for your good. I concentrate therefore on the present situation, and I urge you, my friends, to have confidence.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Wringing Out My Veil

I received scorn at Mass yesterday.

I woke up still in a turmoil about it. The first thing Jesus tells me, "You know, you can just tell the person you have a problem with his actions." That's so revolutionary to me. I don't have to be fake "nice" in Church, or embarrassed that I have a disagreement with someone holy. If I feel strongly about a wrong 24 hours later, I have the option of discussing the matter further in private.

Then during my prayer of the quiet (which felt anything BUT quiet this morning) I got this consoling image. I imagined how much spit Mary Magdalene must have received on her veil during the Crucifixion. That was so surprising to me. Previously, I'd always focused on the brave and noble actions of Mary Magdalene. She stuck it out! She hung by Our Blessed Mother during the goriest part of Jesus' death. She's a hero! (Moreover, she's my hero. I choose my Carmel name in her honor).

Yet obviously, Mary Magdalene didn't get cheers at the time for doing this brave deed. She was hanging out with a criminal. She got spit on. Cursed. Probably shoved around a bit.  When she went home crying from the Crucifixion, she could have wring out her veil with all the spittle she received.

The Mass is real. It's the Crucifixion--only in a timeless form.

If I want to go stand by Jesus on the Cross with my kids, we're going to get shoved around. We're going to be talked about. I'm going to get metaphorical spit thrown on my metaphorical Veil.

When I get home after Mass and  have to wring out my Veil, that's not a problem--Jesus hints to my heart--that's an honor.

St Mary Magdalene, pray for me.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Tess is Two

Thank you to everyone who prayed for my little girl when she was in the NICU.
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How a "Shoeless" (or Discalced) Carmelite Goes Shoe Shopping

Amy asked me to update her on how the "life without my father's credit card" was going. A few years ago, I wrote a post about using my Dad's emergency credit card to go shoe shopping for my kids and then feeling guilty about it. (Amy, you'll have to send me the link sometime). She asked me on Facebook how it was going sans fast.

Well, we have even less discretionary income than back then, so the sort answer is my kids have less shoes. Hannah has two pairs of shoes, two year old brown leather shoes and dress shoes. Believe or not, these "dress" shoes were in the better shape. I'd been stressing about new shoes for Hannah and Tess for a few weeks, then I just gave up. One night before dinner, Hannah showed her Dad a neat trick--her toe could come out of her "good shoe". He decided that she needed new shoes, pronto.

So at 6 PM he sends me and my daughter out to buy shoes at our local Mall. Easy assignment, right? OH MY GOODNESS. My nine year old had suddenly morphed into an opinionated teenager in between shoe shopping trips. She pulled out shoe choices that were so ridiculous I laughed I pulled out cute American Eagle shoes from Payless and she said "those might have been cool back when you were a teenager....". It took two and half hours. We went through all the shoes at 4 stores. (I couldn't even get my kid to buy a cheap pair of flip flops so we could move the agony of shoe shoping online inside our own private living room).

Finally, we found a pair of moccassins at Bon Ton. Hannah said "I love these." I said "it's funny you picked those because the first Native American, Kateri Tekatwithe, is about to become a Saint this Fall. You can wore those shoes and think about her!"

So shoes. I'm a Discalsced Carmelite. I wear flip flops, and old black Tevas most days. These are my "rope sandals." My four girls are never going to have many pairs of shoes in their closet. since every pair directly comes out of the family's grocery money. In addition, I hate shopping in general and shoe shopping is the worse. But sometimes, after much pain and agony, a new Saint will unexpectedly bring a truce to the Mother/Daughter shoe wars. For that I'm profoundly grateful to be poor and extra beloved as a Child of God.
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Finished Product

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Last Year on the 10th Anniversary of 9/11

I was on the coach moaning with morning sickness because of this cute Baby. I missed all the Memorial Events and figured God was pleased with my hidden sacrifice.
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Two Years Ago on 9/11

I was in the NICU of Children's National Hospital in Washington, D.C trying to get this sweet child to eat. I let her knaw on 4 donuts today in celebration of her repaired small intestine. Go Tess!
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9/11 Prayer Party

I was totally expecting to have a quiet day of reflection at home when I read an article in the NY Times that made me flip my lid. The National Cathedral --our Nation's prayer center in Washington D.C. is have no special services today because to semi-quote the priest in charge "we're leading the way in helping America" get over it.

Okay he didn't say "get over it" he said something like
“The cathedral’s mission is to serve a spiritual role for the nation, and part of that role is to help the country heal and move past the tragedy,” said Richard M. Weinberg, a cathedral spokesman, echoing a statement from the Rev. Dr. Francis Wade, the cathedral’s interim dean. “I think it’s fair to say that 11 years later, we all felt that it was important still to commemorate it, but to do so in perhaps a less overt, a less somber way — to do so maturely and look forward.”'

Excuse me??? Americans can't have a public display of prayer and mourning in a church, on this day of all days, because it would be "immature" or "too somber?" I didn't know there was like a specific ten year time limit for praying for the Dead. In fact, I'm pretty sure that both my grandfathers' remembered Pearl Harbor and D Day until their last days on this earth.

That NY Times quote made me so mad, that I woke up all of my sleeping kids and dragged them to 8:30 AM Mass. We went to two Catholic Churches, and no one had 8:30 AM Mass on a Tuesday. (I forgot the downtown parish has a noon Mass today and my poor parish church has nada Daily Mass Services on Monday or Tuesday). So we lit candles in dark church buildings instead. Then we bought donuts and have a pig out fest at home.

I'm hoping to bring the gang back to Mass at noon to pray today--but you never can tell what God has in store for you. We could be in the ER by then.
(Update: We did get to the noon Mass. Thank you, God!)

Thank you God for the heroes who sacrificed their lives for us. Mommy Mary, pray for us to become a Nation of Faith.

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Today is 9/11.

It's an odd day for me. My family was born out of that tragedy.

Eleven years ago, I was a new bride. My husband had just left my house in Ohio to go back to grad school in Rochester, New York. I went to work as normal on Tuesday. It was "in-take" day, so I had a long line of the poor waiting to tell me their troubles, waiting for me to take their case. I heard about the plane crashes in between appointments. We were too "low budget" to have a TV. The paralegal kept updating me on what she heard from the radio. Each update was more scary than that last one.

I remember going back into my office alone and having a panic attack when I heard that a plane had gone down in Pennsylvania. I thought the hijackers were attacking Pittsburgh. "If they were going for Pittsburgh," I thought, "they could be going anywhere. They could be going to Rochester. They could be going to Boston." I had family and friends everywhere. I suddenly felt so vulnerable.

I left work to go home for lunch. I watched TV alone. The images were overwhelming. I called work and told them I couldn't come back in that afternoon.

At some point, I went to church. I was a brand new member of RCIA, I'd only gone to 2 or 3 meetings. The Church of the Holy Redeemer  in Portsmouth, Ohio had their door unlocked. I walked in alone and tried to pray. I didn't know anything about the Blessed Sacrament, so I didn't know He was with me. I addressed my thoughts to "some God out there"--far above me. I remember laying down in a pew. I felt so weak and so depressed. Around me the church was beautiful. (Remember what a perfect sunny day it was back in 2001?) The sunlight was streaming in through the stain glass windows. The feeling in the church was of such perfect beauty and quiet and stillness.

The contrast actually hurt me. The church environment was such a contrast to the turmoil and fear I felt inside.

I left after a few moments.

I felt so sad that I didn't have anywhere to go.

I basically spent the rest of the day back home in my tiny rental house, watching the news. Remember the endless cycle when they didn't know anything? Then one morning, I don't remember how many hours after the 9/11 attack, there was an interview with Jeremy Glick's widow. She had a three month old baby. She talked about having the last conversation with her husband on the phone.

It hit me--this new thought that hit my body all at once--that the real tragedy would be if Jon died before we had a child together. I was supposed to have a child with this man I loved.

It's hard to even remember how mired my vocation was in sin, but I was totally blocked about having children. I was really, truly afraid that I'd be a horrible mother. I was a new bride and I loved marriage. But kids were this scary "not until I'm older than 30" part of the equation. Yet Jesus, gave that fruit of marriage back to me--and he gave it back to me as a result of the suffering of this widow.

On this 11 year anniversary, I am a wife and mother of six children. I have five sleeping in my house and one in heaven. This morning, I hugged my husband tightly. I said Morning Prayer with him. I washed a bowl for his oatmeal and reminded him about a Cub Scout Meeting.

I believe that Jesus rose from the dead. I believe because I rose from the dead, too.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Not Just In China

Yesterday, I was in the checkout line at Wal-Mart when a mother with two daughters started cooing over Baby Abigail.

"So you have three daughters?"

"Actually, I have four and one son. Two are off playing in the toy aisle."

She snorted. "What does you're husband think about that?"

"Oh he loves it!"

"My husband won't let us try for another baby because he's afraid it might not be a boy" she said.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

For Adopted Moms

A huge thank you to all the Adoption Moms out there, especially to those close friends who share their lives on the blogs I read everyday.

I'm in this hard part of revisiting my vocation as a wife and mother. From my new buddy, Blessed Fulton Sheen (thanks for the introduction Bonnie E) I'm learning that I'm supposed to be a "missionary" to my spouse and he's supposed to be a missionary to me. It's such a foreign concept, I'm having trouble wrapping my mind around it.

Then I remembered Brianna's* beautiful "this is the real love behind" adoption post where she said "it's difficult to take a damaged human being into your house and know that some deep hurts are not going to be healed until heaven--but we stand with Christ to love this child anyway."

That is the true intimacy of marriage.

I'm that broken Ukrainian orphan that my husband took into his home. I literally was left in a crib for with 9 other babies with two caretakers for over 12 hours a day starting at six weeks old. (That was enlightened daycare in the 1970s). What did that do to my soul? How is Jesus going to heal that?

I don't know.

I do know that I come down with a sudden attack of hay fever last Tuesday and I started flipping out because I can't get up out of bed and take care of my family's needs for dinner. It's this deep question of "Who am I if I'm not constantly producing something of value for my family. Who am I if I have to take love in instead of constantly give love out?"

My husband has voluntarily married a broken shell of a girl who starts dissolving into tears over having HAYFEVER.

We haven't even gotten to the "throwing up from chemo" yet, and I'm already a mess. Clearly, the man has fertile soil for missionary work!

So when I start freaking out about this task that my husband is undertaking, its so reassuring to think about Carla, Dayna, Karey, Lauren, et al. These are women who have flown or driven hundreds of miles, and taken on scary medical conditions, and first loved children from grainy, unflattering photographs. I see from their blogs that this "missionary" arm of the domestic church is beautiful and wonderful and a critical part of our vocation.

So thank you.

And pray for me. My goal this Fall is to try to tenderly embrace myself during the scary Anxiety attacks that I like to pretend are not a part of the "real Abby."

*I can't even find Brianna's blog to link to this great post b/c that's what kind of week its been, but hopefully I will get that link active soon. Thanks for your patience.

Monday, September 3, 2012

A Song to Ease the Long Wait

I'm pre-engaged to Jesus.

It's embarrassing to talk about, because its so ridiculous. I'm like one of those silly, baby girls from Medieval Europe who a Queen (my Mother-in-law Mommy Mary) plucked out of her cradle and arranged to marry her son. The Court looks at the future Princess's sinful immaturity and sneers "she's the one who is going to marry our Dauphin?"

Yes, me. Gentle reader, even me.

Hope you are going to marry Him too.

So its strange to feel this as a happily married woman of 37, a women with 5 children --but the hardest part about the virtue of chastity is the ...WAITING.

I'm waiting for Him.

I'm looking past my earthly marriage, with all the joys and the warm kisses, and special dances in the living room with my tall husband Jon---

I'm filled with a desire that can only be filled by HIM.

My future spiritual marriage with Jesus.

I'm in this lonely, awkward in between time.

I'm not in the world anymore--or at least I'm trying hard to detach from it. I'm not chasing down fame and hoping to go back to the world of jobs and a career. I'm not waiting for more money, so I can rehab my dirty kitchen or build a new green house in the back yard. Yet I'm not "in union" enough with the Holy Spirit to feel totally fulfilled doing the humble "wife" work of cooking meatloaf for dinner and ironing my husband's work shirts.

I'm just in this "nothing" void of waiting for Him.

It's a hard, bittersweet place to be. I feel like it is taking us so, so long to come together. It almost feels sometimes hopeless or impossible. Yet sometimes, He consoles me. I heard this "wanted" song and it was so reassuring. It's Jesus singing to my soul--reminding me about how its going to be when we are married. I love the lyric "Anyone can tell you you're pretty. You get that all the time. But your beauty is deeper than the make-up and I want to show you what I see tonight!"

It's poetic lines like that--from pop songs, or St. John of the Cross poems, that remind me that even though the waiting is hard--marriage to HIM is well worth the wait.

Hunter Hayes - "Wanted" (Official Video)

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Check out this "Day in the Life" of a Catholic Priest

(sorry, I can't figure out how to link to it better on blogger)

Go, take a few moments and check out this video. It will make you cry with joy. It will make you feel so much more affirmed in your own vocation. I truly started to cry when the priest said "I can see the fear in young men's eyes when they tell me they think they are being called to the priesthood--they think 'will I be happy?"

I feel the same way when I talk to all kinds of Moms who are questioning whether to be stay-at-home moms, or moms to 'more than one or two kids.' I'm inspired to first grow my own "fruit of joy" to be a better inspiration and second to beg a video producer --we need a "Day in the Life " vocation of marriage video. Everything thinks they know what "marriage" looks like--but few have really seen a true sacramental marriage in action.)

Also, if you want an inspiring look at the vocation of marriage check out this professional athlete's interview:

Here's a snippet from St. Louis Rams Quarterback Kellen Clemens:

"What do you enjoy most about family life?

I really enjoy being married. It’s exactly what I thought of the sacrament as being when I was younger. Sometimes you can look ahead in life and then the reality can be a lot different from what you expected, but with marriage, it is exactly as good as I thought it would be."

WOW! And he wears a brown scapular! 

from NC Register. h/t Mom and then some.

Why We Suffer

If you have a facebook page, please click on "Support Angela Faddis".

One of our sisters in the faith, is a young Mom of two in Phoenix, Arizona. Last year on Easter Sunday, she went to the ER for a minor complaint and ended up getting diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. She turned to her husband and her first response was "Jesus rose, and so we trust."

Angela is now on her deathbed at her home and there are hourly updates of her profound trust in God like this:

Today I received this incredible message which alone makes all of this worth it: "You have touched me so much that I went to Mass for the first time in years. I cried the whole time." 

Our Lady of Mount Carmel, pray for Angela.