Wednesday, January 1, 2020

2020. A new year, a new decade... a new me?

It seems our society is fixated on change. Campaigns are built on change- marketing on the grass is greener approach. We see this in all aspects. If something isn't working, we need a complete change, the message goes.

Sometimes though, I think we just need to persevere in certain things. So, for the most part those are what I'm going to focus on this year. Pushing through.

1. Decluttering. I have a really hard time throwing things out that might have a use later on. This is my biggest focus, material wise, for the year, and goes right along with keeping our house cleaner. This also includes actually putting away at least one load of laundry per day.

2. Dedicated daily prayer times. This one has been such an off again, on again thing for me since becoming a mama. I have times I pray with Patrick, and we have times we pray as a family, but my own personal prayer time seems to just float in wherever I can fit it... when I think to do that. So, I'm going to set aside 4 specific times a day for some prayer and bible reading. Daily readings while I am getting ready, morning prayer while Patrick plays before lunch, afternoon prayer (divine mercy chaplet and decade of rosary) before making dinner and evening spirtual reading before bed.

3. Reading. My goal is to read 50 books this year. And keep track of them! I read 20 to 30 last year, but I couldn't name them.

4. Cut back on unnecessary and selfish spending. Especially online. It's so easy to one click order on Amazon. I'm going to make myself wait a day before ordering anything that isn't a necessity on Amazon.

5. Make sure Patrick and I get outside for 15 or more minutes everyday (assuming it is safe to do so!). He loves being outside... and nature provides so much rejuvenation for our spirits!

6. Drink at least 4 mugs of water a day. I rarely feel thirsty and have to remind myself to drink. I'm trying it to my prayer times to make sure it happens.

7. Learn to knit!

I don't want to be a new me. But I do want to be a better me- one who better lives my vocation and roots her day and life in God.

Hopefully I can look back on these at the end of the year (or sooner!) and see growth.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

The early loss of a baby

I'm going to preface this post by saying I'm prolife, and that shows up in my thoughts about pretty much everything involving humans, including my own babies. I believe they were created with eternal souls at the moment of their conceptions, and that even if they don't survive to live here, with us on this Earth, then their soul lives in heaven. This post is a little scattered, and I'm sorry if you're trying to read through that. I'm mostly writing this one to get my thoughts out... but I thought other mamas who have lost their little ones may want to read as well, so I'm sharing it for you, mamas, if you lost a baby. No one ever knows what to say, and I certainly don't have all the words either. Your baby matters. Nothing can take away the ache, and it is okay to avoid situations where you are around other babies right now if is is too hard for you. It is also ok to tell people about your loss.  Because your baby matters. And it is okay to keep quiet if that's what you prefer, too. Everyone processes their loss in their own way. Remember to check on your husband, too. We held our babies inside us. Our bodies gave them comfort, if only for a few weeks. Our husbands don't get that solace. Let your husband take care of you, but remember he might need extra hugs and attention right now, too. He is also grieving.

"We shall find our little ones again up above." St. Zelie Martin

David and I found out we were pregnant two weeks ago. I had suspected it, very strongly, long before it was soon enough to know. From the beginning, I was terrified because things didn't seem right. I tried to pray a rosary, and couldn't, but the image of Divine Mercy kept popping into my head so I whispered "Jesus, I trust in You" until I fell asleep, finally peaceful. The next day, feeling panicked again, I heard a whisper "Daughter... do you trust Me?" Yes, Lord, I do... and then the peace again. So for the last week and a half, I've been as peaceful as I could through this up and down, the hope and then fear and then hope. At peace knowing God was there, beside me.

We were so excited about this baby and eagerly told Patrick he was a big brother. He smiled and cooed. Patrick suddenly started snuggling up against my belly, something he'd never really done before, often, like he knew. Maybe he did.

I'm more at peace this time than with Jean Marie. Because I can look at my beautiful baby, Patrick, who is here, alive and well, and know that he really is as wonderful and worth all the pain of the two losses before him. But in some ways I am also more sad than before. I wonder what her laugh would sound like (I always have some sort of idea what the gender is... from the beginning. I guess I can't confirm my suspicions in this lifetime but I was right with Patrick even when the ultrasound said he was girl! So I'm going to trust that especially in the case of our departed little ones, He will give them new names if the ones we give them don't work). I wonder how her face would look... what traits would be the same as Patrick and what would be different? Would she be as stubborn as David, me and Patrick? Would she have my dad's nose, too? But I guess we won't know that in this lifetime.

More at peace. Sure. But also the loss hits hard. I don't think it can get easier. She's our baby. One I was so excited about and so excited to meet and hold. And I don't get to. That loss is painful. Because it's the loss of anticipation, and the complete loss of getting to meet this little person in this lifetime.

I read a quote last week and it has stuck with me. I believe it is from Corrie ten Boom. "God is so close to you that you can only see His shadow." Oh, yes, Lord, that seems so true. You are beside us, Holding us in this time of loss. And your mother will carry our little one to you, so you can hold her and comfort her and introduce her to her siblings. You created this soul through our love, and that is so beautiful to ponder, This little one wouldn't exist without You, Lord. You created her for a purpose, as you create all life for a purpose. And You have used her precious and short life to draw me closer to You in trust. And to remember that the veil between heaven and earth is thin. You have created us to know you, love you and serve you. May we all do that, and may our babies be witness of your creative power and love.

May the angels and saints take you to Jesus, my little one. I am so sorry I will not be able to hold you and kiss your little head and brush your cheek against mine and teach you about earthly love. May God wrap you in His arms and give you the fullness of His heavenly love.

Maria Kolbe, Jean Marie and Faustina Rose pray for us. May all the little saints in heaven pray for their parents, especially may those little saints lost through abortion pray that their parents may find God's mercy, peace and love. 

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Anticipation and the Cry of Man

Last night my husband and I went to the Filipino Mass being celebrated at our parish. It was a beautiful way to end this time of Advent, in the anticipation of Christmas.

The responsorial psalm was spoken instead of sung, and perhaps that is why it reaonated with me more than normal, even as I sang it in my head!

"Lord, make us turn to You, let us see Your face, and we shall be saved." (Psalm 80: 8 O God of hosts, restore us; light up your face and we shall be saved.)

Perhaps because it spoken, perhaps because I am so eager to see the face of the little one growing inside me (soon please!), but I suddenly had so many passages of Scripture running through my mind that overwhelmed me with the beauty and wisdom of God's plan for salvation.

For everyone except for Christians, the idea of looking at God is proposterous, even blasphemous. Yet, how can we become like God, and live as He intends without gazing upon Him and comtemplating His Love?

Moses hid his face.  The temple priests, the only ones able to enter the dwelling place of the most High, shielded their eyes.

Yet, we needed to look upon Him to be saved. How could we? In our imperfection, in our weakness, with our pride and our fallness gaze upon the face of Holiness and Love, of Awe and Majesty? How could we be saved?

So He came as a child, as a baby.  No one can turn their eyes from a baby. Everyone looks at them, watches them, mesmerized by the miracle of new life, of creation.

In the movie Mary of Nazareth, this scene is so beautifully captured, when shepherds come to visit the Savior just after Mary has given birth. Jospeh seeks to intervene, but Mary stops him, as the shepherds pass the babe, God made flesh, from person to person, the first adoration of the King.

We hear Simeon voice the importance of sight as well.

"Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples,a light for revelation to the Gentiles and glory for your people Israel. " Luke 2: 29-32

In this coming Christmas season, may we all learn to gaze upon the face of Love and so doing, may we be forever changed and saved by the God who came to save us.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Resting in Him

Is it just me? Or does the world just seem busier every year? Normally, I'm able to step back during Lent and slow down. To breathe. To listen. To just... be.

But this year, I've let myself think I'm too busy to do that. I've created a plethora of things I "need" to do, rather than doing the one thing I actually need to do. Make more time for God.

Tonight was one of those nights for me... again. I've had a lot of those. Ever since I set my lenten goals and included among them "resume going to daily mass, as often as possible", I've conveniently managed to make it to just one or two. Not exactly what I had in mind when I set that goal, but, you know. The dishes need done. Or dinner cooked. Or papers organized or groceries bought. Or there's always that thrift store I could stop into just to see if they have anything I need.

Are you rolling your eyes or shaking your head yet at my lame attempts to justify avoiding a commitment I've made? I phrased the goal "when possible" because I have struggled in the past with making that too much a priority, and feeling overly neglectful when there was good reason to not attend daily mass.

Yet, here I was, tonight, confronted with a choice. I chose not to go. I chose not to go when I drove past the church before four o'clock. I chose not to go when I stopped at my fiance's house to heat up dinner so we could eat together during his break. Except I hadn't gotten to the heating part when he walked in with food in hand for his lunch. Whoops. Hmm. Maybe I could go...

But I don't want to.

"You can go to mass still, sweetheart!" My thoughts were interrupted.

"But I don't want to." This time spoken aloud.  Hmm. Saying those words outloud stung a bit. 

"Why don't you want to go?"

"I'm not sure. I just don't... want to." Yep.. those words sound even lamer aloud than they do in my head.

"You know that means you most need to go."

My fiance returned to work. I got out my sewing project fabric... because it was waiting. And I'd been waiting all weekend to work on those projects. It didn't seems as appealing as I had thought. I put it back.

I got in my car and drove to the church, hoping for some peace to wash over my stubborn heart.

I left mass, still struggling with the sadness I'd been battling for several days, unsure what the cause was. I turned the music on. Three beats of the song and I shut it off. It was too loud. Too busy. Too much.

Driving, I realized that there were several decisions I was avoiding praying about.

I'm not sure why I ever wonder about my sadness. That's always the reason. The busyness. The failure to sit in the quiet and bare my heart to God.

Realizing this was the problem, I drove a bit more. I could make it to adoration.

Or I could go to Goodwill.

I went to Goodwill. Shock of shocks, nothing was there that I needed to purchase. Or even wanted to purchase.

Just like the other day when I did the same thing... going to three different thrift stores in a different town in an avoidance of going to a daily mass. Rationalized, of course. Yet.. nothing in those stores was even slightly appealing, try as I might to make it so.

Hmm. Got back in the car. Guess I can make it to Pella. I chuckled a bit. God was certainly not making it easy for me to avoid Him. Yesterday, I was so determined to crack my heart open to Him. Why the change today?

I drove, the entire trip in the quiet, listening to the car move over the road.

I pulled into the lot, walked in, fell to my knees. There He was. The One who I'd been ignoring again. There He was. Right there, in the starkness of the Host. His humility and love on display! Right there- in the silence.

"Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy and my burden light." Matthew 11: 28- 30

"You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless, until they rest in You." 
-St. Augustine

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Thanksgiving, Advent... and making room to notice God

I've been feeling overwhelmed this school year in so many ways. I added one new prep, which shouldn't have been that much more work, but I also revamped how I was teaching my classes this year. So much that now I'm scarcely doing what I started and trying to bridge back with the old and meld the two together. The kids are learning... but I'm struggling because it's not how I wanted class to go this year. 

I'm also struggling with my schedule to get to church as often as I was able to in the past. Oddly enough, I knew that would be the case one of these days. Everyday for the last few years when I didn't feel like rolling out of bed early enough to make it to mass, or wanted to head home after school instead of to the church to pray and stay for mass, I heard a quiet voice in my head saying "what's your excuse? You have an opportunity now you might not always have... make the most of it." And so I did, 99% of the time. I'd go an spend my quiet time in God's presence... sometimes talking to Him but usually just sitting in the silence. And I would leave feeling recharged. Or I would battle the entire time to stay awake, but would keep battling.

That's the real problem right now. I don't feel like I'm "staying awake" in my spiritual life. Over the last year, I went from being able to go to adoration once a week and Mass 5 or 6 days a week to no adoration and usually just Sunday Mass. And I've been struggling with that. 

But the struggle has made me realize several things. Firstly, I've realized I was relying way too much on my "actions" and these special gifts, and not focusing on the hard work of really focusing on learning to converse and spend time with God. 

It's hard to focus on Him when I'm feeling tired and not receiving the spiritual consolations I had apparently growing on. But that's the thing. They weren't meant to supplant my faith, but to strengthen it and give it the firm foundation from which to grow.

I've felt a few times this year like at work I'm as stressed as I was my first year. I also feel like I'm battling with very routine, basic and small spiritual issues.  Like that super basic thing of putting my heart in God's hands and giving myself to Him each day.

I've been blessed the last couple weeks with sermons calling me out of this lukewarmness I'm finding myself trapped in. So Advent this year is a time for me to do just that. Which is why I'm trying to fast from a variety of distractions... to make space for me to notice God's presence more deeply.

Hopefully then this Christmas I can greet Him with a heart more full of love. More eager to please Him. And most importantly this year, one that better recognizes Him in my daily life, outside the walls of the church.

Advent is a time of preparation. So, for me that means eliminating those things I've been using to distract myself from God. So I'll be giving up my favorite foods... so that I can thank Him better for the gift of life and honor the gift of my health. And I'll be giving up staying late.. so I can rise each morning to thank Him for a night of rest and the start of another blessed day, and be well rested to greet my students each day and do my best to serve Him through my work. And I'll be giving up Facebook... so that I can thank Him for the gifts of so many dear ones in my life, and so that I can focus on them more deeply. 

Come, Emmanuel. Help me ready my heart to receive You.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016


I came past this title of a blog post in my saved drafts when I logged on to Blogger today. I don't recall what the topic I had in mind was at the time I saved the title, but this one, more than the others seemed most eager to be reflected upon this evening.

Clutter. Things. Ideas. Emotions. Clutter is what distracts from the bigger picture, worming its way to be the focus, when it only every consists of too many accent pieces.

There's a famous piece of advice from Coco Chanel about the accessorizing. "Remove the last piece". In other words, we should keep it simple. A little glitter, a little glam, but we should avoid going overboard. I think that advice is useful in life too. So often when I find myself feeling overwhelmed, it's because I've let the clutter take over. Instead of accenting my life and giving me joy, the little things have become the focus. Things instead of people, activities instead of experiences. Chores and tasks instead of vocation. It's not that any of those things are in and of themselves bad- but when they distract form my purpose and mission, they have ceased to fulfill the purpose for which they were meant.

It's a lesson I'm trying to better live this year- both at work and at home and in my spiritual life.

Decluttering means saying no to being a perfectionist. It means being okay with those columns not being perfectly formatted on a quiz I'm writing, okay with the fact that I cannot rewrite every activity and every lesson I plan to teach this year. It means admitting to myself that it's more important to spend time with the people I love than to check every box on my to-do list. It means stepping back and allowing myself tie for prayer and reflection on my busiest days of the week- instead of just trying to fit that in to the periphery (St Francis de Sales wrote "We all need one hour of prayer a day, except when busy. Then we need two."). And, too, it can mean saying no to specific favorite devotions to just sit quietly in the presence of God.

Decluttering means saying yes to the greater and no to the lesser. It means living my life with focus and intentionality, and making sure my heart is behind the work of my mind and hands. It means learning, once again, that silence can be more powerful than many words. That resting in God is a deep breath, a calmness, a focusing of mind, heart and will.

That's been my biggest battle these last few months. Resting in God. Resting, instead of forcing. Resting instead of overworking. Seeking Him, directing my gaze to Him and returning His gaze with love. That can be really hard. But it becomes impossible when my constant words to myself are that I'm not enough. That I'm not worthy. That I'm not gaining or growing or living the relationship I'm seeking with Him. Decluttering means to take a step back and redirect my gaze to the One who only ever looks on with love. It means resting in that love.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

An open letter to all those who were forced to endure Catholicism Pre-Vatican II from a "conservative young person"

I smile and nod politely when you talk about how we need to appreciate priests, all priests, even if we don't agree with everything they say or do. We should be grateful to have a priest.

I nod and murmur my agreement because I do, in fact, agree. A priest is a gift to a congregation. A man who has given his life to Christ to serve Christ's flock. To give us the sacraments. To provide us opportunity for confession, to celebrate the Mass.

I am grateful for priests. I am grateful for their sacrifices. I am grateful for their fiat.

But then you start complaining about the "young conservative priests" who just don't understand what it was like for those who had to live through the time before Vatican II... all that Latin and stuff. 

And I get very confused why you don't seem grateful for them, why you instead insult their orthodoxy.

I'm not a priest. So I can't speak for the young priests who I pray for, who I am so very grateful for, who are rediscovering and upholding the traditions of the Church.

I can tell you that as a millennial Catholic, I was raised in the hey-day of "Vatican II" Catholicism.

I was raised with experimental liturgies outside in the woods. With changing the words for the distribution of communion... at the whim of the liturgical committee for that particular mass. With a sign of peace that took longer than the entire Eucharistic Prayer. 

I was raised to see that as the epitome of Catholicism.

And, I have to tell you, it left me feeling empty. It left me searching. It left my heart restless. And then slowly, I began to discover the riches of the Faith, the traditions of our Church. The hidden treasures that seem to have been cast aside years ago.

I was raised with no incense at Mass, no "smells and bells". My parish was "modernized" when I was a small child, the crucifix replaced with an organ. The tabernacle at some point moved off the altar.

I don't remember the time before those changes. I do remember people leaving our parish in frustration with the changes. I remember years afterwards of my dad coming home stressed after another contentious parish council meeting. I remember him and my mom talking about how another family had left our church to go to the other parish, or a different church entirely.

Yet, even though I prefer more traditional style churches, I include the driver of this change in my prayers. I thank God for his service. I remember the joyful look in his eyes during Mass, and I never question his devotion.

I similarly never question the joy and clear love of my fellow parishioners who like guitar mass, who like the folksy music. If that allows them to worship and draw closer to God, then I will sing with joy beside them. I will be glad that their faith is enriched. I will sing loudly to support a quiet cantor. I will do my very best to help you grow in your faith in any way I can. Because we're a parish family, and while we may have differences in preference, our goal is the same- to worship God and grow in our love of Him that we might better know, love and serve Him in this life that we may be with Him in the next.

Here's the thing though. That last sentence I typed was one I was never taught. I loved church for my entire childhood. I went to every religious ed class, and just generally liked all things church related. When I got my Bible in 7th grade, I read it cover to cover, because that seemed like the right thing to do. I could answer all the questions posed at religious ed. And so, somehow, I managed to think I was supposed to be able to find all the answers. But I couldn't. I couldn't even figure out that basic "know, love and serve God." If anything, I would have said that our purpose was to love our neighbor, and to radiate Christ to them. Well... yes... that's a part of it. But the first part of the Great Commandment? 

I didn't understand that, and nothing in the people centered liturgy pointed that out to me. 

Over the last few years, I've finally started learning. And I've gotten past most of my initial feelings of hurt that none of this was ever taught to me. Most. Because for the most part, I can see it as a wonderful blessing that the young, orthodox- seeking, Catholic-nerd people of my generation have to desire and want these things. We have to go out of our way to experience what your generation had the opportunity to pray daily. But your generation, for whatever reason, must not have understood the reasons that my generation can give for the older traditions.

I can understand your desire to have a close encounter with God. I desire that too. 

I can understand your desire to improve the world around you. I desire that too.

I can understand your desire to ease the suffering of the poor, the sick, the outcast. I desire that too.

I also desire a liturgy that will lift my heart, mind and soul above the present moment. Above this earth. I desire a liturgy that will be deafening loud in the quiet of my heart. I desire a liturgy that will challenge me not to stay as I am, but to push me to become a saint.

And I experience that most in the Extraordinary Form. In the ageless chant. In the whispered Aves and gentle clicking of my rosary beads against the pew before Mass. In those moments, I start to get a glimpse of what it means to have a communion of saints, worshipping God in the same Mass here on Earth that John sees in heaven. In those moments, I am challenged to grow, to love God better. To learn more about Him. To be in awe in His presence. To go out and serve Him in the world.

I don't remember what it was like then. From what you've told me, it must not be anything like what I experience.  From the anger in your voice, I think it must have left you feeling empty, as the experimental woods liturgies left me. It must have left you seeking more. I hope you found it.

If your preferred liturgical methods of worshipping inspire you to love God and serve Him in love through your service to your through your neighbors then I'm truly glad you have that experience. Please be glad for me too and support my faith journey. We're in this together, after all, seeking that same common goal of heaven.