Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Universal Longing

You know that feeling you get when you're holding your child close and all the frustrations of the day melt away? Love washes over you and a hug is the best you got but it ain't cuttin it. You hold on until they start complaining that they can't breathe, and you don't even point out the fact that they can obviously breathe if they are talking. And you're left happy but with a longing and an ache that you can't heal. This is the longing for God.

When you're holding a tiny infant close to your heart and you want to hug them so tightly that you envelop them completely and it's no longer your body and their body, but one body. Or when you cling tightly to your husband and you wish he had ten extra arms so he could hug all of you at once, and you could curl up inside of him and just live there forever, and totally not like a tapeworm or something, but in perfect unity. Times like these, when we can't get enough of someone we love, it's when God is telling us, there's more. Here I am. 

It's definitely not creepy. Right? Tell me I'm not the only one!? I think that we have written on our hearts not just a longing for intimate communion with God, but a deep desire for the perfect communion of all people through Jesus. We are one body. 

It blows my mind when I realize that every single person on this earth is called to a communion with Jesus. And so am I. And therefore we are called to a communion with each other. Including that homeless guy who always has his tongue hanging out and who never smiles back at me. Including the church lady who complains to me about all the mothers and what they are not doing to keep their kids quiet and how they are also holier-than-thou. Including estranged family members whom I've avoided, ignored, or given up on because of abuse, neglect, or choices like drugs, homosexuality, promiscuity, crime, or whatever their personal demons may be. 

If, God willing, we all make it to heaven, there is gonna be some serious stuff going down. Like, deep and intimate, personal, heart and soul communion with each of these people. As in, I am present at the marriage supper of the Lamb. And I am the bride. And so are you. And we are given Christ's body so that he actually lives within us, and we become what we eat, a member of the body of Christ. So everyone you love, everyone you hate, everyone you don't even know, everyone where "it's complicated," if they make it to heaven, and so do you, it's gonna get a little personal. 

I believe God gives us this longing for such a deep connection with the people we love, deeper than anything we could ever hope for in this life, so deep and intimate and intense that we feel as if we want to crawl inside of someone else's body and live there as one with them, as a foretaste of what is to come. What I'm saying is, He gives us that longing here on earth with the hope and the promise that it will be fulfilled in heaven. 

So, um. Y'all ready for this? But there's also this little thing of, like, "now is the kingdom." Enter my favorite verse from my church jam Gather Us In;

Not in the dark of buildings confining,
Not in some heaven light-years away-
Here in this place the new light is shining,
Now is the kingdom and now is the day. 
Gather us in and hold us forever.
Gather us in and make us your own.
Gather us in, all peoples together,
Fire of love in our flesh and our bone. 

First of all, this is my jammmmmm. But also, ouch. If now is the kingdom then we are doing a pretty crappy job of showing it. As Catholics, when we recieve the Eucharist, we live this out in a very real way. Now is the kingdom, because Jesus is truly with us in the Eucharist. But when have we ever contemplated that we are one in being with the guy who wore his football jersey and flip flops to mass? Heck, how often do we even consider this unity with our own family members? Receiving Holy Communion along with your spouse is more intimate than sex. Think on that. 

And I also gained a new perspective on this song based on what I've been talking about. Wanting God to hold us forever, and for all of us to be His own people? Yep. The fire of love for God and for each other consuming our very flesh? Check. I feel like we are called to experience that burning desire for communion in communion. Together, we must yearn for oneness in the Lord. But how can we live this out in our daily faith?

I see the spiritual types who are so anti-religion and definitely anti-Catholic and they are talking about the connectedness of humanity and how we are all one and they are deeply philosophical about it, and I'm like, dude. Welcome to the Church. But we are not doing a great job of getting that message across. 

I don't have the answer, but I do know that it starts with love. Love those who hate you. The ones to whom you are absolutely nobody. The ones who love you back. Love the people who you will never meet, be they down the street, or across the ocean, or from the past, or not yet born. Love the people who have no hope. The ones who shoot children in schools, or blow up hospitals, or take away the freedom of others. Love the people who sell their bodies or souls for millions of dollars, and the people who drive them to do it. Love the people living normal, ordinary lives. Love babies. Love grandmas. Love yourself. 

It's so much easier to ignore everything in the world. But we can't. We are all one body. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Parenting is Overwhelming

Sometimes I am overwhelmed by the mess. Sometimes by the screaming. Sometimes by the laundry. The dishes. The neediness. The touching. The nursing. The responsibility. The importance of it all. 

But sometimes I am overwhelmed by the preciousness of it all. Sometimes I am floored when I look at these two tiny people and think of where they will go and where they came from. I am humbled and overwhelmed with gratitude when I imagine God looking into my heart and lifting me up from the ground. He saw that I was worthy to be a mother, in fact the very exact mother that he wanted for these children. He sees worth in me where I often see none, and he gave me the treasure of children, so that I might empty myself for the love of them. He chose to bless me with children while choosing to give others a cross to bear. Why He did this I can't understand, and when I think on the goodness He has shown me, I am speechless. This great gift, the gift of being a parent, is truly overwhelming. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Carolina's First Year

Wow. This past year literally flew by. I feel like I was just holding a 5 lb 15 oz little dust bunny in my hands, and now here I am with an 18 lb sack of potatoes under my arm everywhere I go. (The sweetest, cutest, most darling sack of potatoes you have ever seen!) Carolina turned one this past Sunday- she is officially not a baby anymore! Just like we did for Lenny, we took Carolina's picture every week and made a video to remind us of how little she was and how much she changed over the year. So, without further ado:

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Life in the Buff

I'm running a regular nudist colony over here. 

Well, just my children. (Sorry for the previous image.) Carolina's had a bad diaper rash so I've been letting her hang out naked. I do put clothes on her at the beginning of the day, it's just that I can't always get her to pee on the toilet, so she pees her clothes and things just get super lazy after that. 

Also, naked kids are the cutest. 

Lenny also gets dressed every morning. Surprise! As much of a hassle that it is, I just can't foresee bringing him to mass naked. He did come out to the car in his underwear and crocs today, but had a change of heart when I started buckling him in. Score one for bluffing!

He slowly strips during the course of the day, effectively tricking me into letting him get naked, like a frog who won't jump out of a pot of boiling water. As long as he turns the heat on nice and easy, I'm oblivious. He'll start with shoes and socks, then he'll spill something on his shirt and get rid of that. Next thing you know his undies are "scratching him" and I've got a tan little man showing off his pasty white butt while he naps in my bed and I'm really praying he won't pee my sheets again!

It's like clothes are negatively charged and my children repel them like magnets. Either that or they are just normal and I am just lazy.

It's definitely that I'm lazy. 

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Three Ways Motherhood Changes You

1. A bed full of naked people is not what you thought it would be. 

2. Neither is a bathtub full. 

3. And speaking of the bathtub. 

3. You considered a home water birth for your second, but the tub is full of sticks, packing peanuts, and toys, so you do the hospital thing again. 

3. You pray much more often than when you were childless. (Mostly in the form of exclamatory prayer. Jesus help me!)

3. You love your kids so much, you decide to stop charting. 

3. Your kids scare you so much, you learn two new methods of NFP. 

3. You hate charting so much, you actually do stop. 

3. Then you realize you have a serious reason to postpone, so NFP it is. 

3. A bug doesn't scare you if you're alone with your children, but if your husband is there you beg him to kill it while holding your children back to protect them. 

3. Instead of showing up at a party with a 6-pack, you bring tiny watermelon jello shots with a lime peel as the rind and tiny chocolate sprinkles for the seeds because you can't stop Pinteresting. 

3. And then you realize you forgot the alcohol, so they're just jello watermelon slices. 

3. Which is fine because now you can eat more than two without getting wasted. 

3. You forget that you used to constantly suck in your stomach and you start doing it again for all of two seconds. Then you just decide to wear looser clothes. 

3. You sleep with one eye open. 

3. Actually, with two eyes open. 

3. Because you're lying in bed awake. 

3. You count to three so often that you've forgotten the rest of the numbers. 

There's room for one more baby. After that I will lose count. 

Disclaimer: Yes, I actually was already aware of the fact that I am not funny. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Celebrating Lenny's Baptismal Anniversary

I don't really know what to call it... I've alternated among "second birthday," "baptismal anniversary,"  and "baptismal birthday," along with confusing the actual "title" of the day with my convoluted explanations of it being your birthday in the church, the day you were baptized, etc. so now Lenny is calling it his "baptism-birthday-anniversary-party-day." 

Despite the confusion I think I've done an ok job of explaining it. We talked about how Chris and I chose to bring Lenny up as a Catholic and so we brought him to the priest who blessed him and he was born anew in the church. I also explained that at his baptism he became an adopted child of God, and now, just like his daddy takes care of him here, God is his Father who takes care of him from heaven. I even explained how that's connected to the Lord's Prayer and how special it is for us to call God our Father after we are baptized and how people weren't able to do that before Jesus gave us the sacrament of Baptism. I also did a quick explanation of original sin with the Adam and Eve story in the Kid's Bible and how baptism takes that away. I'm probably missing some stuff but I think it's ok for a three year old. 

To make the day special, we said a special prayer at mass asking for extra blessings for Lenny today. We were gonna light a candle but I forgot to bring a dollar. Then we went grocery shopping and I let him pick a treat. 

Oh, to be young again. The joy a lunchable brings is almost as good as Christmas. 

I let him pick what we are having for dinner and dessert, and he asked for meatball soup and chocolate chip cupcakes with ice cream. So when we got home we baked the cupcakes while Carolina napped. 

When she woke up, I let Lenny choose an outdoor activity. He picked a park down the street so we went, and even though it was so hot and humid that even my hair and fingernails were sweating, I didn't complain or rush him. Yay for me! He had fun playing under the bridge and doing "underdoggy" on the swing. 

He found lots of goodies, including feathers, half of an eggshell, giant chunks of concrete, and a "junky old piece of a rope" aka weave. I tried to explain that it was a braid of fake hair but he wasn't having it. 

Showing off his "rope."

After afternoon nap (when Lenny laid on my bed pretending to sleep) I iced the cupcakes and tried to clean up a little. Then when Chris got home we ate dinner and got out his baby box which had his baptismal outfit and candle in it. We lit the candle and read from the Bible, meant to renew our Baptismal Promises but I forgot, and I blessed Lenny's head with spit because we had no holy water. 

After that we had the cupcakes and ice cream. I think it was a nice way to commemorate his baptism and it will definitely be a tradition that we keep. 

Yay for cupcakes!

Lenny holds such a special place in my heart. He is the boy who made me a mama. I will always remember his baptism as such a special day, when I gave him back to God and made a promise to raise him in the faith. I try to always keep in mind that he does not belong to me. God has given him to me as a gift and a blessing to sanctify me and help me get to heaven. With this is the great responsibility to do the same for him. May God give me the grace every day to show Lenny how to love and live for Him. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

A Lesson in Public Witness at Chick-Fil-A

So we went to Chick-Fil-A today, despite the overwhelming guilt I get every time we eat out, both for wasting money and for being a huge fatty. I seriously feel like I'm going to get caught and sent to the principal's office. All these people up in here know I can't afford no drink with my meal. But here I am like some white trash drinkin my sweet tea and giving my baby French fries... It's a sad state of affairs.

Correction: A delicious state of affairs. 

Anyway. We are sitting eating and there is a little purple toy on the floor next to our table. A little girl walks by and stares at it for a minute. Her struggle is so palpable I can almost hear it. She knows the toy isn't hers. But, the shiny. The purple. The tinyyyyyyyyyy... She picks it up and brings it to her mom who is at the booth behind us. I overhear their conversation. 

Girl: I found this toy and it's mine now. 
Mom: Where did you get that?
Girl: I found it on the floor. It's my toy. Someone lost it but now it's mine. 
Mom: Did you see who dropped it?
Girl: No. 
Mom: Are you sure? You don't know who it belongs to?
Girl: No. It's my toy now. 
Mom: (kind of hesitating) OK, well... Since you don't know whose it is, you can keep it. 

Then the girl went back to the play place and I sat there kind of shocked. The thing of it is, a few years ago, I probably would have said the same thing. I mean, there was definitely a chance that the owner of that toy would have gladly stumbled upon it as she walked from the bathroom back to her seat. But it was on the floor for a while, and the person who dropped it was probably long gone. It was a tiny little plastic doll that I would have thrown away rather than keep, if it was Lenny's. And as soon as the woman cleaning the lobby got there with her broom, it was going to be thrown away for sure. What was the mom supposed to tell her, to leave it on the floor where it was?

I know this girl's mother did her best in this situation. She saw that it was a worthless trinket that most likely was going to be thrown away in a minute and there was basically no chance of returning it to the person who lost it. She also didn't need to deal with the kind of embarrassing four-year-old-wailing-in-public fit that may have gone down if she said no. So, she told her daughter to keep it. 

The problem is, it's just not honest. This little girl lost the chance for a very important lesson in honesty. It doesn't matter the circumstances, the toy did not belong to her. Watching her internal struggle as she looked longingly at that little toy on the floor, I know she knew that. She knew it was wrong to take it, otherwise she wouldn't have spent such a long time deciding whether or not she would pick it up. I also believe her conversation with her mother was a small child's way of asking, "What's the right thing to do?" Sadly, her mother failed to instruct her rightly in this situation. Boy, do I know that feeling all too well. It's hard to think on how I just handled a situation with Lenny and not feel stupid, regretting that my desire not to get beat up by a frustrated little boy won out over my duty to teach him patience, temperance, or obedience. 

The thing is, I can't afford to let a moment of comfort and peace take precedence over the upbringing of my children. Especially when I'm out in public. Sometimes it feels like no one is paying any attention to you. You're just enjoying a deep-fried hunk of breaded chicken breast on a warm buttered bun with tangy pickles, dripping in delicious, creamy golden sauce (Sorry... I'm drooling...) and so is everyone else. You are in your own world, and so are they. Except, you're not. They're not. People are listening to you. They see you and they see your kids and they might see you pray before you eat and play monsters with your kids in the play place, but they might also see you get angry and frustrated when your drink is knocked over and the baby scratches your eyeball and they didn't give you enough sauce for your fries. Except they usually won't see the cause of your anger, they'll just read your body language and hear you snapping at your holy and innocent-looking children who literally have rays from heaven shining down on them. And now you are giving Christianity a bad rap. Ouch. 

People will look at you when you go out in public with children. Especially when they're as cute as mine (just saying). Overhearing this little girl's conversation today reminds me that we need to be a constant witness for our faith. People come to the church through attraction, and it's the job of the faithful to attract them. Mothers must witness to the joy of the gospel in the way they interact with their kids in public. There is no way that overhearing me telling my son to basically steal someone else's toy is going to make a stranger say "Hmmm, this woman is so happy and wonderful. I wonder what her secret is?" With my luck it would be the enlightened athiest or a member of the "Jesus is my savior, not my religion" crowd who would see me sign the cross when we pray, see my scapular, and see my hypocrisy and roll their eyes so far back in their head that they might even become permanently blind.  

So do that Catholic thang. You can't guarantee that anyone will ever see the strength it takes to be kind, calm, and happy. But you can guarantee that they won't see grumpy mama. It will be hard, but you can call on God, and he will be your strength. 

"Let our powers combine. 
By these powers combined, I am God!"

(Sorry for the really bad Captain Planet joke. I just had to.)

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Thought of the Day: Finding Ourselves

The world tells us we must find ourselves, as if the self was something that could ever not be found. Never once have I woken up only to wonder where my self could be. It is always right here with me. My likes and dislikes, my taste in music, my intolerance for caffeine, my love for a brownie with cream cheese, my talent for drawing, my inability to dance, my failures and triumphs, these things never leave me. Should I ever forget myself I could just look around me and see the evidence of myself everywhere. In the piled-up laundry, or the photos arranged neatly on the mantle, or even in the half eaten piece of toast, my self and my being is in all of it.

When I feel lost, confused, and wondering what the meaning of this life is, it's not my self that I am missing. It is my God. We should seek rather to lose ourselves, so that when all our selfishness is gone, we will see Christ in us. Once we strip away all the layers of self, we will find our core... Christ within us. 

When life is hard and we are dissatisfied, alone, angry, fearful, or disillusioned with this world, we should not be looking to find our selves- we should be running far from them, and into the arms of our Father. Let us pray for Christ to hide us in His wounds so that, living within Him, we will become like Him. 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Pray, Hope, and Don't Worry

Fear rules my life more than I'd like to admit. This gripping terror is the unwanted companion of love. When you love someone, you give yourself completely to them. You take every little bit of yourself, and you plant it deep within them, and it grows. This is love. Your whole self is in this love. There is no you anymore, except the you that lives within the one you love.

The fear that comes from this is such that you feel, if anything should ever happen to the one you love, if your spouse or your child dies, then you would die with them, because there is no you without them. This death is a death of paralyzing fear. This is what happens when you rely on this person as the source of your love. What we are really called to do is to put this love in God's hands. He is the fulfillment of this love and it is through Him and with Him that this love has its being. 

The problem is, can I really do this? Can I give myself completely in love to another person and yet completely let go of the desire for control? Although, intellectually, I know there is nothing I can do to stop God from calling His child home, emotionally, I have to try. So I turn to my own power, and I find that all I have is worry, anxiety, and fear. As if any of these things ever have or ever could change a single thing. Still, it's all we have, and we are human, so we worry. 

Jesus tells us, "Can any of you by worrying add a moment to your lifespan? If even the smallest things are beyond your control, why are you anxious about the rest?" (Luke 12:25-26) He's calling us to let go of our ridiculously false feelings of control. He reminds us of nature, and how God cares for all of His creation. We know that nature is one of the ways God reveals Himself to us. Regardless, it's hard to tell ourselves that God cares for the birds and the flowers without also thinking of how fragile nature is. The life of a bird could be ended in an instant. A flower could wither in a day. How difficult it is to accept God's ways. My life is just as fragile as the life of any living thing. My family could be gone tomorrow, and there's nothing I can do to change it. I just have to place it all in God's hands. 

This is one of my biggest struggles because it is one thing that I'm scared to do. I don't know how to let go. I don't know how my heart can withstand losing someone I love. Even though it has happened in the past, and I know it will happen again, I can't accept it. The thought rips me apart and I turn to myself again and again, relying on my own strength because of the fear that keeps me from giving up the fight. I struggle against the arms of my Father when he is calling me to breathe and simply be held. The only real power I have is the power of prayer. In the words of Mother Theresa, "I used to believe that prayer changed things, but now I know that prayer changes us, and we change things." I like to think of this quote to remind myself of the greatest power of prayer- the power to transform ourselves. We can become what God wants us to be through prayer. We can live without fear. He will give us every grace if we simply ask.

From the mouth of one of the most inspiring saints, Padre Pio:

Pray! Pray without ceasing. Make every moment of your life a prayer. Offer it all to Jesus. Every dish you wash, every tear you cry, every minute spent at work- offer it up as a prayer. Let every breath be an affirmation of God's presence in your life. Talk to Him. Ask for His help when you're angry. Ask for His help when you can't get the lid off a jar. Thank Him for all your blessings- wealth, health, happiness, a fun trip to the playground, two hours alone while your kids sleep, or a good joke that really makes you laugh. See God in all of it and offer it all to Him. The more you talk to God, the more He will live in you, and you in Him. He will remove every worry from your heart and He will fill you with His peace.