Word of the Year 2017

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As per the tradition, recap first!

2016’s word was Joy.  I loveeeeeed that word.  Last year was the year when I really was more conscious of my word and was trying to do more to bring joy into my life.  Does that mean I’m perfectly joyful now?  Heck no, but that’s not the point.  I think I’ve learned a lot about what brings me joy and how to embrace it even when things aren’t perfect.

I’ve been thinking for weeks about what my word is going to be. Just like last year I was drawn to words to try and “fix” things, order, simplify… things like that.  And again, I think I’m being drawn to something by the Lord that is really what I truly need, and what He’s probably been trying to hit me over the head with for several months.

And this year I’ve got some scriptures to help me out.

“Come to me, all you who are burdened and I will give you rest”

“Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest.”

“Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.””

“In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat— for he grants sleep to those he loves.”

“In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety”

“The LORD replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.””

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Can you guess what my word is by now?

Rest.

I’ve got some specific goals for this year.  I want to learn to accept that when I’m pregnant I just can’t be the housewife (good thing I have a great househusband around).  That for whatever reason, I need lots of rest to grow a baby.  Once she’s here, I’m sure I’ll be needing to adapt that.. babies need to be held and nursed and that might look like laziness, but instead, it is rest for the weary.  I need to get back to “resting with the Lord” and back to weekly adoration.  I’m not sure what other ways He is going to tell me to “Rest!” but I’m sure they’ll be coming.

For now, I’m going to rest until it’s time for the family party.  I’m going to try and pray about what’s causing me anxiety of mind, and pray for that peace of mind that is truly restful.  Because I know that’s what God is telling me I need this year.

Reflections on a week of shock

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A week ago today the world awoke to news that was not predicted by any polls or really thought about by anyone.

A week ago today I spent the day in tears.  Not because of those shocking election results.  But because those results brought into clear focus something that I feel I should have foreseen, that maybe, in some small way, I could have tried to help stop.

The threads of this Problem have been winding about my life for some time. But they came into clear focus last week and I think I’ve contemplated them enough to be able to put them into some sort of sense.

First… the threads.

  • Over the years, I’ve broadened my reading to include many writers who write on all sorts of topics.  I’ve gone from reading just the “bubble” of conservative Catholic things, to seeing that there’s a broad base of ideas out there and that not all of them are bad.
  • I’ve seen the threads of mistrust built up over my life.  Mistrust of the bishops is key here.  In my youth it was mistrust of the local bishops and priests… if they weren’t “Orthodox” and checked certain boxes, they were suspect.  Then, the mistrust of Pope Francis, the mistrust perpetuated and turned viral by organizations like Life Site News and Church Militant, the mistrust of anyone who didn’t put on a perfect, Catholic face.
  • I’ve spent years educating myself on Catholic teaching.  The foundational teachings, then reading more and more about things like Catholic Social Teaching and the Theology of the Body.  Bringing it all together into a wonderful tapestry that includes all sorts of things, that rest foremost on the dignity of every person, that we are all created in the Image of God no matter what we do.
  • Seeing cults of personality build up around specific Catholic celebrities.  Priests who fell from great national popularity.  Priests who just maintain local popularity among a smaller group of people.  Media personalities that release their hordes of followers to perpetuate their talking points.
  • A distinct lack of charity, particularly from those who judge those who are “in sin” and insist there will be no mercy shown to those people.  A sort of “evangelization” that berates people with no attempt to listen or understand the other.

And I’ve seen all these threads, and they often have one theme in common.  That America is a nation that is meant to be Catholic and that the only way to achieve that is through getting rid of abortion.  A placing of the issue of abortion on an altar, where it is the only One Thing that matters.  That it doesn’t matter what we do, so long as we are beating this drum and rallying our troops to defeat this evil.

And it all came together the day before the election, when Fr Frank Pavone of Priests for Life took the body of an infant who had been aborted and placed it on a literal altar.  To someone just seeing a picture of it, it looks like a human sacrifice.  But it was no simple offering of the victim up to God, with words spoken of faith, hope and love over this baby.  It was no prayer for forgiveness.  It was no prayer that we might change hearts, that others might know us by our love.

No.  It was a political ad.  The words said over this victim were words of praise to a man who shows no understanding of the dignity of human life, of the dignity of work and the right to just wages.  Who shows no understanding of mercy to our enemies and their families.  Who shows no sense that the “other” is not someone that we should kick out and build a wall to keep them away, but instead is someone to be welcomed, to be clothed and fed and given a chance at life.  Who has denigrated women, who has shown no understanding of what marriage is or why it’s important.  A man who, in most ways, stands in complete antithesis to the full teaching of the Catholic faith.  A man who was now being idolized by a prominent Catholic priest, who used a child as a prop to illustrate the point that this was the only person who made the slightest attempt to sound “pro-life”.

And when I saw this… I knew what was really happening.  133 years ago a pope had a vision of the Lord and the Devil.  The Devil asked the Lord for 100 years to try and destroy the church.  33 years after that, 100 years ago, 3 children were in the pastures of Portugal, waiting to be visited by Our Lady.  She promised that unless we were to change, we would face great tribulations.  And did we change?  Did Catholics unite to pray for our world?  No, we divided.  Many of us fell victim to Satan’s first attacks on our world.  Victim to communism, to socialism.  Victim to the sexual revolution, which started with the opening of birth control clinics in the same year as the Fatima apparitions. Victim to secularization and humanism and an ego-centric society that told us to do whatever we wanted, so long as we didn’t hurt others.

And that left a remnant.  Catholics who saw the dangers in the world.  Who saw the attacks by Satan.  And that meant for him to destroy the church, he had to attack this group.  And what is the best way to attack them? To get them to think that the only way to defeat evil is by any means necessary.  To get them to feel that there is no issue but one issue.  To get them to ignore all evils, in favor of getting rid of one evil.  To encourage them to do evil actions in order to “show people” the evil they are trying to eradicate.  And finally, to get them to think that all the evil they are doing is truly good.

They fell for it, hook line and sinker.  They took the bait and were dragged up and slaughtered by the Evil One.  They became Evil.  They heard the one bit of truth that Satan was telling them and ignored the evil he was putting into their hearts.

And this is the result.  A church that is now divided into three groups.  The secular Catholics who only retain ties to their childhood traditions out of sentimentality, who were never evangelized and taught the Truths of our faith.  The anti-abortion at all costs Catholics, who often still love the church, but will drop it if it at all seems to say we should care about something other than abortion. And those in the middle, the “Both/And” Catholics, who love their faith, who love Jesus, who want to share that there is so much good news in the Church that it takes books and books to tell the whole Truth.  This is the group where I want to remain, where I can be outraged and fight against all the evils, where I can rejoice in all the beautiful traditions.  Where I can embrace all peoples, seeing everyone’s innate dignity and treating all with the respect they deserve by virtue of being human.

I’m not a conspiracy kind of girl.  I’m not the kind that really puts much stock in visions or apparitions.  They’ve never connected with me.  But this is one of those rare moments, where I truly feel the demonic and where I truly believe that these things were foretold in private revelations.  You can feel differently.  You can think the root of this problem is elsewhere. But really, Evil and Satan are the root of all our problems.  It goes back to the Garden, to when we wanted to be like God which is a GOOD thing!  We should want to be like God!  But the Devil took that little bit of truth and twisted it so that we would do evil in an effort to do good.  It’s all really the same old story, with different details.  Nothing stays the same, and nothing changes.

Who’s gonna tell your story? A reflection on turning 30

I’ve been 30 for a few days now.  So clearly that means I have oodles of wisdom to share with everyone.  😉

Lately I’ve been nonstop jamming to the Hamilton soundtrack.  If you don’t know what Hamilton is, well, get out from under your rock and listen to the music now.  Short story is that it’s the latest Broadway show to take the world by storm.  Its a hip-hop/rap take on the life of Alexander Hamilton.  Musicals are always something I connect with and I can almost always find something that will change my life.

So for Hamilton  it’s the theme of “Who is going to tell your story”.  For Hamilton, his story lives on in his writings and the lasting political structures he helped to create, especially in our financial system.  But at the very end of the show his wife, Eliza (“Best of wives and best of women!”) sings this:

ELIZA:
And when my time is up, have I done enough?

ELIZA:                                                    COMPANY:
Will they tell our story?                             Will they tell your story?

ELIZA:
Oh. Can I show you what I’m proudest of?

COMPANY:
The orphanage

ELIZA:
I established the first private orphanage in New York City

COMPANY:
The orphanage

ELIZA:
I help to raise hundreds of children
I get to see them growing up

COMPANY:
The orphanage

ELIZA:
In their eyes I see you, Alexander
I see you every—

ELIZA AND COMPANY:
Time

ELIZA:
And when my time is up
Have I done enough?                               COMPANY:
Will they tell my story?                              Will they tell your story?

It gets me every time.  She’s not proudest of his writings, or government structures! She’s proudest of the orphanage that she starts and runs in his honor.  She sees him in the eyes of children, her own I’m sure, but also all the orphans that have dreams just like Hamilton had….  that’s the lasting thing.  If we live our lives well, it’s our children who will tell our stories.  And their children.. and their children..on and on.

So for me, on turning 30, I’m ready to move on from the “Who am I?” stage of life.  I’m ready to really start living my story.  Each day I have the chance to show my children my values, to leave indelible impressions on them of who I am and what I stand for.  And hopefully one day, they’ll be telling my story.  I don’t need to tell my story, I just need to live it.

What does a modern day “village” look like?

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Yesterday was a terrible day.  Various issues, including a child puking in the car, melded together to form an absolutely hellish day.  It was all I could do to pull it together and get through with my sanity intact.

And then my friend Carrie shared a wonderful little article entitled “I miss the village”.  Frankly, it made me cry, because a village was EXACTLY what I needed right then, and yet, I don’t have one.  Now, the village that Bumni Laditan describes is more akin to the villages of long ago.  The village of cavemen.  The village of native tribes.  The small towns with a well in the center.  The communities that formed on the wagon trails.  Those villages, where you were practically all one family are practically extinct in modern culture.  The industrial revolution took away the farming communities and build factories full of people who could not speak to each other because of the noise and smoke, where the only thing you could do after a long day was to go home, wash yourself in a basin, pray that your children stayed safe (likely in their own factory jobs) and collapse into bed.  Or maybe stay up until all hours, to do your washing.

Social lives, friends, were the purview of the upper class, the elite who could afford to hire washing women and maids and butlers and spend their time in social clubs.  This isn’t to say that was perfect, because cattiness is nothing new.  But not having to work to live certainly makes it easier to socialize.  And this isn’t to say that the poor never ever had friends, but you certainly did not have a “village” where everyone is on equal footing and is able to equally help you.  The separation of classes meant that the rich required the help of the poor, and thus the poor had less to give to each other.

But humans are not made for solitude.  When we learn about the Theology of the Body we learn that God is three persons who continually are loving.  Loving each other, loving their creations.  And since we are created in God’s image, we too are created to be loving.  We are created to love others, to love our spouses, our friends, all those around us.  And we are created to love our creations, our children, even when they are in top form at the end of a lonnnnnng day.  We are not made to sit in our homes, alone for hours, while our spouse works hard.  We are not made to spend all our time working and never loving others.  This is why moms gravitate toward social media.  We can’t leave our homes, so we reach out through our technology.  We blog because our voices cry out to be heard, by anyone.  We can’t always get together in person, because our schedules are jam packed with serving our kids, but if I can like a friends picture on instagram while I pee, I’m able to fill up my love meter, and hers too!

So where do this leave us?  How do we get our village back?  What does it even look like in this day and age?

For the Christian, we can look at the early church.  I love this passage so much, because it illustrates what our communities should look like.

Acts 2:42-47New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

42 They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers. 43 Awe came upon everyone, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. 44 All who believed were together and had all things in common; 45 they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one’s need. 46 Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple area and to breaking bread in their homes. They ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart, 47 praising God and enjoying favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

“Communal Life”, they lived in community!  They prayed together, the breaking of the bread was mass, along with the prayers they said together.  They were “together”!!!  They weren’t alone!  They didn’t do their own things, only gathering for prayers.  They met daily at the temple, and ate their meals together.

But, you say, we don’t live in a small town where we can walk to each others homes?  Phooey.  We have cars.  We have bikes.  If we want to make it happen, then damn it, we need to make it happen.  We need to gather together, or we will fall apart all alone.

Practically speaking, this means we need to connect.  If it’s easiest to connect with people through social media, then awesome!  Make those connections.  Share your thoughts, make thoughtful comments, participate in discussions!  If you want to take it further, invite someone over for an afternoon.  Keep trying!  Set a date, make it work.  Prioritize it.  Invite a family over for dinner and drinks, while the kids run in the sprinkler.  Start a couples group and recruit some babysitters who can watch the kids at one house, while the parents go to another house (or a bar…).

I’ll admit this, I’m terrible at this.  I’m a weird extrovert who is extraordinarily introverted in many ways.  I’m terrified of being hurt by people who call me friend (because I’ve been hurt by so called “friends”).  But at some point, I’m going to have to trust.  And I’m putting this out here now.  If any of my friends are having one of those hellish days.  Where you need to just escape, or you need someone to watch your kids in an emergency, let me know.  If I really absolutely can not do it, I’ll do everything I can to help you find someone who can.

Let’s build a village, instead of saying it’s impossible.

Letting go of obligation

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I spent this past weekend on retreat.  It was absolutely wonderful to get out of the house and be where I could truly revel in silence and communion with God.  I was able to go to mass, listen to some talks about mercy, and was even able to talk to someone in a short session of spiritual direction.

In that conversation, she noticed what she called an “interesting word choice”.  I was talking about discernment and what to do with certain life decisions and mentioned that I felt “obligated” to do something.  She suggested praying on that word and seeing why it was what I had said.  The retreat center has a labyrinth and so I headed outside and decided to pray and walk and see what happened.

If you aren’t familiar with how to pray a labyrinth, let me give you the short version explanation.  You come to the entrance with an intention that you are praying over, then start walking at a regular pace (don’t stop!).  The first walk in to the center is the “purgative” path.  Once you hit the center, you stop and enter the “illuminative” path of the journey.  And then you walk out the way you came in on the “unitive” path.  (For a much more thorough explanation click here.)

So I started my journey asking God to just clarify to me what I need to know about “obligations”.  And really, it all came out simply.

Obligation and duty and all these responsible words are really useless.  They should all be thrown out the window, and instead I need to embrace “love”.  Because if one truly loves God, then whatever obligations or duties towards him will become acts of love.  If one truly loves their family, then any obligations or duties cease to be so, and instead are acts of love.  And that is what I need to strive for in my daily discernment.

When something comes up that feels like an obligation, I need to evaluate if I’m doing that thing out of love, or a misplaced sense of duty.  And I need to ask, is this truly the most loving thing I can do?  If I’m discerning our schooling choice, I need to stop asking “What should we do?” but “What is the most loving and best choice for the children and our family?”.

It was immensely freeing to realize this on my way “in” to the center.  I was able to take some moments to mediate on it, and then walk out while forming a concrete mindset on my way out, uniting what I learned to who I am so that I can take it with me into my daily life.

So here I am, trucking along on the every day things, trying to let go of the obligations and duties, and focus on doing the most loving thing I can do right now.  Taking it one moment at a time, focusing deeply on the thing I need to do.  Kids certainly don’t make this easy, with constant interruptions and demands, but I’ll take those as learning opportunities.  For me and for them!

Words Jesus never said:Bathroom edition

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So with all this talk over the last month of so about bathrooms, I’ve yet to see a post that REALLY expresses how I feel about it.  Thus, in the interest of sharing my thoughts with the world, I’ll write my own post.  Others words don’t speak for mine, even if I may like parts of one post, or of a meme.

This may not be complete.  I may evolve on this.  And it’s complicated, so please don’t latch on to one part of what I might say and build a bunch of straw men arguments.

  1. For the vast majority of people I know (and often love), they aren’t for strict gender segregation because of a fear of trans people.  It IS about fear of cisgender men who are going to commit crimes.  However, to me this is a ridiculous thing to be your hill to die on.  Cis men could commit crimes in bathrooms without any changes to laws, and without trans people existing at all.  Conflating this concern with safety with trans bathroom laws is just bad marketing.  I think it can be a very serious concern, but if my state (or the US government) officially changed the laws to “Use whatever bathroom you gender identify with” I am NOT going to be changing any of my bathroom habits or safety measures.  There’s literally not a thing I would change.
  2. BUT hey you liberal friends of mine!  You are totally missing out on this GREAT chance to talk with the conservative folks about rape culture and what we can do to fix it.  The fixation on the trans issue is costing you the opportunity to really work to help people understand why rape culture is a thing!  All these people who were denying that rape culture existed on college campuses are now up in arms about rape culture in the Target bathroom (even if they don’t word it that way).  So stop.  Listen to the actual concerns people are voicing.  And then, you’ll probably agree with them!  That there is a problem when cis men commit crimes in bathrooms.   It’s been a problem in the past, and it’s rare, and unless we all do something to help raise awareness and try to stop it then it will continue to be a problem.
  3. In the general scheme of things, I just don’t get upset about things.  Our culture and our laws will likely never fully correspond to my personal beliefs.  And frankly, that’s fine, because that means that the fields are ripe and ready for someone to get out there and evangelize.   If I, as a Catholic Christian, see something going “wrong” with the world and say “Oh no!  I must never go to those places again!  I must hole up with only my parish and any businesses owned by people I know who share my beliefs!” then I have got the entire message of Jesus wrong.  Today’s gospel was the Great Commandments… to love God and to love my neighbor.  And when you combine that with the Great Commission, to go out and make disciples of all the nations, well I can not do that from the comfort of my insular world.  I can’t do that unless I go into the bathroom of Target, and smile at someone.  Heck, why not pass out miraculous medals or holy cards?  Solicitation is only a thing if you are asking for money, there are no laws against sharing your joy.

So I guess this is my challenge.  To my Christian friends, and especially my Catholic friends, do not be afraid!  Do not be afraid of where the world is or where it may be going, but look at this as an opportunity to love your neighbors, to bless those who are against you and to truly love!  To my liberal and non religious friends, I challenge you to listen.  To place positive intent on others, so that instead of feeding into the negativity we can bring joy and peace to our world.  To know that those who seem to be freaking out are still learning to love and that they sometimes have great hurts kept hidden away.   We’ll only grow together as a nation and a world if we can learn to listen to each other and show true love and respect.

To my love!

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I’m sitting here right now with a stuffed up nose (that no amount of sudafed really helps), shea butter covering my chapped nose and lips, wet hair, and glasses (because even my eyes are leaking mucus, so no contacts allowed).  Yesterday was spent in bed all day and I have probably used about 200 tissues in the last few days.  I certainly do not look ready for a night out on the town celebrating love.  And while that wasn’t ever the plan for this year, I think this is one of the most romantic Valentine’s Days I’ve ever had.

Why?  Because I’m married to a guy who knows how to do all the right things.  He complains in his head about me (99% of the time).  He remembers that I was asking for these adorable colored bowls at JC Penney and gets them for me, even though the lady who rang him up was all “This better not be a valentine’s gift!”.  He gets me a mug with a cute saying about the best cup of coffee being the one that I get to drink with no one talking to me.  He bought me a potted hydrangea that is a glorious pink color, because he knows I’d rather have a plant that I can try to keep alive for a few weeks and not a bouquet that will die in a few days.  He gets the bag of chocolates because “there were more in there than in the heart shaped box, and it was cheaper”.   He spent yesterday taking care of the kids all day so that I could rest as much as possible.  He bought me lotion tissues, rather than cheap ones, to try and help with the chapped nose thing.  He goes along with me when I say things like “Let’s do this Symbolon class together” or “Let’s do this couple prayer thing at a church 30 minutes away!” or “Let’s forget about cleaning and go to the mall!” or whatever goofball thing I say.

In short, he cares about me.  He doesn’t care about what society says we have to have or do to be “in love”.  He doesn’t expect me to be a picture perfect housewife.  He doesn’t expect me to have all my shit together.  When I have a panic attack and run away to Target and avoid talking to him, he waits until I’m ready to talk and while I’m gone he takes care of things around the house I’ve been nagging him about. He just walked in the house and said he’s going back out to clean up a coke can that I left in the car that froze and exploded.

When we were first dating, I’d call him my knight in shining armor.  And it’s still true.  He’s the guy that fights the dragons and saves me.  It might not be very feminist of me to say that, but it’s true.  I need someone to come and fight the dragons that I can’t fight.  We all need someone to do that for us.

So Happy Valentine’s Day.  Happy World Marriage Day!

I love you Chris, no matter what!

 

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