Stuck in the middle

windy-autumn-day-lilia-dLife is full of phases and seasons.  I know I tend to go through lots of them. My ADHD brain flits from one hobby to the next, from one ministry to the next, and so on. But now I’m in such a strange season and I almost don’t know what to do.

The kids are in school.  I have just about the best behaved baby I’ve ever met here with me during the day.  I’m only signed up for lunch duty one day a week at school.  And my other commitments are few and far between.

Yesterday I attended a talk at the seminary about ministering to millenials in the church.  It’s a topic I care about mainly because I am a millenial and I want to know what people are saying and thinking about me.  Yes, textbook narcissitic millenial right here.  I was sort of hoping that going would also be a bit of a boost of Holy Spirit action.  And yet… no.  The talk itself was kinda meh.  The information was not anything new to me. And again, my side of the millenials were mostly ignored (the older ones, somehow everything gets focused on the young, single, still in school millenials).  I certainly didn’t feel the Holy Spirit giving me any sort of nudge.  I don’t know why I went, really.  Perhaps I wasn’t there to learn anything or to see someone or anything, but someone needed to see me (and Maggie) there.  Maybe something will come about at a later date because I was there. But I was certainly hoping that it was going to be a glaring big sign of “HERE RACHEL.  Here’s your next assignment.” But no.  Just silence.

This is the phase of life I hate.  Where God is silent about what He wants me to do.  Where I’m really just expected to do things that bore me to death.  It’s not where I”m comfortable.  It’s not where I “shine”.  It’s not the part of life that I love.  If I could hire a maid and go about and do fun fantastic things every day, I absolutely would.

So I sit here.  Trying to do SOMETHING and getting thwarted by a 16lb seven month old who wants to eat a plastic bag while a sink full of dishes shames my housewife skills.    The weather is in that strange place between fall and winter, where the trees are still full of golden leaves but the thermometer goes no higher than 30 degrees.  Stuck in the middle between seasons.

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searching

I’ve been off kilter for so long it seems strange to even try to level off.  There’s so much that I want to be, and yet I feel so far from any of it.  I want to be healthy, to not have to diet, to not hurt for days after a wedding… I want to be young(er) again.  I feel as though I wasted that time not appreciating what I had been given.

I want to be at peace.  To have days where it’s clear what I should do, to be able to do them, and to rest.  I want to have enough money to get through two weeks without stress.  I want to not have to worry about anything.

I want so much.  I want my house cleaned and organized and bigger.  I want to work magic with words.  I want, I want, I want.

I want to be Mary, not Martha.  I don’t want to be anxious about anything, and yet when I pray all I feel is the anxieties bearing down on me, overwhelming me.  I worry for myself, for my family, for my friends, for my country, for my world, for my church.  Worry worry worry.  Will it all fall apart?  Why can’t I fix it?

The moments of peace are fleeting.  Cuddling with a feverish baby.  Listening to a child read for a minute.  Riding in the car, closing my eyes, just trying to be in the quiet, in the moment.

I don’t even know what to say, how to organize my thoughts.  There are so many things I think about and want to share, and no way to get the words out.  So they sit in my head and fester and bring me no peace, no quiet.

It’s out there somewhere.. peace.  I just don’t know how to find it.  Those who show it, the saints who lived in it despite the apparent turmoil around them.. I just can’t fathom it.  I don’t know how to achieve it.  I pray for it, but it is not given to me.

One day, will they read these words, looking for some inkling of sanctity in me?  Will they find it?  Can I find it in myself?

The winds of change

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In many many ways, I never thought this day would come.  I thought I’d be a homeschool mom forever.  I thought even IF I sent the kids to school, they’d never go to St Sebastian.  But here we are… 1pm, August 24, 2017, and my kids are at school.

And honestly, it’s a God thing.

Tuesday morning (a whopping two days ago) was terrible.  No one was listening, I was discouraged and really, it was par for the course for us.  This school year has been SO back and forth, with a few great days, mostly mediocre days, and a lot of terrible days.  My wonderful sister told me to go to adoration, which is at St Sebastian on Tuesdays.  So even though it almost felt like a reward to take the kids out of the house, I packed up my journal, their religion books, and we headed out.

And really, it was a good trip.  They were quiet, well behaved, and doing what I told them to do.  But I was sitting there in the quiet.  And in the quiet is when the Lord speaks (as I was telling Jude and Evie when they got a bit loud).

He told me to send the kids to school.  And so I got home, cried, and asked Chris to call the school and see about setting up a meeting.  He got it scheduled for the next day.  We went, talked to Sister Geraldine…. and she said they could start right away with Thursday morning.  So we went home, rushed around assembling school supplies that we had, I took Grace to get shoes and socks, and a few other supplies…. and wham, bam, alakazam… they walked in to that school today and the reports so far are that all is well!

I’m a bit of a different story…. a bit more of a mess emotionally.  Maggie and I don’t quite know what to do with ourselves yet.  And I’m still reflecting and reeling from this and learning quite a bit about my self.

I wasn’t really homeschooling for the right reasons anymore, i don’t think.  I’m good at teaching the littles, and I was good at teaching with not a ton of distractions.  But I couldn’t take care of the house AND teach, and there’s only so many hours Chris could do things, and everything felt like it was falling apart.  We were all so overwhelmed and overstimulated and NOTHING was truly getting accomplished.  And worst of all, it was getting harder and harder to pray.

But there was pride and fear getting in the way.  Fear that my kids will get bullied (like I was when I went to school).  Fear that they’ll be behind.  Fear that they won’t behave.  Fear that I can’t do this.  Pride about wanting to seem like the perfect mom.  Pride about wanting to seem like I can get it all done.

But I know this is the right decision.  How?   Because when I said to God “You want this, you make it happen” he did… and quickly.  When you follow his plan, it falls in to place.  And when I went to mass this morning and when I came home… even though I’m emotional, I also feel SO at peace.  I don’t feel overwhelmed.  His burden is easy and his yoke is light!

Why I love my trans and nonbinary friends

Again, young friends of mine, check with your parents first before reading this.  🙂

This post, in a way, is a follow up to yesterdays post and the backlash that I expect to see from it.  You don’t need to read it, but it might give you more context for why I’m posting this now.  I’ve actually been mulling over this topic for a while now.

See, here’s the thing.  I’m not a rad trad super conservative Catholic.  Anyone who knows me personally IRL or even through Facebook knows this.  I’m not a Church Militant girl who posts links to lifesitenews about how terrible trans people are.  I don’t think conversion therapy is a thing that is useful.  So on an so forth.

I have several friends who identify on various levels of the nonbinary spectrum of gender presentation.  Of course the majority of my friends are cis males/females who present in what society has traditionally held their genders to be.  But I’ve got a fair bunch of friends who aren’t “traditional”.  And frankly, I wouldn’t want them to change.

They have taught me so much about loving the unexpected.  To question what it means to be a man or a woman.  To examine what it means to be masculine or feminine.  To be open to accepting everyone no matter how they present themselves.  I’m always KIND to people, but in the past might not have been open to spending time listening to them just due to discomfort with the “strange”.  But thanks to my friends, if I meet someone who isn’t traditionally masculine or feminine, I want to get to know them.  I want to have a drink with them and listen to their stories and be their friend.  I want them to know that even if we have philosophical or theological differences, that it doesn’t mean that I want them to change.

There’s often this idea that Catholics want everyone wearing modest clothing that is perfectly in line with gender norms and that we all must strictly show that we fit in the binary.  I don’t think that’s true.  I think God’s house is open to many many types of people.  Our actions and choices are what get us in the door, but there is no dress code.  Just as God created birds of many varieties and colors and shapes and sizes, so too did He create humans to present in a variety of ways.  Our culture is changing from one that dresses in ways that fit a binary of styles, to one that is more fluid and melded and that people feel truly suits them (and obviously with my trans friends, this isn’t all about how they dress… I’m speaking more to the nonbinary side of things and just the initial look, not the deeper identity issues).  There are people that say that if someone born a man dresses as a woman and believes she’s  a woman will never enter the gates of Heaven.  I disagree, respectfully.    Jesus even refers to this sort of topic in Matthew 19.  And I think He says a very important thing:

Whoever can accept this, ought to accept it.

And frankly, in action, that’s where I’m at.  I accept Jesus’s teachings.  And I live them in my life and I’m not going to bash them over anyone’s head.  I might share them and tell others of them (or just have them out here on the internet for whoever to read) but I’m not forcing anyone to change.  Because I can’t do that.

But if you can’t accept me, then you can go and leave me and not talk to me.  I can accept that (although I’d be very very sad).  Or we can continue to dine and converse and share our lives with each other.  Wishing each other the best, living our lives, and enjoying the great beauty in the diversity of God’s creations.

Adults only please…

This post is for “adults only”. And by that I mean if you are a teen or younger person, ask your parents to read this first. I’m going to be talking about things that not all parents want their teens reading about, so be respectful of that.

Or you know, be sneaky and read this. Get ready for some Catholic philosophizing about sex.

SO.

In my feed lately has been an absolutely fascinating array of discussions around the idea that when a trans person comes out to a potential sexual partner and that potential partner chooses to say “no thanks” that the partner is “transphobic”. That, and I’m putting this in the best way I can, saying no to having sex with a man with a vagina or a woman with a penis is akin to racism or wanting trans people to not have equal rights or dignity.

Essentially the argument that I’m seeing develop is that since a trans person is the gender/sex they have chosen  present as*, if you are interested in that gender/sex it should not matter what their genitals are. As one person said in regards to casual sex “If you find out it’s not your preference for a long term relationship, who cares, have sex and move on to finding someone else”. Which, frankly, to me seems VERY fraught, because what, if I start having sex with someone and find out that they don’t have the genitals I was expecting I’m somehow obligated to finish having sex with them? What happened to consent being revocable at any time for any reason?

But I digress.

One person, who was getting to a slightly more reasonable point of view said we shouldn’t say transphobic, but rather trans exclusionary. That if we automatically dismiss trans people from our list of preferred partners, that we’re excluding them and we shouldn’t do that. However, doesn’t this mean that the only “right” way to be is to be pansexual? That all homosexuals are “wrong” because they exclude people of the opposite sex? That all bisexual people are “wrong” because they exclude nonbinary people from their preferences? I thought that one major positive from the last fifty or so years of sexual belief development was that we’re free to have our own preferences with no critique?

What makes me crazy is that we’re extending labels even further. I would have to label myself a “cis” woman (meaning I was born with female genitalia and continue to identify with them) who is “heterosexual” meaning I’m attracted to people who present as male and I’m “Androphilic” in that I’m attracted to male genitalia. Like, thank the Lord that I’m not in a position to be dating now, because I’d hate to have to explain all this on a dating profile. It used to just be a simple “w4m” in chat rooms or whatever.

But really, this just gets us to the philosophy and theology behind it all.

If Man is god, and the self is the ultimate God, then sure, eventually you’re going to have to reach a point where the only acceptable sexuality is pansexuality. We can do no harm to others, thus denying someone else sex is harming them and we can not do that. I’ve not read Brave New World, but apparently this is an aspect of the plot and honestly I wouldn’t be surprised to see people praising this kind of society. And now I need to read Brave New World.

But, the contrasting argument, or the Catholic one, is this: Sex isn’t just a pleasant activity that we do to experience some momentary pleasure or perhaps make a child. There’s far greater cosmic impact. Souls are involved, souls are melding and becoming one in a flurry of passion. It’s not just bodies bumping against each other. It’s a mirrored reflection of God in the Holy Trinity. It’s two becoming one and then becoming three of one. It’s souls that aren’t separate but together with an eternal connection. If you take two cups of water and pour them together, can you ever separate them into the exact molecules that were separate before? Of course you can’t and in a way, that’s what happens to souls because of sex.

And this sex can only be of the kind that finds ultimate fulfillment in a bodily way. IN a child. When the two truly become ONE visible fleshy person with a unique soul. Where two glasses of water are poured together and are indivisible but also somehow make MORE water that overflows the glass and is its own thing.

Pleasure can be had with anyone or anything. And if pleasure is all one seeks, then we are doomed to become a hedonistic society that forgets that there is more to life than life. Where we forget that love is not truly found in pleasure, but is found in sacrifice and self giving. Where we forget how to even love because we are solely thinking about pleasing our own selves. And that society will be doomed. It already exists, because in our society right now we reject the “other”. We refuse to let the refugee into our country, because we might have to give of ourselves. We shame the poor for stealing OUR tax dollars to eat. We can’t sacrifice pennies to feed the poor. We can’t sacrifice dollars to pay for someone’s medical care. We only sacrifice to serve ourselves. We only work hard for our own benefit. We’ve forgotten how to love and the sexual side effects are but a reflection of the deeper disorders within our souls.

 

*Edited this phrasing.  I’m trying to express that the argument is that the outer presentation as one gender/sex is what someone is attracted to and the genitals don’t matter.  Apologies for the non-respectful original choice of words.  I absolutely do understand that trans people do not choose their gender, but have come to understand it as their inborn and natural state of being.

Wily works and where the defect lies aka I can be terrible and I need to get over myself

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The devil, plotting away to ruin my life

The kids just let me sit on the porch, drink a glass of cold brew coffee, and read a good bit of The Interior Castle by the wonderful St Teresa of Avila.  It’s one of those books that’s been nudging my brain for a while.  Do you know what I mean?  A thing you just keep thinking about, intending to do, but somehow never get around to it.  So I grabbed it today when I decided to sit on the porch.

A couple parts jumped out at me from the first mansion section that I read.  First, the wily works of the Devil.

19. As I said elsewhere, he works like a file, secretly and silently wearing its way: I will give you some examples to show how he begins his wiles For instance: a nun has such a longing for penance as to feel no peace unless she is tormenting herself in some way.  This is good in itself; but suppose that the Prioress has forbidden her to practise any mortifications without special leave, and the sister thinking that, in such a meritorious cause, she may venture to disobey, secretly leads such a life that she loses her health and cannot even fulfil the requirements of her rule–you see how this show of good ends. Another nun is very zealous about religious perfection; this is very right, but may cause her to think every small fault she sees in her sisters a serious crime, and to watch constantly whether they do anything wrong, that she may run to the Prioress to accuse them of it. At the same time, may be she never notices her own shortcomings because of her great zeal about other people’s religious observance, while perhaps her sisters, not seeing her intention but only knowing of the watch she keeps on them, do not take her behaviour in good part.

20. The devil’s chief aim here is to cool the charity and lessen the mutual affection of the nuns, which would injure them seriously. Be sure, my daughters, that true perfection consists in the love of God and our neighbour, and the better we keep both these commandments, the more perfect we shall be. The sole object of our Rule and Constitutions is to help us to observe these two laws.

(my own emphasis added)

I stopped after I read this, to think about how this would apply to me and others of my specific vocation (wives/mothers, particularly of the homeschooling/home with littles kind).

How does the Devil work to cool our charity and lessen the mutual affection we have with our spouses?  Are we too critical of our husbands?  Do we always look for the negative, expecting him to be perfect in all things?  Do we couch these critiques in a facade of “I’m only trying to help you”, when really we’re just complaining?  When we have a rightful critique of our husbands are we charitable in bringing it to him privately?

And oh, the children.  It’s so easy to imagine them as literal devils spawn.  But really, just picture this example.

A mother wakes up, resolving to have a “good day”.  The baby gets up with an explosive diaper, and procedes to go through three outfits in twenty minutes.  While fixing her coffee and breakfast, the other children demand three different breakfasts for themselves, and when they wolf down the first, they demand a SECOND breakfast, all before mom has even picked up her coffee.  By the time she finishes eating, it’s nap time for baby, which means quick shower for mom.  Before she goes in,she asks the children to clear their work area for school.  Instead they decide to “play house” in the school room, thus destroying what little cleanliness there was.  Mom is dressed, ready to go and starts teaching someone about sentences… and baby wakes up a half hour early.  While sitting down to feed the baby, the children scatter to the winds and won’t come to listen to, well, anything.  At some point, Mom gives up.  She yells or retreats into Facebook.  

Legit, I’ll be honest.  This is a regular day around here.  And that’s only before lunch time.  But here’s what I need to remember.

The children aren’t purposefully trying to destroy my affection of them.  They are being NORMAL CHILDREN.

What cools my charity and destroys my affection is that little voice that tells me that they are choosing to disobey because they hate me.  And that’s not the voice of God.  That’s the Devil, working to ruin me.  And that’s where I have a choice.  As St Teresa follows up with:

Our souls may lose their peace and even disturb other people’s if we are always criticizing trivial actions which often are not real defects at all, but we construe them wrongly through ignorance of their motives.

It’s no defect of my children to want to play.  The defect, instead, lies with me and my lack of charity towards them.

It’s no defect of my spouse when he does some small thing with a good intention, that bothers me.  If he puts long sleeved baby clothes away inadvertently, instead of boxing them up for storage, he was only trying to put away the clothes, not deliberately annoy me.  The defect is in me thinking that he’s purposefully trying to hurt me.

There was more that struck me from what I read… but the baby is up from her nap and while she is currently sitting nicely with siblings who are watching TV and not doing chores or schoolwork, that won’t last.

In short.  I suck sometimes.  I need to do better at loving and not critiquing.  I need to be better at recognizing the devils wily ways for what they are and not placing the blame for annoyances only on my family.  I should probably be more like the roadrunner… getting towards grace, and recognizing stupid plots to kill me.

(If you want to read The Interior Castle, it’s online here: http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/tic/index.htm)

Reset

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We’re just past the halfway point of the year, and I certainly feel the need to “reset” back to my word (Rest, in case you forgot).   Life gets crazy and then priorities get out of whack and everything just, well, goes to hell.

(As an aside, I wrote the previous paragraph, then the baby woke up, then my sister and her kids dropped in, and then it was time to clean up for dinner, and then we ate, and then the kids had to go to bed and we had to get slurpees too, right before bed, and then Chris and I watched Sherlock.  Didn’t touch the computer again until this morning, and now, more than 24 hours later, I’m attempting to finish this.)

So here I am.  Sitting here, wanting to write SO much.  There’s just so many things I mull over all day long.  Motherhood, homeschooling, politics, philosophy, faith… and on and on and on.

But really.  Right now I’m going to mull over this quote from Sherlock last night.  It’s from season 4, episode 2 and I’m not going to spoil WHY Watson is saying this, but I love it.

[The man] Who you thought I was… is the man who I want to be.

I’m still a bit hormonal, but man this pushed me over the edge into tears.  Isn’t this how we all feel?  Just stop and think about the person you love the most.  They tend to look over your flaws and see you as this awesome version of yourself.  And really, isn’t that the person who we want to be?  Chris sees me as this supermom, and frankly, I see myself as one of the worst moms ever (incidentally that’s what Grace called me yesterday!).  But I only WANT to be what he sees me as, this mom who gets things done, and does it all perfectly, while looking super hot.

And this is how God sees us I think.  I think he sees us as practically perfect in so many ways.  We’re made in his image after all and that counts for an awful lot.  He looks at us as these perfectly created persons who have this amazing capacity for love and grace.  And all he wants for us, is for us to WANT to be what he sees us as.  We can’t achieve that perfection on our own, but if we only want it he’ll give us the grace to achieve what we can.  As was discussed at our mom book club this week, we don’t have to strive for perfection, we have to strive for excellence.  Be the best you can be and all that jazz.

So for me, that’s where I’m at.  Stopping and breathing.  Remembering that my vocation isn’t about material success or having it all or being perfect.  It’s about sitting and smiling at Maggie as she eats.  It’s about saying a silly rhyme about the Trinity with Evie.  It’s about Jude learning about the “Magic E” and reading so so well.  It’s about Grace reading way past her bedtime and me not worrying about it.

You can knock knock me over, but I’ll get back up again!  It’s going to be a fantastic day and I’m ready to take on anything!