Preparing for our Catholic Birth

I have been quietly preparing for birth but thought I'd post quickly to share the joy of our final lap. It's a far cry from the fear-drenched waiting I used to do and I give thanks to God that He has healed so much of that in my mind and soul. Our guest of honor will be here any day (probably late rather than early) and we are waiting joyfully, if a bit impatiently. 

I post updates more frequently on Instagram and Facebook than I do here. If you don't follow me there, here's a brief recap and an extra invitation...

YOU ARE INVITED...

To think of a pregnant woman you know and try to do one thing that will help her get excited about her upcoming Birth Day. We plan birthday, anniversary, sacrament, and holiday parties... but we tend to tiptoe into labor with many fears and reservations that can somewhat (or largely) dwarf the joy. 

But the expectant mamas you know are quickly approaching a great day of celebration. Birth Day! The very first Birthday of their little prince or princess... and the first breathes baby will take on their earthly journey. A cause for real celebration! And in spite of any trials, pain, anxiety or struggles which may come on that day... there is a reason to dance. 

A word or token of real JOY from a friend can take a woman one step closer to touching the reality of that beautiful celebration. Have an idea for blessing her? Just do it.

If you don't follow me on social media, here is a little of what you may have missed. Snapshots of the time of waiting. Snapshots of blossoming joy....

I've been taking requests for prayer intentions to bring with me into labor. All of my readers are already included, but if you have specific needs that you'd like to share, please leave them in the comments or my email or Facebook. Labor is challenging and I'm a lousy sufferer... so this will help me make good use of it! 

I made this special "Labor Rosary" with all of you in mind. Each bead a remnant in my collection... unique but somehow fitting together so beautifully. Like the Body of Christ. I love the feel of the different beads; their weights and shapes and textures. 

We can advertise joy or fear to ourselves in the words that we use. This pregnancy, I wrote down my affirmations and finally hung them in our birth space. After printing them, I took out my watercolors and painted. I had forgotten how much I loved doing that. The pic at the top of this post shows some of them hung together. In the upcoming weeks, I plan on sharing my PDF affirmations here for those who would also enjoy printing them. They will be plain - unpainted - because I really think there's value in you adding color yourself. 

The baby-who-is-no-longer-the-baby... getting ready to kiss her little brother. She is going to be absolutely surprised and smitten when he is born. But she will also have to go through her own stretching. I trust that God will provide the courage I need to continue to love her well. 

Last baby bump shot. 39 weeks. And always in a bathroom with a dirty mirror... because I'm just not tech savvy enough to figure out a better way to do it. Or maybe I'm just lazy. I don't love the thought of sharing my belly with the public but I deliberately stepped further past my reservations this pregnancy. I have spent too many years of my life ashamed and burdened by my femininity. Not by the beautiful Christ-vision of womanhood I find in my Catholic faith... but by the world's which says that we are not beautiful enough. Ever. But God's design is awesome... and the pregnant body speaks to that.

Hidden yet not hidden.
Different but beautiful.
In the world but not of it.

Thanks be to God.

The time is close now and I can't wait to share our new baby with you!


As we welcome one little man into our house, we are preparing to move out another. So much stretching! Have you seen our t-shirts yet? Would you love to help a seminarian (mine) in need and also witness to the joy of our Christian vocations? Please click on over and see if you can personally participate or share with someone who can. Thank you! SERVIAM T-Shirt pre-order

Posted on May 5, 2016 and filed under Birth, Family Life, motherhood, pregnancy.

Surviving the Teen Years {Confessions of a Tired Mom}

I was that mom who was going to have the best teens ever; the ones who were obedient and cheerful and faithful. I was convinced that I would be able to mold them into happy, good people by the sheer power of my love and will and that there would be no arguing in my house ever. There were only two problems:

1) Me
2) Them

My plan was rolling along marvelously before they were teenagers. Those years between 10 and 12 are really deceiving though. They have a mom convinced that she has successfully managed to navigate the uncertain transitional period between childhood and big-kidness. Thirteen was actually a pretty great year, too, and then 14 started to make me nervous. I sensed a little bit of stretching and pushing and expanding. And my world started to change. 

It was right and good of course. It's supposed to happen that way. And yet... not quite that way. It wasn't quite the way I planned. My primary mistake is that while they were transitioning into autonomous human beings, I forgot to make the transition as well. I still saw them as an extension of myself, and that natural stretching of mind, body, and soul felt more like a painful tearing that I was not well prepared for.

Moms of littles, don't let anyone tell you that teenagers are horrible. They certainly don't have to be that. But I've seen enough now in my own and other families to know that teenagers are often stressful on a mom... in new and wild ways that can hurt and startle. You only have a moment for a sharp intake of breath before you begin to frantically search that young-old teen face for a remnant of the 12-year old you think maybe got left behind on the last vacation.

Because seriously, that is not my kid.

I once asked a good friend why there are so many Catholic mom bloggers of little people and so few with teens. She said: Because they are fully engaged in their vocation. They do not have time for blogging. Seriously. Not only do teenagers have a way of sucking your brain and lifeblood from you but you can't post cute stories about their potty training adventures anymore either. And you can't really post their struggles and drama. They're not you anymore. They have a reputation. They are growing, growing, growing... gone.

How do you do it with all these kids? people ask. Oh, how many times I gave myself a mental pat on the back and straightened up tall and answered: Oh, well the big kids help a lot. It makes it so much easier. Now, in humility, I must admit that it's harder than it ever was... because a teenager tying a sibling's shoe before Mass in no way offsets the drama of the growing up and out years. Give me a choice and I'll take untied shoes at Mass every time. But there is no choice...

Can't go around it... gotta go through it.

No toddler is capable of doing what a fully aware stretching teen can do on a bad day... None. Give me your hairy screaming fit of a toddler at lunch time and I'll raise you the intense life or death teen drama at 2am. 

My kids are good kids. I love them. I like them. But they are kicking off the old self and trying to fly and it gets a little messy sometimes. You can't write that stuff on a blog. Not really. 

If you don't have teens yet, the best pieces of advice I have to give you are these:


1. Jealously guard and nurture your relationship with your husband.

Because one day, you're going to get kicked around a bit by those kids you poured yourself into... and you're going to turn to your husband and feel a twinge of regret that you didn't give him more. 

Those kids are made to fly. You two are together for keeps. 

There will come a day when you'll call him on the phone (especially if you have multiple teens) and you'll tell him Honey, these kids don't like me at all and there's nothing I can do about it. I have to be the mom because I love them. But I really need someone to LIKE me today. And you'll see with new eyes how God designed your people to grow... and how he designed your marriage to blossom. 

If I could do it over again, I would still pour the same amount of energy and devotion into my kids. But I would give my husband the same... and more.

2. Remember that your kids are not you. And take care of yourself.

All of that energy and effort of mind, body, and soul that you've poured into your little kids... it's all good and worth it. But you've got a long way to go, mama... and you need to make sure you're prepared for the long haul. Take care of yourself. Not in a selfish way. But in a way that honors the God-given gift of who you are. Twenty years from now, God's going to ask you to keep serving your people... make sure you've been a good steward of mind, body, and soul. Make sure you know who you are apart from your children. 

3. Pray without ceasing. 

This is your lifeline. Pray, work, and trust. Lord, have mercy.


I could write for days about those three points but there are a couple more things I want you to know before I close...

I would rather clean a blowout poopy diaper than argue with a teen. I would rather deal with hairy toddler fits than teen meltdowns. I would rather break up arguments over who used whose red crayon than engage in teenage drama. Because on one end of the spectrum, the primary concern is the care of little bodies and emotions. On the other, is the hardcore care of souls. I've got three teens now. Stuff just got real. 

I'll say it again just to be sure you didn't miss it. Teenagers are incredible people. I just don't want you to be surprised or distressed when they start to act a little like you did when you were a teen. You'll see "the look" for the first time and it'll freak you out. AH! I did this to my parents! But it's okay if you remember that because it will help you have empathy when you want to kick them out...

With only the clothes on their backs.
And no dinner.
With a sign that says: "I know everything so it probably won't take me too long to get a job, a house, a car and my next meal."

Teens are amazing people. I love how the relationship starts to change, their mature personality starts to peek through, and the long talks reveal the depth of who they are becoming...

I often stand in awe of these beautiful people. But I also stand in authority over the not yet flown. And I have never been more grateful for the gift of my spouse. Maybe it's just that I feel so often like punting the kids through the door. Or perhaps it's simply that I have finally learned that my children have an identity. And that it's not me. 

They are not me.

My oldest will fly this Summer. Moving on. Stretching. And I'm going to bawl like a baby and forget every stressful moment we've ever had (at least for a little while). Because he's a great person and I love him now more than I could have if we hadn't ever clashed and fought hard for our relationship. And boy, I'm going to miss him. 

And when my newborn baby comes (any day now), I'm going to soak up every exhausted minute... because I know it's really the easy part, full of consolations I have often taken for granted. I love every stage of my kids' lives, but I confess... some parts are easier than others. 

Come, Holy Spirit. 

*Permission received from all of my teens to post this publicly. They understand that it was not written about any one of them specifically and we had a healthy laugh over some memories. :)

Posted on May 3, 2016 and filed under Family Life, Marriage, motherhood, parenting.

To Solve the Vocations Crisis {Serviam}

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Every Catholic knows there is a vocations crisis. We see how few laborers there are in the vineyard and we thirst for the guidance and fatherhood of those missing shepherds. I do believe the solution is in the palm of our hands but that we have just gotten lazy in our speech, in our efforts, and in our prayers... and that perhaps we have lost site of what vocation even means. As a consequence, we have also lost sight of the solution to the crisis.

We think it's about...

Numbers. 
Worldly appeal of the Gospel message.
Praying harder.
Better pizza at youth group.
Married priests.

... And we're wrong.

One of the consequences of our collective forgetfulness is that the discerning man or woman is left to wander. They have not forgotten what vocation really means... they simply have never been taught. They have also not been taught the fundamental importance of healthy human formation. In other words, we get good priests by raising good men... but we are neglecting the foundation of what it means to be a good man.


The vocation of humanity is to show forth the image of God and to be transformed into the image of the Father’s only Son.
— Catechism of the Catholic church, 1877

VOCATION

The truth is that there is only ONE primary vocation for all of humanity. And that is HOLINESS. There isn't a soul alive that is not called first and foremost to this most noble vocation. 

It is the secondary (or particular) vocation which is considered to be in crisis. This is the one we fret over and focus on. People generally mean the priesthood when they say "Pray for vocations," but there are several secondary vocations: Holy Orders (priesthood), Consecrated Religious Life, Generous Single Life, and Holy Marriage. But if these are in crisis (and arguably, they all are), it is only because HOLINESS is in crisis. 

The young man raises his arms to heaven and cries:
Lord! What is it you want me to do with my life?? 

And God answers:
Love and Serve. Take up your cross and follow me.

The young man thinks that the magic pill for holiness will come through his secondary vocation but he has it backwards. And so does his community. 

Pray for vocations! we shout. But we are forgetting - or maybe we were just never taught - that vocation of any kind doesn't start with some Catholic pixie dust that falls down from heaven when we pray "for vocations" ....

Vocation begins in the heart of Christ. 

The closer a person draws to the Sacred Heart, the closer he or she draws to the very purpose of their life: Holiness. And then to the particular work for which they have been made. We should be praying unceasingly for these things and we must have prayer in order to draw close to Christ. And it is in that prayer that the courage to do the work begins. 

"You should be a priest, young man!" 

Perhaps... but first, he should recklessly pursue sanctity.  Then when someone asks him what he is going to do with his life - where he thinks God is calling him - he will answer: SERVIAM! {I will serve.} When the mind, body, and soul of a man are formed to listen and follow the will of God in all things, he will hear his specific call and he will answer. 


The Priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus.
— St. John Vianney

FORMATION

In the Fall, my firstborn will leave home to enter college seminary and begin the next stage of his discernment process. As many times as people say "Oh! You are going to be a priest!" he must answer...

No... I am going to study and grow so that I may know if God is truly calling me to be a priest. 

He knows that he has a long way to go in that discernment process and it is with great joy that he has found a seminary at which he believes his mind, body, and soul will be well-formed and oriented more fully toward the heart of Jesus Christ. Whether he is ultimately called to be ordained or to enter the married or single life, his healthy formation as a man will be paramount. If it is truly successful, regardless of what his particular vocation may be, he will be prepared to raise the cry of the Christian soldier...

SERVIAM! {I will serve}

In the Gospel of Matthew {20:26}, the apostles were disputing about their place in the Kingdom of God. Jesus replied:

"... You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. 26 It shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave; 28 even as the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

My son's journey is a new beginning in some ways. In other ways, it is only a continuation of what it means to be formed as a man. To be healthy in mind, body, and soul. To strive in love. To seek the heart of Christ. To serve. 

OBSTACLES

One of the practical realities of the next step is, of course, the question of finances. As he leaves home, his eighth sibling will only just have been born! The family continues to stretch and to grow and the bills do pile up. After the generosity of the diocese and others and digging deep at home, needs still remain. But there is grace, there is faith, there is the working hard, and there is the entrustment of the unknown to the generosity of the people of God. 

My son has earned academics scholarships at other institutions but has passed them up in order to follow where he thinks God is leading. If it is God's holy will, it will be provided for. That's all we've got. And we believe it will be sufficient.


With all that in mind, we've put together a simple t-shirt with which to witness to and celebrate the vocational call of every soul and to fundraise for direct tuition needs. Regardless of our secondary vocation, whether we are male or female, young or old...  we are all to cry out with one voice:

SERVIAM!

I will serve. 


THE SHIRT

  • The shirt is designed with the colors of the priestly garments but can be worn by male or female alike as a sign of support for our priests and also our shared primary vocation of holiness. 
  • Black is a sign that one has died to the world... a spiritual poverty. 
  • The white letters (symbolic of the Roman collar) are a sign of fidelity and also of the hope of the resurrection. 
  • The simple word SERVIAM and the words of our Lord in Matthew 20:26 are a witness to our universal vocation to holiness. 
  • The shirt is designed by Catholic Threads and printed on their most popular, super soft tees.
  • Sizes are available in XS to 2XL
  • Pre-orders will be taken immediately and the first shipments will go out as soon as we hit our minimum. We will continue taking orders here as long as people continue to buy them. I will place a direct link in the sidebar.
  • The more you spread the word, the faster you will get your shirts! ;)

So much gratitude goes to the good people at Catholic Threads for designing and producing this shirt for us! It has been a joy to work with them and I highly recommend their other products to you! But first... I'd love it if you would pre-order one (or more) of ours and please spread the word. 

For anyone interested in knowing more about our specific needs or in donating directly, you are welcome to contact us via email or use the DONATE button at the bottom of this post. Thank you!

Serviam T-Shirt (Pre-order)
20.00
Quantity:
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Don't want a t-shirt but still want to donate? 

Donate Here

Posted on April 19, 2016 and filed under Family Life, vocations.