Tuesday, August 16, 2016

A LONG Moment

I am experiencing a moment...and it is causing me to stop and really do some interior work.


I have been reading. I have been reading since spring. Reading and really witnessing to some beautiful truths about the use of Natural Family Planning.

I think my story of coming to use natural forms of contraceptive instead of artificial forms is missing a key point, in that...it is all still planning. I am waking up to a planning and limiting culture in many Catholic circles. I may have helped this culture in part by being so proud that I went from artificial to natural forms of contraception.

And we are all so comfortable.

Mary, Star of the Sea cookies for the Feast of the Assumption

I have to be very gentle with myself as I come off the NFP mountain. I am only even confessing these things to my readers because I would truly be sorry if any of my posts were misleading about the true purpose of NFP...and that is...it should be used as the exception not the norm.

Is it hard for you to read that?

It is for me, and that is why I am pulling down all of my Natural Family Planning posts as of today. I am just pulling them down, not completely deleting. I want to read through them over the next few months, years even, to make sure the tone is always generous in supporting a marriage open to life.

I can be confident in saying I have always written the journey as just: how my family of five little ones came to be.



I don't know if it was more to help others in my same spot of coming off the pill or if it was to just help me work things out.

Well...It is so painfully clear to me that I have much more praying to do, much more to ponder when it comes to what Justin and I are saying yes to in our marriage. I feel my posts are a bit inadequate to address what we should all truly be proclaiming....and that is...TRUSTING in HIS PLAN.

I don't KNOW what that looks like for my life, for my marriage. And believe me when I say this is about ME and MY WORK, you know your own places between you, your spouse and God.

I have such peace about this. I really do trust that I will have much more clarity over time. I will continue to write because it is really how I connect and as I have said before it helps ME so much! We are just going to take a LONG PAUSE, a LONG MOMENT in any NFP related posts.

Pray for me.
xxoo









Tuesday, August 9, 2016

A Living Gospel

It is August my friends and our air conditioner in our new home is completely dead. Yes. Yes. Stephanie and her children are surviving with box fans and AC window inserts from K-Mart.

Oh yes, these are good times.

It makes me chuckle as it was a year ago just last week that we stayed in the rental property on the other side of town, all in one room as I looked out of the skylights and silently yelled at God (yes, you can silently yell). I was so angry with Him. He Who is the Giver of good gifts.



So, here we are, in August, and all my littles are sharing a room with us again, the room being the air conditioned master bedroom.

THIS IS NOT ME COMPLAINING!!!!!

I would never ever ever ever go on an "Did my air conditioner really die during the hottest part of the year?" rant.



Yet, as I make an egg sandwich and watch as my freshly showered body starts to drip with sweat, my thoughts turn to sweet Juneau. Cool fresh crisp Juneau.


I called Juneau my Alaskan Atrium in my last post (nevermind that I have been away from this space for two months)....and yet when I think of Juneau as Atrium where I grappled with some deep mommy "work" I also see it as the sacred space where I encountered the Gospel.

What do I mean??

I mean, in my May visit to Juneau, the Gospel was and continues to be witnessed to me. Juneau is a place where I hear the proclamation of the Life of Christ. But not as something spoken to me, as if in history, no something I live, accept and participate in as a Christian. Something very NOW.


Take the Visitation for instance.

Elizabeth rejoiced with Mary. Elizabeth saw and FELT joy for Our Lady and proclaimed it to her.

"Blessed are you amoung women and blessed is the Fruit of your womb."

How special, how very special, that we as mothers are given a glimpse of a sweet and divine moment between two mamas.

I am so thankful for my mommy friends. They nurture me and love on me in ways that I couldn't imagine at times. I fell in love with the Visitation during my life in Juneau because I was given the gift of friendships, divinely inspired friendships, that I believe make St Elizabeth and Our Lady smile.



So, time and time again, in so many ways, I see not a stagnant Gospel, but a Gospel that is on the move in the people who are my friends, the people who are the Body of Christ giving that Gospel hands and feet, and kind eyes.

When we were planning our trip to Juneau it was my bright idea for us to arrive in Juneau and stay in our empty rental property, as in zero things in it.

It was my friend Cheryl...my list maker, organized, DOER of GOOD DEEDS. CHERYL. Cheryl coordinated a mass effort to stock my fridge with things that other mamas donated. Like MILK! FRUIT! BREAD! I washed my face with face wash and dried it on towels. Air mattress beds were blown up and made with PILLOWS. I had a wonky coffee pot made with parts of other coffee makers but I DIDN'T CARE because there was creamer!!!!

I cried. I cried out of shear exhaustion from the cross country flight but also having been cared for in beautiful works of mercy. Feeding us. Giving us a home by providing the things a home needs. I was given things I didn't even know I would need.

So so so holy.



Generosity. I always feel a sense of extreme gratitude when I encounter the Gospels. God is a God of Abundance and so it feels so natural to want to respond with Thanksgiving!

The generosity of my friends from Juneau doesn't just make me feel loved and welcomed, it made me feel grateful! It makes me want to give thanks! Thank you to the beautiful York family who let us use their mini--van and drive all over Juneau as we saw and were affirmed in her mountains and water...yes Forbes family, I am still here! Thank you to the Smith family for having a wedding and a double baby shower so that we could participate, we could have a shared collective memory with our dearest friends...yes Forbes family, we are still here! 



Thank you to coffee dates with Kelley and playdates with Jennifer and walks in the campground with Maureen. Thank you to Jana and Trevor who helped us in ways that you only make really close people help you...like help getting a power washer and help coordinating a late night drop off at a hotel.

There was more.

So so so much more and I am slowly getting handwritten thank you cards out.



Have you ever encountered someone who complains? They are so consumed with what is "wrong" that they sometimes need a gentle reminder of all that is RIGHT. Gratefulness can even surprise them!

Like this: "I know your AC is broken Stephanie, but you aren't ALL colonial living, you DO have electricity." Bahaahahahahaha

So I only felt as I logged on to this blog, that I wanted to say a little more about Juneau. A little reminder to myself, now written down, of sweet memories of shared moments, little gifts, that I will treasure. I am grateful for people who took the time to drive me to Douglas to borrow a van or gave their time and talent so my husband could paint the shed faster.  People who saw their things as something to share.  I borrowed all those things that Cheryl anticipated I would need. We consumed the food but we borrowed so much! Plates, coffee mugs, strollers, even christmas lights (wink!).

And then the Christian receives and asks herself...she asks herself even now, two months later...How can I serve?

How can I witness?

How can I be a Living Gospel?

How can I pass this on?

Because here...here is where I have done the MOST growth. God moved me and He taught me it is not about the Place, it is about the Christian.

Love you and enjoy your AC for me! xxoo



Friday, June 3, 2016

My Alaskan Atrium

As our plane flew over the mountains and glaciers, over the tree lined coast, I pinched myself to make sure it was all real. Southeast Alaska exists.



And as we made our way off our plane, after a day long trip across the country with our large family, there were hugs from our larger Alaskan family waiting for us as at the end of the airport terminal walkway.

Hugs from an expectant mother. Hugs from mothers with new babies in their arms. Hugs from a bride and groom to be. Hugs from a new happily married bride. Hugs from a new grandma and a seasoned one. Hugs from a babysitter and friend who is more like a sister. Hugs from a deacon.

Hugs from lots of littles...with taller bodies, more filled out faces, larger feet from the last time we saw them.



I wept tears of joy and GREAT relief, that they were all there.

They were all real.

He really does have the eternal friendship thing down.


In Juneau.. in my Southeast Alaska Atrium... I did the very big work of transitioning from a working mother in the Coast Guard to a full time stay at home mom of three girls under the age of four. I grew into my motherhood in Juneau. I had help. Help from Him in bucket fulls of Juneau grace and in deep abiding friendships.

The friends in my life were more than just women....they were catechists. They helped me grow closer to God...all of us mothers together in an Alaskan Atrium. Sharing the work. Sharing the Bread of Life.



We were each doing our own work. We learned to respect each others work. To offer smiles and hugs and coffee creamer. My love for Juneau is rooted in a deep comfort in knowing that in our Alaskan Atrium...we were each on our own journeys and yet doing our work beside each other. One mother was doing the work of having twin sons. Another raising teenage girls. One friend doing the work of being married and away from family and another doing the work of watching a son and then a daughter...and then another daughter... marry.

And as I witnessed each mother bravely go about learning the work in front of them...their virtue, their hearts, their beautiful devotion... helped me with my own work.



So we had our trip. We had our two week journey back.

 I sat on the coastline with her dramatic tides.



We went to a wedding at the Shrine of St Therese to watch a bride and groom sing to each other.



And then we danced with that bride and groom.


We celebrated new baby girls.




And watched one baby born in Juneau learn about her birthplace...



And we needed the sunstars...




And the trees...



We needed to feel that glacier sized hug from our Father...



We needed to eat oysters in Anchorage with family made through the Sacrament of Baptism.



And I come back to sunny Virginia...and I have a great peace. I knew I needed this trip to my Alaskan Atrium, but I didn't realize how healing it would be. See, I thought this whole time I was "missing" Alaska but what I was really wrestling with...and as I write I feel hot tears in my eyes...I was really wrestling with the fears of being unwanted or forgotten by my Alaskan family. I wasn't missing...I was afraid.

And God shouted to me on this trip:



BE NOT AFRAID STEPHANIE!




I think the move from Alaska was so hard because I thought I was ripping up roots...but I see now that they were strong holy spiritual roots that don't get ripped up...ever. As soon as I hugged my friend Rebekah off the plane, I understood that goodbye last July...was not forever. I just didn't know that then. And I know it now.

So...I did still cry when I hugged my friends as the trip ended...as my May Atrium session ended...but it wasn't a hard suffocating cry. It was more joyful and sweet....and there was no fear.

And so TRUST TRUST TRUST.


I LOVE YOU!

Also....this was only a sweeping recap...I have more to write...it is in my head but will hopefully be posted soon. xxoo