Friday, March 17, 2017

March Happenings

Happy St. Patrick's Day!



March has made good on her reputation for being fickle. There have been some warmer days with daffodils promising that spring really has come and there have been cold, windy days when March is in a different mood.

I am nesting. I am nesting in a way I haven't before as I feel this great weight of having a fifth daughter and what it means to help nurture her "whole" person. I don't mean weight..as in weight gain...but I feel this great "coming into" being a mother of daughters.



You would think four would have brought this revelation by now but somehow, it is this fifth one who has stirred currents that run deeper. I am spiritually nesting you could say, preparing for her has been more than just an organizing and purging and cleaning kind of nesting (although last night we fed a bunch of papers from years and years of moves into our fire).

She is challenging me as a woman.

It is this awakening of the feminine that isn't from four years at a military academy, and nine years in a uniform. It isn't about long hair and skirts and dangle earrings (things I needed then to HELP me feel like a lady). I have this pull to my hearth. I feel as if I am sweeping things away, making things pretty, that I am channeling my "Domestic Betty" I guess you could say. I have ALWAYS tried to make my home beautiful, but this little June baby is asking me for immersion.




What a luxury to even have these musings as I have a husband with a very good job and this allows me to be home full time. He WANTS me to be full time in our home.

I have had some very good conversations recently with friends and there was a particular section in Anthony Esolen's book (see my last post) that really struck me about our talents, who we use them for, what we are MAKING in here. This is a snip-it from his chapter on Restoring Womanhood: Building Homes, Not Houses. (WARNING: I am very USED to how Esolen writes. If your jaw drops while you read this, because he does just go there, I understand!)

"Consider what a mass of contradictions we are. If a woman arranges flowers for a living, she earns our congratulations even if she doesn't do anything else either because she doesn't know how or because she is too busy at her flower shop. 



If a woman cooks fine Italian meals for a living...if her gnocchi, with their wonderful hundreds of calories, are famous all over town -- we sing her praises, even if when she gets home she is spent. 

My Delicious Birthday cake made by my mom!

If a woman plays the violin for an orchestra or gives singing lessons, she can hope to find her name in the newspaper, even if she buys fast food for herself and her family on the way home from the music hall.




But if a woman, because she is well versed in all of the household arts, can do all these things and in fact does them for the people she loves 


and for those whom she welcomes into her home (and she is not afraid of guests, because her is home is always just a whisk or two away from hospitality), we shake our heads and say that she has wasted her talents. 

Not developed them, notice, and put them to use. 


What IF it was ENOUGH to make beautiful things for OUR people? Try new recipes and not need to shout it to the world and delight in seeing OUR people enjoy it? Use our talents to serve them first? Why set the table especially nice tonight? Why pick fresh flowers? Why make from scratch anything? Why take the time to try a new hair do on her? Why put on clean sheets?

Because I LOVE YOU that's why!



My heart is there...to serve my people and make this their home! I panic because I am NOT the accomplished woman that he described above. But I want to be! I want to be in MY OWN way. I always come back to wanting order and wonder to thrive here, but I know order is first. I long to make my baby girl something with my hands, a blanket maybe, but for now it is keeping house and school. AND that is OK..and I find the girls and I are learning as we go.

I have older girls now too, who are asking to do these things.

My eldest wants to cook more...and ON HER OWN.

She picked a dinner off of pinterest, I made sure to purchase the ingredients on my next shopping trip (which was easy since I found it on her board she set up on my account while in the store!) and well..she did it! She made dinner: Salisbury meatballs and mashed potatoes.  She peeled every potato and made every meatball. We certainly praised her and she swelled with this big win of having served our family. I secretly celebrated that I LET her.

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And I emphasized most that she was doing this for OUR family, for her people and that we felt loved by her.

I'm not going to lie, I am very much lacking in energy these days and a hot shower is my new best friend, but I am feeling quite motivated by all this..this...love all on your own people and learn and perfect things for THEM season.






Sunday, March 5, 2017

The Toehold

The following is from The Story of D-Day: June 6, 1944 by Bruce Bliven, Jr. (a children's book written in 1956)



"No matter how many men take part in a landing, some few must be the first ashore.

They lead the way for all the others to follow.


Those who land first have a peculiarly tough job. In the minute while they are leaving their boats and wading ashore, they are exposed and almost helpless. If the enemy is alert and ready to defend its shore, crossing the beach is another awkward time for the invaders. Beaches are generally flat and open, with no shelter from bullets. About the best an assault force can do is to get across a beach fast.

And then the first men ashore have to be supplied, fairly quickly, with supporting weapons more powerful than the rifles, light machine guns and light mortars they carry with them. The assault troops must seize a fairly large piece of ground in a hurry and build up strength within that beachhead. 



Until they do, even a small defending force may be able to drive the invaders back into the sea. So the early hours of an amphibious assault, even under the best of circumstances, are a gamble.




Hitler believed that his army, protected by its fortifications and blazing away with a variety of weapons, would be able to stop the Americans, British and Canadians at, or close to, the water's edge.





He believed the Germans could smash the great assault before it really got going.

The Allies thought differently.





They hoped their first few soldiers ashore would break through the beach fortifications and proceed far enough inland on D-Day to establish the first toe hold in Europe.





And that then the great weight of the combined armies, pouring through the small opening in the Atlantic Wall, could go on to win the war against Germany.

The question was: Could the assault troops break open the first holes in Hitler's defensive line?

That was what the soldiers themselves, before the end of D-Day, would answer. The success of the invasion depended on them."






I have this idea to have hope. I have this feeling that we have the toehold. We as in the family.





We have the toehold (defined as a relatively insignificant position where further progress can be made) on....western civilization? Christianity? American culture?

"In the crisis a handful of heroes came forward. They were men who decided that, however hopeless the battle seemed, they themselves would try to do something.




Any action, they thought, was better than none.




Each man, at the moment of his heroic decision, acted alone.



It might have been easier for him if he had known there were others like him at other places along the beach, but none of them did."



"Each man decided, independently, to do his best whether or not, in the long run, his best could make a difference." 





I have never been one to really feel a connection spiritually when it comes to the "battles" or "spiritual attacks" we face.  I cringe a little to be thought of as the "church militant." As you can see by the work my littles and I have been doing this weekend, I am more inclined to respond when we speak of "gift" and "joy"...the Good Shepherd way. And yet, I thought about the toehold again during the Gospel today when Our Lord was tempted by the prince of darkness...and I thought about wolves around the sheepfold.

I also thought about hope.



I thought what is so special about our toehold in the 21st century, the family's toehold, is that we know there are others out there like us. Where the men on the beaches of Normandy weren't sure if the others were having ANY success, we are given glimpses of other families, like ours. Their successes inspire us, even though it takes a trained heart and eye to know what kind of "success" I am talking about. We have these glimpses and it gives us hope!



We know because we do life with them. We worship with them. We bring food when they have babies. We become godparents to their children. We carpool their kids around. We cry when there is pain. We lean in. We make the "big pot" kind of meals together.

Maybe that is the gift of moving from Alaska? I am so encouraged by the wonderful families I have met here in Virginia, and yet I still tell all my friends HERE of the beautiful families that are in Alaska!

All this to say...do not lose hope! And do not be afraid! Every time you serve your family, and choose your family first, and say yes to your vocation...you are making a difference and fortifying the beach. Your smile at the sippy cup request. Your huge victory when you refuse to nag. Your simple home cooked meal. Your efforts at decorating for the liturgical season...


And you may wonder...but Stephanie! Those few men on the beach had a massive army of allied forces behind them! Who is our help?

Wink wink...

I think we know who will be providing the reinforcements behind us...



As Anthony Eolen's new book points out:



"Keep it always in mind. The world hates the family. The state is the family's enemy. The state grows by the family's failure, and the state has an interest in persuading people that the family can do nothing on its own. It hates fatherhood, and makes little pretense otherwise. It hates motherhood...."

Do not lose hope! We have the toehold!

Thank you for doing the good work you do! It is an honor to keep this toehold with you. xxoo

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Our Love Six Times

Amen. Children are gift, the ultimate gift. When I wrote in my last post about how my husband's response to another girl and his goodness through this pregnancy has surprised me, it is really seeing that he and I are on the same page. This little one is a gift!




 Male or female! 

I am slightly embarrassed to admit I thought there was more of an agenda.  I knew Justin wanted our son to have a brother, he grew up with a brother. I had this idea that God would answer this prayer. Even as I learn about trusting God's plan, I still have the boldness of offering to him ideas on what would be best.

His ways are best. 




His ways are true. 

God was still so gentle because here we are with our baby girl, in what has been, praise Him, a very healthy pregnancy. 

I was unsure if I wanted to find out the sex of our baby, but I was having a hard time connecting. I think that as you have a busy full home, at least for me, I would often times not even realize I was growing someone until that someone would wriggle around in my belly. Oh yes, there you are! And then on to making pb&js! Obviously, with the fact that I blog, I also journal, and so to write to a daughter now in my journal is a crucial part of connecting with baby.

Yes.



And so, I was having anxiety the day before the "finding out" ultrasound and at dinner the children had already left the table and Justin put things very bluntly when I expressed my anxiety to him.

He said:

"We really didn't plan this one and we really didn't try to avoid this one either. I think things just happened and we were just being married, and so we are now blessed to be having a child."




I know. He really does make me want to be a better person. 

And it really is that straightforward, we were just being married.

Why has society made it more complicated than this? 




We are married so we...naturally...have children!

Couples struggle with infertility and finally conceive a child and people are overjoyed. A couple decides to finally have a baby after they have traveled or finished school and everyone nods in agreement. A couple rounds out their family when they have a baby boy after their first is a girl..perfect, two of each! A couple like us has a sixth child and they scratch their heads.



Ha! Except that I think people have lumped us more in the "oh they just have a big family" category now and we honestly don't get as many surprised looks anymore!

But there are always questions...and that's ok. Why so many children? Oh are you TRYING for another boy? Were you not being careful? Do you even know how expensive children are? And then the most irritating and rude one to say to a beautiful family with amazing children...you know what causes that right?

All of these questions boggle me and I find THEY are really making it much more complicated than it really is.

It is very simple folks, WE are just being married.



Justin and I have a vocation to marriage. Above careers and lifestyles and higher education and all of the milestone markers of our privileged first world society, we are first called to be married. For Justin and I, we are seeing with this big family thing that all our money is really going into feeding, clothing, keeping healthy and educating our littles...and they are really the BEST reasons to be spending money!

                                             
So in this call to marriage is this beautiful design: married love is meant to create.

Cormac Burke says it is the very nature of love.

"Love is creative. God's love (if we may put it this way) 'drove' Him to create. Man's love, made in the image of God's, is also meant to create. If it deliberately does not do so, it frustrates itself. A couple truly in love want to do things together; if possible, they want to do something "original" together"

"Nothing is more original to a couple in love than their child: the image and fruit of their love and their union. That is why 'the marital thing' is to have children;



and other things, as substitues, do not satisfy conjugal love."

My dear friend has given my husband and I a new expression, that I love very much. I used it in my husband's last birthday card...

"I love you and I love that we have our love six times."

This is what we do that is original together. We have something original of us times six.

Being the day after St Valentine's Day, I thought it would be nice to reflect on the all the original "you me" versions from your creative marriage toddling around your home.

Amen to real romance.



God Bless xxoo