Wednesday, October 11, 2017

His Vision

My husband and I had a beautiful talk around the kitchen table recently about how faith and hope were different.  My husband explained that faith was about total trust. That many of us are hopeful, but we don't all have faith.

And yet one will hear that faith is a gift, which seems a paradox to me, because you have to CHOOSE to TRUST.

You trust in the gift of faith.

I look back on our six children in our thirteen years of marriage and I see how generous He has been. I honestly feel such great peace with the faces of the people around me, in this home, my people. I had written a few posts ago how I feel a new call to be THIS baby's mama totally. Not just when she turns 18 and moves away, God willing, but that I will never stop being her mother.

Motherhood is a lifelong vocation.

And yet, I see these thirteen years of marriage and I see that I have been quite the fidgety little sheep. I see myself on my Good Shepherd's shoulders and his mouth so close to my ear and I see that even through all the years of having our children, I have been restless with His ultimate design for marriage. He was gently whispering to me as He held me steadily on His shoulders, and I look back at my response to His whispers and see: a constant fight and wrestling over the matter of trying to live a good NFP life...trying to reconcile my idea with child spacing and His! The thought of this makes me restless in my writing and kind of uneasy about what it is I stand for.

I took my NFP writings completely down from my blog about a year ago as I had a complete crisis of faith in my own understanding of marriage. The trigger for this was reading the book Covenanted Happiness by Cormac Burke and also meeting some very faithful friends. Yes friends and reading will usually do it, and a steady dose of people who have walked the walk, like Leila Marie Lawler over at Like Mother Like Daughter.

So I found myself in this perfect storm really of God dragging me kicking and screaming from my comfort zone in Alaska to being dumbfounded by truth. Truth that you can't unhear.

I'm irritated that there had to be so much searching on my part to come to a very simple truth: married men and women have children. I think about how complicated we have made it. We the Justin and I. We the current generation. We the Church. It hurts my head.

Before I married Justin I was in the muck of it all, the birth control muck of trying to decide what to use out of thousands of birth control options. All of it was mind boggling, as if I had to CHOOSE someTHING out of all the treatment options for my perfectly normal..fertility.

EVEN when the obvious choice was NFP, thanks to books like the Hahn's Lifegiving Love and the encyclical Humane Vitae, it all seemed hard. Hard in the way that I was a "good Catholic" hard and I had picked my cross of doing NFP unlike all those other not so Catholic faithful in the pews. And so that was my still use birth control?

I fundamentally did not believe people got married to have children.  Children were something that came along after a few years of marriage. There were steps and plans and degrees and homes and pets and careers and THEN children. There was even a way it was supposed to all LOOK: not too many, not all at once, at least look responsible about it, wipe their faces and match their socks for goodness sake! Some of the most hurtful comments came from the mouths of my own family as they told me "three was a lot of responsibility" how I  "was ridiculous" or asked why "four wasn't enough?"

Its funny how much I let those comments hurt me, you can't make someone see gift. All I see now is gift...and I can hold my chin up, see...look at the fruit..

So I came across an article on Facebook  recently and it was the same old boring song: If you want 12 kids fine by me, go ahead you rock! Wanna see a cool trick? Say 12 kids to my husband and his face turns white (this is where you laugh). She went on to say she had five but having 12 kids wasn't the vision for her family and the big question was if NFP was EFFECTIVE in your last years of fertility and then came a lengthy article of women who HAD used it EFFECTIVELY etc. She had to add she didn't want to be one of those moms having kids when her eldest was having babies, its just not her thing.



I have six children and I think about two years ago I might have sang the same song: ok Stephanie, time to hunker down for the long haul of "trying not to have anymore children."

But...but what if...there is no serious obstacle other than your own vision? No really, no severe handicaps in the family. No high risk pregnancy issues. No money issues other than sacrificing vacations and things. What if I could spend my years coming down the fertility mountain actively trying to be ready for another yes?

My sixth pregnancy I had severe pain from varicose veins in my second trimester but it was literally all gone by my third! My third trimester pelvic pain was at times unbearable, especially first thing in the morning. I had never had pelvic pain before and I learned and my friends were right, that it goes away once the baby is delivered, which is what happened!

So...ok Stephanie, that's do you and I'll do me!

No. That can't be right?

Then you are telling me there isn't one truth? You are telling me my searching for this meaning in marriage was so silly because when it comes down to it: Do what feels right for you.

I'm so confused by the you do you and I'll do me culture because it isn't Catholic!

I  have put SO MUCH energy into planning out the spacing of my children that essentially...even with NFP...I was still telling God...YOU do YOU and let ME do ME.

God, I don't want YOUR vision for my marriage. I want my vision. Are we, as in, the PROUD NFP using Catholics really giving God a big fat giant "You do You!"

I know the fruit of ME do ME. I know the pill. I know the worry. Lots of worry and control everything. I also know the charting and the temperatures and the multiple pregnancy tests to see if this "natural method" works. Yep...all of it is WORRY..the worry of it not fitting my vision.

The fruit of when I held this little one in my arms..was JOY. There was no WORRY. Just JOY.

I was flat out told a few weeks ago at my women's Bible study a "you do you." I explained how it doesn't feel like work anymore with this sixth one, and it was then clarified by a friend, who I know meant well, that "we aren't all meant to have six children."

Oh...I felt so little in that moment as I was surely not trying to tell others to have six children, I had an agenda like that when I was a new NFP warrior about ten years ago on my "I am open to life and better than thee" high horse.

I was just sharing my gift. I was doing exactly what Anna did when she left the Temple. What the woman does when she finds her coin! What the Good Shepherd does when He finds His sheep! When people are cured and healed by this Man they GO and SHARE and say "See LOOK at my Gift!"

 I will keep sharing my gift...and joy might make others feel uncomfortable. Maybe they are uncomfortable because they are wrestling with the "what ifs" of another baby as well.

Well if I'm not an NFP warrior, what kind of warrior am I?

I humbly say,"Oh no! I'm not a warrior, I'm actually trying not to fight anymore! I am an unprofitable servant. I am passive. I want to just surrender to His will and vision. My blueprint for my life was crap, His will for me has the best fruit."

Isn't that what we were talking about in Sunday's Gospels? The vineyard and the fruit it bears?

 So little ol' unlearned Stephanie is putting this out there...what if we lived our marriages constantly seeking His Vision?

Let's pray about this together xoxo

Saturday, September 16, 2017

The Old Ways

"We dropped our books and rushed out with her. This was our chance to watch the campaign to 'Destroy the Four Olds' in action."

"Our beloved Chairman Mao had started the Cultural Revolution in May. Every day since then on the radio we heard about the need to end the evil and the pernicious influences of the ' Four Olds' : old ideas, old culture, old customs, and old habits. Chairman Mao told us we would never succeed at building a strong socialist country until we destroyed the "Four Olds" and established the "Four News." The names of many shops still stank of old culture, so the signs had to be smashed to make way for the coming of new ideas."

This is taken from a memoir by Ji Li Jiang about her childhood in China 1964. This is how we do history in our homeschool. I simply cannot do textbooks. Funny how someone's story of having lived through an experience seems to always hold better with my children. That story speaks with much more authority over a topic than any textbook can, and I search for authority.

Wow. I read about those "Four Olds" and I got chills. I reread it to my daughters and it sparked a wonderful conversation. Old ideas? Old culture? Old customs? Old habits?

That happened in China not so long ago.

We asked the question, what were some of the four olds in our own home?

I looked at my book shelf lined with unabridged books. Unabridged as in "old" books, the way they were originally written. I think those are Four Olds, old ideas? Old language?

 I asked my girls what they thought the most important of our old books was...and we figured it out.

We thought about the old Valley Forge American flag on our mantel. We thought about what that flags old idea. We thought about how much we love that flag.

 In Williamsburg we can hear the national anthem played at Camp Peary every old song and an old custom to greet the new day by raising the old flag with the old song.

Ok are you ready for the first picture I took?

We sometimes hear the sounds of the training that goes on at the base, our lifeguards in the summer can distinguish the boom of thunder versus the boom of a Camp Peary exercise. The sound of what protecting the old idea of "liberty" looks like.

In Williamsburg we have the old all around us in what is known as the Historic Triangle. Colonial Williamsburg keeps the trades alive, hiring apprentices to learn with their hands, the old ways of doing things.

As I was reading about China's Cultural Revolution and the erasing of the past, I got an eerie feeling that if we do not value and protect and see the beauty of our own olds, the same things could happen right here in our own country.

I thought about this when a friend lamented the other day on social media that the public schools do not teach cursive handwriting. That highschoolers do not know how to "sign" their name. Wait! Where would we be as a nation if John Hancock didn't have that LARGE John Hancock?!!?!? I teach my girls cursive because I want them to be able to read the old original founding documents. Copies of them, of course, but SHOULD they so desire it that they could go to our nation's capitol and read the original themselves!

An old way of writing...and that the school felt it necessary not to teach the old. It makes me nervous.

When I was a cadet at the US Coast Guard Academy, as a freshman we cringed at having to learn celestial navigation. Why oh why do we need to learn this OLD way if we have a NEW way? I could only wrap my head around the way of the sea. I could only wrap my head around this idea that all of this knowledge is passed down and that even radars and equipment on a ship can break, but the stars stay for us. The old stars.

So we have this book and I have been thinking about old ways. I have been thinking about how lovely it is that my husband taught himself guitar and that he can play, for us, for our enjoyment, you know, an old form of leisure. I think about read alouds or how my daughter has been obsessed recently with baking because of the Great British Bake Off, and that there are old recipes from around Europe often featured on the show. It is nice to have things, like bread and desserts, made the old way by hand.

What if we tried to keep the Old Ways alive in our homes? What if we thought about the way things are passed down...a collective memory....

What if we lived marriage the Old Way? What would the Marriage Prep class look like if the teachers, or our Church leadership, went with the Old Way and just said,

"Children are the absolute best gift of your marriage. Do not frustrate what is most natural. Enjoy your creative love. See your love four, five, six times and don't look back."

Add caption
What if we raised our children the Old Way? Dirt. Sweat. Sun. Laughter. Hugs. Books. More Hugs. Cuddles. Contact. A Table. A Meal. A Bath. A Sibling...or two...or three...or five.

My dear friend Mary Clare had an idea recently that we could make a study of Norman Rockwell paintings. He always seemed to capture home life just right. His paintings were realistic and honest and that made things beautiful. They are Old fashioned...and I'm all about it.

Image result for norman rockwell home for the holidays

And I'm not sure how to keep the Old Ways, how to have the most discerning eye toward such things, and then the girls and I thought of something very old that we do every Sunday, a particular Feast we share in, a Thanksgiving.

We thought about how that is the best Old, because it is the Old that makes all things New.

I think that if we keep well that one Old, all the other Old Ways will be safe.

I'm curious if anyone would mind sharing if they have appreciated an "Old" recently that they may not have before?


Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Blessed Are the Peacemakers

"Oh! She is two weeks old and you are out? God bless you!"

The exclamation came from an elderly lady from the Narthex one Sunday not long ago where I was holding my sweet Pearl. I tried not to look too frazzled as I was also helping my toddler with the water fountain. What is it about toddlers and water fountains?

My sister-in-law (my nurse midwife) and I have had extensive chats that in our imaginary lives where we could clone ourselves we would probably spend more time advocating for postpartum care for mothers today. My baby is now two months old and I still find I am trying to pull in and stay put and really slow down. My body gives me cues to remind me to be gentle with the healing. My crew is giving me cues that ask me to respond with great care...try to delight in us mommy, try not to nag mommy, don't wear out our names mommy, look up from your phone when I speak to you mommy...just relax and don't try to escape this mommy...

Just settle into the work.

So I think about the wise woman in the Narthex and I kind of long for this norm that she was referring to with her surprise in seeing me. She was so perplexed that I should be OUT with my, then, two week old. I WAS Mass so maybe she forgot that part, but what if it were...say...Target or the grocery store or some other place that I was already OUT and ABOUT at. I sigh as my life is very much that of the twenty-first century mommy with her inability to settle into her work at home.

I didn't tell this sweet woman that I had ALSO signed up to be the snack mom for the kid's swimteam on food Friday to start that particular weekend off. She would have probably said the same thing,

"Oh! She is two weeks old and you are out! God bless you!"

Oh the vanity of it all...I played the snack mom card well. I was on the ball with juice boxes and cold jello jiggler cups and granola bars. I showered and dressed well, my kids had goggles and their L.L. Bean swimsuits on, I had my expensive double stroller with the click in car seat, and I wore a smile. I DID. And it did bring me joy to see my eldest girls so happy to have brought a great snack for their neighborhood friends.

But that particular accomplishment and joy was not worth the cost, it had been too much, too soon. I know these things by the signs I can read...mostly within my own inner peace...or lack there of.

I can fake peace on the outside pretty well. To raise my eyebrows in delight, to laugh, to smile...I know how to get compliments on my mothering, "You seem so calm."

Oh I do? Sometimes...not all the time... there is a hurricane inside.

The hurricane can extend outward into my environment and affect the people around me, my beloved.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel...

O Come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
And order all things, far and nigh;

I am not longing for the order that can be found in tupperware bins and sticky notes. I don't need a new system.

I want His order and I long to be able to know it well in my life.

Help me order my days Lord. 

Order my priorities so that I am OK with what others think of my volunteer commitment time to swim team or lack there of.

Help me order my relationships so that when my daughter asks, with big blue eager eyes, if she can make brownie bites for her friends, I see a yes to freedom in my home and not the ensuing mess that might befall my kitchen I JUST cleaned.

Help me order my night so that I can leave my husband not feeling overwhelmed that I am sneaking out to book club but that I have taken great care that dinner was early, kids are bathed, and that he can say "yes."

Help me order myself to my vocation that if I sense he DOES need me to give up my little social evening with book club ladies, that I don't make a martyr of myself. That I can cooperate and know the correct order of my married life.

Order my hours so that I snag naps when I need to Lord with my babe, that I don't find one more chore, that I can enjoy the quiet house of a napping toddler and not need to make an idol of "projects and pinterest ideas."

Help me read the signs of disorder. Help me to recognize the slight discomfort of knowing I could be over committing. I tell my littles, "Let me think about that," can I give myself the freedom to do the same to extended family and friends?

The great coming out of my home to kind of do the whole "see people from the swimteam" morning was a great success, but it took me a whole afternoon to find my bearings in the home from that great attempt. Help me know the cost of each yes when I decide to do something outside of directly meeting my OWN PEOPLE'S NEEDS.

Help me read in my home the small signs of disorder and help me to reflect on how to make things better.

 A certain level of order really helps with my "peace of mind" but I am finding that the peace I long for is more to be content with this year of the baby, and to relish in any crumbs of peace as gift. I don't need to be Martha Stewart, but this is the one space that is OUR space, let it be space for peace.

I don't want to be a HOMEMAKER, I want to be a PEACEMAKER. I want my home to be one where there is freedom to be oneself, there is peace of mind that there is no expectation to be anymore than who God created you to be.

I leave this space to go plan my school year, it has felt so drawn out and there is so much "anticipating" how it will all really work. I want to truly be prayerful about our comings and goings as a family. I truly believe this whole homeschooling endeavor depends on a peaceful home but more importantly a peaceful mama.

Peace be with you dear friends!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

A Way of Listening

Friends. This has been a summer of summers. A summer full of light and truth and good and new.

My new baby girl has made this whole summer pretty special.

I am definitely feeling the slight panics every now and then of how this is all going to actually WORK

but then peace always seems to follow when...I look at her.

I have such confidence in the intentional giving of her life to this particular family, He deemed it so, and therefore I trust that although it may not look pretty, life is as it should be.

So, also, a labor of love, last week my parish hosted a Level One part one Catechesis of the Good Shepherd training. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!


Ever since leaving Alaska, it was my desire to share this work with my new new friends. I felt like I have been mentioning CGS whenever I could for two years, I am so happy I have friends fact...many of my closest friends took the training...and now..Alleluia! The workings of a Level One atrium has started at St Bede Parish in Williamsburg, Virginia!

I have only wanted to be a messenger, and my friend Abby so wisely said as I worried how the training would go, "If it is truly beautiful, the work will speak for itself."

God cannot be outdone in the generosity of how he pulled together fifteen women to become immersed in the kerygma, the good news,  in a new way.

And I witnessed again what I should have known all along, where I see so clearly...the prepared environment is one thing...the prepared adult is completely essential. I MUST be that.
We can transform a room to be an atrium, but the transformation must happen in the adult first.

The Help came, as I had prayed He would. The Help moving very slowly at first, the work of CGS staying ever so so small in a parish community this big (10,000 strong)...and then as my dear friend Mary Clare said, the Spirit moves like the wind, fast changing, and just as we see leaves move in the breeze...the Spirit spoke to us in Signs and Moments...


The messenger was Katy Rice, my trainer and friend who had trained me in Juneau. She came to help us...Katy was our Aslan...on the move...coming...coming to turn things upside down, as she placed the child in front of us and opened up the Word.





I just wanted to share this crumb, I feel like this post is inadequate...words really are. But the mustard seed has been somewhat planted in this parish and I am eagerly anticipating bearing witness to the fruits of the GREAT INNER STRENGTH that lies in that mustard seed.

Baby is crying...blessings...

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

True Freedom

She made it here safely. Our beautiful baby girl was born on Father's Day. You can imagine our joy. Justin, the children and I are all so happy. She fits perfectly, as we knew she would.

There is something I am experiencing with her though that is so new to this sixth one...

It doesn't feel like work anymore.

Ok ok she IS a good baby and I have had FIVE other children so I guuuuueeeess I am an experienced mom, and it might have something to do with all of the other mama hens who are able to help...

but more I find that it isn't work because she is our Pearl of Great Price. 

As in, Justin and I have turned a corner in this FAMILY bit and it doesn't feel like we are "stepping into an arena" or that it is our "duty to have children" or that we are "making sacrifices," it just feels very freeing to be married and to follow God's design for our marriage.  

That is our baby girl. 

She is trust and faith and His agenda not ours. 

And out of His generosity, we have received the best of Gifts. 

There is freedom in just living your vocation of marriage. Every moment...

is His will for you.

I have been walking with a particular priest this pregnancy, who would have thought that an American Jesuit accused of being a Vatican spy during World War II, who spent twenty years in a Siberian work camp, could help ME...a twenty first century very pregnant mother in Virginia????

But he did...he is still helping...

"It is in choosing to serve God, to do his will, that man achieves his highest and fullest freedom."

 "It may seem paradoxical to say that our highest and fullest freedom comes when we follow to the least detail the will of another, but it is true nonetheless when that other is God."

"Accepting whatever comes or happens as the will of God, no matter what is costs spiritually, psychologically, physically, is the surest and quickest way to a freedom of soul and spirit that surpasses all understanding and explanation."

Happy Independence Day!

Friday, May 26, 2017

A Deaconite Ordination

Hello friends! I am reclining while the two year old naps and collecting my thoughts about things.

This is all possible as dance,

 sewing classes, choir, testing for is all coming to an end. A perfect end for the summer...

I am not doing any school for the children this summer, just we have a hands on course of "how to care for a new sister" to look forward to.

Yes, so let me tell you of some of our happenings this past weekend.

The first year we moved to Williamsburg, we befriended a very outgoing, fun loving seminarian from the Diocese of Richmond who was serving his pastoral year at our parish. Seminarians during their formation to the priesthood are assigned within the diocese to different parishes...I didn't know these things before I met Deacon Nick! Look now you know too!

That's right! He is Deacon Nick now and our family was blessed to share in his Deaconite Ordination this past weekend.

Sooooooo...I am very pregnant, actually, my sister in law (who happens to be my nurse midwife) almost texted me a few days ago to wish me a "happy term day" as in...I am now 37 weeks and really baby can come when she wants. So knowing I would be very pregnant when Deacon Nick first reached out to us about this weekend, which took place an hour away in Richmond, I was unsure about if it would be "too much" physically with driving and some later nights, etc.

Oh goodness, I will tell you...go to as many ordinations as you can. Say yes. Be inspired. Make it happen. It was something so perfect for an expecting mother to do.

And here is why...

For me...

I am wanting my yes to be a total yes.

Just as I witnessed three seminarians put on a new life, I am literally dying to an old life and putting on a new one with this baby girl.

I know...I know...I mean, I am still a mother...but I am saying, everyday with this swollen belly of mine, I am getting closer to meeting her and holding her and saying yes to the vocation of being THIS BABY GIRLS MAMA. HER MOTHER.

Does this make sense? Let me explain by reflecting on a current relationship of mine, one I am now navigating with an almost twelve year old.  I see so much how she needs me to say "yes" to being her Ma today even more so then when I held her in my arms when I was just twenty three years old. I can't be her everything, Jesus Christ is her everything and I pray she knows this deeply, but I do want to nurture her as I am called to do as only "I" her mother can do. This challenges me.

From one of my baby showers!
This is where I want that grace that comes with the yes because I have these blue eyes reading my gestures, and she is listening to my tone, she is waiting to see if I will listen to her story about tadpoles, or if I will say yes to a certain need.

And still...while I try my best to say YES to her, I then feel a pat on my belly and see the twinkling brown eyes of this one...can I be the mom I need to be to this one too????

I have been meditating much on how God's ways are not our ways. The world has told me time and time again, in well meaning comments I'm sure, about "how are you going to do it all?" or "Better you than me!" or "Mine drive me nuts and I only have two."

 I think its that I don't have the answers of how I am going to manage six. But if God's ways are not our ways...I have to TRUST Him that He will make sure the children He brought to this family have their needs met. Their deep heart needs.

It is when you die to the former life and put on a new one that the paradox of GIFT unfolds. You step into more fullness. It is a big work in TRUST.

He makes all things new.

So when we went to the Ordination that truth was made known to us...

This baby girl is making me new! And pregnancy seems long...and labor is painful....and for me fast...but then I am made NEW!

Our Lord truly is Something in the way He goes about things.

I am laughing as I read over this...look Stephanie made the Ordination about her...ha!... but really, it was something powerful to behold and it made me quite confident to trust in God's generosity, to simply hand this over to Him.

I want to mention too there was a beautiful sharing of the Fraternal Kiss between all the deacons and the newly ordained, it was more of a welcoming hug from each of them. And as they hugged, I couldn't help but be very aware that this group of men, they were sharing a bond I don't have with them. A Band of Brothers type bond...that I am not privy to be part of, nor will ever be part of. And yet, I have my very own type of bond within the walls of this home, and we are about to welcome one more person into our people.

I get beautiful compliments that she is a lucky little girl to be part of our family, but truly it is WE who feel blessed, even as she waits in the womb, WE have been blessed by her.

I am absolutely positive this is how the religious view Deacon Nick's new life in the Church. They are blessed to have him! We all are!

Pray for Deacon Nick! Pray for me! God Bless