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

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Holy Week Reflections

Hello there! Oh my poor neglected blog...there has just been such fullness. I always like that word better than "busy"...fullness.

Our parish sent a beautiful reminder pamphlet in the mail at the beginning of Holy Week with the times of the various liturgical celebrations. As large and intimidated as I first was by my parish when we moved here almost two years ago, I now have an appreciation for the great care and reverence that is given to the Mass and to the observance of the Liturgical year. There is so much beauty.

I wanted to use this post to sum up what it looked like, mostly for me as these times fly by, so I have the collective memory thing going in this bit of cyberspace.

So this year's Holy Week involved a third trimester preggo mama and a two and a half year old. My heart longed very much to make the morning prayers, the blessing of the Easter baskets, the evening Mass for Holy Thursday...or any evening Mass for that matter...but my body and my mental stamina won this year. I know mothers who do these things so well, but I have to be very careful...because as I saw all the times spaced out on the Holy Week pamphlet I felt this welling up of a challenge to be in the sanctuary as much as possible this Triduum. But I checked that welling up, and I decided to do the whole see where we are at each day plan.

Much of how I have come to approach liturgical feasts is thinking about essential themes from what we as Christians are remembering about a particular day. Catechesis of the Good Shepherd has really made me think about the prepared the home...and key symbols and signs that can be created for the the home.

So Holy Thursday became a big day of preparation...

And celebrating in the evening...

When I was first thinking about Holy Thursday traditions in my home I did a full on seder meal, but now we simply set the table beautifully and have bread and sparkling grape juice (I made a casserole). We read from the Gospel about the Last Supper. I do not read anything about Judas, for the little ones we focus on gift.

The littles associate Holy Thursday with our family foot washing. I think as they grow older, when we can make the later Mass times together, we will have to keep foot washing. We also make sure to read the Gospel before this is done. I do not explain or ask the children questions, we read and do. I think the simpler the better.

The evening didn't feel quite done, so we decided to be outside together after our foot washing

Then we have Good Friday. In Alaska we would always attend the Stations of the Cross that were outside surrounding the stone chapel at the Shrine of St Therese. My children would sometimes be in snow gear as we did this, but it was a beautiful gathering on such a holy day.

St Therese is the patroness of Alaska..she loved the outdoors and snow.

Yes a holy day and a solemn day too. I think His death is what is hardest for me as a mom when it comes to Good Friday or any of the evenings of the Station of the Cross during Lent. When my eldest was very young she was very stressed out after watching the teens of our parish "do" the stations of the cross. I think children can HANDLE the crucifixion, but at a certain age.

The sticks bloom on Easter Sunday! I had more than one vase this year
And do we show the contrast that is life and death. This was something I do leave to the Church so I decided to take my seven year old and five year old to the Good Friday service. We JUST made it as the priests were walking toward the altar and my five year old watched as they laid prostrate on the floor.

He asked me, "What are they doing mama?"

And I simply said, "They are making their bodies very very small before the very very big gift of Jesus who died for us."

And I ALWAYS follow up with, "But what do we know that happens?"

To which my son says, "He rose!"

The sensory contrast was perfect and our Church really did help my small children understand the difference of Good Friday. No cool holy water to dip our fingers into. The tabernacle is open and empty and there are no candles. The large crucifix behind the altar, the big statues of the Blessed Mother and St Joseph are completely covered. At one point the priest and men of the parish carry a large wooden cross on their shoulders and we here it boom into place in it's stand. Yes...this feels very barren and different.

As we left I said, "I wonder how Easter Sunday will feel?"

My Good Friday fail was in my hot cross buns this year, I always make them...they don't always rise.

I am thankful for icing.

The Good Friday service was at three, so my husband missed it and we both felt that our evening would be best spent saying evening prayer together. Isn't it wonderful? The Church has these things in place....for hundreds of years...I do not have to make things up.

On to Holy Saturday in which we finally dye our eggs.

I usually decorate the house for Easter once the kids go to bed...because I need that "transformed...He is risen...look at how different THIS Sunday is" feeling...but knowing my pregnant self and the fact that God has blessed me with daughters, I enlisted their help in quite a few of the things I would have saved for bedtime.

I found these unopened carrot baggies for 50 cents at the thrift store. Go me!

I like to spend Holy Saturday as a family making it pretty uneventful as I try to make last minute preparations. I do make a point to keep us home as we wait together. There were many temptations for out of the home events this Holy Saturday in the form of Easter egg hunts, there was even one put on right around the corner in the commons by the pool in our neighborhood. I did go to these when the children were very young...and I had two.. but....if you've read enough of my know that it takes a lot of convincing for me to be pulled to these events now. I think as your family gets larger, you just do those kind of "community" events in your home...because you have your own mini community. It is perfectly fine to join in on these now and then, especially because so many of them DO go to a good cause or raise awareness about something and really promote getting to know your neighbor...but I pray we are being thoughtful with our own family culture. Traditions happen when you are IN your home...just your people.

So...I longed very much to go the Easter Vigil, I love love love this Night...but not this year. This is as it should be for this season.

And so we prepare...

My husband and I watched The Ten Commandments, because it was on, while we stuffed is very important to make sure the candy is safe for the should eat a piece about every five that you stuff.

The jar of black beans that they have been earning for good deeds throughout LENT turns into jellybeans!

We do not do Easter bunny, the kids know we hide the eggs and put out the baskets.

And then....



And this Sunday morning feels different from all other Sunday mornings!

I cut the flowers from my yard for the sticks that bloom magically on Easter Sunday! It was 1130 at night and I was freaking out as I fumbled through lengths I go to make liturgical things happen.

Keep Easter morning a make ahead bake. Sip your coffee and enjoy your kiddos on this BEST morning.

Also keep breakfast simple because you have to get everyone to Mass...

And you need to make sure the eldest girls get to choir...

I was so PROUD of myself for getting the kids decent shoes and clothes  well before Easter Sunday..I mean I boiled eggs early too, like four dozen, but even better...GASP..they all had nice shoes. God knows I have this vanity about looking "put together" ESPECIALLY for Easter Sunday he made sure my five year old son snuck out of the house with flip flops on. Yep.

When I got to Church I could have died...I panicked and I definitely scolded him..I was desperate...Can I put a sign on him that says, "My mama had nice boat shoes for me but I am five and wore my flip flops and went undetected in the morning chaos to our van like this."

And God said to me,

"I said let the children come to they are. I didn't say...let the children with clean clothes and brushed hair and wiped faces and nice shoes...come to me."

And Easter Sunday Mass was glorious! Yes. And it FELT different, beautiful...ALIVE. Alive like our Savior! be honest, because we are honest in this space, I was nearly wiped out after Easter Sunday Mass. I had foreseen this coming and luckily my parents were visiting for the afternoon and they are very easy going when it comes to gathering and the reality of things. I had envisioned getting out some beautiful German china with little flowers that I had inherited, but when I was browsing pinterest I settled on baked sliders. I KNOW. For Easter dinner.

It was a very very warm spring day...and so we spent the rest of the day on our patio...the kids were in bathing suits and we were very much at peace.

Big grandma points as this is John's first squirt gun he got in his Easter gift from her, he LOVED it.
So friends, this was so fun! To share...and think...and know it is a week but also a season. And know that next year will be different and yet still so beautifully the same.

As we celebrate with our people, we are gentle with ourselves and with everyone else's humanity. We can have goals for what we want it to all look and feel like, much of this can be achieved in careful background work so all the TRADITION magic happens. Hot Cross buns did not rise...but Who did? Your son wears flip flops to Mass just as his Savior probably did walking around Nazareth.

It is not about what we is about what HE did. What He did once and for all...for always...for you and me. Yes, that Easter peace...that He took care of it. He did it.