Can’t Have A Cow

It is two in the morning and I can not fall back asleep so I’ll share with you what woke me and made me laugh.

My three year old, Joanna is asleep in my bed when she sits up and says in her sweetest “please do this for me” voice…

Mama Mama, please don’t keep the cow.

Me (Not fully awake yet): What did you say?

Very cute, head tilted while tucking a stray curl behind her ear, three year old: Please don’t keep the cow.

Me (Sleep confusion giving way to “oh she is dreaming” insight): Okay, I won’t.

[FYI we don’t have a cow]

Joanna: It keep biting me.

[Long pause. I try not to laugh out loud since she is obviously upset with this non existent biting cow]

Joanna: Aunt Sussie have a cow. She have a girl cow and a boy cow.

[She really does too, that isn’t just a dream]

Me (Being naughty encourages the silliness): Yes she does. Did you say the cow was biting you?

Joanna: Yes, outside our house.

Me: Were you petting it?

Joanna sounding sadder as she answers with a frown: No him not let me.

Me: Go back to sleep. I love you.

Joanna: But I want to sleep next to you.

Me: You are next to me.

Joanna: Oh

🙂 Life is full of opportunities to laugh around here.

Memorizing Catechism

This is something I have not done right for my children. It is great motivation to start and reminds me of what happened to me as an adult one Sunday at Mass. From Father Z’s Blog:

Some years ago I had an experience which confirmed for me the value of the old-fashioned methods of catechism: long and hard practice, memorization, and repetition.  I was called to a hospital to assist in a patient’s difficult death.  I gave the man Last Rites and talked with the family as they struggled with the reality of the end of the earthly life of a loved one.  A daughter of the dying man had been estranged from her faith and her family for a long time.  She was beyond her life’s middle years, which clearly had been pretty rough.  She was bitter and cursed life, fate and God for the cruelty of such an end as her father was experiencing.  She shouted at me, “Why did God make us if this is all there is?”  I responded asking, “Why did God make you?”  She became very still and stared at me.  Then she said, “God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in the next.”  I continued, “What must we do to save our souls?”  On cue she responded with something that she hadn’t perhaps thought of for decades, “To save our souls, we must worship God by faith, hope, and charity. We must believe in Him, hope in Him, and love Him with all our heart.”  “Did your father do that?”, I asked.  “Oh, yes…. oh yes.”  She had obviously been taught very well as a child.   One can imagine that she was at times forced to study and to learn, to repeat over and over what at the time seemed boring and pointless.  She had been drilled at school by the Sisters, whom these days we see mocked and abused in the media by ungrateful cads who benefited from their dedication.  More importantly, she had parents who fulfilled their obligations to see that she learned her faith.  I imagine they had to work hard to make her work hard.  Her father had done his duty to give her what she needed when the battle was joined.  Whatever they all did worked.  In the moment of truth, by the grace of God and the help of her guardian angel, the gift her dying father had given her years before was rediscovered and put to its proper use.

Many people today criticize the old method of education by memorization and repetition.  They say that children just wind up mouthing things they do not understand.  On the other hand, while they might not understand it at the moment, one day they will be ready for it and they will have it because it had been given them.  Countless soldier and sailors, for example, griped (and gripe) about their training.  Many Marines entertain homicidal thoughts about their drill instructor.  But when that Anchor, Globe and Eagle is finally pinned on, not a few Marines return to their DI and shake his hand and thank him for what he gave them.  In later service, when the time comes for that single skill or tool or piece of knowledge to be used in its critical time, it is there.  It gleams with purpose.  Polished and tended, it is tried and true.  We of the Church Militant are pilgrim soldiers and, if we are going to reach our goal of heaven, we need training, sacrifice, and leadership.

Going to catholic school in the eighties left me with lots of “I’m okay, You’re okay” fluff, but very little substance. By the time I was a teen and my faith was challenged I had little in the way of answers already planted to harvest from. I do remember once an adult friend of a my friend’s parent mockingly asked me what it is I actually believed in as a catholic. I was caught off guard and without thinking began to recite the creed. She cut me off after a few lines and walked away. The experience made me grateful to have some response and humbled me because it was the first time my faith had been challenged in any real way and I had no other words to speak. Soon after my slow fade from the church was complete. I didn’t think about it again until after I had returned to the church some years later.

I enjoyed writing as a teen and often would write typical teen poetry about the meaning of life and why we exist. All of them seemed to be missing something. They were feel good fluff and I knew it. The “Why do we exist?” question faded from my thoughts as adult responsibilities grew. It was during a homily that the priest speaking to the older members of the church began to reminisce about memorizing catechism as a kid under the direction of the sisters who taught in the catholic schools. He asked the crowd, “Why did God make you?”. In unison the crowd replied, “God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in the next.”

For me the simple and obvious statement was a  light as bright as the sun. It was a “duh” moment. I remember thinking I had wished someone told me that as a kid. There was an answer to the question, it wasn’t meant to be a private interpretation of whatever philosophy I wanted to align myself with. There was such beauty, strength and comfort in that simple answer. My first lesson in the importance of memorizing Catechism profoundly altered the foundation my faith and perspective is laid upon, for this I am very grateful!

*Thank you Christine for the excerpt.

Silence and Dryness

Two articles I am reading have helped put both words and understanding to my current spiritual struggles.

Over at Suffering World, silence was discussed:

I had always assumed that silence was about tuning out of the noise etc of daily life, but it is the opposite, it is about opening receptivity to God. I have realised that even when there is apparently complete silence in my life, i.e no radio, tv, people talking etc., there is still an awful lot of noise inside my head. And I become desperate to increase that noise, with the effect of drowning out that ‘still, small voice’, God. Consider for example Eucharistic adoration. I have had the practice of making a regular holy hour for some time, but I nearly always find that it is only in the last few minutes that I start to appreciate the communion with Our Lord. I used to be horrified at this, and wonder what was up with me, but now I have come to understand that actually this is because it takes this long to ‘tune in’.

I have been craving alone time and silence in a very desperate way. Being a the sole caregiver for nine kids leaves me with very few moments to myself.  The time it takes me to “tune in”  is not there and I think perhaps it maybe part of the other difficulty I am facing…dryness.

Nancy at Be Not Afraid in response to a post at aspiringfool.blogspot.com spoke about her current struggle with dryness.

Feeling separated or abandoned by God is never a pleasant experience.  Whenever I am in the midst of this crisis, I often wonder what it was that I did (or didn’t do) to push God away.  Did the spiritual dryness come because I didn’t have enough faith?  Will God bring me back into His fold again or will I have to endure the fire of refinement forever?

The inability to see what is happening on the other side of the mountain and the constant struggle with God’s ever so slow “perfect timing” is fueling the fire that is drying me out.

Silence and the time needed to “tune in” isn’t only being consumed with the logistics of being a “single” (for lack of a better term)  parent of nine kids. Truth is my Ephesians helmet must not be sized right because my thoughts are not cooperating at all. I am plagued with insecurities from being abandoned and replaced and the thoughts about what is going on the other side of the mountain torment me 24/7 . I can not even escape in my dreams.

Confidence in God’s mercy and saving grace, in His ability and desire to heal and restore my family, in knowing what will be doesn’t diminish the pain of what is.

Right now I ache, my heart is being torn apart. For whatever reason God has become very silent in this area of my life.  The parent in me knows that sometimes even though we love our children and often because we love our children we have to let them experience trials in order for them to mature and grow.

I hear God asking, “Do you still believe, do you really trust, do you still love Me without the benefit of consolations?” Through my tears and clenched teeth of anguish my “Yes” is being proclaimed, even if my voice is so weak only He can hear me.

Earlier this year while hiking in Georgia some of the kids and I decided to take a short cut back to the cabin on the top of a rather steep incline. My eldest daughter and I took turns climbing ahead of each other and once our footing was secure we would pass the baby back and forth as well as hoist or shove the smaller kids. The younger kids began to get nervous but we encouraged them to keep on going. I was the last one to the top, struggling with the mud and few flimsy branches near the top to support myself. I could hear my five year old at the top repeatedly saying, “Mama, Mama, Mama!” As I tried to inhale enough air to lift myself over the last hurdle I manged to ask her what she wanted. With all the excitement and sweetness only a five year old can express my baby girl shouted, “I persevered!”

It was a forever remember moment of pure joy for this mama’s heart.

In this silence, in this dryness, in this consuming pain I hear her voice and I know I too will persevere. I’ll keep moving despite the fears and slips when I lose my footing. I will be grateful for the times there are helping hands from those I love during the climb. When I get to the top I will stand and shout too. 😉

Who’s Glory

donkey-150x148“When I am paid a compliment, I must compare myself with the little donkey that carried Christ on Palm Sunday. And I say to myself: ‘If that little creature, hearing the applause of the crowd, had become proud and had begun — jackass that he was — to bow his thanks right and left like a prima donna, how much hilarity he would have aroused! Don’t act the same!’” – Cardinal Luciani, later Pope John Paul I

*Found on snoringscholar.com

The War Rages On…

I refuse to buy the lies Satan is selling…trying to keep me focused on the circumstances instead of God. The circumstances are VERY painful, but our God is so much bigger. Pray for me, pray for my family. I still pray this prayer.

A powerful story of hope worth watching can be found here…The Scruggs

This week was my sixteenth wedding anniversary. I let the circumstances mess with my head.  The kids have and continue to be sick and I am exhausted.  As challenging as this week has been (which is why I have not posted in awhile) God has lovingly reminded me He will take care of us and strengthen me during this lonely dark trial. I can lean on Him.  This week family, friends and even strangers have been open to His promptings and have allowed my family to be blessed by Him through them. Thank you God. Thank you cherished people who have reached out with support, encouragement, comfort and prayer.   How could I not believe?  How could I not continue to stand while embraced with such love?

I paid lip service to spiritual battle much of my life, even when I was not a practicing catholic I believed there was a spiritual war going on.  My family is under attack. We didn’t understand how important it is to pray and examine our weakness and to deal with conflict.  Fact is both of us avoided conflict at all costs.  It is a high price to pay in the end.  We opened ourselves up to satan’s lies and the world’s empty promises.  I am taking a crash course on warfare. I am making many mistakes and losing battles.  I am learning a lot!  God is good.  My defeats, my brokenness, my thick skull stupidity is all being remolded and transformed with every loss.

Fortunately for my family, I am just a grunt.  When I remember to keep my place and hold my tongue God sends His messengers with orders.  My need to have an illusion of being in control of my life keeps getting in the way.  My place in the chain of command is a constant struggle and not knowing the full battle plan can be unnerving.  Often I am left  in the position my marine husband use to quote as, “Hurry up and wait.”

The war rages on…

This is much bigger then one man and one woman. Anyone who has experienced divorce (though many try and deny this truth) knows how profoundly it affects children, extended family and friends. Thank you for joining me in this battle. There are so many hurting families. This coming advent please consider the importance of family as you reflect on the Holy Family. Please pray for families to find the courage and forgiveness to open themselves us to reconciliation as a gift to their children, spouses and selves.

I am clinging to His cross knowing if I let go or even loosen my grip I’ll easily be sucked into the world’s lies of what love is. “I believe, help my unbelief!”

I miss my husband very much. My kids miss their dad. Please pray we learn whatever it is we need to soon, so we can be a family again.

What-ifs: I Fear You Not

“There was a change in Mother after Dad died. A change in looks and a change in manners. . . .

While Dad lived, Mother was afraid of fast driving, of airplanes, of walking alone at night. When there was lighting, she went in a dark closet and held her ears …

Now, suddenly, she wasn’t afraid any more, because there was nothing to be afraid of. Now nothing could ever upset her because the thing that mattered most had been upset. None of us ever saw her weep again.”

Belles on their Toes
by Frank Bunker Gilbreth, Jr.
and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey

I first read this quote last April on a blog I frequent.  It came to mind later that month during one of the darkest most painful moments of my life.  The sentiment sunk deep into my soul. I realized my greatest fears, all the things I never thought I could survive, were happening.  The crazy thing was while part of me died another part of me was born.  A freedom from what-ifs.

What-ifs lost much of their power.  Along with this mental freedom an emotional numbness crept into me last spring.  A chilling sort of feeling compared to the warming physical world surrounding me. I struggled with this coldness. It was not how I wanted to live.

It was just part of the process. These changes in me are not instant or complete. They are continual, sequential and necessary. Like the math concepts I explain to my children, they have to be experienced and understood before you can go on and be successful at more complicated concepts. They also at times have to be revisited for a refresher.
amelia_JaxBeach-150x95This freedom from circumstances still comes in waves and on occasion the backwash will seem to pull me back toward an unwanted dark depth before the next wave rolls in sending me closer to the shore.  The latest wave, or better description would be tsunami, thrust me a great distance further then I thought I would go. The ride was pure terror, the pull of the backwash that followed felt as if surely I would drown.

I survived. I gained unimaginable ground. It is not the way I would have chosen to travel, but this temporary destination, this calmness I now find is no longer numbing. There is a great warmth growing in the cold emptiness previously created in my heart.  A gift was born from pain; a knowing of who I am when what-ifs become reality.  As I resurface from the almost drowning, from the almost giving in to the cold dark rage, I still CHOOSE to hope, trust, love.

My imperfections, my failings, my mistakes do NOT define me.

My good qualities (few they may number), my successes, my correct actions do NOT define me.

God’s love defines me. God’s mercy defines me. God’s will defines me.

We travel different courses, carried by currents and thrown by waves called forth from the fiery sea of refinement.  All leading to the same shore of Love covered in innumerable grains of mercy, forgiveness, and grace.

Fear not the what-ifs.

An Empty House Invites Trouble.

Ever notice how the empty abandoned house invites crime?

“When the unclean spirit has gone out of a man, he passes through waterless places seeking rest; and finding none he says, `I will return to my house from which I came.’

And when he comes he finds it swept and put in order.

Then he goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first.”

Luke 11:24-26

Part of today’s gospel reading really hit home.  So often in my life I have known what needed to go but not what to put in it’s place.  Removing an “unclean spirit” (vice, sin, bad habit, addiction, thought pattern) would often be an end in and of itself.  Unfortunately, what remains is a swept clean house left unguarded (spiritual, emotional, physical vacuum; stunted growth).
12stepThe space is fertile ground for more “unclean spirits” to move in because only on the surface was it removed.  The roots remained to grow and become more fully entrenched.  Any one familiar with twelve step programs knows removal of the “evil spirit” is only the beginning.  The “house” must be filled with a clean spirit (character growth, virtue, wisdom, good works).

Today I will continue to clean my house of my unclean spirits and invite the Holy Spirit in to help me redecorate.

🙂

Timing, Faithfulness, His Purpose: Why Today’s Mass Readings Rock!

With all these squirmy little girls, seldom do I hear a full Reading let alone all three Readings and the Responsorial Psalm. Today I heard all of them and my heart was filled with peace and joy. It was where I was being lead. God was holding my hand so that I could stand again after being knocked down by some really painful blows. He reminded me this is His timetable and that He will keep His promise for my life. He reminded me to not harden my heart because of circumstances but to rejoice in His goodness and faithfulness.

Reading 1     Hab 1:2-3; 2:2-4

How long, O LORD? I cry for help
but you do not listen!
I cry out to you, “Violence!”
but you do not intervene.
Why do you let me see ruin;
why must I look at misery?
Destruction and violence are before me;
there is strife, and clamorous discord.
Then the LORD answered me and said:
Write down the vision clearly upon the tablets,
so that one can read it readily.
For the vision still has its time,
presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint;
if it delays, wait for it,
it will surely come, it will not be late.
The rash one has no integrity;
but the just one, because of his faith, shall live.

Responsorial Psalm     Ps 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9

R. (8) If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Come, let us sing joyfully to the LORD;
let us acclaim the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us joyfully sing psalms to him.
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Come, let us bow down in worship;
let us kneel before the LORD who made us.
For he is our God,
and we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides.
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Oh, that today you would hear his voice:
“Harden not your hearts as at Meribah,
as in the day of Massah in the desert,
Where your fathers tempted me;
they tested me though they had seen my works.”
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

It was a reminder that my life is not about me and my desires it is about God and His desires. If God is calling me and willing something for my life, He will provide me the strength and courage. Serving God is not about getting or deserving something in return.  It is all for His glory. Even knowing this truth, He already wrote in my heart that when I stop trying to get what I want He will lead me where He wants me, and that will be so much more beautiful then anything I imagine.

Reading 2     2 Tm 1:6-8, 13-14

Beloved:
I remind you, to stir into flame
the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands.
For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice
but rather of power and love and self-control.
So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord,
nor of me, a prisoner for his sake;
but bear your share of hardship for the gospel
with the strength that comes from God.

Take as your norm the sound words that you heard from me,
in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
Guard this rich trust with the help of the Holy Spirit
that dwells within us.

Gospel     Lk 17:5-10

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.”
The Lord replied,
“If you have faith the size of a mustard seed,
you would say to this mulberry tree,
‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.

“Who among you would say to your servant
who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field,
‘Come here immediately and take your place at table’?
Would he not rather say to him,
‘Prepare something for me to eat.
Put on your apron and wait on me while I eat and drink.
You may eat and drink when I am finished’?
Is he grateful to that servant because he did what was commanded?
So should it be with you.
When you have done all you have been commanded,
say, ‘We are unprofitable servants;
we have done what we were obliged to do.'”

The End, Part I: I Am An Independent, Prideful, Fearful Failure

This school year I enrolled four of the six school aged kids in the local public school. It was not an easy decision. It was a very difficult few weeks. I had to face and admit my own failings and the consequences they have for my children.
busFor the last couple of years I have been on survival mode, just trying to keep from drowning with the responsibility and demands of raising a large family, homeschooling, being pregnant alone with eight other children, the emotional roller coaster of a marriage in crisis, financial struggles, and illnesses.

My whole life I have been the responsible one, a hard worker, a “law abiding citizen” as my father would say. I accomplished a lot on my own, I graduated college in three years, married my high school sweet heart, traveled the country and spent time overseas. I had beautiful baby after beautiful baby, ran my home efficiently even on a very modest budget. I appreciated what I had, and didn’t feel I was missing out on the things I did not have. As the years ticked by I felt God’s blessings more and more. I had a husband I loved and respected; and kind, intelligent children. We often struggled financially but we had a roof over our heads and our bills were always paid even if sometimes late. We did not need to depend on government hand outs, we lived without many luxuries most people consider necessities in order to afford to remain open to life, to keep me at home with the kids and to give our children a quality catholic education. Homeschooling too was a wonderful experience. I loved watching my children grow and discover the world. They enjoyed learning and were children of strong gentle character. I was succeeding. God blessed me with everything; many children, home, health, faith… I was proud of our accomplishments, but they were not a complete picture of our lives.
drownI was overburdened, responsible for too much and often for things I did not control. Complaining was not an option because I was so blessed with all these wonderful things, it would have been ungrateful of me to say it was too hard, too much work. If it needed to be done, I was just going to have to find a way to do it. If I wasn’t the perfect wife, mom, friend, daughter, Christian, I would not be loved, I would not be wanted, I would be abandoned.

This was the dirty little secret no one knew…no one saw…no one except my husband. I was overwhelmed, and scared. Having his own poorly healed wounds too, he knew something had to change but didn’t know what. We knew something wasn’t working in ourselves, each other, and consequently us; but couldn’t understand the why and what. (I won’t talk about my husband here. This is a part of MY side of the story.)

While I was happy with my life and loved my family with all my heart I was not joyful to be around. I was always disappointed with myself, too busy trying to do everything I felt responsible for, too tired to “see” the very people I most wanted to know and please. I avoided people and things that reminded me of the skeletons and ghosts hiding in the closet or might cast light on weakness. Conflict was avoided at all costs because exposure to weakness or fear would mean risking rejection. It was as if not making eye contact with brokenness would keep it from attacking.

Asking for help was painful. It required vulnerability, dependence, and invited criticism. Needing help felt too much like failing. If I couldn’t handle something it meant I wasn’t competent, prudent, grateful, responsible…I wasn’t good enough. My obsession with being able to handle it all on my own was making me exhausted and miserable, but I couldn’t admit it. I couldn’t say it was too much because it would mean I didn’t appreciate what I had. It meant I would have to risk dependence. A shackle from my past was the unhealthy lesson that if I wasn’t perfect, if someone felt as if I needed them or depended on them they would see me as pathetic and weak, they would abandon me. It was not a conscious thought. It was a festering childhood wound that hadn’t healed right.

My needs couldn’t be as important as taking care of my family, being responsible, not burdening others. After all God had given me so much it would be wrong to complain about having too much work or being tired. My difficulties were challenges; other people had to deal with real sufferings. Who was I to say my responsibilities were too heavy to carry?

I was miserable wearing the mask of a super strong successful independent woman. I wanted to be happy, I wanted to be grateful, I wanted to be able to succeed at all the opportunities I was blessed with, especially raising a large family and homeschooling. I appeared on the outside to be succeeding. Deep down inside I knew I was not. This ugly truth crept out in unhealthy ways. I was too proud of an image and too scared to admit failings and these truths were killing me inside.
shatteredThen a bomb went off in my life almost two years ago and everything rapidly began to unravel. Surviving was the only thing that then mattered. While on survival mode I was still refusing to admit needing others (misguided lesson=dependency leads to abandonment); refusing to admit how overwhelmed I was (misguided lesson=not appreciating blessings will have them taken away); and refusing to admit I was failing (pure pride here) I was still digging a whole. A poorly placed whole under my own feet and even worse the feet of my children.

After years of trying to hold it all together my greatest fears were happening anyway and there was nothing I could do but watch it all crumble.

Part II coming soon.