Success in the Midst of Chaos

Life is so busy these days.

Honestly, I feel naive to even say that. By this point in my life, I’ve come to realize that life is busy. Period. Different seasons have different feels. Some seasons have more peace than others. But all seasons of life are busy in their own way. Life is, was, and always will be busy.

So, yes, my life is busy. But it’s also one of those times that feels unpleasantly busy. When that happens, I tend to scale back wherever I can. This week I skipped our co-op and a rosary group that I really enjoy. Perhaps that was counterproductive, as I love the time I spend with those ladies, but not having to get all five littles out the door and monitor their behavior at both of those events was a huge relief for me.

Busyness (Despite several online dictionaries’ assurance, I’m still not convinced that’s how busyness should be spelled.) aside, we’ve accomplished quite a bit around the house. Since we’re going to be moving within the month, which is not something we had planned, we have quite a bit to tackle around here. Lucky for me, my stress projects have put a very positive dent in all that needs to be done. This week we have also:

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My sweet Andy helping paint our kitchen when we moved in back in 2010.

1. Painted both boys’ rooms. Ben’s room was covered in crayon, not because I allow my children to color on the walls, but because Ben always finds a way to cut or color or spread toothpaste or glitter on things that shouldn’t be cut, colored, toothpasted, or glittered. Andy and Jack’s room was just gross. There was like this gray funk over all the walls. It must be a growing boy thing. Both rooms are now beautiful and neutral. Hopefully they will remain that way for the next month.

2. I cleaned the grout in the master bath. Seriously – do other people struggle with grout like I do?? It’s just gets so nasty. Is there some secret to keeping it clean? Or an easier method to clean it? Toothbrushes and magic erasers are the best methods I’ve found. Needless to say, there will definitely be no grout in the new house after we renovate. I hate grout! It is my house cleaning nemesis. Fortunately, all the grout in my house is almost clean. All I have left to tackle is the kitchen.

And somehow, in the midst of all the chaos of everything else going on…

3. …I had a really great little visit with one of my confirmandi. Well…he’s not a confirmand anymore – he was confirmed last spring, but I don’t know how else to refer to him. Anyone have a cute way to refer to the kiddos they’ve sponsored for Confirmation? Anyway, he texted because he’s having a tough time and wanted to chat. He came over Monday afternoon and we had a great little visit while my kiddos ran around like lunatics. Even though it was a great visit, he needs some prayer. Would you mind offering a quick prayer for him?…………….Thanks!! :)

So that’s it for me. Small successes in the midst of crazy, busy, chaos. But, hey, that’s life right? Share your small successes over at Small Success Thursday. Make it a great day!

SST # 8: I’m Baaack

Small-Success-Thursday-550x330I haven’t written a “small success” post in quiet a while. In all honesty, I kind of forgot about them. I was reading through my Feedly RSS feed (another thing I haven’t done in a while) and saw another blogger’s “small success” post. I was so excited. And then I got even more excited when I realized it was Thursday. So, here I am, back in the small success saddle.

I (almost) hate to do this, but my small success isn’t very small at all – I GRADUATED! Yes, I did! As of May 31, I have a Masters of Theological Studies from Ave Maria University’s Institute of Pastoral Theology!! Can you believe it? I’m still in disbelief. I posted pics and a video of the big moment over at our family blog if you want to see. I really love the concept of reflecting on the small successes that I so often overlook in my daily life, but it would be impossible to look back on the past week and not rejoice over my graduation. Three long years have finally come to a gloriously triumphant close.

If I took my graduate school experience as a whole, I think the greatest “small success” that I achieved in my time as a student is learning to love God with my mind. We all know that we’re called to love God with our whole heart, our whole soul, and our whole mind. (Mt 22:37) The heart and soul have never been a problem for me. Well…execution is often a problem for me. I fall and fail in loving God with my whole heart and soul many times a day. But the concept of loving God with my heart and soul makes sense to me. I understand how to do that. I always have. My mind is another story.

I never really stopped to think about it until I was immersed in this deep sea of intellectual information: history, philosophy, anthropology, laws, doctrine, documents. Somehow, despite being surrounding with what appeared on the surface to be just a bunch of facts and things to memorize, my heart was burning, longing for more. From my very first moment in the classroom, I became one of the disciples on the road to Emmaus. (Lk 24) My entire graduate education became this three year long retreat* where I came to know God in a new and exciting way.

For the very first time, God wasn’t just a feel-good, heart thing for me. I was finally able to connect faith and reason and use them together, as they are intended to be. I’ve always been taught that faith and reason go hand in hand, but now I’ve actually experienced it. Now, I know what it means to love God with my mind. Because of this, I was really sad when I realized that graduation was quickly approaching. I didn’t want to loose this newfound intellectual relationship I had discovered with the Lord. Especially since I had realized that I had barely scratched the surface of all there is to learn about him. Now that I have graduated, I come away from my time as a student with a deep desire to further discover God with my mind, and the skills to know how to do so. Now comes the daily journey, on which I will often fall and fail, to love God daily with my whole mind, as I have finally learned to do.

 


* I have to admit, doing the assignments was far from retreat-like. I slaved and toiled and stressed and procrastinated and drove my family crazy. But, while I was in class, and even when I was on a roll with any particular assignment, it was very much retreat-like in that I was connecting with God in ways that were new and real for me. Just like those disciples heading to Emmaus, my heart was burning.

D is for Dress

Every day in April, I’m blogging about Adjusting to Life with Baby Number 5.

Click here to see all the posts in this series.

P1070745Last Saturday we had our sweet Sophia baptized. It was so beautiful and such and amazing day! Almost as beautiful as the rite itself was the GORGEOUS dress my sweet girl got to wear.

Her godmother bought her a gown and it is simply EXQUISITE! Seriously, it is prettier than my wedding gown. Her godmother found an amazing woman on etsy that made her dress by hand!

I’ve never seen a prettier dress in my whole life. It’s a traditional baptismal gown, so it’s incredibly long, and, with all the layers, it’s quite heavy. I joked that the gown is heavier than the baby. It really might be.

When her godmother brought the gown over to me, I was blown away. I knew she was getting a gown, and I knew it would be lovely, but I had no idea it would be this grand. I told her it was way too much, but Tammy said she wanted something heirloom quality. She said, “I wanted something she could pass on to her daughters. And if she has a religious vocation, we’ll just find a way to sew it into her habit.” I was all teary-eyed at the thought.

2014-04-03 20.15.24I’m going to take the dress back to Tammy and she’s going to stitch Sophie’s name and baptismal date into the gown. Then, if Sophie is blessed with daughters and granddaughters, they can be baptized in the same gown, and their names and dates can also be stitched in. What an amazing gift!

I didn’t get any great pictures of Sophie in her dress on her big day. I keep meaning to put it back on her and pose her for a few shots. Maybe I’ll finally get around to that today. These pictures don’t quite do it justice. You can tell it’s lovely, but it is simply breathtaking in person.

Obviously, the dress wasn’t the most important part of the day, but it did make the day a little more special. Especially when I thought about the possibility of seeing my grandbabies being baptized in that gown…or seeing my girl take vows, knowing there are pieces of her baptismal gown hiding under her habit.

Small Success Thursday Volume 1: Longing for Communion and the Baby List

I really like the idea of blog link ups.* I’ve always thought that I’d like to participate in them, but I’ve never found one that really suits me. One time, I attempted to jump on board with the 7 Quick Takes bandwagon, but the fact is I’m just too long winded for Quick Takes. (And no one wants to read what should be 7 individual blog posts all jumbled into one, which is what my posts inevitably would have become.)

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This week, I stumbled across a link up that is so perfect for me I might as well have designed it myself. CatholicMom.com hosts a link up called Small Success Thursdays. I love it! The concept is simple: share at least 3 of your small success from the previous week. This fits in so well with my attempt to write more about our daily life. It also provides me with a deadline and some slight semblance of accountability, both of which are great motivators for me. Obviously, it won’t really matter if I don’t link up on any given week, but knowing that the link up is out there will likely increase my motivation exponentially. Typically, once I’m in the habit of writing about anything, it becomes easier to write about everything, so it will also likely increase my blogging productivity overall.

Truthfully, I blog all the time. You just don’t know about it. Why? Because most of the blogging I do takes place in my head. Usually, it’s in the middle of the night. Or while I’m doing some incredibly tedious chore. I write, proofread, and edit all in my mind. It’s so unfortunate that WordPress doesn’t have an app for that. I’ve “written” some truly stupendous entries. Some of my favorites exist only in my mind. BUT, this is exactly why I’m excited about this link up. I think it will move me out of my current habit of blogging in my mind and into the world of actually blogging on the internet, where there’s a real publish button! So, without further ado, I give you this week’s small successes:

P10701791. I’m starting to feel like we really are integrated members in the community. This isn’t really a personal success, but it’s a big deal to me nonetheless. We live in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. That means if you venture much further than your backyard, you instantly become an anonymous anyone, rather than an actual someone. On Saturday, we did a lot of running around in various areas, and we ran into some kind of acquaintance at every location. At Jack’s basketball game in Ft. Worth, we saw one of Josh’s former employees. His kid was playing on the opposing team. Next, we ran by Wal-Mart for some toiletries and whatnot, and ran into a lady from our church. Later, at Babies-R-Us in Southlake, we saw a guy that works in the same department as Josh. Lastly, at Costco, we saw one of Josh’s current employees. What was really cool is everyone we saw was also with their families. So, whether they noticed it or not, we got to see them as actual someones too. Not just the caricature that we normally see in the environments where we normally encounter them.

So why is this a success in my book? My heart was made for small town living.* I love the idea of tight-knit communities and knowing everyone’s name. I long for true experiences of community. We are very blessed to experience this feeling at our church, but I’d like to be able to experience it out in the world, too. It seems that our family is turning a corner. It seems we’ve finally lived here long enough and are making enough connections where we’re forming a real community around us. For me, this is very exciting!

2. We all went to Mass together on Sunday! This is my goal every week, and, usually, it’s our norm. Unfortunately, someone in our house has been sick every week since sometime in November. This means that I can count on one hand the number of times we’ve been able to attend Mass as a family in the last three months. I hate being separated at Mass, despite our children’s often less than charming behavior, which often leaves me wondering why I didn’t just go by myself. I just feel like the Eucharist is more tangibly the source and summit of our week and our family life when we all get to sit in the pew together, and I love that.* This week, I got to experience it. Hurray!

2014-02-05 20.15.453. I made a pretty big dent in my “baby list.” Right around 34 weeks I started freaking out because it suddenly dawned on me that there was stuff to do to prepare for our little one’s arrival. For some reason I had it in my head that she would just move in and that we were ready for her. Luckily, my sweet husband started asking very practical questions like, “Aren’t we going to need another carseat?” (Currently, Leila is still riding in our infant seat.) That made me realize that, even though we did just go through this process 15 short months ago, there are still a few things to be done. So, I made a list. (Of course!) Then, I panicked because there were several things to do and/or purchase, and I generally need some time to wrap my head around these kind of things. I was convinced that the remaining 6 weeks of my pregnancy was not enough time. Finally, I got to work. In less than a week, the majority of the list has been knocked out, and the remaining items are fairly simple. Looks like I’ll have the next 4.5 weeks to dream about my little one’s arrival completely stress free. (Oh, hush. I’m allowed to fantasize about living stress free if I want.)    

To check out the small successes of other Catholic mamas, or to link up your own small successes, visit the Catholic Mom Blog.

                                                                                                             

*I could write a theological discourse about how each of these are really just a manifestation of my longing for communion, a God-given desire we all share, but I’ll spare you. Or maybe just save it for another day…

Rediscover Reverence Campaign

This is what my veil looks like. It's a champagne color, which I love because it looks blends in with my hair and isn't as bold as white or black would be on me.

This is what my veil looks like. It’s a champagne color, which I love because it blends in with my hair and isn’t as bold as white or black would be on me.

On December 8, Veils by Lily, my very favorite place to shop (often window shop) for veils, and the only place from which I’ve ever purchased one, is launching a global movement to rediscover reverence at Mass. I think this is brilliant. And lovely.

Basically, it’s a challenge to begin veiling at Mass if you’ve ever felt called to do so.

Because the very mention of veils seems to put some on the defensive, I would like to begin by saying I do not and, more importantly, the Church does not think you are failing to properly reverence the Eucharist by choosing not to cover your head at Mass.

I do, however, think it is a beautiful tradition. I’d like to tell you why.

I felt called to veil for years before I finally gave it a try. The calling started off as simply noticing the women who do chose to veil. I thought they were lovely, but I never thought I would veil. In fact, my mother has always been very vocally opposed to “those women” who veil at Mass. However, my passing glance eventually turned into a deeper pondering. Why would they want to veil at Mass? I came up with a few conclusions on my own and eventually did some internet research. The more I learned, the more lovely the practice became to me. I held a deep admiration and almost a slight twinge of envy for those who were daring enough to cover their heads. (Does anyone else see the irony in that?) But, for me, probably because of the commentary I heard growing up, it was going to take more than believing the tradition was lovely before I could take the plunge.

Because I have spent so much time thinking and praying about this topic, and in light of this Rediscover Reverence campaign, I’d like to share why I believe it is fitting for a woman to cover her head in the presence of the Eucharist. (Please note that I said “fitting”, not “mandated”,”required”, or “the Church is wrong and I am right”.) Admittedly, some of these reasons are more substantial than others, but these are the reasons that are the most meaningful to me.

  1. It is a beautiful act of humility. If a woman’s hair is the symbol of her glory (a topic which I discussed here) and Christ is fully present in the Eucharist, isn’t it fitting that I would cover my glory out of respect of the glorious presence residing in front of me? By covering my head, in the simplest terms, I am acknowledging God is God and I am not. By covering my “glory” I am demonstrating that Christ alone deserves all the glory. Moreover, I am acknowledging that any glory I possess in my nature or may attain in my life is given to me by the Glorious One who is present before me.
  2. It’s Biblical. Don’t skip this one! I’m not about to say what you think I’m going to say. While it is true that there is a cultural element to Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 11, look closer. I think as most women read, they are too busy getting offended and building a defense to catch one key phrase in verse 10. Paul doesn’t say a woman should cover her head because she is less than or because she is some kind of temptress or for any other reason people drum up. Paul says a woman should cover her head in worship because of the angels. This little phrase, to me, obliterates the cultural argument. Paul wasn’t imposing cultural standards because cultural standards are bound to time and place. Angels are not. Paul’s argument is not cultural, and therefore, it is Biblical for a woman to cover her head in worship.
  3. Because of the angels. What on earth does this mean? I asked one of my brilliant Bible professors, and he responded with something along the lines of, “Well, it doesn’t matter what he meant. Surely, Paul’s understanding of the angles far surpasses our own, so we should just believe him.” Not the answer I expected from my brilliant Scripture teacher. While there may be some truth in what he said, I needed more than that. And after months of having that question lingering in the back of my head, I think I may have found the answer! When Isaiah was commissioned for his prophetic service, he found himself in the presence of the angels, perhaps in heaven. (Is 6) The angels were worshiping God crying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts! All the earth is filled with his glory!” (Sounds familiar, right? Sounds like Isaiah got a sneak peak of the Heavenly Liturgy we emulate with our Earthly Liturgy.) As Isaiah describes the angels, he mentions they have 6 wings: 2 to cover their faces, 2 to cover their feet, and 2 with which they fly. Did you catch that? These angels, who were created for no other purpose than to worship God, have their faces covered in his presence. Maybe this is what Paul was talking about! Maybe this is the reason he gives for women to cover their heads. BUT, even if it’s not, it still struck a powerful cord with me. (It also caused me to ponder what I consider to be acceptable footware for Mass and make some changes, especially to my summer church shoe collection)
  4. If it’s good enough for Mary, it’s good enough for me. Admittedly, this is one of my weaker arguments, but I still like it. Have you ever seen a picture of Mary without her head covered? I haven’t. Maybe this is just an accurate representation of what was expected of her culturally, or maybe her head is covered because she lived with the Divine Presence. Or maybe, as is often the case with our beautiful Catholic faith, the answer is both. Yes and yes. Yes, it was culturally appropriate, and yes, it was out of reverence for her Son. Maybe this isn’t true at all. However, as I purpose to model Mary in all I do, this is one area I can outwardly represent and remind myself of my inner striving. Interestingly, this is also what resonates with my 6 year old. Last week, I was not wearing my veil. Sitting in the pew before Mass,  my little Jack tugged at my arm and said, “Mommy, why aren’t you wearing your veil? I really like when you wear your veil. It makes you more like Mary.”
  5. A veiled woman approaching Communion is a living symbol of Christ united with his Church. Marriage is often used to describe the relationship of Christ to his Church. He being the groom and she being the bride. This is seen in The Song of Songs, it is illustrated in the parables, and is made explicit by Paul in Ephesians. Over the centuries, it has been further expounded upon, most notably by Blessed John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. When a veiled woman walks down the aisle, what is the first thing you think of? A wedding. At Mass, a veiled woman walks down the aisle, approaches her groom, Jesus Christ, whom she then receives in his entirety, uniting her life completely to his. This unification is undoubtably real when anyone, male or female, receives Holy Communion, but when a veiled woman does so, the analogy is unmistakeable. The veiled woman becomes an icon of the entire Church: receptive, submissive, and obedient to Christ her Savior. (As a side note, this is also why non-Catholics and those Catholics who are not in a state of grace may not receive Holy Communion. The reception of Communion is the culmination of our earthly Christian life, much like [although not identically so! All analogies have their limits.] the marital embrace is the culmination of married life. It is a full surrender and acceptance of the other. In the case of Holy Communion, it is not possible to fully accept and surrender to one whom you do not believe in or have turned your back on in mortal sin.)
This is what I want to get next. It's always a juggling act the hold the baby, the diaper bag, and get the veil on my head as I enter the Church. I think this veil would solve my problems.

This is what I want to get next. It’s always a juggling act the hold the baby, the diaper bag, and get the veil on my head as I enter the church. I think this veil would solve my problems.

Much has been written about why women veil in the presence of the Eucharist. There is great historical information, as well beautiful spiritual insights. I learned much from what others have said, but, as I told you earlier, it took more than that for me. I needed something I could hold on to in case I ever had to defend myself. That was truly one of my worst fears and what took me so long to embrace the practice. I was so worried about what other people would think and what they might say to me. But no one has ever said anything. I’ve never received so much as a disapproving glance. I think most people either find it lovely or don’t notice. I think the ones who are opposed to veiling are actually the vast minority.

If you’re considering veiling and have stumbled upon this blog, please don’t stop reading here. There are so many pieces more beautifully written, more humble, and more insightful. I just wanted to share the big factors for me in case there’s anyone else out there than can benefit from them. Most importantly, ask the Holy Spirit to guide you and he will lead you to the information that’s right for you. As I said, I really believe that veiling is the most fitting, and I believe you will probably be guided to that realization as well.

And if you’ve already come to that conclusion – what are you waiting for? Buy a veil (or make one or improvise) and get to it! I think it would be great practice with which to begin Advent (Dec. 1) or join in a week later (Dec. 8) in solidarity with Catholic women worldwide. Even if you’re one of the few who veil at your parish, it may comfort you to know that so many others out there are doing the same thing for the first time on the same day. What a gift it is to be part of a universal Church!

Getting Hands-On

One of our (both mine and the kids’) main goals for this school year was to get more “hands-on.” Several years ago, when I first began envisioning our homeschool, it was incredibly hands on. Unfortunately, reality hasn’t worked out that way. In fact, this is one of the elements that weighed heavily on my decision to stop working outside the home. It seemed absurd that I was making the effort to homeschool, but my efforts were limited by what I was able to cram into a given day. My employment was governing my home life, and I simply couldn’t make peace with that. But I digress…

Where was I? Oh, yes, hands-on.

Step one was getting a few curriculum pieces that would make this transition easier. Since we were accustomed to primarily bookwork, I figured I needed a little inspiration to turn the tide. Catholic Heritage Curricula is where we found many of the books we were most excited about. I think they do a great job of bringing lessons to life through hands-on activities. As such, I get to integrate more of the hands-on learning I was longing for, but I don’t have to worry about getting too creative, since the lessons come with suggested activities and supply lists. We just did the cutest little “experiment” in Jack’s science class. He’s learning about seeds (Every seed is a baby plant!) so we soaked some beans and split them open. Lo and behold – there were little plant sprouts on the inside! So much fun!

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Step two, as suggested by Jack, was to add an art class. I am not artsy. I am not crafty. The thought of this made me cringe. Yet, he was insistent that he needed to take art. I looked through endless art books, hoping to find something I could work with. A lot of art books that I saw were geared more toward art appreciation – looking at and studying great works. While this certainly has merit, I knew what he meant. He wanted arts and crafts. He wanted to cut and glue and play with paint and glitter. Finally, I went back to one of the first books I looked at (and initially disregarded due to the certainty of very large messes) and bit the bullet. We became the proud owners of Art 1 for Young Catholics. This book offers several projects each month based on the liturgical year, and it is truly a gem! Even Andy, who initially declared that he would NOT be participating in art under any circumstances, loves the projects and activities. Today’s project was in honor of Mary’s assumption into Heaven and it came out oh-so-cute.

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I never have any trouble getting my kids to tune in when we’re doing catechetical lessons. Their sweet little hearts are truly eager to learn more and more about their faith. But when the kiddos discover that today’s lesson came with more than just stories and discussion, they were elated! We all had so much fun that I don’t even mind that my kitchen floor is covered in glitter.

To help make sense of our art project: Today is the feast of The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. If you don’t know what that means, but would like to, visit here to learn about the feast in 12 little Q & As

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Selfish = Loveless

In a homily on May 14 Pope Francis explained that the devil tricks people into being selfish, then leaves them loveless. This wisdom is brilliant. And timely. And timeless. I so love the simplicity with which Pope Francis explains our beautiful faith. More than simple, he makes it so applicable. You walk away from him knowing how your faith should impact your behavior. His wisdom is so practical.

But back to selfish and loveless.

I think that is the root of the problem in that 32 video I posted a few weeks ago.

I think the majority of women my age lead fairly selfish lives. I don’t have evidence to back that up. It’s simply my opinion based on the people I know and know about. I think most women I know of are completely self-obsessed, only interested in what’s good for them, easy for them, or fun for them. And I think this is why they feel so empty, like the woman in that video.

Now, before you misunderstand me, I am well aware that I, too, am an incredibly selfish person. I, too, choose ease, and fun, and self-advancement when possible. I’m certainly not pretending that I’m some kind of selfless saint. It’s just that my lifestyle is intrinsically less me-focused than the lifestyles that many other women my age choose. I am raising four other human beings. All of whom have many needs. Most of which have to be put before my own. Despite my own selfish tendencies, my lifestyle often doesn’t allow for many selfish choices. But I’m happy. And incredibly fulfilled.

It’s not as though each moment of my day is pure bliss. Any mother, or even pet owner, knows that when you are responsible for another life there are many less than blissful moments. But when I step outside myself and look in on me and my life, I don’t see the monotony and discontent that the lyricist in that video sees. I see joy. I see love. I see happiness.

So, basically, I think the Pope is right. I think he hit the nail right on the head. And I think that 32 video is evidence to support my theory.

Exactly