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A Song for Mothers (and everybody!)

“Nothing Without You” by Bebo Norman is a song that I have always felt drawn to and it has applied to my life differently throughout my life. I heard it today, and it really spoke to me about the mother and wife I am called to be. You can watch the video below that has the lyrics, but I will also post them below and write about how they affected me.

Take these hands and lift them up
For I have not the strength to praise You near enough
See I have nothing, I have nothing without You

I have always thought of raising hands in praise when I heard these lines, but today I thought of how I use my hands. What I do with my hands is also a way to praise God, and the love I have when using my hands can offer my activities to him.

Everything a mother does for her family involves her hands; praying, holding, changing diapers, dressing, washing children, washing dishes, cleaning the home, etc. But a mother and wife does not have the strength to do all of this without God’s love and grace, and it can wear her down and make her unhappy. God will keep a mother strong.

Take my voice and pour it out
Let it sing the songs of mercy I have found
For I have nothing, I have nothing without You

I can sing songs of praise to God and tell others of his love and mercy, but what I say to others, how I say it to others, what I say about others reflects this even more. The way a wife speaks to her husband, the way she asks him to do something, what she chooses to say first thing in the morning or when he walks in the door from work all are an offering to God and all can bring more love or hurt to the home. The way a mother speaks to her children when they misbehave or do good acts or simply get into trouble all bring glory to God or not. If I am unkind in the way I speak, my voice is not bringing God glory, but if I have patience and kindness in my voice even when reprimanding this is an act of love.

All my soul needs
Is all Your love to cover me
So all the world will see
That I have nothing without You

A wife and mother needs to be covered in the love of God in order to live out what she is called to do. My mother prayed for me yesterday that God’s love would overflow out of me into the way I loved my children; I think this chorus reflects that idea. And when we pour love into our family, the world does see, and the world is given hope.

Take my body and build it up
May it be broken as an offering of love
For I have nothing, I have nothing without You

I think this speaks the most to me as a wife and mother; the daily grind really involves the whole body. And for children, a mother’s body really is broken as an offering of love; in this way we reflect Christ. It is done to a mother when she accepts the call to be one throughout pregnancy, the pains of labor, the giving birth, and then her choices to breastfeed, and nurture her children through naps, bedtimes, feedings, and play times. But still she has nothing without God and his mercy and love.

I also love the line asking God to build up one’s body; it shows the glory that God gives to nature and the beauty in our bodies despite our falleness.

All my soul needs
Is all Your love to cover me
So all the world will see
That I have nothing
But I love You

With all my heart
With all my soul
With all my mind
With all the strength that I can find

And here we remember that our actions are rooted in our heart, soul, and mind. Our actions affect them and they affect our actions. We need God to help us love and serve. And we need to take time for prayer, for praying asks God for His grace, praises him, and keeps Him foremost in one’s heart, mind, and soul throughout the day. I am always happier when I remember to pray while doing mundane tasks like putting the kids down for naps and cooking and washing.

“With all my mind.” I particularly need to spend my time doing things that will help me think about good things, and loving things. What I do during my free time stays in my mind and affects my heart and my soul and my actions. I know I personally want to use my mind for more than taking care of children; and struggle for the discipline to discipline my mind.

Take my time here on this earth
And let it glorify all that You are worth
For I am nothing,
I am nothing without You

I am nothing without God, and my time on earth is for Him. And as a wife and mother, I also am called to help my husband and children glorify God with their lives as well.

My Dream Kitchen

While talking to some other mom’s about cooking a few weeks ago, I admitted that if I would love to have someone watch my kids for me so that I could focus on cooking dinner every night. I really like to cook, and I like to cook nice meals and I want to learn to cook even better meals. I have also been day dreaming about what I would love in a kitchen. Maybe one day I will actually have counter space. I think a dream kitchen is not too much to ask for, especially if we have as many kids as we talk about having.

The Elements:

1) Children old enough to wash the dishes.
2) Children old enough to watch the younger ones while I cook.
3) Lots of counter space and an island to work on.
4) A six burner gas stove. I have only used gas at my mother-in-laws, but I know it is superior when it comes to cooking good food and want to learn how to use one.
5) Two ovens. I have seen kitchens with this feature and I love it. I guess having a toaster oven is kind of like this, but two full size would be wonderful!
6) A warmer drawer; my sister has one and it is so convenient! (I am taking a lot of things from my sister’s kitchen.)
7) A large two basin sink.
8) A large dishwasher.
9) Ample cupboard space.
10) A walk-in pantry.
11) A deep freeze.

Cooking appliances and accessories:
1) Kitchen-aid pasta flattener attachment.
2) Food processor that is easy to clean.
3) So glad to finally have a double boiler!
4) Round biscuit cutter; I am not sure why I do not have one of these yet.

I am sure there is more, and I don’t think this is too much to ask. 🙂

Raising Children to be Virtuous-Part One

Some of you may have read this:

“Why Chinese Mothers are Superior” By Amy Chua from the Wall Stree Journal:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704111504576059713528698754.html?mod=WSJ_hp_mostpop_read

Here is my initial response. I plan to write more on it later.

Chua is defending the way she raised her kids, but it does not seem like she is necessarily condemning those who raise children differently. There is a cultural difference; the way Westerners raise kids comes from the individualistic philosophy that was there at the founding of our country. I think a lot of the way Westerners raise their kids are excessive and are not the best for their children. Raising children to be virtuous holy people is hard work and discipline is a necessary aspect.

We are not allowing our children to watch TV or play computer games. First, we do not own a TV nor do we want to, and second I don’t think there is anything on TV that I want my children to watch that is not saturated with philosophies and ideas that I disagree with. I also do not want to be tempted to use the TV to “babysit” my kids. I want them to be able to entertain themselves. Gemma will sit and read books for up to 30 minutes sometimes and she is only 21 months old. We will show them certain movies when they are older, but there is no need now.

Also, I want our children to learn to be disciplined; this will lead to a virtuous life. I know that these are things I need to work on to. I think that the Chinese discipline, while it may get extreme, is probably better for building virtue than Western leniency.

Ch-ch-changes!

And apparently this blog is officially neglected. I have a post I saved back in July that I never finished. Since I last put up a real post, I have gone through 9 months of pregnancy and 6 weeks with a new baby! Yay!

So, now we have two little girls; one currently sleeping on my lap and the other in her crib. My main reason for writing it to discuss the adjustment of G. to our second child L.

G. was only 20.5 months when L. was born. Maybe we could have prepared her more for the several day separation, but when I went into labor 2.5 weeks early and we sent her to a friends house I was not entirely convinced that I really was in labor. She spent the two days I was away playing with one of her friends and being cared for by adults she knew well. The second night she even had Mark to take care of her. When she came to see me in the hospital, she first sat silent on my lap eating my snacks and then started playing with Mark’s mom whom she had not seen in 6 months and completely ignoring me.

When we came home with L., G. was a different child than I had remembered. She had been happy, smiling, and enjoyed playing alone; she was then clingy to me, crying all the time, and wanting constant attention. I loved having a newborn, but had a really hard time with how it affected G. The first night home I cried, because G. was so different. I missed my happy little girl. One night that first week I put G. down for bed (I had not been, because of labor recovery and I needed to pick her up to put her in her crib). As we rocked in the chair I started crying again, and then I started giving her kisses on her head and she started kissing me back and soon we were kissing and giggling; my little girl was still the same. I had glimpses of her old self as the weeks went by, and I think she is finally getting used to the change of not being the only child. She is more and more like her old self and hopefully will soon be less and less whiny.

G. also wants to do everything L. is doing; such as when L. is being burped she wants to be burped or burps her baby doll. The best story is how G. “nurses” Baby Jesus from the nativity set while I am nursing L. Or when L. is having tummy time, G. lays next to her and tries to have tummy time also, and I have to sit nearby or L. will get kicked in the head. Today we were “play toys” (G.’s words) with L. by holding them in front of her. G. thinks this is the greatest thing, even though L. completely ignores it for the most part.

As for me, I need to work to give G. the attention she needs, but also help her learn about sharing her mom with her sister. I have noticed that with G., if I play with her first thing in the morning and right away after nap, she is much happier playing alone later. She just needs to be reminded that she is still loved and that mom still has time for her. And with time, my hope is that my girls will soon be each others favorite people, and that we will all be helping each other become better and holier. 🙂

I do still exist…I think

The title of this post is slightly Cartesian. Apparently Descartes is “the fishes,” or so my husband tells me. I am not sure what that means, but he has been reading more about Descartes recently so I am sure it means something.

Today I told my boss that I will be leaving my job before the fall semester starts. Probably by August. It is freeing and sad for me. I think that I have really learned to appreciate and care for the people I work with. Even the elderly lady who comes in once a week and has always annoyed me-I finally found the best way to interact with her and to appreciate her help in the office. One of my coworkers is a sweetie to my daughter and I know I am really going to miss her and she is really going to miss us. Another one is very practical and has good opinions about liturgy and the Church, though I do not see her very often. My boss has been wonderful and so supportive of bringing a baby into the office, and she totally understands why it is time for us to leave the position.

The next issue is what am I going to do with all my time? The main reason for leaving is for the sake of my daughter; she needs more interaction that I cannot always give her while I work. I know she is still really young, but I would like to start focusing on pre-pre-homeschooling and homeschooling research. I also plan on volunteering at my old job once a week, more so that my daughter and the wonderful ladies there will still get to see each other. They are like adoptive aunts for her and even me with my parents out of town. I will need to use my time wisely and I really do hope to dabble in theology again. So, that is about it for now.

Almost Advent!

I just wanted to say that I am ridiculously excited about Advent this year. I kind of wish I thought of it as more penitential, but the time of preparation and waiting excites me. I think it is because the importance of the liturgical season of Advent was impressed upon me as a child. We never put up our tree until a few days before Christmas and sometimes did not even decorate it until Christmas Eve. We also did not listen to Christmas music until Christmas Eve. It was all very exciting when it finally came.

Instead we did the Jesse Tree readings daily, had and Advent Calendar, and lit our Advent wreath at dinner every night. M. and I are doing the same things now that we have a family together. I am realizing the importance of having these traditions to mark the different liturgical seasons of year and the specific holy days. I think because I have done them my whole life, Advent would not seem the same without these traditions. M. and I hope to implement traditions in all the important seasons. I wonder if doing something as simple as eating Italian when it is an Italian saint’s day would be a good way to honor a saint’s day.

It seems that there is a human need for these sorts of things, and it is expressed the way certain people excessively decorate for different seasons and holidays. I could explore this more here, but I don’t quite have my thoughts together and do not want to claim extreme points of view without a clearer way to express them. The basic idea is that the Church’s liturgical year satisfies a human need for the cycle of the year, the changes of season, the sacramental value of decorations in the home, work place, stores, and places of worship. They are all connected and are much more than physical decorations. They speak to the whole person. What would Advent be without the sign of the wreath and the empty manger? A lot of people live without that. For them Advent is Christmas decorations and it ends with the presents. For the Church, Advent is the waiting and the time of Christmas is longer. As the four seasons change, so do the liturgical seasons pass on, and we remember and wait for the Lord to come again.

The Souls of the Faithful Departed

Yesterday was All Souls Day, and I took the opportunity to pray for those in my family who have died, mainly those who I have known personally. The people I have been the closest to that have died were my dad’s parents.

My Grandpa H. died when I was in 5th grade. I remember crying a lot and missing him a lot. According to my grandma I was his favorite of 13 grandchildren; I’m not sure what I did to deserve that but I’ll take it. I never knew him to be a church-going man and at times I have wondered if he had any faith. I know that he was raised Catholic and that his children were raised Catholic, but I never saw him at Church (well except his funeral). After his funeral we had a party at my aunt’s house. I remember thinking I saw Grandpa sitting on the porch and then him not being there. It seemed like he was with us.

My Grandma H. died when I was a Freshman in college. She had been fighting cancer on and off for three years or so. I was nervous about going to school 10 hours from home, because I knew she would not live much longer. She was in the same parish as my parents, and I got to see her weekly. I think she must have been lonely after Grandpa died, but she always took the opportunity to be present in our lives. In conversations I have had with my mom, I learned that she was a very supportive mother-in-law, helping with the kids all the time. I have fond memories of going to Grandma and Grandpa’s house; they babysat us a lot. The thing I really appreciated about my grandma when I was in high school was that I got to share my faith community with her.

My second to last day in town at the end of Christmas break Freshman year, I spent the morning with Grandma. She had to get some blood drawn, so I went with her and sang to her to distract her from the needles. We then went to lunch together. She was worried about me studying Theology, because it was not a very career driven field. I assured her that I would be okay, and that I was just trying to do God’s will. She seemed happy for me. A few months later she had a surgery that she knew she might no recover from. When I went home for Spring break I went to see her in the hospital. My dad’s family sat with her in shifts making sure she had a family member with her 24/7. The hour I spent with her, she was asleep and not doing well. I did not really even talk to her; she looked so old and sick, I guess I was a little afraid. When a nurse came in, Grandma woke up. The nurse asked who I was and Grandma replied with a smile; she knew that I was there. However, she did not get better. She died the morning of the day Pope John Paul II died. I flew home for the funeral.

A few months after her death, one night around the anniversary of Grandpa’s death, I suddenly got the urge to pray for both of them. So, I did. That night I had a dream that they were together again and happy. I brought me great peace.

Since then I have had several dreams about Grandma. Always other members of my dad’s family are there, too. She never says anything, but just looks on as we all visit. I had a dream when I was pregnant and she was in the apartment and was happy. Another time I was traveling to St. Louis and there were other family members there, she seemed sad. Last night I had another dream with her in it. I don’t think it was a coincidence that it happened the night of All Souls Day. She was sad. In the dream she was still alive, but we all knew she was going to die soon. My one aunt suggested that we all go to church together, thinking that that might make Grandma happy, but Grandma still seemed sad. Today I realized that these dreams are maybe her wanting me to pray for her, but also for her family, many who have left the Church and many who do not believe in God at all. It must be hard to be a mother who wants children to believe the truth, and the children to not have faith. So, if you are reading this, please say a prayer for my Grandma and Grandpa, and also for those in my family who have left the Church.

May the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen.

The Examined Life

Between Thomas Merton’s Seven Storey Mountain, St. Francis de Sales’ Introduction to the Devout Life, Blessed Gianna Beretta Molla: A Woman’s Life by Giuliana Pelluchi, and Space Vulture by Gary K. Wolf and Archbishop John J. Myers, I have had time to reflect on sainthood and the call every person has to it.

Merton reflected that every person is different, yet we are all called to be like God, and when we become holy we become like God; each individual person reflects God in a different way. We can all become super holy, be like God, but also be entirely different from each other! Which makes a lot of sense when you look at the variety of saints we have out there. Though they all have in common, a strong love of God and others and a life of prayer with loyalty to the Church and her teaching.

So, what can we learn from all these Saints. When I think about Saints, I often look at the seemingly glamorous things they did, by glamorous I mean attractive because they were super holy and beyond what the average person does, i.e. stigmata, martyrdom, extreme poverty. Then I think, wow my life is pretty boring and slow-paced compared to that, there is no way I could become a Saint. Plus, I fail at living up to my calling everyday; I sometimes think the only way I could be super holy is to experience extreme persecution or start having super mystical experiences. Seriously, that is the stuff you here about in the lives of the Saints that inspires you. When you read the little bio in the breviary or missal, you generally ignore the “she lived a really holy life” and skip straight to the she had her breasts cut off and they grew back and then she was martyred. But if you think about it it really was the holy life before these great acts of holiness that made them a Saint. St. Gianna already lived a saintly life before she gave up her life for her child. Thomas Merton had potential to become a Saint in his striving to become holy day by day and eliminating his tendencies to sin. Space Vulture could have become good if he turned from his mortal sins.

St. Francis de Sales lays out the framework for holiness in his book. He explains that to be holy one has to live an examined life–every detail surrounding sin must be explored and weeded out. It is a tedious process, and it is difficult, but with grace we all can become saints. It is the daily choice all saints make to pray, to love God and others, to grow in virtue, to embrace one’s state in life.

I feel very fortunate that my desire to be a wife and mother has been fulfilled so early in life, and now I am realizing that it is a day by day choice to love and serve. By doing this and by seeking God’s grace in all I do and allowing him to work through me; that is how I will become a saint. Pray for me.

A Book in which Everything that can go Wrong does go Wrong

A few weeks ago I finished Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy. It is a book where once you get about 2/3 through, you don’t really want to finish it, because there seems to be no way it could turn out right in the end.

It centers around a girl name Tess, who through chance encounters with certain people, bad luck, a lack of common sense, and people being jerks has just about everything go wrong for her (and her family). I guess the problems start with her obedience to her parents and end with her no longer being obedient to her conscience. Anyway, it was a depressing book, and what I got from it is that sometimes people never get what they really deserve and then they die.

So, a depressing post for a depressing book. Also, there is no sense of redemptive suffering at all in the book. I suppose if Tess had not lost her faith through the unkindness of those she trusted, she may have at least had hope. Jean Valjean did no get a chance to save this Fantine, and the Jean Valjean who should have, could have, saved her failed to take the opportunity. So, maybe we can remember that sometimes it is too late to help someone, and help them when we have the chance.

There’s Something Different About Philosophers

We went out last night with M.’s adviser and his wife. While we were discussing a logic class and certain professor M. explained that this professor definitely made him speak and think clearly. I chimed in that because of that class, I have been corrected every time I say something imprecise. M.’s adviser’s wife said to me, “Welcome to the club!”