Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Saturation and Resignation: A Blog Sabbatical

I recently wrote about some changes that I've observed in the blogging world. Upon further reflection, it has become clear that it is not only the internet world that has changed, but my response to it. I'm full. Full to bursting. Even though so much good is being accomplished through the internet, it is too much for the senses. I do not need it all. I am forgetting how to to sort it all out. My saturation level has been reached and exceeded and I am now quite uncomfortable after overindulging for far too long. Like several helpings too many at Thanksgiving dinner.

I need a break and a walk around the block.

I'm taking a year sabbatical from active posting here in an effort to get my peace of mind back. I have allowed the blogging world - writing, reading, engaging - to sap me, distract me, and redirect me... and I'm going back to basics.

The list of blogs I read is going on the chopping block again as well, not because I don't love every one of them, but because I can't take it all in and stay sane. It's like having 100 or so wonderful women constantly chattering in my ears about their lives and emotions and children. yikes. Plus... a feeling of obligation to encourage and respond to all of them. All women I love, of course, but I'm ready to come home after the party. The few blogs that remain in my feed will be the ones that encourage and inspire me to step away from the computer and into the fullness of my vocation.

I have stepped away on several other occasions in order to breath and I can give you a whole big list of justifications for sticking it out; but ultimately, there is only one thing that matters: I want to follow the path that God has chosen for me in all things. I long to have peace and a holy resignation to His dreams. I believe and know from my own experience, and the experience of others, that joy lives there. And I want to swim in it.

The blogger inevitably must battle with the temptations of self-focus, and we all tend to justify our efforts by citing balance as the key. This is a healthy outlet for me. Yes, it is. This is a great way to find community in a world where I am a minority. Absolutely. Blogging edifies me so that I can bring a better me back to my home. Usually, this is true. But my head and heart get stuck on that word balance...

A life in Christ is not about balance. It is about giving all to His holy will. Name me one saint you think was "balanced" and I'll find you a hundred more the world considered certifiably nuts. They lived by God's love, not a carefully measured standard of activity involvement. I do not wish to be a balanced person, I wish to be a saint. Part of becoming a saint is clearing out even good things to make room for the better. And it is clear to me that my heart and mind are not being improved by the perpetual noise of the internet. I am low on the saintly ladder rung. I need to clear away the clutter so that I have room to stretch out my arms when God reaches to raise me up.

I am not going on a full internet fast. (I am an introvert, not a hermit.) I will simply actively engage in areas that honor my primary commitments to my vocation and family outreaches. I have enough on my plate to feed an army of moms (don't we all!) and I am out of excuses and justifications for keeping myself occupied here. The internet world does not need me. My family needs me. I am done with private deceptions. This place is clearly not helping me to be a better mother.

Instead of reading about mothering, I will mother.
Instead of admiring tutorials, I will craft.
Instead of spending 30 minutes admiring the handiwork of others, I will sew for my own.
Instead of accomplishing one thing and taking time to post about it, I will accomplish two.
Instead of ticking off the minutes posting for a recipe link-up, I will cook.
Instead of bawling over the endless stream of beautiful memories of others, I will make my own.
Instead of reading a mountain of articles between 600 and 1000 words written by everyone, I will read longer works written by a few.
Instead of reading mostly quotes and excerpts, I will dive into source materials.

I want my mind back at a reasonable pace. I want to be a slow Catholic. A purposeful Catholic. Acting and speaking and reading at a pace of peace and richness, not according to what is trending, but according to His purpose.

Instead of constantly blithering my own thoughts here, I will let wisdom speak to me. There is no doubt that I need to shut up and listen more.
Instead of feeling pressured to speak, I pray to speak only in His time.
Instead of typing, I will pick up a pen and feel the paper beneath it.
Instead of reading next to my children, I will read to my children.

This blog needs some organization and updating in some areas and so I will probably do that a bit over the next year but I have no timetable and will not fret if it doesn't get done. I am two empty baby books behind (they seem to get smaller with each successive child); I am probably better off learning how to print photos again and record memories there with a real pen.

I thought about just stepping away and not saying anything about this like so many happy bloggers do. After all, I'm not the center anyone's universe. But this brings some accountability and will help explain to my friends why I am absent. I have seen bloggers come and go and felt very sad over the departure of some of my favorites. On reflection, I realize that one of the reasons they were my favorites was because they kept their priorities straight. I want to be like those bloggers... free to step away and live.

The blog will remain open and accessible and my hope is to return next year, but I am leaving that open to discernment. Perhaps I will discover that I do not wish to return at all. We shall see. I do enjoy participating on Facebook and will keep the FB blog page open and active... please join me there if you want to continue to stay in touch. I am dreaming of sewing a pretty dress for baby and I will surely post pics there once it is finished! I will also remain on Pinterest and would love to connect with you there as well.

Let the sabbatical commence! I am ready for some mental, spiritual, and physical housekeeping.

Sweet Jesus, rain down Your mercy and grace! I am Yours. Every time I beg you to change my life, You faithfully respond. It's always terrifying and always exhilarating and always more astonishingly painful and beautiful than I could have imagined. Divine Surgeon, You know where I need work. Please do it again. I am Yours. 

...and this is me, stepping off my virtual cliff and into the hands of God...

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Why You Probably Shouldn't Vote for Me...

I was nominated in multiple award categories over at Bonnie's this week and understandably delighted. My delight gave over to amusement when I saw that one of the categories (in addition to Best Mom Blog and Most Inspiring... aaaawww, thanks guys!) was for Smartest Blog. After I was done alternately blushing and laughing uproariously, I felt overcome with guilt. I've got to be straight with you people. You're all so nice and decent that I can't let you go on thinking happy things about me that just aren't true. So I've put together a list of several of the stupidest things I've done during my 17 years of married life. I've left out thousands, but these are some the ones I remember most vividly. I assume you don't do these kinds of things. On the off chance that you do, feel free to soothe my wounded pride by sharing your own.

Using Pledge on My Wood Floors.
I was heavily pregnant with my second child and several hours away from hosting a lovely holiday gathering. My house was sparkling clean and I had a little time to add some last minute touches. Like polishing my pretty wood floors. With Pledge. They were so shiny and lovely!

About an hour before my guests were due to arrive, the phone rang and I hustled my big belly down my glowing, reflective hallway in a pair of fuzzy socks. I went flying. Like skates on newly zambonied ice. And landed hard.

When I told my mother-in-law about what I had done, her eyes grew very large and she asked me if I was injured... then she laughed. She is a marvelous housekeeper and I hope to be like her when I grow up.

Using dish soap in my dish washer.
It was like a movie, I tell you. The bubbles just kept flowing out of the cracks in the dishwasher, out of the kitchen and into the adjoining room. Up to my knees. It was preferable to overflowing toilets, but still.

When I told my mother-in-law what I had done, her eyes grew very large and she said, "You shouldn't put regular dish soap in the dishwasher." A wise woman.

Filling our diesel van with gasoline.
If you don't know what happens when a woman fills her beloved diesel-fueled van with $80 worth of gasoline, well then I'll tell you. The vehicle, full of children, will stall in the middle of the left turn lane at a busy intersection in the middle of rush hour. People will do crazy things to get around you and you will feel really unhappy and only slightly better when a policemen says he is going to push your vehicle down a big hill and you must steer it into a CVS parking lot. And then you will have to figure out why it stalled and at least your husband will be so, so kind about it. At least we didn't have to scrap the vehicle but it did hurt the pocketbook significantly. And my pride.

When I told my mother-in-law about it, she oozed compassion and told me that those things happen.

Yes, it even came with bright red INSTRUCTIONS

Leaving small children in a running car alone.
I was just running into the house for a second. I figured that a 3-year old and 5-year old would be just fine all buckled up in the back seat. Wrong. Somehow, both of them managed to climb up front, put the car into drive and crash it through our closed gate and our new garage door.

My oldest son was 7 at the time and I rushed outside when I heard him screaming. I saw the car and the tiny little people staring out of it at me with wide eyes. So naturally, I ran out and grabbed the car by the open window and tried to stop it by pulling on it. You can imagine how successful I was. I had this odd notion that is was just rolling. Uphill. In fact, I pulled so hard that I hurt my shoulder.

And of course our neighbors (the kind you can't wait to move away from) were hanging over the fence yelling about what an idiot I was to leave the kids alone in a running vehicle. This from people whose toddlers walk around with open cans of booze. Humiliating. Anyway, we were all fine. And the kid behind the wheel will not be driving until he is 30. I remind him frequently.

My mother-in-law sat quietly with me in my misery while the men folk talked about what I should have done instead of trying to stop the car with my superpowers.

Breaking my toe by kicking a toy in anger.
Life lessons come painfully sometimes. And American Girl horses are so very, very hard on the big toe.   The kids thought it was hysterical. They tried to be compassionate but the temptation to laugh at me was too great to resist. My toe will never be the same... A lesson that keeps on teaching.

My mother-in-law was compassionate and reminded me of the time she snapped a toe bone in half by banging into a night stand. She had to have the bone removed and now her toe is floppy like jello. But I don't think she is the kind of person who kicks objects on purpose.

Causing grocery store havoc with jars of Prego.
I am finally coming clean. I did take the bottom jar from a double stack of spaghetti sauce jars in aisle 13. I guess I wasn't paying attention. The result was the slow motion anihilation of an entire shelf of Prego spaghetti sauce in glass jars. I tried to catch them but I kept missing and they just kept crashing. "Clean up in Aisle 13." The boy with the mop stood very still after he turned the corner and surveyed the tomato carnage. I'm so sorry, I said. He responded with a heavy, heavy sigh.

My husband loves to retell that story but his account is grossly exaggerated. 

And to finish this off with a bang...
I once accidentally took a strong laxative in my ninth month of pregnancy and went into false labor for 7 horrible, agonizing, vomiting, crying hours. It looked a lot like the pain reliever I intended to take but it had the polar opposite effect. Did you know that laxatives can actually stimulate uterine contractions (gigantic, unearthly ones) and start labor if you are close enough to term? Yep. I did not have the baby that night but I would have put money on it at the time. (My actual labor only ended up being two hours from start to finish but I secretly count it as nine.)

I don't think I ever told my mother-in-law about that one. Those were the days when I still had a little motherly pride left and no blog with which to over share. 

There. Now you have all the information you need in order to cast your vote...... And my conscience is at ease...

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

How to Heal Broken Motherhood

Six women walk together along the road, silent in their thoughts. Each one is lonely, suffering, and yet comforted by the others. They are sisters, although they come from different homes, and they hold hands as they walk. Occasionally, a tear will slip down a lowered cheek and a grip will tighten in encouragement. Beautiful sisters. When one stumbles, the others keep her strong and straight. They support her until her heart can bear its own weight.

Unique. Loving. Suffering. Lonely in their own ways but united in the gift of their femininity and the call of motherhood; physical and spiritual. They are pouring themselves out to nurture the world and to  bring humanity closer to the heart of Christ, like Blessed Mother, one heroic step at a time...

The first woman is infertile. The harshness of that word grates at her soul and her arms ache to hold a life that springs forth from her womb. It is a longing that cannot be satisfied even as she lives life fully, using her unburdened arms to serve the needs of the world; an ache that persists even during happy times. The world is impatient and insensitive. The cross is hidden within her heart and she bravely smiles and loves. I am a woman seeking my motherhood. Sweet Jesus, where are my children?

The second woman is fertile and has born children. She is confused by the paradox of joy and suffering in her motherhood. She loves her babies and yet stumbles under the weight of the beloved little ones. The world does not see the pain of her failures and weariness. It sneers at her messy life and mocks the mystery of spousal love. The cross is hidden within her heart and she bravely smiles and loves. I am ill-equipped, Lord. How can I go on?

The third woman is a spiritual mother, a consecrated religious. She has given her motherhood and spousal love to God and has countless spiritual children. He is her beloved and she gladly offers her life for him, but the heart sometimes yearns for the loving touches of flesh. The world does not understand such sacrifice and strikes at the wound. The cross is hidden within her heart and she bravely smiles and loves. You are enough, Lord... why do I still yearn?

The fourth woman has embraced the children of others. Adopted them to be her own. She knows both the longing for love and the heaviness of sacred treasure in her arms; a heart mama who gives her body to sacrificial love. The world sees a romance while she builds a kingdom with her blood, sweat, and tears. The cross is hidden within her heart and she bravely smiles and loves. My own. Not my own. Father, how can I replace what they have lost?

The fifth woman has lost her children. Her womb was full but now is empty and she breathes through the aching like a woman perpetually in labor... and the world expects her to silence her cries of agony. She serves others heroically and gladly even while the loneliness pierces her heart. The cross is hidden within her heart and she bravely smiles and loves. Why are my arms empty, Lord?

The sixth woman has lost her child to abortion. She regrets giving over her motherhood to the hands of liars and grieves deeper than eyes can see. She has children at home but is missing one. The pain is staggering and silent but it is not her desire to forget her own... and so she embraces it, loves passionately, and stumbles on. The world rejects her grief. The cross is hidden within her heart and she bravely smiles and loves. Dear Lord, when will my soul be at rest?

If the women walk alone, they risk sinking into their pain and losing sight of joy and eternal things and the dignity of their nature. God beckons and loves and blesses... but the heart has a tendency to turn in on itself. The eyes are easily blinded by pain. A woman so easily crumples to the ground and despairs. But what if she is walking side by side with her sisters? Her path is different but parallel, and she will not be left behind.

We are sisters. We belong together. If I cannot see your cross, I trust that it is still there... or that it is coming to you someday. Our Lord does not withhold the cross from any of His beloved because he wishes us to share in His Easter. Do not despair, my friends. You are not alone. And your Easter is coming.

As millions gather across the nation today to march for the dignity of all life, I pray that the treasure of motherhood will be restored to the heart of the nation. Do not be deceived by the hollow call to be Superwoman - it is a worldly lie designed to tear you down - but be refreshed in your title of Beloved.

You are called to love with everything you have. Get up and walk. Again and again. That is all He asks. It is the path to your healing and the beginning of freedom. He is Grace. He is Mercy. He will not let us fall farther than His grasp. He treasures the gift of our womanhood and made us to thrive. We are beautiful and gifted, not because we have struggled for it, because He has willed it. Just open the door, let Him in, and trust that His dream for your life is perfect.

Your motherhood is not about what you have missed, lost, or broken... it is about the pouring out of your love; pouring out what is beautiful and nourishing to a parched and lonely world. Pour it out, ladies. Pour it out! That is the gift of our femininity. And that is how we can be healed of our own brokenness and ultimately, change the world.

Monday, January 20, 2014

If You Leave Your Coat on at Mass...

What I wore Sunday...

A Winter coat, boots, and a scarf. Oh, and one of my favorite swing dresses with big pockets; but I could have worn my pj's underneath and nobody would be the wiser. This is a humble pie moment. I used to be critical of others who wore their coats and scarves all the way through Mass. If you go to someone's house for dinner, don't you politely take your coat off?? Hmmmmm???? You guys look like you're ready to bolt out the door as soon as Mass is over... take your coat off and stay a while, people!

Now I know the truth. People are just cold. I just never understood because I was never cold enough. And now I am, perhaps because I spend so much time in the frigid hallway with Peaches. I don't care if you wear your coat in my house if you're cold. And if I'm uncomfortably cold in church, I wear my coat. So, I've grown in this area. And if someone in my parish is thinking that I'm rude for wearing my coat at the Supper of the Lord... well it just serves me right, that's all.

This was the first time in several weeks that I bundled Peaches up for Mass. Thank you, God, for a healthy baby. It was a real pleasure to stand out in the hall with her. And I did get to stay for most of the homily.
Twelve year old Crash is officially tired of snow. "Why do we even live in Cleveland?" he repeatedly moans.  The sincerity and desperation that comes through in his voice alarms me. He's certainly going to be the one to move away to Florida when he comes of age. And I won't be able to visit him because I don't think I would survive the drive. Last time I drove to Florida, I was suffering from the combined effects of a new pregnancy, motion sickness, horridly hot tempts/humidity, and the flu. I have never fully recovered. Plus there are alligators and hurricanes there. I know people who travel to Florida regularly but a journey for me might require either a small miracle or heavy sedation. Or the love of my boy... if it came to that.
Oooh... those smiles melt my heart!

Hooded Wool Swing Coat: Etsy
Dress: Olive long sleeved swing dress with pockets from ASOS
Black tights
Boots: Aerosole
Scarf: who knows?
Headband: Lilla Rose. My current favorite hair accessory. The pics don't quite capture the pretty beads.

It is always a pleasure to link up with the lovely ladies at Fine Linen and Purple for What I Wore Sunday

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

How to Change the World and Love All the Babies...

Our teens have been so privileged to work with Bryan Kemper on behalf of the unborn. This guy has been so blessed with passion and love for all people and has inspired my teens to do more, love more, be more for Christ. He is the youth outreach director at Priests for Life, founder of Rock for Life, runs Stand True Pro-Life Outreach and his conversion story is a powerful testimony to grace. Here is a very brief summary of what it means to be unwanted by man and learn you are cherished by God. Hearing his full testimony enlarged my heart and encouraged me to do whatever I can to raise pro-life children. Please support his work. He spends every single day praying and standing on behalf of the unborn. If you have any extra funds right now, I know he can use it.

One more thing... Bryan is also very creative and talented and has some excellent pro-life gear for sale in the StandTrue store. And... he designed a special t-shirt just for our youth organization which has the kids very excited. Professor is sending the artwork to the printer tomorrow and I will be offering them on this blog to raise funds for our pro-life work here in Cleveland. Our region has the highest abortion numbers in the state... and all profits will go toward providing these kids with ways of working within the community to stop the killing.


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