When there’s no baby

When there’s no baby

35162078_10214873928894596_3158134378106716160_o.jpgNote: I’ll be on Relevant Radio’s Morning Air program to chat about this article on Monday, June 18 between 6:15 a.m.-6:30 a.m. ET / 3:15 a.m.-3:30 a.m. (!!!) PT. If it’s any good, I’ll post the link here. ūüėČ

For so many years, I‚Äôve been in the thick of things ‚ÄĒ up past my neck ‚ÄĒ submerged in the tiny army that God and my husband and I created and is slowly destroying me in the most painful and beautiful ways, one blow-out diaper and temper tantrum at a time.

I was so overwhelmed by the chaos and the noise and the sheer exhaustion that I couldn’t see this moment coming.

The moment when the eldest is jonesing to get her drivers permit. When the second is a freshly-minted teenager in her own right. When the third is on the cusp of double-digits and the fourth doesn’t need much help keeping up with the eldest three.

And then there’s the fifth. Goodness, the fifth. The one child with whom I’ve been privileged and blessed to be at home. For whom I’ve been on hand to experience every milestone even if I was lousy at documenting it for posterity. Everything about this last child is etched within me; it resides in a place that is at once tender and raw and grateful and strong.

And this fifth child cannot wait to go off to the big school with the big kids. I don’t take it personally.

A part of me is elated and relieved and bursting with pride and giddy anticipation for what comes next. And another, deeper part of me is just plain … bursting. Unraveling. Overcome and undone by it all.

Read the rest here

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Made in my own image

Made in my own image

Call it a mid-life crisis; call it a wake-up call.

Call it whatever you’d like, but I’ve been doing some pretty serious self-reflection and soul searching lately, and it’s been rather … unsettling.

An Incident occurred a week or so ago and caused me to weep, cry out to God, and reflect. And ponder and argue and wrestle. And cry some more. Far from the run-of-the-mill navel-gazing to which I occasionally fall prey, this situation – in light of many other situations – stopped me in my tracks.

It’s been during this time that I realized something that I’ve likely known for a while but was only able to articulate two days ago:

I have not been living as though I am made in the image and likeness of God. I have not been living according to His holy and perfect will. 

Rather, I have been living in the image and likeness of my own ill-conceived creation – of who I think I should be – and especially of who I think others want or need me to be. I have been living mostly according to my own excruciatingly imperfect will.

And it has hurt me.

Quite a bit.

I have over committed and under delivered. I have fallen behind and not followed through. I have engaged with others without engaging first with God. I have created a mirage of perfect availability through my social media interactions, yet allowed flesh-and-blood relationships to falter.

In short, I have been living in a prison of my own design, a false reality where so many more things than necessary rely upon me and my superhuman goodnesss and my superhuman wholeness and my superhuman abilities … all of which don’t truly exist anywhere except in the bent recesses of my wounded mind.

Even more disturbingly, I realized that I have forgotten to sit, to submit, and to surrender to Him Who calls me to be made free and holy and whole.

I realized that I have been trying to save myself. 

Without even fully understanding what I was doing, I put myself in the place of the One Who holds my life in His hands. I have put my own idea of who He wants me to be ahead of who He actually created me to be.

It’s pride, plain and simple, and it’s not without consequence. It’s a rare sort of ugly, friends, to live out of the unwitting belief that you’re in charge – that it’s up to you – that your way will save you.

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I had the honor of writing the reflection at Blessed is She today, and I focused on the paradoxes of the faith – in giving we receive, in serving we lead, in dying we live – but events over the past weeks allow me to see the readings in a different light.

In today’s Gospel, James and John ask Jesus to give them something to which they have no rightful claim. Jesus responds to them: “You don’t know what you are asking.” And they insist that, indeed, they can take it – whatever “it” is. I can visualize their zealous, righteous indignation now: “We can do it, Lord. Whatever. BRING IT ON.” They press Jesus with their own agenda, their own plans, asking Him to accept them. And because He loves them, He allows these two with whom He’s journeyed to choose their own free will over His perfect version.

I’ve done that, too.

I’ve chosen my will over His. My vision over His. My desires over His. Like a petulant preschooler, I have insisted on eating a lollipop when what I really need is bread. I have thrown a fit in favor or endless hours of screen time when what I really need is to read a good book or write a good story. I have asked for a party with lots and lots of people when what I really needed was silence. With Him.

At its heart, this isn’t about me being too busy or too ambitious or too enthusiastic or too anything, really. It’s also not about me being undisciplined, unintentional, or unwieldy, although those things are definitely symptoms of a larger issue.

The truth is this: I can no longer survive by going my own way anymore – the way I think or the way others think. My way hurts. It hurts me, and it hurts others. And it has to stop.

May I have the courage and the strength to pray and believe and live:

Lord Jesus, not my will but Thine be done. Now and forever. Amen.

God bless y’all.

 heather

 

 

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Vintage RCM: Called to Love

Vintage RCM: Called to Love

imageToday’s post originally appeared at Fleeting Photography¬†last summer as a promo of sorts for the first Called to Love conference in Mobile, Alabama. I hope you enjoy. ¬†-H

It all began with a picture. This picture.

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Actually, it was a painting. But my goodness; what a painting it was! Albertinelli’s Visitation literally stopped me in my tracks. As I gazed upon the Blessed Virgin Mary and her cousin, Elizabeth, I saw in the women’s embrace what I, instinctually, and at a very visceral level, hoped for myself, and for every woman I knew and even those I didn’t: unconditional love, acceptance, and support for one another. Tears streamed down my cheeks. “This,” I breathed to myself, “is what women need; this is the icon of genuine Christian sisterhood.” It was a revelation. As I shopped in the teeny Catholic bookstore in a suburb of Portland, Oregon that day, there was no way I could know that a painting would inspire and change my life.

My husband began a men’s conference in the Portland area in 2008, and every year, women would call to register their sons, husbands, and friends. Without fail, the question earnestly and repeatedly arose: “When is the women’s conference?”

It is truly a testament to God’s sense of humor and His omnipotence that I was the one who started a Catholic women’s conference in Portland. What I couldn’t have possibly known when I finally committed to putting together Catholic Women Rejoice for the summer of 2012 is that my husband would be living and working a contract position thousands of miles away for the five months leading up to the event date while I was pulling frequent all-nighters, working two jobs, and trying to hold things together with four children to care for. All the while, God showed me in ways big and small, “This is Mine. I got this. And you.

On July 14, 2012, the Feast of soon-to-be St. Kateri Tekakwitha, over 200 women converged on Resurrection Parish in Tualatin, Oregon to be encouraged, inspired, and supported in their Catholic sisterhood. In my mind, the painting that inspired me years before had come to life before my eyes that day. I cried several times throughout the event. I get choked up just thinking about it now – God is so, so good! Other than a hiccup with food service and the inconvenience of a very hot day, it was a resounding success. Now in its third year, CWR is still very close to my heart.

Our upside-down life with no husband and father finally came to an end when David accepted a full-time position with Archangel Radio here in the Mobile area and we dropped our nets to follow Christ’s call – away from friends, family, and all known things. It wasn’t long after our fifth child was born that one of my fellow parishioners approached me: “You started a women’s conference in Portland, right? You know, we really need one here.”

I laughed.

Slowly but surely, the wheels began turning, and Called to Love was born. It is still obvious to me that God’s quirky sense of humor insisted that I would have the blessing and privilege of working with such an amazing team of women to provide an opportunity to encounter Christ in one another here in my new home.

Because the Holy Spirit is in control, I know it is going to be phenomenal! The day includes Mass with Archbishop Rodi, breakfast, talks with Teresa Tomeo and Sr. Miriam James Heidland, catered lunch, live music from Kelly Pease Lombardi, Adoration, Confession, Catholic vendors, gift bags; a chance to pray, worship, and just be and rest in the gift of our Catholic sisterhood and the gifts that God gives us.

Wow – I can hardly wait. It’s going to be amazing! But you know what will be even more amazing? To see you there. I can see the picture in my mind’s eye right now, a smiling face greets you with these words: “Welcome, beloved of Christ. It is so very good that you are here.”

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These children will be the death of me.

These children will be the death of me.

We’ve been having a difficult time getting going in the morning. It seems like, no matter what I do, somebody (and by somebody, I mean the 3-year-old and/or the 11-year-old) throws a wrench into the flow, everything gets all jacked up, and we’re late for school. Uh-gain.

Anyone who has tried to get more than two people ready and out the door by a certain time each morning knows just how crazy-making it can be. This particular cross is a legit reason, in and of itself, to homsechool, in my humble opinion.

Anyway, in an effort to retain what thread of sanity I have left and to hopefully¬†improve my blood pressure, I’ve been working on streamlining our routine for the past couple of months. Here’s what we’ve been doing:

  • Clothes are selected, backpacks are¬†packed, lunches are mostly made, and shoes and jackets are located THE NIGHT BEFORE.
  • Breakfast is over¬†at 7 o’clock sharp, unless you’re age 3 and under and just woke up.
  • The three away-from-home school¬†kids each rotate through dressing, teeth-brushing, hair-fixing, and last-minute lunch prep after breakfast. We have a rule that no two kids may be doing the same thing at the same time, because that’s just asking for trouble.
  • I help the 2-year-old and the 3-year-old get breakfast and get dressed, unless, by some miraculous occurrence, I can get one of the older kids to help.

The above plan has been working-ish, but we had a major problem this past Friday morning resulting in me falling on the garage steps and sniffling all the way to school and texting my husband that, yet again, SOMETHING HAS TO CHANGE!!!!!

After talking it over with my other half, the new routine was implemented today: all schoolkids must be dressed and have their lunches completely made before they eat breakfast. And Mommy is in charge of the babies, as usual. Sounds promising, right?

Except¬†… today our schedule was hijacked because … wait for it … I had to go to the bathroom.

What was I thinking??!

Mere moments after I put the 11-year-old in charge, the 3-year-old was running full tilt up the stairs into my bathroom with her eldest sister in hot pursuit.

Man. Someday I will be able to toilet in peace.

Anyway, I will spare you the gory details, but the end result was me, blood boiling, fake-smiling my way through buckling car seats, and pretty much yelling at the older kids regarding listening and caring and helping. Yeah. I get the irony.

I think I might have asked them if they wanted me to suffer from a heart attack and die. Not my finest moment.

Once the kids were safely off to school (five minutes late, but who’s counting?), I texted my BFF and said, “I never knew how far from holiness I really was ’til I started having kids.”

There’s just nothing like having to wake up early after a restless night’s sleep to feed, clothe, corral, nurse, transport, educate, negotiate, soothe, bathe, train, love, discipline, and nurture five sweet, demanding, unbelievably loud and infinitely beautiful little souls to show you just how doggone self-centered you really still are. Especially when the kid who just had a rough time at the doctor’s¬†office wants¬†your snack. After he’s already eaten his.

But I digress.

Having children is like turning on a ginormous spotlight and putting a big, fat mirror in front of your face¬†while¬†hearing a voice sneer, “Neener-neener! You thought you were getting it all together, but this [insert crazy stressed Mom behavior] is how you really are!!”

Reflecting on the tumult of the morning and my response to it, I thought, “These children will be the death of me.”

I sat with that thought for a moment ” … the death of me …” It sounds simply horrible, doesn’t it? Perfectly wretched! But, upon further reflection, I considered what those words really meant and figured, THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT I NEED.

Anything within me that isn’t love needs to¬†die: the despair; the pride; the selfishness; the anger; the need to control; the fear of failure; the ego-centrism; the entitlement; the lack of gentleness, generosity, and compassion. Just like a really good clearance sale, everything must go.

The Bible tells us that God¬†prunes those whom He loves. And to get to the essence of who I am as His child, to be more a more perfect reflection of Him, I must be pruned. A lot. Which means He must love me an¬†AWFUL¬†lot. Because the pruning? It often feels terribly awful and horrifically painful. Because those who bear¬†the pruning sheers aren’t always gentle, and I’m not always (okay – hardly ever) predisposed to receiving the trimming I need.

But my Heavenly Father¬†knows¬†me well enough to know, as I like to joke, that it would take these five little people to get loud and crazy me to crave silence with Him in Adoration, and to really and truly lean on Him as I’d never leaned before – almost so far that I thought I’d fall over. He knows. Because He knows me. And He loves me. And He’s¬†patiently waiting¬†to see the good fruits that will be borne from this¬†time of pruning as I remain in Him.

I think it’s time to go get some gardening gloves.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. Remain in Me, and you will bear much fruit.”¬†-John 15:5

i-am-the-vine

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#7QT: Needing prayer + beauty in the mess

#7QT: Needing prayer + beauty in the mess

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There are so many things I want to write about in this space, but I just can’t. Yet.

The earth is moving, the sand is shifting, the color of the sky is deepening, and all that I survey is primed for change.

God is moving very powerfully and very quickly in our lives right now, but I still stand before y’all as a sinner – a fellow sojourner – a sister – a person in the need of some serious prayer.

And, when all is said and done, we need a miracle. We need grace to change, to move, and to act according to God’s will.

We cannot do it on our own.

So. We need a miracle. A legit supernatural intervention. We would so VERY much appreciate your prayers.

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This little beauty landed on our patio door just before lunch yesterday, and stayed a good, long while. Undoubtedly this winged creature was rightfully intrigued and compelled by its biological instinct to hunt down the love bugs that have returned for their biannual frolic before the temperature gradually shifts downward. Anyway, Sweet Butterfly Friend was lovely, and we enjoyed her company while it lasted.
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My dearest friend told me today that scientists have discovered that, prior to hatching, butterfly cocoons are filled with an oozy goo. It’s almost as if the caterpillar is completely liquified before being built up into its glorious new butterfly creation. She noted how perhaps our family’s time here has been our liquid time, preparing us for our impending metamorphosis. I choked up as I sincerely and unironically thanked her for being the protective covering around my ooze. It was a beautiful moment.

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Fr. J, my military chaplain friend stationed in Alaska, sent me this shot of the Northern Lights early Thursday morning. It took my breath away.
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More from Alaska …
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And another …
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Practicing detachment – from things, from people, from expectations, dreams, and desires – is challenging for me. It occurs to me that change, while inevitable, forces us to detach to one degree or another.

As St. Francis would tell his fellow brothers each morning, “Let us begin again.”

Indeed. Let us begin the new season of change.

 

Por más Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

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