Patrick was just called in to play with the U-17 National Team in August.
We're just a little tickled for him;-)
We send our congratulations to Jodi, who said...
Elizabeth, You are a wonderful mother and you have a terrific family! I love learning from you and I would be so excited to win a copy of Real Learning! Here's hoping! God bless you and thank you for this blog. ~Jodi
Jodi, please email me your address and we will get a book out to you as soon as we can. I see that you're local; maybe we can deliver in person.
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It didn't begin as a new habit, really. Instead, it was a bit of serendipity. A wave of hot, sticky days--too hot and sticky to play out of doors. A mother who was ready to add more exercise to her day and was eager, too, to be outside, instead of only pedaling away on a bike that goes nowhere. I needed to bike alone, but I needed, also, to breathe in fresh air and laughter of children. And, so, early one morning, while looking at the forecast, I made a decision: if the temperature was going to soar into the 90s and above for ten days (and beyond?), we'd have to get out early or none of us would ever get out at all.
Right after breakfast, I made the announcement. Everyone was to get walking shoes; everyone was required to come along; everyone was to be cheerful. Karoline and Sarah Annie each had a stroller. Off we went!
We traveled a neighborhood trail, roughly two miles along wooded areas, grassy areas and a lake. We talked the whole way and watched for wildlife. When we returned home, we settled into the living room, lit a candle and had some morning prayer time. The day was off to a great beginning. The time? 9:00.
It occurred to me, after the third day of this "routine," that I rather liked beginning the day with my children this way. I'm three months into my personal morning habits. The rhythm is well-established: exercise, prayer, shower, dress, tea, Bible. All before 7:30. Even if the day unravels from there, I can still take comfort in the fact that I got to those things. When I considered my personal routine in light of the new habit that was unfolding, it dawned on me that the acquisition of habits could be a layering. Habit upon habit, I could build into each segment of the day the rhythm I desired. This morning walk was the next layer.
The walk suited all of us.
I loved that we were all together. it was just the right amount of physical exertion to wake us, help us focus, and energize the day. The out-of-doors time gave birth to all sorts of conversations and observations. Nature study happened, well, naturally:-). There were questions to ask and answer. There were rocks to throw, flowers to sniff, and ducks who begged us to quack back--all in our own backyard. This was the world waiting to be explored. These were the plants and animals my children should be able to name.
This habit found us and we are eager to embrace it. Our nature study time is set now. A walk to get things started, home for Morning Prayer, and then nature notebooks to record what we saw along the way (cameras tend to come with us on walks:-). This will be the way we begin our days--from now on, well into the school year, and until it's absolutely too cold to venture forth even if bundled. And why not?
Our first thought with regard to Nature-knowledge is that the child should have a living acquaintance with the things he sees.
Let them once get touch with Nature, and a habit is formed which will be a source of delight through life.
She will point to some lovely flower or gracious tree, not only as a beautiful work, but a beautiful thought of God, in which we may believe He finds continual pleasure, and which He is pleased to see his human children rejoice in.
Let us, before all things, be Nature-lovers; intimate acquaintance with every natural object within his reach is the first, and, possibly, the best, part of a child's education.
Beauty is everywhere--in white clouds against the blue, in the gray bole of the beech, the play of a kitten, the lovely flight and beautiful colouring of birds, in the hills and the valleys and the streams, in the wind-flower and the blossom of the broom.
What circumstances strike you in a walk in summer?
By-and-by he passes from acquaintance, the pleasant recognition of friendly faces, to knowledge, the sort of knowledge we call science.
He must be accustomed to ask "why?"--Why does the wind blow? Why does the river flow? Why is the leaf bud sticky?
Every child has a natural interest in the living things about him which it is the business of his parents to encourage.
It is infinitely well worth the mother's while to take some pains every day to secure, in the first place, that her children spend hours daily amongst the rural and natural objects; and, in the second place, to infuse them, or rather to cherish in them, the love of investigation.
The boy who is in the habit of doing sensory daily gymnastics will learn a great deal more about the beetle than he who is not so trained.
We are awaking to the use of nature-knowledge, but how we spoil things by teaching them!
The child who learns his science
from a text-book, though he go to Nature for illustrations, and he who
gets his information from object lessons, has no chance of forming
relations with things as they are, because his kindly obtrusive teacher
makes him believe that to know about things is the same as knowing them personally.
All quotes are Charlotte Mason, taken from the excellent book Hours in the Out-of-Doors: A Charlotte Mason Nature Study Handbook, available at Simply Charlotte Mason.
Yes, indeed, it definitely is. The whole world will one day require us to express everything in 140 (120?) characters or fewer. I know this because I just filed an auto insurance claim and I was asked to describe the incident in 120 characters or fewer. (Actually, they said "less" but I think it's fewer...)
Yesterday, I hit a parked car in the grocery store parking lot. While this might seem a ridiculously unlikely accident, I'm actually surprised that in ten years, it's the first time I've done it. It's a big van, I'm a small person and I once tested in the 10th percentile on a standardized test in the category called "spatial relations." Truth be told, I divulged this information to my husband before we were married. He married me anyway and bought me a ginormous van. Brave man.
Back to the form. I filed the claim online and was limited to 120 characters to tell my story. I nailed it. [The report and the bumper:-)] The report was exactly 120 characters long. I am a much better writer than driver. Much better.
My takeaway lesson? Park even further away than my customary "far away."
And write Twitter into the curriculum for my teenagers, so they can practice filling out online forms. All about life skills.
Hail pious mother, holy Anna hail!
Thy name falls sweetly on the Christian's ear;
They called thee gracious, chosen to prevail
By grace throughout they heav'nward journey here.
Root of you branch, whose heav'nly blossoms sent
Wide o'er the earth the perfume of its breath;
Perennial fount, e'er spreading, never spent,
Lily of Jesse, Rose of Nazareth.
Hail mother of that Star which placid rose
Above the flood of death and sin and war;
The Mother of our Queen whom Heaven chose
Spouse of King of Kings for evermore!
Receive our supplications, mother dear,
Who was graced alone, of all mankind,
The honor to conceive, to nurse and rear
God's stainless Mother, for our joy designed.
Oh, never cease, we pray thee, to present
Before that Son and mother our desire,
The King and Queen of yonder firmament,
That happy home to which our souls aspire.
two cups flour
one cup salt
2 cups water
four Tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tsp cream of tartar
in a heavy saucepan
cook over medium-low heat
until it's so stiff you need a tall, strong boy
to continue stirring for you
turn out onto waxed paper
sprinkle liberally with food coloring
you might want to choose purple because
if you add a few drops
lavender essential oil
magical things will happen...
in the kneading and the rolling
Mama will inhale the lovely scent and find her shoulders
and then the cherubs will come
from near and far
to twist and pound and roll
Lavender and squishing dough through one's fingers--
a rowdy rumpus!
No lavender? Vanilla extract works nearly as well:-)
On today's podcast, Lisa, Rebecca, and I talk about fostering a fullness of faith in our teenagers. We speak frankly about the realities of sometimes turbulent journeys. Then, we move on to discuss our gardens in all their summer glory. And we manage to share a recipe for pesto (rumor has it basil is overtaking Danielle Bean's homestead:-). You can hear the conversation here.
Helpful links related to the podcast:
Some thoughts on resources for sharing the faith with teenagers
An in depth, comprehensive, apologetics based approach.Pesto Recipe
2 1/2 cups fresh basil, washed and patted dry and packed fairly firmly in the measuring cup
1/2 cup walnuts or pine nuts
5 good sized cloves of garlic, peeled and pressed
1/2 cup good quality olive oil
1 pound of fettuccine, reserve 2 cups of the cooking water
2 ounces cream cheese
1/2 grated romano or parmesan cheese
Chop the basil and process with nuts in the food processor.
Combine olive oil and garlic and heat in small pan until it just sizzles. Do not let it get gold and definitely don't brown it. As soon as it sizzles, take it off the heat. You are just heating enough to take the bitterness out of the garlic. Add the oil mixture to the basil mixture and process together.
At this point, you can freeze in small zipper freezer bag to save until it's been snowing for weeks and you want to taste summer.
To prepare as a pasta meal: boil 1 pound of fettuccine. While fettuccine is cooking, blend 2 ounces of cream cheese into the pesto (this isn't necessary but it is quite nice:-). Before you drain the noodles, add two cups of the pasta water to the pesto. Toss the drained fettuccine with the sauce and sprinkle liberally with grated cheese.
At last! We shipped out 40 packages from the Heart of my Home Store today. Now that we're all caught up, it's time for a giveaway. If you leave a comment below, one of my little cherubs might just pull your name from a basket and you can choose a book--Small Steps, the Small Steps Journal, or Real Learning-- from the store. Can't wait to hear from you! We'll draw a winner on Sunday.
Comments are moderated so you might not see yours right away, but I promise to get it through:-)
Recently, I shared some thoughts about listening in a column. Ann has asked for thoughts on listening in prayer this week. So, I share them here, with the hope that they may bless.
It’s summertime and the living is easy — at least that’s the theory. Schedules are more relaxed; there is more time for leisure; our calendars aren’t crammed to overflowing. There are spaces, pockets, places of unstructured time. Perfect. May I make a suggestion? Let this be the summer of prayer. Take the gift of those pockets of time and do something genuine with them. Learn to pray on your summer vacation.
So often, our prayer looks like it did when we were 9 years old. Dear God, here I am. I really want a new bike. Please make my grandma feel better. I’m sorry I picked on my little sister. It’s all about me. Me. Me. What if instead this were the summer we made it all about Jesus?
In his letter to the Galatians, St. Paul writes, “It is no longer I that lives, but Christ who lives in me.” Can you imagine emptying yourself of you completely and then being still long enough to fill yourself with Jesus? Can you imagine becoming a completely new creation inside your old body? So often in popular treatises on prayer we are asked to imagine ourselves walking alongside Jesus, to use our imaginations to place ourselves next to Him. What if, instead, we abandoned ourselves entirely and let Jesus Himself fill our very beings?
We need to learn to make prayer about Him and not about us. We need to lose our lives in order to find life in Him. In her excellent book, Come Meet Jesus, Amy Welborn poses this pivotal question: “If I seek to meet Jesus in my prayer, is he at the center of my prayer, or am I? Am I really ready to listen? How open am I?”
The most beneficial prayer of all is probably not the prayer where we pepper God with all our thoughts. The most beneficial prayer might be the quietest, the prayer where we throw open the doors of our souls and invite God to come in and make a home in our very being. Prayer is about emptying and opening.
Pope Benedict invites us to open ourselves to Christ in prayer in just this way. He writes:
“It seems to me that this gesture of openness is also the first gesture of prayer: being open to the Lord’s presence and to his gift. This is also the first step in receiving something that we do not have, that we cannot have with the intention of acquiring it all on our own.
“We must make this gesture of openness, of prayer — give me faith, Lord! — with our whole being. We must enter into this willingness to accept the gift and let ourselves, our thoughts, our affections, and our will be completely immersed in this gift.”
We don’t know how to pray. We seek God constantly, because we were created to seek Him. And the very restlessness of seeking is a prayer, but we tend to flit from thought to thought and rarely to find the union we seek. Prayer is the intentional act of uniting ourselves with God in order to know His will for us and to know the grace and strength He will give to live in that will. But God knew we’d struggle with this. He knew that we would not know how to move from the weakness of restless, seeking prayer to a settled, constant prayer of unity. St. Paul told the Romans, “The Spirit helps us in our weakness, for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” When prayer is difficult, the Spirit takes our very expression of that difficulty — sighs too deep for words — and makes it a prayer to the Father for us. The Son and the Spirit request from the Father what we need, not what we want. What we need is always, always to be filled with Christ Himself.
Knowing about God is not the same as knowing God. He doesn’t ask us to know about Him; He exhorts us to be still and know Him. So seize a quiet summer pocket of time. Empty your busy brain of all fancies of your imagination. Throw open the doors of your soul to the warm breeze that is the Holy Spirit. Sit with your Bible open (Psalms perhaps?) and let God pour His mercy like oil over your very being.
after five years, this is best advice i can give to you: when you are
online, love. listen.
assume the best. speak life. pray. learn. leave nothing but
traces of grace behind you. arguing over perfect doctrine,
shutting people out because they read the wrong books or like the
wrong authors, pointing fingers, pointing out sin, endless discussions
over politics and religion, mocking brothers and sisters who don't see
things the way you do, all of it is such a waste of time and i believe
it grieves our Lord. please, leave something behind you that testifies
to the life and joy of your salvation! ~tonia@study in brown
A few weeks ago, we had a fingerpainting party in the backyard.
My neighbor came over and brought with her an teenaged exchange student from France who was staying with her family for awhile.
The girls "painted" and we chatted. And a good time was had by all.
Our French visitor commented that she had never seen anything like it.
Later that evening, Katie said to me, "Mama, didn't you say that C was from France?"
"And don't the French have all that really good art. You know, like Monet and the Versailles and everything?"
"They do. Lots of very fine art."
"Then how in the WORLD could she never have heard of fingerpaints? Can you believe that? She's lived her whole life and never, ever, fingerpainted.
Sometimes, a saint finds you.
And those are very, very special times, indeed. Two years ago, around this time, St. Anne found me and I will be forever grateful. There is no saint more dear to my heart, nor more frequently invoked by me than the grandmother of our Lord. She walks beside me, whispers in my ear, and makes sure I get my laundry done! My binder of St. Anne prayers is well-worn and nearly memorized.
July 26th, the Feast of St. Anne and St. Joachim,was a Sunday last year and it found me in a beautiful new church at the baptism of my godson, John (Marisa never did blog the day--I might have to do that for her;-). And every prayer we prayed there went to Louisiana, too, where Bryce Mitchell was being baptized.
July this year finds me taking up my binder of prayers once again, not for a pregnancy this time, just for the comfort of knowing that such a dear mother is listening and praying and interceding. Tradition teaches us what we know about St. Anne and her husband, St. Joachim. I think though, that some saints come to be known even more dearly in our prayers. It is in praying with St. Anne that I have grown to love her.
I've included here for you a copy of my favorite, now very familiar prayers. There are short daily prayers, a chaplet explanation, a litany, and two different novenas. Depending on whether you want to finish on the feast or the day before, you want to start a novena on the 17th or 18th. My St. Anne chaplet broke a few weeks ago, so I do plan to spend these days of preparation for the feast repairing it. Alice Cantrell provides a lovely illustrated tutorial here, should you want to try your hand a crafting this beautiful aid to prayer. I have found that handwork that aids our prayer are the crafts that are most treasured and beneficial in our home. We don't always bead a chaplet, of course, but decorating a vase to fill with flowers next to a saint's icon, or pouring or dipping or decorating a candle to be lit on the feast are also favorite, simple, meaningful family traditions. And sometimes, there is no craft at all.
In our family, we celebrate a name day on St. Anne's feast. There was considerable argument around our dinner table when we discussed what to name our baby girl. It was settled by giving her both names: Sarah and Anne. (To this day, two of her brothers have yet to call her "Sarah." They only call her "Annie.") My mother, Mike's mother, my stepmother, and I all share Sarah's middle name. But only Sarah Anne gets the extra "e":-). And oh, how we love to celebrate Sarah Annie!
Our family looks forward to feast days with quiet, familiar joy. As a child grows, the day takes on its own traditions because the child begins to make it his own. For instance, the Feast of St. Michael around here always smells like incense and a kahlua devil's food cake baking in the oven. That has been Michael's preference for as long as I can remember. For the longest time, we had pizza on the Feast of St. Patrick because Paddy insisted on it.
St. Anne's feast will begin for me as all days do, with the Liturgy of the Hours. I'll pray the Morning Prayer and Office of Readings by myself in the quiet of the dawn. Both prayers bring me into the celebration of the feast with the universal Church. I will light a special candle, put her statue and her icon on our little prayer desk, and make sure that the children notice when they awaken. Then, it's up and out the door. The true "feast" is the Eucharist and we are fortunate to be able to go to daily Mass on feast days, where we celebrate the feast with the community of God. Father delights our children by always, always speaking about "their" saints. Usually, there is a special blessing after Mass for the name day child, as well. And there might be donuts on the way home, too;-).
Sarah Anne is just old enough that she might be able to express her preference for dinner and dessert as is our family custom. Already the lobbying has begun as certain brothers try to persuade her that her favorite dinner resembles their favorite dinner. Almost certainly, there will be chocolate for dessert. Sarah Anne is a big fan of chocolate.
The day will end for my sweet Sarah Annie with more of that heavenly scent, this time it's St. Anne soap and lotion (as much a treat for me as for my baby). Sweet dreams, my darling girl; your heavenly grandmother continues to be so very good to us. Blessed, we are, those of us whose name means "grace."
St. Anne prayers and devotions:
This is a repost from four years ago, because, well, Nicole's been on my mind and in my prayers. And also, because Elizabeth deHority and I have had some long talks lately about living and suffering and understanding just how precious time and life itself is. Please pray for Nicole and her family and pray for Elizabeth, too. Your prayers are very dear to her right now.
July 3, 2006
My friend Nicole died yesterday. A little less than a year ago, she delivered her third baby a bit early. It was then that doctors discovered a particularly aggressive and incurable cancer. Quickly, it became apparent that instead of a babymoon, Nicole would spend her baby's first year planning to die--and planning her children's childhood in a way few of us ever do.
She set about to leave her three children--a four-year-old girl, a two-year-old boy, and her new little girl--little pieces of heart for every occasion she could imagine. She asked for my help collecting a huge assortment of books. She wanted books for each birthday, books for each sacrament, books for the first day of kindergarten, of high school. She tried so hard to think of every possible time in a child's life that he might miss his mother and to have a book for it. Stop for a moment and think of those books. Which ones would you include--living books that would live on in your place? Each one, she inscribed. Her bedroom began to look like an Amazon.com warehouse. And with every day, every box delivered, she weakened.
She fought so hard for the simple things. A couple of weeks ago, she told me the story of her little boy, who had gone for a walk with his dad to get ice cream and stopped to pick her flowers on the way home. She cried as she said, "I just wanted to see him lick that cone. I'm not asking for big things; it's all the little things I want to have and hold."
Today, do the little things. Pick your very favorite story off the shelf and read it with your child safely in your lap. And then have an ice cream cone together.
Please pray for the soul of Nicole and for her young family.
(Greek) Confidence, boldness, courage. The word is found 31 times in the New Testament and in the context of speech, it describes words that are clear and straightforward, spoken openly and publicly. In the same way, it refers to the confidence that believers have when they approach God with their prayers. It is not presumption, but filial boldness.
So, shall we chat for a bit about the rest of the story? I mentioned that I had the Velveteen series all queued up and ready to go a couple of weeks ago. And I mentioned that Friday's post underwent significant re-writing. The reality is that I almost pulled the plug on the whole thing. On Sunday before my series was published, a dear friend made a decision to stop blogging. I understood her decision. I get her. I love her. And sometimes, words are really unnecessary. She wrote what she meant. She meant what she wrote and I believed her. But on Monday, I experienced the horror of the internet from a different perspective.
I saw it through the eyes of a friend as someone I love and trust was picked apart. It wasn't my blog or my reputation. It wasn't me at all. Instead, I watched as people, both publicly and privately, questioned motives, cast aspersions, offered armchair psychological diagnoses, and then blatantly stole her content. I was dumbfounded as people questioned whether or not she even owned her own pictures, words, and lesson plans. I was astonished at the lack of compassion, lack of charity, lack of grace. And I was horrified.
My first urge was to pull my own blog down. My second urge was to reach for the phone. I dialed familiar numbers.
We talked and talked. We wrestled big questions. We thought too much. And we shared with each other things that will remain forever in our hearts, because some things really don't belong here in this public space. By week's end, I posted my last Velveteen post.
She undertook the formidable task of making her blog safe in the wake of hate, protecting her memories and the images of her children from people who really would do harm.
Evlogia means blessing. The blog is a blessing, born of courage. Of confidence. Confidence in something--Someone--bigger even than the Internet.
Go visit. You will be blessed.
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Outside My Window
It’s 95 degrees but it “feels like” 100. I’m not a big fan of hot. Not at all. I wilt, droop, sag...
I am Listening to
The songs from the Sound of Music sung as only my darling little girls can sing them. We went to see an absolutely fabulous live performance while in Charlottesville and the girls have been singing ever since. They are also often found to be singing and dancing on furniture (we’re hoping that particular part of this phase will be short-lived). The show has finished its run, but I'm betting the rest of the season is well worth seeing if you're in the neighborhood (Barefoot in the park? Hmm, might need to plan a trip). And yes, we brought all the kids. The boys enjoyed themselves, despite themselves and even the little girls made it to the very end.
I am Wearing
Denim capris, a pink oxford cloth shirt with the sleeves rolled up to the elbow, and new Once Upon a Shine lipgloss in Sheer Blossom. Isn’t lipgloss grand? Instant pick-me-up, not terribly costly and one size fits all.
I am so Grateful for
Restorative time away with people I love in a place I cherish.
concepts create idols; only wonder grasps anything. ~ Gregory of Nyssa
I am Reading
From this list. I tend to binge.
I am Thinking
That meeting Katherine Malone outside of Anthropologie on Saturday morning was very much an answer to prayer. Bless you, dear lady, for having the courage to introduce yourself and for sharing so generously from your heart. I am very, very grateful.
I am Creating
Nothing at the moment, but I have a notion to call a friend and see if maybe this is the summer to really learn to knit.
On my iPod
This song, sent to me by my friend Donna, early one morning, while I was away. Donna has a knack for sending just exactly the right words at the right time, so that there is absolutely no doubt she was inspired by the Holy Spirit. She sure did this week. Click and close your eyes for just a few minutes.
Towards a Real Education
Big deep breath in this department. I’m buckling down to plan in a big way this week. We’re talking utter simplicity here. Tell you one thing’s for sure, I already have a booklist and I mean to use it extensively this year.
Towards Rhythm and Beauty
Well, we’ve done quite a bit of work on rhythm lately. One thing not on my list but often suggested is a nap. I’m going to try to get one in every day this week. I’m still not feeling totally well and I think the extra sleep will be key to recovery. I also plan to get back on that bike.
To Live the Liturgy
I want to get back into my daily Mass habit now that I have some big kids around to help me dash out for a quick midday encounter with Christ.
I am Hoping and Praying
That I will protect and ponder the treasure gained from my time away from the internet and from the heart-to-heart conversations of the past week.
In the Garden
My poor plants are hanging in there, despite the overwhelming heat and absence of rain. The garden is struggling along but I’m not giving up hope for a comeback if the only the rain would fall freely.
Around the House
I had this little daydream going while I was away (with everyone under 16). I dreamt that those left at home would think to themselves, “Gee, wouldn’t it be really cool if we cleaned the whole house top to bottom while Mom is gone so that she would be greeted by utter loveliness and grace when she got home?” Then I realized how ridiculous that was and just hoped they might clean their own rooms. In the end, I was touched by the thoughtfulness of a nicely made bed.
We’re –ahem—cleaning this week; house looks like I left college students alone too long.
From the Kitchen
Leftovers from the party for World Cup final. Well, it wasn’t really a party, just us and a couple of Paddy’s friends I’d never met before. And after Mass this morning, Nicky invited Fr. T to come by for the game and he was able to make it. Nicky was tickled and we were delighted to have his company.
One of My Favorite Things
Walking the Lawn with my littlest in a frontpack and my three-year-old in a stroller. I walked that walk so many, many times. I could never have imagined being so richly blessed twenty years later.
Sarah Annie this week
She had a grand time at my dad’s house. She stayed awake for the entire production of The Sound of Music. The next day, she was quite the trooper as we walked and window-shopped and lunched with a friend. She’s also very fond of frozen custard, the chocolate-vanilla twist, daily, if you please. Pretty sure I gained back every ounce I lost. Someone had to keep that custard from dripping.
A Few Plans for the Rest of the Week
Ummm…I don’t know. I have very few plans for this week. There’s that housework thing calling my name and I see soccer is back on the schedule at least twice this week.
I have a big stack of books to mail (Thank you! For your overwhelming interestJ.And we really need to research and make some dance decisions…Then there’s Gracie’s summer to-do list; gotta get to some of those things.
...once you are Real, you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always. ~The Velveteen Rabbit
Fifth in a series.
All of the other posts in this series were written a couple of weeks ago and queued up at Typepad, ready to go. This one is mostly being written in real time. That's because I have used this last week, the ninth week, to come to an understanding of the eight previous weeks. I thought I had it figured out, but God had other plans.
On Monday of this week, my first real day back online and the day I planned to integrate all my new habits into my real life, I woke up sick. Sick enough that I didn't exercise. And I didn't pray the Hours. I didn't get dressed. I dragged myself through the day, feeling sicker and sicker as time went on. I did manage to get drawn into an internet dialogue. Spent more time hunched over the computer than I had in the last eight weeks. And then I spent too much time on the phone. At the end of it, nothing good was accomplished and I had a headache and an overwhelming urge to go to confession.
The day ended with me curled up in a ball in excruciating pain from my waist to the top of my head. My entire left side burned. It was the kind of pain that when they say, "On a scale of one to ten, with ten being the worst pain you've ever felt..." I briefly remembered the time they forgot the meds right after my c-section and said "Nine, but almost ten." All night long, I kept considering how very wrong the day had gone. Did I mention that I also ate leftover brownies from the weekend party? Yep. Blew that whole thing, too. It was as if, in one day, I had the opportunity to see how critical every component was.
Tuesday, I went to the doctor. People who know me know that I never go to the doctor. The last time I had a sick visit to the doctor, I had taken a child to the pediatrician and he made me stay until he managed to diagnose pneumonia--in me. It had never occurred to me that I needed a doctor that day. I have just a wee bit of post-traumatic stress where doctors are concerned. This was not improved by my last [life-threatening] delivery. But I went to the doctor because I was that sick and that desperate. Turns out I've been nurturing a staph infection for sometime now. That might go a long way to explain the recurrent mastitis and the fatigue. I left the doctor, filled the prescription and went home.
Wednesday, I read Amy Welborn. Have I ever mentioned how much I love Amy Welborn? She articulates the good and the true and the beautiful so very well. I read all of Come Meet Jesus on Wednesday. And then I began to read it again on Thursday. It's my new gift book of choice. I think everyone should have a copy and I mean to put one in as many hands as I can.
Wednesday definitely found me trying to make sense of it all, trying to hear what He was saying clearly. Turns out this wasn't an eight week experiment. It was the unveiling to me of a rule of life.
I need to start the day with prayer. Lots of it. And I need to pray it in the rhythm of the real Church, not the Church that other people represent to me.
I need to exercise every single day. (No, I don't mean when I'm sick, but I could really tell how the lack of routine could upset the apple cart even if I felt fine.)
I need to start the day (after the prayer and exercise start) with a shower, clothing and lipgloss, and then some quiet time with the Bible. I want my children to find me in that room, with a candle lit and the Bible on my lap when they first wake up. I don't want them to find me staring into my laptop.
I need to refrain from internet drama, even a little bit.
I need to limit the phone to times when my children and husband aren't present, so that I can be fully present in my home. And oh boy, I need to be fully present. To them.
I can't eat sugar or flour--not even a taste.
On Thursday, I packed up the children and went to visit my father and his wife in Charlottesville. Because even after all these years, Charlottesville still calls my name. I am the child of a naval officer and my parents divorced in my late teens. Those two things make it very hard to know where to go when every bone in your body wants to go "home" to someplace where someone will take care of you for a day or two.
My father and stepmother live in Charlottesville--the only town I've ever chosen for myself. It was my town before it was their town. I went to school there and around every corner are little pieces of me and of people I love.Those are my trees, my mountains; the air smells like home to me. It's a good place to be. Sometimes, when we're very tired, a change is as good as a rest. And if that change takes you "home," all the better.
So, surrounded by people I love, in a place I cherish, it's been easy to reflect on the past nine weeks and know what I need to do every single day to live the seamless life I so long to live, to walk in the peace of Christ. Over the past couple of days, I've had heart to heart, face to face talks with people I trust. I bought new lipgloss and a new candle. I met a friend for lunch and kind conversation and then put two tiny girls in the van and drove around while they napped. I drove past the places where I was educated. I drove past the places where I taught--and where I fell in love with teaching. I thought about how dear it all is--the things I've done, the places I've been, the people I've loved.
And I thought about how dear the time to come is. I want it to be everything God intends for it to be.
The last big question remaining for me has been whether to continue to blog or not.
One of the things I did when I decided to take a month-long blogging break was to sift through lots of old columns and give them to my children as copywork to keyboard. In such a way, I preprogrammed posts and continued to blog, using writing that was sometimes 15 years old. The process of choosing those pieces was lovely, indeed. I spent several hours reading my own writing and remembering things I know I thought I'd never forget.
But I had forgotten.
And it was a joy and a consolation to read them again. I read about our happy times, my moody times, the struggling times. As soon as my eyes met the word on the page, I instantly remembered every column in great detail. I even remembered where I was when I first composed them in my head. My children enjoyed reading them and I think they were touched more than once to see in black and white how very much they are loved. Those columns have value. And it's a very personal value.
The blog is even better. This place has always been the place on the web where I am at home; I am myself. I am real. There is more writing and many, many photographs. It's a family treasury and my immediate family has never been anything but extremely supportive of my blogging. I know that every post is a deposit in a treasury of family memories. Some of those memories are family anecdotes and others are the personal musings of a mother's heart. I think, when I sift through them fifteen or thirty years hence, both will be of worth.
More than my memories though, I want these posts for my children, particularly my daughters and daughters-in-law. I want to connect with the young mothers they probably will be. I want to empathize and to encourage and to support. I want to be for them the hand up, the strong shoulder, the warm hug I have wanted so many times on this journey. I think these posts might help us both. I want to remember the struggle of these years. I want to remember how hard I tried, how much I pondered, how deeply I loved. I want to remember because I want to be able to empathize. Going forward, it is my intent to write with those young ladies of the not too distant future as my audience.
So, why publish?
Because of you. Because despite the nasty notes and ugly threads and hurtful comments hurled through cyberspace, mostly the people who read this blog are very good people. And you wrote to me. You told me how and why this blog mattered to you. You told me your stories and you touched my heart again and again. You sent me birth announcements.
We are given gifts. We all have our talents to bury or to squander or to invest. All my life, God has given me words. When I have been lonely, afraid, without comfort or attachment, He gave me words. I write to make sense of the world around me and I always have, for as long as I can remember. Actually, He gave me the Word and He gave me words. Late at night, huddled under the covers with a flashlight and the Children's Living Bible, I had a very strong sense of understanding that to know this--really know--the God of these words was the only way I could stay sane.And then I scribbled notes in the dark, reams and reams of notes. I write because it's my gift--the lifeline God has thrown me, for me. But, He showed me that when I have the courage to share those words, they can bless someone else. I can give them as a gift. I can articulate something that she is thinking and so help bear the burden of the thought.
As I recently told a friend, if you have a beautiful voice, and you sing the Hours faithfully at home in total privacy, that is certainly a beautiful thing. You are giving God a beautiful gift and you are allowing yourself to be open to His transcendence. But I would be ever so grateful if you would consider recording your voice. When I lay down to nurse my baby to sleep and start to sing to her, she ceases nursing, holds up her hand and says, "Stop." I cannot sing. Your song would be a gift to me.
I want my words to be a gift.
I worry, though. When I first started blogging, one thing several friends who are writers agreed upon was that this is a great medium for people who think in narrative. At last we had some place to actually put all those thoughts. The last few days have me wondering. Are we supposed to think in narrative? I don't think so. I think we're supposed to think--or not think-- in prayer. Thinking in narrative focuses our minds and our hearts on ourselves. Living a one-piece life of genuine prayer focuses both heart and mind on God.
To know Christ is a gift, a gift I am tempted to shelter and carefully protect, lest it slip away somehow. A gift I can scarcely believe is mine. A gift that seems so precious that my first instinct is to protect it deep within my soul.
I think I'm making this all too complicated. Maybe it's really much simpler. Live the life of prayer--make it genuine and true and real. And if the Lord gives me the words and the time, share abundantly.
I know that I cannot control how I am received. I cannot control what people will write and say and do. I cannot begin to take into account every possible situation. I can just remember how much I wish someone would sing the Hours for me in clear voice and how I might somehow bless someone likewise with clear prose. I can share a life of prayer--just as long as sharing it does not cause it to cease being a life of prayer.
I could sit for hours and try to do a cost-profit analysis on pushing the "post" button. And I have. In the end, it doesn't matter if blogging has caused more pain or more happiness in my life. In the end, what matters is whether I have the words and whether I have the means to share them. These words are God's gift to me. I cannot, in good conscience, smother a gift so dear. Instead, I give thanks for this new media. I give thanks for the opportunity to see words come to life on a MacBook in the small spaces of my day when my children leave me in the quiet with my thoughts. I fully understand that those times may be scarce and I promise not to squander them wandering mindlessly online. I give thanks that I can and will tell my children and anyone else within earshot that there is joy.
The whole series:
The mechanical toys were very superior, and they looked down upon everyone else. Between them all the poor little Rabbit was made to feel very insignificant and commonplace and the only person who was kind to him at all was the Skin Horse. --The Velveteen Rabbit
Fourth in a series
This is the part of my journey that is most difficult to write, to share. About six weeks into the project, I had to come face to face to what was really tormenting me. My children are growing up so fast. It's astonishing to me how quickly the time has passed. When I began "the new habit project," I sifted through old columns and set them aside to post while I was away. I enjoyed reading them so much! I enjoyed re-living the moments they captured. I found myself wishing for that girl again. That girl--the one who wrote about ten years ago--that was the real girl I knew and loved. But where did she go? Why did she feel so elusive? And oh, what have I done to allow something, anything, to take her away and leave in her place an exhausted blob of a person who doesn't have nearly the idealism and enthusiasm as the girl she was? I don't want to be thirty again. I'm not looking to turn back the hands of time. But I want to take hard-earned wisdom and marry it to the positive optimism I once had in such abundance.
I sat today to write all about how I've restructured my time and my perception of the online world. but then I realized I've already written it. Nothing has changed really since those three pieces. Kind Conversation is new since then. It has a very tightly defined mission statement and I hold myself to it. Not everyone needs this kind of definition. I do. I use Kind Conversation as my portal to Twitter and Facebook, updating from there because being there holds me to that standard and the prompt is phrased in such a way that I am reminded to promote a culture of respect, dialogue, and friendship. I give social networking--Facebook, Kind Conversation, Twitter--no more than one hour a week total. I set a timer. I keep track. I have to in order to guard the precious, precious time I have. There was a time when I spent more than 20 hours a week nurturing a message board. I honestly believed I was doing the right thing. I was grateful for a ministry opportunity that allowed me to share this lifestyle without leaving my home. I invested my heart into the women there with all good intentions. In my sharing though, I traded the lifestyle. I gave away so much of myself that I lost the real. Struggles on the internet have yielded at last to an insight about myself for which I am very, very grateful. I see that for me, in this season, I need to look away from the computer and sharply limit my conversations there. I can attribute the insight, the resolve, and the ease with which I can keep those resolutions only as a blessing of this time of intense prayer and fasting.
Right around the time I was wondering where all this was leading and why peace was so elusive, I got an email from a friend who was inquiring on behalf of her friend. She was wondering how we decided to go ahead and try to conceive after chemotherapy and radiation. The gist of her question was whether we had researched and worried about the effect of chemo on my ovaries and the precious cargo therein.
I don't let myself go there too much because it's really a waste of emotional energy. Christian was conceived in 1991. Six months after I finished chemo and radiation, I asked my oncologist about getting pregnant. He said it would probably take awhile to conceive but that if i could, he thought it highly likely I'd live to raise my child. We conceived that night. I didn't go home from that doctor's appointment and consult the internet. There was no internet access. I didn't get bogged down in medical studies or anecdotal reports on message boards or anything else. I trusted my doctor medically and then I trusted my husband with my life and the life of our child. That's the way our marriage works. We gathered expert information and then asked the Holy Spirit. We discerned that it was God's will to be open to conception and we were.
Wow! The biggest decision of our lives and that's the way we made it. Actually, we consulted two priests as well; both of them celebrated Christian's baptism nine months later. We have continued to make that decision that way for all these years. As my childbearing years come to a close, I am profoundly sad. I wish there more more babies. But I am also consoled by the fact that I know we have been open to every single one of them. I used to say (until very recently) that I have no regrets about these years. Now, I see that I do. I most definitely do.
I regret the way I allowed what I read on the internet to influence my life at home.
The thing that has changed is that now I look on those heavily- influenced- by- the- 'net years and my regret is not that I let my children play with felted fairies. My regret is that while they were happily engaged, I entertained countless conversations with women on the internet. And I let their opinions, their judgments, and their understanding of the faith color mine. Over time, the real me was rubbed away and what was left was a facsimile that was further from the image God I was created to be than I ever thought possible.
I regret that I made school decisions, house decisions, even clothing decisions in a way that was so counter to the way we made childbearing decisions. And I definitely regret the time I spent "consulting" about such things. I have always taken the gift of time very seriously. I regret that I wasted time online. I regret that I allowed online conversations to rob my family of the wife and mother God intended for them. Those were the years the locusts ate.
"I tell you, on the day of judgment men will render account for every careless word they utter" (Matthew 12:36)
My experience with social networking isn't a unique one. It isn't universal either. It is what it is and I am where I am. The internet can be a tool for the good. It can be a font of community, prayer, and genuine support. And it can be a tool for evil mischief. Some people can engage in online banter or vigorously debate an online correspondent and click the computer shut and walk away, no better or worse for the exchange. Not me. I carry it around in my head. I laugh about it. I cry about it. I mentally write responses to it in the shower. I feel it. I live it. Some wounds run deep. And for those of us who feel those wounds, who struggle still to let Him heal those wounds, internet conversations can be a place of peril.
Let's bring the cancer thought to its completion. When I first got online, I joined a Hodgkin's survivor's group. At least I thought it was a Hodgkin's survivor's group. It was an email list that actually included survivors and people in active treatment. The week I joined, someone died. The first three days, there were graphic reports from his wife, delineating in detail his suffering. There were all kinds of posts second guessing his treatment, and everyone else's treatment. There were conflicting reports of longterm survival and early demise. There was utter confusion and despair in almost every thread. It was the blind leading the blind and they were all going some place very bad. On the fourth day, the man died. I unsubscribed. I was about 7 years out of treatment at that point and I'd avoided groups all that time. I knew myself well enough to know that I would take everyone else's experiences and make them mine. I'd feel their pain, live in fear of their struggles, share their confusion, and empathize so thoroughly that I'd never recover. That's who I am. That's how I'm made.
And I knew myself better than to do that. I don't believe that positive thinking can cure cancer, but I do believe that negative thinking can seriously compromise recovery. Recovery is too precious to me to risk. Ever. I am sure that there are very nice, medically sound cancer support groups out there online somewhere. Do I want to risk stumbling around in the negative ones until I find a positive one? Not really.
About a year later, pregnant with Stephen and feeling so happy and full of life, I found a Hodgkin's message board. I had one purpose: I'd get on and share the joy. I would shout to the world the good news of recovery. It just so happened that on that very day a dad was doing research for his daughter. He asked if anyone had every gotten pregnant following treatment, since she'd been told it would be nearly impossible. Oh yes! Someone had! I was expecting my fourth post-cancer baby. Wasn't that grand and glorious news? To my dismay, people started weighing in on how what I was saying couldn't be true. How "irresponsible" it was to raise her hopes. How I really shouldn't gloat on a board where so many people were suffering. And my joy? It was awash in tears of rejection and fear. Never again with that kind of board. Ever.
Over time, I settled into a Catholic homeschooling mama niche online. Mostly, the conversations were very enlightening and very friendly.It takes hours and hours to form relationships online and I invested those hours. All was well with the conversations there. Except when they snuffed out the joy. I didn't recognize it at first. Hah! I didn't recognize it at second or third or... Instead of clicking away, I tried to see the perspective of these "other people out there who must know so much more about God than me." I tried to believe their perspective. I formed my opinions and changed my mind according to the ideas and "authority" of people online, rather than using the discernment process of ageless wisdom. I listened and empathized and believed and felt until I wasn't even me anymore. I knew more and more about religion and I spent less and less time with Jesus. And the joy? Gone.
Anyway, I was slow to see the same dynamic as on the cancer board. Now I do. Now I know where the places are that I must avoid in order to guard and preserve my own interior peace. And there are lots of them. Apparently, I am a bit hypersensitive in this regard.This experience is mine alone. Why then, do I share it?
Because confession is good for the soul.
Because in writing I can begin to make sense of it for myself. Because the mere fact that I am able to write again means that there is healing. I stopped blogging because the voices of the people who would rob my joy had grown so loud that I couldn't hear myself think.
I shut it all down. And there was quiet.
The good news is that I found God there. I have quieted the voices of other people that have pelted my thoughts for so long and when I stopped hearing them, I heard Him.
Only God can love me back to real. Well, God and the sweet family with whom He has abundantly blessed me.
The whole series:
Of what use was it to be loved and lose one's beauty and become Real if it all ended like this? And a tear, a real tear, trickled down his little shabby velvet nose and fell to the ground. ~The Velveteen Rabbit
Third in a series.
As I pulled away from the internet and the telephone, I became more aware of my home and the people in it. My goodness! They had all acquired some very bad habits, too. My little ones were bigger now. Technology had infiltrated every corner of our home. My television can do things that astound me. My daughter can text so fast and so frequently it makes my head spin. And we are all iPod Touch junkies, just ask Karoline. But this is not where I tell tales on them. Just know I'm working on sharing with them some of my own insights. I've also bookmarked just about every article or post that has come down the pike lately about this topic. Ironically, I've read very few of them, but I intend to read them all, when I have time to talk them over with Mike.
I have set some new limits on screens and such, but more than that, I've given them something else to do, to think about. I've gone room by room through my house with one thing in mind: I'm home.
Sarah Anne plays this sweet game where she takes a much-too-large-for-her tote bag and slings it over her shoulder. She walks across the kitchen, staggering a bit beneath the wight of the empty bag, and then she turns around and comes back to me. She smiles brightly and says, "I'm home!"
This is her reality.
This is my reality. This is what is real in my home during this season. It is a place of coming and going. For this baby, home is someplace where people leave and then they come back. Try as I might to stop the march of time and pretend that they are all little and running in concentric circles around me, "I'm home!" is what is real. It's so obvious that the smallest among us recognizes it.
It is time for me to recognize it. It is time for me to look again at the rhythm of our lives and establish our home as a place of welcome and soft landing. So, room-by-room, I went, looking with a critical eye and seeking to make this place a haven for all of us. My goal was especially to be certain that God was palpable in every nook and cranny. That doesn't mean that I stuck a statue and hung an icon in every corner. But it does mean that I ensured that my children will never doubt that home is a haven and that the transcendence of God himself will envelope them here.
Perhaps I will give you a tour some day.
Ironically though, "I'm home" often means I'm not home. Only two of my children are old enough to drive, so if the rest of them are coming and going, it means I'm driving. I hate to drive. My daughter takes ballet 9.72 miles from my home. It can take me an hour and 15 minutes to make that trip in traffic. Imagine what it's like during rush hour with a toddler and a three-year-old for company. Now multiply that out over five children who need rides four days a week. Throw in weekend soccer games, recently as far as 65 miles away...
Therein lies a huge source of stress. I am a homebody who is never home. I am a terrible driver who is always driving. I am a mom who believes in providing opportunity to her children who often wonders if they are over-scheduled. And my husband travels. A lot. It is a life of contradiction. A life of constant re-evaluation.
For now, it is summer and with the heat and humidity comes also a change of pace, a chance to catch my breath. We are seriously considering all our options for the fall. Exhaustion happens and exhaustion is often what I mistake for depression.
The whole series:Velveteen Me~To Desire Him More Velveteen Me~The Years the Locusts Ate
Our neighborhood fireworks show was on the 3rd of July this year. It was in our backyard. Literally. They set off a professional fireworks display about half a mile from my backyard. Since they had a done such a show just a couple of months ago, I knew that we would have a clear unobstructed view. So, I did what came naturally and called a few friends to come eat and watch fireworks with us. We had a wonderful time.
As people were cheerfully playing and eating and coming in and out through the back door for every possible convenience, I remembered past Independence Days that were very dependent. I remembered years of pregnant July 4ths, parking two miles from the site, lugging a toddler on top of my belly in 90+ degree heat, hauling the picnic, settling in, and then--someone always needed the potty. I called a moratorium on that a few years ago and tried to persuade my children that we could have just as much fun at home. To my credit, we made a flag cake every year.
(Flag Cake 2006)
They were not especially beautiful cakes. Truth is, midsummer finds my energy lagging, particularly while nursing and pregnant, and my husband was never home for the Fourth of July. It's not my finest holiday. I've always felt a little guilty about that. I'd look at post-holiday blog posts and think about how I really needed to get my act together and do better because childhood only happens once, you know. And my kids weren't having much fun on the 4th of July.
Mike was home this year.
We had a very nice party. It was lots of fun for everyone. And the cake? Absolutely beautiful! You know what? Sometimes, know matter how hard you try, the best you can do is just barely good enough. And sometimes, it's not about you. It's about the circumstances of your life. This year. I'm not pregnant. This year, my husband was home. This year, all the circumstances lined up to make the holiday festive and beautiful. And believe me when I tell you that we all had a hand in making the cake. Mike and Paddy baked it the night before using Ina Garten's recipe. I frosted it in the morning and then Mike drew lines on the frosting. Every year, Nicholas is very bothered that the flag cake doesn't have the right number of stars and stripes. This year it did. Nick and the little girls followed Mike's lines and we fit it all in, just so. I piped the rest of the frosting, Sarah on my hip, and we had ourselves a fine cake. And a fine party. It's amazing how much happier (and easier) things are when Dad's around.
(Note to my friend who is just days away from" boots on the ground": Sometimes, no matter how hard you try to organize yourself, push yourself, discipline yourself, at the end of the day, you're still just yourself and what you really need is him. That's as it should be. I'm praying you through these next few days and I'm praying your homecoming is grand and glorious.Please thank him for us. And thank you--for the sacrifices you've made and the hard work you've done to keep our country free and our 4th festive.)