Transition

The other night one of my kids was acting weird. She just wasn’t herself and I could tell that something was bothering her. When I prodded a little, she completely and theatrically melted down. “I don’t know, I don’t know,” she kept repeating. “I don’t KNOW what’s wrong with me. I don’t KNOW what I’m feeling, if I’m happy or if I’m sad. I don’t know what to FEEL. My life isn’t turning out the way I wanted. Like, who am I even??!?”

Did I mention we have a flair for the dramatic?

I tried to cover my grin as I calmed her down. Poor kid was just so frustrated with so many things and having such a difficult time articulating her emotions, so I leaned back onto something that I’ve used with the kids for a long time now. It’s just a quick check in that reminds them of their identity and consists of three simple questions: Who are you? Who made you? How did He make you? Being reminded that she was created by a loving God who made her and made her good was enough to settle my girl for the night.

And the whole situation seemed hysterical to me until I was having an identical breakdown like two days later.

I’m feeling rather adrift if I’m honest, having a difficult time finding my place in things. Without Easter to look forward to or Lent to keep me disciplined and no solid end in sight for the stay at home order, I’m having a hard time coping. It’s like the “day after” feeling I always get after holidays, but amped up a few hundred notches.

Who are you? Who made you? How did He make you?

Today’s Gospel reading from John (20:11-18) shows us Mary Magdalene encountering Jesus and mistaking him for the gardener. When she fully recognizes Him, it’s obviously a moment, but eventually Jesus says, “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. but go to my brothers and tell them…” and gives Mary that incredible job of being the Apostle to the Apostles.

In today’s Blessed is She devotion, Kendra Tierney writes:

She can’t hold on to Him as her friend and teacher. She needs to let go of Him as a Man so she can embrace Him as God. She can’t get caught up in her expectations for the moment and for her life, because Jesus has a new and different love for her to experience. And an important job for her to do.

Kendra Tierney, Blessed is She, 04/14/20

“She can’t get caught up in her expectations.” Man, that gutted me. I think that much of the reason I’m struggling to cope these days is that I’ve been caught up so tightly in what I expect my life to be like. I have a vision for how I think things ought to be, what Lent should look like, how I want Easter to be celebrated, how frequently I think I should be able to receive Holy Communion.

“…Jesus has a new and different love for her to experience. And an important job for her to do.” I think it’s only human nature to cling to what we know, especially in difficult times of transition.

I’m a birth doula, so I often see the world through the lens of childbirth. I always say that life is like labor, transition is the hardest part. Transition is the part in childbirth that seems to take the longest, when a mother’s body is completing its final preparations to deliver her baby, it’s an eternity of seemingly unstoppable intensity. This is the point when mothers frequently begin to doubt themselves, when they say they can’t go on any longer, beg for it to be over, many times searching frantically for any “out” they can find. Alas, the only way out is through, as we all know. In order to get through transition in childbirth, a mother must push through the intensity so that she can push in a more literal sense to bring her child into the world.

And as I’ve seen time and time again in childbirth, the women who cope with labor the best are the ones who submit themselves to the experience. They don’t try to control or manipulate the situation, but surrender themselves to the waves. Laboring women who do fight their bodies get panicky, tension making the pain more intense. Labor oftentimes takes longer and is more of an ordeal that they survived than an event they took part in.

We’re in transition right now. Just like the experience of a laboring woman, it feels that there’s no end in sight. Our current reality feels like some sort of endless in-between where we’re promised something good on the other side, but it feels like we’ll never ever get there.

The only way out is through. The only way to cope is to refocus our lives on the One who is calling us to a new and different experience of His love. In order to progress, we must let go of our expectations, lay down the ideals we’ve been clinging to, the preconceived notions of what “normal” is or what our lives “should” look like, and submit ourselves to the experience, however difficult it may be. It is only in surrendering to labor that a pregnant woman comes to deliver her child. It is only in surrendering ourselves to our present circumstances that we will encounter new ways to experience the Risen Christ and, like Mary Magdalene, receive a deeper sense of what we are called to as His disciples.

Who are you? Who made you? How did He make you?

Truth and Trust

Well, the good news is I think I hit my stride with the whole home school thing. The bad news is I still have my new chin hair. I tried real hard to find my tweezers, desperately ransacked the bathroom cabinets where they’re *supposed* to be before I remembered that I had to throw the tweezers away the other day because a kid was using them to fish for turds in the toilet. Not lying. Wish I was, but I’m not.

So, the next time you see me I’ll probably look like I’m auditioning for Duck Dynasty, but I’mma go with it and embrace the new normal. (It has yet to be determined if my husband will want to embrace this new normal. However, he is a wise, intelligent man, so I think he’ll take what he can get chin hairs not excluded.)

As I settle into this new schedule, new facial hair and all, it’s been amazing to me to look back and see how God has been preparing me for this time. I’m part of a ministry team that leads a women’s retreat every year at our church. This year’s speaker, Amber VanVickle, spoke about suffering and trust. She told us about how she did a challenge once in which she didn’t ask God for anything for an entire month. And the second she said it, my stomach dropped. I instantly knew I had to, needed to try it, and I thought, “Well… shit. I’m going to have to do that.” (Sometimes my response to the Lord tugging at my heart is less than stellar, y’all.)

So that’s what I did for Advent this year. I did not ask the Lord for anything in prayer. There were no requests, no supplication, no demands, nothing. Just me and Jesus and lots of time…because incidentally this was around the same time that I thought I was signing up to do a holy hour in the Adoration and somehow got signed up for a holy two hours. This was also before I had come to terms with the idea that silence before the Lord is an integral part of prayer. I had the blessing of hearing Meg Hunter Kilmer speak at my parish and when asked about how to pray, Meg said, “Silence. You need to sit in silence with God for at least 15 minutes a day.” My response, again, was, “Well, shit.”

Clearly Jesus had work to do on my heart.

What followed was an intense, challenging, beautiful time of me being frustrated with my own distraction and struggling to maintain focus while also trying not to fall asleep in Adoration. And at the same time, I was fighting every urge to ask, ask, ask in prayer.

Important side note: obviously, God wants us to ask things of him. Very specifically in scripture he tells us to knock, seek, ask. But so many times in our asking, we’re not surrendering. In our requesting, we’re actually trying to control or manipulate the situation. At least for me, my prayer life had become more about what I thought was the best solution to the problem and less about fiat and Thy will be done. Letting go of asking meant letting go of control.

When you take away the ability to ask and request, you’re left with only the ability to state and to profess. So my prayer life quickly became statements of trust and truth rather than begging to have my desires fulfilled. My journal entries during this time became less lists of demands and morphed into litanies of truth and surrender:

Jesus, you know my heart. You know my weaknesses and my failings. You know my addictions and sins. Lord, you know the depths of my hurt and all of the spots, the deep places I need healing. Jesus, I know that you are faithful, that you are before all time, and transcend all knowledge and understanding. You are unchangeably good. I believe you are pursuing me, healing me, drawing me out of the walls I’ve put up.

God, I believe you are faithful and you have a plan for me. Jesus, I trust in you. I trust that no prayer is ever wasted, no moment unproductive if spent with you. I trust that your will would be done and that you are holding me securely in your hands. Jesus, I trust in you. I trust that I will meet you in faithful silence every when it is hard for me. You are real, you are moving, transforming, dwelling, and guiding. You are love. Jesus, I trust in you.

Dec. 1, 2019

God, I don’t know what our future holds, sometimes I’m tempted to listen to fear and the idea that we haven’t suffered any real tragedy so it’s coming, that our future is somehow shadowed and shaky. But I’m reminded of your truth, that even in hardship and worry and storm and draught, you are present. You never change. Your love is constant and so is your mercy. So, whatever the future holds, I know you are holding us. Whatever the tides may bring, I will say yes to the call, your call to me within them.

Jesus, I trust in you. I trust that whatever you’re calling me to, you will equip me and provide for me within that call. Jesus, I trust in you. I trust that your ways are not our ways and that is good. Jesus, I trust in you. Trust that you are guiding, protecting, leading, and shepherding all of us. Even when you seem distant, you are there. Even when I’m confused, threatened, and afraid you are there. Jesus, I trust in you. Whatever the next days, the next year bring, I know I am covered in your mercy.

Dec. 15, 2019

I find myself compelled to return to these entries because once again I’m in need of peace. When my heart is troubled, when I’m grasping too much, attempting to control too much the answer, at least for me, is to trust. Trust and truth can do much in the face of fear and anxiety.

The truth is that God has not changed. He is real, He is moving, He is intimately in love with us, and He can redeem all things. All things.

The truth is that sometimes we have to get uncomfortable to really see how Christ pursues our hearts, how he wants to sneak in past our messy, disordered affections and addictions to show us what real satisfaction can be. There is truth and peace resting in his Sacred Heart and he longs for us to make our way there.

The truth is that when I let my dog out early this morning, the birds were still singing. Up before dawn, perched in a dying tree in my back yard, they were singing their hearts out to herald the coming day. They’re still singing and I think there’s a lot to trust in just in that.

Thoughts on the Cross

Things have been pretty quiet around here lately, partially because life it eternally nuts and also because I’ve been wrestling with some really weighty issues. Maybe it’s because we’re getting deeper and deeper into Lent so I’ve got these things on my mind already, but I find myself struggling with anger, fear, frustration, guilt, and feelings of unworthiness, loneliness, and doubt. So basically, I’m Catholic. (Ba-dum-ching!)

 

Did you get that that was a rim shot? ‘Cause it totally was.

 

I think this happens to us all from time to time. Not bad sound effects, though those happen too, but these moments of spiritual, mental, and physical grief. These are times when we just can’t wrap our brains around situations, around suffering, around life. And these are the times we need the cross.

 

And I don’t know about you, but the times when I so need the cross are the times I feel the cross is so unfair. When I’m struggling with my sins, the cross is hard for me to handle. The cross is ugly. It is violent. It asks too much of Christ. I hate that I so selfishly seek my own comfort when Christ went through such agony on the cross.

 

Sometimes I feel like life asks too much of us all, that God asks too much of all of us. Obviously, I understand that the Cross had to happen, has to happen, for us and for our salvation, but that doesn’t make it any less hard.

 

Now, I’m a firm believer in free will, and in knowing that bad things happen as direct consequences of the choices we make, not necessarily because God wills bad things upon us. God is not malevolent, He is not vengeful or spiteful. He’s not out to make me pay for my sins. Quite the opposite, actually.

 

In all the negativity, the struggles, the fears He is present. And what’s more, He wants to make me better. It is in the wrangling with sin that I find redemption. It is in the fighting to find goodness that I see that it’s been there all along…I just needed the grace of the cross to see it.

Quote from Shane Kapler at Just a Catholic.

 

 

I’ve been getting these daily Lenten reflections from Fr. Robert Barron and I really like them. The other day I read something in regards to the cross and Christ’s sacrifice that has really stuck with me:

“So the Father sent the Son all the way out into the furthest limits of God-forsakenness, but why? To usher into those places the divine light. Is death a place that God is not? No, because God is present there in Jesus. Is suffering a place that God is not? No, because the Son entered into suffering. Is sin a place where God is not? No, because God became sin on the Cross, says Paul.

Through Jesus, the divine light journeys into our worst darkness. His aim is to divinize us, to allow us to “share his divine nature” in St. Peter’s words, even in those dark places and conditions. Sin is a turning away from the divine life, and death is a fearful place that seems alien to God. But Jesus invades all those places, and thereby illumines them. He offers us new life even when we’ve wandered as far as we possibly can from God.

In that sense, the Cross was necessary for our salvation since it allowed the Hound of Heaven to hunt us down, even in the darkest places.”

 

I like that. I like knowing that I am hunted, pursued by a Savior who desperately wants to be with me in the midst of the darkest, most dismal places I find myself.

 

And there’s a deep, deep comfort in that. He’s not asking too much; he’s just asking to be with me.

Seven Things: 21

Well, I intended to do a Seven Things post and had actually been working on it earlier in the week (imagine that!), but then life happened and we ended up at the Emergency Room last night with poor Mags who’s got a UTI. It was as pleasant as you can imagine and we didn’t make it home until well after 3 am…which is why I’m posting this now.

 

These were our medicinal highlights:

 

Magazine found in the ER waiting room. Clearly not a Bradley Cooper fan.

She initially chased this with a fish stick to improve the flavor, but as of this morning she claims it’s not too bad. Must be an acquired taste…

 

Aaaaaanyway, here are some of the things that went on this week…I hope you had a good one!

 

1.) Everett can sit in a high chair now. I’m not sure how I feel about it, so I’m going to pretend it’s not happening.

 

 

2.) I’m in pre-Lent training and have decided to really limit my phone usage. I got creeped out the other day because I woke up early to get things done and somehow managed to spend over an hour looking at Facebook. I’m a firm believer that great things come from social media. However, I’d be lying if I told you my obsession with “missing out” on something didn’t severely hamper the amount of time and focus I spend on my children. And that’s just pathetic.

You may remember that I attempted to limit my media use during Advent, as well, which was fair-to-middlin’ (oh, yes I did just quote the Oregon Trail CD Rom game I had growing up), but I’m going to be more specific in regards to Lent. So, my specific intentions are to take the Facebook app off of my phone, make the Pinterest app harder to find, and replace them with Daily Reading and Rosary type tools.

So far I’ve been fairly unsuccessful. Facebook usage is down, but Pinterest and Instagram usage are at an all-time high. I may have to get drastic and just pull the entire plug come Lent. Clearly self control isn’t my strong suit.

What are you planning for Lent? Do you give something up or take something on?

 

 

3.) Some of you may remember that I work part-time as a Children’s Librarian. That mainly consists of reading awesome books to awesome kids, creating awesome Pinterest crafts with awesome kids, and practicing for awesome puppet shows. As you can see, things are pretty much awesome. However, the other portion of my job is to answer reference questions over the phone. What kinds of questions do people call the library for, you ask? Here’s just a sampling of the questions I answered in the last week or so:

  • What is the definition of “frontier” and how does is relate to Star Trek, i.e. Space: The Final Frontier? Answer:
    fron·tierˌfrənˈti(ə)r, noun
    noun: frontier; plural noun: frontiers
    1. a line or border separating two countries.
      • the district near a border separating two countries.
      • the extreme limit of settled land beyond which lies wilderness, esp. referring to the western US before Pacific settlement.
      • the extreme limit of understanding or achievement in a particular area.
    2. “the success of science in extending the frontiers of knowledge”
    3. Lordy be, do I really have to explain this in relation to Star Trek??
  • Where are the two highest rated veggie burgers in Cleveland? Answer: Town Hall and BRGR 9. 
  • I saw a movie on TV and didn’t see the title. It was with Andie MacDowell and she was an American and fell in love with this English guy and her friends told her not to marry him but she did but then she was pregnant at the wedding…what was that movie? The cable company gave me the title, but it can’t be right. Answer: The cable company was right, that movie is called Women and Men: Part 2 and no, the patron didn’t believe me, either.
  • How much is an original copy of Around the World in Twenty-Eight Days worth? Answer: Apparently not enough.
  • I was cooking some burgers in a pan and, once some had cooked, I added more raw burgers into the same pan. Is this cross contamination? Answer: No. That’s just called cooking burgers.
  • How does one find God? Can you email me some articles on that?  Answer: Siiiiiiiiiigh…

 

 

4.) Apparently there’s this burning ball of fire in the sky that some people call the sun. We Clevelanders have really only ever heard of it, but on Wednesday it appeared!!! I kid you not when I say that Maggie saw the sun and immediately put her swimsuit on.

 

After a change of wardrobe we went out and built the happiest snow girl I’ve ever seen!

Tell me that’s not the cutest snow girl of all time. Just try.

 

 

5.) And speaking of wardrobe choices, here’s Lily’s mash-up of Tinkerbell and Yoda.

Fab. U. Luuuuussss.

 

 

6.) I have the most wonderful dad on the planet. Wanna know how I know this? He sent me the complete set of The Mysterious Benedict Society books that I raved about earlier this week.

Give a girl new books and she’ll take joyful selfies all night long!

I seriously can’t tell you how excited I am. Best dad of all time.

 

 

7.) And, last, because she was so excited, here’s Lily with her brand new car seat. It’s the first one that wasn’t a hand-me-down. We sure know how to make a middle child happy around here!

Have a great weekend!!