Friday, August 5, 2022

Musings from a Parched Land

The red dirt was hard, compact, baked. Endless days stretched by as a heat wave crawled over the land. Wildfires sparked, garden plants shriveled, and the sparse patches of grass in our yard became brown and brittle. Large cracks and crevices split open our yard as the earth cried out for water, for moisture, for reprieve. 

And I thought of the psalmist's cry; words that I have prayed countless times as I've held my taped-together breviary: 

"O God, you are my God, for you I long; 

for you my soul is thirsting

My body pines for you 

like a dry, weary land without water..."

A few years ago, as I joined in the procession of people walking to receive the Eucharist at Mass, these words sprung up in my heart. I've continued to pray them often while in the line for Communion. 

My body pines for you/like a dry, weary land without water.

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

An Open Book: July 2022 Reads

I don't know about y'all, but July flew by over here! With the heat wave that slammed multiple states with seemingly neverending days of triple digit temperatures, I was quite happy to curl up inside with some good books! I mostly dove into nonfiction for the month of July, but a couple of classic children's novels found their way into the mix as well :) I'm linking up with An Open Book, so let's dive in! 

Monday, July 18, 2022

A Learning Life: a homeschool update

As we ate whatever random scraps of food/leftovers comprised our lunch that day, two of my children started talking about pelvises and asking me questions. I ran to the shelf, grabbed one of our human body books, and brought it to the table. Together, as we nourished our bodies with food, we looked at the diagrams of the pelvis and discussed the differences between the pelvis on men and women. A week later, as my midwife gently rubbed my belly, feeling the position of our little one, my six-year-old seized the opportunity: "You know, the pelvis on a lady helps to hold up the uterus," he began. 

Just another ordinary day in our homeschooling life ;) 

I haven't done a "homeschooling update" since October 2021, so I guess it's about time to do another one! I started out the 2021-2022 school year with the mentality that we would take a slow approach (which soon got even slower) and it's now become a lot more of a "slow unschooling approach." It's been really, really good for us at this point in life.

A couple weeks ago, my six-year-old asked if he is in first grade (it seems that age and/or grade designations can be very important to kids). "Umm...I guess?" I responded, before I gave some lengthy ramble about grade levels being rather pointless when one is homeschooled (at least in the early years). Someone else recently mentioned homeschooling in the summer, asking if we do that, and my response to this was the same. Umm...I guess?

Yes, I guess we homeschool in the summer-because we live a life of learning.

Saturday, July 16, 2022

Dining out (with kids)

I paced outside the restaurant in the warm summertime air, gently coaxing my newborn baby to sleep. Just eight or so weeks after the birth of my first child, I was eager to get out and enjoy some sushi with my husband while basking in the beauty of a restaurant. With my now-sleeping baby on my chest, we walked inside and were soon seated at a booth. Surrounded by the sparkling lights of the restaurant, we ordered. Soon, our waiter brought out an appetizer, and as our eyes widened at the sight of the grilled yellowtail collar...the baby woke up. As we enjoyed our delicious food, I tried to quiet the baby. I stood, nestling him close to my chest in the carrier, and gently bounced and rocked. 

The table next to ours was packed with adults--some of whom appeared to be related--who were talking, laughing, and enjoying themselves. I caught the eye of one woman at this table and apologized for my noisy newborn. She looked me straight in the eye and told me not to worry that my baby was making noise (like any normal baby would). "He's family," she declared. 

He's family--and in the eyes and reassurances of this woman, that was enough to prove that our baby had a place at the restaurant table. 

This brief encounter has stuck with me all these years later. This woman's openness to--and acceptance of--our young child in a public space was comforting to a new parent, and it fills me with hope as we seek to create a culture in which all human life is respected. 

Even if parents have a great deal of support and self-confidence, they can still feel self-conscious about taking their young children to public places that aren't specifically geared towards kids. This can cause some people to dramatically shift their lives to the extent that they stay away from many establishments: restaurants, churches, and museums, to name a few. They'll state that "when he's older, we can go out to eat again" or something of that variation. 

As a young parent of a cluster of small children (a couple of them being rowdy boys), I can understand a little bit of that sentiment. I look at families we know who have only older children and smile as I see the way they are able to enjoy peaceful outings or even simply play games together in the time they usually are "supposed" to take. However, I do think it can be problematic when we live under the assumption that all life needs to be "put on hold" when there's a baby in the house. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

An Open Book: June 2022 Reads

Am I the only one in shock that it's already July? 

Yet, here we are. I'm kicking off the month by joining An Open Book to chat about my recent reads! A lot of activity filled my calendar for the month of June (plus the whole business of unexpectedly going without a/c for over two weeks), so I didn't read as much as I had planned. But, I still read some pretty great stuff. Let's dive in! 

Monday, June 20, 2022

A Rule of Life: Following our dreams

I once wrote about the importance of prioritizing our priorities; of making the time and space for the different things that are important in our lives--even when those look different from the priorities and values of other people. In that post, I mentioned that my husband and I practically accomplish this through our Rule of Life (a basic framework for how we want to live). I thought it would be fun to write a small series of posts that dive into a few different elements of our Rule of Life. As is typical, life happened and somehow over an entire year has passed since I first decided to do this! But, better late than never, right? ;) 

Today, I'd like to take a moment to share one element of our family's Rule of Life: Follow your dreams.

Sunday, June 12, 2022

A song for the Church

My small toddler scooched into my arms as we rose for the entrance hymn at Mass--the liturgy for the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity. Organ music filled the church, and we sang: "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty! Early in the morning, my song shall rise to thee..."

My daughter, in what a speech-language pathologist friend tells me is a form of "fast mapping," slowly annunciated a new-to-her word, cementing it in her mind: "HOLY!" The congregation sang the verses of this classic hymn, and my daughter continued to sing this one word, over and over again, as she intently looked at the paper "worship aid" booklet in her hands. "Holy, holy, holy!" 

The hymn ended, the opening prayers began, and my daughter continued to focus on her new word--occasionally punctuating the air around us with a song of "Holy! Holy!" 

I glanced down at her, a sense of gratitude welling up within me. Here, from my small child, was the reminder that I need over and over again in our fallen world. Here, in this consecrated building, in the presence of our Eucharistic Lord, in the Liturgy, she joyfully sang "holy, holy, holy."

So often, we can find ourselves singing a different refrain when we walk out the doors of the church.

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

An Open Book: May 2022 Reads

Another month has arrived, so it's time to kick off summertime by joining An Open Book to discuss what has been on my reading stack lately! I've recently gone through a bunch of non-fiction with a couple of children's novels thrown in the mix, and a lot of it was really interesting! Let's dive in! 

Saturday, May 14, 2022

When I wrote out my life: Changes I made for greater peace and mental wellness

I was overtired, overworked, and stressed. 

The months of early postpartum life with a newborn had receded into the past, and I had been "doing life" with three young kids fairly successfully--so why was I feeling so overwhelmed? As I previously mentioned, rather than trying to push down and ignore my stresses and confusion (while continuing to repeat my normal routines), on this occasion, I chose a different path: I wrote out my life. 

I listed everything that I did (or needed to do) each day, week, and month. I went over the list with my husband, and soon after, I went through a coaching session with a therapist. I made some perspective shifts, and I implemented some specific changes. Over the next several months, it was remarkable to observe how life grew more peaceful and my mental health improved. It's been a process, and one that I'm still learning. 

In fact, just a couple months ago, I went through a day where I seemingly forgot every single thing that I have learned in therapy and my journey of wellness. While I halfheartedly tried to do a few things to keep myself sane and functioning, I did not care for myself the way that I needed to, and by dinnertime, I was pretty much a disaster. Several apologies and a sacramental Confession later, I realized that-as embarrassed as I was/am to have had that experience (shouldn't I practice what I preach?) it was a good, humbling way to recognize that I am still very much learning these things. I am not an expert by any means, and I am still growing, changing, and trying to improve. This experience also was a gift, because it vividly showed me (and my family) that the changes I've implemented make a difference--because when I forget to do these things, everybody notices--and it's not pretty. 

I want to share some of the specific steps that I've taken to cultivate more peace in my life. However, I want to give the caveat: these are very specific to me and my situation, and I in no way am a professional. Yet, I want to offer these thoughts as a jumping-off point, in case anyone out there is looking for ideas on simplifying life and cultivating peace.  

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

An Open Book: April 2022 Reads

Happy Easter! Another month has arrived, and with it is a chance to discuss my latest reading. I'm linking up with An Open Book to explore what I read in the past month-it included some re-reads and some new discoveries, both fiction and non-fiction. Let's dive in! 

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Pew-Free Ponderings: Our participation in the Sacred Liturgy

It's a predictable routine, one that I've experienced over and over again: I slide into the church pew on Sunday, pull myself onto the padded kneeler, cross myself, and begin to pray. After a moment or two, I sit down, and think all done praying! Now, it's time to peruse the worship aid, glance around at the congregation, or perhaps muse on my plans for the day. The organ music soon begins, and I stand with the congregation, my attention and spirit lifting as we rise together. 

While I cringe to think of just how many times this situation has played out in my life--of "taking a break from prayer" to listlessly sit in the pew and dwell on worldly cares--this experience has helped me realize a way in which my bodily posture affects my prayer and attention. Tucked into the the pew, I can easily rest and let my mind drift. Whether I'm waiting for Mass to begin or I'm halfheartedly listening to a homily, I feel passive. I'm not "doing" anything; at least, that's what it seems like. 

Yet, we are called to do more than just sit by as passive observers at the liturgy. 

"Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that fully conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy. Such participation by the Christian people as "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people (1 Pet. 2:9; cf. 2:4-5), is their right and duty by reason of their baptism." (#14)
This "fully conscious and active participation" does not require that we all have particular roles of altar server, lector, usher, or choir member. Not everyone can (or should) serve in these positions at the Mas. Rather, our active participation is both internal and external, and involves our heartfelt prayer, offering, and full attention to the Holy Mysteries that are taking place. As Msgr. Romano Guardini notes in his book, Meditations Before Mass, "to participate means to share in the task of another. Here that other is the priest." Guardini continues to observe that "all are invited to share in his invocation, celebration, adoration, pleading, and thanksgiving" (p. 35).