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).

Saturday, April 16, 2022

The hope of Holy Saturday potatoes

In the overcast, slight morning chill of Holy Saturday, the kids and I scurried into the backyard with shovels, seeds, and a few small pieces of sprouted potatoes for planting. Our shovels hacked away at the firm earth, overturning large lumps of red-brown dirt. Gripping my shovel, I gently began chopping at the big pieces to loosen them. Suddenly, my shovel stopped moving as it hit something: the raw flesh of a fresh potato. Shocked, I called over my sons and they eagerly pushed through the dirt to uncover our prize. There it was: a small potato, waiting for us. Intrigued, the kids and I began digging through the dirt more carefully, with the hope that perhaps we would find another treasure. 

Saturday, April 9, 2022

Why are we killing people?

You don’t have to walk through the foreboding entry to Auschwitz to find a gas chamber. No, you can drive on over to Arizona, where--as society continued to stagger from Covid-19 and its effects--the gas chamber at the Arizona State Prison Complex was refurbished

Walking into Auschwitz I in spring 2013

This particular gas chamber had been lying unused since 1999, but it may be used once again. The first execution in nearly 8 years--in the gorgeous state of Arizona--is scheduled. As all this is happening, a man on South Carolina's Death Row has just been given an option: for his scheduled execution later this month, he will be able to pick death by firing squad or death by the electric chair--because yes, within the past month or two, the Department of Corrections completed a $50,000 project to equip the death chamber for firing squad executions. 

(I find myself wondering if that $50,000 could instead be used to feed the homeless, help the families of victims, or work towards the rehabilitation of prison inmates in some small way. Just a thought.)

A sponsor of the firing squad legislation in South Carolina, Senator Dick Harpootlian, offered this statement on the subject: “It’s tragic that a civilized society should eliminate anybody[...] But if it has to be done, it should be done as humanely as possible.” 

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

An Open Book: March 2022 Reads

It's a new month, so I'm joining An Open Book to chat about the books that I've been reading! In March, I wound up exploring quite a bit of non-fiction and historical fiction, and although a lot of the books had heavy themes, I enjoyed them and had a good time :) Let's dive in! 

Friday, April 1, 2022

Are we praying for our priests?

I silently stood with my back to the large doors and observed the standing-room-only cathedral. People from all across the archdiocese were packed into this space: laity, religious sisters, and members of the clergy. We had gathered for the Chrism Mass: the yearly liturgy during Holy Week when three specific oils are blessed and distributed for use in the coming year. Yet, before these substances were presented and blessed--the Oil of the Sick, the Oil of the Catechumens, and the Oil of Chrism--something else took place. 

After he concluded his homily, the archbishop invited the priests to publicly renew their priestly promises. As I heard this announcement, the gravity of the moment struck my heart in a way that I find difficult to describe. 

The summer beforehand, my world had been rocked when my second son squirmed out of my body and into our living room. Those early postpartum days were joyous as we celebrated this addition to our family, rested, and visited with relatives and friends. Yet, that time was also filled with sorrow and confusion, as news of sex abuse within the Church continued to unfold and dishearten our communities. 

Saturday, March 19, 2022

The promise of spring

 "The world is charged with the grandeur of God." ~Gerard Manly Hopkins, "God's Grandeur"

Springtime has finally arrived to stay (I think! I hope!) and I am extremely grateful. We've been soaking up gorgeous weather, peaceful, leisurely days, and some very fun outings. Initially, it felt odd to me that life feels so "normal" right now when across the world, a tragic and horrific war is causing so much havoc and destruction (and when death and destruction affect our own country in so many ways)...but I'm trying to remember that God is calling us to live in the present with peace, and that we can (and should!!!) pray and offer sacrifices for those in Eastern Europe while still freely embracing the joys that come our way. 

This exhibit was so cool! There were pictures all around the buffalo with
names for the different organs and bones, with a short explanation of how Native Americans
would use those parts. 

We've been continuing our "unschooling"/"eclectic homeschooling" approach to life, and it's been really lovely. Within the past few months, my kindergartener's reading has started to really take off, he continues to love exploring math (on his own initiative...I am not as enamored with math as he is!), and we all love to dive into daily life with curiosity and wonder. We recently took a day trip to a museum that centered around the history of Oklahoma and the Great Plains, and while none of us liked the drive (that felt like it took forever), we had a blast exploring! The grassy area at the parking lot featured several wild prairie dogs that would intermittently dive into their burrows, there were historical interpreters inside a "trading post," and everything was very hands-on.