Thursday, March 28, 2013

Holy Thursday

(because I think juxtapositions of text can often make a better point than I can articulate)

In the beginning was the Word,
     and the Word was with God,
     and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
All things came to be through Him,
     and without him nothing came to be.
What came to be through Him was life,
     and this life was the light of man;
the light shines in the darkness,
     and the darkness has not overcome it.
--John 1:1-5

"From now on I am telling you before it happens,
     so that you may believe that I AM.
Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me
     and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me."
--John 13:19-20

Our Lord, our God, the One who came to love, to serve, to teach, and to die, begins His passion on this day for our sake. Let my mind not be distracted by the tidings of this world, that his sacrifice for me will be given due reverence. Sarah says it best on this Holy Thursday. Let us have a blessed triduum.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

A Letter to Little A

Darling Girl,
I imagine that someday you will stumble across this blog. Someday you'll figure out it's one of the most visited websites in my favorites bar, and you'll wonder what it was about. And you might think, at first glance, that all these thoughts and words are about your brothers, and that your life--little documented here--is not the beam of precious hope and love that it is.

That is why I write you this letter.

This picture was taken as the nurse was handing you to me.
You, my darling, were born two and a half years ago, in a horrible November blizzard. I had two weeks left of school for that semester; all reading, writing, and grading papers. And then, suddenly, I had you. I had you to hold, to nurture, to love, and to change everything in an instant. You were placed on my chest, frowning the biggest frown I'd ever seen, and screaming. But I spoke to you in my own grandfather's most precious words, saying, "Oh! Honeybunches, I love you!" And you didn't cry anymore. The love I felt for you then is not any less now. And that love is overwhelming. The love I felt for you then and feel for you now is the reason you have siblings at all. The Lord has shown this love to me, to us.

You and I on campus
Yes, I had responsibilities other than you, but the Lord put into my heart a courage like I'd never felt before. I wasn't afraid to take you with me everywhere, especially to work and school. I didn't balk at the attitude I encountered in the secular world. You were the witness, darling. And I am so proud of you. Because of you, our Lord blessed us with the kindness and love of strangers, especially my students, who never made fun of me for teaching their class while my pregnant belly was too big to lift the projector. One student insisted that I have a more comfortable chair at the front of the room. There was so much love for you, from people who never knew you.

Still, the love you feel is not meant to be hoarded, darling girl. You must know that your brothers are miracles. And my love for them is equal to my love for you. But you see, it is because you were my first miracle that they could be miracles, too. So, even though I mostly write of them here, it is not because you are less to me than they. No, rather, I can only appreciate them as I do because they are a part of a heritage of God's love for our family, which manifested in multitudes first when you came to us.

You've heard that with great power comes great responsibility. It is so also with love. With great love comes great responsibility. And so, darling girl, you have a great task in this life. And it is to love your brothers--the one in Heaven, and the one in my belly--and to protect them. It is to love any siblings you may have, which includes those yet unborn and unconceived. It is to be that beam of hope and love that you proved yourself to be when you first came into this world. It is to never lose sight that you--and all those you encounter--are His children first, and thus you and they are worthy of love.

At two and a half, you have already shown this love to me, and that is how I know you're up to the task. God gave you the heart for it. When your first little brother died, you were that image of Jesus that I could hold in my arms. You learned, right at that time, to say "I love you" to me, and you let me cry when I rocked you to sleep. You understood when I couldn't sing to you, like I normally do, and you didn't protest. You were pure love at the time I needed it most, and that, my darling girl, is something I will never forget.

And since this little one in my womb has been known to you, you have not displayed a hint of jealousy. You have said things like, "I'll be nice to the baby," and "I will give him kisses!" You have seen him having the hiccups on the ultrasound screen and you have heard his heart beating. You know, innately, that he is a real person, and all along you sensed he would be a boy. In love and truth you have recognized him already. What a gift the Lord has blessed us with--your own sisterly demeanor. I trust that, normal toddler behavior notwithstanding, you will be no different once he is here. And part of your own loveliness will be in recognizing that he was the answer to a very specific prayer of ours. You must know how much I love you for that!
Your baby feet at a couple weeks old.

But, darling girl, know also that I love you for your own sake. I do. I love your fierce independence, your gentleness, your precocious way of speaking. I love when I catch you singing, and when you insist upon a blessing before going to sleep. I love that you know who Jesus is, and that he carried a cross and fell down "because dat's soooooo heby (heavy)!." I love that you are going to be your own person, and your path will be unlike any person's in the world. You are irreplaceable, unrepeatable, and so so loved.

You and I at the top of Mount Sacajawea. You were 7 months old.

The world will tell you that you are not loved. That you were not made for God's kind of love. It will tell you love is something that it isn't. Don't let them tell you this lie. You know that statue of the "blessed mudder (mother)" outside our church? The one in which she is crushing the head of Satan, the serpent? You already have that response down: "no, no, Satan!" Don't let the world take that away from you. You know your task is love, and you know you are loved. Remain in Love, and He will remain in you, my darling girl.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Time to Spill the Beans

Ok, I'm going to start by asking you to forgive me for the lapse in posts. There are beans to spill, but before spilling them I had to process them myself. And now it is time. (Don't worry, this post is long enough to make up for the lapse!)

Remember a long time ago, during one of my 7QT posts, when I said that we might have secret (not baby related) news? And how there might not be any news at all, but if there was, I was going to share it as soon as I could?

Ok, and then remember when I told you about the story of RG, and how, at the beginning of that story, I told you about how little A was planned for a very particular time in our lives? Remember how I said that she was my witness that women don't need abortions in order to do great things for themselves?

Well, I'm feeling a little more affirmed in that insight right about now. I really do think God is asking me to witness this very particular truth, and He is asking me to be a witness for life and the Church in my own life, and in kind of a big way (at least, it's significant to me).

Ok, ok, the news already! Sorry. I'm a fan of prefaces.

I've been admitted to a doctoral program in medieval English, set to start three weeks after my due date. And we're going. We're picking up and moving across a few states, and we're going to live in student housing with our toddler and our newborn. I'm going to study medieval literature, and continue my research on the sacrament of penance in secular writing of late medieval England. It's absolutely a dream come true. Really, it's many many prayers and much hard work come to fruition. It's a whole lotta sacrifices made by my husband that are becoming fruitful in the way we'd always hoped they would. It's the Lord asking me to do this now, at this time, in this situation. And it's Him asking me to trust Him in a big big way, again.

You see, we had applied for Ph.D programs before. We applied before we even dreamed of RG. And I didn't get in to any programs then. That was a difficult disappointment, but it was only the beginning of a really difficult period in my life. The Lord was asking me to do something else for a little while--something else that included the worst thing that ever happened to me, losing my baby boy. The Lord was asking me to grow with Him for a while, before sending me off to do this. O God, how I praise you for your providence! For He knew I'd be heading into a very secular and worldly place (the land of academia), to do His work.

I know it's His work, because a long time ago, the Lord had put it on my heart to spend my career researching real Catholicity in medieval literature, because that period is so misunderstood as the downfall of the Catholic church, due to the protestant reformation. And, though it may not be humble to admit this, I honestly feel the Lord is asking me to do what I can to redeem it through my research. And it has been this very research that has been the most successful, and the most fulfilling. But He knew I would need Him in a way I couldn't have before.

I knew I would need to trust Him, and that really trusting in His plan would be the only way to be happy. I only really came to that realization as a result of RG's death. Yet, when we were trying so desperately to conceive after RG died, and we kept getting BFNs, I was getting nervous, because I knew there was a chance that I might be accepted to one of the programs for which I was applying, and that the longer it took us to conceive, the closer our potential due date would be to the start (or the middle) of the academic year. And once October passed, with no positive test, I knew it was up to us to either keep trying to conceive, and put our trust in the Lord that He would make it work if both possibilities came up positive, or to stop trying to conceive and put it off for another year.

However, the Lord made it clear to me that if we stopped trying, and put it off for another year, then we weren't really trusting Him at all. We would be taking matters into our own hands, and not respecting His ability to give life when He wishes, nor his ability to make things work for us in the event that both would happen at the same time. It would be flying in the face of the call to witness I had felt when we had little A. So we made up our minds to will ourselves to trust, though I have to admit I was afraid. I had given birth during grad school before, and it was rewarding, but it wasn't easy. At all.

But since when is trusting in the Lord an easy thing to do? If I really loved Him, then I needed to trust in Him.

And now, I do. I know I need the Lord to do this work. I need to trust Him more than ever before, and I need to serve Him by doing what He has asked me to do. Even though it's going to be hard. It's going to be exhausting being a mother of a toddler and a newborn while attending classes, writing papers, and teaching. I'm going to have to work really hard and be at the top of my game, compared to most of my colleagues who have no such responsibilities. But the Lord will sustain me. And it will be worth the work, worth the lack of sleep.

And honestly, it is going to be fun. I know I'm not the only one out there who has done this, so I truly hope I do not sound boastful. I just have to say what is on my heart. I know there are  women out there who have shown this challenge their victory faces. And I'm ready to join their ranks, because God is asking me to. And as with everything I've been trying to do since RG died, I must give Him my fiat.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Those Pre-baby Days

This post is pretty long. Sorry 'bout that. I just couldn't find the right place to break it into two sections.

Last week, I read Grace's reflection on whether she would go back to her pre-baby days if she had the chance. It is a beautiful piece which reflects her love for her children, and her love for her vocation.

Romeo and I at my college graduation
I began thinking about my own pre-child days, and whether I was tempted to go back there at all. I will say that Romeo and my courtship was beautiful, holy, and fun. I especially miss the beginning of that long, five-year discernment before he proposed. I remember the innocent romance of it, and I do miss that part. I miss the weekly bouquets of fresh flowers he would bring me from Pike Place Market after his shifts at Le Panier.  I miss our time at Mass together, when we could really focus on the Mass, and while he was really growing in the faith. I remember the feeling of overwhelming gratitude I felt for the Lord when he sent this man to sit by me at Mass when we first met, and--I realized later--how He had answered my prayer for a husband.

But I wouldn't go back to those days. It was a time of transition, a joyous time that is meant to be fleeting.

At our wedding reception, September 2009
When we were three months married, and living in Seattle, we decided that I would apply for graduate school back in my hometown. The job market being terrible, we made the difficult decision to have him begin to apply for jobs there as soon as I knew I was accepted, so that we would have the means to live without taking out student loans for my years in graduate school. What complicated this decision was that I had a job in Seattle, and we had an apartment lease we couldn't get out of...a lease that was to last nine more months!

We thought it would take months for him to find a job in the smallish town to which we'd be moving. But two weeks later, not able to refuse an offer--one he may not have the chance to receive again--he was packing up as much as he could in his little car and driving through the December snows to start his new job in our new town. We faced nine months of living apart as newlyweds.

Making cornmeal blintzes for my Blue Christmas party.
Such a nerd.
I held myself a little Christmas party, which I named "The Blue Christmas Party," because of my utter sadness at having to spend the Christmas season alone, without my new husband. I even hauled a tree up to my upstairs apartment all by myself because I was determined for it to be fun, despite my missing half. My friends were very good to me, and they all came to the party with copious amounts of champagne.

On the other hand, those nine months are what I consider my pre-baby days because I was free to do anything I wanted: I could go out with friends, I could keep my own schedule, I didn't have to worry about Romeo using my towel (one of my biggest pet peeves!). But I was still married, madly in love, with all the comforts of that in my heart. I was a newlywed-single. And I did a lot of things for myself.

On our actual honeymoon
I tried new recipes, I started a pilates regimen, I was in the best shape of my life, I taught a confirmation class at my parish, I drew very close to my good friends--they were the kind of friendships I haven't been able to cultivate since. I miss those friendships terribly. And when Romeo and I saw each other every six to eight weeks, we felt like we were on our honeymoon again.

But I wouldn't go back to those days either; for all the fun I had on the outside, I was so lonely without my husband, and I could barely stand going to Mass without him. I did, of course, because it was then that I needed Jesus to be my true spouse the most. Many nights I cried myself to sleep because I longed for my husband.

Then, on one of my trips to see Romeo, we became pregnant with Little A. We still had six months of separation to go. It was decided that I would stay in Seattle, regardless of pregnancy, because I couldn't get on Romeo's health insurance until the baby was born, and I had excellent medical care through my job. I was beyond excited to be pregnant, even though it meant I'd be starting graduate school at 26 weeks, and giving birth over Thanksgiving break, but I was devastated that I wouldn't share the everyday ins and outs of pregnancy with my husband. When I would come home to visit, my bump showing a little more each time, he would gasp, "It's really real!"

Once again, my friends were so good to me; they paid me much attention, and held a baby shower, and listened to my hormonal fits, and rejoiced over Little A's first movements in the womb. They helped me steer clear of unpasteurized cheese and ordered me mock-tails when we went out for St. Patrick's day. They didn't even give me any crap when I fell asleep at my good friend's bachelorette 10:00 pm.

But I wouldn't go back to those days because, while they were fun, and we did the best we could, it was somewhat out of order, not having my husband there with me during pregnancy. God sent me so many saints during that time, by unexpected means, from the Costco delivery man where I worked (a strong Catholic man with seven children, whose wife invited me to their home for Easter dinner), to my supervisor at Blessed Sacrament parish, where I taught confirmation class, and all the people in between who reflected excitement about my pregnancy and helped me to keep my chin up through my husband's absence. Nonetheless, I wouldn't  go back there now.

Me and Little A at her baptism
But here's the thing: it isn't wholly the presence of Little A in my life which keeps me from going back there. Of course, she is pure Joy, toddler tantrums and potty training notwithstanding, and I would never wish she was not here. Of course she is much of the reason I would never go back to those days. But the fundamental reason is that God has brought me to this point on my journey, with all the accompanying circumstances, intentionally. He has done so with purpose, and He has borne fruit through each of these seasons of my life. It is with complete awe that I think of how time is fleeting for us, but not for Him. We sometimes wish we could go back to the days when this or that was happening, or sometimes forward to when this or that will be happening, or when we will know/understand such and such. But for God, it's all the same time. Our days are numbered in his book which stands outside of time, and it is for that reason that we must move forward always, and move forward in Hope.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

As tempting as it sometimes is to wish ourselves out of our time and place, the Lord's way has purposely put me here. You can bet that when RG died, and I was in the throes of that whole mess, I wished it wasn't happening to me. I wished it was a year from now, so that I wouldn't have to live every moment of that grief. I wished I was anywhere but there. And some days I miss my Seattle friendships so badly that I wish I could just--poof!--be back there. And, and, and, and. But I am here. I can't go anywhere but here. And that's as it should be. Otherwise I deny the Lord his chance to bear fruit through me in this time and in this place, giving my fiat to Him in every moment.

Friday, March 1, 2013

7 Q T

1. There have been two attempted kidnappings in my area in the last few weeks. They think it's the same person both times. One is in the neighborhood we used to live in while I was in grad school. The other is near our current neighborhood. Obviously we are on high alert. I just pray that Little A's guardian angel will protect her right now, more than ever!

2. Birds are singing. Outside my window. BIRDS. Ok, you may not be impressed, but I live in the cold Northwest tundra where we generally have snow 7-8 months per year, mud for another 2 months and finally one glorious, but short, summer. When the birds return, it is truly a sign of hope.

3. My youngest sister is going off to college next fall, and I've been thinking about her a lot. It's just that once you head off to college, life starts taking off, and things go pretty fast from there. Having had a largely maternal role in her life, I feel a lot like my mom probably does: I'm not ready for her to grow up.

4. Little A, after going potty this morning: "Mom, I have a WEDGIE!" How does she even know what that means? She's two. Two.

Nut Stuffed Delicata Squash
5. Only a month left in Lent, and so much spiritual reading to finish. There will need to be lots of discipline. I have the following books in my "to read" stack: The Privilege of Being Catholic by Fr. Oscar Lukefahr, CM; Hail Holy Queen by Dr. Scott Hahn; and I need to finish My Sisters the Saints by Colleen Carol Campbell. If I had more time I would also try The Dark Night of the Soul by St. John of the Cross, but I'll have to save that for later, I think. Someone needs to stop me from buying books because I have three or four others I want to read, but I will not have the time for them for a while.

6. Time for another meatless Friday recipe! This one is sooooo delicious. The filling tastes just like sausage, I swear. It's easy to make, too. Try this Nut Stuffed Delicata Squash.

7. I can't end this 7QT without expressing my love for our (no longer) Holy Father. I hope he will feel the blessing of all of our prayers for the rest of his life. May our thoughts and prayers for him be as sweet as incense rising.

Now, head on over to Jen's for more 7QT!