I’ll be happier when…

When I was in high school, I used to think that I’d be happier once I got to college.

And, I was actually right. But then, I started thinking, “I’ll be even happier after this paper is done, or I pass this class, or I have a boyfriend, or I find a job.”

After college, I thought I’d be happier once I had more kids in youth group, or once I was married. And then, it was once the baby was born.

Then, once the baby was sleeping through the night. Or stopped nursing, or was done teething, or could walk.

I’d be happier if I quit my job, or had a new job, or stopped having kids. Or if we had more money. Or I could get one night of uninterrupted sleep for heavens sake! It seems there is always something standing in the way of my happiness. But am I searching for happiness, or joy?

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I’ve been painting these Saint Peg Dolls of Maximilian Kolbe for a saint doll exchange. And I’ve been thinking about his life. How he spent several years in Auschwitz, giving away his meals, never complaining about the work or the beatings, and eventually spending the last weeks of his life in a starvation cell. While in the cell, he sang psalms and hymns and gave thanks to God, mediating upon Christ’s passion and praying bible verses.  Even without external circumstances of happiness, he had pure joy. And now, a saint in heaven, he experiences the fullness of happiness in every second of eternity.

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Kolbe’s cell in Auschwitz is now a pilgrimage site.

 

I went on a retreat this past weekend and realized that my life is like pointillism art. I am so focused on the dot, that I don’t step back to see the whole picture, the whole beautiful masterpiece that God is creating out of all the dots of my life and my children. I don’t have that eternal perspective, but I want to. So this week I am praying with this Scripture where Jesus says:

“So you are now in anguish. But I will see you again, and your hearts with rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you. On that day you will not question me about anything. Amen, amen, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you…ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.” John 16:22-24

Even in our day-to-day circumstances, we can find joy instead of chasing after fleeting happinesses.

St. Maximilian Kolbe, pray for us!

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Labor Pains

This past Sunday’s second reading really resonated with me, since I can recall with clarity the labor pains I went through 3 weeks ago.

St. Paul writes in Romans: “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us. . . We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now. . .
we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.”

On June 26th I woke up with contractions. Since my other two kids needed pitocin to induce contractions, I was not sure how to handle these on my own. The weren’t close together, but they were strong and so I headed to the hospital. When I was 6cm dilated later that day, my water broke during a strong contraction and I was ready for an epidural. You guys, even with a good working epidural, pushing was really hard.

My husband swears I only pushed for maybe 20 minutes, but it felt like an eternity. There was lots of groaning and “I can’t do this anymore” talk. But my body isn’t made to be pregnant forever, and I’m told after Luke’s head came out, next popped out his hand and he did a little wave like he was saying, “hello world. I’m here.”

There was groaning as I waited for my son to be born because I knew that there was something better coming than just my labor pains. I had to get through the suffering to be able to hold my new baby boy.

Just like we aren’t pregnant forever, so we aren’t on this earth forever. The redemption of our bodies, our birth into new life, is what we were made more. What felt like an eternity of pushing was really only 20 minutes. Our suffering on this earth can not last forever. We were made for more, and the suffering will be transformed into glory before we know it.

What sticks out to me during that time of pushing was all the encouragement from my husband, the nurse, and the doctor. “You are doing great!” “You’re almost there!” “You can do it!” That helped me make it through. We can call on the intercession of family, friends, and especially the saints to help get us through our current sufferings. The saints have all been there before us and they are cheering us on to the finish line, the end of labor pains, the crown of glory in eternal life.

"Hello, world!"

“Hello, world!”

How Gloriously Different Are My Children

Sometimes it’s hard to believe my children come from the same genes. Not only do they look vastly different but their personalities are polar opposite, too. For example:Image

Timothy is my snuggler. He wants to be held and comforted often. Lily, on the other hand, is Miss Independent and is like, “mom, back up off my space, yo.” (She doesn’t really say that, but it would be awesome if she did.)  Timothy screams for a napkin if a drop of yogurt touches his shirt or, heaven forbid, it dares to dirty his finger. After using that napkin once he will immediately throw it away until he needs a new one two minutes later. Meanwhile, Lily has yogurt in her hair, up her nose, and down her shirt all before her first bite reaches her mouth. Lily will run away the moment you take her diaper off to change it, while Timothy is asking me to put his pants back on.

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You get the picture. Any veteran parent tells me their children are all on opposite sides of the personality spectrum, too. It seems like a daunting task to teach, discipline, and love each child in the way they personally need it. Trial and error, they say, to learn how to relate to each of your kids.

“How gloriously different are the saints,” once wrote CS Lewis. It’s true! I’ve been thinking of this often lately: all the vocations, all the religious orders with different charisms, all the canonized saints with vastly different personalities. There is more than one path to holiness; and it gives me comfort- while still overwhelming-to know there is more than one right way to raise holy children. What works for my family may not work for another, and vice versa. And that’s ok!

While I have no practical advice on parenting children, the only thing that I know so far is that the Holy Spirit is sent into our lives to help us relate to each of our kids individually. In Luke 12:12 it says, “For the Holy Spirit will teach you at that moment what you should say.”  If we are parents that are in tune with the Spirit, we can trust we will be guided to raise uniquely different and gloriously holy children.

But if you do have any practical advice, I’d love to hear it!

Making Peace with Motherhood: Raising Saints

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There’s the kiddo at 10 weeks! Nathan thinks he/she looks like a dinosaur…

Here’s the big news: we are pregnant with #3! Our oldest, Timothy, will turn 3 in April, and baby #3 will be born at the end of June! Nathan and I will have been married 3 and 11/12 months by then. That’s a lot of threes!

The week before my brother’s wedding in October was a nerve-racking one as I waited to take a pregnancy test. Post-partum charting is much more difficult than people led me to believe, and while we wanted to space our children farther than 18 months apart, we knew there was a possibility we were pregnant again. That week we were just playing the waiting game before being able to find out for sure.

My good friend was in town for the wedding (since it was her sister marrying my brother) and I was crying to her that I was pretty sure I was pregnant again and I wasn’t ready.  I sobbed to her that so many other moms have this “mothering” thing down and it’s just not coming easy to me and now I’ve got to do it all over again.  I just wanted a time when, like it seems with so many other moms, I was wanting to get pregnant again versus having one thrust upon me. I was obviously not at peace with motherhood.

Then came the day of my brother’s wedding. The priest began Mass saying, “The greatest tragedy on this earth is to not become a saint.” That was a good starting point for my mini-journey toward peace as I was reminded that that is what marriage is about: getting each other to heaven.  Then, during the wedding vows, I heard my brother and new sister vow to “accept children lovingly from God.” Those words rung in my ears. I hadn’t accepted Lily so lovingly at the beginning, so I renewed my own marriage vow and promised to love this potential new child I might be carrying as a gift from God.

And then I started thinking about my Confirmation saint, St. Bridget of Sweden. One of the reasons I picked her as my patron saint was because she was a mother. She had 8 children, some of which also went on to become canonized saints. Even as a 13-year old going through Confirmation, I somehow knew that motherhood would also be my path to holiness and that I wanted to raise more saints.

And I realized that although I’m a supporter of NFP and all things Catholic, I was still holding on to a “contraceptive mentality” that we had to be able to have enough space and money and leisure, and having too many kids just wouldn’t be a part of that plan.  I was “open” but I still wanted to be selfish. I had never wanted to be one of those large, crazy homeschool families but I am realizing more and more that that’s what we will be turning into. And I’m becoming OK with that now.  Because my marriage is my path to holiness, and accepting children lovingly from God is my vocation. It’s what is going to make me into a saint, even though it won’t be easy.  So I’m making peace with that.

The night of the wedding I went home to take a pregnancy test that turned out positive. And this time around, although I am still scared of how it will all work out, I am thankful. Thankful that God has believed in me enough to grant me the opportunity to raise some saints. Thankful that so far I have two beautiful, healthy children and an amazing, supportive husband.  Thankful that I am making peace with this exhausting, diaper-filled way of life with 3 kids under the age of 4.

And thankful because I am starting to fully realize my purpose in this life: to raise saints and help my husband get to Heaven. In this, my vocation, there is peace.