Thursday, December 17, 2015

Blessed is She: God's Family

When I read the readings for today, I was pretty excited to write about Jesus' genealogy. Four women of the Old Testament and Our Lady are all present there. 

Who are these women? Why did God choose for them to be in the line of His son?

This is probably my favorite devotion that I have ever written for BIS.
Check it out at Blessed is She.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Getting Ready for the Baby this Advent

And by the baby, I mean the Newborn King, the Little Lord Jesus, the Second Person of the Trinity who became Mary's little Child.

I always thought that my perfect Advent was the year my second was born on the First Sunday of Advent. My Christmas preparing was all finished, and I just sat with my baby watching everyone else in the daily snow falls we had that December in Buffalo, NY.

I think I was wrong. It was an amazing Advent; relaxed and prayerful, but I wonder if maybe Advent can still be great if it looks a lot more like the weeks leading up to the birth of a baby.

My baby preparations involve several extremely long to do lists: odd jobs around the house, odd jobs in the yard, and BABY prep. And of course there are always the last minute things that you just did not quite get to. Besides that I am supposed to be doing the prelabor exercises: squating, kegels, and relaxation practice for those hard contractions.

I actually do way more to get ready for a baby then I do to get ready for Christmas. The baby list takes months, and for Christmas we do it all in 4 weeks. 

Christmas is: cookies, cards, gifts, decorations, some cleaning, and prayer.

Baby is: baby clothes, all the baby gear, hospital planning, hospital packing, relaxation practice,

The year we had our second we stayed at home for Christmas instead of the usual three week tour of the Midwest relatives. People came to us. People took care of us. It made sense for that year and it was perfect for that year.

This year we are traveling for the first time since the birth of our fourth six months ago, and I can't help but think that maybe this is a more Marian Advent.

Our Lady spent her time waiting for Christ firstly visiting her cousin. Then she went home, got married, and was ready to have her baby in Nazareth, when Caesar decides to have a census.

There she is almost ready to give birth to the Son of God and she has to travel on a donkey 90 miles in cold weather on dangerous trails. When I am 9 months pregnant I can't handle the pot holes in the road, let alone riding on a donkey.

Do you think Mary said to God, "This is not how things were supposed to go? My Advent needs to be restful so I can pray better!" I imagine not. She being the perfect woman, took it all in stride. Her acceptance of the journey, was part of her continual acceptance of God's will.

This Advent is already not what I expected. We were going to finish the semester strong with school since we will be taking a three week Christmas break. Instead we had one full school week after Thanksgiving, and then last week I was sick with strep throat, so minimal school. This week the 24 hour stomach bug is making the rounds (so far only the kids).

But we have all been okay. Advent has been manageable because I have been forced to take it easy on myself, M,  and on the kids. And we still have been doing our traditions of the Jesse Tree, lights up on St. Lucy's day (since Lucy means "light"), and the tree up on Gaudete Sunday. We have been having some really beautiful family time through it all.

When we head out on our travels, I hope that we do so united with the Holy Family who were far from home that first Christmas day. (Though I suppose we could say that Bethlehem was their real home, just as our family is traveling back to where we came from.) And if my baby has trouble sleeping on the road, I can just think of baby Jesus waking to the cattle in the stable.
And maybe that is what Advent really should be like, being like Mary and learning to continually accept God's will whether we are so busy we barely have time to pray or are nursing a newborn on the couch all December. It is accepting God's will that matters most, and preparing our hearts to receive with joy the Infant King.

I hope that the rest of your Advent is blessed and full of grace!

Monday, December 7, 2015

She Just Had to Know

The dresses arrived in the mail, and I decided I might as well try them on. My 6 year old daughter decided to come and watch. I don't normally change in front of my daughters; maybe I should more often.

"Why does your belly look like that, Mom? Why does it have wrinkles and brown marks? Mine does not look like that."

"It looks like this because I had babies. I once had a smooth belly like yours."

"Oh. Okay."

I put on the dress. I am going to be in my sister's wedding next summer and we have been hunting down the right dress for her bridesmaids, most of them being the mother of at least two children. It seems that the average bridesmaid dress was not designed to flatter the postpartum body. But we found a dress at a chain store which flattered me at 6 months postpartum after my fourth monster baby.

So, I am in this dress, and my six year old wants to show her sisters.

"Here comes the queen! Wave to the queen as she walks by!"

 I snap a few pictures to send to my sister, to see if she likes the dress. And we go back to change. My three year old tags along.

"See Mom's belly!" my six year old tells her.

"Mom, do you ever wish that you did not have babies so that you could have a smooth belly?"
"No dear. I would much rather have four babies than a smooth belly. My four babies are much more important than what my belly looks like."

"Children are more important?"


These four people are worth any amount of shrunken, funny looking postpartum stretch marks and extra squishy belly.

If I ever forget that, may my right hand whither.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

A Day with Morning Mass

Things have been busy here, and when things get busy my personal, random thoughts writing time goes by the wayside. Naptime turns into catch up time on everything or cooking Thanksgiving dinner time or frosting birthday cake time or talking to my mom because she is visiting time, etc.

Well, last night, I decided I was going to write this afternoon, no matter what. So, here I am squeezing it in, with a messy kitchen and the children's toys everywhere. And it is okay, because my dirty house is a grace.

I wonder if my cluttered mind is also a grace?
This morning we finally all were feeling well enough from the latest cold to get out of bed for daily Mass. Daily Mass here is 7:30 am. And if it is going to work on a day the Professor teaches or really any day, we have to get ourselves out of bed at 5:45am and get that breakfast eaten and coffee in us by 6:30, so we can get the kids up to eat, so we can leave on time.

We went through the morning routine in the typical pre-caffine fog (coffee takes time to kick in), and finally we were sitting in the pew at Mass. The kids were not in their most prayerful behavior this morning and it was a struggle. But it dawned on me that besides the obvious Sacramental graces of receiving communion at a daily Mass, there are other reasons that it makes my day so much better when we do go.

I realized that I love being in a church full of people (the church in our neighborhood has like 100 people at morning Mass daily), but not be expected to talk to anyone. I like the community of silent praying (and verbal responses). The prayerful silence in a community of believers being led through the quiet liturgy of a morning daily Mass by a priest is so soothing to my whole being. And then we top it off with Jesus' sacrifice and receiving communion.

Then I am ready to really face my day. Coffee, quiet communal prayer, Jesus, and I can do this thing.

When we don't go, I struggle harder to make it through the day even if I have slept an hour extra. Call me needy or something, I need my daily Mass, and I need it quiet.

*By quiet I mean me not talking to other people, no music. Quiet does not mean that my children have not made noise. I can pray through shushing my children; I have been at it for 6.5 years!
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