Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Our Modern Life

Today I am thinking about how we, as sinners, are still so loved by God, and accepted as His children. How he gave us the family as a constant picture and reminder of what it means to be a child, a father and a mother; a sister and a brother. All those relationships illustrate in a very direct way, some part of our relationship with God, Jesus, and the Blessed Mother. I am especially thinking of those of us who  are living in our own version of the Modern Family, with blended family relationships, and the difficulties of many more modern day challenges than those of our own growing up years. Could you have foreseen what life today would be like, at say, age seventeen? How many of your family or friends were touched by divorce, as compared to now? Who would even have known what the letters LGBT even meant?

Being a parent can often put a spotlight on my failings and weaknesses, and very often, show me how my past choices have reached forward in time to bear fruit in one way or another. I can look at this in a couple of ways. One would be to become paralyzed with fear, knowing that even what seems to be the smallest of choices, words or acts can sometimes form the future of another. Or I can become overly regretful, and wallow in sorrow. Lately, I have come to learn that God's love for me as well as my family and friends, is able to encompass all the foibles of my life, and even make the proverbial lemonade from the lemons I have handed Him. I have come to see just a little, that happiness, and even joy, are possible, and this is the best part...even before I get life all figured out. Before I "arrive", or even live a moderately good life. He knows that my intention is to always do better, to get closer to Him, and to give everything I have to Him in gratitude for all He has given me.

I mean, think about it. Those of you who have children; do you wait to love your kids until they do everything right? Or until they stop goofing up? Or until they have all their theology right? Or those who have parents still living--(okay only some will relate here)--do you feel unloved or rejected if you are in a financial bind and have to ask for help? Or suffer the fallout of a bad relationship? This one may not be quite as universal, but there are still some who have had the blessing of loving parents who themselves are not hindered with the "modern family" kinds of troubles. Many times, it is only a parent who can delight with you at the small things your child does, or grieve at the everyday bumps and bruises.

These are only a tiny fraction of examples, but all of them show us in a concrete way, how God looks upon us. How we can always feel secure that He is never too busy to listen to our small worries, or our little victories. He is always ready to keep going forward with us, knowing all our sins and weaknesses. He gives us the prime example of how we can be a better parent, and exercise patience with our offspring when we are really feeling the weight of life's modern problems.

Again, I heavily rely on the Blessed Mother, in the rosary, and in my green scapular prayers for all my kids and their boyfriends/girlfriend/husband/child. It is a mystery, but those prayers have kept us afloat and occasionally have shown wondrous fruit. My own life has taken on a certain stability, my foundation being the Lord Jesus and His Church; Mary, ever interceding for, and counseling us. There is a rest, a confidence, and joy that knowing we need not fear the next Modern innovation that may come upon us, Because He hasn't been surprised yet, nor confounded. There really isn't anything new under the sun.

Now- here we are on Christmas--

well, this was a few days before. Melissa was at the eye doctor--her eyes were so dilated we felt it should be recorded.

Ben and Rachael's school concert.

 a few nice surprises :)


Hope everyone had a blessed Christmas Day! don't forget ~ it is still Christmas!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

stress? hang on--He is on His way!

Here is a glimpse of what our week was like. Melissa and Rachael getting ready to graduate from their respective schools, and applying to four year colleges. Ben in 10th grade, and Malaika in 5th. Seems like they got quite a load dumped on them this year!

 Melissa working on a huge paper that caused her a lot of stress and for which I think I even sprouted a few extra white hairs. I am blessed with conscientious students. But sometimes they suffer from too much stress.

Rachael has her usual end of semester load, too.

But at least they came home to a decorated house that day!

a blurry, but interesting shot of my little Christmas village.

  Our dollar store nativity. I think they're pretty awesome. You just have to give them a setting.

Ben gave me this several Christmases ago. It plays Silent Night :) A great addition to my collection!

this Nativity is from my childhood. It is cracking and falling apart, but it was under the tree every Christmas growing up. Notice none of the creches have the infant Jesus there yet :) a tradition. The youngest kid will place Him there on Christmas Eve night after midnight mass.

Malaika made this in I think third grade at school. I love it.


this was from my friend Jill.

^This was a gift from my dearest friend Marie ♥
                                                                                                                 shelf angel


Malaika found this last week, I couldn't resist :)

This is my collage of images of the holy family in various forms. I save the ones I especially like from each years Christmas cards.

The next two days after this I knocked out 90% of our shopping. Considering the number of people, it was a feat. Now I can do the fun stuff at home! Wrapping, baking, mailing packages. Yes I know it isn't all about the stuff. But the traditions are joyful in themselves, and we all get a break from the every day stuff. Jesus came to bring us out of our ruts!  At this time of year, one of His gifts is to allow us to enjoy our individual traditions and the larger Tradition of the Church, together with Christians all over the world.

Wishing you and all your loved ones a Happy, Holy, and Joyful Christmas!
Just try to hang in there for all the prep.

Monday, December 13, 2010

offering our sufferings to God

While sitting at adoration this morning, besides all the other things that go rocketing around in my mind, I was contemplating the practice of offering our sufferings, mixed with thoughts of those who suffer from depression that often arrive with the winter weather and the Christmas season.
I am no expert when it comes to explaining the theology of offering our sufferings. One good way I think about it is from St.Therese of Lisieux, The Little Flower;

"I prefer the monotony of obscure sacrifice to all ecstasies. To pick up a pin for love can convert a soul." These are the words of Theresa of the Child Jesus, a Carmelite nun called the "Little Flower," who lived a cloistered life of obscurity in the convent of Lisieux, France. [In French-speaking areas, she is known as Thérèse of Lisieux.] And her preference for hidden sacrifice did indeed convert souls. Few saints of God are more popular than this young nun. Her autobiography, The Story of a Soul, is read and loved throughout the world. Thérèse Martin entered the convent at the age of 15 and died in 1897 at the age of 24.

When I am suffering, even in the smallest way, such as a pang of concern for one of my children (this happens roughly every seventeen minutes throughout the day), when I remember, I offer it to the Lord, Even if I have been part of the problem. Or if I encounter people that make me feel angry or agitated, or if I have to do something I don't like or feel like doing. All my sins and failings are somehow spiritual currency to the Lord. They can be offered for someone or some prayer request, or just for reparation for sin. what God does with all this, I don't know!  Of course, "big" sufferings, like sickness, pain and any event or trauma can and should be offered,too, but I am mainly thinking about the routine things. 

Depression is such a sneaky entity. It will circle around for a while, looking for a place to take root. If I have a certain worry, or a pet peeve that I allow to fester a little too much, I will start to notice myself feeling tired a lot, losing motivation for things I normally like to do, or even getting sick more frequently. I will have bouts of anxiety or angry outbursts. Essentially, what is happening is that I am not trusting God that where my life is, is entirely in His hands. If I am able to offer the stresses, the worries, the pain and fears to Him as they happen, not only does He make good use of them, but I am relieved of the burden and am reminded that He sees me and knows what is going on. Which is a huge comfort!

I know that Saints like the Little Flower, lived in such a way that she could ask to suffer and not want any consolations. (comforts from God). I am not there! I just ask for the ability to handle any suffering I must go through gracefully and to remember to lean on Him. I have often remarked to my husband that raising children is God's way of giving us built in penance. They help us shave off a little Purgatory. Of course they bring tons of joy, too, but the process of growing up is just naturally stressful. Especially at the latter teen years. It reminds me of the culmination of a long labor; how right before the birth there is the most pain, but the shortest, too.

I also want to encourage anyone who may be suffering with depression, to try and do these few things. They really do help. They should be done regularly. Commit to some schedule and stick to it.

1. Get up every day and go out of the house. Even if it is just for a short walk. The fresh air, the exercise, and the changing of your surroundings do wonders. Look around and absorb the world. Thank God for the beauty of the sky, for the fact that you are healthy enough to walk around, anything that comes to mind.
The key to helping yourself is getting out of your head, and focusing outward. If you can go to daily mass, that is the perfect thing to schedule each day. Adoration is even better. Pray, give your concerns to Him, and then, at least for that day, let it go. The late Elizabeth Elliot once said, to actually lift your hands to Him, full of your burdens, and imagine Him taking them. Even if you only envision it in your mind, it can be helpful.

2. Do something for someone else. Many times, we who suffer from depression, look for help from others quite a lot. It is the nature of the beast. But it is so good to remember that there are those less fortunate than ourselves and that to meet someone else's need helps free us from our own little box. The more we look outward and especially upward, the less we obsess about ourselves.

I am happy to say that my struggle with depression is almost completely in the past. But I do have to say almost, because depression can be a learned reaction to life's slings and arrows, so I still have to be vigilant. Plus, if you are one of those, as I am , who are on the sensitive side, you know it is both a blessing and a curse. But God has brought me this far, and I know He will not abandon me, nor will He, you.

Now here is one of today's small blessings. 


He or she has taken up residence among the bikes on our porch and the scrap lumber on the neighbor's porch. It is a bit of shelter, that I HAD planned to remove to the basement soon. Now of course I will feel badly. But I think the neighbor is putting out the lumber little by little each week in the trash. So I guess they will be moving on. As adorable as they are, I will not miss the mess they are leaving all over my porch.

Saint Lucy, pray for us!

Friday, December 10, 2010


Yesterday, I got a call from the kids' school, just as I was gathering my cookie baking ingredients, saying, "come quick! Rachael is in pain and can't walk!" She did manage to walk to the car, and we set off for the ER. A little insight into my state of mind..we wanted to take her to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, as it is the best around...but I had to check with her as we were on the expressway..."how old are you?"-- "seventeen, Mom."-- "right, okay."

She was in the worst pain of her life and was writhing and also becoming nauseous. When I arrived at the hospital, I got caught on the big circular drive that is new and takes you all around the whole complex. I had to go around TWICE before I could find the entrance for the ER. And you know what happened. She tried to open the door, but we were approaching a bus on her side, and just didn't have the clearance, especially for our car's huge doors. I gave her my jacket, but the explosive nature of the, ahem, event, was not to be contained.

Once we FINALLY got inside, she was triaged fairly quickly, but was unable to even be still enough for a temp. reading. Unfortunately, everything from that point on went on slow motion. She was in a wheelchair, clutching at herself, moaning and writhing around for a good twenty minutes while the desk people studied points over our heads. It took another two and a half hours before they got a small dose of morphine into her. In the meantime were some pretty harrowing moments. She rolled, pounded, cried, moaned, and I just patted her arm and stroked her hair and cried. Sometimes I would call the nurse just to remind them of her agony.

Her boyfriend came to sit with us, and graciously bought me a slice of hospital pizza, not too bad! and was spared the worst, as she was returning from the ultrasound when he arrived. He gave her his shoes and he left with us in socks. It was about 25 degrees outside. 

Once the meds took hold, and her head cleared a bit, her first words were, "I have to get my portfolio done"! (She is applying to art colleges, and is trying to get all the required stuff in by Dec.15th for early decision). Good grief.

After all was said and done, they never really had a firm diagnosis, but one of the things on the table was an ovarian cyst. The sudden onset and resolution seemed to fit, because once the morphine wore off, the pain was gone. Her older sister had this exact scenario, minus the pain med, and it all seemed to add up.

So--today! Here is what I am doing.

                                                            the aftermath in the car.

                                                  and Rachael, getting a little R&R.

and my secret weapon. well, okay not exactly secret, but it seems to be doing the job in the car and the clothes. The car may actually be a multi- step process, say, until sometime next year.

When she wakes up I plan to tell her she should fare pretty well in childbirth someday, as then, at least, the pain subsides off and on, and after that she will be blessed with a little gift from God, just as I was seventeen years ago.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Thank you God, for my family

You have seen this one. Here is the line up. Left to right-Ben, Meghann, Rachael(seated), Corrie, (standing), Malaika, me, Daniel and Melissa. These are all my kids all together under one roof. It was controlled mayhem, but the best kind.

Here are Kaden, Jeff and Meghann on the first few days of their stay. Okay, usually the camera was pointed at Kaden, or, erm, Spiderman. Which we HAD to address him by if we wanted a response.

Now for Thanksgiving Day.

  Meghann, blurry-camera problems, sorry, but you can see the cuteness anyway.

 Adam, full mouth smile.
 The blurriness kind of illustrates how much this kid is in motion.


  Daniel and his girlfriend, the adorable Rachael. She is also sweet.


Michael with my Rachael. I think they had a good time? Rachael does not usually sport a glass of wine.                      

Ben, with Dan's Rachael. We had three tables, this was the one in the living room. I spent most of the meal going in and out of the kitchen.



 walking around while eating Nonnie's food

Grandmom and Justin's dad. He was very solicitous to her, and they had some nice conversation.   

Corrie and Bob. I think they were full.

Kaden, peering over his special little square cup.
 A couple arrangements I put together that morning. fun! I used ribbons from Meghann and Jeff's wedding.

   Here are the kids with all the husbands, boyfriends, girlfriend, child, etc. Missing is Corrie's boyfriend. He went and did her DJ job that evening so she could be with us :)
So it is--Jeff, Meghann and Kaden, then Ben (standing), Corrie, (seated with Kaden's feet in her lap), Rachel and Michael, Daniel and Rachael, Adam and Melissa (standing) and Malaika, with crossed eyes. Perfect.

At the door, saying goodbye to Uncle Daniel. Meghann-"do you want to give Uncle Daniel a kiss?" Kaden-"uuuhhhmmmmmmm..............no." Hilarity.

 a few shots of Kaden and Malaika doing what they do. She was happy to be older than somebody for a change.