Living in Solidarity with Those We Serve

8/3/18


I used to think it was up to me to save the world. Maybe you’ve been there. Maybe you are there. I spent much of my life running from good thing to good thing, hoping that something I did might have impact—might make a difference. Since childhood, my heart has burned with compassion and often sagged under the weight of all the world’s hurts and injustices. I didn’t know what to do, only that I wanted to help, and I thought that meant doing things for those less fortunate. Surely they needed me, right? 

In this mindset, I volunteered at a nursing home, mentored an at-risk child, interned in a Kenyan orphanage, led a small group in a low-income area, spent two years as a missionary in Southeast Asia, and adopted a son. All of these experiences shaped me—and I am thankful—but they also left me with a nagging feeling I couldn’t put my finger on. 

I was with people, but wasn’t one with them. Because I was giving from the resources of my own strength and not seeking to receive anything from them in return, I unwittingly distanced myself from those I sought to love. Maybe it sounds counterintuitive; maybe it seems as though seeking to receive something from a person in need is disordered and selfish. But the truth is a relationship that recognizes the dignity of both parties demands this. 


... Read the rest at The Catholic Woman!

Everything That Loves and is Loved and is Love

7/23/18


I lathered the shampoo gently through his full head of hair, patient with the knowledge that he would whine and pull away. It had taken him an entire hour to warm up to the water at the pool, but I didn't have another one to wait during bathtime. He jerked his still-baby-round head in protest and I chided him softly. Scooped some water up and let it trickle down his fat white back as a peace offering. We grinned.

My knees were starting to ache against the tile floor when our eyes locked, his lashes like butterfly wings delicate on his face. He saw something—pulled in closer. "Daddy right der!" he whispered, pointing at my iris. "Dat daddy right der!"

My own reflection danced in the dark of his pupils; he saw himself in mine.

A chubby finger touched the rim of my eye. "I see daddy der!"

He never stopped whispering, like the discovery was too great a secret to reveal. Had he shouted, perhaps it wouldn't have felt so supernatural; as it was, there was something that pulsed in the air every time his feathered voice broke through.

Everything he knows of love, he knows in community—a trinity of father, mother, son in which one is constantly being found in the other. From this centrality emerges every other expression of love he encounters: siblings, friends, grandparents, parish, community. It all shoots out from the love that exists between the three of us, because love is not stagnant. It must always be going and coming, from and to something.

The doctrine of the Trinity is a complicated one, and other religions rightly find it befuddling. One God in three Persons? Sounds like a man-made idea scrambled to account for the teachings of a masterful prophet who said some incredibly confusing things. Even Christians struggle to understand, let alone explain, such a mystical reality.

But Hindu, Buddhist, Jew, Muslim, atheist all witness to the reciprocity of love, that it will not and inherently cannot be contained. For love to exist, it must be going from one being toward another; it is an intrinsically communal experience (yes, even when it goes unreciprocated). The language that the Christian tradition has given us for this reality is the Trinity — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit —wholly uncreated, and together at the beginning of time. "Let us make humankind in our image," the Godhead says in Genesis 1. We claim to know what it means, but we swim in mystery.

"The energy in the universe is not in the planets, or in the protons or neutrons," Fr. Richard Rohr writes in explanation of Trinitarian love, "but in the relationship between them." The universe itself is relationship, is community. Is it really so far-fetched to say that love makes the world go 'round? Perhaps it's quite literal. We are invited to move our thinking past an infantile imagination of three white men up in heaven; the Trinity is in the relationship between protons and neutrons, in everything that loves and is loved and is love (which is to say, everything).

Love, and even being, only exist in community. No man is an island, as they say, but neither is God, for God is in relationship with God's own self — must be, if it is true that "God is love". And we? We are the fruit of that love relationship: we are the reflection that we see in God's eye.

photo source

Compassionate Parenting

6/27/18


I was going to be the best mother. I would blow everyone away with my mothering skills—most of all my husband, who, amid is longing for fatherhood, carried the ominous expectation that it would be the weight to finally completely cripple him with anxiety. Luckily, I knew my motherhood would render parenting our first child a breeze. He'd be ready for six more in no time.

I rounded the corner of my final lap toward family life sure of two things: 1) Parents should be in control at all times, and 2) Children should never be allowed to emotionally manipulate thier parents. Bolstered by a stack of books penned by some prolific Christian authors, I was convinced that this two-part theory (with enough nurture thrown in) would guarantee a happy home life.

But when motherhood finally met me at dusk in a little Ugandan orphanage, I furrowed my brow and curved down my mouth at how my expectations failed to fall in line. I had a degree in family studies, for crying out loud. What were these inadequacies and failures doing, showing up in the one area I was supposed to be good at? We finalized the adoption, and, despite all the parenting advice I'd taken in, I couldn't control my son. A year went by, then another, and another. We loved each other deeply, but the Beatles were wrong—love wasn't all we needed. I felt hopeless and defeated; he felt cornered and scared. I didn't know how to get through to him, and he didn't know how to trust me. We were at a stalemate: a very emotional, angry, brokenhearted draw.

And that is exactly where I was the night my husband discovered a man named Jean Vanier in a mediocre-quality YouTube video.


Read the rest in the July 2018 issue of St. Anthony Messenger

A Mother's Day Gift Guide (at Blessed Is She)

4/26/18





I feel like I'm supposed to say something to the effect of, "how is it already May?!", but the truth is this long winter has kicked my tail and if you ask me it seems it should be July by now. And yet, here we are. May holds some beautiful days for our family this year: Tavvi turns 2, I turn 35, Alyosha receives his First Communion (!!), and of course, there's Mother's Day. We're a pretty low-key family and how we celebrate big days is in keeping with that style, so for The Day Of The Matriarch, I'm mostly planning on taking an epic nap and giving my mama a ring.

Hopefully, your plans are a bit more specific. Either way, here are some of my favorite Mother's Day gift ideas at Blessed Is She. Whether you're shopping for your mom, grandma, wife, or are yourself a mom hoping to drop hints to your husband (no shame in that game), these items are sure to be a win.

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Spring Prints

I really love the look of the four of these prints displayed together, but if I had to pick a favorite it would be this one:

Encourage Bible Verse Cards



These Bible Verse Cards are great for memorizing Scripture. They're small enough to keep in your purse or diaper bag, and beautiful enough to display around your home.



Catholic Journaling Bible




I have this Catholic Journaling Bible and am really loving it. And let me say up front: I do not make my journaling beautiful and decorative like so many you might have seen. I'm not artistic in that way, and it's just not my thing. I personally love the lined margins for the note-writing capabilities. There is plenty of room for me to jot down correlating thoughts I've heard in a homily, something I read elsewhere that connects, what I think the Spirit might be telling me, or questions that I have about the passage.



Liturgical Academic Year Planner 2018-19





I have this Liturgical Planner and it truly is the most comprehensive one on the market. If you or the mom in your life thrives on structure and organization (or if her life would simply fall apart without it), this is a worthwhile investment. And for the first time we've rolled out a MINI Planner, that is easier to carry everywhere.


Saint Print Set



Such lovely selection of saints' quotes. But if I had to pick a favorite it would be this guy:
Feminine Genius Tee


Honor the unique gifts women bring to the world and the Church. Love this t-shirt. 



Our Father Poster
The hand-lettering makes the classic Our Father prayer a fun piece of art. This is the newest in a collection of prayer posters; my family has the Grace Before Meals one hanging in our dining room.

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Hope some of these items spark your divine imagination,
 and happy Mother's Day to every mama out there in advance!


Someday, the light will shine like a sun through my skin & they will say, 'what have you done with your life?' & though there are many moments I think I'll remember, in the end, I will be proud to say, I was one of us.

(Brian Andreas, Storypeople)

DESIGNED BY ECLAIR DESIGNS