Saturday, October 29, 2011

Something in the Heart

As I read a little deeper in "A Mother's Rule of Life" by Holly Peirlot, I find myself more and more deeply moved.  I definitely see myself and my own journey in this book.  The beginning the chapter on the first "P" of life, prayer, she describes a time in her life of utter despair when she went on "The Something Search."  She was seeking to fill that hole in her heart.  She was not sure what had caused it or what would fill it.  It was about the time her father left her family that she also left her Catholic upbringing behind, because she could not see any point in it.  After years of seeking for something to fill the void in her heart she finally uttered a desperate prayer for God to reveal Himself to her.  In time, He did.

I went through a similar journey during my adolescent years.  This is one of the reasons I have said in the past, I feel I have suffered in ways that could send a man to the brink and back.  I do not think there is anything more painful than when you become aware of the great void within.  Nothing aches like the searing pain of when you feel that hole inside and you have nothing to fill it.  And you search and search in all sorts of places looking to fill it and it's like throwing pebbles into the Grand Canyon--it could never be filled this way.  Like Holly, I also had a Catholic upbringing to fall back upon.  But, if there was a God, He was not revealing Himself to me.  (She later points out that some people never have a "moment" of conversion, because they have always lived close to the Lord.)

I remember being a faith filled child, but as time went on and I met the cruel realities of the world about me and it did not seem as though anything would help me away from all the evil.  I had no more answers left and no one to turn to.  I was in darkness a lot longer than most would guess.  Not even my family was aware of this struggle.  Then I went on a trip to France with my french class.  The first place we were taken by the tour guide, fresh from the airplane, was to Sacre-Coeur Basilica.  It is at a very high point in the city of Paris and one can view the whole city, which is why we were taken there, not because of the Basilica.  I think I was one of the few students who went into the Basilica.  It was unlike anything I had ever seen before--at least not in person.  I was not quite sure what I was experiencing, but something stirred within me.  I went to the gift shop and bought a Sacred Heart medal.  I knew I had to remember this moment.  I put it on and that moment began a new era in my life.  I wore that medal for nine years until my son was born and the chain broke and I lost it.  When that happened, I figured another new era had begun--Motherhood.

The View from Sacre-Coeur Basilica

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The Exterior of Sacre-Coeur

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The Apse of Sacre-Coeur

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The Medal


The moment in Sacred Heart Basilica was not "magic."  I was not healed.  I was not saved.  But finally, I was awakened to God again.  The journey back to the sacramental life and true conversion was a lot longer than that.  It was three more years until I was officially back into the Church.  It took Reconciliation, Eucharist, Graces of the Holy Spirit,  scripture, Catechism and fellowship to bring me back from the brink of despair.  I finally had God's love to fill me.  It was the only thing that filled me during my whole life.

As I read this section of "A Mother's Rule of Life" all of this came flooding back to me and I remembered the pain of that void.  I was thankful for the remembrance.  It was good to remember what it was like without God in my life and know that I never want to feel that despair again.  It was good to shed tears and know that God is present and was present that day in Sacre-Coeur Basilica.  The author's point in sharing this experience is two fold.  One must search one's self and one's journey, and seek his or her vocation to know the Rule appropriate for one's own life.  The other point, is that it is important to put God first in life, schedule time with God first and actively seek Him first all the days of your life.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Hopelessly in Love

I did not think my way into the Byzantine Church as many do having left their previous churches seeking more.   There could be no other explanation than I was like a loyal dog, on a leash, led by God.  At the time I was a lost little college student.  I had dumped my engineering major and was seeking out a new major.   I landed on philosophy a short time later.  One might think being a learned individual, I was searching more in faith, a thinking man's worship—deeper theology, greater reverence, greater tradition.   Let’s be honest,  who isn’t looking for deeper faith.  But, at the time I felt quite sound in my faith and confident in the Roman Catholic Church.  Seeking theology, reverence and tradition were decidedly not what brought me to the doorstep of a Byzantine church.

I had a boyfriend whom I had actually tried not to date.  I had told him I had sworn off dating and I was just praying for God to guide me to my future husband or religious vocation.  But, he said that was okay, because he did not want to date either.  He wanted to court with the intention to marry.  Whoa!  I was not ready for that.  But in truth, there were a lot of signs, not lost on either of us, that God was bringing us together.  With courtship in mind, we fell hopelessly in love.

I was Catholic and he was Orthodox.  We were very much in favor of our own particular denominations.  Where he saw trouble, I saw reconcilability and vice versa.  We came to an impasse, either we find commonality in faith and worship or split ways, and neither of us was budging.  Finally, he told me there was a way, but he was not keen on leaving his church, which had nurtured him into true faith.  We visited a Byzantine Catholic church--a church of ancient Eastern theology, under the umbrella of Rome.  I was startled by the Liturgy.  I was unlike any Liturgy I had ever experienced.  It was long, chanted, everything was said three times; there was lots of incense and some language I had never heard before.  However, during the Liturgy I naively identified all the parts of the Roman Liturgy within the Byzantine; and later told my boyfriend that it was acceptable in my eyes.

Everyone at the church was friendly and coached us along.  The cantor told us how when she entered the Byzantine church the priest had told her that soon she would be chanting the hymns and prayers throughout her day.  She was sweet, but I thought it would be a while before I got the hang of the chanting.  In actuality, it was about four Sundays and my boyfriend and I were chanting in the car to each other.

In time I became more knowledgeable of the deep theology behind the most ancient Christian Liturgy (I am still a novice).  But, immediately I enjoyed the deeper reverence and greater tradition.  And best of all, I was able to worship with my best friend and soon to be husband.  Within the doors of the Byzantine Church, we determined that we did see eye to eye in matters of faith.  We were crowned in the marriage crowning in the Byzantine Church.  We remain Byzantine today.  We raise our children in the Byzantine tradition.  It will be nine years this January that we first celebrated the Lamb’s Supper in the Byzantine Church.

We used to live just 25 minutes from that Byzantine church.   I grew up in a small town.  To me, that was a long way to go for church.  Little did I know that later I would need to drive 1h45 to get to a Byzantine church.  In my opinion, the drive is worth it.  We have been trying to get to the Byzantine Liturgy more often this year.   Especially since our children can receive the Eucharist there.  Last Sunday, after being away for about six weeks we made the trek to the Byzantine church.  As we rounded the corner and the church was in view, tears welled up in my eyes.  It was a total rush of relief like when you come home after being away.  As I gathered my emotions, I realized I am hopelessly in love--Byzantine style.

On the day of our betrothal in the Byzantine church.
February 2005

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Saturday, October 15, 2011

7. Fall Family Fun

7. Pumpkin Patch - We drove an hour to ride some ponies, pet some animals, paint a pumpkin and get ripped off.  He, he, he, it was a fun time.  But next time I think I will stay a little closer to home and go to the local Fair, and paint a pumpkin at home.  Hey kids, I'll even get a baby pool full of rubber ducks and let every one come over and have duck races in our baby pool.  It would be cheaper to do that than drive to the "Empty Your Pockets Farm."

I know you are thinking, why is Renee obsessed with money this week?  Well let's face it.  Build-a-Bear and Pumpkin Farm were not the wisest of monetary decisions this week.  But, I do want my kids to have fond memories of fun things they did with their parents.  I just wish fun was a little more practical and a little more economic.  After today, I am seriously considering having my own little kids carnival in my back yard next year.  I just have to figure out how to get a mini-petting zoo for free.  I just need a couple baby goats or sheep and maybe some baby chicks.  I need a pony too.  I wish I live closer to family.  Then I would have some free labor too. ;-)

Here are some fuzzy moments from our trip to the pumpkin patch.

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6. Clean Hands

6. "A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands…" Proverbs 31 This week I made my own hand soap…Well, not exactly.  But, I did economize our hand soap. The kids use soooo much hand soap.  They think it is great to fill the sink with bubbles while washing hands.  I am glad their hands are getting clean, but we're out of soap.  So I read that you can use castle soap and water.  I use a tablespoon of Dr. Bronner's and filled the bottle with water.  We now have clean hands and less bubbles, on a budget.

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5. I Think I Developed a Hole In My Wallet

5. Buil-A-Bear/Break the Bank - We visited Build-A-Bear this week. The kids each walked away with an adorable, cuddly friend.  But boy is that place is expensive.  I was fully aware of the expense before we went, but for some reason the idea of a toy with a t-shirt appealed to me.  After the kids' toys were made, I have to say it was a special experience and the toys are quality.  I actually would not mind one of my own.  Annie's pink and yellow bear smells like strawberries and is so soft.  We all love it, alas, she does not care about it (yet?).  But yeah, unless someone else is paying, I do not think we will be able to visit again.

Build a bear

4. A Green Triumph

4. Triumph! - On our way to Adoration this week, I piled the kids in the car early in the morning. Kristiana had brought a book along for herself.  Alex insisted he needed a book too.  A copy of "Green Eggs and Ham" was sitting on the floor of the car.  I grabbed it and handed it to him.  In minutes of leaving our home I heard Alex stumbling through the words of the book.  I was sure that he was going to stumble through four or so pages and then give up and look at the pictures in the rest of the book.  He called out, "Mom, what's this word?"

"Honey, I don't know. I am driving."  Then I thought for a couple of seconds and replied, "Alex, there are a lot of 'would you, could you' in the book."  Then I spelled the words for him.  All of a sudden I heard him motoring through the book.  Every once and a while he would ask, "Mom, what's this word?" I would ask him to spell the word and then I would tell him what it was.  By the time we arrived at the Church twelve minutes later, he only had four pages left to read, which he finished in the chapel.

I had no idea he could do that.  I take that back. I believed he could do it, but I am always asking him to stop squirming and just read.  But a relaxed, buckled up, un-pressured, reading session in the car is all he needed.  I am looking forward to years of independent reading!  I am really hoping to instill a love of reading into our children.  When I look back to my childhood, I recognize all the years of missed opportunities to enjoy good literature.

Kudos to Alex!


3. Spilled Milk

3.  Spilled Milk - Oh irony! Why is life ironic sometimes?  One evening, the children were well-occupied and even though it was nearing their bed time I could not stand the sticky, dirty kitchen floor one more moment.  So I was going to sweep and mop before I put them to bed.  I hate to mop and tried to assign this duty to my husband.  But, he never found time and I was tired of sticking to the floor.  I was shocked that no insect and vermin were swarming the kitchen.  Anyhow, with some trouble I got the floor mopped and then put the kids to bed.  Lastly I had to put Annie to bed.  I meandered through the kitchen toward the master bedroom with baby Annie to take her to bed.  She was finishing her last bottle of milk and as she finished, she reached over my shoulder and dropped her bottle.  It was a glass bottle and still had a few ounces left in it.  It shattered ALL OVER the kitchen.  There was even milk on the cabinets and glass spread in every corner.  She managed to drop it just so to make maximum mess.  I plopped her in her high chair and began round 2 of cleaning the kitchen floor.  The next morning I spilled an entire cup of tea on the floor.  I am guessing it is just not my destiny to have a clean floor. That WOULD be too much to ask for.

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2. Do Not Store Up For Yourselves Treasures On Earth

2. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21
Wow, Matthew 6 is such a treasure trove.  It's where we also are given the Lord's Prayer.  Lately, the above teaching has sunken to the bottom of my heart and I feel it there weighing me down heavily.  I have been trying to keep the reigns on our budget and tidy up our finances, as I do every fall.  My husband and I have always paid our bills and on time, but we have had trouble saving and keeping control of debt.  I mean five years of graduate school will do that to you.  We are always playing catch-up.  We know what we need to do.  It is the execution that we struggle with.  But, I have done a lot of searching for guidance in the past month and  I know what I treasure--God, His blessings and Eastern Christian praise and worship of God--then why cannot I not put that first?

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1. But Seek First Kingdom of God

1. "But seek first kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." Matthew 6:33 
At the beginning of the week, with renewed spirit, I attempted with great fervor to keep this teaching.  I know that whatever you serve first is where your heart is.  So I attempted to pray more often. I got up early to pray before the kids woke up.  I read scripture daily.  I was strict with the kids about family prayer times.  I tried to keep up with a schedule, housework, and tending to the needs of the children.  As the week went on, I simply grew weary.  I would say that each day went well, but Friday did not fall anywhere close to the kingdom of God.  To be honest, I am not sure I even glimpsed the kingdom or righteousness all week.  But I want to see it; just not sure how to get there and stay there.  Are there any prayers for the weary? I know there is scripture about working your toils with a smile and laughter in you heart.  Perhaps I need to memorize that one. Does any one know it?

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Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Nightstand Library

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This is what is on my nightstand right now.  All of these books were added to my collection in September.  I am about half way through most of them.  I have finished more of some and less of others.  I hope to finish them all before Christmas.  I have learned so much lately.  I feel so with it.

I am excited about "A Mother's Rule of Life."  I read the first chapter and was all teary-eyed, because I knew how the author felt.  She was a mother at her wits end. She was a home schooling mother of five and never could find the balance.  She prayed and prayed and never could come the answer to her problems, so she decided she was going to send her children to school and that would solve it.  But, her husband asked her to wait a week.  She went months and things did not change.  But, one day in studying scripture it came to her.  Christ feeds the multitudes: When five thousand men came to Christ to be taught and needed to be fed he did not send them away.  He fed them with five loaves and three fishes.  Christ did not solve the problem by sending them away.  He blessed what they had and fed a multitude.

I am a little farther in the book now and I am hoping to glean valuable life management skills from this book.  The book is largely about living a similar life to a religious order Rule and the five "p's" (prayer, person, partner, parent, provider).  In one sense, it is one of those books in which I already knew a lot of this.  However, seeing it in print and well-organized empowers me to actually get my life better organized and prioritized.  I especially needed a reality-check on my attention to prayer as I have been skipping regularly scheduled prayer lately.  The author actually had time to pray the rosary by herself in the middle of the day while having five children at home.  And a private walk by herself after dinner.  What novel ideas.  Time to herself everyday and she did not have to fight for it.  She simply scheduled it and scheduled something for the family to be doing at the same time.

From the new Duggar book, I have learned more about gentle, peaceful parenting, which I definitely need.  My wonderful young children are awesome and such a blessing.  They are also independent little individuals who do not wish to obey immediately.  However, they are also not rational and most of the time my demand that they obey has a lot to do with protecting their safety.  I have noticed that if I sweetly ask for cooperation rather than bark orders I am much more likely to see acquiescence.

What are you reading?  I have to start compiling my list for after Christmas.  As of May I will not be reading any books for at least six months after the new baby is born.  I have to make up for lost time.


Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Birdman Strikes Again

Some of you may remember the wings I made for the kids during this past summer…

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The other day I was at a store with the kids.  We were just there browsing as a "Daddy's Away Let's Stay Busy" outing.  Of course the kids were dazzled by all the bright, shiny, new things at the store.  "Mommy, can we have that?!"

"No, it's too expensive."

"How about that?!"




Then my son spotted an eagle mask in the Halloween section.  "Mommy, I need that to go with my wings."

"No, it's too expensive."

"Oh well, you could make me an eagle mask like you made my wings!"

I was somewhat checked out in single-parenthood weariness and delirium.  I heard myself saying, yes, I could make a mask.  But, did I mean it.  Well, I guess I could.  Actually, this could be a fun and exciting keep the kids busy project.  Every day Alex, asked me when I was going to make him an eagle mask.  Every day, I listed off the things that had to be done before we could get to the mask, and then we would never make the mask.  Finally, a week later I did make the mask. I had envisioned Alex glueing on all the feathers.  When it came time, he said, no, you just do it Mommy.  I was actually a little relieved.  It took me no time at all and there was not gluey mess.

Here is the new and improved Birdman.

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Friday, October 7, 2011

7 Quick Takes - Weary in Waco

1.  Last week I was a single parent for five days.  It was hard.  I had to do all the daytime and nighttime parenting by myself and as I mentioned last week we have had a lot of trouble with our little sleepers lately.  Normally my husband goes and settles the kids in the night.  He can fall asleep anywhere instantly, so it is not as great a burden on him as it is on me.  If I get up in the night, I am usually up for hours.  I had Kristiana trying to get in my bed every night.  Then one night Alex came to my bed too.  He noticed there was not much room for him with Annie and Kristiana in the bed too.  I told him, "I know. There are too many people in this bed."  Then about ten minutes later he noticed that it was hot too. "I know! There are too many people in this bed!"  So I took the kids to Kristiana's room and told them to get in bed together.  There they stayed until the next morning.  The next night I told Kristiana if she were scared she should get into Alex's bed.  He likes to have company in the night.  She did not, but I took her there after she came to my room and there they stay until the next morning.  This is my new tactic.  Comfort each other, because there is no room in Mom and Dad's bed.

2.  It was such a disaster being home by myself.  Of course, all the stress of being the only parent had me feeling a little sicker, in the first trimester way, than normal.  I was also way more tired than normal, because of my nighttime visitors.  The kids were up to mischief all weekend.  How and why do they figure out when you are more vulnerable and then that is when they strike.  It was just damage control all weekend.

3.  I tried to keep them busy and have fun.  But, my kids are more creative than that.  The kids painted the baby.  Poor baby.  I was not gone, but a few seconds.  But, it was enough time to grab handfuls of paint and smear the baby.  I told the kids they could redeem themselves if they painted the icon neatly.  But they mixed all the paint together and made the icon black.  Sadness came over my heart.

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4. Then we went inside and did other stuff, home school, cleaning up…I stepped away to change the baby's diaper.  Kristiana took this opportunity of alone time to poop on the floor.  When I came back she was dancing on the sofa, wagging her naked bottom at her brother attempting to wipe her poop on him.  Everyone was laughing, even the baby started laughing at the sight.  Guess who wasn't laughing?

5.  Thankfully there is a local church that has a nursery during Sunday Liturgy.  So I went to that church, put the girls in the nursery and sat peacefully with my little boy enjoying the goodness of the Lord.

6.  When my husband arrived home, I was hoping for a little relief.  But of course, he was wiped out from traveling. We both involuntarily fell asleep at 6:00 p.m. only to be awakened by the baby screaming.  She had been doused in soapy water.  I still do not know where the soapy water came from.  We put the kids to bed and fell asleep once more until the next morning.

7.  No, things were not all bad.  These were just the exciting moments, the memorable moments.  My kids did a lot of coloring quietly by themselves.  I noticed that after Alex finished each drawing he turned it over and wrote, "The End" on the back as though he were thinking up a little story about each picture in his head and then ended it. The kids also spent a lot of time playing quietly by themselves.  It is great to see the kids play together so well.  When I took them on outings, they also behaved.  They had some very naughty moments at home though.  This weeks things are a little more settled, but I am still trying to catch up on rest.

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