Thursday, October 20, 2016

Letting them be them

I find it hard sometimes not to project myself onto my kids. I don't want them to think they need to think, feel or do a certain way because that's the way I do it, or that's the way I've always seen it done. Or since I'm not courageous enough, then maybe they shouldn't be. Or because something makes me hesitate, they should certainly fear it too. As long as it's good, well, then, it's good. I struggle to let them be. I struggle to let them do it how they want. I struggle to let them have all the control.

Two nights ago Gabriel, Evelyn and I attended Adam and Anthony's baseball game. It was a moment of difficulty for me because Patrick was traveling. We had team snack. I hadn't made dinner. I had to assist in the dressing of the boys in their "gear" and those socks are such stinkers. Plus the belt. Plus the cleats. And you know how the story goes with loading up 4 kids in the car with chairs and drinks and snacks and helmets and bats and gloves. You get the picture.

Well, right before we left Gabriel asked if he could use my phone. What?! Why on earth? I'm in the middle of a big project right now. I'm getting people ready. We don't have time to make a phone call. He wanted to call his dad. So, of course, I said OK.

"Hey dad, I wanted to know if I could be catcher tonight for my brothers' game? Do you think the coach will let me?" I hear his dad hesitate. He was on speaker phone. "Sure, buddy. All you need to do is ask. He may or may not need help, but you can ask." Great, I thought to myself. I'm going to be stuck in the midst of an awkward moment where the 7 year old gets told he cannot help. And I felt sure he couldn't. Could he really stop and catch all those balls? Could he throw them back that far to the pitchers mound? I don't think so. I know for certain he has never done this before.

We got there and immediately Gabriel runs to the coach. "I can catch!" he says. The coach didn't understand at all and in the midst of the chaos said, "Great, buddy! Glad you are working on your skills." (1st embarrassing/disappointing moment accomplished). He walked back to me, eyes welled up. "Buddy, he just didn't understand you, so let me give you some better words," I said. My heart was hurting as I threw a new recommendation his way. Am I setting him up for yet another failed attempt? Just say, "Hey Coach, if you need someone to catch or chase runaway balls, I'm happy to help with that." Well, he marched his little butt right back to that coach with a confident strut and used my exact words. The coach hesitated a minute, looked for me, I gave him a nod and he said, "Sure, buddy, that would be a great help!"

My son then proceeded to stop almost every ball that was pitched. If he didn't stop them, he ran as fast as those skinny legs would carry him and captured them. When having to throw balls back to the coach on the pitchers mound, his throws were strong, they were precise and the coach always caught them. For such a small act of service, for such a random moment in little league history, for such a lack of confidence from his mom, this was a HUGE moment for my Gabriel or at least for his mom. Afterward, the coach came to me telling me of how impressed he was.

I learned something about him two nights ago. He is not me. His confidence far exceeds mine. His joy to help far exceeds mine. His determination is admired by me. And to think that I was so close to pulling out one of my "mom talks" about how he's probably too young to be catcher and how the coach is all set with helpers, but what a great thought for some other time. It was a humbling moment to say the least.

I have a new prayer now. That they become everything God has intended them to be, not to ever stay in the box which I want to place them in. To let them be them. To allow every and any moment, as small as it may be, be swept up by their confidence and to let them run with it.

Friday, September 23, 2016

I'm just not sure why

I am doing some serious contemplation lately on why the Church does not have more saints who are mothers. I'm not saying they are wrong, I am just saying, I wish there were more.

I read day after day in my spiritual reading about these incredible saints, most of who were religious and priests. They had devoted their whole selves to God. Their fidelity is the beauty that guides me in so many ways in my walk of motherhood. We need more displays of this beauty in the Church in motherhood. The sanctity and purification during motherhood is something that is many times unbearable, much like the priest and religious saints encountered in their sufferings and trials, but just in a different way. They were dealing with superiors, us women are dealing with our husbands. They were dealing with people in their community life and we were dealing with the children that soak up every moment with their own sufferings, their own lessons that we are teaching them. In many ways, we are also superiors as mothers. It is a hard road. To be on our knees begging God to guide us, so we can serve our spouses and teach our children in the way of obedience and of God.

I recognize mothers who are striving for sainthood daily in their own lives; mothers and wives who have done what I am not sure I could achieve, but you see God in them because you know they thrive only off of his grace. I have seen my friends forgive their husbands of infidelity. I have seen my friends forgive their parents after a fall out I could never imagine with my own. I have seen my friends throw themselves into the arms of God with reckless abandon with their fertility, conceiving and giving birth to so many children that I would love to place jewels on their heavenly crown myself after the suffering I have seen them endure.

I know God sees it. I know it changes the world. The world is absent of fidelity in marriage. It is absent of sainthood in marriages. We need to keep striving for this.

Every moment is hard as a wife and mom. We fail so much. I have failed so many times this week. I don't go to bed on time, I have trouble getting up, I get lazy because there is just too much to do, I skip out on my quiet prayer time because I'm too overwhelmed to try to find silence, I yell at my kids in a heated moment, I let my pride take over when my husband criticizes me and my charity and patience is lacking.

But then God shows me all He allows me to accomplish through his grace... and I see how many times he allowed me to forgive. I see the child who I taught a great skill of virtue this week. I see the 3 meals I've cooked and cleaned up after for 6 people even though I didn't want to. I see the daily Mass I got through with my 2 year old. I see my husband trying to help me, not criticize me and I am humbled. It is God pushing me to sainthood through his grace. I am begging him for the desire because this is just so darn hard.

It is the resisting that is tough. It is the lack of trust that pulls me down. I have recently heard that "all mercy means is trusting Him with everything"...sounds so simple, right? I am trying to trust him where I am at, with how I am doing, to push me through to do better and grow my heart bigger.

There is so much complaining in motherhood and I think that's where I can find the true saints... it's the moms who never complain. They are the ones I'm trying to be like. They are the ones completely full of Jesus. Now, if the Church would just go ahead and make more of them saints!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

I will miss you

I went to my uncle's funeral a month ago expecting to mourn his loss. I think we knew he was sick for so long that I had already prepared my heart in so many ways. I already had time to say good bye. I am not done mourning him, for he was one of my favorite people in the world... but what I did not realize is that it was the first time I had to really come to grips with another loss. I did not realize until last month that I had also really lost my aunt. The reality hit me so hard that I still cannot quite grasp it. We barely spoke. It was such an incredibly sad time for me. I have lost sleep over this for so many reasons, but I am finally realizing the importance of detachment... a love that I can have while still letting it go.

I tend to find my closure with all things by writing. So, I wrote her a letter. Its barely a glimpse of my heart and the words are almost superficial at first read, but the heart of the letter is deep sadness for losing a friend for a reason I still do not fully understand. 

To my friend and aunt,
I'll think of you every time I eat a fresh baked piece of apple pie with vanilla ice cream. You always made the best. So fresh. Spending hours making the homemade dough and slicing those apples.

I'm going to think of you every time I go to a blazing hot summer wedding. Yours was the hottest I had ever been to. I was so thrilled to be in that wedding. I will never forget the perm my mom made me get before it, the fuchsia dress AND shoes I had to wear and the amount of sweat I sweat at the wedding and while dancing in that fire hall. Your puffy sleeves were the best. You were the prettiest bride I had ever seen. 

I'll never forget early Saturday mornings in Jersey... it was so long until you woke up from being out late, just so I could see you eat your cereal and wait patiently for a perfect french braid and some perfectly placed nail polish. You were my young, pretty aunt. You were the one I wanted to be. We all have family members we click with. You were one of my favorites. People still get us confused as sisters. We were a lot like sisters all these years. That is something I always wanted.

I will still think of you every time I'm expecting a baby. Every time I go through boy clothes, every time I'm in my play room. You made me feel good to have ALL these boys... you had survived it. You handed me on the boy clothes and toys I never would've been able to afford in grad school. And you were the one I was most excited to tell, "It's yet again, another boy!" Thank you for letting me be there when you gave birth to your second boy. It was something that made me so unafraid of giving birth. You did it. I was there. I saw the joy and the beauty of motherhood so up close. It's a perfect memory. I still remember throwing on clothes the night after prom... hair still up, make up still on and rushing down to the hospital so I wouldn't miss it. Best day ever. And then you made me his godmother.

I will think of you when I remember back to my confirmation. You were my sponsor. I'm pretty sure at that time I had no idea what your faith life looked like. But it didn't matter to me, really. I picked someone I wanted to be like. I'll never forget your hair that day. It was BIG. That was the first time I really remember myself praying and talking to Jesus in a way I never had. I prayed for you that day.

I will never forget the many times you did my hair for homecoming and prom. My friends were so jealous that I had an in house hair stylist. You knew how to make me beautiful.. I loved doing girl stuff with you. Even though you are my mom's sister, you were just as close in age to me, so we were close and I so loved it. I so loved that even though I did not have a sister, you were something so similar to it. An older, but younger version of my mom. I just loved being around you. You were an easy person to make laugh and I love being funny (even if I'm not).

I loved that you guys lived with us awhile. It was like a slumber party every night. It was so fun to have a baby around and to share dinner with more than just my parents and brother every night. You did microwave your food way too much. Quinlan women and perfection. I tell ya.

Thanks for always wanting to borrow my make up. For just a minute I felt cool to share it with you. 

I loved the sarcasm we had. The jokes. The way we would lip sing with spoons in the kitchen. I loved that you never missed any birthday, any holiday. And you showed up a lot, to performances, baptisms of my children, and all important family things. I loved the cakes you guys would make. It was always so nice to have a cake especially made for each occasion. It was a special gift.

When I suffered my miscarriage it was my biggest consolation to call you. I didn't have anyone else close to me to speak to and actually understand. It was such a source of peace... to have someone along side me suffer in the same way.

I love your boys almost as much as I love my own kids. You gave me a gift in them. Your three boys prepped me for my three boys. It was a great thing to have in common. And so much fun. Can you believe I finally had a girl?! I wish you knew her. She is the funniest person I have ever met.

I will miss you. I already do. I wish there was a way to figure out how to have saved your marriage. I would've cut off my right arm to do it. I remember driving down to talk with you about it. I remember begging you not to do it. I, of course, do not and never will know the whole story. No judgement is held. Just sadness for what was. And for what was lost in so many relationships when your marriage ended. I think deep down I wanted to watch you fight. I wanted to watch you fight so hard. I don't know whether you did or not, but watching someone fight for a marriage will change people's hearts and lives. It will save other marriages. If you fought and I missed any of it, thank you. 

I will continue to work tirelessly in the engaged couples ministry because of your divorce. I think marriage prep is key, or at least I think it is. I will continue to work tirelessly on my marriage... it has been no walk in the park. There has been a great deal of suffering, disappointment, and things that I could never mention here. Really, the truth is, no one really knows what we suffer in our marriages, but I am praying harder every day that more people would be better able to endure it.

There is so much loss. I have suffered a loss. I know you have suffered so many losses. I wish so much I could get them back.

I wish I knew a way I wouldn't have lost you, but it just seemed as time went by, you slowly slipped away. I tried to hold on so tight. I still do not have peace about my loss. I'm having to lay that unrest down before Jesus every day. My human heart is so weak. And so confused. 

I do not know all you suffer, but I wish I could make it better. I wish I could still be your friend. I'll think of you. I hope you will sometimes think of me. 

I will be offering many sacrifices and prayers for you every day. I had a mass offered for you a few weeks back. I prayed a novena for you this week. I trust God to do much with those graces. 

I love you. I will miss you. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Time well spent

I definitely spent too much time today working on my budget. I spent too much time browsing through facebook. Too much time looking at the calendar and making pointless appointments... at least the ones that are required but I hate going to. I spent too much time saying, "Just a minute" and "Wait one second."

The gift of time is something to reflect on. What do we do with our time? Patrick and I just decided today to get our TV turned off. We will still have Netflix for the occasional TV series we think is worth a relaxing night off, but overall TV adds nothing to our life or relationships. We are also looking at what activities our kids do, which ones will actually form friendships, but most of all, which ones will form virtue? I think it's important to not just aimlessly throw our kids into activities because, well, that's what the Jones's have done.

How else do we spend our time? For this year we have decided to homeschool. Not because we are claiming this to be the all out best choice of education for children, but because we want to take a chance to slow down time. The carpooling, the cramming in homework every night, the rush out the door in the morning and the lack of time my children were getting to spend together or with the family was dwindling already... and they are only 2, 4, 5 & 7. What? I'm going to teach them this year, so we can explore, go on field trips, read aloud, and spend time together. I want to teach them at this young age so if they don't get the math problem I can run to the kitchen to grab something hands on, so I can see their eyes light up when they do get it. So, when Gabriel receives his First Communion this year I will have had every moment to do what a parent does and form his little heart to be ready... with Eucharistic miracles, catechism and having more available time for daily Mass and visits to Jesus in the Eucharist.

What else do we waste our time on? Probably media. Probably trying to keep things at our own expectation levels. Probably trying to impress someone else.

What should we spend our time on? A very wise holy woman once told me, "You are a woman of the Kingdom. Wake up in the morning, set your timer for 10 minutes and lay yourself before Our Lord. He needs all of you for 10 minutes. Don't read, don't write... just be with Him for 10 whole minutes. Talk to him as a friend, a best friend. And when the timer goes off, go about your day... you must still care for that beautiful family, but look, you have put Him first, and all is well."

We need to spend our time on Him. I would struggle to drag Evelyn to the chapel most days that I would drop the boys at school last year... but whether loud or quiet, whether she allowed me to stay 30 seconds or 10 minutes, I would bring her, I would genuflect, I would tell her, "Say hello to Jesus. Blow him a kiss. Tell him you love him." I had yet to see the fruits of it until last week we were at my in laws house and a beautiful crucifix in their dining room caught Evelyn's eye... She hopped quickly down from the table, ran to Him, genuflected, attempted to do the sign of the cross and then she proceeded to look up to Him and sing the Hail Mary. Just. Beautiful.

Every day I am trying to look at my time. I think about all I could be doing to make our home cleaner. All I could be doing to live up to someone else's standards. All my kids could be doing to keep up with the other kids. We have to choose the better part... and we need to ask Him in prayer what that is for us personally. It's always clear, but do we say yes?

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

He must look at me that way

I must have turned off the light in the bathroom today at least 20 times. It was as if someone was hiding behind the door and turned it back on each and every time I shut it off. It was one of the many thankless jobs of the day.

I watched an entire bowl of popcorn fall to the floor immediately after sweeping. Someone stepped on it too.

I took time to pick out each of the kids clothes, only to find that each of them decided to play with the hose outback and get soaked just seconds before I called them to the car to leave. I took a deep breath and back to the drawing board.

At one point today, 3 of my 4 kids were crying. At least not all 4 of them were. The 4th one waited till the other 3 stopped ;)

I was never thanked for making their peanut butter toast... at least not without reminding them. No one noticed when I spent 20 minutes unloading and loading the dishwasher. Or when I switched out laundry 3 times today, stripped the sheets, made lunch, prepped for dinner, vacuumed the rugs or picked up the legos out of the carpet on my hands and knees for 15 minutes because the kids just miss them when they get lost in there, so it's easier for me to find them all. And I was never thanked for fixing each meal just how they like it or for cutting their fingernails or for finding their lost "paper" or for figuring out why the 5 year olds legs are aching.

No one stood there to reward me for following through on a consequence when a child misbehaved. And no one scolded me when I yelled. No one noticed the beauty of my little girl falling asleep in my arms like she does every day at nap time... after negotiating with me of course. And no one saw the moments where I read to my boys about a saint and I saw their eyes light up as they were inspired by bravery.

But, the Lord reminded me, He was there, thanking me. He was there to give me a gentle push to be firm, but loving. He was there to watch my sweet baby giggle as I sang to her and applaud me when I made progress with a difficult child.

I reflected today on the gift my vocation is. A one of constant serving and always looking out for the other. I also reflected on how hard it is. It's sometimes unbearable. How can I be so blessed to be a mother? And sometimes its, Lord, are you sure I was not suppose to be tucked away as a contemplative sister? He reminds me, no. But, the noise, Lord? Ah, yes, the noise is where you grow. All things uncomfortable bring virtue and virtue brings you to Me.

I look at my children. I wouldn't change a thing. I wouldn't stop the hands and knees service. I wouldn't want a quiet house... I would be longing for them. I see them, and I faithfully continue. As many times as they scream, mess up, start a fight, whine, make a bad choice... I still look at them, and nothing changes my love in the least. It gives me great hope. In all my imperfection, I know He is much greater than I. He must look at me that way. Nothing changes His love.

In all the work, heart ache, exhaustion, clean up, He is there. He is there in my loneliness, my frustration, my successes and failures. He just loves me. And I know He looks at me in a more perfect way than I see them and it brings me peace in the midst of the beautiful chaos of my every day.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

reflection on suffering

Well, I'm back in Nashville. It's been awhile since I have written on my blog, but I feel the Lord calling me to start writing again. On life. On motherhood. On marriage. On my love of Jesus. On the adventure I'm about to embark on with homeschooling. On suffering.

Today and this week and really over the past year and a half I have been reflecting on the suffering accompanied with dying. We could get into a huge theological/philosophical conversation about suffering, death and dying... healing... the why's and why nots, but my energy isn't there today. Bottom line, we have original sin and we are all going to die. But, what I'm realizing more and more is that people completely forget Jesus, his cross, redemptive suffering and ETERNITY! How do you suffer alone without these things?

How do you suffer without purpose? At Easter time I came down with something... I'm still not sure what. It may have been part of a terrible detox I was doing, although one doctor said severe inflammation in my intestinal tract and another said 3 different viruses hit me at once. Well, whatever you would call it, I have never suffered that much in a physical nature in my lifetime (only 33 years, but still). I was taken to the emergency room and had every test in the book run on me, but still nothing definitive. It offered me a chance to reflect on people who suffer. Without Jesus, I would've said, please someone give me the drugs that will make this end. I could not sleep, hold still or eat with the pain I suffered. It lasted without any relief for 3 days. After 3 days, it was still minor pain for another week. It was an opportunity to ask, beg, and offer myself as a prayer. What the Lord needed me for that week, can't wait to ask Him! But, I know, without a doubt, He used my suffering... graces fell from my tears, my pain, my sleepless nights, my missing my kids. Redemptive suffering is something I hope I can teach my children well. A hard feat.

I have been reflecting on my uncle in his suffering. He has cancer. It started with his thyroid, then to his lungs, liver, etc. It has been painful to watch. Chemotherapy. Losing hair. No appetite. Fatigue. And the list goes on. A difficult journey for my grandmother, my mom, my aunts and uncle, my uncles closest friends and of course, all of those who love him. But, the immense beauty that has transpired... His suffering has had great purpose. You can see the people around him put on their life glasses and focus in on the important and flush out the nonsense.

If only those who support the terrible act of euthanasia could see the beauty in suffering, death and dying. The way people have opened up. The way people have given of themselves. The way people have learned to love in the hardest way. The way the family has come together and been a team. It has been indescribably beautiful. They have even made t-shirts to support him! The way they have treated my uncle with such dignity during this time and how he has fought to help each person mourn and understand. I'm impressed, I'm learning, I'm praying that more people recognize the great beauty suffering carries with it.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Oh, Rhode Island... the move that moved me...

Above are our family pictures from this past fall. I think I could easily look back at any fall pictures we have had thus far in our marriage and tell you quite a story of that year. Looking at these, I have a heart full and eyes full... of tears. It has been quite a year.

I miss Nashville, my tremendous girlfriends, the couples we love, my godchildren, the close proximity to our families (and the lake) and the warm weather... oh, just more than words would ever be able to express, I miss it all so much. I certainly do not feel as if I am home here, but, the trade off for what I gained when I lost so much is something that I will never regret.

So as to not write for hours tonight ... because I am so sleepy already, I would at least like to sum it up here because I pray I never forget what the first year of Rhode Island did for me, my family and my marriage.

The 15th of January made it a year. I traveled up here 7 months pregnant, to a house we were renting that I had only seen online.... and we jumped in.

Strength. I have to say that I doubted the grace and strength God gave me to pull this off. To move, while pregnant with three kids into the snowy winter of a town where I knew not one soul... now, that was CRAZY. The Lord provided. It was one day at a time. When you look sometimes at the whole picture and you are not there in that moment it seems like so much more... but, you are not there yet and his grace for that moment has not yet reached you... so hang on, it will come.

Being alone. Being alone without friends. Alone without family. Alone without a community. It reminded me of so much. Who is important? Well, friends, family and community. But who is most important? Patrick and my four children. Never before and maybe never again will I have the opportunity to spend SO MUCH TIME alone with 5 of the people I love most in the whole world. It has been a gift... to spend time. So many distractions to keep us busy before. Here we have really seen one another, gotten to know one another and laughed more together than I ever remembered before.

Detachment. I did not yet experience this in the way that I have here. Complete denial and detachment from everything I was comfortable with, everything I started, including a moms group, a retreat, and a school. A new doctor, a new grocery store, new roads, new accents, new community. And really, what it came down to for me, which was so hard, was: in every sense of the phrase, not a soul to impress or make an impression on. It was just me and my little family. On an island. Literally.

My marriage. I have seen as time has passed here how my marriage has gained so much. We have started to really get each other. Not that we hadn't before, but in a different way. It comes with less distractions, but also because with this new job, no outside ministries for me, and a normal routine, we are able to see the needs the other has it a much clearer light. We are no longer living in survival mode, tag teaming constantly, and trying to get more than 5 hours sleep. I have so enjoyed my husband this year. I am so glad to have him home ALL WEEKEND LONG! No more writing a dissertation. Dr. Bentley is home with us in the evenings and weekends!

Simplicity. We have been able to look at so many aspects of our life and work on them. Our spiritual lives. Our diets... our food choices and my cooking, are becoming exceptional. Our toxic environment... we are continuing to purify all areas of our life, now that we have a moment to research it... beauty products, cleaning products, etc. The doctor... we are making it to the doctor, dentist and chiropractor on a very regular basis. Exercise... still a work in progress. Our finances... I finally took them over completely... and for the first time, we have a handle... it is such a relief. Sleep... we are sleeping more. Prayer... it is so tough to find quiet with small children, but we are making time and it's been fruitful to say the least.

Our kids. We have so many things to always be working on with our kids. About to get back into therapy for eating with Gabriel, but have been able to really work on his nutrition through other means (like sneaking food into shakes and sauces, soups), so happy to have had the time. Discipline... a huge work in progress (esp with Adam), but have had some time to read a few pages a day on how to do better at that. We pray to teach them through the way we love one another, so when we talk about kids, we first talk about us. It's really all they need, plus food, sleep, clothing and lots of affection! And since I am at home all day, easy peasy.

I will never forget this moment. I could still cry in an instant if you mentioned one of my friends to me, but interior peace is wrapped around those tears.

When we decided to move, Patrick looked at me and told me that he was just so grateful to have someone who would do something so incredibly hard by his side. That's what its about, right? It has paid off in so many ways already. God has really been there, as we struggled, cried, detached.... boy, did it all hurt super bad. God has provided simplicity, clarity and strengthened our marriage and family. Thank you to St. Joseph, who answered our novena with this job...

Next time, when someone asks you, who and what would you bring to a deserted island... call me, I have some tips.