Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

We have two little sets of tired legs, two very full pails of candy, and two hearts full of wonder. Wishing you the same!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Parade


Zosia led the Halloween parade this morning at pre-school, and my favorite moment by far was Lily running up to her. Both girls were screaming out of excitement at seeing each other (Lily the loudest). And then Lily held her hand and walked along with the parade for a bit. It's always such a joy to realize how much these two girls love each other (yes, even amid sparring for toys and all that). They love each other! It's amazing how such a simple realization can warm a mother's heart.

I believe it will be a weekend full of ladybugs over here. And hopefully pumpkin pie, pumpkin carving, and roasted pumpkin seeds. Ooh, I love fall!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

These Sleepy Days



Rain. Sniffles. Daddy home sick. We have been enjoying the slowness such circumstances provide, with coloring pages, yummy bread (thanks, Ben), and an extremely large percentage of each day spent in pajamas.

Sending wishes of health out to you all (and in to our little family too!).

Monday, October 25, 2010

Sending Thanks


I come from a family where "thank you"s are earnest and immediate. You give me a gift. I look you in the eye, tell you how much I truly love it, and then remind you how much I love it by using it often. Not so on my husbands side of the family, where "thank you"s are mailed (even if you live in the same house) the same day on fancy card stock, even if someone is a member of your nuclear family. I will admit, this custom has taken me some getting used to, and even so, I am not the best giver of mailed thank yous out there. It just doesn't come naturally to me.

However, having received countless thank you cards, I have come around to accepting the beauty of this custom. And, of course, I recognize that being married into this wonderful family, this is a custom that I will have to learn. It did feel a bit less victorian to sit down with Zosia this afternoon, have her draw a picture (her three beloved cousins, to whom we owe a big thank you for a wonderful visit a few weeks back), then scan it on the computer.

Now, you thank you givers out there, I need some advice: would a genuine email accompaniment to this picture do, or do I need to buy some card stock?

And, how do you give thanks?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Independent Woman

I have never been one to force my children on the issue of weaning. Zosia weaned herself-- looked up into my eyes, shook her head and said "All done." when I offered her milk. She was about a year old. Lily, on the other hand, has been a more steadfast nurser. She has often asked to nurse in the middle of the day, noisily objecting when I am not present at bedtime. So I just haven't pushed the matter, and have nursed her longer, enjoying the extra snuggle time built into our day.

Recently, Lily has been forging into independence in many ways: insisting that she does things all by her self, even when the task seems too big, shutting the door to Zosia's room when she and Zosia are playing, asking to actually walk when we're going on walks... and no hand-holding, please. So I guess it doesn't surprise me that Lily has just as naturally moved towards weaning. First, accepting a cup of milk at naptime in lieu of nursing. Then, magically, accepting a cup of milk at bedtime last night. No tears, nothing. Just acting like "Oh, this is how we've always done it."

Eighteen months to the day, and moving forward into the world independently.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Chocolate lemon hearts

I have come to the conclusion that there is nothing quite as good for the spirit (especially when the body is feeling a little under the weather) as baking something delicious. I was feeling slow and achy, dreaming of lying on the couch all day, but two little enthusiastic girls convinced me to embark on a cooking adventure. One messy kitchen, many spoonfuls of stolen dough (not to blame anyone in particular... ahem... Lily) and a licked clean pan of melted chocolate later, and Viola! A plate full of delicious cookies, two happy girls, and one mama who had the energy to carry on with the day. Win-win, I would say!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Charmed Gathering

I often joke that our dinner plates don't resemble a true dinner in the least. Scrambled eggs, strawberries, and a piece of toast. Cheese, sliced avocado, and a burrito shell. The truth is, we don't mind-- we eat simply, and in a way that encourages our little ones to eat healthful foods. Simple foods go over well, are easy to prepare, so we enjoy them often. And eating basic foods is an easy way to cut out processed foods while sticking to a budget.

But, I will admit, I do occasionally like a true comfort-food dinner. It's my goal to have at least one meal a week that would be fit for company, whether we have it or not. There's something so magical about having a clean table that is properly set, with lit candles, and hot food when Ben comes home. This week we had Chicken and Rice Casserole, Carrot Raisin Salad, green beans, and Lemon Bars. Plates were licked clean, and tummies so full that we enjoyed a full-family sleep-in the following morning. And our time together just felt so... charmed. I think that sometimes little ones can sense that there's something different and their spirits comply.

How does dinner time work in your home?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Gospel Proclaimed

My Sunday mornings are spent in a room with children. Anywhere from 15 to 60 kids, some as young as 3, others up to 11. They stream into the little chapel, and they join me in worship for 30 minutes, where I have the joy of sharing the gospel with them, singing a song or two, and praying with them. I do this throughout the morning.

I have been struggling to know how much to share in this space about what has become a joyful journey for me. There are concerns about privacy, respecting the individuality of each child, respecting the trust that their parents have given me. So I do know I will share no pictures, share no names, keep much of this job of mine private. But, of course, I cannot help but tell the stories that have started to shape my own spirit.

And so this brings me to the Sunday. A gospel passage about persistent prayer. And a young 7 year old parishioner in desperate need of such persistent prayer. She has cancer-- has had cancer for years-- and I don't know the details of her medical situation other than that our pastor has asked that we refrain from writing "get well" in favor of other comforting messages.

It's always a delicate situation to tell of such hardship to small children. Will they understand? Will it be too much? Many of you know that I have been journeying in my life towards authentically living alongside those who are suffering-- rejecting that temptation to only talk about the pretty stuff. And so I explained that we would be making cards for this dear little girl, told the story of her being sick. "She loves to count her cards." I told them. "That's her favorite thing."

And so, without even a moment's hesitation, they picked up their crayons and set to work. Joyfully, busily making beauty for this sick little girl. As they filed out of chapel, I was left with a pile of cards in my hands. I gently examined each one. Pictures of flowers, hospital beds, angels. Every single child, mischievous or studious, took the task with utmost seriousness. A night sky filled with stars. A picture of two little girls holding hands.

And messages with a simple beauty that only a child could have written.

"We are praying for you, and just so you know I don't really have green hair."

"Angels are coming to you."

A card with little robots and trucks. "God is with you" written across the top.

And looking through those cards, I knew in my heart that the Gospel had indeed been proclaimed. And I am glad I had ears to hear it.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Woman Next to You

I received this blessing (or something close to it) while sitting next to two dear friends. The words filled me up with love and understanding for the many women I am blessed to be surrounded with every day. Won't you take a moment to read these words and think of the women next to you.

Look around Sisters, look around you!

Who is the woman sitting next to you?

The woman next to you is an inexhaustible reservoir of possibility

With possibilities that have never been completely realized.

Full of necessity and possibility, dread and desire, smiles and frowns,

laughter and tears, fears and hopes,

all struggling to find expression.

The woman next to you is striving to become something in particular,

to arrive at some destination, to have a story, a song,

to be known and to know.


The woman next to you believes in something,

something precious,

stands for something, counts for something,

lives for something,

runs runs towards something.


The woman next to you, has problems and fears, wonders how she is doing,

and often doesn't feel very good about it,

is often disorganized and sometimes close to chaos,

but endowed with great toughness in the face of adversity,

and able to survive great difficulties.


The woman next to you is a colony of persons,

persons all met during her lifetime...

father and mother, friend and enemy.

The woman next to you has something she can do well...

something she can do better than anyone else in the whole world...

there is something that she and she alone can do...but she may not dare speak of it to you.


The woman next to you is a mystery

and the word made flesh is mystery.


The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us...

and so my Sisters look around you...

for Christ is here, He died, and is risen,

Alleluia!


-found here


(I have been in a quiet space these past weeks... a happy space, just one where I find myself talking less and listening more. Thank you for your patience, and I do hope to be back here tomorrow to share a few more words)

Friday, October 8, 2010

Through the Ordinary


Many thanks to Kristen for passing along these beautiful words. I hope they carry you through the weekend!


Through the Ordinary
- Fr. Pat Twohy, SJ

It is through the ordinary,
through ordinary
eyes and hands,
through our flesh and blood
and the flesh and blood
of our children,
that a Great Power
comes into the world.
Through simple lives,
humble and forgotten,
the Spirit races
through the world
touching everyone,
touching everything
with a sovereign dignity,
with a forgetfulness of self,
surrounding all with
an incomprehensible silence
that, for those who hear,
becomes the sound
of spirits singing.
And it does not matter
whether we move forward
or backward in time,
flesh and blood are there,
and the Silence,
and this immense Song
which we, too, can sing
if only we allow it
to enter our ordinary bodies
and change us
into something entirely new.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

True Peace of Heart Continued

Adele,

This entry really touched me especially today, because I find myself in a similar scenario. I have slowly disconnected myself from most major news sources as well. Partly, because I have a sensitive soul and tend to dwell on these problems. I find that they way they are presented in the news, especially commercial news, tends to be counter-productive. We are presented with a horrifying issue, supposedly wrapped in objectivity, but really just devoid of any hints of how we can help or transform it. I'm disillusioned with the news in general, although I think that public radio definitely is still the best source. I hear of "peace media" and "action journalism" sites, which will have an "action item" for audiences at the end of despairing news, and I think that's a good step. That's why I like change.org.

Also, I realized that certain issues tend to tap into my "pain body" (Eckhart Tolle term) more than others, specifically women's and girls' rights, and that I was wasting energy being overwhelmed by and ruminating on all the unconsciousness and human-inflicted pain in the world. I've embraced what Tolle recommends in terms of living a balanced life as an activist, which is:
  • live in the present
  • accept all situations exactly as they are without judging them or labeling them - also don't try to deny them mentally (and cause yourself suffering)
  • take care not to establish a mental position that pits you against the "other" (the people or systems who are in your eyes propagating the suffering). This division will only serve to make yourself as an isolated campaigner with nothing in common with the other people, which is untrue.
  • don't try to fight "darkness" - but bring in your own presence, gifts, and light to make a positive contribution to or spread awareness about these issues...when you see an opportunity
  • if you don't see an opportunity at a given moment, accept your decision fully without guilt and continue to live your own life peacefully
It's amazing how helpful these points have been for me. They've actually reinforced that I need to limit my news intake, which is many times designed to be emotionally manipulative (I've also read this tip in a few motivational and creativity books as well).

Would love to keep discussing!

Have a good week,

Michelle

Thank you, Michelle, for allowing me share your poignant thoughts in this space. I would love to hear how others have managed to balance staying informed with getting into a spiral of negativity.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Friday, October 1, 2010

True Peace of Heart

“Peace of heart that is won by refusing to bear the common yoke of human sympathy is a peace unworthy of a Christian. To seek tranquility by stopping our ears to the cries of human pain is to make ourselves not Christian but a kind of degenerate stoic having no relation either to stoicism or Christianity.”

- A.W. Tozer

I read the words and they stung-- in that way that happens when you are rightly accused, when someone has looked into your heart and clearly named your sin. Because haven't I stopped my ears? Discontinuing newspaper subscriptions, turning off the evening news, even blocking public radio for fear of wounding my own spirit, attaining "peace of heart." And here I am, supposedly living that peace, and yet my spirit is decidedly not at peace. I have refused to bear the common yoke of human sympathy, and yes, that causes pain.

I think of my sister and brother-in-law (who shared these very words with me), in Haiti right now. I fought her going, their going. Lovingly, gently, selfishly holding her here, with my family, in safety. She has a the biggest heart of anyone I know, and I feared, I knew, that her heart would be broken. That she would look around at the broken buildings, the broken bodies, the broken families, and that she herself would become broken. Wounded. Lost.

My heart sinks and I realize that such suffering is inevitable. Not only my dear sister, but my beloved children, my husband, my parents and friends will experience pain and heartbreak when they open their eyes and realize the extent of human pain that exists in this world, god forbid they experience it themselves. I choke back tears to think of the magnitude of this pain: orphans wandering the desert in Zambia, their parents lost to AIDS; entire families living in a dump yard in Guatemala, making their living from decay and trash; a newborn baby left abandoned in a factory in China because of a birth deformity. How can there be peace of heart amid such cruelty? Where is God? How can I bear to subject my beloved ones to this?

And then I remember the story.

God with us, in our midst. The joy of his short life: the miracles, the peace, the compassion. The pain and sorrow of his death: the injustice, the violence. And then. And then out of a place of darkness and sorrow something wonderful happens. Pain is transformed. Not erased: when Jesus appears to his disciples, he proves his very identity through the scars he carries. He is still wounded. But transformed. It is from a place of woundedness and suffering that God transformed the world. And it is from such a place of woundedness and suffering that my own heart can be transformed, too.

I am still searching for peace of heart. More than ever. But this time I hope that I find it with my eyes and ears open. So that the next time I do hear a cry of pain I may hear that it belongs to none other than God in our midst.

(And if you are reading this, won't you say a prayer for Irene and Robbie? God is doing wonderful things with their trip to Haiti, and I hope to share more when they return.)