Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Baby's Here!

Cara Jane Elizabeth was born November 4 after about 10 hours of labor au naturel, a few hours of medicated labor and one cesarean section!

I'm not much for writing birth stories. I never wrote one for Lillian's birth, but I feel compelled to share just a little about Cara's birth.

I started having contractions around 7:30 am after awaking from a full night's sleep (thanks, baby!). I wasn't sure it was labor for real, so Oliver went to work as usual. My contractions kept coming on regularly every 10 minutes or so, so around 9 Oliver left work and came home.

I was doing well with labor. I don't remember it being unmanageable. I never got to the point where I felt like "I can't do this any more!" I just let the contractions come, changing positions as necessary for comfort. Around 10 my mother in law came over and watched Lillian. Oliver went to Wal-Mart to get a few last minute things. I was laying in bed coasting on steady contractions which were about 6-7 minutes apart.

At one point I went to the restroom and called labor and delivery. They said to go ahead and come in whenever. Lillian found me and I got up and started moving around. The moment I started moving around the contractions got alarmingly close together, like 4-5 minutes apart. A few minutes later and they were 3-4 minutes apart. I started getting worried because Oliver still wasn't back from the store. My MIL was cooking chalupas and she kept trying to talk to me, probably a good distraction. Finally Oliver came home and we were able to make it into the car and out the door. We had to call the insurance to tell them we were going to be checking in to the hospital, and every phone number we had was wrong. After what seemed like eternity as I was dealing with contractions in an uncomfortable car seat we eventually got the right phone number and started moving.

The car was an uncomfortable place to labor in. The ride lasted about 40-50 minutes. I had to use my voice as a focal point during the contractions. We made it to the hospital parking garage and began making the trek to labor and delivery. I had to stop every 2 minutes and hang on to Oliver and coast through a contraction. By the time we made it in to the delivery room I was 7-8 cm dilated.

I labored in the room a little bit, and then within a short time I felt like pushing. I asked my midwife to break my waters since the bag was bulging and started pushing. My midwife arranged me in many different positions to push. I started out squatting using the squat bar, then I went on my right side, left side and hands and knees. The baby had descended only so far and then wouldn't come down any more. We discovered that she was face up and my 2.5 hours of pushing was not making any progress.

By this point I was getting pretty discouraged. I prayed and screamed "get out, get out, get out!" in my head with every push. In a last stitch effort at a vaginal delivery my midwife suggested that I get an epidural and we'd see if the baby would turn with just the contractions pushing on her instead of me getting the urge to push every minute.

The epidural was a welcome rest after such a long interlude of pushing. Before being anesthetized, a nurse asked me how bad the pain was on a scale of 1-10. The question confused me somewhat and I said, "uh, 6 or 7 maybe?" It seemed like the wrong question to ask. The contractions didn't feel painful to me (just pressure) until the epidural numbed half of my body and I felt them on only one side. It felt good to just lay there and rest awhile, watching the ceiling tiles. The only terrible thing about being anesthetized was that the epidural caused me to shake uncontrollably and I had some bad heartburn which no one would give me medicine for.

We waited a couple of hours letting my body contract. When I was checked again, the baby still hadn't come down any further. I pushed a little bit with the epidural and there was nothing happening. We decided that it was time to prep for surgery. That part is somewhat whirlwind. I was so ready to hold my baby at that point!

The surgery went off without a hitch with a doctor who had super nice eyebrows. The doctor pulled out my face-up, chunky baby! I wasn't able to hold Cara right when she came out because I was shaking so terribly, but I could see her being weighed, etc. and then Oliver held her right next to me. After I was stitched up they wheeled me to recovery and I nursed baby Cara (who is a nursing champ, by the way)!

I felt so incredibly grateful to have all of the kind doctors and nurses attend to us at the hospital. I do feel a little disappointed that I couldn't give birth naturally like I wanted, but I gave it a good shot and it just wasn't God's will for this baby! We are so excited to have her home with us and I am grateful to be healing up nicely from the c-section.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Everything Beautiful

This line of Scripture has been bumping around in my head for a few weeks:

From Pinterest...sorry!
I don't feel as though I have the ability to clearly express what I want to say, but here's a sampling. 

This Scripture floated to the forefront of my mind today as I prayed the Joyful Mysteries of the rosary. I am 37 weeks pregnant and patiently awaiting the arrival of the baby. I'm looking forward to holding her in my arms but also a little fearful of labor, and newborn exhaustion, and how Lillian's schedule will change, and whether or not my husband will hate me when we start practicing NFP again. I find it all too easy to get wrapped into the fear. I start micromanaging situations trying to be in control. God always reminds me, "surrender."

Take labor, for instance. I said the first time that the hardest part of labor actually was not knowing how long it would last. The mystery here is not something I can change by force of will. My only option is surrendering to the process, embracing the suffering and beauty that it offers in each little moment as it presents itself and trusting that things will unfurl in God's good time. I hope I can keep my mind focused on the present as I labor with Baby Cara Elizabeth Jane. 

I have been reading a book called Mindful Birthing which has helped me see some of this. There is nothing explicitly Christian in this book, but it really speaks to embracing the sensations in the moment and letting the natural process proceed without fear. I can't read something like that without reflecting on the way I should abandon myself to Divine Providence at every moment of my life, even when things don't go according to my idea of perfection. He has made everything beautiful in its time! Alleluia! 

I enjoyed reading these two blog posts today:





Thursday, September 11, 2014

Today's Scripture and Baby Update

I feel as though I write the same post over and over. Apparently this is my lesson for the year and I keep refusing to learn it. Writing it down helps me remember. For awhile.

Today's Scripture reading that bit me and refused to let go:

"Lend expecting nothing back."

I've been trudging along in the spiritual life for the last several months, barely making any progress (at least from my POV). Slacking in prayer. Distracted. Discouraged. Making it to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and confessing the same sin, yet again. Resentment. I find myself once again trying to be a good wife, a good mother. Feeling unloved and trying to earn my husband's love by doing all the things perfectly. And not measuring up, defeated again. I get into this same rut from time to time, but it seems the answer to my feelings of not receiving my due are laid bare in the Gospel today. There it's referring to money, but in my heart I know that God is asking me not to be miserly with my love. I need to keep giving knowing full well that I may receive nothing back, if only for the knowledge that such is pleasing to God. My ears have also been ringing when I hear talk of forgiveness, and I think God is telling me to continually forgive my husband of the little hurts instead of letting them build into a wall of hurt which keeps me from trusting him. Seriously, the man is clueless.

Moving on!

I think we have settled on a moniker for the baby we're expecting to make an appearance outside the womb sometime in early November! I'm torn between plain old Cara Elizabeth and the slightly jazzier Cara Elizabeth Jane. I've never thought much about using a double middle name before, but this one has the advantage of honoring my Saints Elizabeth (here and here) and the Jane that my mom and I bear. Plus Pride and Prejudice. I see no drawbacks. Oliver thinks it's weird, but I'll be the one filling out hospital forms with her name on it. We'll see!

I have been furiously working on a baby blanket for Ms. C.E. which is coming along nicely. Nicely was a huge understatement. I nearly salivate over the delicious color combination every time I look at the thing and cannot wait until I can add a scrappy binding to the edges. Here is a picture which poorly reflects the beauty in real life:



Saturday, August 2, 2014

He's Worth It

"We're called to be faithful to our vocations, even if nobody else seems remotely interested in our work, thoughts, sacrifices, lives. It's difficult to feel marginalized and unrecognized, but what's really hard, as you're unrecognized, is to recognize and support someone else." - Heather King

I like to think of my life as wife and mother as a vocation, but in reality I didn't give God a chance to call me into it. I was already a wife when I converted. The first child was conceived a mere month after I was received into the church, maybe as a natural consequence of giving life back to God. In the tough times I sometimes wonder whether I would have been called into this same marriage to this same man had I been consciously Catholic sooner, with an eager ear searching for God whispers. In the good times I'm glad things have worked out this way.

For a few days I have fought (again, sigh) that loneliness that attends a mixed-faith marriage. I've been thinking ahead to vacation next week and wondering whether it will be a fight when I want to go to Mass on Saturday evening like it was last time we went on vacation. Wondering how I will handle confusing post-partum NFP with a partner who pressures to contracept. Are all these little skirmishes worth it? My husband has begun to mellow on the issue of religion, so it seems that maybe these little squabbles have accomplished something. It's still a temptation to give up and just seek indifferent peace.

And yet we're called to be faithful to our vocations, regardless of our struggles. I do see the loneliness as a gift at times (this was a fantastic read on the subject). When I start feeling nervous and frazzled it's usually because I've made an idol of my husband and I am seeking his approval rather than pleasing God.

All the struggles become worth it when I remember who I converted for. The who in the Eucharist. The who who wept and who was persecuted. I did not convert only to make myself feel good, I converted to give myself to Him who tells me to deny myself, take up my cross and follow him. I ought to ask myself more often, "is He worth it?" He is.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Thoughts on Edel

1. One of my favorite moments of the weekend: I was sitting with some ladies in the corner of the cocktails and crazy shoes party chatting cheerily about a few subjects and someone said, "I felt like I should've gone to Confession before I got on the plane." And someone else said, "me, too!" And I thought the same thing about getting into the car. And none of us felt like a weirdo for thinking about Confession like that. It was a little surreal! The scene underscored the entire basis of the weekend and the crux of Jen's talk: you are not alone!

2. I probably had a somewhat different experience of the event than some of the capital "B" bloggers out there. I didn't have any online friends to meet up with. That is, I read a lot of blogs and feel an affinity for the women whose blogs I read, but they don't know me. It makes for a somewhat celebrity experience which is a little jarring. I was so disconcerted by the feeling that I failed to meet any of them face to face, but I can tell you that they exist in real life and don't just live in the computer.

3. I loved Hallie's introductory talk about planning the event and her Holy Spirit moments, especially when she said God wanted us to know, "It is good that you are here." I am indeed pregnant, but I would have gotten teary eyed at that moment even if I wasn't. I remember reading Jen's post about Edel on her blog, and I got chills reading it. My heart froze and I started shaking. I had no doubt that I was going to this conference with my friend, Emily. Then I got to the bottom and read the price of entry. My heart sunk. I couldn't dream of how I could find over $200 to make that happen. When the sale date approached, my husband received an unexpected bonus at work and told me, "why don't you take $200 and spend it however you want." That was my Holy Spirit moment! 

4. Another Holy Spirit moment? Sure, if you insist! I won a vendor raffle of a kitchen decoration with a little recipe clip that says, "Everything is Grace" - St. Therese. I consider it a Holy Spirit moment because since January (remember this?) I had that quote written on a chalkboard in my kitchen, and only just erased it about a week ago. I guess I'd taken it down prematurely!


5. I couldn't summarize Marion's, Haley's and Jen's talks if I had to, but they were all truly touching and they all elicited the tears. I would love to hear them all over again.

6. Being at Edel made me identify some areas in myself that need to be addressed, especially self esteem issues. I was just thinking that my underlying assumptions about myself are that I am utterly forgettable and that I have nothing to offer anyone and am only a bother. Clearly, those need to go! When I enunciate them consciously I can identify them as obviously wrong, but I need to work on consciously thinking differently when those types of thoughts bite at my hems. Hey, exposing these things to the light is the first step, right?

7. Which leads me to: St. Martha the Dragonslayer. She sounds like a veritable bad-ass, doesn't she? A far cry from the Martha Jesus rebuked, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious about many things..." who we all know so well. Every woman at Edel drew a saint medal out of a hat, and mine was Saint Martha, just in time for her feast day today! The story goes that Martha was wandering place to place during the time of Christian persecution and came upon a pagan village plagued by a dragon. The villagers told her that they would believe in the Gospel if she could vanquish the dragon. She subdued it with the sign of the cross, brought it back to the village on a leash and then killed it. I love Fr. Barron's explanation of the story's metaphorical meaning: "we can understand the dragon as a metaphor for all that is dark within ourselves, that dark power that consumes our goodness and life and makes us lose hope and succumb to fear. Martha, Christ-like in her sanctity is our friend and intercessor as we confront the dark powers within." Perfect, right! Read the rest here.



8. It was awesome to spend time with my college friend, Emily who I've known for 10 years now (we are getting old!). Usually when our families get together, she and I take care of the babies while the men go out and do manly beer things. It was so, so nice to be able to really talk to her again without the frequent interruptions that taking care of toddlers invites!



9. When I got home, Lillian was sitting in Oliver's lap contentedly watching Yo Gabba Gabba on the computer with a bow in her hair. Clearly, she had a good time with her daddy and he was able to prove himself in acts of valor comprised of changing dirty diapers, putting baby to bed, loading the dishwasher and other domestic tasks! Go Ollie!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Bookmark: Fr. Ronald Rolheiser

"If we take seriously that prayer is 'lifting mind and heart to God,' then every feeling and every thought we have is a valid and apt entry into prayer, no matter how irreverent, unholy, selfish, sexual, or angry that thought or feeling might seem." - Fr. Ronald Rolheiser, Prayer: Our Deepest Longing. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Giving the Rest to God

I am slowly learning to faithfully do my duty and give the rest to God. Often I am preoccupied with worries about the outcomes of my endeavors. In my work as a mother raising her children in the Catholic faith within a mixed marriage, the odds are stacked against my children being faithful adults. Statistically it's the father's faith, the father's church attendance that makes all the difference regardless of the faithfulness of the mother.

Despite the dismal statistics, my duty is to be faithful. Doing nothing is not an option. It's my prerogative to live a simple and integrated Catholic life, to at least be an example of faith that is not compartmentalized. Faith which strives against hypocrisy and yet admits fault when necessary. To be an example of frequent reception of the sacraments, even *gasp* reconciliation. An example of someone who is not afraid to give until it hurts and yet is not a martyr. To be the image of an intelligent person who yet believes in God and miracles and mystery and also has reasons to believe. I need to be the kind of person who lives and loves openly.

I think that's part of the blessing of being the lone Christian example in the family. It has made me mindful about how I need to grow and change and strive for holiness. I'm like a rough little pebble suddenly tossed into the river of God's grace, lumping and bumping along my path until my sharp edges are worn clean off. I'm definitely a work in progress!

Lately I have been thinking about how I will teach my children to pray, how I can be an example that prayer and recourse to God is a normal state of affairs. I remember praying as a little child with my mother. I enjoyed spending the time with her, but our prayer meetings were few and did not extend past age 4 or so. I hope that I can be more consistent with that. I know I should start praying before meals even though such a thing still feels so awkward to me since we didn't do it at home growing up.

In a somewhat providential turn of affairs, I won a giveaway for The Little Oratory! I am excited for the book to come in the mail eventually...I really do need some guidance in the area of family prayer!

Side note: one of the things I love about Catholic mom blogs is seeing the Catholic faith lived out in the context of family life. So often I use my parents as a negative example, what not to do. I appreciate having other families to look toward as being a positive example!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A Crucifix

I have been Catholic for over 2 years, but I don't have a crucifix in my home. My husband has observed that crosses seem to mysteriously multiply in our house, really without any effort on my part. But I have never been given a crucifix.

I have thought lately about making the wall right by my side of the bed into more of a prayerful spot since my bed has become my Scripture reading spot. I'm hoping my husband won't object to this little corner of the house bearing a few religious images (we're not enthroning the Sacred Heart in the living room, okay?!). Several days ago I spotted a pretty little crucifix on Etsy and am hoping that it can sit on the wall right next to my little thumb-tacked image of Divine Mercy and my rose pillow that reminds me of the Blessed Mother and St. Therese.


And seriously, the crucifix? It is simple and beautiful. Here is the Etsy image since I have to wait for this baby to ship from Ukraine!


I had such a hard time choosing from this particular Etsy shop. Seriously, look at this one. And this one! Ultimately this simple one was lovely and within my budget (that's a plus!) and I really wanted a metal corpus for my first crucifix. In all likelihood I will purchase another one someday when I have fun money again...I will hang it in my actual closet if I have to!

We're oratory underground up in Casa Stone.


Sunday, June 8, 2014

Bookmark: Fr. Cizek

"God has a special purpose, a special love, a special providence for all those he has created...It means, for example, that every moment of our life has a purpose, that every action of ours, no matter how dull or routine or trivial it may seem in itself, has a dignity and a worth beyond human understanding. No man's life is insignificant in God's sight, nor are his works insignificant--no matter what the world or his neighbors or family or friends may think of them." -Fr. Cizek.
(Pulled from another book, A Heart on Fire: Rediscovering Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus by James Kubicki, S.J.)

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Idol of Comfort

I read this post by Jen @ Conversion Diary the other day, and it made me wonder what my antagonist is: what do I desire more than I desire God. I took it to prayer and the answer which sprang immediately to mind was, "comfort." At first I thought, "okaaaay." Then I thought about the way I seem to focus so much on maintaining my peace, my status quo, my self image, my residence firmly in my comfort zone. I thought about times when I though I felt the nudge of the Holy Spirit and then wriggled out of following the prompting because, "I must be imagining that. That's not me. I couldn't do that." I finally had to admit, "yeah, sounds about right."

Recently I stopped wearing my veils or coverings at Mass. I did it partially to mark the joy of the Easter season, and partially (probably mostly, if we're honest) because I was tired of being the weirdo. I have used this time to think about whether or not I will take it up again come Ordinary Time, and lo, Pentecost is nigh!

Last Friday I went to a Catholic Girl's Night Out event in San Antonio arranged by the Alexander House. The first hour of the event was a nearly all-women Mass (much to the surprise of the officiating priest). During the sign of peace I turned around to find that the young woman behind me was wearing a veil. Kneeling a moment later I prayed, "if you want me to wear the veil again, let me know, Lord." The rest of the Mass went on as usual and was lovely. In the gap between Mass and the guest speaker, we prayed a collective rosary. I kept thinking about the veiled woman, wanting to ask her about her experience with it.

As the rosary was begun I shifted in my seat and looked left and right. Everyone was kneeling, everyone was praying. I didn't feel like praying the rosary, but in the interest of blending in and the mere fact that I was re-consecrating myself to Jesus through Mary the next day, I went ahead and knelt myself though I did not have any beads on me. I reached to my throat and tightly grasped my miraculous medal.

Moments later I felt a nudge on my back. I turned and found the veiled woman offering me her extra rosary. I prayed on her beads the rest of the time and when I tried to hand them back to her afterward, she said, simply, "keep it."

Looks like I'll be veiling again soon! And also re-reading this blog post by another San Antonio woman for additional inspiration. Also, this!

Funny enough, I purchased some scarves here a couple of weeks ago using a coupon code for 3 free scarves, and when they came in I immediately thought that they would make good church scarves. Seems like I'll be testing them out sooner than I anticipated.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

St. Elizabeth....Pray for us!

I don't know whether Baby Stone is a boy or girl, but if a girl I am officially making my request that she be born on November 5 for the feast of St. Elizabeth of the Visitation. That would be amazing! I have been thinking of Elizabeth as a middle name this whole time!

Amy Elizabeth Stone? Maybe ;)


Sunday, May 25, 2014

Sunday Reading Mashup

The family is sleeping, and I don't do any but essential housework on Sundays. So blog!

This past week I have been reading:






and






It ended up being a great mashup! Do you ever read something that perfectly meshes with something else you're reading, and then you think, "I'm supposed to be reading this?" That's how it was with these two. 

I have been working through 33 Days since April 28, leading up to the renewal of my consecration to Jesus through Mary on the feast of the Visitation on May 31. (As an aside, pregnancy has been involved each time I did this, isn't that wild for that particular feast?) Anyway, I didn't know that much about My Sisters the Saints when I checked it out, but I'm very glad I did. It really spoke to me, in fact in some ways it mirrored my life right now.

Colleen writes so beautifully about her father's illness and about her struggles with infertility. There were several instances where I read her descriptions about her feelings about certain things, and I thought, "I'm so glad she wrote this, this is exactly how I felt." The way that she wrote, I felt a certain kinship and sisterhood with her and not just with the saints that she wrote about (who, wouldn't you know, happen to be my saints!!).

She details her struggle with being faithful to Catholic teaching throughout her infertility troubles even though it meant that she could not in conscience use IVF, which she thought at times might be her only way to conceive. I have not had to struggle with infertility, but exactly the opposite. After giving birth to Lillian it was much harder to consent to follow the church's teachings against contraception, especially with those crazy fertility signs and a husband who definitely wasn't on board with the idea. I wrote about my suffering last May. It was so touching that both of us women struggling in different areas could have the same reaction, a struggle against obedience to the Truth. I say now that I'm happy with how things have unfolded with my husband and I, and *spoilers* things turned out well for Colleen as well!

The book also works through Colleen's struggles in seeing her father descend further into dementia due to Alzheimer's disease, and how difficult it was for her to watch. My dad was diagnosed with cancer just at the end of April and so he has been heavily in my thoughts and prayers lately (though he is doing quite well at the moment). I *loved* the way Colleen speaks about learning to exercise spiritual motherhood from St. Edith Stein's Essays on Woman (yes, I own this book and have read the passages which Colleen quoted!) and caring for her aging father. It reminded me once again to persevere in praying for gentleness and patience as I serve my family and others I may meet. 

Near the very end of the book Colleen gets to her thoughts on Mary, the last saint mentioned. The passages about Mary's personal motherhood were exactly what I needed to hear, and definitely overlapped with the section of Morning Glory I'm in at the moment. I felt like God saw me reading Morning Glory ineffectively and said, "you know, you're not getting this. I need you to do this supplemental reading." Bam! Exactly what I needed.

You know how sometimes you're reading Scripture and a line just jumps out and knocks your socks off? My Sisters the Saints quoted not one, but two such Scripture passages which have absolutely grabbed me this past month (Psalm 27:14 and Romans 8:38-39). It may be silly, but these two verses hammered home the feeling of "you're supposed to be reading this, take heed." I'm a strong believer in Providence, and it seems as though last week's reads were exactly provided for me.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Examination of Motives

"For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, not present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:38-39
This passage has been bumping around in my head for several days, and today I encountered it again in My Sisters the Saints that I got from the library.

I know Catholics don't believe that we can "earn" salvation, but I have realized more and more that I live my life in a way which seems to say that a person must "earn" love. Every straight A, every accomplishment, every degree that I earned has been silent proof like a plea, "I am worthy of love...see?"

I don't impose those cruel standards on anyone else, just me. The past several years as I applied for one job after another leading only to rejection have thoroughly brought that unconscious belief to light as I wondered over and over again whether I was worth anything at all. Maybe I was a dull little pebble fallen into the crack of the sidewalk. I've worked through a lot of that over the years, but sometimes the niggling thought resurfaces and I have to battle it again.

Sometimes it resurfaces in a different angle which I have to address. During my life as SAHM I have battled through these feelings of worthlessness because I am not pursuing things which appear to be worldly success. I have no career, no income, dusty never-used college degrees, etc....I have just realized today that in the absence of those things, I sometimes find myself trying to "earn" my husband's love. I am more diligent about housework etc. on the weekend when he is home because I want to show him that I am not totally useless, and that I still am worthy of his love.

Several nights ago my husband said to me, "Goodnight, my sweetheart." In the days since I have broke down bawling every time I thought about it. You see, he loves me regardless of the things I do for him. I never had to do anything to earn his love, because I already had it and never lost it. All the while I have been unconsciously fretting about how to be worth it, maybe I was neglecting to shower him with the love and respect that he deserves. Maybe I was not really allowing him to love me, given my belief that I wasn't worthy of such love. It was also a glimpse of the way tha God loves me.

God finally got it through my hard head that I need to be doing my work to love my daughter and to love my husband absent of a desire to earn their love back. I need to keep a beady eye on my motives and do everything for the sake of outward-focused, humble love.

Another line which landed on me like a punch in the stomach, also from My Sisters the Saints, "I marveled at how stealthily God works in the soul, one day and one trial at a time."

Apt, very apt.

Friday, May 16, 2014

7 Quick Takes about debt, frugality, and library love!


It's been a long while since I've done a 7QT! Complete with memes and text which absolutely refuses to left align despite my pursed brows and sighs of consternation! 

{one}



A couple of years ago I spent a few weeks devoted to Dave Ramsey. I was determined to get us out of debt (student loans + mortgage). I was also pregnant and knew that I would be quitting my job before the baby was born. Our debt wasn't too bad. We didn't have credit card debt or a car payment (though we accrued one due to a surprise run-in with an old lady with a blind spot which would destroy the entire passenger side of my husband's car 2 months before the baby was born). The issues I had with Dave Ramsey were 1) he was critical of women with college degrees who decide to stay home with their kids, and 2) unless you could put a massive chunk of money toward debt, he seemed to always recommend that the woman keep working. I knew this wasn't an option for us at the time, grew discouraged and stopped listening to him. 

{two}



But I had to learn to budget. I started out doing straight up envelope cash-only system, but since our bank is not in town it was a hassle to acquire the cash. Then I started using the Goodbudget app on my iPhone, but the free version only allows you to have 10 budget categories and things got a little complicated. We also failed repeatedly to enter purchases as we went and the app was rarely correct as to how much money was left in each category. Yesterday I admitted failure and downloaded a free trial of the You Need A Budget software. The good thing about it so far is that you can create the budget on your computer and everything is also linked to your smart phone. You can also enter in transactions on your phone and keep track of them that way. Here's hoping that the hubs and I can get into that habit!

{three}


Sadly, this is not so far from the mark...
I also faced the music and looked at our bank account and added up the amount of money we spent eating out in May. The hubs had a lot of overtime in this first paycheck, so we had a lot (for us) of extra money in the beginning of May. It turns out we spent $150 eating out, plus several non-essential purchases which left us in the familiar barely-holding-on-till-payday scenario! If we spent the same amount eating out every month, we could have saved $2800 to pay down our student loan bill! This sobering realization brought me to think of ways to cut out some expenses. Dave Ramsey, be damned. We can be miserly and pay some debt on one income. In the interest of cutting some expenses such as my insatiable appetite for the written word...

{four}



...I finally, finally, finally got my TexShare card! This means that though I live in a small, small town with a teeny tiny library, I can now check out items from San Antonio Public Library (SAPL) even though I live out of county. Usually you have to pay for the privilege of using SAPL, and at $200/year it wasn't gonna happen. With TexShare my local library vouches for me, and I get limited access to SAPL's inventory. Score one for alleviating the temptation to buy books!

{five}

SAPL splurge

My degrees are in English, history and library science. You know I love da books. It took great willpower to choose only three to take home today when there is a limit of five. Lillian helped me by peppering my arm with muscle spasms due to her becoming fussy and demanding to be held. I knew that I would need to arrive at my vehicle before my arm gave out, plus parking is free for the first hour.

{six}




I already have gluttonous ideas of the delicious books I will check out next time I go to the library:


Blessed, Beautiful and Bodacious by Pat Gohn
Discipline that Lasts a Lifetime by Ray Guarendi
Morality for Beautiful Girls by Alexander McCall Smith
All the books, ever. Amen.
{seven}




Last, but not least: Something Other Than God. SAPL has it. I have already read it, because I do not have the patience to wait for library books to be ordered and processed. BUT...I used the "Suggest A Purchase" feature in SAPL's catalog and was notified that due to my recommendation, the library has decided to purchase the book that I suggested. And there are 49 people waiting to get their hands on it. I am famous. Collection development for the win.

For more quick takes, visit Jen @ Conversion Diary!

Monday, May 12, 2014

On being a dummy for the Lord

"The apostles were dodos, dummies. But all the smart people in the world at the time wouldn't take chances. That is the same problem we have today. The world is looking for intellectuals and the Lord is looking for dummies. That's why I'm here." - Mother Angelica

It's becoming more and more clear to me that living the Christian life often involves the choice to either a) be perceived as intelligent, or b) do God's will. Here's hoping that the Lord will give me the grace to choose option b the bulk of the time.

Yesterday we announced the pregnancy to my husband's parents and my father in law said jokingly, "gee, you gotta find out what's causing that and stop it." I seriously wasn't expecting this response for Baby #2, but it was a good reminder that when you are living your Christian faith other people should probably think you're a little nuts!

I think it would be slightly easier if my husband could be dumb for the Lord with me (nudge, nudge to God above), but I guess God knows what he's doing!

I have a tendency to want to be thought smart or at least competent by other people. When I was studying Christianity I would hide my Christian books, shoving them under newspapers or the bottom of a stack of books when I thought they would be seen by someone. I have a history of nodding along with someone when they assume that I know about something just so I don't have to ask them what they're talking about. I know what I believe, but I'm a world class sputterer when asked to explain in. I think the answer to it all is to just. Be. Simple.

I'm taking my cue from St. Benedict. I don't know very much about him, but when I think about the life of a monk what comes to mind is: be simple. Not living under pretenses to be acceptable to someone else. What you see is what you get. Pray and work, simple. Forthright. Not living the life of worry in the scenarios which run through your head. Living simply on the outside and trusting in God within. A life built around faith in the One who matters most.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Difference Between NFP and Contraception

The Catholic Church is often accused of being legalistic or hypocritical in its condemnation of contraception but allowance of natural family planning to space pregnancies when there is a grave reason to do so. People say that it's the same end, so why do the means matter? You wanna know the difference?


The invitation for God to change your plans if he so desires. He could, for instance, let you ovulate 5 days sooner than you usually do. Bam! Blessed with a child!

If I was using contraception I would virtually exclude the possibility from the the table altogether, I would be equally sterile all month long. I would be engaging in the sexual act which was meant for both the union of the spouses and the procreation of children in a way that excludes one or both God-given functions...

...And I would be bereft of this little bean who is currently taking up a comfy residence in my uterus, and then how much the poorer would I be?

Monday, May 5, 2014

Minimalist Wardrobe: Maternity Edition

My criteria for maternity clothing is as follows: it doesn't make me feel bovine.

During my last pregnancy I bought all of my maternity clothes from thrift stores and Kid to Kid. I have indeed learned some tricks to keep from feeling huge. Unfortunately due to the extensive experimentation, that means most of my previous maternity wardrobe does not meet the new criteria.

Let's forget about colors for a moment and think about shape.

Shirts: For me, a shirt has to accentuate the belly and not just form a tent over it. It should either be super stretchy or at least have ruched sides so that it can swoop in underneath. I have 3 shirts that meet this criteria, including a new one I thrifted last week and am now obsessed with. Behold:


I know you can't tell from this blurry picture (camera phone, yo), but this shirt is perfect. It is so perfect that my husband (who, for the sake of clarity here is a typical man who does not notice clothing) said that it looked good on me *blush*. It is also short sleeve, which will be a must this pregnancy. Any shirt I purchase in the future will be similar: short sleeve, ruched sides, color that matches my accessories.

Pants: Let's talk about pants. I think that every pregnant woman will have a preference about which type of waistband is the best. They're wrong. Full panel is the best. Full panel does the following for me: rounds out my belly, stays up (that's an important one, wouldn't you know?), covers the lower belly so that I don't have to endure any unnatural breezes down there. I have 2 pairs of full panel pants and 2 pairs of elastic waistband pants. Both of my dark jeans were previously owned by someone shorter than me (how is that possible?!) and boast luxurious faded lines where I let out the hem. I snagged this pair last week with the shirt above.


Dresses: I have 2 maternity dresses and 2 non-maternity that have plenty of bump space. My only criteria for dresses is that they cannot be a garish, unflattering color. I found this one on ThredUp and am quite happy with it.


Shoes: Who cares? I spend all day every day basking in the comfort of Birkenstocks. Trust me, that ain't gonna change any time soon. I do tolerate low heels and flats for Mass because Jesus is special.

Let's not forget the star of the show, the lowly maternity cami. My black cami has seen better days. It has a hole in the back and had a hole in the front for a long time which I recently fixed. I got it at Ross and it has served me well in maternity and out of maternity. Seriously, I hardly take it off. I would like to invest in 1 or 2 more camis in the future, though.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Joyful Mysteries: Giving Her to God

Today was busy in a good way. I spent the entire day with my husband and daughter. We ran some errands in the city, stopped and had a pizza together and filled our growlers with beer and St. Arnold's root beer. As much as I enjoy these times, it gets a little much for an introvert to be talking and guiding someone all day. By late afternoon I was exhausted and wishing for some down time. I took Lillian outside to walk around and carried my rosary in the other hand. My petition was for the grace to be a gentle parent and wife, and the wisdom to know how to parent this particular child. I've been fighting hard to keep from becoming irritated and bitter, but I always need more grace to flee from that temptation.

The little hearts I've been seeing everywhere? This past week I felt as though I finally understood that they are reminders to serve my family with love and gentleness. I find them in the most mundane places. Several days ago I got up early and made some biscuits. I rolled out the dough, cut them out and put them in the oven. There was a sliver of dough left which I haphazardly threw back onto my floured board as I turned away to keep Lillian from doing something naughty or snap at Oliver because he seemingly isn't helping enough. Suddenly I turned back around and glanced at my sliver of dough through the corner of my eye. It had landed in the shape of a heart. Gentleness, and dare I say, mercy: I need them.

 These are my reflections as I prayed the joyful mysteries of the rosary for gentleness and wisdom as I walked around my yard with my stumbling one year old.


1. Annunciation. My thoughts focused on Mary in the way that she accepted God's will and did not brood and fret over every detail about how he will accomplish his will in her life. That's what I would do. I think it's in my melancholic temperament when stressed to feel as though the walls are closing in and suddenly everything becomes about me. It's a battle I fight against quite frequently. But Mary? Amid poverty and sorrow, I can't help but think she took things as they came and leaned heavily on God.

2. Visitation. This mystery is laid on my heart heavily at the moment because I'm in the midst of renewing my consecration to Jesus through Mary on the feast of the Visitation, May 31. I thought about how Mary didn't think about her own troubles, being unmarried and pregnant. Facing the scrutiny of her betrothed who would think she was an adulteress. Facing shame being in the community. She didn't think of herself, only about how she could be of service to her cousin Elizabeth. She received Jesus, and then immediately went to serve. Me? See my struggle with self-centeredness above.

3. Nativity. I totally missed this mystery because I was trying to keep the toddler from stepping in some water outside. I missed the Our Father knot and thought I was still in the mystery of the Visitation. My bad.

4. Presentation. I thought about how Mary and Joseph offered Jesus back to God regardless of the sorrow foretold to them. It made me think of the way I handle Lillian, that I should be careful not to think of her as "mine", jealously guarding her from experiences or keeping her from becoming the woman that God wants her to be. I need to remember that she is always his, I already have given her to God in prayer. I can't guide her to be like me, but into His image.

5. Finding the Boy Jesus. Jesus seemed to exasperate his parents here. I thought about the way that He was his own person with his own destiny in life, and the way that Lillian will be the same way. My goal is to do my best to teach her virtue and to understand the faith. If she uses her free will to do something that I disapprove of I need to keep from reacting in anger, but only keep her in my love.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

A Little Vignette

Yesterday my daughter, Lillian, was sitting rear-facing in the back seat of the car as I drove around town doing some errands. I had gotten everything situated for her. She had he water cup, a book and her precious little stuffed doggy, Bebe, which she brings everywhere. I had attached a pacifier tether to the dog so that if it fell away she could pull it back up. I had everything laid out for her, it was a perfect plan.

As we drove I heard Lilly raising a fuss. She was whining and fighting against her seat straps because her dog had fallen below her feet and was wedged between her seat and the back seat of the car. She was distressed. I was vigilant. I could see her struggling in my rear view mirror. "Pull the string," I said. She touched the tether and examined it, but then dropped it and continued trying desperately to reach Bebe. "Pull the string, sweetheart," I said. She cried harder and tried to reach down past her toes. She didn't see what any string had to do with getting Bebe back. 

"Pull the string," I said one more time. Suddenly the car was filled only with silence and the sound of Sally Robb talking about the mercy and fatherhood of God. Lilly had pulled the tether and brought Bebe joyfully back into her arms. She reclined with droopy eyes in her seat, her thumb and the dog's ear in mouth.

I couldn't help but think that God does the same for me. He sets things up in a particular way, and sometimes I fight them. I look at the pieces and they don't seem to add up. I struggle and fuss in my confusion and desperation. He is ever patient, ever waiting for me to do as he said. He won't force me, only encourage. I have to remember that He's got this. I am cradled in his perfect plan. My eyes should be ever fixed on Him in trust, ignoring the seemingly impossible situation. The piece that didn't seem to fit may be the piece that perfectly brings everything together.


Saturday, April 26, 2014

Dreaming of Names

I'm walking around my house in quiet excitement, just thinking about my little baby in utero. I'm a total name nerd and snob.

When I was in upper elementary my top names were: Jodie, Ruthie. I had no boys' list, because who cares. I don't want any icky boys.

Middle school and high school marked my nerdy years. I swore I would name all my children from Arthurian legend, or at least choose obscure Celtic names. I was obsessed for a time with the name Myrddin for a girl. Boy's names? Whatever.

Now I'm stuck on classic names, preferably with a nerdy Catholic twist. I have a Lillian Clare, and I was very particular that the Clare bare no offensive little "i" in the middle even though everyone seems to want to insert one there. Fun fact: she was also baptized on the feast of St. Clare of Assisi. Double whammy.

For this new baby I don't know. If it's a boy he will be named Simon Daniel Stone. Seriously, my last name

Simon of Cyrene with Jesus
is Stone. How perfect is that to name my boy after St. Peter?! Simon Peter would just be redundant. I also have a fascination with Simon of Cyrene, and St. Simon Stock frequently comes to mind for some odd reason.

St. Audrey
A girl's name is less certain. Possibly Audrey with Catherine, Elizabeth, or Cecilia as middle name. If I got my way she'd be named Cecily. But seriously, I'm Catholic. Let's get crazy here for a minute. I'm loving St. Hildegard and St. Scholastica. Obviously St. Faustina. If I named her after St. Faustina I would use her given name, Helena instead. I think Hildegard and Scholastica are a little more hipster chic. That's my head in the clouds.

My pet peeves? Names that don't have a meaning, including surnames as first names. Made up names with random "y"s inserted haphazardly. Boys' names applied to girls. Girls' names starting with the "Mc" sound. Names that rhyme with Aidan. Classic names misspelled to be yooneek. Really there's no end to the names I dislike...but luckily other people have different taste in names than I do! I wouldn't want every girl to be named Lillian and Audrey!

I am 13 weeks today, and have yet to visit a doctor's office. Soon, though. Soon.

On a completely different note, I was just scooping the litter box and discovered a chunk of cat pee shaped like a heart. How's that for God reminding me to do the little things with great love? Sure gave me a giggle!



Friday, April 25, 2014

Bible Challenge

I just finished reading Genesis!

I gave myself a read-the-Bible-in-a-Year challenge starting April 2 and so far I have read Genesis, Matthew, Psalms 1-25 and 1 John. I have never read the entire Bible (although I have read Genesis and Matthew before). Usually I start in Genesis and then then lose interest around Leviticus or Deuteronomy. This time I have started following Meg Hunter-Kilmer's day by day schedule, so I'm hoping that will help me pace through the painfully boring parts (sorry, Leviticus and Deuteronomy!).

So far I have really enjoyed it. I like the way it goes in order through the Old Testament books, New Testament books, Psalms, Proverbs, etc. I do get bogged down if I do only Old Testament so I'm happy to report that this schedule always includes readings from the Gospels to accompany them.

My relationship with the Bible has been shaky throughout my life. My parents had a New Testament, but it was stored in a closet and as far as I know no one ever opened it. We didn't go to church, though we were nominally Christian. I didn't have much exposure to the Bible, but I knew it was important. One Christmas my aunt gave my brothers and I a copy of the New Catholic Picture Bible. I remember reading it aloud to my brothers every night for a time, since I was worried about their salvation and was concerned that my parents weren't teaching them about God. I don't know when that ended, but boy did it!

As a teenager I spent a fair amount of time perusing the Skeptic's Annotated Bible website mocking the things that those idiotic Christians believe. I had one of those little Gideon Bibles that they hand out for free and I would make little notes in it any time I found something supposedly sexist, absurd, unscientific, etc.

Now I have a King James Bible (dusty), New International Version (lost and forsaken), English Standard Version (exiled to the parents' house), RSV Study New Testament (meh), and the New American Bible that they sell for $8 that I bought when investigating Catholicism which is well-loved and bears the marks of many days. My NAB is fat, cheap and happy. Indeed. Next time I buy a Bible I'd like it to not be full of footnotes to save on bulk. Just a thought.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A 'Glorious' Morning

This week has been marked by great mornings. I have been taking Lillian outside so she can dig in her little flowerpot sandbox while I enjoy the cool air, birds and creeping pill bugs from my luxurious concrete porch seat. I've also been praying the Glorious Mysteries of the rosary for the past three days while walking my toddler (it sounds funny when you put it like that!).

I've never been a Glorious Mysteries kind of gal for some reason, as if there are no lessons to learn in the midst of great joy. Today I was thinking about trust in God's providence as I prayed, the way that humility should take the form of accepting the gifts of God without arguing that you are unworthy to accept them. I thought about Mary's body assumed into Heaven, perfectly accepting God's will that she would be treated in such a special, gentle way. The way she accepted the crown in Heaven, trusted as the mediatrix of all graces and Queen of Heaven. If it was me I'd be saying, "isn't there someone else more qualified for this? Little old me is just going to hide in those bushes over there, if you don't mind...."

I do that all the time. Yesterday I received an e-mail from Edel Gathering prompting all of us ladies who will attend to create a short little bio about ourselves. The example bios included in the e-mail were sweet, funny and above all, witty. My first thought was, "What have I gotten myself into? Why did I sign up for this? I am not that interesting, they're going to know I'm not a real person..." Like, what does that even mean? Not a real person? That is not how I should be thinking about a daughter of the King. 

It occurred to me that what was making me uncomfortable was that I still reflexively count my worth by what I do, instead of who I am. And at the moment I don't feel as though I'm doing a whole awful lot. My days consist of cleaning up poop, trying to cook while someone is screaming and hanging on my leg, reading Pooh's Best Day 60 times. It's not a glamorous life, but it occurred to me this morning that it would be a whole lot better if I would accept the grace that God offers me in this vocation instead of constantly trying to discern whether He wants me doing something else. That includes trust that if something needs to change, He will lead me there. If He wants me to do something that I think is too great, trust that He will give me the grace to do it instead of falling into anxiety and counting myself unworthy.

My life is a little life at the moment, full of opportunities to do little things with great love. What a blessing!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Unlikely Seeds

God is amazing. There, I said it. He can take tiny little offhand comments from someone with the absolute opposite of intentions and turn them into seeds for conversion, stored up for use when the soil is right. Here are some unlikely little seeds planted by unlikely people which ended up having quite an impact on me.

1. My boss's brother. My boss at my last job was a single divorcee in her 50s with no children. We all thought that her personality was quite grating at times. She did not particularly like dealing with children at work, and she was really sensitive to their noise. At some point she told me about her brother who had 8 kids. At the time I thought that was totally weird, but it stuck in my mind because, holy mackerel, 8 kids! I could tell that my boss disagreed with his decision to have 8 kids, but she clearly loved her brother. When she told me this information I was not a Christian, but when I finally did start flirting with the idea of Christianity I thought of this brother. He became this example of a Catholic that was actually living the church's teaching against contraception. I didn't think anyone lived that teaching. My mom's side is Catholic, but all of the women have tubal ligations and no more than three children apiece. By the time I quit that job the brother had 10 children.

2. An anti-Catholic Pentecostal minister's appeals to authority. When I started exploring Christianity I attended a certain church in my small town a few times. I liked the way this church was small, and the preacher preached with passion. Plus they uploaded sermons online for my leisurely listening pleasure. The odd thing about this church was that they called themselves "Apostolic" Pentecostals and did not believe in the Holy Trinity. They baptized in the name of Jesus only. The fact that these teachings were so wildly different from mainstream Christianity irked me and led me to consider the issue of authority in the church. Why should I trust this man's interpretations over the preacher down the street? He also frequently preached appeals to his own authority. That members should listen to him merely because he was the pastor of their church. During one sermon I heard him preaching against abortion, but "birth control is okay because it prevents the child but does not kill it." I thought, so that's your whole theology, huh? This does not ring true. I stopped listening to this preacher.

3. Anti-Catholic Tract. In my explorations of the above minister's website I came across some "apologetics" tracts that he wrote. One was a whopping 8 page monster of a tract which explored the ways that Catholic teachings clearly contradict Scripture. At first I took this to heart, but then I thought, "there has to be a reason why Catholics believe this." This led me to actually investigate from Catholic sources what the Church really believed. It made a whole lot of sense, I tell ya.

4. Texas Public Radio. And in the midst of all of these little things stewing, I was listening to NPR one day while I was baking bread. Kneading, to be exact. My hands were covered in the sticky dough when my NPR cut out and Guadalupe Radio cut in. My first thought was, "Oh, it's a church channel. Ok." But as I kept listening I discovered that it was a Catholic channel. My hands were too sticky to be messing around with the dial, so I just kept listening. That sealed it right there, from then on GRN became my go-to cooking station. And driving station. And breakfast taco eating station.

There were more seeds than this, too many to count. These were the unlikely ones which finally led me to walk through the doors one Sunday into a Catholic Church where you could actually feel the presence of God thick in the air like incense. I was where I was supposed to be, finally home.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Anger

I have been absent from blogging for all of Lent, and I didn't even give it up for Lent. It has been a strange Lent for me. The first part I spent anxiously brooding over whether or not to apply to a particular job, getting all desperate and existential and God-would-you-please-give-me-an-answer. I never did feel as though I had an answer, so applied for the job anyway and I feel more peaceful knowing it's out of my hands and hope that God directs the results either way. I don't even want a call back if it's not in God's plan for me. I hate interviews. Second, I have been stewing in all kinds of new-pregnancy hormones which seem to be making me a little crazy (my husband doesn't even know the half of it, lucky for him). Craziness which alternates between anxiety and white hot anger. Not a pretty sight around here. Take today.

I woke up in a bad, bad  mood. A certain 1 year old woke up every 3 hours throughout the night wanting to nurse. She usually wakes me up once a night for that and I happily oblige because she does her business in 10 minutes and then we all fall back into blissful, heavenly rest. But last night. It was excessive. I woke up desperately tired and ill-tempered. Not to mention that exhaustion (and pretty much any other unusual circumstance) allows the melancholic side of my temperament to wrest control from the phlegmatic and subsequently everything becomes impossibly difficult and futile (maybe that's how they find people to fail at simple everyday tasks in infomercials. I digress). Why do I live? Woe is me. All of this is your fault.

This morning I dragged myself out of bed propelled only with bitterness and frustration to interact with Lilly brusquely, snap at her, snap at my husband. The little everyday annoyances became huge, magnified by the sudden remembrance of every similar affront of the past which was previously forgotten. Forget any progress made subsequently. I was seeing everything through darkness, colored by anger. A fine Easter morning, you might say. It reached a point when my husband graciously came through the door bearing breakfast tacos which I only just barely had time to scarf down to meet the fasting requirement before Mass. I was stewing and complaining about how I had to eat, get the baby dressed and make it out the door within 10 minutes of the current time. In typical male you-have-a-problem-so-here's-a-solution fashion my husband said, "why don't you get the baby dressed and then you can eat your taco in the car." I barked back, "I can't do that because I have to finish eating by 9:30 because of the fasting requirement." He looked at me and shook his head, "so many rules." 

It was a straw too many. We have had this "discussion" many, many times before. In fact, it's not a discussion. He just enjoys needling me about my Catholic faith. "Just shut up!" was all I could think to reply to his assertion. I see myself in slow motion, knowing that responding in anger and rekindling a fire of bitterness was sinful but not caring. In that second all I wanted was the satisfaction of retaliating with a verbal slap in the face. I wished the words could leave a fat lip. He offered yet a second solution, "why don't you just skip Mass this time." Now wading in anger, every instance in the past 3 years in which he discouraged me from going to Mass came to the fore and became a burden I could hardly bear. It was definitely time to leave.

When I got to Mass everything changed. I remembered why I was there. He is risen, conquered sin and and death so that I can have freedom from sin, grace to overcome! I needed communion. I imagined the host bloody and beating, sliding down into my core and changing my cold, angry heart to become warm and tender like His. A piece of He who begged from the cross, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). And the grace to become like Him who is love and mercy and forgiveness.

For my husband doesn't understand. I have no alternative but to forgive him. He doesn't understand. Father's homily hit me square between the eyes. It was about the way so many people are drowning in despair or some form of desperation or another because they have made a life without God. I remembered how desperately I need God in my life and how without him I recede to mere selfishness and sin. The morning's episode vividly reminded me how lost I would be without Him. So much for spiritual pride. It's all Him. Everything is grace.


Friday, April 4, 2014

Book Review: Praying for Your Husband from Head to Toe

I admit, I don't normally read Protestant books these days. There are too many gems yet undiscovered in my Catholic faith to be muddling around in Protestant waters, yet I picked up this book because I was hoping that it would inspire me to be more focused in prayer when I pray for my husband. Mission accomplished! This book takes the reader through 30 days of Scripture-based prayer very specifically focused on different areas of his life.

It starts out with an introduction to the importance of prayer for others and specifically within a marriage. So often women pray for their husbands with the hope that their husbands will change (he is in the wrong, isn't he?). I like that the author reminds wives that:
"Prayer is not a means of gaining control over your husband, to whip him into shape and make him the man you want him to be. Prayer is a means of relinquishing control of your husband and asking God to shape him into the man that He wants him to be. Prayer involves turning the finger that points out your man's faults and folding it along with the others in prayer." - p. 11
The next section of the book covers the "landmarks" of prayer which will be prayed each day. These "landmarks" are body parts which symbolically correspond to aspects of a man's life and faith. For example, the hands landmark symbolizes a man's work, his side corresponds to his relationships, his mouth corresponds to the words which he speaks. There are 16 landmark body parts covered in all.

The majority of the book contains 30 days worth of prayer. Each day contains a short prayer for each landmark plus an accompanying Scripture on which the prayer draws its inspiration. There are additional appendixes containing prayer for your husband's conversion, his fatherhood and his healing. 

I went through seven days of prayer (admittedly not consecutively) and enjoyed what I saw. Each day took about 10-15 minutes to go through all the landmarks. The book inspired me to truly focus on the many areas of my husbands life, many areas which I don't often think about. I sometimes fall into a rut of praying only "God, please bless my husband" with no specific application in mind. These written prayers helped me see the many ways in which I can think about his needs. It also helped me to stretch beyond desperate personal prayers and to think more about my husband than about myself.

I did admittedly get a little bored with the formula after awhile. The prayers are written in a "from the heart" style which I prefer to pray off the cuff. I do love rote prayer on occasion, but I'm used to beautiful, poetic rote prayers which stretch beyond my natural ability but which nevertheless perfectly express some deep need of the heart. I liked the prayers of the book to the extent that they gave me ideas to build on, and I do think that was the author's intention.

Still, my Catholic heart missed appeals to the saints and I certainly did direct some of these prayers to the saints that I love. I felt like the entire section on prayer for my husband's fatherhood might be directed to God through the intercession of St. Joseph. His conversion through the intercession of my particularly beloved sisters, St. Faustina or St. Therese.

For the most part, Praying for Your Husband from Head to Toe was an interesting foray into intensive Scripture-based prayer. It inspired me to pray for my husband in ways which I never had before. To me, it was more suited as a library book check-out than a book to own and read again and again. 

I received this book for free from Blogging For Books for this review.


Friday, March 7, 2014

First First Friday

For the past two months or so I have been glimpsing hearts everywhere. Just little hearts made out of a variety of substances at odd times throughout the day, nearly every day. I've been taking it as little proofs that God loves me, and he's winking at me. He's pointing me toward his Sacred Heart. I decided last week that for Lent I'm going to begin doing a First Friday devotion to the Sacred Heart. Today I went to my first ever (!) daily Mass! I don't have high theology or beautiful prose about it. I'm just going to tell you my testimony in traditional Rachel fashion, of how I let God love me today.


I was initially very nervous to go to daily Mass with a toddler. I knew that they hold daily Mass in a little chapel off to the side of the main church and that I would not be able to be invisible in the crowd. I thought old ladies would give me dirty looks when the child started making noise, and maybe I would have to take her out. I knew my only option would be to attend the 8 AM Mass, and I was nervous because Lillian usually takes a nap right around 8 AM. The first way I saw God love me was that my girl slept almost an hour later than usual this morning, pushing nap time until after I knew Mass would be over. I felt like he encouraged me to go ahead and go to Mass as planned.

What I did not expect was that when I walked into the chapel today, the only seat left untaken was directly in front of the altar. If I'd had my choice, I would have gone in a very back corner. God had other plans, he saved me a seat right in front. Clearly, he wants me to increase in humility. I felt very visible in the front, holding a squirmy baby (the only child at Mass) and veiled. Still, I was in the Divine Mercy Chapel directly in front of a huge image of the Kazimirowski Divine Mercy. It reminded me why I was there.

The Mass started with the first day of a novena to St. Joseph. My being at this Mass seemed somewhat providential. Yesterday I began my plan to read the book of Matthew during lent. I had meditated on the faith of St. Joseph, the way he put his full trust in God even when God seemed to change plans with very little notice. The novena prayer talked in part about this very thing! It seemed really fitting that I was there to witness and hear this prayer.

The Mass went on as usual. I did my best to listen and control my child at the same time (please, don't quiz me on the readings!). She tried to rip my veil off a couple of times, but for the most part Lilly did well. I did not receive any dirty looks. The baby and I received only smiles and graciousness. These all seem like such little things, but the whole experience seemed a gift from God. I went to console the heart of Jesus, but He ended up consoling mine.




Monday, March 3, 2014

Enough

With eyes fixed on God, things which seemed too little suddenly become enough. I'm sure I've read this concept somewhere, but praying this morning it really came to the fore. When we rely on His providence, one way in which He works is to sow in our hearts contentment and gratitude for the meager pickings. 

I kept seeing Mary content and joyful within her strange situation, her unplanned pregnancy that must have thrown a monkey wrench in her plans. The infant Christ laid in bare wood and scratchy hay of a feed trough. It was enough. The family sent to Egypt with who-knows-what to get by. The years of Jesus's life leading up to his ministry in which he probably encountered seasons of scarcity and hunger...but it was enough.

I know that sometimes it's my focus which gets me into trouble. I want to self-medicate the anxiety or sadness with food or buying or going or doing. I ought to throw all of my cares onto Him, because He cares about me (1 Peter 5:7). But I often turn to creatures, nonetheless. When the cupboards are a little bare it's difficult to find those little creature-comforts to give me a lift. My focus is off, and I know it.

I have lately been captivated by the image of St. John of the Cross in a dark, cramped little closet looking lovingly at a little patch of light streaming in from above. The focus on Christ which makes everything else incidental. 

Incidentally, you know what else is enough? Me, myself. God has given me a certain temperament, personality, talents, gifts, abilities. That's enough, too, when I trust that He has given me what I need to fulfill His plan in my life. Plus knowing that He gives abundant grace as needed.
"O my Jesus, keep me near to You! See how weak I am! I cannot go a step forward by myself; so You, Jesus, must stand by me constantly like a mother by a helpless child--and even more so."- Divine Mercy in My Soul, 264.


Saturday, March 1, 2014

Oh, Baby

Lillian turned a year old last Saturday, so in a fit of I-don't-know-what-to-write here are the things that I would tell myself if I went back in time a la Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure.


1. Pregnancy exercise. Keep doing it even though it's a pain to make it to the park and walk every day. A time will come and you will not be able to walk two whole laps without your porky legs seizing up.

2. Pre-natal Yoga. Don't buy that DVD. You won't magically enjoy yoga now that you're pregnant. It's boring and will mostly be used as building block by the baby after birth.

3. Natural Labor. You can do it. But you should not be going through transition in a cramped Toyota Corolla. You should probably get to the birth center before you are a 9 and make them fill up that big tub!

4. Baby Socks. Just get white ones. She will rip socks off and discard them in odd locations. She will attempt to discard socks in the middle of the grocery store. In the car. At Grandma's house. In the yard. A matching pair will cease to exist in your house, although you will have tiny feet bearing two adorable un-matching socks. Always.

5. Baby Tubs. They're a pain. Soap buildup is yucky. Just get a bath mat and set that into the regular tub. It uses more water but it's 1000 times less annoying.

6. Baby clothes. Don't fold them. It wastes your time. The onesies which become victims of heinous poosplosions should be respectfully laid to rest as  brave soldiers who have fallen in battle. Seriously, that yellow stain is not going to come out.

7. Babywise. Go ahead and read that book. Get some tips from it. You don't have to follow everything it says and get stressed out when things aren't going that way. Use your instincts and everything will be fine.

8. Baby food. Just mash up some veggies and stuff. Those little jars are too expensive and bland. Eventually she will refuse to eat them and you will have a basket-full of useless can-flavored, limp vegetables sitting on a shelf.

9. Nursing bras. Don't bother trying to find an affordable nursing bra that is supportive and fits. It's a lot easier to just buy some snapping pieces and modify a bra that you already have.