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


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.