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:


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! 


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. 


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!


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...


...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!


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.


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.

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.