Thursday, January 28, 2016

When the Divine Surgeon Probes (Again)

A long while ago I heard a talk on Confession as part of a day long retreat.  The speaker had written a book on the subject and his opening question and point has stuck with me since then.  What is the Sacrament of Confession all about?  If you could choose one word to summarize why we go, why Christ instituted this Sacrament for the Church, what would it be?
What is your first answer?


Sure, Confession is about all those things, most definitely.
But the Church chooses another word as its primary attribute - healing.
It is, first and foremost, a Sacrament of healing.

Our sins wound us but our wounds are also often the root of our sin.
In the Sacrament, we find Christ's desire to heal us - the same Christ who made the blind see, the hemorrhaging woman to be healed, the lame to walk again.  He longs to heal us of the wounds that have held us bound not only for a few weeks since our last Confession but the root causes of those sins that may be years or decades old.  

We often (or maybe I should be specific - I often) get frustrated by having to repeat the same sins in Confession, despite the fervent and sincere intention last time to avoid the offense again.  It sometimes feels like I'm getting nowhere.  I get tired of the same issues coming up in my heart and head over and over, the same wounds splitting open and causing the pain that tempts my heart to lash back and defend itself.  Lord, I thought I was DONE with this!  But if Christ's true desire is to heal us, not just forgive us, I've been trying to view it as a process - the Divine Surgeon's careful and meticulous process of healing.  

I'm no medical expert but I do know that many times and for many injuries, there are wounds that can be attended once.  They heal and the owner is put right, never to be bothered by it again.  They go off on their way, healed and restored, singing their alleluia.  

But the bigger wounds, the bigger deformities and illnesses and traumas…they sometimes require treatment over and over.  They require feeling the sting of the surgeon's knife yet again as He has to go in again to take care of more of the problem.  It would be too traumatic to the patient to endure it all at once so the physician wisely takes his time.  Certain parts need to heal first and in certain order for the complete healing to occur correctly.  So our Divine Surgeon in His intimate wisdom of our wounds and the illnesses that plague our souls, sometimes (often) needs to go in again for more work.  The scalpel cuts through again and we feel the wound probed again.  It is tiring, yes, but it is the only way to true healing.  

So it is with some of our deepest wounds and sins.  The injury we felt long gone sometimes still rears its head and the symptoms return or come back in different form.  It must be visited again to clear the infection completely.  The wound we might rather choose to live with almost perfectly well, He wants to make truly well, restoring us to real and complete health.  We could function okay enough without going there but it would be stunted growth, our health always compromised by the unfinished work.  Just as with our physical body, a good doctor seeks to uncover the root cause of the problem and not just treat the symptoms.

So, again, He asks for me to share my symptoms.

Lord, I get so angry sometimes.

Lord, sometimes I feel like I'm worth nothing.

Lord, I was so jealous the other day.

Lord, my heart.  It just...hurts.

He listens and then carefully and precisely and slower than I would often like, He reveals the wounds that might be causing it all.  He probes it just a little bit more and it stings yet again, revealing deeper parts that I didn't even know were underneath it all that need to be taken care of first.  Cutting a bit of tissue away here, suturing a bit there, doing the work He must do to heal.  

We'll need to let this part rest now.  
Come back and see me in a few weeks.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Grief for What Wasn't

My Grandma's wake is tonight.

She died this past Thursday before the dawn.  I got there just a few hours later, not knowing that she had already passed and was met with awkward aides, sympathetic nurses, and an already stripped and bare room.  It felt cold and strange and I cried in the chapel.  It was hardly a surprise, she was 99 after all.  But the end happened quickly and we were told a few days, maybe a week.  Turns out it was a few hours.  I should've just gotten up during the many times I had been awake anyway during the night and gone.  But I waited until the morning and left first thing, the main entrance of the building still locked when I arrived.  But still I missed it.  Her body was already gone.  She had been alone.

I've gotten so much comfort that two of my sisters were there the night before.  They prayed the Chaplet and blessed her with holy water and we think there was a priest in at some point to her but only certain people can be told such things, apparently.  Her soul was my first concern, my heart and mind heavy with the knowledge of just how important those last moments are.  Those first tears flowed not necessarily with personal sadness but with the natural emotional reality of death and a Christian concern for her eternity.

Several times since that day I've completely forgotten that it's happened.

We weren't close.  There was never much of an effort on either side, to be honest.  I visited and brought gifts and sent cards but it wasn't like the grandmotherly relationships I hear others talk about and cannot understand.  She didn't really want that, at least so it seemed.  I liked her bluntness and her sharpness, in a way.  I could see there was more, there must've been anyway, but that was not a part that was going to be shared no matter what I asked.  After visits I would try to brainstorm if there were any possible ways we could bring her to live with us.  During softer moments I got a tiny little glimpse of the woman she was and I liked her.  She made me laugh sometimes.  It distracted from what was missing and made it easier to pretend it didn't matter.  

And yet I find myself crying again.
I don't feel it in my heart or mind but somehow when I speak on it, the tears flow and I realize - surprised - that something hurts.  The realization of an emptiness, a void that one didn't even know existed, an unfulfilled longing to be a somebody to the other.  Tears shed for what never was and grief for generations of disorder and wounds inflicted and scabbed into scars.  Perhaps there is a type of grief that stings not over the loss of a relationship but over the one that never was there to begin with.  A subconscious emotional release that recognizes what was not.

Here's hoping it's all made up and redeemed in eternity.  He can do that, too, I think.
For now, Grandma, I pray you rest.

(If you could say a prayer for the soul of my grandmother, I'd appreciate it and I'm sure she would as well.  Thank you!)

Monday, January 18, 2016

When the Marriage Wine Runs Low

"When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim." John 2:3-7

This first recorded miracle of Jesus is so rich and dense with layers and layers of truth and meaning.  Mary's presence and intercession, Jesus seeming to change His mind at the request of His mother, the importance of marriage to God, the beginning of Jesus' public ministry at a marriage feast.  So much.  But this week as the Gospel settled in my soul post Mass, something new hit me that I don't remember ever seeing in the story:
He could have just filled those empty jars right then and there with new wine.

He could have seen the need, the empty cups and dry jars, the worry of the hosts, the possible humiliation of the couple, family, and servants and then bam!  New wine in all the jars.  Hooray!  Everyone's happy again.
But He doesn't do that.

He requires them to act.

They need to ask and not just ask, they then need to do something about it...they have a part to play in the miracle.  The servants are told to fill the jars with regular old water, which, when I think of it, probably wasn't all that easy.  Those jars were huge and probably ridiculously heavy and who knows how far the well was from that party?  
But that was their part to play.  
Do you want this?  Will you work for it? 
Grace is free, yes.  But over and over throughout the Scriptures, Christ requires an effort put in before He fills in with the miracle - mud in the eyes, a hole in the roof, a touch of the hem, a father traveling how many miles to find Jesus and intercede.
For this miracle at the marriage feast, He says the jars need to be filled.

Am I filling my jars?

When we are feeling dryness in our marriage, when things aren't clicking, when the temptations to blame or hold grudges surface, do I just expect the Lord to bam, make the wine appear at my behest?  Or am I willing to do my part, too?  When we're thirsty, am I willing to bring the water first?

 If I'm to be honest, I'm often not willing to do the hard work of water filling.  The water seems too far, my shoulders ache, or it feels like the weight of the jugs is irritating old wounds and scars.  Far too often I'm guilty of sprinkling in a few wimpy drops and then complaining when nothing changes.   Maybe we can just settle for a glass of whatever's left.  But the Lord is willing and wanting to fill us with new wine.  In Scriptural terms, wine equals joy and life and refreshment and abundance!  Do I want that in my marriage?  Really want it?  Then I need to be willing to do whatever He tells me.  I need to be willing to fill the jars.

If I expect Him to work miracles in my marriage or anything really, I have to bring Him the water first - my full, albeit human efforts and work.  The conversations that need to be had, the sacrifices, the prioritizing, the prayer.  They will always be imperfect, yes, but if I expect the supernatural, perhaps first I need to give Him my own natural efforts first.  Perhaps it is only when I bring Him the water that He will have something to work with.

As we've worked through this Beloved series, I'm realizing just how lazy I can be.  I say I want something but actually doing the work to get there?  I balk.  I whine or complain or make excuses or blame.  I allow old wounds or hurts or the many obligations of life to get in the way of the true work of marriage.  I call it just a phase when it's a phase of my own making.
I settle for the water when He wants to pour down wine.  

In the first few sessions of Beloved the beautiful outline of God's plan for marriage from the beginning is revealed and discussed.  I'm realizing that since I've "heard it all before" I've become complacent in my pursuit of it.  I've read Theology of the Body, I've taught it, I know the basics theoretically and academically and I fall into the temptation of thinking that that means I know it.  Ha!  But there's part of me that is content in that.  All the knowledge of God's plan for marriage in the world means nothing if I don't do my best to live it both with Him and with him.

The Gospel reading from yesterday was a reminder of that truth.  He wants wine for us.  He wants joy and abundance and holiness in our marriages.  But it doesn't just happen.  I have to do the work of marriage.  If I want to see the fullness of the marriage He wants for us, then I have to do whatever He tells me, filling up the water jugs and bringing them to Him so He can turn them to wine.

{amazon links are part of the amazon affiliate program}
{for my original review of the Beloved series, please click here.}

Friday, January 15, 2016

These Months in Boys - Winter 2016

-a monthly seasonal recap of some of the things I just don't want to forget-

I'm sure the internet was rocked by the passing of not one but two months without a boy update.  Which was part intentional and part just life.  With these boys growing, the internet being what it is, and the scope of this blog changing, I'm figuring out just what is good for sharing.  So, for now at least, the updates will be more seasonal.  Besides, I have a hard enough time some days remembering to brush my teeth let alone chronicling memories.  So there's that, too ;)

John Paul

-is full on intent on this medieval war tactics and weaponry stuff.  Mom is trying to be interested and semi-supportive.

-in lieu of that is currently obsessing over making model chain mail.

-performed Sonatina in C Major (III) for the recital at the university.

-is a big fan of the "King of Random" videos on YouTube.

-is going through a long shirt under short sleeves fad.  (Topped, of course, by his Aragorn tunic.)

-was QUITE excited that Mama and Papa finally deemed it okay to begin watching the original Star Wars trilogy in the evenings with Michael.

- received (what else but) an Aragorn figure as his special Christmas ornament from us for the year.


-played Honeybee in his first official recital at the university.

-is determined to get stronger in the basement gym.  He can do all sorts of flips on the trapeze.

-loves to color.

-is a boy who loves him some structure and clear direction.  He abhors decision making (just like his mom).

-is so very excited to serve at the cathedral some day.  Every week at our parish he runs back to the sacristy early to see if they need any servers.  When we were at the Jubilee opening Mass at the cathedral he Communion line hopped so he could receive straight from the bishop.

-feels pretty awesome about getting the privilege of watching Star Wars.  It has now been chosen as the theme for his upcoming birthday.

-received a piano ornament from us in honor of his first year learning to play.


-won at his first solo game of Ticket to Ride.

-is by far my most fidgety/tactile child so far.  During reading or Rosary he is twisting or somersaulting or squirming or upside down and his workbooks are filled with doodles and curled corners.

-made gift after gift for us during Christmas.  Sometimes cardboard ornaments, sometimes rewrapped perler bead projects, sometimes just a little note wrapped up.  It was so sweet.

-swings like a monkey on the ropes in the basement.  It's hilarious.

-loves to help make lunch.

-is very often found lately on the floor in the laundry room surrounded by construction paper, cardboard, tape, and the glue gun working hard on another project.

-got a Narnia wardrobe ornament this year that just lit up his face when he opened it.


-turned four!

-always always always wants to play a game.

-exclaimed happily one day, "I wish I loved cheese...and I do!"

-has been giving unprompted "I love you's" to us and after sometimes initial shyness will warm right up to pretty much anyone.

-has been uncharacteristically helpful the last couple of weeks.  Deciding on his own to do chores or help his brothers.

-upon receipt of a gifted dime:  "Look, they wrote Luke on it for me!"
"Actually, that says 'liberty.'"
"Oh!  They wrote liberty on it!  Because they know how much I love liberty!!"

-in his half hearted apologies to Ben when being overly loving or careless:  "Sorry Booper Dopper Dooper Doppers."

-arguing about a portion dispute:  "No, this isn't my third!  This is my twoth."

-was gifted a chess ornament for the tree.


-has somehow picked up the nicknames Boops, Bopper, Booper, Boopalicious, Benadoodle, Booptronamous, and whatever other nonsense pops out of our mouths when we talk to him.

-has two teeth!  Our earliest teether yet.

-is scooting forwards and planking.  And thankfully, not officially crawling.  Yet.  He's also juuuust beginning to learn to clap!

-tried a small bit of pear sauce, bone broth, carrot, and sourdough bread.  He's just not that into any of it yet.  He did, however, somehow manage to swallow the miniature priest vestment from the new Lego Mass kit.  I KNOW.  I have no idea how when he gags at the slightest bit of real food even near his mouth.  It was found the next day unscathed (save the obvious) in a messy diaper.  Thank you, guardian angel.  First swallowed food?  Miniature priest vestments.  Can we interpret something in that?

-got sick twice in the past month.  He was so sad but tried to be happy.  And now he's been up every couple of hours at night.  Because that's how babies do.

-will try to love attack you with a squeal as he buries himself into your neck (copying what we do to him constantly!) and it's pretty much the sweetest thing ever.

-almost every time you hold him in the air above your head will air swim.

-in honor of tradition got to make his handprint ornament for his first family Christmas ornament.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Back to Ordinary

Well, hello.

We started back to normal life and lessons and routines this past week after taking a month off for Advent and Christmas.  I love being free for that month and it takes so much of the stress away from the holidays when we can focus on just living them without the weight of lessons and school also hanging over us.  But it also feels good to get back into the swing of things.  There were some cries and tantrums of protest at the beginning but after those were out of systems, the last few days have gone swimmingly.  Or as swimmingly as possible, five little boys considered.

The mornings take my full concentration now.  I have to really commit myself to being fully present to lesson times (read: no blogging or internet) for things to work with five kids.  So much of this homeschool thing is really about disciplining myself sometimes.  I'm going from one kid to the other to the other and back again but for the most part, it's been smooth and I like how it is, despite my tendency to want to distract myself with something else.  This is my important work and I need to do it fully.  

A big help in the smooth transition has been Luke really stepping up to four year old status.  I love age four.  I'm beginning to see glimpses of that big kid peeking through and he's very very welcome.  For the next few months we get the gift of wintering and I want to live it well.  We're taking a break from our little homeschool co-op this semester and I'm feeling good about that.  I like the idea of just focusing on the home part of homeschool, especially as the snow falls and the air freezes. Games, projects, read alouds, organizing some parts of our home, getting into a good school groove, making memories, establishing home.  Those are my hopes for this time.  We've gotten a good start already.  


This was another gift from the priest I mentioned in a previous post!  Isn't it beautiful?

There's been a recent boom in baby girls born or soon to be around here!  I've been having fun knitting up newborn hats to gift them.  I found some clearanced yarn at Hobby Lobby that is a bamboo/silk blend and it is so soft and fun to knit!  I started reading The Secret Garden this week to Michael and David (though John Paul and Luke will sneak in for a listen as well).  This was one of my favorite stories growing up and I love sharing it with them.  I had a feeling these two, especially, would love it as well.  Last night as each chapter ended they begged for another proving me right and warming my mama heart.  

This copy was a gift from my Godparents when I was about Michael's age and means so much to me.  My Godmother died in a fire on Christmas Eve a few weeks after I had finished college.  It was her favorite, too.  It feels good to be able to now share it with my kids.
(If you feel moved, please say a prayer for Carol and the family she left behind?)

We finally got our first snow of the season yesterday.  We had an inch or so of slushy flurries at the end of December but it melted right away.  I'm actually ready for a little bit of snow, I think!  Am I really saying that??  But it looks beautiful and is covering up all the mud and rain puddles, at least :)

 Moon eyes and blue eyes
Love these boys.

That baby isn't officially crawling (thank you, Lord.) but he's scooting around and you can cross planking off the milestone list.  He's not sitting up on his own but his core?  Rock solid.  Check out the one footed action.

Such a goofball.  After a few weeks of one sickness merging into another round of something else, he's feeling better and I'm so grateful.  He isn't, however, doing that thing the rest of the world calls sleeping.

Back at it.  They'd tell you they don't want to be but I think they are really deep down appreciating the return to routine alllmost as much as I am.

Back to good, sweet, blessed, normal reality.
(Why yes, that IS Lent starting in a few weeks!  Just gonna pretend I don't see that...)

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

A Three Spice Epiphany Cake Recipe!

Happy Epiphany!

Tonight we'll bless the house and chalk the door and the boys will each get a little new to them book (to help them grow in wisdom ;)  I have a cranberry pork roast in the crock pot which I really hope turns out because we don't eat pork all that often and I'd like to not ruin it.  And thanks to the grace of God I rallied after a rough night with a poor sick baby enough to make a special dessert to celebrate the feast.

Can I admit that I don't really like king cake?  I've made it a few times before from various recipes and I just find it kinda eh.  So this year I decided to put together a three spice cake (get it?  three spices in honor of the three magi gifts?). I had some ingredients I needed to use up as well as a garage saled star pan that's been waiting for this moment its entire dark cupboarded life.  I'm way more excited to eat this than king cake so this might just have to be our new tradition.


1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 cup maple syrup  (the rest of the syrup we made was about to turn hence the motivation for this recipe!)
1 cup plain yogurt
2 eggs

2 cups flour (I used 1 c. all purpose, 1 c. whole wheat)
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
4 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. ground cloves


Preheat oven to 350.  Butter and flour your pan well.  (If you don't happen to have a star pan just sitting in your cupboard, a 13x9 or two 9" circle pans also work.)  Cream the butter and sugar on high.  Mix in the maple syrup and yogurt well, scraping sides as you mix.  Add eggs and beat well.  Combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl (or not...I admit, I never do and just try to sprinkle so they disperse well rather than dump them in).  Mix dry ingredients into the wet until just combined, making sure to scrape the bottom and sides well.  Pour into your pan and bake 30-38 minutes until toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean.

Cool for 10 minutes or so before turning out.  Frost when coolish.

1/2 cup soft butter
4 oz. soft cream cheese
3-4 cups powdered sugar
pinch salt

Mix all ingredients well until a spreadable consistency.  Add several drops of water or milk if needed.  I had some leftover frosting from another cake and used that hence only the top being frosted :)

Enjoy and happy Epiphany!

Monday, January 4, 2016

A Winter Woodland Baby Shower

My sister is having a baby next month!!!!

I have five sisters, three older and two younger.  One brother, too!  My older sisters all have children but this is the first time that a little sister is pregnant and it feels different somehow, especially since this baby feels like a little miracle baby.  Just one month shy of being officially certified to foster and maybe adopt, they found out this sweet one was on her way!  They have been so open to God's will for them and their family in their six years of marriage and it's been amazing to see Him work.  They still plan to foster and hopefully adopt but God apparently wanted to give them this little baby first!  We've all been so excited to meet this little girl and this past weekend we got to throw a baby shower for her.

Since the baby is coming in February and December is a crazy time for most, January became our only option.  We ended up deciding on a winter woodland theme which fit well with both the season and the new mom and dad's personality.  They love to camp and be outdoors and will probably be taking their new little girl on many a hike and camping trip!

My sisters and mom all worked on it together and it was so much fun to plan and host!

The main table spread.  A simple wintery rustic cake and yes, a s'mores bar!

We went with a soup buffet with a simple salad and bread for the lunch.  We felt like that fit the theme while being cost effective and being something a group of ladies would actually enjoy for lunch.

Isn't that garland sweet?  My other younger sister made yards of it for all the main tables.

We had mulled wine, hot coffee...

and a little hot chocolate bar!

I loved this theme because the decor was rustic and simple and beautiful.  Plus, so much of it we were able to find outside (or off our Christmas trees) for free!  My one sister lives on a huge plot of land and brought all sorts of greenery with her.

That same sister had the idea of having little pictures of some of the saints that we feel were a part of bringing this long awaited little baby into being.  I thought that was a beautiful idea to thank and honor them and continue to pray for my sister and little one.  My mom had been praying for years to Our Lady of Lourdes for them.  We also both prayed for them at the shrine of the Madonna of Childbirth in Rome.

St. Brigid - patron of newborns, midwives, and the new mama's name saint!

The Little Flower

St. Anne - patroness of infertility and my sister's middle name saint!
We also had St. Gerard patron of expectant mothers represented.

The favors were beautiful tea light holders made by my brother in law.  He works in tree removal and has access to good branches and made them all!  He was able to use birch which looks so pretty! 

Each candle has a tag asking people to please light the candle and say a prayer for the new parents and their baby girl when they hear the news that the baby is born.  There was a similar favor at my baby shower so very long ago and I really loved the idea of it.

And an invitation to leave a message to be placed in an album for the baby.
We also played two little games, one a 'name the baby animal' quiz and the other a 'name the baby' contest with only names using letters from mom and dad's names.  The winners got a potted flower.

I'm so very excited to meet this little girl and just so grateful that God has given this blessing to our family.  I'm so glad we were able to officially celebrate her this way!

And now I'm going to beg my readers for some prayers for my sister and her baby.  Please say a prayer for a beautiful, simple, healthy birth for the two of them.  I know many of you understand how formative that first birth experience is for women (and families!) and I want so much for them to have a good experience.  I know I can count on you to pray for that for them and I'm so grateful!  Thank you!

Saints Brigid, Anne, Therese, Gerard, and Our Lady of Childbirth and Lourdes, please pray for them!

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