Monday, December 31, 2007

Quotable Monday

"Aw, that's not fair, getting a head start on everyone. It's not New Year's yet."

-Some guy standing in his driveway, as I jogged past him last week

Thursday, December 27, 2007

A clean toddler?

I've been noticing a funny habit of my little boy: he really likes to be clean. When he is eating something messy (which he mostly does with his fingers), he'll often hold out his hands to me once or twice during the meal because he wants them wiped clean. Today we went to the park and he fell down on the damp sand, and "complained" to me that it was on his hands. I was sitting on a bench about 10 feet away, and instead of pushing himself back to standing, he dragged his knees all the way through the sand to me and used my legs as a prop to pull himself up. All to avoid putting his hands back in the sand, at least in my thinking. Oh, and when he finally stood up and saw that the toes of his shoes were covered in sand, he pointed and whimpered. Just once, and then he went back to playing.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Mysteries on Christmas

I heard a priest say something I'd never thought about the other day at Mass. He mentioned the parallel between the mysteries of God becoming flesh as baby Jesus, and God becoming flesh in the Eucharist. Both are just that; mysteries. If you've ever pondered how Jesus could possibly be both completely human and completely God, then you understand that it's a mystery. And if you've ever stared at a blessed host and wondered how exactly it has become the flesh of Christ when it appears to be just flour and whatever else those things are made of, then you understand that mystery.

I just thought the priest made a nice point, and one I will probably think about in the years to come, especially at Christmas. Like any great work of literature, God has inserted some nice parallels into His story that make it all the more enjoyable for us, as well as more easily navigable. And I for one, am appreciative.

Merry Christmas everyone! I wish you joy in celebrating the mystery of Christ's birth today!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Quotable Monday

"My only purpose is to challenge the opinions of those philosophers who, while admitting that there is a God ho concerns himself with human affairs, clam that, since the worship of this one unchangeable God is not sufficient to attain happiness even after death, lesser gods, admittedly created and directed by this supreme God, should also be reverenced."

- Saint Augustine, City of God, Book VIII ch.1

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Easter & Christmas go together

I'm still hung up on Advent, I can't stop thinking about it. What I've been mulling over lately is the connection between Easter and Christmas.

Christmas isn't truly significant if we don't believe in the death and resurrection of Christ, which we celebrate on Easter. If we don't believe Christ gave himself up for us on the cross to save us from eternal separation from him, otherwise known as hell, then his birth is nothing more than a quaint story. Secular culture tries to make Christmas important by gift-giving and eating and getting together with friends and family, but the reason to do these things are dictated by a mere date on the calendar, as well as tradition. No, Christmas doesn't really make sense unless we believe in Easter.

The thing that has really been sinking in is that because of these reasons, Christmas is not the highest holy day of the Liturgical year-- Easter is. Christmas is only the beginning of the greatest story ever told....Easter is the end of it, the grand finale in which God fully reveals himself to us.

But Christmas gets all the attention! And I don't know what to do about it, exactly. Shall I deflate my 'Christmas spirit' in the name of being Christlike? Christmas has always been the big deal holiday, the only one that's so important I will get on an airplane to be with family. This isn't a bad thing, is it? But what do I do at Easter to celebrate that compares?

I'm grateful that I have experienced Easter as a Catholic, because Easter was profoundly different for me this year having observed Lent before hand. Easter didn't suddenly appear unannounced, I had been preparing for it for 40 days. Instead of coaxing some joy out of myself over Christ's resurrection, I couldn't help but feeling joyful. I wanted to throw a big party on Easter. It felt wrong not to.

I've been thinking of Advent as a mini-Lent, but it doesn't feel remotely the same. There are no jangly commercials to make me desperate for a remote with a mute button during Lent, there is nothing on my 'to do' list save 'get right with God', there is no planned overeating. Lent makes me think of a clean chalkboard, and December a cork board overflowing with push-pins and papers. These invasions are not Advent itself, but they make Advent harder to observe. So shall I dispense with them all? Shall I never throw a Christmas party? Not set foot in the mall?

I'm just looking for some balance here - a way to make the secular embellishments of Christmas more toned-down so I can sit down and have time to ponder my position relative to God. I don't want to go so far as to say that Christmas should be strictly celebrated at Church and in the heart, because it is a day worthy of rejoicing, and part of that is adding our human embellishments - feasting, visiting, a little extravagance here and there. That's just the way we do things on planet earth, and I think God understands...and perhaps there should be some more of that at my house on Easter.

I guess all I can say at this point is that I am really, really looking forward to Lent and Easter. This mini-Lent of Advent is making me crave the real thing.

If you have any thoughts or ideas on how to properly celebrate Advent, Christmas, or Easter, please share them!

Looking for Advent

I've been scrambling to understand Advent this year because the Catholic Church celebrates it differently than what I've been exposed to...and secular culture provides absolutely no clues on how to live the Advent season. This is my second Advent as a Catholic, but I don't know where my head was last year. I remember my husband telling me that Advent was a season of penance, but I didn't really understand. All my ideas of Christmas were joyful ones--'penitential' had not entered my consciousness.

I've been doing research online on Advent, but where better to answer my questions than the Catechism? "When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Saviour's first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming. By celebrating the precursor's birth and martyrdom, the Church unites herself to his desire: "He must increase, but I must decrease." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 525)

Of course Advent is a season of penance, then: whenever I anticipate Jesus' second coming, I am humbled because I fear I am not ready to meet him face to face... or at least as ready as I'd like to be. The other thing that has been made clear to me is that Advent is NOT the 'Christmas season'. Traditionally, Christmas starts on Dec. 25th and goes until Epiphany on Jan. 6th. Yes, Christmas is celebrated for 12 days! But not until it's actually Christmas. I've noticed that Catholic churches usually do not decorate their sanctuaries until the 3rd Sunday in Advent (which is a joyful day), or they wait until Christmas Eve. Now I understand. How am I supposed to be in penitential mode when everything has a strictly festive air?

Most American Christians seem to have lost the tradition of Advent being a time of penance; instead 'anticipation' of Christmas is stressed during Advent, or it isn't celebrated at all. So it's been a little hard to find out what Advent has meant traditionally, but I want to understand it because Advent is a liturgical season and I have loved living by the liturgical calendar since I became Catholic. To me, the liturgical calendar beautifully unfolds the drama of the story of God's love for man each year. The Catechism says "...the Church, especially during Advent and Lent and above all at the Easter Vigil, re-reads and re-lives the great events of salvation history in the "today" of her liturgy"(CCC 1195). Doing this carves out specific ways to participate in the 'history' of salvation. There are times dedicated to fasting and self-examination, there are times of joyful celebration. Living by the liturgical calendar is a wonderful way to be deliberate about living a well-rounded spirituality, and Advent is a part of this.


Monday, December 10, 2007

Quotable Monday

"I feel sometimes as if I were a child who opens its eyes on the world once and sees amazing things it will never know any names for and then has to close its eyes again. I know this is all mere apparition compared to what awaits us, but it is only lovelier for that. There is a human beauty in it. And I can't believe that, when we have all been changed and put on incorruptibility, we will forget our fantastic condition of mortality and impermanence, the great bright dream of procreating and perishing that meant the whole world to us. In eternity this world will be Troy, I believe, and all that has passed here will be the epic of the universe, the ballad they sing in the streets. Because I don't imagine any reality putting this one in the shade entirely."

-From the novel "Gilead" by Marilynne Robinson, winner of the 2005 Pulitzer prize for fiction

Friday, December 7, 2007

Something awesome happened

Something awesome happened this week. My husband and I were at the abortion clinic praying, and a couple about to get an abortion changed their minds and left.

This happens with some regularity, but I hadn't seen it happen yet. What happened was that there was a Hispanic couple standing at the door with a translator, waiting to get inside. Entrance into the clinic is very controlled, so often people have to stand outside and wait, during which time one of the pro-life folks gets on the small PA system and starts talking to them. For the first time, my husband took the mic because he can speak Spanish, and he started talking to this couple and would not stop...they were outside for a really, really long time.

All praise and honor for their turnaround goes to God! But still, I am proud of my husband for not putting down the microphone, for not being ashamed of his limited Spanish. One less baby condemned to the trash heap! Please pray for this couple, and consider participating in the pro-life movement going on outside abortion clinics across the US, because it does make a difference.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Suffering for the Gospel

I've been reading some of the early Church fathers, and it has struck me how they seemed to view persecution, even to the point of death, as something to rejoice in. It makes me think of persecution as a symptom of being a true follower of Jesus...something you would be glad to endure because it would prove you were a Christian. Here are the words of St. Ignatius of Antioch, 3rd bishop of Antioch, in his Letter to the Romans:

"I am writing to all the Churches and I enjoin all, that I am dying willingly for God's sake, if only you do not prevent it. I beg of you, do not do me an untimely kindness. Allow me to be eaten by the beasts, which are my way of reaching to God. I am God's wheat, and I am to be ground by the teeth of wild beasts, so that I may become the pure bread of Christ." (The Faith of the Early Fathers, Vol. I, The Liturgical Press 1970)

Now there is a man with some conviction! I've been wondering how I would respond in such a situation, and it has made me realize how much I flee from 'persecution', which, for me today means shying away from being vocal about my beliefs because I want to be liked. Be liked, or follow Jesus--the choice should be a no-brainer! Maybe you think I have been vocal about my beliefs on this blog, but it's hard for me when I am face to face with someone that I know needs Jesus, but has rejected him.

I came across this amazing prayer, the Litany of Humility, that I have started praying as an antidote to my desire to be likable to everyone. It is very hard to pray, it is very unnatural to pray, but I love the ideas in it and I want to share it:

Litany of Humility

O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, hear me.

From the desire of being esteemed,
deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being loved,
From the desire of being extolled,
From the desire of being honored,
From the desire of being praised,
From the desire of being preferred to others,
From the desire of being consulted,
From the desire of being approved,

From the fear of being humiliated,
deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being despised,
From the fear of suffering rebukes,
From the fear of being calumniated,
From the fear of being forgotten,
From the fear of being ridiculed,
From the fear of being wronged,
From the fear of being suspected,

That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I,
That in the opinion of the world,
others may increase, and I may decrease,
That others may be chosen and I set aside,
That others may be praised and I unnoticed,
That others may be preferred to me in everything,
That others may become holier than I,
provided that I may become as holy as I should.

-Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Prayer in the Church

I've taken these comments to 'On Mary' and posted my response here because it was so long...

As to why I think Catholics devalue the prayers of earthly people I have two thoughts. First, it seems that if you thought YOUR prayers were of value why would you spend all that time asking Mary or another saint in heaven to pray for you? Why don't you just approach God yourself instead of asking the saint to do it?

Second, in my admittedly limited experience, I've only heard Catholics pray from a book. Maybe I've forgotten something but what I remember of any Mass I've been to is that all the prayers were read as opposed to what I would call "prayers of the heart". That would seem to give the hearers the impression that the only prayers worthy of God's attention were those with perfect grammar, beautiful phrases and quotes from a Saint. How would the average person be able to match that?

This isn't meant to be critical, but an honest question. Are Catholics taught how to pray from their heart, or do they always have to get out a book and read someone else's prayer or say a memorized prayer? In other words, do the priests, or whoever prays in public, ever NOT use a book, do they model prayers from the heart?

my response:
Why would I ‘spend all that time asking Mary of another saint in heaven to pray’ for me? Because I’d like to have as many people praying for me as possible, and because it’s extremely easy to ask a saint to pray for me, whereas to ask you to pray for me I have to get a hold of you by phone or email. Why do we ask anyone to pray for us when we can just pray to God ourselves? Imagine this: what if you were in a bad situation where no one knew where you were-say your car had gone off a cliff and you were trapped in it. Of course you would pray to God, but would it not also feel good to ask a saint to pray for you as well, and to know that a (former) human being was praying for you at that very moment and knew exactly what had happened? Or think of a martyr in prison, alone and staring death in the face. I think it would be extremely comforting to invoke the names of the saints, especially the ones who had also been martyred. It would make me feel far from alone, I would be far from alone. And this is not an either/or situation – I don’t ask a saint to pray for me OR pray to God myself, I can do both.

I don’t think you really mean to say that written prayers are not ‘prayers from the heart’, but I know what you mean – the first time I went to Mass in high school it seemed wooden and fake because it all came from a book. But this is not how it is- I was wrong. Think of how personally prayerful reading an ancient prayer in Psalms can be – how someone says something that is so stunning and true about God, and you realize it is your own prayer as well. ‘Beautiful phrases’ should be included in our collective worship times.

And on book prayers: As far as hearing goes, weekend Mass prayers said out loud are all from a book. During the week, priests usually invite unscripted prayer from the parishioners during one portion of the Mass. I’m not sure why prayer is mostly written. Perhaps it is because the Church is wrapped up in beauty, and written prayers are beautiful, perhaps it is because there was no gap of hundreds or thousands of years b/t Judaism and Catholic Christianity (I’m guessing Jews read a lot of prayers at temple). Most likely, Mass is a collective experience, and praying the same prayers emphasizes the unity of the Church – 1 billion Catholics the world over are united by praying the same prayers. But as far as praying on the whole, Mass is full of both kinds of prayer,- ‘prayer from the heart’ as you call it and ‘book prayers’. Mass is intensely prayerful. I could tell this immediately the second time I went to Mass. I’m confident I have never prayed as many ‘from the heart’ prayers during any Protestant church service as I regularly do during Mass. Visualize what you would see before Mass begins – people kneeling in personal prayer. Visualize what you would see while the Eucharist is being distributed, and after – the same. Receiving Jesus in the Eucharist requires much self-reflection, and inspires much adoration before, during, and after. While a priest does not neccesarily model unscripted prayer, you cannot help but say your own words to God at Mass.

You speak of the imbalance of Catholics preferring written prayers, this may be true, and may need correcting (apart from Mass). But we need both types of prayers, and I could easily criticize Protestants for not praying enough written prayers. If you never pray written prayers, you are missing out. Reading prayers is not just ‘reading’ them – it’s praying them! Written prayers are hands down the best antidotes to two common problems when it comes to personal prayer; mind wandering and spiritual dryness. What if you are bored with prayer? What if you feel you have nothing to say to God? Praying a written prayer will give you something to say, and will remind you that there is always something to say to God. I like what Peter Kreeft has to say about formal prayer:

“It is as natural to pray others’ prayers as to sing others’ songs. For when we do, 1we make them our own. We should not merely recite these prayers; we pray them. We do not “say our prayers”; we pray. We need others’ prayers for the same reason we needed the help of walking when we were infants learning to walk. We are only spiritual infants. “Religion is a crutch” indeed, and we need it because we are cripples. Others’ beautiful prayers are beautiful crutches to help us walk.” (Catholic Christianity, 2001 Ignatius Press, p384)

Monday, December 3, 2007

Quotable Monday

I'm dubbing Mondays 'quotable Mondays' because wouldn't you like to read something inspiring now and then...instead of well, what I write? So here we go:

"Morality is always terribly complicated-to a man who has lost all his principles."

G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936, English writer, eventual Catholic)

Saturday, December 1, 2007

It's Advent

I've been wondering lately how to impress upon booga bear a sense of excitement over Christmas apart from presents and cookies. I want him to understand that Christmas is primarily a celebration of God coming to earth in the form of baby Jesus. I want him to understand that the good things we celebrate at Christmas - family, peace, abundance- are not honored on a whim, but would not be so apart from God.

I have a few basic ideas, but nothing spectacular on how to impart wonder over the miracle of Jesus' birth; celebrating Advent at home, reading the Christmas story from the Bible, giving just a few gifts, etc. I hope that by trying to be intentional each year, the message will be sent. Kids are sponges, imitating what they see being done around them, so I guess a big part of it will just be making sure my own attitudes about Christmas are ones I would be proud to see in my child. I need to make sure that I'm excited about gift-giving over gift-getting, that I treat Advent as a time to spiritually prepare for Christmas, and that I myself am behaving in a way that honors Jesus' birth.

Having kids is certainly a good reality check.

Monday, November 26, 2007

8 silly & endearing habits of Booga-bear:

1. He Lines up sippy cups on the microwave cart. I once found an entire row of who knows how old juice cups hidden behind the cereal boxes.

2. He goes to sleep in his crib hugging a book--he arranges a book next to his head and puts his hand on it before falling asleep.

3. He takes almost any snack I give him to either the front or back door, where he sits down on the doormat and eats the snack.

4. One of his new favorite things to do is to drag the broom and carry the dustpan around the house.

5. He brings me a box of cereal whenever he is hungry.

6. He always runs around the house laughing after his bath, wearing nothing except his hooded towel.

7. When I turn on the microwave, he tries to get behind the microwave cart to see the light that comes through the slits on the back of the microwave.

8. He likes to sleep with the bus schedule (it has a picture of a bus on it).

Friday, November 23, 2007

At home mom

It's starting to not bother me when I tell people I'm a stay-at-home mom. Becoming a mom is a big transition, and watching my identity become wrapped up in being an at-home mom has been interesting. Sometimes I tell people off-handed that I'd work part time if I could find a job that would be worth while when factoring in the cost of childcare, as if that dignifies my decision to stay at home. But I'm not actually looking for work- I just assume that it would be almost impossible to find such a situation.

Honestly, I have a nagging feeling that I'm doing something wrong by not working. That I'm wasting my college education, or going unfulfilled, or that I'm disappointing people who probably barely remember me - professors, old college friends, coworkers. I'm not sure exactly what it is that bothers me so, but it's something! Maybe it's just that I don't feel normal - normal seems to be 'working moms'.

I've been wondering for a while why I feel, well, sort of worthless being 'just a mom', but I read an article in a student newspaper today that shed some light. The author of the article spoke about how women need to triumph over sexist, outdated and limiting gender roles. From the rest of the article, I think it's safe to assume 'home-maker' is one of the things she would hope women would be able to overcome and not be limited by. The presumption behind the article is that women deserve MORE than just being wives and mothers. This attitude by now is just normal-I think most people would agree. But, if you tell a woman that she will be severely limited in life by being an at-home mom (or just a mom, period), or that no person should expect a mother to want to stay home with her children, then how valuable is choosing to be an at-home mom? Not very.

Perhaps the true mission of the feminist movement has been to only give women the opportunity to choose a career OR to choose raising children full-time, and not to insult motherhood as a calling. But the message I've received is that as a stay-at-home mom, I'm not worth as much as I could be. I first learned in any seriousness about feminism in my college sociology 101 class. The encouragement for women to be successful wasn't blatantly negative towards women choosing to stay home, but subtly, and sometimes not so subtly, it is. Anyone remember Hillary Clinton saying "I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession which I entered before my husband was in public life." ? This is a very familiar attitude. (Now, girls, what do you want to do--stay home and have a life that culminates in baking cookies, or do you want to have an exciting profession and do something important?!) Or did anyone read some of the brouhaha over Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary's move to start offering home economics courses to women? The world seemed pretty peeved that a college would stoop to the level of re-enforcing traditional gender roles by offering practical tips on raising children, etc. for women to use later in life. I understand that this doesn't seem very scholarly, but I took badminton, a math-for-middle-schoolers equivalent course, and sailing as part of my required courses in college in the name of being well-rounded.

Actually, that reminds me-I feel kind of cheated by my college education. Academia seems to mostly ignore the fact that most women sitting in the classroom will eventually become mothers, and will have to decide how they will balance work with children. Perhaps it would be labeled sexist to discuss this (there they go again, touting those traditional roles), but frankly, I think it would be prudent for women with vague ideas of getting married and having kids someday to at least consider pursuing careers that tend to offer flexible or part time positions.

To be fair, I haven't only received negative messages about being a stay-at home mom. A lot of people recognize it for what it is: a really good thing. People who had children themselves responded positively when I told them I was planning on quiting my job for the long-term. But this is not the message I feel I have been fed by society at large, nor what I had accepted.

There are two things that will never change in this debate on what is ideal. Children will always need caretakers, and women will always be the ones that bear children. So prattling on about how women should not be expected to be nurturers seems to be an exercise in futility. Of course there is the option of more stay-at home dads, but if full-time motherhood is perceived as such an unfulfilling gig in the first place, good luck with that.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The best baby carrier

I'm pretty excited about this baby carrier I just got, the ERGO. Normally, I would not take the time to write about baby gear--that's BORING--but this carrier merits some attention.

I've been wanting a 'system' that would allow us to go on hikes, or to the zoo, without a stroller. I tried out several models of Kelty baby carriers (the kind with the metal frame), and even though they were up to double the price of the ERGO, I could barely stand to walk around the store with Booga bear on my back. All I could think about was my poor spine, and how darn heavy a 25 lb. boy is! Not so with the ERGO! I also think it would be far superior to baby bjorn-type carriers, which I found to be fine up to about 15 pounds, but too uncomfortable to use after that.

(I got free shipping on the ERGO here)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Goodbye baby

We've had a small victory over here: booga bear has given up his pacifier. (Because we took it away, naturally.) We've always tried to restrict its use to the crib, but over the last month or so, he seemed to be getting quite attached to it. I'd look up, and he'd be toddling towards me with his pacifier in his mouth. Apparently, he'd learned to reach into his crib and grab it between the bars.

I've been putting off taking away the paci because I was a little afraid of how he would react, and because it seems like one of those milestones that puts a child well past babyhood. Anytime you see a kid sucking on a pacifier, it always makes them seem a little babyish. It's a bit sad to see booga bear so fully loosing his baby characteristics- how much longer will it feel appropriate to call him booga bear? I kind of wish he would stay little and cuddly forever, because even though it's fun to watch him change, I know someday I will miss the age he is now.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Why I'm Catholic

My last post (On Mary) has made me think about the process I went through in deciding what I thought about accepting Catholic dogma on Mary and the saints. It was similar to accepting other doctrines that Protestants typically have trouble with because such doctrines seem, at first glance, so...unChristian. All Christians know there are some things that you have to trust 'on faith' - doing or believing something one believes to be God's will despite the inability to 100% scientifically prove it is so. This was one of those things.

At a certain point, after I had read all I could read about Mary and the saints, and had experimentally spoken to them in prayer with positive results, it was crunch time. Did I believe this- really believe that it was good to ask for the saints intercession, and that Mary should be venerated? It was a crux. Either say yes, and continue down the road of entering the church, or say no, I can't be sure and because I can't be sure, I won't become Catholic. Note my alternative position was not 'I'm positive this is wrong', but rather it was 'I can't be sure this is right'. On one hand, there were so many persuasive arguments presenting themselves to me that I couldn't easily rule out that God intends Mary's veneration and the intercession of saints, such as reasons from scripture I didn't notice before, nearly two thousand years of church teaching, and a bevy of respectable theologians and historians who have sided with what the Catholic church teaches.

So, the logical reasons were lining up nicely- but on the other hand, I struggled with it feeling so foreign. I didn't want to let foreignness keep me from this Church that on most accounts I was eager to become a part of. After all, the historical perspective is that NOT venerating Mary is abnormal. At most points in most places across time, Christians have venerated Mary, and believed that the saints pray for us. But still, I was afraid - what if I had missed something? And wasn't I doing just fine before I ever paid Mary or the saints any attention?

And here is where something new happened in my life: I decided to defer to the Church. Instead of just 'going on faith'-- I 'went on the church' in faith. Instead of desperately needing the Holy Spirit to speak to me mystically about Mary, I trusted that the Holy Spirit had guided the Church across the centuries, because that is the way Jesus set things up to be. I added a new element to faith: trusting the Church. (By the way, I did feel the Holy Spirit speaking, it just wasn't quite enough, although it probably should have been. One thing I heard was: you're not going to heaven based on right belief.)

All my life, I'd been focusing on my individual relationship with God and wasn't excited about the idea of anyone having spiritual authority over me - they're all just my 'brothers and sisters in Christ', right? Oh, I wasn't rebellious or refusing to believe any basic tenants of the faith. But I thought it was ridiculous that women were barred from being pastors in some churches, and got irked when it seemed like people would follow whatever pastor Ted or motivational speaker Sally told them to do, and so on.

I had the idea that Christianity was 'jus' me an' Jesus, or 'jus' me and the Holy Spirit'. Of course there were many collective spiritual activities (for lack of a better word) that I participated in and looked forward to, and that in fact brought me closer to God. But, who would I trust if I thought someone was teaching me wrong things about God, or about holy living? Or just incomplete things? In theory, the idea of relying solely on 'the Bible' to discern God and holiness is a good one...but in the church as a whole, it doesn't work well in practice. All churches, protestant and otherwise, teach 'what the Bible says', but where does that leave us when they are all teaching different, conflicting things? And not just trivial things, either--how one is saved, how one is justified before God, how one lives a holy life, how one respects the Lord, etc.

By becoming Catholic, I discovered a great gem in scripture that I'd never taken the time to consider. I Timothy 3:14-15, Paul, speaking to Timothy, says: "If I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth." Wait - what is the pillar and bulwark of truth? The church! And what church existed at the time St. Paul said these words? The one we call the Catholic church.

It is a great comfort to me in life to know that God didn't leave us behind on earth to flip-flop on what he meant for us to do after Jesus ascended to heaven. That before the New Testament was written, people were not floundering about in their faith, or that people who are unable to read, or who don't have access to a Bible can still know the truth through the Church and live fulfilling lives. That there are absolutes in life, and that one of them is that what the Church teaches is absolutely true, through the Holy Spirit. I do not deny that priests, bishops, etc. have done evil things. What I'm speaking of here, and where the Church claims authority, is in official doctrine. The people who make up the Church are flawed, but official teaching is not. This is known as Papal infallibility.

Papal infallibility is the machinery that puts truth into place within the Church. Catholics believe in apostolic succession- that is, Peter was the first head of the Church, given this authority by Jesus, and his authority has been passed down to each successive head, who we call popes today. The other piece of this is that bishops, when in union with the pope, also have authority and infallibility, like modern-day apostles. This authority comes from Jesus, not any special power of their own. Jesus clearly granted Peter authority in Matt. 16:14-19; Jesus asked his disciples who men were saying he was,
"And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jo'na! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

Here Peter is singled out among the disciples - he alone is shown a truth by God the Father (that Jesus is the Christ), and is given the 'keys of the kingdom of heaven' and some pretty hefty authority. There are several other passages that detail exactly what the disciples were given, (and that has since been passed down), but this is probably the most important...and since I'm against long blog entries, I'm saving it for another day, but please realize this is a very incomplete picture of the authority Jesus gave to his disciples.

I'll close by saying, if we as Christians believe that the Bible is the infallible word of God, it is not a blind leap to believe that the Pope has infallibility to interpret God's word. Were the last words penned of what became the New Testament the end of the golden age of absolute truth? If so, how can we trust that what we call the Bible is actually what God intended to be scripture - did the creation of the cannon not involve councils of men with clear, God-given authority? If there is no authority on earth to interpret scripture and doctrine other than personal conscious discerning the Holy Spirit, then we will divide ourselves again and again and again, and all in the name of following Jesus. That's wrong. Church division is unbiblical. And I hate to say it, but constant division is what happens in the Protestant world. (I googled, and at best guess, there are between 1500 and 7000 Christian denominations in the US, and over 32,000 world-wide...and counting.) The refusal to accept the Catholic Church's God-breathed authority has created a million different beliefs, all of which cannot simultaneously be true. And that, friends, is why I'm Catholic.

I do not speak with spite against Protestants, because they are my friends and family. Clearly we disagree, and I'm not trying to slam non-Catholics- we have more in common that not. But, I am Catholic, writing from a Catholic perspective, and I can't apologize for that.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

On Mary

I've been drawn to praying the rosary the last week or two, and I've come to a realization that feels a bit odd. I think I love Mary.

What I feel is a sense of connectedness to Mary, like we are a part of the same family. Her place in the family is different than mine, but instead of being removed from each other by thousands of years, a different language and culture, there is a sense of mutuality...that we are both about the same thing, worshipping Jesus. Instead of a simple biblical character, she is alive to me.

I had a similar feeling the first time I walked into Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral in Los Angeles, a few years before I became Catholic. The sanctuary walls have these massive, awe-inspiring tapestries of the saints facing the altar in prayer, as if they are worshipping right there with us. (A taste of the view here.) I got a shiver looking at them, and something clicked in my head. The communion of saints. They're alive, they're here praising God. We're all participating in the same act of worshipping God. I'm here on earth, they are in heaven, but Christ unites us, and we are especially joined during Mass-- Mass touches heaven as we enter into the worship that is constant there.

Honoring the saints or even asking for their intercession doesn't seem wrong because I don't believe that death separates us spiritually. (And because I've studied the theological points of the communion of saints doctrine.) Thus, I'm willing to pray the rosary, saying the same words the Angel Gabriel spoke to Mary "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!." (Luke 1:28) And the words Elizabeth spoke to Mary "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!"(1:42. These things that are not any less true now than they were then.

A Hail Mary consists of:
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is
with thee. Blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us
sinners, now and at the hour of our death.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The God of Substance

It's bread baking season again. Here in the south, turning on the oven in summer isn't a popular pastime for obvious reasons, and I'd forgotten how good homemade bread is. Honestly, the store bought sandwich bread I buy bears little resemblance to REAL bread. The plastic-bagged kind is more of an interesting scientific feat--just how DO they get it so soft?--and less of a substance one feels they could live off. I like to be able to knock on my bread and hear a hollow sound, to take a bite that doesn't instantly turn to spongy paste. It's a good thing to not be able to smash bread between canned food in my grocery bag. Thus, I find it interesting that long before Wonder Bread hit the scene, Jesus described himself to us as "the bread of life" (John 6:48). In fact, he commands us to eat him, to remember him by taking a bite of consecrated bread.

The longer I follow Jesus, the more sense he makes, and the reasons I follow him keep getting deeper and deeper. Insubstantial things in life do not have a similar effect; they wither, they don't hold up under light, they disappoint. Above all, I want my life to be one of substance. Oh Lord, keep ephemeral pursuits from being the sum total of my earthly existence!

There is nothing of more substance in the universe than God. He is the immense framework upon which it is founded, "for in him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28a). "He is before all things, and in him all things hold together" (Colossians 1:17). It makes such perfect sense that Jesus would offer us his substance- his bruised and bloodied flesh upon the cross, and feed us everlasting life with his body. And that he repeatedly extends this promise to us by offering himself in the form of bread and wine in the Eucharist. He says to us, "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you" (John 6:53).

God is substance. God is weight. God is depth. God is sense. God is light. God is strength. God is power. God is real. He feeds us what we need and ignores what we don't. I am so honored to have him call me his own.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Monday, November 5, 2007

Biological friends

I've decided it would be much easier to be a mom right now if I had two kids. At the moment, booga bear is wandering around the house in distress crying because his dad just left. It's the same way when I leave. Because we're just a family of 3, we are the center of his world and he thinks we exist to play with him all day. I like playing with him, but not all day, and if I'm not playing with him or following him around outside, he's usually pulling on me and doing his whiny cry, which escalates into his uncontrollable cry. It's really annoying.

One day a few weeks ago was particularly bad. I couldn't do anything without him trying to loudly get my attention. He was okay outside, walking around and around the apartment building, but it was raining. I thought to myself, I need another kid! Fortunately, I knew where to find one because there is another little boy who lives in our building that gets super excited every time he sees booga bear. So we knocked on his door and invited him to play, and as soon his mom left, shazam! Two happy kids. The contentedness wand was instantly waved over my house.

So, I'm pining after something I'm not going to get anytime soon: closely spaced children, a.k.a. instant playmates--and ones who don't have to coordinate schedules. I'm sure the initial transition to two kids would be hard, because newborns are a lot of work, but eventually it would work nicely. It feels vindicating to have evidence that the female body's natural tendency to supply lots of chances to have kids close together is not some sort of built-in torture mechanism, but actually provides some benefits. Why have I not heard about this before?

Saturday, November 3, 2007

preventive medicine

We're having some great fall weather here, but I'm stuck inside. My new doctor has sentenced me to no exercise because my thyroid is producing insanely high amounts of hormone, which tends to speed up the body's systems. So, hiking in the fall foliage, or even walking around our neighborhood, is apparently a bad idea because my heart rate could skyrocket. I'm taking unhealthy-person medication to lower it (just in case) which is making me feel a little weird and really cold. Of course I'm glad the problem was detected, but the whiner in me says 'why now, right in the middle of my favorite time of year?!' At least I didn't register for the 5K I was thinking of running.

Anyway, all this has made me a believer in preventive medicine. I have never, ever gone to a general physician for a check up as an adult. Or the dentist either. But this thyroid problem, coupled with some very expensive gum surgery due to brushing my teeth too hard (who knew you could brush your gums away?) has changed my mind about that. If only I had needed a cavity filled, a dentist could have pointed out that my zealous brushing was going to cost me thousands of dollars down the road...yeah, I think the check-up idea is a much better deal.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

boy in pink pants

Today I went to get coffee with booga bear in tow, and we sat outside near the street. He was very satisfied pointing out all the cars and trucks that went by and stared at a backhoe on board a truck for the whole duration of the traffic light it was waiting at. I wondered if I'd be able to do this with a girl his age. Instead of running off, he just sat and babbled about things with wheels.

Last week at the park, there was a boy of 8 or so wearing girls' pants. They were hot pink, with a little star or floral pattern, made of fitted cotton with tapered ankles. It bothered me. My eyes couldn't help but keep wandering back to this little boy, who was running around attacking slides with another boy. Possibly something happened to his pants, and it was either girls' pants or no pants. But I think the more likely scenario was that his parents didn't care what color his pants were - the group of adults he was with seemed a rather free-wheeling crowd.

I tried telling myself it was just a piece of fabric. But, it's really not. Dresses are just fabric, but try telling that to a man - see if it will convince him to put one on. Dresses aren't just fabric, they are a representation of femininity. Just like hot pink stretch pants. I guess what was really bothering me was that putting girls' pants on a boy is like telling him masculinity doesn't matter. But of course it does.

It seems so ridiculous when people talk about gender as a mere social construction. I think this was a hit idea in the 70's, but now people are leaning back towards the biological construction idea because it's been made pretty clear that the 'social constructionists' were mostly wrong. Lately, my husband has been going around singing the words to Limp Bizkit's song, 'Break Stuff': "I pack a chainsaw...I'll skin your ass raw...And if my day keeps going this way, I just might... break your *** face tonight! Give me something to break! Give me something to break!

Women don't write stuff like this! At least the majority don't. I didn't really understand the distinction between male and female until I got married. It's like living with another species entirely, and this isn't just because my husband is odd or something, it's because his brain is wired differently. In fact, everything is different! So world, do me a favor: don't try to tell me there are no differences between the sexes by dressing your sons in girl clothes, okay?

The diverse Church (Revised)

My sincere apology to anyone who was offended by the original version of this post. I wasn't trying to make unfair blanket statements about the diversity or lack of diversity in churches, and I certainly wasn't saying that Jesus is not present in Protestant churches, although unfortunately those were logical conclusions from my writing. I was trying to talk about what I've seen during my (short) experience going to Mass, and to emphasize that the Church offers a physical place to be with Jesus. Hopefully this revision more accurately reflects that.

One of the things I love about Mass is that there are usually people who look like they don't belong. The homeless come to Mass. The mentally ill and retarded. The questionably dressed. The very rich, the very poor. People of many cultures. People with a lot of faith, people with just a little; any (American) Catholic church on Easter or Christmas will be packed with people who only go to Mass a few times a year. I used to think this was a reason to condemn the Catholic faith - too many cultural Catholics, just going through the motions. But- shouldn't the church be packed with 'sinners'? Or is there another place they should be?

I can't pretend to know exactly why the Catholic Church is diverse. On an academic level, it probably has something to do with the timelessness of liturgy, that the Church is in every country, and the fact that no one can start a 'splinter' Catholic church. But on a spiritual level, it probably has to do with the fact that Jesus is present every day, all day, right there on the altar in the appearance of a bland communion wafer, as most churches continually display a blessed host for people to come and pray before. Every person who consumes the Eucharist (host, wine) experiences physical union with Christ, and even to spend time in front of the Eucharist is to be in his presence, guaranteed. So maybe the answer is just, of course the Church attracts all people - Jesus attracts all people.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Saturday, October 20, 2007

AIDS in Africa

I love reading articles on under-reported issues. Check out this piece on the relationship between AIDS in Africa and condoms, I found it insightful and progressive. It may appear unfairly biased at first glance, but read on! read on!

Friday, October 19, 2007


In a writing class I took once, the instructor advised us that if we didn't feel we had anything to write about, to just choose one moment out of all the hours we had passed that day, and to write about it. It's been a good discipline for me- not so much the writing part, but taking the time each day before I go to bed to remember just one good moment that day. This helps me live in a state of gratitude, because even on the hard days, my life is a good one.

I was driving on the freeway this morning towards a slate-gray slash of clouds banking above the mountains, admiring how the leaves looked almost as if someone had scribbled them with yellow highlighter. They were such a vivid contrast against the dark clouds, and then it started to pour and everything disappeared in the downpour. And I was thankful that I had gotten to see for just a few minutes how beautiful fall is becoming, that I had left my house the exact moment I did and was on the road during those very few minutes just before the clouds let loose.

I came home and got husband and booga bear and we started driving towards the abortion clinic we've been praying outside, but we heard a rattling noise coming from our car. We pulled over and noticed that the pin holding one of our front brake pads was coming out. Actually, we had no idea what was sticking out of our wheel, but a guy who happened to be a mechanic was walking by at that moment, and he suggested we get it towed into a shop instead of risking the drive.

It's funny how things are always working together even though we are not aware that anything is going on besides our own routine. My first thought when we saw the loose pin was to be thankful that it had not come loose while I was driving on the freeway. And then we wondered if the devil was trying to prevent us from praying by sabotaging our car, so we made sure to pray anyway as we walked home to get the other car (take that, sucker). Days like this make me thankful that I and my family are here at this specific point in time, alive and well-cared for. It is so easy for things to go wrong, but usually, a lot is going right.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Way of blessing

(Thanks to Andrea for providing the link to Danielle Bean's post, which inspired the following)

Since my last post, I've been thinking over the way children are such a beautiful example of a blessing that results from doing God's will. In the Catholic way of thinking*, one way of living according to God's will is to be open to new life within marriage. When else do we get to say "thy will be done" with such a tangible result as a new human being that becomes a permanent fixture in our lives? As I mentioned in my last post, raising kids is hard. But this is part of the blessing; I truly believe our children bring us closer to God by un-doing our selfishness.

At some point, most of us will have to decide whether or not we will consider that God might have something to say about our fertility and family size, which has drastic consequences in all directions. Many people have been called to great sacrifice in their walk with God- foregoing marriage to become a priest or nun, leaving family & security to be a missionary. However, most of us will not become a priest, nun, or missionary and 'doing God's will' can become as mundane as holding our tongues or choosing which house to rent. But, being open to having a large family (or even just one very inconvenient pregnancy, or trusting God with infertility) is a 'rock your world' decision when compared to what society tells us is desirable. Isn't it grand that God would allow the majority of humankind to face this issue? That we would have such a big reminder of where our hearts are? Yes.

*The Church recognizes there are valid reasons to prevent conception by using Natural Family Planning, but reasons to postpone children need to be brought before God in prayer to seek his will. This isn't solely a 'feel the spirit' affair - much has been written, such as: Humanae-Vitae

Monday, October 15, 2007

The parenthood 100% guarantee

I've always been mystified by Saint Paul's statement in I Timothy 2:15: "women shall be saved by childbearing". Excuse me? Does that mean if I don't bear children I'm doomed? But now that I actually am a mom, (and without having done any scholarly research on this passage), I think I know what Saint Paul was getting at. The fact is, if making it to heaven one day is related to personal holiness, then being a parent will certainly help get you there because kids are the ultimate un-doers of selfishness.

Holding your child for the first time and realizing YOU have to take care of a living, wiggling human being is mind-boggling, and actually doing it is even more so-at least sometimes. I've had moments when I would've preferred cleaning a toilet, no--thousands of toilets, to being a mom because my baby was: A) Wide awake 3 hours past his normal bedtime, B) Preferring to touch at least some part of my body all day long, C) A newborn who allowed me to sleep for no more than an hour at a time, D) All of the above, all at once. And that's not even mentioning the bigger picture of how he has turned my life upside-down.

Motherhood has given me no choice but to sacrifice-bits of selfishness have gotten burned out of me by force! I know the Lord is a gracious God, but I've felt at times that for sure He must be pointing down from heaven saying something like 'HA! HA! YOU think you're holy? Look at you, you can't even stand to have one little morning given over to someone else's needs!'

I'm pretty sure sin is rooted in selfishness. Often it is cloaked in something else, but I think the things I struggle with in life are due to my selfishness: not giving up my own time to spend in prayer=selfishness. Refusing to serve my husband=selfishness. Etc, etc. Overcoming my selfishness seems impossible, but raising booga bear has given me a darn good way to go about it. I'd like to think that I am a more compassionate person now that I have cared for a completely helpless human being, and that my response to other people tends more towards mercy than annoyance.

After 18 months, 2.5 weeks of being a mom, I 100% guarantee that parenthood will give you many, many opportunities to work on virtue. If you're looking for a way to practice being merciful and loving, have I got a plan for's like a diet from self-indulgence without the possibility of a disappointing relapse! How can you go wrong?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The media has gotten to me!

I've been watching quite a bit of TV lately, and I'm worried. After watching many car commercials, it has become readily apparent that my car does not express who I am. It seems auto makers would have everyone believe they are sadly unfulfilled if they drive a less than cool car and that the epitome of self-expression is choosing a car. In fact, the world will be irreparably confused as to who you are if you pull up in a clearly outdated piece of metal. Uh-oh.
If my car expresses who I am, then I am an unexciting, crumb-smeared, slightly dented, faded person who is not at optimal performance. And I don't even have a CD player.

Maybe I have no authority to write about this, because, let's face it, staying at home while my husband is in grad school does not create a financial picture that allows a choice of cars. We are stuck with what we have, and maybe if we did have money to spend on a car, I would go out and buy a car that's more 'me'. I must admit, I have bought into at least some of what the auto makers want me to believe, because my most irrational fear of having a nice traditional-sized Catholic family is having to buy a car that is bigger than a mini-van.

I can see it now: pulling up to the park in my 10 or even 15-passenger van, I'm ogled by a mom of two in a shiny mini-van as my children exit...and exit...and exit- 'what's this, some sort of mixed-age children's sports team? Does she run a day care or something?' The other day I saw a big 15-passenger van drive by and I could see the outlines of children's faces behind the tinted windows. I turned my head and thought I glimpsed a little bumper sticker of a saint as the van drove off, and I thought Ha! Of course!

I mean, if folks really dread the day they will have to give up their sporty, impractical car for a mini-van, it must be ten times as worse to have to buy a big, huge stretch van. Hasn't any one tapped these people on the shoulder and mentioned a little self-control could prevent this from happening? Good grief, they've become nothing but a parent! There's no elegance, no message sent by a rectangle-on-wheels other than babies! babies! babies!

Alas, I think I will have to be an old woman before I ever get to express myself by going out and buying a whole lotta more-than-I-need in a car. Till then, I must somehow make it through life by reminding myself that: I am not my car, I am not my car. Excuse me while I go and practice some mindful meditation and chant these very words...

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Ode to raindrops

I’m happy right now because... it’s raining. The following will tell you something about my personality: out of all the clothes I own, my favorite is my Columbia rain suit. We’re talking the 100% PVC jacket and pants like little kids wear…the washing instructions are ”wipe clean with a damp cloth”, but let me tell you, it represents the best $40 I ever spent on clothing. Why? Because it makes it possible to be outside in the rain and enjoy being there. Which I do, tremendously. If I didn't have booga bear to take care of right now, I’d go for a walk in the woods wearing my rain suit. The woods are at their best in the rain, when the leaves and rocks are shiny and I can run my fingers through cold, wet plants as I walk. Green is pretty, but dripping green is beautiful.

It’s October, and here in North Carolina, we’re still wearing shorts. I hate wearing shorts in October! It’s been summer for 6 months and I am ready for a change of seasons. I think non-summer weather fulfills my need for drama, for something real. Perhaps this is because I myself am quite even-tempered; I get mad, but I don’t rage. I laugh, but I’m not heard across the room. At any rate, I get bored with ‘moderate climates’- they’re pretty much the same from season to season. There’s the season where it’s pleasant outside, then it turns hot and sometimes really way too hot, then it goes back to being pleasant again. There’s some rain, you can find some freezing temperatures if you get out of bed before sunrise, but that’s about it. No drama.

As I write this, booga bear has been standing happily on a box looking out the open window at the rain, so maybe I will have some company in my love for non-sunny weather. I’m definitely going to have to get him his own 100% PVC rain suit sometime soon, so we are not stuck inside when beautiful things like rain are happening outside.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

How to keep an 18 mo.old (boy) happy

(for at least 15 minutes)

  1. Watching e-cards at
  2. Different sized spoons and the dishwasher silverware basket
  3. Doing anything outside
  4. A big, shallow container with water & a toy or two (outside or kitchen floor if you're brave)
  5. A little light that easily turns on and off (like a book light or mini-flashlight)
  6. Car spec brochures (you know, the ones you can get for FREE from any dealer)
  7. Letting him play with toys in a "fort" made of couch cushions
  8. Toy catalogs
  9. Graham crackers
  10. Graham crackers, magical graham crackers

"Why do you make me look at injustice?

Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me, there is strife, and conflict abounds." These are things the prophet Habakkuk says to the Lord in Habakkuk 1:3, which was the first reading in Mass today. I have been asking God the same things as Habakkuk.

Today's readings were tailor-made for what I've been turning over in my mind since we participated in keeping vigil outside an area abortion clinic this week. I haven't felt so understood or encouraged by scripture in quite a while -- but I'm sure that says more about my practice of reading it rather than its qualities.

I felt so disheartened watching the women and men enter the clinic, knowing what was about to happen. It was a plunge into the ugliness of the world...a world that says it is a good thing to kill an innocent human being if that being will be an inconvenience to you. I was able to pray strong prayers outside the clinic, but I have been haunted by the memory of those women. All I know of them is how long a ponytail was, or what color shirt they were wearing. are they doing after all this? And how many more tiny people are scheduled to die tomorrow?

After I came home, I didn't know if it would be good to go back. I'm not outwardly very emotional, but internally I am. While I was there, wisps of doubt come upon me- maybe the only thing I was accomplishing by being there was making the experience of the women going in more horrible than it already was. Maybe I should just pray from home so as not to disturb them, because people were definitely disturbed by our presence; spinning their tires in anger, cursing at us, covering their faces.

But today in Mass, reality set in: someone has to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves. I'm not standing there on the sidewalk to point a guilty finger at people who have come to a decision that is legal, I'm standing there on the sidewalk because so far, no one else has stood up for the other, smaller person that is also going through the doors of the clinic. If their own parents won't protect them, who will? I need to always remember today's second reading, "For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather of power and love and self-control." (2 Timothy 1:7)

Friday, October 5, 2007

40 days for life

I went to pray outside an abortion clinic today with my husband and the booga bear for the first time. I don't have it in me right now to coalesce my thoughts on that experience into an intelligent post, but I did want to take the time to point out that there is a national pro-life campaign going on NOW called 40 Days For Life.

There may not be organized activities in your city, but everyone everywhere can pray and/or fast. Please check it out:

We have wanted to get involved in the pro-life movement for a long time, and as this was our first time to actually do something, I am reminded of one of my favorite passages:

"Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it-he will be blessed in what he does" James 1:22-25

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The flowery side of pumping iron

I think I should start lifting weights more seriously- I know if I'm ever going to be a faster runner, I need some cross-training. When I was in the best shape of my life, I lifted weights 3x a week at the YMCA, and ran or did cardio on the in-between days. I'd see the same men every morning doing their routine, but I only ever saw 2 or 3 women in the weight room, period. For some reason, it's like all men just know how to lift weights- I'm fairly confident that my dad or brother could show me a thing or two, even though I can't remember actually ever being aware that they lifted weights. Now that I think about it, the reason I started lifting weights in the first place was because my husband bought me a book on weight lifting after I told him I wanted to lose some weight. I remember in college seeing weight machines for the first time and being so intimidated by them - I'd do my cardio stuff and hope that someone would hop onto one so I could see how to use it.

It's really a shame that women seem unaware of the benefits of lifting weights. Some women think they will get bigger by lifting, so they avoid it. Attention: unless you become a body-builder, you will just get leaner, not bigger. Also, lifting is the only way to change your metabolism (oh wait, I recommend breast-feeding for that also!).

Everyone knows that lean tissue burns more calories a day than fat, so adding lean tissue to your body is like doing a slow workout 24 hours a day. Despite popular belief, doing cardio does not increase muscle! Somewhere between 30 and 40, we all start losing muscle every year, so lifting weights becomes especially important then. And it's not just about staying thin, much of the slowness of movement/ declining balance that 'hits' with old age is due to all that muscle loss over if you want to get around when you're old like you did when you were young, you know what to do.

I'm fairly confident that this is accurate information, but if you know it's not, please let me know!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Not too much of a good thing

Why does it seem there are almost always more reasons not to have a child than there are to have one? In our contracepting society people have obviously decided to have children, just not very many. I think it might be because it's quite easy to quantify the cons and harder to imagine the pros of having children. At times, I have wanted to put off having more kids because I know the list of things I can't do would instantly grow very long. This bothers me because it's like I'm ignoring what a joy booga bear is (what we call the boy). Why can't it be easier to say 'you know, I'm really missing out on some contact with an adorable human with really soft skin who would love me unconditionally, make me laugh and smile everyday, never have bad breath, maybe look like me, live in my house, and whose visits when they are grown will be the highlight of my week/month/year...yes, lets have a baby!'

Humans are wired for relationship. We seek out people to relate to, we want to be understood and to be loved. But somehow, though we possess this kind of magical ability to create one of these people, we usually don't want to. It's like children don't quite count as humans, though the evidence shows otherwise. Booga bear really loves me, I mean it's completely obvious. If he spends just a little time away from me, he gets a huge smile when he sees me. He's started doing this thing lately where he sits in my lap and holds my face, smiles and says ma, ma, ma and then gives me his little baby kisses all over my face. I'm feeling really happy just thinking about it.

The other day I told him that I am very glad he came to join us in this family, because it's true. All the work and things I can't do are negated twenty-fold by all he gives back in happiness, so that instead of having a short 'pro baby' list, I have a really, really long one. I can't imagine not having him- his presence is so precious, so why would I want to miss out on having more little people like him?

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Since I became Catholic nearly a year ago,

I’ve felt overwhelmed by the amount of information I have to learn. As I wasn’t raised Catholic, I haven’t had years to digest the faith as it came at me in stages. But now, there is so much to keep track of! Saints I don’t know anything about, differences between mortal & venial sins, books of the Bible I haven’t read, strange words like scapular and remonstrance, different forms of prayer. I feel like I could study and live out the rest of my life and make hardly a dent. This has felt like a burden to me, but I recently realized that it is anything but a burden.

A long time ago, I started calling times when God gave me more than seemed possible as my ‘water from the rock’, referring to when Moses struck the rock in the desert and water gushed out for the grumbling Israelites to drink (the story found is in Numbers 20:1-13) That’s what Catholicism is to me now, my water from the rock. There is more to Jesus than I thought, there are more ways to be faithful, there is more to this story of Christianity. How can this richness be a burden? My ignorance demonstrates the absolute boundlessness of Christ, a mystery that one could only spend a lifetime pondering.

I wish I could capture in words how BIG! God is, but there's no way I can do Him justice, so I'll have to leave my description at boundless, absolutely boundless.

Friday, September 28, 2007

I have a need to run.

This week has reminded me that I feel crappy unless I get exercise almost every day- I had some oral surgery on Monday, and I’ve been stuck to the couch ever since. I was pretty happy watching TV and taking multiple naps a day, but by yesterday I felt terrible. Sometime around 2:00 I was in the middle of deciding the world is a miserable place, but then I remembered “Wait. Of course I feel awful. I haven’t gotten a drop of exercise all week.”

So I forced myself to take a walk with little blondie, a very slow walk, and this morning I went for a long run.

Especially now, living in a new place where I don’t have friends or activities to go to yet, running provides some much-needed structure to my day. More than just doing something good for my body, pushing myself hard is an accomplishment that makes me feel like I’ve done something that day. (Besides the unending job of keeping little blondie happy and healthy, which I think is pretty important)

Saturday, September 22, 2007

I cannot wait for september 22nd to be over.

Today should have been great. I went mountain biking this morning on a group ride, and I had forgotten how much fun speeding through the woods is. But I wasn't able to relax because my bike was making loud, embarrassing noises that seemed to be reverberating off the trees. I felt like a DUFUS ruining the tranquility and I was mad at myself for not getting it worked on. As I'm typing this I'm reminding myself that I must have had a good time because I did not turn around and go home when I could have several times , but it's like I don't believe I had fun anymore.

Why are there some days like this where I just completely loose perspective? On all accounts, it was a well above-average Saturday, but I'm snapping at my husband and had to drag myself through the motions of taking care of little blondie all afternoon, even though I had the morning off from the mommy gig. It's as if I have decided that I am going to be a complainer and I cannot pry myself from that perspective. Where's the Jesus living in me? I am really, really looking forward to getting in the presence of the Lord tomorrow at mass. Only 12 hours 'til I'm sitting in a pew. Yes.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Can I be an advisor to trail builders, please?

I went for a short hike up Mt Pisgah this weekend- check out these views from the top, one of the most photographed views in the south (according to trail propaganda).
Yeah. I couldn’t help but laugh when I got to the top. I wasn’t expecting a view since I’d been hiking in fog all the way up, but the fog just made it all the more ironic because the tower was the only view at the top. How happily I had packed my backpack that morning, looking forward to finally getting some blue-ridge dirt on my boots and some cool photos of the mountains. At least I got to sit on a windy piece of ancient rock and admire the fog blowing around my face, just little me and the big ‘ol tower humming away beside me. Ah, wilderness. Well, the views from the parking lot were pretty good.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Today I finally conquered the hill we live on,

at least as far as our apartment. It’s pretty easy to run on my own, but the problem is: little blondie has a down-right menacing tendency to gain 50 pounds each and every time I pop him into the jogging stroller. I think I’m switching him to skim milk sometime soon. I’ve been kind of embarrassed that I can’t make it up the hill, because it’s really not all that steep, or even long-and I have a pretty decent light-weight jogging stroller, so it should be no problem. I haven’t attempted the hill in the past week or so, but today I was reading a blog about some rock-climbing folks, and it was full of photos taken off the top of those crazy huge mountain ranges you find in Alaska, and I thought ‘curse word! what sort of elevation gain does my street have? It’s a pimple-sized hill!’ So I strapped little blondie into said stroller, and yes, he ballooned out as soon as I started up the driveway (it’s a hill, too) but I shouted ‘not today, little man!’ or at least I wanted to.

I’d never tried running down and up the hill first off, but I managed to today. This didn’t seem to really count since I’d just had coffee and I wasn’t worn out yet from the 25 other little hills that comprise my usual route (there isn’t actually anywhere flat to run around here), so I tired myself out by running the route. I arrived back at the bottom of the hill feeling done with running. I almost whimped out, but I told myself if I mentally wouldn’t let myself stop, I physically wouldn’t stop. All there is to it. To my disbelief-I’ve told myself this many, many times before with no magical result- it worked! Part of the sidewalk up the hill is behind a hedge, so if you had driven by, you probably would have thought I was walking by my speed, but no, world-that was me running all the way up the hill. Now I have this idea to buy one of those cheap plastic watches so I can start beating my time. Eventually I’ll be sprinting up that hill, just booking.