Tuesday, December 15, 2015

behind the photo

Shortly after Beatrix was born we had my amazing friends come over and take some family pictures for us. I wanted to have some professional photos of Trixie has a baby, as well as family pictures for my picture wall and for Christmas cards.

When I got the disc back and eagerly stuck it in the computer to see the pictures, my first thought was "We look AMAZING!" which I guess is why people hire professionals to take their pictures.





But it also made me laugh, because looking at those pictures you'd never guess that not 30 minutes before our photographer friends arrived we were literally cleaning poop off of almost everything in our bathroom. I'm not joking.

We had given both of the babes baths that morning so that everyone would be freshly clean and without bedhead. After Trixie's bath, while Alex was getting ready to re-diaper her, she fired one at him while he was unawares. I had my backed turned, so I didn't see it, but I heard it, and it sounded pretty high velocity. It was all over the changing table pad and all over Alex's arm, which thankfully was not in picture clothes yet.  Yes, we learned while Johnny was a baby that you don't get dressed in good clothes until babies have their diapers on.

Then it was Johnny's turn for a bath.  He did a good poop on the potty chair right before going in.  Then he pooped in the tub. Then he pooped in the towel after getting out of the tub.  Then he got his foot in it. And then he walked all over the carpet. It. Was. Awesome.

By the time we had everything and everyone sufficiently sterilized I had about 4 minutes to get myself ready.  I half blow-dried my hair, frantically put on some make-up, and then was running around looking for my Spanx because, you know, 3 weeks postpartum.  And I could not find them anywhere! I knew that I had 2 pairs, I knew exactly where I had last seen them, and they were no where to be found.  I still haven't found them.  It's a complete mystery. So I was fuming and stomping around trying to come up with a plan B.



But the pictures don't show you any of that. The pictures show you two fairly put together parents being all googly-eyed over their cute kids who don't look at all like they could have just fouled up a bathroom, or do any of the other inconvenient or annoying things that regularly happen around here.

Well, except for this one. Johnny looks pretty capable of naughtiness in this picture.


But it got me thinking about the over-saturation of our social media networks with beautifully curated, perfectly posed pictures. Sometimes it seems unrealistic and disingenuous. Because we all know that  life is far from perfect. I'm guilty of it too. I tend to only post pictures of myself after I've put on my make up, or the corners of my house that I've managed to keep tidy. It doesn't mean my life perfect though. It just means that all the messy stuff, well, I tend to keep that to myself. 

So why do I do it? I certainly hope it's not to dupe you into thinking my life is beautiful. 

But wait, my life IS beautiful! Maybe I'm the one who needs to be reminded of that.


I'm glad my pictures are beautiful. I'm glad I have an Instagram feed full of tranquil moments and super cute pictures of my kids. That way when the going gets tough (which you know it does. Often.) I have over 700 (yikes!) photos to remind how beautiful life- my life- is! It's amazing.  My children and my husband are amazing! They're the greatest things that have ever happened to me. They are enlarging my heart, teaching me virtues, and preparing me for heaven. 

 I just love those little poop machines. 



//

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Saturday, December 12, 2015

it's been two months


It's been two months. Two months of Trixie. Two months of Johnny being a big brother. Two months of parenting two kids.

And, well, it's been hard.

Most days I usually have a few hours where things are going well and I think, I can do this, it's not so bad. But then both kids are crying at the same time, or Johnny is waking up the baby, or climbing on the counters to help himself to cookies, or coloring on the walls and furniture with (thankfully washable) markers. And then I reach the end of the day I am exhausted, and Trixie is fussy, she won't nurse to sleep, and I just want to go to bed, but I can't until the baby does. Alex is usually the one who can get her to sleep, but I feel guilty whenever I need his help because I know he needs to be studying.

That's been the hardest, feeling like I don't have a partner. I do,  I know I do, but the guilt that comes whenever I have to interrupt him.  It's kind of like the guilt he feels for not being able to help that much.  So we both feel guilty all the time.

Right now both of my babies are asleep and I feel like I can do this.

But this morning it was a different story. I had not been up one hour before Johnny had restarted the clean laundry in the washer. Then I spilled apple juice all over the kitchen counter while trying to pour with one hand while holding Trixie in the other.  Then Johnny had major diarrhea and while I was changing him, he dropped the package of wipes in the opened dirty diaper. All this and no time yet to make a cup of coffee or have some breakfast. I wonder how I will make it through the next 8 hours until Alex gets home.

It's hard.

When I ask my mom if it was hard being home with young kids all those years she doesn't seem to remember any tough stuff. Either we were all wonderful babies and toddlers who slept like angels and never got into mischief, or she's choosing to only remember the good stuff.  "It may be hard now, but some day you'll look back on this time with fondness", she says to me. Sometimes I get annoyed that she doesn't have clear memories of me being a little terror, because I want the empathy. But when I think about it, it would be nice to only remember the good stuff.

To look back on all these days I spent with my babies and only remember how Johnny loves to give Trixie kisses, and the way he puffs up  his cheeks when he puckers his lips. Or how first thing in the morning Johnny runs into our room to climb on the bed and cuddle his baby sister.



I'd like to remember the way it felt to see Johnny swaddle his stuffed zebra the way we swaddle Trixie, and then hold it gentle to his chest and pat it's back. That feeling that my heart would literally burst out of my chest it swelled with so much love.

And Trixie, I'd like to remember the fierce, hungry face she makes right before nursing. And the way she stretches out her arms and hands like she's conducting a symphony. And the sweet sound of her littles coos and gurgles.


And instead of remembering the guilt I felt all the nights I needed Alex's help to get Trixie to sleep I'd like to remember how sweet it is to see my husband reclined on the couch with his tiny daughter curled up on his chest.

I know - because everyone keeps telling me - that it's so fleeting, this time when they are small. It's going to go by so fast.

This is what I have to remember.


//

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Wednesday, December 2, 2015

postpartum glory


Being postpartum is such a special time. Your body has just been through major trauma. Your hormones are on a doozy of a roller coaster ride. You're getting zero sleep. Your tight-as -a-drum fundus has deflated to saggy remnant of abdominals with a cavernous bellybutton. Your clothes all fit weird. And your family are saying things like "if you were a wash cycle, you would be delicate." (True story. To which I replied, "just wait until it's your turn, little sister. )

 I'm a little farther out now, (though I still have some weepy days [hello yesterday]), and for the most part I can laugh about it. But when you're in the thick of all that postpartum glory it is so far from funny.

Like when you take your five-day-old baby to Target, trying to find some nursing bras that work. And none of them do. Then the check out person tells you your baby is so cute, then points to your stomach and asks if you're having another. Um...no! She was born five days ago!

You wear nothing but pajamas and look like a zombie for two weeks straight. 

You can finally sleep on your stomach again. For about two days. Then your milk comes in.

Then, Gap is having a really good online sale so you decide to treat yourself to some new underwear, because pregnancy = stretched out underwear. But when your order comes you realize that instead of ordering 5 for $27 you accidentally ordered 1 for $12.95. And then you cry like a little girl. 

Your toddler is trying to use your peri-bottle and sanitary products. 

You look in the mirror and think your belly is quite a bit smaller and then step on the scale and see that you still have 30 lbs of baby weight to lose.

Pants. Just all pants. 

Crying during Gilmore Girls when Rory says "because I love you, you idiot!" 

Crying at Trader Joe's because your license was expired and they wouldn't let you have a wine sample. 

Just a lot of crying.

But it's not forever. And until it stops there's ice cream. And Netflix. And red wine.


//
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Friday, November 27, 2015

7 quick takes vol. 20: stuff i'm digging right now

It's been a while since I've done a quick takes. There hasn't been much going on over here besides bouncing babies, watching Curious George: A Halloween Boo Fest for the thousandth time, and enjoying the boxed Cabernet that Trader Joe's is now carrying. Yeah, we're real fancy.  Here are a few things that I've been digging lately, either in between, or while nursing my baby. Oh, and head on over to This Ain't the Lyceum for more quick takes.

//1//

Kidizen: It's an online children's consignment shop. And I love it! You create an account and either sell your own kids clothes, or buy other peoples gently used clothes. I've found so many good deals on name brands for both of my kids.  In fact, it's turned into kind of a game for me; how many Hanna Anderson jammies can I find? It's gotten a little out of hand


It's only available as a smartphone app, which it great because you can shop from your phone, but it's also really dangerous.....because you can shop from your phone. 

//2//

I know everyone's talking about Adele and I love her and her recent release, and all the sketches that have resulted from it. But I can't get enough of the new Glen Hansard album: Didn't He Ramble. I used to be really into music, but I can't seem to keep up with it anymore. So it's pretty remarkable that I was even aware of two new records coming out. But I was, and this one is amazing.



//3//

I've been re-reading Harry Potter and oh my, it has me crying like a baby. 
"Go on, have a pasty" said Harry, who had never had anything to share before or, indeed, any one to share with. It was a nice feeling. 
She was a very pretty woman. She had dark red hair, and her eyes - "her eyes are just like mine", Harry thought, edging a little closer to the glass. Bright green - exactly the same shape, but then he noticed that she was crying, smiling, but crying at the same time. The tall, thin, black-haired man standing next to her put his arm around her. He wore glasses, and his hair was very untidy. It stuck up at the back, just as Harry's did....Harry was looking at his family, for the first time in his life. 
Your mother died to save you. If there is one thing Voldemort cannot understand, it is love. He didn't realize that love as powerful as your mother's for you leaves its own mark. Not a scar, no visible sign...to have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever. It is in your very skin.....Dumbledore now became very interested in a bird out on the windowsill, which gave Harry time to dry his eyes on the sheet. 
So sweet, so delightful. I just can't say it enough. 

//4// 


I participated in a blog hop last week called Home To Me, all about the concept of home and where or in what/whom we find that.  It was a delightful blog hop that just wrapped up on Thanksgiving.  All the posts were really sweet and inspiring, so you should check them out. 

//5//


And I'm participating in another series of guest postings over the next few months at Captive the Heart. This one's full of advice for soon to be brides from those of us who have been there and done that. So if you or someone you know needs that, you know where to look. 

//6//

Looking to support some small businesses whilst doing your Christmas shopping this year? Well, you should check out these Etsy shops. Whole Parenting Goods where you can find super cute handmade baby leggings and baby bonnets. Hatch Prints, beautiful wall art with inspirational quotes. Interior Castle Goods, amazing kid sized vestments for playing Mass. G. Sheller, the most beautiful hand-dyed yarn. 

//7//

Alex and I have never watched Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. I cannot even tell what channel, or what time it is on. But we love to watch the extra funny clips that people post on Facebook.  This has been a favorite that we watch over and over and keep laughing about and singing around the house. So I hope it makes you laugh and I hope you have a restful holiday weekend. 


//

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Thursday, November 19, 2015

what i can do

It's been a tough week.

Trixie, who in the first couple weeks of her life gave us the impression that she was an easy baby who slept at night and would take naps in the bassinet during the day, has followed in the footsteps of her brother in being a demanding baby. Although it's a different kind of demanding. Instead of needing to nurse nonstop (which was Johnny's MO, leaving me totally touched out) Trixie will not fall asleep nursing and needs to be bounced to sleep. Sometimes for a very long time. Upside: it's impossible for me to just be a lump on the couch all day long, I'm forced to get a little exercise with all that bouncing.  Downside: I have to bounce a baby to sleep multiple times a day.

She's also been waking up at 4:00 am like clock work for the last week, not fussy, not hungry, just wide awake with no intention of going to sleep again. Not cool Trixie, not cool.  Especially since by the time we get her back down it's usually only an hour until Alex's 6:30 alarm for school goes off.

But I guess that's why they invented coffee.

School is really ramping up for Alex now. Four weeks from today the semester will be over, but getting to that point is not going to be pretty. I didn't think he could spend any more time studying than he already has been, but, I was wrong. He just needs to be studying all the time, which puts me on solo parenting duty all the time.  Really the work of caring for two children is not that bad, it just gets lonely. I miss the company of grown-ups. Especially my favorite grown-up.

Then to add to the already stressful and sleep deprived state of things, Johnny got sick this week.  He actually is very sweet when he gets sick, he just likes to sit and cuddle.  But now that I have two babies and only one lap, it makes it hard to give both kiddos the snuggles they need and deserve. Also, both of my kids pooped through their pj's today. We are all (including me) on our second outfit for today. I'm pretty used to dealing with poop by now, but that.....that was a lot of poop.

So this is where I'm at right now. A lot of wiping butts and keeping people fed, the radio or group texts as my only window to the outside.  My tendency is to feel bad for myself, and think that life is not fair. I find myself becoming envious of people who get to put on make-up every morning and drop their kids off at day care and then go work with other adults. It sounds so glamorous (as the smell of dirty diapers still lingers in my nostrils.) My life is so hard. being stuck here, in my home. with my children, it's so hard.

Then I saw this link, to a buzzfeed of all things, on Facebook and it broke my heart, shattered my self centeredness, and gave me an entirely new perspective on my situation as a stay-at-home mom.


I get to spend an entire day safe in my own home, while other parents are taking their kids and fleeing their homes and everything familiar. Literally carrying their kids across countries.

I ate my lunch today with both of my kids in my lap, while other parents are scavenging the country side trying to put a meal together.

I got to lay down in my baby's bed with him last night and watch him fall asleep on his pillow, while other parents offer their laps as pillows on make shift beds of cardboard or concrete.

I can't even image.


When I was in high school and college I was so passionate about serving the under-served. But motherhood has made any kind of service, missions, or outreach almost impossible. I struggle to even remember the sufferings of those less fortunate in light of my own "problems".

Why can I not be more mindful? I know there's not a lot I can do but being mindful, being prayerful, that's something I can do. Offering up the stresses I face today as a parent for parents who are trying to care for their children in crisis situations is something I can do.  Every dirty diaper and poop explosion, I offer for them. Every toddler tantrum and sleepless night with a new born, I offer for them. Feelings of loneliness when my husband is at school or studying, I offer for them.

Jesus, be their comfort, peace and protection, and hold them in your Scared Heart, even as they hold dearly to their own children.

//

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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

home to me


//

What is home? It's four walls and a ceiling. It's the address your mail gets delivered to. It's a place to hang your hat and lay your head at night.

But it's more than that.

It's the personal touches, the iconography, that make it not only a house, but a home. The paint colors, the wall art, the books in your book cases. These things don't happen overnight; it takes time to make a house a home.

When my husband I bought our house 6 years ago (10 days before our wedding!) we had a $20 couch from Craigslist, a coffee table from Ikea, and a mattress from Sam's Club. The walls were bare, the floors were cold, and the cupboards were empty.

Now our couches are better (though some are still Craigslist finds), our walls have color, there are rugs and lamps and bookcases, every room tells you who we are. When you enter our home you see a picture of the Virgin Mary, a Sacred Heart holy water font, and our family collage wall with wedding photos of our grandparents, parents, and us. And then pictures of our own little family. The minute you walk in our door you get a pretty good idea of  what's important to us. Home is a reflection of who we are.

But it's more than that.

Home is all the memories of things that happened here. This is the place we came home to after our honeymoon.  It's where we brought our children home from the hospital. We've seen positive (and negative) pregnancy tests here, we've gotten grad school acceptance letters here, we've had string quartets rehearsals, baby showers, and New Year's Eve parties here. This is where we plant our garden every spring and shovel mountains of snow every winter. Home is where life happens.

But it's more than that.


More than all the things hanging on our walls, or the events that have taken place within them.

Home, to me, is the people who fill my house, and my life.

Home is being with my parents and having them make me a latte in my favorite mug, or taking an after dinner walk.

Home is listening to my grandparents tell stories from "the old days."

Home is swapping clothes with my sister, and making jokes with my brothers.

Home is my friends who I don't have to put make-up on for, I don't care if my house is a mess for them, and I don't mind serving them my left overs. Home is sharing in each other's joys and sorrows, and watching our children play and grow up together.

More than anyone else, home is being with my husband. A relaxing morning drinking coffee together, or staying up way too late watching Netflix would be some of my favorite scenes of home. But even cleaning up the kitchen, or bouncing a fussy baby are more enjoyable when he's around. Where ever I am, and whatever I'm doing, if I'm with him and our two babies, then I am home.


But even more than that.

Home is the little space allotted to me by God to, for a short time, bring heaven to earth. This is where we live our vocations, sowing peace, ministering love, cultivating life. Home is where we do that, until we are called to our eternal home.

//

 This post is part of the “Home to Me” blog hop, hosted by Julie Walsh of These Walls. During the two weeks from Friday, November 13 through Thanksgiving Day, more than a dozen bloggers will share about what the concept of “home” means to them. “Home” can been elusive or steady. It can be found in unexpected places. It is sought and cherished and mourned. It is wrapped up in the people we love. As we turn our minds and hearts toward home at the beginning of this holiday season, please visit the following blogs to explore where/what/who is “Home to Me.”

November 13 – Julie @ These Walls 
November 14 – Leslie @ Life in Every Limb 
November 15 – Ashley @ Narrative Heiress 
November 16 – Rita @ Open Window 
November 17 – Svenja, guest posting @ These Walls 
November 18 – Anna @ The Heart’s Overflow 
November 19 – Debbie @ Saints 365 
November 20 – Melissa @ Stories My Children Are Tired of Hearing 
November 21 – Amanda @ In Earthen Vessels 
November 22 – Daja and Kristina @ The Provision Room 
November 23 – Emily @ Raising Barnes 
November 24 – Annie @ Catholic Wife, Catholic Life 
November 25 – Nell @ Whole Parenting Family 
November 26 – Geena @ Love the Harringtons

//

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Monday, November 9, 2015

Not a Cradle Catholic Vol. 4


Thanks for coming back for the final installment of Not a Cradle Catholic, where it's all about those of us who are NOT cradle Catholics. Why did we join up? What have we learned? Why is our perspective unique? Thanks for following along. Whatever your background, maybe there's something you can learn from us.

//

Rakhi is a Catholic wife and mother who works outside the home part-time while trying to keep up with her husband, two (soon to be three) young children, and cat full-time. She is a convert from Hinduism and spent many years working in young adult and campus ministry. Rakhi’s blog and artwork can be found at rakhimccormick.com, where her mission is to share the love of Christ with the world. You can also find her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.


How long have you been a Catholic?

This Easter will be my 20th anniversary of coming into the Church.

What were you before?

I was raised Hindu, but with all the activities of high school and college, was not exactly practicing the faith at the time I began seeking conversion.

What was your main motivation for entering the Catholic Church?

The very basic answer is that I was invited. The longer answer is that I was seeking answers to some deeper questions after a rather embarrassing stint with alcohol poisoning: what was God's purpose for my life, who was Jesus and why would someone pray for me. I also had (and still have) a woundedness that seeks belonging - I never felt like I fit anywhere, and was desperately looking for somewhere to belong. At the end of the day, what led me to enter the Church was the invitation and the Eucharist.

Which Church teachings were easy to accept and which were stumbling blocks?

Most of the moral teachings of the Church were simple to understand and accept for me. Being raised Hindu, I had most of the same basic principles of morality instilled in me already. Marriage is forever, sex is for marriage, etc. I will say that as I went through my college years, the teachings around homosexuality began to become difficult to reconcile. In the end, I think it wasn't so much the teachings themselves, but the way in which they were expressed. So often there was so little love in the tone of those who spoke out against homosexuality or homosexual persons. I still have some of those problems today, though I have no problem accepting the Church's teaching.

Is there anything you miss from your pre-Catholic days?

Perhaps because I did not convert from a Protestant background, I cannot truly think of one thing that I miss.

Is there anything you really do NOT miss?

Instead of thinking of it as something I don't miss, I can say that one thing I am so thankful for in being Catholic is always having a home to go to, no matter where I am. I know that if I find a Catholic church anywhere in the world, Jesus is waiting for me in the tabernacle. I know that the Mass will relatively be the same. That ability to feel at home anywhere is such a wonderful feeling.

In what ways (if any) has your relationship with Jesus changed since becoming Catholic?

Well, I have a relationship with Jesus, where I didn't before.

What do you think Catholics can learn from our protestant brothers and sisters?

While I didn't come from a Protestant background, I do think that the one frustration I have had in being Catholic is the resistance so many have to go out of their comfort zone . . . myself included many days. I wish we lived our lives more completely in mission mode. This is the beauty that Pope Francis is bringing to us, I think. He is reminding us that it isn't all about the rules and the internal workings of the Church, that the Church isn't a club we belong to, but a vehicle to bring people into relationship with Jesus no matter what "level" they are at in the present. I wish as a whole (while there are so many in the Church who do this well), people saw us as a place to go in the midst of their pain and their failures.

Biggest misconception non-Catholics have about Catholics?

I think there are several that I run across. One is of course that we worship Mary and the Saints (when in fact we venerate and ask their intercession, but worship remains for God alone). Another big misconception, and I think our focus on the rules is a reason behind it, is that we believe we earn our way to heaven through our good works - that we are works based not grace based.

Favorite saint and saint quote?

Oh...I hate choosing favorites, especially the Saints! If I HAD to pick one, those who read my blog will know that Blessed Teresa of Calcutta is my home girl. My birthday is her feast day, she worked with my people, and we just have a special bond that I cannot quite explain.

My favorite quote of hers is as hard as picking a favorite saint! As I am typing this, I am drawn to

  "Do ordinary things with extraordinary love." 

//

JoAnna has been a Catholic working mother for over 10 years. She and her husband have five children here on earth – ages 10, 7, 5, 3, and 1 – plus three saints in heaven. She's worked full-time during all of her pregnancies, and returned to work within 6-8 weeks of each birth, so she is intimately familiar with the joys and challenges of this hectic lifestyle. Find her blogging at The Catholic Working Mother.


How long have you been a Catholic?

Since May 29, 2003 (12 years)

What were you before?

ELCA Lutheran (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America)

What was your main motivation for entering the Catholic Church?

My husband become convinced of the truth of Catholicism and told me he wanted to convert. I was adamantly against it but decided to go through RCIA with him just to learn more.

Which Church teachings were easy to accept and which were stumbling blocks?

The biggest issues were sola scriptura and papal authority. Once I resolved those, everything else fell into place.

 Is there anything you miss from your pre-Catholic days?

I miss the fellowship with my family (my conversion has caused some awkwardness and distance), and being able to go to weddings without worrying if they are presumptively valid or invalid.

Is there anything you really do NOT miss?

Belonging to a church that changes teachings according to cultural popularity as opposed to Truth

 In what ways (if any) has your relationship with Jesus changed since becoming Catholic?

I definitely have a much closer relationship with Christ since I joined His Church. The Eucharist is amazing, and so is Reconciliation.

 What do you think Catholics can learn from our protestant brothers and sisters?

I think some other denominations do an excellent job of fostering a true community in their individual churches, and the Catholic Church would do well to emulate that.

Biggest misconception non-Catholics have about Catholics?

That we worship the Pope and/or Mary.



Favorite saint and saint quote?

"The secret of happiness is to live moment by moment and to thank God for what He is sending us every day in His goodness." - St. Gianna Beretta Molla

//


Allison a Catholic convert, wife to Chris, and momma to three adorable little ginger girls. She is a semi-SAHM with her own business making custom rosaries (Rosaries by Allison). She is a coffee addict, ITP patient, lover of naps, bookworm when she has time, occasional Netflix binger, chocolate nibbler, and skilled crock-potter. She is a veteran champion Highland dancer and a former fastpitch softball catcher. Hibernophile. And sometimes sarcastic. Find her blogging at The Coffee Catholic.


How long have you been a Catholic?

Since Easter 2013

What were you before?

Protestant…sort of an evangelical/non-denom with Southern Baptist roots. And I was baptized Presbyterian as a baby.

What was your main motivation for entering the Catholic Church?

TRUTH! And reverence. History. Completeness. Beauty.

Which Church teachings were easy to accept and which were stumbling blocks?

I honestly can’t think of anything that was a stumbling block. I was ready to jump fully in, because I was so tired of wondering why there are so many different Protestant denominations.

Is there anything you miss from your pre-Catholic days?

The passionate people who love Jesus and are excited to serve Him.

Is there anything you really do NOT miss?

Irreverence. Catholic-bashing. The worship “band”. Forced participation.

In what ways (if any) has your relationship with Jesus changed since becoming Catholic?

Coupled with my diagnosis of ITP in August 2013, I have relied a lot more on Him to help me through situations, especially regarding my health. There is nothing I can do, so I have to trust in His plan for my life every day. I can also dive deeper into His Passion and understand it more now that I’m Catholic (and an ITP patient). Having a structured Liturgical year helps me to appreciate the entire life of Jesus.

What do you think Catholics can learn from our protestant brothers and sisters?

Love for the Bible. Emphasis on a relationship with Christ, not just “membership.”

Biggest misconception non-Catholics have about Catholics?

“They worship Mary and idols” “They’re not actually Christians”

Favorite saint and saint quote?

“Thou hast made us for Thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.” 
-St. Augustine

//

Shannon Evans is a Protestant missionary turned Catholic convert who lived to tell the tale.  An adoptive and biological mom of two boys, she enjoys hosing mud off children, scrubbing sticky furniture, and rushing to the ER to have nails extracted from small intestines.  You can find her blogging at We, A Great Parade or on Instagram


How long have you been a Catholic?

I joined the church Easter 2014, along with my husband.

What were you before?

 I was raised Baptist, but for the decade before converting I was a nondenominational charismatic Protestant.  My husband and I were actually overseas missionaries for almost 2 years.

What was your main motivation for entering the Catholic Church?

For me it was the compilation of so many different attractions: the tie to the historical church, the unity of theology (different than the many different views within Protestantism), the social teachings of the church, theology of the body/sexuality, theology of suffering, salvation not being a "one time" thing, and on and on.  So many different things!  It was also significant that my husband and I were making this huge spiritual decision together that was so different than everything we knew.  It was a really sweet, unifying thing for us.  We didn't even have any Catholic friends at the time!

Which Church teachings were easy to accept and which were stumbling blocks?

I immediately loved the teaching on sexuality, contraception, homosexuality, etc.  I couldn't believe how rich and deep the theology behind it was, and it was the first time I felt anyone had ever offered a holisitc lens through which to see our bodies.  The requirements of mass and the Sacraments were easy to accept, as well as the other things I mentioned above.

The representation of Catholics who are prone to overemphasize Mary and under-emphasize Jesus was a put-off to me initially, but was really quickly put out of my mind when I read the Catechism of the Catholic Church and talked to/read other Catholics who agreed this was a problem.  Some of the doctrine regarding Mary (perpetual virginity, assumption) was a challenge because it is "extra" from what is written in the Bible and I was always taught that the Bible has the final say.  In the end I felt comfortable because of early historical writings that seemed to confirm that they were long-held beliefs.  And maybe this sounds terrible, but I kind of figured that if I get to heaven and discover that some of it was a little "off", Jesus wouldn't mind anyway.

Is there anything you miss from your pre-Catholic days?

I miss feeling like I fully belong in a religious circle.  As it is now, I still connect deeply to Protestant vernacular and much of the Catholic culture still feels foreign to me.  And I wonder if it always will.  But at the same time I can no longer feel truly connected to the Protestant circle either because my theology is Catholic now, so slightly different in some ways- especially from the nondenominational circle I came from.

Is there anything you really do NOT miss?

I don't miss the pressure to lead people in "the sinner's prayer", but again that's indicative of my personal experience and not every Protestant denomination.  I don't miss the emphasis on praying for healing that prevails in the charismatic circles.  Not that I don't still pray for healing! I do.  But I appreciate that Catholicism understands that God works powerfully through suffering too.  I never used to hear much at all about that.

In what ways (if any) has your relationship with Jesus changed since becoming Catholic?

It has become more about Him and less about me.  In the past, I felt a lot of pressure to do certain things (evangelize, pray for the sick or injured, spend a certain amount of time in prayer every day, fast, "feel" an encounter with God in worship settings, etc) so it felt like our relationship was all my responsibility.  I still believe in those things but for me they are much more Christ-led rather than self-led now.

What do you think Catholics can learn from our protestant brothers and sisters?

There is a lot to learn about having a personal relationship with Jesus, rather than it being only something that we do as a group.  Many Catholics aren't comfortable forming their own words in prayer out loud, especially before a group.  We can learn from Protestants there.  We can also take their example of evangelism, doing it in a way that feels natural and personal to us.

Biggest misconception non-Catholics have about Catholics?

In my experience the biggest misconception is that we worship Mary.  I'm happy to say that once I scratched the surface of Catholicism, I immediately found that was false.

Favorite saint and saint quote?

St. Therese of Lisieux is my patron saint, but I have a lot of favorites.  One quote of hers that I like is:

 "Our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, not even at their difficulty, but at the love with which we do them."

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Thursday, November 5, 2015

birth story: beatrix margaret

Why another birth story? People are always sharing birth stories. How much variation can there be? A woman goes into labor, there is some agony and travail, and then, there's a new baby. That's the story more or less, so why should I share this one?

All great life events change us. I am a different person than the one I was in high school, and the one I was in college. Meeting Alex and becoming his wife has changed me, becoming a mother and all the stuff we went through during Johnny's first year of life has changed me.  Life is not stagnant, it is constant flux and motion. And the never-ending circus ride of it all has me changing, growing, maybe even transforming, over and over and over. 

When our daughter entered the world she changed me again, and she changed our family forever. We will never be the same because of her. That's what I want to share with you - yet another transformation. 

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Waking up from a contraction at 1:30 in the morning was not enough to get me excited. I had had a couple contractions almost every night for the past week and they all went no where and amounted to nothing. Over the next half hour a couple more contractions woke me up again and piqued my interest a little, but I was trying not to get my hopes up. Several minutes later another contraction came and something weird happened that I can only describe as feeling like a water balloon being squeezed. And then I felt a trickle. Now I was wide awake! I went to the bathroom without waking Alex, and the next thing I knew there was a puddle on the floor. My waters! I woke up Alex to get a second opinion, we called the midwife, and then started timing contractions waiting for them to pick up. 

During the next couple hours we timed contractions.  We were on the phone a few times with the midwife and my doula. I tried to eat a bowl of cereal but was too nervous. I took a shower. We brushed our teeth. Alex packed a few last minute things in our bag. We called my parents and they came over. Johnny slept through everything (silver lining of having a child with a hearing loss). By the time my parents arrived contractions were three to four minutes apart. My mom was getting nervous and thought we should get going. So we did. 

It was around 4:30 in the morning. We saw hardly any other cars as we drove to the hospital.  We got all green lights. There was no comfortable way to handle contractions in the car so I was thankful for a quick drive. 

The parking garage at the hospital was under construction and we couldn't figure out how to get from parking into the hospital, even though I had been on a tour just a few week before and they went over this very thing in great detail. We were wandering around, walking was becoming more and more difficult, I was beginning to think I might die, then a staff person from food services was exiting through a locked door and let us in. She even brought me a wheel chair. What a life saver! I was too distracted to bless her at the time, but I will say it now. God bless you, dear hospital employee! 

We got into triage and my midwife was there all scrubbed up. I was so grateful that she didn't insist on a urine sample because the thought of sitting on the toilet was unbearable. They strapped on the monitors and checked that my waters had indeed ruptured. I felt like we had been at the hospital for hours (though it had only been a few minutes) before my midwife finally checked me. 

"Do you want to know?" she asked.

I hesitated. Being stalled out at 3 cm with Johnny had been incredibly frustrating. Maybe I didn't want to know. But then my type A personality kicked in. 

"Yes"

"6..." with her hand still down there "...no wait, 7 cm."

Alex and I looked at each other and smiled. Things were already going better than last time. 

Everything from here on out is kind of a blur, and I think it's because I was transitioning. My midwife kept asking how my room was coming along, contractions were becoming pretty intense. Then our doula arrived and instantly went to work on my lower back.

LADIES: if you haven't used a doula before, I highly recommend one. Our doula was amazing. She knew exactly what to do to help me through contractions, leaving Alex totally free to hold my hands and just be emotional support for me. It sounds cliche, but I seriously don't think we could have done it without her. Get thyself a doula! 

A quick wheel chair ride brought me to my room, where I labored leaning over the bed while I waited for the tub to be filled. My doula waved some lavender essential oils in front of my face to help me relax and told me to sway my hips, because I was locking my knees and my legs were starting to shake. I had to sit on the toilet before getting in the tub, I don't even remember why, probably to empty my bladder. It was horrible and I hated it. But my reward was that when I was done I got to get in that big old tub filled with warm water.

The water felt amazing. I was actually able to relax. The contractions even eased up a bit. I was afraid labor was slowing down and that I would have to get out of the beautiful water. But then a big contraction came, and with it came pressure and this feeling like everything in my body was shooting down. The midwife asked me if I felt kind of pushy on that one. I said yes, and she said she could hear it in my voice. 

"Just listen to your body, if you feel like pushing, go ahead."

This was weird for me. I thought I needed permission to push. I thought there would be more of an official pushing start time. I thought she would check me and say "fully dilated, now you can start pushing."  But everyone was listening to me, and I was listening to my body. 

Do you ever picture your birth happening the way it might happen in a TV show? I'm thinking of birth scenes from Parenthood. There's a nice song playing in the background. You see pain on the mother's face but all you hear is the nice song, and before the song is over the baby is out. During this birth it was silent. I remember noticing how incredibly silent it was. Until a contraction came, then the room was filled with the sound of me pushing. It was one of those low, primal groans that I had read about but never pictured myself making. 

And then everyone kind of pulled back, unlike earlier when everyone was touching me, applying counter pressure and massage, holding my hands, stroking my forehead. Without any direction or any spoken word, everyone stopped. This was work I had to do on my own. In between pushes my doula put cold wash clothes on my neck and forehead, and Alex gave me sips of water, the only assistance I had during this time. I heard the midwife ask a nurse to re-tape the plastic around her sleeve. I saw her leaning over the opposite side of the tub, just waiting. My doula told me to keep my voice low. I saw Alex sneak away to take off his t-shirt and then put his zipper hoodie back on and I knew it was because he was getting ready to do skin to skin. I just kept working.

It felt like I had been pushing for hours, (I learned later it was only 20 minutes total.) I remember just wanting someone to sit on my belly to push the baby out. I asked the midwife when it would be over. She checked me again, (the only other time) and said the baby's head was about 2 inches from being born. Knowing the end was near helped a lot and motivated my pushing. I don't remember how many pushes it took, but finally her head crowned. It was the worst feeling in the world, but then her head came out and I felt like I was in heaven. I thought I was done. "Keep pushing!" "I can't..." "Yes you can!" So I did. Another contraction came, and she was born. Lifted out of the water and onto my chest. I heard myself saying "Thank you Jesus!" because our baby was here, but mostly because I was done pushing. 

But she was here! On my chest, kind of purple, becoming pink, covered in vernix, and then she started crying and it hit me that she was here, and I have a daughter. 

Beatrix Margaret, born after 6 (only 6!!) hours of labor. 8 lbs 15 oz, 21 inches long. She's beautiful and healthy, and latched on to nurse right away and then snuggled like the best snuggler. 












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Even though this delivery went way better (and waaaay faster) than Johnny's, I still felt a little traumatized afterwards. Pushing had been really hard. I kept having flashbacks of what that pain was like. I had a lot of "I will never do this again" kind of thoughts. Several hours after she was born, and I had eaten something, and had regained a little strength from all my blood loss, I grabbed my phone and pulled up the classical playlist I had made for laboring, but that we had not used. I played one of my favorite choral pieces, a setting of Ave Maria by Franz Biebl, and the three of us, Alex, Trixie, and myself sat and listened. I thought about the birth and how it brought me my daughter.  I thought about the Mother of our Lord, she was a mother, just like me. My mind and spirit began to heal. And I like that that song was the first piece of music Trixie heard, this side of the womb.


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keep in touch!

   

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