Monday, September 29, 2014

// C O N V E R S I O N p t 3 //

This post will not make much sense unless you have read this post and this post first. 

Are you all caught up? Ok, great. 

Inside Notra Dame Cathedral- Paris, France.

Spring brings new life, flowers, bird songs, and proposals. Alex proposed to me in April of 2009. We decided we wanted to get married that coming fall, and I knew that I wanted to be Catholic before we were married. About a month before our wedding, in our home parish, I was received into the fullness of the Catholic Church with the sacrament of confirmation, and I received the Eucharist for the very first time. My parents as well as Alex's were there. And Alex was my confirmation sponsor.

As I stood at the front of that church I thought about all the times growing up at camp that I "came forward" to accept Jesus. There were butterflies, tears, and lots of hugs from friends afterwards. This was nothing like that. I waited for butterflies  but my stomach was calm. I blinked hard, thinking that if I could shed a couple of tears that would be proof that the Holy Spirit was indeed working in me. But my eyes remained dry. There were no emotions to ride. But there was peace. A deep, quiet peace.

Our priest asked me if I believed in God the Father, Jesus Christ His Son, and the Holy Spirit. And if I renounced Satan and all of his ways. And to each of these I answered yes.  Then he asked me if I believed in the teachings of the Catholic Church and held them to be true. Although I had made the decision to become Catholic months before, this was a question I would not have been able to answer "yes" to until just a few weeks before. In the grand scheme of things, my beliefs really weren't changing at all. The faith that had been handed to me by my parents shared all the main pillars of the Catholic faith: the Trinity, the divinity of Jesus Christ, and the salvation we have through Him. But there were many teachings of the Catholic Church that, for the majority of my life, I had held to be false. It was only in the last year that I had begun to consider that maybe, just maybe, I had been wrong about that.  Then one doctrine at a time, through prayer and study, my heart was being turned, my eyes were being opened, and I was seeing truth where I had once seen lies.

It all stared with NFP and openness to life in marriage.  Because I trusted the church so much on that issue, it made it easier to trust the Church about transubstantiation. And when I wrestled with Papal infallibility, I found confidence in the trust I had already established. And so I stepped out in faith.  It was just a small step, followed by another and another.

It was easy to agree with some teachings, like the use of scripture AND Tradition. Having grown up Lutheran I will say that I could feel my heart jumping out of my throat the first time I heard Sola Scriptura referred to as a heresy.  But when I looked at the vast number of protestant denominations, all claiming sola scriptura as truth, and all arriving at totally different teachings on the same subjects, I knew there had to be something guiding the interpretation of scripture.  Tradition is the rudder that steers the study of scripture. Tradition is what the first generations of Christians relied on before the New Testament was even written down. Tradition (cue Fiddler on the Roof music) doesn't mean that God can't speak to me directly when I read my Bible  He can, and does! But it does mean that after 2000 years the Catholic Church has remained faithful to all of her precepts.

There were some teachings that took a little more time to come around to, like purgatory, and teachings on Mary. With both of these I found there was just as much scripture arguing for as there was against. Purgatory made sense, or at least as much sense something as mysterious as life after death can make. But for some reason I could not come to terms with Mary. I believed she was theotokos, or God-bearer, I believed she was incredibly unique and blessed because of this, I believed what the Catholic Church teaches about her. But I couldn't ever see myself going to her for prayer, as an intercessor before her Son in heaven, and I certainly couldn't think of her as my own spiritual mother. I was put at ease a little by our priest who told me that a devotion to Mary was not dogma of the Catholic faith. And at the time I thought "ok, I'll just be one of those Catholics that's just not that into her." It wasn't until a couple of years later that I began to understand Mary a little bit.

And so I said "yes", that I believed the teachings of the Catholic Church and held them to be true. Does that mean everything makes sense to me all of the time? No. But the eyes of faith see more than my human understanding. So I look to Jesus and continue to study and learn about this rich heritage I now share in.

One month later I said yes to Alex, before God, and all our family and friends. It's true that in some sense I became Catholic because of Alex; if it wasn't for him I never would have have even considered it. But it was the Holy Spirit that lead me to become Catholic.

I became Catholic 5 years ago, but my conversion is still happening. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

// 7 Q U I C K T A K E S v o l 11//

Linking up, once again, with Jen at Conversion Diary


I got my wisdom teeth out yesterday. I've been putting it off for about 5 years and thought I'd better bite the bullet and get it done before I find myself pregnant again. 

It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I've never been under anesthesia before and was a little nervous about being "put to sleep", but I literally don't remember anything except waking up because the hygienist was putting fresh gauze in my mouth, and feeling like I had just had the best nap. Alex was disappointed that he didn't get any video footage of me saying loopy things. By the time he and Johnny were brought to the recovery room I was quite coherent - albeit puffy-cheeked. 

The worst part by far was not being able to nurse Johnny while I waited for the anesthetic to wear off. This kid will not talk a bottle and still relies on mama's milk for at least half of his sustenance. I was written a prescription for Vicodin but opted not to use any because I knew having a sore mouth would be far more pleasant than letting Johnny go the entire day with out nursing. As someone with a very low threshold for pain and suffering, I can confidently say that being a mother has made me a lot tougher. So it was Tylenol, Advil, ice packs and ice cream for me. And plenty of 30 Rock.


Have you subscribed to Blessed Is She yet? Sign up to receive the daily readings in your inbox along with devotionals written by women, for women. I have been super blessed to be able to be a part of this group. Life is hard. Being a woman, whether single or married, working or at home, has so many unique challenges. We just want to bring encouragement, support, and the Word of God to as many women as possible. You can read my September contribution here


I also guest posted this week for Nancy over at Do Small Things With Love. She's doing a really great series on NFP and openness to life. There are so many different perspectives and backgrounds going into this, it has been very interesting. I highly recommending clicking on over there. 


And I have to plug my own writing project as well. I've been sharing the story of how I became Catholic. You can already read part 1 and part 2. Part 3 will be up sometime next week. 

My conversion is something I've been wanting to share for quite some time, but it took me a while to find the right words. I wanted cradle-Catholics to hear what it's like to come into the church as an adult, and to understand what things Catholics can learn from Protestants. I also want Protestants to see the beauty and fullness of the Catholic faith, because I know all too well that it is something hugely misrepresented among Protestant circles. Catholicism is alive and life-giving, and it's changing my life. And I want people to know that, and not assume I became Catholic just for Alex. So, if you are following along with that series I hope you are getting those things from it. 


While I'm plugging things I have to plug my friend Autumn's brand new blog: The Many Bits And Pieces. This is a lady who should be blogging! So I was thrilled when Alex announced lat night, while scrolling through his Facebook feed, "Autumn started a blog!" And it is delightful - as I knew it would be. 


Nell wrote a great post about asking who will help the low-income pregnant mama?  She highlights a nonprofit organization called Everyday Miracles that gives prenatal classes, doula support, free breast pumps, and breastfeeding support to low income women - and they are in need of funding! Having a natural birth, and the support needed to accomplish that requires education and privilege that many of us take for granted. There's a whole demographic of women who want that but don't have the support. Please go read Nell's post, check out Everyday Miracles, and considering giving!


Yesterday was my blogiversary! My blog is one year old.  Happy Birthday, blog! I've had so much fun, learned so much, and have been able to connect with so many people here. Thanks for reading and sticking by me for one year.  Here's to many more! 

In celebration of one year of blogging, here are some shameless pictures of my son very cutely eating fresh raspberries from our yard.

for more Quick Takes visit Conversion Diary

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

// C O N V E R S I O N p t 2 //

Did you read the first part of this story yet? If not, you may want to get yourself caught up.

May of 2007: I just got home from 5 months in India where I had been volunteering as an English teacher. While I was there I did a lot of praying and soul searching about many things, one of which was my desire to get married. I had always wanted to be a wife and a mother, but had never dated or done anything even close to dating. I was 20 years old, I had seen the world, and now I felt like it was my turn to be in a relationship.

Enter Alex.

We worked together that summer at a bakery, I had known him very casually for few years but we'd never been more than co-workers—until that summer, when he asked me out on my first date (a whole other story for another blog post).

When I look back at the beginning of our relationship it all seems so crazy to me. I had always pictured myself becoming really good friends with a guy and then only dating him after I knew him really well.  But Alex and I were practically strangers! And to top it off, he was a Catholic! As someone who had always had very high ideals about love and purity and Christ-centered dating it was incredibly uncharacteristic of me to be dating an almost perfect stranger who, for all I know, didn't share any of my beliefs! I can only attribute it to the nudging of the Holy Spirit.

Anna and Alex, the early years.
It didn't take me long to see that, unlike almost all the Catholics I had previously known, Alex seemed to really know Jesus. One of our early conversation may have gone something like this:
me: So you're Catholic, right?
Alex: Yeah.
Me: So, what do you think about Jesus?
Alex....after a pause: Well...He's God, and I love him. 

This seemed like a good sign to me. He also had a good handle on scripture, and he could explain and defend many elements of his Catholic faith that puzzled me. We spent hours discussing points where our theologies disagreed. Me attacking, him always calmly and politely defending. I was impressed by his character and love for the Lord, and was convinced it was my job to help him break free from his Catholic bondage and become a real Christian.

Well, our first, second, and third dates turned into 3, then, 6, then 10 months of dating, and the more I got to know him the more I got the feeling that he wasn't just going to stop being Catholic. Around the time we had been dating for one year, Alex took a two-month trip to Peru. Shortly before he left I was (not so slyly) trying to get out of him where he "saw us going" and if he had thought about our relationship "long-term." A few days later, while I drove him to the airport, I got my answer. He handed me a book entitled The Good News About Sex and Marriage by Christoper West, and asked me if I would read it while he was gone, saying that if we got married he wouldn't expect me to convert, but he would still want to live out his Catholic faith, and that I should know what that entailed. I said goodbye to him, shed a few tears, drove home, and immediately started reading.

And I was blown away!

I knew a lot about scripture, and theology, and my church talked a lot about issues of faith and morals, like abortion, same-sex marriage, the death penalty, stem cell research, and fair trade. But I had never in all my life heard anyone suggest that artificial contraception could be outside of God's plan.  I had barely heard of natural family planning and just assumed it was an outdated calendar method used by Amish people. I had always assumed that when I got married I would go on the pill, wait 5 years, and when I was "ready" I would start having kids. I assumed that's what everyone did. I had no idea there were other possibilities.

Then I read this:

The Father, from all eternity, is making a gift of himself in love to the Son...
And the Son, eternally receiving the gift of the Father, makes a gift of Himself
back to Him. The love between them is so real, so profound, that this love is
another eternal Personthe Holy Spirit. 

Among other things, this is what our being made in the image and likeness of God
reveals: we're called to love as God loves, in a life-giving communion of persons...
The love between [a husband and wife] is so real, so profound, that God willing, 
it may become another human person. 

- Christopher West, The Good News About Sex and Marriage

Marital love is a complete giving of one's self to the other, not an exchange of goods. And love should always have the potential for life.  It doesn't mean you have to have 20 kids.  But it does mean you're not actively shutting out God's life-giving creativity. 

I read about the incredibly low divorce rate among NFP couples. I read about the dignity it offers to women, and how it fosters communication between a husband and wife. I read about health benefits and low costs. And as I read all this, I became convicted of two things: one was that this was truth, and I wondered why I had never been taught this anywhere else.  The other was that if the Catholic Church was so right in this matter, then maybe it was right about some other things.

I could feel my world being rocked. I was at a tipping point  I could turn around and forget all the things I was beginning to think, or I could I could pray harder, dig deeper, and challenge my faith in a way I had never done before. The feeling was agonizing, but in my heart of hearts I knew what I was going to do. And I got a huge dose of affirmation from my mom. "If you and Alex get married, you should be the same denomination, even if it means you becoming Catholic."

All that following year Alex and I went to a Fundamentals of Catholicism class. I learned about the ins and outs of Catholic doctrine. And the more I studied the more I saw that there was just as much biblical support for the Catholic side of an argument as there was for the protestant view I had held all my life. It was unsettling. But because I felt so strongly about some teachings, like NFP, and (gasp) transubstantiation, I knew I could trust the Church on issues I didn't understand as well.

I had also been going to mass with Alex every week.  The quiet, reverent and liturgical forms of worship were very different from the energetic and charismatic Sunday mornings I had grown up with. I was realizing that I had been relying on the emotional "high" of contemporary worship music to carry my relationship with the Lord. If I didn't feel butterflies in my stomach, or cry, or lift my hands in the air, well, then I hadn't really been worshiping. I hadn't really been in communion with Jesus. But Jesus shows up, regardless of style or emotions. He shows up if there is a guitar and drums, or if there is an organ and choir, or even if there is no music at all. He shows up when I am on a mountaintop of emotions and feeling all the feelings. But more importantly, He shows up when I'm tired, and life is hard, and I don't feel a thing. Those are the moments when I say, "Lord I believe, help my unbelief."

Learning how to worship without contemporary worship music was challenging. I knew my faith was maturing, but there were days when I just really wanted to sing the songs I loved best! Alex and I started attending an adoration service at the seminary here in St. Paul. (For the non-Catholic readers, an adoration is when the Blessed Sacrament [ie: the Bread {ie: the Body of Christ}] is exposed to pray and reflect in front of.  It's way to spend some time with Jesus.) At this particular service there was adoration, there were priests hearing confessions, and there was praise and worship music. I couldn't believe my eyes  there, in a beautiful chapel, nuns, priests, college students, kneeling in prayer, sitting quietly, standing with hands raised, and the sound of voices singing echoed and rebounded off the stone walls and arches. It was 100% Catholic, but it had that element of singing worship I had been missing. And for the first time since Alex and I had started dating I felt completely at home. For the first time I thought, yes I could be Catholic.

The Chapel at St. John Vianney Seminary. The place where I first thought I could be Catholic.
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Friday, September 12, 2014

// C O N V E R S I O N p t 1 //

Some revelations are instant, like lightning striking the heart, changing it forever. 

That's not the story of my conversion. 

My conversion has been more of a gradual transformation, over a long period of time. Picture weaving a tapestry, or chiseling something out of stone. Well, that's me.  And I'm pretty sure I'm not finished yet. 

I have been wanting to share this story for a while but have been hesitant because I know many of my non-Catholic family and friends follow along here and I don't want any of them to think that my Christian life pre-Catholicism didn't count for anything. It did. I would not be the Christian, and person, that I am today if it wasn't for the faith I received first from my parents. They taught me to know and love Jesus and that gift is the greatest heritage I could ever ask for. I've also been blessed with amazing friends and mentors who have influenced and shaped my faith during my most formative years. At an age when many people decide that the Christian life is not for them, my faith was alive and thriving because of these individuals. And they are still helping me grow today.

 I used to hate it when people would talk about my "conversion", or call me a "convert" to Catholicism. To me that word nullified my life as a Christian up to that point, which, as I mentioned before, was an incredibly important part of my life. A more accurate description of what happened to me is that I was "fully received" into the Catholic Church. Technically a convert would be someone who had no Christian background at all. But it's quick and easy to say and all the evangelicals-turned-catholic that I know call themselves converts. It's just what we do. 

Actually, conversion is something that should be ongoing, for the person who is new to the catholic faith as well as the 80 year-old cradle catholic. We all turn our backs on God in small ways every day, hardhearted and stubborn souls that we are. Each day we need to come back to the Savior and say "here am I, Lord, take all of me...once again.

If you'd asked me in middle school, or high school, or even my first couple years of college, if I thought I would end up becoming Catholic, I would have said never.Catholics were people who worshiped Mary and didn't read the bible and blindly did everything the Pope told them to do. Did they even know Jesus at all? 

As anti-catholic as I was, however, there were a few very catholic things that always fascinated me and drew me in: nuns, kneeling, and beautiful churches. 

Nuns: You see one walking down the street. They're plain, no make up, hair tucked in a wimple, big, black, billowy habit banishing any suggestion of a figure. But still, you can't take your eyes off them. They seem to radiate some beauty and power that's, oh I don't know, unearthly. As long as I can remember, I have always been in awe of nuns. 

As I became older my fascination with nuns lead me to deeper pondering. Who are these women who choose poverty and celibacy over "real life"? Never getting married? It sounded crazy to me. But in a small corner of my mind their life style seemed appealing. To not worry about keeping up with the latest trends, no staring at your closet trying to decide what to wear each day. Bad hair day? Doesn't matter! Your hair won't show! Not worrying about guys noticing you, or not noticing you. Instead, being concerned with holiness and service and Jesus. Only. What a satisfying life. 

I'm sure I'm romanticizing the religious life, a little bit like Anne Shirley. "Wouldn't it be romantic to be the bride of heaven?" I am sure the religious life has it's own difficulties and stresses. But in our world, it seems so simplified. 

Then I went to India. Twice. My love for that country and the people I met there gave me a special bond to the now blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who spent her life pouring herself out to the very poorest of the poor. Everyone who has seen images of her cannot deny that she was love in action, lifting the dying out of the gutters and rescuing abandoned babies. She saw Jesus in everyone that she encountered, and brought Jesus to everyone that she helped. 

I wanted to be like her. 

And she was Catholic. 

 Kneeling: it's a posture that has always felt very right to assume. The Lutheran church I grew up in had kneelers. I was young enough when they were removed that I can hardly remember them. But they had been there.

When I was a child my mom would make us kneel when we had family prayer time. When I became older I chose to do some of my own praying on my knees, in the privacy of my bedroom. But seldom did I kneel in public. And never did my entire church all kneel together before The Lord. The services at my church and on my Christian college campus were usually times of joyful, exuberant, high energy worship, and it was good to praise God that way, but my soul always craved the quieter moments, to kneel, or even be face down before the Lord. 

The older I got the greater my desire for quiet reverence became. To the point that I stopped going to the chapel services at my college. The blaring music, worship leaders with celebrity status, lights and staging that rivaled a U2 concert- I couldn't handle the hype anymore.  Instead of a pastor, we had a speaker, instead of sanctuary, an auditorium, instead of an alter, a stage.  What was going on? Church seemed to be following pop culture, trying so hard to make Jesus relevant and attractive to a modern generation. When, shouldn't it be the other way around?  Should't our lives be changing to mirror His?

I don't mean to criticize the modern church in America.  Sometimes, this model of a worship service brings people in the door, people meet Jesus, and lives are changed. But to me, it was becoming entertainment, and I didn't need entertaining.

Beautiful Churches: I know that there are many very pretty protestant churches out there, but I think that we can all agree that when it comes to beautiful churches, Catholics brought their A game. The Cathedral of Notre Dame, St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican, St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City, even our own Cathedral here in St. Paul - they are famous tourist attractions, world landmarks, architectural wonders; and they are all Catholic places of worship. Every single day of the year masses are offered in those spaces. 

I have always loved being in these beautiful Catholic churches. Everything about the way they are built draws you in and lifts your eyes to heaven and your heart can't help but overflow in prayer. You can't help but ponder the greatness of God. If you ever feel like you are starting to think too much of yourself, go sit in the Cathedral for a while, God will feel appropriately great and you will feel appropriately small. 

Sacred Heart Basilica- Paris

Notre Dame Cathedral- Paris

St. Peter's Basilica- Rome
I had a couple trips to Europe during my college years and throughout all the sight seeing the Catholic churches always stood out as my favorite places. What I didn't know all those times I went into those Catholic churches was that yes, the height of the dome was awe-inspiring and the stained glass beautiful and the quiet calmness perfect for prayer, but on top of that - Jesus was there! Right there, in the tabernacle, every single time. And though I didn't know it then, He was drawing me......

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

// S I M P L E S U M M E R, S I M P L E F O O D: tomato edition //

The days are getting shorter, the nights are getting cooler, the signs that summer is quickly drawing to a close are all around us.  And so I'm wrapping up this series of simple summer foods with one of my very favorite summer foods: tomatoes.  Not just any tomatoes. Fresh from the garden tomatoes.

We planted our 5th garden this summer. We do a lot of the usual veggies, snap peas, lettuce, beets, zucchini, but our crowning jewel is tomatoes. We usually do about a dozen tomato plants, and each a different heirloom variety, with maybe 1 or 2 big boys thrown in there for a little extra yield. Every year we find ourselves literally up to our shoulders in tomatoes.

The end of summer stands out as one of my favorite times of the year because of all the great tomato inspired meals we eat. And in case you are wondering what to do with all your gardening loot I thought I'd share some of my favorite tomato recipes with you.

1. Golden Tomato Sauce. I have mentioned this here before. It's from one of my favorite food blogs, 101 cookbooks. If you looking for things to do with your garden veggies, check out what Heidi has to offer.

I have made this sauce with all sorts of tomatoes, red, yellow, and whatever else we've grown.  It adapts very easily to all type of tomatoes.  But it's the very very best with Roman Candle tomatoes.

I also like to top my pasta with some feta and spicy Italian sausage. (But don't tell Heidi, she's a vegetarian!)

2. BLT's. I think everyone knows what that stands for: bacon, lettuce, and tomato.  So I'll just mention a couple tips and variations.  Bread choice: hands down, my favorite bread to use for these is sourdough.  We toast it and then spread some mayo on. If you'd like to be a little healthier (try to balance out the bacon, and the mayo that I've added) use kale instead of lettuce.  We found we actually prefer out BLT's with kale, making them BKT's. It might catch on!

3. Bruschetta: Another a classic that you probably know how to make. 2 large tomatoes, 2 cloves of garlic, a handful of fresh basil, chop it up, drizzle in some olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper it,  and served on toasted baguette slices.

My one tip for this dish: peel the tomatoes first.  Here's how you do that. Bring a medium size pot of water to boil.  With a very sharp knife, cut a few X shaped marks across the surface of your tomatoes. When the water is boiling carefully put the tomatoes in for about 30 seconds; the skin will begin to peel back where you cut the X. Use a slotted spoon to fish the tomatoes out, let them cool a little and then simple pull the peels off. Removing the peels just makes the texture of the bruschetta even better. It's not essential, but I like to do it.

4. Caprese: Baguette slices toasted and arranged on a plate, topped with slices of tomatoes and fresh mozzarella, and torn up fresh basil. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Super simple, super delicious, every time.

5. Summer Pasta. I posted this recipe about a month ago. You can see it here.  It's basically caprese with pasta instead of bread. It's also basically one of my favorite summer meals.

6. Salsa: I'm sure that my friend Jacqui, the Mexican Domestic Goddess, could give you a very authentic salsa recipe. But until then, this is how a gringo makes it:

For a very large batch:
3 large tomatoes chopped into very small pieces
1/2 red onion, diced
2 serano peppers, seeded and diced
1 large bunch of fresh cilantro, chopped
a generous amount of salt and pepper.

This is the base, from here you can add as many extra things as you like, bell peppers, corn, black beans, mango, whatever strikes your fancy. Just chop it up and throw it all in a bowl.

7. Tomato Gallette: I found a recipe for a squash gallette on my other favorite food blog, Smitten Kitchen. At the time I didn't have any squash, and I had tons of tomatoes. So I used tomatoes instead. It turned out great! I also used feta cheese instead of fontina, and I left out the sage, because I don't really care for sage.

8. A Note On Freezing. When I really find myself with a surplus of tomatoes I freeze them.  I used to make sauce and freeze that, but then when I'd thaw it and use it, it never tasted very good. Then I heard somewhere that freezing tomatoes after they've been cooked can ruin the flavor, and it's best to freeze them fresh, and before any seasoning has been added.  So that's what I do.

Cut the tomatoes in half and use your finger to scoop out the seeds. Then cut them into small pieces and put them in a doubled freezer bag.  Last summer I froze enough tomatoes for about 5 batches of tomato sauce.  It was so nice in the middle of (our super awful) winter to be able to pull some of my home grown tomatoes out of the freezer and make something that reminds me so much of

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

//embrace the ordinary vol. 1: r i t u a l s//

linking up with Gina at someday saints to embrace the ordinary.

Making coffee every morning. Listening to the machine sputter and gurgle as it starts to brew. I pour a mug full, hold it in both hands and breathe it in.

Saying bedtime prayers for my son. My husband and I take turns each night. Kneeling beside the crib we whisper about how sweet he looks, and ask Jesus to watch over him. We always finish with a Hail Mary. 

Getting ready in morning. Wash face, brush teeth, put on make-up, do hair. Always in that order. 

Picking up the playroom. Everyday day Johnny goes into the playroom and dumps out all of his toys; blocks, balls, stuffed animals, stacking rings, and puzzles. Everything gets turned over. All the DVDs and books get pulled off the shelf. If I have a basket of laundry waiting to be folded that gets turned out on the floor as well. He takes everything out and then ignores it all.

I've stopped picking up after him while he's awake. Everything would be on the floor again in 7 seconds. Now I wait until he's gone to bed. I go into the playroom and put the books and DVDs back on the shelf. I stack the stacking rings, I do the animal puzzle and the police car puzzle, and I put all the blocks back into their basket. I tuck all the toys back into their corner, where Johnny will come looking for them tomorrow.

These are my rituals, the ceremonies the govern and fill my days. They are the things that I must do before doing anything else, and things that must be done before I can fall asleep at night. Most days the repetition is irritating. But when I remember to have patience with this phase of life I see a sort of beauty in my little rituals. They become my own liturgy of the hours. My vocation put into practice.

What are your rituals? 

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