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Domestic Church Misty Motherhood Parenting Spiritual Growth Uncategorized Vocations

A Letter to Expectant Mothers

Dear Expectant Mother,

Sitting in the doctor’s office, I picked up the latest parenting magazine. It was filled with articles about successful breastfeeding, infant sleep tricks, and tips for revitalizing your sex life post-baby. Almost unconsciously, I flipped the pages to find the genuine article, the one that presented motherhood in its truest shades–not pastels, but in bold, sometimes dark colors.

But as usual, it was absent.

Eighteen years ago, I would’ve read such a magazine cover to cover, reveling in the wisdom I was gleaning in preparation for the birth of our first child. Not that they could tell me much I didn’t already know, between the childbirth classes, preparatory La Leche League meetings, and Dr. Sears books I’d already consumed. By the time the contractions started, I was as prepared as a woman could be for the most important role of my life.

Or so I thought.

Six children later, I’m here to give you the real scoop on the vocation of motherhood. And it is a vocation. A job is just something you do, while a vocation is more than that–it’s a calling from God to love and serve others in a specific way. And through that service, if we cooperate with grace, we become holy. We learn to love more perfectly. We become more and more like Christ.

So here’s the truth, ladies: Being a mother is often hard, thankless, menial, and grueling work. But it is also the most satisfying, joyful, and important role you will ever take on as a woman.

Truth: Motherhood is a learned experience, not a set of tasks.

When I was pregnant that first time, veteran mothers generally fell into one of two camps:

  • the ones who told me how wonderful it was going to be as I skipped (breastfeeding effortlessly, of course) through daisies while my baby slept blissfully in a wicker bassinet under a white canopy; or
  • the ones who complained their children had ruined their lives and asked if I had scheduled the tubal yet.

Oh, there were one or two women who tried to give me a more realistic picture, but reality could not compare to the Motherhood-as-Paradise fantasy any more than a bowl of blueberries can compare to cheesecake for dessert.

Looking back, neither group did me a real service. The first sugarcoated the experience, glossing over all of the life-altering changes a baby would wreak on my body, my marriage, my life. The second group gave me no useful information other than a strong desire not to be like them. I mean, who wants to hear you’ve just wrecked your life by getting pregnant?

But I forgive them, because I now realize there’s no way to adequately prepare you for motherhood. Nothing can convey the joy, the terror, the fatigue, the essence of this vocation to you. The thick tomes by parenting experts that had seemed to reassuring as a pregnant woman seemed so thin and painfully inadequate once I was holding the baby.

So if you’re pregnant and worried you’re not prepared for this vocation, guess what? You’re not. And that’s okay, because God designs all of life’s most precious gifts to be unwrapped only through experience. 

Truth: You will have very bad, horrible days with your child. Days that bring you to your knees sobbing in frustration, certain God has sold you an oyster with no pearl.

I remember the first few days we were home from the hospital being utterly exhausting, but exhilarating at the same time. I remember being frightened I was going to do something to harm the baby.

And as stupid as it sounds, I remember being absolutely shocked that our daughter was so needy. It was an entirely different sort of dependency than I had experienced being pregnant. By the second week, I was sitting on the couch sobbing because she wanted to nurse for the fifth time in three hours.

Before I had a baby, I was under the impression I was a pretty generous, loving person. Then through my daughter, God revealed to me just how selfish I really was. But it was such a gift to have this revealed to me, because it proved to me I needed a Savior. Not just to swoop in and rescue me from time to time, but to fundamentally change my heart. 

Every pregnant woman gets excited about getting to know this new little person God has gifted her to raise. What will she look like? What will his talents be? How will she impact the world? But in His mercy, God will also help you get to know your own self more intimately because “To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom,” says Socrates.

Remember that on the really hard days. 

Truth: You will never love your husband more, or resent him more, than after you have a child together.

Two weeks after I gave birth, my husband went back to work. I stood there and watched him go, filled with a sense of terror and dread. And envy. I had delivered a child. Everything had changed for me. My body was a wreck and hurt everywhere. I anxiously realized I was no longer in control of my life; even my most basic needs, such as using the bathroom, bathing, and eating, had to be met after the baby was cared for. Even my freelance editing became a splinter in my mind, nagging me that something else needed my attention.

Yet here was my husband, walking out the door and going back to work as if nothing had happened. Just like before, he slept when he wanted to (I breastfed exclusively), he ate when he wanted to (if I couldn’t cook, he ordered out or threw together a sandwich), went to the toilet when he wanted to, showered when he wanted to, etc. He put on his uniform and drove to work (because his body was just fine) and worked with colleagues and filed paperwork just like before our daughter was born. 

Resentment is too weak to describe my feelings about all this at the time.

Then this strong man would come home and tenderly cradle our fragile daughter in his arms, talking to her for all the world like one completely bewitched. And my heart would skip a beat just watching him. 

Over the years, I learned that God wanted to sanctify my husband just as much as me through parenting. But I had to be willing to ask for help and I had to let my husband meet the requests in his own way. I had to surrender my fear of asking him to contribute, as well as my expectations he would do all things domestic to my exacting standards. I also had to stop keeping score. When I did these things, I could appreciate the unique gifts my husband brought to the table as a father.

Truth: You will be trying to raise a saint. So will your child. 

Yesterday, our priest preached on how God loves us so much He is willing to stretch us beyond our limits. And for so many women, those limits are revealed and expanded primarily through their children. That little soul God sent to us nearly 20 years ago has burned out more self-love than I ever could have without her. I owe her so much more than I have given.

So as you move toward motherhood, remember: God gave you this child not just so you may help him or her get to heaven, but because you need help getting there, too. 

We all do. 

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Anni Ink Slingers Spiritual Growth Uncategorized

Weathering the Storm

I recently sat inside our family’s RV on a Sunday afternoon, watching the lightening, listening to the thunder, and seeing the raindrops of the most recent storm blowing through our camp. The rhythmic sound of the wind and rain lulled me to sleep, and when I awoke, I began to think of the metaphor between the storm I was experiencing in life and the storm which has surrounded the Catholic faithful.

I have always heard reference to a storm being on the horizon, with the faithful being tested through it: “Not only that, but we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope” (Romans 5:3-4). As faithful Catholics, we ought to prepared for storms.

But rather than worry, St. Padre Pio reminds us, “Pray, hope, and do not worry. Worry is useless. God will hear your prayers.” 

As we analyze the components of a storm, we see the divine power within. 

Much like the verse from Isaiah 35:4, thunder is the voice which reminds us, “He will come with vengeance, with terrible recompense, He will come and save you.” It wakens sleeping children, it rattles animals and humans alike, and it casts a pall of fear over those who sit directly under the boom.

Clouds roll in to darken the earth during a massive storm. Thunder breaks the silence. And yet, in a good storm, lightening illuminates the darkness. Satan loves darkness. He loves secrecy and living in the shadows. Yet lightening brightens the sky, even if only for a flash. Lightening forces the demons to scurry. It brightens the path, showing the way to sanctuary.

With all good storms, there is wind, too. The wind can cause chaos and confusion. It can blind even the best of seers, all-too-often forcing even the strongest among us to bend with the breeze and seek shelter from the wind. But the wind is also a force of change, as we are reminded in Acts 2:2: “And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were.” The wind gives strength to grit through the storm.

Finally, with the storm comes the deluge of rain. Big, fat, drenching raindrops falling from the heavens and meeting the earth. Rain washes the dirt and grime from everything in its path. The rain cleanses. It purifies.

My friends, we are in the midst of a storm unlike we have ever experienced as faithful Catholics. The storm is no longer on the horizon; rather, we are in the thick of it. The Church is being tested in a manner we have not seen before.

This past month has been difficult for the Catholic Church. The devil is among us, looking to cause division, suspicion, anxiety, and suffering. And, he is hell-bent on destroying the foundation of the Rock of Peter. Literally.

Too many priests, as fallible men, have fallen into the temptations of the devil. The sins of the cover-up, even more than the abuse itself, have played directly into the devil’s hands. Most priests are good, holy men, whose chosen vocation has been thrust into a terrible spotlight. They now are battling to endure and survive this storm. They are scrambling to safeguard their sheep who are experiencing doubt, fear, anger, grief, and betrayal.

In Ezekiel 34:12, the faithful can find some encouragement, “As a shepherd examines his flock while he himself is among his scattered sheep, so will I examine my sheep. I will deliver them from every place where they were scattered on the day of dark clouds.”

This past spring, a chaplain said during his homily, “When there is unity, it is a sign that the Holy Spirit is working. When there is division, it is a sign that the devil is at work.” The devil works tirelessly, with one aim in mind: to take souls for himself. 

Yet the sun comes out after the storm. The damage and debris from the storm won’t disappear overnight. It will take hard, dedicated, tireless work. It will require us to listen to the instructions in Ephesians 6:11: “Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil.” We already believe the gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church, but the cleanup will take time, effort, and energy.

At the end of the storm, the sun is on the horizon. It shines brightly, beckoning all to bask in its warmth, dryness, and glory. We are reminded that “hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Romans 5:5). 

So suit up, my faithful Catholic friends. Join me for the turbulence of this storm. Let us weather it together, each playing our part to ensure the gates of hell do not prevail. We will stand together, facing toward the Son. Because He alone will be left standing, helping us out of the raging waters, drying us with His radiance.

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Adrienne Apologetics Catechism Doctrine Ecumenism Faith Formation Ink Slingers Uncategorized

Why I Don’t Accept Reformed Theology

John Calvin
John Calvin 1554

I could use these one thousand words to explain Five Point Calvinism (TULIP) and put together an essay refuting its teachings, but I’ve discovered I’m not qualified to do so.

I have read innumerable articles, blog posts, and sermon notes on “Why Roman Catholicism is false”.  Just recently one such internet link moseyed across my newsfeed from a church holding to Reformed Theology, The Village Church.  Years ago, this anti-Catholic rhetoric irritated me deeply.  Now, I’ve read so much of it that I’ve come to realize it’s all the same misrepresentations of Catholic theology over and over again – which got me to thinking about how we choose our sources of information(Side note: I use anti-Catholic not to specifically depict angry, unfair attacks against Catholic teaching, but simply to mean anything that is meant to dissuade others from Catholicism.)

Since the article was written by a Reformed church, and since Reformed Theology is easily identifiable to address as a whole (a testament to its unity, I think), I’m going to stick with using it as my example.  However, you can substitute any other religious philosophy into the statement below and the result will be nearly the same for me.

I accept Catholic Theology and not Reformed Theology as the fullness of the Christian Faith.  But, in full disclosure, I have studied Reformed Theology from first-hand Reformed Theological sources very, very little.

I’ve read one book on it, What is Reformed Theology? by R.C. Sproul.  I found it to be an excellent introduction into Five Point Calvinism, as it was written in a highly convincing manner.  Due to my robust understanding of Catholic Theology, I wasn’t ultimately convinced of Reformed Theology, but it did provide me a healthy introduction.

Outside of R.C. Sproul’s book, the only reading I have done on Reformed Theology is from ex-Reformed, now Catholic authors.  And, I’ve read a lot of it.  I don’t read this material intentionally, but do so because I enjoy reading conversion stories and reading strong Catholic theologians (many are converts).   They’ve spoken confidently and convincingly of the issues they had with Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide, and how the doctrines of total depravity, election, predestination, and rapture aren’t quite right either.

Now, this is where Reformed readers are shaking their heads, “You should be learning Reformed Theology from Reformed authors.  Catholics, even ex-Reformed, can’t properly teach you Reformed Theology!”  And, they are right.  As it turns out, from these men, I’ve developed a false sense that I actually know Reformed Theology (and, subsequently, why it’s “false”).

And, this, is where non-Catholics drop the ball, too.  I’ve had many conversations with an array of different well intentioned  folks who were convinced they knew Catholic Theology, and therefore why it was false.  They’ve read plenty about it from some of their own theological heroes (like R.C. Sproul), and a good portion are ex-Catholics themselves.  But each time I’ve been challenged about why Catholic doctrine X was false, all have been unable to properly explain said doctrine and thus ended up refuting something I don’t even believe in.  They, too, have been fooled, like I have been.

Let’s think about it, what if I read 20 top notch books on Reformed Theology, and still didn’t have a change of mind?  At that point, could I consider myself an expert on Reformed Theology – expert enough to teach others about it?  Just how much research into Reformed Theology would I have to do in order to be expert enough to teach others accurately about it, if I never hold it to be the fullness of the Truth of Christ?  This is the trust non-Catholics place in anti-Catholic (even ex-Catholic) sources, like the article from The Village Church.

Alas, we are all guilty of taking the easy way out.  I titled this Why I Don’t Accept Reformed Theology and the full answer is two part – 1) I am so convinced of the fullness of Truth in the Catholic Church that I don’t desire to look elsewhere and 2) as a natural consequence I have not properly researched Reformed Theology.  I imagine Christians of other traditions feel much the same way, and therefore, I understand why they don’t spend their spare time studying  Catholic authors nor do I expect them to.  However, if someone were to ask me about Reformed Theology I would do him a better service to say, “Read a book by R.C. Sproul” than to recommend an article from Called to Communion or attempt to answer the question myself.

I ask any non-Catholic readers out there, even if you are an ex-Catholic, to please consider seeking the Catholic rebuttle to anti-Catholic attacks as they exist and have existed for 2,000 years.  Every point in the Village Church article can and has been addressed many, many times.  Our faith tradition is more beautiful than I could ever express with my mediocre writing capabilities, and many people have done a lousy job explaining it (both non/ex-Catholics, and sadly some Catholics alike).    The Catechism of the Catholic Church is a monster read, but well worth it.  The Early Church Fathers defend the faith like no one else alive today (I bet God chose them to live so close to the beginning of Christianity for good reason!).  Also, I would recommend David Currie’s Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic, Scott Hahn’s Rome Sweet Home or Patrick Madrid’s Surprised by Truth as easy reads to debunk some myths.

In the meantime, let us pray for understanding and unity.  In His Name, Amen.  St. Ignatius, pray for us!

 

 “Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude of the people also be; even as,

wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.

~ St. Ignatius,  A.D. 110 ~

St. Ignatius of Antioch
Categories
Advent Christmas Domestic Church It Worked For Me Liturgical Year Parenting Stacy Uncategorized

I Banned the Wish List

There is one simple choice our family has made over the last ten years that has surprised me. We do not make Wish Lists. Let me explain by sketching a story.
—–

It starts out innocent enough. When the baby’s first Christmas finally comes, you are ecstatic about surprising him with the bright new baby toys on Christmas morning. With genuine glee, you watch as he fumbles with the wrapping paper, and you watch every sweet reaction as he discovers the new toys before him for the first time.

When she is two, you just know she will play with that first doll forever, and it is a milestone you will never forget. When she is three, you wait with palpable excitement to capture her delightful squeals as she walks down the stairs and discovers the Dream Land of Toys that awaits her.

And so it goes.

By the time he or she is four or five, the compiling of the Wish List has become an annual event. “What do you want Santa to bring you, Honey?”

Christmas morning is the one morning of the whole year when grand dreams of toys and candy come true; so by six, seven, eight, nine, ten, little him or her slowly evolves to anticipate that Wish List for months in advance. “What shall I ask for? This is my chance, make it big!”

It is so fun to fulfill those little dreams, and relatively easy to buy just what is wished for. The joy and smiles on those faces Christmas morning are worth everything. You live for it every bit as much as they do.

At eleven and twelve, the little man starts to show interest in electronics. By thirteen and fourteen that little lady has developed her own taste in clothes which, to your chagrin, is not consistent with your taste in her clothes, but oh what does it matter? It is Christmas. Give her something special. Get him the big game system. Fourteen only comes once.

By fifteen that Wish List starts to come with instructions, “Do not buy me anything but what is on this list. Do. Not.”

A little taken back, you excuse the behavior because, after all, this is when kids start to spread their wings and become independent. You negotiate; some things you might buy her, some things are off the table.

And so it goes.

There is an expectation that the Wish List will be fulfilled. That Christmas morning adrenaline rush and all its dream-come-true satisfaction is a bit of an addiction. The teenager not only plans for the Wish List all year long, but plans for the negotiations as well. She asks for things she knows are off the table, but wears you down so the thing she really, really wants, but knows you cannot afford, might just appear Christmas morning anyway. You feel guilty for rejecting so many things, so you give in and buy the less expensive, but still too expensive items. He needs an iPhone 5, never mind that he doesn’t even know what the iPhone 5 does that the iPhone 4 does not do. She needs the $50 t-shirt with skull and cross bones because it is just what kids wear, “Come on Mom, get with it.”

When it gets to the point where you realize Christmas is out of control, alas, it is too late. What happened incrementally over all those years cannot be undone with a mere wish of your own.

Why do you think grown men and women knock each other down on Black Friday each year to buy items they think they cannot live without? Why do you think malls are packed with people spending money they do not have? Gift-givers need to be the Dream-Maker as much as the Wish List-Maker needs to have the Dream Land. Who is Christmas all about anyway?

—–

I have watched this happen more times than I will admit. When my husband and I began raising our young children, I started out, as most mommies do, fussing over just the right gift to get our babies, and our parents and relatives; I fussed and fretted, and fretted and fussed. After a couple of years, my husband made the observation that I hated the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and he was right. I did. I dreaded it all year long. When I converted to Catholicism, and understood that this time was also the time of Advent (I never knew that), I had an epiphany. The season is about the gift of Christmas, the gift of salvation. And that is the thing.

Gifts are supposed to be received, not demanded.

So I banned the Wish List. I know, “Boo!” When the kids got old enough to see their friends making them and asked if they could make a list too, I told them that if they made a list it didn’t mean they would actually get anything on it. When commercials come on, even now, and they want a flashy new toy, I flatly say, “You don’t need that.”

“But can I have it?”

“Sure, when you can buy it for yourself.”

Harsh? Maybe, but all I know is this: They don’t know what it means to compile a Wish List. And I don’t dread Christmas anymore. Beyond that — get this — it is instilling in them an understanding that making demands is inappropriate. “You get what you get and you don’t get upset.” Life lesson, kiddos.

It helped me too. I was happier when I learned to appreciate what I’m given in life, whether at first I like it or not. There is always some good to find in any gift (including the bags of candy the nice ladies at church give the kids every week, which they fight over until I want to burn it down to carbon). Every gift is an act of kindness, and that’s enough. Plus, sometimes really wise people see more in us than we see in ourselves.

No one made a Wish List for Redemption, after all, but the human race pined for it nonetheless.

Has this hard line been worth it? Absolutely. I get all of my Christmas shopping done in an enjoyable, but short, span of time. We get the kids one gift each — they don’t get to pick it — and a pair of pajamas. You know what? They love it. They actually are grateful for those small gifts. It frees our family to focus on the real Gift of Christmas. In a lot of ways it’s turned the normal mornings throughout the year into that Dream Land, that mystical, awesome experience that some people only think exists in material shiny form one day a year. I’ll take that.

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Advent Christmas Ink Slingers Liturgical Year Misty Uncategorized

Get Your Letter from Santa!

NorthPolesignCatholic Sistas began as a collaboration between women who had become friends through an online forum. And as the site’s northernmost member (I live just 100 miles below the Arctic Circle), I have the unique distinction of living in a small, Christmas-themed town in Alaska called…wait for it…NORTH POLE!

And when I say, “Christmas-themed,” I’m not kidding. We have streets named Santa Claus Drive and Mistletoe Lane…our parish is St. Nicholas Catholic Church…our street lights are striped and bent to look like candy canes. (Even the welding business has giant candy canes across its entrance.) Businesses sport decorated trees all year and every winter, local “ice artists” carve whimsical ice statues of Santa and other holiday figures to grace the town. We even have “The Santa Claus House,” where a 50-foot-tall Santa statue announces that Santa and his LIVE reindeer are ready to greet you all year.

And the coolest part? When your kids pop a letter into the mail to “Santa,” it usually ends up at our post office. Really. Our post office is so proud of its location that it has a big, splashy postmark announcing that the item came from NORTH POLE. 

For $10, I’ll send a personalized letter from Santa to your kids, grandchildren, or any special little ones; I’ll even write to a spouse, pastor, or friend who would get a kick out of receiving a letter from Santa. The letter will be written on Christmas-themed stationery and postmarked from North Pole. So it will be clear to the lucky receiver that it REALLY comes from St. postofficeNick! See this link for a sample letter to an individual child: Sample Letter

TO REQUEST A LETTER, VISIT THE ORDER FORM HERE. All orders must be received by 5pm on THURSDAY, DECEMBER 10 to ensure arrival well before Christmas. Have a blessed Advent and Merry Christmas!

P.S. You do not have to believe in Santa to request a letter.