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When You Suck at Parenting

  
Thoughts for when you’re feeling like a horrible parent…

Merry Christmas!

Today is the third day of Christmas, the third of twelve days in which Christians worldwide celebrate the feast of the Incarnation. 

Today in particular, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family, and the Gospel reading tells us about Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. 

As I sat in church today and listened to the Scripture, I was taken aback. 
We are celebrating the Holy Family with a story about how Mary and Joseph lost Jesus?



Wouldn’t it make more sense to tell some other story? Maybe another look at the scene of the baby wrapped in swaddling cloths, surrounded by his adoring mother and father? Messy, yes. But cleaning up a messy child is much easier than finding a lost one. 

But this is what the lives of the saints are about–how God reaches into our daily lives, when we are desperate for him,to help us in the time of our greatest need.
Catholic and Orthodox Christians believe that God preserved Mary from sin from the moment of her conception so she could choose God’s will without the hindrance of sin and give the most beautiful ‘yes’ to God when Gabriel brings her the offer of an unplanned and amazing pregnancy to bear the Son of God. The grace of Jesus on the cross reached back through time to save her, to prepare her to be the ark of God’s new covenant, Jesus the Christ. 

Maybe that’s too farfetched for you to accept, and that is okay. But when I think of the Gospel account on this feast day, I can’t help but rejoice…

Mary, the mother of God, LOST HER SON on vacation (okay, on a religious pilgrimage, but still).

Through no fault of her own. 
It wasn’t her own personal failings that caused something bad to happen. 

It wasn’t her lack of attention because of selfishness. 

And we can’t blame it on her kid, because we know for sure he was blameless in the whole ordeal.

Now before you blame it on Joseph, just think about this. I think this story on this day tells us that sometimes parenting fails happen when nobody is to blame.

The perfect Son and his mother face an incredibly difficult situation, not because someone did something wrong, but because life is hard and raising kids is really really hard. 

So next time you feel like you’re a horrible parent because x, y, and z have happened to you and your kids, remember this: parenting is hard. 

I love this reading on this day because it comforts me. Yes, my sin gets in the way of parenting well. I am selfish. I am unkind at times. I am rude and lash out at my kids. But I am seeking the Lord’s help in this. 

God knows how hard raising children is. His own Son was lost for a few days and the family He entrusted His most precious One to was frantic to find him. 

Don’t be afraid. You’re not screwing this up irreparably. 
Lean into Him when it’s hard. Take guidance from the other New Testament reading for the day, Colossians 3. It’s a guide for family life.


In the midst of all the crying and yelling, dress yourselves in compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.


In the evenings when they’re fussy, bear with one another, and forgive one another because God has forgiven you.


On the messy days, most importantly, put on love.It’s the bond of perfection, completion. 


When your kid gets lost and you don’t know how it happened or exactly what to do, let the peace of Christ control your hearts, and be thankful.


On the hard days, let God’s word fill you up, and seek his wisdom. 


In the parent fails, sing songs to God, with gratitude. 


And every day with kids, whatever you do, in word or in deed,

 do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,

 giving thanks to God the Father through him. 
Merry Christmas, y’all. 9 more days to go. 

For All the Fat Girls at Christmas

 

Christmas is so much more than Jesus’s birthday. 

I will probably regret writing this vulnerable post, not because of what I say, but because I’m afraid some of my friends will miss the point and try to get me interested in their weight-loss products. 

This is not a post about losing weight. 
It’s not a post about wishing things were different. 

It’s a post about my desperate need for the Incarnation of Jesus Christ to be a real and pertinent thing in my life. 

My daughter just turned 8 weeks old yesterday. I haven’t been able to post much in the last two months because we are getting used to our new normal, life with three children three and under. It has been crazy, with ups and downs, but I am loving it. The big kids are in love with their little sister, and Zachary and I take so much joy in being a family of five, even though we are sleep-deprived for the time being. 

I caught my reflection the other day in the automatic sliding door at Walmart, and I did not like what I saw. 

I don’t keep a lot of mirrors in my house. In fact, there are only 4–one in each of the two bathrooms (so, only waist-up), one on top of a dresser that is too tall for me to look into (for the tall hubs), and one full-length on the inside of our closet door. 
I saw my reflection, really, for the first time since giving birth. I might try to soften the phrase “I did not like what I saw” to “I wasn’t thrilled with my appearance,” but it would not do justice to the feelings I have experienced since then. I was embarrassed. 

I know that this may be hard to believe, but I have never hated one aspect of my body. I have always felt generally overweight and been frustrated at the inability to purchase flattering outfits without breaking the bank. But I have never stood in front of my reflection and felt how I have in the past several days. 

This belly. This I-make-jeans-unflattering belly. This I-have-carried-three-big-children belly. This I-have-eaten-my-feelings-for-years belly. 

I have been self-conscious of it for the past five or six days in a way that I have never experienced before. 

I had started formulating all sorts of plans to minimize its appearance–from only wearing dresses (pants seem to emphasize it) to working out and actually losing the extra weight I’m carrying around. But last night I faced the reality that my body isn’t ever going to look the same as it did before I had children. 

I have read the inspirational memes about stretch marks being tiger stripes earned through childbearing. I have seen the encouragement to moms to love their bodies post-pregnancy because sagging skin and lack of toning can indicate the joys of bearing a lot of kids. 

But last night, I faced the reality that my body isn’t ever going to look the same as it did before I had children. And I cried. 

There are so many feelings wrapped up in this realization, this acceptance of reality. I want to look cute and trendy. I want to be able to wear flattering clothes more easily. I want to lose weight and feel better. I really want to feel attractive and be attractive, especially for my husband (who is totally supportive and encouraging on this journey, by the way).

All of these desires are important, some moreso than others. But never before have I felt such a need for Jesus. 

It’s interesting that these feelings and realizations come in this holiday season. In a few short days, Christians will celebrate Christmas. Christmas is a big deal. 

I remember being ten or eleven and baking a cake with my younger sister in late December. We put candles on the cake and sang “Happy Birthday” to Jesus. I remember feeling justified in our celebration–I mean, who doesn’t want to celebrate the birthday of a person you love? 

It took me many years to understand why, and I am still unwrapping it, but I have learned this important fact:
Christmas is so much more than Jesus’s birthday. 

We can argue over whether or not Jesus was actually born on December 25 (note: he probably wasn’t). We can argue over whether the roots of Christmas are actually Christian. What we can’t argue, though, is the meaning of Christmas. 

It’s not just that God’s son would be born to a virgin, wrapped in swaddling cloths, and laid in a manger.

It’s not just that he would be worshiped by the poor and the rich together, the shepherds and the wise men. 

It’s not even just that His son would grow up to die on the cross and save us. 

Yes, all these things are important. But the most important thing to wrap my mind and my heart around this season is this: 

We are celebrating the Feast of the Incarnation. 

In the Christian calendar, followed by Christians of many ilks and persuasions, the Feast of the Incarnation is the biggest feast of the year. It’s a twelve day celebration that starts on Christmas day and last for TWELVE. STINKIN. DAYS.
In-carn-ation. God wraps himself in flesh. Forever. 

The second person of the holy Trinity unites himself to us in a way that blows my mind every time I pause to think about it–HE IS A HUMAN. The body I bear indeed is created in his image, but more there is more to it than that: Jesus is my brother of flesh. We don’t just share a spiritual heritage; we are both children of Adam. 

As I sit here and type, I feel my flesh all too much. My belly rests on my thighs, stretch out from bearing babies and eating my feelings for many many years. 
And yet (rather counterintuitively, given my weight and food issues), Jesus invites me into a feast. A TWELVE DAY feast. At the time when I want to run away and hide and never face the decision of what to eat or how much…He invites me to his feast. The feast that celebrates when he became a human. 

He knows the weakness of my human body. He has known it himself. And he still invites me to feast. 

Because he is a man of flesh and blood, I can breathe deeply and let his holy Spirit change my mind. Because he has bound himself to humankind through muscle and bone, blood and raw matter, I can trust him to know what I am feeling. No, he has never borne a baby in his body, but he has lived a whole life, beaten and wounded by those of us living in this physical world. And yet, instead of admonishing me to watch what I eat over the next two weeks, he still invites me to feast. 

I am overwhelmed by his kindness, and yet I am still afraid of the aftermath. 

So I ask him to let his perfect love drive away this immobilizing fear of screwing up this body and being rejected and alone. 

So I ask him, in these last two days of Advent, this time of preparing him room in my heart and in my earthly life, to please come, Lord Jesus.

So I ask him to teach me, in the way that only he can, how to truly feast. 

It’s a risky and a dangerous place to be. But I can trust him, because he is fully God and fully Man, and that is what this season is all about. 

A Captured Imagination

tree ezekiel

Have you ever come across a piece of art–a line of poetry, an image in a movie, a passage of Scripture–that captures your imagination? It’s the kind of thing that can mark your soul for ages, occupying your thoughts in the middle of the night months from your first exposure to it, dominating the landscape of your dreams, changing the shape of your heart’s desires. I call these occurrences “marvelous moments,” because they reveal to me something worthy of marvel and awe in this life.

Two such moments have so captured my imagination. I was reminded of my first experience of this captivation by the daily readings in the lectionary yesterday.

The angel brought me
back to the entrance of the temple,
and I saw water flowing out
from beneath the threshold of the temple toward the east,
for the façade of the temple was toward the east;
the water flowed down from the southern side of the temple,
south of the altar.
He led me outside by the north gate,
and around to the outer gate facing the east,
where I saw water trickling from the southern side.
He said to me,
“This water flows into the eastern district down upon the Arabah,
and empties into the sea, the salt waters, which it makes fresh.
Wherever the river flows,
every sort of living creature that can multiply shall live,
and there shall be abundant fish,
for wherever this water comes the sea shall be made fresh.
Along both banks of the river, fruit trees of every kind shall grow;
their leaves shall not fade, nor their fruit fail.
Every month they shall bear fresh fruit,
for they shall be watered by the flow from the sanctuary.
Their fruit shall serve for food, and their leaves for medicine.”

Ezekiel 47: 1-2, 8-9, 12 

The prophet Ezekiel is shown a vision where there is a river that makes salt water sweet. Along its banks are trees that bear fruit every month of the year, which is good for food. And their leaves are for medicine, for the healing of the nations (echoed by John in Revelation 22:2). The image of this scene took root in my imagination during my senior year of high school. I got home every day from school at 2 p.m. and I had more than two hours to myself before my mom picked my sister up from school and made it home. I would walk around the ponds behind our house and when I finished, I would read Ezekiel.

Not the normal light reading of a 17-year-old, but I definitely wasn’t a ‘normal’ teenager.

Chapter 1 in Ezekiel opens with some pretty strange things, and my mind and heart were ripe for the magic of it. I say “magic” because that’s what it felt like–all the colors and strange creatures and the sounds described…it reads like something out of a fantasy novel. The book of Ezekiel goes on to speak with vivid imagery of the story of God’s beloved wife who turns her back on him, but there is redemption in the end. Especially in chapter 47, when I first encountered this river and all its trees.

It has haunted me since then, for over 13 years. In a good way.

That’s what good literature and good art are supposed to do–to capture our imagination and not let it go. We turn over images and phrases in our minds and our hearts until they are a part of us. The things we read, watch, touch, taste, feel, and experience mark us, change us powerfully–for better or worse.

The second marvelous moment is from the film adaptation of J.R.R Tolkein’s The Two Towers, the second installment in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. It’s the battle of Helm’s Deep, where there seems to be no hope against the forces of Saruman. But Aragorn remembers the words of Gandalf–“Look to my coming at first light on the fifth day. At dawn, look to the East.” In faith, the overwhelmed captives break forth from their stronghold in the face of the invading army, and Gandalf appears, true to his word, with the Erkenbrand and 1,000 Rohirrhim. It is a powerful scene. You can watch it here.

Looking for the light of dawn to come through the window, determining to fight in the face of overwhelming odds, being willing  to fight together with one’s friends to the death–these things have marked me deeply and have shaped me into who I am today.

Have you experienced a marvelous moment like either of these? What was it like for you?

Welcome, little Lucy!

Today is my daughter Lucy’s due date, and she is already a week old. 

Allow me to indulge in some pictures of my beautiful girl.  

    
    
    
    
    
   
It’s 4:45 a.m. right now and she is sleeping next to me. I should be asleep, too, but rest does not always come to the weary when she needs it. 

I am so thankful for this little life. She has already made our family richer. My other children are as much in love with her as her daddy and I are. 

She sneezes a lot. 

I wonder if it’s allergies or just getting adjusted to the world around her. 

It reminds me of the prolific pollen that will descend on us here in East Texas in the spring–the distinct yellow of pine pollen. When I am tempted to be annoyed by it, the Lord reminds me how passionate He is for life, so much so that He has the humble pine tree spread its seed far and wide so that we can have more of these towering, beautiful trees in our natural home. 

Being open to new life, like the East Texas soil is to the showering of yellow pixie dust, is not always convenient or pleasant, but it is so worth it. 

  
His mercies are new every morning. 

These last few hours

 

a lovely poem in my OB’s office

 
I’m not a very patient person by nature. That’s why being fewer than 24 hours from delivering this baby is a big deal. It’s finally here…and it’s wonderful and weird and strange and delightful all at the same time. 

Being able to schedule a delivery is a relatively new phenomenon for the human species, and I don’t take that for granted. In my mind, there is something risky and magical and greatly rewarding about waiting to go into labor, but in my three pregnancies, I have not had that privilege. (For the story of our journey to Caesarian, check out the post I wrote shortly after our second child was born, Diary of a Wimpy Mom.) 

I don’t know if I will be able to sleep tonight. I can’t wait to meet our daughter. The thoughts of anesthesia are fear-inducing, so I will probably be praying a lot trough that tonight. Life is such a risky thing, but as the adage says, “El que no arriesga no cruce la mar.” That means, “She who never takes a risk never crosses the sea.” 

That’s kind of our philosophy with having kids…it’s a risk to have kids. It’s a risk to be in any kind of relationship. But it is so very rewarding. 

As you go into your day tomorrow, will you pray for me and for baby Lucy’s entrance into the world outside? And while you’re at it, know that I am praying for you to take that next big risk. 

~Amanda

The Perks of Liturgy with Kids

Having your kids in church with you every Sunday is challenging. There is no way around it…it is exhausting when you have a 3.5-year-old daughter, an almost-2-year-old son, and are 38 weeks pregnant.

My kids getting dirty, as they are apt to do

My kids getting dirty, as they are apt to do

I know such a practice is not for everyone, but here are some things that I have experienced in the past few weeks that make me remember the perks to having my kids in a liturgical setting, week in and week out.

Today at the park, my almost-2-year-old dipped his hand in the fountain, touched his head in his version of making the sign of the cross on himself, and said, “Holy Spirit.”

A few weeks ago, when the priest genuflected (kneeled) before the blessed Sacrament during communion and disappeared briefly behind the altar, my 3-year-old said loudly, “Where did he go?”

Any time we see a statue of Mary, my kids want to take a closer look at it and touch it.

My 3-year-old has the Lord’s prayer written on her heart already and joins in when the congregation prays it.

My son loves to pass the peace during Mass. If anyone mentions the word ‘peace,’ he turns to every member of our family, extends his hand for a shake, and says, “Peace.” Repeatedly. And now my kids give each other peace across the back seat in the car.

My daughter heard the bells from our church while we were playing at the city park last week and recognized them.

Our new priest, a native of Northern Ireland, made a joke about not being told that East Texas was full of dry counties, prompting laughter from the whole congregation. My daughter laughed along and continued to laugh loudly.

Most touching to me, though, was something that happened about two months ago. I was having a horrible day. I was exhausted from parenting and incubating a baby human. I had just finished a glass of water and it was sitting on the coffee table. My daughter picked it up and brought it to me, made the sign of the cross on my head, and had me take a pretend sip. As she offered the cup, she said, “The Body of Christ.” And then she walked over to the kitchen and said, “Mommy, come here!” And I approached her and she gave me the cup again and offered the words, “The Body of Christ.” She invited her little brother to come and she blessed him by making the sign of the cross on his forehead and offering the cup of salvation.

I cried. My heart was softened to the presence of Jesus in my daughter. And I knew that the exhausting journey of parenting is not in vain, though sometimes it feels that way. My children are learning, absorbing the drama of the Cross and the Resurrection. They are learning to respect the Holy Scriptures when we stand to read them weekly. They are learning to pray with their brothers and sisters. They are passing the peace of Christ. They are laughing with their community. They are feasting on the presence of Christ, even though they are too young to partake of His Body and Blood through the Eucharist.

These little ones, the weak ones in the eyes of the world, are shaming the strong ones around them. And through their testimony, their humor, and their natural humility, I am invited to be a weak and small child in faith once more, running to sit on Jesus’s lap because I know He won’t turn me away.

It is worth the struggle. Press on.

Something about Mary

One of the most frequent questions I get asked as a recent convert to Catholicism is, “So, what do you do with Mary?”

Detail from El Greco's The Holy Family with St. Anne

Detail from El Greco’s The Holy Family with St. Anne

I completely understand the question because I have asked it myself many times. My last defenses against becoming Catholic had to do with Mary’s role in salvation and the popular practices of Marian devotion that I had observed in the Catholic Church.

One of those big things was the Hail Mary. No, I’m not talking about the last-ditch effort football pass (although, those are exhilarating…you can watch the purported “Top Ten Hail Mary Plays All Time” here). Of course I’m talking about the prayer that makes up the bulk of the Rosary.

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

Can I just tell you now how much I love the Hail Mary?

Why, you wonder? I’m so glad you asked.

For starters, the first sentence comes straight from Scripture. Take a look at Luke 1:26-38. Gabriel greets Mary heartily and assures her that she has found favor with God and that God himself is with her. He delivers her the most powerful invitation that has ever been offered—to be the mother of the Son of God.

It is so precious to me that God decided to make himself known as a baby, carried by a woman. How much dignity does that bring to women? I don’t know about you, but I grew up with the mindset that women weren’t quite as called as men when it came to ministry. But how much more called can you be than Mary is? God basically asks her this: “Will you bear my son for nine months, birth him, and raise him in your own family?” How much trust and confidence does God have in a woman! It blows my mind, in a really good way. This may sound strange, but the way God honors Mary in choosing her shows me how much he values me. She has a ‘yes’ in her heart that I want to embrace in my own heart toward God.

Secondly, we echo Elizabeth’s greeting to her young cousin. Elizabeth has already experienced the power and promise of God in her own journey (in her old age she is with child), and when she encounters Mary, she exclaims, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” (See Luke 1:39-45.) Elizabeth has a special revelation of Mary as the Mother of the Lord, which is a huge deal. Here God goes again, revealing things to women! I can’t tell you how huge it was (is) to me that God does not reserve prophecy or revelation for men alone.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.

Maybe this part of the Hail Mary weirds you out a little.

Holy Mary? Does that means she’s sinless? That is what the Catholic Church teaches. But regardless of where you fall on that issue, isn’t it true that she is in heaven, purified by the blood of the Lamb, and holy before God because of Jesus?

Mother of God? Well, if Jesus is God, then there is no way around Mary being his mother. It is the humility of God that he has entered into our human family and forever is linked with us through the flesh.

Pray for us sinners? This may be a stretch for you, but think about this: If death is not the end for Christians, if we live in heaven with God after our earthly life ends, what are we doing up there? Yes, worshiping the Holy Trinity! But I have no doubt that the saints in heaven are joining Jesus in his constant intercession for us. They are alive, a great cloud of witnesses. I need all the prayer support from my brothers and sisters, on this side of Jordan or the other, now and at the hour of my death.

~

In my journey to understand how Mary ‘fits’ in the Gospel, my deep prayer has been this: “Jesus, teach me to love your Mother like you love her.” And He has answered and is continuing to answer my prayer.

Over the past year, Jesus has brought to my heart a deeper love for and honor for Mary. Mary is a figure or a type of the Church, or the People of God. She is holy because He is holy, not by her own merit. She, a woman, is the first to have the Good News: you will bear the Son of God and He will save the world. As Christians, we hold the promises of Mary and we walk to the cross with Mary. We wait for the Resurrection with her, view the Ascension with her. Because she faithfully bears, raises, and follows Jesus, her testimony is to be trusted. Her life is a picture of what awaits the Church.

When I say the Hail Mary, I bask in the favor that the Father shows Mary, because I truly believe it is my portion, too. A woman—a human within the fallen created order—is asked to bear the God-man within her body, making a home for Him in a hostile world. Because she says yes, I know that I can, too. In this she is my mother, and I need her wisdom. She raised the Son of God and the Son of Man and never left His side. She actively participates in His ministry (think of her intercession at the Cana wedding), and this makes me bold to ask Him for great things. It makes perfect sense to me that she is still actively involved in His kingdom work through her intercession.

When, in the Hail Mary, I ask Mary to pray for me at the hour of my death, I can earnestly do it…because she prayed for Jesus at the cross, the hour of His death. She didn’t leave, even when her heart was breaking. What depths of consolation of the Holy Spirit she has tasted! What wisdom does she have on loving to the end? If the Great Tribulation is coming and we will be called upon to live and die for the name of Jesus, I need her wisdom, her example, her prayers that I may be faithful to Jesus in the utter darkness.

She, like John the Baptist, is a forerunner of the Church. She goes ahead of me with a willing heart, a joy-filled experience of the crucified and risen and ascended Jesus.

~Amanda

What to do with Pope Francis

President_Barack_Obama_with_Pope_Francis_at_the_Vatican,_March_27,_2014

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

If you know me in person or on Facebook, you are probably aware that I am pro-life, like super pro-life.

You may not know that I am also a recent convert to Catholicism, or that one of the main reasons I was attracted to the Catholic Church was her consistent emphasis on the importance of speaking out for and protecting the weakest and most vulnerable of our human society—the unborn, the disabled, the elderly, the poor. I love the Catholic Church for many reasons, but very much so because she takes the call of Jesus to love the least of our brethren with utmost seriousness.

As an American Catholic, I have looked forward to Pope Francis’s visit, particularly his unprecedented address to the joint session of the United States Congress, which took place on the morning of Thursday, September 24. I had watched the warm reception by the first family of the Holy Father the day before, and I had listened to his words about protecting the environment. I know that in Laudato Si, Pope Francis ties the care for the environment with care and protection of the unborn, but I wanted to hear him make that explicit connection in his words to the American people.

He didn’t.

Now, this is a man who makes a lot of Americans uncomfortable. On one hand, he is met with a lot of suspicion by virtue of being the leader of the Catholic Church. He has made comments that seem hostile to American tradition, calling for limits and regulation of the free enterprise and the capitalism our country has been built upon. And he talks a lot about environmental concerns and world peace. Unsurprisingly, he has been labeled by many as a liberal.

On the other hand, Pope Francis has reaffirmed the Church’s position that marriage is the union of a man and a woman, and that its purpose is to create a new generation of beloved children. Prior to his visit to the United States, he has affirmed the need for protection of the unborn, and although he has emphasized the value and utmost importance of woman in the Church, he is firm on teaching that men alone are eligible for the priesthood. Unsurprisingly, he has been labeled by many as a conservative.

Pope Francis doesn’t fit. He doesn’t fit in our American political system. He is neither liberal nor conservative, Democrat or Republican.

But Jesus didn’t fit in his time either. For me, it is actually an encouraging thing that the Pope has resisted categorization, whether intentionally or not. It means I can trust even more that he is listening for the voice of the Lord to lead him and lead the Christians of the world.

As I watched his address to Congress, my heart was in my throat.

Was he going to affirm the need for our elected officials to end the slaughter of innocents in our land? Was he going to condemn the barbaric practices of dismembering children in and out of the womb and then selling their body parts?

The short answer is “no.” The Pope’s speech was beautiful and elegant, so well-written and well-delivered that I was in awe of the thought, passion, and compassion that went into it. But he didn’t mention the unborn once. He didn’t take a stand on Planned Parenthood.

And so, I was disappointed. This Pope that I love, this man whom I trust as my spiritual leader, he didn’t support my cause explicitly.

Yes, there were many instances where he mentioned things that can be interpreted as a call to protect the unborn. (The Pope spoke of “our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development” and said, “I cannot hide my concern for the family, which is threatened, perhaps as never before, from within and without.”) It is undoubtedly true that protecting the unborn is part of Catholic social teaching to advocate for the least of these. But it was also so subtle that it could have been easily overlooked or ignored (as it has been by a lot of Americans).

And so, as the Holy Father leaves my beloved country and resumes his regular pontifical duties at the Vatican, I am left with questions like these: What do I do with my disappointment? What do I do with Pope Francis and his speech before Congress?

 

Disappointment. It is a real feeling. It can be devastating. To have something I have hoped for—to be supported by my spiritual father in something so close to my heart—not come to pass exactly like I wanted it has brought me disappointment. But I have to remind myself of the words of Scripture where the prophet Isaiah says that “those who trust in the Lord will not be disappointed” (Isaiah 49:23 NIV). Such disappointment can be a case of misplaced trust. Pope Francis is not the Lord; he is a man who has dedicated himself to the Kingdom of God as a priest and a shepherd, but he is still a man, whose perspective on the world and experiences of the world are very different than the ones I bring to the table. It is natural for discomfort and disappointment to arise when expectations aren’t met, when worldviews bump into each other, and when my cultural assumptions are challenged.

So when I find myself disappointed by this person whom I respect so much, I am forced to press into the Lord and ask, “What do I do with my disappointment? What do I do with Pope Francis?”

First, I hear the Lord asking me to forgive the Holy Father for any perceived injustice towards me, or the American people, or the unborn citizens of our country. From watching Francis interact with others and from hearing him speak before, I know that he is full of compassion and boldness and good will and love for Christ, His Church, and all the people of the world. So I know his intent was well placed. I can give him the benefit of the doubt. I can ask the Lord to help me move past the pain and discomfort that this disappointment has caused me and truly forgive him for any perceived injustice.

Second, I hear the Lord saying, “Listen to him.” Have you seen the meme that says, “Many people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply”? It’s a quote from Stephen R. Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change. Well, I am guilty as charged. Far too often, I search the statements and stories and arguments of the people in my life primarily so that I may bring forward my own ideas and opinions by picking apart what they have said. This is not charitable or loving. It is self-seeking and arrogant, even when my motivation is to help others see the truth that I have discovered. This is not to say that I shouldn’t engage in serious discussion about challenging concepts or difficult truths. Rather, I have to orient myself first to listen, second to learn and think, and third to respond with thoughtful feedback and experience.

Had Pope Francis echoed my sentiments and convictions in his speech to Congress, I have to confess that I would have posted as many memes as possible showing others how right I have been and how important my agenda is. I may not have been in a place to listen or to engage in thoughtful dialogue.

As I wrote in a previous post, the Christian family on earth desperately needs to learn the art of conversation. We are so quick to judge our brothers and sisters for what we hear them saying or doing without sitting down, talking it through, and truly listening with a heart of love.

­

Where do I go from here?

Because I so greatly respect Pope Francis and his position in the Church and the testimony of what he has done and is doing to bring the Kingdom of God, I need to listen and prayerfully consider what he is saying. I am going to print off transcripts of his speeches—all of them from this US trip—and read them with a heart of listening and understanding, asking the Holy Spirit for help. Even though it will make me uncomfortable, I have to do this. I want to extend the same charity to the Holy Father that I know he would extend to me if we were to sit down and have a conversation.

And then I will ask the Lord to help me sort out where to go from here. I still believe that abortion is a great evil and needs to be addressed politically and socially. But maybe my approach needs to change? If I am not willing to ask this question, then I have to admit that my agenda is more important to me than listening to the leading of the Holy Spirit and the testimony of the Church worldwide. Which is something I don’t want to be true.

In the Psalms, David proclaims of the Lord, “You desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom” (Psalm 51:6 NASB). Because God desires truth in my deepest part, I can trust that when I ask Him to show it to me, He will do it.

And that is what I am asking. How about you?

Read the Pope’s speeches for yourself

Remembering in the Valley

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O my God, my soul is cast down within me;
Therefore I will remember You from the land of the Jordan,
And from the heights of Hermon,
From the Hill Mizar.
Psalm 42:6 NKJV

It’s just really hard to be in a low place.

Do you know what I mean? It’s lonely. Vision is limited. Feelings are either overwhelmingly present or conspicuously absent.

Psalm 42 has been one of my go-to passages when I have been depressed. Verse 6 speaks so much to me, because the psalmist is being honest with God–the place that we all must start if we are to get out of the darkness.

O my God… It’s either a prayer or a groaning. Let your heart groan.

My soul is downcast within me… Sometimes it is so hard to just be honest with God about how crappy we feel. But there is no shame in being honest with Him. He can handle it. We have to be honest so that we can start a conversation that will change things within us.

Therefore I will remember You… Memory is a powerful tool against staying stuck in despair or depression. When we look back at the times in our lives that God has been faithful, the times when He has filled us with joy, the times we have seen Him provide, it grows our faith. The act of remembering sows seeds of hope. It’s what I call ‘prophetic memory.’

…from the land of the Jordan… The psalmist is talking about a valley, a low, low place. We have to remember Him in the deep, dark places. We have to start that honest conversation with God.

…And from the heights of Hermon, from the Hill Mizar… And I have to remember Him when things are good, when I’m on that mountain top and can see the beautiful goodness of God so clearly and profoundly. I have to write down or somehow record the good things I am seeing in the land of the living, so that when I next find myself in the valley, with no vision for my future because of the darkness pressing in, I can revisit them, remember them, take hope from the consistent kindness of the Lord.

Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls;
All Your waves and billows have gone over me.
 The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime,
And in the night His song shall be with me—
A prayer to the God of my life.

Psalm 42:7,8 NKJV

Know this: He has not forgotten you.

Peace to you in our Lord Jesus Christ,

Amanda

Grace for Tuesdays

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The thought of Tuesdays makes my heart beat faster.

Not in a good way. Not in the I’m-going-to-see-the-guy-I-like way. Not in the good-work-out-today way.

In a bad way.

In the I-can’t-do-Tuesdays-please-rescue-me way.

Tuesdays are no joke. For the past three Tuesdays, I have hit about 11:30 and texted my husband something like this:
Why are Tuesdays so hard?
I cannot do Tuesdays.
I am so sorry this is happening [referring to the meltdown I had that required him to watch the kids on his lunch break so I could escape our house and our kids].

I can ‘make it’ through the morning–the part of the day that is normally easiest with my kids–but when afternoon comes, I am DONE.

I ask again, Why are Tuesdays so hard?

My husband’s theory is that I get caught up on my rest and my sanity over the weekend when he is home being super-helpful. (No sarcasm here; he an amazingly helpful dad and husband.) And so Monday hits when I am rested and prepared. He thinks I spend so much energy and focus making Monday great that
Tuesday
   hits me when I’m down
      and
         sucks
            the life from me.

It’s an interesting theory, one that actually gives me hope, but cause it means that somehow, in my repertoire of mom skillz, I have the power to change the face of Tuesday.

Now, I warn you, this is just in the experimental stage, but I am going to try to avert Tuesday’s habitual failing and misery (because it’s miserable) by adjusting my expectations for Monday.

Expectations. They kill my soul when I operate with them as my unrecognized or unacknowledged guides.

I call the kind of thinking has ruled my weeks since I transitioned into full-time stay-at-home mom “ATTACK MONDAY MODE.”

It goes like this:
MAKE MONDAY AMAZING and the rest of the week will be amazing, too.

But what that has turned out to look like is this:
DO A BUNCH OF COOL AND ENERGY-REQUIRING THINGS ON MONDAY, THEN CRASH AND BURN ON TUESDAY. SPEND WEDNESDAY, THURSDAY, AND FRIDAY PICKING UP THE PIECES AND REMEMBERING THAT I AM LOVED BY GOD IN MY FAILURES.

“ATTACK MONDAY MODE” has not really been a good plan.

So, I’m taking a breath
   and taking inventory of my expectations.

I’m asking myself these questions:
What is the antidote for my addiction to expectations?
How can I lay hold of grace for Tuesday, my hardest day of the week?

Stay tuned for answers trial-and-error, prayerful considerations to these questions.

Peace out. And PLEASE, if you have ideas or comments, fire away below.

Amanda