Hide-and-Go-Seek


My kids are really in to playing hide-and-go-seek. They shut themselves in the bathroom and count to ten (“Count slower!” I tell them), then burst out of the door with “Ready or not, here I come!” or some version of that mixed up with giggles.

The 3-year-old is getting really good at the idea of the game–that she closets herself away while I hide and then she comes and finds me. Her little brother only knows one aspect of the game–find Mommy. He isn’t good at hiding (I’ve tried hiding him with me, but he makes too much noise), and the waiting for the counting to finish is a challenge. But he’s good at finding me.

I love how I have to hide myself in obvious places around our home. I love how if it’s taken awhile for them to find me, I have to call out, “Hello?!” until they follow the sound of my voice. I love how they burst into giggles and shrieks when they finally find me. It delights my heart so much for them to enjoy finding me.

“Again? Again?” they beg. And I usually can’t help but oblige. (Unless we’ve already done it 10 times. Then I can usually tell them “no.”)

One particular go-round, I was hiding rather conspicuously in the front hall by the shoe cubby, but it was taking them a long time to find me. I found my anticipation at seeing the joy on their faces growing. I couldn’t wait for them to find me. “Hello?!” I called out. “Hello?!”

Brennan rounded the corner first. Lily was hot on his heels. They squealed! “You found me!” I said, the joy in my heart so great I could barely stand it. Suddenly it hit me–God loves to hide from me SO THAT I can search him out. He gets as much of a kick out of it as I do hiding from my kids. I want them to find me–that’s why I drop big vocal clues. He wants me to find him. It’s crazy how much affection surges in my heart for God when I think about it this way.

Like Graham Cooke says, God hides in plain sight. He makes sure his elbows are sticking out behind the couch or that his foot doesn’t completely go behind the bookshelf. He wants to be easily accessible to me.

Sometimes I don’t find him as easily as I once did. Sometimes I feel like we were playing a fun game of hide-and-go-seek when the lights get turned off without warning. But even though it might get harder to find him or see him when I’m searching, these verses hang in my  heart. I try to read them, cherish them, listen to them with the ears of a little kid playing hide-and-go-seek with her royal-but-not-too-proper-for-games father.

It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings to search it out. 
from Proverbs 25:2

So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you;
Seek, and you will find;
Knock, and it will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks receives, 
and he who seeks finds, 
and to him who knocks it will be opened…
If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, 
how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!
from Luke 11 

So here’s your assignment for the week (and I promise to do it to)–
Tell God you want to play hide-and-go-seek with him. See what he has to show you. He might just be hiding in plain sight, saying “Hello?!” hoping that you’ll look for him.

 

 

Is being overweight a sin?

weigh-689873Do you want the short answer or the long answer?

The short answer is no.

The long answer is noooooo.

For so long, I have carried around baggage attached to the pounds my hips bear. This baggage is shame, and this shame is for being overweight.

I cannot remember a time in my life where I did not feel the weight of being fat. I know a lot of people don’t like the term “fat.” It’s a word that I am not completely comfortable using, but I think that it is important to press through my awkwardness.

Being overweight is not a sin.

Being fat is not a sin.

If you’re overweight, how does that statement strike you?

Well, it sounds good but I don’t know if she’s right. I’ve done so much to put myself where I am today, and this weight I carry is a result of poor decisions…I don’t know if I can agree with her. 

I totally get you.

Let’s think about it another way.

My mom who is the fairest of the fair–red hair, pale skin, freckles galore. She is simply stunning even in her grandmothering years. I inherited her fair skin, not the deliciously tannable skin of the Cuban stock my dad comes from. My skin shows the years I have gone outside without sunscreen. I have freckles (a mark of beauty, in my opinion) and I have sun damage. I have this sun damage because of a number of factors which may not be apparent at first glance. Mostly, though, it’s because I kept forgetting to put sunscreen on as a kid engaged in the limited outdoor sporting activities forced on me by public education.

I have this skin damage and I could have done something to prevent it. Even now, I could buy creams and wear more sun protection. But even though it’s there, I have no feelings of moral failure about it the way I do about being overweight.

What’s the difference?

I can’t speak for other cultures or other times, but I do know that in our American culture, weight has been attached to a kind of morality. If I eat right and exercise, or at least try to do so, I have moral currency to deposit in the Bank of Health. (I’ll lay aside, for the time being, the Bank of Physical Perfection.)

How many times have you heard this line? As long as you’re healthy…as if health is a measure of a person’s self worth.

It’s not about a number on the scale, I have heard.
It’s not about your outward appearance.
It’s not about the size you wear.
It’s about your health. 

So if I am overweight and in a bigger size than most stores sell, I don’t get any health bucks. If I carry more padding than is culturally attractive, I don’t get any health bucks.

“Let’s do something about this,” someone might say. “Let’s add some money into your Bank of Health account.”

I can do this in a few ways–actually start working out. That’s like 5 health bucks per workout. I could give up gluten–that’s like a hundred a week. If I want to be healthy and so I am trying and failing–either by missing my workout or by eating healthy all day until I blow it with ice cream after the kids are in bed–I earn one health buck for trying.

That’s what we’ve learned, right? What counts is that I’m trying not to be fat anymore?

But what if I don’t want to try anymore? What if I refuse to play the game where being overweight is equated with being morally inferior?

What if I recognize that no matter how little or how much I weigh, or how well or how poorly I fit into clothing, weight is not a moral issue? 

That takes a whole restructuring of how my mind works towards food, exercise, health, and physical appearance.

It means once I convince myself that being overweight is not sinful, I can be content with myself even when I’m not trying to be healthy. No more shame about not trying to get to the gym. 

It means that food can be enjoyed, because I’m not basing my eating decisions on how good or how bad a person this apple pie is going to make me.  No more shame about eating a tortilla that isn’t ‘carb balanced.’

It means that I can love myself more freely because I have stopped judging every freaking thing I do in relation to how much I weigh or how I look.

It means that I can love the people around me more freely because I have stopped judging myself and so I can stop judging other people for how they look, eat, or move.

To get to this place, I have to stop using language that attaches moral value to food. No more “good food, bad food.” Food is morally neutral.

And that’s a good place to begin.

 

Painting Pictures of Egypt

Hey, ladies. Yes, I’m talking to you.

Have you ever looked at old pictures of yourself and thought, “Why did I think I was fat?”

This whole new Facebook “See your memories” thing has brought it up a lot for me lately.

For example: the picture on top is the second time I ever saw the stud who became my husband, in January 2008. We had met on a blind date in November 2007, and I was struggling with weight-related self-image issues, like I had my whole life.

I have always known I am pretty, but that hasn’t stopped me from thinking, “If I weighed less, I would have more friends…be more confident…accomplish more in the world…”

I truly believed that I would be a better person if I shed the extra poundage I carried then.

I look at that picture now, knowing the happiness and pain that await ‘skinny me’ (the happiness outweighs the pain, but the pain is still there).

The picture on bottom is us last week, 6.5 years of marriage and 3 kids later. I compare my current body to my 2008 body and I catch myself thinking, “If only I could go back to that size…Why did I think I was fat? Look at me now…”

But, no. Wait. Stop right there, mama. Let’s look at the assumptions wrapped up in this line of thinking:

  1. Weighing less means being a better person. Which I know–at a factual level–isn’t true. But at a gut level, that lie is still there. We have all felt the pressure to continually strive to be a better person, and for me the issue of weight management is in the “be better at” compartment. But my weight has little-to-nothing to do with how good a person I am.
  2. Weighing less means being more beautiful. Which I kinda know at a factual level isn’t true, but it is definitely a lie that I believe in my gut. So many images of beautiful and thin women bombard my vision. I have to go out of my way to find beauty portrayed in the media in people of bigger size.
  3. Weighing less means more people will like me. As I type this out, it feels like I am still in high school, with assumptions like this. Surely I know that my friends are not focused on my appearance, right? But I still believe this deep down. And I want to be liked. So I feel pressured to weigh less.
  4. Weighing less means fewer wounds for me to carry. Now this one might be legitimate. Let’s talk more about this.

 

Fewer pounds = Fewer Wounds?

I have told myself (and that this message reinforced by movies, tv, music, and social media) that weighing less will mean a healthier, happier, hotter me. Surely a lot of my wounds do come from feeling out of place in a skinny-worshipping world, judging myself by other people’s standards and coming up short. There is a feeling of insignificance and insecurity that plague me with the temptation to believe that I am a lesser person because I am overweight.  This is not true. 

Even when people eschew the ‘skinny’ language and replace it with ‘healthy’ language, I am still affected. Because I am not focusing on eating healthy and losing weight, I am not on the path to the good life. I carry a lot of shameful feelings because I am still eating wheat, drinking soda, and not scheduling regular exercise. But I’ve been reading some Brené Brown and I know that while shame is a powerful thing, it is not a good thing. I want to be through with the shame of being overweight. And therefore I have to throw my assumptions about being skinny out the window.

So, for some truth:

  1. I can develop into a better person regardless of how much I weigh. The choices to shape my character, to love myself and others well–these are not dependent on whether I am fat or skinny.
  2. I am beautiful in my current body. It is true. I am attractive. I am lovely. The gifts and creativity and love and kindness that flow through me make me lovely. I am also pretty.
  3. People may or may not like me, but I am likable. This has nothing to do with my weight and everything to do with being myself. Some people won’t like me because I am assertive, confident, and truth-speaking. But that has nothing to do with me being fat or skinny.
  4. People of all sizes and shapes carry wounds, big wounds. If by some chance I do lose weight, I will not be wound-proof. Wounds are inevitable as we walk through this pilgrimage called life. If the wounds I carry are related to being overweight, I can address them and seek healing.

So when I am tempted to long for the days of “skinny me,” as if going back to a certain size could change my life for the better, I remember that life was not all peaches and cream back then. Pain and joy still awaited ‘skinny me’ and they had nothing to do with how much I weighed. My desire to go back to that time is what Sara Groves calls “painting pictures of Egypt.”

I’ve been painting pictures of Egypt
Leaving out what it lacks
The future looks so cold and I want to go back
But the places they used to fit me
Cannot hold the things I’ve learned
And that road was closed off to me
While my back was turned…

In 2008, I could not have imagined the challenges and the joys that lay ahead of me. I have grown and learned so much. I have gained so much trust, confidence, love, and weight. But honestly, I would not change it. The journey I have walked has shaped me, and I embrace the shape I’m in because of it.

My body tells my story. It’s a beautiful story and I will not be ashamed of it. 

I’ll leave you with one particular song that gives me courage to keep walking forward, leaving shame and regret behind, and embracing who I am now and who God is for me all the time.

Screen Shot 2016-01-11 at 10.28.24 AM.png

Click the picture above or here to watch the music video for “Painting Pictures of Egypt” by Sara Groves.

If it comes to quick
I may not appreciate it
Is that the reason behind all this time and sand?

If it comes to quick
I may not recognize it
Is that the reason behind all this time and sand?

 

 

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

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