Thursday, July 24, 2008

Upside the Head: Part III

The alarm went off at 5:00 AM so I could get up to pray. I didn’t get up until 5:25. I usually like to start by 5:45 after a small breakfast and shaving. I didn’t start until 6:25. I like to finish praying and be ready to help my wife to get ready by 6:35. I had to stop after two decades of the rosary and I only had time to put a few ants on the peanut butter and celery logs for my wife’s breakfast right before 6:45 when it was time to leave for Mass. I knew it was going to be tough to focus at Mass when I hadn’t taken the time to prepare. The evidence was the collared brown shirt I had on, as opposed to the long sleeve shirt and tie I wear when I’m supposed to be an Extraordinary Minister on Thursdays.

Appropriately for today, my wife was the lector for the first reading:
Jer 2:1-3, 7-8, 12-13
I remember the devotion of your youth,
how you loved me as a bride,
Following me in the desert,
in a land unsown…

I think God, with a sense of humor, was late in smacking me upside the head today because it wasn’t until the Offertory until I felt my head fly forward. Then the whole week made sense to me: God is my spouse. I’ve been neglecting the Lord as a spouse. The water began to seep into the fountain and once I had received the Body and especially the Precious Blood of the Lord and I was offering His Blood to others, I savored a fullness and a peace I hadn’t known for a long time.

I realized that when I’m playing Gemcraft for longer than 15 or 20 minutes, I look at the papers on my desk and frown, knowing that my wife would love to have the mess cleaned up. What I forget sometimes is the invisible clutter in my soul that the Lord would like me to clean up so that I can receive Him better. So today, I will make every effort to be a good spouse to my Lord and my wife. Thank you for reading.

Upside the Head: Part II

So everyday is a new challenge for me to continue to put God first. When I was going through my conversion of heart three years ago, I had so much zeal for the Lord. I truly felt His grace overflowing, as St. Teresa of Avila describes in her Interior Castle. She describes the Lord’s grace and peace as water welling up into a fountain of the soul. If the soul is open to the Lord, it receives a continuous wellspring of the Lord’s presence and love. Mind you, I was still an infant in my understanding of my interaction with the Lord, but how I loved His peace.

I write in the past tense because in the last two years, I have spent so much time yearning for the Lord throughout the day. I would struggle to pray and grasp for the Lord in my arrogance, striving to hold onto small drops of water while my soul’s fountain remained parched. My days were spent constantly battling to order my thoughts and heart to Christ. I reflected that I might have felt like the first Apostles after the Lord’s Ascension. They were huddled in the upper room, scared of the world outside and clinging to the strength and never failing example of Mary, their new mother. Then, when the Lord was ready, He sent the Apostles the Holy Spirit and their souls burst forth with zeal and grace. I’ve spent and probably will spend many days in that room with Our Heavenly Mother; I’m so grateful for her intercession. Like a good mother, Mary teaches me how to hold out my hands and be patient in receiving. It’s all in God’s timing. Yet, I have to continue to be patient and keep looking for the Lord.

I experienced the memorial of St. Mary Magdalene (Tuesday, July 22) with a whole new perspective, provided by the second reading from the Liturgy of the Hours (Volume III). Picture this: Peter and John had just run to the tomb on Resurrection Sunday after hearing Mary Magdalene’s message. They looked around, saw the empty tomb for themselves, and then left. Mary stayed behind. She was weeping. She was looking and longing for Him who she loved. He came to her. Isn’t that awesome! She wasn’t an Apostle or the Blessed Virgin. Jesus appeared first to a repentant sinner who loved Him and persevered in searching for Him. That’s a smack upside my head to keep hoping, looking, loving, serving, praying, suffering, repenting, and working.

Thank you, God. Thank you, holy men and women, for your wonderful example of how to love the Lord.

Upside the Head: Part I

So as I mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve had a lot of time to pray and think this summer. In thinking about the upcoming storm of my final semester in nursing school this fall, there have been days where I had no desire to do extra work, at the hospital or at home. Now, on the days when I’ve had energy and I knew I hadn’t performed well the day before, I’m on fire and I make meals, clean, pray with intention, and do well at work. On the days that I’m hurting with fatigue, confusion, or lack of motivation, I fail.

When I say fail, I mean that I waste time online doing the following:

Basically, I spend time with the only toys I’ve permitted myself to have because I know that if we had a TV or, heaven forbid, a game console, then my addictive nature would waste hours.
Things I should be doing more of:

  • Serving the Lord through praying, exercising, receiving and employing the gifts of the Spirit through disciplined dedication to reading and spiritual and corporal works of mercy.

  • Serving my wife through cleaning, cooking, completing tasks, and preparation for our new blessing.

Thankfully, God is watching out for me. This week, God did what He does best…He smacked me upside my head multiple times. First at Adoration, through the Imitation of Christ: Saint Joseph Edition, God showed me why I would want to suffer: Jesus suffered. Jesus had no reason to suffer. He did nothing wrong. But He loves me and He chose to be compassionate. “Com” = “with” and “passion” = “suffer.” He chose to suffer with me. He chose to embrace my suffering so that He could take it upon himself and set me free. Christ freed me from sin and suffering so that I might find peace throughout the day, hope in the future, and love in the Lord. Not “free” as in spending hours playing video games, but free so that I might serve and be compassionate with others, leading them to Christ as Christ has led me to God. I’ve got a lot to learn.

Thank you, Lord. for keeping me close to your Sacred Heart.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Washing diapers: an apartment dilemma

I am committed to diapering our babies in cloth. It's more economical and environmentally friendly. But my decision (made long before I was even married) poses a particular problem for David and I in our current situation: we don't own a washer and dryer. Our apartment doesn't even have the hookups. We currently cart our laundry down to one of the facilities in our complex every week or two and run several loads at once. It's not ideal, but we make do.

Cloth diapers, however, need to be washed often and in a particular way. I can only imagine it would not be easy to take my baby and my diapers down to the laundry room every three days. And the available washers offer very few settings, which do not include pre-rinses or post-rinses. That will not do for diapers.

David and I will not be moving into a house before the baby comes (unless some amazing opportunity presents itself), and we'd rather not move apartments (to one with washer & dryer) only to move again less than a year later (God-willing). So we're left pondering a few options:

1) Rent a washer and dryer unit with hoses that run to the kitchen sink. These are available for $40 per month. Our electricity and water bills would also increase but we'd have the convenience of doing all our laundry at home.

2) Use a diaper service that rents cloth diapers and picks them up weekly for laundering. This would cost approximately $60 per month. I'd still have to do all my other laundry the old way.

3) Purchase a portable pressure washing machine such as the Wonder Wash ($50-60 one-time cost depending on shipping) and hand-crank the diapers at home (while continuing to do most of the laundry in the laundry facilities).

What do you think? Is the Wonder Wash silly or ingenious? Anyone ever been in a similar situation? Have any other ideas?

Speaking of cloth diapers - check out this fabulous giveaway: Win a Bum Genius 3.0 Starter Kit from Nature's Child - Wholesome Goods for Mothers and Babies. Thanks, Melissa!

Photo credit: Dazed81

WYD: How Theology of the Body found me

As I read about World Youth Day in Australia this week, I took a little trip down memory lane to my own World Youth Day experience in Toronto, Canada, in 2002. As a chaperone I guided several youth from the Diocese of Spokane to daily catechetical lessons, Masses, meals, concerts, Adoration, and more. Although joyful memories flood my mind (the handmade shell rosary I was given, explaining courtship to a teenager on the trolley, hearing Pope John Paul II pray the Mass...), I have been especially grateful remembering the Love & Responsibility booklets I gathered in Toronto.

As the World Youth Day crowds thronged by, a few people were handing out a 32-page booklet with the Pope on the front. "Pope John Paul II on Love & Responsibility," it said, then "The Challenge of Human Sexuality." I was intrigued. When I saw the ground littered with the booklets a few yards further along, I actually stooped to pick up as many as I could carry. Somehow I knew that the information they contained would be valuable to share with others in the future.

I didn't get a chance to read the document through until much later, after I returned from the Toronto. Amazed by its forthright discussion of human love, metaphysics, ordered sexuality, the theology of marriage, and natural family planning, I started underlining like crazy (I have that copy in front of me now). I was given a taste of the rich banquet that is Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body, and I began to hunger for more.

Thank God for the group, Love and Responsibility Foundation, that organized the donations and the labor to print and distribute those brochures. Mine prompted me to learn more about the Theology of the Body, and this educational journey has changed the way I understand human life and love.

If you haven't yet discovered this treasure of the Church, perhaps you might like to start with the same brochure that influence me. It is available on the Foundation's website here (as a PDF). Christopher West (a fabulous synthesizer of Pope JP II's dense philosophical writings) also has an introductory article here.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Happy Couple

Great Smoky Mountains National Park
July 5th, 2008

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Good news of great joy!

We're pregnant! We went for an ultrasound and saw the little one for the first time yesterday. The baby is looking good and has a very strong heartbeat (183 beats per minute!).

Due date: February 25.

We're almost 8 weeks along. I've experienced nausea and headaches since week 5, but I've learned what helps (ginger tea and lots of other fluids, eating first thing in the morning, sleeping more) and am feeling a bit better lately (thanks be to God!).

David and I are truly grateful to God for the gift of this child and we ask your prayers for a successful pregnancy and delivery! Thank you. :)

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

COMPASS Catholic Campus Ministry

As grateful as I am for my college education, I am not proud of the negative impact my supposedly "Catholic" alma mater has on the faith of many of its students. Although opportunities to explore and exercise faith (particularly through community service) abound on campus, the example and messages set forth by the college often contradict orthodox Catholic teaching.

As my own Catholic faith deepened, I became increasingly uncomfortable with my college. I realized I could not contribute to it financially in good conscience, knowing that it might use some of my donation to fund immoral programs. So, for the past four years I have tossed those mailings begging for money in the recycling and politely declined the requests of the young students who called me during the phone-a-thons.

This past year, however, the solicitations have gone up a notch. A very wealthy alum pledged a huge sum for student internships if a certain percentage of alumni contributed within a certain time frame. At first I ignored the emails and brochures. But my heart began to ache a little at the thought that my choice not to donate might prevent the college from receiving funding for something worthwhile. They weren't asking me for much - just $1 so they could say I contributed. My mind churned as I tried to come up with some way I could give a little money, fulfill the requirements for the match, and still have a clear conscience.

After several months, the answer came to me: earmark my donation for a particular Catholic ministry or student organization that I KNEW was upholding Church teaching. I had the great privilege of participating in COMPASS my senior year of college. Our small group gathered for prayer, meditated on the Sunday Gospel, listened to tapes with solid Catholic teachings (including an introduction to the Theology of the Body), and discussed living out the faith as students and beyond. Best of all, we met at the campus ministry house for Feast Day Dinners every so often - we learned about saints and shared a meal from their country of origin.

I don't know how the group is doing on my alma mater's campus these days, but I hope my small donation and prayers give them a boost.

Do you have a campus ministry you enjoyed as a student and still support today?

Friday, July 4, 2008

Deo Gratias: Foresty Getaway

In just a few hours David and I will be driving to Tennessee. We're visiting my aunt and uncle over the long weekend - they live on the other side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. As much as I loathe unnecessary fuel consumption, I have been looking forward to this trip. I've never seen the house my aunt and uncle built. Because it is "set apart" on a large piece of land (hopefully with lots of trees) it nearly promises the peace and relaxation I so desire. And David and I have a history of really enjoying our time together on long car rides. He's loaded up the iPod and I've cut up some watermelon for the cooler.

May you and your loved ones rejoice in your freedom today! How precious, too, is the freedom of spirit we Christians experience when we turn to the Lord and place ourselves under His mercy again and again. Deo Gratias!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

True beauty & a bridal bouquet

Bill Donaghy of The Heart of Things posted about Dove's Self-Esteem Project and "True Beauty" advertising campaign yesterday - I encourage you to read his excellent thoughts about interior beauty. I mention Bill's post not only because I also applaud what Dove is doing to help women appreciate their unique gifts, but because he references a verse which I recently encountered in very creative presentation.

"Your adornment should...[be]...the hidden character of the heart, expressed in the imperishable beauty of a gentle and calm disposition, which is precious in the sight of God." 1 Peter 3:3-4
In June David and I attended a lovely wedding and reception. When it came time for the bride to throw her bouquet, all the single ladies gathered on the dance floor. What the bride sent flying towards their open arms was not her bouquet or a simpler stand-in. Instead, she tossed twenty or more individual flowers (daisies?) to which she had tied little pieces of paper. The verse from 1 Peter 3 was printed on each paper, encouraging its recipient to cultivate her true beauty.

The bride came up with this idea on her own - isn't it wonderful? I intend to recommend it to friends planning for their weddings. What a lovely way to affirm all the young women attending your wedding and point them towards virtue and grace, those wonderful attributes which not only attract fine young men but also please the Lord!