NOVENA FOR FAMILIES DURING THE HOLIDAYS

This novena was originally written for a group of predominantly married Catholic women, and so its focus is distinctly feminine, which I at least consider a bonus. Each day has a focus on one area that tends to come up during the holidays; if a day doesn’t apply to you, feel free to substitute another intention (“siblings” for “in-laws” or “children,” e.g.).  I’ve listed the individual days’ intentions first, and if you scroll to the end you’ll find the prayers to be said every day.

We’ll be relying on the intercession of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. Jeanne de Chantal, St. Monica, and St. Rita, all women who experienced various family difficulties throughout their lives be it with in-laws, their own parents, their children, their husbands—really, all of the above, and I encourage you to read up on them. Meditating on their wisdom, we’ll recite the Litany of Humility with the aim of decreasing ourselves so Christ may increase in us, so that no matter what obstacles or hurtfulness we encounter, we may radiate love while resting secure in God’s love for us. Thank you for praying with me!


DAY 1: FOR OUR IMMEDIATE FAMILIES

Meditations from the saints:
“We know certainly that our God calls us to a holy life. We know that he gives us every grace, every abundant grace; and though we are so weak of ourselves, this grace is able to carry us through every obstacle and difficulty.”
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

“Cordial love of the neighbor does not consist in feelings. This love flows not from a heart of flesh but from the heart of our will.”
St. Jeanne de Chantal

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Today we pray for our immediate families, those in which we were raised and those we are raising ourselves, your domestic Church, where we first live out Your calling and experience your love, whence we bring your Gospel to the world. [Add any other intentions here.]


DAY 2: FOR OUR PARENTS

Meditations from the saints:
“I then, O my Praise and my Life, Thou God of my heart, putting aside for a little her good deeds, for which I joyfully give thanks to You, do now beseech You for the sins of my mother. …and inspire, O my Lord my God, inspire Your servants my brethren, Your sons my masters, who with voice and heart and writings I serve, that so many of them as shall read these confessions may at Your altar remember Monica, Your handmaid, together with Patricius, her sometime husband, by whose flesh You introduced me into this life, in what manner I know not. May they with pious affection be mindful of my parents in this transitory light.”
St. Augustine

“Our God loves us; this is our comfort.”
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Today we pray for our parents, who gave us life and those who raised us, who are called to be models of Christ and His Church for us their children; we give thanks for those who received the grace to live out their vocations, and beg pardon for those who turned away. [Add any other intentions here.]


DAY 3: FOR OUR IN-LAWS

Meditations from the saints:
“Her mother-in-law, also, being at first prejudiced against her by the whisperings of evil-disposed servants, she so conquered by submission, persevering in it with patience and meekness, that she voluntarily disclosed to her son the tongues of the meddling servants, whereby the domestic peace between herself and her daughter-in-law had been agitated, begging him to punish them for it. …And…they lived together with a wonderful sweetness of mutual good-will.”
St. Augustine

“Must you continue to be your own cross? No matter which way God leads you, you change everything into bitterness by constantly brooding over everything. For the love of God, replace all this self-scrutiny with a pure and simple glance at God’s goodness.”
St. Jeanne de Chantal

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Today we pray for our in-laws, who through God’s blessing gave us the great gift of our spouses, whom we are called to love as our own parents; we give thanks for those who love us as their own, and pray for an end to strife with those who do not. [Add any other intentions here.]


DAY 4: FOR OUR CHILDREN

Meditations from the saints:
“Let us be sure that we understand what an honor it is for us to spend time in prayer, as much time as we wish, as intimately as we wish. The man who wins an hour-long audience from his prince, considers himself lucky. And our God, before whom the kings of the earth are less than a spark in the full blaze of the sun, and less than a little worm in the presence of the highest angels — this great God, nevertheless, is eager to hear us no matter what hour of the day or night we turn to Him.”

“Give them books and conferences treating of the virtues, and tell them that they must set about practising them. Later on they can talk about high things for by the exercise of true and solid virtue light comes from Him who is the Master of the humble, and whose delight it is to be with souls that are simple and innocent.”
St. Jeanne de Chantal

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Today we pray for our children, gifts from God whom we are called to shepherd from infancy to independence, that they may always be faithful to Him; and we pray especially for those adult children who have left the Church, that their mothers’ intercession may open their hearts to the grace to return. [Add any other intentions here.]


DAY 5: FOR OUR FAMILY MEMBERS WHO HAVE PASSED AWAY

Meditations from the saints:
“The accidents of life separate us from our dearest friends, but let us not despair. God is like a looking glass in which souls see each other. The more we are united to Him by love, the nearer we are to those who belong to Him.”
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

“This only I ask, that you will remember me at the Lord’s altar, wherever you be.”
St. Monica

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Today we pray for our family members who have finished their life’s journey on this earth, whose absence leaves a void filled with many emotions and tender hearts; we [remember them especially during this month of All Souls] and pray fervently that they may be admitted into your kingdom, and that those they have left behind may know the consolation of Christian hope in God’s mercy. [Add any other intentions here.]


DAY 6: FOR PRESERVATION FROM GOSSIP

Meditations from the saints:
“The love of talk distracts all the powers of our soul from God, and fills them with earthly objects and impressions, like a vessel of water that cannot be settled while you are continually stirring the earthly particles from the bottom.”
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

“When she had heard on both sides most bitter things, such as swelling and undigested discord is wont to give vent to, when the crudities of enmities are breathed out in bitter speeches to a present friend against an absent enemy, she would disclose nothing about the one unto the other, save what might avail to their reconcilement.”
St. Augustine

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Today we pray for preservation from gossip, from the sort of talk that seeks to spread jealousy, discord, strife, and enmity; we pray that we may avoid the near occasion of sin and, if unavoidably subjected to such conversations, that we may guard our hearts and tongues and instead speak Christ to all. [Add any other intentions here.]


DAY 7: FOR PRESERVATION FROM MISUNDERSTANDING

Meditations from the saints:
“How sweet, the presence of Jesus to the longing, harassed soul! It is instant peace, and balm to every wound.“

“And in every disappointment, great or small, let your heart fly directly to your dear Savior, throwing yourself in those arms for refuge against every pain and sorrow. Jesus will never leave you or forsake you.
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Today we pray for preservation from misunderstanding, from the unnecessary hardships that arise from the failure to speak clearly or to listen well; we pray for clarity, charity, and generosity in our dealings with others, that instead of retreating into bitterness we all may strive for reconciliation and progress towards our common goals. [Add any other intentions here.]


DAY 8: FOR PRESERVATION FROM PRIDE

Meditations from the saints:
“Cut to the center, tear up every root, let it bleed, let it suffer anything, everything, only fit it for Thyself. Place only Thy love there, and let humility keep sentinel.”
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

“Love God above all things.”
St. Rita

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Today we pray for preservation from pride; we pray that we may humble ourselves before God’s guidance and will, that we may have the wisdom to discern when to stand firm not on our own judgment but in Christ’s, and when to patiently and joyfully bear our sufferings from the shelter of His wounds, always with the meekest gratitude that He might choose to use us as instruments of His love. [Add any other intentions here.]
DAY 9: FOR PATIENCE AND PERSEVERANCE

Meditations from the saints:
“Suffering borne in the will quietly and patiently is a continual, very powerful prayer before God.”
St. Jeanne de Chantal

“Perseverance is a great grace. To go on gaining and advancing every day, we must be
resolute, and bear and suffer as our blessed forerunners did. Which of them gained heaven without a struggle?”
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Today we pray for patience and perseverance, that having so prepared ourselves for the holidays we may succeed in bearing Christ’s love in every encounter with every person we meet; we pray that we may have the patience to run well and finish the race, doing all things through Christ who strengthens us so that at the end of our labors, we and our loved ones may rest together in His peace. [Add any other intentions here.]


EACH DAY

Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us.
Saint Joseph, pray for us.
Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, pray for us.
Saint Jeanne de Chantal, pray for us.
Saint Monica, pray for us.
Saint Rita, pray for us.

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart,
Hear me.

From the desire of being esteemed,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved…
From the desire of being extolled…
From the desire of being honored…
From the desire of being praised…
From the desire of being preferred to others…
From the desire of being consulted…
From the desire of being approved …
From the fear of being humiliated …
From the fear of being despised…
From the fear of suffering rebukes …
From the fear of being calumniated …
From the fear of being forgotten …
From the fear of being ridiculed …
From the fear of being wronged …
From the fear of being suspected …

That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I …
That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease …
That others may be chosen and I set aside …
That others may be praised and I unnoticed …
That others may be preferred to me in everything…
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…

Father God, we come before You today with hearts stressed and burdened by the demands of the season and the strife within our families. As we cast ourselves undeservedly into the arms of You, our most loving Father in Heaven, help us to truly leave to You the care of ourselves and our families so that we may be free to desire to please You and serve You well in all we can.

Lord Jesus, as we bring ourselves before You, help us to accept Your yoke and learn from You Who are meek and humble of heart. As we humble ourselves before You, we beg You to sanctify us, reign in us, transform us to Yourself, live in us, and let us live in You; so that all whom we encounter, especially within our own families, may know Your love and peace.

Holy Spirit, Who comes to the aid of our weakness and intercedes for us when we do not know how to pray as we ought, pour out Your grace upon us and our families. By Baptism we have been bound together as children of God, joint heirs with Christ; through You, may we experience that same unity in our earthly families and Your peace in our hearts. May we use Your gifts to bring forth Your fruits so that through us, Your love may renew the face of the earth.

Amen.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

 

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Books Read in 2018

to be updated as the year progresses

underlined is a reread; * means recommended

FICTION
Children’s
*The Cat Who Wanted to Be a Man, Lloyd Alexander

YA
Lost Stars by Claudia Gray or whatever, I don’t even care, only about a quarter of the book was actually gripping and then she managed to ruin it
Shadow and Bone, Leigh Bardugo, (5/5/18) eeeeeeeh we’ll see if the series gets better
Siege and Storm, ditto (5/?/18), an improvement but the beginning was very weak and the whole series would be better if MWT wrote it
Ruin and Rising, ditto (5/30/18), definitely improved and I think makes reading the previous two worth it though still not 100% satisfying (to me, but I am weird)
Six of Crows, ditto, (9/6ish/18), SO MUCH BETTER OH MY GOODNESS

NON-FICTION
Biography
*My Life in France, Julia Child and Alex Prud’homme
Two Gardeners, Elizabeth Lawrence and Katharine S. White, ed. Emily Wilson
Stirring the Pot with Benjamin Franklin: A Founding Father’s Culinary Adventures, Rae Katherine Eighmey (SO MANY COMMA SPLICES)

Spirituality
Into the Deep, Dan Burke (the business PD version of Lectio Divina)
*Crossing the Threshold of Hope, Pope John Paul II
Embracing Edith Stein, Anne Costa
A Simple Path, Mother Teresa (9/23/18)

Gardening? Outdoors?
*A Southern Garden, Elizabeth Lawrence (would like to own)

Cookbooks
Radically Simple, Rozanne Gold (definitely interested in several of the veggie sides)
What Should I Bring?, Elizabeth Heiskell (it literally has a recipe that she describes as “impossible to transport” if that gives you any indication of quality)

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Good Friday

This is my third Good Friday at this duty station.

This year I spent on the couch with my husband, watching the EWTN broadcast of the Celebration of Our Lord’s Passion from the National Shrine of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. The stream cut out in the middle of the intercessions, which coincidentally was at 3 PM, so we went ahead and prayed today’s Divine Mercy Novena. The broadcast was beautifully full of silence, and so even if we couldn’t be there or at our own little church here, at least we were able to fill our living room with prayerful sounds.
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Imagining the Trump Supporter

A friend of mine emailed me about my last post, saying that she simply DOES NOT UNDERSTAND TRUMP SUPPORTERS. Another friend of mine recently mentioned somewhere that he was shocked to discover that racism actually exists within the Republican party. And I’ve read several articles about Trump’s popularity, ranging from “people are angry” to “people feel disenfranchised” to “people feel like they lost the culture war and want someone who will fight for them,” and all those things are true. And there are probably several more articles out there that already say what I’m about to say (this Atlantic piece is a good outline), but all the same, I thought I’d put out a few details. In this approach I am not attempting in any way to condone any of the opinions or viewpoints that I theorize the average Trump supporter holds; but I am attempting to present them with relatively little commentary on their merits or lack thereof.

Side note: Sunday afternoon, Trump held a rally in my home state, and one of our senators became the first sitting senator to endorse him. I heard about it during the hourly NPR news update, and for the first time in my life, I was ashamed to be from Alabama.

Let me be clear: I’m from Alabama. I know, okay? I’ve lived in the Midwest and the Pacific Northwest, driven through much of the rest of the country, and spent a fair amount of time on the East Coast. If I stopped to count I think I know someone from almost every state in the Union. I’m descended from the sister of a Confederate general and there are absolutely slaveholders in my ancestry. My hometown, though the first to integrate its school system (peacefully, no less), is still under a desegregation order. [Side rant about all the schools in the rest of the country that have never been under a desegregation order but are no less segregated.] We keep electing Roy Moore to be Chief Justice of our State Supreme Court, even after he was kicked off. I get it. There’s a lot to be embarrassed about.

Embarrassed. But it’s my home, and I love it, and I want the best for it. It’s part of why I always planned to move back, no matter how far away I went. I’m a strong believer in the value of getting out and in the power of going home. I’m an eternal optimist.

But when I heard Senator Sessions giving his endorsement, for a moment, my spirits were absolutely, totally crushed.

Side note the second: Trump is performing well, but his competitors are still in the fight. Not every person who fits into one or more of the categories I’m about to describe is a Trump supporter. (This means, of course, that Cruz and Rubio possibly also have racists voting for them, ironically enough.) Not every Trump supporter fits into all of the following categories.

So who are these people, and why are they supporting Trump?
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Independent

Part of my “get on top of life” resolution has included trying to keep at least a token sense of being up-to-date with the world’s news. This of course has coincided with the primary season (aka, when all the campaigning actually starts to matter). I’ve been ignoring most of the campaigning itself–I’ll almost certainly be voting third party, and I have better things to do with my time than listen to adults hurl invectives at each other and make vague promises in the meantime–but now that votes are starting to roll in I’ve been reading a lot of analysis about why things are happening the way they are, and how they might get better or worse as time goes on. And being me, I’ve had some thoughts. I don’t know how coherent I’m going to be able to make them, but it’s worth a shot.

Some background reading:

On the potential progressions of the Republican nomination battle.
Why evangelicals are voting for Trump, i.e.
How Wag the Dog ruined me.

I went looking for the genesis of other thoughts of mine, but those have mostly taken place in non-public Facebook threads.

So.
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I was thinking…about temptation

One of my Lenten goals is to be more mindful of my time usage, and part of that is to be more aware of what I’m trying to accomplish each day while simultaneously not beating myself up if life gets in the way of it. (“Life” in this instance being things like “the baby refused to sleep outside my arms,” not “and then Facebook kept being interesting.”) (Though since I do conduct a great deal of socialization via Facebook, I’m not cutting it out completely. But I AM trying to be more mindful, and keep up with my correspondence. Anyway.)

Since I’m usually lucky enough to get a good solid afternoon nap out of the baby (who is TEN MONTHS OLD your pardon is begged), I thought I would try devoting one afternoon nap a week to posting on the blog again. So here we go, with some baby steps, based on this past Sunday’s Gospel reading.

A quick recap: the reading, Luke 4:1-13, is at the bottom of this page. I’ll copy the parts I specifically want to address here:

(vs. 1-2) Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan
and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days,
to be tempted by the devil.
He ate nothing during those days,
and when they were over he was hungry.

Last fall my CWOC group read the first half of Fr. James Martin, S.J.’s Jesus: A Pilgrimage, which is a lovely mix of scholarship, travelogue, and spiritual reflection focusing on grounding the Gospel–and thus, the human Jesus himself–in the physical reality of the Holy Land. It’s given me new tools for considering Christ as well as a better understanding of and perspective on the stories contained within as well as, I have to say, deepening my affection for Jesus as a person. I mean, obviously he’s a person, and a Person, and as a Christian I am striving to love Him while also being infinitely (or finitely, I suppose) aware of my inadequacies and ignorance in that department. And obviously, Ignatian meditation is all about putting yourself in the Gospel scene, so it’s not like this is anything new. But I find myself better able to picture walking alongside Jesus–a guy, a friend, someone who laughed at jokes and liked washing the dirt off his feet at the end of a long day of walking–and with it has come an affection for his human frailties, which he experienced as clearly as I experience my own.

(Perfectly, of course, and with less complaining.)
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I was thinking…about Mary

I’ve been writing (almost) every day for about a month now, so I feel like I (sort of) have a routine, and so it’s time to revisit this blog thing. With an “I was thinking…” post, because baby steps.

  • Last night in his homily our priest took pains to point out that the Immaculate Conception isn’t directly tied to Mary’s Perpetual Virginity–that is to say, if God had willed she not be a virgin but that she live out that part of her marital vows with Joseph, she still would have been doing her will and still would have been sinless. Sex in its proper context is not a sin. Tension in the congregation of the “there are kids out here, Father” variety aside, I thought it was a beautiful and well-made point.
  • I was praying a decade of the Rosary last week, I think to keep myself awake while nursing, and I realized something that made me laugh. Every Ave starts with “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee,” right? But Scripture tells us “But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.”

    I mean obviously, now up in heaven, she knows perfectly well what sort of greeting it was, and the songs of the angels are a comfort rather than a fright. But I still imagine a gentle sort of ironic smile on her face as we petition her using words that once scared her out of her wits. It’s natural to us to say these things to her; when she first heard them, they were remarkable, and new, and terrifying.

  • I think I felt closer to the Christmas story last year, when I was pregnant, than I do this year, chasing after an almost-eight-month-old. But then I was thinking about Christ on the cross, and how the Eucharist is Christ crucified, and how the flesh we eat was once soft little baby skin stretched over tiny little baby bones and chubby little baby fat. I pray I never have to experience Mary’s grief, but it makes her all the more incredible that she endured it.

I had another thought, but I’ve slept since then. Happy Advent, all.

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Corpus Christi

I ate my slice of humble pie alongside a heaping serving of God-is-good this morning: our community on post just switched their Mass time to 10 AM, and since baby girl had my husband and I up at 6:30, an hour later we decided to drive the extra fifteen minutes to the off-post parish for Mass at 8, since our day had already started.

We walked in at the psalm and bless her heart the cantor’s voice was wavery and she was having some trouble reading the verses, and my heart sank a bit. Music is generally the most important part of Mass to me (as a choir member myself), and while I sometimes try not to be exacting in my judgments (sometimes), I’m usually easily influenced by the hymns and quality of music when I’m at Mass. I snuck a peak at the rest of the hymns for the day and was equally disheartened (nooooo not “I Received the Living God”). And looking up at the altar, I saw an elderly-looking priest and a not-young deacon and readers, I confess, I was wondering if we hadn’t made a huge mistake in rushing out the door to this Mass.

We made it through the Alleluia and the deacon did a lovely job of reading the Gospel and then the priest tottered his way to the ambo and I braced myself–

and was treated to the. most. AWESOME. homily.

He started off talking about the great love God has for us, and the Incarnation, and what the Eucharist is (Jesus Christ, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity), and then–he started riffing on the Presentation of Gifts, that part of Mass where we’re all digging for our checkbooks and wallets and ushers are walking around and we’re singing a hymn and not necessarily paying attention to the procession coming up the aisle to the altar, or the handing over of the bread and wine. He pointed out that Eucharistic prayer starts with the priest saying, “Pray, brothers and sisters, that my sacrifice AND YOURS be acceptable to God, the Almighty Father,” that the bread and wine brought forward are gifts that we offer. That gifts reflect the giver, that really what we are doing is offering ourselves in that bread and wine, and that the miracle is that Christ comes down and becomes part of our gift, offers himself with us and for us, sanctifying our offering, and that then God takes that offering and GIVES IT BACK TO US, now holy and living, so that we might have grace.

This is an abbreviated version, obviously, and the written word can only do so much to convey the effects of it spoken (especially when done so by someone with such experience). But I was sitting in the pew crying, and God gently laughed at me as I sat there listening and reflecting on how appearances and accidents are nothing compared to the substance of a thing, and reminding me how when I think of something spur-of-the-moment and feel compelled–that He is guiding me, and He will see me safely through. And at the end I just wanted to jump up and clap or shout or dance and sing AMEN.

Instead I prayed that I may be a worthy offering–be made worthy, since we are never worthy on our own–and in the Mass Christ always, always hears and answers that prayer. And that, too, is grace. The Presentation of Gifts hymn had a line about God helping us and restoring us even in the face of the “grace we wasted,” and isn’t that just–exactly what happens, again and again, and always grace is the end, not the waste.

And “I Received the Living God [and my heart is full of joy]” was, for once (having been overplayed at the Basilica at ND), perfect.

Afterwards there was a Eucharistic procession, and as we walked around the block I thought about how lovely it was to have the chance to literally follow Jesus with my steps, to follow his Way, silly and a little awkward as it can feel–to have his glory displayed in earthly things, for the sake of those who do not see and yet believe but still need reminders, to have the chance to witness by doing little more than taking one step at a time.

Life is hard. Life with a newborn is hard. Trying to remember to set others first, to still be giving when it seems like every gift I have has to go straight into the baby, to take the time to be generous for my husband as well–is hard. And God knows that, and is living within me, trying to help me remember to walk where He would guide me, that the gift of self is the only gift He wants, the best gift there is, that the opportunity to make the gift is as much a blessing as the grace I receive in making it, even when it’s hard. He gives us Himself in the Eucharist, so that we might see the model of the giving, so that we might have the grace and strength to be the gift–and not just any gift, but the gift of His Body, given to others as it was given to us.

Happy Feast of Corpus Christi, y’all.

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Grace

I’ve been meaning to write a post about nursing, but obviously that requires two hands and lately those have been in short supply. Though it’s getter better! But I have five minutes and I need to remember–

last night was rough, starting with both my husband and I forgetting our ID cards and having to drive to the literal other end of post and then pray I could get on (as I forgot my license as well–I know, rookie mistake). It started looking up when baby girl (I have a baby girl! have I mentioned that? she is six weeks old as of yesterday) went a full four hours between nursing sessions, thus allowing me about three and a half hours of sleep! But then she latched on poorly and all my attempts to fix it were in vain, so I gave up and played Candy Crush, figuring it couldn’t possibly be that bad–

and then I lay in bed for an hour and a half in agony, unable to sleep, miserable–

so finally I took a shower and then fed her again and passed her off to my husband and got about thirty minutes of glorious repose–

only to be rudely awakened when he set the baby down to get ready for PT and she woke up–

and reader, I cried.

(Not one of my better moments, but I was exhausted.) (Hysterical.) (There’s nothing like dripping tears onto your baby’s head to make you feel like a winner.) (Also when you’re kicking your heels like a toddler when your husband tries to hand you your child.) (It was Not Pretty.)

And then it was time to feed her again anyway, so at six-thirty-ish I latched her on (better this time)

(my husband is snort-laughing at the baby right now I assume everything is okay)

and then I considered playing Candy Crush, but decided it was the source of my problems

(ah he was squishing her cheeks)

and so instead I turned on the podcast of this morning’s Morning Prayer, so I could at least lightly pray while nursing.
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A Brief Note of Concern

Okay. I’ve seen a couple young ladies on my newsfeed link to a blog post entitled “The Day I Decided to Stop Listening to What Everybody’s Saying I’m Supposed to do & Why I’m Not Ready to Get Married in 44 Days.” The first time I read it, most of the comments were still sensible, but apparently many more people have discovered it since then and the sense has mostly been buried.

If you go back through the comments, I highly recommend reading the original comment from “Nathan” and also one from “Sandy.” If you’re too lazy/anti-internet-comments to do so (understandable), have a soapbox moment from me instead:

1) This post very much reads like it was written by a young twenty-year-old. There is nothing wrong with being twenty years old! It is a transition time from teenagerdom to adulthood. And some people are older at twenty than others, and this young lady falls into the latter category.

2) On that note, I’ve read blogs and talked to people who were married at twenty, twenty-one, twenty-two. Some of them were young, like the author of this blog post, and those whose marriages have lasted will unabashedly tell you how difficult being young and unready (which in this case often means “completely unaware of the sacrifices involved”) made the first few years of their marriages.

Others were older, and though unready in the sense that it’s impossible to truly understand what the sacrament will do to you until it’s done, had a sense of the responsibilities involved–had the sense that they still had growing and changing to do, but were committed to going through those experiences together.

3) In that sense, being “ready” to get married can, in part, be understood as being “ready” to submit yourself to God and to your spouse–and in THIS is freedom.

4) The author of the blog post defines freedom as “God created me as a [free spirit/the person I am right now and therefore I can do whatever I want because that’s who he made me to be.” This is not Christian freedom. Christian freedom does not elevate the individual above the community, nor does it provide justification for your every action. Christian freedom is the freedom to follow God, freedom from the slavery to sin, freedom to serve one another as Christ served us.

5) This is what God created us to do, to be. Each in our own unique way, with our own gifts, yes–but we are called to submit those things to him, and to do with them as he wills. Oftentimes that means submitting ourselves to the authority or will of others–rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, or honoring our fathers and mothers.

So ironically, the message the blog post author wants to convey is, technically, correct–we are called to the freedom of God’s children, which often bucks conventional “worldly” wisdom. She is, however, completely INcorrect as to what that actually looks like. Her words are quite romantic, but it’s an adolescent understanding of freedom–a young twenty–that fails to understand that her “free” (in this case, we could charitably call it “blind”) spirit is not the primary nor final arbiter of right and wrong, nor even of the path God wants her to follow.

God doesn’t always speak to us directly in our hearts. Sometimes he uses those around us–because after all we Christians are a communal people, one body bound in the breaking of the bread–to be his voice in our ears. True discernment–of marriage, of moving, of all the decisions we make–lies in learning to hear his voice, to see past the cloud of our desires into the clear sky of his light–and then learning to align our desires with his. Again, THAT is true freedom. Not walking barefoot at your wedding (a neutral act), nor putting your feet on someone else’s desk (actively willful–and somehow, I doubt that will is God’s).

So please, when reading this article, take it with a grain of salt. Or better still, skip it. But at the very least, recognize the difference between ramblings and wisdom, between a young woman experimenting with her understanding of the world and a young woman who understands that the world does not revolve around her.

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