Author Archives: Jo

About Jo

Woman, wife, Catholic, literature nerd, philosophy nerd, Southerner, writing about life or something like it.

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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Categories: family, motherhood, Scripture | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

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.

Categories: marriage, theology, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Childbirth Class the First

Having now watched two birth videos I can safely say that by the end the mommies and daddies on the screen were not the only people crying when they got to hold their babies for the first time.

The emotional whiplash from “oh gosh she looks so tired oh labor’s still happening oh she’s so exhausted this looks exhausting this is going to be so exhausting” to “what the are they showing us the baby crowning oh that’s gross that’s so oh no oh NO OH NO I DON’T WANT TO BE WATCHING THIS HAPPENING OH NO” to “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAW LOOK AT THE BABY IT’S OVER THEY’RE ALL TOGETHER EVERYONE’S OKAY I’M SO HAPPY FOR EVERYONE” is intense though. Probably these videos should come with a warning for pregnant women. Unless they’re trying to help us practice for the actual emotional whiplash on its way.
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Categories: family, marriage | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Lent: The Halfway Point

I’ll admit it–this year has not been my best Lent.

Sure, I’m pregnant, and hitting the very pregnant stage, and we’ve had two snowstorms trapping us in the house, so we’ve missed Stations twice and haven’t made it to Adoration at all. But for Lent I said I would make a point of spending half an hour in prayer every day, and last week I think the longest I made it was ten minutes.

See, we’re doing this study called Oremus in the CWOC group that I joined, which is all about deepening and enriching your prayer life, right? I came in on week three, so I had to do a bit of catch-up with the exercises, but the general idea is that every week has a set of readings and every day you do the lectio divina, and then once a week you gather with your group to watch a DVD talking about the next week’s focus and then discuss how the previous week has gone. It’s a pretty darn good study, and to me the most valuable aspect is that it a) sets forth a reading plan and b) provides accountability in the form of my fellow ladies. (More on that latter point in another post.)

And then we hit the most recent week, where Day 2 invites you to get up at sunrise and contemplating Genesis 1–not in a lectio divina sense, just in a communining with God in the beauty of his creation sense. Which would be great if a) I could motivate myself to get up at/before sunrise (hahahahahahahaha) (ah ha) (ha) (ha) or b) there had been a morning in the past week that wasn’t so cloudy as to obscure said sunrise. One day I tried to say screw it and just meditate on Genesis 1, but I was so tired I almost fell asleep as soon as I finished reading it, and anyway I feel guilty for not following ALL THE INSTRUCTIONS lest I somehow fail to get out of the program what I’m supposed to be getting out of it. And then our meeting for last week was canceled due to snow, and this week’s meeting was canceled due to Spring Break. So the two things that have been motivating me–the reading plan and the accountability–both fell apart.

And I let them.
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Saturday Chores

Today marks the very first time my husband and I have ventured into a gym together. Usually I get my exercise from walking the dog, but given the terrible weather lately that hasn’t been an option. So twenty minutes on the exercise bike it was! If only upright bikes had wider seats; I had to go recumbent, which is not very comfortable either, given the whole legs-constantly-bumping-into-bump thing. The baby was vaguely concerned about the jostling but mostly slept through it, at least.

And now my husband is washing our dog. I love listening to him do this. I love the whole process of bathing the dog, which generally goes like this:

1) Mommybird gathers up Ladybird’s bedding and beloved blue blanket and throws them into the washing machine, thus designating that Sometime Today, the Dog Will Be Clean.
2) Daddybird forgets he is supposed to wash the dog.
3) Mommybird reminds him.
4) Daddybird says, “Laaaaaaaaadybird, do you want to take a bath?” in the most excited tones possible.
5) The dog retreats to her corner of the couch.
6) Daddybird repeats his not-quite-an-invitation.
7) The dog’s ears go back; her tail tucks underneath her; she attempts to disappear into the couch.
8) Daddybird gathers the dog into his arms, still extolling the virtues of bathtime.
9) The dog attempts to escape Daddybird’s arms. Sometimes she is successful, and steps 4-8 repeat themselves.
10) The dog looks longingly at Mommybird, who stalwartly ignores her.
11) Daddybird carries the dog off to the bathroom.
12) Mommybird sits at the computer or in her chair with her book or basically doing anything that isn’t bathing the dog.
13) Mommybird hears, wafting from the guest bathroom, a tireless and sometimes tuneless song about Ladybird being given a bath, and how she is a good girl NO NO NO NO oh what a good girl she is she is such a good girl NO NO NOT YET oh what a pretty girl she is.
14) The faucet is turned off and Mommybird is treated to an encore performance of “what a good girl she is.”
15) Daddybird announces, “Crazy dog!” and a split second behind the announcement the dog comes careening through the house, heedlessly bouncing off furniture and walls, trying to find a safe place amidst the cruel, cruel sight of her pack alphas.

She’s outside now to dry, which she is less than pleased about, but on the other hand it’s sunny and she loves the sun. I’m sure she’s only clawing at the door because she thinks it sounds cool.

Bathtime with the baby is going to be so much fun.

Categories: family, random thoughts | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

The Church Militant

We’ve found our parish, our lovely on-post chapel, and I will fully admit that one of the things drawing us to it is one of the chaplains (there are three–three!–though one is currently deployed but will probably be coming back in a month or so), as he is an excellent homilist and I do so love a good homily.

So of course his homily today (the readings for your benefit) made, among others, the very real and salient point that Catholic liturgy is not centered around how it makes us feel or how we want it to make us feel or on ticking off a list of things that seem cool or relevant–it is ultimately centered around Christ, in the Eucharist, and our need to commune with him in order to receive the grace necessary to make it through this life[1]. In today’s Gospel, he pointed out, everyone goes to Peter’s house because that’s where Jesus is, and there, Jesus heals. And so we go to Mass, even when we are feeling like Job, because God wants us to keep talking to Him and to keep coming so that He may work his healing in us, even if we are having difficulty seeing it.

He compared it to going to school, where you might like recess but not the actual learning portions, or to being in the Army, where there is always something to complain about, despite the positive notes. But he also pointed out that these are all things we do in community, that we have classmates and spouses and battle buddies to uplift and support us (to be Paul in his second reading, as we are called to preach the Gospel to each other)–and then, this being a military chapel, he reminded us that we are engaged in spiritual warfare, that we are under attack and need the support of our battle buddies, the communication from our commander, and that also we need to be aware that the little it may feel like we’re accomplishing is part of the much bigger, longer fight that we will eventually win–though that victory, like Job’s reward, doesn’t come until the end, until we’ve passed through all the trials. And the Church is the Body of which we are all members, the army to which we all belong, and those rules and rituals she provides for us come from Him Who is her Head. And so we come to a Mass which was given to us on Christ’s terms, not perhaps the ones we would like for him to maybe set forth because they’d be easier or more accessible or entertaining or immediately emotionally gratifying.[2]
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Categories: army life, theology | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Friday Link Spam

I have an hour and a half left in the day and it has recently come to my attention that I need to write a blog post on a very serious topic, but this week has been a tired week (I am very bad at letting myself rest when I think I should be awake) and so here is another roundup of things I read this week that I think you will like.

POSTS ABOUT BABY/FAMILY-RELATED THINGS
It’s probably not something I’m going to have to worry about, but here’s five reasons not to visit a new mom in the hospital.

Instead of reading various child-raising books, try a more anthropological approach.

I almost always enjoy the posts over at Like Mother, Like Daughter, and Auntie Leila’s advice to the embarrassed mother of a four-year-old is no different. (The comment she mentions about daycare in Europe is I believe this one, though all the comments are good.)

POSTS ABOUT RELIGION AND CULTURE
A brief but excellent reflection on keeping American Sniper in perspective.

An absolutely fabulous reflection on the reception of the Eucharist and how we ought to perceive it (i.e., as none of our business). (I recommend that entire blog.)

A friend of mine wrote a beautiful and true post about the impact books can have on our lives. (Disclaimer: I am the friend in Alabama, and I also mourn the friend we lost.) (A post for another day.) (And actually, a post on that series is already in the works. But it is full of spoilers, so please–just go pick up The Thief and start from there.)

FINALLY, POSTS TO MAKE YOU LAUGH
In case you missed it, AFRICOM general killed in freak wildebeest stampede.

An embarrassing poop story from someone else’s preggo land.

Have a good weekend!

Categories: Friday Link Spam | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

FRIDAY LINK SPAM RETURNS

This week was derailed by my husband having a root canal done (and handling it better than really anyone has a right to, I think, though I am very grateful that he’s doing so well), and so in lieu of a second post (which let’s be honest would probably still have been about potage, as I made a triple batch yesterday in order to get us through Soft Diet Only week), here is a small collection of links. Small, but all of the highest caliber.

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT
Hank Green with a brilliant and scathing analysis of how and why the mainstream media has lost millenials.

An outline of seven steps towards achieving financial stability despite a variable income.

A retired Army general in favor of making a year of service more available, if not straight-up mandatory? Yes please.

A brief reflection on suffering and death, or, why we don’t euthanize people.

An article that summarizes key differences between Christianity and Islam, with the aim of arguing that the latter is more violent than the former. On the one hand, it’s a nice narrative; on the other, I feel sure there are some gaps, but don’t know enough to say one way or another.

An excellent breakdown of allegedly gendered things you can do and still be a feminist.

THINGS TO ENJOY
My friend Katherine has turned her blog into a let’s-make-period-recipes-as-close-to-the-original-as-possible blog, and it looks like it should be a lot of fun.

A helpful illustrated guide of 27 things you should never do to a baby.

And finally, Two minutes of babies going through tunnels and freaking the crap out.

See y’all next week!

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J’aime bien le potage

This is not a food blog, but.

I studied abroad in Angers, France, the fall semester of my junior year of college. The classes generally weren’t too hard, which was nice, and I lived with a host family, which made community-craving me very happy. My host parents and their youngest daughter (about a senior in high school) were absolutely lovely and helped ease some of the homesickness that inevitably comes from being far away from friends and family, especially in a foreign culture. Granted, it was a foreign culture I generally loved, but when you’re mostly on your own for meals sometimes you just want to be able to go to the grocery store after 2000.

And sometimes you’re not able to, and your host mom graciously shares her potage with you.
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Categories: food | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

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