Weddings and kids

Bridal party walking to church on the day of our wedding.

Bride, bridesmaids, and “junior” bridesmaid walking to church on the day of our wedding.

I read this post lately as it made the rounds on Facebook, The One Thing I Regret About My Wedding, and I hearkened back to my own wedding. (Yes, this is another wedding post–but ’tis the season!)

Our wedding list included almost everyone that had ever been close to me or my family–and I’ve lived my entire life in the same community, so you can imagine, the list was pretty big. Over 300 people came to our Wedding Mass and reception–and I’m sure more than 60% of that crowd was made up of kids.

I’m from the Midwest (or technically, as I learned in a geography class in college, the “Great Plains”…), and I actually wasn’t aware until I was an adult that some people don’t invite kids to weddings.

I clearly remember a summer in the ’90s when we had three big Catholic weddings in one year. I was about 10-years-old, and those Masses blew me away. So beautiful, so prayerful, so loving. The parties were fun too–no one parties like little kids. Those three couples that got married that year have over 20 kids between them now, so they’re still no stranger to the commotion of kids.

Perhaps it’s something about the Midwest that we just have big parties open to all ages (for instance, rehearsal dinners are often a barbecue in someone’s backyard with all the extended family participating, and our ancestors always had barn-raising parties, so it’s in our blood…).

But perhaps I was blessed to be surrounded by a Catholic community and culture where even the young people were starting out their marriages with a total openness to life and all that it brings. How much did that influence my own vocation and my own calling to marriage?

In the words of one seminarian (now deacon) that attended our wedding:

“If every wedding was like that, there’d be no more deacons or priests…”

Yes! Let our living of the married vocation be truly a sacrament and a vocation that attracts others to holiness!

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Wedding season reminiscing

My whirlwind month of weddings has come to an end. After ordinations, I then had/was in a wedding every weekend.

I really wish I’d taken the time to write down a thought after hearing each homily, but I’ll try to recall what I can.

1. The first wedding we went to, the newly ordained deacon quote The Princess Bride:

“Mawwiage, mawwiage, is what bwings us togethew today…”

And went on to explain that “kindness” as spoken of by St. Paul is really a word in Greek that doesn’t translate very well to English–it’s much more than “kindness,” it is welcoming, loving, and opening one’s heart to another.

2. The second wedding we attended was at the church where we were married. I don’t remember much from that homily… Probably because I was caught up in remembering and reliving all I could of our own special day.

3. This wedding was on a beautiful spring day. The sun shone in the windows, the singers sang beautifully, and everything seemed so lovely with the soft yellow and gray colors. The priest’s main point was that there was little need for a homily since the prayers of the Nuptial Mass teach and inspire so perfectly already.

4. My last wedding, at a little church in a little town, was another beautiful day–at least inside the air conditioned church. A smaller wedding, it seemed intimate and beautiful. The priest thanked everyone who was present because it may be more fun to just go to the reception, but being present to pray for them is an eternal gift greater than any toaster or rug or [insert gift] that will break or get lost in a few years. He shared how he instructed the couple to pray the “Our Father” and hold hands every day. Some days, they might hold each other tight as they pray, other days they might hold hands at arms length and just want to get it over with… But by praying, they’ll be remembering what’s important.

JEAN-FRANÇOIS_MILLET_-_El_Ángelus_(Museo_de_Orsay,_1857-1859._Óleo_sobre_lienzo,_55.5_x_66_cm)

Let us remember to pray together every day! credit: “The Angelus” by Jean Francois Millet

He asked everyone to continue to pray for the couple too…tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year.

That’s what I’ll be trying to remember over the next few weeks–praying for these still newlywed couples and thanking God for my own marriage as our fourth anniversary quickly approaches.

 

MrsF3 and Family is on twitter: https://twitter.com/MrsF3andF and Facebook:http://www.facebook.com/mrsf3

Current pile of books…

I have a lot of good books going right now. Besides trying to read a little bit of everything, I’ve also been napping more lately. Lots of good things keeping me from blogging, as you can see. But here’s a list of the books in no particular order (click any of the titles to buy them!). What have you read or would like to read on this list? Stay tuned for reviews of these and more!

1. A Little Way of Homeschooling 

edited by Suzie Andres

I started this one months ago. It’s taken me awhile, but not because it lacks appeal–I just keep starting new books! Still, this one is easy to pick back up. Each chapter is by a different Catholic homeschool/unschool mom. Because of this book, I discovered the Catholic Unschoolers group on facebook and the blog of a mom in my own home state, Karen Edmisten. Besides seeing how homeschooling/unschooling is as unique as each family, Suzie Andres does a great job of summing up how she sees unschooling as an application of St. Therese’s Little Way.

The pile currently being read (minus Deathbed Conversions which was out in the living room).

The pile currently being read (minus Deathbed Conversions which was out in the living room).

2. Deathbed Conversions: Finding Faith at the Finish Line

by Karen Edmisten

I was fortunate enough to win a drawing for a copy of this new book from the author’s blog. Since I’m looking forward to doing a review of this as well in the not too distant future, suffice it to say for now that the best part about it is that  as it sits next to my couch in the living room everyone from the babysitter to my parents and from The Hunter’s hunting buddies to my little siblings pick it up and take a look. Everyone is intrigued by it!

And, here’s my first reaction when I began the book:

Just read ch. 1–and I cried and felt inspired to be that beacon of light, even when I don’t see any effect in my friends’ lives.

So, I highly recommend this short book for your inspiration and coffee table conversation starter!

3. Red Storm Rising

by Tom Clancy

Just in case you thought I only read spiritual books (which are wonderful, of course), here’s one that The Hunter recommended. He’s more of a doer than a reader (unless it pertains to what he’s doing…), but he has lots of Tom Clancy books and has finally convinced me to pick one up and read it. I’m not very far yet, but the writing style is enjoyable, and I know I’ll learn a lot!

4. How Weaning Happens

by Diane Bengson

This is a book published by La Leche League. I love their books–they touch on so much more than just breastfeeding, it really encompasses the whole mother-child relationship. And I have a toddler, so I’m just curious when/how weaning will eventually happen!

5. When the Well Runs Dry: Prayer Beyond the Beginnings

by Thomas Green

You’ve probably seen my excited posts about Fr. Green’s first book about prayer, Opening to God. I mentioned that one here and here. Now, I’m excited to get started on the next book and learn more about living and growing in this relationship with God.

6. Parenting with Grace: The Catholic Parents’ Guide to Raising almost Perfect Kids

by Gregory and Lisa Popcak

I actually read this book when Pumpkin was about seven months old. As she discovers her own will and “experiments” more with spilling things and breaking things and whatever else comes into her little head, I’m picking it back up for some of the great tips and suggestions about understanding and disciplining gently. I love the philosophy behind this book which is to tie in the Theology of the Body with parenting. Our goal? Self-donative parenting.

7. Rediscover Catholicism: A Spiritual Guide to Living with Passion & Purpose

by Matthew Kelly

I started this book quite awhile ago, but it’s easy reading and really inspiring. I feel like it gives me good information to present to others if they have questions about the Catholic Church in today’s day and age.

MrsF3 and Family is on twitter: https://twitter.com/MrsF3andF and Facebook:http://www.facebook.com/mrsf3

Opening to God: A lesson in prayer

It’s hard to write a review about this book. Opening to God: A Guide to Prayer is a short book of only 126 pages, so I practically want to quote every bit of it! Here are just a few things I loved and learned from it. I highly recommend it for anyone–it is written by a spiritual director of many years and many souls (both laity and religious in the U.S. and Philippines and beyond). I already mentioned Opening to God in this post about prayer, but I wanted to share a little more about it (especially as I’ve just reread it).

Opening to God is really a timeless guide to prayer and speaks to every pray-er desiring to encounter God.

Opening to God is a timeless guide to prayer and speaks to every pray-er desiring to encounter God.

1. Fr. Green defines prayer as “an opening of the heart and mind to God.” Each word of this phrase has a special meaning–and most importantly, he wants us to realize and remember that we cannot pray without God first coming to us. He says it better than me, but basically, we don’t pray under our own power, the first thing to realize in prayer is that we open to God, and He comes to us and touches us in an encounter.

2. This book was written not long after Vatican II, and Fr. Green has an interesting perspective, able to see the good in prayer practices both pre- and post-Vatican II. Just as with anything in the Catholic Church, there is always a balance between extremes, and Fr. Green helps us to see that in regards to ways of prayer.

3. Prayer is “irrelevant”–one chapter is about the irrelevance of prayer, while the following chapter is about it’s extreme relevance. Fr. Green enjoys the paradox in this, but he is right. Prayer is not “relevant,” in the way we look for relevance in our modern world. Is it useful? Does it help us get ahead? Do we get what  we want out of it? Well, no. Not as the world sees it. His image in this chapter is of a married couple, if you asked your spouse “how is our love relevant?” It would be a puzzling question–love, relevant? No! It is love because you love one another. So it is with prayer. We’re not praying to get something out of it, we’re praying because our relationship with God is one of love. And that is why prayer is relevant–our relationship with God becomes the foundation of all our life.

4. From praying the rosary, the office, to reading the Scriptures, meditating, contemplating, and taking a walk–Opening to God
provides examples, practical advice, and goals to achieve. I’ll be rereading this book again to continue to learn more.

5. Finally, something that will stay with me the most (and indeed gives an image to something I’ve always striven for), is Fr. Green’s example of a radio or tv. If we want to listen to the radio, we must first make sure our surroundings are quiet, then we must turn it on, turn up the volume, and make sure we are tuned to the right station–only then do we receive the signal being sent. That’s how we pray! First, learn to quiet our hearts, open our heart and mind, clear the distractions, and to tune to hear God’s still, quiet voice–we can only make the environment conducive to prayer, He is the one who makes prayer happen, just as the radio station is broadcasting, we don’t make the sounds happen!

6. Our goal in prayer? Learn to open to God.

This brings me back to the Bible verse I discovered when I was around 11 or 12:

Draw close to God and He will draw close to you.

-James 4:8

MrsF3 and Family is on twitter: https://twitter.com/MrsF3andF and Facebook:http://www.facebook.com/mrsf3

The Holy Spirit and water

On Pentecost, let us pray that we are open to the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. photo Waiting for the Word via flickr

On Pentecost, let us pray that we are open to the Gifts of the Holy Spirit.
photo Waiting for the Word via flickr

As you may remember from my post Spirituality as a MotherI have been trying to use nap-time as prayer time using the iBreviary  app on my phone. I usually pray the Office of Readings each afternoon, and in the past week, the homilies and meditations on the Holy Spirit have been really wonderful.

Since today is Pentecost, the Birthday of the Church, and the coming of the Holy Spirit, here’s a quote from the Office of Readings for this past Monday, with an image of the Holy Spirit, that is now very dear to me since reading this:

But why did Christ call the grace of the Spirit water? Because all things are dependent on water; plants and animals have their origin in water. Water comes down from heaven as rain, and although it is always the same in itself, it produces many different effects, one in the palm tree, another in the vine, and so on throughout the whole of creation. It does not come down, now as one thing, now as another, but while remaining essentially the same, it adapts itself to the needs of every creature that receives it.

In the same way the Holy Spirit, whose nature is always the same, simple and indivisible, apportions grace to each man as he wills. Like a dry tree which puts forth shoots when watered, the soul bears the fruit of holiness when repentance has made it worthy of receiving the Holy Spirit. Although the Spirit never changes, the effects of this action, by the will of God and in the name of Christ, are both many and marvelous.

The Spirit makes one man a teacher of divine truth, inspires another to prophesy, gives another the power of casting out devils, enables another to interpret holy Scripture. The Spirit strengthens one man’s self-control, shows another how to help the poor, teaches another to fast and lead a life of asceticism, makes another oblivious to the needs of the body, trains another for martyrdom. His action is different in different people, but the Spirit himself is always the same. In each person, Scripture says, the Spirit reveals his presence in a particular way for the common good.

This beautiful explanation of the Holy Spirit’s work in our souls is from St. Cyril of Jerusalm (313-386 AD). How true that water is always the same, but when used by each plant, it helps each to grow in its own unique way, into what God intends it to be. So too, the Holy Spirit!

This Pentecost, I want to be more open to Water that is the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. How exactly will they bear fruit in my life? In ways different than anyone else, let me grow and discover God’s design for my life, my talents, and my gifts.

MrsF3 and Family is on twitter: https://twitter.com/MrsF3andF and Facebook:http://www.facebook.com/mrsf3

An overwhelming response

In just 24 hours since writing my Things you don’t say to a couple with few or no kids, it’s been shared over and over and viewed many times. Although I knew that there were others who had experienced these hurtful comments and “looks” and the longing for children, I had no idea that it would resonate with so many people.

Thank you for your positive response. The questions that I listed are some that I have overheard, some spoken to me, some spoken to my friends, and some were spoken to my own parents.

Your comments and stories are appreciated. Thank you for sharing–we know we are not alone in this trial we bear.

We long for children; we stay away from the temptation to try IVF and surrogacy; and ultimately, we must learn to “be mothers” in whatever way we discover that God had in mind all the time: mothers to one or two children, mothers to adopted children, and mothers to those we serve through work, volunteering, and at church.

St. Josemaria Escriva has a quote for us:

20140606-185445-68085403.jpg
Photo via http://www.runtomary.wordpress.com


MrsF3 and Family is on twitter: https://twitter.com/MrsF3andF and Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/mrsf3

Things you don’t say to couples with few or no kids

We’re often running across the articles and blogs that list rude questions and comments that people get when they’re expecting their third, fourth… sixth… eighth, or more. This one of “snappy answers” from Simcha Fisher is pretty funny. And a simple web search turns up many more like this one from Mindy Peltier or this one from The Stir. I enjoy these answers–and I’d love to have the opportunity to use them, but I receive a different kind of questioning and prodding.

There’s also lists of what not to say to single people. But what about the families with few children? Especially in Catholic circles, tongues wag when you don’t have a honeymoon baby or a new baby every 2 years or less.

Without further ado, here’s some things you may have said to a couple without thinking it through gleaned from my own experience and those of others. We know many of you don’t mean it the way it comes across, but here’s how your comments and questions come across to us.

To the newlyweds (a few months into their marriage):

cradle

Often, we are ready from our hearts to our nurseries, and still we are asked to wait. photo credit: Cory Marchand, flickr.com/photos/marchands

1. “We didn’t conceive our first month. I was crying, thinking I might not be fertile.”

A month?! One month?! Try month, after month, after month, year, after year, and test, after test, after surgery, after test…

2. “Don’t be afraid of having kids; be open to life!”

Okay, some people need to hear this, but for others, it breaks their heart…again. All some of us want to do is scream “We are OPEN! We are TRYING! We WANT children!” But instead, we smile and nod…and fight back a tear.

3. “So you’re waiting to have kids?”

We aren’t, but God seems to be. And also, is it really any of your business? If we had serious reasons to avoid pregnancy, we probably wouldn’t want to share it with you.

4. “So-and-so just got pregnant on their honeymoon, isn’t that great?”

Yes, it is. And I am happy for them, but be sensitive when you say it pointedly to someone who clearly didn’t get pregnant right away. Little do you know, but I already have crib bedding and maternity clothes ready to go!

5. “I bet your mom is ready to be a grandma!” Or: “Give me some grandkids!”

Yes, and I’m even more ready to be a mom. I want nothing more than to have your grandkids; I want them to know their grandparents and enjoy many years with them… What do I need to tell you? We’re trying!

6. “You’re not getting any younger, you know.”

Oh thanks, you think I don’t hear my biological clock ticking? Really?

7. “Just stop trying and it’ll happen”

Now, in this case, you know we’re open, but haven’t a clue what really having to try for years at a time is like. So, thanks, I never knew it was so easy… I guess I didn’t need all those tests, diets, shots, and surgeries…

 

The empty swing we wish could be filled. photo credit: Jenny Downing via flickr

The empty swing we wish could be filled.
photo credit: Jenny Downing via flickr

Think before saying these things to people with only a few children and those spaced far apart:

1. “So you’re an attachment parent? I hear that helps with child-spacing.”

Implied: “so you’re not doing birth control, but trying everything else you can to space them far apart.”

Well, yes, I may be an attachment parent, but it has nothing to do with wanting to space my children. Little do you know where I’m at with trying to conceive (desperately). I choose my parenting based on what works best for my family, and that doesn’t change the fact that I want a large family.

2. “Your baby is almost 2? Time for another one!”

Again, believe me, you’re not the only one who thinks so. I long for children close together and I long for my darling child to have a sibling. What should I do, show you my charts to let you know we’re doing everything we can?

3. “You’re not stopping because you have your boy and your girl, are you?”

Of course, this one is the converse of the question most people expecting their third or fourth are likely to hear a lot. It doesn’t make it less hurtful coming from the other side of the coin.

4. “Kids aren’t that expensive, have another one!”

Oh thanks, you’ve convinced me, I’ll try. (You know what is expensive? Fertility testing, charting consultations, etc., we’d much rather be having the kids!)

5. “Seven years between your kids? I like having mine closer in age.”

Implied: are you crazy? What kind of birth control were you on?

Little do you know, but that woman had three miscarriages in those seven years before finally one of the sweet babies made it to birth. On this front, especially, you need to be sensitive. Did you know that 10-25% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage? The odds are pretty good that any woman whom you speak to has experienced the loss of an unborn baby at some point.

6. “The Lord blesses people who are open to life by giving them children.”

Implied: What sins have you committed so that the Lord isn’t giving you a new baby every couple years?

This one is particularly hurtful, and more often than not, it isn’t said directly to the parents of one, two, or none, but is spread around the grapevine in even more uncharitable terms. You want to know the truth? Everyone has their own cross to bear, and being open to life but asked to bear the cross of infertility, subfertility, or secondary infertility? That is a huge sacrifice, and hopefully an opportunity to grow closer to God’s love, but we can still use the support and understanding of others.

In the end, we all need to remember not to judge, Family size does NOT equal birth control usage and the Catechism (CCC 2477-2478) reminds us:

Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury. He becomes guilty:

– of rash judgment who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor;

To avoid rash judgment, everyone should be careful to interpret insofar as possible his neighbor’s thoughts, words, and deeds in a favorable way:

Every good Christian ought to be more ready to give a favorable interpretation to another’s statement than to condemn it. But if he cannot do so, let him ask how the other understands it. And if the latter understands it badly, let the former correct him with love. If that does not suffice, let the Christian try all suitable ways to bring the other to a correct interpretation so that he may be saved.

Have your own rude questions you’ve heard or received? How do you respond? How do you keep from judging harshly in return?

MrsF3 and Family is on twitter: https://twitter.com/MrsF3andF and Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/mrsf3

The Rising: Challenging your faith (in a good way!)

Recently, I read a new book from Ignatius Press called The Rising by Bob Ovies (click the link to buy it now!). Let me just say that it’s certainly not a genre that I usually read–somewhere between a sci-fi and paranormal. When dead and embalmed people start coming to life, it tends to make us uncomfortable. I admit, I was tempted to quit reading, glad that it was just fiction that I could put down, but by the time I finished, I found myself wishing it had happened.

The Rising - a book that leaves you with hope and faith.

The Rising – a book that leaves you with hope and faith.

Here’s the genius of this book: it makes you squirm a bit as a little boy, not a very religious one at that, finds that he has the power to bring people back to life. But, then you have to ask yourself: if this really happened, how would I respond?

Would I be Fr. Mark?

The parish priest of 9-year-old C.J. and his mom, Lynn Walker, is a faithful parish priest, but has to consider how much he really believes in the REALITY of our Faith when faced with a miracle in his own parish, at the funeral home where he just finished leading the rosary for a deceased parishioner. He doesn’t want to believe in the miracle, and hopes that there is another explanation.

Or would I go for the gold-mine like Joe Walker?

Joe is C.J.’s dad, a salesman just trying to get ahead. His selfishness has already cost him his marriage, but his ex-wife allows him to stay in the boy’s life because she thinks it’s important for C.J. When Joe realizes that the boy really is the one bringing people back to life, he wants to get rich quick. Throughout the book, Joe is trying to find ways to, in effect, “sell” his son’s power to the highest bidder.

Would I react like Cardinal Schaenner?

In The Rising, Cardinal Schaenner is the archbishop of Detroit where the story takes place. Once he is convinced that the miracles are truly taking place, he seizes the opportunity to stage the biggest evangelization event of history…but without regard for the individuals involved.

Would I be Bennington Reed?

A wealthy man who is close to the Cardinal through financial gifts and friendship, Bennington Reed envisions this power being the next step in the evolution of the human race and the beginning of a utopia without sickness, poverty, or evil.

Or would I be like Lynn Walker?

C.J.’s mother, Lynn, just questions “why us?” and wants what is best for her son.

You read and question your own reaction, your own faith, your own belief. What if miracles like this were taking place in your hometown or parish? Do we really believe? In the end, Lynn Walker and C.J. do have an answer for why it happened, but I can’t give that away. Read it and see the true miracle in someone’s life.

And the hope that the book gives you? The reason I find myself wishing I could hear someone speak these words to me and not just read them in fiction. Marion Klein, a woman brought back from the dead by C.J., reassures him:

“Do you know what I’m trying to say, C.J.? I don’t know if I’m saying it real well, but do you know what I mean?”

He stared at her. He nodded once. Then he said very tentatively, “Yeah, you mean . . . it’s okay if we die.”

Marion took a deep breath…

“Not exactly that. Not that. What I’m trying to say is we don’t really die. That’s what I want you to know. They say we do, but we don’t really die. That’s the gift.”

 

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