Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Thoughts from Stellamaris's baptism

On Sunday, Stellamaris was baptized into the Catholic Church. It felt good to have this little one be so celebrated in entering the church and being freed of original sin. But something else struck me with this baptism. The people present at it, all of them were with us through the heartache of the loss of our last year with Noel around this same time of year. They showed up, they showed up in ways I didn't know we needed, they brought meals and ice cream,  offered child care and cards, sat with us in dark moments and offered hugs and just patiently loved in so many ways.

And then on Sunday, they showed up again, this time in joy for a new baby that came as a surprise out of the heartache and they cerebrated with us. And it was good to have them there.

As I sat out on our patio at the party after the baptism, the same tree and bush were flowering that flowered in the grief of last year, the ones I clipped to make bouquets to put on Noel's grave last year. It had me remembering but at the same time there was joy there, as much as I didn't want to have Noel die in the womb, I wouldn't have had a Stellamaris, or the growth of this past year. I don't understand why it had to happen this way but I am thankful for the grace to be able to embrace it.

So little Stellamaris, we welcome you to the church and once again we are so glad you are here.

Monday, April 10, 2017

The birth of Stellamaris

I wrote a post about her birth a while back but somehow Blogger didn't save it or my computer messed up. I wrote and then napped, so I could have magically deleted it as well. But nonetheless here is another go at writing her story.

Most of you know that Stellamaris was a rainbow baby, and that came with a lot of anxiety during her entire pregnancy about everything being okay. It still manifests itself sometimes in little ways here or there, but for the most part the fact that she is a live baby in my hands is amazing thing and I am trying my hardest not to take that for granted because I understand how much more at this stage in my live how everything is not a guarantee.

I am thankful for her and her sweetness, and just the moments where all her siblings are crowded around her wanting to hold her or interact with her or help with her. It keeps me going in the tired moments.  But back to her actual birth story.

The day before Stella was born, I was having mild contractions, nothing to write home about and I had been having some days and evenings with this for a while, so I didn't think much about it all. I took the kids to their homeschool class at the library all the while having contractions, but again, I could completely function with these, and I figured if it did get bad, I'd call my husband and he would come get us.

But then I took a nap, and by the end of the nap everything stopped. But this was later in the afternoon and I was at the point that I needed to have dinner done and I had nothing for dinner. So I packed the kids in the car to get some groceries. I was hungry for specific things that take out wasn't going to cure.  I should have thought twice about this, because it was awful.  My two older children were crazy in the store and especially the oldest.  It culminated with my oldest thinking that rolling a watermelon at full speed down the bagging isle of Aldi a good idea, which resulted in a broken watermelon, me in tears and grocery store employees taking pity on me saying I could get another and the security guard telling me it would be okay.  I was a hot mess along with my kids. Me on another day would have never attempted this, so I blame hunger and end of pregnancy craziness. I felt like at the moment that this fourth child was a very bad idea because well I couldn't even handle my seven year old.

I texted some close friends and they said to be gentle to myself and the kids and I ate dinner and Ben had consequences for his behavior. We all went to bed with no expectation for the following day to happen.

I woke up a bit after 4am with contractions, looking back it seems that the indicator for me to be in this is it labor is to wake up with contractions. It was enough that I could no longer sleep. So I did what I do in labor, I binge watch TV.  This time I watched Girl Meets World and hung out on the birthing ball downstairs. The house's pint sized inhabitants were still all sleeping soundly, so I thought it might be good to keep it that way.

I called the midwife at 6am to tell her what was happening, and then decided to take a shower, I was having a decent amount of back labor and showers have helped me in the past greatly with that. Post shower though I decided to call the midwife again because while it felt good to be upright in the shower, I quickly went to hands and knees which meant I was closer to transition. The midwife got here at little after 7:30am and she told me while that position felt better it was counterproductive because baby girl was on the opposite side from what she needed to be.

The kids woke up around this time but Keith shooed them downstairs and they actually complied. The only thing was that my MIL was running late to pick them up so they didn't get picked up until about 8:30.  For me, if my kids are present I tend to struggle to give full focus to the birthing process even if they aren't needing me.  Before they left they made sure we had our "It's a Girl" balloon we had gotten at the school baby shower, but afterwards I knew I could fully focus again.

So back to the birthing ball I went and before long I was fully dilated and ready to push.  There was an issue though because she was on the wrong side and so to push her out she needed to turn and she was sitting higher instead of actually descending like my other babies did.  I had to work ridiculously hard to fight against what I wanted to do to what baby needed me to do to get her out and it was seriously the hardest time I had every in the pushing phase post first baby. I remember after a push feeling like I was getting somewhere but then feeling her head go back up and I screamed "That is not okay." But somehow I got through it and 15 minutes later she was on my chest and healthy and alive. I think honestly I was stunned that all this had resulted in a live baby because last time it didn't.

It actually took me a few days to process everything and to realize how much I was holding my breath through her whole pregnancy. I think I questioned everything that probably I normally wouldn't have thought twice about.  But Stellamaris has been an amazing light to us after the darkness, and while she is a baby and does baby things, somehow I think I am more amazed this time around because it feels like a gift, something that I wasn't expecting but am so happy to have here and to hold her each day.

So, here she is:

Thursday, March 23, 2017

A name

I believe back in December I was first talking about names for this new baby girl of ours. 2016 was a year of many losses for us, two of them being grandmothers that were dear to us. One was named Florence Elizabeth and the other Mary Ann. And oddly my last remaining grandparent, my maternal grandmother is Mary Elizabeth. For a while we thought that two middle names would be the way to go. We wanted to honor those loved ladies in this new life but also wanted to give her something that was her own. 

I started calling baby girl Kat as in Kateri, but for some reason the double K was bugging me, I had a double K in my name and always it feels tongue twister like. And then Keith stumbled upon the name Stella Maris. A Latin title for Mary, which means star of the sea. It seemed too fitting to not use it. It honors get great grandmother and yet is flared with her own bit of self and gives light to a devotion to the blessed mother, someone who through this year of loss has given me hope and light. 

We played around with what order it should all be and if it should be a double first name or be put together as one. Over all nothing else seemed to fit as well as this name. 

And so we have a Stellamaris Elizabeth. A beautiful baby girl that I'm so happy to have in my arms and be able to get to know day by day. 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

My thoughts on the book Different by Sally and Nathan Clarkson

I had been seeing the book "Different" pop up in my Amazon things you should buy and in a few blog feeds, and it seemed like something I needed to read.  For me I had been struggling most recently with my oldest son's tendencies toward ADD/ADHD. I wanted to get him tested, but I never did because its a new year and well, I have to ration out the money in the HSA and so its not something in our budget at the moment.  So, I thought reading this would at least give me perspective, but then I started actually reading.

When I dove into the book, I led me back to where I was told I was difficult and different when I was growing up.  As an adult, pretty much every therapist or person I have come in contact with tells me that I am super quirky and well, different. I felt like I could identify with both authors of the book at various times. The mom, Sally, while she loved her mom, always felt off as a kid. And I think that was definitely something that I dealt with, my brain just seems to work differently than my siblings did.  I think that probably was hard for my parents to deal with and I caused a lot of strife, but I don't think I could have changed me in that way to fit in if I had tried with all my might, at least not with some major issues.

One of the main points that I took away from reading this was how even though she was human and failed a lot, Sally tried to truly love her difficult child unconditionally, and to strive to be positive about who Nathan, her son, was as God made him. I think for myself I can so easily see the flaws in myself and in my children, but it takes effort, at least for me, to see them and myself as a beautiful child of God. I mean I know it, but I sure as heck don't act like it at times.  I think I mentioned on twitter that there was one day where I just decided that I was going to tell my kids affirming things that day and not focus on the things that needed correcting.  It was a good day. And while we definitely need to be refined as humans and to keep growing, we also need to know how much we are loved. And maybe this is easier for you to do than me, but I think I just needed this reminder.

Another item that stuck with me was in seeing these children as gifts from God, that they really are their own people that will make their own mistakes and have their own free will.  I think its so hard as a parent to not be embarrassed by your own kids behavioral habits. Sometimes it makes me not want to leave the house. I mean the last time we got haircuts, one of my kids almost punched the hair stylists in the jaw because it was too intense of an experience for him. Of course that was embarrassing.  And its not that kids should be without guiding and disciplining when necessary, its just that they are their own people.  Ultimately, you cannot control them.

I think the last thing is that it feels like we do live in a world where we want to know and be what is normal, this is where I identified with Nathan and his struggle. In wanting to be normal so much, we can miss out in who God really made us to be. While there are definitely times when medicine is useful to psychologically help us function in society, maybe there's a little too much emphasis on being happy all the time. Maybe we just need to feel things and process things and that be okay. Its a weird world to live in where our bodies aren't being used in the same way they were 100 years ago and so perhaps our minds are troubled a bit more, but maybe some of these responses are there to make us be us. Maybe they are there to show us how to love, especially in the difficult times with the difficult ones. I am not by any means saying that medicine isn't helpful to those that need it, I'm just thinking through my own life, processing with help, though slow, seemed to help me in my differentness. So maybe that's just for me, because a lot of times I do not feel that I fit in, but maybe that's what I need and that's okay.

Shannon Evans posted something on St. Valentine's Day about how there is a sense of loneliness that we have that comes from the lack of being understood. Reading "Different" reminded me that while we can do better at trying to understand one another and to love deeply, at the end of the day there is still going to be a hole. A hole that only God can fill and really only fully when we get to heaven where we will be completely understood by all there. So perhaps, that is what I realized through reading this, that it is good to love, that it is good to be understanding, to be patient, to be kind, to be affirming and to strive to do these thing well.  All of this is good.  But there isn't a formula that is going to get rid of suffering along the way, because as painful as it is suffering redeems us through Jesus.  It can point us to love more, to open our broken hearts to grow bigger and point us to Heaven.

Do I often wish that I had had someone growing up like Sally who wanted to understand me more? Yes, definitely.  Would I be me though if I had this? No. And so I'm thankful for the hard and for the fact that my parents tried their best with what they knew to do. I'm thankful for not fitting in and being outside the box. And perhaps my kids will feel this unconditional love of God a little more than I did.  I pray they do, I pray that I can be that example to them even in my failure by humility. I do want them to know they are loved and by God's grace I will try to love them best as I can.

Friday, January 27, 2017

How I Became Catholic Part 7 of 7

I am struggling to wrap this up because I'm sure I've forgotten something that was important or that it will be misunderstood if I don't say it just right.  But I think knowing that I am going to try and let grace be present here and just go with it. It's been 10 years after all, and while some things are clearer now, others are not. A lot of my conversion story continues post the actual moment of becoming Catholic, as I think this is true for most people in their faith walks. God doesn't give up on you after you are claimed but keeps the refining process going if you'll let him. But this story isn't about that, though maybe I should write another series on the next ten years post conversion some other time. :)

So, let's back to the story. Just a few short weeks before Easter vigil, one of the other catechumens and I met with a woman who had recently gone through the conversion process. Because both of us were struggling with a lot of outside pressures against us and also were wondering about all the things we just didn't quite get yet. It was almost a reassurance thing, and it was really needed because to see someone that already did what you are about to do and survived and is thriving on top of that a few years down the road, it gives you hope. Especially when you realize how big this is what you are doing. Part of me wonders, if I would have waited another year, and came into full communion after I had gotten married,  if I would have had all the strife going into it. But maybe for me it needed to be so uncomfortable from the outside that I knew I had to do it from the inside.  That even though it wasn't easy to go against my family or origin's wishes, the tug to do it wasn't going to go away and maybe it would have just gotten that much worse if I did wait another year.

Easter vigil came. It was a day full of snow and it was terrible weather, but despite that people that were important to me came out to support me in this process. It was so very great to have my roommates there and some friends from graduate school and K and his family as well.  I was so thankful for their presence and support.  They were troopers in the weather. I loved that it was snowing, not because it made it difficult to get there but snow is my favorite thing. It washes away the yuck of the world and paints it new again. It just felt like a symbol of a new beginning with the fire in the barrel light on a snowy night. It was a special night and while Easter vigil is long, every bit meant something and it was good to finally feel at home in my faith at the end of the night.  The rest could wait.

And that's one thing I think about often, despite how hard it was to get there with a lot of searching, I finally feel at home in Catholicism and this feeling hasn't gone away.  There are so many instances where I'm in mass and I just smile for the love that is there that is present in Jesus that is present in his sacrifice and in those around me despite coming from so many different backgrounds and at so many different stages in life.  There is a oneness, which I didn't feel before and there are so many other things that just keep me growing more and more in my walk with Jesus.  I recall one thing said in RCIA that was emphasized in our learning about the faith. It was simply that everything that Catholicism holds is there as something to bring you closer to Jesus. Every bit of the mass, every bit of the sacraments, every bit of prayer and devotion should draw you to Jesus. Not every devotion within Catholicism is for every Catholic or for every time in your life,  but they exist as means to lead to to Jesus. For in the end our goal is to be in communion with Christ, something for which every Christian strives. The vastness is there in Catholicism but it only accounts for the fact that each person needs something just a little bit different to reach the finish line. I am no where near the finish line yet, but God continues to meet me everyday where I am at and particularly now as a Catholic.

Read Part 1 here.

Read Part 6 here.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

How I Became Catholic Part 6 of ?

When official RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) started, I think I was well on my way to knowing I was going to be Catholic. And a lot of it was review in the first bit because it gave basis of Christianity in general. My sponsor was K and sometimes my one roommate would come with us too because she was a cradle Catholic and thought it would be good for her as well. I think one of the thoughts that I had through it was that it felt like such a long process.  RCIA wasn't a one class deal, but a good year of instruction, and it was hard to be patient.  I was often jealous of K's easier return through confession ordeal.

Along side of doing RCIA, I was in my second year of grad school which meant qualifiers and teaching lab to the freshman on top of normal classes and attempting to do research in the lab.  It was a lot even at that. So why not add more, right? Because I did. K proposed in late September and I added marriage prep and wedding planning to the mess of everything already happening in my life.  I want to say that I handled it gracefully, but there were a lot of tears shed and it was rough stress wise. I ended up at my thinnest during this time and had a mouth load of cavities, because for some reason with stress goes my teeth.

But I was happy to be marrying K and I was happy to be growing in my faith, I even liked creating my qualifier projects, but it was a lot to be doing at once. Maybe I should have slowed down just a bit, but then this story wouldn't have been what it is.

There were the normal steps along the way in RCIA, the Right of Acceptance, and the Right of Election. I did not really enjoy the first one because I remember it made me feel very vulnerable and exposed, and I think I wasn't quite ready for that.  But maybe this should have also been a sign of my introversion to me, whatever it was, it was a bit uneasy for me.  I did however enjoy the Rite of Election where every Catholic that was converting or coming into full communion with the church met together for the Rite. It made me feel like I was part of something so much greater than myself, and it gave a sense of the universality of the Church.

Looking back I think the one take away from RCIA that happened was the one day the parish priest talked about how conversion worked.  How in each facet approached we go through first an intellectual conversion than and emotional one and then a spiritual conversion.  I think through most of RCIA and early Catholic days I was still in the intellectual conversion. I think we have to wrap our minds around things first to even grasp what lies ahead for us, and then if you are me and tend to overthink most things it takes a while for the rest to happen. Maybe this is why I am not a charismatic Catholic.

I feel like Catholics get a lot of flack for something such as confession, but if you remember that I struggled with accountability within my Protestant walk. So even though I was nervous for my first confession, it felt like one of the most natural things to do, despite having to recount 23 years of sin. That was hard, I think I wrote down at least a couple pages of things. But the idea of confession agrees with me, it feels like a checking point to say you are human, and you screw up but also to say I want to do better and grow deeper and to do better I need to truly say where I've been and not in just a half hazard way that I was used to doing. Its hard to admit you screw up but to know that grace covers you and Jesus gives you countless opportunities to start new again, that is amazing.  Maybe there was something about these outward signs of grace that were pulling me closer to Jesus in ways I couldn't even understand at the time.

Part 1 can be found here.

Part 5 can be found here.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

How I Became Catholic Part 5 of ?

I left off last in my post, at the point where I knew I wanted to figure this out, this Catholic thing, because figuring that out decided whether I would let K go or not. So I decided to attack what objections I supposedly had or more likely things I didn't understand. All the while I was attending mass. I remember making a point to bring my Bible with me to mass. That's at least what I had always done, one always took a Bible to worship, and to try to participate more, I wrote in the Nicene Creed and pasted it inside the front cover. Missals (for the non-Catholics reading, it gives the weekly four Bible passages and other prayer and mass order info) were present, but I felt lost with things jumping out of the whole and so I would bring that Bible each time and look up the readings my comforting way. I  think I needed at the very least to hold on to something familiar as it felt like most things weren't.

I read and listened to a lot of Catholic answers during this time. I think I tried to figure out why there was so much of Mary in this church, and why it felt like there was a lot of apathy or lack of daily living of faith amongst the members of the Catholic church.  That latter one makes me realize how pretentious and self-centered I was at this time, because I kind of thought everyone should be like me at this point. But I do think when you grow up protestant especially in small congregations, there is a difference in the way people approach their Faith.  Its at lot more in your face and individualistic to each person, versus a collective whole made of many parts at many different stages in their faith walks. I almost feel like its a bit like praise music versus a hymn, in one it feels like a focus on how God relates to you, in the other its God being given to the whole in his greatness. I struggled with these for a while, and sometimes still can shy away from Marian devotion to this day. But with time more understanding came.

I remember visiting a friend out of state, in the summer, and going to her Baptist church. And it was a fine service.  But somewhere in the middle, it kind of hit me that something was missing, not even that I was Catholic at this point, there was still the better half of the year to go, but just I could sense something was missing, the Eucharist.  Its funny, because I don't even think I understand transubstantiation at this point, but because there was no outward sign of Jesus, there was also a difference in how everything played out.  I think this was the point where I knew I had to be Catholic, there was no turning back.  I needed this more, this Jesus in the Eucharist. Jesus was calling me to him.

I don't know when I actually shared that this was my decision, but it was met with a lot of flack, a lot. And I cried a lot at the hurtful words and just felt really isolated a lot of times between where I was and where I was going.  There were however a few key people from my pre-Catholic decision days that stuck by me that were beacons of light amongst the darkness.  People I still feel like I can share my heart with even though we haven't made all the same life decisions, and overtime walk away feeling respected and loved. I am so thankful for these people because for one they gave me a greater sense of family and two they oddly helped me to recognize more truth within the Catholic faith.

One of these people was a friend who sent me a Baptist ministers take on Theology of the Body.  And  while one would think that perhaps this guy would hate it, he actually didn't instead he loved it and he was pretty great at relating it to someone like me who had these Protestant roots, but needed this truth found within Catholicism. Honestly, for the first time I felt like I as a woman was dignified and that I wasn't a lost cause as I thought before. I didn't have to hate being a woman, or make my identity as someone who was a victim but could show with my body, with me being me of God's love. Being a woman wasn't just my reproductivity or my lady parts, but was so much more powerful than that. I so needed that.

Part 4 can be found here.

Part 1 can be found here.