Monday, December 24, 2012

Wrapped up in wrapping

I messed up guys. It's almost Christmas, and after four liturgical weeks of beautiful prophecies and readings and reflective prayers handed to me on an advent wreath, I'm still not ready. Like at all. 

 Family issues, some illness, and some real drama distracted me. Real drama. Second week of Advent was consumed by Nutcracker performance for one child and Alice in Wonderland for another... okay fine maybe I mentioned that already. Then there was the tragedy of Newtown to distract me from the norm. And just this weekend, the one I had nothing planned for, my girls were stand-ins for a local production of the Christmas Carol. (No, I'm not a pageant mom, thank you.) 

Anyway I'm excited and proud and overwhelmed and exhausted. And so not ready for Christmas. The house is a mess. I bought way too much. Stuff I need is still not delivered. The cards aren't sent(again). The gifts aren't wrapped. The Advent links didn't really happen. And now my girls remind me I promise to bake cookies. 

 I did manage to go to confession yesterday, but was adding to my list the whole way there: yelling at everyone to get out the door on time, annoyed at the guy who cut me in line. Who knew getting to Reconciliation was a near occasion of sin??

In all this I can't find baby Jesus.  No, literally. Looks like we'll be using the plastic, chubby, toy of the Divine Infant from our Little People Nativity. I know He will come anyway, and find a manger in this busy family's life. We love Him and need Him here, especially in our distractedness. I can't comprehend Easter this side of the grave but as a mom, Jesus as a baby is so wonderfully approachable. 

Welcome, dearest little Lord. Thank you for coming, for your light and peace. Send wise men to help me make final decision on gifts. Shepherds to guide my heart back to thoughts of you in my chaos. Your mother to show me how to hold You to my heart.  Veni veni, Emmanuel. - TLC 

Christ our King, come to our aid!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A reasonable hope

Prelude RANT: This is the third time I've written this post.  The phone app I put presumptious hope in ate the first draft.  My new, Black Friday purchased laptop sent the second into blog nirvana... and then I had to curl my daughter's hair before her Nutcracker recital--oh absolutely you can have pics! They're coming--and then the phone rang beside the sleeping baby, who had to be resettled...I am curious to see if this version finally goes to print.  After two maple cookies and a chocolate bar (followed by some eater's regret Kefir), I'm prepared to give this another whirl (crack knuckles, ow ow ow!  Remind me not to do that....)

Recently there was a heated debate (no pun intended) in Catholic circles over how numerous the population of hell actually was.  Fr. Barron, of Catholicism series fame, had raised the eyebrows and hackles of some by a certain video.  In case clicking seems too onerous at the moment, basically the popular priest stated that it was "a reasonable hope" to believe hell may not be the overcrowded damnation destination we've allowed ourselves to think.  After reading the exhaustive and exhausting commentary and watching the clip, I came down heavily on his side; I thought the position was beautifully explained and supported.  One of my favorite parts was when he quoted C.S. Lewis: "The door of hell is locked from the inside," implying that hell was very much a self-imposed exile, and the thought that Divine Love, refused, was what lit the eternal fire.

But not all my fellow Christians and Catholics agree, by any means.   It seems some hold it is most virtuous to assume that hell is positively packed with the perditious, and any hint at a sparsely settled Hades gets some feathers totally bent out of shape.  And with seemingly great ire, following the video are citations of the most foreboding passages of scripture regarded the road to damnation being wide and flocks of goats on God's left hand, to wondering how the Fatima vision of hell could not mean a sight of absolutely eternal damnation, and overall whining about how mortal sin and free will and the pursuit of grace could have any meaning if Our Lord was set on saving many more souls than we thought possible.  I closed my laptop (when I heard the smashing demise of the third ornament of the day at the hands of my toddler) with thoughts of how the older brother of the prodigal son was also envious, and with annoyance at how people with an exaggerated sense of human justice were attempting to limit the mercy of God.

Then some idiot walked into a Connecticut school not terribly far from my home, and killed an entire class of Kindergarteners yesterday.

Suddenly I found myself last night--along with a sibling--fantasizing on how many ways we would kill the murderer if he only were not so annoying as to be already self-deceased.  So much for my being above human justice. 

I am so glad I'm not the judge of anyone's soul.  I get too angry.  I react too quickly.  I cannot see the innermost working of people's minds, nor read their hearts, nor understand their motivations.  Especially when it comes to the mass murder of children.  I would have no mercy.  Yet, He who is both infinitely and perfectly just and merciful seems to want to be portrayed like this:

The only thing so far that makes it possible for me to come at all near to understanding a mercy so vast as to potentially save the soul of Adam Lanza is to look at how I understand and forgive my own children.  I gulp and try to perform the mental exercise I employ when I am furious at my adolescent daughters: I picture them as babies.  Innocent.  Vulnerable.  So gosh darn cute.  Learning how to love or to hate at the hands of those around them.  And I come a fraction closer to understanding how the Creator so deeply wants the eternal good of His most beloved creation: us.  And I can for a second stomach the vision of a greatly repentant lion in heaven with the innocent lambs he slaughtered.  And momentarily, I can consider the reasonable hope that hell is not crowded. 

For now, I mostly want to pray for those who are lost and the families who lost them: May all the souls of the victims of the Connecticut shootings rest in peace in the hands of their Creator, who loves them, who died for them, and who will deal with them with great Justice and great Mercy.  And may God embrace the bereaved families with the comfort He alone knows how to give. 

"As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him." Psalm 103:13

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Lovely lady dressed in stars

12/12/12. Okay that's just plain fun. And yes, made even cooler by being the anniversary of an apparition in the Americas too.

I know many people whose relationship with Jesus' mom I wholeheartedly admire. And envy. Including those who have a devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe. Yet, when I look at pictures of that miraculous image, and even when I've studied the incredible details and symbolism of the tilma, with the cord indicating her Pregnancy and the reflection of Juan Diego in her eye, I still don't have an immediate connection with the image. I see someone depicted whom I know to be beautiful, but who appears to my modern eyes as.. well foreign and historic. Not the lovely native queen the humble man met on a hillside.

I probably felt most connection with Our Lady of Guadalupe when I was Our Lady of Guadalupe. In a homeschool drama club of course. About 25 year ago today (pause here to pass out in shock at my age, somewhat recover and continue typing in a daze) okay some time ago on this date I was dressed in something blue... Pretty sure it had nothing on a starry robe but still. And I was reciting those irresistibly comforting words: "Am I not here who am your mother? Are you not in the folds of my mantle? In the crossing of my arms? Is there anything else you need?" (Meanwhile my younger female thespian--still a good friend of mine--was trying to look as impressed and Juan Diegoish as possible.)

I think that's just the long, much more eloquent version of what I say to my baby every day when she wakes up crying from a nap: "Don't worry baby. Momma's here."

I can definitely connect with that, despite my attachment failure with the miraculous tilma, which while supernaturally mind-blowing lacks an immediate familiarity. That's one of the reasons I'm really glad about this.  As a mom I feel the need to connect with my heavenly mother. And no, of course, paintings of Our Lady engaged in the very human tasks of raising a baby in no way replace a miraculous image. But they do remind me if the miracle of motherhood, and the extraordinary ordinary that fills our days.

O beautiful Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us, your little ones. -TLC

PS I just found out my husband's nom de plume is a white fish. This comes as a bit of a shock. Here's praying for you, COD:

Lovely Lady dressed in stars,
Teach us how to pray.
If we from Venus, men from Mars,
All help you give we'll take.

Ah. Men.

(There I go glibbing again...)

Monday, December 10, 2012

Just when I thought I was perfect....

Husband: "Hey Kate! You're coming off glib."
Me, coaxing dancing babe into a diaper: "Glib?"
Hubby: "Yeah, glib. Like you have the best take on everything and stuff."

Now I hope that's not true. I truly don't want to come off as obnoxious. I love hearing differing opinions. So if I come off as annoying, do remember when I blog, I'm writing instead of sleeping, and so at times I really would edit more if I were conscious. Really, I would.

But yes, I have "a" take on things. Not (necessarily) the best one. I'm open to growing in wisdom and grace. I'm only 34.

No I'm not always right, a huge shock I'm sure. For instance, I just again drove past the Amazing (barf) store tonight. Turns out I led you astray... that cookie really is being a vixen. She was whipping off a brassiere made of starlight mints; I'd missed that before. No wonder the gingerbread man looked shocked.

My take (since you asked): objectively these pastries are behaving in a salacious manner rather unbefitting desserts. But in my undying optimism, I'm gonna assume that there is a preexisting condition which would push this whole flirtation towards more venial matter. My take? They're married.

"Hey Dan! Was that glib? Oh dear..."

I have also been informed by the domestic editor-in-chief that my posts are too long. This will be remedied shortly. -TLC

The Medicating Catholic

Big secret leak for the nurses station...: we can hear you. Yeah those curtains aren't actually sound proof, sorry.  As we patients convalesce in triage, we silently critique your lunch choices.  We commiserate with you, a little, when you relate how "she said psst psst but then SHE said psst psst..."  But we don't like it when we hear you swearing about how you just want to go home, and then burst in to check on us with a fake cotton candy smile.  Please.  We don't feel good; let's get real here.
Yeah, so, I ended up getting hydrated by IV, behind one such curtain, since my last post.  And yes I really, really am getting better now.  Been a tough few weeks health-wise for me, a very penitential Advent so far.  I do feel God is upholding me through it all though.  And my husband and kids have been picking up my slack; they just rock.  And I've been getting a lot of prayers while exploring the terrain of physical misery, and I am reminded that I can meet God here.  That He is fully capable of using these times of... well, suffering... for good, that I'm kind of in boot camp to become the person He sees me being: me at my best.  And most of the time, I do fully believe He knows what He's doing.

I was getting to worry that this blog was a misnomer... should have been "The Medicating Catholic" maybe.  :)  But no, I chose "Lactating" and I just realized I haven't explained that choice fully yet... 

Well it's quite simple.  I chose this name for the blog because I think we often take the wrong things seriously. War is serious. Death and life are serious. Love is serious. Milk and its production is not serious. Or sacred. But somehow--in the case of lactation--some have jumped from truth to absurdity.  For instance: marriage is sacred (yes);  marital love is sacred and private and to be revered (absolutely); we love in our physical body (uh huh); particular body parts are considered attractive (okayyy); breasts are about sex so we really shouldn't talk about anything to do with them (hold the phone!) I have actually heard this argument in Catholic circles, and I find this conclusion absurd, when the primary and most necessary function of that part of female anatomy is to nourish young. I feel such thinking it is a symptom of an oversexualized culture that can attempt to make anything sexy. (Example: M&M's.) 

And okay, I chose the name for this blog because I want to tweak some noses.  I am all done with Catholic arrogance, which unfortunately seems prevalent in the Catholic blogosphere.  It's not a virtue.  I strongly dislike the implication that we, because we are on "the Catholic team", can look down on those who are not, or freely judge those who seem to not know the rules of the game as us.  We can be profoundly grateful for our Faith and "pro Catholic team" knowing it's the best without thinking less of others. Really we can.  There's a problem when people are more worried about being right than about being holy.  And there are many non-Catholics closer to God than some Catholics who are "right." 

So I like to use humor to right the balance.  For instance:

Okay, sometimes it's right on the edge of what may be deemed appropriate.  But in this case, there is nothing objectively wrong with the phrase "shades of grey."  Yes, someone wrote a skanky book with that title (which no, I haven't read nor plan to read.)  But that doesn't mean we need to shy away from the phrase.  Or from other books by that title.  :)  As my Alma Mater would say: Instaurare Omnia in Christo.  Let's restore all things in Christ.

There's an "Amazing" (snort) Superstore we have the misfortune of having to drive by on certain routes home.  For years, when I had observant kids in the car it would be glance, groan, and "Hey look kids, a truck!  A bird!  Roadkill!" or anything to draw their attention away from the objectified, scantily clad picture of a human being in the front windows.  But recently, for reasons unknown, things have changed there.  The monthly advertisements have gotten much tamer.  For Halloween this year, there was a vampy but actually well-clothed pic of a woman in vampire costume being pursued by a zombie entitled, "Be the life of the party."  But this month... oh it's awesome.  :)  There's a shocked looking gingerbread man--yep, a cookie--looking at another cookie, a gingerbread woman I guess who had "overtanned" judging from her icing lines, sporting some vanilla caption like "Have a warm holiday."  Now that is silly enough to be actually funny. 

But yes, they are trying to SEXUALIZE COOKIES!  So fellow Christians, let's take back our books, and our colors in every shade, and our chocolate and cookies.  And by all means, let's take back our milk. - TLC

"All things are pure to the pure; but to the defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure." Titus 1:15

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Surrendering to Joy

When one is sick, the following pattern is typically pursued in some order: bed, bathroom, bed, TV, tea, toast, bathroom, bed. 

When one is a sick mom, this pattern becomes something like the following:   

Bed. Bag of shredded cheese shaken over your head by child.  

“Mom, I want this!!” 

Arise in full knowledge that the bag will be opened by child should you insist on bed.  Fumble into kitchen, then turn and bolt for bathroom, three year-old with cheese in hot pursuit.  

“But Mommy, I want my bowl! I need a snack! That’s not the way!  Aww…”  

Stumble back to bed, while baby toddles in, hands raised.  You weakly drag her into your bed, where she plops down on your roiling stomach and starts pointing pointedly at your shirt.  

“No baby, not right now, Momma’s sick…”  

Over the crescendo of your baby’s wail, you hear loud giggles, and struggle upright to see preschooler dancing in glee over a carpet of cheese on the floor.  And that’s just the first twenty minutes of your sick day.

That’s what I’ve been doing here while I haven’t been writing.  Still haven’t recovered from whatever auto immune flare-up my Thanksgiving vacation set in motion.  Prayers are appreciated; I’m hanging in there.

At least well enough—by nightfall--to help with the homework of a 5th grader.  My daughter was deep into the most serious of classroom political campaigning last night: poster making.  I was trying to coax a dried super glue into affixing a little mirror under “LOOK” followed by “who’s voting for Annemarie for VP!” 

I realized she had the misfortune of misspelling “responsible” on her poster.  In permanent marker.  A hunt for wite-out followed.  A hunt for viable wite-out followed that.  When that failed, my husband took on the task of bringing the wite-out back to life with hot water, then alcohol.  After five applications of the regenerated substance, it almost worked. 

All the while, I was blasting Christmas music.  Yes, Christmas music.  No, not Advent music.  No, I am not a pagan.  Yes, I spent years resisting the overly early emergence of Christmas.  But this year, I am surrendering to joy.  Well, at least when they aren’t playing “Santa Baby” on the radio; that’s just painful.  Besides, I can sing it better. :)

No, I’m like you, really: I resent the rushing of the holidays.  How the culture hurries us along like children: yes, yes, you are enjoying Thanksgiving dinner but look over there!  Sales!  Shopping!  Wrap!  Decorate!  Send out the cards! 

And then on December 26th, just when we’ve actually started to celebrate, it’s over. Trees on the curb.  Music off the radio.  I mean, some hang on to the New Year and give the whole holiday a good week, but mostly I feel society looks up dully on the 26th and says, “What?  Christmas?  Oh we were over that at 10 AM yesterday.  So glad to get that tree out of my house.”

How sad!!  I mean really!!  Very sad.  Rushing towards a goal only to be bored when we reach it.  That’s one of the many reasons I’m a big fan of Advent.  I deeply appreciate the weeks of preparation, spiritually and externally, to celebrate the birth of Christ, God becoming man, the wonder of the Incarnation.  That's also why I really tried to put the brakes on Christmas until _Christmas_.  I cringed at the holly jollyness of the world around me.  And I insisted my family at least try to be liturgically appropriate.  Last year at this time, like the previous years, I was singing only Advent songs with the kids.  Mostly the twenty-two verses of “O Come Emmanuel.”  We did the Jesse tree.  We had Advent links with a little sacrifice /  act of kindness every day to be done.  We had purple decorations.  Didn’t get a tree till that pink candle week of Gaudete Sunday.  And yes, I'll continue most of these.  

But last year, I realized in the midst of my resisting the climate of frenzied celebration, that I was missing out.  No, not on just the commercialism that all spiritually minded folk try to do without during this holy season.  But on some perfectly acceptable joy.
I’ve been blessed back in the stone age of my single life to spend parts of this season in convents.  And I wanted that quiet reflection, that interior preparation for my family.  Finally realized this year that that—really--isn’t going to happen that way.  I can’t recreate that blissful bubble of cloister for an active family immersed in today’s society.  My kids have been steeped in pine and cinnamon scents since October, their peers are talking nonstop about the holy day (I mean holiday, which means holyday… jokes on you, PC society J)… Unless you go underground, red and green and Santa are inescapable here.  

So we won’t go from barren purple décor to sumptuous Christmas regalia overnight on the eve of the 24th, much as I wish that was the case in my desire for symbolism and living the liturgical life.  But, in the midst of doing acts of charity to prepare for baby Jesus, I’m coming to the realization that my kids and I can also be singing the songs of Christmas.  Okay maybe I’m a little slow, but this was a big realization for me.  Even though the world around us may not fully “get” it, with the huge inflatable snowmen and light up candy canes--they do know there is something to celebrate here.  Something way beyond ordinary, though the ordinary birth of an ordinary baby is wondrous enough.  But now there are whispers of the miraculous birth of a Savior, slipping into a stable, a quiet, steady Light in a dark world.  And while society may try to cover it with décor, and wrap it in Santa movies, and insist on calling it a holiday with holiday trees (again, lol), they are—however blindly and unconsciously—reaching out for the Divine.  Our Lord is there in the center of it all.  So we'll join in the celebration that surrounds us, because God is at its center, however swaddled the culture tries to have Him be. 

This year, I am surrendering to the joy that surrounds us.  Yes I will pray and reflect, but without insisting on perfection.  Christmas music is on my radio, and when it happens to actually be Christocentric, I blast the stuff.  We have the Advent wreath, and light a candle every week.  But we’ll get the tree a little earlier... like as soon as possible.  I want my babies to see the lights, and will talk to them of the Light.  And I’m hoping to continue a family tradition of mine this year: celebrating the feast of St. Nicholas.  Shoes out, fire in the hearth, cocoa and singing all the Christmas carols we know.  Okay, shoot that would be… tonight, so I’d better try to get ready.  I'm currently thinking dollar bills might be unimaginative, but for a distracted and forgetful mom, that's good in a pinch.  Happy Feast of St. Nick, the “real Santa,” to you all!  - TLC

"And the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it." John 1:5