Monday, July 26, 2021

A new name for me: Jephthah

 Since January 1st, I've been doing a couple of things with all resolutions, I've been consistent with some of the changes and not so consistent with others. One of the things I've been doing for the last seven months, albeit not on a regular basis, has been following along with Fr. Mike's Daily Bible in a Year podcast. I've even been able to listen to some of the podcasts while in my office at work between students coming to see me during office hours. How wonderful it is to not have to separate faith from work!

I liken the podcast sessions to mini-homilies. It's been a real treat to listen to Fr. Mike Schmitz read the different passages of scripture followed by a brief reflection or mini-homily on that day's scripture readings. Usually, when the podcast conclude, I'm left wanting more information as they feel as if they end too quickly at times!

This same feeling occurs after a dream I have with my Dad in it. I'm always left with the feeling of "Just one more minute, please!" as I emerge from a dream and wake up in the bed knowing that Dad is fading away again. The dreams don't come often but when they do, they're very poignant and impactful. One such dream involved my walking into my parents' living room and seeing Dad sitting in his recliner. He had an IV in his wrist but that was ignored as I took in his cheerful and chipper countenance. He was very alert and happy and immediately scooped me up in a bear hug tangling the IV cord but not caring about that. The surprise at how well he was blended with the joy of turning around and seeing Charlotte appear in a bright sunshiney yellow dress. I remember exclaiming, "Daddy!" at the same time as Charlotte as she caught side of her Dad in the doorway as my own lifted me up in that bear hug.

When I woke up at that moment, I was still feeling buoyant and lifted until it dissipated a few minutest later in the still dark morning hours of the quiet and still bedroom.

Around that time of the dream described above is when I heard a new name for me from Fr. Mike's readings of the bible. I had never heard of Jephthah or the story of his daughter and how he was not wise in making a certain oath that directly connected with his only child:  his daughter. For anyone who wants to listen to it, it's from Day 92 (fast forward to 17 min.). I wanted to learn more about this story and stumbled upon this article. Much has been said about the unnamed daughter and motives behind both father and daughter in how the story unfolds. I'm still mulling over it all in my head but Fr. Mike, in his homily or reflection on this passage, spoke of the importance of exercising prudence and wisdom when making promises or oaths. 

Reflecting on this story that was new for me, the sacrificing of the daughter, again his only child, her desire to remain alone for two months before meeting her fate, and in thinking of how humans act hastily or in a rash way, I got to thinking about how often we fall into quick and short-term pleas or promises...especially when trying to escape something that is uncomfortable or outside our comfort zones. 

It is so important to not grow lax in guarding our hearts and thoughts. We must practice being self-aware, discerning if the thoughts are of God, and safeguarding the things we allow ourselves to view and do. May we never grow complacent and seek to exercise prudence and wisdom in all that we do! 

Ultimately, we can also only control ourselves...we are unable to control others in our lives whether they be spouses, siblings, friends, other relatives, acquaintances, even children. Lord, help us to see the importance of our taking responsibility for ourselves, and help us to recognize the effects our actions have on others, both those we love and those who are strangers on us, and help us to radiate your light and love to others like rays of the yellow sun's sunshine! Help us to lift up others in a jubilant manner helping others to forget what weighs them down in that moment by you filling up this place through our presence in others' lives!

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Adam = Whatta Man! (Yes, I'm invoking Salt-N-Pepa)

 My prayer for my hubby this Father's Day is a play on words using the letters in his name. :)

A: Aspire to be like St. Joseph. He is the best role model of an earthly Father to imitate. Adam often jokes that it's hard to get a word in when living with Charlotte and me in the same house. He's not wrong. Folks often reflect on how "silent" St. Joseph is in depictions of him. I like to think that while we may not have many quotes to share from him, we have many an example of how he lived his life. He was obedient to God, had much character and put the needs of his family above all else, was an extremely hard worker, and was an amazing support system for both Mary and Jesus. Ever since I was a little girl, I've been drawn to the Holy Family and especially to St. Joseph due to his quiet strong presence in the small family of three. It seems only fitting that, in a small way, my family is mirroring the Holy Family in that way (in number anyway).

D: Dream up what you would have our family's legacy be. Stay close to the Lord and listen to what He is telling you for not only you but also us. If today you hear His voice, harden not your heart. No dream is too impossible or trivial. If it's on your heart, let's do something about it! We are the hands and feet of Christ and our family is as unique, special, and worthy as the next one! Yet the gifts and talents God has bestowed on you, and our family, is fashioned for just us and how we can utilize them as He would see fit for nothing is impossible without God, right? ;)

A: Always continue being who you are. The other day, my heart overflowed with love as I watched you engage in  62 minutes (yes, class ran over two minutes long) of Junior Ninja simply because Charlotte needed you at her side. Even though your ankle was throbbing in pain, you were still her personal assistant/cheerleader/best daddy ever in helping her to see yes, she can do the hard things and there is nothing to be afraid of in trying even if it's a new move. Thank you for loving Charlotte and for loving me in the ways that you do.

MMysteries in life abound but so do miracles and mercy. Thank you for being the man behind both of those for me. On paper, we should never have met. Yet we did. That is a miracle right there. The thought of little Charlotte Annie almost never having been loved into existence makes my heart physically hurt. Thanks be to God for the mystery of meeting, falling in love, and allowing us the one shot to create her. I promise to never take for granted these things and to continually strive to focus on the good rather than the what ifs. Thank you for the mercy you extend when I complain, whine, or cry. Thank you for loving my broken self. It takes a special sort of man to love a woman who can't hear, who can't give you more children, and who constantly messes up but you love me anyway and still show up for both Charlotte and me day in and day out which I know is no easy task and inspires me to do the same and to try to do better each and every day...we're in it together! May God continue to pour out mercy, miracles, and be with us in the mysteries of marriage/parenting/growing as a family.

Happy Father's Day, my love. 

                                                                      From, forever your girls

Love & Joy

Five year old Charlotte approached me when getting ready for mass tonight and said, "You smell good, Mama!" Thinking she was going to comment on my perfume (from Austria that smells soooooo good!), I said, "Oh, yeah? What does it smell like?" She responded saying, "You smell like love and joy." Cue melting of the heart! I said, "Wow! Where have you heard that??" She looked up at me and simply said, "I didn't. It's because of how you care for and take care of me" then she wrapped her little arms around my legs. Goodness gracious, y'all, I about melted on the spot.

Later, at mass, I struggled to get through the second half of mass. The homily had ended with a reminder of Father's Day coming up tomorrow which caused the warm tears to roll down my cheeks. It's so hard to believe this will be the second one without Dad here.

However, my NC anthem was the communion song towards the end of mass. As I listened to the familiar lyrics from Be Not Afraid, I felt comfort from God and from Dad as I thought of how he/He always protected me. 

My earthly father was 

the fixer of busted bike chains, 

of clogged up hearing aid tubes, 

tangled necklaces, 

and broken hearts. 

He was the tickle you awake alarm clock in high school and the can't say no to a last minute trip out to Heisler's for ice cream go to guy.

He was the can't get anything past you type of person because he most likely had done the silly thing your teenage self was trying to get away with (and had probably done worse).

He was my first GPS and no matter how lost I was he was able to get me turned around and pointed in the right direction again. 

He was the proud to be an American person yet the last one to stand up and be recognized out of humility. 

God has ensured my every need, even ones I wasn't aware of, was tended to in His garden all throughout my life. He has pruned the branches where I needed to be cut to grow again. He asks of me to have the faith of a mustard seed and will make me strong as I can do all things through Him....even the hard things like missing Dad's advice every single day, wishing I could get the answers to my questions I have for him, and simply, most of all, missing his laugh and that smile he would give me with the knowing look in his eyes. I can face the loneliness and the ache of missing my earthly Dad because I can turn to God and know He understands. 

Take the grief and sorrow. Turn it to joy and love, Lord. 

Last week, during a bible study gathering, I found myself questioning aloud why did Jesus have to take on human form? Why did he have to be exposed to temptation and to experience life as we do? Wasn't he all knowing because God is omniscient and could have been spared all that? Why did he need to gain a better understanding when he already knew? Part of the reason was so he could better relate to and understand our sufferings and situations. Someone said something to the effect of Jesus becoming man so he could know exactly what we have gone through...I surprised myself with blurting out, "But does he?? He is not a woman. He has not had a uterus ripped out of him." How dare I say that?! I have not hung from a cross. I have not had people turn on me, revile me, and crucify me. I have not paid the price for many when I was blameless. 

However, I have been mulling over these thoughts this last week as I continue to read the letter to the Hebrews and I have come to realize that Jesus did not come here to understand, but rather, he came so we, as humans, could understand more about suffering. Jesus' suffering and mine are different but pain is pain. It doesn't hurt any less. It can still be offered up and given to God for Him to bless and transform it. 

Over the last week, I have had the image of taking the daily suffering of secondary infertility and packaging it up in the hole where my womb should be. I have been imagining the invisible missing womb-shaped suffering being placed at God's feet so He can transform and mold it into something or into some way He can act through it. 

The other constant suffering of drowning in the grief of losing Dad takes the form of a heart when I think about the shape and of my Dad's unmistakable hand grip. I can remember, as a small child, holding on to his thumb with my whole hand and feeling so secure. I imagine bundling up all the grief and stuffing it in the heart shape...then whatever can't fit in there is balled up and pressed into the hand I am clinging to... I imagine placing these at God's feet but am unsure how they will be transformed. 

Maybe it is not for me to know right now but I again say, take the grief and sorrow, Lord. Turn it to joy and love and help me to be more like my favorite five year old in being satisfied with the here and now. Help me to proclaim with confidence, It is well!

Speaking of which, I am loving my new It is Well bracelet! That expression holds so much meaning for me & the cuff bracelet is so classic and elegant. Love the font, too. I purchased this bracelet as a replacement to a beautiful necklace I wore for five years after it broke. You can read more about that sweet gift here

So, as I think back on the words from Be Not Afraid tonight, I am grateful for the men who are leaders and for the fathers who show tender mercy and care for their children. I have gratitude for the dads who physically and spiritually support others and provide for people in their care. May they all strive to follow St. Joseph's example and may we all lean into our heavenly Father. Thank you, God, for all the time I did have with my Dad and for the immense honor of walking alongside him his last several days this side of Heaven. 

If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts. Choose love & joy! They will get us through hard times and deserve to be focused on as much, if not more so, than sorrow and grief. May God transform our longings into true gratitude, love, and joy that we can then spread and share with others! 

You shall cross the barren desert
But you shall not die of thirst
You shall wander far in safety
Though you do not know the way
You shall speak your words to foreign men
And they will understand
You shall see the face of God and live
Be not afraid
I go before you always
Come, follow me and I will give you rest
If you pass through raging waters in the sea
You shall not drown
If you walk amid the burning flames
You shall not be harmed
If you stand before the power of hell
And death is at your side
Know that I am with you through it all
Be not afraid
I go before you always
Come, follow me and I will give you rest
And blessed are your poor
For the kingdom shall be theirs
Blest are you that weep and mourn
For one day you shall laugh
And if wicked men insult and hate you
All because of me
Blessed, blessed are you
Be not afraid
I go before you always
Come, follow me and I will give you rest

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Cousin Traditions

My oldest niece (13) and nephew (12) on my side of the family are here for the week. When the threat of rain took away tonight's plans of going to a small amusement park, Clark suggested we play a game at home instead, reminding me of the fun game nights we enjoyed in previous years. I said to Mason in passing tonight, "I love our tradition." She smiled and nodded knowing what I meant. This special trip is the much anticipated cousins trip we enjoy each summer. In fact, Mason and Clark were our first overnight guests after Adam and I were married in 2015! 

This is the 7th summer for Mason and I think the 6th for Clark to come spend time with us. They have been here for 24 hours and we have already been to All4Kids, a paint your own ceramic studio, and enjoyed amazing brownies. I have a couple more surprises planned for the remaining days and love watching them make more memories with Charlotte!

Clark is a good sport for playing what Charlotte wants to play! 😎
Mason is the oldest granddaughter while Charlotte is the youngest. They are the only girls and Charlotte calls her "cousin sister". 😍

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

The power of an encouraging word...

Today is June 2nd.  This is the long awaited book revision month.  When I heard back from my editor close to the end of the semester on April 30th, I had asked if I could have until June 30th to make revisions knowing that I would not be able to focus on it until June due to previous commitments that would take me through to the end of May. She thankfully granted me the June 30th deadline which meant that as soon as Memorial Day ended, literally, I would begin working on tackling the reviewers' table I had created. 

The ten page single-spaced reviewers' table gave me pause but I dove in yesterday. Over the last two days I was able to address the comments the reviewers had inserted in the draft. Tomorrow will be a new day and will allow for me to begin unpacking the table's suggestions.

I'm even more excited as I can see how the changes I've made over the last 48 hours have already substantially strengthened the manuscript. I also was tickled to see this comment toward the end of tonight's work session.  I also am having a bit of a fangirl moment considering that this particular reviewer has heavily influenced my work.  She is mentioned by name within the manuscript a mere 19 times....!  

Check out this other comment from a different's so thrilling and affirming to read this sort of appreciation of my work...even in its rough draft state!

Can't wait to continue writing tomorrow! 

Monday, May 24, 2021

Sixth Anniversary Gifts - Iron & Candy

Today was our sixth wedding anniversary which is the Iron and Candy year.

Charlotte was so excited to celebrate all day long as a family! 
These photos were snapped as she patiently waited for us to get ready to go on our anniversary surprise. 
I told her today that she was Daddy's and my best wedding gift and that God gave her to us as a wedding present. ❤️

Last night, we took Charlotte mini golfing at a new place that had just opened near our town. I am not a golfer but I grew up with a dad and three brothers who went any chance they could get. Therefore, when brainstorming iron themed gifts or outings, I thought going to the new mini golfing place would be perfect! Besides, Wikipedia has this to say regarding Iron and golf. 

An iron is a type of club used in the sport of golf to propel the ball towards the hole. ... Irons are the most common type of club; a standard set of 14 golf clubs will usually contain between 7 and 11 irons, including wedges.

What does this have to do with marriage? Well, using the iron, or type of club, takes precision, observation, and patience as you hone your skill and take turns in a give and take sort of flow. What a great metaphor in applying these same ideas to marriage and family! 

So back to this morning, Adam prepared a yummy breakfast of (candied) bacon marmalade egg on toast to go with my sweet Chocolate Macadamia Nut coffee. Do you sense the theme yet?

As Charlotte, Mom, Adam, and I enjoyed breakfast, we opened the anniversary cards from one of my brothers and from Mom. It was fun to reminisce about what we were doing six years ago today throughout the day. I then presented Adam with his gift. I asked if he had any guesses and tried to throw him off with saying he had recently acquired some new clothes and did he need to iron them? I asked how his vitamins taste... Is the iron vitamin a fruity or otherwise sweet flavor and did I get him some? Did he need another cast iron skillet? He didn't seem to believe my suggestions as to what his gift might be. 

However, he seemed genuinely surprised and grateful by the latest cooking gadget saying he had been wanting one for a while when he did open the real gift. 😊

Next, it was time to do the experiential part of the anniversary gift I had planned for all of us. Remember, this anniversary'gifts are meant to be based on both iron and candy. Any guesses on where we went after a 48 minute drive? The destination was on Adams Ave. in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania. 

We went to a candy store in Pennsylvania to celebrate the sweet part of this year's anniversary theme. I had heard of Sarris Candy through school fundraisers but we had never been to the store or the attached ice cream parlor until today. What a treat it was!! 

Check out this massive chocolate candy castle! 

After purchasing some candy to take home with us, we ordered our ice cream desserts. The portions were huge and the ice cream was oh so creamy and good! Charlotte had vanilla with rainbow sprinkles, Mom had a small sundae, Adam had a banana split, and I enjoyed a scoop of peanut butter cookie dough and Bear Trax which was vanilla ice cream with small peanut butter cups and ribbons of chocolate in it. YUM! 

We enjoyed sitting outside in the sun but definitely needed to cool off in the car once we had our fill of the ice cream. On the way home, we stopped at the local park where a Story Walk had been set up to try to walk off some of the sweet treats we had enjoyed. 

The story was about seeds and how they grow. I couldn't help but think about how Adam's and my story started with a tiny seed or spark on 10/21/13 that has grown over time as has Charlotte. I then consider the story of the mustard seed and how sometimes the things that seem so ordinary, so small, so seemingly insignificant can grow to be magnificent, larger than we could ever dream, and inspiring! Iron is strong and can sharpen and be refined much as how marriage can go through trials, come under fire, and hopefully emerge stronger than ever. At the same time, love is sweet and whimsical which was one of the describing words that popped in my head at the candy store when we first entered. Six years in and I still remember the sweetness Adam displayed in those early days of courtship. Making or preparing a recipe, such as that for a particular type of candy, can take time and careful attention to detail. The same can be said about marriage. May Adam's and my commitment to one another and our family be strong like iron and may it be sweet and peaceful for not only the two of us but also for our greatest (and usually, sweetest) wedding gift! 

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Year 5 Anniversary Gifts

Last year, I composed a post that lumped together the first five years of anniversary gifts. I don't think I ever returned to describe what Adam and I gave one another for our fifth anniversary. We were going to pick out silverware together since it was the Wood and Silverware year. We wound up being too indecisive and didn't want to spend so much money on eating utensils...who knew they would be so expensive!?

So, instead, we surprised one another with smaller and more meaningful gifts. I gave Adam a personalized spoon and mug. At the time, I had pictured his using the mug someday and placing it on his teacher desk in the future.

Adam bought chimes to hang on our front porch that look like wooden chimes. My mom has chimes on her front porch so the dainty twinkling sounds from the chimes remind me of home. We actually left them up year round and all throughout the year, the delicate clink and musical bell sounds reminded me of the sweet anticipation of our wedding day each time I heard them.

Today is now our sixth wedding anniversary (Iron to signify strength and Candy which represents sweetness) and the Feast of Pentecost. Pentecost occurs fifty days after Easter and reminds us we always have an Advocate through the Holy Spirit. Just like in the days leading up to our wedding, Adam and I have been praying a novena, or nine day prayer, together that wraps up today. This year, we prayed the Pentecost Novena. It was nice to go back to some of the traditions we enjoyed when dating in this way by praying a special prayer with intention together as a couple these last several days. Charlotte Annie even joined in when we had to do some of the prayers virtually while she and I were in PA for our annual Mother-Daughter Trip. 

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law.” ~ Galatians 5:22–23

May we continue to attempt to have our marriage bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit through showing all the above gifts...there certainly are so many opportunities and chances to lean into and cultivate them throughout the vocation of marriage and family!

The highway plant life, especially in Pennsylvania, that has been abundantly growing at the moment boasts these beautiful wildflowers that served as the inspiration for our light green and light purple wedding colors. Seeing the white flowers peppered in there remind me of the white we associate with the wedding gown.

Today's gorgeous sunny weather is also very similar to the weather we experienced together six short years ago. As I sat outside with the rising morning sun, the following prayer illuminated my heart. 

Thank you, Lord, for this beautiful, messy, challenging, and sanctifying vocation of marriage. Come, Holy Spirit, and strengthen us in love as it is a daily (and sometimes minute by minute) choice to do so, help us to lean into joy by stepping into the sun dappled areas of our lives so we can feel your warmth amidst the shadows or areas of confusion, grant us calming quiet peace like the leaves softly fluttering in the warm summer breeze, provide us with buckets upon buckets overflowing with the refreshing waters of patience on a hot late May morning, help us to treat one another with kindness taking care to gently remove any gnarled or twisted underbrush, clear the path and give us the eyes to see goodness in one another and all around us - - take away any blinders, distrust, or "I can do it my own way" feelings so we can increase in mutual self giving love and reliance on you, Lord, and in one another because marriage takes three (you, Lord, my spouse, and me) and may we continue to always experience faithfulness with one another as husband and wife. Lord, teach us to be more like children and in their tender wide-eyed wonder way of looking at the world, help us to be gentle with the other's heart while also enflaming it to continue burning with love for you, Lord, as we daily strive toward and arrempt to help one another get to Heaven. May this be evident in our actions, including displaying self-control in picking up...and carrying...our crosses with humility and sacrificial love. Let us seek to embody all aspects of Galatians 5:22–23 both personally and within our marriage. Amen.

I don't believe it's an accident that those scripture passage numbers align with our wedding anniversary date weekend (05.23.15). ❤️