Friday, July 29, 2011

This article makes me want to work harder today.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Old MacDonald

So this is part prayer request, part ponderance on my part.

Mike and I are looking at houses.  It's time.  I'm sure some of my longer followers remember my first posts about getting a house.  Well, we're back baby!  There's a children's book that my mother used to read me called "It Could Always be Worse".  It's a Jewish proverb about a man who goes to see a rabbi because his house has become too crowded.  One by one, the rabbi instructs the man to bring his farm animals into the house to live with his family.  It gets worse and worse, until the man almost breaks.  Then the rabbi has the man put the animals back in the barn and for the first time in weeks, the family has a peaceful and quiet evening. 

I think this is the story that God has played out in my family life thus far.  We don't have farm animals (we have a cat), but we have 5 children in 900 square feet with 2 bedrooms.  It would be okay as we've given up our room to the girls so that the 3 boys and 2 girls can sleep in separate rooms.  But now that Mike works from home, he has taken over my kitchen during the day (which also doubles as my school room when the fall comes) to conduct his business.  Being confined to the living room (and quiet with my 5 children who are all under 7) during the day has made me want to go visit that rabbi myself!

So this insane idea has popped into my head.  Very soon we will list this tiny gem on the market, and will venture forth into the great unknown.  The market is poor right now.  I understand that we might lose on the house a little bit.  But we need space, and we stand the chance of grabbing that right now, more than ever before. 

CT is an expensive state, the second highest for gas right now.  It's an expensive state to live, much less raise a large family.  But the nature of Mike's business is such that we can't uproot and find our family's means somewhere else.  The economy is such that we recognize Mike's ability to support us with this new business for what it is: a miraculous blessing.

So I thought to myself, in my quest for a house, that I would take whatever God would send, we're not picky.  I told my realtor up front that we'll trade space for upgrades.  And that if the house is small but on a larger chunk of land, that might be okay too.  If we ever wanted to do an addition, it would need the land to afford the zoning for that.  And now is the time to make that kind of investment, if we're ever going to do it.

And then, I started to grow these ideas in my head...What if?  What if I started a small farm on the property?  I've had good luck in the past with a garden.  I owned horses and did 4H when I was a kid.  I've "worked the land" as any decent Connecticutan can claim to have done.  And besides a farm offers so many benefits - ESPECIALLY with a large family.  And as I look out over our national horizon, I'm thinking now is more the time than ever to try and become self-sufficient.

But that's where my encouragement ends.  I have to will myself now to get outside and mow the lawn, and tend to our pool.  I still have yet to weed my flower beds, and if it weren't for the showings, that project might not get done this year.  I don't know if its because my heart has given up on this temporary dwelling, and I'm in a passive sit out on this place, or if its because...I'm not meant to be a farmer...

In theory, I know what it entails.  But in theory, I know what it rewards.  In one word: Independence.

Pray for me, and please if you have advice share?  I'm seriously considering this next step and would love whatever light in the dark you may be able to shine my way?

Monday, July 18, 2011

My Hubby:)

Wrote a great story of our clan...Just a vignette...Enjoy it here!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Catholic 'Mantras'

I hate to mix it up here on theologies...But you all know what I'm meaning here.  Those Catholic 'mantras'...Those faith 'action statements'...Those 'words to live by' that become the slogans of our Faith...

For example, when I was growing up there was the bracelet campaign of "WWJD"..."What would Jesus Do?"  It was to compel us onward in our Christianity to do as Jesus would.  It wasn't until I traveled further in my Faith that I realized there was no human way for me to do that.  Jesus was God.  I most definitely am not.  And even though I can do things with the power of His name, I will never be able to completely do what Jesus did.  That start my own campaign.  Instead of "WWJD" I live by "WWJHMD"  "What would Jesus have me do?"  It's a subtle difference but its really helping my Messiah complex:)

Then there's the newer one in my life: Be like Mary.  Mary, the one who bore Christ, and surrendered everything to her Son even unto the Cross.  I can't even stand to watch my sons fall down, let alone be stretched out on a cross.  I try and fail to be Mary in my home all the time, and its created a conflict in me.  Mary was all humility, I'm constantly reminded in my struggles with pride.  But I remind my more meek stay at home Mom friends - Mary was also known to crush snakes.  She was humble, not a pushover.  In this journey I'm finding it best to say, I am definitely not Mary.  Mary was perfect.  I am not.  And that is the most humbling aspect of Mary that I've grown to love:)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Story of Us...Cont'd

This is Part 2 of my vocation story.  Be sure to read "The Story of Us" first so that you can 'jump right in'!

There's a country song (why is it ALWAYS a country song??;) that says "God bless the broken road that led me straight to you."  Well, this is the second half about my better half.  And how God brought us back together.

I must back up about a year before I left off.  It was a beautiful September day.  I was standing outside the Student Center with my 'friends' smoking a cig. before class.  Out of the blue, a young man walked up to me, a mutual friend of Mike and I, a blast from the past of our high school dating circle.  I had never seen him on campus before that day.  I would never see him on campus after that day either.  We exchanged small talk and scanty catch ups on the last 3 years.  Then he leveled with me.

"Patty, have you heard about Mike's mom?"

I shook my head in stunned silence.

"She's been battling cancer for a little while now, she doesn't have much time left.  I just thought you'd want to know in case you wanted to get a hold of Mike."  My heart ached as I knew that was out of the question.

I got home that evening.  There was a voice on the machine.  Another blast from the past in a mutual friend who had called to let me know that Mike's mom had passed that day.  He left the times for the wake and the funeral.  Wished me well.  Hung up.  Punched me in the stomach from 40 miles away.  I was reeling.  What could I do?  "God, you made it clear to me...You wanted him...Not me...Why did you do this now?  And what can you possibly want me to do in this mess?  Now?"  I knew what I had to do.

I missed the wake.  My mom sat with me and had a coffee that evening and noticed that I seemed 'tired'.  You know that's Mom code for "what's really bothering you, my child?"  I poured out all of it, and told her I just had to go to that funeral.  She said that yes, I needed to go to that funeral.

I snuck into the funeral just before it started.  My mom had come with me, and another friend from my past, of course mutual friends with Mike, sat with me and consoled me.  I glanced up in the Church I had abandoned as I slunk to a pew and noticed I was sitting under the stained glass of the weeping women.  I looked across the aisle about 4 pews in front of me to see about 20 seminarians there for Mike.  Great, God.  That's just great.  I had to be strong.  For what, I couldn't possibly know.  Then the procession began.  There was Mike's Dad, escorted in by his loving family.  His sisters in the comforting arms of their husbands.  His brother with his wife and son surrounding him.  And then, there was Mike.  Alone.  So completely alone.  "This is JUST NOT FAIR!!!"  What I thought was already broken in me that day broke even more, and I could hardly stand for his sorrow.  For his pain.

The funeral flew by.  I could not really pay attention.  I was so confused by it all.  I mustered the courage to stand in the receiving line.  I was bolstered by the warm reception I got from both of Mike's sisters.  I needed that courage to approach the honor guard of seminarians surrounding Mike.  My blasted red hair.  They zoned right in on me and knew who I was.  The devil child.  I cautiously entered their sanctuary to where Mike was.  He saw me, and broke down.  We rushed to each other, and I couldn't let go.  We were both sobbing, and judging from the frustration on his classmate's expressions, we all knew why.

It was a pleasant afternoon, but sadly it remained just one more piece of the puzzle, as I did not attempt to re-connect with him.  I let him go.  He back to his world.  Me back to mine.

Fast forward to the vortex that sucked me in and spat me out, homeless, friendless, and having to rush back to the refuge of my mother's home.  Depleted of everything I just wanted to die, to crawl under a rock to avoid the world's taunts as it continued to turn.  We stopped for dinner on the way home from my apartment eviction, I couldn't eat a bite.  I was so upset.  My Dad had come with us, as he was in town for my sister's wedding which would be that coming weekend.  Great.  Yet another: Great.

We got home and I noticed there were about 12 hang up calls on my Mom's answering machine.  During dinner, my Mom had complained how some kids were having a great time prank calling her house.  Wanting to be proactive in disturbing someone, I took this on as my mission.  "Mom!  Tomorrow I'm calling the phone company and having it out!!  Who leaves 12 hang ups on a machine???  Those kids are going to GET IT!!"  It would wait as we all retired to bed.  Just in time for the phone to ring.  I jumped out of bed and in my most menacing voice said, "Hello?!?"

"Uh, hi Patty.  Uh.  It's me Mike.  I was just wondering if you'd go with me for a cup of coffee."

"Tonight?  Like right now?  It's like 10 at night, Mike."

"I know.  Well, there's got to be a good coffee shop near you?  I'll come up that way."
(Pause.  Pause.  Pause.  My mind just could not comprehend what was going on.)
"There's some stuff I need to talk to you about and I'd like to see you in person."

"That should be okay.  There's a Denny's that's open 24 hours down the road.  I need to borrow my Mom's car, but I should be able to get there."  (Yeah, in addition to my drama, my car, fully loaded with all my stuff from my old apartment, had died in the parking lot on my getaway from the ex boyfriend.  Ugh.)

"Thanks Patty, I'll be there as soon as I can."

I ran in my Mom's room and gently woke her.  "Mom, Mike asked me to meet him at Denny's for coffee, can I borrow the car?"

She sat straight up, with a cucumber/avocado mask on and bloodshot eyes, she looked at me pointedly.  Her only answer, in her mentally clear, sleep-drunken stupor was "I cannot afford another wedding at this time."

I knew that wasn't the answer.  Mike had been tapped by the Bishop to head over to Rome to continue his Priestly studies.  I knew this was about my final farewell, and we were going to tie up loose ends before he left.  I casually got ready to go.  Mike lived 45 minutes from the Denny's and I lived a mile.  I had time.  About 20 minutes later I headed out the door.  In the garage, I saw my moving boxes.  On the top of the pile was a journal I had been keeping for Mike of all my journeys since we broke up that fateful summer following my senior year of high school.  He was leaving.  I was giving it to him as my parting gift.  It was only appropriate.

I showed up at Denny's 5 minutes later.  He was there, waiting for me.  We exchanged awkward 'hellos' and grabbed a booth towards the back of the restaurant.  We started small talk and I told him the basics of school, not wanting to offload the day from hell that I had just lived through.  I asked him how school was going.

"Well.  Uh.  You see.  There's this ceremony that I have to attend in front of the Bishop.  The one where I give my consent to continue my program of study, and I have to do it before heading to Rome."

I wasn't really paying attention.  "Wow, that's great Mike.  If you want me there, I'll do my best to get there."

"Well, I can't do it."  At this point, Mike just stopped and looked at me.

"Oh!  Well, is it in Italian?  Maybe I can help you with the pronunciation?  Or in Latin?  I'd be happy to help you memorize your responses.  It can't be too hard Mike."

"No, its not that."

"Well, it is Rome.  The farthest you've ever been from home.  I can understand why you're nervous."

"No, its nothing like that either."

"Well, for goodness sake Mike!  What in the world is going on with you?!?"

"I can't go through with it...Because...Because I'm still in love with you."

There it was, for the first time in what felt like an eternity, something right broke within me.  I felt those walls which I had so fastidiously worked to create for years crumble down, and the healing touch of love and grace and mercy come flooding over me.  I was overwhelmed.  I reached for him.  It was a moment of great truth.  A moment that could not be ruined by pretense.

"Mike.  I don't know what to say.  There's so much.  So much. That you don't know.  I've changed.  I may not be the person you remember.  I've done so many things.  You may not want me for all that I have done.  For the ways in which I have changed."

The love in his eyes begged to differ, and 10 years later this August, it's still there whenever Mike looks at me.  God brought us back together, and we haven't been the same since.  Which is such a great thing!  Alas, I have yet to tell you my engagement story!  LOL!  But that will have to be another day.  For this is the beginning of "the Story of Us":)

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Story of Us...

This is the story of us.  It is in response to Melody's challenge here at Blossoming Joy to tell your engagement story.  I felt the need to flesh it out a little.  The prologue to our vocation is very rich, very deep, and as with all things of God very complex thanks to our humanness...

I must begin with the formative years of my Faith.  I survived middle school as best I could.  Before that time people disliked me.  In fact, I was that fat, gross, quiet kid that everyone loved to hate.  I'd find my confidence blown at every school past-time, only to be rebuilt tentatively that evening by self pep talks only to be destroyed again at recess the following day.  I hated myself, and when I finally cried "suicide", my mom yanked me from school and placed me for my eighth grade year at the Cathedral school of our Diocese.  I wasn't Catholic.  I didn't know what I was.  I wasn't anything in my opinion.

There was nothing really special about the school.  The biggest gain for me was the uniforms.  Finally I wasn't in that small town crowd where you had to dress exactly so or be disliked. Or be disliked anyway.  The uniforms gave me camoflauge.  I made friends quickly and easily.  It did wonders for me as a young woman.  But nothing gave me that faith like my first trip there.  Walking through the heavy oak doors of the Cathedral.  I couldn't breathe for the way He penetrated my heart.  Everyone else seemed so nonchalant about it.  Didn't they feel Him?  No, He was there for me that day.  I've never been the same since.

I got baptised and received my first communion in this final year of my elementary education.  I became a big fan of the order of Sisters who worked at this school.  My Mom, having come back to her Faith, did as well.  She decided to continue this journey for me, and placed me in the all-girls' Catholic high school run by the same order.  I knew my life was over.

I quickly made friends again, and began to bloom where God had planted me.  I was involved in many things, but none I loved so much as youth ministry.  This was my passion.  To reach out and be upheld by my peers in the Faith.  It was at one of these events I met him, I met Mike.  I so desperately wanted to impress him.  I knew I didn't stand a chance as all my girlfriends were in line to meet him, dangling on his arm.  He was the only one to take pity on me and be on my team for beach volleyball that day.  Doing my best up-serve, I slammed him squarely between the shoulder blades with the ball.  Mortified, I couldn't bring myself to even talk to him on the bus ride home.  I knew he was out of my league.

I began to date in his circle.  Carefree dating, usually in a big crowd of friends at the bowling alley or the roller skating rink.  I was a good girl, and I wasn't ashamed of it.  In the meantime I got to know Mike better.  He was considering a vocation to the Priesthood.  I would soon discern God's calling me to join the order where I was at school.  We bonded over these long late-night talks about our love for God.  I even remember writing in my journal "It's too bad that Mike's going into Seminary and I'm going into the Convent, for if I were to marry, Mike would be exactly the man I'd want to be married to."  We started going to Daily Mass in the summertime.  Meanwhile we'd continue to date other people, casually.  He dated my older sister.  I dated his best friend.  It was like we were in two opposing revolving doors, always seeing one another through the glass, and yet being whisked off in opposite directions.  But late at night, when the rest of the world had given up caring, we were there for each other, on the phone, pouring our hearts out in our dreams for the future.  I was able to talk to him, really talk to him.  To share my thoughts and feelings, and he with me, in a way I could never with anyone else.  Praying together, going to Mass together, sharing our Faith together, bonded us in a way that made our friendship 'stronger than death'.  We both realized this, and were grateful to God for this unexpected gift.

Mike went onto college as I began my senior year of high school.  This was a moment in time for me.  A chance to give my education all I had.  It was a great year of growth and educational success.  Mike and I maintined our friendship.  I typed him a letter and mailed it out every single day.  And I'm talking typewriter old school typing:)  As inevitable as Harry and Sally, as Westley and Buttercup, as Scarlet and Rhett even, we began to feel the stirrings of something more.  We dated in my senior year.  He was my date for my senior prom even!  We both knew it was inevitable, that we'd have to break it off to pursue the plans God had made for us.  But we both secretly hoped that our relationship wasn't pointless.  I grew to love Mike in that year.  To really love and respect him as a person.  It was after my high school graduation that we both took that fateful step.  We broke up.  That summer began my great sadness.  I had wanted to break up.  I couldn't understand why I was so shaken up by it.  I still had my friend.  And now my friend was free to follow his dream as a Priest.  I wanted that for him.  My feelings betrayed me and terrified me.  I wrestled with them and screamed reason at them.  But they refused to be quieted or to be understood.  I was alone that summer.  Oh, so alone.

I went onto college.  Mike went onto his second year of college.  We kept in contact now through emails back and forth.  Not quite as frequently, but still with as much camaraderie as before.  I was glad for my friend during this tumultuous first year of a gigantic university.  I did my best to stay afloat and he helped me to stay grounded.  We continued on our friendship as best we could.  We got together that following summer for Mass and coffee quite a few times.  It was growth.  Painful agonizing growth.  For both of us.

He began seminary that fall.  I went into the Honors Program at my university in that, my second year of school.  I moved on campus, and we began slipping further and further away from each other.  I couldn't help it.  Well, of course I could help it.  I still had feelings for him.  I loved him more than I had loved any man.  I hated that seminary (I used to call it the cemetery).  I hated that he was there.  And yet, I loved God.  I loved His Church and knew the harvest was great and that Mike would be the best laborer in His fields.  I begged God to let him go.  To let him come back to me.  I cried and agonized over it.  I agonized over my own vocation realizing with that instinctual primordial cry every time He asked for my hand again and again.  "Lord, I love you with all my heart...But...I want children..."  It seemed so pathetic a response to Him at the time, but I could not shake it.  I could not disown it or distance myself from it.  Even with Mike gone, I saw children in my future and I could not let them go.

It got worse between us.  I would tease him, lure him in ways only a woman who knew him too well could.  We never got physical, but I knew what I was doing in his heart.  I wanted to know that he suffered in his decision, because I would know that he still loved me.  I wanted him to love me, to be tortured by me.  And then one day, I was struck off that horse.  I was kneeling at Mass, noon Mass, with my mother by my side.  I heard the Lord speak, "You have to let him go."  "Lord, you know I cannot do that."  "If you love me, you will keep this commandment, you have to let Mike go.  He has to come to me freely.  And you have to let him be free to do that."  I felt the very wind knocked out of me by this request of my most gracious Lord.  I went home that evening and wrote the letter.  The "dear John" letter I should have written years before.  I delivered it that evening after a dinner at the Bishop's house.  I cut off all ties of communication with him from that point on.  It killed me. 

I knew to turn to the Lord.  He would console me in this time of my great sorrow.  I went to Noon Mass the following day.  I listened to every word He would share with me, and almost fainted during the first reading.  It was there, the cry of Hannah for her son, the weeping, mad woman at the Temple.  I cried out, much to the horror of my mother sitting next to me, and went completely pale.  "O Lord, who am I that you must play with me this way?  To play with my emotions in such a manner?  O Lord, please spare me from these words that confuse me so!!"  But they rang in my heart, and I was hurt by the Lord for the first time.

God's silence continued to confuse and hurt me.  We had never been distant.  I began to boomerang in my Faith.  Zealously following it, only to throw it all away in hurt and rage.  I didn't understand what the Lord was doing in His silence.  I ran away.  I embraced the world.  I lost Him.  I lost myself.  I lost more than I care to remember in those the darkest days of my fall.  And as a man took me, used me, and I used him back, I would see Mike's face.  I hadn't talked to him for a year and a half.  Why would he continue to cross my mind, here, at this the farthest reach of space from him?  From God?  That 'why' would continue to haunt me down this path to the bottom.

I eventually turned to God to get me out of the mess I had created for myself.  I knew I could not go back to the Catholic Church, and continue to live the way I had been for the past year.  I went instead to the Episcopal Church.  I wanted to puke.  It was the worst feeling of fake I've ever endured, and I had done a lot of fake in my life up to that point.  I came home from that "service" and that evening my atheist boyfriend kicked me out.  His dispenser was full.  He wanted his dime, and his space back.  I lost all my friends.  I lost my apartment.  I lost my freedom.  And now I had to go home and face my mom.  I had gone to the black.

**To be continued**