Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Broken together

The only way to last forever/

is to be broken together

Dare I say that marriage is not the fairy tale we dream it will be--not for any of us. The highs of marriage are breathtaking...but the lows are, too.

Sometimes I can hear a song like Casting Crowns' "Broken Together" fifty times before I hear it in a moment of grace. Casting Crowns has been a favorite Christian band of mine ever since their music helped me cling to my faith as a young model living in Manhattan (a post or two coming one day on that experience!).

While the days are long and the crosses heavy for Michael and me some days, God has brought us through some tough things. We have been broken together in some significant ways so far in our marriage, but it's amazing how wonderful being healed together can be as God leads you out on the other side of the valley of death.

"Together we are in love with God. God has for His purposes drawn us together so that we might find our salvation in each other's presence, and that together we might fulfill a common mission." -Fr. Robert Barron
Easter Sunday, 2015

What do you think about when you look at me
I know were not the fairy tale you dreamed we'd be
You wore the veil, you walked the aisle, you took my hand
And we dove into a mystery

How I wish we could go back to simpler times
Before all our scars and all our secrets were in the light
Now on this hallowed ground, weve drawn the battle lines
Will we make it through the night

Its going to take much more than promises this time
Only God can change our minds

Maybe you and I were never meant to be complete
Could we just be broken together
If you can bring your shattered dreams and Ill bring mine
Could healing still be spoken and save us
The only way we'll last forever is broken together

How it must have been so lonely by my side
We were building kingdoms and chasing dreams and left love behind
Im praying God will help our broken hearts align
And we wont give up the fight

Monday, April 13, 2015

5 tips for parenting when You Got Nothin'

I had another of those moments in parenting recently when I said to myself, I got nothin'. 

The day was long and whiny and teary. I had run out of good steam. Yet I sensed that there was enough bad steam left to suddenly blow. my. top. The situation was completely absurd, as situations with small children usually are. So absurd that I can't even remember what I was trying to do or referee or what. I just suddenly had nothin', save a temper about to erupt.

Suddenly I laughed. Was I really about to go into Freak Out mode over somebody wanting to change her shirt for the third time that day and somebody else crying because the baby accidentally knocked over his block tower? 

No, I was not. 

I physically placed each child in a separate room with a special toy, made myself a big glass of iced coffee, and sat down to pray for a few minutes. Then, I texted Michael to ask about ordering takeout for dinner (he was thrilled. I didn't read into it). Then, I went and got the kids out of their rooms, and we all had bowls of ice cream. After that, I put on a Tinkerbell movie for the kids and cleaned the kitchen. We went out to Chick-fil-a for dinner and had great evening. True story.:)

When you got nothin', sometimes the best thing you can do is give yourself some space. 

Here are five oh-so-practical ideas that can be used in combination (see above) or just one at a time, depending on how completely absurd the situation is or how completely empty you are at the moment. 

- 1 - 
There are so  many situations with kids that are legitimately stressful or hard to deal with, but at the same time are completely absurd. Sometimes laughing at how silly something is gives us enough perspective to keep our cool. 

- 2 - 
Make yourself a cup of coffee. 

There is something about a fresh cup of hot coffee (or my favorite, iced coffee) that gives me a sense of well-being. Even if you end up having to stick it back in the microwave six times before you finish it. 

- 3 - 
Put all of the children in separate rooms (if possible). 

Sometimes kids are grumpy too. Sometimes little siblings who constantly interrupt play, or big siblings who constantly pick on you, are hard things to deal with too. Eliminate the possibility for conflict, for a few minutes at least, by an enforced Quiet Time apart. Let each child pick a special toy to play with, or a favorite book. And if they fuss for a minute (oh, the injustice!), don't sweat it too much. Even my 18-month-old is not scarred for life for having been put in her crib for a few minutes. In fact, pretty much every time she's ever been put into quiet time, it's like a switch is flipped and she's a love again when we go to get her out. 

- 4 - 
Order takeout. 

Sometimes you just gotta order takeout. Clean the kitchen in the afternoon, use paper plates, put the kids to bed later and--bam--you're off duty and ready for a movie with your spouse. Besides, my husband is pretty much always thrilled to get takeout. Like I said, I try not to read into it. :) 

- 5 - 
There's something about ice cream...

Surprise can be a great way to change an icky mood. Give everyone ice cream or a special treat out of the blue and watch everyone's spirits lift. Children are so quick to move on from ickiness--a lot of times it's their parents whose brooding kind of drags it on. So make yourself a bowl too.:)

- 6 - 
Bonus! Turn on a movie. 

Nobody wants to say this one. There is this unspoken Mommy Guilt rule that turning on the TV is a cop out. But you know what, my good sister? Sometimes a little TV is a God-send. Everybody calms down. Peace and quiet are restored for a few minutes. There is space for recollection. Don't let anybody guilt trip you out of letting it be a useful tool up your sleeve for when you really need it. Besides, what mother doesn't secretly pick up tips on parenting from Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood?!

God bless you and yours today! 

See? Ice-cream, brief isolation,
and TV doesn't seem to have harmed them much:)
* * *  

"The Father's Tale"

My nose has been in a book for the past week or so, ever since I got my hands on our library's single copy of Michael O'Brien's The Father's Tale

Perhaps that's why I haven't posted more this week...really good books kind of take over my life a little when I'm reading them. (My husband knows what I'm talking about; poor guy.) My spiritual director and I were talking about books a few months ago, and I told him how much I have enjoyed Catholic authors Louis de Wohl and especially Michael O'Brien. He asked me if I had read The Father's Tale yet, and when I said that I hadn't, the sparkle in his eyes said it all: It's so good! 

And it's so good, ya'll. Like stay-up-until-2am-finishing-it kind of good.

At 1,072 pages, it's about five inches thick, which was kind of intimidating at first. I picked it up from the circulation desk and actually giggled when I saw it. Immediately I started to calculate how many times I'd have to renew my library loan on it before I would be able to finish it. 

I am a very fast reader, but this book actually makes me slow down. There is such a profound richness to every sentence of this book that I want to slow down and spend some time with it. The characters are very human and real, and several of them are profoundly holy

One reason I have connected so much with this book is that the main character is going through a dramatic, painful process of being emptied so that God can do something very great and very difficult with him. I am also continuing to go through a period of waiting that has been a real emptying of myself in several ways. I have felt God calling me day after day for so long now to "be still and know that I am God," to not worry constantly about what may come or when. One of my favorite quotes from The Father's Tale is this one: "In the desert one must learn to stand still, to wait for God in emptiness. Standing still in this way is a purifying fire." The thought that God is purifying me and my family with our struggles is an anchor of my hope, and in a few of my most grace-filled moments, my joy. I have been living in a desert of admittedly First World-grade problems, but it's been a desert nonetheless.

Here are more quotes from this book that struck me so much that I wrote them in my prayer journal:

"Kenosis...when one becomes empty and poor, and in that state the kingdom of Heaven is given to you." 

"For the heart to see, it must be broken open." 

"The devil tries to deceive us sometimes by offering us a lesser evil and a great evil. We see the lesser evil as a kind of good choice." 

"He who would know the bounty of the Lord must dwell in an uninhabitable land." 

"Sometimes there is consolation, and sometimes struggle. Whatever occurs is His gift." 

* * *