control

Today was supposed to be our official “home visit,” a major step in the adoption process, in which a caseworker conducts a three-to-four-hour interview with us and then inspects our home.

Even though we are used to having random people in our house on a very regular basis [that’s the life of a foster family], for some reason the significance of this step along the adoption journey put me into major stress-mode. The victim of my anxiety was our house, which I decided needed to be cleaned with a psychotic passion.

For two full days, my mother watched all three children, and I cleaned. I mean, I really cleaned. I vacuumed the crevices between the baseboards and the floor; I moved every piece of furniture in pursuit of dust; I wiped down every lampshade; I re-organized all of our bookshelves; I scrubbed the gunk off the kitchen chairs. You get the (crazy) idea.

And it’s not like our house is usually in disarray. I’m no Dottie Domestic, but I work pretty hard to clean up on a regular basis, but that usually involves picking up toys and making beds [and to be totally honest, the beds don’t always get made].

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When questioned about why I was making myself a tad insane with all of this, my reply was usually along the lines of: “it’s just that we haven’t been able to control any step of this fostering and adoption process, and finally I can control something. So, even if it is just the state of my house, I want to do something about it.”

Ah, “control”…such a lie we tell ourselves, yes?

And this particular illusion of control was broken Thursday evening, when Ryan came home from work very feverish and sick. Even though I insisted he lie down, I think he saw the crazy in my eye, so he opted to help pick up, amidst his shivers and aches. [I know!] At one point he commented, “you know, maybe my getting sick is a sign that we need to ‘let go’ more.” I brushed him off and said, “oh, I know we’re not in control of this process. Of course I know that. I just want everything to be as perfect as it can be!”

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Instead of seeing his sickness as a sign I should chill out, I pushed myself even more. And sure enough, he started feeling better Friday, so I felt justified in all of my hard work. “See, it’s all going to work out!”

Then, at 5:00 Friday evening we got the phone call that due to unforeseen circumstances (unrelated to J and N’s case) the home visit would have to be cancelled and re-scheduled for an undetermined future date.

Naturally, I cried some ugly tears and went on more than a few rants about “the agency” and “the system.” However, after I got all of that out of me, I finally waved the white flag.

Alright, Lord, you are in charge…of everything. No matter how hard I work, I will never truly be in control of our lives. I surrender. 

Even though my pursuit of control was well-intentioned [at my core is the deep, ardent desire to have these babies be ours, you know?], it didn’t lead to any more peace within myself. And it never well. Only by letting go of our own well-constructed plans will our hands be free to grasp onto His will, which is always more beautiful.

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“The plan of God is absolutely beyond us, always; it cannot be narrowed or imprisoned within the limits of our imagination. But one who is always willing to change everything according to what God wants…circumstances, especially those that vex us the most, that are inevitable circumstances, these are precisely the ones that mark the road of God; the person who is open to this is not attached to anything of his own, and he’s free.” Luigi Guissani

[Since our Saturday was suddenly open, we thought we’d do something grand with the family like go to the zoo. But, by the time we were finally ready to leave the house, it was too close to J’s sacred nap time, so we opted for the little park at our nearby school. The Lord must have known we needed the Vitamin D that this freakishly warm weather provided. Also, after this post, an old friend gifted Philomena with the shirt she’s wearing. So sweet, yes?]

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five years

“What I am doing, you do not understand now, but you will understand later.”   John 13:7

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Ryan and I purposefully chose Jesus’ washing of the apostles’ feet as the Gospel reading at our wedding for many of reasons. Obviously, it shows the other-before-self-ness inherent in marriage: “If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do” (John 13:14-15).

However, we actually chose it primarily because of an earlier line: “what I am doing, you do not understand now, but you will understand later.” We saw it as the theme of both of our single years, that is, those winding and confusing roads that led to each other. We didn’t understand what was going on at the time, but it all made perfect sense when the Lord brought our two paths into one.

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That said, little did we know our first five years of marriage would be marked by an even more dramatic lack of understanding. Sometimes we joke that it feels like we’ve lived a lifetime in this short time: becoming parents, buying a home, miscarriage, returning to school, secondary infertility, writing a textbook, hospitalizations, becoming foster parents.

And yet, we have absolutely clung to this verse over and over again. Even though we do not see the full picture in the moment, we know God is at work creating something beautiful with our marriage.

Happy 5th Anniversary to my favorite person. There’s no one else I’d prefer to have accompanying me through all my days.

[So, I wrote this post yesterday, and this morning I woke up to a very sick child…like, the messy-everywhere kind of sick. Thus, I will be washing plenty of feet, both literally and metaphorically today. Cheers.]

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P.S. Ryan and I made a super lovey-dovey mix CD for all of our wedding guests who stayed in the hotel. I’d thought I’d memorialize that moment in our story with the Spotify playlist below, minus a couple songs that weren’t available on Spotify…I’m looking at you, Radiohead’s “All I Need.”

I’m having some trouble embeding the playlist, but here’s the link: https://open.spotify.com/user/124554819/playlist/6nWGGeifdZmZZmHONfXmQA

what I wish I’d known

Awhile back, Grace at Camp Patton hosted a series from some wise mommy bloggers titled, “What I Wish I’d Known” about motherhood. For some reason my cynical self was oddly moved by their words. I think what struck me the most was the wide range of advice offered, from the trivial to the profound. [If you haven’t read the series yet, please do yourself a favor and stop reading this banal post and go over there for a while.]

Anyway, it got me thinking about what I wish I had known about motherhood before embarking upon this journey. [Ugh. “embarking upon this journey”- so corny]

And what came to me was this: what I wish I would have known about motherhood is just how bad I would be at it sometimes.

Let me be clear that I did not make that statement out of some kind of false humility or self-deprecation or a desire for compliments. Simply, it is true: some days I am a bad mom.

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What makes me incredulous is that I never expected this to happen. I mean, what did I think, that my concupiscence would suddenly disappear the day I gave birth? Nope. I am still the same self-centered, flighty, emotional, slothful, quick-tempered person I was before Philomena (and now J) entered my life.

I wish I would have known that there would be moments when I would lose my temper with my sweet girl for such a minor offense. I wish I would have known that there would be days in which I would totally “phone in” with motherhood, instead of being actively engaged and present. I wish I would have known that there would be times in which I would consciously choose to zone out on the Internet, rather than play a game with my child. I wish I would have known that I would repeatedly call my husband at work in tears, because I had messed up again and again and again.

I wish I would have known all of these things, so I wouldn’t be obsessed with my failures when they happen.

We all have that distance between “the person I am” and “the person I want to be.” Lately that great chasm has absolutely plagued me. I have hours, days, weeks in which I become obsessed with my insufficiencies and my brokenness, especially in motherhood. I think this is partially due to the reality that my very identity is wrapped up in my wife-ness and mother-ness [are those words?]. I feel that when I fail as a wife and a mother, I fail as a person.

Indeed, it is a grace to see one’s faults (truly!); however, it is the father of lies who cajoles one into being obsessed with said failings.

When all I see in my motherhood are my sins, my faults, my less-than-ideals, then there’s no room in my vision for Christ. Deep-down, I know that in my insecurities is right where Jesus wants to be. He desires to transform those awful parts of me into something beautiful. But when I focus merely on my faults, then I forget about the Answer to these faults.

This is not an excuse to sit on my spiritual ass, and say, “well, we’re all broken, so it’s okay if I’m a bad mom.” Of course not! By God’s grace, we are to raise saints. And that means nothing, if we ourselves are not striving for sainthood. But what I am coming to realize is that when I focus just on the struggle and not on the goal, then all I will ever do is struggle.

Marriage and motherhood are like those mirrors that magnify your face and show every flaw, every pore. Those mirrors are totally freaky, but goodness knows I can pluck my eyebrows so much better with them. The Lord uses our vocations to refine us, and it really hurts at times. Nevertheless, I can see in the three short years of my motherhood His challenging me to embrace virtues I had no idea that I lacked.

And you know what? Even on the bad days, my daughter and foster son see my sincerely asking for their forgiveness. Even if I over-react nine times out of ten, there is still that one time that I bite my tongue and say a prayer. These moments impact them too, even if it is not conscious for them right now. This is part of what we want to teach our children: that all of us are broken and fallen, but the virtue is in embracing the cross, getting back up again, and keeping our eyes on the victory.

Yes?

what I wish I'd known about motherhood

“Nobody can go off to battle unless he is fully convinced of victory beforehand. If we start without confidence, we have already lost half the battle and we bury our talents. While painfully aware of our own frailties, we have to march on without giving in, keeping in mind what the Lord said to Saint Paul: ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’ (2 Cor 12:9). Christian triumph is always a cross, yet a cross which is at the same time a victorious banner borne with aggressive tenderness against the assaults of evil. The evil spirit of defeatism is brother to the temptation to separate, before its time, the wheat from the weeds; it is the fruit of an anxious and self-centred lack of trust.” – Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, “The Joy of the Gospel”

if only

One of my favorite quotations of all time went a little Catholic-viral on the Facebook today. Most likely because today is the feast day of the author, St. Teresa of Avila.

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I’ve been a fan of these words since I was in high school. I wrote them inside my order-taking-pad when I was a waitress in college and on the front cover of my journal when I was a volunteer in Belize. I even taped this quote to my computer screen when I was a teacher.

However, today I began to think and pray about how different my life would be if I actually followed these lines…the utter joy, the peaceful surrender that would ensue.

If only I took to heart the startling reality that, indeed, God alone is enough.

pope/papa

Since I have deemed this Father’s Week, I thought I’d share with you something kinda interesting about my dad. He looks like the pope. Yup. We discovered this when one of my nieces was quite young and pointed to a poster of Benedict XVI at church and exclaimed, “papa”! At first, we thought she was a child prodigy, who not only recognized the Holy Father, but also knew the Italian word for pope. Buuuuut, then we realized that she thought the poster was of her Papa (grandfather).

The resemblance certainly isn’t “uncanny,” but it’s noteworthy. [Or so we like to think.]

Below is some proof. Do you agree?