Saturday, April 28, 2012


Are you following the Bright Maidens yet?

Remember those cute little homework assignments you had in elementary school where you had to interview members of your family? We had to learn about where our parents grew up, what it was like growing up in the dark ages, how they met, and what their occupations were, among other things.

My dad sends these kinds of things
to us in emails... he's so funny...
My dad was easy to interview. I didn’t even have to ask him for the answer to his occupation - I just knew that he was a structural engineer. I didn’t know what a structural engineer actually did (besides sitting at a desk covered with lots of blueprints and that he was better/cooler than an architect), but I knew that was his job.

My mom proved to be more difficult. This is how it usually played out:

Me: Mom, what's your occupation?

Mom: Let's see... you should put doctor, cook, teacher, laundry woman, housekeeper, diaper changer, maid, taxi driver, errand runner, hair stylist, clothes picker-outer, grocery shopper, classroom mom, Girl Scout cookie mom, volunteer...

Me: Moooooooooooooooooom! You don't do all those jobs...

My little kindergarten brain thought she was joking. I knew that Dr. Sheets was my doctor and that Sandy cut my hair, so there was no way my mom was also those things. I'm sure I asked her what to really put down for her occupation. What I didn’t realize at my youthful age was that everything she listed as her occupation was 100% accurate.

Yep, my mom was and still is a stay-at-home mom, or SAHM (since acronyms are so cool). She never listed her occupation as “homemaker”. Yes, she “made a home” but so did my dad by going off to an office every day to earn money.

With my limited view of the world as a child, I certainly didn’t realize that my mom was different from most of my friends' moms. I didn’t know that it was completely normal for moms to have full-time careers, and I certainly didn't remember when my mom worked (I was 3 when she made the major career change). I just thought it was normal that every mom was just a mom.

I’m not sure when I realized that this was not necessarily the case. I never had to worry about getting a ride home from after-school activities. I never had to worry about making it to softball games or Girl Scout meetings on time. I never had to wonder what was for dinner that night, or when my laundry would be clean. I never had to worry about sleeping through my alarm clock, because I had a back-up waker-upper. I didn’t have to worry if I missed the bus, because I would still get to school on time. All of these things just happened. This day-to-day assurance of the simplest things was a normal part of my life.

I didn’t realize how truly blessed I was to have my mom stay home for my sisters and me. I didn’t realize the sacrifices that my dad had to make to support our family of six, and I certainly didn't know about what my college-educated mom gave up to stay home with us.

So, I took it for granted. I would say that I appreciated what my mom did, but I could never see myself staying home as a mom because I would get bored. Yes, BORED. Can you believe it? I thought my mom sat at home all day bored!

I vowed that I would go off to college, and have a great and rewarding career someday – and be a mom, too. I thought I could do it all* – and I think that by thinking that, in a way I didn’t really recognize all that my mom really did.

*Moms who really do it all, with the career and the kids - y'all are super moms. I can barely take care of myself and work, I have no idea how you do it. 

I didn’t realize that stay-at-home moms are working moms. Somewhere along the way, society started to undervalue the role of the mother in our family lives. We began to think that women who choose the "1950s housewife" kind of life are somehow not living up to their potential as women, when really they are living out the feminine genius just as much as the moms who are doctors, lawyers, and teachers.  Yet, perhaps because of reality TV shows, society seems to have this idea that SAHMs as those who either have:

1. 20 kids, and spend their entire day changing poopy diapers...

Kids today are so technologically advanced!

2. A nanny for their children because they are just far too busy having brunch at the club with the other "SAHMs".
It's called the single life... minus the whole go to work thing.
Super mom - saving the world
one stinky diaper at a time.
Thankfully, when I moved out to DC, truly “on my own” for the first time, I began to realize what a gift my mother had given me all those years. I began to re-think my views about SAHMs, and I no longer saw them as stroller-pushing, diaper-changing, sit-at-home-lazy-and-bored kind of women. I saw them as superheroes.

Seriously, all moms should have a cape. 

You should get one at the hospital after you give birth.

I'm totally not kidding.

As I grew deeper into my faith, I also realized how much I longed for that life. I was a little shocked with myself when ambitious, always-wanted-to-have-a-super-awesome-high-paying-career me realized that I might actually want to follow in my mom's footsteps. It was this realization that helped me realize that whether a mom stays home to raise her children or goes out into the world to work, she is still a working woman. Even more, they are all still moms whether or not they get a real paycheck, and their jobs are arguably the most important jobs ever.

Adding "juggler" to the list of mom occupations.
Some smart guy somewhere calculated that the average SAHM should make around $115,000 per year for the amount of work she does. That’s a really nice salary, if you ask me, but I can tell you that my mommy did not get that sizeable paycheck every two weeks.

She got nosebleeds and scraped knees, baskets of dirty laundry, poopy diapers galore, tears at home and temper tantrums at the grocery store.

But, she also got bouquets of dandelions (we thought they were pretty flowers!), handprint impressions of all shapes and sizes, homemade cards and photo frames covered in macaroni, beautiful drawings plastered all over the basement door, too much help cooking and baking, and lots of laughter and smiles.

Maybe you can’t buy a house or a car with these things, but I would say their value is even better than that $115,000 salary that my mom deserves.

I don't know if I'm called to be a mom (I suppose I need a husband to accomplish that!), and I don't know if I'm called to be a stay-at-home mom. What I do know is that a few years ago, I would have scoffed at the thought of giving up my really nice salary to be a stay-at-home mom. Now, if that's where God is calling me, I would be happy to say that I'm  a cook, doctor, laundry woman, taxi driver, etc. etc. etc., just like my mom. I might have to ask to borrow her superhero cape, though.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Coach

The following stems from a small part of a homily I heard last night at a Healing Mass. The priest said in terms of healing that "God never heals you just to sit out out on the bench" - and I took this metaphor and ran with it.

Take me out to the baaaaaaall game!
I used to be afraid of playing softball.

I think it stemmed from a fear of being hit by the ball. That evolved into being afraid of messing up and missing a catch, making the wrong play, and especially striking out at the plate. I relished the times when I went up to the plate and was greeted with four balls, meaning I got to easily walk to first base. I was that girl that the coach stuck in right field and at the end of the line-up, because my lack of confidence was holding me back.

Going to a hitting camp one summer and making the school team that next year gave me some more confidence, and I found myself using the skills I'd always had and improving on my game. I was even a little surprised to see that while I had been stuck in right field for so long, I was actually pretty good at playing in the infield when I was given the chance to play other positions. I still play in the infield to this day.

Even more, I started to find myself not afraid of stepping up to the plate and even excited by the idea of getting to hit the ball. Even though I didn't always make it on base, I moved from the end of the lineup to the beginning, because my coach told me that having someone who wasn't afraid to take a swing at the first pitch was just what we needed to start off the game. While I no longer lead the lineup on my adult team, I do hit the ball almost every time I'm up at the plate, even if it means getting out at first so that the runners in front of me can advance on the bases.

I needed to gain some confidence in myself, but I also had to come to recognize my role on each of the teams with which I have played. It took these things to help make me a better player, allowing me to use my skills to help the team conquer. It isn't about me making a great play or hitting it out of the park, but about what I do that helps my team win the game in the end.

So what about playing for God's team?

Has the fear of striking out or getting hit by the ball ever kept you from stepping up to the plate?

What about the pain, suffering, and confusion you've encountered in the game?

Sometimes it feels like I'm reading the signs from my third base coach (i.e. God),  and I think I know exactly what He wants me to do and so I just go for it - all in. It's only when I strike out, get hit by the ball, just get beat out by the catch at first, or watch that left fielder make a spectacular over-the-shoulder catch when I realize that what I thought I saw down that third base line wasn't really the sign that Coach was giving me.

Frankly, it feels like a wild pitch straight to the face. Or to the heart.
Oomph! Thanks for that pitch.
So what do I do when this happens? Thinking Coach is about to put me on the bench for the mistakes I've made, I just go ahead and bench myself to save Him the trouble. Yet, once again, this is reading the signs all wrong, and by doing this, I keep Him from putting me back into play where He needs me. I keep myself on the bench, not quite sure where to find healing, when really I need to get back into the field to find what I seek.

God doesn't allow me to experience pain and suffering just to sit me out of the game. He doesn't let my heart get broken, and then leave me alone to heal. He is there to coach me through the pain, wanting to heal me.
Aw, he's too cute to be benched!

I have trouble letting God coach me through the pain, though, especially when I hold onto the idea that He led me there with those crazy baseball signals. (Wait, did He touch the brim of his hat to indicate an actual signal or was it just a signal to throw off the other team... now I'm confused!) Even when I turn to Him, I still have a difficult time completely opening myself up to His comforting words and healing grace. I don't know why - because I beg for for my heart to be open to healing - but I just continue to keep myself on the bench, guzzling my water, spitting sunflower seeds, and trying to do what I can to nurse my bumps and bruises, all the while wishing I could be back out in the field. Yet, while I'm sitting here doing this, Coach is just trying to give me the signals to heal me. He doesn't want to do this just to keep me on the bench. He wants to heal me to put me back into the ball game.

Why? God is the Coach. He is the best Coach out there, but He needs me to go out and actually play the game for Him. There's only so much a coach can do to lead his team to victory, because He can give us all the right signals and coaching tips, but we have the freedom to choose otherwise or choose to see what we think we want to see. Unfortunately, we are playing the toughest team out there, and they are led by a mischievous and relentless coach (i.e. Satan), and Coach can't afford to let His team sit on the bench. He needs me to play my hardest, to do what I can to help the team win the game.

He needs me to go up to the plate. He needs me to bat again for Him. He needs me to take some swings for others. He needs me to be a witness, to show others that despite the mistakes I make in the game, despite the times I get hit and fall to the ground, broken and weak, I can still heal and come back even stronger. He needs me to let Him pick me back up. He wants to heal me and give me another chance to help the team. He needs me to do this to help bring others to Him.

Imagine the kind of home run welcome you'd have if God
were your baseball coach! AWESOME!
I can't be afraid to go to the plate to bat again. Not just go to the plate, and stand there, and hope for a walk - I have to go to the plate, ready to swing away. Ready to take some hits. Ready to take a chance on striking out. I have to be ready and willing to take these risks for the chance that I'll hit it out of the park. He needs me to take those risks if I'm going to play for His team. Sometimes He needs me to help bring others home to Him - to bat them around the bases and score some runs - even if it means making a sacrifice play and getting out myself. This is the call of a team player, and in being a follower of Christ, we are all called to be team players.

Blessed Mother Teresa said, "Let God use you without consulting you. Give God permission." I have to let Him heal me so that He can use me for the next big play. I shouldn't have to give Him permission, but He will wait for me to say, "Yes" to whatever play He calls. I have to let him use me to do what's best for the team, and I have to trust in His coaching.

I don't know what the next play is going to be, or even what kind of play Coach is going to call. As I wait, I am trying to learn to be more accepting and open to the trials, suffering, and mistakes - and the eventual healing - that I will continue to encounter in this game. Hopefully, I will learn the signals that will bring me across that home plate, where God the Coach is waiting, with a jumping high five, to say, "Welcome Home!"

This is how excited Coach gets when you come back to the game!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Jesus the Romantic

I've been feeling the oh-so-sweet sting of singleness a bit more than usual lately. Tonight at Mass, I was feeling down about being alone, and I just looked up at the crucifix. I asked Jesus to help give me the peace and happiness of belonging to him and him alone for right now.* I asked him to send me a good and faithful man when the time is right; a man who seeks God and ends up finding me, too (package deal!). I asked him to woo my heart (because apparently dying on the cross for me hasn't been enough to convince me that he loves me) to help me fall even more in love with him.

As I was driving home, I was listening to some of my favorite music in the car, and I thought, "I wish some guy would sing this song to me..." And then it hit me that I have Someone even better - Jesus singing those songs to me!

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Jesus knows how to woo a lady.

Here are just a few of the songs that I pictured Jesus singing to me tonight. I hope you too can feel Jesus working to romance your heart a little bit during this Easter feast!

When do you most feel Jesus working hard to win you over?

*Yes, St. Joe is still my beau, for those of you who are wondering. But I'm not cheating or anything because St. Joe is totally cool with Jesus being my boyfriend. I know this because 1.) St. Joe is the man, and 2.) He was totally cool with Mary being the spouse of the Holy Spirit. He's just not the jealous type! Plus, whenever he is beau-arific with me, he's really just pointing me closer to Jesus anyway.

Friday, April 6, 2012

No Greater Love

The greatest expression of love is Christ on the cross.

Christ of Saint John of the Cross by Salvador Dali

The greatest response we can give in return?

"I love you, too."
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