Monday, September 9, 2013

A friend's request for a 'Yes' to God story...

My ‘yes’…such a funny thought that at first sounded easy to me. But the more I thought of, the more complicated the request sounded. A ‘yes’ to God is not a onetime occurrence, it is a continual and intentional choice to follow him. The opportunity happens daily, moment to moment.  Our relationship with God is organic and grows and changes.  Our faith is like a river that sometimes rushes and sometimes is calm and slow.

I feel like a ‘yes’ is renewed each time we choose our vocation over our wants, or we sacrifice even in the smallest way. Each day that comes we have opportunities to say ‘yes’. Some we miss, some we don’t. Business I would say is my biggest block from seeing or hearing Gods call to a yes.

But when I look back on the big ‘yeses’ , the pivotal times in my life where I had to stop and take a leap of faith to follow God even when it didn’t make sense at all, I guess the most profound is my first big ‘yes’.
Faith was always a stirring seed but never a committed lived experience for me. It wasn’t really practiced in my home growing up but my grandmother was always a beacon of gentle reminder. But, as an 18 year old college freshman faith became my lifeline.

 I sat one February night with my roommate staring at a very blue (before the stick) positive pregnancy test in shock. Yes, the lucky ‘just once’ over a Thanksgiving break with the boyfriend I missed so much. The best way to describe the moment in that dorm room is a tunnel, a time standing still moment of shock that the Asian flu that I had for months..that everyone else had too, had  actually been a pregnancy. I could hear myself breathe and my heart beating.  Terror, fear, shock; I still say unless you’ve been there you don’t realize how dark and frightening that can be.

I guess for me to have the baby was never a choice really, there would never be a question that I would terminate the pregnancy. But I opened my text book to human development anyway, and there was the little 8 week embryo. I closed the book.  I knew for me to continue, I had to shatter the lives of everyone around me.  I had to look up, ask God for the strength, hold my breath and move forward.
Yes to God does not mean easy for sure.  It was difficult, people’s reactions even more difficult. Rejection and rumor harder still. But deep within my soul was a strength that I couldn’t express. There was no question.

God’s provision and protection was in the people I loved. My parents said simply, ‘We love you, come home’. My boyfriend ran and broke my heart but my best friend stuck by me like glue. Letters and calls came from outsiders once I was home encouraging me with their abortion stories to abort. They just made me sad for them. My boyfriend’s father came to our house when I was five months pregnant with a list of late term abortion clinics, my father kindly but firmly escorted him to the door.

My doctors were hero’s, my friends parents loved me and prayed me through. Even the nasty comments from other adults that made me crazy because I knew what their kids were doing didn’t get me down. The only deep burden my soul carried was the loss of my boyfriend. My broken heart was shattered.
In August that year, my boyfriend refused to stay home until I had the baby and went back to college. I cried and prayed, I knew it make a difference if we was home when the baby was born. Half way to North Carolina his appendix ruptured, he was hospitalized and then sent back to New Jersey. I delivered a baby boy. He was home and saw him. It was the beginning of renewal.

How things change once that baby is born. The heavy stress is lifted and pure joy enters your life. By the time Christopher was four months old, I found myself at the moment of another ‘yes’. Do I completely choose God in my life? I said yes. I began sneak watching EWTN and teaching myself the faith. I started to go to daily mass with baby in hand. I began to read the Bible. My life was forever changed; Eucharist, reconciliation, psalms; all made for a new me.  None of which would have happened if I hadn’t said yes to that baby.

By the time our baby was 3, my boyfriend and I were married. By the time that baby was 12 my husband was a convert to the faith with a conversion of heart to match. By the time that baby was 22 we had a total of 8 beautiful children.  That baby just turned 26, that baby boy is now it Seminary at St. Mary’s in Baltimore and God willing will be ordained in 5 years.

Yes isnt easy for everyone, I was blessed and supported by amazing people and prayer. I do feel Christopher was spiritually adopted. I don’t think that kind of strength was from me. A total of 12 other friends and acquaintances aborted babies within 4 years of Christopher’s birth. I call him a holocaust survivor. There were times when the nay sayers were loud; there were times when I doubted myself. But that one yes has led to so many ‘yeses’ in my life. Some easy and simple, some difficult, but always lovingly guided by the boundless love and protection of God. 

Monday, August 12, 2013


I haven't written anything in a while on this blog, honestly I forgot I had this one! Chip and I have spent so much time working on You Can NOT Be Replaced and Hurricane Sandy Relief that I feel like I've missed two years of my life.

People are funny, you cant please everyone. You wont be every one's favorite, some people may not even like you...gasp!  Isn't funny how its a shock that someone might not like you, but we have no problem saying there are people we don't like? 

The hurricane in our area brought out the best of humanity in relief efforts, but after a while ego set in and you're left with 'I did more, I handed out more money, I saved the world...who are you?' We're out, we handed out over $100,000.00. We helped hundreds of families with supplies, furniture, rebuilding, connecting resources, providing counseling. But the egos of others turned us off big time. We loved that we had the opportunity to help but we don't like non sense, so we're back to YCNBR full time and now my art is back online at

In the end, I kept being reminded by the Holy Spirit (or my own brain) of 'perceptions'- 'write about perceptions'. Because really, the culture is screaming 'there is no compassion', 'walk a mile in my shoes before you judge me', 'Karma will eventually get the haters'. Well, I don't believe in Karma. I dont believe that there is force that attacks individuals because someone feels wronged. Karma also doesn't explain why bad and sometimes horrible things happen to very kind and good people.

There's the push for communication, 'all relationships must  have open communication and build trust'. Blah. Trust comes through honesty. Trust comes through predictability and sincere commitment. Communication is essential but, have you ever had a conversation with someone that you were as clear as you could possibly have been and they still spinned your words into something you never intended to say? I have, too many times, there is nothing more frustrating. 

Can we ever really imagine someones lived experience without implementing our own into the situation? There are so many nuances to life and facets of sensitivity to peoples personalities it must be impossible, our own life experience has to pepper our opinion. Even my husband and I living the same life have had very different experiences of the same journey. I really do this is what Jesus means in Romans 14:10 'You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God's judgment seat.' How could we ever really, truly understand someones motives?

Imagine a woman is walking her three small children down the sidewalk of a main street. She is a wonderful mom, attentive, patient and kind. She gave up her career, her book club and her hobby of shopping in order to stay home with these children she loves so much. But today, the kids are a little cranky and her middle child, a three year old boy is not too happy to sit in a stroller. He keeps sliding out and she keeps putting him back in. 

From behind her an older man who was the father of 6, and now the grandfather to 13 approaches. He sees the struggle and remembers the exhaustion of caring for his own sons and the way his wife looked on certain days when he walked through the door. He smiles at the frazzled mom and pats her on the back telling her the phase is short. A little annoyed but appreciative of the distraction from wanting to yell, she smiles and put the boy back for the 4th time. He screams in protest as she does. 

At that moment a young single woman walks out of a cafe. She is on her lunch break and looks up in shock as she hears a poor child shriek. Her heart is in her throat and it pounds as she remembers being grabbed by her step father. She can almost feel the grip on her arm and the heat of the tears. She looks at the young boy whose tears she can taste and her heart breaks. 

Immediately she steps back into the cafe and grabs the police officer at the front table. He approaches the mother and questions her. 

Imagine the mother's horror that someone would question if she hurt her child or not. Imagine how she looks for the older grandpa to stand by her and back her up in sheer panic but he's gone. She would never  hurt her child, but only the young woman saw the 'incident'. She was simply keeping her son from running in the street. 

But also imagine the young woman, how grief stricken she was with the image she saw. Imagine the grandfather who is still warmly remembering his own young boys unaware of what is happening on the path he walked. 

The young woman never intended to hurt the mother, but she did. The mom had months of questioning from child services and sleepless nights rethinking what kind of mother she was. She was afraid to walk in town, afraid to discipline the kids, afraid to breathe when she saw a police officer with her children in the car. 'Was she driving too fast, were they buckled correctly, what if she was pulled over?' 

The mother could resent and even hate the young woman for reporting her, but can she? The young woman perceptions were so tainted by the abuse of her childhood that her sensitivity to the child's cry was magnified hundreds of time more than someone who hadn't experienced abuse. We never really know the whole story. 

Empathy is essential, but how could we possibly ever really understand the pain or experience of another. Communication is key, but we aren't the ones hearing the words. Perceptions is not just experience. Its personality, level of sensitivity, family order, maybe even movies watched or books read...the list could go on. We never really stop long enough to consider all things because we couldn't possibly ever know them all. 

Kinda changes 'dont judge' doesn't it?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

queen brat

Funny, my eight  year old Elizabeth (in the middle of the picture) is naturally funny. It could be that she lives with teenagers and has a sense of humor that is a bit sarcastic, but it could also be she has a gift for timing.

The other day she was following me around like a lost puppy. She was being annoying and complaining about what I cant remember. I'm not even sure what I was doing, getting dinner probably. Finally as she followed me to the table underfoot and whining in my ear I told her.... 'You know Elizabeth, you're being a brat. A royal brat, you are being the princess of all brats.' to which she promptly replied, 'Well then that would make you, the Queen!'.....then proceeded to giggle her head off.

Thinking it was funny, and it was, I put it on facebook. I have never had such response to a post, which at first made me think, she 'really is funny'. But then I realized it was at my expense. My brother who doesn't respond to emails, never comments on my really, never ever responds. He comments, my parents comment, old friends comment. It bugged me, really bugged me. Facebook is really a place for bragging and posting great pictures of family events, not cyberbullying. I have a  page to check up on my big kids and  to share, not really to  hear what people say. It keeps me in touch with far away friends and relatives. But I guess the people who Im keeping in touch with dont really think Im as great as I do. bummer.

 One post about my imperfection and they come out of the woodwork. I spent a lot of time alone as a child. My mother separated the two of us to ensure no conflict. My brother who never interacts on facebook from across the country...well he never interacted as a child. He read, he watched monster movies, and told me I was a brat. We live in the woods and I was bored. Yea, I was a little bratty with no one to play with. Isn't funny no matter how old you get, the buttons stay in the same place?

So, in her humor she struck a chord. I can't change the kid I was. That lonely little girl grew up to be the Queen of a large family. Not a Queen Brat. Out of that solitude came a desire for a family of faith that was a community. We  have it,  no sterility here,  no lonliness here. We have noise and laughing, conflict and resolution. We have a Domestic Church to the fullest extent.  Being a brat became a blessing.

Just so you know, she really isnt a brat. She's a blessing and she's awfully funny.

the boys in love

So, number three has a girl friend. We like his girlfriend, though he's not supposed to date for another six months. He 'snuck her in' so to speak and by the time we found out it was too late. We knew fighting him and making him break it off would create the 'forbidden fruit effect'. So, he has a girlfriend and it has turned out to be a good thing. Shes a year older, she's funny, kind and encourages him to be so as well. The little kids like her, she likes us much to his dismay.

Today they crossed a line though, the went to Mass together....sigh. He's in love. I knew it before but today, but there it was plain as day. He sees her as much of a part of him as we are. They crossed from dating to living as a young couple. Who would complain really about their teenagers going to Mass, or that they want to go to Church with a friend. Im not complaining, I know they keep each other honest and out of trouble. But its a little sad for me. I'm having a hard time as the teenagers grow up.

The kids really aren't 'ours', as Ive always known but when they start to take the steps out of your life and into their own its a little sad. Exciting for them, but sad for us. I no longer have the long line of kids in the pew every week.  I miss my big kids being little, I miss my middle kids being tiny. Life moves so fast. 

'No one tells you not to get so attached', one of my friend's told me when her daughter left for college. While I know she spoke from a place of pain, I get it. My heart sees a five year old with white hair and twinkle in his eye on the verge of mischief or a profound statement. Sigh, he's a young man with a pretty girl on his arm.

Ive decided that teenagers are as difficult as toddlers. The shift moves from physical drain to emotional drain. The shift moves to worry, prayers, watching them mature, make decisions and then face the consequences. Im praying again like I did when they were toddlers. The same kind of exhaustive prayer and pleading while hoping they land in a good place. The result of that kind of prayer for me is abandonment. Letting go.

The kid's journey is thier own. We have taught them well, trusting that God will honor his promise from proverbs 22:6 Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. But also remembering they will fall, we all fall and the lessons learned will help them grow closer to God as raising them has helped us grow closer. But thats not easy watch, so we pray and we hope they wont fall too hard.

 I know number three may get his heart broken, but he's learning good relationship skills with this one. This girl encourages him to be a good  young man, which will help him grow into a good man.
So today, Im grateful. I'm sad for the natural shift and growing pains a mom experiences, but Im grateful for that red haired lovely girlfriend and my son that went to Mass together this morning.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

gingham and the Eucharist

So I made it to Mass today, pretty good for a Thursday these days. On my way out the door I prayed for Jesus to reveal something, some kind of word or moment like he used to give me. He's been rather quiet lately. I dragged Adam with me, who was sorely angry with me for interrupting his computer game. Gave him the usual lecture on the way about the gift of a mass and the great tool prayer is in life. He shot back with 'no one else has to go'...well they were at camp or work..and besides, they used to all come with me everyday. So 'don't worry about them, just you'. Ive let myself get lazy with daily mass, the two babies put me over the edge. The church is half a mile from my house, I really have no other excuse. My 'littles' aren't getting what my big kids did and I'm constantly reminded to simplify so that I can return to that place and nurture the souls of the younger half of the family better.

Heads turned as Ellie cooed and Adam sulked. When it was time for communion I walked up behind a woman with gingham shorts. Purple and green gingham to be exact. I had the same shorts 20 years ago. I never wore them, but my grandmother loved them. She wanted them, but when I tried to give them to her she refused to take them. Kind of a silly memory of her, but for some reason I remembered today. She was my Dad's mother, she never had a daughter and I was her only granddaughter. Though she wasn't perfect, she was special to me. My baby Ellen's middle name is Lucille after her. She passed away 15 years ago. Though not Catholic she is the one who gave me holy water from Lourdes that we used on Emily's eye when she was a baby and had surgery. The surgery was so successful that her eye is in a text book....that's another story. Grandma is present, still she sends me little hello's here and there. The shorts were definitely a Grandma 'hi'.
As I walked up to Father Vinny Flynn's book popped into my head, The Seven Secrets of the Eucharist. . We are all a part of the mystical body, those here on Earth and those who sleep in Christ. We are unified in Eucharist. It's why we share the sign of peace before we receive, it is 'communal', we go forward as the body to receive the body. Even those we have lost are present. He spoke of his Dad in the book that he had recently lost, for me today it was my Grandmother. So my word from God was a visual, a pair of shorts. My little reminder that love doesn't die with the person, love and life is eternal.

....As for Adam, he was still annoyed, but lucky for him (and me) our Parish is now offering confession after Thursday mass. We both got to go. A little lighter, soup removed, we continue our day close to our creator and those we love here, and there.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Not the food the weather. We walked this morning the two babies and I. I thought it was a good idea but about a half a mile in I almost turned back. The humidity was so thick it was an effort to push the long double carriage. I asked Matthew if we should turn back and get the car, but he wanted to go to the park and there would surely be a tantrum if we turned back. So on we pushed through our town, which is 'main street USA' and usually enjoyable. None of the stores were open,there were hardly any cars and only a few shop owners milling about. Its one of my favorite things about living here, the times when it feels like its all ours. No Benny's (tourists), just us looking through the windows, dripping and hot. We stopped at the bakery quickly (to use the bathroom) and bought a $1.75 mini brownie cupcake with peanut butter frosting and scones that were 1 weight watchers point a piece.
It wasn't worth the walk. There was one family at the park with us. I did what I cant stand seeing other moms do, I was stuck texting my son and Chip while telling Matthew to hold on. The other mother started yelling at her 2 year old daughter because she was blowing bubbles the wrong was time to go. We stopped at the little toy store in town on the way home for, bubbles, and the air conditioning wasn't working. I was screaming on the inside, I hate humidity. I still had to walk the 6 blocks home. It started to rain a bit, but not enough to cool things off. No relief, I was walking through soup.
I got home and wanted to run in to air conditioning but had to take the garbage cans out of the street..because none of my 8 children (well, 2 are too small) could do that for me, only to get to the back yard. It was starting to rain, the sand box was open, a beach towel left out and 5 bikes. one home to help I had to put them away myself. I was drenched the baby was crying, my phone was ringing and I was sweating and annoyed. I really don't think there is anything more aggravating.
Finally I opened the back door. It hit me, the air.
So what does this have to do with anything but my own personal discomfort?
Well, as I got into the shower it hit me. hard life is when we try and walk through and work through sin. Its thick and oppressive, like the humidity. We go on and move through our days with the same kind of effort when we are stuck in sin. Not the horrific mortal sin kind here, but the collection of venial sins... the thick layer of goo covering our soul. I guess confession is calling. Its been more than the usual month or two, we've gotten lazy in our business. And though I know I may not 'feel' the relief as I did in the shower, I'll notice it as I walk through my day. As I sit to pray or clean a mess. Ill see it in the way I listen or stop to hear a silly story that I really don't have time for but that is important to my child. The little signs that confession has lifted the oppression. Too often we look for the obvious signs that confession makes a difference. We don't take the time to look to the small things. What good did the humidity do for me? Saturday afternoon Ill be in line with kids in tow.

Monday, July 12, 2010


We found out that George passed away over the weekend. He was 89. Who is George? George is a sweet old guy that used to work part time for my husband at the golf course. He would come over to the course, grab a cart and go after the geese. He had a gun, not a real gun, but a gun that made a loud swirling noise that scared the flocks away. Usually to the next hole and always back days later. He was a retired army soldier and the youngest of 8 children. I met him about 12 years ago when he was beginning to write his memoires of his childhood and service to the country. 'A Country Boy Gone Soldiering'. The first project I did for him was a house drawing of his home from West Virginia. I don't do houses, but for George I would draw the house he was born in.
I am always reminded by God that the gift He gave me is for others, I'm able to share with people through the paintings memories frozen in time. He spoke fondly of his parents and siblings, he loved his family. I knew I had given him a gift of fond memories, even though I griped through the project.
Whenever he saw me after that he would smile and kiss me. He thought I was 'great'. He would tell Chip that with me standing there like a charming old grandpa. Every baby we had he would mention TV as a hobby as many people do, and we would smile because explaining John Paul's theology of the body is usually not an appropriate response.
Then we had number 8. He showed up at the golf course one day with a horrible disposable picture of himself wanting a portrait for a library dedication at a local community college. He proceeded to leave for Florida and said he would be back in March when he needed the portrait. He didn't ask, he assumed and left. I had a new baby and had just started classes at Lasalle University for ILEM, our diocesan lay ecclesial ministry program. I was overwhelmed and had no time. I griped yet again. Ungrateful for the opportunity, knowing I could only charge him a small fee. I left the cruddy photo and ignored it. Chip would say to me from time to time, you know he's coming home you need to start it. I would react and complain and do nothing. March arrived, George came home and asked for the painting. Uggh, I had to put aside house work, school work and cram a 6 month project into one. I asked Chip to take my camera and have George come over so he could get a better shot for clarity and coloring. They came out awful. So the next week I packed up the babies and went to the golf course. George came after teaching a class in gentleman's attire still handsome through all the wrinkles. I took 6 photos the last was 'it'. One of those one in a million shots, beautiful coloring and clarity...just perfect. I painted the portrait in record time without a choice. The house fell apart and I fell behind in school work. the painting came out well, what he was hoping for. Chip delivered it framed and he was pleased. I was relieved, one more thing to check off the list.
The invitation for the dedication came two months later. Begrudgingly we went, I don't like being the center of attention..believe it or not. It meant leaving the big kids in charge for the morning, potential chaos. We sat in the back of the library, it was a much bigger deal that either of us realized. He was way more important than we realized. I felt a little guilt at not being more gracious. I fell into the patronizing attitude of the 'sweet old guy' instead of the honor and respect he deserved from me. He called me up, made me leave the baby with Chip asking him if 'he could handle it'. He wanted me to sit right up next to him so I could help unveil the painting. He told the emcee that he had to introduce me twice like an excited child. After the painting was unveiled he told the entire audience how much he liked me, how I was the mother of 8 to a gasping audience. He said tongue in cheek 'I think she's great...and some of us think she needs another hobby that's why I asked her to paint the picture'. That was the connection, I was the mother of 8.
8 is the number the Chinese say reaches up to heaven and back down to earth. I reminded him of his mother, his beloved family. Forget the painting, all of that doesn't matter. Chip called me this morning, 3 weeks after the dedication to tell me he had passed away over the weekend. Ill miss his charming face, but his passing reminded me of a consolation God gave me to share with my own children when my grandmother died. He was the youngest in his family as she was. Imagine the joy at the birth of the baby in a family. The joy that child brings to all the siblings and the parents. The baby is special. Imagine again that the whole original family is already with Christ in Heaven, how they wait with the same anticipation that they did for that baby to be born for that child to join them. Imagine the great celebration as that child joins them in Heaven.
The little things do matter, but they can overtake us and turn us into 'Martha's'. Mary chose the better part, our hearts our motives and the gift of self. That's what makes us special as mothers. The love we give our children and family lasts through eternity. Our vocation comes first only after our intimacy with God. Prayerfulness is key to our heart and how we approach the small things. Had I prayed more perhaps I would have seen the gift at the time. Hindsight hopefully doesnt leave us with should haves or would haves, but gratefulness in sharing our gifts with others. George was a great guy, a charming man but he was someones baby.
It leaves me thinking about Ellie, she has a journey ahead that will leave her perhaps like George. Alone here on earth waiting to join the rest of us. I pray that God works through me to teach and guide these children so that we are all together one day for eternity. Alone I am incapable, with him there is promise and hope.