Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Confession + Clean Floors

painting: "Sparkly Clean" by Leslie Graff

A couple of weeks ago, I went to confession. As usual, it had been quite a while since the last time and, as usual, I cried during and felt awesome after.

Last week, I spent a solid hour cleaning all the floors in my house. The wood floors got swept, then Swiffered, then mopped. The carpets got vacuumed. I wore my 11-month-old the whole time. I was soaked with sweat, but my floors were C-L-E-A-N.

Last Saturday, I got to church 10 minutes earlier than I needed to, and confessions were happening, and no one was there*. I had been acting like a spoiled jerk all day, so I hopped on in. No tears, no giant revelations, just.... Maintenance. Sprucing up.

I wish this wasn't such a revelation, but regular cleaning, whether of your floors of your soul, is easier. It gives you the opportunity to pay more attention to details, and to build on the clean that you achieved last week.

*You guys, why is no one there? Sacramental grace, forgiveness, wise counsel, a fresh start, the Creator and Savior of your soul are waiting.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013 one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.

Catholic 101

One God. There is only one. Yet how many things reach god-like status in our lives? Those things, whatever they may be, seem so silly and trivial compared to the maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible. Maybe it's because God's work is on such a grander scale that it's hard for us to even contemplate, much less attain a relationship with the Maker. But really, what do I have to gain from expending my time, energy, and brainpower on insignificant pursuits? I often forget to take the long view, and instead get caught up in the moment, basing my actions on what will best serve me that day. Living in the moment can be a positive and virtuous endeavor, but I do see in my own life how it sometimes trips up my ability to focus on the prize. "Set your heart on the higher gifts, on the things that come from your Maker in Heaven" (1 Cor. 12) comes to mind. What would it be like, if we all lived every day with the assurance that the end of the story is good? If we made decisions based on the things that will matter at the end of life, instead of whatever might bring the most pleasure to the day? 

I spent several years when I moved to Chicago working with the elderly, and the faith I saw among bodily pain and decay was truly inspiring. I always got the sense that these folks knew with assurance, although this phase was challenging, that the end was good - and it was coming. In spite of constant physical ailments, loneliness after the loss of spouses and friends, and inability to carry out daily tasks that once seemed mundane, I saw peace. I recall being at Mass with my grandpa a few years ago, watching him struggling to kneel, and thinking "Wow. Never has it been so clear that we were not made for this earth, but for something much better." I can't say I'm entirely eager to reach old age, but I can't help but be in awe of the way that age seems to strip away the little things, and leave just what matters. May we always be conscious of the things in our lives that are of our One God who is almighty!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Catholic 101: I believe...

Catholic 101

Today, 12 years after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, we are praying for all the people who gave their lives to help, and those whose lives are still affected by this tragedy. As our country stands on the precipice of yet another war, we pray for peace in Syria, for wisdom for those God has placed as leaders in our country and around the world, and especially for the next generation - for those people we are raising right now - that they would be a generation of peacemakers.

These two little words would have been easy to skip on my way to what seem like meatier sections of the Creed, but without these words, none of the rest of it would matter. Without "I believe," a list of the tenets of a faith as beautiful as ours would be just that: a list.

I tend to take belief for granted. I was raised believing in God. My parents encouraged me to see His fingerprints in every corner of the world I lived in, taught me how to talk to Him and lean on Him when I was hurting, to praise Him when I was joyful. I am deeply grateful that I have felt the presence of God so closely for my entire life. On my journey toward the Catholic Church, as I read books that made me question many of my assumptions about faith, I felt God nudging me closer to Him, closer to the truth.

We are each created with an instinctive drive to search for the ultimate meaning of life. God reveals Himself to us, and we respond in faith: "I believe." Here's the tricky part, though: "Whoever says 'I believe' says 'I pledge myself to what we believe" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1994 edition, page 51). Belief is not just something you say. It's who you are, and how you live. Every day, the implications of what we believe ripple through every part of our lives. The creed is merely a symbol of a lived reality.

"For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God--not because of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." -Ephesians 2:8-9

Sunday, September 8, 2013

What We Wore Sunday

We are back from our summer hiatus, linking up with Fine Linen and Purple!

It is so exciting to be part of a growing parish. We've been attending regularly at St. Gregory the Great for about a year, though I was lucky enough to meet Patrick, the music director, and start singing with the choir occasionally when I moved to Chicago in 2007. We love it! The music is fantastic, the priests and staff are amazing, the people are friendly, and there is a lot going on for young people and young families. Our Moms and Tots group meets weekly (at least!) for play, and we're starting to grow even further! This Sunday was our first Moms and Tots Family Picnic, out in the back yard of the rectory. What a fun day! Perfect weather, lots of families sitting on the grass sharing food and chatting, kids running around, and cicadas being thoroughly examined... I've attended lots of churches in my life, and I am so incredibly blessed by this one. Thank you, God!

 Our photographer was not aware that we was supposed to be taking an outfit shot. Oh well. You get what you get. :)

Saturday, September 7, 2013

New Baby, New Business

Alright, my fellow blogger has motivated me to check back in too! It was a weird summer, filled with chasing a toddler, morning sickness, classes, morning sickness, learning how to start a business, morning sickness, house hunting, and finally feeling a bit more like myself after about 6 weeks of living on saltines. I think my poor husband nearly gave up hope of ever having a home cooked meal again, as I sure couldn't do it and also couldn't let him cook with anything remotely fragrant. But that's in the past, until next time. By some miracle, I have succeeded in opening my business, Kat's Cradle Sleep Consulting, and growing a (currently) turnip-sized human in my belly. Whew. Life is good. I always wondered how one went about parenting a highly energetic toddler while in the throes of early pregnancy, and after going through it, I can say the answer is...I haven't a clue. How we survived, apart from the help of friends and family, is a mystery to me. I vaguely recall hazy memories of summer mornings staggering across the street to the park and letting Ryan loose to run in the grass while I sat and gagged. It's a good thing he finds sticks and passing dogs so fascinating. Anyway, like all things, that phase passed and life is pretty pleasant once again. We get to find out in a few weeks if we're having a boy or a girl! And the business, so far, has been incredibly rewarding. It's just amazing to support families on their journey to joyful parenting through rest for everyone! I especially love hearing how happy the kids become once they are well-rested. I can't wait for more of the same with upcoming clients, and feel very blessed to have started a career which will allow lifelong flexibility as a mom.

Well, I'm going to take my boy's nap time to laze around for awhile. Pregnancy is, if nothing else, a free pass to relax in my opinion! Looking forward to breaking open the Creed with our readers in the coming weeks!

Friday, September 6, 2013

7 Quick Takes

Linking up with Jen at Conversion Diary!

Happy fall!! I took the summer completely off from blogging; too much living and traveling around to check in! But, in typical fashion, fall leaves me feeling like I need a new project (I am always nostalgic for back-to-school), so I'm back with some fresh energy and new ideas!


Catholic 101

Starting next week, look for a new weekly series called Catholic 101. We're going to work through the Creed phrase by phrase, first. I've still found myself fumbling over the words of the new translation at Mass, and after almost two years, that's just ridiculous. Hopefully this helps. We're looking forward to digging into our faith by going back to basics!


WRM logo

The Well-Read Mom. Do you know about this already? I am so excited I could just jump up and down, shouting from the rooftops. What a great idea!! And so easy - they've done every bit of the prep work for you, all you have to do is grab a book and a few of your mom friends. Do you have a moms group at your parish? Why not introduce this program? Thanks to Molly for bringing my attention to this idea!

3. I'm back on the Weight Watchers and Jillian Michaels wagon. My goal is to get to my happy weight by Anne's first birthday. I've got two months, and I'm almost there. Back in April, I ordered 3 Jillian DVDs, the absolute best of which is Ripped in 30. Seriously, if you're looking to get in shape with a minimal time commitment (20 minutes!), this is the DVD for you. Get after it!

4. I'd like to start memorizing more Scripture, especially verses that would be helpful as prayers when I'm having a frustrating moment, and verses that would help me to defend and explain my faith to others. I have many memories of my mom quoting Scripture to us when we were growing up, and I'd love for my kids to have those memories of me as well. I found a great book by Patrick Madrid called "150 Bible Verses Every Catholic Should Know," and I'm excited to start there.

5. Did you see this post from a mom of teenage boys, to teenage girls? I thought it was great, and was slightly bewildered when I came across a lot of negative backlash the next day. I guess it was maybe too simplistic, but the idea was good. As usual, however, Simcha has straightened the whole issue out. Take a peek at her take.

6. Pope Francis has asked us to observe Saturday, September 7 (tomorrow!) as a day of fasting and prayer for Syria. My first thought was, "Oh, man, why did he have to pick a Saturday? I was going to make waffles, and we're going to the Chipotle Cultivate Festival in Lincoln Park, and there's college football on!" And then I realized that is precisely why Saturday is a good day to fast. If it had been today, it would have been exactly no sacrifice for me. I found this article to be a great primer on Syria, if you find yourself as woefully uninformed as I did.

7. We had a great summer. Lots of travel, family and friends, sun and sand. Lots of milestones. Suddenly this baby of mine is transforming into a toddler, crawling, pulling up, eating absolutely everything in sight, cracking me up and amazing me. I am so thankful that I get to soak up her bright personality every day!

Swinging! Almost 10 months.

Have a great weekend! GO BLUE!!!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Ask and You Will Receive

"Ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you."
Luke 11:9

I wanted to write a quick post because this Gospel really got me thinking on Sunday. I was coming from a horrible week starting with my little boy fighting a nasty virus, a parking ticket, and then the disturbing hassle of having my wallet stolen while shopping. Things do seem to come in threes, don't they? Needless to say, I was feeling pretty discouraged by the time Sunday rolled around. 

I almost laughed when I heard this reading, because all I had been thinking all week was "I don't think I'm a bad person...why is all this happening?" and I hadn't felt too inclined to ask God for anything, since it seems like all this stuff happens whether we like it or not! I wasn't angry that He allowed it or anything, just mildly annoyed and having trouble seeing the point of prayers of supplication. But then in Mass, I realized, I can ask! Not only can I ask, but I can be sure that the answer will be the best one, even if it's disguised as a big huge hassle. Instead of praying that my wallet never gets stolen again, I felt inclined to pray just to be okay with the way things are. Surprisingly, what dawned on me in that moment was that I'm so glad life isn't one big, easy cake walk. Each of us is formed in our strengths through the challenges we overcome. Every one of us has faced difficulty, and overcoming those is what makes all the people I love, who they are. I think of all the people I admire, and none of them have sailed through life on a rainbow. Quite the opposite. 

I went into church feeling discouraged and beaten, and walked out grateful. What a blessing!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

What We Wore Sunday + A Memorable Moment

Linking this post with Fine Linen and Purple.

Summer heat has arrived big time! My family had such a nice time Sunday morning going to breakfast at a charming neighborhood patio, taking a long walk to admire the beautiful gardens in the streets around St. Gregory's, and then a beautiful Mass as always. Since choir is on hiatus for the summer, I even get the pleasure of my husband's company during Mass and some help keeping Ryan quiet!

Speaking of Ryan...he put on probably the funniest show I've seen out of him yet in his 14 months of life. When we walked to the back of church after Mass, he spotted the table with a stack of Catholic newspapers on top. He stood up on his little tip-toes and grabbed the top paper, then toddled confidently over to where the priest was talking with a parishioner and shoved the paper into Father's hand. He then proceeded to return to the table, reach to the top of the stack, grab the topmost paper, and walk it over to the priest, about 15 times, until the whole stack was gone. By the time he got to the fifth or sixth paper, he had quite a crowd gathered around! He was really sure that Father Paul needed those papers.

Elizabeth, bless her, cantored both Masses Sunday morning. We did find a second to snap this photo while my son was busy delivering his newspapers!

I don't have specifics for these outfits right now, but summer dress season it is!

Monday, June 10, 2013

What We Wore Sunday + Sunday Best

We were both at the same Mass this week, so we got a photo together!! Linking up with Fine Linen and Purple and Camp Patton!

Kathleen + Ryan, Elizabeth + Anne

:: Elizabeth ::

Can I confess something? I can only very rarely recount what happened in a homily. I feel awful about it, but try as I might, I can barely remember the homily by the time I'm walking out of Mass. Maybe it stems from being raised in a church where we had Bibles out, and pens to take notes on the bulletin during sermons? Anyway, it's inexcusable, and I need to get better. Have any of you ever struggled with homilamnesia? How did you get over it?

This is all to say that I have nothing thoughtful to offer in terms of Mass reflections, so let's just get to the fluffy stuff, eh?

Cardigan: LOFT
Cami: Pea in the Pod (nursing)
Skirt: Lands End
Wedges: Anne Klein Sport

Mass grade for Anne: A+ (she hung out with Daddy while I sang, and I didn't hear a peep!)

:: Kathleen ::

Dress: Ann Taylor
Sandals: Guess

Sunday, June 2, 2013

What I Wore Sunday + Sunday Best

Linking up with Fine Linen and Purple and Camp Patton!

We were out in the suburbs to see my sister-in-law's new apartment today, and we did Mass and brunch suburbia-style (by which I mean we drove a lot... haha). Her new place is lovely, and I'm super excited to have her close!

I've been being hit over the head with similar messages of self-gift this week, both in my DIY retreat and in the readings this morning. I'm still working to boil down my thoughts into a reflection about the retreat, so stay tuned; I am learning a lot, and feel like I'm being stretched outside my comfort zone. But the idea of the loaves and fishes this morning was right in the theme. God is never outdone in generosity; He asks us to give everything we have, which seems like such a risk, doesn't it? But then he multiplies and multiplies and multiplies what we give to Him, and amazingly, the leftovers measure more than we had to start with!

Working on faith to trust that in my life; somehow, it's still not easy.

The outfit this week (why is it so chilly?):

T-shirt: Target
Jacket: Old Navy
Scarf: Target
Skirt: Target (Maternity)
Sandals: Papillio (Birkenstock) via Zulily
Jewelry courtesy of a girl I used to babysit :-)
Props to my husband for getting my girl to smile for the camera!

Mass behavior:
Anne: A. She tolerated being passed around to grandparents & aunt like an absolute champ, and then actually nursed with some focus; at almost 7 months it is getting realllllllly hard to hold this girl's attention unless we are at home, and when she's hungry and distracted she is not that fun.

What I Wore Sunday, and Reflections on Corpus Christi

Linking up for this post with Fine Linen and Purple!

Today's Gospel of the loaves and fish was a familiar one, but the homily gave me a brand-new way of looking at it which makes it so relevant to all of us. The choir's Alleluia was resounding and beautiful, setting the stage for a powerful reading. In the homily, the priest asked us to consider what it takes to really appreciate a dining experience, as opposed to just eating to get it over with, and one of the elements he mentioned was preparation for all aspects of the meal. The challenge was to prepare our hearts for the Banquet that we receive at each Mass, so as to receive the fullness of grace in the Eucharist. Such a simple message, but one that I needed to hear. How often do I walk into Mass quickly, huffing and puffing with a diaper bag in one arm and a toddler in the other, thanking my lucky stars we arrived in one piece (my husband sings every week and has to arrive early, so Ryan and I make our way to Mass on our own). Preparation isn't usually at the forefront of my mind these days, but it should be. This hour in Mass is the most important hour of the week! So, thank you, Father, for reminding me of such a fundamental truth.

On a cute note, Ryan sat on the floor, turning the pages of the hymnal and singing "aaaaahhhh". Every once in awhile he'd stop to find his Dad in the choir, point triumphantly, and shout "Dada!". I still lose it every time. His joy is a sight to behold!

Now, for what I wore (I don't shop much, but this is pretty typical of what I can scrounge up in my closet):

Sweater: Express
Tank: Gilligan & O'Malley
Skirt: Merona by Target
Sandals: Kelly & Katie from DSW

Monday, May 27, 2013

Peace Within

I'm writing to check in, lest it seems that I have disappeared! Not exactly, but I did recently begin an online course, which is my first attempt at anything academic in quite awhile. It feels like a whole new territory: juggling class, reading, and homework with the daily ins and outs of having a rambunctious toddler in the house (two on my nanny days). Needless to say, what "free time" I have has mostly involved this new venture. But, like anything, even an exciting new pursuit needs sanity breaks, and so I am thrilled to be writing again.

What's new of late? Well, my little boy turned one in April, and with that milestone I officially have a little walker in the house! Toddling, crashing into everything, but so determined to get everywhere on foot. Thank goodness for summer and a big huge park across the street! I have also come to a point - finally - where I can sense some peace in my heart at the thought of adding to our family in the near future. Besides my utter fear after a traumatic birth the first time around, we had decided it would be prudent to try and wait until my husband got on the career path he was aiming for. Now that we have that piece in place, it seems a little easier to envision another child in the picture. I have come to the realization that no matter how scared I feel at the prospect of being pregnant again, it will probably require having another human being inside me for real love to enter the picture and cast out the fear. Plus, I know that I am very, very lucky to be able to conceive and bear children, and that's nothing to take lightly. I would love to give my son the gift of siblings. So, another baby may or may not be imminent, but it's a relief to finally feel some peace about the whole thing.

I'll write more soon. A blessed Memorial Day to all!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

What I Wore Sunday

Happy Feast of the Holy Trinity!! Linking up with Fine Linen and Purple.

We attended the vigil Mass again, so this is technically what I wore Saturday. I'm one of the cantors at our parish, and I love love love serving in that way. I've been a singer my whole life (studied voice performance in college, currently sing with the Chicago Symphony Chorus), and I have never enjoyed using my gifts so much as I do as a volunteer in our parish, helping to create a meaningful, reverent liturgy. It's so fulfilling! It also gives me a chance to really focus; usually I'm sitting with my squirmy daughter, and I'm still having trouble paying attention to anything else but her. My husband likes having that quality time with her, too. Win-win-win.

Today I'm beginning a do-it-yourself retreat in preparation for Marian consecration to Jesus. The book is called 33 Days to Morning Glory, and I'm ending the retreat on June 27, the feast of Our Lady of Perpetual Help (or should I say "haaaaalp"?). I thought that would be a good one for moms; perpetual job, perpetual help? And also it's the next Marian feast and I wanted to get started! I'm going to post reflections here, so stay tuned! And let me know if you're reading along!

And now, the purpose of the post:

Details, top to bottom:
Necklace: cross from my hubby, St. Gerard medal from my pastor (just before Anne was born)
Cardigan: Merona via Target, several years ago
T-shirt: Cynthia Rowley via Marshall's
Belt: Target (it has a cool tribal-looking pattern... on the back.)
Skirt: Studio West via Zulily
Shoes: C. Label via Zulily

Happy Memorial Day!

Monday, May 20, 2013

What I Wore Sunday

Linking up for the first time with Fine Linen and Purple!

This weekend we were all at Notre Dame celebrating my sister-in-law's graduation from college. CONGRATULATIONS, CAITI!!! We are so excited for her, and even more excited that she's going to graduate school in the Chicago suburbs! Mass was on Saturday afternoon, and I couldn't help but think how perfect it is to be celebrating graduation on Pentecost. I could practically see the tongues of flame coming to rest over the mortarboards on all the graduates' heads. We also had the privilege of hearing Timothy Cardinal Dolan of New York speak at commencement; his speech was very moving, and he spoke so tenderly of Our Lady.

Our duds were decidedly more fancy than usual given the special occasion, and here's the best pic I could find:

Navy dress: Ralph Lauren via Marshall's (faux wrap = perfect for nursing)
Baby dress: Target!

...and nothing else is pictured. I'll do better next time, I promise.

Monday, May 13, 2013

He who made the promise is trustworthy.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since through the blood of Jesus
we have confidence of entrance into the sanctuary
by the new and living way he opened for us through the veil, that is, his flesh,
and since we have a great high priest over the house of God.
let us approach with a sincere heart and in absolute trust,
with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience
and our bodies washed in pure water.
Let us hold unwaveringly to our confession that gives us hope,
for he who made the promise is trustworthy.
-Hebrews 10:19-23

The above portion of the second reading from the Feast of the Ascension yesterday reminded me of a recurring thought I've been having over the past couple of weeks. In difficult moments with my daughter, I find myself wishing I was armed with the promises of Christ; bits of memorized Scripture that I could quote aloud to myself when I feel my own strength is not cutting it. I have a few great ones at my disposal: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me! All things work together for good for those that love Him! The Lord is my strength and my song! But I wish I had more. I wish the promises of God were written on my heart, so that when I felt overwhelmed, I could just speak the Psalms aloud, or hear St. Paul's words of encouragement.

Instead of just wishing, I'd like to do something about it! I'd like to dig in deeper, to read Scripture daily, and to work on memorizing some passages that will come to my mind when all that seems to come now is, "Help!" Not that God can't answer that prayer, too. But He gave us His word for a reason, right? What a wonderful gift, and how sad to leave it on a shelf gathering dust!

What Scripture passages are most encouraging to you in difficult moments? I'd like to start a "to-memorize" list. What do you think I should include?

Monday, April 22, 2013

Not For This Earth

The whole country is feeling totally overwhelmed and crushed by the many tragic events of last week. It's times like these that reinforce what we already know, that having kids in a world like this is serious stuff. 

Why would we want more people to worry about, more people to subject to such horror? It's easy to understand why, for so many, the mere idea of bringing children into such a violent and inhumane society is unthinkable. I know a number of people who claim to never want kids for this reason. 

This life is a broken, broken road: thank God we have the next one to look forward to. For whatever reason, we are called to be in the world for awhile, and to make our time count. But it helps to remember, in times like these, that that's not all. Acknowledging the smallness of earthly things might be the best argument I know for being open to having children. We have to remember that our kids are so much more than little bodies in a terrifying world. They are eternal souls. And so, in creating them, regardless of the amount of time they spend on an earth rife with sorrow, we can still give them the greatest gift. Life and love unbounded for all eternity.

I have a friend who lost a family member this week in the tragedy in Texas. I don't know much about him, but I know that he died a hero, and that he had a small child at home. What incredible sadness, and what a wonderful legacy. Because of the many people he helped and because he gave a child life, this man will continue to live on in his family and in his town. I see courage exemplified in many ways in a man I never knew.

One thing is for sure. We were not made for this earth. Sometimes it's a beautiful place and sometimes it's a disaster, which brings it all back to my favorite word: perspective. How often I forget and lose perspective, but it all makes so much more sense when we keep an eye on the eternal.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Easter Tidings

Just checking in to say hello and Happy Easter season! I, for one, am pretty excited to finally be out of the desert of Lent and into a time of birth and new life. No matter what I renounce or commit to for Lent, each year God has some plans of His own to throw into the mix, and it is always a greater challenge than I expect. Two years ago, it was a rocky patch during engagement and marriage preparations. Last year, Lent was my third trimester of pregnancy, with a due date of Easter Sunday (the birth date turned out to be quite awhile later than the due date, but that's a story for another time!). And this Lent, of course, was rife with trials of its own, starting with the whole family sharing a brutal stomach bug, and ending with some great challenges in the practice of NFP. But, it looks like we've made it into the next season relatively intact! Easter arrived as always, with great joy and alleluias. My husband and I even made it down to Florida for a few days for our first baby-free vacation.

Spring has yet to arrive in full swing in Chicago, but the grass in the park is noticeably greener, and all the rain does seem to be giving way to some tiny crocuses and daffodils. Easter comes so appropriately at this time of seasonal transition. Just as winter has a stark beauty of its own, so Lent prepares the way for this season of joy. A blessed Easter time to all!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Revive + Replenish, Part 6: Sacraments

This post is part of our series of Lenten reflections for 2013, focusing on ways that we can nourish ourselves as mothers so that we are better able to serve and bring light to our families, friends, and all the others we come in contact with. 

purple cross

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to attend the Lenten Reconciliation service at church. Each time I receive Reconciliation, I wonder why it always takes me so long to go back. What is more refreshing than a clean slate? There is so much hope in starting new. Just to have the time alone, to reflect in a beautiful space on what it is about my life I'd most like to amend, was a blessing. Often in daily life, it's hard to see the forest for the trees; but what a different perspective it is to step back and evaluate life as a whole. The Sacraments of the Church invite us to do just that. Each Sacrament allows us to participate in something so much greater than ourselves, that we can't help but come away with a new perspective. Oddly enough, I came away from the service praising God for the trials and difficult patches that have come and will come; quite an unexpected change from the burdened spirit with which I entered. I actually felt thankful that this life is not easy but real, rich and full.

As part of my penance, the priest asked me to "scan your life and pray for the person who most needs your prayers". May we all take a moment each day to scan our lives, and when possible, receive the Sacraments to help us do it. The perspective that will come is life-changing.

"Lord, your love reaches to heaven; your fidelity, to the clouds. Your justice is like the highest mountains; your judgments, like the mighty deep; all living creatures you sustain, Lord."
Psalm 36: 6-7

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Revive + Replenish, Part 5: Little Things

This post is part of our series of Lenten reflections for 2013, focusing on ways that we can nourish ourselves as mothers so that we are better able to serve and bring light to our families, friends, and all the others we come in contact with. 

purple cross

Sometimes it really is the littlest things that make the biggest difference.

As we prepared for marriage, a counselor in our church gave us a great piece of advice. "Each morning and each evening," he said, "give each other a ten-second kiss." Such a simple idea, it seems almost silly. But in the thick of life, as jobs and stress and family and baby have swept in and changed the face of our marriage, that ten-second kiss has been a foundation to return to. It's short enough that you can't think of a legitimate excuse to skip it, but long enough that even if you're angry or stressed or tired, you can't help but get into it. It's a fabulous quick fix in times when we are struggling to connect.

This is one small way that we help to revive and replenish each other, when we don't feel like we have the time or energy for anything else. A hug that lasts an extra second, a 60-second shoulder massage, a quick squeeze of my hand (or my booty!). Almost - but definitely not - effortless, these are the tiny-big things that carry us through the day-to-day.

Find an opportunity today to show affection to your spouse in some small way; I bet you'll be amazed at how easy it is and what a difference it makes.

"Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much." -Luke 16:10

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Revive + Replenish, Part 4: Prayer (Kathleen's Take)

This post is part of our series of Lenten reflections for 2013, focusing on ways that we can nourish ourselves as mothers so that we are better able to serve and bring light to our families, friends, and all the others we come in contact with. 

purple cross

"Therefore I tell you, all that you ask for in prayer, believe that you will receive it and it shall be yours." 
Mark 11:24

Sometimes I, like many of us, find prayer to be a frustrating experience. I often feel like I should be doing more in the way of personal prayer. If I try to pray before bed, I usually fall asleep. If I try to converse with God at Mass, my rowdy toddler always finds some way to interrupt. Usually I manage to have the best prayer conversations when I'm out for a walk or a run. But my favorite method, which I find to be so accessible and reassuring, is to make all of life a prayer. On days when I can do nothing else, I can offer up each part of my day, asking the Lord to use it to bless someone or something else. Truly, the grace of ordinary moments can transform when we lift those moments up.

Additionally, in times of great uncertainty, I have always found peace through following a chaplet or novena. Each time I have turned to these prayers, I have received a very clear sign of prayer being granted. I first experienced this when I was in high school and my youngest brother was undergoing treatment for a life-threatening medical condition. I began a novena to St. Therese, the Little Flower, while the outcome of the treatment remained uncertain. St. Therese is often depicted holding roses, and at the time I had a fetish, if you will, for yellow roses. On the last day of the novena, I drove to a nearby chapel which offered perpetual Adoration, and was immediately drawn to my knees when I saw that the vase adorning the altar that day contained a beautiful bouquet of yellow roses! In that moment I knew and was filled with great peace that our family was being taken care of. More than eleven years have passed, and my brother remains in good health. 

More recently I had a similar experience with the Divine Mercy Chaplet following Ryan's birth, when he spent just over two weeks in Intensive Care. My husband and I felt incredibly helpless throughout the experience, so we would stop at the hospital's chapel each day on our way back from lunch in the cafeteria and pray for our son. Eric would play a hymn on the piano and we would often say a decade of the Rosary together, and it was during one of these visits that we stumbled upon a booklet with the Chaplet. We felt that we were supposed to pray it and that sometime during the course of the nine days, Ryan would be discharged from the hospital (we had no indication at this point of when we would be able to bring him home). It came as little surprise to us that within the first few days, he was able to have his oxygen and feeding tube removed, and shortly thereafter, on the seventh day of the Chaplet, our sweet boy came home with us. 

My heart overflows with thankfulness to recall these times. As life's challenges are real, so too is prayer real and powerful! I once heard a priest preach that in God, "nothing is ever lost". No moment of our lives needs to be wasted as we always have the opportunity to lift each day up in prayer. However and whenever we pray, we can know with certainty that our voice is heard and our needs are met.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Revive + Replenish, Part 3: Prayer (Elizabeth's take)

This post is part of our series of Lenten reflections for 2013, focusing on ways that we can nourish ourselves as mothers so that we are better able to serve and bring light to our families, friends, and all the others we come in contact with. 

purple cross

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.

-Psalm 19:1-4

This past Sunday I sang in our church choir. This is not a regular thing for me, although I love to sing; I just love attending Mass as a family. I had to leave a little earlier in order to make it for pre-Mass rehearsal, so I walked the six blocks by myself. It was a beautiful clear morning, and I found myself praying out loud, just praising God for the gifts in my life. This has been a hard month for us, not in any huge way, just in a string of small-ish ways. My husband and daughter have both been fighting colds. My daughter is going through what seem to be never-ending developmental changes that I can barely keep up with. It's hard, but above all, deeply good. I praised God for giving me a supportive spouse with whom I can leave my baby for an hour or two without a trace of worry. I praised Him for the gift of the seasons, even the ones we don't particularly love (late winter, anyone?), because they make us appreciate the ones we do love. I praised Him for allowing me the luxury of staying home to focus on my vocation as wife and mother.

And then I turned my focus outward, praying for others. For friends and family in all kinds of different situations, asking God to meet their needs and be present to them. One by one I prayed for the people who are important to me. My rhythmic steps on the sidewalk a meditation, the sunshine and cool air crystallizing my prayers and drawing them to Heaven. I breathed a little more deeply, allowing the Holy Spirit to minister to me.

I have always felt most deeply connected to God through Creation. "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands." I sense my Creator's deep love for me in the great beauty that is all around, that is all too easy to glide by in the course of our busy lives.  I invite you to take ten minutes this week to walk outside, admiring the beauty of late winter, forgetting to look at your phone, talking to no one but the One who made you. Pray in thanksgiving for your blessings, offer up the concerns of those you love, and pray for the cardinals gathered in Rome, that the Holy Spirit would guide them as they choose the next leader of our Church.

St. Gregory, February 2013

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Revive + Replenish, Part Two: Fellowship

This post is part of our series of Lenten reflections for 2013, focusing on ways that we can nourish ourselves as mothers so that we are better able to serve and bring light to our families, friends, and all the others we come in contact with. 

purple cross

"If there is any encouragement in Christ, any solace in love, any participation in the Spirit, any compassion and mercy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing."
Philippians 2:1-2

We are not alone. As much as it can feel that way on a long winter day in the house, for every high and low we experience as mothers, someone has been there before and someone will be there after. It's liberating and healthy to share the joys as well as the challenges with someone who understands. For this reason, we need other women friends on the journey, and in particular other mothers. There are so many aspects to parenting that are taboo in normal adult conversation (labor, delivery, breastfeeding, diapers...). I've found that if I can't make light of these things with someone who gets it, I will start to resent my role as a mom. 

What's more, becoming "united in heart" with other mothers elevates our call to raising a generation of faithful people. Without good friendships to hold me accountable, I would undoubtedly grow complacent in my vocation. Even if it's just a phone call, text, or email of encouragement, my day suddenly has more meaning when it involves communicating with a good friend. Fellowship refers to this accountability-friendship with others pursuing the same goal. Make it a priority! Check in often and take the time to maintain communication, however small it may be. Getting all wrapped up in motherhood is so much more of a joy when it's shared. Having women friends to lean on is so good for our sanity.

Vocation is a paradox, how it's both personal and communal. What starts in the small unit of the family has the potential to reach so much farther, if we allow it to. One way to nourish our vocations and ourselves is by staying connected to others on the same path. So this Lent and in the years ahead, let us allow ourselves to be revived and replenished by the fellowship in our lives.

"But she will be saved through motherhood, provided women persevere in faith and love and holiness, with self-control."
1 Timothy 2:15

Friday, February 15, 2013

Revive + Replenish, Part One: Caring For Your Body

This post is part of our series of Lenten reflections for 2013, focusing on ways that we can nourish ourselves as mothers so that we are better able to serve and bring light to our families, friends, and all the others we come in contact with. 

purple cross

In my three short months of motherhood, I have learned that taking care of my body is more important, difficult, and pleasurable than ever before. Caring for my little girl is physically and emotionally exhausting, not to mention the constant second-guessing and trying to keep up with all her rapid developmental changes. If I neglect my own needs in favor of hers every time, I become a useless mess pretty quickly. It's tempting to tell myself that something else is more worthy of the time I spend making sure my needs are met. In reality, though, what my family needs is a healthy wife and mamma. When I play the martyr and neglect myself, everyone suffers. I start to snap at my husband, and I resent every little thing I do for someone else. Give me a nap, a bath, or a good meal, and I'm a new person. God provides for all of our needs, but like all gifts, we have to take hold of them with our own hands for them to do us any good.

Let's explore the ways in which the Shepherd cares for us (and invites us to care for ourselves).

Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;

Sleep is vital. Sometimes I still have to take a nap when my daughter does in the afternoon (especially if she's been keeping me up at night). I am much more pleasant and effective when I'm rested, and sometimes that means that there are days when I must choose sleep over something more exciting.

He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

The walking paths of righteousness, that is! Get outside in the fresh air for a walk every day, or do some simple stretches and deep breathing before bed. Exercise releases endorphins! Even if it's cold, getting outside for some sunshine and a walk around the block shakes the cobwebs out of my soul and refreshes me immensely. This may not be the time for marathon training, but certainly there is something I can do each day to get moving.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;

Treat yourself to whole, healthy food and plenty of water. This is your body's basic fuel, and if you're breastfeeding, your baby's fuel, too. Fruits and vegetables, full-fat dairy, whole grains, omega-3-rich foods like wild salmon, nuts and seeds. If possible, don't give in to the temptation to use super-sugary foods for the quick energy boost; you know you pay for that later. (Don't cut out everything indulgent, though! Moderation is key!) Take a little time to plan meals at the beginning of the week, and prepare as much as you can ahead of time. Keep your fridge stocked with easy, healthy snacks: hummus and baby carrots, yogurt, trail mix, natural energy bars. Mix it up and have fun with trying new things.

You anoint my head with oil;

Most days, a quick shower is all I have time for. I have a really quick makeup routine (seriously, 3 minutes) that I try to do every day, even if I'm not going to see anyone. It makes me feel human. A few times a month, I try to make sure I do a little extra pampering. Run a really hot bath, light a couple of candles, sprinkle in some Epsom salts and lavender essential oil (homemade bath salts! so much cheaper!!), and soak for a while with my eyes closed. Give myself a manicure or pedicure. Do a deep-conditioning treatment on my hair or a clay mask on my face. Cucumber slices on my eyes? Why not?

My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord

Friday, February 8, 2013

Pressed Down, Shaken Together, and Running Over

A friend of mine and her 10-month-old daughter came over for a quick visit this past weekend. I was reeling from a few less-than-restful nights in a row, and she could see the exhaustion all over my face. She asked me, "What do you need right now? From God, your husband, your daughter? What do you need?"

The question has stuck with me this week. I play so many roles: wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend. I think it's all too easy to think constantly about what others need from me, and neglect to check in with the state of my soul. I run the risk of becoming depleted and ineffective when I don't nourish myself.

Before we parted ways, my dear friend grasped my hand and prayed that I would look full in my Savior's face and find everything I need there. With Lent just around the corner, I think I will make that my focus. My life is already replete with sacrifice at the moment, so I will rededicate myself to prayer, to reading God's Word, and to seeking out ways in which to care for myself so that I can better meet the many needs of those closest to me.

How do you fill up your "tank" when you feel empty? God promises to provide for us.

"Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." -Luke 6:38

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

This Too Shall Pass!

The last several days I've woken up to photos in my inbox from my parents, who are vacationing in Florida. Scenes of palm trees swaying in a warm ocean breeze seem quite a contrast when I turn my head and look out at the snow drifts that have been piling up for days. For a second I'm inclined to be jealous that I'm stuck in Chicago instead of on a sunny beach; but then something surprising has been happening. Now that I have a family, I find that in my heart I don't want to be anywhere but right here. 

Of course a day on the beach would be much appreciated, but I'm finding that it is possible to find beauty in the starkness of winter. I'm realizing that it's okay to just be in the midst of this season, knowing that it is a passing season and will soon give way to warmth and new life. As someone who typically struggles with the gray and cold each year, I'm surprised to feel such peace and assurance that we will all soon make it through.

So too with this "season" of parenting young children. Some days it's so difficult to even see through the exhausted haze, and in these moments it's certainly okay, admirable even, to commit to taking things one day at a time. I do think, though, that one of the gifts of parenthood is a little bit wider perspective, when we find the time to look. Maybe that's the reason that winter looks different this year, and I'm grateful for it.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Illusion of Control

Like many women, I like to be in control. I enjoy making lists, crossing items off those lists, keeping an orderly home, preparing the diaper bag for every possible scenario, occasionally getting a decent dinner on the table...and I will be the first to admit that I often measure my self-worth by how much gets accomplished in a given day. By the same token - and this realization resides somewhere in the back of my mind, popping up occasionally with surprising clarity - I assume I'm in control of what happens to my son and any future children in our family, when in fact I have very little say in the matter. 

Shortly before becoming pregnant with Ryan, I learned that an acquaintance had lost her young baby in a tragic accident. This sobering news not only broke my heart for that warm, faith-filled family, but also made it abundantly clear that our children truly are not our own. They are eternal souls that we have played a part in creating, but ultimately they still belong to God, for however long they're on this earth and for all eternity. It made me feel simultaneously terrified and liberated to have children. The fear, I realized, came from a lack of faith on my part. On some level, I am comforted to know that my child actually belongs to an almighty Lord who loves him far more than I ever could. But in the day-to-day, I want nothing more than to protect him and his happiness. This, I think, is the on-going challenge of parenthood. How can I hold something so incredibly precious with open hands?

With Lent just around the corner, I would like to commit to keeping perspective and remember that nothing is really "mine" for keeps, rather I am asked to be a steward of these great gifts on loan from the one true Father. I invite all control-seekers to join me in a quest for freedom and peace through letting go!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Earthly or heavenly?

"Set your minds on things above, not earthly things." - Colossians 3:2

Last week I started reading a devotional series called "Soul Detox" with the community of women at She Reads Truth. The daily reflections are very short, encouraging me to focus on one idea each day; it's very manageable. I got stuck on the verse above. How are we to follow Paul's exhortation when our lives as mothers are so full of "earthly things"? Where is the line between earthly and heavenly? It seems very blurry these days.

You've been up most of the night caring for a baby who always seems to need just a little bit more - a diaper change, a little more milk, a burp, a few minutes of cuddling - and she finally drifts into a deep, heavy sleep just as dawn starts to lighten the sky. earthly or heavenly?

Days of careful planning, shopping, prepping, and cooking have paid off, and a lovely dinner is on the table. There's even wine. The baby sits happily in her little seat on the floor and coos while you enjoy your meal and the first adult conversation you've had all day. earthly or heavenly?

The sun is shining brightly on a January afternoon, and though it's cold, you bundle up and head outside. You walk quickly down the street, soaking in the sunshine and fresh air, and breathe a prayer of thanks for the abundant blessings in your life. earthly or heavenly?

All week, you have looked forward to some quality time together with your husband, but on Saturday, you are both so tired that you take turns picking fights, and the resentment builds. Mid-afternoon, something happens that makes you both laugh and the tension fades away. earthly or heavenly?

At Mass on Sunday, you've been distracted. You couldn't say what the readings were about, and you missed the homily because you had to change a diaper. Kneeling during the Eucharistic prayers is out of the question, because if you stop moving - even for a second - the almost-asleep baby will wake right back up. Then you walk up and the priest offers you the Body of Christ, and you're reminded how small your sacrifices are, and how filled with grace. earthly or heavenly?

Maybe what St. Paul is hinting at is a change in attitude. A shift toward finding the good in everything. One of the most wonderful aspects of our faith is its sacramentality, its ability to use everyday objects and experiences to communicate spectacular grace. Through the lens of faith, earthly things are transformed, and God comes to meet us in the mundane.

Saturday, January 26, 2013


Hello and welcome to our blog! I'm Kathleen, wife to Eric and mom to Ryan. Like Elizabeth, I am also very blessed to be married to my best friend, and our marriage is proof that sometimes opposites really do attract - which means never a dull moment on this journey of life! I'm excited to coauthor this blog for a couple of reasons:

           -I've missed having tangible projects to work on since Ryan's birth, especially ones involving writing. Being a mom is wonderful, but it's certainly easy to let more measurable endeavors go by the wayside without a concerted effort.

           -My hope is that this will be a place to continually explore the idea of vocation, and how it forms and shapes us on a daily basis. I realize that I am still far from perfect in my vocation, and am just grateful to have a place to hash it all out from within the framework of marriage and motherhood.

Even as I write this, there is an energetic 9-month-old trying to climb into my chair and crashing his Fisher Price Music Parade car into my ankles; I'm tempted to get frustrated and demand just one tiny moment of peace, but will instead choose to kiss his sweet head and try to experience his childlike wonder. Writing may not be the same anymore - but that's a good thing.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Hi there!

A brand-new space! A new beginning! Is there anything better?

We're excited to jump right in and say hello, to start building what we hope will be a great community, a place for moms to share our struggles and triumphs, what we're learning and how we're growing, and the wisdom and weakness that we have in common. 

"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me." -2 Corinthians 12:9

I was raised in a wonderfully Christ-centered home, and God led me to the Catholic expression of this faith in 2005. In 2007, I graduated from the University of Michigan and moved to Chicago. I married my best friend in 2008, and in November 2012 our daughter Anne was born. I have always dreamed of being a mother, and the reality of it is even more wonderful than I thought it would be! This season of life is so rich, so full of growth and change and learning.

Kathleen and I met one Sunday just after Anne was born, and we have become fast friends. In the coming weeks and months, we hope to develop this space into one that is useful, encouraging, positive, and real. A place where we can come to explore the many ways in which we live out our vocations as Catholic moms. Here's to a new adventure!