The Eucharist of Childbirth

Our daughter Lucy was born one week ago. As I heal, learn how to be a mother of three, and process the experience of her birth, I see the incarnate gift of the Eucharist unfolding in our family’s life.
“While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.”” (Matthew 26:26)
Taken
From the moment a pregnancy test reads positive, really from the moment of conception, my body is no longer mine. My hormones surge, food aversions and nausea begin, I feel depleted of energy, my body slowly stretches and becomes softer. I remember this reality of motherhood hitting me during my first pregnancy with Thomas- I begin to be a mother now, in these nine months of pregnancy. I begin to be for another person now, not just the moment they come out of the womb and into the world. (And honestly, thank God. I have needed time to practice sacrifice for my children and learn to focus less on myself.) I am still me, and yet, another takes up residence within me and I am changed.
Blessed
Though pregnancy brings physical and emotional burden, the gift that it offers surpasses these. We become co-creators with God. What we know and take for granted in our bodies becomes sacred. The Infinite Source of Life and Love journeys with us as new life is created in us. As heart chambers form to pump blood and one day beat with love for another, as lungs take gulps of amniotic fluid to practice for fresh air, as fingers and toes and nails and hair are made. Sure, all human beings are made of the same stuff, the same matter, but the human being that just formed in me for nine months is totally unique. She is distinct from her parents and siblings in body and in soul. She is one that will never be again. This participation in life, though demanding and painful, is wondrous.
Broken
The physical laboring and delivering of Lucy, while short, was excruciating. Pain engulfed me like waves as my brain worked to tell my body to just breathe. How difficult it can be to inhale, to fight back the body’s urge to only exhale in pain. As overwhelming as the pain was, maybe more shocking was its end and having our daughter placed on my chest. I would soon be joyful, but in those first moments I felt more like the grounds of an earthquake’s aftershock.
Shared
What does all of this amount to? I think it unfolds to something like new life. My body produces food for Lucy so that she can live. We change her, swaddle her, embrace her so that she feels comfortable, safe and loved. We sing to her, pray with her, talk to her. And slowly, she will become the one that she was created to be. But it doesn’t stop here. God is more pervasive than that. Lucy’s birth allows Ian to become closer to Thomas and Elizabeth because of how much Lucy needs me. Her birth calls Ian and I into deeper partnership and love. Her birth draws out even more generous love from grandparents. It elicits joy within those that love us, and even within neighbors that we hardly know.
Our children are a blessing to us; more than this, though, our children are created by the One who has something greater in mind. Something greater in mind for them and for us. We do so much preparing within, within our bodies and homes, so that we can ultimately make a movement out. So that we can give of ourselves in the varied and beautiful ways that we are each called.

In Adoration, Rest

When you are with Me,

things are simple.

Because I whisper into your heart

this Word of Love —

Rest.

You do not need to be

an expectation,

a role.

All you need to be

is with Me.

Your peace.

Your calm undercurrent.

Your strength.

You can just be, and I will

hold you in Love.

 

How to Handle Inappropriate Comments at Work

Inappropriate-Comments

Have you ever received a comment from a colleague or higher-up that stopped you in your tracks? Take a look at this article I wrote for Grotto Network that tackles how we can handle these comments well in the moment, and how we can differentiate which comments to let go by processing them, ourselves, from those we should address one-on-one or even report to the appropriate office or supervisor.

As You See Me

 

Let me sit at your feet,

open to your love.

Look into your face,

present to your joy.

This is what you want.

And when I let myself-

guards down,

ego aside-

This is the fulfillment of my heart’s

deepest desire.

I want to stop taking from you.

Moving, moving, distracting myself

from your mystery.

When I see you as you are,

I become as you see me.

 

 

For a link to today’s Gospel reading on Mary and Martha, click here.

I (Gratefully) Blame You, MT

I blame Mother Teresa for one of my more irresponsible life choices.

As today is Saint Mother Teresa’s feast day, I contemplate why it is that I love her. It goes back to my first real encounter with her in the book, A Simple Path

A group of people enamored by Mother Teresa’s life of love in action set out to learn more about her. What was it about this small-in-stature woman that attracted so many, Christians and non-Christians alike?

Mother Teresa agreed to meet with this group of film producers and storytellers. She said, “I can tell you about my path, but I’m only a little wire – God is the power. Talk to the others, the sisters and the brothers and the people who work with them. Some are not Christians, talk to them. You will know what it is when you see it. It is very beautiful.”

So simple that she carried it around as a “business card” and so beautiful in its ability to change your life and mine, this is her Simple Path:

 

The fruit of silence is

PRAYER.

The fruit of prayer is 

FAITH.

The fruit of faith is 

LOVE.

The fruit of love is

SERVICE.

The fruit of service is 

PEACE.

 

When I first encountered Mother Teresa’s Simple Path, I was in the spring semester of my senior year at the University of Notre Dame. Like others, I was occupied with my future, applying for post-grad programs and jobs. I wanted to do a year of service after leaving Notre Dame before applying for Masters programs. As I set up interviews, something wasn’t quite right. I was in love with Ian, and I knew working with a service program that would place me where they needed me would mean extending our already long-distance relationship.

As a loving mother and companion, Saint Mother Teresa encouraged me to seek God in the silent whisperings of my heart. In that space began a real encounter with God. An encounter of honesty, of conversation, of listening, of sometimes hearing nothing, of being nudged where I didn’t think I would go, of waves of peace and clarity. That type of authentic encounter is what we call prayer.

And through prayer, something happened. Things like purpose, confidence, and hope came alive in me. I began to walk as a person of faith. 

Now to my irresponsible decision. I graduated from the University of Notre Dame without a solid plan. I had no job, no year of service solidified, no internship.

What God spoke to me in the silence of prayer, and in discerning conversations with others, was that I had a choice. I could choose to trust him, move closer to Ian, find service work where I went, find a job to pay the rent, or I could invest in a program that would put more distance between Ian and me.

While some advised that I was being irresponsible and we would probably just break up in the end, I chose to trust what God was speaking to my heart.

As a person who is tempted to invest much in being seen as capable, responsible and generally on top of her stuff to the outside world, I was flabbergasted by what I was doing. And yet, I felt joy and peace. I knew God was directing me and would be with me.

Soon after graduation, Ian and I got engaged. I moved to Austin, TX where a generous family offered to put me up in their home. They introduced me to a friend who was opening a store, and needed some help. Looks like I had a job. I searched for different nonprofits and churches that I could serve intentionally with. I found a home of service with a hospice organization and with a high school youth group at a local Catholic Church. This all took but two weeks to manifest. I recall looking around and within, in awe at God’s faithfulness.

This is my love of MT. I love her because she held my hand as I looked around, not knowing where to go. She encouraged me to seek God in the silence. To be brave enough to hear the voice of God that is not an obtrusive shout or unsolicited advice, but accompanying consolation. She continues to mentor me in both the humility and confidence of faith. Something that this world rarely understands, let alone praises. I thank God today for gifting me and gifting our world with Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

Saint Mother Teresa, pray for us!

Trying to Live a Wide-Awake Life

I recently overheard one of our high school students reflecting on her life and faith. She felt bored in life, and asked God to give her some challenge so that she could grow. As I passed by, I couldn’t help but think (actually, say out loud to myself), “Oh, girl, you don’t know what you are asking for. Life will hit you with plenty of challenges sooner than you’d like.”

We go through seasons where life seems to be a school in our frailty and incompleteness as human beings. As I move through life right now, I have many dear to me who are deeply struggling. There are darknesses of disease, both physical and psychological, unemployment, infertility, instability. And, as we live together and love each other, we take on each other’s burdens in certain ways. Sometimes physically, and often in thought, emotional energy, and through prayer. 

I work during the summertime, but there is a different pace with fewer students on campus. So, when I saw a morning of prayer – Discovering our Sacred Stories- at the Loyola Institute for Spirituality, I jumped on the opportunity. I wanted the time away from work and anticipated a potentially nice spiritual refresh. God wanted more.

As I walked onto the campus, I was met by a breeze streaming through the garden that hit me with peace. I looked around at the planned but not fully manicured space and felt calm joy. God wanted me here today.

When our incompleteness is met with gentleness. God’s mercy.

Our morning was based on the Examination of Consciousness, which I would highly suggest trying if you aren’t familiar with it. It is a beautifully simple and pragmatic form of prayer given to us by St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits. 

As we eased our way into prayer, we began with words I had not heard for a time, but needed to hear. Patient Trust by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ. He begins, “Above all, trust in the slow work of God.” And ends, “Only God could say what this new spirit gradually forming within you will be. Give our Lord the benefit of believing that His hand is leading you, and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.” 

I needed this affirmation- God is at work in me; and, I am incomplete and feel so. It is the marriage of these two realities that is potentially life changing- God, help me to be present to your Presence in my life. I don’t see how you are working, and I don’t understand your ways. But, help me to believe in and look for your slow work.

When we look around, believing in the slow work of God, we begin to see that there is always life coming forth. Even in darkness, there is growth; there is newness, there is movement; there is Someone working within us.

As we sit and work and walk and wait today, let’s do so with eyes open, trying to live a wide-awake life.

What is your main thing?

Sometimes we have days or weeks when the hardness or complexity of life socks us in the gut and pries open our minds and hearts. This was one of those weeks for me with the collision of my children getting quite ill, learning of the death of a too-young good woman, and reflecting on the story and image of a father and his two-year-old who drown in the Rio Grande, looking for life.

My reaction to encountering these realities was frustration, bordering on irritation, with how much time we (myself included) spend on things that don’t matter. How many hours do we spend day-dreaming about things we don’t have; how many conversations are spent speaking judgingly or enviously of others; how much time dedicated toward self-improvement for the sake of feeling good about ourselves and fulfilling only own our needs; how much money put toward accumulation of things that will give us only momentary delight.

I am not saying that we should not enjoy life, because certainly, life is meant to be enjoyed. Why else would God give us each other, the absurd generosity and beauty of creation, the ability to make delicious food, the creativity to make music and write.

But, here is my question- How much of what we do really contributes to life-giving freedom, and how much of what we do enslaves us to all that the world wants us to believe will make us feel free?  

In the first reading today (Gal 5: 1, 13-18), Saint Paul says, “For you were called for freedom, brothers and sisters. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love.” 

How often do I use my free will for things that actually make me free? True freedom is choosing the good. Choosing that which brings us into closer and more loving relationship with ourselves, each other, and God.

And how often do I use my free will ways that enslave me to my insecurities and temporary things? How often do I use my free will in ways that inhibit true intimacy in relationships, and lead me away from the source of Life and Love?

On the night of our rehearsal dinner, my father-in-law gave a speech wherein he told Ian and me to “keep the main thing the main thing.” I don’t know if he expected it to stick as much as it did, but “keep the main thing the main thing” has became a family motto of sorts. It is simple, but it speaks truth to how to rightly orient our hearts, minds, and bodies. It speaks truth to how to answer God’s call to freedom.

What is your main thing, and how central are you keeping it in the way that you live?