turn it into love

Every kind of work can become prayer.

– St. Josemaria Escriva

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One of my spiritual practices now is offering up the work I do as prayer. File this one under Things I Love Now That I’m Catholic But Had No Idea About Before. (Confession, saints, Natural Family Planning, relics, and feast days are just a few others in that category). I’m still learning about this practice, but as a way of understanding work and prayer, it has formed a new way for me to relate to God. Similar to the monastic bell idea, and this is kind of a part two to that post. After Evange was born, I was added to a Facebook group of moms in the campus ministry organization I worked for. I remember different threads popping up around the question – As a mom with a newborn, I can’t find space have a quiet time anymore. What do your prayer lives look like with babies? At the same time, I joined a Catholic mom Facebook group focused on Advent reflections. Through that (and this blog that I’d been following for a while because she’s also a convert, and loves Anne of Green Gables and Harry Potter – the best!) I started to see that Catholics seemed to have an understanding of prayer that extended beyond the “quiet time” in a very helpful way for a sleep deprived new mom.

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I’m a big fangirl of this lady, and she wrote a reflection that stuck with me. She was talking about this idea of offering up the small, every day tasks. That we have the choice to whine or complain about the little things that just need to get done, every day – feeding our bodies and others’, cleaning up after feeding those bodies, cleaning the mess of non-toilet trained others – or, we can offer up those tasks as prayers. From what I gather (again, baby Catholic here) there are formal prayers, like the Morning Offering, to offer up the day ahead, all the work, prayers, joys, and sufferings, that will come, to Jesus, for however He wants to use them. But I think you can also just pray throughout the day. When I hit the end of my energy or patience, I try to quickly, mentally, pray – Help me do this well, as a prayer for ___. (Quick side note – I usually like to pray for the pregnant women in my life, but right now there are SO MANY I can’t keep track of them all. We’re definitely not in the Bay Area anymore).

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I don’t know if that’s really what offering it up is, but that’s what I do. This understanding of prayer is also deeply linked to a Catholic understanding of suffering – that we can link our suffering to Jesus’s. I think I first heard about this in relation to labor pains – that women would ask for prayer requests before labor, and offer those intentions up. Zelie’s due date was Good Friday and I was excited about the idea of being in labor on that day – Dang! I’ll be suffering as Jesus is dying! How cool is that?? But then I had to ask Chris, “So, how does offering up someone or something in prayer work, exactly? Do I have to keep them in mind while I’m in labor? Cuz that is not happening.” And he said no, I can pray before labor, to offer up my suffering as a prayer, for whatever. And I was like, ok cool. But she was born four days early. And I got an epidural because I didn’t want another 50 hour labor. So, obviously not ready for Good Friday levels of suffering over here. But everything can become prayer, and that’s something I wish I had known sooner and want to keep leaning into.

Turn it into love, my friend. Turn it into love. 

-Blythe Fike

 

 

 

one week of Lent (or, what I can’t Instagram)

1. I CANNOT WAIT FOR WARM WEATHER. This impatience is manifesting itself in various ways, the primary ones in the past week: new, sudden interest in gardening, and online shopping for summer shoes.

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2. I’m still trying to fully enter into Lent. Saw this quote and I don’t fully understand it, but it resonates. Giving up IG, I had hopes for using that time better, but it’s a strug fest. I find I keep checking my email compulsively, and no one emails me except Gap and J.Crew, so…. see point #1.

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3. Fridays are the best. I finally figured out where to park for the free babysitting on campus. They only take kids two and older, but God sent another Adrianna into my life who loves my babies, so I am child free for 1-3 hours and it is glorious. I swipe my spouse ID and get in a work out at the brand new gym on campus (which is GINORMOUS) and feel like the red dress lady emoji. And I usually get to see Chris too, either for lunch or for mass, and that’s a nice treat in and of itself. La dee dee.

4. Knowing I’m going to exercise around undergrads has made me exercise more leading up to Fridays. Fitness Blender is my new jam. It’s free and easy! I can do a 15 minute HIIT in my tiny living room. No excuses. It is hilarious, though, when I try to do it with the girls awake. I wish I could video it somehow. I’m doing planks and push ups with Evange on my back and Zelie standing, holding onto my shoulders. And squats, onto Evange’s head. But, fitness!

5. Minerva, our amaryllis, gifted from Molly’s wonderful mother, Mary Jean, and the Dr. Burr Field Scholarship Fund, is a joy. We opened the box she came in on February 13, the day before Ash Wednesday, and I thought I had killed her by waiting too long to check the mail. She was all white and dead-ish looking. But she is thriving! Literally growing before our eyes. Every day one of us comments, “Look, Minerva is getting so tall!” Evangeline is very curious what color flower she will produce. It’s nice to have a living plant in the apartment in this eternal winter.

 

6. I finished The Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott – enjoyed it. Good writing. Something slightly strange at the very end left me with weird feeling about it, but overall, good. I’ve been almost done with A Severe Mercy for several days, just need to finish it off. A good one, too. I recommend. Especially enjoyed getting to know C.S. Lewis better through the letter he exchanges with the author. And on that note, I read his essay, The Weight of Glory, this week. Chris read it for something and lent it to me. “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal … Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses.” Oh, Clive. Zeitoun by Dave Eggers is next on the list.

7. The other night, Evangeline organized a little dance party. She found a silly hat for each of us, including Zelie, and played music out of this toy barn she has. She is very particular and a bit bossy, and I love it. (Most of the time.) There’s been several moments lately when I’ve thought, “Wow, you can do that by yourself now?” She’s getting to be a big girl. Pancakes are her favorite food to make and eat, and she eats more of them than Chris does.

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It was 60 degrees and we played in the pouring rain for an hour. (Pretending it’s spring). What a cutie bug.

7 Quick Takes (a Sunday edition)

I’ve seen some other bloggers do this quick takes thing and I like how it gives a little snapshot of someone’s week, what’s on her mind, (what’s on her shopping list). I think it’s supposed to be a Friday thing, but oh well. Right now Sunday is when I have the most time to reflect back on the week.

  1. Lent starts this week (gah!) and while I am still considering what I will fast from (aka I know what I need to fast from but I don’t want to do it) I am v excited to start a new prayer rhythm with this Lenten journal from Blessed is She. Beautiful design, beautifully written reflections on women in the Bible. So much scripture, it seems like only a Protestant could have made it. JUST JOKES!

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2. Zelie, Chris, and I got some kind of weird, subtly flu-like sickness two weeks ago, which we got over, only to wake up with bad colds this past week. That, plus v cold temperatures and then a snow storm, kept us home bound. So, I haven’t yet made it to the library in the month of February (what!) but I firmly intend to this week. Temps in the mid-30’s woot! I want to make Valentine’s with Evange there (so I don’t have to craft at home) and find as many of these books as I can.

3. I’ve been staying up too late watching Season 1 of The Crown. I got Chris to watch with me but I keep going ahead and then having to re-watch with him, and I’m not complaining about that.

4. Listening to this when I do the dishes/fold laundry/make dinner plus Chris going to a farmer’s co-op has made me all excited about local food. I’m even wanting to learn how to build some garden beds and grow some vegetables. And, my friend Anna, who is a profesh cheese maker, recommended this to me, which I promptly ordered. So I’m one step closer to an attempt at making my own cheese, which is something I never thought I’d say.

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5. While I like the idea of having people over to dinner, Chris is much better at making it happen. We’ve hosted people three times in February so far. I’m getting better at cooking enough food (and learning to use my instant pot, woot!), getting the apartment somewhat clean, and being social. I actually really enjoy getting to practice hospitality (and I definitely need practice) and it’s become fun rather than humbling to invite friends into our tiny apartment. (We often borrow chairs from our neighbors, or have Chris and Evangeline sit on the coffee table pulled up to the dining table.) I decided to keep a log in the back of my planner of who we’ve had over (and what I cooked) just for fun and for my terrible memory.

6. I read through this essay over the course of several days (leaving it open on the table so anytime I sat down to eat with the girls I’d read a tiny bit more). Really enjoyed her writing and vulnerability and love for literature. If you read it, let me know what you think. (Shout out to Julian of Norwich in there, Mom!) Also really enjoying reading from physical books/magazines these days. I just get distracted reading on a screen and skim.

7. Hand lettering is a new hobby for me. I’m having fun practicing and improving. and I’m finding it fits with the season I’m in of collecting things. I can make a note of a quote that I like and then spend more time with it when I letter it out. This is Chris’s favorite, by far. LOL.

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the monastic bell of motherhood

John of the Cross once described the inner essence of monasticism in these words: “But they, O my God and my life, will see and experience your mild touch, who withdraw from the world and become mild, bringing the mild into harmony with the mild, thus enabling themselves to experience and enjoy you.” What John suggests here is that two elements make for a monastery: withdrawal from the world and bringing oneself into harmony with the mild (Rolheiser).

I came across an article, “The Domestic Monastery,” a year or so ago, and it’s popped into my mind several times since then, usually when I’ve hit the killer combo of sleep deprivation + the girls both waking up many times in a night. Or when I have things I want to get done and Zelie is feeling sick and wants to be held all day, or Evange wants me to play with her (how dare she). Basically, the times when I really crave extended silence and solitude. Like being a monk in a monastery.

The thesis of this article is that the contemplative life can be lived in the domestic sphere. That a stay at home mom actually lives in a type of monastery, primed for deep experiences of God. “A monastery is not so much a place set apart for monks and nuns as it is a place set apart (period). It is also a place to learn the value of powerlessness and a place to learn that time is not ours” (Rolheiser). This notion intrigues me to no end because the contemplative life is the life I long to live. Me, on a mountain, praying and working in a garden. Me, in a cabin in the woods, reading my books. Me, living my best life as a monk.

Really, it’s me wanting what I want. It’s wanting control over my time, to do whatever I want for as long as I want. Which really isn’t how monks live at all.

All monasteries have a bell. Bernard … told his monks that whenever the monastic bell rang, they were to drop whatever they were doing and go immediately to the particular activity (prayer, meals, work, study, sleep) to which the bell was summoning them … The idea in his mind was that when the bell called, it called you to the next task and you were to respond immediately, not because you want to, but because it’s time for that task and time isn’t your time, it’s God’s time. For him, the monastic bell was intended as a discipline to stretch the heart by always taking you beyond your own agenda to God’s agenda” (Rolheiser).

Ah, the monastic bell of motherhood. For me, this articulates the first and most painful lesson I learned upon becoming a mom. Time isn’t your time. My memories of the first few weeks of Evangeline’s life are sitting on the couch ALL DAY, nursing her ALL DAY, and accomplishing very little other than keeping us both alive (and I had a lot of help). I remember thinking, wow, somehow, for my whole life up until now, I really thought I was in control. HA HA HA. Motherhood from Day 1 has been poking holes into the understanding I have of who I am and what gives me value. In those first months, it was a triumph to get out of the house and go somewhere, once each day. Grocery shopping took a herculean effort. Dinner was pasta, pasta, and more pasta. (When I really stretched myself, I’d sauté some vegetables on the side. We walked to the taqueria a lot.) I had never thought of myself as achievement oriented, but when I could not point to one single thing I had done that day (outside of keeping me and E alive), it really started to frustrate me. What is this?? I’m a competent person! Who am I if I can’t do anything??

I’ve come a long way in the two and half years since then, but the monastic bell imagery is still super helpful. It reminds me that it is actually reality that time is not my own and that I don’t have control. That I can lean into that reality and trust, instead of fighting it. It reorients me back towards my girls and their demands. It helps me find meaning in all the small, daily sacrifices. The nighttime wakings become a call to prayer (like a real live monk!) even if the prayer is, “Help me, Jesus.” The interminable bedtime routine – read this book one more time, I have to pee one more time – where I most tangibly feel the discomfort of my heart being stretched because this is definitely not my agenda for the evening can become a discipline, a place for me to practice patience. (Currently, I am terrible at this. Bedtime is where the most ugly parts of me are revealed.)

The domestic monastery somehow came up in one of Chris’s classes and he was trying to explain the idea to his classmates, some of whom are seminarians (studying/training to be celibate priests). I told him he could share my example of the bell for that day. I was interrupted from reading emails by Evangeline yelling from her room, where she was supposed to be napping, “MAMA, I NEED HELP! I DID A POOP!!”

The bell indeed doth toll.

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pretty sure the feat of that day was tying the moby wrap.

 

the glimpses

There was a day back in December when I got out of the apartment for a run (in sunshine, hallelujah!) and as I was running along the walking path toward campus, I saw a woman with a basket. She was off the path a ways, standing at the edge of a field that was filled with yellow flowers when we moved here in July, but now is brown. I had just registered that the field had died and never looked at it again, really. But she was standing there with a basket, picking what I now saw were thistles. Still brown and dead, but she had noticed them for some reason, and her attention turned mine. I kept running but on my way back, when I passed that spot again, I decided to take a closer look. They were definitely dead. Pointy thistles on the end of dry, pointy stalks. But they were pretty, in a way, and there were small, brittle flowers among them. And I was struck mostly that I had never seen them before in all my times walking/jogging past. So I copied the basket lady and broke off several stalks, walking the rest of the way home.

It was a strange, reflective moment, where I was very aware that I had done something I hadn’t planned to do (step off the path, stop my run, bring home dead flowers) and I was super elated by it. Like, weirdly so. Chris had taken the girls somewhere so I had the apartment to myself for a few minutes, and I spent the time carefully arranging the thistles in a glass. And it was so great. And they were just dead flowers.

***

I think I’m entering a season of collecting things like this. Not always dead thistles, sometimes a line from a poem, a writing by a saint, or an old photograph from a thrift store. Things or words that set my soul humming. It only now occurs to me that this quiet, small activity fits well with winter. I’ve been turning inward as the days have shortened, the leaves have let go and fallen, and the bitter cold is now setting in. I am watching the sun rise and set each day now, and it has set me to paying attention to more of the little things that fill that time in between.

This quote by Henri Nouwen that I found in this book is something I keep returning to, lately. “My deepest vocation is to be a witness to the glimpses of God I have been allowed to catch.” Seeing these things I’m collecting as glimpses – of God, of beauty, of joy – and savoring them. I’m wondering how to be a witness to them. And how being a witness can be my vocation, within my other vocations (wife, mother). It’s all wrapped up in the question I continue to have: What do I do as a stay at home mom? But I think this sort of vocational lens is more helpful to me. It’s not fully formed and I’m still figuring it out, but I know I want to keep catching those glimpses.

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books of yesteryear and building my 2018 reading list

I started keeping track of the books I read a couple years ago and I thought it’d be fun to share what I ended up reading in 2017, with a top 5 fave list. And then, if you make it through, what’s on my list for 2018!

2017 Reading List

(I keep track of the books I’m reading each month. Some take me a few months to finish! The asterisk means started but didn’t finish. I’m a big believer in books having a right time. So, maybe I’ll finish those books someday, or maybe life’s too short to keep reading a book I don’t want to read. YOLO.)

January

  • Americanah – Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche
  • The Girls – Emma Cline
  • The Enneagram: A Journey of Self-Discovery – Maria Beesing, Robert J. Nogosek, Patrick H. O’Leary
  • The Story of A Soul* – St. Therese of Lisieux

February

  • Lila – Marilynne Robinson
  • We Should All Be Feminists – Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche
  • The Road Back To You: An Enneagram Journey to Self Discovery* – Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile
  • Transitions* – William Bridges (reread)

March

  • Transitions* – William Bridges
  • The Nightingale – Kristin Hannah
  • Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life – Tish Harrison Warren

April

  • The Outlander Series – Diana Gabaldon (my post-partum nursing reads)
  • Lilac Girls* – Martha Hall Kelly (could not handle concentration camps anymore)

May

  • The Blue Castle – L.M. Montgomery
  • Everyday Sacrament: The Messy Grace of Parenting – Laura Kelly Fanucci
  • The Underground Railroad – Colson Whitehead
  • Father Brown: The Essential Tales* – G.K. Chesterton 

June/July – either I didn’t read anything, or I just didn’t write it down. that’s when we packed and moved and drove cross country with 2 babies under 2 so it’s possible I didn’t read anything.

August

  • Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi
  • Father Brown: The Essential Tales* – G.K. Chesterton
  • Oh Crap! Potty Training – Jamie Glowacki
  • Spiritual Lessons from St. Francis* – John Michael Talbot
  • Born a Crime – Trevor Noah

September

  • The Sympathizer* – Viet Thanh Nguyen
  • The Righteous Mind* – Jonathan Haidt

October

  • The Sympathizer – Viet Thanh Nguyen
  • The Righteous Mind* – Jonathan Haidt
  • Station Eleven – Emily Mandel
  • Ginny Moon – Benjamin Ludwig
  • Little Fires Everywhere – Celeste Ng

November

  • I Let You Go – Clare Mackintosh
  • Reading People – Anne Boyle
  • Devout Life* – St. Francis de Sales

December

  • “Wonders Never Cease” – essay by Marilynne Robinson
  • Til We Have Faces* – C.S. Lewis (reread)
  • The Hate You Give* – Angie Thomas
  • My Life With The Saints* – James Martin, S.J.

Top 5 Faves from 2017

  • Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi
  • Station Eleven – Emily Mandel
  • Everyday Sacrament: The Messy Grace of Parenting – Laura Kelly Fanucci
  • The Underground Railroad – Colson Whitehead
  • Born a Crime – Trevor Noah

2018 Reading List (so far)

  • The Tech-Wise Family – Andy Crouch (Chris and I listened to the audio book on our drive home from New Jersey)
  • Animal, Vegetable, Miracle – Barbara Kingsolver (started on Hoopla, already feel like I can’t shop at our cheap-o grocery store anymore…)
  • A Severe Mercy – a love story by C.S. Lewis’s friend whose wife died young. my neighbor lent me this and I’m convicted/challenged by how much they loved their love.
  • The Ninth Hour – Alice McDermott (haven’t read any of her novels yet, but read an interview in Commonweal that had me intrigued. nuns!)
  • My Absolute Darling Gabriel Tallent (don’t know anything about this, Maya just recommended it)
  • The World Will Be Saved by Beauty  Kate Hennessey (Dorothy Day’s granddaughter. recommended by my friend, who also recommended Station Eleven, which was amazing. Kathleen, if you read this, you really should share all the books you read with the world.)
  • and I want to read my way through Obama’s fave books of 2017, starting with these: The Power by Naomi Alderman, Exit West by Mohsin Hamid, Anything Is Possible by Elizabeth Strout, and Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward.

What else should I read? What’s on your list? Gimme yo recs 🙂

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our fabulously curated bookshelf, ft. mostly Chris’s theology books.

cloth diapers

A theme of this blog rn now is: I’m trying to figure out how to be a Stay At Home Mom. I stopped working after Zelie was born, and then we moved across the country, so it all felt like transition-zone all summer. Plus summer always has a different rhythm, so it wasn’t until the end of August that it felt weird that I didn’t have something like school or work about to ramp up. My solution was to come up with a bunch of projects I could tackle, that would make it feel like I had stuff to do. Project #1 was Potty Training, a whole saga deserving of its own v riveting post. Project #2 was Cloth Diapering aka An Eco-Friendly, Laudato Si-Fueled Unexpected Frenzy of Energy. If you’re ever interested in using cloth diapers, you should read this and ask Sarah for tips because that’s what I did. But because I got some cute pics of Zelie, a post on cloth diapers there shall be!

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So, cloth diapers are a labor intense, sometimes pain in the butt, tbh. Buuuut they feel worth it (right now, at least) because they save money and I like throwing less diapers into landfills to never decompose. I almost got some used BumGenius for a good deal on Cloth Diaper Trader but then found a better deal through a moms Facebook group, so the upfront cost was only $50 for 15 diapers, I shall brag. I found out later that the diapers used to belong to one of my neighbors in the Village! Ha! I also snagged two reusable trash diaper bags for $10 from another neighbor. Cashing in on everyone else giving up on cloth diapering! Which makes me realize it’s pretty hard to keep up when you have lots of kids. Having only one baby in diapers and a washer/dryer in our unit made it possible for me to make the switch. That, and having a clothesline. I LOVE CLOTHESLINES. So right now it feels easy to wash them every 2-3 days or so and I don’t mind the scraping poop into the toilet part. It’s humbling and probably good for my soul. Oh and I bought two packs of these per Sarah’s recommendation, so we have reusable wipes, too. So eco-friendly rn.

I am really looking forward to spring when I can line dry them again, because I miss those minutes by myself at the clothesline. I love the feeling of cool, clean laundry in my hands when it’s hot outside, and how it slows me down to think and pray in the sunshine. Looking forward to spring for many, many reasons. Hoping I survive my first real winter and am still infatuated with le cloth diapering come … March? April? May? Whenever spring starts in South Bend.

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in all its glory