About Kristen

A 30-something wife and mama of 3 (so far) living out my faith (Catholic) in the southeastern US.

In which I offend pretty much everyone…

So, I wrote this facebook status based on a friend’s status. The friend said everyone’s homes looked beautiful decorated but can we please say thanks and remember the reason for the “season” and every day BEFORE we get lost in the commercialization of the season, or risk getting lost.

What she got in response, was heated defenses of why people’s homes were already decorated and trees were up. Oh, AND to point out how they were thankful everyday and didn’t need some holiday to prove it SO THERE! Oh and in case she didn’t know CHRISTMAS TRIUMPHS (sic) THANKSGIVING!!!! (I’m pretty sure that person meant trumps but it’s someone I didn’t know, so who knows.)

I posted in my status was that the point was not to offend or call anyone in particular out but to just remind everyone to not let commercialism take over the real meaning of Christmas. Predictably, I got a lot of explanations as to why people have already decorated. Only one of the decorators bothered to mention Jesus in her response. And she more was commenting on why her work place was decorated, not her home so much.


People. I don’t give a rat’s butt when you decorate your home or why that “works better” for you. What I want people to understand is that if you are a Christian, you need to make sure the reason you’re celebrating is Jesus. And you’re not going to get caught up in being the first one on the block decorating for Christmas nor making sure your child has every single hot gift.

The only way you can be offended by the idea of guarding your heart and/or mind is if you know you are guilty of giving into mindless consumerism. I’m not going to name names because it isn’t directed toward any one person. It’s directed to EVERY person. All of us. Should we all feel convicted? Yes. Should we all be defensive, not necessarily. And I’m not saying don’t decorate, don’t listen to Christmas carols or don’t watch those movies. I’m saying don’t let it lead down a road to being caught up in what the fallen world says Christmas is, keep your eyes on the real prize, the birth of Christ.

Deal With It…well, maybe we should start trying to

This week’s episode of Reign deals with French and Vatican treatment of Protestants under Catholic rule. The episode depicts Francis II ratifying and edict that each citizen must declare his faith publicly. Terrible penalties are exacted for the sins of being a Protestant or lying about being one. While the show is ficitonal, history has recorded the terrible things done in the name of God and the Catholic church.

Not long ago a friend complained about Protestant friends of hers and atheists bringing up the Church’s sins. Her response struck me, “Those things happened. Sure. So they should just…deal with it.”

It struck me because, we need to start dealing with it too. We can’t just say, “those things happened, let’s not talk about it.” That shows a lack of compassion for everything from being drawn and quartered to the sex abuse scandals of the 20th century. We need to start talking. And more importantly, we need to listen. We need to hear the sadness, the confusion, the betrayal. No, we may not have directly perpetrated the crimes, but we confess to being part of the Body of Christ that not only perpetrated them but endorsed them. For the glory of God. It’s not enough to say we’re enlightened now and we know better, more compassionate ways to win hearts and minds. Because if we don’t endure some of the pain with the victims, if we don’t listen to what they have to say, we cannot offer real comfort. Our compassion will not feel genuine no matter how we feel in our hearts.

We need to start dealing with the not-so-nice parts of our collective past. We need to stop being defensive and start being the loving believers we were created to be. If we want to change hearts and mind and irrational prejudice, we have to step up and

Survival Mode

That’s what I’m calling life around here. I’m battling a cold, my boys both woke up sick at 1 AM on Friday, one ended up with a double ear infection, the other strep throat. By some miracle, everyone is taking their antibiotics (well, the boys) and I’m hopefully on the mend.

We made it through Halloween. I ended up closing the house up and trick-or-treating with all three kids by myself. Jeff called me around 6 to let me know, he was just over an hour away from our house. That was no bueno. So I took 3 kids out at 7 and we hit about three streets. The kids had plenty, the temperature was dropping and William was getting whiny. So we struck out for home.

It was Shelby’s first Halloween trick-or-treating. She did great. She loved getting candy, of course. Thankfully we only got close enough to one jack-o-lantern where she could blow it out. She didn’t, but she tried. It was, of course this jack-o-lantern. Thankfully, these are wonderful neighbors we know well and who know and love Shelby who were totally sweet about it.

I also managed a field trip with Shelby’s class, it was for Special Olympics Bowling. On Halloween. Her class did great. Shelby won her team’s game and bowled 2 spares. She scored a 90! That same day I raced back to the school for William’s Letterland Parade. Letterland is a phonics and reading program first adopted by our school and now used county-wide. Last year Joseph was Oscar Orange, but since William saw that performance he would talk about only one character he wanted to be: Clever Cat.


And by some miracle, every other child’s face in that pic is blurry. He was adorable. The other two Clever Cats were girls, but that was fine with him!

Last Tuesday was election day but Thank God for early voting. I voted the week before because the kids were off school for election day and yeah, them coming with me? Not gonna happen. I literally held my nose when I voted for Senate. My state gets what it deserves for allowing the political parties to choose our candidates.God help us.

With my cold, it’s been a rough couple of weeks, but with lots of tea, rest, soup, neti pot treatments, country music, and snuggle time, it’s been manageable. It’s not the break-neck speed we’re used to, but it’s been okay.

Death and Social Media

Social media’s made a lot of “normal” things weird. Death being a big one of them. This past Sunday, CBS Sunday Morning did a feature on what happens to your social media accounts when you die. Basically the answer is: it depends. If you have clearly spelled out wishes in your will and have told your family: whatever you wanted to happen to them will happen…BUT some states have laws that will give your family access to things even if you don’t want it. There are also companies out there now that will continue to post to your social media accounts after your death if you contract with them. Yeah, it’s weird and complicated.

But that’s not the only way death and social media are crazily confused.

Earlier this year, I lost a friend who died in childbirth along with her son. I was told via text message from a friend who told me not all the family knew yet, so please do not post to facebook, instagram, twitter what have you. However, not everyone who found out about her passing was advised. So her facebook wall blew up with condolences while some family sat in shock and other family members began publicly begging people to take down posts and even dispute them.

The people who posted their thoughts and prayers were not bad people and really didn’t do a bad thing. How were most of them supposed to know not all the family had been contacted? If it hadn’t been for the fact that she lived far from family so her husband reached out to local friends who were trying to shore up support for a man who’d lost his wife and son in a matter of hours, perhaps a tighter lid could have been put on it? But then again, maybe not. Her co-workers knew she had been rushed to the hospital and it’s hard not to be afraid and want to talk to each other.Even if she hadn’t taken part in social media, potentially it would have been the way some of her family had found out as there are still text messages, telephones, etc to spread the word.

Just this week, I was told that the father of a dear friend had passed. I went and looked at the man’s daughter’s facebook wall. Her messages were ambiguous. She said he had been moved from the hospital to hospice as per his wishes. She also mentioned that they were going to “say goodbye” to him. She thanked one of her brothers and his wife for their love and support “through all of this.” Finally in a comment on a post, I saw where she said he had slipped into a coma. But no updates for 8 hours after that comment. Messages to my friend and his sister’s page, not to mention his dad’s began to flood in with condolences and memories. Finally after almost nine hours of no updates, the sister posted her dad had in fact NOT died but was still in the coma. Death is imminent. This is a man in hospice in his 90s who is very, very sick and weak. I see nothing wrong with the people who offer prayers and share memories. Despite posts that he is fighting, his death more likely to come sooner rather than later. In my sadness, I dedicated my own posts to him but never mentioned death or RIP because I wasn’t positive one way or the other.

I don’t blame my friend’s sister for her somewhat vague posts. She’s going through about seven kinds of hell in her life right now and was supposed to be getting married this week (I’m assuming she put that off as it’s not been mentioned, understandably).  I also don’t blame the people who misinterpreted her messages. They were going off limited information and made a call on it.

What has been interesting is the angry, ugly way others close to the family have reacted. The family members have been gracious toward those who “got it wrong.” But I’ve seen several comments on posts in friends are screaming in all caps to “stop publishing false information” and one guy went particularly ballistic and suggested a poor woman be sued for libel by the family. Wow. I agree it might look tacky and might upset the family, but given the information made public, no one is out of line for offering condolences or prayers. And the family have issued updates and corrections, so I’m not exactly sure why these friends feel the need to confront well-meaning people.

Death is a fickle topic in our society. Some people accept it. Others don’t. And many, many are scared about it or angry. I think where social media is concerned, death is even more sticky. I waited until I had as much clarification as I could get before saying anything to anyone. Could what I said be interpreted as saying he died even though it doesn’t explicitly say that? Sure it could. His daughter never said that and over 1000 comments and posts later people think he did. Does that mean I’m a bad person or she is? No, it doesn’t. It just means social media is one of those things where no matter how hard you try to contain something, some things will not be contained. It  means no matter how clearly you feel you’ve expressed yourself or the situation, people don’t have tone of voice, inflection or body language to judge off of and can misinterpret things. Do we all probably have to get over ourselves a wee bit and not get so upset all the time. Um, yeah, that too.

As social media continues to grow and flourish, there will continue to be issues surrounding things like death, that although they happen in very real life, have to be dealt with in some ways virtually as well. My advice, ha, as if I have anything worth sharing that might be considered good advice, pray on it. Pray before you offer condolences. Pray before you post major life changes. Pray, pray, pray…because the real hereafter, well, prayer will lead you there.

The Difference in John Paul II’s public suffering and Brittany’s Maynard’s public suffering

Of the pope’s funeral, he said, “I watched every bit of it.” Asked why, he said: “He was teaching us how to suffer, and he taught us how to die.”

Billy Graham on the death and funeral of Saint John Paul II’s death and funeral in New York Times, June 12, 2005

Brittany Maynard is suffering. Everywhere we look she is suffering. Suffering on the cover of People magazine. Suffering in our facebook feeds and on television specials. She is suffering publicly so she can end her own life soon. She is suffering in public so that she can “die with dignity” and give others that “right.” She wants people to see her suffering so that they will be more sympathetic to those with terminal illness in their quests to end their lives.

But she’s not dying with dignity. Creating a media circus surrounding your “choice” to end your life because you don’t want to suffer is not dignified. There’s been an example of how to die with dignity. And today we celebrate his first feast day as a saint.

John Paul II was in the media eye already because of his very public figure as the earthly leader of the world’s estimated 1.2 billion Catholics. He was also a head of state being the leader of Vatican City. He had no choices in whether his suffering from Parkinsons disease would be public or not. But he lived every day he was given. He made the difficult choices to continue traveling when many of us would not. He continued to engage his sheep and give them hope.

On October 22, 1978, he extorted the people he had been newly elected to lead to “Be not afraid. Open wide the doors for Christ.” And he lived that every day of his extraordinary life and if affected both Catholics, and non-Catholics alike, and as Billy Graham points out, part of that was in teaching us how to suffer and how to die.

Suffering, contrary to what anyone in this world will probably tell you, is not worthless. If it were, Jesus Christ’s suffering would mean nothing. But here we are 2000 years later still talking about it. If it meant nothing, no one would know His name today. It may be hard for many lured by the world’s promises to understand the joys and gifts of suffering. But this young seminarian in my Diocese can tell you about them. 

I have experienced so much sadness due to my illness, but there have also been times of great joy.  The support I have received from others encourages me to keep pushing on. I want to be a priest, I want to see my three young nephews grow up, and these goals give me the hope to wake up each day and live my life with trust. –Philip Johnson

Read his whole writing, he is in a very similar situation and he knows and understands better than most what Brittany is going through. Certainly better than most of us.

John Paul II’s public suffering may not have been as much of a choice, but it was a powerful statement. His smile betrayed the joy that can be had even through debilitating physical pain. Blessed Mother Teresa was another example of profound joy and redemption in the face of suffering. We see them and we know, this is only temporary. Philip Johnson is a modern example of a small, but vocal group speaking out saying,  “we’re suffering, we’re in pain, we hate it, but we’re going to live in a way that is pleasing to God and not give into physical temptations.”

My heart aches for Brittany, both for the pain she has and will suffer and for the decision she has made. There is still time for that to change and I would pray that not only would it change, but for people everywhere who have come out to support Brittany to also support her if she decides she is not going to go through with this radical and awful decision.

St John Paul II, Blessed Mother Teresa, Our Blessed Mother, you all suffered so much, please pray for Brittany as her soul suffers at the cost of her decision. Help her to know the dignity of a life lived for Christ with suffering. And I offer up my own sufferings for her, that she may see her life is worth more lived here on earth than ended by her own hand. Amen.

What I learned on my field trip to the farm…

I was a chaperone for William’s farm field trip to Indigo Farms in Calabash, NC (well, technically literally on the NC/SC border so it’s in both states) today. I went with Joseph’s class last year to a different farm and was excited to get to go with William to this farm.

William’s teacher assigned me a group of three little boys which included William and two of his best friends. For privacy reasons, I will not publish pictures here of the other two children. Which means, sorry y’all only one pic.


But see, it was so worth it!

We had a great time and I can’t wait to go back and shop at the garden center and more of the produce. But I did learn some important lessons this trip.

1. Little girls are definitely as active as little boys and a million times the drama.

Without getting into details, I was so thankful I had three little boys today.

2. Grandparents who volunteer to chaperone should be expected to keep the two younger children they bring under control and should not think of this as their “free photo shoot” time.

A set of grandparents volunteered to help with their granddaughter and took two other little girls from the class. They also brought their younger two granddaughters who were wild, insane the whole time. To the point that it slowed the group down. I’ve brought younger siblings to many field trips and not only did I keep them up by myself, I did not tolerate horseplay or disobedience. So, my tolerance for people who do that kind of thing is way low. Also slowing the group down, Grandma is a retired professional photographer who kept stopping the walking tour so she could take perfectly posed pics of her three granddaughters. It just wasn’t the time or the place.

3. Arrive early so you get premier parking and they don’t tell you to move.

I actually did this and several of the other parents who arrived later, were made to park further away. Parking in the lot by being early for the win!

4. 27 Kindergartners will go wild when you take them off campus as a group for the first time.

Okay, so I knew this already. Today was a good reminder.

5. Not all hayrides are created equal

We were on the bumpier of the two.

6. Kids may not listen, but adults better.

Four kids ended up with fire ant bites because the adults in their group did not heed the warnings to be on the look out and to keep the kids together as a group and not let them rush the fences. Thankfully it wasn’t in our group it happened!

7. Farms wear kids out.

William was knocked out before I got to the highway and slept another 2 1/2 hours after we got home.

We saw horses, pigs, sheep, goats, chickens, geese, and a hinney. And there was a farm cat wandering around who reminded me a lot of the cats I saw around my grandparent’s home growing up. Good mousers those farm cats. I really enjoyed it much more than our experience last year which wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t this good! Our tour guides were both excellent and very sweet with the kids. And the produce was making my mouth water. William picked out a decorative hand towel with a hand crocheted handle as a souvenir with his “Halloween money” from his great-grandparents. He said he wants to go back and get some Christmas ones.

William has the same teacher and assistant that Joseph did last year but the class is so incredibly different. I’m glad he is the class with our neighbor’s son (who also has a son in Shelby’s class) and that his teacher has the patience of a saint. Otherwise there might not be a second field trip this year (to the aquarium).