Vacations Happen

We are back from our annual week up at Emerald Isle, NC. We only live one hour away now but we hadn’t had a chance since moving to head up. That being said, now that we do live so much closer, after this week we’ll head back much more often. This year’s trip included lots of beach days, a trip to the aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores (courtesy of the zoo membership our in-laws got Joseph for his birthday last year–we are renewing that membership for sure!), a great dinner out (to The Sanitary in Morehead City instead of Amos Mosquitos in Atlantic Beach because a power outage took AM’s power, well, out) and lots of family time.

On the way down from New York, my grandfather became ill with pneumonia. My aunt and cousin, who were traveling separately but the same route, met up with them in Virginia and drove my grandparents home before turning around and coming back south. My grandfather is in the hospital in NY now doing well and getting better and stronger.

As always, this vacation has left me feeling like I was hit by a Mack Truck going 80 mph. However, as my kids get older each year, we are having more and more fun. The boys are much more independent at the beach and were really little sponges at the aquarium. Shelby continues to amaze us with her continuing maturity and ability to handle her various sensory issues while out and about.

I won’t bore you with the re-cap but I will share this pic courtesy of my brother’s girlfriend, Sarah.

Mermen on the beach.

A photo posted by Sarah Brown (@sarawrb) on

Those are my little mer-men!

On Modesty, Asthetics, Body-Shaming and ESPN’s Body Issue(s)

For those who aren’t on social media, ESPN Magazine’s annual “Body Issue” came out recently. The issue features an assortment of athletes all posing nude. This year’s furor has been over married athletes Laird Hamilton (surfer and stand-up paddle boarder) and Gabrielle Reese (beach volleyball player). But less well known is Amanda Bingson, hammer-thrower from the USA.

I don’t subscribe to the magazine and I rarely even realize this issue is coming out and while I saw the pic of Laird and Gabby, I wouldn’t have given the whole thing a second thought if a facebook friend (who happens to be a Beachbody coach) hadn’t posted the pic of Amanda Bingson with the caption, “Ummm…She could put some clothes on. Even a bathing suit would do. But, love the message. Love that fitness doesn’t come in one size!” (I’m not linking to the pics in question, one can google them to find them.)

This friend had no idea that the pic came from this magazine or that all the athlete’s featured in it are posed nude. Not in suggestive or provocative poses but poses that showcase their sport as best they can (Bingson’s pic shows her mid-wind-up for the throw). She simply saw it in her feed and shared with that comment. Immediately people advised her the context of the shot. I even mentioned Laird and Gabby’s pic because if you were going suggest sexy, theirs would be the pic you choose. Bingson’s pic, to me is reminiscent of Michelangelo’s David, it is mid-action. There is a beauty to it, the beauty of the human form. It becomes, for me, an argument of asthetics.

My friend argued that they should put all the athletes in swimsuits which she says takes guts. Point taken, but the fit and muscular bodies of Hamilton and Reese, even swimsuited, would offend some sensibilities. Equally offensive could be considered the body of Bingson which, to an untrained eye, would come off as “fat.”

Bingson’s commentary is that athletes come in all shapes and sizes, which Olympic watchers can attest to. Comparing the bodies of Kerri Walsh (a beach volleyball player) and Missy Franklin (a swimmer) shows two subtly different bodies of top notch athletes. That’s nothing when comparing either Franklin or Walsh to athletes like Jordyn Wieber (gymnast) or Sarah Robles and Holley Mangold (weightlifters). Even within sports like track and field you have athletes like Bingson next to Lolo Jones (hurdles) or Jessica Ennis-Hill (heptathalon). And that’s just the women.

My Beach-Body coach friend did not attack Bingson from the angle of body-shaming as that’s not her jam personally and even if it was, would be bad for her business (she is open about her own weight and body-image struggles). She attacked from modesty. Her version of modesty is “bathing suit is okay, nudity is not.” And in my experience modesty is highly debatable.

For some, nothing short of a burka is modest no matter the person’s behavior or attitudes, for others, modesty is more a state of mind. I have often heard a quote about a nun being nude and modesty. I’ve seen people with a lot of cloth, manage to look super suggestively and some with much less not appear to be selling sex at all.

And then there comes in the issue of asthetics. I have no doubt my facebook friend is and would be very offended by nudity in renowned art. Renoir’s nudes and Michelangelo’s David would both offend her sensibilities where even someone like me who wouldn’t mind a dress code for the beach for all-goers sees them as beautiful. Where my friend sees the beauty of all body-types, she doesn’t necessarily want to see them artistically rendered whether in photographs like Bingson’s nor a sculpture from the Italian renaissance.

And asthetics, of course, bleeds into body-shaming. Because what is pleasing to one’s eye, is not necessarily pleasing to another. One commenter on my friend’s post called her out on whether she would have made the same comment on Gabby and Laird’s pic. She basically said, everyone should be in bathing suits. Regardless, I’m sure plenty of people who said how great Gabby and Laird look at their (close to mine, not really advanced!) ages, were disgusted by Bingson’s body. They’d want clothes on Bingson simply because of body type OR not want her featured at all.

As a Catholic who has come to embrace my own version of  modesty (yes I wear pants, but I’m not always happy with the length of shorts I find and prefer a rash guard and board shorts at the beach), I find myself in the unique position of embracing pictures like Bingson as the beauty of the human body, not pornography, but asthetically. I also find people who find her picture offensive  because of modesty standards or who are body shaming highly irritating. I think this goes back to Genesis:

God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

–Genesis 1:27

Bingson’s body was created in God’s image, as all of ours are. And while she is displaying it, it is in such a way to celebrate the abilities of what God has allowed our bodies to do, she is not exploiting her sexuality in any way. Yes, she has breasts, buttocks and a vulva, as do all women; even if they are covered up by multiple layers of clothing. What is showcased is the totality of her body and it’s ability for athletic greatness despite not being 98% muscle mass or trim and thin.

And people who would dare body-shame her? They are part of the problem. They are the reason other not-size two women are flaunting their bodies in barely there underwear in youtube videos with the express desire of exploiting their sexuality.

Those who are offended by modesty standards. Scroll by it. She is not trying to offend you. Don’t pick up the magazine. Some people don’t like nudity at all. That’s fine. You don’t have to look at her the same way you do not have to look at Renoir paintings. Just keep in mind, if you are re-posting it to social media to be critical…you’re promoting an image you consider to be immodest.

One day, I hope we can all embrace the bodies we were given that a beautiful and created in God’s image and do not feel the need to exploit them. And that we can celebrate the amazing things God has allowed our varied bodies to do. And that others can see the beauty God endowed.

Answer Me This

Answer Me This summer

1. How did you celebrate the 4th of July? (Or, for you international types . . . Do anything fun this weekend?)

Um, we eat? We’ve done parades, fireworks, the beach, the pool in the past…

2. Do you sunburn easily?

Yes. I live at the beach and although I know you’re saying, oh Kristen, dark skin doesn’t burn. Oh yes it does! And it HURTS too!

3. Hot dogs. Yay or nay?

YES! All Beef Hebrew Nationals (they only do all beef lol) preferably. But I can tolerate Nathan’s ;)

4. Have you ever personally set off fireworks?

Nope

5. Have you ever jumped off the high dive?

Yes. As a kid. I wouldn’t now though and my kids aren’t allowed. I guess I’m not a fun mom!

6. Do you do anything weird in your sleep?

Not that Jeff has ever told me…so I guess no?

Join Kendra over at Catholic All Year for more!

Witnessing…when we didn’t intend to

Our family witnesses. A lot. Almost never intentionally.

Bringing Shelby anywhere is a huge act of witnessing the joy of parenting a special needs child. Bringing Shelby and the boys witnesses to the joy of hope in our Lord and confidence in His will and promises. People often have a difficult time believing that we would have wanted more children after an autism diagnosis, so the boys sometimes come across as acts of radical faith and in some ways they are, in the same way that all children are.

The weekend of the wedding in Charlotte, my cousin Daniel (who is two months older than Shelby) spent a lot of the weekend with us. Daniel is the youngest of four children. His oldest sibling, his sister Mae, is going into her senior year of high school, so Daniel was really excited to have some kids his age around. The last time Daniel had seen Joseph, Daniel was 1 and Joseph was two months old. And Daniel desperately wanted to touch and play with the baby. My uncle, Ed, would not hear of it because Daniel was only one. So I was not at all surprised that Daniel and my boys took to each other immediately. Or that Daniel was not at all phased by Shelby and her behaviors and noises.

At one point we were in our hotel room and Daniel was with my boys sitting on one of the beds playing with William’s Kindle Fire. Shelby was on the other bed with a cup of soda Jeff had given her. Shelby spilled the soda. We pulled the duvet off the bed and I told Jeff I had seen housekeepers in the hallway to ask if they could take the old one. Jeff found a housekeeper who came and removed the duvet and got us a new one. While she was changing the duvet, she looked over at the kids on the bed and said, “You all have such a nice family! I rarely get to see families this large.” Not wanting to take credit where it wasn’t due, after thanking her, I told her Daniel wasn’t our son but our cousin.

It is strange to think that having a family with more than 2 kids is considered “witnessing” now. When my grandparents had six children, it wasn’t considered witnessing. I would dare say in the 80s (okay so I was born in the 70s) when my parents had four, it was just starting to seem odd to see families of more than 2 or 3 kids. And now, we’re at a time where many remain childless by choice, and consider children an inconvenient by-product of sex that can be terminated at will. We live in a time where people alter their biology to avoid having children, but continue having sex which they try to claim has no consequences.

When we go out with just our three children, we are proclaiming a lot of things to the world. We’re telling them God’s plan is better than anything we ever could have dreamt. We’re telling them that a little trust in His will reaps huge rewards.

That same day the housekeeper remarked about our family, we went out to a restaurant where my boys demanded we say grace before the meal. So there we were crossing ourselves (including Jeff) and blessing our food and I have to hope someone saw and that our saying of grace allowed grace into their hearts. Sometimes unintentional witness, plants seeds in hearts that would not have sown them otherwise.

Celebrating my 2015 Patron

Today is the Solemnity of Sts Peter and Paul. And while we celebrate both saints today, I’m giving Peter a little bit more emphasis personally because he is my patron for the year.

After Jesus, Peter is my absolute FAVORITE person in the Bible. When I studied the Gospel of Matthew in Bible Study Fellowship, our teaching leader mentioned frequently that Peter was a very impulsive man. That was putting it rather mildly. The man dropped everything (as did the other apostles) to follow Jesus. And he was the one who had the impulsivity (or courage, you know, it could be said that way too) to answer when Jesus asked, “But who do you say that I am, ” (Matthew 16:15 when the other apostles listed who others said who He was in today’s Gospel reading. And wouldn’t you know, he was right.

“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”–Matthew 16:16

But that same impulse control issue could be a liability as well as a strength. It gave poor Peter a case of verbal diarrhea after witnessing the Transfiguration. James and John are struck dumb and Peter, well Peter can’t shut up with suggestions! And as the priest on EWTN said during his homily this morning at mass, at one point, Peter’s lack of a filter caused Jesus to call him Satan (ouch!) (Matthew 16:23).

I think the reason I love Peter so much is that of all the humans in the Bible, he is the “human-est of the humans.” I mean they all screw up (Eve listened to a snake, Adam listened to Eve, Cain killed Abel, Aaron let the Israelites build a golden calf and worship it, Moses tested God…) but Peter, well, Peter was something special. You know that verse where Jesus calls him Satan, yeah that’s pretty much immediately after he said “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” and then Jesus changed his name to Peter and said he was the rock upon whom Jesus would build His church. That’s because Jesus told the apostles about his ensuing Passion, death and resurrection, Peter had something to say (of course he did) ” “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.” (Matthew 16:22) Not only that, but Peter had some kind of cojones because he took Jesus aside to rebuke Him scripture tells us. Peter scolded Jesus. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said the right thing and kept right on going and undid all my goodness. And I argue with God. So, yeah, I’m pretty sure I understand why I identify with Peter. (grimace) And even after being called Satan, it was Peter who assured Jesus he would not abandon Him…only to do exactly what Jesus said he would. Deny Christ three times.

And while everything else is awkward and embarrassing, when Peter hears that cock crow for the third time, it is heart-breaking. (Matthew 26:74-75) Scripture tells us that Peter did not just cry, he wept. And he didn’t just weep, he wept bitterly. I am sure of all the tears I have ever shed in my lifetime and every minute of pain I have endured could not compare to what Peter felt in that moment. I don’t even think there are words to describe how Peter felt in that moment. Or the moments afterward.

Similarly, when Peter recognized the Lord on the beach, he jumped out of the boat and ran toward Him, I doubt the feeling he felt then can be described (John 21). Unlike Judas, who also betrayed Christ, Peter did not run away from Jesus any of the times He appeared to the Apostles and he even ran toward Him. And that inspires me like nothing else in the Bible. How many times to I avoid Confession, do I avoid asking God’s forgiveness? But thinking of Peter running toward Christ, jumping out of the boat abandoning his nets (just has he had when Jesus first called him–Matthew 4:18) to follow Him to become a Fisher of Men, that, that inspires me to run toward Him. And it is after that Jesus undoes that awful betrayal and this exchange occurs:

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”He then said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.”He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” [Jesus] said to him, “Feed my sheep. Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.”He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.” (John 21:15-19)

And just like that, just like when Peter was first called into apostle-ship, he was given the same command, “Follow me.” And Peter doesn’t argue with Jesus when Jesus tells Peter how he will die (in the same horrific manner as Christ). Peter obeys just as he did the first time, he feeds the sheep.

Peter had nothing if not moxie and faith to get by on and God’s grace was more than sufficient. Jesus didn’t choose the scribes or pharisees. He did not choose a high priest to lead His people, He created the new priesthood out of a man that society didn’t notice at all. He equipped the man He chose. Peter had the faith to go out and preach to the Jews and baptize and convert them, following the instruction of Jesus he learned early on,”do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say.For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” (Matthew 10:19-20)

So when I read this quote by Flannery O’Connor, I completely embrace St Peter and the men who succeeded him as leaders of the Church, the men the Holy Spirit chose just as Christ chose Peter:

“The church is founded on Peter who denied Christ three times and couldn’t walk on water by himself. You are expecting his successors to walk on the water. All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful…Human nature is so faulty that it can resist any amount of grace and most of the time it does. The Church does well to hold her own; you are asking that she show a profit. When she shows a profit, you have a saint.”

Peter was just a fisherman but with God’s grace, He became more.  God used all that Peter had, all that impulsivity, and made him a fisher of men, a shepherd to lead the sheep. Peter shows us the power of God’s grace when we allow Him to bestow it on us.

I’m just a mom, St Peter pray that God uses me, that His grace changes me and that I do not resist it. Today, and always.

Clinging to Mother Church

Last weekend, I attended a wedding…maybe you read about it, if not go over and read and enjoy the pics.

In the definition of irony, I planned to blog that wedding on Friday and did.

I’ve been avoiding social media as much as possibly since Friday, except on my blog account. There’s a lot of hysterics over on well..name your platform. On both sides. Oh, and I live in the South so this meme…yeah, it totes applies to my social media feeds:

CFFSKittles

I’ve been happy to find that most bloggers I follow, well, they are searching for God. They are seeking Him and His kingdom FIRST (check the bottom of this post for links).

I have been of the opinion that no matter the outcome of a SCOTUS decision, God wins. God works through everything, all our sinfulness, every good and bad thing. God will work through this. I cannot despair for I KNOW how the story ends.

And I know what the Church teaches. And I agree with Mother Church. To quote Mary of  Let Love Be Sincere:

I just have to hope that maybe this country of ours will at this point in history actually live the words of Christ correctly, the words to “Render unto to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s”- Mark 12

I know God will work through all of man’s decisions no matter what, but I know God’s will may take more time than my or my childrens’ lifetimes. And I’m sorry, but almost none of us looks forward to persecution. None of us looks forward to man trying to impose his will on God’s church.

And so it is, in these moments…that I cling ever tighter to the Church.

Which brings us to this morning. I woke up with allergy issues (half of my face was swollen). I got in the shower anyway. I got dressed anyway. I woke two overtired little boys (thank you summer) anyway. We got in the car and drove to the beach chapel for mass later than we knew we should anyway. We turned around when there was no parking and drove to another parish. We arrived 25 minutes late and in the homily and walked in anyway. The only seating was in the narthex, I stood while the boys shared the only available chair. This parish has no pews or kneelers, I knelt on the hard lineoleum floor anyway during the Consecration. I was happy to see lots of families around. I thanked God for all of them. Especially the family with the seven-year-old, three-year-old and young infant who knelt on the hard floor with me.

Faith isn’t easy. It doesn’t come without testing and without pain. It is as hard as the floor I knelt joyfully on with my bad knees. It is something we never should have been taking for granted and shouldn’t be only mourning for the loss of now. I plan on taking Saint Paul’s advice and running the race to win (1 Corinthians 9:24). I am clinging to the Church that Christ built on Peter (Matthew 16:18). I am following her teaching to love all people. I am clinging to her and to Jesus nailed to that Cross for our sin and risen on the third day to SAVE us all. No matter the pain, no matter the trial, I will cling. Because I believe:

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.– Hebrews 11:1

Sherry Antonetti’s Seven Quick Takes Post.

Leila Miller’s reaction.

Edited on 6/29/2015 10:01 AM to add

Kendra Tierney breaks it down here.