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:


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.

Answer Me This

Answer Me This 22

Joining Kendra at Catholic All Year because this week’s questions…welll….

1. How long have you lived in your current home?

Officially…36 days. Or 37. It was a 31 day month after all!

2. How do you find out about news and current events?

Social media. Mostly facebook, but increasingly twitter. I abhor tv news unless we’re talking EWTN News Nightly. I have always been an avid radio listener but don’t have the stomach I used to for talk radio. Most of my radio news now is BBC World News.

3. Would you be able to make change for a twenty right now? For a dollar?

Nope and Nope. I never carry cash.

4.What’s the craziest food you’ve ever eaten?

Does escargot count? I liked it.

5. Which of the commonly removed parts have you had removed? (tonsils, wisdom teeth, appendix, etc.)

None of them. Not a one. Although the wisdom teeth DO need to come out…

6.What’s your favorite sport to watch on TV?

Hockey. Hands down my favorite. Action all the time and it’s on ice. Try doing your job on ice? Most of us couldn’t!

Head over to Kendra’s (link above) for the love!

The Official Wedding Blog Post (including pictures)

As I mentioned before, last weekend we traveled to the Charlotte area for my brother Ben and his now wife Lee Ellen’s wedding.

The rehearsal dinner was held Friday night at the YMCA that my brother is the director of. (Sorry no pics of this, my phone was dying and I needed the navigation for the trip to the hotel.) My parents asked Jeff to make shrimp and grits (which we did and are glad we did, but Jeff is officially retired now from catering family events!) and then had Lexington-style barbecue catered.

A brief word on barbecue. North Carolina is officially a state divided when it comes to barbecue. Barbecue is a noun in every part of the state. And it is made, exclusively, of pork. In the eastern (and superior) part of the state, you have pulled pork (occasionally someone will accidently chop the pork, bless his heart) in a vinegar based sauce. In the western (inferior, but still yummy) part of the state (divided by Lexington, NC) the pork is usually chopped and tomato based sauce is used. We were west of Lexington, so to serve anything else would be sacrilege in that land. And my family hails from far north of the Mason-Dixon line, so any kind of NC barbecue is a treat.

Saturday morning, we got up at the hotel and after breakfast, the pool, lunch and the pool…it was wedding time.

The wedding and reception were held at The Laboratory Mill. The building is converted into a venue site from what was an antebellum Cotton factory and briefly a medicinal laboratory. There is tons of history and it has been beautifully restored.

And now, for pictures (all pictures courtesy of my aunt, Donna Beckingham, unless otherwise noted):

My brother Matt escorting my Mom (followed by my dad)

My brother Matt escorting my Mom (followed by my dad)

My mom lighting the unity candle. My mom was just introduced to what a "grill lighter" was the night before and as such, she had some difficulty, Matt had to go up and help her.

My mom lighting the unity candle. My mom was just introduced to what a “grill lighter” was the night before and as such, she had some difficulty, Matt had to go up and help her.

Since Matt had to improvise to help her..he went ahead and helped my mom down

Since Matt had to improvise to help her..he went ahead and helped my mom down

The dress my mom is wearing in these pics is the same dress she wore in my wedding, 12 years earlier. She had it altered (it was floor length at my wedding) and wore it this time without a wrap.

My brother Ben, the groom, on the left and my brother Matt, the best man.

My brother Ben, the groom, on the left and my brother Matt, the best man.


This is my brother Mike, who was a groomsman. Cut off but to his right (our left) is Lee Ellen (the bride)’s brother JR.

Lee Ellen and John

Lee Ellen, escorted by her father, John

Lee Ellen and Ben with the charge to the couple

Lee Ellen and Ben with the charge to the couple

Their vows and exchanging of rings

Their vows and exchanging of rings

Lighting the unity candle

Lighting the unity candle

You may kiss your bride!

You may kiss your bride!

This is Ben and Lee Ellen as Mr and Mrs Be Oeser

This is Ben and Lee Ellen as Mr and Mrs Ben Oeser

One of the two identical twin flower girls during the recessional

One of the two identical twin flower girls during the recessional

And the other identical twin flower girl

And the other identical twin flower girl

Matt escorting my Mom and Dad out

Matt escorting my Mom and Dad out

This is my brother Mike escorting my father's mother, my grandmother Ruth out after the ceremony. Mike's daughter, my niece Isabella joined them. Isabella did well during the ceremony  although she did want to "talk to her daddy." lol

This is my brother Mike escorting my father’s mother, my grandmother Ruth out after the ceremony. Mike’s daughter, my niece Isabella joined them. Isabella did well during the ceremony although she did want to “talk to her daddy.” lol

My aunt got this pic of our whole family and my brother Matt's girlfriend Sarah at the reception

My aunt got this pic of our whole family and my brother Matt’s girlfriend Sarah at the reception. Sarah was a God-send for us!

Shelby did awesome at the wedding and reception, have to share this one I took of her!

Shelby did awesome at the wedding and reception, have to share this one I took of her!

This is how you know you're at an NC wedding...Sundrop and Cheerwine are the beverage choices (along with sweet tea, of course)

This is how you know you’re at an NC wedding…Sundrop and Cheerwine are the beverage choices (along with sweet tea, of course) (this is one of my pics)

The wedding cake

The wedding cake

The First Dane

The First Dance

First Dance 2

It was a very lovely day despite wind storms, hot temps and erratic rain showers. Lee Ellen, in case you couldn’t tell, was a beautiful bride. Her dress (it’s hard to see in these pics) was ivory which she (like me) has the skin color to pull off. The reception was fun and relaxed. We were more easily able to visit with family since the kids were busy stuffing their faces eating. The boys all enjoyed dancing at the reception and are quite the dancers. William, however, faded quickly. At one point, I had to carry him and my uncle Ed motioned for me to bring him over and held him while Will curled up and napped. We were all exhausted and glad to get back to the hotel that night.

It was a crazy, stressful weekend. I hope Ben and Lee Ellen are enjoying their Jamaican honeymoon and are getting some relaxation!

Seven Quick Takes

Everyone can hide their surprise, but I’m participating in Seven Quick Takes Friday for the first time since it was taken over by Kelly Mantoan at This Ain’t the Lyceum


1. How can I tell the difference between living “near the beach” and living “at the beach?” There is significantly more salt in our tap water. As in leaving residue in my Keurig resevoir and on my metal shower fixtures.

2. So, yesterday we had a family day out. After lunch we went down to Fort Fisher and went to the aquarium using our Zoo membership our inlaws bought us last year for Joseph’s birthday present. We had a great time. William’s favorite thing was the sea turtles both in the large tank and the Kemp’s Ridley who is recovering in the smaller tank. Joseph’s favorite thing was the nurse sharks that can be petted. Shelby’s favorite was the jellyfish, which she could have watched for-ev-uh! I loved the jellyfish and seahorses. We got to see the Bald Eagle they have there. He is a juvenile so his head isn’t white now and unfortunately, he cannot be rehabilitated to the wild because of his injury so we look forward to seeing him grow. Jeff loved the touch tanks and keeping Shelby from climbing in them!

I found sea horses to take home.

sea horses

shhh…I took them home!

And despite the recent “outbreak” of shark attacks in our area, we had to say “JAWS!” and get this pic with a megalodon jaw.


After the aquarium, we went to Sears (as part of our closing, we got money to use toward our new home) where we got everyone but William new bedding (William bought new bedding with his birthday money last month). I was super excited to find a quilt for our bed as I decided I would rather do a quilt than a comforter or bed spread and get new pillows as mine are over six years old. Shelby got her zebra print bedding and Joseph found a Super Mario Brothers set that matched William’s Mario Kart 8 set. We also got the kids new clothes and new sneakers for me and dress shoes for the boys. Afterward, we went to deposit a check from our closing on our old house and then to dinner to Red Robin. Very fun day!

3. I also found out yesterday I could change the address on my driver’s license online. Score.

4. Jeff’s license is up for renewal. He had to go in today to the DMV to do that. No score for him.

5. Last weekend when we went to the wedding, we boarded Charlie (the dog) for the first time in forever. The pet spa/kennel right down the road is named Gilligan’s which we knew was a good sign as that was our late beagle’s name. Charlie is usually a loner when other dogs are around but the owner said he made friends and loved lying in the water. And the groomer fell in love with him, so we’re taking him back to get nail trims and some of his mats taken off. It’s a little thing but we are glad he had such a good time. At 12 (although he hardly acts it) we don’t want him to go through anything traumatic!

6. One of the best things about living at the beach: seafood. Especially if you’re a Catholic who tries to abstain on Fridays and loves fish anyway…Jeff buys it practically off the boat. Fresh and delicious (also helpful to marry a chef).

7. Tomorrow will be my second day of work at the new store (Monday was my first day). I hope my comfort with the layout of the store has improved enough that I can improve my speed in personal shopping!

Join Kelly and others for more 7QTs!

The Struggle of God’s Will

A friend underwent a hysterectomy yesterday. After years of infertility, an unexpected pregnancy and miscarriage followed by a cancer diagnosis have taken their toll and finally, she agreed with her doctor to complete a hysterectomy. After undergoing chemo and radiation, she’ll have an oopherectomy. There are complicated medical reasons why they aren’t doing them both at the same time. I didn’t understand it myself. But she said on the phone Monday night that although her options for biological motherhood had ended…she still felt this nagging feeling (despite prayerful discernment that led to her and her husband not pursuing adoption and knowing that her cancer diagnosis, even she goes into remission, will be a huge hurdle should they decide to adopt in the future).

I understand that. Although I am fairly sure that there will be no more biological children for us and we know adoption is not a road we can realistically pursue; and even though with this move I got rid of ALL the baby gear and ALL the baby clothes…sometimes I feel that nagging. Somedays when I look at a ninth birth announcement from a couple married as long as we are or fifth pregnancy announcement, the emptiness and sadness flood me.

And it’s not just people suffering from infertility who feel the sting. Tamara of The Broken Tea Cup has explained it beautifully in her struggle with her vocation as a single woman despite a deep desire for a husband and family.

She states here that:

Yes, being single is easy because you don’t have the all pressures of being in a relationship that is til death do you part. I don’t know all the pro’s and con’s. All I do know is I expected to get married like everyone else, but the reality is the Lord has never allowed me to part of the ‘popular group’. I can stomp my feet all I want but it won’t help me. I have tried different avenues in my desire to be married, and all it does is frustrate me.

Or maybe I am attached to the idea of my happily ever after?

Maybe I don’t even believe that the Lord has someone for me, maybe I’ve just gotten tired of waiting on something that I don’t know will ever materialize. I don’t know how to pray for something that seems impossible. All I want to do is let go and move on, but what happened to the happily ever after, and is it still possible despite trying to push that nagging hope that is locked inside of me.

We don’t want to be consumed by the loss of dreams, we pray for God’s will. We ask for release, And some days, we can totally do it. Some days I could almost thank God for stopping us at three because they are more than I seem to be capable of handling. But somedays, I look around and wonder, what if the babies we lost were here? It seems so empty without them and I’m seeing little babies almost daily now in our new community (where I rarely did before) and I think, “why can’t we have one more?”

I have to believe that “nagging hope” Tamara speaks of, that longing for what seems impossible, must serve some kind of purpose. That they are part of something bigger in God’s will. But wow do they make for a conundrum now.

Summer…so far

I feel very guilty writing this in light of reading this, this morning. But here goes anyway.

This has been, dare I say it, our best summer maybe ever?

I did not declare it the Summer of Kristen or a 1970s summer…and yet, here we are.

We are moved into our beautiful new home which has not been without its hiccups, but it happened. We are having long, lazy pool days, we’ve only had one beach trip thus far, but it’s been epically good.

I’ll grant you this, we are early in the summer thus far. The kids are in only their second full week of summer break. Last week Jeff still had to report in daily for his teacher workdays. This week, I went back to work, but thus far…it’s a good summer.

It’s also been epically hot. Meaning the water or indoors is totally where it’s at and we haven’t done much exploring. My car has no AC and the wind is HOT. I journeyed one whole hour with the kids last week to drop off Shelby’s Project Lifesaver device in her old county and we got home and everyone was soaked through their shirts. We were in the pool very quickly.

Last week we traveled to the Charlotte area for my brother’s wedding. Friday was our first day of epic fails. At the last minute the closing on our new house was moved to that day. Jeff still had to report in to work and for the first time all week, the grading/report card system was working, so he raced to enter all his final grades. He arrived just in time for our closing but our lender (who was the one who notified us of the change in closing date) had not sent the attorney’s office our loan packet. Over 35 minutes after our closing was scheduled to begin…the attorney called us back to start going through an incomplete loan packet. Three pages from the end of our packet, a paralegal opened the door and announced the lender had sent a second packet over. Our attorney and real estate agent were not in the best of moods by this point (as were we with our three kids who had been in the office for an hour and a half). Quickly, the paralegal went through both packets and we re-signed form. Then we had to hang out in the area for a half hour to make sure they didn’t miss anything meaning we would have to go back and sign more forms. We took the kids to McDonald’s as a reward before going home to load the car up (because we had to take separate cars to the attorney’s office because of Jeff having to go into work). We ended up leaving for Charlotte over 2 hours AFTER our desired leave time. And that complicated matters because Jeff was helping with some of the food for the rehearsal dinner (something I’m glad he was able to help with but which we will NEVER take on again). And we had no idea where, exactly we were going and the YMCA we went to…is a converted mansion so you can guess how easy that was to recognize when you’ve become used to YMCAs looking a certain way…even our printed out directions and navigation did not work. Oh, and rush hour Charlotte traffic is the work of Satan. Spending an hour in stop and go traffic going two miles an hour in a 55 mph area…

We arrived and somehow Jeff pulled off the shrimp and grits despite the shrimp being frozen, no hot water and with a kitchen only a Coleman camp stove to work with. My extended family I couldn’t completely enjoy because I was solely responsible for my kids with Jeff being sequestered to the kitchen (and it being made abundantly clear to me that most people had other, more important obligations). I was incredibly thankful that my boys met my nine-year-old cousin and the three hit it off perfectly so my aunt and uncle by default were keeping an eye on them and when they couldn’t, my brother Matt’s girlfriend was there and jumped into action. Oh and that Shelby had her most amazing behavior on display and was content to sit and eat barbecue and plain grits and to wait in line for groom’s cake and eat that nicely. This is especially miraculous in that we were in a loud, crowded area and people she barely knows or hadn’t met  before were coming up to her and talking to her and often touching her (a few times she gave me a look of “that perfume ain’t working” and the like so that I could defuse the situation). So that was stressful (even moreso when various family members did not understand that I couldn’t completely carry on adult conversations and that I had to move quickly if a child moved and so might just run off mid-sentence). But we survived and went to the hotel. Which we found with much less stress than the YMCA.

The next morning we joined extended family for breakfast in the lobby of the hotel. This was, again, a stressful endeavor because many people were vying for our attention and it was simply impossible to give it to everyone plus feed my kids (Jeff was in bed getting some well-deserved rest). The boys and my cousin Daniel once again found each other. Shelby was again on best behavior despite hovering over her while she was eating. After breakfast we got into bathing suits and went to the pool. Both boys are little fish with their swimming and since Daniel knows some strokes, he encouraged their improvement. Shelby had lots of fun as well. Pool time got a little abruptly interrupted when my nephew had an unfortunate incident and we decided to go to lunch.

After lunch there was more pool time before I had to get ready for the wedding (as I was told that morning I’d be needed about an hour and a half early for pictures). I rode with my parents and grandparents to the wedding/reception site. We got there only to find out…we weren’t needed, at all, for pics til AFTER the wedding. So I called Jeff and coached him on how to get there with the kids.

I spent the time visiting with my grandparents and once Jeff arrived with the kids, Matt’s girlfriend and I found seats with the boys. Daniel joined Joseph. Jeff sat off to the side with Shelby. Once again, my kids proved they know how to behave. After many more bumps in the road, we eventually got home on Sunday.

I don’t think Jeff got the Father’s Day he wanted nor the one he deserved between the long time on the road AND the horrible experience we had at lunch on that ride home.

So, see, not everything is perfect, but so far, overall, much, much better than in years past. (Sorry for the lack of pics, I’m having a moment in regards to uploading).

The Heat..the heat…

That was actually stolen from my friend Renee on facebook. We are already in triple digit heat this summer. And as that at least feels like it comes earlier and earlier each year, the reality is, each year, we all come closer and closer to eternity.

The Gospel readings this week come from the Gospel of Matthew and the Sermon on the Mount. Yesterday, Jesus taught us how to distinguish ourselves from pagans by praying for those not only that we love, but those we do not. By extending love to all, not just those we already love.

Today, He tells us we need to living for the approval of God not man through instruction of how to give alms, pray and fast. If we are doing it for the warm and fuzzies it may give us or the compliments we get: we’re doing it wrong.

The Sermon on the Mount is more than just the Beatitudes, it gives us instruction for how to build the Kingdom. And how we get there.

For me, in the midst of this torrent of heat, I think not only of the fires of hell, but of how to avoid them. While I have no elderly neighbors in close proximity, I do try to remind others. I offer bottled waters to the workers working on the next building (and am thankful that they can turn my offer down, because their employer is good enough to provide for them!). After only 1 hour in the car in 100 degree heat with my kids (my AC is broken) even with ice water and some candy, I immediately took them the pool afterward. It seems like a normal parenting thing to do, but in that moment, it cooled their bodies enough to feel like charity. That wasn’t why I did it, I was meeting an immediate need. But it ended up being a lot more than that.

And still, I know I could do more. In a phone conversation with my mom last night, I quoted from Matthew when Jesus was being tempted by Satan, in the desert. When Satan tells Jesus to command the stones to turn into bread, Jesus’ response is perfect:

‘One does not live by bread alone,

but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.’” –Matthew 4:4

In quoting old Testament scripture (Dt 8:3), Jesus rebuts the Devil by telling him, just providing for one’s physical and material needs…is not enough. Simply making sure my children are well hydrated and cool, it’s not enough. It is immediate relief, but what does feed them? Being close to Jesus through the Word, the sacraments and by experiencing His love through the actions of others.

Jesus. It all comes back to Jesus. If we are neglecting that part of the equation, the sacraments and our actions of love become empty. Are we going to mass each week going through the motions, droning out the responses? Are we feeding the hungry food but not their souls and leave them still wanting? In an example I gave my mother last night, anyone can walk into a soup kitchen and get a meal. But if that soup kitchen is attached to a beautiful Cathedral? Well, what if someone wanders from the kitchen into the Cathedral and finds themselves confounded with the beauty and magnificence and stand in awe and suddenly find themselves on their knees. Is that such a terrible thing? What if someone who is down on their luck and comes in for a meal, finds himself in a Confessional receiving grace for the first time in years?

Similarly, why can’t we ask someone if we can pray for them in a situation. What’s the worst they can say? No? Well, it doesn’t stop us from praying for that person privately.

We don’t have to beat people over the head or tell them they are going to hell with vengeance in our voices. We can expose them to His love in both our actions and our words. We can pray, we can study scripture, we can receive the sacraments reverently and prayerfully to find ourselves in full communion with Him.

Exposure to the Son, prevents burning. And we are wise to expose ourselves to Him in every way possible in the heat of this summer.

The blessing of living where nobody knows your name…

Community is a beautiful thing. For me, there is no more beautiful earthly community than that of our families and the communities of consecrated religious.

But God did not call all of us to lives lived in silent prayer or hermitage (I love St Anthony the hermit because a) he lived in the desert and b) was a hermit). In fact, He calls almost all of us to evangelization. And in almost all cases, that means interacting with our neighbors.

Most of our new neighbors are military (we live five minutes from the back gate of Camp Lejeune…the largest concentration of United States Marines in the world). Which leaves us very little in the way of interaction. We have met a few people at the pool, including a very excited little fourteen-month-old little guy who was all about my boys at the pool. But thus far, we haven’t become overly chummy with anyone. We are an anomolly in our new community. We are not only not military, we have more than one kid. And our kids are all over five years of age. There are lots of couples with babies or who are just starting out here, but almost no what I’ve heard described as “established families” like us around.

And that’s not a bad thing. We are showing all these younger families that life with more than just one child is not only possible but beautiful. We are showing many of them that there are  many blessings in parenting a special needs child. We may get the weird looks from a few, but we ignore them. Because we’ve learned that community is not just built by knocking on doors and introducing ourselves, but by simply being present.

No one knows us here. And it is not lonely. It is refreshing and exciting. It is full of possibility, not anxiety. We’ve matured into the family who knows how to do what is best for us and sometimes, that means not joining in but living as the Creative Minority that we are.

Eventually, I’m sure we’ll build those lasting relationships. But in the mean time, I’m okay, and we’re okay, with simply living life as we do and allowing others to see that.