Beyond our comfort zone

When Justin and I were a brand new couple we kind of talked about what our “ten year plan” would look like. We wanted a few kids, a big house with a bit of land, a nice SUV, a 4 door truck that could pull our ski boat, and we would be living near at least 3 of the 4: mountains, oceans, rivers, and lakes. We’d certainly be going to church every Sunday, we’d be debt free, and we would be fun, happy, and basically be living the American Dream.

This November we enter into our tenth year of marriage.

We have 3 kids. We just downsized into a 1300 sq ft duplex. We have a 10 year old van. Justin still drives his 01 ranger with bench seat and stick shift that I still can’t drive. The only boat we have floats in the bath tub. We moved away from California and currently reside in Kansas. Kansas. The last place this Mizzou grad thought I’d live. Well…after Arkansas. Which has kansas in the name, so still. We go to church every Sunday but add a few more week days in there. We go to adoration, and I don’t even think I knew what that was 10 years ago. We are not yet debt free. We have fun and we are happy,  but I wouldn’t say we are living the dream.

The crazy thing is we could have met our 10 year plan. We just slowly made some counter-cultural choices starting with utilizing NFP instead of artificial contraceptives. It led to a number of plan-derailing effects, the greatest of which was Justin attending Christ Renews His Parish and finally taking ownership of his faith through truly experiencing God. This really revealed to us how our 10 year plan was never truly Christian. It was totally of this world. Even if someone would have told us that our goals weren’t in line with our belief in Jesus, we would have found a way to justify it in our own minds. We would have been too blind and selfish to realize that wanting what ‘everyone’ wants does not make it right.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with comfort, I guess it’s just to which degree you desire it and the intensity with which you pursue worldly things above loving like Jesus.  But the good news is there are saints who were financially comfortable. Not everyone in heaven was poor or starving (although, I do think it’s easier to get there if you are). The only thing we know about people in Heaven, aside from Jesus and Mary, is they were all sinners and all needed God’s mercy. So lucky for us, that mercy is extended to us if we open ourselves up to it!

Jesus literally says heaven is hard to get to. He says take up your cross and follow me.  He says if you want eternal happiness, you are going to have to love your neighbor, forgive everyone, not store things up, and not get cozy on Earth.

We’ve got to drop our nets people!

Our family continues to evolve in the way we think about our future. We aren’t quite sure what God has in store for us and are open to whatever possibilities are put in our path. We just want to make sure we are aligning ourselves to Jesus’ way, truth, and life.

A few months ago, Justin and I took a little lunch date to a quaint Venezuelan restaurant. It came to light that we both, independently, arrived at feeling called to sell our house. Primarily, we wanted to pay off loans because we are really tied down financially with those looming over our head. You can cut personal expenses however you want, but when you owe institutions money, there’s no way around that.

A lot of people may think we want to pay them off so that we can save for the future, buy a bigger house, buy a boat, or go on fun trips. And sometimes it’s easier to discuss those as our reasons. I don’t think those things are wrong, and who knows, we may do all of them at some point! But the primary reason for wanting to pay off our loans is so that if we see a need, we can help! There’s a bigger picture, and basically, the debt just has to go. Downsizing has been beneficial for opening our eyes to worldly things we have attachments to. It’s cut my cleaning in half so I have more time for better things, so that’s a big blessing.

Please know that I am far from saint hood…but our family is working toward it, walking pace. I mean. You don’t see me sign up to wash dishes by hand, do laundry by hand, or get rid of the air conditioner. And while we don’t have cable, we sure do have a TV and amazon prime. ’bout to go watch some of that right now…while sipping my hipster fair trade tea and maybe grabbing some cashew-ice-dream. Walking pace, like I said.

Our duplex doesn’t have bed room ceiling fans (nor the ability to put them in) and there has not been a day in the past two weeks that I haven’t lamented this fact. I’m so attached to some air movement. Especially at night. I wake up sweating every night. It’s like me barely scratching the surface of what people with no AC feel like 100% of the time.

I searched, hunted actually, for a real gem of a duplex with adorably sweet landlords that take care of the place. On the one hand it has new counter tops, but then our fridge is like Euro size with no ice machine. It does have new carpet and new paint, but I no longer get to cook on a gas stove and I swear our dishwasher is 20 years old. Again, I am not signing up to cook over a fire or wash dishes in a bucket. At least not yet. Who knows what the future holds. First, I’ll get used to thinking the house is falling down every time the dishwasher runs. We get to share our love with a new neighborhood and parish. We get to discern about every decision we had made before and see if it still holds true now. It’s tiring and exciting at the same time.

All I know is we want to become saints, we want our kids to become saints, we want all of you to become saints. We do want to get to heaven without purgatory, because what kind of goal is aiming for purgatory. We want to love Jesus more than things. We want to witness Christian abandonment through caring more about each other, more about love, less about world woes.

Sin is a funny thing. The devil can tempt us into sins of omission through our own complacency. We get busy in our own little world. We check off boxes of good instead of great. We make each other feel ‘okay’ for worldly choices because it makes it easier to accept our own sinfulness. And the evil one does a super good job of letting us settle for less than the BEST we were made to live out. Our family has discerned the best way to fight for greatness is to never get cozy. Never stop seeking more Jesus. How can we be better? How can we love fiercer? How can we help more people?

And I’m not just talking about our friends or family. Strangers. Neighbors. People who we’d normally just rush past out of social awkwardness. The other day I let a stranger with special needs stroke Zelie’s cheek. It was super awkward and uncomfortable, but it made that lady’s day. I made my kids come outside when it should have been bath/bed time so they could meet the neighbors.

Now, the two introverts that live over here (what, you didn’t know I’m introverted?) are struggling daily to attempt small talk under the guise of wanting to make Christians out of anyone we talk to. It all starts with an encounter though. We have to smile. We have to say hi. We have to introduce ourselves. We have to have a conversation. We have to get to know people. We have to exude joy because we FEEL joy. We have to be welcoming. We have to love. We have to sacrifice. We have to die to self. We have to desire heaven for any and everyone. That’s how we’ve discerned God is calling us to get to heaven; wanting it so much for other people that we fight daily our own desires for comfort. And we fail daily, so we’ll keep on asking for His Mercy and keep praising Him that he uses broken things.

We do still really love boating though
straight face smile emoji here, coupled with angel emoji, see no evil monkey emoji, two pink heart emoji, kiss face emoji
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Prayer for the new year

its my earnest prayer that my children see me seek virtue and utilize prayer for God’s purpose and glory rather than question and answer. I pray my children see my patience and not my temper. I pray my husband sees a heart of service and not my nagging anxiety. I pray my family sees my appreciation and not a worn out soul. I pray my friends see me humble and not righteous. I pray you all know I desire heaven for you and myself and that I desire every action and thought of mine to be ordered in that direction.

 

amen and alleluia!

Gianna turned FIVE!

So. Um. Gianna is almost five and a half, but in my defense, our computer died, we never uploaded her birthday pictures, and I had a baby. So….. forgive me for just updating the blog with our big girl’s party! She had a Hello Kitty themed party because she thinks that little cat is adorable…and there’s a lot of stuff out there for a themed party so it was easy and fun 🙂

I ordered the HK cake pan, found a clearance piñata, researched HK on Wikipedia, made a party city stop, and a few amazon orders…and voila! Hello Kitty Birthday Extravaganza!

We invited several of our family friends (I usually say 1 friend for each year of age)–the party was several weeks before her real birthday since my due date was right around her birthday, I wanted to make sure the party happened pre-baby for my sanity. I made lunch, well, actually, the girls made their own lunch and I made pizzas for the adults. There was a gluten free option and toppings a-plenty. They had spiralizer apples for a snack because that is HK favorite food, in case you aren’t aware. She also stands 5 apples high. Yes. Her height is referenced by apples.

The kids played pinned the bow on HK and did the piñata. It was a ton of fun and everyone loved it I think, so a success! Gianna got Mary Ellen, the 1950s American Girl doll. Then on her actual birthday, Justin gave her a bed he made for the doll that matches Gianna’s daybed. It was really darling that he made it for her to match.

The favors were these darling glass milk bottles that Justin helped me etch with each child’s initials. If you have been to a party of mine, you know I like real, usable favors versus something the parent wants to throw away before they even get in the car. They were in the “dollar” spot at Target but were actually $3 for two. Plus the kids got the candy and erasers/bubbles/slinkies in the piñata.

I love hosting parties, and this coming year will be Gianna’s “big” six year old party…already starting to think about that! I know Heaven is the goal, and I suppose it’s a bit earthly to celebrate one person so much…but even our Lord attended parties (wedding specifically), so long as we do it in moderation, I hope it’s fine! Jackson’s 4 year old Paw Patrol party is first though…. (eye covering monkey emoji here)

It’s hard to remember the difference in her 6 months ago so I’ll just talk briefly about her now. She can read at about a mid year first grade level, maybe even second grade level, I’m not sure. She amazes me!! She’s barely adding though, so thankful for homeschools ability to do multi-level learning. She is the sweetest, most patient child I’ve ever met. I literally think she will be a saint. I’m not taking responsibility for all of it, I know that it’s by the grace of God. She gives me constant graces and I am so thankful for her as my #1 kiddo, it makes having the others easier. She does have her moments of childish behavior though, so don’t think she’s perfect. And we put in a lot of work early on. She was not an easy baby or toddler. And she’s weird. I don’t mean in a bad way, I just mean she’s quirky. Not in a complete OCD way though, and I’m grateful for being around her so much so that I can help her overcome anxiety. It’s truly a blessing to be her teacher. She’d struggle with perfectionism naturally, but I’ve been able to work with her to see that it’s okay if things are hard or if we don’t get it right automatically.

She LOVES, absolutely ADORES Zelie. She showers her with kisses and hugs, loves making her laugh, and doesn’t care when Zelie pulls her hair or cries. If I was Gianna, I’d run the other way when Zelie gets fussy, but for whatever reason, Gianna is right there singing at the top of her lungs (much to Z’s chagrin probably) trying to calm her down.

Gianna is usually the first to try to help me and says “okay momma” or “yes mom” without me needing to remind her. Usually. She pays pretty good attention at mass and only infrequently do I need to remind her what to do.

She still likes red, but pink and purple have stereotypically become her favorite  colors. But in true Gianna fashion, she also likes “peach” and “gold”colors because “they are pretty”… She loves Paw Patrol and Doc. She also likes Curious George. Ok, she likes most kid shows because it’s a treat to watch TV and she’s like her momma and gets wrapped up in the story line. She enjoys reading books, and we’ve been reading aloud the American Girl books. I made the kind of mistake  of getting Meet Addy (which is a runaway slave story)…so that was fun to explain slavery to my 5.5 year old. In an “age appropriate” manner…. eek!

She likes coloring and doing cutting/pasting. She is a great egg-cracker and helps me cook sometimes. She recently cleaned out her desk and made “recycle” “trash” and “keep” piles. I was dying inside. Praise the Lord for a “gold” personality in my house!

Her 5.5 check up/shots are coming up so I’m not sure on her size, but she’s still under 40 lbs so she’s still rocking the 5 point harness. She’s fairly tall though, probably over 50%. She can tie her shoes but still needs training wheels on her bike. She loves soccer and is playing rec league this fall. She started piano a few months ago and is doing pretty well! Learning to read music now and plans to play simple “ode to joy” at her recital later this month. I’ll video it, don’t worry!

She eats really healthy but does enjoy treats. Her fave foods are berries, grapes, yogurt, cheese stick, salmon (She’s proud to eat it without ketchup). She eats salad naked with nuts and raisins. She sleeps from about 9 to 730. She occasionally sleep walks!

I love her more than she’ll ever know and she is my source of strength many days because I can see Jesus in her more than most people I know. and she’s only 5.5

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blessings to you all friends, thanks for loving us!

Midwest Family Conference

I’m long overdue for a theological POV blog but just a quick update to let you guys know that the Midwest catholic family conference in Wichita was great this past weekend! We heard ‘famous’ speakers about a variety of relative topics, enjoyed 2 large group rosaries, chaplet of divine mercy, the sacrifice of the Mass, time with friends, confession (adoration was also offered but we didn’t make it into their chapel), and “fun” times in the hotel, not to mention the kids had great children’s programs! There was a Christian concert we missed and a Eucharistic procession that we missed as well.

You know it’s a catholic conference when you look out your hotel window to see a nun eating pizza. You know it’s a catholic conference when you are the SMALL family there. You know it’s a catholic conference when you see “Benedict” on the paging screen. You know it’s a catholic conference when Sr. Mary Gemma is your kid’s teacher. It was AWESOME 🙂

I’d recommend it to all my friends! It’s in Wichita next August 4-6 🙂 see you there! Catholic Family Conference

Love thy Neighbor

A few months ago I read a blog by the director of evangelization for our archdiocese (who happens to be a facebook friend, so if you’re reading this Fr Andrew, thanks!) that was about what if Jesus really meant your NEIGHBOR when he said love your neighbor as yourself. It resonated with me because I fall into the majority category of people who really don’t know or do much with their neighbor. I’ve brought treats to our neighbors across the street a few times. We’ve checked on their dogs or gotten their mail when they are out of town. My husband helped another single woman neighbor a few times with outside house chores. He’s shoveled our deaf neighbor’s driveway. That’s about that. We had a couple over for dinner once…but they moved away. We have said hi to several people, and met some at a block party 2 years ago. I could tell you 4 houses worth of people’s name. And that’s that.

So while I appreciate what Fr. Andrew wrote about… I never really took steps to go past the current mediocre neighborship. Life is busy. I’m a mom of 3 young kids. I am working on our own family’s saint goals. I am volunteering at church. I’m making my marriage a priority. Going out of my way to make friends with neighbors….ugh. I don’t have time for that.

Especially when they aren’t really what I would consider “friend” possibilities. I mean, they’re nice and all…but none of them have kids. And it’s hard to be friends with childless people because it’s such a different life situation.

Then enter a casual evening last week. Justin said….we should probably invite N. over for dinner some time. Boom. Life altered.

My husband is on the fast track to sainthood. He just makes it look easy coming up with this stuff. Thank the Lord I have him in my corner, pushing me toward greatness.

He’s totally right. She needs to be invited into our home for dinner.

You may know how much I enjoy hosting people for dinner. I love to cook and I love to share a meal with friends.

But I really only extend invites to dinner to people I already know I like. How convenient for me. I feel like I’m feeding the hungry, fellowshipping, and sharing God’s Love…all while enjoying the company of people who don’t push me out of my comfortable bubble. Well except for Fr. Jerry. I was praying hard he would like our crazy kids 😉

I’m also really good at donating time and money and food….because it’s easy.

But my middle age, single, childless neighbor who I’ve only ever had awkward encounters with…inviting her to dinner. That’s totally what Jesus told me to do and that’s the act of mercy I must do.

I encourage everyone else to do the same. There’s nothing like stepping outside your comfort zone to answer God’s call! It makes God’s love tangible to people who may need it most.

Pray for me and love to you all.

 

Do it anyways

A few weeks ago we went to a nice morning marriage recharge. It was great to spend a few hours focusing on our vocation, granted Zelie was with us, but she was in a great mood and was only distracting for a tiny bit.

We took home many little tips and have incorporated some into our lives. One thing that’s nice is to ask each other what our strongest feeling that day (or week) was. So when we were first doing that skill at the weekend…. I tried to be positive and share a happy feeling (feeling blessed that Justin is such a good husband and agreed to the morning) but I was also honest, as I am known to be.

My truly strongest feeling was “disappointment and frustration.”
I was feeling that way because I had been trying too hard to be a “good” mom. Taking kids to tons of parks, getting little yummy treats, reading tons of library books, playing games….but it just didn’t seem like enough because they still had outbursts / poor behavior. They would say that their favorite part of the day (we do this at bed time) was when dad came home and played with them. I was so frustrated that it felt like I was doing my best and it still wasn’t enough to make a difference to them. I was feeling undervalued and under appreciated and on top of that, felt crappy that I felt that way.

Justin told me I should know how much they love me and that he very much knows how hard I try, and that he thinks I’m a wonderful mom and the kids are lucky to have me. While it was sweet, it didn’t make me feel much better, I know he appreciates me! Those sweet little kids though… Man…. They have no clue how many sacrifices I make for them and how many other things I have on my to do list. But. They are my little people and I have to balance the “must dos” of the world with the “must dos” of rearing little saints. The two categories rarely overlap.

So I’m feeling constantly pulled in multiple directions. I feel pulled to ministry and serving. I feel pulled to fellowshipping with friends I love dearly. I feel pulled to keep a clean home. I feel pulled to home cook our healthy meals. I feel pulled to be a supportive loving wife. I feel pulled to raise little saints. I feel pulled to be everything to everyone.

Now. I know I’m not and I can’t be. So I don’t try as often as I used to. I am not divine. God is everything to everyone. I am simply a servant. I’m happy to be a servant. But I’m human. And sometimes I get this feeling of wanting recognition and acknowledgment that I am doing right.

But I don’t need it and I shouldn’t want it.

So the next day we went to mass where Fr Jerry quoted Mother Theresa’s anyway poem (that I realize has a disputed authorship)

“People are often unreasonable, illogical and self centered. Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives; Be kind anyway. If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies; Succeed anyway. If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you; Be honest and frank anyway. What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight; Build anyway. If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous; Be happy anyway. The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow; Do good anyway. Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough; Give the world the best you’ve got anyway. You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God; It was never between you and them anyway.”

I about cried. God was definitely speaking to me in that homily. He heard my cry and said. Hey, Kaylene. Do it anyways! Love anyways! Give your best anyways! Be a good mom anyways. Even if your kids cry and whine and don’t appreciate the ice cream date you took them on, or the ironing you overlooked in order to spend the afternoon at a park, or if the kids constantly say daddy coming home was their favorite part…. Love anyways! Be happy you married a wonderful man that your kids are absolutely crazy about. Be happy you have the grace to be pulled in a million directions and still feel at peace in your faith. Be good and do good. Heaven is the goal and eternal life is our sweet reward for loving and living Christianly.

Many times in my life I am faced with situations relevant to that poem. I’m sure you are too.

I pray God may grant us the grace to choose love anyway. Mercy be yours.

Joy

“Oh the joy of the Lord, it will be my strength; when the pressure is on, He’s making diamonds….” this catchy song always gets stuck in my head and it’s fitting since the theme of joy has been resounding around me like a mega-gong these days.

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joyous Zelie

I must start with this past Sunday… Because we occasionally attend a different church than our registered church, I like to think that God directs us where we need to be, to hear what we need to hear, when we need to hear it. But this particular weekend I’ve discerned it wasn’t actually for the homily that God brought us to this mass. It was what we witnessed. We sat behind a family that caused me to spend most of my prayerful thoughts on them during mass. And actually moved me to tears later that night. You see, the wife was in a wheelchair. The husband looked tired, but present. And there were two girls. Probably ages 5-8 or so, who didn’t really acknowledge their mother. I got briefly lost in thoughts of what their life must be like. I couldn’t help myself, it’s part of my personality. I’m often able to take on feelings of other people, in such an intense way I can’t explain it. So witnessing this family worship Our Lord together, but yet separate, made me feel so sad. Sad for the mother, who can’t hold her girls like I can my kids, who can’t get down on the floor with them, or run around with them, etc… Sad for the girls who perhaps have faint memories of their mother before she was in a wheel chair, or perhaps have no memory of her except for the present situation. Sad for them that they had to grow up so fast to realities of suffering and hardship. Sad for the father and husband, who I’m sure takes so much upon himself to care for his wife and girls without the physical support of a spouse. I prayed that God would perform a miracle and heal the mother so that their family could know no sorrow and pain. I also asked God…why if I’m praying so hard for her healing, could he not grant it? But obviously I knew the answer. Suffering has a purpose. Salvation comes through pain and sorrow. If Jesus had not died (the greatest suffering), salvation never could have been ours to have. And no one on Earth can avoid pain and suffering completely. So I know this family will likely not receive a miracle. And I feel devastated for them. It made me feel immensely grateful for the able body I have, and the active mother my kids get to have. And I felt a little guilty that I am so blessed to have use of my legs while this mother sat alongside her family, but yet, seemingly distant. Guilty that I usually spend most of my day doing other things besides snuggling my kids. I’m too “busy.” I’m cleaning, I’m cooking, I’m chore-ing. The household must go on. Don’t get me wrong, I spend time with my kids and do play with them….but I know this mother would likely trade a clean house and hot meals for all the time in the world to be active with her girls. I guess there has to be a balance, but in that instant of observing that family, I felt like a failure for taking things for granted.

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I’m blessed beyond measure

 

Now, I don’t know them. These are just my observations and sensed emotions. But I know God was trying to convey something to me. So I brought it up to Justin. He told me he just prayed that they might know Joy. Wow. That husband of mine, I’m often in amazement at the lessons he’s teaching me. I wanted her to be healed so she could live a life “better” than the one she currently has….whereas he wanted her to simply know joy in her current abilities. I know Justin has the correct view point, and if I would have thought more about it, I would have realized it’s just like how St. Zelie had to suffer and die while Therese was only 4. And how my own grandmother suffered for years while my youngest aunt was under 10. And how many countless stories there are of families dealing with less than ideal situations, but doing their best and keeping the faith. I know those things, but witnessing this family right in front of me was a much needed reminder to not take my own life situation for granted. It was actually the second obvious moment of God thumping me over the head with the “JOY” message in less than a week.

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joyous outing to the library

 

Last week’s Thursday daily mass homily message was about Joy as well. About CHOOSING joy, even when it doesn’t seem like we should or can. We should feel joyous because we know Christ and we have the faith. But this world can surely bring us down (which reminds me of another song….”take this world and give me Jesus, this is not where I belong!”) and joy is not usually our natural first inclination. So even though Jackson’s behavior in mass was far from ideal, and I was a hot sweaty mess from having to nurse Zelie through mass (again), I chose joy. And I’ve been trying to choose joy every day, for at least part of the day, when I’m able to be intentional, amongst the survival mode (which, from my last blog, has exponentially gotten better, as Zelie is sleeping better at night). I smell Zelie’s cheeks and smush mine against hers to feel her soft skin. I linger longer in Gianna’s room at bed time. I go into Jackson’s room while he’s asleep and feel his hot little neck and give him a cool kiss next to his snoring mouth. I choose joy by minimizing my complaints to Justin. I choose joy by messaging friends and family I most often unintentionally neglect. I choose joy by smiling and waving. I choose joy by sharing God’s love.

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joyous swimming with dad

 

As I wrap up my thoughts on joy…I must comment on Justin and the amazing man he has always been, but the spiritual inspiration to me that he has become.

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joyous date with my big girl

Our marriage and family life has reached a new level thanks to the retreat he went on and follow-up formation he went through. By being open to the Holy Spirit and actively pursuing his faith, Justin has become the man I knew God made for me. We were always meant to be together, and I’ve always loved him….but it’s like Justin 2.0 has arrived and instead of me being the spiritual leader, he is! Dare I say he’s better at choosing joy and showing God’s love better than I am. I’m so grateful to God working through the CRHP retreat to bring us closer together. We are a more prayerful, faithful, joyous family, with less secular ties than ever. We’re far from being finished, but more united than ever, I know God has great plans for our family.

 

Today, despite the pains of parenting 3 small kids, and despite the anxieties swirling in our brains, and despite worldly problems, and despite work stress, and despite physical sufferings, and despite imperfections. WE CHOSE JOY and invite you to do the same.

“to live in love is to sail forever, spreading seeds of joy and peace in hearts.” St Therese of Lisieux

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it’s a joy to be his wife ❤

Survival and Heaven goals

Well Zelie is 5 weeks old today and I feel less like myself than ever.

I have a ton of blog ideas I’ve been wanting to write, but there’s no time for that. There’s not much time for anything except survival.

I didn’t think it would be quite so…..actually I don’t know what I thought. I’m having a ton of anxiety and constantly talking myself back into positive thoughts. My spiritual life is falling to “acceptable” and my physical health and eating habits are passing with a C average with a solid D in snacking. My ability to commit and fulfill commitments has dwindled and it’s obvious to me my brain and body have activated survival mode.

As much as I want to have it all together I do not. I feel like a person who has hypothermia, in that my subconscious is prioritizing things to save the heart (in this metaphor, my sanity). For instance, I’m eating whatever is within reach and that’s most recently sugar grains and junk. I apparently don’t have the ability to exert much effort at make a healthy snack, or when I do, I top it off with an unhealthy one in the name of maintaining milk supply. My milk supply has now created a mind of it’s own and is holding my rational one captive. I barely use my muscles for anythjng except rocking and holding the baby. I’ve started to go plump and mushy. I think survival mode for me must include gaining weight. I was a healthier pregnant person than I seem to be these days. When you get minimal sleep (4 hours a night?’idk maybe 5 all broken up) for 5 weeks straight, your hormones like cortisol freak out and cling every ounce to your gut. It’s science.

The house isn’t a complete disaster  But it’s certainly a mess and cluttered and it looks like a war zone most days due to toys strewn about.

And then there is my spiritual strength. The thing I need most to center myself. It’s not like I’m missing mass or not praying…but the things I once had time and energy for have now have become occasional or rarely instead of habitual. I went to adoration last night and literally fell asleep like 4 times while reading the bible. I woke myself up when my head fell down and jolted me awake. I know I’m not going to hell for these things and I know I’m doing “okay” but I just desire to have my prayer life as strong as it was before baby.

I suppose I will get back to the old me or even better than the old me, but right now, I feel rather miserable reflecting on how far I’ve fallen off the path with all parts of my life. I’ve started wearing make up most days and eating junk. Both of these things in an effort to make me feel better. The devil has worked his way into my brain to tell me I’m not good enough. I’m too chubby. Im too ugly. I’m too late and too unclean.

I’ve been trying to fake it ‘Til I make it, but at some point I’ve got to say no more. I can’t fake being awesome at mothering 3. I need a break and I’m giving myself one. If my muffin top pushes over my mom jeans, awesome, I can still get to Heaven. If my kids toys are everywhere, spectacular, they’ve been occupying themselves and praise the Lord playing together. If I make it to 2 daily masses a month, that’s amazing and nothing short of a miracle so aiming for weekly is cockamamie. When my husband still finds me attractive despite all the post birth issues I’ve had and he’s been privy too; glory to God. If I fall asleep in the adoration chapel, may I be a witness to others that sleeping in front of Jesus is better than not being with him at all. When my daughter screams at the library and the library lady shows me mercy by pushing her around in the stroller, may I accept that mercy and be a witness that it takes a village and being open to life ain’t always pretty, but it’s real. It’s beautiful. It’s messy. It’s a rollar coaster of joy and struggle.

I hate survival mode. I want to go back to being super awesome Kaylene, but I know it’s a season. It’s just hard to push out the perfectist thoughts when my brain is running low on sleep and healthy fuel and spiritual strength. So pray for me and I will do my best to keep on keepin’ on. And for the love of love, please don’t judge my still look pregnant body.

I’m busy raising little saints, keeping up with laundry, preparing food, trying to keep the floor clean, mustarding up the effort and time to clean the bathrooms and dust off those things in eye sight. I’m busy making my husband’s lunch, filling him up with words of affirmation and cuddles. I’m busy trying to read the bible and keep my prayer life afloat. I’m busy surviving. That thriving thing is gonna have to wait until Zelie is older. Mothering as a vocation, with the goal of getting your family to Heaven is hard. The secular worlds pressures are terrible and I wanna give them the bird. The devil can get the picture now. He’s not winning. Heaven is my goal and looking smoking hot and having a perfect life is not.

 

the end.

 

The labor of humility

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Zelie at 3 days old

My major theme for a while now has been humility. Pope Francis has a book that I absolutely loved, called The Way of Humility: Corruption and Sin; On Self-Accusation – I cannot recommend it enough.
I pray for humility and hope that God grants me the ability to be humble in situations I previously would not have been. I try to use self accusation to remove pride from my life. I am not great at it, but I am working at it. I truly appreciate what I’ve learned from the Pope’s book, but even if you don’t like the idea of a pope– clearly his ideas are based on Jesus’ life! Jesus is the Prince of Peace, the king of being humble. So even if you aren’t Catholic, the concept of looking at what’s wrong with you instead of what’s wrong with other people is beneficial to the world. This is far over simplifying the book, though because so much goes into true humility and self accusation is part of it. For instance, if I’m self accusatory about why I didn’t want epidurals in my births, it’s because I view them as less than ideal; I view them as second best and I really like “best” things. I like to be proud of me, and I hate needles. So all of those things affected my ability to be humble as this blog will show.

For this pregnancy I prayed for health, wellness, and the ability to accept whatever God’s plan may be for me and the baby. I had a lot of anxiety at times because a) I think that’s natural for pregnant moms with hormones and b) I truly think the devil tries to attack those with strong faith at the parts of their lives that are challenging. Labor and birth after a traumatic c section is a super challenging part of my life.

My pregnancy was only really stressful around the 20 week ultrasound when we weren’t sure if this baby had Jackson’s condition or not. I didn’t have a lot of issues, aside from emotional ones. I have wonderful friends, family, and faith that supported me–starting with the greatest husband God made for me.

I’m just an imperfect human and it’s hard to truly be like Jesus because I’m not sinless (thankful for the cross and graces in confession). So when I pray for God’s will be done, I always mean it, I just don’t always do good at being worry free about it. So as my pregnancy went longer and longer than I had thought it would, I got antsy and nervous. Being patient got harder and harder. When labor did finally start, it would stop! Frustrating to say the least. I guess God’s lesson to me was trust and patience. Then it finally did start for real, but it took a long time. A very long time. I had so much suffering throughout labor so I tried to remind myself to pray a prayer of thanksgiving that I was able to labor and it was real this time… and of course prayers of petition for help to survive the pain. And honestly…prayers of begging that it would be over!

But I got way more than I bargained for. I got what may be my biggest lesson in humility ever. I did something I never in my wildest dreams thought I would do.

When you think of labor do you think of being humble? Because I sure had not. Labor is about being strong. Being brave. Being part of the miracle of life. Humility? That didn’t seem to fit.
But I suppose it is a humbling process because you have to let go of the urge to control everything (although in today’s age that isn’t completely true. There is a lot humans can “control”). You are brought to your lowest points of pain, suffering, and straight up yuckiness (birth is messy y’all). It’s humbling to feel birth pains. It’s humbling to witness your wife go through so much pain. But in previous births I had looked at the pain in labor and birth to have a purpose (scientifically it does–to bring a baby down and out into the world, religiously it also does–to remind us of our sinful flesh and Eve’s fall). It’s not a disease to be medicated. I looked at giving birth as something to be proud of, something to be a “rock star” at, something to be strong about.

But truthfully, I was all wrong. It’s never about me. It’s always about God. The vocation He has given me–to have and raise children is a gift. Being part of bringing life into the world to serve His purpose is a gift. And because we live on a sinful planet, His purposes are never Easy.

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I love my midwife so much!

To digress a bit….I am a bit of a birth junkie. I love midwifery, I love the art of natural child birth, and I really dislike medication, especially where babies and kids are concerned.
We learned about the Bradley method when I was pregnant with Gianna and that taught us so much about birth and how our bodies are made to do the hard work of labor without medical intervention. Medicinilizing birth has become a major business. I know that c sections have their place as life saving techniques but generally speaking, I have felt for the past 5 years, most women don’t trust their bodies enough, aren’t patient enough, don’t advocate for their own health enough, or have providers who push them into decisions based on convenience to themselves. I don’t look down on women who choose a c section, I’m sure they have their reasons. It’s just not what I would choose.

 

The epidural was kind of a different story though. Again, it’s not that I specifically judged a women who got an epidural, I just think they could do it without one if they had the right support. So that’s less about them and more about the way birth is viewed in popular culture these days. We need more midwives and hospital nurses with the right skill set to promote natural births, doulas and husbands with encouraging words, dedicated massage hands… Women who trust their bodies. (Faith not really even considered since many women giving birth aren’t strong in a faith life. But that’s a huge part for me personally.) The suffering of labor has a purpose, it sucks, but it is purposeful. I definitely had pride that I had given birth without an epidural, and labored fully twice with no pain medication. I felt proud and I shouldn’t have. It doesn’t make me any better than anyone else, and I always knew that….the pride aspect is not Christian. I certainly never put anyone down that had gotten an epidural, but in a weird way, I just felt like a badass for doing something not a ton of women these days do.

These past 15 months, I’ve really gotten to an even better place of non judgement since growing in practice of the way of St Thérèse and also Pope Francis, which again are both true ways of Jesus teachings about loving our neighbor like God loves us.
But that still didn’t mean I approved of epidurals. They can come with some bad side effects and stall labor sometimes or lead to other interventions (like an unnecessary c section),  etc not to mention I loathe needles and anything seemingly unnecessary medically speaking.

Which brings me to the latest way God has taught me humility.
My labor with Zelie started with painful contractions on Sunday. Then they went away. I was bummed. Then Monday I had some painful ones before bed. Then around 1 something in the morning they got real. They got down to about 6 minutes apart and I was about ready to head to the hospital around 6:45 am. Then they tapered off! I was frustrated because of the false labor I had been having all month and thought it was for sure the day. The contractions came back and so I did everything the book says to do to keep labor moving, it was a long day. By 8 pm that night it was hospital time. At that point we had been awake since 1:40 am. In the car I swore I was about to push the baby out. Turns out I was wrong. Come 5 am Wednesday morning I was beyond exhausted, in the worst pain you could imagine (coming from a woman who has had a “natural” delivery and a second natural labor finished off with a traumatic c section), and positive I had no energy left to go on. I certainly didn’t want to say it but I was at the point in my mind I hoped they’d say I needed a c section. Which then changed to, I think an epidural is smarter than a c section, because I really didn’t want to face that recovery again. The baby, as we would learn was pretty big, and stalling at 7 cm because the bag of water was keeping her from applying the continuous pressure necessary to fully dilate. My contractions were super painful but not effective–no matter what we did.
I was honestly considering an epidural (if we lived in a time without them I am pretty sure I would have chosen death). I couldn’t believe it. My world was being shaken! I prayed about it and asked for guidance in making the right decision. I had Justin read the readings for the day to me.

The end of the gospel (from Matthew 20 says “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

What I discerned while he quickly read was that God was telling me to get off my pride horse, use the tools he had given me to continue to live out my vocation, and take the epidural. I took the gospel of humility to mean I was being humbled in my long and torturous labor. Humbled to know I was not a rock star, humbled to feel birth is not about me, humbled to see that epidurals are tools sometimes necessary to achieve a healthy baby, healthy mom. I found a quote online the other day that really explains how I feel.

“Epidural anesthesia is effective at pain cessation during labor, and may help a woman get through an exhausting and long labor by allowing her to rest.”

The feeling of getting the epidural is one I will never forget. But “luckily” I got a “good one” and had no real side affects and wasn’t totally numb or anything so my birth experience with Zelie was actually pretty nice. My recovery is slow and not fun, but way better than an emergency c section recovery.

I still think epidurals are terrible, scary, and not ideal for daily use… But I certainly see why they are a technology God gave man. It was more than anything, a humbling birth experience. Which is perfect for a baby named Zelie.
St. Zelie is so inspirational. She gave birth to 5 nuns! Plus 2 boys & 1 girl she lost in early infancy and a daughter she lost at 5. She raised her children with severity enveloped in tenderness. She taught them to fight independence and self sufficiency, and instead rely on the Lord. She taught them to make sacrifices. She worked hard at her job and vocation, showed mercy to others, had reverence of the Lord, and is the mother of one of the most influential saints on the way we pray today, St Thérèse of Lisieux. I urge you to read more about her! If you are a local friend I plan to lead a book study about a small book called, “the mother of the little flower” in April or so. Consider joining me!

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my little chunk a monk 9 lb 5.5 oz !

 

Thanks for praying for me and little Zelie! We appreciate everyone’s support! Know that how ever you birth your baby is how God intended and pride in birth is no longer part of my mantra. Experience is humbling.

One thorn of experience is worth a whole wilderness of warning.-James Russell Lowell

 

Finding Grace

I apologize in advance if this is formatted weird. I’m having to type it out on my phone (first world problems), because our computer is currently in pieces as my sweet electrical engineer husband tries to fix the shorted out plug in connector thing.

moving on.

I believe that God’s grace is in everything and it really is a human endeavor to be open to it and find it. If I had a “motto” for my life if would be based on the gospel of Matthew, chapters 6-7. Essentially, something to the affect of “seek and you will find, do not worry, sufficient for a day is its own evil.”

It’s so much easier said than done though. For I am human, and my flesh is weak. I’m thankful for the cross and absolution.

There is a book about St. Thérèse called “Everything is Grace” and it was the first thing I ever read about her. I swear it changed my life. To have lived your Catholic life one way, but feel God call you to another way, it’s monumental. I was seeking, and thankfully was open to finding what was laid out for me. Over the past 12 years or so I’ve come to firmly believe that everything happens for a reason. And going to adoration that day, picking out a seemingly random book in the chapel, and reading about half of it in one sitting set off a chain of events I never could have foretold.

God’s plan and purpose can be seen in everything. The bible says this! For everything works to the glory of God! Even suffering. It sucks, but again, we weren’t called to live on earth forever, and suffering is one way to strengthen our soul and obtain grace. If we let it. How you handle your suffering makes all the difference.

Grace can be hard to realize though. You can’t really see or feel it in your everyday life if you have closed eyes, a cold heart, or walls of self-sufficiency/corruption built up. A wonderful quote from Pope Francis when he was still “just” Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio is found on page 25 of his book “The Way of Humility”

“…it would be hard for someone who is corrupt to escape from that state through inner repentance. Their good spirit in this regard is anesthetized. Generally, our Lord saves them through means of trials that come from situations they experience (illness, loss of money, loss of loved ones, and so forth), and these are what pierce the armor of their corruption and enable grace to enter.”

Hence, a purpose for suffering. But also sometimes “bad things happen to good people.” And that is harder to accept. The Catholic Church has more to teach on that than I could summarize properly so I would just direct you to the catechism for full reading (385-421).

People tell me that I often over think things, or try to find a purpose in things I shouldn’t. But that’s just me. I think finding reason, finding patterns, looking for connections is one of my major charisms. As my spiritual life continues to grow, I have truly come to believe that God gives us all our own talents and perhaps one of mine is seeing his purpose in everything. There have been, and are, many people who share in this gift. The ones with great notoriety and skill generally turn up to be well written saints and doctors of the church. Don’t mistake me to believe I could even sit in their midsts, but the point I make is I feel called to reflect upon God’s hand in everyday situations mostly within my own life and use that discernment to aid me in growth and spiritual direction. Thankfully, I have wonderful people in my life that God uses to guide and form my thoughts. I truly feel blessed to be at a point in my life where I know God has a plan for me. What I don’t know, though, is how long I have to live it out. And that scares the humanity in me. I’m not afraid of death in the sense of my own mortality, but rather leaving behind the little saints I’m trying to raise. But I find solice in knowing that St. Zelie only had 4 years with Thérèse and yet she became one of the greatest spiritual theologians ever.

I digress yet again.

What really spawned this blog is that Jackson has been sick since Tuesday. He woke up with a little cough, but seemed fine. He turned uber crabby that afternoon and it was obvious he was sick. I did not have my shining moment of parenting that afternoon as I was struggling with pregnancy, mothering, frustration, and expectations. Needless to say I begged forgiveness, said some prayers and looked forward to the next day. We’ve had two stay-in-our-jammies sick days since then and while it’s not been the most glorious of times, I’ve definetly felt God’s hand in the whole thing.

My inclination was to be a grouch about my kid getting sick at like the worst possible time. I am 39 weeks pregnant and I don’t have time for illnesses! Not to mention I don’t want anyone else to get sick, and it’d be really terrible to try to find someone to watch a sick kid if I were to go into labor and need help before family could get here. So yeah, my gut reaction was grouch-o-pus. (Anyone looking to do a work of mercy speak up!)

But thankfully God’s not done with me!

I’ve discerned that His plan in all of this was to force me to slow down. Appreciate my stuck at home time with these little people right before they get briefly moved to the back burner of priorities due to the high needs nature of a newborn. Rocking a sick 3 year old. Indulging a bored 5 year old. Praying for their health instead of good behavior. Leaning on my own humility by utilizing the TV to get Jackson to sit and rest (because despite his cough and runny nose and flushed cheeks, he refuses to believe he is sick. Therefore he runs and jumps around the house until his breathing turns to short shallow crap breaths that lead to hitting a 101 fever). If I can just get him to sit still, he does much better. So reading the same library books to him 6 times a day, doing puzzles, having learning time (bonus to homeschooling is unless you are so sick you can’t leave bed, we can learn!), and rest time (he hasn’t napped since summer so the first day was hellacious but the next two have been fairly easy to get him to sleep) have been restorative for all of us. I feel at peace with the fact that more of us may get sick because I have faith in His plan, but I sure hope it’s something the rest of us are immune to.

This is simply one of God’s moments to show me how much grace He has to give me. These times of growth and appreciation for His purpose would never have happened if a) I hadn’t the desire to look for His plan in everything or b) my heart was blind to grace in everything.

I encourage you all to look for grace in everything and be renewed in hope this Lenten season! Pray for me my friends because I surely need it with labor impending!