Monday, December 14, 2015

An Honest Confession

I walked into the church and found a seat close to the confessional to sit in. The church had a peaceful and reflective ambiance. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, no doubt, contributed to the atmosphere and I found it easy to sit in prayer and contemplate my sins, even with my three kiddos next to me in the pew.

Sin. How easy it is to break my beloveds heart with my sin. So often my confessions are very similar time and time again. My personal struggles continue to get the best of me as much as I don't like it. This particular day, however, I had decided to confess my sins a little differently than usual. You see, it's hard to admit our sin and easy to make it sound not as bad as it really is, and for those reasons I admit that sometimes I would be a little vague in confessing my sins. I reasoned, "Why go into details? God knows it all anyway and I'm confessing to Him." Sadly, my rational only gave the sin more of a stronghold and deepened the hurt it causes. So, instead of being illusive, I decided to be completely clear, open, and upfront about all of my sins. If Jesus was serious enough to die for my sins, then I should be serious enough to die to myself as well and not only make an honest confession, but also try my best to avoid every occasion of sin. I left the church that evening forgiven and with grace to help me sin no more. 

Enter: daily life. It always happens, right? The daily hustle and bustle often lends itself well to Satan's tactics and invitations to sin. Things get busy and sometimes godliness isn't always at the forefront of our mind or our actions. Well, thankfully, that's not always true. You see, after that confession, when the temptations for certain sins presented themselves, I was able to reject them. The grace from confession gave me the strength to remain strong and sincere to God. He was faithful in providing me with what I needed to flee from sin once I was faithful in confessing it! Not only that, but my distaste for my sin becomes stronger each time I confess and align myself with God's Will, through prayer and confession, to grow in holiness and reject Satan and all his works and empty promises.

I share all of this because it helped show me how incredibly awesome the Sacrament of Reconciliation is. There is true grace given in it! Jesus truly meets us there and not only forgives us, but helps to continue refining us to become more like Him! No matter how hard it is, I encourage you to take time for an examination of conscience and in prayer asking our Lord to help us see our sins for what they are, to confess them, and then live holy lives worthy and acceptable to God who is Holy and Worthy.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Giving Thanks

The past few weeks I have been feeling "in the thick of it" motherhood wise. It's beautiful, messy, wonderful, tiring, and rewarding. So many times throughout my day I just pause and soak in the moments. I'm in awe of the beauty of life. I'm thankful. These are good reminders when I know that so much of the world is in terrible suffering. I can't help but be weighted down by the intensity of trial and persecution for millions around the world. My sufferings are so very tiny and minute in comparison, but I must not forget that any suffering we can unite with Christs' and offer for the needs of others is a good thing and God can use it abundantly. Prayer is indeed a powerful weapon and God can do mighty things even with the smallest of faith. Lord, may your strength, grace, and courage be with those suffering everywhere in the world, whether it be great or small suffering, and may they remain steadfast in you. Amen.

While certainly my days leave me exhausted before even the afternoon hour lately, I feel oh so thankful for the gifts God has so generously lavished on me. While my heart is heavy for the sake of others, I don't want to forget to thank God and see His goodness all around me.

"From the rising of the sun to it's setting, let the name of the Lord be praised!"
-Psalm 113:3-

Jason is selfless in the mornings and wakes up with the kids most days while Vianney and I get to wake up slowly and a little later than everyone else. Once Vianney wakes up and gives me some of the biggest, sweetest, melt-your-heart smiles, she will then promptly turn herself to the door hoping to see one of her sisters coming in to greet her in the morning. She loves seeing them, playing with them, and watching them! They provide a CONSTANT stream of entertainment and interaction. It's so fun to watch!

Her gorgeous smile which accompanies a happy squeal.
Being silly.

Vianney is our earliest crawler. She began around 4.5 months and now, at almost 6 months, is scooting around like a pro. She isn't crawling on all fours very well yet, but tries everyday. She can sit up on her own now, too. She is also an early teether, popping her first two bottom teeth at 3.5 months. I expect more to come in anytime now if she continues like her sisters. I can tell she's almost ready for solid foods as she licks her lips and mimicks chewing while watching us eat during meal times. She does NOT like being left alone at all. If I just walk into the other room for a few moments she is usually well aware and begins crying until I come back. Usually I can only get away with leaving the room if the other girls are in the room with her. She loves company and interacting with others and has since she was an infant. When she cries, she makes a perfect "rolling r" sound with her tongue. It is hilarious and adorable. I need to get it on video soon.

Teá and Vivi playing together.
Playing that they were at sea.
I love it when babes find their toes.
Amaryn is beginning to potty train. I know I need to just drop everything and focus on training her while she's showing signs of interest but I haven't done it yet. With Thanksgiving next week I am going to wait at least until after that, and possibly until after Christmas. I just need to mentally prepare myself for doing extra loads of laundry and of course prepare to keep the carpet cleaner nice and close. Hopefully it won't be too painful of a transition since she has gone quite a bit on the potty already and seems to want to use the toilet more than her diaper. Jason and I are also really enjoying Amaryn's newfound use of language. She communicates in almost full sentences now! The past 6 months her vocabulary and language development have just skyrocketed and it's so fun to watch and always nice to be able to communicate easier with her. She says the sweetest things in the sweetest little, innocent voice. She is very good at thanking me without be prompted. "Tank you, momma."

Amaryn swinging at the park.
Trying out the big girl swing. It was all fun until I accidentally pushed her off. Oops, sorry Amaryn!
Somehow (ahem, I know how) Vivi always ends up in a box or basket.
More fun at the park.

She's such a sweetie!
Teá continues to be her joyful, overall helpful self. It's hard to believe she will be 5 so soon. About a month ago she lost her two bottom teeth and her permentant teeth are already coming in. It was quite exciting for her. We took the opportunity to learn about St. Apollonia, the patron saint of teeth, and she received some special treats in an envelope we made with a St. Apollonia picture drawn on it. My favorite time of the day with her is while the others are napping in the afternoon and we get to have one on one time together. Usually we work on her schoolwork, sometimes we will play a game like Memory or Chutes and Ladders. Lately, we've gotten in the habit once again of reading chapter books. It's always amazed me that Teá likes to sit still and listen to books with very few to no pictures accompanying it. She loves it and so do I. Right now we are reading "The Adventures of Red Rowdy" by Sandra Grant. The homeschooling curricula we use offers this book for free online. I also enjoy her help as we get dinner ready during nap times. She is the most enthusiastic helper for dinner and as she gets older I look forward to entrusting her with harder tasks for dinner prep simply because I know she will enjoy it so.

 Pretend sleeping.

Lost two teeth!

Occasionally, Amaryn will also help out in the kitchen with meal prep or dishes. Kids enjoy helping and I can't stress enough the importance of letting them. Yes, it means things won't be cut evenly, there will be more of a mess to clean up, dishes won't be perfectly organized in the dishwasher, etc. BUT eventually they will get better at it and become more independent plus it makes great memories. Just pray for patience!

Bedtime stories read by only the best.
The evenings are often filled with either Jason or I reading books to the girls or Jason rough-housing with them on the floor. Once they go to bed, Jason and I are grateful for some quiet and rest. We usually fill each other in on the day's happenings, watch some news, and lately we've both been so exhausted we will just watch a movie together (hello, Hallmark Christmas movies!). Even in our fatigue, it is so nice to sit in Jason's presence and enjoy the quiet together.

I know from first hand experience how easy it is to get caught up in the disasters happening all over the world, and indeed we should allow ourselves to feel. There is good in recognizing the need to pray and look towards Heaven and contemplate life and death and our hope found in Jesus. We shouldn't, however, get so caught up in these happenings that we feel paralyzing fear or that we forget to recognize God's abundant blessings. Whether you find His blessings in the face of your children, in the smile of a stranger, in the beauty of the sunset, or simply in His peace and love, it is only right and just to give Him thanks and praise Him.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Help on our Journey

I looked longingly out the window at the road. It seemed to call my name. How long had it been since my running shoes had met the black surface and taken me wherever my heart longed? I missed the rhythmic pounding of my steps as I jogged down a winding, scenic road; I missed being lost in my thoughts and lost in an endless prayer for those that came to my mind; I missed listening to the music playing through my headphones, connecting me to a plethora of runs listening to the same songs in years past. 

I just missed running. 

It always seemed to help release the tensions of the day, focusing my mind back on The Lord and on what really matters. Yet here I was, yearning for the road in my mind, though my body had other concerns. Another wave of nausea swept over me, and thoughts of running quickly sunk to the bottom of the sea. I placed my hands on my belly. The sacrifices of motherhood were apparent long before I could hold that sweet baby in my arms. Running would have to wait.

During those months of waiting, I decided to focus my mind on accomplishing a goal, a reward of sorts for the lost time of running. Once this season had passed, I would run a half marathon. I signed myself up for the race six months after my due date. It would be Fall, and the thought of running through the beautiful New England landscape helped me persevere through the months of longing.

Fast forward a few months and I found that training with a newborn and a postpartum body were more difficult than originally imagined, but one thought back to those dreary months of sickness and not being able to get out and run quickly dismissed the moments of temporary pain and fatigue. I trained as best I could and while I wasn't truly ready come race day, I was determined to at least try.

On the day of the half marathon, I was giddy with excitement and anticipation. My legs were eager to start running and my mind was already in the zone. I just had to wait for the horn to blow. As I stood among the crowds of fellow runners, I was thankful I wasn't running this race alone. Everyone around me was so nice and, without thinking much about it, we all encouraged one another to do our best, walk if we had to, and just enjoy the run. The horn finally blew and off we went.

There were two groups of people surrounding me that day: Those running alongside me, and those on the side cheering us along the thirteen mile stretch. Both groups of people were so instrumental in helping me accomplish that goal. I especially remember the group of people on the sidelines and how encouraging they were. They would shout and cheer us on, tell us how well we were doing, hold signs with motivating words on them, play live, upbeat music, and so on. It was an unexpected, completely welcomed perk of my run that day.

I also distinctly remember the parallels of running that race and the race we run as Christians, our lifelong journey here on earth, with hopes of Heaven at the finish line. Thus far on my Christian journey, the only group of people I recognized were those running the race with me. Fellow Christians that were running the same race, with the same goal. We would pray for each other and encourage one another; it was great! Not until I became a Catholic, however, did I realize the other group of people: the saints in Heaven. They've run the race, completed it faithfully and with joy. They left us great testimonies of wisdom, perseverance, and hope to help us in our daily walk and continue to lend their aid through their prayers.  
How wonderful that we can find so much encouragement, strength, and wisdom from the saints! Many times since becoming Catholic, I've been inspired by the lives and words of these people who courageously fought the good fight. Their love for Jesus and His Church is evident and it shaped their lives and sometimes even brought about their deaths. Regardless of the circumstances, they rejoiced! We have much to learn from them and it can inspire us to run our race with similar zeal. Just as I was able to look to the sidelines during the half-marathon and gain encouragement and focus in completing the task at hand, so too we can look upward at those in Heaven cheering us on and praying for us. 

"Death, but not sin!"
-St. Dominic Savio-

"O eternal Trinity, You are a deep sea in which the more I seek the more I find, and the more I find, the more I seek to know You."
-St. Catherine of Siena- 

"As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live."
-St. John Paul II-

"Do not forget that holiness consists not in extraordinary actions, but in performing your duties to God, yourself, and others well."
-St. Maximilian Kolbe- 

Similarly, I have learned a lot since those days I looked longingly out the window yearning to run. During those times where we aren't able to fill our longings, we can look to the saints and realize that life is about SO MUCH MORE than fulfilling our own interests. Carrying babies and being a mom has left my running shoes quite lonely these past five years, but it's a wonderful and even small sacrifice.  
"Yes, all is well when we seek only the will of Jesus!"
-St. Therese-

"Teach us to give and not count the cost."
-St. Ignatius-

"Grant me, O Lord my God, a mind to know you, a heart to seek you, wisdom to find you, conduct pleasing to you, faithful perseverance in waiting for you, and a hope of finally embracing you. Amen.”
-St. Thomas Aquinas-

"Prayer is the inner bath of love into which the soul plunges itself."
"You either belong wholly to the world or wholly to God."
-St. John Vianney- 

All the Saints in Heaven, pray for us!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Settling in Davis

In true Davis style, Jason biked into work this morning for the first time. He accidentally went the long way, so what should have been 4.5 miles to campus was probably more like 6, but thankfully he didn't have a meeting or class scheduled so wasn't late for anything. There's a heat wave this week (over 100 degrees all week), so that's a bit of a challenge but it should work out just fine.

Amaryn, Teá, and I watched from the front porch and both girls thought it was pretty entertaining to watch him ride by.

We've been here about a week and a half now, and about a half a week in our apartment. It's been exhausting unpacking and getting settled but we are managing just fine. There's been hard days and lots of missing CT and loved ones, but with each challenge or feelings of home sickness, we turn to Jesus and thank Him for His plan and goodness. Jesus, we trust in You!! 

What has been a huge blessing in CA however is spending time with my sister and nephews! I haven't been snapping many photos but we are truly enjoying and soaking in our time with them. With 5 kids 4 years old and younger, it's pretty loud and chaotic, but oh so much fun! 

Teá begins her Catechesis of the Good Shepherd classes this week. We've been twice already for parent and child orientations and I'm so excited for this Montessori based approach to catechism. The kids meet in what's called an atrium and spend a couple hours, once a week, exploring the atrium and learning all about our faith and, as Teá told me, "being quiet so we can listen to God". How thankful I am that she will be exposed to the value and necessity of quiet in our life! It's so contrary to the loud, distraction filled culture we live in! In The Holy Spirit is the true catechist. I saw the atrium today during the parent meeting and I could feel Gods presence there and it brought tears to my eyes. I'm so grateful for the beautiful and rich teachings and truths that Teá will be further exposed to here and for all I will learn with her on this journey. 

Tonight we feel a bit more homesick. What's been going through our heads over and over...Jesus, we trust in You! There's a lot of change happening in our family right now between a new location, job, member of our family, living situation...I could go on and on, but it's hard and our emotions range from feeling overwhelmed, hopeful, sad, excited, tired, unsure. It's amplified when we see our beautiful children sad and missing CT and family there. Today Teá said she missed CT and asked when we will be going back. I said, Lord willing we will visit next summer. She gasped and said that's a long time away. It's really is. Amaryn cries when seeing them on FaceTime and says names of family members in CT wondering where they are. She brought photos of CT family up to her room last night and I could tell she was missing them. She can't quite verbalized it but it's obvious she's struggling with it all. It's just so hard. I'm thankful my family is close by and am really enjoying this time with my sister. We just wish everyone lived in one place! 

And with all that we are learning a deeper level of trust and of steadfastness. We want our faith to be consistent, steadfast, and unwavering. Our circumstances will be what they be, but our God is GOOD and faithful and loving and here with us in ALL of it. In our happiness, He is there. In our sadness, He is there. In our pain, He is there. In our uncertainty and doubt, He gently reminds us to trust Him and gives us the grace to trust and be certain in HIM. Not in anything else. Our location has changed, but our foundation in Jesus has not, and it grounds and stabilizes us and gets us through each day. 

Monday, September 7, 2015

From Utah to California!!!!!!

Day 11: From Torrey, UT to Bryce, UT

We left Torrey and drove South on a scenic byway to Bryce. The drive was beautiful and a little frightening. Part of the drive had steep cliffs on both sides of the road at the same time, along with curves and steep grades. It was cool to look over and see hawks flying parallel to us soaring through the sky overlooking the ground beneath the cliffs. It was desolate, but in a beautiful way.

The sky was a beautiful blue color that day.

Teá rode with Papa and Grandmere, and Amaryn didn't seem to mind a bit.

We checked into the hotel for a little break from the car, and then headed out to visit Bryce Canyon National Park. The park is so unique and unlike others. It isn't a true canyon as there is no river forming the trenches below, but it nevertheless looks much like one. We drove through the park and stopped at difference overlooks and walked a couple short trails. 

An Arch in Bryce Canyon.

We saw many deer and even almost hit some on the road. 
The end of the park road lead us to a beautiful lookout at an elevation of over 9,000 ft. The sun was setting on the canyon hoodoos and made for a spectacular view. The sunset was once again absolutely jaw dropping gorgeous. 

Day 12: From Bryce, UT to Tusayan, AZ (Grand Canyon National Park)

We spent quite a few days in Utah, and finally it was time to leave and head to the Grand Canyon in Arizona. The drive took us through indian reservations and more desert. 

Happily playing in Teá's carseat. I can't remember why she was in it and even where Teá is.

Who's excited to see the Grand Canyon?!! Not the kids so much, apparently!
Not long after entering into the Grand Canyon National Park it began to rain. It was a hazy evening, but that view. The camera doesn't do it justice. It's remarkable and even with our own eyes looking at it, it was hard to fathom the grandeur of the canyon. It's bigger than our minds can truly comprehend. I can't help but wonder in awe at the God who created it. How big, vast, and grand HE must be!! 

We climbed a tower at one of the lookouts. It gave us a quick break from the rain and provided a nice view.

Looking out the window.

Inside the tower.
At points the canyon stretches 18 miles from one rim across to the other and is over a mile deep. In all honesty, it was frightening with children. Not all of the overlooks are fenced in. Even for the ones that are fenced in, only a few short feet away you can go around the fence to where it drops off suddenly. We talked with a park ranger who told us that just about daily they have to make helicopter rescues into the canyon for people who began trailing down into it and couldn't make it out. He had seen people die, often because of trying to photograph themselves and the canyon and then losing balance and falling. It isn't too uncommon, so we kept our distance, remembered our mortality, and kept our little ones close!

That evening, we put the kids to bed in the hotel room and my parents watched them while Jason and I were able to go out and watch an IMAX presentation on the Grand Canyon. It felt a little funny bringing a baby into an IMAX theater at 8pm, but we enjoyed ourselves and the mini-date nonetheless!

Day 13: From Tusayan, AZ to Boulder City, NV:

We began the morning with a visit to the Grand Canyon once again. Dense fog was rising out of the canyon and we couldn't even see a few feet across, let alone to the other side of the canyon. We walked around the visitors center and checked back and the fog had lifted. 

Fog rolling in. Note the trees coming out of the canyon below us.

Those are the same trees...would you ever believe that the Grand Canyon was RIGHT THERE, but you couldn't see anything!! 

Thankfully, it was mostly gone less than an hour later. 

We were pretty excited to see the Grand Canyon, or "the big crack in the earth" as Teá called it.

How Vivi felt about the Grand Canyon.
We drove to Boulder City and made a quick stop at the Hoover Dam along the way. Our hotel happened to be a casino (welcome to Nevada) and Teá was most impressed with the slot machines. She excitedly asked us, "Look at all the shiny lights over there, can we go there and play with those?! That's where the party is!" Jason took the two older girls swimming in the pool instead.

Didn't get a great photo of the Hoover Dam, but here it is from behind.

Where the party's at, according to Teá.

Out to dinner with the fam.

Day 14: From Boulder City, NV to Mammoth Lakes, CA:

The next part of the drive was DESOLATE! Not in a pretty way, either. We both agreed we don't like Nevada very much. We stopped outside Death Valley at a candy shop...the only decent stopping point for miles and miles. It wasn't very pretty and it just felt dirty. Probably the casinos and brothels on the side of the highways contributed to these feelings. We also were so ready to finally get to California by this point and Nevada was between us and home. 

Cactus and desert. 

For miles and miles and hours upon hours.

Day 15: Mammoth Lakes, CA to Sacramento, CA:

FINALLY!!! The last day of the road trip. We enjoyed ourselves and the scenery, but were very thankful to have reached the destination. Well almost...our apartment in Davis wouldn't be ready for another week. BUT, after 4,260 miles and 15 days in a car, we were so grateful to be almost there. Plus, my sister and brother-in-law were super generous to host us and it was fun visiting with them for the week. The kids were thrilled to be able to play with their cousins and their cousins toys. They loved not having to be limited to the confines of a vehicle, and enjoyed playing outside, inside, basically anywhere besides a car or a hotel room.

Prior to leaving CT, I took great care and time to organize the car and make it road trip ready.

Neatly organized and ready for use.

Clean, new trays for coloring on...which turned out to be literally ON the trays. I'm not sure why I didn't see that one coming.

After each day, we would take out the trash, put away the childrens activities from the day, and re-organize the car. Even so, after two weeks in the car with three kids and multiple food and coffee stops, the car was doomed and ended up looking like this:

Our car was as thankful to finally get there as we were.