Saturday, January 31, 2015

Choosing St. John Bosco

At the end of December, like many of you, I visited this website, said a quick prayer, and asked God to give me a saint who would help me through the coming year. A saint whose intercession I would need.   I hadn't done this before but others seemed to swear by it so I figured, what the heck, I'll give it a try.   So I did it and I got St. Leopold the III, a saint unfamiliar to me but one I was anxious to learn about.  And then I read that he was the patron saint of large families, stepfamilies, and {gasp!} against the death of children.

Say what?

Large family?  So not funny.   Infertile gal here.   Stepfamilies?  Well, for that to happen in my family, someone would have to die.  Again, not funny.   And death of children?   Very very not funny.

I was tempted to hit the "back" button and go with my second choice, but figured I'd tempted fate enough.   It certainly was a sobering reminder that we never know what the year might bring.   If St. Leopold the III has chosen me, I suppose in time, I'll know why.  Yet, if it's all the same to you St. Leopold, thanks but no thanks. We're all good.

However, this "choose a saint" business also got me to thinking about what saint I would have chosen for this year if it has been left up to me to make the choice rather than letting a computerized mindless random name generator make the choice for me.   I've thought about this a lot, and the name that keeps coming to me has been St. John Bosco.

It's interesting how I have been drawn to certain saints during various periods of my life. As a child, I loved the story of Fatima and the fact that our Blessed Mother appeared to the children Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta.  As a teen, I chose St. Kateri for my Confirmation saint because of our shared Native American heritage.  In my college days, I loved reading the writings of Blessed Mother Teresa and learning about modern day martyrs such as Archbishop Oscar Romero and other saints who died for a just cause.   In my career, I frequently asked St. Francis of Assisi to guide me, and as a married woman facing the tedious daily task of caring for a home and being sensitive to the needs of the other person living with me, St. Therese was always there for me. And then there were all the saints upon whom I relied during the years I prayed for a child...St. Gerard, St. Gianna, St. John the Baptist, St. Elizabeth, St. John Paul II, Sts. Anne and Joachim, the list goes on and on...

And here I am now, many saints later, facing new challenges that come from parenting two little boys.  Now that the baby years are over (for now), my husband and I have found ourselves entering unfamiliar territory.  I come from a family of girls. My husband did not have siblings.  The homes we grew up in were mostly quiet and peaceful.  There was no wrestling on the floor during commercial breaks, no hitting and kicking to "see if it hurts", no lifting or throwing of large heavy objects (e. g. firewood, bricks, rocks, sofa cushions, etc), no desire to jump in the mud to see who can get dirtiest, and (dare I say it) no peeing or spitting contests (in which they go for distance...good aim is optional), just to name a few.  Life in the trenches with two little boys with limitless energy and a penchant for destruction has had us more than once calling upon the heavens for a little intercessory help down here below.

I don't know a lot about St. John Bosco but I do know that he had a soft spot in his heart for the boys that nobody else wanted around.  He spent his life reaching out to boys who were considered wild, loud, mean, ornery, and who everyone else considered delinquents and lost causes.   And more than once, he turned them around.  He taught them to pray, took them to Mass, he praised them when he saw them exercising even the smallest degree of virtue, and he refused to use harsh discipline, choosing instead to offer love first instead of instilling fear.   He introduced them to music, and took frequent walks with them to calm their restless souls. Over the decades, thousands of the boys he mentored became priests and educators and his legacy remains today in the Salesian Society, which he founded.

Being St. John Bosco
All Saints Day 2014

I need a saint like that now, as I try my hand at turning wild restless little souls into saints.   I need to be reminded that on the hardest days, it is always love that I should still offer first.  I need to know that no matter how difficult or challenging a little boy may be, he is already wonderful in God's eyes.  If John Bosco can do it with thousands, I'm confident that he can help me find the grace I need to do it with two.

I do not know what this coming year will bring to me and my family.   Maybe St. Leopold knows.   But I do know what each day has brought thus far, which is why, right now, St. John Bosco, I choose you.  Let's tackle these challenges together during the coming year. Please pray for me, St. John Bosco.  And for all the boys in our world who simply need love first.
And Happy Feast Day!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

7 Quick Takes - January Thaw Edition

Linking up with Kelly over at This Ain't the Lyceum.

Hoping to get this post up yesterday, but late again.  No excuses, other than I have had a major case of spring fever and took advantage of the January thaw that we had this week to be outside instead of on my laptop during the afternoon hours when the boys nap (yep, my boys still take simultaneous naps even at the ripe old age of four, and yep, it is still the most heavenly two-hours of my day). No worries, though, because as the boys slept, Tom stayed inside and did bread-earning work on his laptop while I was outside setting the woods on fire. I just can't resist a good spring-like burn day.  So, he brings home the bacon while I do yard work with a drip torch. Sounds a like a great partnership to me!

My favorite kind of yard work.

The January thaw also meant that everyone and anyone who burns wood as a primary heat source (that would include us) was out in the forest this week gathering whatever dead and down material they could find and tossing it into the back of their pickup truck.   We were no exception and so, for a couple of days, my dad gave me a refresher on how to use the chainsaw and we brought home two loads of yellow poplar, ready to be split and stacked for next year.  Tom and I have a pretty good deal (reference great partnership mentioned above).  I cut it and he splits and stacks it.   I think I got the better end of that deal, too!   Can't wait until we have a couple of strapping young men (aka, our sons) to help Tom with the less fun part, but it'll be a warm day in January before Mama gives up her chainsaw!

Tom's gym.

So, for Christmas, I got one of those techno devices that you wear on your waistband and it counts how many steps you take in a day.  I didn't really care how many steps I took, but I did want something that would help me keep track of how far I was running during my workout.   Up until I got this fancy little gadget, I just timed my runs (thirty minutes including time to warm up and roust the dog) but I now know that my runs average two to three miles.  Funny, felt more like fifteen!  Anyhow, I also found out on the first day that I wore the thing that I exceeded the recommended goal of taking 10,000 steps in a day.  No wonder I am so tired at night!   People often ask me how I stay thin and my response is that I chase two wild little boys around all day, and now I have the science to prove it!  My next great experiment is to put this gadget on one of the boys and see if it can count up to 125,000 steps in a day, because I'm pretty sure that would be on the low end of their daily exertion level (I did the math, and figure I take one step for each of their ten).

So the big news around here, in case you missed it, is that we are actively pursuing potential adoption matches again.  It's been interesting this go-around. Even though we have adopted before, this is the first time we've used an adoption consultant, and rather than hearing about potential birthmother matches once every few months, we're hearing about them about once a week.  That's the good news, and does give us encouragement.  The bad news is that most of the situations we are presented with are not cases we are entirely comfortable with. So, we will probably be waiting a while for the right situation.  With each, however, Tom and I discuss and discern and pray.  Please pray with us, if you would, that God will lead us to make the best decision for us and our future adopted child and birthparents.

And speaking of prayer, I keep meaning to update folks on a couple of blog posts I did a while back. First, there was this post, in which I asked for prayers for our priest.  Thank you all of you who offered a prayer or two on his behalf.   He has been home for a while now, and is slowly recovering. Emphasis on the "slowly" part.  We had hoped he'd be back to his priestly duties by now but it appears that it may be March or later before he returns.  He is still dealing with a lot of pain and has to learn to walk again, so please keep him in your prayers.  In the meantime, we've had a wonderful priest subbing for him on weekends whom we've really come to love.  He drives six-hours round-trip every weekend just to meet our needs, so may God truly bless him as well.

Also, I wrote this post a few months ago and just a few weeks after publishing it, the dear woman who was the mother of the young man who died almost lost her husband as well.  By a miracle, he is still alive, but not doing very well.  Please keep her in your prayers.   This is one of those cases where I keep asking myself, Lord, how much grief do you think one person can handle?   Of course, there is no answer to that question that any of us will ever receive on this side of heaven.

And on a lighter note, our little John had a bit of a milestone last Sunday when he served at Mass for the first time!   It wasn't planned, but the young man who normally serves was not at Mass so a church friend took John up and helped him along and he did great!  Proud Mama here!  The kid has no inhibitions about anything, and said he wants to do it again.  Considering we have fewer than ten kids in our entire parish (we're a small mission parish), no doubt he'll get plenty more chances.  Do they make albs in size 4T?   :o)

And congrats if you made it this far, because this is a bonus edition of Quick Takes!   I just couldn't wrap this up without sharing a few photos from today's morning walk.   Being in the southern part of Appalachia, we don't get too much snow here, but when we awoke this morning, we were greeted with the most beautiful snowfall.  It was just the kind of snow I stuck to everything except the roads!   So, we filled our bellies with sourdough pancakes and leftover pork loin then donned our rubber boots and headed to some nearby overlooks to enjoy this fleeting visit from Old Man Winter. The snow was all gone by noon, but not before I captured it for posterity's sake.  And yours.   Enjoy!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Little Happies- Adoption Approved (Again)

Even though Stephanie is busy doing awesome new things and not hosting Little Happies at the moment, I just couldn't think of a better title for this blog post, and since it is Monday, and I wanted to share this news that makes me very, very happy, Little Happies just seems appropriate.   So here it is...

--one-- (and only one)

We are home study-approved and back in the waiting pool to adopt! 

It's all I ever really wanted for Christmas, actually.  That is, to have our home study completed by year's end, and by God's grace (and a lot of paperwork!), it happened.   Our home study was officially signed by our adoption agency on December 18.   Our profiles are finished and have been sent out to a couple of agencies plus our adoption consultant.  We will probably send out a few more packages to some other agencies, and then we wait.   And pray.  Always praying.

During the years when we were waiting to adopt the first time, I only prayed for "a baby", but when that baby finally did come, I knew that he was "the baby" meant for us.   I knew it in my heart the moment I met his birthmother (and she knew it as well), the moment I first held him a few hours after his birth, and I have known it every moment that he has been in my life.  It has not all been easy, but it has all been meant to be.  God's timing is always perfect.

So, as we wait again, we try not to dwell on how much time has passed since we first felt the desire to adopt again.  It has been too long and it has been hard.  But none of that matters anymore.   The only thing that matters now is that we are still waiting.   The calling is still there and we have done what we can to answer it.  Now, it is God's turn.

Happily waiting for our answer.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Christmas Interrupted

I can't believe Christmas is over.   This year, Advent seemed so long but the
Christmas season, so short. I almost feel betrayed, like the kid who wrote Santa asking for a pony and woke up on Christmas morning to find no pony, only a broomstick horse with a mane made from leftover yarn and a head stuffed with yesterday's newspaper.

Christmas Day here found me mostly in bed, suffering from one of the many flu-type illnesses spreading across this third-sickest state in the nation.  The day after Christmas, I felt well enough to pull out the Christmas china that didn't get used on Christmas Day, and put together a celebratory Christmas breakfast.   Just as we all sat down to enjoy our eggnog French toast, the phone rang.  It was the kind of call you never want to get;  a dear family member had been found dead that morning. He wasn't much older than me, and was like a brother to my husband.  He was a groomsman in our wedding.  In that moment, it felt like Christmas was over.   

Four days later, we were heading north, making the 500-mile trip to say goodbye, and watching the thermometer on the dashboard sink almost as low our moods.   We gathered with family, held onto each other, and tried to be mindful of our two little boys who didn't understand it all and saw the trip as a Christmas vacation climaxed by a hotel stay and a swim in the hotel pool.  

We arrived back home in time for the Epiphany, and tried to get back on track. A few more gifts were opened, we watched Christmas movies, and baked sweet treats.  But then Tom had a business trip, schools resumed,  and it was back to "business as usual" for him and the world.   Where did our Christmas go?

Today, I took down the Christmas tree and other decorations.  It was quiet in the house, much quieter than the day had been when we'd all gathered together to put it up. Tom was at work and the boys in preschool after a month-long break.  The old routine was back and Christmas was over for another year.   Why did I feel so cheated?

This past Sunday, our last day of the Christmas season, we had a bit of warm weather and I craved a walk in the forest after all the chaos, sickness, and travel of the past three weeks.   We hiked a trail near our home, a trail that was not in any way remarkable, just a path through the woods along a small stream.  Instead of leading to a sweeping vista or dynamic waterfall, this trail offered us simply a grove of hemlocks as striking as any cathedral and an aroma as intoxicating as any incense.   And as I walked along, I began to realize that it was the ordinariness of this trail that made it so beautiful.

Christmas is over and it went nothing like I thought it would.  My Christmas had been interrupted by the unexpected, the tragic, and the mundane.   And as I removed the last ornament from the tree and boxed it up for another year, I felt a sense of regret for not getting the chance to enjoy the season more.   Now, it is time for me to go back to the ordinariness of my life.  

But perhaps I had overlooked the most important gift I'd been given this Christmas;  the gift that came to me on that last day of Christmas this past Sunday, as I walked along a quiet stream and looked up.  It was simply to be reminded that what is ordinary is what I should look forward to the most.