Sunday Snippets and Gratitude List

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It’s time for another roundup of Catholic bloggers over at This That and the Other Thing. Hop on over and join us! My contributions for this week:

I’m including my 7 Quick Takes b/c there’s a reference to a shout-out by the Denver Redemptorists, calling for Catholic moms’ opinions on St. Gerard Majella.

“Mama’s On The Radio” is about my experience being on a radiothon…with my kids.

Then there’s Julianna, being cute with my flute.

“Searchability.” This is a fun exercise for bloggers to do.

And “Let Everything That Has Breath,” in which I recorded and reflected on the most amazing dream I’ve had in a long time.

It’s been super busy lately, and by week’s end I began to recognize the signs of burnout. So my gratitude list for this week focuses on the Missouri Writers Guild Conference–my first-ever writing conference–which I attended Friday afternoon and Saturday in St. Louis:

  • The grace to meet and talk with people without feeling awkward or socially inept
  • Which led to making connections with writers who write what I write (what a concept!)
  • Which led to being introduced to an editor I was pitching the next day, and getting to make a personal connection with her ahead of time
  • And because it was so natural a progression, I wasn’t nervous or awkward with HER (because it’s in my nature to make an idiot of myself around people I respect
  • The chance to see an old friend of my husband’s, and spend time with her and really make her my friend, and someone who amazes me at every turn
  • Good, beautiful conversation with her, covering topics of so much greater importance than writing–but that, too!
  • Inspiration
  • Motivation
  • Encouragement
  • The overwhelming expansion of my reading list (didn’t need that, but it’s still a good thing!)
  • A brief, but nice, visit with my aunt and uncle, who loaned me a bed for Friday night
  • A successful pitch or three, both fiction & NF (none of them guarantees of publication, but successful nonetheless)
  • A spur-of-the-moment visit with my sister on the way home
  • A great CD to listen to, inspiring a change of heart
  • Arriving home on Saturday night to a house that I left in a disaster, and found in a state of almost-cleanliness! (Yes, my husband rocks. No, you can’t have him.)
  • And last but most certainly not least, the reaction of my children when I pulled in the driveway and came inside.

I had a pretty profound insight on the way home…amazing what thoughtful ground you can cover when you don’t have three children bickering, asking “how much longer” or making sound effects in the back seat. I’ll share that one on Tuesday. Tomorrow I have a guest post coming up.

Let Everything That Has Breath (or: Beating a Dead Horse)

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Just before my alarm went off, 5:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning, I had the most amazing dream. We were attending Mass at the Newman Center, and singing the new Mass parts. They were chants, as a matter of fact, but the most gorgeous, melodic chants I’d ever heard, and expanded into gorgeously rich harmony that made the very air hum. And ringed around the exterior of the church stood dozens of people, children and adults, bearing small percussion instruments—agogô, cabasa, güiro, and others I know by sight and sound but for which I know no names. It was a tight ensemble; I looked around and marveled at the way even the children kept the complex rhythms locked to the voices, the joy filling up the space, and my heart lifted up in gratitude not only for the existence of God, but for the power of what He created here on Earth.

It is sometimes suggested that what I describe crosses into irreverence. It is called banal, feel-good, happy-clappy, and so on. People I deeply respect in all other areas use the word “beauty” to mean “high church,” unable (or refusing) to acknowledge that beauty crosses aesthetic lines, finding itself equally at home amid chant, praise bands, contemporary ensembles, solo cantors and classically-trained choirs.

Only in the constant frustration of trying to moderate the online rhetoric do I finally realize how blessed I was to grow up in a small, rural parish where there was little pretension and a great openness to all forms of beauty in music (even though, being a small parish, we were incredibly limited in what we could do). It wasn’t until much later that I realized how strongly so many people equate God with solemn, humorless sternness. I’ve never understood it. Why must reverence equal silence, holiness equal formality? Why do we shush children, try to make them behave (defined as sitting still and being silent, things utterly not in their nature, things which cause them to yell “church is boring” and help them not at all along the road toward understanding what’s going on and becoming active in participation)—why, when Jesus very clearly said “Let the little children come to me” and “whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it”? Why do we use worship as another venue to drive wedges between people, to separate them into groups that can be labeled “Us” and “Them”?

Don’t get me wrong. You know how I crave silence, how I find God in it. I think the lack of silence in modern life is a real problem, one that people are reluctant to address. And certainly I’m not suggesting that we should abandon the pomp and grandeur of high church. I know, without a doubt, that the ideal held up by the aforementioned people has real power to lift the heart to God, when it’s well done. But so do other forms. Look around the world. God created kangaroos and slugs, mountains and valleys and deserts and oceans, skin in black and white and all variations in between, and inspired people in all of them to create unique forms of beauty. How can we claim that there is only one way to worship the God who created such diversity? When any of us try to set up our own personal preferences (whatever form they take) as the only way or even the best way, we put God in a box.

Well, thank God He won’t stay in that box, that’s all I have to say.

What I experienced in that dream would be hard to achieve this side of Heaven. But it reminds me yet again that the human race, in all its diversity of custom and culture, truly is good.

Today I am grateful for all the things that support the song of the people of God:

hand drums and drumsets

electric guitars and keyboards

pipe organs and glorious trained choirs

chants and Renaissance polyphony (okay, so that last doesn’t support assembly song, but it can still lift our souls)

Handel and Haugen

Pope Gregory and Rich Mullins

for the inSpiration that touches all artists, whether they choose to make good use of it or not

for the constant renewal of the Church in the gifts of its members

for the constant tension between embracing what is good from contemporary culture and holding on to truth—however imperfectly the balance is held

for online arguments that remind me never to take for granted the blessings I’ve been given

Counting to a thousand with the Gratitude Community at A Holy Experience

Early Spring in the Woods

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On Julianna’s birthday, Alex came home from school in great excitement. “My teacher said there was going to be an early spring!” he exclaimed. We tried to moderate his certainty, but how do you explain to a five-year-old that the groundhog is a publicity stunt?

When I get up to walk on Sunday morning, it’s already well above freezing. All morning, while we get dressed and go to church (jackets, not coats, thank you), the snowpack melts. As the day goes on, the sound of running water down in the woods crescendoes: first a whisper, then a gurgle, and at last a steady rush. The cul de sac is clear for the first time in weeks, and in the afternoon, Alex and I go outside. He rides his bike for a while, and then we put on our boots to “slop” our way down to the woods. It’ss harder going than I anticipated. Eighteen inches of super-fluffy snow doesn’t just pack down as it melts; it morphs into to a snow state I’ve never seen before. I guess my boots are really shot, because slogging through snow at the threshold of melting ends with my toes being very wet.

The last time I was there, it looked like this:

A pristine wonderland crisscrossed only by animal tracks and a trickle of water peeking from a layer of ice.

Today, Alex and I pause at the edge of the bend in the creek and survey the busy water.

He stands with his hands jammed into his pockets, and watches the gurgling waters round the bend, then says, “Come on, Mommy!” After all, there are rocks to throw.

And vines to investigate, to puzzle the mystery by which they grow up, then down, and somehow manage to loop upward again. How do they do that?

And untouched snow in need of shuffled tracks made by little bare legs.

And fingers to poke into the snowy drifts at the edge of the creek bank in an attempt to make raccoon tracks. I watch, then bend down to do the same, and my fingers sink into something barely cold and soft like velvet. I’ve never felt anything like it. Or maybe I’m just paying attention for the first time. “Look,” I say softly, and point to the creek bank, where green shoots sprout from the soft earth. “The world thinks it’s spring.”

And despite all the stressors, the lack of time, the projects pressing down, the nudging that I’m out of balance, at this moment, this moment in the woods, all I feel is joy.

Today I am thankful for signs of coming spring:

Driving with the window down for the first time in 2011

Opening the deck door for a precious half hour to let fresh air into the house

The first day that my early-morning exercise is accompanied by a blush of dawn

A gorgeous sunrise—food for the soul

Riding bikes in the cul de sac

Animal tracks in untouched snow…even if they aren’t destined to remain so

A little boy with fists jammed into his pockets

The mystery of vines

Shuffling through untouched melting snow

Making raccoon tracks in the snow

Green shoots along the creek bank

The whoosh of running water outside my window

Last year’s grasses melting their insulating blanket

On In Around button


Existing in the Moment

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Holy Spirit,

Image by kelsey_lovefusionphoto via Flickr

It’s easier to be thankful in the crisis moments. Crises burn all the pettiness out of life. During them, you really exist in the present. You stop getting angry because the dishes aren’t done and the city didn’t plow your street properly, and your brain hums with awareness of all that is good about the humdrum, ordinary circumstances of life. So really, crisis points are themselves something to be thankful for.

But this was not a crisis weekend. It was just an ordinary weekend at the end of a long week strung with snow days. And I got crankier by the day, for no good reason at all, my vision zeroing in on a snow pile of minor irritants until I had a fight with my husband. And this morning, as I sit down to write down my gratitude moments for the week, it feels fake and super-saccharine to talk only about them, and pretend like the rest of it never happened.

I’m beginning to realize that when I am content, when my brain relaxes, the buzz of the Spirit in my brain signals that I’m existing in the moment. I’m not worrying about the novel without a home, or the novel without a structure, or lesson schedule or getting the carpet shampooed or figuring out Julianna’s future. In those fleeting moments, I simply am.

I had several of those this weekend.

There was the moment Friday afternoon when I sat upstairs, typing Lenten recipes and novel scenes. The sound of giggles downstairs bypassed my usual filters, and I realized—really realized: my children are playing together. They’ve been playing together for half an hour without bickering—just enjoying each other. My fingers paused, my hands dropped to my lap, and instead of thinking or problem solving, I just listened. Listened to the laughter of my children enjoying each other, loving each other. And it made me realize anew how much I love my children.

There was the moment an hour or two later, when all fell quiet for a moment, and then I heard Alex’s voice: “I love you, Nicholas.”

There was the moment Saturday night, when I called my dad and Alex commandeered the phone. And while I tossed clothes in the dryer and got ready for bed, I kept an ear trained on the conversation in the hallway. “I only had school on Monday this week,” Alex said. “I think my mom probably liked it. Because she doesn’t have anything to do except sit in front of the computer all day long.” I paused with my toothbrush halfway to my mouth, a shot of mingled horror and amusement and guilt piercing my chest. Is that all he sees of me? It was like a split-second examination of conscience. I tripped along memories, trying to convince myself that the time I spent with him this week making valentines, playing Batman, reading books and baking, actually counted for something. But it was another reminder that my work is not more important than my children.

And there was bedtime on Sunday, as I sat singing Child of the Moon to my children. Between one word and the next, right before my eyes, Julianna turned to her big brother and smiled, then crooked an arm around him. They looked like high school buddies, not small children. And then Alex turned his head and smiled at her, nose to nose, eye to eye, and love poured out of their gaze and smacked me with the sheer force of its power, stealing my breath for half a second. And in that moment, I understood anew how love can be so powerful that it becomes a physical force in the world, like the Holy Spirit, an uncontainable manifestation of the love of Father and Son.

Moments like these, I ache to capture on camera, but my camera is downstairs in the drawer, and even if I had it on me, by the time I pulled it out and turned it on, the moment would be past. So instead I just sit and drink it in. Ten minutes later, I’ll be mad because somebody hit somebody else or spilled a glass of milk, or distracted by a troublesome manuscript, or the phone will ring and I’ll go back to worrying about NFP presentations and DS support groups…but for that one, brief moment, I am present in my own life.

More gratitudes:

Having babysitting on Friday for the first time in weeks

Getting a lot done because of it

Having the house back, with all family members going where they’re supposed to go M-F.

Alex growing and stretching and relaxing into his role as big brother—and luxuriously enjoying it!

A good book

The first step toward reclaiming my weight

Packing snow

Calvin & Hobbes snowmen, courtesy of my husband

A hush over the creek

Multitude Monday

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After spending an entire week focused on infertility, my brain has been having trouble grinding into gear, casting about for topics for the coming week—and in particular, a topic to anchor my Monday morning gratitude post. Do I focus on the conference we attended this weekend? On visits with friends and family? On the bizarre waking nightmare I experienced crossing the Missouri River, and can’t seem to shake off? On the choir that has become so central to our faith journey?

Late on a Sunday night, on the verge of sleep, I remember the afternoon I spent skipping through photo files to choose pictures to print and scrapbook. It was a job I hadn’t done in months, and the number of folders full of pictures was a little overwhelming. About halfway through the task, I overloaded with the sweetness, the simple, ordinary beauty of the moments captured—but most of all, the sheer volume of them. Wow, I thought. I really do have an amazing life!

The memory of that moment came flooding back to me, and I realized that it’s not about an eloquent monologue tying it all together. It’s about the moments themselves:

A bounty of adorable little girl clothes, given to us by a good friend

Alex to Julianna, as she comes upstairs for bath, still dressed in her pretty new clothes: “Hi, Miss Pretty!”

Alex’s adorable, infectious giggle, which soon spreads to all three children

Gradually building connections with other area DS families

A great conference weekend, full of ideas and networking to help us get Julianna talking and get a support group up and running in our own town

A chance for the kids to play with cousin, aunt and friends while we were concentrating on Down syndrome issues

The fact that the coats we left at my sister’s house can migrate home with my parents in only a week

Dinner at Denny’s, which inspires its own moments of cuteness

Julianna and Daddy at Denny's Alex coloring at Denny's Nicholas coloring at Denny's

My sister’s suggestion for Julianna’s schooling, which cleared a long-standing haze of confusion

Fog-frosted trees in the darkness

Sunshine and melting snow before the next round moves in

A big home project to structure the time we expect to spend snowed in this week

And yes, the contemporary group, full of devout, devoted people called to share their gifts in the service of God and their fellow worshipers:

OLL Contemporary Group OLL Contemporary Group 

My husband’s hands on the piano

OLL Contemporary Group

The opportunity and the responsibility of leadership, challenging me not to stagnate in my faith

OLL Contemporary Group

Reconnection with a past choir member, who gets to join us for Julianna’s family birthday dinner–who can resist this kind of adorability? (Yes, she’s fascinated by facial hair)

Julianna with Brother Albert Haugen

Unposed, unplanned Kodak moments

Julianna's birthday

Sunday Snippets, and Gratitude

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Normally I wouldn’t combine posts like this, but I’m planning several days on the topic of infertility starting Monday, and I don’t want to neglect my newfound commitment to searching for the gratitude moments in life. So I’m going to combine that into my Sunday Snippets post today.

Welcome to all those coming from Ruth’s Catholic roundup. Posts for this week include:

The aforementioned re-commitment to searching for thankfulness in every moment, and another post, in which I can’t decide whether I have a stand-up-comic or a saint in training. Why don’t you check it out and give me your opinion? 🙂

Gratitudes for this week:

Homemade pizza, in preparation as I type on a Saturday afternoon

Hope, even if it did turn out to be misplaced

14 1/2 months without a hospital stay…and counting

A quiet retreat to my room to work, and the Heavenly artwork displayed on the wall via an open window, a sunny afternoon, and a shiny book cover lying on the bed:


Twentyish pages of a manuscript churned out despite snow days

Honey bears and play dates and homemade soup

Nicholas’s exploding vocabulary: “baby” and “mama” and “dada” and “wa-wa” and “peeeeeee” (please) and a couple others that are escaping my brain right now

Oh yes, sledding…as in this:

And this:

(that's Alex right in the foreground)

And this:

(J's glasses left at home to avoid loss of property)

And this:

(Not so thrilled, but awfully cute in his pink and black boots, which his big sister never wore...)

Not to mention the fact that we live in such luxury that cold and snow gives us an opportunity for recreation, instead of threatening our continued existence…

Did I mention thank you for homemade pizza?

Here And Now

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“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately…and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
-Henry David Thoreau

There are times in life when every word I read seems to be a message from Heaven hammering home a single point. The last two weeks or so have been one of those times. At first, it was just a hint here or there, whispering “joy in the moment.” But although I recognized the squirm in my belly, indicating that this message was looking for a home, I was too busy focused on my family, which looked more or less like this, to pay attention:

Since Christmas, it’s been nothing but sickness and interrupted nights and snow days, and the associated hits to my productivity. I have been gripey and complaining in increasing negativity, in defiance of Heavenly messages. So God upped the ante, until every blog post and news story and every word out of my husband’s mouth pounded at the message of celebrating the moment and the need to stop worshiping at the altar of productivity. And then, I went through the last six months’ pictures, sending $40 of developing to Target in preparation for a new round of scrapbooking, and I realized: Holy cow. Look at those moments! I had forgotten. My life is made of joy.

Living in the moment. Celebration, a blogger said, is how we live in the present. Me, I live in a world of multitasking, the antithesis of living in the moment. My brain is always skipping ahead, wrestling with writing issues, or wallowing in past experiences, comforting myself through the painful slowness of my goals with the thought that someday, the kids’ll all be in school and I’ll be able, like Thoreau, to go to the woods. I can hear Yoda saying, “This one, long have I watched. All her life has she looked away… to the future, to the horizon. Never her mind on where she was.”

Here and now. This moment is all I have; the future, as the green guy said, is always in motion. (Wise little alien that he was.) It’s foolish to pin my hopes on an ideal world that in all likelihood will never materialize. I will always have sick kids and snow days, doctor appointments and IEP meetings, school pickup and dinner to make, that will prevent me from retreating for weeks to a woodland paradise. But then, without them, life would be empty. Where would I learn about suffering and joy, beauty and pain, and the way they are all inextricably linked together?

So today I recommit to the count of a thousand gifts: sparkling moments sprinkled in among the gray winter of discontent. Today I commit to learning that elusive skill of living here, living now, of sucking the marrow out of life and celebrating the present.

-Perfect Snowflakes: One drifting down to rest on spidery crystal legs on the rubber strip below the window of the truck. One on the head of one perfect little girl (sorry the focus isn’t terrific–you try getting this girl to stand still long enough to have her picture taken!)

-The way the energy level of the house changes when Alex comes home from school, an immediate electrification of the air, an instantaneous alchemy of completion.

-The warbling giggle of my almost-22-month-old as said big brother chases him around the house roaring, and Julianna sits off to the side giggling uncontrollably at the rank silliness of the menfolk.

-A DQ Chocolate Extreme blizzard, shared with my girl

-Wonderful teachers for my children

-Choir members who build a community around us

-A few stolen moments by the river, watching the ice grind itself into perfect circles as it spins around the bends on its way to warmer weather:

-Gratitudes that are not meant for public consumption

-The chance to submit a manuscript

-The chance to make a difference by working at the diocesan level, and by teaching NFP

-The privilege of the writing gift, which I must remember is just that, a gift, and less important than my ordinary, humdrum life

-The structure that limits my writing time, which makes me focus and produce instead of wallowing and wasting time. (At least, not wasting as much time.)

-Grandmothers who have lived long enough to be known and loved by their great-grandchildren

What do you have to be grateful for today?

Confessions of an Advent Zombie

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Zombie

Image via Wikipedia

It seems ironic to me that in this season of Advent—the Advent I’ve spent two years preparing for, the one in which I’m doing four radio interviews, four periodical interviews, countless blog entries, and five book signings to help families move toward a less crazed, more relaxing, and holy Advent season—that in this season, it is me who is feeling stressed, crazed, and utterly unable to find the peace and holy hush I have been so relentlessly advocating.

I made a mistake in Advent calendar scheduling this year.  It goes like this:

  • At the end of Week 1, I sandwiched our day trip between two cookie baking days.
  • The second cookie baking day was compacted into the afternoon, because we had choir in the morning, meaning 3 hours at church on the heels of a long (napless) day and a short night.
  • We followed it up with three days in a row of more late nights and virtually no naps.
  • In the meantime, I spent the days tearing through a really big writing assignment while simultaneously preparing for a really important presentation to the priests of the diocese. (When the Bishop invites you, you don’t say, “I’m sorry, this is a busy week, can we try a different one”?)

The net result is that by the time we got the house clean, ten short minutes before the first guest arrived for the choir party on Friday night, we were all spent. Physically, emotionally, spiritually. And apparently one recovery day is not enough, after a week like this. Sunday morning overflowed with bullying and threats and privileges revoked and all manner of disciplinary action. Church was a five-way wrestling match, and we all know wrestling matches at church do not foster spiritual growth. In fact, as I wrestled kids into coats and stumbled toward the church doors, everything seemed a little hazy. Somehow, in the past few weeks, I’ve become a spiritual zombie.

My inner critic is having a heyday. If you can’t even keep yourself from short-circuiting during Advent, then everything you’ve written is a big sham. Of course, it’s been coming on longer than Advent; I’ve been living and breathing Advent—the business end—for six months. And I know that’s a big part of the problem.

But it’s also the 20-month-old who doesn’t understand that he can’t eat his dinner till we pray, whose howls of outrage can unhinge me quicker than any other sound in the world (including all those Christmas songs I hate). It’s feeling rushed to get dinner on the table in time to eat before music students arrive…life, in other words.

Yet I believe in the project, because in other years, in other times, it has done for me what I tout on a daily basis. And this year, even amid my own spiritual desolation, I see it on Alex’s face.

Lessons are done now until January. And the crazy week is past. So perhaps by the time we light the last purple candle, I will have regained my equilibrium. I can hope, at least. And in the meantime, I can turn my mind toward the blessings I’ve been overlooking:

 …chubby hands, more munchable than the cookies they cut…

How can you resist the cute factor?

My little one, who takes the cheese factor to a whole new level when he sees a camera…

 Having lots of help to decorate the cookies (I really loathe this job. Yes, I’m weird. But I like my gingerbread plain, thank you very much. Icing=blech!)

…For hayrides through remote, beautiful winter woods…

…for rows of trees marching over the rolling hills…

…for tranquil hills wreathed in mist and cloaked in silence…

….for running children…

…for the magic of watching children transfixed by beauty…

…and of an Advent wreath in the darkness.

The beauty is there. I just have to figure out how to slow down and live in the present.

*

Counting to a thousand with Ann.

Confessions of a High School Misfit

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RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER

Misfits

I have a dirty little secret to share. Brace yourself. Are you ready?

I was not popular in high school.

Yes, it’s shocking, I know.

Often when I’m out and about, this little fantasy plays out in my mind. Kind of an embarrassing one to admit, for someone who likes to think of herself as an independent-minded woman with her priorities in order. In this fantasy, I’m walking through the Mall when someone from my past—someone who spent high school ignoring, looking down on, or (in the case of the guys I liked) choosing someone else—suddenly appears in my path, and I dazzle said person with my wittiness, my accomplishments, or my general put-together-ness.

Right.

I would imagine that everyone, regardless of their place in the teenage pecking order, felt the same way I did about high school—insecure, full of angst, and always a step behind. Those people from my past with whom I have connected (however distantly) on Facebook appear to have lives that look a lot like mine: kids, mortgages, deadlines, hobbies, events to look forward to…why should I be stuck on the need to prove my worth? Isn’t that a little juvenile? Why should I expect that if I came face to face with my past, it would involve anything but a friendly “how-are-you-do-you-remember” moment?

Maybe it’s ego. Maybe it’s an innate lack of self-confidence. Or maybe, as usual, I’m overanalyzing. I’ll bet everyone has these fantasies.

No, your eyes do not deceive: that's one ski glove and one teal leather-palmed glove from Target. And if I knew where the mates are, I would happily wear a matched pair.

Maybe the fantasies even come true, once in a while. But I’m pretty sure that would not be the case for me. I may be eighteen years older but I’m no more a put-together woman than I was a put-together teenage girl. As evidenced by the fashionable gloves I wear these days:

But at least these days, I’m comfortable enough to share it with the entire universe via blog post. 😉

Ahem.

(Maybe I need to be less of a cheapskate. Then again, they do the job.)

In high school, grownups used to say, “These are the best years of your life.” Even at the time, I thought, Are you people freaking crazy? If this is the best time of my life, I might as well shoot myself now and get it over with.

In college, I was surrounded by people whose musical geek factor rivaled my own. I loved studying music, and classmates whose talents I respected also respected mine. But even then I didn’t quite fit in; I was a morning person and not the drinking type. So although I had one very good friend, and a small circle of close acquaintances, I still felt like a misfit.

How can you resist the cute factor?

In fact, it wasn’t until I met Christian in the choir at Newman that I found my home and my purpose in life. Nine years after that, when I felt life stirring within my body for the first time, it raised the bar for perfect moments. Parenthood and married life raises the bar again and again—and life keeps meeting it.

Those grownups who said these were the best years of my life—they were wrong. When I talk to my middle school and junior high and high school students, I parrot a different message: This isn’t it. Life keeps getting better.

For little boys in Easter hats
   and chubby hands pressing down on cookie cutters
      and a little girl who has decided she loves Mommy after all

For hugs and kisses from small ones
   and choir members who lift me up
      and blog friends
and the chance to make a difference through the written word

For stories that keep me up at night
   and brand new baby nieces with cheeks I could chew on all day
      and too much to do and so much to see and not knowing how it’s all going to end

For Christmas lights and childish excitement
   and Alex belting “On That Holy Mountain,” fighting with me for the octavo while I sing a duet with the man who taught me a new meaning for the word “home”

For frosty mornings spend inside
   and brisk walks with my little one, who is no longer a baby

For progress in toilet training, if not in speech

I am thankful today.

Little Graces

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It’s been a weekend (and a week) of little graces, none of which lend themselves to lengthy prose, so I’ll just list them here today.

…a 4-year-old friend, whose display of bicycle prowess led Alex to ask us if he could drop the training wheels…

…and ask Daddy to let go

…a Friday night date with my firstborn: ice cream and the percussion ensemble, where one of the performers showed such enthusiasm and obvious joy in his playing that it carried me along for the ride

…a busy weekend selling books at church

…singing the psalm

…followed by an evening of horseplay and pajama hugs, unnaturally extended by that stupid temporal tradition called “falling back.”

…a beautiful, shirt-sleeves Sunday afternoon, rounded out by play time in the cul de sac with Grandma and Grandpa

…and, wrapping up the weekend, the chance to go to a concert with my husband on Sunday night.

Small things, all, but they fill the heart on a Monday morning of what promises to be yet another crazy week.