Story of a Military Move: Searching for Friendship, Finding God

Story of a Military Move: Searching for Friendship, Finding God

Being a military wife comes with its share of ups and downs. It’s not easy to live far away from family, especially when your family is huge and your youngest sibling is only 8, and when you count your mom and your sister as your two best friends. However, on the flip side to this hardship is one of the very best things about military life- the incredible friendships that are formed with all of the people (who are also living away from their support networks) in the military community.

Some of my dearest and truest friends are fellow military wives. There is something about being in a community of women who all share the joy and burden of having a spouse who serves that is unlike any other community I have ever encountered, and quite possibly that even exists. These women have been with me through two long deployments, and there is no way I could have made it without them. They have shared in and celebrated personal accomplishments that my husband couldn’t be there for (becoming a certified yoga instructor, my first half marathon, starting a new job). They were there throughout my pregnancy, and when we welcomed Jack into our lives. And they were there when Mack left for his second deployment three weeks after Jack was born and I had to navigate being a new mom without my husband. They were there for the month+ where he cried from morning until night, and sometimes even longer (and thanks to them I only lost my mind a little bit, as opposed to probably going full-on crazy without them). Some of my happiest moments, and some of my darkest days have been spent with them by my side.  Long story short, the hard parts about being a military wife- deployments, a spouse who works crazy hours, living far away from loved ones- are muted when you have such great friends to go through it all with you. I’m certain that God gave me those friends because He knew they were exactly what I needed during that time in my life.

So… when I first got the news about our current military family situation, I was a little hesitant. We currently live in Oregon- just about as far away from my family in Pennsylvania as we can get. On top of that, we are not located on a military base, or anywhere near one, which means that amazing friendship network I mentioned – you guessed it, basically nonexistent here. Let me tell you, making friends in a brand new place (without the military community) where you don’t know a soul and you are a stay-at-home mom is no easy feat! But I was determined when we arrived here, I’m an outgoing person and I felt confident that I would be able to make friends in no time. I wandered to the park daily and hoped to meet some other moms, I even gave a few people my phone number. No one called. I created a meetup group and scheduled a meetup. No one came. So I scheduled another meetup. No one came, again. The loneliness started to creep in hard and fast.

But something else happened too. I found myself spending more and more time with God. I was praying more and telling Him about my worries and frustrations. I had more time to read the Bible and books on the Saints. I had more time to say the Rosary. I started writing (hence this blog..) I literally started to speak out loud to God at random times throughout the day, like He was… my friend. Maybe I did have a friend, now how about that?

In Divine Mercy in my Soul, St. Faustina records a conversation she had with our Lord in which He says to her,

“My daughter… why do you not tell Me about everything that concerns you, even the smallest details? Tell Me about everything, you know this will give Me great joy… Yes I do  [already] know [everything]; but you should not excuse yourself with the fact that I know, but with childlike simplicity talk to Me about everything, for My eyes and heart are inclined towards you, and your words are dear to Me.”

God literally wants our relationship with Him to be so intimate as to make Him our best and truest friend. Billions of people on the earth, but that is how much He loves each one of us, so much that our seemingly insignificant words are dear to Him and He wants us to talk to Him about even the smallest details of our lives. He wants more than a hello at mass on Sunday and the occasional please and thank you.  He wants us to desire to be in his presence even more than we desire the time spent with our best girlfriends. Sometimes a period of loneliness is the only way we can ever actually figure this out.

St Josemaria Escriva writes in The Forge,

“Don’t look for consolation apart from God… There should be no unburdening of your heart to any other friend when there is no need to do so.”

God wants to know our hearts, and He wants us to desire that He does. He wants us to know that only He can ever really give us all that we need, and that He is always right there, in every moment of our lives. He will never move away, or grow cold, or hold a grudge.

So, I have come to realize that despite the way I felt initially, God was actually giving me a gift when we moved here- the gift of His friendship. He was reminding me that He is all I really need, that His friendship is the most important thing to have in this life, and that He will always love me more than anyone on earth ever could.

Does this mean I don’t still want and need earthly friends? No way- they are also a gift from God and a very important part of our journey as Christians and as moms. I am so grateful for strong friendships. But I can now be grateful for my “dry season” of friendship too, because God was working on bigger things with me (as He always is when things seem harder than they should be) that probably couldn’t have happened if I had found friends here right away. He had to humble me to show me how much I needed Him.  I still get lonely sometimes and miss my family and friends, but I don’t feel as hopeless as I did at first because I know that God is always with me. Plus, now that God and I are pretty tight, He has started to send some other friends my way and things are definitely getting a little easier.

Just like any friendship, it takes time and effort to remain strong and fruitful, and I hope that no matter where the military takes us, I will always remember to put my friendship with God first. I’m sure if I start to slack, He will have His own way of reminding me, just like any good friend would.

 

 

St. Therese Lisieux- a Friend for our Journey through Motherhood

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Therese of Lisieux, The Little Flower of Jesus. Saint Therese is a favorite Saint of many for her “Little Way”- seeking to be holy in everyday life by putting love into all of our actions. Her book, Story of a Soul, is truly so wonderful. I am reading it now and I can’t recommend it enough! Her writings apply in so many ways to us as Catholic mamas, and I’ve outlined a few of my favorite takeaways below. I feel like I’m getting advice from a dear friend when I’m reading her work, and I want to share her friendship with all of you fellow mommies out there.

Being a mom is enough. Sometimes it’s easy to feel like there should be more to our lives than refilling sippy cups and wiping runny noses but St. Therese tells us that, “Our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions as at the love with which we do them.” God gave us these little humans (and that big one too), He entrusted them to our care, this job is what He chose for you. I’m not saying He may not have something else planned for you too (and He probably does!), but at this time and place motherhood is your vocation, and just loving our families and doing our best is really enough to get us to heaven. You kiss boo boos because you love your child and don’t want them to feel pain. You make dinner because you love your family and you want them to be nourished. You pray for your children and your spouse because you love them. You know that you can’t do everything alone, but you love the Lord and know that He will help. LOVE. It is truly a part of every one of our actions as mothers. St Therese reminds us that this is enough for God.

 

We’re in this together. Mommy wars. They’re real, and they’re ridiculous. Not one of us is a perfect mom, and not one of us is the same as the other. God wants us to lift each other up, not break each other down. One mom formula feeds, one mom co-sleeps, one lets her kids watch TV. None of this is what matters. Do they love their children? Do they kiss boos boos and wipe runny noses? Are they doing the best they can to take care of their families? I’m pretty sure that most often the answer is yes. St. Therese reminds us that God made each of us unique, “The splendor of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not take away the perfume of the little violet or the delightful simplicity of the daisy. If all flowers wanted to be roses, nature would lose her springtime beauty, and the fields would no longer be decked out with little wild flowers.” We are all God’s children, but we are all different and have varying ideas of how to do things. Don’t make someone else feel bad because they don’t do things like you would, and don’t let it get you down if someone implies that your way is wrong. How can we raise lilies and daisies and wildflowers if we all do everything the same? St. Therese also writes in Story of a Soul, “You must not set yourself up as a judge, that is God’s right alone, your only mission is to be an angel of peace.” If a fellow mom does seem to be struggling, or comes to you in a time of need, please respond with love and not judgement. Be an angel of peace to her. Your response of kindness and love could make all the difference in her life at that moment. We are all in this together, we are meant to lift each other up, and who better to help us on our path to heaven than women sharing our vocation?

 

Live simply and for God alone. “Because your soul is very simple; but when you are perfect you will become more simple still. The nearer one approaches God, the simpler one becomes.” St. Therese gives us a beautiful reminder that our lives don’t have to be crazy. Like I mentioned in the point above, it is not about competition. God doesn’t ask us to throw over-the-top birthday bashes or make sure that our babies are enrolled in the most elite music class, or that our older kids participate in every extracurricular. I’m not saying there is anything inherently wrong with these things by any means, and it is definitely important for our kids to be involved in activities, but if you feel like you’re drowning in the activities you have taken on for your kids, or you find that at the end of the day you have made no time for God, then it’s probably time to refocus. It’s more important to spend time eating and praying with your family at the end of the day than to be scarfing down dinner every night after late night dance and soccer and band practices and dropping into bed exhausted. It’s more important to teach your children to be grateful for what they have and to help those with less than to make sure they have expensive clothing and are the best at everything.  The modern world makes us feel like if we don’t let our children participate in every single activity and strive to make them the best at every single activity, then we are somehow lesser parents. Who cares what the modern world thinks, let’s care more about what God thinks. Let’s care more about getting our kids to heaven than to the Olympics. Let’s care more about making sure they are friends with Jesus than friends with the popular kids. If you feel like you are in over your head and can’t find a minute to breathe, ask God to help you simplify, ask Him to show you where to start. There is nothing He wants more than a real relationship with you and your family.

 

St. Therese is such a lovely example to us as mothers, and a great friend to have on our side during our journey through life. We can’t all be martyrs and missionaries, but we can all love our husbands and our children and show them that love in a million little ways, and that is just as pleasing to our Lord.

3 Podcasts That Make Me A Better (Catholic) Mom

I know what you’re thinking, how on earth do you have time to listen to podcasts? And why would you when there is so much good TV and music out there, right? But seriously, listening to podcasts (specifically the ones I’m about to mention) has honestly changed my life. Funnily enough, the first time I decided to check out one of these podcasts was on a return road trip when my hubby and I were in a minor argument (long car trips will do that people) and both he and Jack eventually fell asleep. I was feeling annoyed- why am I the one who has to drive (even though my husband literally drives 9 out of 10 times)? How could he fall asleep in the middle of this argument? I’m tired too, I never get to take a nap! The radio is terrible these days. He’s never going to hear the end of it for falling asleep like that! Etc. etc. etc.

I stopped for gas (they slept through, of course) and decided to check out the podcasts app on my phone, since, like I said, the radio is terrible these days. I started listening to a “CM Hangout” podcast (more on this in a minute) called “Marriage- Keeping it Holy, Keeping it Real.” 45 minutes later I was planning out how to be an even better wife to my husband (I’ll drive every road trip, you can always sleep honey!), I had forgiven and forgotten our little argument, and I wanted to wake him up so I could tell him how much I loved him and how special marriage is and how God loves us and how lucky we are… you get the picture. When we got home (2.5 hours and 3 more podcasts later) and he finally woke up, he was expecting me to be angry and irritated and to pick up where we left off. Pretty sure he was pleasantly surprised when I wasn’t near as grumpy as he expected, and he was even willing to let me babble on about these glorious podcasts for way longer than he normally would have. Listening to that podcast shifted my thought process for the rest of the drive home, instead of stewing over things and making myself more and more upset, I was refocused on God and being the good Catholic wife and mother that I want to be. I actually found the rest of the drive to be peaceful and enjoyable and I offered up lots of prayers. Instead of having a miserable night, I had a fulfilling evening driving with fellow Catholic companions to give me advice and challenge me to live holier.

Since then, I have made these Catholic podcasts a more regular part of my life. Now, to be clear, nothing will ever replace the written word for me (another post on favorite Catholic books to come!). I would literally read nonstop if it were somehow possible to proceed with all other life activities while doing so. And never do I just sit and listen to a podcast while doing nothing else (except maybe driving), I don’t think I would enjoy them near as much if I approached them in that way. However, they really are a great way to turn some of the humdrum chores of mom life into time that is actually enjoyable and fruitful. Where I used to distract myself in the kitchen cooking and cleaning by watching house hunters or getting lost in my own daydreams; I now spend that time listening to encouraging words from other Catholic individuals that build me up and help me to better live out my faith. I even listen to podcasts while working out sometimes, it’s great to get in a workout and also focus on my faith at the same time—two checks off the to-do list at once (I know that free time is valuable mamas)! So, without further ado, here are three of my favorite Catholic podcasts.

  1. Coffee and Pearls: This is the perfect podcast for busy Catholic moms! Each episode is only about 15 minutes, perfect for listening to while folding laundry 🙂 Sterling Jaquith (what a cool name, right?) gives all kinds of advice from how to plan out annual Catholic family goals, to connecting better with your husband, to banishing mom guilt, and even ways to encourage your kids to pray more. I really love listening to her, and she has a whole host of other resources for Catholic mamas on her two websites sterlingjaquith.com and catholicmomchallenge.com (printouts, yay!). She also recently published her book, Catholic Mom Challenge, which is FREE on amazon until Friday, I highly recommend picking it up!
  2. Catholic Mom (CM) Hangout: This is another great podcast, just a bit longer. Episodes are usually about 30- 45 minutes long but I enjoy them because it’s almost like hanging out with a group of friends. The conversations are often casual and lighthearted, but centered around some great topics. They bring on all kinds of inspirational Catholic ladies, many of whom are moms just like us!
  3. Messy Parenting: I just LOVE this one! Mike and Alicia Hernon are Catholic parents to 10 children (sounds familiar!) and they talk about how they keep their marriage strong and holy and raise their children in the Catholic faith. It is seriously awesome, they give so much great advice and do a great job of reminding us exactly what God intended for us in the sacrament of marriage (to get each other to heaven!) and what He desires from us as Catholic parents. Just check it out, you won’t be sorry!

 

If you still don’t think that podcasts are for you, that’s ok! All 3 of these also have websites or blogs that go along with their podcasts, so go ahead and check them out instead. If you do decide to listen to some of their podcasts, let me know what you think! Or if you have any other podcasts that you love, please let me know!

Praying the Rosary as Mothers

Praying the Rosary as Mothers

On this feast of the Nativity of our Blessed Mother, I wanted to take a minute to talk about one of the gifts given to us by our dear Mother, the rosary.

The rosary is by no means a new form of prayer for me. Growing up we often gathered as a family around our statue of Our Lady of Fatima, all of us kneeling on the ground with our rosaries in hand. The older kids took turns leading each decade while the little ones clamored to get a spot kneeling as close as possible to our mom (often leaving her surrounded) because there is just something so special about being as deep in the midst of a mother’s love as possible. Reflecting back now, I can see just how incredibly beautiful it was that as my siblings inched closer to my mom during this time of prayer, she was instilling in us the importance of pulling ever closer to our spiritual mother.

The rosary is a special and beautiful prayer that is unique to us as Catholics, and yet it is one of the elements of our faith that is most frequently under attack from outside of our community. Many non-Catholic Christians accuse us of worshiping Mary and giving her more devotion than Jesus himself. This is not the case. We honor Mary and pray to her to intercede for us to her Son. Jesus loved Mary, His mother, with the intense love that children have for their mothers. So who better to bring the needs and desires of our heart to Him than Mary herself? He did not refuse her when she implored His help at the Wedding at Cana (John 2:1-11), and He will not refuse her when she approaches Him on our behalf. Beyond her ability to intercede for us, Mary deserves a special place in our hearts. It was her YES to God that changed the course of humanity (Luke 1:38). She can teach us to be obedient to our Lord, and to give ourselves fully to Him.

While I grew up saying the rosary, it wasn’t until recently that I have come to truly love reciting it. As mothers, the Rosary is a particularly special way to grow closer to Mary, and consequently, to Jesus. In the rosary, we reflect on the life of Jesus through his mother’s eyes. As mothers, we know that we have a unique perspective on the lives of our children. We see them and love them differently than anyone else on earth, we conceived them, and grew them within ourselves, and that bond stays with us always. The rosary lets us reflect on the relationship our most holy mother had with her most holy Son. We can relate to her in some capacity, but more importantly, we can learn to love in a more profound way than we could have ever imagined by reflecting on her most perfect love of our Lord.There is no better role model for us a mothers, than the mother of our own Lord and Savior.

If you are not in the habit of praying the rosary, then I encourage you to start today. What better gift to give our Blessed Mother on her birthday than the gift of a relationship with her and with her Son? I promise that you will start to see a change in the way you live out your vocation as a mother when you begin to spend time meditating on the most beautiful story of motherhood ever told.

Happy Birthday, Mother Mary.

Wash the Plate

Wash the Plate

“Wash the plate not because it’s dirty, nor because you’re told to wash it, but because you love the person who will use it next.”

This quote attributed to Blessed (very soon-to-be Saint!) Mother Teresa very much embodies how I feel called to live out my vocation as a catholic wife and mother. Much of motherhood involves what seem to be mundane, thankless tasks. Fold the laundry, do the dishes, make dinner, clean the house, feed the baby, entertain the baby, repeat, repeat, repeat.

I have never taken for granted how blessed I am to spend every moment with my son, and I am eternally grateful to my husband for working so hard for us and providing in such a way that I am able to do so, I would not change a thing. However, I am also someone who thrives on outward signs of appreciation as motivation, and it was an adjustment for me to find peace in the behind-the-scenes service required of us in our vocation as mothers. There is never so much of a shift away from ourselves and onto others as when we become mothers, as the moment you feel your child growing within you and know that God has called you and found you worthy to bring new life into the world.

There is no question that I love my husband and son more than I could ever express, that they are my greatest gifts, but the selflessness of motherhood is something I am still working to fully embrace. I have asked God to help me live out His chosen vocation for me as best as I possibly can, from a place of only love and not expectations. I know I can’t do it alone and I will never do so perfectly, but with His grace I am striving to be the wife, mother, and Catholic He created me to be. So, I’m learning to love the dirty dishes, because I love the people who use them. (Loving the laundry though, I might need a little more (Ok, a lot more) of His grace for that one… :))

Special, All About You, Day

Special, All About You, Day

I decided that today was going to be all about Jack (I mean if we’re honest here, every day is all about Jack) but today I really wanted to do some things that I thought he would enjoy and which would entertain him outside of the norm. So I packed up his favorite snacks, loaded his wagon (his favorite thing, he would live in it if he could) into the car, and set out for a special park in Portland. This particular park is about 25 minutes away from the house, but it is an extinct volcano with stunning scenery and a beautiful reservoir and I really thought Jack would get a kick out of the surroundings and the “newness” of it all. I was excited to share it with him, and to be honest, I was mostly excited to pat myself on the back at the end of it for being A+ #1 mom and giving him a great day.

But you know what actually happened? Jack was all but oblivious to the fact that we were somewhere new, that mom drove all this way for him to have a special day. All he cared about were his raisins and his sippy cup and his toy cars and riding along in his little red wagon. He hardly even glanced up the entire walk, and we may as well have been walking down our own street. My picking him up and prompting him to look closer was just met with an uninterested gaze and an arm reaching longingly back towards his wagon. I felt some frustration building up inside of me. I had gone out of my way, had wanted to be an awesome mom today and expected some kind of reaction from him… but I got nothing, no small reward for my efforts.

And yet, how similar is this experience to our relationship with God? How often are we too caught up in our day to day, in what we think is most important, that we fail to see all of the special things the Lord is trying to show us? He makes so many attempts every day to pull us closer to Him, to show us His face, but if we are caught up in our raisins and cars… our iPhone, the laundry, trying to do everything to be perfect moms, how will we ever notice when God is trying to show us His plan? And sometimes even when we do hear His voice, asking us to serve Him, to come to Him in prayer, calling us toward His divine plan for us… how often do we want to retreat back to our little red wagons? To our safe space, where no more is required of us than what we are comfortably willing to do or give.

But God waits for us. He waits to be gracious to us.

“The LORD waits to be gracious to you; therefore He will rise up to show mercy to you.” –Isaiah 30:18

Can you believe that? God waits to be gracious to each and every one of us, because that is how incredible the love He has for us is. He doesn’t get frustrated by our thanklessness at how much He has done for us, like I did with Jack. He doesn’t keep track of the blessings He bestows on us and get angry when we don’t react to them as He intends. Instead, He remains ever present and patient, waiting to be gracious to us over and over again. God has our own ‘special, all about us, day’ planned for us… every single day. We just have to give Him a little bit of our time, and open our hearts to what He is trying to show us.

… And don’t worry, Jack will have plenty more “special, all about him, days” in the future. As his mother who loves him immensely, I can only hope that many of them are because he has heard God’s voice, not just Mom’s.