My Crazy Dream

It all started back in 8th grade with my English teacher, Olivia Deutsch.  On the very first day of class, she informed us that we didn’t know how to write – didn’t have the first idea of how to compose an essay, a paragraph – heck, even a single sentence!  Challenge accepted.  It was in her class that I painstakingly learned the writing process – the inspiration, that first rough draft, peer editing and figuring out when to call it quits, because let’s face it – a writer’s work is never perfect enough to our own standards.  Because of her encouragement, I learned that I not only enjoyed writing, but that maybe I had a little spark of talent.  I went on to pursue journalism in high school and became my school’s youngest section editor and eventually editor-in-chief.  I have written off and on in the years since then, but unfortunately it is one of the first things to get phased out when life becomes hectic.  I want that to change.

I want to pursue this creative outlet of mine with reckless abandon.  You see, one of my dreams is to be a real-life, genuine writer.  I have felt God’s calling on my life in this arena for some time, but have been too scared to say it out loud.  Because – let’s be honest – sharing the deepest longings of your heart is a tiny bit terrifying.  Especially when you believe it to be God’s will.  Who wants to let down the Maker of our universe?  But I realize that this line of thinking is silly.  The only way I can let him down is by ignoring the call.  Stepping out in faith, saying yes to sharing about His love through my writing, that could only make him proud.

This is where I humble myself and ask you for your help, dear readers.  Would you consider praying for me as I make a commitment to this endeavor – and perhaps even subscribing to my blog?  Maybe leaving a word of encouragement for this knee-knocking writer?  I thank you from the bottom of my heart as always.

Friends Old & New

There is a definite downside to moving halfway across the country to be with the man that you love at the age of 27.  You leave behind a lifetime worth of memories, and all of the people who made them with you.  Like the one who helped you devour multiple cans of Planters Cheezballs on family road trips in the back of an ’89 Dodge Caravan.  The one you played beauty parlor with in elementary school who gave you bangs, just because she could.  The one you kidnapped on her sixteenth birthday, and at whose wedding you read Scripture.  The one who shared your life day-in, day-out for over three years and who just KNEW he was going to pop the question on that final trip out to Colorado.

How do you match that in a new town?  A new state?  A new time zone?  I’ve shed a few tears and mourned what I thought were losses many times since that move.  But you know what?  Every time I go home, they’re there.  We pick up exactly where we left off.  Sure, most of us are married now, and some of us have little ones (or are rocking that expectant mama glow!)  But nothing can come between us.  They are my forever friends.  But more importantly, I’ve learned that you don’t make these kind of friends over night.  Putting expectations like that on new-found friendships is bound to disappoint.

When I moved out here, it took me a long time to make even a few new friends, but I’ve done it now and am learning to be okay with taking things slowly.  I no longer share my day-in, day-out life with those friends back home.  It is a new group of women who are watching my son grow up.  Women who may already have three or four of their own at home.  And it’s okay that they don’t know my middle name and have never had dinner with my parents.  Each season of life has its starring cast and supporting roles.  As I spend more time with these wonderful new friends I’ve made, I learn to open up a little bit more.  To share a little bit of my heart with them.

And as we pack up our house to embark on a double-move adventure (ha!), I am excited at the prospect of strengthening these friendships.  We’ll be leaving our home in March, moving into an apartment temporarily for 6-8 months, then finally landing in our new home by the fall of this year.  This new home is right in the heart of where the vast majority of my new friends live.  We are so blessed to have found a community that cares for one another selflessly and immediately – the type of people who bring you meals after you’ve undergone surgery and prays for you whenever the need arises.  I’ve prayed so long for the Lord to bring more forever friends into my life, and this move seems to be a huge answer to that prayer.  And with that, I whisper a thank you to my God for friendships, both old and new, that show me His love and maybe even a tiny glimpse of what heaven might be like.

One Sweet Day

We went in for our first appointment.  Showed up early enough to fill out all the paperwork.  Met with the midwife, answered all the requisite questions.  Then it came time to see our little bean.  Three times they tried with different ultrasound machines, different people at the screen.  No heartbeat, nothing to indicate I was even pregnant.

This began a whirlwind of blood work followed by ultrasounds in radiology, never getting conclusive results.  Hcg levels indicated that yes, I was pregnant.  The next ultrasound ruled out an ectopic pregnancy and showed a gestational sac measuring 3 weeks behind, but nothing more.  Hcg levels rose, but very little – nowhere near the doubling we were looking for.  Each time we met with a doctor or tech, the answers were never great, but still we had hope.  Finally, 10 days after our first appointment, we got the call back from our midwife.  My hcg levels were dropping – I was miscarrying.

God’s ways are a mystery to us.  I know deep inside that He is good, all the time.  But that doesn’t change the fact that we’ll never hold this baby this side of heaven.  That she’ll never get to meet her big brother in this life.  But what I do know is that God wanted her up with Him more than we needed her here.  This is so humbling – this reminder that our children are not our own, not truly.  They all belong to God, we are just the blessed who are given a certain number of days with them here on Earth.  We’re not promised tomorrow, no matter how much our hearts ache for it.

It was too early on to determine our baby’s gender – but my husband and I know in our hearts that our little baby was a girl.  We named her Isabelle Marie – “God’s promise” and “Wished-for child.”  Yesterday, in a small private service about an hour from our home, we buried our little Izzy Girl.  It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life, but my husband was, as always, my rock.  We survived, and we are assured of her place in heaven with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Getting to heaven one day just got a whole lot sweeter.  We can’t wait to meet you there, little one.

30 in Thirty

On the eve of my thirtieth birthday, my thoughts wander and I reminisce.  Here’s my list of 30 things I’ve learned in my thirty years here on Earth.  And here’s praying God is gracious enough to bless me with another thirty!

1.  Put God first and the rest falls into place.

2.  Family doesn’t always mean blood relatives.

3.  There are very few things in life that can’t be fixed with chocolate.

4.  Marrying your best friend is, hands down, the best decision you’ll ever make.

5.  Learning to laugh at yourself is so much better than the alternative.

6.  Be real with people who love you.

7.  Guard your heart from all that is ugly in this world.

8.  Smile at passersby.

9.  A warm bath and a good book are pretty close to heaven.

10.  The sound of your baby’s laugh is even closer.

11.  Dancing around in the kitchen like a fool should be mandatory in the mornings.

12.  Coffee tastes so much better when shared with a friend.

13.  Distance will either wreck a weak relationship or strengthen a true one.

14.  Don’t ever hang up without saying “I love you.”

15.  Snuggle all the little people in your life as often as they’ll allow.  They grow up too quickly.

16.  God’s forgiveness in the sacrament of reconciliation is one of the most beautiful gifts we have here on earth.

17.  Our parents are real people with struggles and successes of their own.

18.  Proofreading is much more fun done on paper with a green pen.

19.  When you move to a new state, get your library card first, then worry about your driver’s license and all that other stuff later.

20.  Your siblings are the ones who will live your life with you – from beginning to end.  Be nice to them.

21.  Cultivate a spirit of thankfulness in your heart.

22.  Choose joy.

23.  Snow tickles your nose as it falls.

24.  Hearts do break, but the Lord heals us in His good time.

25.  Getting connected to a community of like-minded women is vital for your sanity.

26.  Record all the moments – both big and small.

27.  But know when to put the camera down and just live in the moment.

28.  Listen more and talk less.

29.  Love your family ferociously.

30.  Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.

Three Little Words

I’ve only been married 14 months now, so most of y’all would say that I have no business giving out marriage advice.  But please hear me out – this isn’t just advice for your marriage.  It’s advice for your life.  For your very soul, I might argue.  And plus, this advice really isn’t from me.  I’m just the messenger.  You see, I married this altogether amazing man.  He has taught me so much in the few short years I’ve known him, and I’m so happy to be sharing it with you.  So this posting is really courtesy of my oh-so-wise husband.

The little secret I’m going to let you in on is nothing revolutionary.  In fact, most of us learned it before we were able to read and write.  I’m talking about those few magic words that are a balm to the soul in any relationship.  It’s not “I love you” – although those are beautiful words to behold.  The three little words that keep our marriage strong are “thank you for…”  Earth-shattering, right?  Let me give you a few examples.

– Thank you for changing Stephen’s diaper.

– Thank you for making us a delicious dinner tonight.

– Thank you for running that load of laundry.

– Thank you for being amazing.

These thank yous are typical ones that you’ll hear exchanged in our house.  But like I said, I’m just the messenger.  When I first met my hubby, he began teaching me about true gratitude and seeking pleasure in the small things by thanking me for the seemingly mundane things I did for him.  I caught on pretty quickly, and before I knew it, “thank you for…” was my permanent mantra.

Thankfulness, especially when it comes to the small things, keeps everything in perspective.  It shows your loved ones that you care and that you appreciate them.  I think it works the same way with God.  Each time we thank Him for a beautiful sunset or the smile on our child’s face, He is pleased.  Does He get that same warm fuzzy feeling that we do, knowing that we appreciate His love?  I like to think so.  All of these acts of gratitude bring us a little closer to Christ, and that’s a place I am constantly striving to be.

This is why I joined Ann Voskamp in counting 1,000 gifts.  It is a way to commune with our Lord, to “give thanks in all things” – the good, the bad and the truly terrible.  It’s easy to give thanks when the road is easy, but relationships are built and fortified in the valleys.  If we can look past ourselves during times of struggle, anger and sadness – if we can say to God, “I don’t get this, I don’t particularly like it, but thank you, Lord.  I know that You work everything for the good of those that love you.  And I love you, God,” – then maybe, just maybe, our burdens will be lightened.  He will take our yoke and give us his own which is light.

I’m so thankful that my husband has taught me to give thanks, to be a little more like Jesus.  I pray that we never stop showing gratitude to each other or to our Lord.  Everything we have, what we do and who we are is a gift from above – our thanks are our gift back to Him.

Wherein I Step Out in Faith

When creating this blog last week, I wondered to myself when I was going to get to the heart of the matter here on Crazy Catholic Mama.  Yes I am Catholic, and yes I am a Mama.  But my heart for this blog is mainly to share my struggles and triumphs living with anxiety and bipolar disorder – and most importantly, how our God redeems all situations for good.

I won’t get into a whole lot of background here today, but suffice it to say, these mental health issues have been my cross to bear since I was a teenager, and probably even younger than that.  Social situations scare me.  Not just intimidate or make me nervous – they down right terrify this girl.  Every time I’ve gone off my meds (for whatever reason), I fall into a pit of depression.   We’re talking stuck in bed for days at a time sort of stuff here.  And when I am on medications, there’s a good chance I’ll have some pretty nasty side effects to deal with: memory loss, inability to concentrate, inability to sleep as much as my body needs, racing thoughts and words, weight gain.  But I’d rather be a rambling idiot than so someone who can’t physically get dressed each day to face the world.

Which brings me to the heart of this post – community and stepping out in faith.  I moved out here to the Rocky Mountain West a little over two years ago.  Up until a few months ago, I could count the number of people I knew and could call a friend (or even an acquaintance) out here on one hand.  But when I stopped working in my third trimester with Stephen, I knew things had to change.  Staying home with him all day every day with no friends to call up or planned activities to look forward to was a recipe for disaster.  Please don’t get me wrong here – I L.O.V.E. being a wife and mama.  My two boys are my entire world.  But man (and certainly woman) was not meant to live alone.  We were made for community, for relationship, for people.

So back when I was rocking my ginormous baby bump, I took to the internet in search of local moms groups.  I found one for a neighboring community on Facebook and joined up.  I began following all of the playdate posts longingly, to the point where I’d RSVP yes then back out at the last minute with some sort of a lame excuse.  I couldn’t very well say, “hey, I really, really, REALLY wanted to join y’all today but my social anxiety got the better of me so I stayed home and slept for ten hours in the middle of the day instead.” Or, “I’m so desperate for friends, but the thought of showing up and meeting a whole group of strangers makes me sick to my stomach.”  So I just don’t show, and use my pregnancy or new mama title as a cover-up.

But eventually I did step out in faith.  I showed up to an event and was welcomed with open arms.  That combined with new meds was the impetus for me to not only attend gatherings, but to organize and plan events of my own.  After reading just a few short chapters of Shauna Niequist’s wonderful food memoir and cookbook, Bread & Wine, I tossed out the idea of a cooking club to the ladies in my moms group.  The response was overwhelming, and on a warm July night, this scared-silly mama opened her home and heart to nearly a dozen other mamas, all relative strangers.

The night was filled with chopping vegetables, simmering a homemade sauce, overflowing pots of boiling water and frying up batches of chicken cutlets.  And by the time dinner was served, we had each found ourselves immersed in conversation with somebody new.  You see, the ladies that showed up that night, most of them did not know each other either.  We were a house full of near strangers that became friends over bruschetta, chicken parmigiana, and cheesecake.

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I thank God for the courage to put myself out there and open my home to a dozen new friends.  And I thank Him even more for putting just the right women on my doorstep that night.  I pray that as we continue to meet monthly, each of us will be blessed by friendships and community and a homecooked meal.

 

1,000 Gifts: July 29th – August 4th

I’ve been a long-time follower of Ann Voskamp and her blog, A Holy Experience.  She counts gifts as graces from God, and I’m humbled to join along with her and the amazing community she has created at Multitudes on Mondays.  Please join me in counting your own blessings today and each day.

3 Gifts Together

1. Stephen looking into my eyes when drinking from his bottle

2. Sitting side-by-side with my best friend in bed each night reading

3. An evening walk as a family