Thursday, July 3, 2014

I Am NOT a Curmudgeon!

Honest. I'm not! I know it might seem like I am a crotchety old killjoy when we get around any holiday where people are disposed to setting off fireworks, but honestly, it isn't that I want less joy. I want more!

Admittedly, these are fireworks from the WYD08 opening Mass.
Let's set aside for the moment the fact that these blasted fireworks have already woken unnamed children once. Let's set aside that our pets are a little on the twitchy side. Let's put aside the fact that our communities are home to veterans of war and refugees who likely suffer flashbacks from loud explosions. Yes, let's put all that "selfishness" aside. While it is enough to make me think that money has won over sanity yet another time, I have yet another objection to our lovely new fireworks law, as precious as it is. Community. (Have I already traveled this road? Sorry to be repetitious.)

I have such fond memories of 4th of July fireworks shows put on by my hometown community, although in hindsight maybe the veterans home wasn't the best location (see PTSD reference above). Location aside, it was such a great community celebration, y'all! Bands in which a number of my friends performed in our high school years, rocket pops on a hot summer night, a blanket on the sweet smelling lawn, children running around with sparklers waiting for the big moment when the sky would explode with colors raining in every direction. Together, we waited and we celebrated. 

My parents always made a big deal of patriotic celebrations. As a first generation child of immigrants, I remember how important the history of this country was to them, the history of independence and freedom that they didn't experience in their own homeland much before leaving it. To be able to celebrate that with neighbors and strangers alike was their joy, and it shone on their faces, perhaps more my dad than mom. A kid at heart, he loved every minute, every color, every sparkle of light ... even the popsicles.

He would be disheartened at not only the disruption of a quiet neighborhood on a day like today, but the decline of a community celebration in favor of a renegade, private pandemonium of explosives. By the way, it is currently July 3rd, to be specific, which is the feast of St. Thomas the Apostle, and while worthy of celebration is perhaps not quite fireworks-worthy.

So you see, it's not that I don't enjoy fireworks. I just say there is a time, manner, and purpose for such a celebration, and perhaps we have missed the mark yet again. It's true that we as a state are no longer missing out on revenue gained by neighboring states while these explosives remained illegal. Then again, perhaps we are missing out on a lot more than we bargained for in the long run by legalizing the private purchase of major fireworks and having our community celebrations no longer on the 4th in so many cases. More fireworks, less community. Welcome to a new 'Merica folks! (sarcasm and snark intended)

Here's hoping your 4th of July is filled with wonder and amazement, and your nights filled with silence!

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Friday, June 13, 2014

SQT: The Creative Life, Climate Change, Hand-Raising and Renewal

I am back from my not-so-brief hiatus, only to find that Jen has gone on vacation/stay-not-a-cation. Hoping this is a restful time for her and their family! Also, pretend the picture says "Hosted at Team Whitaker."

The Etsy shop is up! No sales yet, but baby steps, right? You can find me at Signs of Love by Rakstar Designs. I am definitely feeling like the Spirit is in this and helping fuel a fire of productivity, which is a nice feeling. There have been moments of confirmation, some totally random like the day I was sitting at Starbucks working on a custom design for a friend, just playing around with some ideas, and a man walks up behind me and says out of nowhere, "that's cool!" and starts asking me questions about whether I'm a graphic designer, and the process I use to do my work, etc. (I am not. Also, men, don't walk up behind ladies and just start talking - it might startle them a bit, and not in a good way.) Good confirmation nonetheless. More designs are coming soon!

If you could take some time to stop by and leave me some feedback, I'd appreciate it! Are these items you or people you know would be interested in purchasing? Is the pricing fair? I'm still developing the shop policies, so what do you think would be fair for item returns and refunds? I would love to hear your thoughts. Thanks in advance!

The oldest kid is registered for school. I know, it's only pre-school, and it is only 2 days a week to start, but she will be in school. The years really do fly - I feel like she was just in mah belly...especially on days my ribs hurt. (She was my rib-nestler...and jabber.)

It's a rough (and getting rougher) world for Christians out there right now. If you haven't heard of the violence in Mosul happening now, I urge you to be aware and PRAY. (I was going to link to Domincan friar, Fr. Micheel's initial letter that circulated, but a note in First Things has mentioned that he has asked that letter to be removed from the web. As of that posting, they were still okay.) Add to that two priests shot in a Phoenix church, and the facade of "another people, another place" shatters. This, friends, is the beginning stages of persecution. I know that people grow weary of that term as relates to a seeming majority in this country. I know. The reason so many get hyper-sensitive is that many of those seemingly small annoyances, that are not persecution in and of themselves, can create a climate where persecution - real persecution - becomes possible. It can begin to create a climate where the Christian viewpoint is viewed not only as outmoded, but with venom. And in that climate, violence and hatred breed.

Has anyone else seen Simcha Fisher's summer art project floating around the interwebs? It's not a challenge, but a communal project. Looks like it could be fun and fruitful in letting those creative juices start flowing more freely. Have a budding artist in you? You should join us! No actual details have been posted just yet, other than the book we are going through to make this beauty happen. I'm sure Simcha will keep us posted on the blog!

Father's Day quickly approaches. I'll end up doing a retrospective on the holiday instead of making this a not-so-quick take. I did want to share this from Buzzfeed (I know...I KNOW) on the modern dad which is such a great snapshot of our life. The Hubs is a fantastic and involved in every facet of life father, and I am so very thankful. My own dad I'm fairly certain never changed a diaper and was afraid to hold me when I was born because he might break me. Those days are gone, dear's a new era now! So...thanks, Hubs, and all you modern dads for sharing in the privilege and battle of parenting. It's an honor to serve next to you. Maybe one day the entertainment industry will catch up and honor your role instead of mocking it. Maybe.

I've been listening to K-Love on the radio on my way into work. This morning, Mercy Me came on the radio with a little "I Can Only Imagine." They may as well have put me into a time machine. I was instantly transported back in time about ten years, when I was just beginning to listen to more Christian music. Mercy Me, and in particular, this song, was my gateway drug into the Christian music scene. As the notes wafted through the van, visions of music festivals with my friend Glynda sprang to mind (don't worry - I didn't close my eyes), driving down to Ohio, painting the dining room in her new house over a bottle of wine, eating some dippin' dots, meeting some bands...trying to figure out how high to raise our arms... You know, we joked about being Catholic Pentecostals at the time. Little did I know then the arm-raising was part of our tradition all along - I just had to find the Charismatic Renewal. ;-)

Speaking of the Charismatic Renewal, the Hubs and I were able to sneak away for a full weekend retreat/gathering with Renewal Ministries last weekend. We are so blessed to have them in our neck of the woods, and the time away in prayer and learning was so refreshing this year. So very thankful we were able to get away. On Saturday morning, the clip below is what began our morning (after Mass, breakfast, and prayer, of course). Hope you find it as funny as I did!

That's the update from our little village! I am hoping to be back on the blogging at least 2-3 times a week now that things are hopefully getting into a new rhythm around here. Hopefully.

Happy Father's Day to all the daddies out there, both here and those who have gone on to a new life. For those of you who have recently lost fathers, here's hoping this weekend is filled with joyful memories. For those who had absent or hurtful fathers, praying our Father in heaven might heal and console your hearts.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Enough Already!!

Oh, how many times have I heard those words escaping my lips with two boisterous toddlers and chatty cats (no, really, the cats are chatty) in the house. It seems that there are days that the noise and chatter begin with the rising of the sun and end with, well, maybe never between crying children and cats that have lost their minds at night. 

We are instilling great table manners in our children. What?

I've shared before the struggle of embracing all the chaos as a normal part of life as I know it now. Leaning toward the "P" of the Myers-Briggs, I crave a little structure, even if I'm not an expert at carrying it out. The Hubs will tell you that my first instinct is to recoil when plans change, though I hope he would also say I am getting better at taking a deep breath and then assessing whether it truly is, in fact, going to be the end of the world. Better, not perfect. 

This is what it looks like when your son licks the ranch
dressing off his plate. 

Add to this chaos two toddlers now in the thick of the "do it myself!" phase and one beginning the equally fascinating and exasperating "why?" and "what's that?" phase, "enough already" has the dangerous potential to become a new mantra. Mamas who are now beyond this stage remind me that I will miss it. Looking at life from afar, this period of curiosity and fierce independence is fascinating. It is beautiful to watch them discover new skills and begin to make sense of the world around them. Sadly, it seems they want to develop some of those skills as we are rushing out the door after yet another run to the bathroom. Deep breath. Not the end of the world. People will live if we are late.

We were fortunate to attend a retreat/gathering this weekend. As part of the weekend, one of the workshops really emphasized the importance of being present in the moment, not always looking ahead to what is next or holding on to what was. While we were talking about walking with people on their spiritual journeys, the whole concept hit home for me in terms of my vocation. I really loved what I did before I was married and had children. Until now, while I am so thankful for the blessings of marriage and motherhood, there was a part of me that subconsciously was still trying to live a little bit in that world. To be clear, it wasn't that I was holding on to the single life, but rather the different roles and activities I was involved in. I've always been a "do-er." I'm a forced extrovert, but a social butterfly. This new vocation has curbed those tendencies in a significant way.

While I was praying about needing to be more present and not just counting the minutes to naptime, which will be gone far too quickly, it hit me like a giant flash of lighting. "Enough already!!" No longer in an exasperated tone, but in a grateful spirit, enough already. I have enough already. What I have here and now is enough for me. I don't long for what I once had. While I look forward to the future, I don't sit and long for a different phase of life. What God has given me today is enough for me. What He is calling me to today is important and deserves my full attention. The role I have in mothering my children when I am home, in ministering when I am at work, in being dutiful and loving to my mother, in loving and supporting my husband - each of those moments in and of themselves is enough because they are all done for His glory, not mine. 

Sure, the moments of exasperated sighs will likely still escape my lips because, well, I'm an impatient work in progress. Yes, there will be times when I still wonder what else I might be called to do. However, I do hope that in reflection I will be faster to recognize the beauty of what I am called to do and who I am called to be in every present moment, to recognize the hand of God at work in that very moment and how He is leading me. I hope that I can appreciate the struggle in the "now" and not glamorize the memories of the past and the potential of the future. The past once led me to tears, and the future ... well, who knows if we have tomorrow at all? 

Carpe Diem, O Captain, My Captain!

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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

In Search of Grace

Not trying to steal Heather's illustrative niche - just couldn't
find an image that matched the one in my head! Voila. Now
go check out her masterpieces of art and writing, because well,
this leaves a lot to be desired.

Changes can bring about a lot of joy, but that can often be mixed with a lot of turmoil. When stress is high, it feels like all the little things that normally would be minor annoyances start to take on a magnitude rivaling the peak of Mount Everest. I long so deeply to be the woman, wife, and mother who exudes a quiet and peaceful countenance, who "obtains, maintains and establishes a steady cool." {That last phrase was a shout out to my old Dean of Students...}

I am not. No matter how hard I try, it seems like the slightest ripple unleashes a chain reaction of seismic proportions. Toddlers are messy. Toddlers are noisy. Toddlers have accidents. All of this is perfectly normal, except in my head where I'm pretty sure mine are the only ones who need a hearing aid before the age of four and are secretly plotting not to turn my hair grey lest I have any semblance of glory, but rather lead me to exhibit female baldness a la Sinead O'Connor (or Ross's girlfriend Bonnie on Friends).

Why? Why is that? Why can I not just roll with the punches and revel in the independence-gaining chaos that is life with toddlers? What keeps me from extending grace when they do not respect my author-i-tay or mistakenly believe I am wearing a cloak of invisibility that also makes my voice inaudible?

Jesus and numerous other people extend me grace every second of every day. I am far from perfect and yet I am forgiven and given so many chances to try again and do better. What makes my first reaction so far from grace? What makes me so intent on "teaching lessons" that I cannot embrace the joy in the blessed mess? How do I so quickly forget that love has to come first, before the correction, before the losing of one's final brain cell?

I know part of the secret is balance and order. When the basics are unbalanced (sleep, nutrition, prayer life, sleep, house), the train derails more quickly. I know. I know part of the secret is not comparing myself to other moms who can glide through the day with twice the kids and half the chaos, throwing in a handful of outings to boot. While I know all these things, the end result still doesn't land in the realm of peacefulness.

At the end of the day, I think the real secret is that I need to open myself up to receiving grace before it will flow out from me. I think that is the "secret that's not a secret" of the seemingly supermom who can navigate a half dozen toddlers with a single bound. She likely is allowing herself the time to soak up grace so she can bestow it on others. That's the circus feat I need to conquer.

Here is the real question. How do you open yourself to that when it seems like you are spiraling down without a net? When your mind, body, and spirit are headed for automatic shutdown, where is the restart button to begin again, to quiet and calm your soul before Jesus to let Him fill you with His grace? When there is so much to be done and the quiet minutes are but a precious few, how long is long enough to focus on the One who is that stream of life you so desperately seek? When everything on the inside screams out holy hot mess of tangled yarn, how do you fix your gaze on the One by whom you were woven and spun? 

No really, how? The only thing it seems I can do is start small, and start with something. Anything. A Hail Mary. A chapter of a devotional. A few verses of Scripture. Anything is something that opens the door. There may not be a secret code or "right way" after all, other than to just do it. Perhaps Nike was on to something bigger than they knew. The secret to receiving grace may simply be to stay in search of it and open the door to receiving the outpouring God has in store without preconceived notions of how it will appear. Here's to opening the doors and windows and throwing away the umbrella in the hopes of a torrential downpour like the one outside right now. Lord knows I can use it, and so can all those who encounter me daily.

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Friday, May 23, 2014

SQTs: Linkity Love, Pretty in Print, and Random Potpurri in the Monthof Mary

I'm still at a "just the quick takes, ma'am" stage of blogging these days. We are inching closer to having mom settled in, but the boxes...oh, the boxes they just keep coming! Long story short, I'm still not back to writing more than once a week. Hopefully by summer I will be back in the game.

Linkity Links: Here's a few things I've been reading as I mindlessly surf around the web of Inter.

Second Oldest Woman in the WORLD lives in Metro Detroit. What fascinating stories she must be able to tell - how much things have changed and how rapidly. 115 years old, people, 115 years old...that's almost Old Testament Biblical! Happy birthday, Jeralene - may God bless you in abundance!

Educational Innovation, Meet Philanthropy: I am mesmerized by the possibilities here. An architecture program in the south has an initiative to create $20,000 homes using local resources and innovative design to develop LOW-income housing awarded to those in need within the community for a reasonable mortgage. Some of these homes are so intriguing. They remind me of the innovation of Frank Lloyd Wright without the glamour perhaps. What we could achieve if more programs across the disciplines used this approach?

Hand-Holding, More Intimate than Kissing? This was a great article in Verily about the benefits of such a sweet and simple gesture. I was taken by the notion that it is, in this day and age, more intimate than kissing because it has not been exploited and debased by the sexual revolution.

How long does the average cable installation take these days? I'm thinking it should not be over an hour. Seriously. Mail me the box and I will do it myself. Apparently they now contract out for installation so the technician can't even answer some simple questions. Awesome. Oh, and with the window guarantee, apparently showing up a couple minutes late doesn't qualify you for free installation. Did you also know that the words "high definition" don't actually mean "high definition" if they are followed by the word "digital"? I wonder they include it at all in the package description then.  I am so glad we got rid of our cable!

Unpacking is the worst, especially when you come across some questionable fashion choices from 80s that still haven't made their way out of your mother's home and into some thrift store. Or those photos that betray those fashion choices. In the middle of all the work, though, there are moments of nostalgia as we come across some old things from Iowa, and there is a glimmer of excitement as the amateur decorator in me begins to envision what I can do with the space. I don't have photos of said Marshalltown flair at the moment, but check back later!

Speaking of decorating and dreaming...I finally stopped in Hobby Lobby this week. Y'all - I had forgotten the insanity (in a good way) of Hobby Lobby! The two stores in the area aren't nearby, so it takes planning, but holy guacamole I sure as heck hope they stay in business, and I may do my best to help. Sorry Hubbers. Maybe we can make a new roof out of scrapbooking paper? It's on sale for 50% off. So are their metal home decor items - a tin roof, perhaps? Rusted? We could have our own little love shack.

I was also able to stop into a local print shop finally to do some investigating, and I am so excited about the possibilities! I have driven and walked by this little shop for over a decade always thinking, "hmmm, maybe someday?" Well, this week, someday came to town! The owner was so helpful and took time to show me a bunch of samples and help me develop some new ideas for things I never would have even considered. I hope it is needless to say I am really excited about moving forward with the Etsy Shop and hope to have some things up for sale at the beginning of June . . . I'm shooting for Pentecost. This is one other reason the writing has been on the back burner. Once things are up and running, balance will come easier I hope!

What's a quick takes without a little bit of the kidlets? The little dude has been exploding his vocabulary all over the place these days. For so long he was the strong, silent type. Now, he is starting to catch up to his motor mouth sister. Dear Jesus, please help me. Ok, while that is a serious prayer, I am loving his little linguistic goodies. My two favorites right now: "I DID it!!" and "ohhh-khaaaay" Melt my heart, kid, just like chocolate.

Li'l G ain't so little anymore. She is so freaking tall! People often tell me they think she is 5. No, people, still three, still three. Let's not rush. My favorites with her are harder because they incorporate intonation and facial expressions. This girl has such an expressive face! Her latest hobby is helping me drive the van. She is a natural born backseat driver. She has a fake little key, and bosses me around with the best of them. "Faster mommy!" "Slow down!" "Hey, car - get outta the way!" all mixed in with requests for the DJ from the peanut gallery - "no, no, no - not DAT one!" says little man. "BUT I WANT THAT ONE!" says his sister. And that is life in the fast lane, because what other lane would I be driving in after all?

Last, but not least, I was looking through some pictures this morning, and thought, "huh...I wonder what people's favorite images of Mary are?" The Hubs is hyper-picky about the Blessed Mother and how she is portrayed. She must be "just so" or it's all wrong. All wrong I tell you! (Don't bring up the Nativity Story...she is too whiny.) Anyway, would you all like to play along on Instagram with me? I'm about to post one of my favorite renditions of Mary, which is a filtered photograph of a statue we have at home. The statue is my favorite Marian depiction thus far, and I really liked the way the photo turned out. 

If you have a favorite image, please share it and tag me (@rakstar13 #rdmonthofmary). I'd love it if you played along!

That's all this for this week, friends! Have a beautiful and blessed Memorial Day Weekend!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

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Friday, May 16, 2014

7QTs on Moving, Roads, Strong Wills, and Love Love Love

Time again for another Quick Takes! I've been taking a bit of a break from the creative life while we are getting mom settled in. The huge "let's get this done NOW" side of me takes over and I get focused on the list of things to do with the new house, and it seems, I cannot multitask indefinitely. Apparently rather than rolling with it and documenting the whole process, I turn into a huge roll and curl up in the fetal position trying to stay awake while my eyelids remain uncooperative and all of a sudden I'm losing matches of QuizUp because we skipped from Round 1 to 5 in the matter of seconds where my eyelids failed me. It's a hard knock life. 

I'll be back, though. You'll see. For now, here is a snippet of life at Casa McCormick and the many thoughts that have been fleetingly floating through my cerebral tissue.

I need to be a more patient driver. I understand this. In making this statement, I do wonder if every road within a 20 mile radius from us needs to be under construction at the same time, however. Is it really necessary to try my patience in order for me to acquire some? Really? God - got any good ones here? I won't be applauding orange as the new black any time soon unless it means completely new roads and not a blacktop mess.

Which leads me to this gem of a reflection, otherwise known as airing a pet peeve. I really, truly hate when people refer to our roads, however decrepit, as war zones. I have a feeling people in war zones would disagree. A lot. I understand that the roads look like something resembling a gravelly patchwork quilt sewn together by a three year old and the potholes resemble craters, but hey - no bombs or mines, right? So there is that.

This three year old is giving me a run for my money. Strong willed daughter, meet strong willed crabby sleep/caffeine-deprived mom. It ain't gonna be pretty. It's a good thing you're pretty cute. And funny. Here was our morning exchange as I left for work:

Me: Bye sugar pie! I love you baby girl!
Her: Yeah, ok. Bye!

Yup, the stuff of best-selling mom/daughter memoirs, and you saw it here first, folks!

Going further into the "it ain't gonna be pretty" sentiment, any suggestions on keeping your cool when you are exhausted (physically AND emotionally)? I'm thinking of checking out Parenting With Grace by the Popcaks and Grace-Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel (which I started to read when I worked at the bookstore, but never finished or purchased). Any other recommendations? I know beefing up the prayer routine morning, noon and night will help too. I'd rather have more moments of laughter and fewer moments of exasperation (which I realize may be completely a necessary attitude adjustment on my part, but I might need help getting there). I want to remember this time not only for its trials, but its joys, which are aplenty but sometimes get lost in the midst of battle.

There is SO MUCH to do when you move! Just to be clear, we aren't moving anywhere. My mom moved here last weekend, and we are in the midst of settling in. The movers have come and gone, we've bought appliances, hooked up utilities, and yet there is still a long list of things to do. LONG. LIST. Also, it feels like she has already been here a month, but it's not even a week. That's not a bad thing, just seems like we've been running longer than a few days. I guess throwing our work schedules and Mother's Day in there adds to the activity. I am very glad she is here, but will be even more glad once things have completely settled down (and by completely, clearly I mean mostly).

Last weekend we had our True Beauty Breakfast, which is an annual fundraiser for Mary's Mantle, where I work. It is always a beautiful event, hosted at such a lovely venue. Wouldn't you know after the closing neighboring Hades the night before, I left my camera at home.

One of our women gave her testimony, sharing how her mother had pressured her into aborting her child a few years ago (this isn't a unique story), and the pain and struggle that ensued afterward...oh, and that she pressured her again with this last pregnancy, which is when she ended up with us and a beautiful child. Y'all - I just don't get it. The one part of the job I will never get used to (which is likely a good thing), is hearing over and over that mothers will not allow their daughters to live with them if they choose to keep their babies.

I understand that there are situations where treatment facilities are a better option if your child has issues beyond your ability to help them. 99% of these women do not fit that bill. I cannot imagine a day my daughter comes home and says to me she is facing an unplanned pregnancy that I would boot her our of our home. If anything, she will need more of my love and support, no matter how disappointed I might be in the decisions she made to get herself into the situation. I.cannot.imagine. Yet I hear that story over and over and over and over (sometimes from mothers who profess a faith in Christ!) and it makes me cry every.damn.time. I'm tearing up right now writing it. How have we gotten so far off track in our families? I just cannot fathom it. Thank the good sweet baby Jesus that He didn't hold us to the same standards or my butt would be T-O-A-S-T toast! I am so privileged to be able to work in this ministry, despite the bad days and the struggles that come along with it. We have so much work to do, though. So much work.

Whoa nelly, I got on a bit of a roll there, sorry. What I really meant to say was that I ran into my bestie-seester which was a complete surprise, and it was awesome. There are some people in our lives that God sends us to smooth the roughness, and she is one of those peoples for me. You know those friends who by just seeing them you feel your whole body relax and your Spirit lift? Yeah, one of them. It was awesome, and perfectly timed. Thankful for her and my other sisters in Christ who help my spirit be at ease. X to the O to all of you!

Speaking of Mother's Day way up in the previous takes, the Hubs went and got creative! He made me a ticket book with things I can redeem like an afternoon away, back rubs (already cashed that puppy in), foot rubs, yada yada yada. Love. He's kinda the best. Even the goofy childlike part of him that went to see Godzilla at a special "see-it-before-it-opens-for-real" screening last night at 10 p.m. (that's like his midnight, which incidentally what he was originally going to do) and texts me that he is tired now. This monster-loving gent is all mine, ladies, all mine!

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Friday, May 9, 2014

SQT: Cross-Country Moves, Mother's Day, Silence, Butterflies & BookReleases

It's a hurried day, so here are some takes true to their quick name!

Tomorrow, y'all. Tomorrow. After years of our hinting not even the least bit subtly, my mom is finally making the move to be with us. She flies in tomorrow while most of her earthly possessions take a cross-country road trip. Prayers for the move and for the years afterward all appreciated!

{Imagine photo of sold sign at the new house here. Imagine long enough and the picture might just appear post-closing!}

This kid looks so OLD! She's only three - why does she look like she rules the school??? My heart, this one.

This boy is the stinking sweetest boy that ever lived. Ever. Your arguments in opposition are invalid. I can't even be mad at him when he gets up in the middle of the night - he snuggles up close and says ever so sweetly, "hi!" Ok, I suppose I can get a little irritated when he pulls what little is left of my hair...but not much.

The husband is grounded. I am trying to plan ways to rid our house of things (like the piles in the basement), and he brings home this "for the boy." Because some guy was stalking him waiting to buy it if he didn't. He is grounded, and cleaning out the basement over Memorial Day. He has been so notified.

"More than THREE FEET long" Really?

In an odd turn of events, I cannot think of ONE THING that I want for Mother's Day. The one gift I asked for I was informed would be inappropriate for the day. Nothing tawdry, you crazy kids - I wanted one day of alone time. One full day and night of alone, quiet time. QUIET TIME. Apparently it is not appropriate to ask to be alone on Mother's Day. My bad - I didn't mean it had to be that day.

This leads me to think I should check out a silent retreat this summer. And go to Mass more often if I can. Well, that last part was from my morning prayer. I was seeking peace and opened the Gospel for today, and Jesus told me that whoever wants life within them will eat and drink of Him. I'd better to eating and drinking more of that and less fearing Mass with both toddlers in tow. I can do anything through Christ, right? RIGHT??

I've mentioned on a few previous occasions that I was toying with opening some type of shop, and I think I am finally ready to take the plunge. Over the last month, I have really enjoyed the sketching and lettering I've been doing, so now I have a handful of sketches to ink and put up for sale. It's not a huge investment and I will see where it goes, but there sure are a lot of pretty little butterflies flying around my stomach. A huge thanks to all the lovely ladies who were so supportive when I made the announcement on Instagram - it was just what I needed to take the last step off the edge and jump in. So...coming soon...

(Rakstar Designs is the name I've used for my photography for a few years)

Seriously, everyone is reading it!
So, has anyone heard of this new book that came out? I think it is called Something Other Than God. I think it might have some connection to Conversion Diary...that's the rumor at least... Ohhhh, right! It's her book - it's finally here! I devoured every word in less than one day. That is saying something for someone whose reading capacity is at a measly page or two given her current brain function (that's me). I laughed, I cried, I hid under the covers with my phone's flashlight to finish the last chapters as the clock struck midnight. Now I am just trying to put into words the many ways in which it impacted me in such a short time. It was definitely worth the wait, but now I want to know who will play Jennifer in the movie!

And...I'm off to power-of-attorney this closing for my mom's house. Power ain't what it's cracked up to be, let me tell you! I'm ready to hand those reins back on over to her. Tomorrow. Blessed tomorrow!

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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

F2W2: The Five Senses {ish}

It's been a while since I have linked up with Hallie over at Moxie Wife for a Five Favorite (or offered a song for my own Worship Wednesday), but I am sensing that today is a good day to get this party started again! (See what I did there? Corny, you say? What do you expect from an Iowa girl. And there I go again...)


I feel like I don't even need to explain to most of those of you who read my blog why this is a favorite. To those of you who may not be familiar with this hot off the presses release of Jennifer's book, it chronicles her journey from atheism into the Catholic Church. I'm saving a full review for another day, but will say that it took me under a day to read (because it was riveting) and I loved every word (other than her disdain for cilantro which she refers to as a "vile weed" - no one is perfect). I strongly suggest adding to your bookshelf, hard copy, virtual or audio! {The book title contains an affiliate link, so just covering that little announcement like a good girl for the government and such.}

Wet 'n' Wild Fast Dry Nailpolish

Most people know I rarely ever do my nails. Between housework, children, and a general inability to keep them looking nice, it just isn't worth the effort to me. Every now and then I get the urge to add a bit o' color, though, and for those moments I love the fast dry polishes. I've sung the praises of the NYC brand before, but now I've found the Wet 'n' Wild line too! I know, I am totally in junior high. As little as I do my nails, it's also about cheap, cheap, cheap! Voila! (This shade is called "Gray's Anatomy" in case you were wondering. Clever, though I don't watch the show...)

Fresh cut flowers

SPRING IS HERE! SPRING IS HERE! SPRING IS HERE! Hey, did I mention spring is here (even though it is cool and rainy outside)? Our bulbs are in full bloom and on a whim I cut a bouquet to put by the sink. I love. Once we are out of our own flowers, I may have to splurge to keep up the practice. They make me smile, and the slight fragrance is never a bad thing in a house full of dirty diapers. 

Target Brand Salad Dressings

Yes, I know they are probably full of chemicals. I don't care in this instance. Can't beat the price, and for the love of all that is holy why don't all companies put this kind of lid on their dressings? No one wants a dressing typhoon! So, Target Market Pantry GOOD. Other store brand which shall not be named + other brands that shall not be named: bane of my existence with a daughter who would bathe in ranch dressing if she could. End of story.

Hands by Jewel

I know - not really a worship song, but it came to mind as I was praying about some new endeavors and going ons, so when I played it, I knew I needed to share it. This verse has always struck me:

Poverty stole your golden shoes
It didn't steal your laughter
And heartache came to visit me
But I knew it wasn't ever after
We'll fight, not out of spite
For someone must stand up for what's right
'Cause where there's a man who has no voice
There ours shall go singing

Remember, all, we are God's eyes, we are God's hands...

That's all from the Casa this week. Go visit Kate at The Rhodes Log who is hosting for Hallie this week to read what other people are raving about these days!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Joy of Saying Yes

With two toddlers at home, days can quickly begin to feel like I have my voice on repeat with the word no. Even a creative no is still a no. So when I get the chance to say yes, it is invigorating, not only for me, but the kids as well. The looks on their faces is usually stunned wonder. It makes me think I don't create opportunities to say yes as we go about our day. Then I realize I'm dealing with two toddlers so even if I did, I'd probably still the have the needle stuck on the record of "no." It's just where we are.

As I was looking at the glee on Gia's face when I said yes to something (I can't even recall what now), I wondered if perhaps this wasn't a lesson in faith also, especially for us as Catholics. So often all we hear about Catholics is what we do NOT believe, what we do NOT support. I can see why people begin to think of the church as a big old bully waving a ruler around. If that was the Church I had encountered when I was searching for home, I certainly wouldn't have jumped in . . . or dipped my toe in the water!

It's also easy to understand why as a Church we feel the need to explain what we do not support. It seems the catapults are hurling those fireballs at us at record pace, and we've got to duck, cover, and put up our shields. The trouble is that it puts us in a defensive posture, when really we should be waving our hands and getting up on our pedestals megaphone in hand yelling, "You've got it all wrong!" We have to stop fearing those fireballs and lift our faces up to proclaim victory, the victory of Christ. 

What is it that we DO believe? Why do we take the assaults the world throws our way and never back down in surrender? It's not because we have a great list of "thou shalt nots," after all, is it? What is it that we are saying "yes" to that makes the "no" seem insignificant? Who are we saying yes to that is so great that we stay put even in the midst of a seemingly losing battle? 

Scripture gives us some great answers as to what it is that we are saying yes to. We say yes to

  • abundant life (John 10:10), 
  • a Light that darkness cannot overcome (John 1:5),
  • hope which does not disappoint (Romans 5:5), 
  • the love of God no power of this world can take away (Romans 9:38-39), 
  • hope of a time when all suffering will be wiped away (Revelation 21:1-5). 

We say yes to the promise of a life with Jesus. We say yes to healing, to eternal life, to a peace nothing in this world can bring us, to strength in suffering that is not born of ourselves, we say yes to having the power of God dwell within us, we say yes to sacrificial love, we say yes to admitting we fail continuously, we say yes to rising from the ashes of many-an-epic faceplant with the mercy and grace of God. We say yes to so much more. 

Jesus has some HARD teachings, that is for certain. You can't take the good and leave the hard behind as some would try. The world needs to hear our YES first though. The hard teachings cannot come first. The hard teachings are meaningless without that first yes, without our continual yes to grace, to mercy, to the love of Christ. If we are not awash in that light, all we see is the darkness of a no, not the freedom of a loving Savior keeping us from harm because of His great love. The world needs to hear what we do believe of the person of Jesus Christ before they will ever be open to the what of following Christ. 

The world needs to hear why we stand behind what seems an outmoded set of principles. They need to know we don't worship a set of principles at all, but a real, living person whom we love and who loves us. They need to know that what Jesus promises, what Jesus has done and continues to do, makes it worth battling out the hard teachings for our years in this world. We have to lead the world to experience the love and mercy of Christ, so they can hear His loving "yes" to them.  

This Easter, let's be bold about sharing what we DO believe, who we DO love. As I've said before, let's reclaim the conversation and frame it as a labor of love and mercy, the divine Love and Mercy of Jesus. It becomes an entirely different story when we start with an unexpected "YES."

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Friday, April 25, 2014

SQT: I'm Baaaaaack from a Hiatus! Happy Easter!

Christ is risen, alleluia! I've been taking a little break from writing over the last couple of weeks, partly due to some busy-ness and partly because every time I sat down to write, the words just wouldn't come even if the ideas were there. I took that as a sign that I should take a break and follow inspiration where it leads. What have we been up to instead? Lots of visitors, house buying/selling red tape (mom's, not ours), and some new projects (where inspiration has led). I'm working on getting back in the swing of writing more regularly, so I hope to see you around more often!

Before we get into Holy Week and beyond, I thought I'd offer a quick wrap-up of our Lent. Every year I think, "This is the year! This is the year that I am going to slow down and reeeeaaaalllly focus. I'm keeping my fast fastidiously (groan if you must), I am simplifying, and I am putting ALL.THE.FOCUS on Jesus all-day-every-day. Spoiler alert - this wasn't that year. The fasting train lost steam about 2/3 of the way through. The books on my list never got read (because who has time or brainpower after all). The focus on Jesus was there, but all-day-every-day? Well.... As Lent drew to a close, I realized that I still have an ideal of what a pious life ought to look like, rather than how a pious life ought to be lived.
Things I did learn to do this Lent:

  • Go back to saying a prayer when I feel my temper flaring. 
  • Be more attentive in the moment when one of my kids was calling.
  • Pick up the phone more when people were calling (though I still do not like talking on the phone).
  • Be more intentional about focusing on at least one prayer time per day (though it fluctuated between morning and night).
  • Keep up a steady stream of conversation with God throughout my day instead of ripping my hair out trying to find that extra chunk of quiet time.
  • Ask saints and earthly friends for prayer.
  • Lower the bar of expectation with my list of "to-dos" and increase the expectation of what I can do if I surrender it to Jesus.
  • Offer my worries to Jesus when I felt anxiety coming on.
While it was not the Lent I planned with our nightly Scriptures and weekly works of mercy, it was most likely the Lent I needed at work and at home. Besides, much like the whole of our lives is an Advent, the whole of our lives have little Lents running throughout them. It isn't a one-shot deal.

On to Holy Week! My bestie from college, and incidentally the friend who was my RCIA sponsor and the one who invited me to the faith, came to town with their whole brood. We realized we have been friends longer than my husband's students have been alive...and many of the women I work with as well. That's a sobering realization. We also realized that trying to catch up amidst six young children under 7 was nearly impossible. Someone, somewhere, had hands where they shouldn't be at almost all times. Between the trips to the museum, the arcade, Rainforest Cafe, and introducing them to the Coney, Detroit's official food, we were hustling and bustling all over the place!

Sadly, they live about 7 hours away, so times like these have been few and far between. I would love to have them closer to make this a more frequent visit because I'm pretty sure our kids would be besties too.

Easter weekend, another bestie was in from out of town, so Saturday morning we loaded into the van and headed up to have breakfast with her and our sister from another mister. Yet another opportunity to learn that catching up amidst young children is just not the best idea, especially at a crowded restaurant. It was great to be able to see her, but between "put that down"s and "no you can't have that knife"s, it was perhaps not the relaxing outing I was hoping for. She, too, lives way too far away (you know who you are and you know what I'm saying - too far!). These faces don't just happen often enough.

Photo collage courtesy of Victoria, the crazy face next to Gia.

I'm now quite honestly looking back through my Instagram to remember what we did at Easter. Holidays are always a little bit overwhelming for me. Having grown up an only child without extended family nearby, our holidays were usually centered around our little nucleus of a family and whatever else my parents ended up planning. There was no juggling our schedule with anyone else's. Because I have no relatives here yet, we are still on the slower end of the scale, but there is the juggling nap schedules with dinner schedules. As such, I'm usually delegated to desserts for now in case we end up being late to dinner, and needing to look back to remember what we actually did for the weekend. Here's a quick photo dump of our Easter Egg hunt, dessert, and Easter play.

I said "yet" above, because as I have mentioned in posts past, my mom is working on moving here. The "working on" is turning quickly into "moving here." We have booked her flight, she has a closing date on her sale, and we are inching toward a closing date for the purchase. Say a prayer or a million for us! The beginning of May is about to get CAH-RAZY up in here! At the end of the day, that means we may have another babysitter ... I mean the kids will get to spend more time with their other grandma and I get to spend time with my mom too. Seriously - I am dreaming of shopping on my own. Maybe just once a month. So nice to dream.......

She doesn't know it, but since she is setting up a craft/sewing room for herself in her new home, I've already made plans to "borrow" it as a studio from time to time. As the inspiration has hit since I finally completed that online class I signed up for months ago, I've been busy sketching and lettering. I am still really loving it and finding that as much as writing brings me energy when I am going with the flow, sketching/lettering does so even more. Only when I'm going with inspiration, though, not when I'm trying to force a design. It is as it should be. I really think as I've been praying about ways to incorporate my passions with income, this might be the ticket. I am still taking it to prayer before I jump in with a shop, but so far it's looking likely.

On that note, what types of prints would you buy from a hand-lettered shop? Inspirational quotes? Fun sayings? Whimsical? Classic? All of the above? Any sayings you would like to see me work on as a draft? I'm working on a few in honor of the upcoming canonizations of John Paul II and John XXIII, so there may be a giveaway in the near future - stay tuned!

That's the skinny from the Casa. I am hoping to be back in a writing rhythm soon, so you will hopefully see more pitter pattering around these parts in the near future!

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