Saturday, January 24, 2015

Into Temptation

     I am terribly afraid of being perceived of as weak. I know I'm not alone in this, and I dare say that at the very least I am joined by the vast majority of the male population, who also suffer from this anxiety. While it seems like this is just part of the Human Condition, I think we Americans are almost proud of how driven we are by our fear of being perceived of as weak. After all, only the strong survive and thrive, right? And if fear of weakness helps you get there, then by golly, why not use it to full advantage? That's all fine and dandy, until you stop to consider all the things you did, in spite of not wanting to or liking it, simply because you were teased for wanting to quit? Because you didn't want to be called a loser, a quitter, weak? Ponder those things for a moment. Are you really stronger and better for having done them, or are you more bitter, angry, or disgruntled because you let peer pressure keep you from staying true to yourself and what you actually like?

     Unfortunately, and to worse effect, this happens in the spiritual realm as well. As Catholics, we are called to avoid temptation and near occasions of sin, even to the point of maiming ourselves. (Mt. 5:29-30**; Mk. 9:43-48) but how often have we convinced ourselves, or worse, others, to persist in near occasions of sin, saying that the only way we can get stronger is to stick it out? How often have we facilitated our own downfall, again and again and again, for fear of being weak? "It is more virtuous", we tell ourselves, "to not eat pie when it is for the taking, than to not eat pie when there isn't any around." Only to find ourselves picking away at it, tiny piece by tiny piece, until we have, indeed, eaten it all? Would it not have been better, to have put ourselves in a position where there was no pie to be had at all? To put it in more serious terms, it would be better for the porn addict to have filters on his computer, than to put himself in a near occasion of sin by using the Internet without any. Or in the case of an recovering alcoholic: it would be better for her to be in a place without access to alcohol than to live with the constant temptation a fully stocked bar. In these cases, we would applaud them if they were successful at living clean in a completely temptation free environment. Why do we not do the same for lesser things? Venial sins won't send us to Hell, but they certainly are not helping us get to Heaven.

     Further, how much frustration do we cause ourselves, trying to fight spiritual battles that we are not yet strong enough to win? We push the limits of our spiritual strength out of 'desire' to practice whatever virtue; how often is this desire real, and not, in actuality, a manifestation of Pride? "Weak!" the Evil One whispers in your mind, "You're just spiritually weak, that's why you want to flee this temptation. What will your family, your friends, think, if they hear of your lack of Faith?" Maybe you console yourself with "I can do all things through Him Who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13), so you plow on, only to stumble and fall, wondering where God's strength was. He gave it to you, all that the "I" could hold, but since you were attempting more than you were spiritually ready to undertake, you failed.

     There should be no shame in fleeing any and all temptations which we are able to flee, no matter how trivial. Quite the contrary, it takes great humility and meekness to know when we are facing something which we are unable to handle. In spite of popular opinion, the meek and humble of heart are the strongest around, for they have a proper understanding of themselves, and are in control of their passions and desires. Those who are in control of themselves have no fear of being controlled by others, and that is strength enough.

** So, in this reading, I was struck by how this verse also applies to the Mystical Body of the Church, providing a biblical basis for excommunication. I had never thought of it that way before.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Dear Baby Girl

     So, today I was going to blog about all the recent hoopla regarding Pope Francis, but sort of got myself into hot water with my brother regarding a comment I made on a Facebook post I was tagged in, and have decided that now would be perhaps the right time to discuss my feelings on this subject. Since we only have 2 boys right now, my friend thought I would appreciate this blog post in the form of an open letter to the ladies who were offering this woman condolences for expecting yet another boy, when she already had one. I read it, and commented on the FB post "I'm thinking, just from past experience, my reply to comments like that will not be very feminist and favorable... I will be quite thrilled if we never have a girl." My brother saw it, and called me out via text message, correctly condemning my harshness and questioning what I would do if I did indeed have a girl, and she found out I never wanted her. While I never meant it to sound like I would never want to have a girl, I would also not be disappointed if all we had were boys. There might not be a real distinction, but in my head there is. Anyway. 

     Sweet Baby Girl,
Mama said some things on the internet before you were born, that she would like to take the time now to explain to you. They had to do with Mama's feelings towards the idea of having a daughter, and how it sounded like she did not want you. And, in a sense, that is true. My Dear Daughter, I think on you, and I am terrified. Terrified, because I never felt accepted by the girls I knew growing up. Terrified, because I have no idea how I'm going to be able to relate to you if you are a girly-girl. Terrified, because I want to be able to understand you, and I'm so very afraid that I won't. Terrified, because I don't want to mess you up, and prevent you from becoming the woman God wants you to be. Darling, I am so, so scared that I will not be able to be the Mama you need me to be. I'm so rough and tumble, ungraceful, unladylike. I'm supposed to be your main example on how to be a woman in the image of Our Lady and after God's own heart, and I'm no example at all. Daughter, I do want you, and you are so very, very precious to me, but I am so afraid to lose you even before I get to know you. It is precisely because you are so precious that I am so afraid, and would almost rather not have you at all, than to lose you. But I do love you, Little Girl, and as I tell your brothers:  You are made in the image and likeness of God; you are enough. And I love you. 
And no matter what, I will do my best to be the Mama that you deserve, I promise. 

     Love & Prayers Always, 

     Your Scared but Loving Mama

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Winter As A Parent

     I have always liked winter. I like the cold. I like the snow (yeah, I even sort of like the shoveling). I used to go for walks, long walks, in the neighbors across the street's woods, well, any time of the year, but it was particularly special in the winter time. The snow was beautiful, and the silence was incredible. So very peaceful, and the perfect way to re-ground myself. 
     It snowed here on Tuesday, and reminds me very much of home, particularly with the frigid temperatures we've had since. Only now, instead of just myself, I have two littles that need to be dressed up in snow gear if we want to go outside, which Jose was very much excited to do, and it took a half an hour to get us all bundled up and out the door. 30 whole minutes. Thankfully they are both still in diapers, and I can get myself ready last, because after that I'm sure someone would have had to go potty before we even got outside. It was a fun time in the end, though, until a neighbor's dog decided to come in our yard and bark at us in our own yard. Rant for another day. Anyhow, due to the chilly temps, the snow is still here, but also thanks to the freezing temps, we can't go outside and play. 20 something degrees is just too cold to be taking littles outside. Jose has been very bummed about it. I, on the other hand, am not, due to the hassle rigmarole circus process which is getting dressed to go outside. 
     I did, however, end up going outside briefly somewhat unexpectedly today, and was reminded just how much I like this weather. Though it wasn't much above 20*, it didn't feel cold. The air was refreshing, clean, after having been in a stuffy house for two days straight. It was energizing. It was fantastic. And I miss it.  

Sunday, January 4, 2015

2015 Resolutions

     I'm not one to usually make New Year's resolutions, but this year my deciding that things need to be worked on happened to coincide with the ending of the year. For accountability and because this is one of the easiest ways to keep them where I can find them, I'm sharing them with you. In no particular order, except for the first one. 

1. Not Die - During our semester in Rome, I decided to come up with a "Things Not To Do" list, and the first and most important one of those was Not Die. I think it is good to have at least one resolution at which there is practically no chance of failing. Keep it simple. 

2. Speak the Truth in Love - This applies to "I love you, and you really shouldn't be allowing XXX into your mind because it's bad for you" type of fraternal correction, but even more importantly for me it applies to what I let and lead others to think about me. I have a very difficult time speaking up for myself when someone is being really nice, but I don't actually like whatever it is I let them think I like, because I don't want to hurt them. We'll see how long it lasts. This Meyers-Briggs post says I don't have much chance. ISFJ...

3. Take Care of Me - Because I am useless to everyone, if I am not in good health. 
     A. Go To Bed Early (by 10 p.m.) - I've been wondering if something is wrong with me, but I've been struggling with tiredness for a while now, and being pregnant has completely drained me of what little energy I did have. Staying up to 11 or later and getting up at 7:30 is no longer feasible. 
     B. Don't Stress About Food/Eat - I've mentioned before, that my secret to skinniness is not eating, which I'm sure we can all agree isn't healthy. I've also mentioned before, how I've worried and stressed about eating all the right things during pregnancy, so I wouldn't get in trouble with the midwives for not gaining enough weight and stuff. But this time, I'm not letting it bother me. Yes, I'm going to aim for eating the right stuff in addition to eating more, but if I don't make it, I don't make it, and that's that. Stressing just makes me feel sick and as though there is no point. 
     C. Socialize - You know, actually make play dates so I can talk to grown up peoples. Maybe, if I'm bold enough, I'll invite people over to my house. Maybe. But I don't feel competent as a hostess, so we'll see. This will be a lot easier, with the addition of the minivan. 
     D. Spiritual Life - Keep praying the Rosary. I had started saying it while putting Juanito down for the night, and my patience has greatly increased. I neglect it for a few days, and I lose my temper. Thankfully, I can see actual changes in my day when I pray it (God must know I need a whole boatload of help right now), and that makes it easier to keep doing, and to decide to devote more time to devotionals. I'm on the last chapter of The Life of Christ by Fulton Sheen (started last Lent, thought I had finished it, but I hadn't), and this Lent I have Into Your Hands, Father by Wilfrid Stinissen, on the recommendation of Leila over at Little Catholic Bubble

4. Actively Find Ways to Grow as a Couple - My sister-in-law (Fit. Healthy. Whole.) suggested reading a book together, but giving yourselves the whole year to read it. I've settled on Beyond the Birds and the Bees by the Popcaks. I'm also working on small spiritual things to add to a currently non-existent routine, and any suggestions would be appreciated. 

5. Be Decisive and a Leader - In addition to my not wanting to hurt peoples feelings by saying I don't care for something, I also don't want to hurt people by doing things they don't want to do. I also really don't mind doing what other people want to do most of the time, so I manage to not really make any decisions whatsoever if I can help it. Of course, this isn't very practical when the other person also wants most to do what I want to do, and nothing actually gets decided. So I'm going to just decide to do what I want to do. Or decide on fun stuff to do on the weekends, since weekends are often a bit stale here. 

6. Get Rid of Useless Junk - Or stuff that doesn't get used. It's amazing how much better I feel when there isn't clutter anywhere. 

Well, I guess that's most of them. And quite a few, too, in reality. 

     Oh, and another insight I had, though it isn't going to end up as a resolution, but might be helpful for other at keeping theirs. The more you say "No" to yourself when you don't want to, the more you say "Yes" to things you don't really want to do but know you should, the more control you have over yourself. The more control you have over yourself, the less control anyone else can have over you. Pretty cool, huh? 
2011 Honda Odyssey