I was talking to a good friend of mine the other day (from HS... that's us dressed up the murderous broads from Arsenic and Old Lace before we graduated to faux-gangsta smokin' outside a candy shop in Kansas). We were talking about faith in God's timing and how much of a gift it can be.
I said to her:
Patience? Fortitude? Gentleness? Grace? PFFFFFT. I was given NONE of that. But faith and a genuine trust that eventually He'll get around to sorting my special brand of stupid out? Oh man... He fully recognized where I'd need the most help, so He just straight DUMPED that into the mix when forming me.
This theme of trusting in God's ability to sort things out has been a mainstay for me all my life. I've never really worried about how something would turn out. I always just expect that since God's handling it, it'll work out for the best.
Before Chris moved back home, my "other mother" would ask me often about plans to get him home or when he'd find a job, or how we'd plan a wedding without knowing if or when he'd ever be able to leave Kansas. I'd always sorta laugh it off because none of the worry made sense to me. We were engaged, we had a date, and God would simply have to work out the details. He was the one who set us up, after all. I couldn't image Him forgetting the crucial piece of getting him home. *Grin*
And here we are, almost a full year later living out our happily ever after, just as we intended. Why? Because God is good and challenges that seem impossible for us are small potatoes for the Guy Who Created the Universe.
Even in my own career, things have worked out when I simply left things in His Hands.
Because of my ex-husband's thoughtlessness, I was left jobless after Nate's birth. I knew I'd have to find work ASAP so I could provide for my kids, get health benefits, and secure a financial future for myself and my boys. I mentioned before how so many women in my position were scared out of their wits, but that was never me. I knew God would ensure we were taken care of, and honestly, my career took off.
I was offered an incredible job that enabled me to be with my kids, nurse Nate, pump in private, and do what I loved doing - all for $10k more than I had been making at my previous job. When it was time to move on from that position, I was handed an incredible opportunity that has seen my professional experience EXPLODE. Six figures are within reach for me at this point (should I choose to pursue the for-profit world), and that's something that I never would have considered possible while anchored to John. His negativity stifled so many professional aspirations, and being rid of that was genuinely a blessing.
I basically strapped rockets onto myself and shot through the ranks, networking with high-level people on high-level projects that opened so many doors to me. As a result, I now have a dual-Directorship in a field I adore. Every day I'm learning something new, meeting new people, and enacting lasting changes that make REAL differences. So while my work can certainly be challenging and frustrating like everyone else, at the end of the day, I feel good that the work I'm doing is having a positive impact on the community.
I recognize how blessed I am to be able to say that.
And the best part? Because I'm in such a highly visible field doing highly visible work, I've made a solid name for myself. Just this week, I was approached by two different employers looking to poach me! Both would-be employers got my name from past colleagues who threw my name into the hat before giving me the heads up. Ha ha!
I'm not saying this to be boastful... I'm saying this because I promise that if you just "let go and let God," He will never disappoint you. In fact, He'll go so far out of the way to blow your socks off that you will never doubt His ability to sort things out ever again!
God is good... He really is. In so many ways that we'll never understand. I'm legitimately proof of that. Chris is proof of that. My kids are proof of that. YOU are proof of that.
So trust Him, guys. Trust Him.
Before Chris finally moved home, I'd always tell Vince he was man of the house. As man of the house, one of his responsibilities was leading the family in prayer. He RELISHED that role and was quite good at it! It wasn't restricted to just dinner prayer, either. He was also responsible for stopping us any time a police car or ambulance went by so we could pray for whoever was in need.
On the day of our wedding, our little family gathered together one last time in front of the altar for family prayer BEFORE the reins were officially handed over to Chris as man of the house. Vince led us all in prayer before the ceremony, and our photographer, Wendy, captured the moment for us!
It was so sweet. Our celebrant, Fr. John, noted how touching it was in his homily. I was proud of Vince, because he's always taken that job seriously and he's always done such a good job with it.
Eventually, Chris took charge of things and led our family prayer. However, once Nate memorized his first prayer (the Hail Mary, of course), he was anxious to have a go of leading. Chris graciously allowed Nate to lead one night, and ever since, Vince and Nate will ask for the honor of leading prayer.
I'm laughing a bit as I type this, because I had made such a point about family prayer being the responsibility of the man of the house, but it's honestly so sweet that they want so much to contribute to prayer that I can't really be upset.
I snapped the next photo on the day before Chris and I got married. I wanted to go to Confession, and the only place offering it was the Cathedral in Center City. I had to take the boys along for the ride. Vince went to Confession first, and then I popped in. Before I did, I snapped this photo of Vince saying his penance. Nate, unsure of what he should do, just followed his brother's lead. Ha ha.
It's a wonder I didn't melt right there on the spot.
I should probably explain this to Vince a little better. Whether he realizes it or not, he's been leading the family in prayer for many, many years. God knows he's redirected me on more than one occasion. And Nate adores him, seeking to emulate him in basically everything.
If nothing else, he's got that part of being "man of the house," down pat. Ha ha!
My Masterpiece Wedding Gown
She poured her heart and soul into EVERYTHING, and while stitching everything together, she would pray for whoever would end up using whatever she was making:
When I finally realized she was serious, I cried. I felt so overwhelmed with gratitude, unworthiness, and awe that I couldn't respond to her e-mail for more than a week. Every time I would try, words would fail me and I'd just begin crying again. To think that she would not only WANT to do this, but consider it a personal honor... guys... I'm tearing up again just thinking of how wonderful she is.
Karen lives out in Ohio, so she asked that I send her my measurements. She asked if I had anything in mind, and I didn't. My only request was that she use lightweight lace because I'd be married in May. She sent me a photo of a style she thought would be perfect for me and I immediately approved. Of course she'd pick out something perfect. SHE is perfect.
I didn't hear much from her in the months that followed. To be fair, I was inundated with changing plans around due to the impending pandemic, moving Chris home, and trying to sort out virtual learning for the boys. She was very clearly busy, too, because the day we finally got Chris home, a package was waiting for us when we arrived. It was the dress!
Upon opening it, I could hardly contain myself. It was more stunning than I had anticipated. The lace was SUPREMELY soft and for as large as the dress was, it was super lightweight. I'm not entirely sure how she managed that.
She included a cathedral length veil that was trimmed in the same lace she used to make the dress. I didn't end up using it due to COVID, but I still have it tucked away with the dress. She sent me the sweetest letter ever with the dress, assuring me that every stitch was offered as a prayer for our marriage. And now I own an original piece of artwork from one of my most beloved artistic friends. I cannot overstate how much I appreciate this grace.
So to Karen, I love you ridiculous amounts. I cannot ever thank you enough for giving so freely of yourself to ensure that I had something so beautiful to wear. I cherish it, just as I cherish our friendship. You are a saint, my friend, and I hope to be much, MUCH more like you when I "grow up."
And yes, Chris absolutely wiped a tear from his eye when he saw me in it. Even he was blown away by your ability to clean me up. *Grin*
Love you, friend. Thank you.
Le Charite by Bouguereau
This utterly GORGEOUS piece of work by the impossibly talented William Bouguereau is titled "Le Charite."
A couple weeks ago, I saw someone on Facebook erroneously draw the conclusion that this was Our Lady cradling aborted children.
I'm as pro-life as they come, but this piece has exactly zero to do with abortion. This is NOT the Blessed Mother, and Bouguereau (who had painted plenty of BVMs over his career) never once chose to depict her breastfeeding (which is another entry for another time).
I get super agitated whenever someone usurps unrelated content to fit a narrative... even if that narrative is one I happen to agree with (abortion is a terribly grave and unjust sin against innocent life).
I responded to the public FB post with a relatively brief explanation as to what this painting was and what it was ACTUALLY representing. Because so many Catholics were sharing the erroneously captioned message, it felt like I was chasing my tail dropping my "Guys, guys, guys... this isn't the Blessed Mother and those aren't aborted children!" everywhere.
I posted to Twitter as well, and then realized that I missed explaining art. So here I am, back in the saddle...
The woman is the personification of Charity. These are not aborted children, but personifications of all who seek charity. She is bare-breasted and wearing red (the color of martyrdom), indicating her willingness to nourish others with the fullness of herself.
There is an overturned jug of gold at her left foot. This indicates that no cost is too great for the fulfillment of charity in the service of others.
She also has books at her right foot; she is both wise and generous with that knowledge.
She has purple columns on either side indicating both sacrifice and royalty ("and the greatest of these is Charity"). She's seated on white marble, an architectural & art medium known for being lustrous, strong, & pure. The children are not hers biologically, but clearly belong to her. Charity accepts all.
The children exemplify various things Charity can provide. Clockwise from 11 o'clock:
Interestingly, these children are placed at roughly the same places we would see the Wounds of Christ: two in her hands, two at her feet, and one at her side.
Charity is seated upon an altar of sorts, flanked by sacrifice, draped in martyrdom, and enshrined in divinity (the gold behind her, creating an almost halo-like effect). She mirrors the Sacred Wounds and configures herself wholly to Christ, welcoming and sacrificing for all.
Important to note is the fact that she is veiled with downcast eyes, indicating humility. Charity is never boastful; she is only concerned with those she is in service of.
TL; DR - this is not Mary, these are not aborted children, and while art is certainly open to interpretation, that interpretation should be honest with its motives and at least somewhat knowledgeable with the artist/history & circumstances in which it was made.
Please don't ever be like the guy below who got my eye all twitchy. Inevitably, there will be folks who know the truth, and no matter HOW well intentioned your message, it becomes tainted. Don't taint the pro-life message, please... especially not with a Bouguereau.
My 20/20 on 2020
While I recognize 2020 was a challenging and frustrating year for so many people, I am grateful that it turned out to be a year of incredible blessings for my family and I.
Chris and I kicked off the New Year together. He was still living in Kansas, and hadn't had any job offers in the area. We were able to celebrate Christmas with the boys and welcome 2020 with hopeful expectation.
He was to begin as soon as possible!
The biggest hurdle of all had finally been overcome. He had been searching for so long to find something suitable back home, and finally, God had opened the door, just as I knew He would.
When he flew back home, we had a plan in place that would get him home in time to start his new job in April.
Vince and Nate were doing so well, too! Vince was excelling in 4th grade and Nate was growing by leaps and bounds. While they can certainly bicker, they're usually pretty good together. Nate still worships Vince and Vince enjoys lording around his baby brother. We had all settled nicely into our new house and everyone was excited for Chris to finally move home for good, especially because Chris was such a fun playmate for them!
When March arrived, the first inklings of COVID-19 were starting to make their way to us. My wonderful friend (and then-boss) started warning me against traveling out of state. My brother was SUPER adamant about me not flying down to Kansas to then drive through multiple states to get him home. It seemed like the entire world had suddenly gone crazy.
There was *no way* I was going to leave Chris stranded in Kansas when we FINALLY had the ability to get him home. I was on pins and needles the week leading up to my flight because some airlines were closing, some states were shutting down, etc.
Finally, I was able to board and get to Kansas. We spent a few days packing, and then began our 1,200 mile road trip home. Knowing we'd need to have things to look forward to, I planned a few socially safe excursions between Kansas and New Jersey:
We split the drive over three days. We left after having breakfast on Saturday morning, stopping for fuel every 2.5 hours or so. While I had been worried an 18 hour drive might be daunting, all the excursions helped give us quirky fun to break it all up. The drive blew by, and before we knew it, we were HOME.
That meant we FINALLY got to build out the guitar wall I had devised the moment I stepped foot into the new house... we put it together that weekend and I am STILL over the moon for it, much like everyone else who has come through our door since!
April saw the lockdown was in full swing. It appears we got him home just in time! However, both of us are considered essential workers, so we were both going into the office regularly. Vince had swapped to remote learning. Nate was home for about 2 months before the state began re-allowing daycares to reopen. In that time, he really started to struggle. My little extrovert was beside himself not having his little peers to play with daily. While Vince LOVED not having to go into school every day, Nate was genuinely getting depressed. The day he was finally allowed back into daycare, he cried. He actually cried tears of joy because he missed everyone so much.
In the meantime, though, we did what we could to give them things to look forward to. We joined a few car parades, went up to do a drive-by of Mom-Mom's house, Uncle Ray's house and Auntie Mary's house, learned how to polish gemstones, make Jell-o and build AMAZING forts. We even set up a pinata in the backyard for them to take their frustrations out on!
All this time, Chris and I were supposed to be planning our wedding. We had sent out invitations, chose menus, and my gorgeous dress (which will get its own post) had arrived. Things were in the air due to COVID, and we were told multiple times (by many, many people) to just postpone until things returned to normal. There's no way, after all, we'd be able to make it happen with so many restrictions.
Telling me I can’t do something is pretty much a guaranteed way of ensuring it gets done because I’m a spiteful sonofagun who is creative, capable, and hella good at talking people into following my lead. I convinced the pastor to allow us to have the service by agreeing to cut our numbers to match the allotted funeral capacities (10 people). I then sorted things out with the county in order to get us virtually approved for licensing (which was tricky since Chris' license was still listed as out-of-state due to DMVs being closed).
Finally, we let everyone know that we were downgrading the ceremony and reception to match capacity. I organized a videographer to be present to stream the ceremony live so that those who could not be present could still feel as though they were. I also made sure to livestream throughout the day via social media to give people a glimpse into the fun!
All in all, it was PERFECT. Everything- every single thing- was utter perfection. The weather, the people, the love... God is so good, people. Just trust Him; He always provides a way.
From there, we found ourselves in the middle of summer. Restrictions were beginning to ease, and the boys were back to enjoying their peers in camp (for Vince) and daycare (for Nate). Chris was keeping them entertained and learning with his many hands-on science projects. Rockets, experiments with arduinos, and Nerf wars were becoming commonplace. It was and is so gratifying for me to see them so enamored by Chris. Likewise, he relishes their affection and enjoys the opportunity to help them learn and grow.
When the school year arrived, I was proud of the diocesan schools for making the decision to reopen with safety protocols in place. Nate had graduated from daycare and started as a kindergartener which was great for Vince. He was excited to show Nate around and dutifully took him to his classroom every day. He even began enjoying aftercare now that he had his brother to play with.
As for me, I work in nonprofit Development. My biggest source of fundraising revenue tends to be from in-person events. With COVID throwing a wrench into that, I was forced to get super creative in terms of meeting financial goals with my hands and both feet tied behind my back. That said, God is good and once again provided the way. Chris taught me how to cut videos together, I took several virtual seminars, and applied for every grant under the sun. Not only did I end up meeting all the financial goals of my nonprofit, I ended up exceeding expectations. Chris was doing stellar in his job and I was blossoming as well!
Again, God is good!
Unfortunately, we were not immune to tragedy.
Chris' wonderful father, Peter, passed away after a brief fight with cancer. He had begun complaining of pain, and by the time doctors were able to sort it out, it had spread too far.
Before he passed away, however, God granted Chris the very special grace of being able to share news with him. In early August, we discovered that we were going to be welcoming a grandchild for them. Being able to share that he was to be a grandfather... I am so grateful that Chris had that opportunity.
Peter is deeply missed, most especially by his wife of almost 50 years, Diana. It was terribly hard for her and for Chris to face the holidays without him this year, so we did what we could to lighten the burden.
So yes, dear readers, I am once more expecting a little miracle. Vincent and Nate were VERY excited to learn that they'd have a new addition to the pack. Vince had his heart set on a sister, and Nate didn't care what the baby turned out to be because he's just thrilled he's not the youngest anymore. However, we found out that we were expecting a little boy who we decided to name "Dominic." We're already calling him "Nico" for short, and we are over the moon with anticipation for this little munchkin to arrive. And because God's awesome like that, He's finally giving me my May baby!
Christmas rolled around and while it was subdued, it was still blessed. We trimmed the tree, had fun decorating special presents for family, and built gingerbread houses and ate cookies. So many cookies. We were able to attend Mass on Christmas Day, and while I've been exhausted on account of pregnancy, I've had Chris to help with... everything.
My husband... a true and unparalleled partner in all the ways. I am so beyond blessed I'm honestly at a loss as to how any of this fell into my lap.
So that's my 20/20 on 2020. Were there challenges? Sure. But overall, we had so very much to be thankful for. The new life growing within me is proof enough to be optimistic for what tomorrow brings. In all things, God is good.
Top Rated Posts
My Darkest Secret
Do Animals Have Souls?
10 Things a Parent of an SPD Kid Wants to Say
Fun and Easy Lenten Crafts
Blessed Mother as Intercessor
Loss of Life
Women Priests II
Render Unto Caesar
The Godparent Poem
NYT Anti-Catholic Ad