Taking My Own Advice
This isn't a sad entry, so don't worry about the next sentence, okay?
I decided a few weeks ago to end things with Rick.
And it's okay! We're still friends and I have no doubt he'll be counted amongst my good friends for years to come. It was better to acknowledge reality now rather than invest further time into something that may ultimately lead nowhere.
Was I bummed? Oh Lord, people. Rick is attractive, treats me well, and is thoughtful so of COURSE I was somewhat bummed to not feel the "click" that should come after the lust is tempered. However, I'm not going to sacrifice what's right for what feels right. I also still haven't heard from the Tribunal.
On the plus side, when I explained how I felt to Rick, he seemed to understand what I meant. That was not a fun conversation, but it was a necessary one that set us both on a better path.
I've whined several times about this to some good friends. It would've been so much easier if I had just ignored the red flags and did the fun, socially fulfilling thing by continuing to see him. Alas, I was never the one to choose the easy route.
And it wasn't easy; it's still not. It has gotten easier, though. That's what I wanted to tell you. It does get easier.
I know so many people who are struggling to bounce back from heartache and they dive head first into any relationship that comes along. It's nice to feel desired. It's a nice boost to your ego to feel wanted. I get it.
However, it's important to be honest with yourself (and whoever you're with!) regarding who you are and what you want. It's even more important to be able to comfortably express those desires with the other person. I was able to do that with Rick and I'm grateful for it. Even though things ended, the friendship will continue to grow and we'll both be open to pursue futures that are in line with our personal beliefs and dreams.
So as I said above, this isn't a sad entry. It's a reminder to those out there in a similar boat. Take your own advice. I kept imagining what I'd say to my friends if they were in this position. If you'd tell your best friend to cut losses and move on, you need to do it for yourself, too. Yes, it might hurt a bit, but better to be grazed by the bullet now than be obliterated by it later.
After all, you can't be open to God's plan if you go mucking it up with plans of your own. :)
A Priestly High-Five
You folks know I love me some priests. Each and every one, no matter how much they might drive you insane sometimes (Msgr. B, I'm looking at you!), is a gift from God, hand-picked and chosen for us from all eternity.
That's a pretty special thing!
So when I find one that is particularly awesome, I go out of my way to acknowledge him as the gift he is.
Enter Father Mike Ackerman of the Pittsburgh diocese.
I met Fr. Ackerman late Friday night at a conference. He happened to be the guy hanging out the in the confessional waiting to bring Jesus to those of us seeking him in Reconciliation.
There were no screens or kneelers - just him, an empty chair and a sense of bubbling anticipation. I pushed the empty chair back (there's no way I was greeting Jesus as Judge on my butt). I knelt down in front of Father and the first thing I noticed were his incredibly shiny shoes - like... Jesuit level shininess.
He had an energy about him that let me know I should settle in for an experience. This anticipation he had... it was like he was psyched to get the show on the road because even though there was an obvious mudslide ahead, the destination was absolution for an estranged member of his Family.
He offered a prayer on my behalf for a good confession and away we went. I was cognizant of the line I'd come from, so I tried to focus on the most pertinent issues so as not to monopolize Father's time. However, it was clear that he felt no similar rush. Instead, he seemed to pause reflectively as if waiting for a nod from the Spirit to proceed. Then, gently and methodically, he counseled me. He was affirming in ways I'd not anticipated and admonished me for those things I needed admonishment for. I never once felt belittled, discounted or foolish. Instead, I felt so incredibly cared for... like a lost little sheep being checked over for briars.
And the penance he gave... Lord. Normally I panic when I'm not given a set penance; I inevitably worry if I've completed it or not. This one made sense to me, though. He had me head directly over to adoration with a meditation and a prayer aimed at getting me over (through or around) my struggle with forgiving John. It frustrated me (as any swift kick in the pants is supposed to), but I recognized the necessity of it, so I nodded my head in acceptance.
After absolution, I kissed his hands and thanked him for his vocation. And readers, please always, always, always thank your priests for their vocation!!! Not only did God gift them to us, but they sacrifice so much to work together with God in the gift of themselves. THANK THEM FOR IT! Recognize their holiness and their sacrifice, because they, too, can struggle with feelings of doubt, unappreciation, loneliness and frustration. Let them know you see them, and let them know you love them, appreciate them and pray for them!
Which, BTW, do! Pray for them!!! Always and everywhere and in all things. Pray for our priests. Pray for the ones who have passed who led their contemporaries by example into ordination.
Pray for those in your churches who, today, bear forth the Sacraments. Pray also for those yet to come, who will continue the blessings of those who forged their paths. Pray for priests!
/End of Public Service Announcement
Later that weekend, I met up with Fr. Ackerman again before he celebrated our closing Mass. I was excited to hear his homily since it was so obvious he was just alight with love for God's people. I was not disappointed.
He came right down into the congregation and engaged us. As you can see in the image above, he wasn't afraid to get animated as he spoke of hope, faithfulness and trust in the Divine Plan. And when Consecration rolled around, his reverence was palpable.
So yeah. High fives for this guy.
And high-fives to all our amazing priests who live out their vocation with grace and humility. Recognize them, pray for them and do your best to let them know how valued and appreciated they are. Their hands are legitimately mini Facetimers to Heaven; they bring God to us through the Sacraments.
Since I need to redirect things away from disgust and disappointment, here I am to finally give you the Part II you've been waiting on!
Keep in mind, however, that I've been divorced for over a year and separated longer. So while this might seem sudden to you (who is reading this wherever you're reading it from!), it's taken a while to get myself here.
I made the conscious decision to get back into the dating scene a few months after the divorce was finalized. My paperwork had been submitted to the Tribunal and the Canon lawyers I'd spoken with all assured me my case was textbook approval. However, because I don't yet have that approval, I've been upfront about my situation.
All of the men I've accepted dinner invitations from have known of my impending annulment and have been made aware of exactly what I'm looking for from "dating." That has served me well in that the men I've gone to dinner with all knew and felt comfortable with the boundaries I'd set in place.
So... why did I consider dating again?
After a particularly nasty conversation with a good friend, I realized I was beginning to push all the men in my life away. John betrayed my trust so intrinsically that I was subconsciously pulling trust away from every other male in my life. It wasn't healthy and the only way I was going to snap myself out of it was by forcing myself to see men differently. Thus, dating.
So while I'd politely decline the dinner invitations in the months after my divorce, I started saying "Yes." I met a lot of really wonderful men in this manner and have finally remembered what it's like being treated properly. Heck... even remembering that I SHOULD be treated properly!
However, one guy in particular has made it further than any of the others. He and I began seeing one another last July. Our first date was dinner and volunteering with kids. I should've known right then and there that I was in trouble. LoL.
He and I continued seeing one another. I was still accepting dinner invitations from random guys now and again, but Rick (let's call him Rick) was a constant. We settled into a comfortable friendship. I think we were both content with just being friends and didn't expect anything to go further. We just enjoyed one another's company and having had similar experiences, we were able to support one another in ways others might not understand.
All that time, he respected my boundaries regarding physical contact.
That changed - sharply - one evening after we'd gotten back from a movie. I made the mistake of leaning in to grab his arm for balance and it was a verifiable lightning bolt through me. He felt that shift as well and took the opportunity to land a kiss that stopped the universe.
That one instant of connection opened a door I had wedged pretty tightly closed. And he's wonderful. In a thousand different ways, he's wonderful. He's thoughtful, he's hard working, he's fantastic with the kids, and he's probably the most appreciative man I've ever met in my life. When he's not working, he's running around in the service of others.
And that's all you'll get from me for now. ;)
God, Master Cross-Stitcher
I haven't been consistently blogging for obvious reasons. However, even in my latest blog entries, something was missing - my focus.
In the past, this blog has heavily focused on my Faith. I've gotten away from that as I struggled to navigate the various tsunamis that have come my way. However, it's time I start shifting the focus back where it belongs and that's on God, His Church, and my place in it.
One of the things that I've clung to throughout this mess has been the fact that God is the Master Cross-Stitcher.
What, not a Divine Title you hear too often? :)
I don't think it's canonically approved, but this particular analogy was shared with me as a child and it's been a favorite ever since.
Have any of you ever seen cross-stitch work? Here's a sample of one (courtesy of Real Life. Rich Life):
Nice, neat and organized, right?
Have you ever seen the BACK of one of these? Here's what the same image looks like from another angle:
Point is, God is in charge of the thread. He's able to see the pattern and where all the thread will eventually land itself. Us, looking up at His Work from below, only see a jumbled mess of things, maybe making out a letter or two as we gawk in wonder.
Eventually, when we make our way to Heaven, we'll be able to look back on the tapestry He wove for us and realize the brilliance and love that went into each stitch. All those gnarled pink mangles are hearts... all the lengths of blood red chord was to build us a home.
Trust that God has the perfect pattern for each of us. No matter how mangled you think it looks, remember that we just have a different perspective than He does. And thank Him for it. :)
Mountains and Molehills
Last night, my son had his final bowling tournament of the season. I'd originally wanted to go to cheer him on, but bowling is sacred time for him and his dad and I know it's important for them to bond.
They were a little later than usual coming home which wasn't a surprise. I figured they'd done an awards ceremony or something, and I wasn't disappointed. Vince came tearing into the house, full of excitement. I was upstairs in the shower (washing my hair, actually) and I could hear him barreling up the stairs. He threw open the bathroom door and pulled back the curtain (no concept of personal space... lol) and thrust his trophy into the shower.
"LOOK MOMMY!" he shouted. "I WON A GOLD TROPHY!"
I laughed and told him how proud I was of him. Then I said "Gimmie two minutes to finish up, dry off and get dressed and we'll go celebrate!"
So I dutifully rinsed, dried and dressed in the span of two minutes. When I hopped out of the bathroom, though, I noticed that Nate was crying. He'd been asleep when I got into the shower, so I assumed Vince's grand entrance woke him up. I didn't fault Vince for that given his excitement. However, I quickly noticed that John was nowhere to be found.
He couldn't possibly have left already, I thought. Vince is freaking out with excitement and there's just no way he would've left him like this knowing I was in the shower.
Oh Gina, what an optimistic idiot you are. Eventually I'll stop putting even the glimmer of faith in him, but last night was not that night.
I found Vince sitting on Nate's bed holding his trophy in one hand and a popsicle in the other. He said, "Mommy, you gotta get lots of pictures with me and my trophy!"
I smiled and said "Of course! But let's get you cleaned up first!" He was a mess of sweat and grape popsicle.
During his bath, I was texting John, angry that he'd just dropped off Vince without so much as a word of praise for his game. I also pointed out that courtesy of his thoughtlessness, Nate was now awake and crying. Not that any of this matters to him - he was off the clock! That's likely why he told Vince to tuck and roll at the door. He'd had to parent Vince all day, and it was after 8- high time he was able to unload him and get back to his life!
Anyway, during his bath, Vince kept getting me to confirm I'd take lots of pictures/videos of him with his trophy. I thought it was odd that he was being so insistent, especially because he knows I take pictures of everything. As he was getting dressed, I finally realized why. He had this fake smile plastered on his face... the one that means he's on the cusp of crying. I pulled him in for a hug and asked him why he was sad. Of course he responded with an even faker smile and said "I'm not sad! I'm happy!"
I prodded a bit further, and then he began to cry. Turns out John had rushed him out of the bowling alley and didn't take any pictures of Vince with his trophy.
Now I am 120% sure John SAID he was proud of Vince. I'm even sure he high-fived him, hugged him and told him what a good job he did. But when you're super stoked that you got your FIRST TROPHY EVER for "winning third place" (which is what John told him because they came in third), it's probably confusing that you got rushed out of the place with nary a picture or celebration with the other teams.
I couldn't imagine John hadn't taken a picture. I thought Vince was mistaken. I texted John for clarification, and he flatly ignored me. That told me all I needed to know; he really had neglected to take any pictures of Vince with his trophy! No wonder Vince was so upset.
So after I calmed him down, we FaceTimed my mom. She made a big fuss over him and his trophy. Then we FaceTimed my MIL/FIL who ALSO made a big fuss over him. Finally, I did as promised and got a video of him showing off his trophy and score card which also made him feel really happy. He asked me if I'd post it online so everyone could see it. :) Of course I did!
I tucked him in and again told him how proud I was of him. Almost instantly, he was sound asleep and I was left trying to stifle the rage of a thousand burning suns.
This morning, when I confronted John, instead of taking ownership, he tried to turn it around on me saying that I had somehow caused Vince to get upset. And he'd gotten pictures of him bowling, so Vince should have "been fine" when he was dropped off.
Given the fact that the bowling alley is less than a minute from the house, it's not like Vince had much time to process what John had done before he bailed. But hey... what does logic have to do with anything here?
He kept repeating his oft-used phrase "You're making a mountain out of a molehill" and it was all I could do not to punch him square in the face. I clearly explained that his son was upset and crying last night, and he poo-poos it as a molehill?
While it might've seemed insignificant to John, IT WASN'T TO VINCE. This is something John can't seem to understand. He is incapable of grasping things from a vantage point outside his own, so why would it even occur to him that Vince might be hurt by rushing out and not taking photos?
Then, as if to defend himself, John explained that the trophy wasn't really for 3rd place at all. They had won 3rd place, but the trophy was a participation one that all the kids had gotten, so John specifically didn't WANT to get pictures because he didn't want to reinforce excitement for it.
Here's the problem with his (lack of) logic, though. He told Vince that his trophy was for 3rd place. So that's what Vince thought it was. That's what I thought it was (because John didn't bother to stick around to explain otherwise). You can't say it's one thing (an earned prize) but treat it like something else (a participation trophy to be ashamed of).
No wonder Vince felt so hurt last night. John hated the trophy and made it known by his actions that Vince shouldn't be proud of it, either. But because John had explained it to him as something special that SHOULD be celebrated, Vince was understandably hurt and confused.
Instead of recognizing that, John does what John normally does and blamed me for somehow stoking upset within Vince. Because that's what I do, people. I seek out opportunities to inflict emotional breakdowns on my son with the specific intention of pointing out to John what a terrible father he is.
*Rolls eyes again*
He's not a terrible father, but he can be a thoughtless one. I'm not going to stand by while Vince's feelings are crushed. I'm not just going to let his inability / unwillingness to communicate continue to steamroll over Vince without trying (vainly) to get him to understand the consequences of such childish behavior.
But yeah... it's all me making a mountain out of a molehill.
I swear... I really hope he grows up one day. As I told him last night, it takes a man to raise a man and he's got TWO. If he doesn't grow up for his own sake, he needs to for theirs.
Pitfalls and Dancing: Part I
Thanks to all you kind folks who keep checking in on me from time to time. It's so nice to see an e-mail from someone on the other side of the country who felt connected to my story in some form or another.
Anyway, I've been radio silent for a while because I didn't really have much to talk about. I knew the last few entries I'd written were full of anger and disgust, and I really didn't like that my blog had taken such a dark turn. But as a friend pointed out, it's the dark turn that will make the upswing that much brighter. So here I am again to embrace the path and hopefully share the pitfalls I've stumbled into so whoever comes after me can avoid them.
I met the girlfriend last week. John was dating this girl before we'd even gotten divorced. I've known about her from the gate and really had no inclination to have any dealings with her. John, however, has a desperate need to "prove" how mature he is, so he pushed for me to meet her since he now wants her meeting the boys.
*Rolls eyes* Right. 'Cause I really have any need or desire to meet myself from 12 years ago.
But again, John insisted. He kept saying he didn't want to do things like his cousin because he was just so much more mature than him (when you feel the need to keep stressing how much you've matured, you probably still haven't done so). So fine. I figured I'd meet her and give the poor kid a chance to ask me questions that might save her some grief down the line. As I said to John, I wasn't at all worried about how she'd be with the kids. After all, John's got a type, and that type would be perfectly fine interacting with Vince and Nate (likely better than him if we're being honest).
So meet her I did. Huge pitfall, people. The meeting went exactly as you would expect a meeting like this to go - annoyingly.
I got to the diner and she shoved her hand across the table in a very nervous, overly-happy "Nice to meet you!" I responded "Yeah. Hi. Nice to meet you, too." in my best "Honey, slow your roll, you're coming on like a kidnapped child from Candy Land looking for his next hit from Lord Licorice" voice.
The waitress came by to take orders. I asked for decaf coffee and nothing else. John waved her away because they'd already had their drinks. I pointed out that his girlfriend was clearly ready to order food, but the waitress had already moved on. The girlfriend just shrugged her shoulders and said "It's no big deal."
Oh Lord. If that isn't a perfect analogy for life with John. He didn't want anything, so why would it even cross his mind that someone else might want something?
But hey, I knew where she was coming from. She was trying to put on a brave face and be the mature, sensible adult in a situation that was at least 10 layers of confusion over her head. She was already adept at excusing thoughtless behavior and she likely didn't even realize she was doing it. I felt bad in that moment, because again... looking at yourself 12 years in the past and being able to do nothing to stop the disappointment hurtling your way... it's not fun.
When I asked John to get things rolling with exactly why he wanted to meet (to supposedly go over ground rules re: her interaction with the kids), he put up resistance which is typical of John in awkward situations. Besides, I wasn't there to vet her nor was I there to go over "ground rules." I was there to give her the chance to ask questions about the guy she was entangled with - the guy I spent more than 12 years in a relationship with. I was there to make sure she understood my expectations for her involvement with my children. And I was there to point out my support of their marriage should she be foolish enough to make the same mistake as me.
She didn't have a single question! LoL. For someone studying journalism, you'd think she'd be a little more prepared, but given the subject matter, it makes sense. I mean, ignorance is bliss. Besides, to her, I'm just the ex. Bitter, jaded and I'm sure the reason for every failed moment in the marriage. She knows John... he's amazing. What more does she need to know than that? Three fiancees and a broken marriage couldn't possibly be an indication that there's something inherently wrong with him, right?
I honestly wanted to take her hand from across the table at one point and say "Run." It was right after she said she wanted to have her first child in about 3 years.
Guys, FIRST CHILD. That was the exact phrase she used. You know what that implies? More than one kid. Exactly what I wrote about in my entry before I'd even met the girl. She's so young. And when I brought up the vasectomy John had casually mentioned, he got indignant as if I could have somehow taken that out of context.
She did try to walk the statement back a bit by saying "I'd like to have one and see how it goes from there." I shook my head and didn't even bother helping her follow her logic. What's the point? She'd just hop off the train before getting to "So what happens if you like being a mom and want another, especially given John's well-documented disdain for more?"
This is seriously so sad to me. I wouldn't wish what John did to me and my children on anyone... not even the girl who thought it'd be a good idea to pursue a married man with a pregnant wife.
But she's staring down the barrel and legitimately has no idea. Or worse, she thinks she can change his mind when the time comes.
So yeah - pitfall. Meeting the new girl, feeling nothing but pity for what she's going to endure (likely years down the line), and doing your best not to punch the common denominator in the face for his part in all of it.
Of Monsters and Mice
The other day, Vince asked me if he would be getting a step-daddy. To say I was caught off guard is an understatement. Before I was even able to formulate a response, he followed it up quickly with, "Am I going to have a step-mommy, too?"
Volcanic lava started to gather from the depths of my soul. Calmly, I asked, "Vincent, where did you hear that?"
Completely unaware of the storm brewing next to him, he casually replied, "Daddy said if you get married, I'll have another daddy and if he gets married, I'll have another mommy, but she'll be a step mommy."
I asked him, "Do you want a step mommy or daddy?"
He shrugged and said, "I dunno. Will I [get one]?"
I again calculated my tone and replied, "Vincent, you have Mommy and Daddy. That's it. Maybe in the future you'll get a step mommy or daddy, but right now, it's just you, me, Nate and Daddy."
That seemed to satiate him, so he happily continued on with his lunch. Me, on the other hand, wanted to find John and smash his face into the nearest brick wall. Yet again, I'm left to pick up the pieces from his careless communications (or lack thereof). So I called John and told him we needed to talk.
Of course, John goes into full panic mode. He starts texting me a litany of reasons as to why Vince talking this way isn't a big deal... there's a logical explanation for it.
When will he ever realize that what is logical to an adult will NEVER be logical to a 7 year old (let alone a 7 year old on the spectrum)? There will always be fallout from this sort of discussion because it's a lot for an adult to unpack let alone a child who is confused and scared about the stability of his family.
This is the sort of stuff that makes forgiveness so hard for me. Every time I take a step or two towards forgiving him for his self-centered choices, this kinda stuff happens and I'm right back at wanting to punch him square in the face. Things would be so much easier if he actually learned his lesson and stopped being so thoughtless, but nope. He just keeps piling on astronomical levels of stupidity.
Fast forward to that night. I sit him down and explain why those conversations cannot happen without me - at the very least - being aware that they took place. I need to be ready to answer questions and I need to know what he said so that we can at least appear to be on the same page. He apologized (as he constantly does to no effect) and said he'd let me know should it happen again (which might happen once before he conveniently forgets... ad nauseum).
Then I broach the topic of his girlfriend (who, btw, he stated seeing before I pressured him to finally file for divorce). Given the fact that she's a full 10+ years younger than him, I was very clear in my expectation for how she'd be kept away from the boys. But since I know how John is, I knew this would only be honored insofar as he felt socially acceptable.
What do I mean by this?
Well, keep in mind that John cares very much about what other people think of it. Correction: John cares very much about what his peers (currently people in their 20s) think of him. Actual adults, on the other hand, not so much.
With that in mind, remember that John didn't want to tell anyone about the divorce for at least a year. He wanted to stay living in the house for up to two years before making anything official. He said it was to "help with Nathan," but it was for two things and two things alone... 1) he didn't want his parents to suspect anything was wrong because he was afraid of losing their house (which they had wanted us to purchase) and 2) he didn't want anyone knowing that he walked out on his pregnant wife/infant son.
When I finally kicked him out in November (Nate was 4 months old and John hadn't done much of anything to help out with him at that point), he went straight to the new girl because John is incapable of being alone. He needs someone to build up his ego, and he'd never find a woman his own age to do that. Women my age are typically past all the insecure crap and we're also able to identify guys like John without a second glance. He'd need someone young and naive who would give him the hero-worship he was desperate for.
God only knows what he told this poor kid. I have no doubt to her, John seems like a lotto ticket. He seemed like that to me when we were first together as well. Took me a few years to recognize his terribly selfish, juvenile behaviors. And it's a shame. John has a very specific type, so I'm sure she's nice, generous and quirky... just like me and his last fiancees (seeing a pattern here?).
And just like the last three of us, this new one will also come to her senses and kick him to the curb. How do I know this? Because John has not changed. How do I know he has not changed?
One question. I asked him one question and I had my answer.
Since he's contemplating introducing this girl to my sons, I needed him to understand the severity I would be taking on the issue. John thinks he's in love... he thinks he's ready for marriage... but if he's wrong (which he obviously is), it is going to not only hurt my children, it's going to hurt this girl and whatever child(ren) come of that marriage, too.
My question, to help him understand this, was simple:
"Have you talked to her about children?"
He immediately clammed up. He mumbled, "Well, yeah."
I said, "And?"
He said, "She knows I don't want any."*
I responded, "And what does SHE want?"
He replied, "Zero to one."
I said, "Zero to one?"
He said, "She's always wanted a daughter."
I responded, "Well what happens if the two of you have a boy?"
He said (laughing), "Then I'll get snipped."
I said, "Oh, and she's okay with that?"
He just shrugged his shoulders as if to say "I don't really care."
So I said, "She's young yet. Maybe she only wants a daughter now, but that could change... especially if she has a boy first and still wants the girl."
He again shook his head and shrugged it off. John doesn't like to follow a trail of logic when it leads to uncomfortable realities.
He then said, "I don't have to justify how I feel about her to you."
What a stupid thing to say. I don't care about how the two of them feel about each other. I don't care what decisions they personally make. What I DO care about is when those decisions start to influence MY children, and if this idiot thinks he wants to try marriage again, he absolutely needs to be sure about its permenance because divorcing again when the boys are older and even more sensitive to his failures will be even more detrimental than what he's already done.
So yeah, I'm going to ask the hard questions that no one else in his life is forcing him to contemplate. Why? Because the stability of my kids (and, frankly, any to come of a future marriage) is on the line.
He again got indignant and said, "You just asked about the ONE thing she and I haven't fully talked about. That's all. Everything else is fine."
People, let that sink in. He felt I pulled the rug out from under him because I haphazardly stumbled upon the one and only thing they hadn't fleshed out.
How in God's creation did he not understand that this was the ONLY question I needed to ask to know where things stood?
His selfish, juvenile response to this question is precisely the response that crippled our marriage.
He fully admitted that he doesn't want anymore children. Even with her. He then backtracked and reluctantly said he'd allow her to try for one, but then get a vasectomy if it was a boy. And then he got frustrated and tried to change the topic of conversation by claiming he didn't need to justify their relationship.
Again, this poor, poor girl. She legitimately has no idea the giant man-child she's involved herself with. She apparently thinks John's willing to try for another kid. In truth, he doesn't want to and would only do so reluctantly. He's probably clinging to the fact that she said "zero" at some point and will throw the idea away entirely upon dealing with Vince and Nate on a more regular basis.
Problem is, John has a very specific type of girl he goes after. She's gotta be pretty, she's gotta be quirky, she's gotta be generous - but above all, she's gotta be nurturing. John prizes that quality because he craves nurturing, himself. So this girl, I have no doubt, is a natural with kids and animals. I would bet every dollar I own on it. And if she's as nurturing as I bet she is, she's going to want children of her own. And yes, I said children. Plural. More than one. Even if she has a daughter first, she's going to want more. She might not think so now, but she's young. Once that first child is placed in her arms, there's a good chance the flood gates will open.
But John is already carelessly blowing off her choice in the matter. And if he really would go so far as to get a vasectomy after she had a son, even knowing how much she's always wanted a daughter... deplorable.
Herein lies John's supreme failure not just as a husband, but as a human being... he is repugnantly selfish. Sure he can be generous with money... with things... but when it comes down to sacrificing what he wants for someone he claims to love, there is no contest. John chooses himself and his own selfish interests every.single.time.
I don't think John is capable of truly loving another person. Loving another person means sacrifice. There's no way around it. One must always sacrifice for the other. John was never, in the history of our relationship, able to do that. The one time he attempted to (conceiving Nate) ended in divorce. It took him less than 2 months to fall back on his "sacrifice." Whereas I suffered through a forced infertility for the majority of our marriage... because I was willing to sacrifice. Because I understood the choice that love is day in and day out.
And this poor girl has no idea because there is no possible way for her to recognize this side of him yet. As I said before, it took me YEARS to understand the depths of John's selfishness. I, too, thought I'd hit paydirt in him. Oh how I wish I could've warned myself of his true character.
So of course it only took one question. For all his chest-beating about being a changed person, he is exactly the same, making the same selfish choices for the same insecure reasons.
And God help that poor girl he will eventually pull down with him.
As I said to him, should he actually marry this girl, I would be their biggest supporter because it would then be imperative for them to stay together for the sake of Vince and Nate's stability. I just have no faith in his ability not to screw it up.
It's all cyclical with him. Meet girl, get engaged, get dumped. Meet girl, get engaged, get dumped. Meet girl (me), get engaged, get married, get dumped. Meet girl, get engaged, and eventually, she, too, will mature to the point where she's able to recognize him for the error in judgement he is and kick him to the curb.
I just pray she's smarter than me and does it sooner rather than later.
*For those of you who saw the asterisk near John's original quote of "She knows I don't want any[more]":
This was a rather telling admission that underscores what a horrific and selfish person he is. As many of you are aware, John "admitted" years ago that the "real reason" he didn't want any more children was because he didn't want them baptized. He didn't want to bring any more Catholics into the world.
But now he's with a girl who wouldn't raise them Catholic. That point is moot, yet he still doesn't want any more and admitted he'd get a vasectomy regardless of her feelings about it. The truth is that John doesn't want to be a full-time parent. He doesn't want to give up his freedom to chase Peter Pan from dusk to dawn.
And even knowing how much I yearned for children, how much it pained me that I was denied more, he attempted to dislodge his own guilt by blaming my faith for his selfish choice. He tried (and was successful for a time) getting me to believe that it was MY FAULT.
What a vile person. What a vile, selfish, obscenely juvenile person.
And again, this poor girl has no idea what she's in for because, as they say... the devil comes knocking dressed as everything you ever hoped for.
Say some prayers for her, folks. She's gonna need 'em.
Vince's Vetoed Heart
Titled as such because to his father, Vince's pain is not real.
I'm writing this while Vince is curled up on the couch, finally asleep after spending yet another hour crying over his confusion regarding why Daddy doesn't live with him anymore.
I'm going to attempt really, really hard not to derail this entry into an all-out assault on the SOB responsible for those tears, but I'm not making any guarantees. The point of me writing this isn't to denigrate John; Vincent's tears pass judgement over his selfishness well enough. I'm writing because I know there are women (and men) who, like me, have been thrust into a position to explain the unexplainable... to soothe the broken hearts of their children when there are no words that could possibly begin to do so.
For well over a year I've been asking John to come up with some sort of solution to this problem. In typical John fashion, he simply ignored Vincent's emotional state and brushed his fears and insecurities aside. When I would raise the red flag, he would angrily shoot me down and tell me I was either "feeding into" Vince's upset or making a big deal out of nothing. Again, this is par for the course with John. Ignore, deflect, and disavow. If there isn't a real problem, there isn't a real consequence to his selfishness. And if there isn't a real consequence to his selfishness, there's no reason for him to feel any sort of remorse or guilt for causing so much pain in his own son.
So I started taking videos. Not all the time, but moments where it's obvious Vince needs help working through his emotions. He couldn't keep ignoring Vincent's tears when he could plainly see them on the screen. He couldn't keep writing off Vincent's confusion when he could hear the questions through the speakers. And he certainly couldn't keep pushing off the conversation I'd been telling him needed to happen for more than a year that dealt precisely with how we'd need to handle things moving forward.
So sit down we finally did and what a pointless conversation that turned out to be. Again he tried to deflect or blame me for Vincent's emotional meltdown. God forbid he recognize what utter devastation this divorce has brought into Vince's heart! And I get that it's a self-defense mechanism whereby John doesn't feel the weight of his guilt, but he's yet again putting his own feelings above that of his child and it was driving me insane.
Instead of recognizing the source of my anger being a mother fighting for her son, he again dismissed things and treated me as though I was only "being mean" because of how our relationship ended.
MY. GOD. IN. HEAVEN. How You look upon John and want his soul is beyond me. He is revolting. His arrogance would be impressive if it weren't so utterly execrable.
So I explained, very clearly, that I was angry because he had caused Vincent such pain. As a mother, I wanted to tear his heart out for hurting Vincent and light him on fire for continuing to ignore how upset he'd become! I despise him on a personal level, but I at least tried to have some respect for him as a father. Apparently that was a fool's errand because here he was STILL putting himself above Vincent's very clear and (now) well-documented needs.
Lord, forgive me, but I cannot make peace with such a worthless excuse for a man. I don't think I will ever be able to forgive myself for trapping my poor children with him as their father.
Did anything come of this discussion? No. Of course not. But no one can say I didn't try for Vincent's sake. And I'll keep trying. I'll keep plugging along because he needs at least one of us to recognize and validate the pain he carries. He needs one of us to be the adult. And God knows John's way too keen playing Peter Pan to take on that responsibility.
Candy-Apple Divorce Advice
Whew. Just found this in my drafts folder. I'd forgotten all about it! Oddly enough, another person recently lamented the same problem, so I think it's due to be published.
A week or so ago, a friend of mine messaged me about a concerning trend she regarding the spate of divorces we were experiencing amongst our group of friends (of which mine is included). She vocalized my sentiments which was a complete surprise! I thought I was taking particular issue with the trend on account of my personal situation.
She said, "I think some well-meaning ladies are a bit too eager to encourage others to leave their husbands or file for divorce... it makes me nervous how readily it is recommended."
See, our group of friends were venting about marital issues and instead of encouraging one another to seek counseling or calm reflection away from the immediate anger of a situation, the rallying cry was "Leave him, you'll be better / safer / happier without him."
It's not like these women were complaining of being beaten with 2x4s every night or of being emotionally manipulated to the point of mental breakdown. It's not even as though the complaints ranged from neglect of children or blowing off financial responsibilities. So why, then, would we be encouraging separation?
Divorce and separation should not be so cavalierly recommended as an option. This coming from a woman who is currently awaiting her own annulment decree, remember. But living in this throwaway culture of ME ME ME, it begins to make sense why the common response seems to be a thoughtless "Leave him, you'll be better off alone."
Because when you're not attached, you have no responsibility to another person. And if children are involved, you can have a built-in excuse to shirk responsibility to them as well. Take my ex, for example. He liked the idea of being a dad (and having little mini-Johns to idolize him), but when he found out there was more to it than that, he recoiled. When we discussed the terms of childcare upon separation, I didn't even have to fight him for custody. He handed it over willingly because it was what he wanted all along - the freedom to be a part-time parent. He loves them, sure, but on his time and terms.
On weekends he doesn't have the kids, they don't hear from him. No "Hey, how are the kids doing?" and no calls at bedtime to see how their day went. Even in the midst of poor Nate being incredibly ill, there were crickets abounding. The truth of the matter is that John cares; I know he does. But he cares on the clock. Once he's "off the clock," the kids are no longer his to worry about.
That problem of selfishness (because make no mistake... that's selfishness) pervades our culture. It's why children are seen as obstacles to happiness rather than joys in and of themselves. Hence abortion, hence massive debt, hence euthanasia. Anything or anyone standing in the way of YOUR personal happiness is nothing more than a string needing to be snipped.
And therein lies the breakdown of society. We're so focused on doing what we want when we want to that the consequences are ignored entirely. "I want to have sex free from consequence" and boom, abortion. "I want the same fancy car my neighbor has!" and boom, credit card debt. "I want to go on a trip to find myself" and boom, more debt. "I want to be able to go out and see my friends whenever I want without feeling guilty that my spouse is home with the kids alone" and boom, divorce.
Obviously this is an oversimplification of problems that have a myriad of causes, but "Me" Culture is a driving force behind this spate of careless advice. "You do you" or "It's okay to put yourself first" is offered like some sort of psychological manna from heaven when really, when put into context, it actually means "It's okay to ignore your responsibilities and ignore the pain you're causing other people for no purpose other than your own temporary gain."
It's just sad that this is the sort of advice that's just being handed out like candy by people who simply don't have the experience or the wisdom to know better. I will always be an advocate for marriage and spousal unity, but it seems my voice (and those like it) are getting increasingly swallowed up by the throngs calling for pity-parties and irresponsibility.
I think that's why it was especially good to hear from this particular friend. It's also why I'm posting about it (finally... months later). It let me know that while my voice is tiny, it's not alone. That really does make all the difference. <3
Today marks the start of the most bittersweet week of the year for me. I'd say my heart is caught between crushing grief and appreciative joy, but that's not true. I've been struggling hard against anxiety and anger the last few weeks, and since this week leads up to the culmination of those emotions, I'm more upset than I am happy. I don't actually feel happy at all.
Myla's anniversary is this week. My niece's 10th birthday is today. Nate's birthday is Friday. His party is Saturday. And this weekend marks the last that I won't have to send him off with Vince to his father.
I've gotten so much flack for planning Nate's party late this year. People are complaining that it's inconvenient, or they have other plans, or I should've been more proactive about finding a better venue. The truth of the matter is I probably SHOULD have done all of those things. The problem, however, is that I couldn't.
I physically couldn't bring myself to make any plans for Nathan's 1st birthday party, because instead of it being the celebration it should be, in my mind, it's simply marking the fact that I will have to give him up every other weekend to the man-child who didn't even want him to begin with. To the person who actively made my pregnancy with Nathan so incredibly hard. To the person who frankly doesn't deserve either of the children I've given him.
Every time I tried to think about a party for Nate, my heart would shatter. The fact that I was able to put anything together at all is a miracle, because each decoration I purchased, each favor I checked out and each dessert I ordered was like a punch to the gut. I didn't want to be celebrating the end of my weekends with Nate, but that's precisely what it felt like I was doing, and it made me so incredibly angry because yet again, the selfish, irresponsibility of John has negatively impacted me. Not him, because he bears no consequences for his immaturity. As usual, I'm the one who bears the burden of loss.
But no one else recognizes that. To them, it appears I'm just an unorganized mother who left the birthday details until the last minute.
On top of that, Myla's anniversary is Wednesday. I was in Babies R Us this past weekend and I was assaulted with sadness that I wasn't buying cute little dresses for Myla, who would be 2 years old by now. Instead, I'm "celebrating" her 3 year anniversary of becoming a saint. And again, no one in the world cares about this loss but me. She was never anything more than a frustrating speed bump for John and to the rest of the world, not even a clump of cells. She was nothing, and that hurts, too, because my daughter was not "nothing." She will never be "nothing." But because the rest of the world can't stomach the taboo of miscarriage, she will remain tucked away in the "nothing" category meaning my feelings and grief and frustration are meaningless and unwelcome.
But I'm struggling SO HARD to recognize that there are blessings here. Myla's a saint, after all. That's all a mother can truly wish for her children. And Nathan is a year old. My miracle child is a year old. I was blessed with newborn smiles, tottering first steps, messy spaghetti faces, coos, giggles, and milestones that were denied to me for so long. What's more, I have a year's worth of memories shared between brothers with a lifetime more to come. Seeing how much Vincent and Nathan love each other... there is no greater joy for me than that. There really isn't. My heart overflows with gratitude when I see them play together. God is good. Life is terribly, terribly hard, but God is so, so good.
So here I am. This week is already proving incredibly difficult. There are moments I feel as though I can't breathe from the anxiety. But there are also moments in which I feel my heart gain traction over my thoughts as it recognizes the silver linings God has placed amongst the storm clouds.
St. Myla Therese, pray for your momma. Pray for your brothers. Pray for your wayward father. Ask the Blessed Mother to get me through this week. Love you, sweetie.
My younger sister, Maria, is a much better person than I am. She always has been. She's got our grandfather's patient gentleness. So when she chided me for not calling John to wish him a happy Father's Day, I wasn't altogether surprised.
However, I WAS surprised by the other folks who went out of their way to remind me that Father's Day was coming and I should make every effort to let John know how appreciated and valued he is as the father of my children.
Funny - where were ANY of these people as Mother's Day approached? 'Cause this was the pathetic excuse for a message I got- by text- after dinner... an afterthought so he could say he messaged me should someone ask what he did.
After long debate with who, exactly? And how was there even a debate? I guess he considers "better judgement" to be not acknowledging me in any way (which is likely given that's his typical MO anyway - Mother's Day or otherwise).
And the half-assed apology at the end is nothing more than his attempt to alleviate responsibility for not having said something sooner. The entire message is a train-wreck from start to finish. A simple "Happy Mother's Day" would've saved everyone an awful lot of eye-twitching. But apparently even acknowledging that I'm a good mother is not something he's capable of doing without insult.
So when these folks kept bringing up Father's Day and cautioning me to coddle him despite his complete and utter selfish, destructive and thoughtless actions over the last year (not just regarding me, but the boys as well), it was all I could do not to scream.
I didn't need them telling me I should do something to acknowledge him as their father. Ya know why? Because I'm not a terrible person. I recognize that it's not actually "better judgement" to ignore, or worse, insult him on a day meant to celebrate him.
So I did the same thing I did last year - RIGHT AFTER the whole divorce thing blew up. No one was telling me to remember John then because no one really knew about the divorce. I didn't need anyone telling me how NOT to be a self-centered, arrogant jerk. I didn't need anyone saying what they all seem to think they need to say now (yet suspiciously NOT to John).
Just like last year, I got some craft stuff together and helped Vincent make something for his father. Last year it was a coloring book filled with prompts like "I love Daddy because..." where Vince would fill in the sentence and draw a corresponding picture. That thing took a full MONTH to complete. This year, I dressed both boys up and got pictures. With the pictures, I had Vincent paint and glue together a plaque for him (and you can imagine the thoroughly entertaining mess the paint made).
Just like in years past, I helped Vincent (and now Nathan) put together something for their father (and Pop). I took an active role in TEACHING my sons that their father is someone worthy of respect and appreciation. I taught them (and will continue to teach them) that it's important to set aside time for the people they love by making thoughtful gifts.
And while it might not seem like a big project, it probably took us about 6 hours over the course of two days to finish painting these suckers. Vince was especially proud of his Minecraft Creeper face. Can't say I blame him. It came out mighty fine. Ha ha.
Anyway, the point is, I didn't need any of those people reminding me to be a decent person. I'm more than capable of that, myself. And on top off this gift, I also allowed him to take both boys overnight so he'd have them all day Sunday. I drove all the way down to Ocean City (and back) so he and his family could enjoy them for Father's Day.
So did I send him a pathetic, passive-aggressive message on Father's Day via text message like he sent to me for Mother's Day? No. Because I never was, nor will I ever be, that sort of person. My children need to learn what "Honor Thy Father" means, and it's my job to teach them.
And so I do, and so I shall. Reminders from the peanut gallery are unnecessary.
Because I am resolved to give what is necessary... not what is deserved.
I was talking to a friend of mine last night. He's happily married (going on 6 years) and has two children with his wonderful wife (both friends of mine from college).
Anyhow, he was asking about Nate, my 7 month old. Poor kid has been feverish the last few days and things had taken a nasty turn yesterday morning. He asked if John was sticking around to help out with Nathan because of how bad his fever was.
I was actually confused by the question. Why would John stick around? I could handle Nathan well enough on my own.
He explained, "No, I'm not implying you can't take care of Nate. I'm saying that if he were my son, I'd stick around to help out because I'd want to do what I could to make things better."
I shrugged my shoulders and said, "Meh. He probably doesn't think there's anything left for him to do and he did bring the Motrin I asked for."
He then said, "Is he at least coming early tomorrow?"
I actually laughed out loud and said, "No. There is absolutely zero chance he'll be here early."
Again, I was confused by the question. Why would John come early when I could take care of Nate?
However, at 3AM it hit me why my friend had been so appalled that John shirked his responsibilities in such a manner. Somewhere in between Nate puking all over the bed, floor, me, the cat (sorry Lucy) and waking up Vince with his inconsolable sobbing, I could've used a hand (or 10). Having not slept and struggling to properly care for this poor, sweet baby who couldn't get comfortable was just not working out well for anyone, Vincent included.
Had John actually recognized that his place was with his family, he would have been able to put Vincent back to bed, help clean the mess, possibly soothe the baby while I cleaned the mess, or any number of things. But John doesn't view family as a priority unless it's his "turn" to do so.
Problem is, parenting is not babysitting, but that's precisely how John has always treated it. It's infuriating, because you cannot cut up parenting like that. It's not always a 50/50 thing, but he nickels and dimes and will hold grudges until the field is made equal in his mind.
And stupid me, it never occurred to me just how incredibly asnine this has been. So many times in the past I've simply made excuses for him as to why it was okay to treat things in this manner. "Oh, he just wants to take Vince to play basketball and it'll be good bonding for them." "Oh, John has a dodgeball game to attend, I'll watch Vince, no problem." And when I'd suggest doing things together as a family, I'd always go out of my way to understand why he just couldn't do them. "Oh, he must be tired from working all week" (COMPLETELY ignoring the fact that I'd been doing the same), or "Oh, he hates being outside in the heat, so it's okay that he skips out on the Children's Garden this time..."
My God, it's like I had Stockholm Syndrome. I made excuses and extended sympathy instead of calling him out for his selfish, juvenile behavior. Worse, I WAS STILL DOING IT!
So when he came over the other morning, I ripped into him. He was taken aback and angry with me for blowing up the way I did (and in truth, I probably could've come up with a more diplomatic way of addressing the situation). That being said, I frankly didn't care.
Because ya know what his response was to me? Complaints. About how tired HE is and how hard it is from HIM to travel back and forth. About how hard juggling work and parenting responsibilities is for HIM.
Oh shut your face.
He's seriously so far out of touch with reality that I'm amazed he's made it this far in life.
Guess even Stockholm Syndrome has its limits once you realize what's actually going on.
Holy Week's Forgotten Days
Originally posted 4/2/2012, but since it's been a top search on my page the last couple weeks, I thought I'd make it easier for folks to find. Enjoy!
Busted Halo did a wonderful video that's been going viral along the Christian blogosphere. I found it through Michelle at Liturgical Time. You, too, can see it if you follow her link.
Anyway, for as much as I enjoyed the video (and I did - especially the music!), I was bummed they left out Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. I mean, I understand they're not considered "as important" as the other days of Holy Week, but they're still part of Holy Week and deserve at least an honorable mention, right?
Trying to view Holy Week as only Palm Sunday and the Triduum is like viewing a puzzle with several missing pieces. Sure, you can probably make out what the picture's supposed to be, but you miss details and information that make the image clearer and more beautiful.
Monday was the cleansing of the Temple - it's what put the Sanhedrin on high alert since the Romans (now present in higher numbers in the city to keep the peace during Passover) saw Christ not only messing with the Jewish folks, but all the Gentiles who gathered in the court of the Temple to exchange goods / services.
Tuesday was full of parables and prophecy. Tuesday was, in my opinion, the day that the Pharisees finally decided that Jesus MUST be dealt with before the week's end (due to the Render Unto Caesar response). This was when they finally realized they'd never get the best of Him, and had to find a way to kill Him.
Wednesday was the day we remember Judas' actual betrayal. It's also when Christ's death / burial was predicted through the actions of the woman with the perfume.
Each day does, after all, bring us one step closer to the Foot of the Cross. Monday reminds us that we must focus on spirituality and a proper last minute cleansing of our own temples (bodies) so we are ready to accept the Sacrifice of Christ. Tuesday, cautions us to always be ready for the return of Jesus lest we be caught unprepared. Wednesday... it's like our last moment during Lent to anoint Jesus with our humble offerings - the charitable acts, fasting, and mortifications completed throughout Lent.
Those three days are of such importance. I wish Broken Halo had mentioned something about them. But ah well... there's only so much you can do in 2 minutes, and they certainly picked the highlights!
Good Friday falls on March 25th this year - the Feast of the Annunciation! Salvation is ransomed on the 33rd anniversary of it's Incarnate Promise! My mind has seriously just exploded.
This is a very rare occurrence. In fact, since 1864, it's only happened FIVE times. 2016 will bring that total to six, and it won't happen again for another 141 years (that's 2157 for those doing the math). Thus, in our lifetimes (and in our children's lifetimes) this is a rare opportunity. When we participate in the Triduum Liturgy, not only is it a connection between the Last Supper on Holy Thursday and the Resurrection on Easter Sunday but a confirmation of the Annunciation - a full circle of Salvation History!
That all being said, the Church chooses to "transfer" celebration of the Annunciation to a different date when this sort of thing happens. That's explained here:
I can understand why this might be in the rubrics, but I wish it wasn't explained away as "Good Friday is more important than the Annunciation."
The Annunciation celebrates a deeper truth than Angel Gabriel giving Mary the heads up about Jesus; it celebrates the Incarnation which was a direct result of Mary's Fiat. Christ became incarnate specifically so Good Friday could happen which is why having the Annunciation fall on Good Friday is so poetic.
Folks are always so surprised when the Feast of the Annunciation rolls around every year. After all, it always falls during Lent, and who wants to think about Baby Jesus when they're focusing on the Crucified Christ?
Sometimes, it's very hard for us to reconcile that those two Persons are, in fact, the same. And yet, it is true. Christ became incarnate within Mary precisely so He could grow up to meet the Cross on Calvary. Thus, the Annunciation (also celebrating the Incarnation) is inextricably linked to Lent. We would do well to remember in our meditations the great Sacrifice that began with this very Feast.
Mary's Passion, too, began here. After all, when she consented to bear God within her, she wasn't just consenting to become a mother in a way she didn't understand. She was also consenting to the immense suffering she knew would come with such a request. While she may not have known her Beloved Son would be so cruelly murdered, I have little doubt she understood that He'd be the Sacrifice which would ransom humanity.
Indeed, we know Our Lady was raised in the Temple. She would have known the Old Testament scriptures through and through. In fact, she is many times pictured with scrolls or kneeling / standing behind a pulpit with prayer meditations. Thus, because of her intimate knowledge of Scripture (the non-incarnate Word of God), it would be easy to surmise that she had a pretty good idea that once incarnate, the Word would fulfill the many passages that prophesied His Passion and Death.
This connection is one of the reasons I love John William Waterhouse's painting of the Annunciation so much:
Here we see Our Lady on a prayer rug with the Scripture at her left. Angel Gabriel approaches, but instead of being dressed in a flowing white robe with golden wings, we see him in purple!
Purple, folks... the color of both Advent and Lent (keenly joined thematically through the Annunciation). Purple, as I always tell my students, is the color of sacrifice. Why? Because way back when, the dye for making that color was so expensive that only the very rich could afford it. Hence why the Romans were always dressed in purple - to signify their power.
To scrimp and save for such a color would require intense sacrifice. This is why purple has historically been reserved for (and indicative of) royalty. It's also why the Church chose to utilize this color for Advent and Lent, our times of penitence through sacrifice.
Anyway, Angel Gabriel isn't just bringing Mary joyous tidings of Divine Motherhood. Instead, he is bearing such awesome news with equally awesome humility as the glorious honor is an equally heartbreaking burden. (***Fun Note: In the Jewish language, the word "honor" is "kabad/kabed" which actually translates to something akin to "glorify and burden." So thinking back to the 10 Commandments the Jews were given, #4 - Honor thy father and mother - takes on a whole new meaning. I detailed how Jesus could possibly reconcile these two through His treatment of Our Lady here.***)
Waterhouse's stunning portrayal of Our Lady is just so incredible. She has her hand over her heart, her other hand on her head, and this look of gentle contemplation on her face. This must be the moment just before her "Fiat." She's processing what Angel Gabriel has said, and Gabriel, along with all of Heaven, awaits her response with bated breath.
Will she take up the obedience that Eve let fall? Will she consent to hand her very body and soul to God for the Salvation of humanity?
"I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done unto me according to thy word."
And with that glorious, humble response, this heavenly messenger no doubt fell to his knees in adoration as the Holy Spirit overshadowed her, enabling Christ to become incarnate within her sacred womb, the first tabernacle of His True Presence:
In Filippino's painting, we even see a cross that seems to take form within her robe over her womb as if signifying Christ's incarnation. Again, she is surrounded by books and the red of martyrdom as if again hinting towards her own Passion. What a beautiful, humbling Feast. So yes, it has its place in Lent (and not just because it falls 9 months before Christmas).
***Also, another fun aside, in Waterhouse's painting, there is a spindle and distaff of yarn next to Our Lady. Symbolically, the spindle and distaff represent the present life and the spiritual life. The spindle, ever spinning, is indicative of life on earth while the distaff moves up to remind us of the heavenly plane. I can't be sure, but I can't help but wonder if Waterhouse wasn't suggesting that Our Lady is the pure white thread connecting humanity (through her Fiat) to Heaven.
I really do love me some Sacred Art.
Come Away With Me in the Night
This photo showed up in my Facebook feed courtesy of their "Share a Memory" feature. I laughed when I saw it because I had been thinking how nice it'd be to leave the winter winds and head for the Caribbean (where this picture was taken). So there I am sitting at my computer desk looking at myself looking back at me with Norah Jones' "Come Away With Me" on repeat in my head.
Oh Gina... how I'd love to go run around on Bahamian beach at night with you! Unfortunately, I won't have money or vacation time to do that for quite a while! And that's okay. We'll figure something out, you and I. We always do. Summer's almost here, after all. We won't have to travel too far for sunshine and sand!
Anyway, I shared the photo to Facebook with a similar musing. One of my fellow teacher-friends messaged me and said something along the lines of, "Gina, you're so beautiful in that picture. John's such a fool for walking away."
I know she was trying to be helpful, but my first thought was, "You think he left because he thought I wasn't pretty enough?!"
I recognize how silly that thought is, mind you, but that's how I first read it. It frustrated me, because it almost negates the fact that he didn't just walk away from me. He walked away from our family. Sure he still sees the kids, but he's no longer the presence he once was and he certainly won't be the presence for Nate that he was for Vince. It was never about walking away from me - it was about walking away from US. And by us, I mean the boys and I, and I mean John and I. US as in family and US as in married couple.
All that I gave up and pushed aside, and this friend thinks he walked away because John didn't recognize how pretty I am? *Shakes head* Trust me, folks, it runs much more deeply than physical attractiveness. John's decision to walk away has much more to do with immaturity and selfishness than it does my looks. I could be a bombshell walking around topless carrying craft beer and he still would have complained that I wasn't good enough. My looks had nothing to do with it. Me being a bombshell and carrying craft beers wouldn't have helped him recapture his 20s. It certainly wouldn't have fixed his frustrations with friends and family. It wouldn't have helped his lack of fulfillment with work, and no... it wouldn't have helped him recognize the depth of his vocational calling. Again, my looks had very little to do with John's decision to chase after the unicorn of a "perfect marriage." Heck, *I* had very little to do with John's decision.
After all, I did all the things a good wife is supposed to do.
So yeah. I gave, and gave, and gave, and at the end of the day, none of it was good enough for John who STILL believes that I didn't do enough or try enough to make him happy. The truth is, he's simply projecting his failures onto me. He has failed at being a husband on so many levels and in so many impressively careless ways that it's a miracle this marriage lasted long enough to create Nathan. It wasn't a miracle, though. It was my patience. It was my rock-solid faith in the Sacrament of Marriage. It was my trust in God's Plan, even at my own expense. It was my pride... the pride that blinded me to the fact that the marriage I fought to save never existed to begin with.
So no. That picture up there? Yeah, it's a nice one. But me looking nice is not what makes it a shame that John walked out. John took it while we were on vacation in the Bahamas. However, John didn't take it because he thought I looked particularly nice (a courtesy, by the way, he has never paid me - not even on the day we married). He took it because I asked him to. I was walking towards the water, and I was so happy and adventurous that I wanted a memento of it.
I wanted to be able to look back and see the joy and rush of romance as I thought on the memory of that night.
In truth, I can see that plainly on my face. I was right to ask him to snap this shot. But John wouldn't have seen it. He probably still wouldn't see it. The sad truth is, John has never seen me for who I am. He will never appreciate who I am nor what I've done for him. While I strove to recognize even the smallest things he did (because I am forever the optimist and will cling to any semblance of good in a person), he refused to acknowledge anything but the worst in me.
So this picture - it wasn't for John. Not then, and not now. It was and is for me. This beautiful young woman still exists inside me, and eventually, there will be someone who recognizes, knows, and appreciates her. Not just part of her. Not just the imagined potential of her. Just HER. And that will be enough.
I was really touched by the amount of people who wrote in asking about Vince. Some of you were concerned that I hadn't updated in a while, so here I am! This update is for you.
However, it's also an update for all those parents who, like me, had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad SERIES of days. This entry is proof that all those Alexander-esque days are but embers of ash from which things like THIS arise:
That's right! Vincent is reading, and not only is he reading, he's reading well and he's PROUD of himself for doing it!
He catches himself a few times, but he presses on. I apologize that the camera starts to shake, but I was crying as he made his way further into the story. He tried to stop when he saw me get the camera, but I pressed him on and he WENT!
And as I watched him, threads of emotion crocheted together and spilled out of my heart like a colorful scarf that invisibly crept around his smile to pulled it jealously into my memory.
This boy that has been labelled defiant... hyperactive... aggressive... impossible to teach. He's been labelled a nuisance... a frustration... a "THAT boy."
Seeing him claim victory over this story made me want smack those people in the face with this video. Repeatedly.
And then if this video wasn't enough to make a mother's heart explode, he goes and tops it with by bringing my soul the closest it's ever been to seeing Heaven.
You see, Vince decided to raise money for the American Heart Association for Lent. He did it with his school, and he was PSYCHED. On the first night we got the paperwork, I sat him down and explained everything. He surprised me by asking empathic questions about children with heart defects and their parents who obviously struggle seeing their children in pain. It moved me to witness his heart grow to encompass the mission of the charity.
So together, we made his special homepage. We chose pictures and a message and then posted it to Facebook. Within a few hours, he'd beaten his first goal of $250. Within a day, he busted through his $500 goal. Finally, by the end of the campaign, he'd helped raise $1,125.
Vincent, my little boy wonder!
I'd post little videos / messages from Vince and it got folks really excited to see him so excited! As a special "Thank You" to donors, we put together "Hero Hearts" out of foam, stamps and stickers. It was a very tangible way for him to see his excitement reach out to infect others.
Vince and I go apple picking every fall. Ever since he was able to toddle around and snatch apples that had fallen to the ground, he's looked forward to the hayride and hunt for the perfect apple. I explained that his heart was a lot like an apple tree. It has a million love-apples on it, and every time he shares a love-apple with someone, a new love-apple grows. He never runs out of love-apples. Instead, he keeps growing new ones so he can share more and more with everyone else. That's what these "Hero Hearts" represented (at least that's what I was hoping they represented to him).
But the best part came when he found out about the total tally. When he first heard the total, he let out a very tepid "Yay." However, he quickly asks a question that made me realize that even though I'm a miserable failure in a million different ways, God has picked up for me in the parenting department, because my son's heart is golden:
This kid... he and his brother have my heart. They are my Heaven - as is their sister who is praying us up!
So to those parents who have felt the struggle, know that it is but the ash from which your child - a glorious, divinely created person- will burst forth as a phoenix.
<3 <3 <3
I had to leave Vince in an after school program for the first time since he started school in September. He's actually been asking to do go to this program since he found out some of his classroom buddies take part in it, so I was hoping he'd have a good first go at it.
I got a phone call within a half hour.
The entire way there, my mind was a mess of anxiety. Thankfully, I was already en route to pick him up when I got the phone call. However, what if I'd still been at work? What would I have done if I needed to leave early to get him? I'm still new at the office, and while I know they're all understanding of a mother putting her kids first, there's only so much of that which they can be expected to tolerate before wondering why I don't have a "Plan B" in place.
Problem is, there is no "Plan B" for a child like Vince. Why, you ask? Well, this program is a perfect example why.
John is away so he's not able to pick Vince up. Both sides of the family are either working or live too far away to help. Ditto for friends. Thus, my only recourse was the program, and I got a call 30 minutes in telling me that they were unable to accommodate him on account of his special needs.
So like I said, luckily, I was already en route to pick him up. However, what happens on Monday when John is still away? I'll be working which leaves Vince with no where to go for 2 hours but the school program. Problem is, the head of the program doesn't feel comfortable with him being there because she's not staffed to handle him (a situation for which I do not begrudge her). Do I leave early - AGAIN? Do I risk eroding confidence in my bosses that I do actually think my job is a priority or do I just force the school to take him anyway and make their lives (and Vincent's) absolutely miserable?
And then I worry about next year. Inevitably, I always wonder about his future. He's got an incredible teacher now, but she is his for kindergarten only.
And given how far she's gone to learn about Vince's condition and work with him at his level, I know in my heart that she's a diamond among even the prettiest of gems. There will be very few teachers willing to do what she has done for Vince - to see him as I see him.
And that breaks my heart, because it takes a special teacher to reach a special kid. With all his struggles with motivation and confidence, it's only going to get harder when the teacher doesn't have the capacity to do what Mrs. Sweeney has done.
And then I travel further into the future and worry about how I'm going to be able to handle him as he gets stronger and more self-aware of his unique challenges. He's recently started hitting himself - a characteristic trait of Autism. When he's frustrated, he'll begin slapping his head over and over... almost like he's trying to jar his brain into doing what he wants it to do.
And now I'm crying because I know that one day I'm not going to be there to stop his hands from reaching for his head, and even if I am, he's going to be strong enough to push me away. Worse, he might even be self-aware enough to figure out how to extricate himself from my presence so he can self-harm away from perceived judgement.
Unless you're the parent of a special needs kid, you really just don't "get" how all-encompassing this is. Every time I get a phone call from another parent or the school, I instantly get a knot in my stomach that they're calling to complain about what a nuisance Vince is because they've become overwhelmed / disgusted / frustrated by his various challenges. I brace myself when I do pick him up, because I know that no matter how good the day was, something went awry and needs to be addressed. When I get home from work and ask how his day has been, I have to make sure I don't let my fear of what he's going to tell me creep into my intonation. And finally, when I talk to folks who ask about how he's doing, I scramble to come up with the easiest way to either side-step the conversation or downplay the difficulty because I can barely soothe myself let alone the anxiety of other people.
God, this is so hard. And I don't even care that it's hard for me; I care that it's so hard for Vincent. No child should struggle as hard as he does and still feel inferior that his best tries are not good enough. And he's starting to feel that way. I can tell he's starting to feel that way because he's beginning to verbalize it, which, ironically, is a huge accomplishment for him.
I know that God's got a plan and will take care of Vince in the end, but I hate having to see him go through this, and I hate feeling like a failure because I am not smart enough to know how to help. I feel angry that I've constantly got to consider putting Vince (and even Nate) into less than ideal situations so that I can keep all my priorities from shattering on the floor.
It's a constant juggle, and it's felt VERY pressing as of late. All throughout January, the boys and I were rotating illness. I forced myself to go to work even though I should've stayed home because I knew I'd need to take time off for the boys and they needed it more than I did. I also knew that Vince had an upcoming field trip that I needed to chaperone because - again - they don't have the staff to handle him, especially off-site.
Which, I just realized, the stupid trip falls on the date of a meeting I'm supposed to be running. Ugh. There wasn't a conflict before, but now there is because the meeting had to be moved on account of someone else.
Lord, I hand it to You. I've only got two hands with which to juggle. Send some angels to help keep these plates spinning, and please strengthen Vince's guardian angel to be a real light for him. Please keep his teachers in Your sight and send the Spirit to give them a greater understanding of Your Love for Vince. If only others could see him as You see him... oh what a blessing they'd know he is!
More Vatican Splendors
Nope, this is not a replica of the Ark of the Covenant. Can you guess what it is? The little pin at the top might give you the hint you need.
It's an enormous base to what I assume must have been an incredible monstrance. This base features scenes from the Gospels (most notably the Last Supper and the Multiplication of the Loaves). The "paws" that hold up the ark portion seem to be those of a lion, and I don't know that you can really see them, but framing each scene are a pair of cherubs. The entire thing is gold-plated. Shiny, right?
In this gallery that housed this, I found all sorts of liturgical goodies:
This is one of the chalices Pope St. John Paul II would have used. It has four Polish saints engraved around the base (including St. Stanislaus who is pictured above). To give you an idea as to how big the actual bowl of the chalice is, take a look at the one that follows after it. A beautiful chalice in it's own right, that one is less than half the size of the first! Even the patens give you an idea of the size difference. The other chalice was given to the Vatican by Pope St. John Paul II and has an image of the Last Supper around its bowl. Fitting, no?
Next up we've got a few interesting artifacts:
And this is a gilded Roman Missal. Imagine carrying this to and from your daily Mass. Ha!
The next gallery was devoted to the missionary work of the Church. There were a few things in here that caught my eye:
The two images above are from a letter to the pope from a local Chinese bishop. This bishop wrote to the pope on red silk (which was typically reserved for messages sent to the Chinese Emperor). I can't even begin to imagine how long it took to craft such an exquisite letter on fabric. I just kept wondering if he had to start over and over again because of "typos." It was such a long letter! I imagine it was about 2 yards long, and each "character" only about the size of a nickel.
There was also a gorgeous blue tapestry that I knew wouldn't come out nearly as beautiful on my phone:
The exhibit also featured something akin to the Hall of Presidents. Instead of presidents, however, it was a gallery of popes. While I love sacred art, I don't believe that portraits of popes constitute sacred art, so I breezed through this area with barely a glance. That being said, I did enjoy the closing room which focused on modern saints like JPII and Mother Teresa.
In addition to these paintings of Pope St. John Paul II (the one on the right which I just love), there was an impressive statue of Mother Teresa that likely served as the model for the familiar ones we've seen of her cradling a small child. I took a few photos because the details were just so striking:
In this same room was a votive lamp which, if you look closely, features the Holy Spirit and other symbols of our Faith. The Theotokos is also present at the base, and the quartz stones that surround the triangles are so surprising! It was a gift to Pope St. John Paul II.
Finally, since this entry is getting a bit long, I'll end with the very last piece in the exhibit - a bronze cast of JPII's hand. And me putting my hand into it. Special appearance by a gorgeous bracelet made by Cam over at A Woman's Place. :)
Photos of Myla
Vincent's class does something called "Star of the Week." Every week, a new student is chosen to be the Star, and a bulletin board is dedicated to photos of the student, the student's family, things the student likes, etc.
It's going to be Vincent's turn very soon, so I asked him what sort of things he wanted to bring in to decorate the bulletin board. He mentioned Minecraft and Pete the Cat, and of course pictures of Nate and his cat, Zoey, but he also asked for something that I could not give him.
He wanted pictures of Myla.
It always amazes me how often he thinks of his little sister. He'll bring her up out of the blue while we're driving and during story-time before bed. In the middle of eating a sandwich he might ask if she's eating lunch up in Heaven, or while I'm bathing Nate he'll ask who gives her baths in Heaven.
These questions make my heart smile and sigh at the same time.
I told him that while I didn't have any picture of Myla, we could include her name somehow.
Also, I do have a few things for her that I've kept in a special music box that he might be able to use. I've been trying to figure out ways to softly incorporate her in ways that wouldn't solicit questions because he's in a kindergarten classroom. I wouldn't have included her, myself, but since HE asked, I'm trying to figure out how to best do that.
It's a blessing that he feels connected to Myla in such a way. I'm so grateful that his little heart recognizes his sister in ways the rest of the world does not. In ways their father does not. God bless my perfect little boy.
And today, as I was dropping Nate off at daycare, a mother brought in her little girl who is about the age Myla would've been. Probably still stinging from my memories of her, I had to fight the jealous urge to pull that child onto my lap. I wanted to nuzzle her neck and breathe in her hair and know what it'd be like, for even a moment, to have my little girl with me.
Anyway, this is how love and grief work. You can be going about your day when a little love creeps in to punch a hole in your heart. Even though you flinch from the pain, your heart sings a song of thanks that you have someone you love enough to miss. And that grief makes you a better person, because you want with all your heart to live your life right so you can meet again in Heaven.
Oh Myla. Mommy misses you every day and can't wait to hold you up in Heaven. Kiss Grandmom Ida and Nanny Lena, Grandpop Rizzo and Uncle Chris. Cuddle up to the Blessed Mother and ask her to protect your brothers here below.
I Need a Hero
One of my nearest and dearest friends has accused me of being pig-headed. She's right, of course, but for the wrong reason. She thinks my refusal to forgive John stems from a reluctance to show weakness. In fairness, it's my fault she thinks that because I've done such a horrid job explaining to her why this particular problem is so insurmountable to me.
You see, when I speak to her, it's typically before I've even had a chance to process my thoughts through writing. When she asks me a question, my unorganized thoughts just spill out and spread, forcing me to spend more time cleaning up the mess than actually communicating my true thoughts.
Again, that's completely my fault. I should probably just steer clear of talking about anything until I've had a chance to write out my thoughts.
Anyway, because of my jumbled mess of an explanation, she thinks I refuse to hand my brokenness to God because I feel like I need it as one might need a security blanket. I refuse to acknowledge that God demands forgiveness from me because by forgiving John, I might lose some of the steam and anger I believe he deserves directed in a constant stream at him (which is partly true).
She accused me of trying to shoulder everything entirely by myself when I should be going to God for help carrying the burden.
She's not entirely wrong. I SHOULD be doing that and I SHOULD be handing everything over and I SHOULD be forgiving him.
However - and this is a big however - I can't. Not yet. I just can't. And I'm okay with this.
When I tell her that I'm okay with not making any move towards God, my friend's poor heart wrings itself out because she knows I'm in a bad place that will only get darker if I don't figure out my way home soon.
Again, she's right.
However, it's not that I am too stubborn or too strong-willed or too confident in my own strength that's keeping me lodged firmly in place. It's actually the exact opposite that's keeping me in place. I'm stuck. I've given up. I am too weak. I have no confidence in my ability to make the moves necessary to forgive him because the scorn and repugnance I carry have created a thicket of thorns that has completely ensconced me.
Have you ever seen a sheep stuck in a bush or gate? While I was in Ireland, it was common. Sheep got stuck EVERYWHERE it seemed. Some would kick, buck and bleat, but others (likely those that had been stuck longer) sorta just chilled in place. They knew that, eventually, someone would find them and free them.
I'm like the latter sheep. There's no point in bleating, kicking or bucking. I haven't any strength left to try, anyway. The only thing I've strength to say is "Alrighty, God, you know where I'm at. Come get me."
And He's coming. He sent Our Lady ahead of Him to soothe me. He sent the Holy Spirit to sustain me. Soon, He'll arrive and pull the thorns from my wool. At this point, He's the only one able to do so.
That's why I seem so content to remain in the state of sin. However, that's like saying the sheep is content being stuck in the briar. I don't LIKE being trapped, but I recognize that no action on my part is going to make it better. So all I can do is trust that my Shepherd is coming for me and wait to see how He manages to free me from the thicket.
As a complete aside, this incredibly gorgeous painting was done by an anonymous student in a German art school around 1917. It's an oil on tin painting. Isn't it absolutely magnificent?!
Self-Harm and Nail Polish
Special thanks to the lovely ladies who shot me over pics of their polished nails!!!
A woman in my Catholic Moms group mentioned that her daughter (who self harms) has recently channeled her compulsion to cut into picking at her nail polish instead. To celebrate her success (and to motivate her to continue channeling her feelings in this manner), I purchased a bunch of polishes in different hues and finishes.
That got me thinking...
This young woman chose to pick at her polish instead of cutting herself in the same manner that a smoker might choose a stick of gum over a cigarette.
Is it possible, then, that other young women (who are statistically the highest at risk for self-harm) would benefit from raking (using your thumb to scrape away sections of nail polish)?
So I started asking around and the responses I got surprised me.
First of all, self-harm apparently happens a lot more than I'd originally thought. It also happens in ways that differ from person to person. Since I have no self-harm experience, I was only familiar with what gets shown on TV: razors, hair pulling, and smacking your head/face. Through the kind (and brave) messages that got sent from various people, I learned that scratching, burning, stretching and even stabbing at one's self are forms of self-harm.
When I asked for their various coping mechanisms, they ranged from rubber band snapping to painting to crocheting to using a punching bag. One person even stands under an ice cold shower! However, when I mentioned polish raking as a potential channeling medium, almost none of them had tried it.
I've reached out to a few local clinics that deal with young women who self-harm and a couple said they'd be interested in trying nail polish as a potential channeling medium. If it's something that DOES prove beneficial to their patients, I'll look into expanding the ministry further.
I imagine this would be very beneficial to at-risk young women, and nail polish is a relatively cheap coping mechanism. Something like this should be able to garner a corporate partner (I'm thinking OPI through it's OPI Cares charitable fund) and I can even see an annual Cut the Stigma event that would raise money and awareness for these folks.
Anyway, I'm getting ahead of myself, but I'm looking for feedback from those of you who are more experienced / smarter than I am in this regard. That being said, I feel like someone has lit a fire under me and I can't settle down until I see this through.
Vatican Splendors Exhibit
The Franklin Institute has been hosting the Vatican Splendors exhibit for the last few months and I was finally able to check it out this weekend! Included throughout 11 galleries are more than 200 pieces of Church history.
I will be honest that I wasn't super psyched by the majority of what I saw, but I did enjoy a few gems that they thought to include.
First up on the docket is this replica of a tomb decoration. Wanna take a guess as to what it's depicting?
If you said the Magi, you get a cookie! Indeed, this is an image depicting the 3 Kings delivering their gifts to the Child Jesus who sits on His Mother's Lap, offering what appears to be a wreath. Given the fact that this was used in tomb decoration (and a wreath, even back then, symbolized eternal life and glorification), it's not surprising that the Child Jesus would offer this Gift to His servants.
Anyway, the fact that this artifact exists dispels the notion that the tradition of the Magi is a modern invention.
The next piece is depicting St. Peter's crucifixion. The detail is pretty stunning:
Those are two small children (and a collared dog) watching the crucifixion unfold! Granted, that would have certainly happened given the public spectacle of it all, but it made me so sad to think of the violence we still subject our children to (even though it seems more sanitized these days).
After making my way through the early tomb art, I found myself surrounded by reliquaries. This part was pretty epic because I got to one of the most intricate reliquaries I'd ever seen before, and it belongs to St. Teresa of Avila:
Wow, right? And my stupid iPhone does it very little justice. I believe it is made of bronze, gold, and enamel. It's just magnificent, is it not? The one for St. Hildegard wasn't nearly as pretty, but it was definitely just as ornate and certainly made with more gold than St. Teresa's:
There was also a cope that belonged to St. Charles Borromeo:
There was a large portion of the exhibit dedicated to explaining the architectural changes St. Peter's Basilica went through under various popes (which was interesting). I didn't take too many photos of that stuff because for as interesting as the tug-of-war was between the brilliant minds of Michelangelo, Raphael and Bernini, I didn't find the actual trinkets of building materials / tools to be much to look at.
That being said, I did find some gorgeous paintings to share with you!
I was excited to find this one because I had just done some research into another similarly dressed painting by a Flemish painter by the name of Jan the Elder (hat tip to Dymphna for sharing the original!).
What's interesting about these paintings is that they were many times collaborations between artists. One who specialized in nature would paint the garland while one who specialized in figures would paint the interior scene (or vice versa). I thought that was a pretty cool concept given that most painters prefer to have their work solely their own.
Anyhow, this one was painted by Daniel Seghers and it depicts the vision of St. Philip Neri.
This next one is just too magnificent for words. It's my 2nd favorite painting in the entire exhibit and I'm still left a bit heady from it!
It's a Resurrection piece, but instead of depicting Christ as the confident victor over death, it portrays God the Father coming down to His Son and helping Him up. If you notice, Christ's Body is pallid and still encumbered by death. His eyes are still closed and He leans against His Father, having no power to move on His own.
But in truth, there is a very deep theological truth here. Jesus certainly has His own power over death, but His power lies in His complete and total trust in the Power and Plan of His Father. God, in turn, repays that trust with His Divine Strength.
And the way this artist chose to paint the Father... almost as a mountain! His cloak billows behind Him, making Him appear twice as large and the alb is brown like the land. It's all just so incredible. It's such a tender, loving moment between Father and Son that even the Holy Spirit (always present) takes a backseat.
Anyhow, I'll leave you with that for now. I took well over 200 pictures, though, so expect one or two more of these before I'm through!
The Trinity as a Plural Singular
NOTE: This was originally published 9/13/2011.
Now that I'll be teaching CCD, I'm going to need a test-run for all my lesson plans. Oh, blogosphere, prepare to don fur and become my guinea pigs!
My first lesson is to be on the Trinity. What is the Trinity? Does the Trinity have roots in Scripture? How come Jews only believe in ONE God, but we believe in three that add up to ONE God? I mean, 1+1+1=3, right? So what's that all about, anyway?
Ah... I love it! Delving right into the nitty-gritty!
Anyway, in starting with the Trinity, I realized I'd actually have to back it up and start with the importance of our Jewish roots. Since one of the main arguments against the dogma of the Trinity is that there is only "One" God and there can't be "3 Persons" we need to trace the language back all the way to the Old Testament, which was passed along (and subsequently written) in Hebrew.
So when we dig our ways back to the OT, we realize that there are two words to describe "oneness" in the Hebrew Bible. The first is "echad" which echoes a pluralistic singular. For example, when Moses comes down to explain the Commandments to the Jews, the people pledge loyalty to God's Word "in one (echad) voice." Obviously one person doesn't stand up and say "Yeah, Moses! We'll totally abide by the Commandments!" All the Jews, collectively, gave their consent to the Word of God. Thus, though singular, the word "echad" alludes to a plurality that creates the singular.
This word, "echad," is different from the Hebrew word "yachid." Yachid also references "oneness" but pretty much translates to "only." It refers to a literal, numeric singularity. For example, "yachid" is used in the story of Abraham and Isaac. When God asks that Abraham take his one and only (yachid) son by Sarah, Isaac, and offer him as a sacrifice, God was specific. Isaac was the only son Abraham had by Sarah, so there can be no confusion regarding the value of "one."
See the difference? Nowhere in the Bible does the Hebrew betray this plurality of God. Each time God is spoken of, the word "echad" is used. Why? Jews accepted God the Father as well as His Spirit who descended to create the world. Finally, they awaited the Son of God who would come to redeem them as the promised Messiah. So though they didn't believe in a doctrine of a triune God, all the pieces of the puzzle were present. As Catholics, we believe that Jesus, the Son of God, came and put those pieces together for us.
And put those pieces together He did!
In Matthew 28:19, Jesus instructs us with the words "In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit." Naming each part of the Trinity under the singular of "name" and imparting the equality of their Divine Natures establishes this dogma for us. Epistles from Sts. Peter and Paul expound and support this.
So the Trinity does exist in the Old (and New!) Testament(s), but in order to understand that, we must first understand our Jewish heritage.
This also explains why our new translations (starting the first Sunday of Advent) refers to God with plural verbs. :)
Regarding tangible expressions of the Trinity, I'll be falling back on St. Patrick's "3 leaf clover" analogy as well as a personal "perfume" analogy gifted to me this summer. I was contemplating melting 3 different colored candles together into one giant candle, then asking the children to attempt separating the wax, but I realized that'd end up taking way too long and would probably get really messy really fast. Ah well...
I'll also be keeping John Godfrey Saxe's poem "The Blind Men and the Elephant" up my sleeve for when we get into the ability of 2 men to see the same God and come away with 2 VERY different visions of Him. I might even have them draw / color in their own elephants...
Recently came across this again as well. Originally posted 9/15/2011. I don't believe he and I ever spoke again. Maybe one day. :)
I had a wonderful conversation with a discerning person today. He had a lot of great questions about not only Catholicism, but theology in general. Steeped in psychology and sociology, theology was something that he didn't quite "get."
More specifically, he didn't get why someone would freely follow something like the Golden Rule.
Out of nowhere, I asked him "If you had a cookie, and your best friend really, really wanted some, you'd share it, right?"
He affirmed and so I said, "Why? Because it makes you happy to provide for your friend which in turn makes your friend happy, doesn't it?"
Now, when I say this cookie analogy came out of nowhere, it seriously came out of nowhere. I don't typically liken things to cookies, but for some reason, the Golden Rule kept summarizing into this tasty treat. So, not sure where it would lead, I left it up to God and said, "Alright, you wanna talk cookies today? Make it happen." Of course, He did. :)
My newly found friend attempted to pick apart my analogy morsel by morsel. "Why not just give my buddy the entire cookie?" "What if I have two cookies?" "Why aren't there infinite cookies to go around?"
This all led back to Divine Providence. In explaining this whole cookie business to him, I learned something myself. This is why I love apologetics. Once you immerse yourself in understanding the faith better so you're able to explain it better to others, you inevitably uncover truths that've been staring you in the face, ever-so-politely, for the last 20 some odd years of your life.
Anyway, back to Divine Providence.
I explained that the Golden Rule was truly the sum of all Catholic ideology. Lots of people have heard the addage "Love thy neighbor as thyself" but honestly, we are called to better than that. We, as Christians, are called to love one another as Christ, Himself, loved. Instead, the world is full of selfish people who care only about themselves, or worse, the power they struggle to obtain or keep hold of. Every single issue the world suffers from is rooted in this warped "love."
So he pressed me with more questions, and I doled out more chocolate chip goodness.
He stated, "Why can't I just get another cookie to give to him?"
I explained that God doesn't give endless cookies like this purposefully. It is yet another blessing of God. We GAIN something through the experience of sharing. It is a fluid act of love. Sharing the cookie makes BOTH parties feel happiness, and more importantly, validation. That happiness and validation is love. Yet it is a fluid love... an actionable love that springs into being through a simple act of sharing. Emotions come to life through that cookie, which was given by God specifically for that purpose. If God had given both him and his friend cookies, he'd've never had the chance to experience the joy of sharing, and he and his friend, though satiated with their own cookies, wouldn't have gotten the added bonus of happiness and validation through that interpersonal exchange of love.
This is how God chooses to bless the world through Divine Providence. When my new friend lamented that there weren't "enough cookies to go around" I corrected him. In fact, that are MORE than enough cookies in the world, but because of selfishness, greed, and a lack of loving each other as Christ loves, folks miss the opportunity to take part in this fluid love that God offers to us.
So he asked, then, why he had to sacrifice half his cookie for his friend if it was, in fact, a blessing.
So I posed this question: "If I were to give you $100 on the fly, you'd be pretty happy, right? Let's say you give $50 to your buddy, because he really needs to buy some groceries for his family. You give him $50, which leaves you with $50. Would you still say that you lost in that situation?"
Of course, he replied, "Well no, because I'd still have $50."
And I said, "Exactly... we aren't given the $100 or the plate of 10 cookies for ourselves. We are given certain things specifically so we can take part in God's love through sharing with our neighbors."
I think a lightbulb went off for him at this moment, so he derails for a bit and asks, "Well, what about those who don't have material goods?"
And I smiled. I explained that material goods aren't the only things we've been blessed with to share. Time, talent, prayers, and even emotional support are all gifts we can give to one another.
At this point in the conversation, I had to take my leave, but I thoroughly enjoyed speaking with him. I left him my contact info and I hope we cross paths again. I certainly learned a thing or two from our conversation, and I truly pray he did as well.
As for us, may we all accept our cookies graciously, and in turn graciously share them with all our neighbors as a proper Thank You to the One who Baked them. :)
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