Every Hair on Your Head

June 25, 2017—The Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading 1:          Jer 20:10-13
Responsorial:   Ps 69:8-10, 14, 17, 33-35
Reading 2:          Rom 5:12-15
Gospel:                Mt 10:26-33

 

Hey, kiddos!

So, I found a gray hair the other day. Just one—a lonely, wiry, soul-crushing gray hair. And, after my minor freakout in the car, I pulled it out and continued on with my day. But that still haunts me a little. 31 years of no gray hairs, and now…it begins. Slowly but surely, my body will start to grow older. My thick hair has already given up in the fight against the barrage of pregnancy and mama hormones in the past three years. Now, it’s getting harder to climb up and down those stairs every night, and I feel like my joints are getting pretty good at predicting the weather.

All in all, kiddos, your mama isn’t so young and spry any more. This Southern California/Orange County mentality would tell me to do a cleanse/detox/”don’t eat anything but cayenne pepper and lemon water for 10 days.” (Seriously? I can’t go 2 hours without eating carbs or chocolate.) They might tell me to start Crossfit or yoga or pilates. They might even rave about the newest supplement or essential oil that can make me feel young again. And as well-intentioned (and healthy) as those things might be, I would be seeking them out for the wrong reasons.

See, this 2017 version of society equates your body with self-worth. If your body doesn’t look right or work right, then YOU aren’t right. But, you know, we are more than that. C.S. Lewis is quoted as saying, “You are not a body. You are a soul—you have a body.” Even though he didn’t actually say it—and even though the Tumblr/Instagram world has taken this TOTALLY out of context—it shows something. We are this incredible combination of body and soul—not just body, not just soul. Both are important. Both make us human. Both contribute to our identity and self-worth.

Jesus talks about this too. He compares us to the sparrows, saying that “Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:29-31). We’re worth more than MANY sparrows! Think about that for just a second…

Jesus didn’t say that the sparrows don’t matter, but people do. He didn’t say that his followers are important, but other people aren’t. He didn’t even say that you’re worth just as much as a sparrow because everything is equal. No, no, no, no, no. He says that sparrows are so important that God the Father cares when every one of those tiny birds falls to the ground. Every living thing is important and worthy of love.

But, then…he also says that we shouldn’t be afraid of anything because God thinks we are worth more than many sparrows. So, kids…if He pays that much attention to the little birds, he REALLY pays attention when something happens to you! He really cares! It really matters! We aren’t alone in our moments of worry and grief. We aren’t alone when we feel scared or uneasy. Whether something is threatening our body or our soul, we are not alone in this—-because God the Father is watching and listening and caring about it all.

Even the (gray) hairs on our head.

Even the crazy, stressful weeks.

Even the sleepless nights.

Even the moments of silly, unnecessary anxiety.

Even the moments of grief and heartache.

Sometimes, we can feel alone in our struggles. And, I totally get it.  God seems pretty silent during some moments of our lives. Sometimes, I hear the voices of the rest of the world loud and clear—but, God’s voice seems like just a faint whisper. And, when I don’t take time to sit and pray, it’s even harder to hear Him. But, God wants to be present to our bodies AND our souls.

So, that’s why I don’t detox or do pilates to do a quick boost to my body. Or stress over gray hair. Because God finds value in my human body. God sees me as beautiful and worthy of love, even in my imperfections and achy joints. Our bodies are the way that great things are done in this world—like serving someone or cooking people delicious food. They’re also the vessels to bring great things into this world—like you three!

(That being said, this summer needs to be the summer of eating better, exercising more, and getting our healthy lives back after six months of “survival mode.”)

So, body and soul—God the Father loves you.* And your dad and I love you. Not just your body. Not just your soul. But, ALL the wonderful, glorious parts of you.

Nicholas, God gave you “smiling eyes” (as Lola calls them!) and a joyful heart. My gosh, kid! Your laugh can brighten up even the darkest of days. Thank you for being so full of love and life!

Josiah, you are so strong! Even at six months, you push up and rock back and forth like a champ, kid! And, on the inside, your heart is so pure. The way you interact with each person you see shows me that you’ll have awareness and compassion for others as you grow up.

Elizabeth, my sweet girl! Those dimples are just adorable–too hard not to kiss! But, oh, you have a formidable spirit already—destined for overcoming obstacles, just like you do as you crawl across the entire house. You have strength in your spirit, little girl.  

I love you, I love you, I love you!

Mama

 

*I know that people are tired of hearing that “Jesus loves you.” And, in reality, I think you probably already know most of what’s in this letter. Nothing ground-breakingly new here. BUT…I need the reminder of what love really looks like some days. And, I definitely need to be reminded that I’m found worthy by the One who made me. So, like it or not, here’s yet another version of the message that should resonate deeply in our hearts—Jesus loves YOU.)

35,000 Moments

February 12, 2017—Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading 1:             Sir 15:15-20
Responsorial:       Ps 119: 1-2, 4-5, 17-18, 33-34
Reading 2:            1 Cor 2:6-10
Gospel:                   Mt 5:17-37

Hey, loves!

Lately, I’ve been thinking about how many choices we have to make every day. The internet says that adults make over 35,000 decisions every day. Even you kids make about 3,000 every day! (well, Nicholas does. Probably not you twins, yet.) Man! But, it’s true. Choices are everywhere in my life:

Wake up early or snooze until the babies cry? (I wish snoozing were an option.)

Frosted Mini Wheats or oatmeal? (Really? Frosting wins.)

Curious George or Sesame Street? (Nicholas chose George.)

Clean the kitchen or watch TV? (The kitchen lost this one.)

Hang out with babies or organize the closets? (I chose you, so still a messy closet.)

Decaf or regular? (Decaf. Just for you, twins.)

Eat the last cookie or save it for Dad?  (I ate it. Shh. Don’t tell…)

And, in your lives, those moments of discerning the right choice will likely be some of the most difficult times you experience. It’s challenging to make those big decisions, especially when you feel like it will impact your life and others. So, thankfully–today’s readings give us some insight into how to make a decision well.

See, the Holy Spirit gives us wisdom–the ability to discern what is good and what is not. And then it’s our job to use it. St. Paul talks about how the leaders of his time didn’t quite understand God’s wisdom. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that most of our leaders don’t either. But, you and I have the opportunity to listen to what God says to us about our choices and use his gift of wisdom.

The book of Sirach has a killer line: “Before man are life and death, good and evil, whichever he chooses shall be given him.” And this is the crux of the whole decision-making process, kids. In a few years from now, I’ll be convinced that you really do know the difference between good and bad. As adults, your dad and I really know (most of the time) what is right and what is wrong. And then we choose. We choose to seek life and good things and what brings hope and light into the world. Or, we choose to be selfish or hurtful and we close ourselves off from God. At the end of the day, that’s what it all boils down to.

People will try to tell you that God imposes his will on us all. They might try to convince you that God decides all of this for us. But, the reality is that we have been given the power of choice, more power than we take credit for. Every day, we have 35,000 opportunities to choose good over evil. Sometimes it’s in a little way (like leaving your dad that cookie). Sometimes, it’s a big choice (like sacrificing personal comfort for the good of another person). But, WE have that choice. That’s free will.

The beauty of free will is that we have the ability to do great things in this world and really be active in our acceptance of God’s incredible plan for us. But, the bad thing is that there really are no excuses when we mess up.

Jesus calls out people in the gospels today for being full of excuses. They are following all the commandments…but, just barely. And that’s not quite what God had in mind when he gave the Ten Commandments to us. He wanted us to embrace the goodness behind the law and to take care of each other, not to find loopholes to still do the bad stuff.

So, Jesus tells them that instead of just not being a murderer—we need to reconcile ourselves with our family and friends before we come to God. And, instead of just not physically committing adultery–we need to be faithful and loving in our marriages with our whole heart, mind, and body. And we can’t just avoid lying—but, we need to mean what we say and stay true to our word.

As Christians, we aren’t called to do the bare minimum. We’re called to live boldly and love wholeheartedly. That’s what our choices need to reflect.

We need to mean what we say. So, if we’re talking all about how much we love our family, your dad and I had better show you guys how much we love you in the way we spend our time and energy. If we believe that it’s important to take care of those who are “the least of these,” then we had better figure out a way to donate to the poor and treat them with dignity. If we are so supportive of women choosing to have their babies (even when it’s difficult), then we had better help support them and their children long after that sweet baby is born.

The reality is this: our world is full of people making really nonsensical choices. You are called to do something different. You are called to choose from what is before you: life or death, good or evil, right or wrong. The world will tell you that “right” and “wrong” don’t exist. They’ll say that it’s impossible to know what’s really right or wrong.

But, in your gut…you know. So, my advice to you: trust your gut. That’s the Holy Spirit giving you that wisdom that you need in that moment. Pray and think and trust that God is leading you. Then, choose. Choose what brings life to the world. Choose what is good. My hope is that those choices will be the way this world begins to get a little brighter.

I love you!

Mama

 

 

A Mama’s Heart

January 1, 2017—Solemnity of Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God

Reading 1:             Nm 6:22-27
Responsorial:        Ps 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8
Reading 2:             Gal 4:4-7
Gospel:                   Luke 2:16-21

Hey, Kiddos!

Everyone is finally napping–including Dad–so, I finally have time to write to you. It’s been a crazy week, celebrating Christmas and the new year, introducing the twins to our friends and family, and then just having normal life in between. So, I’m sorry that I’m so late to write to you. Dad is always so good about getting his letters to you before Sunday, but I can’t do those late nights of writing anymore. I think my brain stopped being able to do that after all those grad school all-nighters.

Anyway, here I am! Today is the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God–which is super cool. It’s only right that at some point during Christmastime, we celebrate Jesus’s mama, right? After all, you know your birth stories by now…and you know Jesus’s birth story. Yours were MUCH calmer than his. So, she should get some credit for the crazy pregnancy and being mama to Jesus. It wasn’t all daisies and butterflies like some people portray it to be. Parenthood is great and all—my favorite of God’s blessings to me—but, it definitely has its struggles.

And that’s what today’s readings really highlight. They don’t talk about how wonderful Mary is, or even how holy she is. There are plenty of places in scripture that talk about her wonderful qualities and the Church could have chosen those for today’s readings. But, they didn’t. Instead, the readings focus on parenthood and how God wants to reveal his parenthood to us.

St. Paul talks about that specifically in Galatians, saying that “God sent his Son…so that we might receive adoption as sons.” Jesus comes so that we get to be children of God and experience God as a parent. God wants us to reach out to him in the same way that you guys reach up to me and your dad when you want to be held. He wants us to call out to him, just like you cry out to us in the middle of the night when you’re hungry or scared. So, Jesus is sent to live out life on Earth to show us what it’s like to have God as a father. And, God gets to reveal to us what it’s like to have him as a parent. Pretty cool way to show us his love, I think. He could have just written it down: “I love you like a dad loves his kids.” Or, he could have just told a story–like the parable of the Prodigal Son. But, he wanted to be SO clear about his love for us. So, God showed us exactly what it’s like to be loved by him, by showing us through Jesus’s life.

My favorite part of today’s readings though is in the Gospel. Luke tells us that the shepherds have arrived to see Jesus, and while they’re visiting, they share what the angels said about baby Jesus. They tell Mary and Joseph that this baby is to be the savior, the Messiah, the Lord.

Now, I’d imagine that Mary and Joseph were a little taken aback. That’s not your typical conversation when you visit a newborn. When people visit you guys, Josiah and Elizabeth, they don’t say things like that. They say things like, “Wow–they have a lot of hair!” or “Look at their facial expressions!” or “They’re so tiny!” People drop off food and coffee. They bring presents and diapers. They comment on how cute the babies are and ignore how sleep-deprived the parents look. Your role in salvation history isn’t usually something that comes up in conversation. But, those shepherds just drop that into their visit.

As expected, Mary responds gracefully. (Much better than I would have.) It says that everyone was amazed at what they said, but Mary “kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.”

Can I share with you a little about a mama’s heart? I’m new at this, and I’m sure by the time that you guys read these letters, I’ll have learned so much more about being a mom. But, let me tell you really quick about my brain and heart since I became a mama to the three of you:

I used to remember things people told me. I used to have knowledge in my brain about Chaucer and Walt Whitman, practical financial information, and current events. Now, my brain is full of other things, like how many milliliters of Tylenol Nicholas can take and how many packets of oatmeal we have left for breakfast. I memorize things like how much a gallon of milk is at Trader Joe’s vs. Ralph’s, and how many ounces Josiah and Elizabeth have gained in the past week. Yeah.  My mama brain is a little bit different than it used to be.

I also used to care about different things. I didn’t know how motherhood would change my heart. There’s a certain kind of love that rouses a person from a dead sleep at 2AM–just to check if Josiah and Elizabeth are breathing. I didn’t know that it was possible for me to feel so sad on the first night that Nicholas slept in his own room. And, I can’t describe the joy of a sweet, snotty kiss from Nicholas or the peace of having a sleeping baby on my chest.

So, I feel like Mary’s heart has got to be overflowing right now–as graceful and peaceful as the gospel reading might make her seem. She is seeing her own son, who grew inside of her for nine months, for the first time! She is watching Joseph be a dad for the first time. She is probably hurting–because, let’s face it, childbirth isn’t exactly a walk in the park. And, now she’s thinking about the fate of her son as the Messiah and Savior. Man!

That’s one of the reasons why I feel so close to Mary. That’s one of the reasons why I wear the Miraculous Medal around my neck and encourage you guys to ask her for prayers. Mary had every reason to be totally overwhelmed and sink into her humanity. She was dealt a rough deck in life and could have just cut and run. Vegas–or whatever the equivalent was at that time—sounded pretty good to her, I bet.

But, she embraced that same spirit of parenthood that God shows us. She showed love to Jesus and the people who followed him. She listened to God’s word and followed his will for her. And, she embodied the peace and love that he showed to her, even to the point of bearing his son and raising him to be a good man. My hope in life is that she can help teach me to follow God too, so I can be a better mama to you guys and lead you closer to God.

(P.S. If you wanna know more about why we give Mary so much honor, it’s because God gave her that honor first. We can never love her more than Jesus did…so, we’re cool. And, she literally shared DNA with Jesus, so I’m sure she’s got a little more holiness going on than we do. But, come ask me. We’ll chat more another day.)

So today really is all about parenthood. Mary is a great mom to Jesus and to us. And, your dad and I are entrusted with the three of you, to be good parents to you for the rest of your lives. But, the big deal is that God wants to be our parent and let us experience his love in the same ways that mother and father show love to their kids. He wants to be strength for us. He wants to be comforting to us. He wants to help us choose right from wrong. He wants good for us–the best, in fact. And, all we have to do is reach up and ask for him to be our Father.

…which is right where the first reading comes in. I hope that you always feel the love that Dad and I have for you. But, more than that, I hope that you always turn to God when you need something and you’re searching for love. This is my prayer for you always:

May the Lord bless you and keep you. 

May the Lord let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you. 

May the Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace. 

With all my love,

Mama

An Offer You Can’t Refuse

IMG_7367Dear Kiddos,

It’s been a long few weeks in a writing program for teachers, and I’ve enjoyed writing so much that I asked Daddy if I could write your letter this week. Unfortunately, I’ve got the memory of a goldfish right now and the energy level of a pregnant-with-twins mama, so it’s Sunday and you’re just getting your letter now. Sorry.

This week’s readings remind me of an Italian-American classic, The Godfather (a part of your heritage that I’ll share with you one day in the very distant future). There’s a famous line that most people quote without even knowing the context: “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.” Now, Don Corleone isn’t even CLOSE to Jesus, so the comparisons stop there. But, still…this week is full of opportunity to think about how to convince God in prayer, right? Maybe or maybe not.

Sometimes, when I hear these readings about Abraham and then that pesky persistent neighbor in the gospel, I think of that line. And I think about the deals I used to make with God. Those deals usually sounded a lot like Abraham in the first reading, except I usually wasn’t negotiating for the salvation of a whole city of people. As a good Italian girl, I knew the power of a good deal and some quality negotiating skills. Usually, I was trying to convince God that if he bailed me out of this new mess I’d gotten into, I would do ANYTHING he wanted. I think there were usually some “pretty please with a cherry on top” moments in there as well. God always came through for me. And, I tried my best to follow through with what I had promised (which usually ended up being God’s sneaky way of getting me back to church or ministry).

So, somewhere along the line, I began to think that if I cut the right deal with Jesus, I could convince him of whatever I wanted. And, that’s usually the message people get out of today’s gospel as well: If you’re persistent in prayer, God will come through. That dang pesky neighbor coming to my door in the middle of the night will get their food, as long as they bug me enough. And, it’s true in our house too. Nicholas has already figured it out: if he cries long enough for his pacifier, I’ll cave and go search under the crib for it (even if it’s 3AM and I don’t want to get up out of bed). But, there’s a deeper message in today’s readings than just the rewards of whining.

Jesus teaches us how to pray. He tells us to call God “Father.” He shows us that we need to be persistent in asking for what we really need. Then, he comforts us with the knowledge that if we ask, we will receive; if we seek, we will find; if we knock, the door will be opened to us. So, Jesus’s message isn’t about being whiny (which is good because whining drives me crazy). Instead, he calls us to reach out to God often and honestly.

God knows my prayers before I offer them. He knows that every night Daddy and I are going to pray for the three of you to grow up big and strong. So, why do we pray the same thing over and over? Because God wants us to share our heart with him. Nicholas, it’s kind of like when you ask us to sing “Itsy Bitsy Spider” over and over, even though you know the words. It’s part of our relationship with you that we share that song and that time together. God wants to listen to what’s on your heart, even though he already knows.

See, God loves us more than we could ever imagine. And, he doesn’t NEED us to pray. He WANTS us to pray–for our benefit–because it keeps us connected to him. Mark Hart, Life Teen extraordinaire, says that prayer isn’t part of our relationship with God. It IS our relationship with God.  And, the more we open our heart to God and beg him for those things that really matter—the more we ask and seek and knock, the more that we will be looking for his response and find his love for us.

So, my sweet babies, please pray often. Please pray honestly. Please open your hearts to God, our Father—not to convince him to sway to your will, but to help your heart to be open to his will for you. After all, prayer isn’t about changing God’s mind…it’s about changing our hearts. Just like your dad, he’s so excited to hear from you and to give you all of his love. All you have to do is ask 🙂

I love you the world!

Mama

 

St. Ignatius at his finest…

It’s time.

God’s been on me for a while now to write about the way life is changing for me. Somewhere in between the crazy of teaching, marriage, and motherhood (and all the rest of life’s adventures), God finds some way to communicate with my short attention span and sleep-deprived brain. St. Ignatius of Loyola always speaks about finding God in the everyday. And, I’m grateful that God meets me there.

So, here it is. Raw. Honest. Real-life.

At the end of the day, my heart is satisfied by just writing it all down—with or without the readers. My reflections become more fruitful when I see them on the screen, and if somehow, they might brighten your day, that’s great too 🙂

With love,

Jeanette