Friday, March 27, 2015

Ben and Charlie Party, High School Drama, and a Trip to the E.R. ~ 7 QTFriday


Oh, Friday, how did you get here so soon??? 

Maybe, it's because Monday and Tuesday were party days in our house, and party days always go by much too quickly. Then, Wednesday, all of the fun and games came to a screeching halt when a hefty combo of stomach pain and heart ache hit our house all at once. Thursday was spent recovering from the whirlwind whiplash, and Friday, well, TGIF!!

Let me break it all down for ya with a little 7 Quick Takes...

/1./
{By request, a Barnyard Dance themed cake.} 
On Monday our sweet lil' Charlie graduated to the rank of four year oldness.  I really love writing long, loving posts of each child's birthday, but since the time and energy I have to blog has been seriously derailed over the past year due to family circumstances, I'm going to have to settle for squeezing all that love in right here.
What a fun day we had with our little prince.  He must have asked me a hundred times.  "Is today my special birthday?" To which I would respond with a very enthusiastic,"Yes!" To which he would shout with glee, "Oh, thank you, Mommy, thank you for my birthday!" He slays me with his sweetness every day.  Speaking of sweetness...Red, red frosting blob on the chandelier, how you git up dare??? (Toddler parties are wild 'round here!)

/2./
{Concentrating on the wish.  You're never to old to make one, right?}
On Tuesday, we "celebrated" Ben's 14th birthday.  I say "celebrated" because, really, while I'm good at dishing out heaps of hugs and cake and ice cream with a smile, my heart is really curled up in a sobbing ball of denial. You are NOT 14, you are NOT 14.... If our children could stay little forever, I'd be okay with that (I think?).

/3./
Nothing yanks you out of a post-party high like the wrath of a kidney stone.  Wednesday morning, just as I was about to caffeinate myself for the sake of the rest of the family, I found my poor husband doubled over on the bathroom floor, pale, sweating, and gripping his right side in terrible pain.  Seven years ago he had a kidney stone and everything about the present situation was a repeat of his first experience, so I knew exactly where we were headed....straight to the E.R.

Thankfully, Steve's mom was able to rush over and take care of the kids so that I could get Steve to the emergency room. I prayed over him the entire way, offering up his suffering for every single intention I could think of.

Suffering is never easy to accept, but always a great opportunity for grace to abound.  Later that afternoon as I was caring for him at home, I shared with Steve how, as we were traveling to the hospital, I sensed that he was too weak to pray, that the pain was too intense for him to focus, so I was praying for him. When I expressed to him that I had asked the Lord to grant him the courage to suffer like the saints, and that I called upon a litany of saints to pray for him, he just looked at me with disbelief.  He had been praying for the grace to suffer like the saints, like Christ, too.  And, he had especially felt a strong call to ask for Padre Pio's intercession. We learned, later that evening, that Padre Pio suffered frequent kidney stones as well.

Throw the intercessory prayers of the Church Triumphant and a little Percoset at those stones and it's all good! Hallelujah!

/4./
If watching my husband suffer the agony of kidney a la stone wasn't enough to fill my cup of anxiety, seeing Benedict enroll in high school really topped it off.  Holy cow, I was not expecting a little class schedule paperwork to make me so emotional! I have wished so many times in my life that I wasn't such a blubber pants.  At one point during the enrollment lecture Ben actually asked me if I was crying. Why do boys do that??? They KNOW we're crying.  It's like asking your child after they haven't eaten for 7 hours, "Are you hungry?" DUH. Of course I'm crying! You're practically 30, and I do. not. like. it!

/5./
Because I can be a very unrealistic person sometimes, and my family lets me carry on like that until reality slaps me in the face, I tend to experience mountains of failures in life.  For example, I'm "training" for two half marathons in May (the quotes are necessary, because really, pretending to train would be more accurate). Squeezing in daily training runs to our crazy schedule has been challenging to say the least.  And, I wish I were a 5 a.m. runner, but with Joseph still trying to sanctify his mother with random middle of the night rah-rah's, I haven't a pulse before sunrise.
Over spring break, I took the boys to see McFarland U.S.A. If you haven't seen it already, go.  Take your kids.  You will love it.  They will love it. When I head out the door on Saturdays for my long run, barely alive, the troops cheer me on with, "McFarland, baby!" or "If Danny Diaz can do it, you can do it!"

/6. & 7./
In the past, I've always tried to write a little something in honor of the season of Lent, but this year I haven't written anything. Over the past few weeks, I've discovered a deep, yet quiet strength during the difficult days, especially while caring for Steve, in three things:
1.  The sacrifice of the moment. 
Instead of giving up things for Lent, I've tried to be more aware of what I can offer up moment-to-moment on a daily basis.  Sometimes it's the cream in my coffee, watching television at night, or refraining from speaking my mind, or even willing a little cheerfulness when I'd rather grumble over the menial tasks that I dread tackling from day-to-day.  Whatever it is, there's always some small sacrifice to be made, and those frequent, spontaneous offerings are, for me, stretching my capacity to love.  
2.  This book.  
3. This song:
Have a blessed and beautiful weekend, friends!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Don't Miss Out on the Oranges, Moms. Trust Me On This One...


HELLO SPRING BREAK!!  We are three days in, and I must say how delighted I am that the laundry and k.p. duties are significantly less challenging to my emotional well-being, since I don't have to conquer them while trying to teach at the same time! Yippee! (It's the little things.)

I'm also delighted to have our oldest son, Benedict, home for the week. I can hear him entertaining Joseph in the living room as I type this. I love to hear them laughing together.
{Ben is Steve's right hand man during our deck building project.}

Steve and I refuse to believe that our biggest boy is going to be in high school next year.  We were in denial until yesterday when his acceptance letter to our school of choice came in the mail. Paper always makes things seem so official.  Dammit.  

As a mother I can look at Ben and, in seconds, see every beautiful stage of his life up to this point. It's a super-power, really.  I'm sure you have felt the same about your own babies.

I wish, so very much, that I could click my heels together and go back to the early years I had with him, especially the days before school and sports began.

What a treasure those days were....the ones that began with, "What should we do today?"

I remember having so much more energy back then! I felt like I could do all of the crafty-exploration-story-time-playground-games-and-snack stuff and still tackle all of the chores during nap time.

Good golly.

I squirm with the discomfort that comes from confessing this hindsight is 20/20 truth:
I wasn't just doing the normal things that every new mom does (hello, homemade baby food).  I was doing everything I thought I should be doing (mostly) for the sake of proving 
JUST HOW PRODUCTIVE I COULD BE.

You know, in case the check-out lady asked what I was up to today, I could nonchalantly rattle off something Martha Stewartish about organizing the house, weeding the garden, crafting x10 with the kids and topping it all off with a little five miler around town with the boys in the jogging stroller.

Something in my pea-size brain thought that proof of productivity was also proof of motherly competence, or worse yet, motherly love. 

That is a lie.  If you are a mama at home with little ones, do not fall for that big fat falsehood. Love isn't always demonstrated by doing.  To a child, love is most sincerely communicated through being. When we take an undistracted moment to be with them.
Listening to them.
Watching them.
Holding them.
These are the little BIG moments that count.

Even though my list of responsibilities, when it comes to the care of my family, is longer now than ever, I feel not one bit compelled to prove to anyone just how productive I can be.  Circumstances often dictate a necessary obedience on my part to responsibilities and chores.  Neat. What mom in America isn't in the same shoes?

What I do find myself wanting to share with others are the moments in between productivity.

Moments like this, for example:
The other day, I waded through trails of Legos and cracker crumbs just to sit and watch Charlie peel an orange.  It was quite an accomplishment and, even though he mastered the process a while back, it's one that he's very proud of every single time.

He proudly uses his three year old muscles to maneuver a chair over to the fridge, crawls up upon the seat, swings the door that is twice his size open and reaches in for his favorite snack.  I could watch him do this all day.
I pulled up a chair beside him and listened intently as he explained just how to peel the orange.  You have to pull off the stwings, mom, because they are too chewy.
I really admire how children do the simplest things with such great intention.  They take their time and are not hurried or rushed.  He was just so proud of himself. The delight in his eyes, in his smile, said it all.
What a joy to experience, on a daily basis, the spectrum of ages in our family. While the oldest is sinking threes on the court and typing research papers, this guy is pretty happy to be peeling oranges.

What a joy.

Don't miss the oranges, moms. You know, we'll never get this special time back with our children.

Trust me when I say, you will one day long to live these precious moments with your little ones again.

Savor this season while it's here.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Mr. Blue Eyes and His Latest Wonders ~ Joseph is almost Nine Months!


While the boys sit at the table, grunting and whining in cranial agony over the final pages of copywork I assigned them (copying poetry is my punishment of choice when they assault my nerves with relentless fighting before I've finished my morning coffee), I thought I would bask in the glory of the one child who is all love and peace.  Behold:
I know, I know, his innocence is only due to the fact that his vocabulary is limited to drooly babbling, but that's beside the point. Joseph really is so beautifully gentle and cute, and because he's basically a sweet lump of sugar, I BELIEVE he will stay sweet and gentle forever, and he will never (like his elders) drive his mama to the brink of insanity (fingers crossed).

Anyway, back to the sugar! In less that two weeks, Joey will be 9 months.  Can you believe it?
{I spy a tater chip. Prepare to army crawl into the kitchen.}
{Head and shoulders buns and toes, buns and toes...because knees are boring}

It seems like yesterday that these pages were splattered with all the self pity of my overly emotional, overly squishy state of expanding pregnant being.  Thanks for hanging in there with me through all of that, because hello, isn't every single baby worth the swollen toes and, well, other unmentionable pains? YES! Yes a thousand times! I mean, just look at this little love!
If by any chance you are one of the rare and precious gems who actually loves being pregnant (jealous, jealous, jealous) then, you're probably wondering what in blazes I'm even talking about. Pain, sacrifice, stretch marks and hemorrhoids, what? If that's you, please, feel free to ignore the verbiage and scroll through the delicious photos of Mr. Blue Eyes!
So do you wanna know what's up with our littlest man? Well, beside the fact that he officially has four pearly white chompers and is completely over rice cereal, preferring to move on to more exciting noshings such as pizza and chips (who can blame him?), he's also crawling at the speed of light and loves to pull himself up anywhere and everywhere to get a better view of the world around him.

I wasn't going to let you guys in on this, but Steve and I are detecting some pretty serious supernatural gifts in him as well.  We believe he has the gift of omniscience. Not kidding. Those big blue eyes can see all things at all times, all things meaning, me.

No matter where I am in the house, he can find me. I seriously cannot hide from the boy.  He's Daniel Boone. Not that I would want to hide, I mean, look at those blue eyes, would you run away from those? His brothers, maybe, him? Nope!

I know what you're thinking.  Maybe he just has a keen sense of smell, right? Well, given the fact that, ever since his birth, I'm sadly only averaging about 2.1 showers per week, so I wouldn't bet on the fact that he's drawn to the faded scent of my tropical shampoo or lavender lotion.

We can also confidently rule out a super-sharp sense of hearing, because after all, he is of the male species and, well, you know where I'm going with this.
Thus, I conclude that his gift must be supernatural in nature.  Even if I'm scurrying around the house trying to keep life in a somewhat ordered state of being, he just follows me around like it's his job. Just yesterday, I was quietly picking up dirty laundry behind Charlie's bedroom door, and just as I turned around, boom! There he was, staring right up at me!

Unfortunately, one of these days his little "gift" is gonna throw a wrench in my chocolate sneaking schemes.  But, for now, his desire to keep an eye on his mama adorable, and so is he!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

How *Doesn't* She Do It? ~ The Question We Should Really Be Asking

*Resurrected from the archives of All Things Bright And Beautiful, where my blogging journey first began. Though written four years ago, the words mean as much now, if not more, as they did back then.*

This post is for all of the young moms out there who faithfully wake up every day and give everything that they have to their families.  And, it is for all of the mom's who have said to me over the years, "How do you do it??" Those little words have placed a great weight on my heart.  A weight of worry, that we are waking each day perceiving other moms to have perfect homes, perfect kids, perfect husbands, perfect lives.  We all know those "other moms" who never struggle, can handle the many messes of life better than we can, breezing through the diapers and soccer practices and homework with a fit physique and culinary talents that could easily make her a star on Food Network.

This post is also an invitation for you to come into my home.  To see how little merit perceptions really have in the face of reality. To give you encouragement, so that you may know that we are on this journey together. A journey that does indeed have a purpose, a really deep, divine purpose.  Wherever you are, whatever your state in life, it is possible to be happy and to find joy in the midst of the muck, the mundane, the madness.  

In fact, I'm not sure that you can find authentic joy, authentic happiness anywhere else...
In The Beginning...
I have to admit, up front, that when Steve and I were first married, and had two little ones rolling around at our feet, I enjoyed the challenge of making our small apartment homey.  I loved keeping it ordered and decorated, filling it with the comforting scents of freshly baked bread and cookies.  It was easy to do in a small space, and within the schedule of feedings, naps, daily Mass, and play dates, I still had time to study, read, run or work-out almost every day. 

Then, came the blessing of more children and a bigger home and Steve traveling more with work.  Soon, the slow-controlled pace down life's scenic slopes suddenly sped up and and the whole "controlled" part of the pace was the first to crash.

That's when I had to let go of so very many things.  Yes, things or, better yet, ideas and ideals.  Ideas of what I should be doing, wearing, who I should be being, where I should be going, and the ideal of making everything just right, or at least appear to be just right.  Motherhood from day one (I'm talking conception, here, after all once the baby is conceived you are a mother.), was not easy, it's never easy, it's not supposed to be easy, but the sleep deprivation and ten thousand diaper changes were all catching up with me.

As the messes and laundry and bills piled up, I was out of breath and out of time every day. Time to do something for me, something I enjoyed. And, suddenly the dial of sacrifice was being turned up and I squirmed fiercely with discomfort wishing for it to end. This vocation was just too hard at times, and I didn't like it and I didn't want to be in it.

I really had to hunker down inside my soul and get eye-to-eye with our Lord and tell Him, "Only for You, can I do this, can I be a wife and a mother.  And, only with Your help can I do it well.  But, you have to show me how, and then give me everything I need to do it, to be it, to live it.  And please, when I stomp my feet and fall on the floor and cry, please, please don't give up on me, don't go away.  Stay beside me, close beside me."

He heard me.  He always hears me, He hears you.  And, because His love for us is perfect, He wants us, all of us.  Not just pieces of us, our projects and our problems. He desires for our souls to be perfect,  not our homes, nor our yards, not our Christmas cards or clothing, just us. And, the way that we get there - to that place of perfection, of holiness - is not going to be through a long list of accomplishments.  It's going to be from a long list of "Yes's."  Yes to the moment, to the late nights and diaper changes and teaching and disciplining and forgiving and accepting how very weak and fragile we are. Yes to help, lots and lots of help.

Life in a box, Kids in a box, God in a box...
I've always had this special affection for monastic life.  The rhythm of work and prayer, silence and song, attention to detail and order, beautiful, beautiful order topped off with joy is so attractive.  At first, I tried to run my home and my school like a little monastery.  The boys were my little monks.  Then the lightening bolt struck and I tried to imagine 100 little boy-monks in a monastery, and realized that they would still pick their noses, miss the toilet and bounce off of the walls there, too. 
I also found the Madeline series of stories hopelessly irresistible: 

“In an old house in Paris 
that was covered with vines 

Lived twelve little girls in two straight lines 

In two straight lines they broke their bread 

And brushed their teeth and went to bed. 
They left the house at half past nine 
In two straight lines in rain or shine- 
The smallest one was Madeline.” 

And, I wanted to move to Paris and have a home full of girls so that they could show the boys how to make straight lines and brush their teeth. 

I was putting my life in a box, the box of my imagination - perfect, tidy, just as I think they all should be.  So, God in His wisdom gave me five boys and a farm.  And, nothing in my home is straight and they sometimes forget to brush their teeth, and Paris is very, very far away....

Sometimes at the end of the day and in little moments throughout the day I look for lovely things and realize that I still have ideals, doesn't everyone??  I would be lying to you if I told you that I don't long for this:



A table perfectly set for a beautiful feast, everything in it's place.  But my reality is this:
A dining table covered with heaps of laundry that I fold while reviewing for a history test with Andrew.

If only I had the power of Mary Poppins to snap my fingers and tidy up my children's room for them, I would (my little imaginary room from Pottery Barn.) . 

But, I must be patient with the oldest four as they figure out how to share a very small space. 
Blankets hang from upper bunks, boots and books litter the floor.  I know I cannot hover - they must learn to be good stewards of what they've been given, and yet live in their space, and enjoy their little treasures.  I try to remind myself as I'm winding through the maze of toys scattered over the floor that their mess is evidence of creativity, constructing, dreaming, creating.  I can teach them how to clean up, I cannot teach the former.
Desiring order and beauty in itself is not a bad thing, it points toward the highest beauty the highest order, which is Heaven, and desiring Heaven is the whole point of our existence.  Keeping an orderly home is a daily endeavor always at the forefront of my mental list of tasks. The truth is we all function much better in an ordered space.  But, the boys are looking to me to show them the balance - the prudence to know when to do the dishes and when to run outside to catch the first snowflakes of winter on our tongues, when to organize the toy room and when to close the door and instead read our pile of library books or make something that will explode or take a nap.
Questions and Confidence...
Everyday I wrestle with the questions of raising our sons:  Am I teaching them in the right way? Are they growing strong in mind, body and spirit? Do they know that I love them? Am I a model to them of authentic femininity and modesty in a world so darkened by lies and deceptions? I fight the temptation of feeling inadequate for the task of forming them in all areas of life.  But, I know deep down that I am adequate if I am willing to cooperate with God's grace. We all are.  No matter how things turn out.
There have been moments where I have been so overwhelmed that I have physically felt the weight of life compressing my chest, sucking the life out of me. Panic and fear settles into my bones and frightens me away from the front lines where I am needed, where I am called to be.

And, yet, I can say with full confidence that it is not my children who have made me feel overwhelmed. It was, and always is me. Me gripping so tightly, clinging firmly to my ways of doing things, to what I think is best.  I am the problem-solver, the check-mark maker.  I can hold my list up like proof that I'm not failing, not a failure, not feeling like a failure.

Oh how beautifully life comes undone at times, like a rope unraveled! Then, and only then, can God embrace our once tightly-wound selves and be the strength that holds us together.  I trust Him.

Breathing in the Beauty...
Then, like the flip of a switch, the light comes in, things become clearer. You cannot describe to anyone how beautiful your life is.  How seeing your child's face light up when you walk into a room brings you to your knees.  How catching one child forgiving another or giving comfort to a hurt allows an experience of greatness to seep into your soul, filling the cracks of doubt, negativity, and resentment with something eternal. How receiving a spontaneous hug from someone so small can soothe old wounds and the freshly felt shame over all of our faults and failures.


It's all so terribly and wonderfully worth it - having children, one two or ten. Don't ever let anyone make you feel or think any different.  And, if you are wondering if you can handle another, the answer is yes.  His strength is made perfect in our weaknesses.
Perhaps the joy - the real true joy that we as Christian mothers often posses - is the decoy that throws others off target.  Perhaps they think that because we are joyful that we must not suffer, we must not struggle, we must not fail, we must not swear and pout and eat chocolate and watch movies.  That's not real. That's not me or you, is it?

Every week the UPS man comes to our house delivering some sort of package for our home or business. I know that he has peered into my home, messes everywhere, and myself, a mess to match, never a stitch of make-up, shoulder soaked with spit up, never mind the hair.  But, he always treats me the same, with kindness, with attentiveness.  That's when I realize that other people, in general, are okay with me.  Maybe I'm just not okay with myself.  Maybe the apologies that gush forth when an unexpected visitor arrives over the messy house and children duking it out in the background are not about the visitor, but about me, my insecurities.  A clean home and polite children say to the guest, "See, I can handle this, and I'm good at this motherhood thing."

Perceptions, perceptions, perceptions.

Eye on the Prize...
What matters, my friends, what really, truly matters is that we recognize that this life and the vocation that we live is not about doing good or being good at anything or looking good while being good and doing good.  It's about the reception of the gift of motherhood, with everything it brings, and the handing it back to God, day-by-day, minute-by-minute and allowing Him to lead us, to help us, to love us. To believe in His mercies and his blessings, and to begin again, and again, and again. 
Express gratitude. Even when your lists of wants seem to overpower any emotion of thanksgiving.  Gratitude helps us recognize that the little boy patiently waiting for you in the wagon for another ride around the yard is the voice of our Lord telling you that this is exactly what He wants you to do today, even if it doesn't look like much.  

It looks like everything to Him.  

Who cares what it looks like to anyone else?



Wednesday, February 25, 2015

When Our Boys Remind Me That Laughter is Often the Best Medicine


I am writing this post mainly as a letter of sorts to myself so that I may read it one day in the future when all of the boys are grown and living on their own.  Just typing those words makes my eye swell with tears.

If I had a million reasons why I love being the mama of boys before last Sunday, I now have a million and one.

Sunday morning I woke up feeling very sick, and decided to stay home with Joseph from Mass and try to rest.  From the couch I could see outside.  The sky was very overcast, and the cold wind swirled around a dusting of snow that was just a couple of inches shy of being deep enough to go sledding.

The boys will be disappointed, they've been waiting all winter to go sledding. 

As I stared out the window into the grey, I felt my heart sink deep.  I cannot be sick, Lord. The sick cannot take care of the sick. Please, make me well. Please.

The past couple of weeks have been a bit of a blur.  Steve's Lyme symptoms are cycling hard again. He is miserable, and I am finding it impossible to separate myself from his pain and frustration.  (I will write more about this later.) My family needs me, I cannot be sick, Lord, there is no time!!

When Steve and the boys returned from Mass, they ate quietly and played games and watched movies downstairs so that I could rest.  I tried hard to sleep, but my restlessness could not be calmed.  I began to feel anxious, because I knew I needed to sleep so that my body could heal before Monday's demands kicked in. Joseph was in a mood, too.  He only wanted me.  Everyone tried to cheer him up, but he fussed and fussed for my arms.

I'm usually not so easily overwhelmed, but I caught myself fighting back tears several times during the day.  Not because I felt sorry for myself, mind you, but because I was consumed with worry. And, every vitamin, essential oil, herbal supplement, healing tea etc., etc. was not working to rid my aching body of the bugs!!

Okay, I was feeling sorry for myself. I do not know how to suffer well. This, I know!

Just as I had resigned myself to the couch, thinking I might try to read with Joseph on my lap, the rest of the boys came charging up from the basement like a herd of donkeys (if you can imagine). Oy vey.

When I heard them digging around for odds and ends in our junk drawer, and strategizing between bursts of laughter and grunting, I realized that they were trying to figure out how to take an old broken Nerf basketball goal and attach it to our back door.
Within minutes they somehow figured out how to McGyver the goal into place.  Shoe laces and duct tape forever, man.
For the next TWO HOURS I completely forgot that I was sick.  Steve and I were wonderfully entertained as we watched with side stitches while all of the boys challenged each other to the most crazy scoring attempts they could come up with.
Off the ceiling, over the wall,  from a headstand,....oh, we belly laughed so hard at their hilarious testosterone charged efforts to get that tattered foam ball through the hoop! I am sure that the roar from their celebration every time they made a bucket could be heard by every neighbor around the block. I saw glimpses into their future college days. This indoor Nerf competition will probably either morph into a drinking game or at least be a serious form of procrastination from studying.  Just keepin' it real.
Even Charlie pulled up a front row seat to watch the action.  He made himself a safe place in the corner with his little stash of snacks and a cup of juice.  Oh, Charlie. You are so loved! I have looked at these pictures a hundred times, they make me so happy.  Splatter stained pajama top, pants pulled up chest high (classy), bed head, bare feet (the best!), and all of his best expressions.  Pure goodness!
Dad obviously had to throw up a couple of shots, ya know, just to remind the boys who they get all of their athletic gifts from.
No basketball for me yet, mom, I'm working on my wrestling moves. I call this the cranial crunch.
I've been super anxious over the past months, praying every sort of prayer possible for the Lord to guide us to a home in the country, because the boys really need room to run and explore and hunt and camp and just be boys. Every chipped up wall and shredded carpet corner reminds me of that.   I worry over everything for them.

Sunday's events settled my heart down (a little).   The boys reminded me to choose contentment, find joy, and to make the most of the present circumstances. In doing so I am able to trust in the Lord's plan for our family and to believe He truly is taking care of our every need.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Fifty Shades of Grey - Leave it in the Ashes


For the past couple of months, every single time I've opened up my laptop to jump on the internet to grab a recipe or respond to an e-mail, I've been bombarded with the world's apparent obsession with 50 Shades of Grey. Tidbits about the movie, the books, blog posts and news articles about the movie and the books, the soundtrack, the actors are everywhere. And, somehow it's all so very news-worthy (which astounds me, given the current international political climate).

I understand that when over 100 million copies of a book is sold, it's going to garner some serious attention.  What I don't understand is why this book?

I haven't read the Fifty Shades trilogy, nor do I plan to.  And Hollywood would have to cut my arm off before I'd hand over the money for a movie ticket. That being said, I have spent some time skimming through multiple news articles and blog posts, all offering perspectives from both sides of the fence, because I want to be able to dialog with other women about the books, should the opportunity arise.

Nearly every article I've covered so far has been an evaluation of the books or movie, pointing out the grave matter in each, and why they story is a terrible offense against women, a false representation of love in any form and an serious evil that should be avoided. This is all very well and good, and I support every effort out there that attempts to persuade folks to donate their books to the dumpster or to think twice about seeing the movie.

But, honestly, I think that if we're really going to reach the masses who have already been sucked into the lie that 50 Shades is in any way a worthwhile read, we have to go so much deeper than a pure dissection of the story's parts and all of the things that are morally wrong within it.
The quote above, which originally came from author Arsene Houssene, are indicative of our culture's reaction to the Fifty Shades phenomenon.  100 million copies sold of any publication isn't a number reflecting pure curiosity or an avid reader's desire to expand his or her repertoire. 100 million copies of pornographic erotica successfully marketed primarily to women gives positive probability that there is indeed a God-shaped hole in all of us, a hole that, if not filled with Christ, can be filled with anything except Christ.


...Jesus, wearied as He was with his journey, sat down beside the well.  There came a woman of Samaria to draw water.  Jesus said to her, "Give me a drink."  The Samaritan woman said to him, "how is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?" Jesus answered her, If you knew the gift of God and who it is that is saying to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked him and he would have given you the living water." - John 4: 6-10

We are all, in some way, the woman at the well.  A woman who thirsts, but is often times content with quenching her thirst with the water that the world has to offer.  Sometimes we are so thirsty that we can be convinced that even the unclean water is that which will satisfy us. 

What is it that we thirst for? Happiness? Peace? To love and to be loved?

Maybe we simply thirst for a life different from our own.  For many of us, the life we live now is not the life we planned for ourselves.  Who, at the altar, expects to encounter such crosses as loneliness, abuse, the loss of a child, neglect, infidelity, illness or financial struggles along the marital road? Not one of us.  Or, for the single person, who had hoped by now to be wed but is not, the struggle is very real. Yet, when these burdensome hardships arise, if we do not have Christ in our lives to anchor us deep in virtue, it is easy to be swept away by the lesser goods that the world has to offer.

Being swept away by the temptation into any kind of diversion from the pain of our current situation can be so very powerful, because any comfort-seeking measure temporarily helps us to forget how much life hurts. And, forgetting feels good.  Whatever diversion we choose, whether it be the 50 Shades kind or something else, the end is always the same - it all leaves us thirsting for more.

As my heart felt pressed to reach out to the 50 Shades readers, the scripture from the gospel of John regarding the woman at the well unfolded in a new way for me.  I thought I knew the story so well, but as I dug deeper, I began to see Jesus in a way I had never seen Him before.  I saw a Jesus who came seeking not water, but a woman who was lost, a woman who thirsted, a woman whose heart's longings were deeper than the depths of the well.

We learn from the scriptures that Jesus traveled out of His way to Samaria.  He placed himself in a potentially scandalous situation in order to meet and to speak to the woman at the well. He was a Jew, and he was a man.  Jews did not mingle with Samarians.  Men did not gather at the well.  The well was a place for women to congregate, to socialize, to gossip. Even His disciples pressed Him with the question, "Why are you talking to her?" 

In His perfect wisdom, His perfect love for the woman, Jesus did not tell the her why having multiple husbands was wrong, he did not go into a theological or moral pontification over the gravity of her sinful pursuits.  He simply expressed to her that HE, the living water, is the only thing that can ever, that will ever quench her thirsts.

How beautiful this is.  
He came for her.  
He sought her out.  
He offered himself unreservedly to her.

In His humanity, Jesus could speak to the woman from a place of deep understanding.  He, too, had been tempted.  He, too, had known (and would know) great suffering. He did not withhold from her the firmness of truth: she was living a life of sin.  But, His visit with her was not simply reduced to a lengthy lecture over her indiscretions.  We know that she was deeply touched by His mercy, His understanding and His promise of a real, authentic, fulfilling love, because she ran into the city to share her story with others.

Could it be that Jesus knew that the woman at the well was already very aware that her life of sin was wrong, but what she didn't know, or rather, what she didn't trust was that the Lord could fulfill the longings in her heart more than anyone or anything else? 

Are we, the Christian women of today, perhaps walking in her very same shoes? When the disordered content of books like 50 Shades of Grey is not enough to shock us, to offend us (aside from the disturbingly graphic sexual content of the story, the psychotic character, Christian Grey actually uses a wooden cross as an instrument of torture on his victims) I have to wonder if the strong temptation to read on is more a matter of trust.  

Simply accepting the fact that reading the book is wrong isn't enough motivation to put it down. The reader, or any of us for that matter, must also trust that Christ knows our every thirst, our every longing, our every pain, and that He will go out of his way to meet us where we are and to love us through our pain, just as He did for the woman at the well.

It is not enough for someone to say to the anorexic, EAT! Your body needs nourishment, you could die if you don't eat.  It is not enough to say to the alcoholic, stop drinking! Can you not see how destructive your behavior is when you drink.  This is true for every single one of our sins for every single sinful temptation that we struggle with. Acknowledging the temptation and the sin is just the beginning (just as Jesus told the woman of her sin), but it is not the end.  The end comes when we open ourselves to the One True Lover of our Souls, Jesus Christ, and allow ourselves to receive Him, the healing water, the only water that will quench our thirst.

Tomorrow, Ash Wednesday, we begin the season of Lent.  This is the time of year when we are invited to step back and examine our lives and ourselves in relation to Christ.  For those of us who are Catholic, we receive the ashes upon our forehead, reminding us or our mortality, Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return

The ashes also represent everything on this earth that has no eternal value, the things that we cling to, the things that we believe satisfy us, but truly leave us thirsting for something more. 

This Lent, may we find the courage to let go of those very things that separate us from the love of Christ.  May we find also the strength to leave them in the ashes, so that our hearts might be open to receive Him, the living water, who has come for us, who will continue to go out of His way in pursuit of us, so that in His love we might find the deepest satisfaction of our every longing in Him alone.