Thursday, June 30, 2011

Countdown to 30: The real me

{I'm doing a series of answering peoples' questions about me and my life as I count down to my 30th birthday. If you have something you'd like to ask me--anything!--please leave a comment or send me an email. It's not everyday I open myself up to answering any and all random questions, so ask away!}

Today's question comes from Heather--a different Heather from yesterday (and a sweet friend from Denver).  Apparently I've decided to answer questions from people named Heather first.  :)

Is there a life you'd live in an alternate reality? :) Do you think there's "another you" inside your head or do you feel you are living true to the person you really are?

Hmmm.  That's a good question, and now I'm actually going to have to think this through.  :) 

Really my answer would honestly have to be that I do believe I am living true to the person I really am.  No alternate me lurking beneath.  And I think I've always been me, more or less.  Growing up I was very stubborn, independent, and shy.  I knew what I wanted in life, I was happy when I had a close friend or two, I loved to laugh, and I would spend hours with my nose in a book.  That's pretty much who I am today.  :)

As a kid and teenager, my faith was a huge component of my life.  I am not implying that I was perfect or never did anything wrong or always chose to do the right thing and obey God (because I didn't!  I could be a jerk!), but I regularly prayed, believed I needed Jesus, attended church, and read my Bible.  Sometimes God felt distant (more on that in an upcoming post, where I address Candice's juicy questions :) ) but I never strayed too far off the general beaten path in the sense of what I believed, even if I didn't live it perfectly.  (Isn't that the great challenge of life, lining those two things up?)  And while my journey now seems to be leading me towards a more Sacramental, historical faith, I remain true to the same things I've always known.  God loves me.  Jesus died for me.  I want to live for Him in faith and grace.

You're going to laugh, but as a high schooler, I had no interest in the eventual raising of children.  :)  In fact, I used to tease my dear, poor mother that she would never have grandchildren (I'm an only child, thus her only hope), OR that if she did, I would stick them in daycare full-time.  (I'm betting I gave my sweet, adamant-about-being-a-stay-at-home-mom more than a few gray hairs.  I actually remember her telling me if I didn't want kids, I shouldn't get married.  Go Mom!  And, I told you I was a jerk sometimes!) 

And when I entered college I had great aspirations to either be a licensed MFT (Marriage Family Therapist), or a lobbyist on Capitol Hill. 

I've always loved the study of Psychology, thus I majored in it in college.  (I probably get this from my dad, who graduated with a degree in Psychology.  We Perruzzi's are interested in the strange inner-workings of the mind, apparently.)  However, I know enough about myself now to know that I have no desire to be a marriage counselor--not even a little bit!  I think I would eventually snap and just start screaming at people to be nice to one another and to stop getting divorced--not exactly the makings for a successful career in "the helping profession".  :)  I think instead that, if I worked in this field, I would be a counselor helping traumatized children and teens, or those battling addictions.  The marginalized and hurting. 

And I freely admit that the lobbyist thing would be fun.  I loved my Political Science classes in college, I enjoy public speaking, politics is interesting to me in general, and I adore Washington DC.

But the thing is, neither career is particularly compatible with the vocation of marriage.  Because the vocation of marriage, as historically taught by the Catholic Church, generally includes the receiving of children. 

So, while I have various interests, and I can think of a few career paths or alternate lives that might be fun, I know they're not at the core of who God created me to be.  And I believe you can be an intelligent, well-read, strong, passionate woman...who raises her children at home.  I believe you can pursue your interests and the gifts God has given you from right inside your house.  I don't get paid to counsel people, but I've got five children who need my guidance and "unconditional positive regard" on a daily basis.  I don't visit congressmen or push important legislation through the Senate, but I occasionally advocate for the things I'm passionate about and strive to build a good foundation for my children (in age-appropriate ways) when it comes to issues of our day.

And if I hadn't gotten married, and therefore not had children, I would probably have ended up eventually moving to a developing country to do relief work anyway.  I honestly don't think I would have ultimately become a career-type-person making lots of money.  But we are all part of a system where we are instructed to choose a career path--even though you'd actually maybe hate being an MFT.  :)  I'm grateful to my parents who modeled the important things in life for me, and thankfully my threats of not having children (or having them and putting them in daycare while I rode the subway to work with a latte in hand) were all just talk.  :)

Allllll of this to say, I'm simply me.  I am who I am.  These days I feel as if the world is my oyster and quite frankly, life is good.  I have a fabulous husband--my bestest friend--who I have tons in common with.  I have five, soon-to-be seven, wonderful children who do drive me crazy, but really, they are rather amazing people.  I have awesome girlfriends in various places who make me laugh and make me think--a true support system.  I get to spend my days at home learning alongside my children, helping them to know Jesus, and comforting them when life is cruel.  There is a lot of dying to self that happens in motherhood, or at least it should, and God is not content to leave me where I'm at.  It's hard, but I know that ultimately, it's good for me.  And I am falling more and more in love with Jesus and yes, His Church too.  Plus, being an at-home mom and wife, I have lots of time to blog or to read good books with titles like Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist.  :)

To use a psychological term from my past, I think I'm decently self-actualized, or at least on the path.  I discover more and more as the days go by who God made me to be, and the joys that come from a life lived in service to Jesus.  I'm finding that life, and more specifically, life with God, is so incredibly rich and full of depth, even when things are hard or less than ideal.  Jesus tells us that we find our life by giving it away.  By becoming less, so that He can be more. 

So it's really not about me at all, and there is some crazy-powerful freedom in knowing that.  Thanks so much for asking!

****All of the above photos were taken on Mother's Day of this year.  At Olive Garden.  Because the Italian restaurant we tried to go to was closed, and so we ended up there.  It may not be in any way similar to, say, what we ate in Rome, but I think their salad and breadsticks kind of rock.  Don't judge.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Countdown to 30: Growing up at Creston Community Church

{I'm doing a series of answering peoples' questions about me and my life as I count down to my 30th birthday.  If you have something you'd like to ask me--anything!--please leave a comment or send me an email.  It's not everyday I open myself up to answering any and all random questions, so ask away!}

So today's question is in regards to who my favorite leader at VBS was when I was a kid.  (It was Heather Kelley, one of the leaders at VBS, who asked.  :)  And I think she was also my favorite--I'm not just saying that!)  Can you find me in the photo?  I'm the kid on the left, standing up straight wearing a blue tye-dyed shirt and blue shorts.  :)

I grew up going to this small country church in my hometown of Creston.  The church is a bajillion years old and was founded by some sort of circuit riding preacher cowboy in the 1880s or something.  Strange.

Anyway, I have incredibly fond memories of my 18 years attending there.  The old wooden chairs, the songs we'd sing about Jesus, various Christmas programs, and Easter services where I'd play "Ode to Joy" on my clarinet with my best friend playing the flute. 

And, of course, VBS.

Funny thing is that when I moved out and went to college, I found myself attending the church in San Luis Obispo that actually drove out to Creston and put on this VBS each year.  (Though I didn't realize it at the time.)  So the above photo is extra funny for me because it's a bit like my two worlds are colliding: my childhood in rural Creston, and my college/married-with-kids life in San Luis Obispo.

Anyway, I LOVED VBS.  It was always a blast and the leaders were a ton of fun.  Lots of kids from the community joined up too.

And check me and my tye-dyed tshirt out in this shot--I'm the person with the brown hair not looking at the camera (??!!) on the far right.  My flute-playing best friend of over 20 years is second from the left.  And that eyesore of a trailer in the background?  Yeah, that was where our youth group met for Sunday School.  We had to use a stinky space-heater in the winter because it was so cold.

Honestly, the people from Grace Church putting this on must have thought we were such hicks.  And I think we kind of were.

It's funny because I wouldn't choose this type of church now as an adult.  Nondenominational, out in the country, many a cowboy, super casual, flannelgraph and Sunday School Charlie.  But.  I encountered Jesus there and it has played such a wonderful role in my faith journey.  (And, I loved Sunday School Charlie.)  There was nurture and love and that's where we went, every single week, to worship God.  Nice and simple.

So that was VBS and a little bit about the very first church I ever belonged to.  I attended from the time I was a baby on up until I moved out to go to college.  I've visited a time or two since but I hardly know anyone there anymore.  They've since built a new building but the old one (that we're standing in front of in the top photo) is still standing.  It's in the heart of "town", right across from my elementary school (where my dad worked his entire teaching career) and just down the road from the Long Branch and the Loading Chute and the Post Office.  :)

I heart Creston.

And, I heart Creston Church.  And VBS.  And the awesome Grace Church people who came each year to teach us cool songs like "God's Not Dead (He's Alive)" (or something like that) and that song that has the words "beautiful" and "butterfly" in it, I think.  Good times for sure.

So thanks for asking, Heather!  You were a rockin' VBS leader!    :)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Countdown to 30: what do you want to know?

Yes, you read that right.

I'm on the cusp of the big 3-0.



It sure sounds all grown-up and adult-ish, but really?

I don't feel all grown-up and adult-ish.

I feel like me.

And I love my life.

A wonderful friend of mine from high school is about to turn 30, and he is doing a series of blogs on Facebook answering questions about himself and his life, that people have asked him.

I thought it would be fun to do the same. 

Because I'm an unabashed copycat.

SO, lay it on me.  Ask me anything!

You can leave your questions in the comments section here, you can email me, tweet me, or leave them on my Facebook page.  I promise I'll answer them all.  They can be questions about my past, my present, my life, my travels, my future, my worldview, my faith, etc.  An.y.thing.  Nothing is too trivial, or too serious.

I wish I could have you all over to my house to celebrate this big birthday milestone with me, but we can have a virtual party here where you get to know me a little better, and that sounds kinda fun!

Now if no one asks me anything, I'm gonna have to come up with random stuff that is sure to be boring.  So it's in your interest to ask a question or two (or three.)  :)

Enough rambling.  You can ask as many questions as you want up through July 14th--the big day when I leave my 20s behind.  So let's see 'em!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Driving a status symbol

I alluded earlier to the fact that we had made an exciting purchase.  Which we picked up on Saturday.

What is the purchase, you ask?  And why is Mary Lu so very happy about it?

Well, it's a van.

A huge van.

A huge, 15-seat passenger van.


Never thought I'd own me one of these.  Well, until Anna was born and we figured out the whole openness to life/adoption/we're-going-to-end-up-with-a-slew-of-kids thing.  Then I knew that, most likely, we'd eventually need some sort of behemoth car.

And "eventually" has become "now", because our swagger wagon only seats 8 people.  Meaning that once we bring our girls home from Ethiopia, our family of nine won't fit, period.  Boo.

Thus the need for a larger vehicle.

And it doesn't get much larger than a passenger van, now, does it?

Check me out, turning to look behind me before I put that puppy in reverse.  I am so awesome.

I have to tell you that I was so, SO intimidated to own one of these.  How on EARTH was I going to drive it?  But, you know what?  It actually is turning out to be somewhat less intimidating than our minivan was when we first bought it.  For some reason, the leap from a sedan to a minivan felt more foreign than when I was driving this guy on Saturday.  The visibility out the windows is actually superior to that of our Toyota Sienna, and the mirrors are better too. 

The main issue will be, ahem, parking.  BUT, I'm HORRIBLY nervous about parking our other van anyway so I am well accustomed to parking with lots of empty spots around me, and in the back of the lot.  :)

I also have to tell you that I am so opposed to cars being seen as status symbols (gross!)...BUT, I've decided that this is one status symbol I am proud to own, and proud to drive.  Dang proud.  Proud enough to even make me cry a little as we brought it home.

Because OH MY GOODNESS, how rich are we?!  We have five, soon to be SEVEN, beautiful children.  We had to splurge and buy an insanely huge car because our current one isn't insanely huge enough to hold all of the love and relationships in our family!  We have had to further put off our landscaping plans (our yard, front and back, is a bit of a disaster) and other house updates (A/C, anyone?)  in lieu of receiving two extra-special daughters with their extra-special chromsomes and extra-special hearts.  Because not only are we paying for this adoption, but we have had to buy a car, too.

So, yes.  People may see me screech chug lurch drive up in my massive, commercial-ish van with all manner of children spilling out and think, ohmygosh how embarrassing to have one of those for your car.  But the reality?  Our riches far exceed anything this earth has to offer.  God is so incredibly good to us.

And, it will mean that our daughters are home.

Because right now the new passenger van is just sitting parked, empty, next to our house.  We don't need it yet.  Until our daughters are here, we all still fit into the swagger wagon we bought in 2007.

So come home soon, girls.  We are getting more anxious by the day to kiss your sweet faces and have you here, with us, where you belong.  We have a status-symbol car big enough to fit all of us now, and we can't wait to begin our life together.  We love and miss you terribly.  Hurry home.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Weekend update

Sorry for the lack of bloggage this week!

The three older kids did VBS Monday through Friday so between drop-offs and pick-ups, fun outings with friends, T-ball, anniversary celebrations, and houseguests arriving, we've been busy 'round these here parts. 

We're basically having lots of summertime fun, enjoying the warm weather, and my kids are eating copious amounts of fresh fruits and veggies.  I heart Summer!

Oh, and we're picking up an intimidating exciting purchase today!  More on that later.

And isn't Kaitlyn so sweet in this picture???  She makes me so happy.  As we drove past our neighborhood parish earlier in the week (the very day this photo was taken, in fact), she announced that:

a)  she wants to marry Jesus, and

b)  she wants to go to Mass everyday, to spend time with Jesus.

Children are so interesting in the way they relate to God--each with their own unique style.  Kaitlyn in particular has the sweetest love for Jesus, in such a personalized way.  I love it.  I bet Jesus loves it.  She is precious for sure.

Hope you're having a fantastic weekend!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

9 years!

Us on the roof of our hotel, overlooking the entire city of Rome.  Love.

Today we celebrate nine years (!!!) of marriage.  (You can read all about our proposal here.)

Five children, one out-of-state move, and various assorted random adventures later, I can honestly say that I'm more in love with my husband than I was on June 22, 2002 (which at the time I didn't think possible), and that I've never, ever been more sure of something before, more sure that our decision to marry nine years ago was the right thing to do.

I can also honestly say that our marriage is stronger than ever.  We're closer than ever.  I see God's graces and love and blessings poured out upon us on a daily basis. 

We now believe marriage is a Sacrament and that God has called us to a life-giving, generous love.  The vocation of marriage is far more meaningful and far more beautiful than I could have imagined.  Difficult at times, yes--but an amazing picture of Christ and His Church, and an amazing crucible for growing in virtue and love. 

Kevin and I have, and always have had, a great time together.  We love talking together and laughing together.  We love just spending time at home or with friends, with our kiddos, hanging out.

When we first set out on this journey nine years ago today, at ages 20 and 21 respectively, we were younger than we are now, and had a lot to learn.  But some things we knew, and those things haven't changed.  Our relationship has matured and deepened, our faith has grown and shifted, and all of this happening side by side, together.  God has brought us so far from where we were back then, but He brought us BOTH along.  They say you change a lot in your twenties, and perhaps that is true.  But we changed together.

So happy anniversary to us!  Nine years may not be very long in the grand scheme of things, but it's been a great and busy nine years nonetheless.  I love being Kevin's wife, and I love being a mother and raising our children together.  I am blessed!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Locks of Love

My two oldest girls have had super duper long hair for awhile now.  They loved it, and so did I for the most part.

But they decided they wanted to get it cut.  To donate to Locks of Love.

And so today, while my boys were at a skating party, I took the girls and their baby sister over to Great Clips for the haircuts. 

I nearly gasped when the long ponytails came off!  (Yes, Kaitlyn's shoes are on the wrong feet.  She insists on wearing them that way.)

Anna and Kaitlyn (and Mommy) are loving their new 'dos.  Couldn't wait to show their brothers, and are looking forward to showing their daddy when he gets home tonight!

Oh how I long to raise compassionate children who pursue virtue, reject vanity, and love Jesus by loving others.  When we first talked about how some children lose their hair due to illness, and that we have the ability to give our hair so another child might have a wig, they were sold.  They felt that no child should have to go without hair, and immediately wanted to give.  Even if it meant not having "princess hair" any longer.  They've spent time thinking about who will get their hair, and I think when we mail it off we'll be sure to spend some time praying for that person.

And Mary refuses to be left out.  Won't let it happen.  So she sat in this empty beauty chair for much of the time, brushing her own sparse, wispy hair.

It's such a simple, small way to give, but it's something super tangible that a child can understand, and they get to really feel like they're participating.  A win-win for sure!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Aloe chunk soup, whatever that is

Anyone moving to Colorado from California knows you're leaving behind two Very Important Places: In N Out Burger, and Trader Joes.  (Well, and the Pacific Ocean.  So three.)

Oh how I miss my animal-style hamburgers and vanilla shakes.

Oh how I miss TJ's, with their Candy Cane Joe-Joes and apple cider and yummy hummus.

And when I saw this video paying homage to my beloved Trader Joes, I knew it needed to be shared.  Enjoy!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Proposal time!

Kevin and I during our engagement

I love a good proposal, don't you??!!

Betty Beguiles is hosting A Few Good Engagement Stories, and I'm playing along.


When Kevin and I began dating, it was really more of courtship.  We began spending time together with the express intention to see if we would marry.  It was purposeful.  I was just barely 19, and Kevin was 20.

Not two weeks into said courtship, (unbenownst to me) Kevin told one of his good friends that he wanted to marry me.  Guess it didn't take him too long to figure that one out.  :)

I knew pretty early on too.  I never really saw us breaking up.  Because I knew I'd found a catch, I knew we had similar life goals and values, and I knew that unless something strange happened, we'd end up together.

And yet as serious as all of that sounds, we kept things casual.  We'd agreed at the outset, for example, that we would not spend any time talking or dreaming about marriage together before we were engaged.  We'd also agreed not to say "I love you" outside of engagement, because we believed love was a virtue that means something, and that ought to be backed up with commitment.  We also really didn't refer to each other as boyfriend or girlfriend, because we felt that dating is not an institution, and it just seemed obnoxious and oh-so-much-like-high-school.

Then one day, eleven months into our courtship, Kevin told me he wanted to take me on a special date to commemorate courting for "almost a year."  I was excited about the special date--but thought it was funny because we had always joked about the cheesy unmarried couples who celebrated "dating anniversaries."  (If that was you, sorry.  I'm sure you're a lovely person.)  

The odd thing was, he'd just returned from being out of town for two weeks and the week leading up to our big date, he was awfully busy "preparing".  I kept wondering why he was so busy, especially after being away for so long.  I'd missed him and wanted to hang out!

Our date was to be on a Sunday afternoon.  And Kevin said he wasn't going to be able to be at church that morning because he was getting things ready.

Kevin NEVER misses church.  Ever.  Ever, ever, ever.  Hmmmmm.

So that afternoon, he picked me up from my apartment, and we drove out to a beautiful, empty beach in Cambria.  We sat there on the sand overlooking the ocean, and he began reading something he'd written to me about how great it's been getting to know me and the like.

At that point he dug out of the sand(!) an envelope, with more sweet things he'd written.

And I thought my GOODNESS, he's been out here (and back, and back again) already today burying things??!!  It's nearly an hour-long drive from where he lives!  This must be a big deal!

Then another envelope, and another.  All these beautiful things about how wonderful I am, how much he has come to care about me, etc.  Each letter had a different theme.

Finally he stood up, pulled me to my feet, looked into my eyes and told me he loved me.  For the first time.  And then right next to the ocean he got down on one knee, pulled out of his pocket the most beautiful diamond ring I'd ever seen, and said "Brianna Danielle Perruzzi, I'd be honored if you would be my wife.  Will you marry me?"

I was shocked.  Stunned.  I kept screeching "Are you serious?  Are you serious??!!"...and of course said yes.  He put the ring on my finger.  And I couldn't stop looking at it.

He'd brought his backpack along that day, which contained some sparkling cider and two champagne glasses, along with roses.  He'd also brought his guitar, and pulled it out and sang the prettiest, most amazing song that he'd written to me about spending our lives together.

After a wonderful afternoon of celebrating, we headed back to SLO to tell everyone our most exciting news!

And it turns out his busy week of preparations had involved picking up my ring, writing the letters, and driving the 45 minutes to meet my parents for dinner, to ask for my hand in marriage.  I told you he was a catch!

And nine months after getting engaged, we wed.  Yes, at a Baptist church--and this is funny because we aren't Baptists, and never attended that church.  See the reason we couldn't get married at OUR church is a long, stupid story that actually has nothing to do with us, and everything to do with ridiculous church politics, and general cattiness towards the former pastor who was going to officiate.  So we took our business elsewhere and he performed the ceremony at a random local Baptist church.  Whatevs.  I'm now going to go take a deep breath and use some calming techniques as I've dredged up an old injustice that still makes me mad.  :)   

I was 20 and Kevin was 21 on our wedding day.  Best day of my life, aside from the days I birthed or adopted my children.  Our engagement in many ways was a lot of fun, and I can remember sitting at work (where I was an office manager for a state legislator) just staring and staring at the ring on my finger, the ring Kevin had saved and saved for.  I loved every moment of planning my wedding, I loved dreaming about our future, and about what our marriage would be like.  We truly believed God brought us together and hoped to honor Him with our lives and marriage.  I also may or may not have done a fair amount of wedding planning while at work.  So thank you to the State of California for paying me to pick out wedding favors.  :)

Nearly nine years in and I can say without a doubt that we made the right decision.  Marriage isn't always easy, because life isn't always easy, but we are so much closer now than we were the day of Kevin's proposal.  And while we've changed a bit since then, we've changed together.  Side by side.  I look back on our engagement day and I think one of the big reasons it was so special was because our courtship was special, because we'd set out with a purpose and it was such an amazing way to honor our relationship and begin our commitment to one another.

So that's us, and our rockin' proposal.  Do you have a fun (or amusing) proposal story?  Let's hear it!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Church, the differently-abled, and the Tiber

Us, overlooking the Tiber River in Rome

If you've been around here for awhile, then you know that I don't usually write much about current events--and my subsequent opinions.  Not that I don't HAVE thoughts on assorted matters of our day, but I generally reserve my passionate discourse, frantic hand-waving (how is it even possible to talk without using your hands?!), and  high-pitched fervor for a few close friends...and for Kevin.  Mostly for Kevin.  He's used to it.

But I did want to address this.  Because it so beyond wrong on so many levels.  And it's about so much more than this specific church and this specific family.  And somehow it all relates to the journey I've been on for the past few years.

In a nutshell, a family attended an Easter church service with their son, who has Cerebral Palsy.  At one point in the service, he made some noise.  And they were immediately ushered out and told they had to watch the remainder of the service from the lobby.  In a statement to the media the church said they are committed to providing a distraction-free service for all.

I'm sure my thoughts on this are apparent.  Obviously my heart hurts for this family, and for any family, who experiences discrimination and judgement because a child (or adult) is deemed by society to be unique in some way. 

And of course it has an extra sting to it for me personally because I'm in the midst of adopting two children with Down syndrome. 

It is devastating to consider the prejudice and hatred these precious girls will face as they grow.  Ultimately, our family will be facing it together.  Maybe we'll be asked by an usher to leave someplace, too.  I feel like we've already seen a very small glimpse of it just on account of having five children--because we didn't get the memo that you're only supposed to have two children, spaced a minimum of two years apart, before your husband gets a vasectomy, or you get an IUD, or something like that.  For some reason, our (silent, since we rarely discuss it with others) decision to remain open to life makes people super duper uncomfortable.  And occasionally, it makes them prone to act out and say something heartless or rude.  In front of my kids.  While we're trying to buy groceries or check out books at the library.

So yeah, I'm fighting mad on behalf of this family and their precious son.  On behalf of the many people living a life that doesn't fit into the polished veneer of a mold that our society expects of them. 

Yet there is another component of this issue, that is part of the root problem in my opinion.  And I hope the following views don't offend.  But something has gone dreadfully wrong in evangelicalism.  In society at large, I realize, and many evangelicals are just following suit.  But what a travesty.  When did religion and the worship of God become about me, me, and more me?  Who decided that the lights, hip venue, loud "rock" band, booming childrens' ministry, and "relevant" five-point sermon by a middle-aged-guy-with-a-goatee are the way to knowing and experiencing Jesus?

It makes me think about the elderly man who attends Mass near my house.  Anytime we have gone, typically on a weekday morning, this man is there.  Kneeling, standing, speaking the Our Father.  Receiving the Host.  And it doesn't look like it's easy for him to kneel any longer, either.  But still, he does.

Something tells me this man has been attending Mass for the past 60-plus years. 

Something also tells me that he doesn't visit Our Lady of Lourdes at 8:30 every morning to hear a band or even a relevant, trendy message.

He goes to humbly receive Jesus.  To receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion and the graces that flow out of that.  He goes to take part in Christ's Body, the Church, something bigger than him and yet something that he's an integral part of as he speaks the liturgy that binds him to Christians centuries ago.  He goes even though his brand of religion is a scandal to some.  But it's life to him.

I honestly don't know this man at all, but he has inspired my faith and encouraged my heart from the first time I saw him.  Even though we've never spoken.

Because on some level, so much of church in our modern times has become yet another place to be entertained, and to draw people in with our marketing and gimmicks and "look, we're cool too!"  and "look, we have loud music and shiny brochures and we all kinda look alike and talk alike and read the same books, and we don't want ________ around because that really detracts from our uber-relevant message and ultimate goal of getting as many people as we can into the seats."  Whew.

Now we can insert children, the developmentally delayed, the poor or homeless, or a twelve-year-old boy who happens to have Cerebral Palsy in that blank.  But the underlying message is still the same.

What are we even doing? 

And so I've thought a lot in recent years about the seeming arbitrary-ish-ness present in much of religion. 

Is it okay for a Christian to think about that?  Is it okay to question why we worship the way we do, or why we believe the things we believe?  Beyond being okay, is it beneficial? 

Well, considering the fact that the Reformation has come to spark over 30,000 Protestant denominations and offshoots, each with their own brand of religion, it's at the very least natural.  To wonder why our little group says this, when those people say that.  I've read a bunch of books and talked to a bunch of people and at the end of the day, honestly, I want Jesus.  Not just emotion, or an intellectual discourse from a pulpit, or Chris Tomlin songs.  While those things aren't wrong or bad (and I do like Chris Tomlin's music, don't get me wrong!), I guess I just see the beauty and truth in the simplicity of that "old time religion."  The idea of receiving Jesus alongside other members of His Church.  Participating in centuries-old liturgy and reciting the Our Father (or Lord's Prayer), the way Jesus taught us to pray.  Receiving the Sacrament.

I can't help but think about our recent trip to Rome, about the amazing basilicas we visited and about the woman we saw practicing Eucharistic Adoration at Saint Mary Major.  Again, scandalous to some, but there was such beauty and peace in her humble, reverent prayer and devotion to her Lord Jesus.  It was her and Jesus, hanging out. 

And later, as we stood on the bridge overlooking the Tiber River beneath us, I thought about how without Jesus, without the virtue of charity (or love) being put into practice, Christian religion really is kind of arbitrary.  And maybe it's easy to lose sight of that Jesus and that love when there is so much noise and showmanship standing in the way.

I'm sure I'll share more about my own personal faith journey another time.  This post is way too long already!

I'll close by saying that I hope that this family finds a faith community that is more about the love of Jesus than about putting out a glossy product to its members each week.  I hope that church realizes the ways in which it needs to grow and change and that Jesus is so very near to children, and to individuals with unique gifts and needs. 

And I say gifts in addition to needs, because I think each and every life is a gift in its own unique way--a gift to their loved ones, to their community, and to God.  Whether it's Autism, Trisomy 21, Cerebral Palsy, HIV, whatever, that individual is a gift and their life is a testament to God and His goodness.

And now you know why I usually just reserve my long-winded opinions and frantic hand-talking for my husband.  He's stuck with me.  :)

Monday, June 13, 2011

My date with Febreeze: an uncensored day in the life

There is something you have to know about me.

I have five children.  Three of which I've birthed.  I have been to East Africa to adopt two children.  Twice.  I spend my days mediating squabbles and attempting to maintain some sort of order around here.  It can be challenging, to say the least.

And yet there is pretty much just one thing this mama can't handle.  One thing that sends me over the edge, shrieking into the proverbial night.

And that one thing is, in a word, vomit.

Yes friends, it's true.  I can change diapers all day long, doctor up the bloodiest of skinned knees, and drag five kids to the grocery store with the best of 'em.  I tend to stay real calm when a child falls down or, you know, is stung by millions of bees.  But if someone has a stomach virus?  Forget it.  I want to lock myself in a Lysol-filled room and not come out until it's all over and done.  I have problems.

And, last weekend, when Kevin was out of town, my two oldest girls came down with a virus.  Which I didn't discover until, you know, we were at the sweet little Paris Street Fleamarket in Littleton (where I scored a positively adorable vintage butter dish for $8.  But that's beside the point.)  When my four year old daughter had a no-good-very-bad-accident in her sweet little undies.  And on our trek home--as I selfishly thought to myself what a bummer it was that I had to spend my beautiful afternoon cleaning up poop--the same dear child vomited.  Three blocks from our house.  All over her carseat and new dress.  Not good.  Not good at all.

Thus went my weekend.  I don't think I'd ever been so grateful to see Kevin as I was when he drove up last Sunday afternoon.  Lots of exclamations like "You don't understand how horrible it was!" and "I've had the most harrowing weekend EVER!"  (See, I told you I have issues.)

Then of course I came down with it.  But I'm better now.  Everyone was better.  Yosef and Biniam spared because they never get sick.  No big deal.

Fast forward to today, when my robustly healthy kids and I innocently drove to Lowes to pick up a gallon of paint for a project I'm working on.  I pulled into a parking space, they all began unbuckling...and Yosef chose the precise moment that he was about to climb over Anna's seat to vomit.  All over everyone's carseat, the floor, and Anna.

I just stood there.  Stunned.  Made Yosef get out of the van.  Looked around and wondered how I could still slip into the store and buy my paint on EARTH I was going to get everyone home and clean everything up.  Called Kevin on the cell and freaked out for awhile.  May or may not have done some grouchy "voice-raising."  Thought some more about the paint.  Told Anna to stop crying.  And, as I sadly and oh-so-longingly gazed off towards the welcoming front doors of the paint-selling-store, I ushered everyone back INTO the van, rolled all the windows down, and headed towards home.  Making sure not to breathe through my nose.  Ew.

So that's been my afternoon.  Hosing down my child floormats and booster seats and sandals in the alley, using up a package of disinfectant wipes, feeling a little bit sorry for myself, and generously spraying Febreze like 

It's the orange bottle, the "Hawaiian Aloha" scent. 

Which I think is really kind of funny because when me and Febreeze hang out like we did today, it's SO not anything like being in Hawaii.  Of course I've never been to Hawaii, so I guess I don't know for sure.  It was no luau today, I can tell you that!

I really don't think you can do this mothering thing without a good, sturdy, dark sense of humor. Sometimes something happens that is just SO AWFUL that you want to curse yell quit cry, but afterwards instead, you choose to laugh. 

And that's what I did, while I aggressively sprayed my Hawaii-in-a-bottle.  I laughed at the very thought of my disgusting car (or what my son did in it) even remotely resembling a Hawaiian aloha.  And, yeah, I know I'm weird.  And more than a tad neurotic and crazy when it comes to the inevitable stomach virus.  And right now I'm making weird, awkward blog jokes about Hawaii and vomit (shudder).

The truth is that I may very well go completely insane one day.  But at least I'll go out laughing!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Quote of the week

"You learn to speak by speaking, to study by studying, to run by running, to work by working, and just so, you learn to love by loving. All those who think to learn in any other way deceive themselves."

--St. Francis de Sales

These words are such a beautiful balm to the soul, aren't they?  On difficult days mothering children, battling sickness, fighting the ever-present temptation to compare ourselves to other people who surely have things easier than us, it is so good to know that we are, without doubt, learning the virtue of love.

Friday, June 10, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday {#25}

1.  I haven't done this feature on my blog in a long, long time.  Not sure why, because I really do like it.  And as I'm still trying to get over this ridiculous stomach virus, thus not having much energy or motivation to blog anything that requires too much thought, I am returning to it.

2.  Kevin was at a mens' conference recently where he signed up for three free issues of The National Catholic Register.  We actually don't subscribe to any sort of newspaper, so this is the first time we've had one delivered to our house.  And I've discovered that reading said paper makes me feel much smarter and cultured than I actually am.  Suddenly I'm an all-out intellectual with a doctorate in Philosophy as I read articles about the Vatican and sip my coffee.  That alone might be worth the annual $50 subscription fee.

3.  Yosef and Biniam started T-Ball on Tuesday, and have had two practices so far.  (One of which just Kevin took them to, due to my need this week to be near a bathroom.)  But the one practice I DID attend--oh my GOODNESS.  Have YOU ever seen a bunch of five- and six-year-olds chasing after a ball, randomly running bases, throwing dirt up into the air in the outfield and watching it drift on the breeze when they're supposed to be fielding?  Honestly, I'd worried that this venturing into the world of youth sports would be a tad boring.  Oh how wrong I was.  Funniest.thing.ever.

4.  I'm really liking Twitter these days.  Finally I think I'm sort-of getting the hang of it.  Are you on Twitter?  Follow me!

5.  We just finished watching (online) the show "America's Next Great Restaurant."  And I want me some soul food now.  I'm so glad Jamawn won, so sad that Joey didn't, and as for Sadir, his food sounded amazing until he tried to fuse it with Mexican food.  Indian food=good, and Mexican food=good, but together?  Doesn't sound so good.  Plus I don't think he wanted it as badly as the other two guys.  (Yep,I got way too into this thing.)

6.  I'm getting more finicky about the books I read in my old, nearly-thirty(!) age.  I don't as much read spiritual things I don't agree with (beyond learning and understanding where someone is coming from) and I refuse to read something just because it is hyped.  I used to read all manner of books from all manner of Christian perspectives (I have everything from Brian McLaren to John Piper to Mother Theresa to CS Lewis on my bookshelf), and while I DO occasionally still do that, there are just so many WONDERFUL books out there that I'm not as interested in reading stuff that, for the most part, does not resonate with me.  Or is complete and utter fluff.

7.  Speaking of reading, over the past couple of years I have taken to reading some apologetics and memoirs and theology (nothing too brainy, don't worry) in an attempt to better understand church history and the various perspectives found under the massive, multi-faceted umbrella that is Christianity.  In hopes of answering the question, "Why do _____ (insert Calvinists, Armenians, Orthodox, Roman Catholic, etc.) believe what they believe?"  It's been an interesting, and at times exhausting, little journey.  Funny thing is I went years without ever questioning why my own corner of Christianity believed what they did about Jesus, salvation, and the Sacraments.  Then I got curious.  It's been eye-opening and to be honest, a bit uncomfortable, but I hope and believe that in the end, my faith will be stronger for it.

Thank you to Jennifer at Conversion Diary for hosting!  If you're interested in doing your own 7 Quick Takes, go ahead and link up!

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Sick and ranting

Here I had every intention of getting back into the blogging thing this week, but this morning I came down with the stomach virus my two oldest girls had this past weekend.  (Apparently scrubbing carseats, doing yucky laundry, and bathing sick little ones is hazardous to your health.  Who knew?  :)  )

Mary has it too, so she and I are spending the day resting.  Instead of blogging and cleaning my house, which is what I'd originally planned for today. 

I have however been reading various blogs, as well as some negative reviews of a book I read recently.

Which brings me to one of my various pet peeves.  (I have several, and I'm okay with that.  In fact, I think the very term "pet peeve" is a pet peeve of mine.  Hmmm.)

I cannot stand when a Christian author writes a book that is heavily footnoted, supposedly based upon research to prove his or her point...yet every historical reference is taken out of context, and it all just really amounts to a thinly-veiled attempt to color history in order to uphold a not very tenable opinion.  (But one that people right now are inclined to like.  So they believe it.  Because it sounds good and, hey, there are footnotes!)  Add to that the fact that the author thinks they're a million times more controversial and original than they actually are, and there you have it.  A certified pet peeve.

Thus my enjoyment of reading the reviews picking through the book and pointing out the various historical innacuracies.  History may be subjective, people, but not THAT subjective.

So there you have it.  A rant from my couch.  I may be feverish and horribly sick to my stomach, but I know a pet peeve when I see one!

Friday, June 03, 2011

On Scripture

The meaning of a given passage of the Bible becomes most intelligible in those human beings who have been totally transfixed by it and have lived it out. Interpretation of Scripture can never be a purely academic affair, and it cannot be relegated to the purely historical. Scripture is full of potential for the future, a potential that can only be opened up when someone "lives through" and "suffers through" the sacred text.
--Pope Benedict XVI, in Jesus of Nazareth

Love this quote.

Love this book.

Have you read anything great lately?

Thursday, June 02, 2011

When adoption is hard (before the child's even home)

So I just wrote a really whiny blogpost about how frustrated I am that our adoption is, yet again, stalled.

This time on account of yet another document the Ethiopian government has decided they want to see.

This in spite of the fact that the paperwork is complete, their birthmothers appeared in court stating they want the girls adopted, and of course the fact that we already travelled for court and had the judge tell us it all looked good.

Deep breath.

But, I'm not gonna post it.  Because I HATE whining and you probably do too.  So I'll spare us all and keep that post safely tucked away in "drafts".  :)

Instead I will simply share that this process has been incredibly difficult.  It is hard waiting for our sweet little ones to come home, especially now that we've met them and hugged them and told them that we're their new mommy and daddy.  So many ups and downs along the way and still no end in sight.  The not knowing is the most difficult part, I think.

The thing is, I'm just so very anxious to be mama to two new beautiful daughters.  Our family is so blessed to KNOW these girls, much less have them in our home.  I'm so looking forward to making up their beds, filling a dresser and closet with their clothes, and setting them a place at our table.  (Nesting, anyone?)  But I'm waiting.  Because I have no clue how long it will be at this point, and I'm a little bit fed up with the whole thing.

I do find myself increasingly grateful that our girls found their way to the transition home of an adoption agency that works hard to find families for harder-to-place children.  That they are not sitting and sitting in a facility where no one will come for them, or a place where they might have faced severe neglect and abuse on account of the fact that they were born with Down syndrome.

And when I look at the above photo my husband took at Layla House, it reminds me that in the meantime, while we all wait, Jesus is there.  Jesus is looking after my girls and Jesus is just as anxious as we are to have them home and in a family.  God is near to the oppressed, and the orphan, and while there will always be earthly broken systems, political corruption, and hurting people, God remains good.  And, like it says, Jesus is love.

So that is the latest.  More waiting, and more anxious by the moment to bring our sweet girls home.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Cali getaway

Like I mentioned before, I just got back Sunday night from my dad's surprise retirement party out in California.  Some former students of his were so sweet and put the whole thing together.  I lied and told him I was coming to use up some frequent flyer miles.  That photo above is a sampling of some good ol' Creston Elementary alumni and a few staff too.  (I'm the one in the yellow sweater in an awkward pose, and my dad's in the back wearing a white shirt and baseball cap.)  Lots of former parents, students and staff showed up to send my dad off.  Fun!

The trip was short, but sweet.  I was able to have dinner with some girlfriends Wednesday night (after dear Becky picked me up down in Santa Barbara, with her dear daughter Emma--that's her and Mary Lu in the backseat.  Oh and Becky packed snacks for Mary and everything.  How wonderful is she?!)  Sadly I have no pictures of our girls' night.  Why didn't I pull out my camera?!

Friday afternoon was the big surprise retirement bash.  It's so funny visiting people you haven't seen in, oh, 20 years.  Especially when the bus driver vividly remembers you puking on her bus on a field trip as a five year old.  :)  And Mary obviously had a blast--can't you tell?

Saturday night my BFF--we were inseperable from the time I was 8 years old--picked me up and we went out to dinner at Creston's steakhouse restaurant, The Loading Chute.  Yum!  It's the first time we've been out childless together in years.  SO wonderful to catch up and, let's face it, laugh hysterically about the past.  Because we did some funny things.  And knew some funny people.  Sadly, I have no photo of our evening together, either.  (What is my deal?  I think I end up having too much fun with my girlfriends to be bothered with taking photos.  But then I regret it later.)

Santa Barbara has to be one of the most beautiful places to fly into and out of.  The ocean, the mountains, the Spanish-style, so pretty.  We lived there the first year we were married and going back always reminds me of being a newlywed, not having any friends in town, and of how, um, I'd spend most days reading and laying out by the pool.  Those days are LONG GONE!  :)

And, if I'm honest, I wouldn't go back, even if I could.

Because even though I didn't get to hang out by the pool when I was in Santa Barbara this past Sunday, I DID get to sit in the sunshine with this little bug.  How cute is she???

So yes, a fabulous trip and I was, as always, terribly sad to leave.  It's always a blessing to see old friends and to realize that no matter the distance or time that passes, friends will always be friends, and family will always be family.  That being said, I sure did miss my kiddos and husband at home--it's good to be back in Denver, too!


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