Tuesday, 25 March 2014

May It Be Done To Me According To Your Word

Today is the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, which means that Dane and I get to have dessert tonight BUT more importantly, it means we are celebrating the moment the Angel Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary and told her she would conceive and bear the baby Jesus in her womb.  This is a HUGE moment in the history of Christianity because THIS is where it all began.  (This is part of the reason that us  pro-lifers are ALWAYS saying that life begins at conception. )
 This year, possibly because I’m pregnant for the first time, this story hits me more than ever. Here is this young single girl, who has never “known” a man but is being told that God has chosen her out of ALL the women in the world, to bear the Second Person of the Holy Trinity.  Mary is troubled at first, possibly because it must have been upsetting to see an angel appear to you, and also because he says the Lord has found favor with her, which she thinks is a really weird to greet someone.  However, she listens to him and in the end just calmly agrees, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” – Luke 1:38.
Ok so God has just dropped this HUGE bombshell on her and instead of whining or asking Him to pick someone else (*cough cough* Moses), she just agrees to it.  Handmaid can also mean servant so basically she is saying “Lord I am your servant, do what you want with me and I’ll gladly go along with it”.  I’m willing to bet this was NOT an easy decision to make. First she’s just agreed to be a young, unmarried mother who just happens to be pregnant with the SON OF GOD. Then to add to her worries, she has to somehow explain to her fiancĂ© that no, she didn’t cheat on Him, she conceived a child by the power of the Holy Spirit. And yet, even with all of that going on she gladly agrees to what God is asking of her.
Now, I’m not going to go comparing the conception of my child and my future children, to the conception of Jesus. Those are two completely different situations. However, Mary’s willingness to accept this life into her womb is similar to the decision that married catholic couples have to face almost every time they are intimate.
When you are married in the Catholic Church, they ask you if you “Will you accept children lovingly from God, and bring them up according to the law of Christ and his Church?”. For some, that may mean will we one day have children, but in reality it’s not that easy. Accepting children from God means that you let Him decide when and how many of these children you will have.  So essentially, you agree to give up control of a huge aspect of your of your life, one that influences pretty much every other aspect from finances to leisure.
When Dane and I got married, we agreed to let God make that decision for us. We did not use birth control but we also didn’t plan our “intimate times” around my fertility cycle. It was scary to think that every unitive act between my husband and I could change our lives as we knew them, but there is also a beauty in trusting God with that decision.
Knowing that every time we made love could possibly lead to the creation of our child, a brand new life, made every act so much more meaningful. I remember sitting there wondering afterwards if this was the time that we had (with God’s hand of course) conceived a baby. It was a scary at first, but then when I got my period after our first month as a married couple, I couldn’t help but be disappointed.  I cried and Dane had to remind me that since we agreed to be open to life, we had to welcome life WHEN God wanted it. That month had not been our time to conceive and we had to trust that God would decide when that time would be. I didn’t have to wait very long after that because our daughter was conceived two weeks later.
As we have more children and the stresses of life start taking their toll on us, I’m not sure Dane and I will be as open to life as we are now. I know it will get tougher to say yes to God’s plan as we worry about providing for the children we already have. But I also know that God doesn’t give you things you can’t handle and if He blesses us with a child He will give us the means to provide for it.  I think it’s during those tough times that we will have to turn to our Mother Mary and ask her for the grace to gladly accept God’s will, just as she did when the angel Gabriel appeared to her.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

You Are Dirt and You Will Always Be Dirt

Today is Ash Wednesday which means mass, ashes, fasting and the beginning of Lenten penances!
 Usually I’d be grouchy by this time of the day, but since I’m pregnant I don’t have to fast which means I’m in a surprisingly good mood. It’s not like I’m indulging in sweets and junk food. I packed a meat free lunch and I’m having boring foods which include: bread and peanut butter, a banana, a can of tuna, an orange, bread with margarine, an apple, chopped vegetables, a yogurt, a container of cottage cheese, raisins, almonds, vegetable juice and boring “healthy” crackers.  For supper, I’m making mac and cheese using a Velveeta loaf and a side salad.
 
That folks is what eating for two looks like. Considering I couldn’t stomach anything during my first trimester I’m trying not to feel guilty for having become a culinary vacuum. But then I get texts like this from my husband, and I start to feel like I’m not being very pious.
 
So after I’m done my Ash Wednesday “feasting”, my husband I are going to Church to receive our ashes. I’m kind of excited because we didn’t get a service last year and so I didn’t get to walk around with dirt on my forehead. Thankfully, Father very casually decided that we would have a service at 7 pm. The decision came during his homily on Sunday when he asked if people would show up for the service, and parishioners nodded, and the decision was settled.  
Speaking of receiving ashes, I remember my aunt telling us a particularly funny story about a little boy going to an Ash Wednesday Service. When they questioned him about what the priest said when he received the ashes, the little boy responded “You are dirt and you will always be dirt”.  I know they don’t say that (they say: “Remember that you are dust and unto dust you shall return.”) but I still laugh every year imagining the priest telling me I’m dirt.
But today is not all about ashes and “feasting”, it also means that I need to begin my Lenten penance. After a lot of thought I’ve decided on two things for Lent, (well actually three but the third is iffy). First, I’m going to give up an half an hour of sleep every day in order to clean the house. So instead of sleeping in, I’m going to wake up and clean the kitchen or vacuum or just tidy up. Today I managed to clean the bathroom which I think is pretty good considering I am not a morning person.  So when I’m grumpy and tired, I can try to remember that I’m suffering alongside Christ. But the good thing is its not needless suffering because my house will be clean which means I get to spend more quality time with my husband on weekends.  Second, I’m going to say a rosary every day. I find my devotion to Mary (who leads us to Jesus) has been lacking lately and I think the rosary is the perfect way to get back in touch with her.  The third Lenten penance is iffy since I don’t know how tempted I will be, but I’m tentatively giving up sweets because that’s what my husband gave up. I feel like it would be unfair to eat sweets in front of him BUT my cravings during pregnancy seem to be donuts, chocolate pudding and chocolate. That means that I may or may not (probably not) be successful.
So that marks the beginning of Lent 2014 for me! I hope everyone is having a good Ash Wednesday and for those fasting out there, remember catholic fasting is one regular meal and two small meals that do not equate the regular meal (don't starve yourself).