1

The Reason for the Season

My daughters attend a Catholic preschool this year, which was a nice transition home from the UK for us, especially this holiday season.  I hate the thought that once the girls are in public school, their religion will be something that is taboo to even mention.

But that’s another blog post, I suspect.

What I want to share are these pictures of my gorgeous daughters at their preschool Christmas concerts–concerts where they could sing about the reason we (along with over 85% of Americans) celebrate Christmas.  Samantha even got to play an angel in her class’ Nativity play (and if I do say so myself, her lines were the best performed of the bunch!).

Rehearsing...

...and performing!

Rehearsing...

...spotting mom and dad in the audience...

...and performing!

I can’t wait to share next year’s Christmas season with our new daughter, too!

3

A Family of Five

Disclaimer:  No, I’m not pregnant.  Just wanted to put that out there, in case that’s what you were thinking.

Of all the experiences that we’ve had as a family since moving abroad in 2006, one of the greatest and most life-changing has been to realize that we are a family of five, a family in Christ.

When Marcus and I met, I liked that he was Catholic too, though neither of us was practicing.  We went to church on holidays, for baptisms and weddings, and on the occasional Saturday or Sunday when we were up, moving, and so inclined.  But we weren’t religious or spiritual.

That changed slightly when we had our children, because I knew that I wanted them to grow up in the church.  But we still went to church sporadically, and didn’t include Christ in our day to day life.

When we went to Marriage Encounter, Marcus and I both took reassurance in the idea that our marriage had three people in it–me, him, and God.  But when the weekend memories faded, so did that idea from our lives.

Moving abroad has breathed new life into our ideas about spirituality, religion, our faith, and our personal and familial relationships with the Lord.  Originally belonging to a large Catholic church in Harrogate, we may never have been active or had this experience.  But on the recommendation of our friends, we decided to attend the parish on base.

It was not an easy transition for me from a large parish, where I was a face in the crowd, to a small, faith-driven community where people knew and interacted with one another.  In fact, I felt uncomfortable with this time of church at first, and our attendance was sporadic.

In addition, my children were not well-behaved at mass.  I felt like all eyes were on us, and was embarrassed that they had misbehaved in front of God, as well as people we would see on a regular basis and who did, in fact, know us.

Over the past year, however, everything has changed.  I wish I could pinpoint who, what, or when, but the fact is, it was a combination of everything.

We started attending a Moms and Tots Mass weekly on Tuesday mornings, connecting me through Christ with other women and children that I have come to love and cherish, and who have impacted me and my relationship with my girls.

Marcus became the parish council’s treasurer, allowing him to become involved in the church and it’s decision making.

I started doing the Children’s Liturgy, sharing the word of the Lord with children and drawing on my background as a teacher.  This opportunity has also allowed me a deeper understanding of God’s word.

Add to all of this the fact that, as many of you predicted, the girls are learning about church, God, and our faith.  As a result, they are behaving in church, asking questions, and praying.

We are growing as a family through Christ, thanks to our parish community and our experiences living abroad.

We are, without a doubt, a family of five thanks to the Lord.

I am truly blessed.

4

By the Grace of God

Earlier today I broke up a wrestling match on the altar of my Catholic Church.  It was a friendly match between my two daughters, but it occurred during Moms and Tots Daily Mass, something new we are trying on Tuesdays.

Tuesdays are usually a busy day for my children and I anyway.  We help set up for and stay for a toddler group down the street, which takes up most of our morning.  I try to finish catching up from the weekend.  I try to do some writing in the afternoons/evenings.  Marcus has parish council meetings one Tuesday a month.  I often meet with friends in the evenings for book club or knitting.

With our busy Tuesdays, my husband was skeptical when I told him I was going to try daily mass with the girls.  They are no angels in church, though they love going and talk about it all week long.  But I know that they’ll learn the more we go, and this seemed like a friendly atmosphere, so it seemed like the perfect way to practice.

And I needed church today.  We don’t go every week, and I feel a difference between the weeks that we do and the weeks that we don’t.  The girls had been naughty at toddler group, and I needed to go and sit and pray before returning home.

Fast forward to the wrestling match on the altar.  There were numerous.  Running up and down aisles.  taking out all of the books and pulling down all of the benches for kneeling.  Laughing, yelling, clapping…crying.

The laughing, yelling, and clapping were the girls, and the crying was me.

Every other child sat there.  Sure, the little boy behind me walked back and forth in the pew and once tried to make a break for it.  But my girls just wouldn’t and couldn’t sit down.  I felt like whatever I did was wrong.  There was no controlling them.

I feel that way a lot.  Like there is something I must be missing about parenting, and I just can’t seem to get it right.  I know my children are not the worst behaved ones in the world.  I know they are sweet, developmentally appropriate, quite bright, and that they are good girls a lot of the time.  And I also know that no matter what I see on the outside, other children and other families have had days like the one I had today.   I only remember these and feel these because they are mine.  But it doesn’t make them any easier.

I am so hard on myself.  Parenting just isn’t as easy as I thought it would be.  More than anything I want to feel like I know what I am doing.  I worry so much about doing wrong by my girls.  Not only that, but about everyone watching us, and shaking their heads at my parenting.  Knowing something that I don’t.

After mass, though, the three other women with children in church came up to me, hugged me, talked to me, and comforted me.  They commiserated with me, said they understood, and offered suggestions for next week.

Marcus asked why I was going to try daily mass with the girls.

This was why.  If I’d had a rough morning at toddler group, and hadn’t gone, I wouldn’t have had that experience with those moms.  I would have gone home, and maybe had that crying moment at home, with no comfort.  And I so desperately needed the comfort.

God blessed me today.