BOGO offer for CatholicMom.com Readers!

cm_logo_final_vertical-copy_300Thanks to Lisa Hendey and Barb Szyskiewicz for helping to spread the word about “The 40 Day Challenge” over at CatholicMom.com!

As a special “thanks” to CM.com readers, I’m offering a special deal on Lent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta and Advent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta.

BOGO! That’s right … Just sign up to receive my #40DayChallenge reflections, then  order one copy of Lent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta for $15 (postage paid), get a copy of the Advent book . . . free!

Just send a check payable to Heidi Saxton at 10350 Royal Oak Court, Osceola IN 46561. Limit one free book per customer.

God bless you!

Yes . . . I guess. #GraceofYesDay

graceofyescover  Do you have trouble with “Yes”? Not the oh-my-goodness-gracious-if-I-try-to-fit-ONE-MORE-THING-in-this-week-I’m-gonna-blow kind of yes, but the

Really, God? Was that TOTALLY necessary on your part? *sigh* okay. And with a deep breath, we leap like a goldfish out of a martini glass . . . and into something infinitely less inviting and comfortable.

At times like that, “fiat” can sound like something of a four-letter word. An uncomfortable, inevitable, unending . . . pain. And yet, even at times like this, there is room to learn, room to grow in love. The sweetest rose is the product of a mound of fertilizer, after all.

I see you nodding. Can you relate to that idea? Well, take heart. Today people all over cyberspace are blogging, pinging, and podcasting about it … thanks to Lisa Hendey and her The Grace of Yes.

In my line of work, editing Catholic books on spirituality, I often get to read people’s conjecture about Mary and what she would and wouldn’t have done in a given situation. For Catholics, it’s all about WWMD? And yet, if you think about it, it’s kind of hard to extrapolate, based on our own experiences exactly what she would have done.

Let’s set aside the basic differences of iPods and indoor plumbing and early dismissals. After all, she was the one perfect mom, with one perfect kid. We can’t claim that kind of blessedness. Yet over and over, we get told to . . .

Just. Say. Yes. Just. Like. Mary. To be humble. To be generous. To be … believing . . . and to be … Wait. What’s that on p.107? To be willing to say no.

Because the one thing we know for sure about Mary is . . . she was a mother. And mothers sometimes have to say no. No to the good, to make room for the best. No to the possible, to make room for the most important. No to the anger, to grow stronger in love. And no to my own agenda, to make room for infinite possibilities.

Today I will make a little more room in my life for the Grace . . . of Yes.

“You are mine…” (The Love Project, Day 13)

catholic crossDo you ever wonder if God is taking a day off, or tending to someone’s needs on the far side of the universe?

Ever feel as though your prayers are bouncing off the ceiling?

The other day I was talking with a friend of mine about this, and she suggested I read Isaiah 42.

Here is my servant whom I uphold,
my chosen one with whom I am pleased,
upon whom I have put my spirit . . .

She reminded me that this week’s Gospel, the story of the baptism of Jesus, is primarily about Jesus’ identity. Before he could go off and begin his public ministry, he had to be established in that identity as God’s Son.

It’s the same with us. Before we can do anything, we must first be. In particular, we must be secure in our identity as a child of God.

But what do you do when the circumstances of your life have conspired against you, and you feel as far from God as you could possibly be?

What do you do when … you feel angry with God? What then?

First, you tell him how you feel. If you don’t, the distance increases.
Next, you acknowledge the mystery of suffering: God has not caused your pain — rather, he identifies with it.
Then, you wait with expectation.

“When we are angry with God, he comes to us not in great and mighty ways — that would be too scary. Instead, he comes to us in the still, small voice. In small ways.”

For me, it was in the gleeful chortle of a twelve-month-old baby, a little bundle of love that met me at the door each day when I came to pick up my daughter. Oh, how I came to love that little kid, who showed me the great affection God has for us.

Then, finally, until the smoke clears . . . you just keep finding reasons to thank him. Because thanksgiving is the surest way to trust.

Today’s Love in Action: What passage of Scripture do you turn to most often, when you feel as though your prayers are bouncing off the ceiling?

Mommy Love: Guest Post from Sarah Reinhard (The Love Project, Day 11)

Sarah ReinhardToday’s guest post is from one of my favorite “mommy bloggers,” Sarah Reinhard, who is also celebrating her birthday today — happy day, sweetie! And thanks for sharing a snippet from your newest brainchild — a wonderful resource for pregnant moms.

I had a few years of enjoying young children in the form of younger siblings and nieces and nephews before I was married and started having my own. I thought I was ready for the reality of children saying the darndest things.

Nothing, though, could have prepared me for the hilarity—and heartbreak—I have experienced as a mom. From my children’s mouths I’ve heard tender expressions of love but also explosions of anger. They’ve made observations that have lifted my spirits and others that have cut me to the quick.

When Mary and Joseph find Jesus after three days of searching for him (see Lk 2:42–51), they must have had some heat in their words to him. Maybe I’m projecting a bit, but maybe worry is, to some extent, a natural reaction of parents to the experience of losing a child in a crowd or a store.

What I learn from this mystery is how the story continues with him going home and being obedient, even in the face of what seems to be a smart-aleck remark from Jesus—”Didn’t you know where I’d be?” This seems like it would be a prime time to uphold parental authority, but in the silence, I find a lesson in humility.

Jesus was in the Temple all along, though his parents didn’t know it and had to search for him. Their inability to find him didn’t change where he was the entire time.

In the Temple, Jesus was listening and asking questions much like a typical twelve-year-old. Yet he was anything but typical. I find comfort, though, in the idea that he wasn’t born with all the knowledge he needed. In this way, his humanity is expressed in this mystery, as is the quandary of his parents: do they punish him after this or are they so glad to find him that they just let him off the hook?

In this mystery, we can find ourselves at Jesus’s feet, asking for the guidance to be the kind of parent he’s calling us to be. Though it’s early in the journey of parenting this particular child, we don’t have to wait to ask to be able to cooperate with the graces God sends our way in our parenting journey.

This excerpt is from A Catholic Mother’s Companion to Pregnancy: Walking with Mary from Conception to Baptism, by Sarah Reinhard and is used with the author’s permission. Find out more about Sarah and her writing at SnoringScholar.com.

“What Does It Mean?” Teach your kids the four senses of Scripture

This week at CatholicMom.com, I write an article about parish VBS programs and parish renewal, and reference a song I wrote to teach children the four senses of Scripture (set to the tune of “The Adam’s Family Theme”). I thought I’d share the lyrics here.

What does it mean? (clap, clap)
What does it mean? (clap, clap)
When we take a look in God’s Holy Book?
What does it mean? (clap, clap)

God showed his love in Jesus,
Who made the Church to lead us,
God’s Word, the Scriptures, show us,
That we’re God’s family.

The Church gives us for reading,
Four lights that show the meaning,
These Scripture senses leading,
They guide us as we read.

What does it say? (That’s the literal)
Who wrote it, what way?
Historical prose? Story or poem?
What does it mean?

Three senses categorical
Anagogical, allegorical
And don’t forget the moral
The spiritual senses, three.

What does it say? (That’s the literal)
For my life today? (The moral)
Does it point to Christ?
Or the end of our life?
What does it mean?

What does it mean? What does it mean?
Four senses we need
When God’s Word we read,
To know what it means!

Four senses we find,
Will light up our minds,
That’s what it means!

Four senses we’ll use
To find all the clues,
And know what it means!
(shout) THAT’S WHAT IT MEANS!

©2010 Heidi Hess Saxton. All rights reserved.

NOTE: These words may NOT be reprinted or used without permission of the author. Reprint requests should be sent to me at heidi.hess.saxton@gmail.com.

Healing Childhood Trauma

This week on CatholicMom.com, my column deals with the signs parents should watch for in their children that may indicate they are experiencing trauma and need professional help. The source of the trauma varies from child to child and from family to family: divorce, death, separation, neglect, abuse, financial stress, the list goes on. For children touched by adoption or foster care, unresolved trauma from the circumstances that caused them to be separated from their birth families can affect them into adulthood, even if they are loved and supported by their new families. Love, in and of itself, does not always “conquer all.”

What I wish someone had thought to mention to us when we first got our children, is that unresolved trauma can lie dormant for a time — only to bite you in the glutes as the child approaches adolescence. So parents need to keep a watchful eye, especially in children who have been diagnosed with “invisible disabilities” such as autistic spectrum disorders, ADHD, ODD, attachment issues, and so on. And parents of children with a history of abuse and neglect must never let their guard down entirely. Sneakiness and deceit — even with children who are otherwise good and truthful — is part of the disorder.

Another thing I wish had been pointed out to me is that trauma affects parents, too. After years of dealing with acting-out behaviors, your parent brain may not catch the more subtle signs of “something is not right here.” Not only do your kids need help in healing . . . You may also need help in dealing with the stress.

This week’s Gospel, in which Jesus gives dire warnings to those who cause one of his “little ones” to stumble, predicting millstones and a watery destruction, also provide a faint hint of hope to those who hear with the ears of faith. For the Christian, “death by water” has an entirely different connotation than it does for those who have not experienced the “dying with Christ” and “rising to new life” that baptism represents. Through our baptism, we do have all the graces we need to complete the journey. The path is not without suffering, for we follow in the steps of the Savior who suffered and died for us. But as we travel the road together with our children, we can persevere in faith, trusting in the perfect healing that is to come.

Today at CatholicMom.com: “A Loving, Sober Moment”

Today my latest column at CatholicMom.com is up, entitled “A Sober, Loving Moment.”

No matter how long you’ve been married, true intimacy is measured not in years but in sacrifice. For richer, for poorer — in sickness and in health — in freeze-dried, chocolate chip mint ice cream and a gentle covering of the afghan in the middle of the night.

We love not for what the other person does for us, but because of who we are when we are with that person. True love — the self-donating, unselfish variety — is one that gives more than it takes. It “believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” In a word, it keeps loving, no matter what.

Have you abandoned yourself entirely to your marriage?

Family We Don’t Get to Pick

If you enjoy this post, check out more quality Catholic reading at the Catholic Carnival #147, hosted this week by our fearless facilitator Jay at “Living Catholicism.com.”

The other day I talked with Maureen, whose granddaughter “Janie” – her son’s child – was a ward in another state. Little Janie has two half-siblings (by a different father) who were also in the system, and were about to be adopted by a gay couple. Because the older children were unrelated to her, Maureen wanted to adopt only Janie.

Maureen was upset because the agency had recommended to the family court judge that Janie be placed with the other two children, rather than sent to live with Maureen. They didn’t want to separate the siblings unless it was absolutely necessary.

Maureen thought this was ridiculous. “Why should I take the older two? They aren’t my grandchildren, just a reminder of their no-good father. Besides, that judge should choose family over a gay couple!” Clearly there was a long, sad story behind Maureen’s words, and my heart went out to her. But I was pretty sure the judge wouldn’t rule in her favor.

What I really wanted to say to her was, “Are you sure you can’t find it in your heart to take in the other two children? They can’t help who their father is.” We use the same reasoning to explain why a woman who has been raped should not abort her child: Children should not be forced to pay for the sins of their parents.

Maureen has a difficult choice to make: relinquish her grandchild or welcome Janie’s siblings as well. Not to thwart the adoption plan of the gay couple, but because it is in the little girl’s best interest to stay with her brothers. If she were to be separated from them now, Janie may forget them for a while. However, her brothers’ grief would be compounded … and one day, when Janie finds out what happened, she could very well come to resent her grandmother from pulling her away from the rest of her family.

There are situations when there are serious reasons for siblings to be separated – my own children have two older siblings that do not live with us. We’ve done our best to keep the kids in touch with one another through periodic visits, though it isn’t the same as being able to run down the hall and jump on a sibling’s bed every morning. But in order to keep them safe, we had to make a tough call knowing that one day we will have to answer for that decision.

In the world of adoption – particularly with the prevalence of “open adoption” – the traditional definitions of family become rather fluid. Yes, our children are really ours … but the relationship between other family members is less clear-cut. We find ourselves being tangentially related to people we would just as soon disappear. The temptation, of course, is to ignore the connection and write them off – after all, these people mean nothing to us.

But it isn’t that simple. Even when the bonds of birth are stretched, they are never wholly broken. Separation may be the better of two bad choices. The pain and longing remains. Periodic visits are no substitute for being able to giggle over Cheerios every morning.

We do not choose to have these people in our lives. But in a very real sense, they are the “family we didn’t pick.”

“We’re going to see birth-mom and dad,” I tell my noisy bunch.
They squeal and jump in car seats, ready for their junk-food lunch.
I’ll pay for their indulgence; As they bounce till they get sick.
Thank you, dear birth parents, family I didn’t pick.

Time for Christmas with some people who are clearly less than glad
“those children” are still with us since we’re not “Real Mom and Dad.”
Hand-me-downs and garage sale finds will have to do, St Nick.
Give me patience,” I pray gamely, “with these folks I didn’t pick.”

When asking for a sibling group, we only wanted two.
The social worker asked us if instead we would take you.
Who’d have guessed it? It was madness! What a dirty, rotten trick!
That we should fall so much in love with three we didn’t pick!

H.H.Saxton, 2004