Do you avoid confession?

confessionIf you don’t mind, I’d like to take a bit of a break from #40DayChallenge to share a special announcement.

Today over at “Reconciled to You” Allison Gingras is hosting the monthly BLOG HOP.

If you have ever dreaded heading into the sacrament, you might join the hop and meet some kindred souls.

At Extraordinary Moms Network, I recall my first experience with confession in which I argue with the priest.

At her blog “Single Mom Smiling,” Strahlen says:

I may never be as pure as Saint Faustina, as sacrificing as Saint Catherine of Alexandria, as selfless as Saint Maximilian Kolbe, as strong as Saint Joseph, or as unstained as Mary, but that’s not who I am called to be. I am called to be me … but closer to God than I thought I could be.

Meanwhile, at “Reconciled to You,” Allison posted this lighthearted moment at “Confession of a Confession Chicken.” She writes:

I blessed myself and jumped right in. “Forgive me Father for I have sinned. It has been about 6 months since my last confession and here are my sins.”  Only a few into my list when the priest interjected, “excuse me are you the woman who has come to start the new youth group.”   Um, crap. I was. Now what?

I felt like I had 2 options –YES options. One, I could lie. Then start back my confession with, “I lied one time just now to you,” or I could go the more sensible route, own up to the fact I have a very recognizable voice (I refuse to believe those screens don’t actually hide my identity), and get on with it.

That one made me chuckle … and was pretty consoling. No matter how bad my “laundry list,” I have yet to have a priest call me out by name!

Do you have a favorite confession story? Share it here!

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Not-Quite-Silent Motherhood: A Miracle in Our Midst

One of my favorite ways to engage the Gospel is to imagine that I am a peripheral character in the story. In this week’s Gospel, for example,  we encounter a man who is both deaf and has a speech impediment, who is brought to Jesus for healing. We read:

He [Jesus] took him off by himself away from the crowd.
He put his finger into the man’s ears
and, spitting, touched his tongue;
then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him,
Ephphatha!”– that is, “Be opened!” —
And immediately the man’s ears were opened,
his speech impediment was removed,
and he spoke plainly.

Listening to the story, I imagined what it would have been like to be this man’s mother. Imagine raising a child who could not hear her–but whose attempts to engage the world  were loud, unintelligible . . . and never-ending. Imagine what it would be like when that child grew into manhood. As his mother, she would have tended to his needs long beyond the time most children need their mothers. Well into the time when most children begin to contemplate tending to their elderly parents’ needs.

What must it have been like for her, to have been suddenly released from her role of caregiver? Did she feel a rush of relief? Unmitigated joy? Or was just a part of her a little worried about what her life was going to be like, now that her role (and her identity) was no longer so neatly defined. What were her son’s first words to her, once could express all the thoughts that had been bottled up in his heart?

All the healing miracles of Jesus were, strictly speaking, not primarily ordered toward the restoration of the human body. The healings were genuine, of course . . . and yet, the primary purpose of each healing was to point us toward something eternal. Often it was to reveal his divine power and authority toward a particular group of people, to liberate their bodies as a means to direct their attention toward their need for inner healing. This was as true for those who brought the man to Jesus as it was for the man himself.

The thing is, each time we approach Jesus, whether in his Word or in his eucharistic presence, we are reminded of that need for healing again. And I can tell you this with certainty: Nothing in forty-plus decades of human existence has reminded me of just how much I need that healing like parenting. Each fault and failing is magnified, until there is nothing to do but cast myself on the mercy of God, in full view of anyone who cares to watch.

As I thought about this, there in church, a loud moan rang out from the back of the sanctuary. A teenager, developmentally disabled and possibly deaf, was quickly led by her mother out of the church. Minutes later, they tried to slip back into the service . . . and quickly had to leave again when another eruption occurred. There was no miracle for this family, no possible way to remain silent and hidden in the pew. As a mom who has had to leave quickly from her share of services, I wanted to hug both of them and say, “Thank you for being here today. Your presence was a gift — you helped me to enter in to the story with all my senses, and see in a fresh way the miracle of Christ.”

NOTE: Would you like to learn more about lectio divine, the ancient spiritual practice of putting yourself in the Gospel scene in order to meditate on the story? Ascension Press recently released Walking Toward Eternity (and is in the process of developing a new faith formation program, Oremus), based on the ancient Catholic tradition of lectio divina. If you enjoyed Jeff Cavin’s The Bible Timeline or Quick Journey studies, check this one out!

Photo Credit: Original source unknown, entitled “Ephphatha” and linked from “Jonelliff.posterous.com” Ephphatha

Mighty Mom Monday: Lessons in Gratitude

Thanks to “Mighty Mom” for reprising this heartfelt post here at EMN. In this season of Advent, may we always be mindful of those for whom the “holidays” are a painful reminder of what they need … first and foremost, the preservation of dignity.

OK, when I was a child we lived in what I now know was poverty. However, because my then step-father was going to SMU to seminary (he never finished) we lived for a year and a half in the richest part of Dallas. It was very hard to be “the poor kid.”

Well, during the second of those Decembers we got an envelope in the mail that said “To the parents of Sarah …..” return address was Santa Claus. Inside were $100 in gift certificates to the local grocery store. Our Christmas was not big, but we did have one. Because of the former step-father’s poor spending habits, we would have had Christmas regardless…but then wouldn’t have had money for food. Those gift certificates were perfect. A month’s worth of food (give or take) that can’t be spent on anything else. (This was long before you could get groceries and “stuff” like clothes and toys at the same store.)

I have a younger brother with a different last name. Why was it addressed to my parents? Who sent it? How did they know that just sending money wouldn’t be as helpful as the gift certificates? Did they know? How can you accept a gift when you don’t know who to tell thank you?

These questions have no answers.

But I do know this. I was 12 years old and very depressed. Ready to lose hope in everything. My Mom was in the process of kicking out the former step-father with poor spending habits. The world as I knew it was falling apart. Out of nowhere Santa sent me a gift. Not just a gift of money for food for the family, but a gift to me of hope, an example that people aren’t all hateful and snide, and the assurance that I could and would make it and be able to move on to a better life. Also, the knowledge that there’d be help along the way through the Grace of God.

Christmas is about the Birth of Christ. However, Santa Claus is about spreading hope and joy to those most in need. And every December I celebrate BOTH. Yes, I DO believe in Santa Claus and I DO believe that he still lives.

He lives in our hearts every December when we make a point of spreading hope and joy to someone else.

“And I heard him exclaim as he drove out of sight
Happy Christmas to all and to all a good night.”

“Weird Moms” – A Belated Tribute

Karen at “Odd Moms” invited me to check out her blog the other day …  “I know the ‘Weird Mom’ contest is over, but I wanted to pass this along,” she wrote. 

I’m so glad she did.  I was especially touched by this tribute to her mother.  Neither Karen nor her mother have had an easy life. But they managed to impart to their children important lessons about self-reliance and courage — first and foremost, by their own example as courageous single moms.

Karen’s blog is a good reminder that not all EMs are adoptive or foster moms. Some of them are moms who are simply doing the best they can with what life hands them, one day at a time.

An Adoptive Mother’s Story: Guest Post from Mighty Mom

Editor’s Note:  I was about ten when my mother led my Brownie troop on a trail-marking expedition in High Point State Park (NJ). Nearly twenty of us, along with three adults, divided into three groups: One to mark the trail, one to follow it, and one to clear away the markings as they followed the second group.

My mother led the first group along the path, on what was supposed to be a two-hour hike; we were to wind up back at the parked cars that held our post-hike refreshments.  Instead, Mom took a wrong turn, and led our troop several miles up the Appalachian Trail (which runs from Maine to Georgia).

Three hours later, we were still hiking. Exhausted. Hungry. Thirsty. We sat down to wait for the two other groups to catch up … and one of them eventually did.  (In their excitement, the second group had obiterated the carefully laid trail, so there were no marks remaining for the third group, who simply gave up and returned to the car to wait for us.)

Another hour passed, and finally Mom decided we would make our way to the interstate for help. So there we were — a dozen bedraggled, hungry, whiny tweenagers and two adults who were doing their best to hold it together — huddled by the side of the road somewhere in upstate New York, trying to bum a ride. (Sadly, there was no “hitchhiker” badge in the Brownie Hand Book.)

Finally, some vacuum salesman from Poughkeepsie gave my mother a lift back to her car, and a full six hours after we were originally supposed to have returned, we pulled in to the school parking lot. This was in the days before cell phones, and by that time parents were frantic.

We had less than half our troop at the next meeting. But it wasn’t so bad: I had a story that stayed with me for life.

These past two weeks I feel as though I’ve been hiking that Appalachian Trail again — this time as the leader. Trying to read the signs, to point the way for those who follow, and to keep “my troops” (my own family) safe and happy and well-fed.  And these two weeks, I feel as though I’ve allowed myself to wander far afield.

The purpose of EMN is — and always will be — to support the mothers of adopted, foster, and special-needs children.  Our vocation is not an easy one, and most of us have enough ugliness and pain in our lives that we don’t need to go looking for more.  

And so, it’s time to get back on track. The other two sides of the adoption triad — natural/birth mothers and adult adoptees — already have plenty of places where they can go to address their needs and wants, and to express their pain and loss.

This site … is for extraordinary mothers.  Our hopes. Our struggles. Our faith. Our journeys.  If and when other voices chime in, their comments should reflect an understanding of the needs of  mothers of adopted, foster, and special needs kids.  

And so, let’s head back to the parking lot, shall we? Here’s a guest post from “Mighty Mom” to lead us there — to remind us of the realities of adoption from the ADOPTIVE parents’ point of view. (My notes are in brackets).

Continue reading

Amazing Mom Monday: Andrea Roberts at “Reeces Rainbow”

“Mighty Mom” Sarah is taking a break … and so, I’ve decided to use this space to tell you about some other Extraordinary Moms!  “Mighty Mom Monday” is now “Amazing Mom Monday.”

“Atlanta mother Andrea Roberts has helped arrange more than 100 international adoptions in two years. Her Web site, http://reecesrainbow.com, focuses on children with Down syndrome, listing page after page of toddlers from Serbia, Ukraine and other countries where children with mental disabilities are often put in orphanages or mental hospitals. ”

Thanks to Barb Curtis, who sent me a link to this story in “The Washington Post” about Andrea and other women who are working to make a difference in the lives of Down syndrome children.

Outstanding International Adoption Websites

Today I found an international adoption website that I can’t refer specifically by name because they need to keep the blog private for the present due to the special circumstances related to their adoption.

However, I wanted to share with my readers three sites that those who are seeking international adoption will find particularly helpful. I’ve saved them in the “International Adoption” blogroll.

The first, “Informed Adoptions,” offers a wide variety of articles that are especially good for transracial adoption, particularly those from Guatemala.

The second, “The Hague Convention Guide for Prospective Adoptive Parents” is a primer for those who want to better understand the changes in the adoption this year.

 “Adoption Agency Ratings” offers a list of 1200 adoption agencies, there for your researching pleasure.

Finally, those interested in foster-adoption may be interested in this online resource, the “Child Welfare Information Gateway”

When I get permission to list my “source” I will do just that — thanks, K!