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Catholicism

We’re Still Figuring Out How to Do Advent And That’s OK

December 2, 2015

Advent.

A beautiful season the Catholic Church has given her people to direct their hearts and minds to the ultimate gift – the Incarnation of Jesus Christ at Christmas. It’s designed to be a season filled with prayer, repentance, and most of all a JOYFUL anticipation of Jesus’ arrival.

I think it can be a hard season to fully embrace as a Catholic today.

Why do I think that?

Well, as soon as Thanksgiving is done (who am I kidding, its when Halloween is done) Americans get busy. They start decorating, shopping, feasting, partying, music-ing, etc. to celebrate the Christmas season. The problem is that Christmas hasn’t happened yet. Liturgically, we are supposed to be waiting, reflecting, anticipating, and slowing down to make room in our hearts for the arrival of Christ.

The Christmas season is coming…and all those things should happen.

Just not yetright? Or can we do them while still waiting?

This is where my husband and I butted heads in a MAJOR way as newlyweds…and if I am being honest we revisit this topic Every. Single. Year.

You see, I want to just go along with what the culture is doing. I want to buy and decorate with ALL THE THINGS, listen to cheery Christmas jingles, host and attend parties, go caroling, bake until my oven breaks, and be so saturated with Christmas that by the time it arrives, I am really really really ready for it. Of course I want to do these things in addition to Advent devotions as well.

I blame it on my melancholic nature…I don’t shift gears quickly or easily so it’s actually hard for me to flip a switch and suddenly become excited about something. I need a buffer time to get excited before the thing actually happens. So in some ways, I NEED to begin the Christmas activities early so that I am actually ready when it arrives, right? 😉

But my better half wants to approach the season a bit differently and if I am being honest, he wants to approach it in a way that is liturgically correct. He wants to wait on Christmas music, decorations, baking, parties…you name it, he wants to wait on it until it’s officially the Twelve Days of Christmas.

Instead he wants to protect and preserve Christmas because it’s sacred and holy. He wants to give our family the gift of well prepared and quiet hearts to embrace Jesus at Christmas. He wants to make sure we haven’t Christmas-ed ourselves out before it even arrives and like the general culture, be done with celebrating December 26th when there are liturgically twelve full days to celebrate.

So this year we’re trying some new things. We’re two adults who respect one another’s opinions and are willing to experiment with how we ought to celebrate as a family. No one is a dictator around our neck of the woods and one person isn’t going to decide our traditions. We will mutually explore options and decide together.

What are we doing this year then?

We are decorating the house in pink and purple for Advent. We’ve got a Jesse Tree devotion we’re doing each evening around the Advent Wreath. We’re spending more time in prayer and plan to go to confession as a family. We’re keeping things simple so we can make room for Jesus at the “Inn” of our hearts. We will switch gears and bust out all the Christmas music, turn on the oven, and change the decorations…but we don’t know exactly when because we will be traveling on Christmas Eve and Day.

I want to clarify and say that I don’t believe this to be a moral issue. If you listen to Christmas music, you are not in sin. Please, nobody run off and take this post that far out of context. We’re just exploring this topic out-loud here on the blog as we process it ourselves. Yes, I continue to Google “How to be a good Catholic and be a?ble to listen to Christmas music” and Jonathan continues to interview families who’ve held off on celebrating.

We’re researching as a family and are trying to figure out what helps us enter more fully into Advent. That’s what this is about – being ready to receive our King into our hearts on Christmas. Whatever facilitates that best is what we will do in the Teixeira home.

I know this is a highly debated topic and I would love to hear from other perspectives in the comments. What have you chosen to do? What helps you get ready for Christmas? How do you embrace Advent?

Infertility, Marriage

What Do Singleness and Infertility Have in Common?

August 6, 2014

I’ve had this conversation far more often than I would have liked to in the past few years but it’s a conversation that should be shared.

I think it should be shared so that women who can relate to one of these struggles feel validated. I also think it should be shared so that women who can’t relate to one of these struggles don’t forget that these are real struggles

I’ve found that when I am sharing about infertility or a friend is sharing about singleness, we end up being able to relate with identical emotions despite our circumstances being different.

Here in this post I want to explore why it is that us infertile and single gals are carrying very similar crosses.

1. Hope deferred

hope deferred

Proverbs 13:12 says:

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a wish fulfilled is a tree of life.”

While a woman is single or infertile, there are seasons where it feels like this “deferred hope” is the only constant in their life. That it defines everything. That  life is on hold while this hope of something more is seemingly “put off” by God.

This proverb says that when hopes are deferred, the heart is made sick. That is the overall emotion that can consume the interior of a woman waiting for a desire to be fulfilled. And the desire to find ones vocation or to be married and bearing children are particularly deep desires.

See that other half of the verse?

“A wish fulfilled is a tree of life.”

It’s tempting to look at other women who have found their vocations/had children and feel like they are eating from a tree of life while we wait in the distance…sick to the very core of our beings with nothing but a hope for what they have.

All the while these women, often unaware of the blessings they do have, flaunt their “tree of life” all over Facebook/Instagram making social media a source of pain. Or worse…they complain openly to those of us with deferred hopes instead of to those in similar situations.

2. Guarded Hearts

Heart

Let’s go back to the book of Proverbs.

“With all vigilance guard your heart, for in it are the sources of life.”

This verse applies to all of us, no matter what state of life we find ourselves in. However, in a particular way, it can feel like the mantra of a single or infertile woman.

It feels like we are constantly fighting to guard our hearts against what is not yet reality.

All those fun things women talk/read about – wedding board on Pinterest, mommy blogs, baby showers, summer date ideas on Huffpost, nursery themes, honeymoon ideas, etc. are off-limits for us while we are actively “guarding our hearts.” To engage in these conversations or activities would inevitably be a source of extreme pain for us since we are not free and available to act upon these interests.

3. Feeling Alone

pinpenguins_2079836i

There wasn’t a Proverb for this one…but it reminds me of a certain Celine Dion chorus:

“All by myself…don’t wanna be….all by myself, anymore.”

Despite the knowledge that there are in fact several other women in very similar situations as us (single or infertile) there are moments on the journey where we feel completely and utterly alone.

We feel like we don’t “fit” anywhere. Our friends get married one by one…then start having kids ten seconds later and the relationship just changes. Since we don’t fit into the married with kids crowd, its easy to feel like we are on the outside.

4. Distrust

clock

I have yet to hear a woman say that she LOVES her infertility or singleness off the bat. If she is in a place of loving it, that often took years of abandoning to God’s grace. That’s a great place.

But long before ever reaching that state of peace and acceptance is usually a season of intense distrust in God’s will.

These thoughts creep in:

“Doesn’t God KNOW my desires? And that by willfully delaying them is causing my heart to be SICK?!?!? Why does everything I want seem to constantly be at odds with what God wants…while it looks like other people’s desires line up perfectly with God’s will. Could God actually be good since he’s allowing this much pain and suffering in my life?”

Insert distrust.

Man, tempted by the devil, let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and, abusing his freedom, disobeyed God’s command. This is what man’s first sin consisted of. All subsequent sin would be disobedience toward God and lack of trust in his goodness.” CCC 397

This is a dangerous place to be on the journey of singleness/infertility. It can breed further separation from God…since why would we keep following and loving a God who we lack trust in?

Battling through this emotion is one of the most arduous but crossing over to the “other side” is a huge milestone. Coming to a place of abandonment and surrender to God’s will and choosing to trust it, despite our ability to understand it, is where massive amounts of spiritual growth are found while facing singleness/infertility.

5. Hope/Despair Cycle

hope_despair

Oh the old hope/despair cycle.

As a single woman it typically manifests itself with a potential love interest. The hope begins to creep in and grow….only to die when things fizzle out and it’s back to ground zero AKA despair. Then a little time passes and a new interest enters the picture…hope springs forth all over again.

As an infertile woman this cycle typically occurs more frequently. During the first two weeks of a woman’s cycle, hope enters in. This could be “the” cycle!!! The last two weeks are ones of anguish, battling hope and despair…hoping against hope that this is “the” cycle. Then that one day that friggin period arrives is like a death AKA despair. Then a couple days later, right back to hoping.

6. Waiting and waiting and waiting some more

patience

This about sums up how well waiting goes when you are single/infertile.

During a season of singleness or infertility, it seems like waiting is all you do. Always waiting to meet someone, go on a date, get engaged, etc. Or always waiting to take a pregnancy test, try a new treatment, adopt, etc.

There is a temptation to feel like “life” is passing by while we are simply stuck waiting for “life” to begin. The scary part of waiting is actually starting to live one’s life while still waiting. That takes courage, vulnerability, and perseverance. God can make one’s life very fruitful in these circumstances…though often not the fruitful ways we had imagined or wanted.

Waiting, waiting, and waiting again is what it feels like we do best as single/infertile ladies. We watch friends enter vocations (either marriage or religious life) and they start taking vows or having children straight away…like life is rapidly happening to them and they don’t have to wait around for anything. If anything, they are probably praying for God to slow down on them a bit since life is a whirlwind. In our eyes? It’s a fabulous whirlwind we’d give anything to get swept into.

That’s all the similarities I’ve got here today, friends. If you can think of more, please share below in the comments section! I would love to hear from you!

One last note – to all you ladies who do NOT battle with singleness and infertility:

I know that you experience suffering and hardship. I know that you have a lot to offer up. I know that you likely still feel the above emotions. In no way am I sitting here is disillusionment that your life is perfect, as tempting that may be to believe. This is simply a post from the angle of singleness/infertility and how it can feel on the journey. God-willing, one day, I will be able to write a blog post about how hard being a mommy is but that’s just not the reality so that is why I am not writing about that today. Please don’t take offense to this post.

However – I would like to hear about how you relate to the above emotions, if ever at all…as it’s always good to hear about how just because circumstances change, struggles don’t.

Infertility, Marriage

Waiting At The Tomb

April 19, 2014

A few months ago, someone suggested a few places to “visit” in prayer. One of those was the Tomb of Jesus on Holy Saturday.

I began imagining the scene. I recalled the previous 48 hours of events . The Last Supper and institution of the Eucharist. The indifference of Pilot. Jesus’ crucifixion and death. How they brought him off the cross and Joseph of Arimethea offered a tomb to lay Jesus’ body in. The darkness over the land. The broken heart of Our Blessed Mother. The confusion of the disciples. The despair of Judas. The denial of Peter.

So very much to think about.

But now, everything is still. It’s quiet here at the tomb of Jesus. The disciples are nowhere to be found. Just a guard or two lurking nearby. Not much is happening but I know what’s coming.

Holy Saturday is a weird place to be caught. It’s not Good Friday nor is it yet Easter. It’s like an intermission.

As I meditated, everything was relating back to our journey with infertility.

In carrying this cross, in many ways, we have died with Christ. Dreams shattered. Plans crushed. Control surrendered. Selfishness stripped away. Entitlement shred. Part of us is “in the tomb” with him yet we wait on the outside. Our desires have been put to death but are awaiting resurrection. That’s where we live from day to day. I hope that doesn’t sound morbid or weird but it’s just our reality.

Our life, in so many ways, is an ongoing Holy Saturday. 

The tomb on Holy Saturday is the perfect place for me to “go to” in prayer. It depicts my reality so well. Heck, anyone in the midst of suffering and waiting for a resurrection should meditate at the tomb. It doesn’t have to be infertility.

I know Easter Sunday will come in due time. The resurrection will manifest itself. We will not wait in limbo forever. Knowing that brings my heart peace to keep waiting and offering my pain up…watching for that tomb stone to roll back. To see Jesus in all his glory and to allow him to resurrect the pain we’ve united to him.

Death will not get the last word.