Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Empty Tomb

Holy Week for Christians celebrates the most important events in our faith.

The Tridiuum begins on Holy Thursday with the celebration of the Lord's supper. For Catholics this is where Christ instituted the Eucharist and the priesthood. The celebratory mass includes the ritual of the washing of the feet which symbolizes the Christians' duty to serve his fellow man in imitation of Christ. At the end of mass, the Eucharist is taken out of the main sanctuary of the church and placed in a side chapel. The Tabernacle will remained open and empty throughout Good Friday.

Good Friday is when we remember the suffering and death of our Lord. No mass is celebrated on this day. Holy Communion consecrated on Holy Thursday is distributed. The Stations of the Cross and the adoration of the Crucifix are part of the Good Friday worship. St. John's Gospel shows the Christ of the Passion as a Christ in complete control, even to the point that His human nature may say, "It is finished." And with that He gives up His spirit. For us, we may learn that no matter what we may encounter in our lives, we always have our Free Will. We may not choose our Cross always, but we may choose what we do with it.

Easter is celebrated either at a Vigil mass on Saturday after nightfall or Sunday morning. Here we celebrate the empty tomb: The resurrection of our Lord and our chance at life everlasting with God.

The empty tomb has always fascinated me. The descriptions in the Gospels are detailed and create a mental image of exactly what should have happened. The tomb was not in shambles or completely empty as if Christ's body had been stolen. The garments were folded and the head napkin was rolled off to one side. I heard once that in Jewish Tradition, if a guest left the table, he would roll his napkin as a sign to the servants that he was going to return. I love that.

The Resurrection is both concrete and elusive. The facts of the empty tomb are recorded as a journalist would record events. Yet when Christ appears after He has risen, he is often not recognized at first by those who knew him well. He does not appear to everyone, though he appears to many.

Christ still remains concrete and elusive. God will not force Himself on us, we must choose Him. In order to freely choose, He can not make Himself known to us in His full glory. We couldn't help but choose such splendor. So He whispers to us, speaks to us through others, nudges us, comforts us. For those willing to see, He is also concrete in the ordered world He has created.

May the Empty Tomb speak to you this Easter. May you see in it the sign of a loving God who was willing to take on our nature, to suffer and die. Yet a powerful God who could conquered death to return again to our table.

A blessed Holy Week and Happy Easter to all.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Give 'em a Break

We have adopted before from China but brought home a 10 month old. We have never had any issues whatsoever with her. The neatest part about the whole process was how unconditionally my three bio kids accepted her into their band of brothers.

I expected the same reaction from my children, who were so excited about the rospect of their new six year old brother. However, the transition was not anything close to seamless this time. In the midst of our first three weeks home, the worst three weeks of my entire life I think, my children not only did not make things easier. They seemed at every opportunity to make things worse.

I was so tired and frustrated and overwhelmed, I saw their behavior as only a means to annoy me or to annoy their new sibling or to annoy one another. After some serious soul searching, I realized that I had been so focused on myself, that I had not seen their behavior for what it really was: cries from those I love most telling me to stop looking at myself and look at them.

After homeschooling for five years, I had decided to put them all in school a few weeks after we returned from Ethiopia. The changes (and chaos) in their life that arrived with their new sibling along with all the nervous uncertainty of a whole new school adventure was taking its toll on them. They were not trying to be bad, but they were trying to get me to see their needs.

I was so self consumed, I was expecting way too much from my kids.

The realization made things so much better. I stopped getting frustrated at the behavior and instead tried to tune into what they needed from me: the reason for the behavior.

I had posted on my adoption blog earlier on a discussion about pets not to assume a pet will react in the way you think they will to a new child. Yet, I was not smart enough to realize the same thing may hold true for a child. Especially in the case of an older child who has a personality, strengths and weaknesses. How kids have reacted to a baby or new child in the past may not necessarily be how they react the next time around.

And that is okay. They don't know one another. They are tied by an unseen bond whether they know it or not, and one day they will know it. But for awhile, I needed to give em a break. Not expect too much from them.

After I realized what I had been doing, I went to confession. I took my eight year old along, as he had been unusually unkind to his siblings. When I exited the confessional I was crying. He asked why. I said, "Because I was so selfish, I did not see that you guys needed me. I expected way too much out of you and I feel just awful."

In the car on the way home he said, "Mom, God doesn't just forgive you... I do too and I know the other kids will too."

You can't be forgiven until you know what you have done wrong. It took me nearly three weeks to figure it out. Thank you God for showing me what I was doing wrong.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


I am a very independent person. I am not likely to ask for help. I can think back through my life to some instances where I needed help, and though I didn't ask for it, it came:

When I was in college and in a terrible room mate situation, my younger brother wrote me from home: "You can deal with this, I know you can. For you, I have quit biting my nails. I can now pick up pennies and pop zits. If I can quit biting my nails, you can do this."

When my best friend from high school died in a swimming accident in Mexico, a college friend came over to my apartment. She put my two Adirondack chairs side by side on my deck, handed me a beer and a cigarette and said, "Tell me the whole story, start with when you first met."

Four days after my first son was born, after four sleepless nights, my aunt took me up to my room on Christmas Eve and said, "Let me show you how to breast feed."

A few months before my first son was born, we moved into our first house. I was working and had volunteered to give a speech for a Confirmation Class one night. I was uncomfortable and tired in general. When I came home from the speech, my husband and my sister had unpacked and arranged my whole house.

My most recent example has come in the form of a school community. As I have posted, I have started my kids in the Catholic School down the street. The first day went well, but the second, not so much. When I told the office my newest son was refusing to get out of the car, they introduced me to the behavioral specialist. She explained to me what they needed to do, how they would do it, and assured me it would take time, but it would work.

The principal sat down with me to discuss a plan to try and help make the transition as easy as possible.

The school custodian and office administrator helped implement the first step of the plan: getting him out of the car.

The kindergarten teacher was fabulous.

A little girl in his class stepped in at recess to make him feel at ease.

As I write, I can not help but cry knowing I am not alone. That in my life, whether I asked or not, people have stepped in to help. And of course, there have been so many other examples that I did not share. Some are so built into the fabric or our relationship, like my husband and my mother, that they are like the very air I breathe.

I can not thank everyone in my life who has helped me. But my heart is so filled with gratitude, I think it may burst. I pray that I may never miss an opportunity to help others.

May God bless you for helping one of your fellow human beings today.

Monday, March 15, 2010


It has been awhile since I have had time to think, let alone write. My life has been a crazy whirlwind: some good some bad. The biggest change is that I have enrolled my children in Catholic School after homeschooling for five years. We are all very excited about the new opportunities a Catholic School Culture will provide.

There are darling plaid uniforms, school masses, a lunch room. There will be new friends, fun teachers and recess.

I have loved homeschooling. I have posted before about the strange reason I chose to do so in the first place. I have always felt that being around my children all the time was the best way for us to build our relationship. I think that was true. But things change.

My oldest is ten and I have felt for awhile we are nearing the time when I really need to start cultivating what will be our teen and adult relationship. For me, this must be a relationship based on conversation.

Being around my children all the time can often leave little to talk about. We discuss books or movies, spelling and history, but what happens in his life happens while I am there for the most part.

I think one of the greatest gifts being in school will give us is fodder for conversation; opportunities for him to come to me, not because I will find out or already know, but because he wants to tell me.

I wouldn't trade my years of homeschooling for anything. One of the greatest gifts has been the level of innocence my children have maintained. In many ways, this is always determined by the oldest. However long he believes in magic will determine the length of those who follow.

My mom insisted that I tell him about the Easter Bunny before he started school. I did so. He told me already knew. When he broke the news of our conversation to his grandma she replied, "Oh, really." He then went on to explain that he hadn't yet figured out about Santa. I guess he knows inherently he won't get the answer from me on that one. He knows I still believe in Santa. I told him parents do give toys when children no longer believe because once a house has a child who does not believe, Santa no longer comes.

Being a first child, he is all about coming up with solutions. While my second was upset for years at a brochure with a child with a clef palette, my oldest met one in the flesh in China. Unfazed, he asked the parents what was wrong and how they intended to fix it. The solution he came up with for Santa at age ten is the following:

I figure I will wait until I have kids, give them presents from the parents and see if on Christmas morning they get anything else.

Change is good. Childhood is priceless.