Happy Birthday, Mama!

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Today is the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary…aka Mama’s birthday!! What better way to celebrate Christ’s perfect mother than by having ourselves a little tea party lunch. Oliver even joined us, making it his first ever liturgical tea! Once the girls saw how lovely the table was set they insisted on wearing the dresses and shoes they wore to my mum’s wedding last weekend. So sweet! We sang Immaculate Mary and then tucked in. I love celebrating our Lady’s special days together as a way to honor her and remind myself that she is truly our mother and she knows the heart we have for our children. I can always trust her with my intentions because as Christ’s mum, I know He will hear her.

Immaculate-ConceptionRemember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thine intercession was left unaided.

Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my mother; to thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me.

Amen.

 

Advent Surprises

Those of you who have been walking with my family and I for awhile probably know that several months ago, we tried to start our own business. It was Ben’s biggest dream of having his very own local, sustainable butcher shop with grass fed and/or organic meats. After a lot of meetings with banks and investors we kept hitting the same wall over and over again of not having any of our own money to invest. Everyone we spoke to thought it was a brilliant idea but we just didn’t have what was needed to get it going. Though highly profitable, it is very expensive to set up.

Ben struggled daily to go to work, feeling as though there was no hope and that he would be stuck forever working in a job that he was already at the top of. God really pressed into him and asked Ben for total faithfulness, and to trust that He had a plan that would be revealed in His own time. It took a lot of tears and prayers but we got there. Ben found new joy in his work and held his head high as he put himself back into the swing of things. Fast forward a few months where I decided to make my consecration to Jesus through Mary. If you read my last post and the comments below it you will see that my friend Jenna said the following,

“I have been told by many people that soon after they do, Our Lady changes their life dramatically. Like, as in, friends of mine figured out what their vocation was soon after, or big prayer intentions they had been carrying for a long time were answered, and so on. So I am excited to see what amazing things she will do for you!”

Imagine my total joy when the day following my consecration, Ben received an email from the owner of the local, grass fed meats butcher shop at the Halifax Seaport Farmer’s Market. He asked if Ben would mind contacting him to discuss something. That something was a job. A very much ‘Ben’s dream job’ job. A job that pays well enough that I have decided to quit my own job at Starbucks.

 It has been a very interesting Advent. Not the one I imagined. In all honesty, my house is a disaster (which is slowly on the mend) and we haven’t lit our wreath the last two weeks because we ran out of matches and actually haven’t had time to get new ones.

Watching my husband be head hunted and hired into a job he is excited about going to everyday has been a real gift to our family already. We will both finish up our jobs at the end of this year and Ben will begin in the first week of the new year at the Getaway Meat Mongers at the waterfront. I have so many feelings about all of this that I don’t know where to begin other than to say, God is good. God is very, very good. (and faithful, and trustworthy, and awesome, etc etc).

I have lots more to share but don’t know that I will be back here before Christmas as I have yet to finish Abigail’s leg warmers or wrap any gifts. I hope you all have a lovely Christmas with your families and friends and that God blesses you with a peaceful and hopeful heart!!

God Has A Plan

There really is nowhere to start except by saying that six days after moving into the house we got water in our basement. I know, right?? We had a pipe blocked by a build up of previous owners dog hair and other random stuff. We don’t have a water problem, it was just bad timing that it happened right after we moved in. Someone came to clear the pipe out for us but the damage was done at that point and there was water under almost all of our laminate in the basement. You could hear the water squeak when you walked on the floors. Thankfully Ben came home to help handle the situation while I kept the girls upstairs and out of the way.

We are covered by our home insurance, minus the first $1000.00 thanks be to God! Not that we have $1000 just sitting around, but at least we don’t have to pay the entire cost. The following morning they sent a contractor and some workers to tear the floors out of the hallway, our bedroom and the girls room. They also had to cut a bunch of drywall out since the moisture had started climbing the walls. They set up a huge dehumidifier to help dry out the floors and went on their way. They’ve been here a few times to take care of little things and we had someone come and measure the rooms and hallway to get an estimate for the floors. Our insurance is now just waiting on some quotes from contractors to decide who will do will do the job for less. Once that is decided I suppose they will start laying new floors. We are praying that it will be this week sometime.

I really wish I could say I handled all of this like superwoman. I wish I could say I was positive, strong and trusting that God was taking care of all this. But it wouldn’t be the truth.

The truth?

I cried. I cried and cried and cried. I chewed my lips. Bickered with my husband and wasn’t very kind to my children. Suddenly we were right back to being unsettled and bringing things back up into the living room, boxes and boxes worth. We were told that our home was ‘habitable’ for the process of changing flooring. Clearly these people don’t understand or appreciate the importance of napping children.

The past week and a bit has been spent living out of a suitcase, trying to keep the girls busy while we take care of business and praying that this rain would just end already so we can play outside and feel the hope that warm sunshine brings.

This is not how I imagined our first week in our first home. I don’t suppose anyone really sees these things coming. What has given me great comfort in the last few days has been this scripture verse:

“For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare, not for woe! plans to give you a future full of hope. When you call me, when you go to pray to me, I will listen to you.”
-Jeremiah 29:11-12

I know why we had a blocked pipe but I don’t know why it happened when it did or why it happened to us. But I do know one thing. One truth. It is what I cling to when I am ready to throw in the towel.  Wanna hear it?

God. Has. A. Plan.

God’s plan is not always clear in our lives. Actually, it rarely is. It’s not always what I had in mind or what I think I needed at the time. In the moment I might cry and crumble and show my weakness and distrust in the Lord, but after a little time, a little prayer, some quiet with my husband or a hot bath, God’s peace starts to settle into my heart. Why is that?

Because I have been here before. I’ve tasted disappointment, anxiety and uncertainty and have come to the other side of it. God loves us just as we are but He loves us far too much to leave us there.

Water in our basement? God has a plan.
Hard times financially? God has a plan.
Waiting nearly 4 years for Ben’s permanent residency to come through? God has a plan.
Losing baby after baby in miscarriage? God has a plan.
My dad dying at 48 years old? God has a plan.

God is faithful. Even when I don’t feel him near, I can see his faithfulness to me when I look back at all the difficult moments of my life. I would bet that I am not alone in this.

With everything going on in the house (plus my own personal intention) I decided to start a novena to Mary, Undoer of knots. I am on day 8 and can say that it has already bore fruit. In the closing prayer of each day there is a line that chokes me up everytime and it says, “O my Lady, you are the only consolation God gives me”. I have known this to be true when I am struggling and Christ feels far away, His mother is an ever gentle presence in my life waiting with open arms to receive me. Telling Mary about the frustration of our situation and about my personal intention feels like I am talking to my own mom on the phone, which I am thankful for because my mama was in Florida last week. She is a comfort to me in the hardest of times, Mother of sorrows, she knows what it’s like to walk a hard road. She never had more than one child to deal with at a time that’s true, but she did have to stand back and watch people hate her only son and crucify Him. She is there to hold our hands when we need her.

I don’t have a poetic way to bring this post to an end. I guess I just want you to know, since we all need to be reminded from time to time, that God has a plan. He knows where we’ve come from, where we are and where we’re going. The choices are entirely up to us, we do have free will, but He is right in the thick of it with us. And His mama? She’s right next to Him (i.e right there with us)

*Please say a little prayer for us if you could, that all would happen as it should…and soon, God willing!!*

Mary’s Flowers

I was the very happy recipient of some gorgeous purple tulips this Valentine’s day. Not wanting to throw them away as soon as they began to wilt, I decided to cut the ones that were looking a little sad and put them in a glass with some water. I thought they would make for a cheery sight in our bathroom or bedroom, but miss Lucy had other plans. She was watching me put them into fresh water and declared, “Those are Mary’s flowers”. Realizing what she meant, I agreed that they were and we both brought our little bunch of tulips over to our statue of Mary. What a simple way to show Our Lady some love and how beautiful that when we teach our children, they end up teaching us. I was grateful for the reminder that Mary is not unlike most women who love flowers and feels loved when we think of her. There you have it, Mary’s flowers.

That was a few weeks ago now and I wasn’t able to get a picture of those flowers but we had some sweet pink carnations for Abigail’s birthday which Lucy has now declared to be Mary’s flowers as well. Mary is one lovely mama and it made my heart sing to know that Lucy thinks of her that often. We put the cut flowers in a small glass and then after presenting Mary with the flowers Lucy got down on her knees, no joke, and began to pray the Hail Mary. I followed her lead and bent low to pray with my little daughter. There is no sweeter gift.

2011, Here We Come!

Happy New Year! I hope you all enjoyed some joyous celebration to kick start 2011. We ate chinese food and went to bed at 11pm. What can I say? We. Like. To. Party.
Let me rewind a little since I haven’t checked in here since before Christmas. We had a very lovely Christmas at my mum’s house, although we did miss Ben very much, me especially. We went to mass on Christmas eve and enjoyed a few traditions once back at my mum’s. One being her chicken stew. I’m not sure if it’s a french thing or just our family, but either way we look forward to it every Christmas. The girls opened a few gifts from extended family on Christmas morning but we saved nearly everything for our very own little Christmas when Ben returned.

Ben brought home some awesome kiwi loot! Tim Tams, Weet-Bix, some butter chicken packets and a few gifts for us girls. He brought me a special gift, some beautiful earrings that his sister helped him pick out. He also brought us Brooke Fraser’s new CD which is completely fantastic. She writes so beautifully about her faith and also just some fun music to sing along to. Among all of these goodies, was a gift from one of his sisters for our family. She created an artwork to add to our Christmas decorations. I totally love it. It’s colourful, different and sparkly.

Here is our tree looking a little smooshed in the corner, but it worked out very well because I was able to block it off with our coffee table whenever Abigail decided she felt like pulling the lights, beads and decorations off.

Ben arrived home on December 28th as his flight was scheduled to. His bags got stuck in Boston overnight but we were all so happy to see one another that it didn’t even matter. It worked out well that Lucy and Abigail’s naps weren’t in sync the day that Ben came home since he was able to spend some one on one time with each of them. They were so happy to see him! Lucy kept asking Ben to play with her and read her stories and even now, days later she is so excited when he comes home.
All in all we had a wonderful Christmas. The girls enjoyed our Advent traditions, Lucy learned about scripture and asks for it whenever we sit down to eat now. Ben arrived home safely, and that is all I could really ask for this year. He enjoyed his time with his family and was so grateful that he was able to be at his sister’s wedding. It was a blessed time for his whole family and God was good to us girls as well. It had it’s difficult moments but God really was present in each and every day helping us and gracing us with good friends, food and family to help us through our time without Ben home.
Now onto a new year. I have no idea what God has in store for us, but I trust that He knows what we need and that He will provide for us in whatever He asks of us. I have decided on two simple resolutions/goals for 2011. The first being that I will read from my Bible each and every single day for the next year, whether I read one sentence or an entire chapter, I will let God’s word feed me. Secondly, I resolve to become Katie Andrews this year. Legally speaking. All of my documents and identification still say Katie Toner…four years into our marriage seems as good a time as any to resolve this.
I pray that we can all be open to the many gifts God wants to give us this year, whether we recognize them as gifts or challenges. It seems fitting that the first day of the year is also the feast of Mary, the Mother of God. She said YES! to God when he called upon her. 
 Whatever this new year brings, Lord, give me the courage to pray,  “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”

Mother Mary Comes To Me

Our parish recently started a monthly Family Rosary & Potluck group. We’ve only met once so far and it went beautifully. Having heard that I was one of the women helping to organize this group, a friend of mine from the parish called me the night before our group was supposed to meet.
This friend is an amazing woman. She has endured a lot of personal hurt and the end of her marriage many years ago. She has never stopped coming to Christ in the most beautiful and vulnerable way I have ever seen. She is well into her fifties but can be found always with the teens of our parish, who seem drawn to her easy smile and mothering heart. For many years she would bring teens and also a statue of Our Lady of Fatima, into homes of parishioners who were ill and dying. There they would pray the rosary and pray for healing and strength of these individuals. I hope you will understand now, why I was so humbled and cried when she called and said, “You are supposed to have the Our Lady of Fatima Statue.”
She said that from the moment she saw our announcement in the bulletin, she knew that Mary was ready to travel again. At the foot of the statue it reads, “Pilgrim Virgin of Fatima”. My friend said that she knew this statue was meant for our group and that she would be a wonderful presence at our monthly meeting as well as a blessing in the homes of those who need her gentle love and prayers. This is no tiny statue. She is almost as tall as Abigail, and completely beautiful. I feel so unworthy to have her in my home. The scripture that comes to mind for me is when Elizabeth says to Mary, “Who am I that the Mother of my Lord should come to me.” She has become the focal point of our living room and a simple glance at her in a moment of feeling like I am in the thick of madness with babies and I breathe a little easier. I know she has been here. Teething, tantrums, little sleep at night. She knows. She knows. I know that she will be with us in between her visits with other families and it gives my heart great joy to know she will be in our home.
I have wanted a beautiful statue of Mary in our home from the day we were married. They are difficult to come by, unless you don’t mind the crossed eyes or the high price tag. I wanted something simple, beautiful and what I was given was so much more. She came to us while the NET girls were here and it just so happened that one of them was at the tail end of her consecration to Mary. I remember wanting to consecrate myself to Mary while I was on the road but always thought that the prayers were too long. At least, that was my excuse.
I always felt that I didn’t need Mary, because I had such an awesome mom. Now an adult, I understand that my mom is in no way perfect and that I shouldn’t expect her to be. As children we expect everything of our parents. They are our whole world. What I have learned recently is that if the only thing I ever do as a parent is point to our TRUE Mother and Father, than I have been a good mother to my girls. I want them to know that even when I can’t be there for them, or fix the hurt in their hearts, Mary can. If they grow up knowing Mary to be spotless, pure and lovely, then it won’t break their hearts when they find out that I am not super mom. It will be okay that mom is just human..and broken, because they have a woman to look up to that isn’t.
To those that would judge me and say that I am ‘shoveling my religion down my kids throats’ I would say this – Life. Is. Hard. – and I don’t want my children ever wondering if God cares about them. I want them to know it. I believe that those who don’t offer their children any kind of faith or belief while they are being raised are doing their children a huuuuuuuge disservice. I pray every day that by my perseverance and faith, I can give my daughters the tools they will need to go out into this world and bring Christ with them to be a light for those who have none. Let’s dream big for our kids, eh? How do I know what my children will become? I don’t. So until then, I will just keep giving Lucy and Abigail back to Our Lady and pray that she will help me to become more like her, in that she is always pointing to Jesus. I am happy to be a road sign if it means my girls will know how Jesus loves them.
Getting back to Mary. Do I pray the rosary daily? no. Have I felt the urge to since she has been spending every day in my home? Surprisingly, yes. I am not one for formal prayer. Most that know me would likely agree. I’m a bit more of the Holy Spirit wham-in-yo-face kind of a lady, but in my life right now? Mary knows that I need her, especially with Ben leaving on Monday for 15 whole days. I have felt called to pray more since she has been here and to bring to her the intentions of those I love. If you would like me to pray for you or for anyone who is on your heart please leave me a message in the comments/send me a facebook message or even email me at katieandrews84@gmail.com Mary is for everyone. She is the Mother of us all and I pray that I can share her in the way that I have been asked to. She won’t be with us forever, but she is for now and I couldn’t be happier!