June Giveaway: In Honor of Father’s Day

Hi all! I have decided to do a June GIVEAWAY for fathers (including clergy :o) ), (or men or women) who love St. Joseph. I will be giving away this lovely statue which I will have delivered right to your door from The Catholic Company. This is a private giveaway and The Catholic Company has no idea who I am.

To enter: Please leave a comment on this post sharing what you love about your dad or any other man who has had a profound impact on your life.

I will announce winners NEXT Wednesday, June 17, 2015. I will ask the winner to email me their full name and mailing information at swimmingthedepths@gmail.com. So be sure to check my blog NEXT Wednesday to see if you won.  God bless.

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The Shock and Awe of Becoming a Contributor for Catholic Exchange

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I learned a few lessons yesterday as I began my contributor relationship with Catholic Exchange. The story of how I ended up writing periodically for them is one that I can only look back at in wonder. A few weeks before I was asked by the editor to become a contributor, I had emailed a good friend of mine and told him that my writing goal for this year was to get a piece published on Catholic Exchange. I had seen on their editorial page that they take submissions, as do a whole host of other Catholic websites, some of which I am waiting to complete my Master’s before I write more scholarly submissions. My friend thought it was a great idea and wished me success. I had set the thought aside as I began to prepare for final essays and exams for the January semester. Then something completely unexpected happened.

I read Catholic Exchange articles throughout my week because their focus is on deepening the Catholic faith of their readers and inviting others to investigate the greatness that is Christ and His Church. I happened to see an article that stopped me in my tracks in that the title was a theological error. For some reason I felt compelled to write a theological response on my own blog and share it on their Facebook page and in the comments section.  I didn’t expect a response and had written it so that readers could see a theological argument in response and study the subject more. I will not re-hash my post here, as it was quickly corrected by the author and editor. What happened next greatly humbled and amazed me. The editor contacted me to tell me a correction had been made and asked if I wanted to become a contributor for the website. I was stunned and over-joyed. This was a site I read regularly that I felt truly represented the Catholic mission to the world in its refusal to fall strictly into polemics. They are striving to help us grow in holiness. After a few years in polemics, I had found their website and had seen what type of writer I truly wanted to be.

I was exhausted from the battles that Catholics wage with one another constantly over every minute detail. I see that parts of social media are tearing the Mystical Body down rather than lifting it up. I contemplated this last night after having survived my first day as a contributor for a major Catholic site that reaches hundreds of thousands of people.

Honestly, I was stunned by the level of support and sharing my piece generated, as well as the other amazing authors at Catholic Exchange. I saw that thousands of people were reading and sharing the articles from yesterday. It made me wonder, do sites focused on polemics generate this kind of buzz? I looked over a few of the major Catholic political sites and saw very quickly that they are not nearly as popular. While this was an anecdotal and small pool of research, I could see that people are thirsting for the authentic Catholic Christian message. Yes, polemics are interesting. I still sit back and watch the arguments on my friends’ social media pages, but arguments don’t quench that thirst. Messages of hope, reflections on Scripture, the lives of the saints, and deepening of theological understanding feeds the soul in social media and in real life. The world is noisy and places like Catholic Exchange invite their readers into the silence of God. That is precisely why they are so popular. They are feeding Christ’s sheep.

My experience of joining them as a contributor was one of deep humility and shock. I struggle with pride, intellectual pride, and God completely stunned me with this direction in my writing. I quickly discovered that this is one of His tools for teaching me humility. I was nervous when my post was published. I was worried that I had made unintentional errors, and I actually did. They were quickly fixed. As a natural debater, I learned that I don’t have to respond to every comment posted. In fact, I really didn’t want to engage in debate since that is not the goal of my writing these days. I merely want to share the beauty of the Catholic faith with others and let God do the work. So while I responded to a few comments on my article yesterday, I realized very quickly that I didn’t need to and that is how I will keep things in the future unless any major questions arise. I want people to offer fraternal correction when necessary and I will happily contact the editor to make sure my mistakes are fixed, but I want my writing to help with silence and peace, not turn into fights over minutiae. So this natural born debater learned to trust and let things go. If the editor has approved my piece, then it is fine. Both of us are orthodox and never intend to lead people astray.

To write for a large website is to offer yourself up to the readership. It is to trust that God is using the talent he has given me to serve Him, not myself. I write because I want people to deepen their love of the Blessed Trinity. I am also human and I have to fight pride daily. There is a real danger of pride in being a writer. We can lose sight of the mission, but I see now that God is using this to teach me humility. I don’t like every writer that I read, so it is impossible for everyone to like my writing all of the time. People will tell me such and that is a great reminder to be humble and serve God, not myself. It is also deeply humbling to see so many people using this website to grow in their Catholic faith.

As a writer and a student, I tend to walk forward in fear and trembling. This is what we all should be doing, but I am amazed at what God has done with me in the past few months, especially as I go further into my Master’s program. I am learning so much and it makes me want to share it with others. I am growing in wonder and amazement as I delve deeper into the truths of Christ and His Church. I will even be teaching high school theology online this coming fall for Kolbe Academy Home School.

Yes, my primary vocation is wife and mother. That is the greatest gift, but I am thankful that he is using me precisely in my vocation. I can teach and write from home. He is fulfilling that deep intellectual yearning that He gave me, but also keeping me firmly planted at home with my daughter and husband. What a tremendous gift! The last few years have been hard. I suffered three miscarriages, post-partum depression, and a long period of refinement in the furnace of suffering, as one of my Confessors called it. The grief was painful and I was constantly reminded of Christ on the Cross. Through all of that suffering Christ has conformed me more closely to Himself that I may serve Him in charity, truth, and humility. So here I am in awe of what He is doing in my life. I hope you have a great weekend and a blessed Easter season.

Love Changes the Ordinary, the Mundane, and the Ugly

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Yes the picture above is an ordinary dandelion. The weed that is the bane of gardeners and lawn owners in their quest for spring and summer perfection. To adults it is nothing more than a pest to be rid of. In fact, most people would either look at this image that I took with derision or scorn. What they do not realize is that this dandelion was a gift from my 3 year old daughter. My birthday is Friday, Good Friday. She knows that it is coming, so she ran up to me with this bright yellow “flower” and presented it as an early birthday gift. My cup floweth over.

My daughter had found something of beauty and wanted to give it to me as a gift. In that moment she transformed that pest and weed into a thing of love and beauty. And I saw it. Mothers tend to see it. We see how much our children desire to share their wonder and fascination in the ordinary with us. I took the dandelion in my hand with great joy.

Christianity is where paradoxes meet and mingle. This truth is a major theme of the writings of G.K. Chesterton. I thought about it in light of my dandelion gift. Our Lord took an instrument of torture and fear and turned it into a gift of love. On Good Friday, Catholics hold up the Cross in veneration. We look upon the crucifix and experience joy and sorrow. We experience them together, not apart. One of the great mysteries of the Incarnation is the transformation and return of Creation to God. The transformation of sin into redemption. The combining of joy and sorrow. Torture is made into love.

Is this a bit much for a dandelion? No. Everything around us has been transformed in light of the Cross. This Holy Week is the culmination and fulfillment of our return to grace. All because of an act of love that changed the cross from an instrument of power and torture, into Divine Love and Divine Power. Love, in its truest sense, changes the ordinary into the extraordinary.

My daughter’s act of love changed that dandelion into a gift of self. She wanted to give me a gift. A gift to me, who is an avid gardener, and lover of all things that grow. She found a beautiful yellow weed and changed it into a flower of love. No the object itself is not changing. It is still a dandelion, but in her hands to mine, it becomes her joy and mine and a thing of great beauty.

You might not ever look at a dandelion the same way again. I hope you have a very blessed Holy Week.

Motherhood vs Talents: The Internal Battle and Trusting God

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My regular Confessor knows just how much I struggle with being a stay-at-home mom. The reasons are varied, but more than anything, I am trying to find the balance between doing what is best for my daughter and using the gifts that God has given me. I know that the best thing is for me to stay home at this point. I love being with my daughter all day, even when she is throwing her 3 year old tantrums. I get to see her develop and grow. I get to read with her and snuggle with her. I get to teach her the alphabet and about the Church. I am called to homeschool her, even though I know that will be a major challenge and sacrifice.

On the flip side of that, I get lonely and I crave intellectual stimulation at a deeper level. I have always been this way. My Dad and I spent hours talking philosophy and theology while I was in high school. That fire was stoked at a young age and has burned, even as embers, for decades. Unfortunately, this has turned my primary vocation into an internal battle ground.

There is no reason why being a stay-at-home mom should be pit against the gifts that God has given me. I turn it into a battle. I realized recently, that while I was focused on my own struggles, God has been taking care of it for me. It is possible for me to serve and teach my daughter and use the intellectual gifts that God has given me. It just happens that it will not be on my terms, but on God’s.

When I focus on gratitude and pay attention, I can see where God answers those struggles. I am a full-time graduate student. If that doesn’t fill an intellectual void then I don’t know what will. Out of nowhere an opportunity to teach theology for an online homeschooling academy popped up. I have an interview for the job today. Even if I don’t get the position, God is saying that options are available to me. I can serve my daughter and share my studies with other people. He is not asking me to sacrifice one for the other, but He is asking me to trust Him.

The world can make women feel like our only option is to work long hours outside of the home or stay home. It’s an all or nothing. Women who are stay-at-home moms are made to feel like second class citizens, while I know many women who work feel tremendous guilt for not being home. Women are not in competition with one another. We need to find the balance that works for our family and that is in line with our vocation and gifts. I made the decision before I got married that I would be home with any children we had, but that didn’t mean forever and it didn’t mean that I am lazy or lack intellectual capabilities.

I have found that these stereotypes or hostilities are most telling when someone learns about the life I had before motherhood. You did what?! As if my entire life has been me at home. You means stay-at-home moms have something to give?! It’s amusing and annoying at the same time. My husband and I both lived in Europe in our 20s before we met. I worked for government agencies and tried my hand at politics. I lived all over the U.S. As far as our culture is concerned, I truly lived in my 20s. I guess the difference is that none of those things satisfied me the way that motherhood and theological studies do.

Even though our culture can be anti-motherhood, I need to examine those areas where I have taken on that mantra. My battles come in part because I have accepted some areas of the cultural cry for productivity. That productivity is strictly defined by full-time work and long hours. I am firmly opposed to that idea.  For me, I want to find the balance between giving my daughter what she needs from me and serving others with my talents. That is where God wants me.

I need to look up more, so that I can see how God is working in my life. He provides. I have wandered a bit in the past few years as I adjust to this period of my life. It is an adjustment to go from the rugged individualism of my single life to the union of marriage and family. I am finding that this period is a lot quieter in many ways than the past. It is also noisier, at least volume wise. There is real peace in learning to live the vocation God wills for me. It takes the pressure off of me to try to figure it all out on my own.

Do you struggle in your vocation? If you do, let go. That is what my husband is always telling me. “Stop fighting it and just be.” If you haven’t figured it out by my blog, my husband has me more figured out than I do. God knows the desires of your heart and He will provide in His time. He knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows what we need when we need it. So utter that prayer for guidance or tell him of your dreams.  Then make sure that you are looking up to see what wonderful things He has in store for you. It probably won’t be how you expect it or want it, but what you need will come. Embrace what He gives and that storm inside will quiet.

I actually have an interview for that teaching position today. Say a prayer for me. I am looking up, and if God wills it, I will begin teaching once a week for a homeschool academy this fall. If not, then there will be more on the horizon.