/> Raising Angels: April 2007

Monday, April 30, 2007

In Need of Artistic Interpretation

This morning, as I was getting ready for the day, Dawson brought in a picture he had just finished drawing. On the paper were multiple circles in different colors with a few lines here and there. He was VERY proud of his work.

"Look Mama! Look what I drawed!"

"Ooh Dawson," I said as I gazed quickly at the circles, "it's beautiful."

He sat down in the middle of the floor and said, "Come and see. Look!"

I know him well enough by now to know that the whole thing would move much quicker if I got down on his level and gave him a minute of undivided attention. I sat down across from him and said, "I see it buddy. What it is?"

He gazed at his artwork a minute and pointed to a green circle with a green line jutting out from it. "This is...this is...this...is...a....BALLOON!"

"Wow Dawson! That looks just like a balloon. Great job!"

He was not finished yet. "Now look at this one," he said excitedly. "This one is..." he studied it a moment, "this is a swimming pool!", he said of the little blue circle.

"Excellent!" I said as excitedly as I could, hoping this would not go on for the 5 other circles on the page.

He was on a roll however and was ready for round three. He pointed to a red circle on the page that was a little less than circular. The momentum was picking up. "This one is....", then there was a pause. "This one is... this one is..." he was stumped. He stared a moment more. "This one is...", he reflected but still nothing. He looked at the little circle one more time, pointed to it and then looked to me, "What IS this one Mama?"

Baby Madison

Friday night we welcomed the newest member of the Parris family, Madison Kayelei Parris, born to Nelson's brother Robert and Angel at 11:41 p.m. She weighed 6 lbs. and 15 oz. and was 19 1/2 inches long.

She is beautiful and the kids adore her. Aiden and Mackenzie fought over who got to hold her and told us how much they love her. Today Aiden has been praying for "our new baby".

She is the sixth grandchild on Nelson's side. Just for the record, half of those six belong to us.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Another 5K

Well two weeks after my first race ever I did another run that benefited a family from my brother's parish who lost their mother/wife at a young age to cancer. The cause was a good one and even though I didn't feel that two weeks got me any further in training, it and my brother called me on.

I did this one better than the last and shaved over a minute off of my last time. It was tough and I literally almost passed out towards the end of the race and again once I crossed the finish, but when I saw my time, I was much happier than after the last.

Having a personal time to beat now makes the race more of a personal challenge than a group one. Beating my own time made me feel much more victorious than seeing my first time at the last one.

It was God driving His message home. The only one with whom I am competing is me. Onward and upward!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Concrete Conquest

It's been a long time since I've posted about the house. It's not because nothing's been going on, but rather, it has consumed EVERY MOMENT of free time (as if we had any to begin with) around here for the last several months.

I know all the people at Lowe's on a first name basis and they joke with me every time I come in. "Aren't you finished with that house yet?" Nelson's been working his fingers to the bone, quite literally with some serious chemical burns on his hands last Friday.

It's been hard. It's been good. With each decision and purchase I feel a little sense of accomplishment - as if we might actually finish this some day. And through it all, God continues to use it to teach me in so many ways, the first of which is patience.

The last time I posted about concrete was quite some time ago (did you catch the date of that post?). Since then we've built a basement, poured another slab for foundation, framed it, put in the windows, and are now still in the plumbing and lighting stage. But today, ah today, there was an actual, you can see if for yourself, sign of progress and I felt it worthy of recording.

As I was typing, God reminded me of the lesson in the Glory Run. It's not about getting finished first. It's about keeping your eye on the finish line and doing WHATEVER it takes to get there. One day....hopefully in the near future....we...will...finish...this...house, and let me tell you, it's going to be one sweet victory!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Big Boy Bed

I have been switching out the boys winter and summer clothes this week. As I pulled the tubs of summer stuff (we have received SO MANY hand-me-downs that I have three of them) out from under the crib I had this crazy idea. Now that everything is cleared out, I might as well take the crib out and bring in the toddler bed.

I've thought of this before but then quickly rethought it as visions of the boys totally free in their room at bedtime danced in my head. Over the last few months I've realized that the crib doesn't stop them from playing. They still stay up for hours some nights giggling away at each other. And, although Dawson can't get out of his crib, it's not unusual for me to walk in and find Aiden in there with him.

Today I decided it was time to bite the bullet. He's going to be in a bed in the new house anyway, I figured I might as well get the training done in this house before a flight of stairs is added to the mix.

The crib has been in that room for almost 7 years now excluding a few months before Aiden was born when I moved Mackenzie out of it. I got a little sad thinking about how my babies have grown. I was in awe that I had reached this milestone. Some days it feels as if they will be totally dependent forever and then there are days like today when I realize that it's happening too fast.

I did the rearranging with help from my dad while the boys were at school. I hadn't told them about it so it could be a big surprise.

Dawson was the first to realize something funny was going on when I pulled into the garage and he saw the crib. "Hey! Why's my bed in here? Where did that come from?" he asked ever so curiously.

I unbuckled him and joked, "That's your bed. You're going to be sleeping out in the garage from now on." I briefly rethought my little joke when I saw a look of terror come over his face but I played it further saying, "Don't you want to sleep out here?"

Suddenly his eyes lit up and he yelled, "Yes!"

"Can I sleep out here too?" Aiden asked.

I forgot I was dealing with boys and that sleeping out here with the bugs would be a great adventure, not a punishment. They changed their tunes however when they walked into the room and saw the bed.

"Who put that in here? Who's it for? Why is the crib gone? Why do I get a big bed now?" came flying at me through the squeals of their voices and the squeaks of the bed as they jumped on it.

I answered the questions and put Dawson in the bed for his nap. I gave him very strict instructions about the bed and then closed the door and hoped for the best. Two hours later I was amazed. Besides one initial opening the door and using my most serious warning voice, I hadn't heard a peep from him (Aiden naps in Mackenzie's room).

I grabbed the camera and headed for the door with visions of my sweet little angel soundly asleep in his brand new big boy bed. I opened the door and found instead my toddler still awake, with the side rail broken, and every toy in the room in bed with him. He looked up with a surprised expression, saw the camera and said, "Cheese! I stayed in my bed Mama!"

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Okay, I know I'm probably a bit prejudice but...

"Look Mama," Aiden, resident 3 year old, said with a grin when this was finished, "I drew a picture for you. It's a boy standing under a rain cloud, holding his umbrella."
Is the Guggenheim taking new art? I think it's brilliant.

Monday, April 23, 2007

A Rather Collegiate Weekend

Saturday we drove to Tuscaloosa, AL for the A-Day Game with my brother and his wife. This is a scrimmage between players of the same team to mark the end of spring training. It's always a big deal for Alabama fans, but was an even bigger deal this year because of the arrival of the new coach, Nick Saban.

I am the only one in my family who was actually born there and baptized in the chapel on campus and probably also the only one who had no idea what the big deal was about A-Day.

I have to admit however, that I began to understand it as we watched the stadium fill to overflow capacity and then listen as the gates were closed to even more standing outside. The 92,000 plus fans made the game the biggest spring game in history, which meant we were a part of history - pretty cool!

It was fun to walk around campus, eat at a great college dive and see the hospital where I was born. It was also fun to be among so many Bama fans and be able to walk down the street to the shouts of "Roll Tide!"

We got back home around 2:30 a.m. , got up, went to mass and then headed to Athens, GA to see my brother Kevin. He was inducted into the Arch Society at UGA. This is a HUGE honor and the most coveted student organization on campus. The application process is long and involved. Hundreds of students who apply don't get accepted. I am very proud of Kevin.

The Arch Society Members are basically looked on as Ambassadors for the University. They do every thing from greeting people the president brings on campus, to being on the field and in the president's box at football games, to showing new recruits the ropes. It's a very service oriented group that puts in a lot of volunteer hours on campus and in the community.

I don't know how he'll find time to do that while studying and participating in all of his fraternity's activities, but then again, college students learn to function pretty well on little sleep. I am certain that all of these activities will serve him well as he goes out into the work force in one more year. He will certainly stand out in the line of applicants. Good job Kevin!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Murphy's Law

When I'm staring at the cabinets wondering what to fix for dinner, Nelson walks in early looking for me to feed him. However, when I spend the afternoon slaving over a meal like this, he calls saying he'll be thirty minutes late and walks through the door an hour and a half later.

I took this for his benefit. Somehow, after sitting out for thirty minutes and then in the oven for the remainder of the time, the food just didn't look the same.

Just in case you're wondering, it's apple stuffed pork chops with cheesy potatoes, bread and a salad with strawberries, golden raisins, honey roasted almonds and raspberry vinaigrette. And yes, it was good.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Some Days the Bottom Falls Out and Other Days, Well...

Today as I unloaded the groceries from the car, I let the boys play outside. I was in and out a number of times and kept them within my sight. Even when I was in the house, I could tell exactly where they were from the sound of their voices.

And then it happened....silence. Anyone with boys knows that when you can no longer hear them, it’s time to worry. I listened for 30 seconds more and then headed to the door. At that moment, I was met with a knock from Aiden.

I opened the door to find him standing there, pants and underwear at his ankles. I felt a moment of shock - as if I hadn't given birth to the kid. "Aiden! What are you doing?" I sputtered as I grabbed him praying that the neighbor hadn't been watching.

A devilish grin spread across his face, highlighting his deep dimples, "What Mama? I just goed potty out in the grass." He giggled and added for safety, “Dawson told me to do it.”

I pulled him in as I said, "Aiden, you can’t do what Dawson tells you to do and you certainly can't potty in our yard." Then, thinking about him peeing on the side of the interstate on our last trip to the zoo I added, "That's only in case of emergencies. Why are your pants still down? Hurry and pull them up."

He looked at me and nonchalantly added, "I can't pull them up yet....I need you to wipe my bottom."

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Glory Run in Pictures

The rest of the family had their own successes race day as well.
Mackenzie ran much better in her mile this year and she didn't even train for it. She finished strong for such little legs.

I didn't even register Dawson for the race because I didn't think he'd be able or want to run the whole way. I was wrong.
If Aiden could do it, then so could he. He only walked once. He did, however, get a little distracted by the crowds of people cheering for him and came into the finish line weaving back and forth as if he were intoxicated. It was hysterical.

He reached the finish line on his own though and was very proud of himself. He was so far behind the others that he thought he actually won the race.

Aiden was thrilled to be running in his own race FINALLY. The Tot Trot was the very last race of the day and he was beside himself with excitement. As he took his mark on the starting line, he instructed me very clearly. "You don't run with me Mama. I'll run by myself. Don't run beside me or in front or behind me. I'll run it MYSELF."

And run he did. He ran so fast in fact that I lost sight of him as I trotted behind Dawson. He came in towards the front of the crowd this year which was a big improvement from his last place of last year (he was, after all the only 2 year old in the race).

It was a good day and a - ahem, excuse me while I choke these words out - fun race.

Monday, April 16, 2007

The Glory Run

Until Saturday, I had never run in a race. Sure I did the one mile last year, but I ran it with Mackenzie. I stayed at her pace and was more than happy when she had to walk a few times. But this year I was on my own - no kid to hide behind - no stroller to provide any excuses - just me and that. . . scared me.

I was the kid who hated running, even in elementary school. I have no natural arches in my feet and it was painful. That colored my whole perception of the running world. As far as I was concerned, it was a place I would never go.

I'm not sure if it was the challenge from my brother or the whole boot camp Lent attitude, but some how I decided that this year I would join the runners. I was not ready for the race. I was two weeks shy of completing the 5K training program and had never run that far. . . EVER. Did I say I was scared?

Lining up that brisk morning with hundreds of people looking on and 150 fellow runners I thought I had enough nervous energy to blast me through at least the first mile or so. That did not prove to be the case.

The first mile and a half was by far the most difficult. I watched the masses jump out in front of me and told myself it was okay. I knew that was going to happen. Then the 50 and 60 year olds started to pass me. Well, they are seasoned runners, I reasoned. I didn't like watching them pass me, but I knew it was inevitable. However, by the halfway point so many people had passed me that I felt as if I was running the race all by myself.

At that point I kind of settled into the idea that six weeks of training did not a runner make. I was okay with that. I was humbled by it - but okay. At mile 2 the cramp kicked in. I tried my best to run it out, but the more I ran, the harder it pierced my side. I could not make it go away. I had to stop and walk it out.

I was mad at myself and my body. I prayed to God to take it away. I tried to run again but it was no use. After what seemed like forever, but was probably less than two minutes, it finally left and I started jogging again. I was thankful that at least I wouldn't have to walk across the finish line.

When I hit the last mile, I knew I was in the home stretch. I knew I was going to make it. I was making it A LOT SLOWER than I had hoped for, but I was going to make it. After the last turn around I saw the final hill before me. I felt like I had nothing left. I knew that once I reached the top of that hill that the finish line would be in view as would the crowds of people waiting there. I had to come over that hill running (well, okay, jogging...okay, just not walking).

When I finally came over that hill and saw the balloons at the finish line, I was relieved. I wish I had more in me to pick up the pace, but I was just happy to still be moving. I tried to put on a brave face as I trotted along.

It was at that moment that I saw something that almost broke my heart. Coming out of the crowd and running towards me was my brother, who had long since crossed the finish line. I don’t think I've ever been happier to see him. He joined me for those last few minutes, encouraging me and calling for me to push a little harder. I don't know how but I finished much faster than I started and I was so grateful for my own cheerleader.

The small picture Saturday was a little disappointment that I had to walk. A little embarrassment at how long it took me (still don't know my time and probably will not be posting that for the world to see). I felt as if I had let everyone down.

Later that afternoon, while recounting the race to my mom, she reminded me of my own pep talk. "Go back and read your blog," she encouraged. "You should be really proud of yourself. You have never been a runner," she reminded me, "and you've only been running for six weeks. You've really come a long way."

She was right. Once I let go of my foolish pride, I began to see a much better picture. Six weeks ago I couldn't run a quarter of a mile without stopping. I mean, I started by running for 2 minutes and walking for 5. Saturday I ran a 5K and only had to stop once. I did something I never thought I would want to do, let alone be capable of doing. For me, no matter my time or position in the race, it was a personal best. Isn't that what I set out to do in the first place?

Oh so many teaching points in this but suffice it to say that our journeys towards Heaven are all very personal. Sometimes we get so caught up in our imperfections and what others around us are doing that we fail to see the progress we're making along the way. On that way, we're each asked to carry our own crosses and nothing but God can make them go away. However, He never leaves us - never gives us so much that we can't reach that final destination. And, when we think we can't do any more, he sends someone to help us - someone who allows us to grow and soar farther than we ever could on our own.

In the end, we should all keep that finish line in our minds. We should all be focused on reaching that final goal. However, we shouldn't forget that there is joy in the journey. There is so much to learn along the way. In the end all we can really do is our very best, and luckily for us, that's all God ever asks.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

My Own Little Pep Talk

The Glory Run has been looming in my mind. I had to skip ahead in the training program this week to get to the end. That meant that the goal was to run for 30 minutes or 3 miles.

Monday I had to use the treadmill because of time and weather. After the warm up walk I hit a descent pace, turned up the tunes and tried to distract myself. About 20 minutes into it I had to walk to catch my breath, but I went right back to it after that. When I thought I couldn’t take any more and looked to see that I still had 3 minutes to go, I got a little frustrated. However, when I checked the distance and saw 3.1 miles come up I was elated.

Granted, I was inside, ran the flat course and walked a couple of minutes; however, I did it. For the first time… ever…in my life…I ran for three miles -me, who couldn’t run 2 minutes without checking my watch a mere 6 ½ weeks ago (okay, truth be told, I still check the watch constantly, hoping the time will magically fly by).

I had big plans for my run today – the last one before the race. Visions of running the entire 30 minutes danced in my head. I reasoned that I would try to do it faster this time. Not…a good…idea.

My legs, for the first time, felt like lead. My head pounded and my heart raced. After a mere 5 minutes I thought I might actually die I was gasping for air so hard. I slowed the pace down and made another chunk of time, but then…I had …to walk.

I hated it and got mad at myself. I caught my breath and picked up the pace again. I just couldn’t push myself and ended up walking several times. I only got in 2.6 miles in the 30 minutes. I was totally deflated and decided that I would not run the race.

Now God has been using my early morning runs to speak to me about a lot of things and He wasn’t finished yet. I’ve known from the beginning that running this race was not about winning but about finishing. I’ve heard a lot from Him about not comparing myself to others in running or anything else. It doesn’t really matter how you get there, or how fast you go. What really matters is that you get there and you do it to the very best of your ability. God never really asks for anything more than that.

So Saturday, I WILL run the 5K – I may also walk. I will be humbled to be eating the dust of people much younger and older than me. I will be scared to death about running in my first real race – scared mostly because I don’t enjoy doing things I’m not good at with hundreds of people watching. I will be tired. I will be sore. I will be in pain. But…I will do it.

It won’t be pretty. It may even be a little ugly at times. It won’t be easy. And, for me, it will not be fun. However, I said I will do it and that is what I intend to do, no matter what it takes. Even…if…I am…the…very…last…one (oh please God save me from that at least).

I am really hoping that it all comes together - all the little life lessons God’s been teaching me along the way. I hope my focus won’t be on my place in the crowd, but on the finish line. I hope that when I hit the wall and feel that I can’t go any further, I will reach deep inside and keep going. I hope that when I cross that finish line, I will be proud of how far I’ve come.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Good Friday Journey: Part 2

So, on we rushed to make it to the Veneration of the Cross. The kids did great through the long Passion reading and even allowed all of us to sit IN the church for the entire time, barring two trips to the bathroom.

As the time to venerate the cross came around, I tried to prepare the kids and draw their attention to what was going on. We have a larger than life Crucifix and it was covered by a large red cloth. The priest stood in front of it and sang, "This is the wood of the Cross, on which hung the weight of the world." We sang, "Come let us worship." He then pulled down the cloth from one arm. The process repeated with the other arm and then, after the third time, the cloth came off revealing the whole body of Jesus. It was very powerful.

We lined up to go forward and kiss the feet of Jesus. Because our parish is so big, one side goes to the large Crucifix and the other kisses the feet of Jesus on a smaller Crucifix held by the priest.

When Mackenzie noticed what was going on and realized that we were sitting on the side with the small Crucifix, she begged to go to the larger one to kiss the feet.
I could understand her desire and I asked Aiden if he wanted to do the same.

With the image of the Crucified Christ still so fresh in his mind, he wasn’t interested. "No Mama. He's gross. I don't want to kiss his feet."

Hmm...this could be a problem. "Aiden it's not really Jesus. It's a statue to remind us of him. It won't be gross to kiss those feet." He wasn't sure about that, but he was certain that he did NOT want to go to the larger Crucifix. My mom graciously agreed to take Mackenzie to the other side while I took the boys to our side.

As we filed into the line, Aiden would not walk in front of me. "Aiden, come on buddy," I begged, "it's time to kiss Jesus' feet."

"Mama, I don't want to kiss his yucky feet," he said in earnest with a worried look on his face.

Now I was thinking that drawing his attention to that bloody rendition during the Stations may not have been the best idea. "It will be okay," I whispered. "I'm going to kiss them."

"Mama, you kiss him first, then Dawson and then me," he instructed. I agreed.

When we finally reached the Cross, I bent down to kiss the feet and held Dawson up to do the same. He refused and there were too many people behind me to force the issue. I turned my attention to Aiden who had moved off to the side a bit.

"Come here Aiden," I begged, "it's your turn." He turned reluctantly. "You have to hurry buddy," I whispered.

He walked to the Crucifix, looked at it a moment and gave those feet the most precious kiss I have ever seen. It was the kind of kiss that puckered his lips and made a sound loud enough for the first two rows to hear. I was so proud of him.

Of course, after he saw Aiden do it, Dawson wanted to give it a shot but we had already started back to our pew. "I want to kiss Jesus," he begged over and over. I told him we could do it when the service was over.

One hour later the service ended, and being true to my word, I walked Dawson up front to the large Crucifix. When we got close, his little eyes gazed up at the giant before him and he clung tightly to my shirt.

"Okay Dawson go ahead and kiss his feet," I said. He was hesitant. By this time the altar servers were bringing out the candles to put beside the Crucifix. "If you want to do it, this is your chance. We have to go and let these people pray."

I lifted him up and he gave those feet a cute little kiss.

By the time we got back home it was already 4:45 pm. None of the work I really wanted to get done was finished. No sooner had that thought crossed my mind than the Lord reminded me that I had done the most important work of all - I had spent the day with Him.

We spent Saturday dying eggs, making the bunny cake and sweet potatoes for Sunday, cleaning the house and giving the Easter Story cookies a shot. I spent the night filling the baskets and ironing the clothes and cleaning up from the day. When I looked at my watch to see 1:30 a.m., I was overwhelming exhausted and disappointed at my inability to turn in at a descent hour.

It seemed that my journey was not yet over. My thoughts turned to the disciples as they hid in that room. They knew what Jesus had promised, but they were also remembering the sight of his body on the Cross. How could he possibly come back after that? They probably didn't get much sleep those few nights either. They probably tried to keep themselves busy while hoping they wouldn’t be caught and have to suffer the same fate.

I felt their apprehension. I felt their hope that Jesus would rise on the third day. By the time my head hit the pillow, I passed out from exhaustion and could do nothing more than look for tomorrow.

Four and a half short hours later, I was awakened by Mackenzie, who asked to get in bed with me. Ten minutes after that I heard the pitter patter of Aiden's feet approaching the bed. "Mama! Alleluia! Jesus rose from the dead today, and guess what? The Easter Bunny came too!" He was grinning from ear to ear.

It was hard to get out of bed, but how could I possibly turn down that face? I gathered the three of them up and went out to the kitchen to let them pillage through their baskets. After some chocolate for breakfast we all got dressed and made it to mass a whole fifteen minutes early (our own Easter miracle).

As I sat in church admiring the beauty of it dressed in its finest, my eyes were heavy but my heart was overjoyed. It's hard to describe but I can honestly say it's probably the first time I've ever FELT Easter the way it should be felt.

It was a long and hard Lent. The journey of Good Friday exhausted me emotionally and physically. I busied myself all day and night Saturday to prepare for Sunday. But Easter morning, as I let it all sink in, tears of joy filled my eyes. I truly rejoiced in the Resurrection in a way I have never been able to do before and it was beautiful.

As I type this now I still get a little teary thinking about it. I'm so glad the Easter season is long. It allows us the chance to relish in the joy of the season, look to the life ahead and be grateful that Lent is finally behind us.

I made it! Thank you Jesus! Alleluia!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

And Another One's Gone...

Too tired for the Lenten Journey: Part 2 tonight but wanted to show you what we were up to today. Oh, and sorry Rach, you just weren't there when we needed you. I am learning, however, that I can do it on my own! Maybe next time.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Good Friday Journey: Part 1

As a child, Good Friday always meant no TV, no radio, no friends, lots of work around the house and church services. And, as much as I disliked it, by the time I realized I disliked it, I also understood why we did it.

My kids, I thought, were not old enough to understand it, but I did it any way and, well, they never cease to amaze me. We began the day with no TV and some major cleaning projects. To my amazement, the three of them worked together on picking up all of their toys.

At 10 a.m., we headed down to a local church to take part in a multi-denominational Cross Walk. The event began at a Methodist church, processed to a Lutheran church, a Baptist church and ended at a Catholic church. Over 300 people attended.

The event has been going on for some time but I've always been a bit chicken to tackle the three hour event with the kids. This year, after my Boot Camp Lent, it seemed only appropriate to give it a try.

The morning was very cold. The boys were complaining about not having gloves before we began. I was nervous about the trek and knew it would be physically and mentally tough for me. We began with some songs and scripture verses and then the Methodist minister gave us his thoughts and sent us on our way.

Everyone attending was asked to bring their own Crucifix to carry. When the crowd took off I was amazed at the sight of so many people with so many crosses. The kids each had their crucifix, but I figured the stroller would suffice for mine. The kids were quiet. We began the walk but the weight of the double stroller, which is 45 lbs. without the boys and over 100 lbs. with them in it, caused me struggles from the get go.

We made it out of the church grounds and then had to go down a curb, across a busy 4 lane road, and up another curb. I held up the crowd behind me trying to maneuver these obstacles. When I finally got them up and onto the other sidewalk, I became very self-conscious about holding everyone up.

The sidewalk we travelled had us walking along a busy road. Some drivers actually stopped their cars. It brought tears to my eyes. I don't know what it was - the weight of the boys, my self-consciousness, the idea of what we were doing or the culmination of Lent finally reaching it's peak. In some small way I could feel what Jesus must have felt as he struggled under that Cross.

On this sidewalk there was a driveway every few feet. That meant a bump to go over every time. Something about the weight in that stroller made it come to a halting stop at every bump. It was getting harder and more frustrating for me to keep it going. People were scooting past me, showing a bit of frustration.

I was really walking with Jesus. I asked him how he did it. How did he bear that weight and not break down sobbing uncontrollably? How did he not scream out in anger to the people making him do this? How did he keep going? I hit a curb and stopped again. As I struggled, holding back a few tears, I saw a young man running up out of the corner of my eye. He grabbed the front of the stroller and lifted it up. I have never been so grateful. More tears welled up as I looked up to see the face of the former student who was helping me.

After a very long block or two we turned the corner and finally got to walk on the street. This would be easier, I thought, as I finally choked down the tears. Then I looked up to see that for the next four blocks we were headed up a steep incline. My arms started to shake. Two people told me that they would take the stroller if I needed them to but I declined their offers. This was my cross. I wanted to carry it.

The further up the hill we went, the more my arms shook. I work out a lot and have been running to train for the 5K this weekend, but I was tired and winded. I'm sure the day of fasting had a lot to do with that, but the bottom line was that the stroller was heavy and the hill was big. I was struggling - really, physically struggling. I didn't think I was showing it much in my movements, but if you could have seen my eyes through my sunglasses, I'm sure you would have seen it in my face. Again, I got emotional, as I shared in Jesus' walk.

The hill seemed to grow steeper with each step, but I was determined to do it. I was going to carry this cross if it killed me. I reminded myself that I asked for a hard Lent. I reminded myself that Jesus did SO much more for me. It still hurt. And, just when I thought I might really lose my battle, a friend walked up and took the stroller from my hands. He didn't offer to help - he did it.

He, I am convinced, was my Simon. I didn't want to give up my cross. I didn't want to ask for help. I was very, very grateful he took over, but I still struggled to let go. I was humbled to walk beside him as he bore my burden. My heart was pounding. How did Jesus feel when Simon was pulled unwilling from the crowd? I have never really considered this. Was it hard for him to have help? He was the Son of God. How did it all play out under that cross - the two of them struggling together?

Right before we reached the second church, the man left as quickly as he had come. We conquered that hill together and reached the second stop. After more scripture, songs and words from the Lutheran minister, we set off on the second leg of the journey. This leg took us through some of the most feared neighborhoods in the city. Neighborhoods known for their criminal and drug activity.

I'm sure Jesus walked through sections of the city like that too. How aware he must have been of the trash around him. How the smells and dust must have nauseated his empty stomach. How the sin must have broken his heart. How it must have, had to have, been the thing that kept him going. How did he love those people for whom he was making this journey? How did he still love us?

By the time we reached the Baptist church, I was tired. The kids were tired and ready to move on. I was so busy tending to them, providing snacks and making bathroom trips, that I didn't hear much of what was said. I did, however, manage to stay focused on the event.

The final leg of our journey took us along a busy highway. By this time, the stares of the drivers didn't bother me. I was focused entirely on completing the journey. The boys were bumping along in the stroller. So much so, in fact, that they were losing their juice boxes and yelling, "Whoa!" At this point I was so in tune to the journey and so worn out emotionally and physically that the sudden stops and difficult ups and downs didn't bother me so much.

When we turned the corner and finally were able to see the Catholic church ahead, the road rose one more time in front of us. This time, a total stranger walked up and insisted on pushing the stroller. I could have done it myself. It was almost over. I also knew that this was the same man who had offered his help at the very beginning. I knew he had watched my struggle. I knew he had seen the other man take my burden for a time. I knew he really wanted to help me. And, I knew that I needed to let him have that opportunity for his sake more than mine. You see, God gave me a second chance to understand that whole Simon thing.

We entered the church for the Stations of the Cross. It was quiet and dark. Each minister took a turn reading the meditations. For each station they showed an image from The Passion of the Christ. It was moving and nothing short of miraculous that I sat IN the church WITH my kids. The pictures and turning the pages of their books kept them interested, but the thing that caught their attention more than anything was the image of the bloodied Jesus hanging on the cross.

Mackenzie's eyes widened and became teary. Aiden gasped and said, "Eww, he's gross Mama! Why did they do that to him?" I was teary myself and so grateful that the day was beginning to make an impression. It was a graphic image for children so young but an important one too. It will be a long time before it leaves their minds and, I believe, that is a good thing.
We finished the stations, piled on a bus, rode back to our car and went home. I had planned on making the Veneration of the Cross at our parish at 3 but it was already 1:30 and with no naps and three hours of quiet time already, I feared it would be asking too much. And then, I remembered that image. I remembered my walk. I wanted - needed- to kiss his feet.
(Tune in for Part 2 tomorrow!)

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Jesus Christ Is Risen Today!

Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Truer Words Were Never Spoken

We've spent this week really focusing on the events of Holy Week and the death of Jesus. Much time has been spent telling the story of Easter through the Resurrection Eggs, books about Easter, the Triduum services and the Easter cookies we made tonight.

The focus has been so strong that tonight, as I was putting Dawson's pajamas on, Mackenzie and Aiden were in the room playing and I heard the following conversation.

"Kenzie, you want to play?" asked Aiden.

"Sure," she said.

"Okay you be Jesus. Let's go."

"No Aiden," she told him patiently, "I can't be Jesus. I'll be Mary. Why don't you be Jesus?"

"I don't want to be Jesus," he replied. "I'll be Mary and you be Jesus."

"Aiden,” I interjected, “Mackenzie can't be Jesus because Jesus was a boy and she is a girl. Why don't you let her be Mary and you can be Jesus?"

"I don't want to be Jesus," he said rather adamantly. "Jesus died and I don't want to die."

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Listening to Jesus

The Holy Thursday service at our church is very beautiful but also very long. Aiden did exceptionally well. He quietly colored during some parts and curiously watched other parts of the mass.

By the end though, he was getting antsy and a bit louder with his questions. I tried desperately to get him to quiet down for the procession of the Eucharist around the church. I knew what followed was silent Adoration and I didn’t want Aiden disturbing the prayer time.

He watched intently as the priest processed right next to him with the Eucharist. He was in awe and pretty quiet. By the time the procession reached the side altar, however, the barrage of questions began. “Where is Father going? Why is it there and not over there? Why he wearing that thing? What we going to do now?”

“Aiden,” I tried desperately to explain as quietly as I could, “this is a special time for you and Jesus. You are supposed to be really quiet and listen to him.”

“Oh,” he replied and then leaned towards the altar. “I hear him Mama!” His face lit up and he was obviously excited to have success so quickly.

“What is he saying?”

He leaned a little closer, paused and then said, “Oh, that’s not him.”

“Well be quiet and give him a chance to talk. You won’t be able to hear anything if you’re talking the whole time,” I told him.

Still leaning in and trying really hard to listen, he looked at me again and said in a rather frustrated voice, “I don’t hear anything! He’s not talking to me.”

I tried to reassure him, “Listen very carefully.”

This time he leaned in further and put his hand to his ear. He paused a few seconds and became a bit disheartened. “I still don’t hear anything Mama.”

“Aiden, remember that Jesus is in your heart. You probably won’t hear him with your ears. You have to listen to with your heart.”

He looked a bit perplexed and thought for a second. Again his hand went to his ear. He looked at me and then quickly down at his chest. He leaned his head as far into his shoulder as he could, grabbed his shirt and pulled it to his ear. “Mama, I just can’t listen to my heart. It’s too hard.”

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

When In Doubt Wear Both Pairs of Shoes

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

And Don't You Forget It!

Lately the topic of choice around here has been birth order. It's come up as I've called Dawson “baby” one or two times.

"I not a baby," he always answers.

I try to explain by saying, "You are the baby in this family because you are the youngest. And, no matter how old you get, you'll be the baby until we have another one in the house."

This of course brings up a myriad of questions from the older two which I try to answer by using other family members. "Uncle Kevin is the baby of Mama's family and Daddy is the baby of his family even though they aren't really babies anymore." This hasn't satisfied their curiosity.

Tonight, as we discussed the topic again a light went off in Mackenzie's head. "I think I get it. If Uncle Kevin is the baby in your family then that means you're the oldest even though you're the littlest one in your family."

Monday, April 02, 2007

Resurrection Eggs

Last night we did the Resurrection Eggs with the kids. The kit includes one dozen colored eggs, each with a different symbol from Holy Week. There is also a booklet that explains the symbols and gives a scripture reference for each.

It's simple enough but the kids love them. In fact, we haven't done them since last year and they have been asking to get them out since the beginning of Lent. Last night we finally made the time.

It was a precious. Each in turn opened their egg and tried to tell us what was inside and explain what the symbol had to do with Holy Week.

Mackenzie's turn came around and she pulled a cup from her egg. She passed it around to each child and then I asked, "Can anyone tell me what this is called?"

"Ooh!" Mackenzie shouted as her eyes lit up. "Umm...wait...I can't...I know what it is...just a minute..."

"It's a chalice!" Aiden blurted.

There was a brief moment of silence as we all stared at him in awe. "Wow Aiden! Fantastic! That's exactly right. Good job! Do you know what it's for?" I gushed.

"It holds the blood of Jesus," he said in a perfect reply. "I learned that in Catechesis."

Amazed, we moved on. Next was Dawson's turn. From his egg he pulled the praying hands. Now Mackenzie was feeling the need to make up for her brother beating her to the last response so she jumped up and grabbed the hands. "These are the hands praying. They are for when Jesus was up all night at the Olive Garden praying."