9 weeks for 9 months: prayers for pregnancy (months 8 & 9)

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“…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience,
kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”
Galatians 5:22-23

We’re on the cusp of Advent. One of my favorite times of year to reflect on the gifts that pregnancy has brought into my life.

Now that I have been pregnant for three of the past five Decembers (!), Advent has become a sacred season for me to remember the days we found out. Advent also reminds me how my understanding of Mary has changed through the experience of expecting a baby.

Some years Advent feels frenzied. Other years it feels impossible.

But this year, the beginning of Advent offers a perfect pause to share these last two prayers for pregnancy and mediate on the place of gentleness and self-control in the life of faith. Not only when we await the birth of a child, but when we are trying to care for ourselves in the midst of all that life demands of us.

We don’t often hear a good word preached about gentleness or self-control. But Paul reminds us that they are fruits of the Spirit and proof of the presence of the Holy One.

I feel tugged towards both of these gifts this year, when the wider world feels harsh and violent, and my own world feels wildly unbalanced with all that I am juggling.

As we pass from a week of gratitude and thanksgiving into the snowy slide towards Christmas, I find myself leaning into Advent’s invitation more than ever. To set aside anxieties of “how will we get it all done?” and to pick up the peace that what can be done, will be done.

God will take care of the rest.

I pray for you this week, too. That the Spirit’s calm may quiet your heart as we take the first steps towards Advent’s gentle work of preparation.

. . .

prayers for pregnancyMonth 8: A Prayer for Gentleness

God of gentleness,

Help me to be gentle with myself
As I carry this child.
Let me tread lightly on my emotions,
My worries and fears
About birth and motherhood,
Knowing that you prepare me
To do this work.

When the days grow long
And the nights grow restless,
Remind me to care for myself
As I will care for my child:
With gentleness, love,
And compassion.

As my body begins to practice
To birth my baby,
Guide me through each contraction
With the peace of your presence,
Softly opening my heart and mind.

In gentleness I pray,

Amen.

 

Month 9: A Prayer for Self-control

God of self-control,

The final weeks
Of this long journey
Have finally arrived.
Soon the day will dawn
When I will meet my child
And a new world will begin
For both of us.

Help me to prepare myself,
Mind, body, and soul,
For the work of labor
And the wonder of birth.

Teach me to channel and control
The strength of my own self
To offer myself in sacrifice
For the child of my heart.

Let me gather my courage around me –
The power in my bones
And the peace in my heart –
To do the work of love
That a mother is called to do,
The work that you created me to do.

In self-control I pray,

Amen.

© 2014 Laura Kelly Fanucci

Prayers for all 9 months of pregnancy can be found here at the end of this series.
Please consider passing them along to an expectant mother who could use them!

start seeing sacraments: marriage & holy orders

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Every week I’ll share a few favorite images around one of the seven Catholic sacraments, to celebrate my new book: Everyday Sacrament: The Messy Grace of Parenting.
Follow me on Instagram at @thismessygrace or tag your photos with #everydaysacrament.
Let’s start seeing sacraments together…

sacraments

Marriage + holy orders.

Aren’t they an odd couple? After all, in the Catholic tradition of the celibate priesthood, you can’t usually have both sacraments in your life (unless you’re a married deacon). Old-school illustrations of sacraments in Catholic catechisms separated these two as opposites: you either chose holy matrimony or religious life. One or the other.

But after this experiment of seeing everyday sacraments, I see these two more similarly.

Both are responses to God’s particular call in our lives. Both are commitments of love that we profess with public vows. Both are opportunities to share our gifts with the world.

So whenever I try to capture glimpses of these sacraments in images, I see them as invitations.

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To remember the vows I have made and to affirm the vows that others have taken.

To imagine where my children will be called and to support those who have already answered their calls.

To see our shared work as holy, whether we are spouses sharing the responsibilities of home or church leaders supporting the vocations of the community.

. . .

I see sacraments of marriage and holy orders in everyday reminders.

Some glimpses of these sacraments are moments to remember. We’re trying to do good work in our callings, tending to the people and the places around us.

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Some are openings to imagine. What will these children of ours become and how can we walk with them?

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And some are just fresh breaths of joy. Running headlong into this world of possibility.

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What a gift it is to be called to share our lives in loving service to others, whatever the path God beckons us to follow.

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Where have you glimpsed reminders of marriage and holy orders? What do these sacraments mean to you?

9 weeks for 9 months: prayers for pregnancy (month 7)

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“…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience,
kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”
Galatians 5:22-23

Faithfulness.

Keep showing up. Keep trying to believe. Keep your flickering flame lit as the biting winds blow harsh and hard, as the light dims and dances down to near nothing in the darkness.

Remember this when you falter (because you will falter). There is only one call at the center of it all. One still, small voice whispering to you among the noises rising and the other voices screaming louder and louder.

And that still, small voice invites you to faithfulness.

No matter what the stage of my life may be, it seems I am always being beckoned back to remember this. All the tasks on all my lists, every should I conjure into must, each day that dawns with a thousand things to be and do and achieve – they pale when faced with the brightest light of being beloved.

Which is always God’s simple, gentle offer. Abide in me. Let us bear fruit together.

. . .

Writing this prayer for the seventh month of pregnancy reminded me that faithfulness is the simple center of all our trying and hoping and waiting.

The experience of expecting a child is swollen ripe with this reminder. For all our worrying and wanting, our planning and preparing, we ultimately have to quiet our frantic quest for control into the gracious acceptance that life can never be bent according to our will. Neither our own life or our child’s.

Faithfulness is the easiest and the hardest response to whatever we want and wait for today. But it is the shape of love, too. The contours of our calling. The life that we grow into each moment that we try to deepen our faith in all that we cling to as truth.

May it be our prayer today, no matter what we are waiting for.

For the peace to accept faithfulness’ invitation. And the strength to bear its weight with joy.

. . .

month 7Month 7: A Prayer for Faithfulness

God of faithfulness,

As the third trimester begins,
So much remains to be done
To prepare for baby’s arrival.
As I busy myself
With plans for the birth
And the nursery
And our new life after baby,
Keep my heart faithful
To the one true task before me:
Welcoming this child with love.

Every day I wonder
How my life will change
Once my child is in my arms.
Help me remember that in your love
We live and move and have our being.
May I trust in this faithful promise
In the midst of all my to-dos,
My questions and concerns,
My excitement and impatience.

As the weeks draw closer
To the moment of transition,
Draw me closer to your side,
You who are ever faithful,
You who drew me from my mother’s womb,
You who carried me
From my first breath.

In faithfulness I pray,

Amen.

© 2014 Laura Kelly Fanucci

Prayers for all 9 months of pregnancy can be found here at the end of this series.
Please consider passing them along to an expectant mother who could use them!

start seeing sacraments: anointing of the sick

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Every week I’ll share a few favorite images around one of the seven Catholic sacraments, to celebrate my new book: Everyday Sacrament: The Messy Grace of Parenting.
Follow me on Instagram at @thismessygrace or tag your photos with #everydaysacrament.
Let’s start seeing sacraments together…

sacraments

. . .

Maybe more so than reconciliation, anointing of the sick is the hardest sacrament to capture in image.

Because it is blessedly removed from my life right now.

Every day I think about the gift of three healthy children. They get runny noses, spike teething fevers, toss and turn the rare restless night with a stomach bug. But thus far their well-check visits to the pediatrician have been routine and uneventful.

So many parents I know do not take this for granted. Babies tangled in IVs in the NICU, toddlers stretched out on the surgeon’s table, kids struggling through school hallways in wheelchairs, teenagers wrapped in heaps of quilts on their deathbed. There is no promise that childhood is free from suffering.

But for me today, the everydayness of this sacrament lies in its absence. At this stage in my life – and this will not last for always, I know – I honor its sacredness only by the smallest reminders.

A stash of Tylenol and bandaids bought to share with our sister parish in Haiti, where parents are pleading for the most basic medications to help their children sick with fever. (Or worse.)

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A coffee-stained Starbucks table that welcomes those with physical handicaps and nudges me to question if my life today does the same.

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A kiss on the oven-burned finger from two big boys who came running when they heard me yelp. Mama, let me make it better. Teaching me how the power of physical touch is a blessing we grasp from our earliest days.

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. . .

Anointing of the sick is not last rites. It’s a common misunderstanding in popular culture, lingering in Catholic circles, too. But this blessing with sacred chrism oil and prayer is not reserved for our last gasps of breath.

It’s a gift of God’s healing grace to be shared whenever we are suffering deeply – in body, mind, or spirit.

When I first started writing the chapter on anointing of the sick in Everyday Sacrament, I stalled over the fact that I’d never received this sacrament myself. If I’d only seen it celebrated from a safe and healthy distance, what could I possibly have to say about its power?

But then I realized that there are echoes of anointing’s graces in the everyday ways we help each other to heal. Every parent who has comforted a screaming child, bandaged a bleeding wound, or rushed a sick baby to the emergency room understands some traces of this sacrament.

Perhaps we practice these “first rites” at home because deep down we know that some day our children will be wounded beyond our power to heal. And we want them to remember what it first meant to be held and comforted in love. 

Today I celebrate my children’s health. And I pray that they will always know how God’s grace waits to anoint their aches and soothe their scars, even when health is no longer the safe measure of their days.

When have you seen the anointing of the sick celebrated?
What have you learned about healing at home?

the hard and the holy

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Three times I have held this moment.

A baby in my arms, round-cheeked and solemn-eyed, stretching out his chubby hand towards an ice-cold window, swirls of first snow gusting just beyond the glass.

Three times I have watched.

Pudgy fingers smudging up against the pane, leaving a breath of fogged fingerprints behind. Brow furrowing, steady eyes silently wondering what is this? Cold and hard are not the usual domain of babies, the newest ones whose softest skin we wrap in fleece blankets and cuddle with feathery kisses.

Three times I have felt this sacred hush.

What it means to introduce a child to the world outside, a world which can be hard and cold and harsh and cruel. A fleeting foretaste while still safe in mother’s arms of what it will mean for them to brave the beyond.

Three times I have welcomed this same invitation.

To remember that what is hard can also be holy.

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The book is here. The hard part should be over. The dreaming and the writing and the editing and the re-editing and the waiting are behind me. This new baby is in my hands, and it is rushing headlong into the world, too. Now all should be calm; all should be bright.

Except this is never the way it works, is it? In writing, in parenting, in life.

Right when I thought I had hit that sweet spot – of work and family and home all humming along so much better than I dared dream when I pictured life with three kids – right then was the instant something started to unravel.

The child care set-up that was steady and smooth? Now yanked out from under us. We’re scrambling to re-calibrate, and everything is up in the whirling air.

How to juggle all these callings. How to handle all the good work we’ve been given to do. How to be the partners and the parents we’ve promised to be.

All will be well, Julian of Norwich reminds me, in that nagging, knowing truth of the long view. And I believe this. But in the short term? All ain’t great.

It’s far from the end of the world, but it’s the complicating of our small world as it spins today. Stress sneaks back in; what’s nicely knit unravels; we run on fumes and we run down. I know we will be fine; we’ve been here before and we’ve come through. But still.

This is still hard.

And this is still holy.

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The lesson each baby teaches me, dimpled knuckles banging at snow-streaked window, is that life is always juxtaposed in tensions: soft meets hard, warm meets cold, safe meets scary.

These edges press up against each other all the time, but we lull ourselves into thinking we are confidently on the safe side of calm and control. Instead there is hard, and God is here, too.

So there is holy.

I cannot – will not – say that all that is difficult is divine. There is evil, injustice, abuse, and deceit that cannot be baptized by any best perspective.

But among the few stones of hard truth I have collected about God in the few decades I have been seeking, I know this: God is present.

When it seems it cannot be so, when we ourselves cannot see it, when the whole maddening crowd screams otherwise. God is present.

So whenever there is that too-familiar twisting crunch – of time, of nerves, of expectation, of budget, of hope, of health, of heart – I try to breathe some peace into the space between. To remember how the hard and the holy meet.

To turn over and over in my mind this silent memory of first snow: of each quiet, curious baby perched in my arms, peering out into a world of white, a stark new landscape that covers in strange drifts what was once known.

To see what their fresh eyes see, to feel what their smooth fingers feel, and to trust what their calm wonder trusts. That they are still held.

That we are, too.

9 weeks for 9 months: prayers for pregnancy (month 6)

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“…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience,
kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”
Galatians 5:22-23

Full self-disclosure?

(It’s a blog, ain’t it?)

I struggle with generosity. If this virtue is a fruit of the Spirit, then it’s the luscious fruit I’ve always envied. I admire people who are naturally generous, whose souls leap immediately to give of themselves, whose thoughts turn instinctively towards the needs of others.

I try (at least I think I try) to train my heart to stretch beyond its selfish rhythms. But still I struggle with my knee-jerk reactions: me, mine, my nearest and dearest. 

Motherhood made me simultaneously more and less generous. Pregnancy and childbirth and nursing are certainly sacrifices of love, and I know I have given of myself generously to my children in these ways. To say nothing of trying to stay present to these sweet small souls in the midst of the daily rush.

But parenting young ones also exhausts me, and I find that my calendar has less time and space – and my heart has less energy, to be honest – for the exercises in generosity that volunteering or parish involvement or even dear friendships used to invite.

Maybe it’s natural, even good, that the scope of our world shrinks when we have to care for young children, because they demand almost everything from us: time, love, attention, money, energy.

But I know we are made for others, too, and that the aches of the world grow desperately louder all the time. So I wrestle with this tension. The guilt between wanting to grow into generosity more widely shared and knowing that trying to be generous to my own family is sometimes challenge enough.

In reading a friend’s reflection on her own struggles in pregnancy, I wondered whether generosity is something all mothers struggle with. She is a strong, selfless woman carrying her seventh child, and she wonders if she is selfish. Her honesty alone is generosity towards my own restless heart.

Ironically, since generosity is my growing edge, this prayer for month six of pregnancy turned out to be my favorite of all nine months.

Maybe because it widened an invitation for me to consider generosity as an already and not-yet in my life. Maybe because it made me realize that God is still working to stretch my life into selflessness.

Either way, can we pray for generosity for each other this week? My wrestling heart and yours.

May we carve a little more space for others’ loves among our own.

. . .

month 6Month 6: A Prayer for Generosity

God of generosity,

You came to us that we might have life
And have it more abundantly.
Let me celebrate the fullness of this gift
As my body rounds and stretches
To make space for new life.

Help me to carve space
In my heart and mind
To welcome this child
Into our home,
Into our family,
Into our daily lives.

Remind me each day
How this long journey
Through pregnancy and birth
Invites a mother’s gift of self,
In body, heart and mind.

Grant me a generous spirit
To share my life with this child –
A calling that will change
With each new season,
But will last in love
For the rest of my days.

In generosity I pray,

Amen.

© 2014 Laura Kelly Fanucci

Prayers for all 9 months of pregnancy can be found here at the end of this series.
Please consider passing them along to an expectant mother who could use them!

start seeing sacraments: reconciliation

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Every week I’ll share a few favorite images around one of the seven Catholic sacraments, to celebrate my new book Everyday Sacrament: The Messy Grace of Parenting. Follow me on Instagram at @thismessygrace or tag your photos with #everydaysacrament.
Let’s start seeing sacraments together…

sacraments

Here’s the truth about reconciliation. It’s hard to photograph.

(It’s even harder to practice.)

Trying to capture everyday glimpses of sacraments has been a good exercise. Also a challenging one.

Because baptism and Eucharist? I see them daily in bathtime and mealtime. And I can snap a quick shot in a second – my kids splashing in water or sharing bread at our table. I smile and savor a sweet pause of a moment, a reminder of God’s humming presence at work around us all the time.

But reconciliation? That’s the ugly underbelly of family life. Tempers lost, toys thrown, loud protests and louder cries. The angry moments you cringe to imagine a stranger (or even friend) might dare to darken your doorstep and see how things really are in this house when we sin against the ones we love the most.

How could I capture that on camera?

Tender moments of offering repentance and seeking forgiveness are often too intimate and sacred to share. When we are honest and true, sorry and sorrowful, we are also most vulnerable. Which is, I think, why God invites us to practice this sacrament in quiet humility, one-on-one.

But the few images that I found were scenes I stumbled upon. And isn’t that always how God works, in the stumbled-upon moments? Tripping over truth right beneath our feet.

One afternoon I was playing with the camera, charming smiles from the sweet baby cooing on a soft blanket while his brothers squabbled on the porch behind us. Then I realized the arguing in the background had finally simmered down. Now the boys were building something strong and sturdy together.

Here they were – two brothers at each other’s throats all afternoon until they realized they’d never get their project finished unless they worked together.

And I almost missed it because I was focused on what I thought was beautiful.

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Weeks later we were enjoying a lovely, lazy morning on vacation. Breakfast outside, warm sky overhead, nowhere to go and nothing to do but bask in the sun and each other’s company. I went inside to grab my camera and snap some shot of billowing clouds behind Floridian palm trees. Idyllic inspiration.

When I came back out to the cool concrete deck, there was a sobbing son in his father’s arms. Some minor infraction had reduced him to tears; they had to talk it out quietly and calmly. What it means to disobey and apologize and forgive. (I am still learning this; aren’t we all?)

I forgot about the sun and sky; I had to sneak one small memory of what this moment might look like in image, forgiveness in a frame. What it probably looks like every time I, too, bend my wrestling, wanting, wandering will back towards the One who welcomes its failings with comfort and love.

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. . .

In the Catholic tradition, this sacrament has more names than any other.

Confession. Penance. Reconciliation.

Maybe we need all these hues of the same truth because there are so many movements wrapped round repentance. We speak our sins; we ask forgiveness; we promise to do better. Turn, turn, turn.

Or maybe we need mouthfuls of names to remind us how often we need to practice this lesson of love before our God. Over and over, again and again. Here at home, out in the world.

Everyday reconciliation. Where do you see it?