God

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!

where i’ve been lately…(and the book is here!!)

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Here’s where I’ve been lately. Scurrying around behind the scenes to get ready for this:

Everyday Sacrament

BECAUSE THE BOOK IS HERE!

Surreal is all I can say. I thought the moment I held this baby in my hands would be emotional and powerful and symbolic.

But the package arrived on Halloween afternoon, and thirty seconds after I opened it in tender awe, the baby started howling to be nursed, the boys started screaming at each other over fistfuls of Halloween candy, and the pot of pasta I’d left on the stove started that seething simmer-over – suffice it to say, I did not have a single moment to savor.

Yet I’ve come to love that this book on my desk is doing exactly what I hope it will do in other families’ homes: sit right in the middle of the craziness and chaos and remind us that God is here, too.

I’m planning a “blog book tour” for early December with lots of lovely blogging friends who are helping me to get out the word. Till then you can buy the paperback or e-book from Liturgical Press (it’s already out of stock temporarily on Amazon - thank you, friends!). I am humbled and overwhelmed and deeply grateful for all your love and support.

. . .

And even while I’ve been keeping the blog stocked with series of pregnancy prayers and Instagram shots of sacraments, I’ve actually been doing real writing elsewhere, too.

First, if you haven’t yet heard of Blessed Is She, now is the time to check it out. A bunch of brilliant, inspired bloggers I know have gathered together to create a daily devotional site for Catholic women. It’s beautiful and thoughtful, and it fills my inbox with Word and image every morning.

Here’s an example of a devotional I wrote last week - on the household of God (and why my husband and I often flounder at running our own):

When I got married, the challenges of running a household only magnified. Yes, I had a partner to help with this work, but we also brought different approaches and expectations for household management.

Enter kids into the picture? More laundry, more dishes, more questions about how to pay for it all. I wouldn’t trade this life for any other, but these are still the verbs I use: stretch, crunch, juggle, squeeze.

The household of God? Those words stop me in my tracks. As Saint Paul describes it, the household of God is about people, not perfection. About holiness, not achievement. About community, not isolation.

It’s not about having it all together, but about becoming holy together. Whether we’re single or married, parents or children, friends or neighbors, we are part of a household bigger than ourselves and our to-do lists….

Read the rest at Blessed Is She.

Speaking of our household, we seem to have hit the November slump when all of September’s bright intentions have fallen by the wayside in heaps of leaves. Sound familiar?

Last week I reflected on how setting aside our high hopes for doing All The Things to raise our children in faith might actually be the healthiest and happiest way to live our faith at home. Check out my latest post at Practicing Families on the importance of small habits and tracing tiny crosses:

So often I confuse our practice of faith with excellence in faith. If this family is going to follow Christ, then we’re going to do daily prayer and weekly catechesis and church attendance and Scripture study. We need to do it all and we need to do it right, or else everything fails.

But maybe it’s not about getting all the big things right. Maybe it’s about getting all the small things right.

As a parent, all I can hope to do is trace tiny crosses on my children’s foreheads. Sweep aside their messy hair, wipe off the sweaty smudges, and bless their brows with the smallest sign of the One who calls and claims them for love.

Read the rest at Practicing Families.

And since I have sacraments on the brain these days, my latest at Catholic Mom asks how we can talk about the meaning of sacraments in our lives with those closest with us. Check out these simple ideas for starting conversations about sacraments with your spouse, children, friends or relatives:

Sacraments are central to our Catholic faith. We believe that we encounter God in a powerful way through the experiences of baptism, Eucharist, confirmation, reconciliation, anointing of the sick, marriage, and holy orders. And we believe that Christ instituted these seven sacraments in order to share grace with us in powerful and particular ways.

But how often do we talk with our children, spouses, friends, or relatives about the impact of the sacraments in our lives?

This week, take a moment to share a story of sacrament with someone close to you. Invite them to share their own stories or to ask questions of curiosity, especially if they’re not Catholic.

See what happens when we start talking about God’s presence in our lives through the sacraments…

Read the rest at Catholic Mom.

9 weeks for 9 months: prayers for pregnancy (month 5)

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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

Recently a girlfriend and I were laughing, with our six kids underfoot, about the irony of things we yell as moms:

BE GENTLE!

STOP YELLING!!

BE KIND TO EACH OTHER!!!

(Oh, the humility of life with small people…)

I often think about kindness as a virtue I have to teach my kids. Don’t kick. Take turns. Play nice.

How often do I think about kindness as something I need to practice – towards myself, towards my children, towards other adults?

This idea I had, to write nine prayers for pregnancy around the nine fruits of the Spirit, has made for some interesting synergy. I’d never considered the place of kindness in pregnancy. But all those incredulous comments I would get while pregnant – on how HUGE I looked, on how FAR I still had to go, on how SICK I could be – they were all opportunities to practice kindness.

Most of the time I failed at that. At best I gritted my teeth and tried to smile. At worst I groused to my spouse at night about the ridiculous things someone had said to me that day. But maybe I could have seen these conversations as openings to grow in kindness and compassion.

And to be kind with my own self as well, as I sacrificed sleep and energy and comfort (to say nothing of caffeine and wine!) for the health of my baby.

This prayer has made me think about kindness in my life today, too. How can I grow into the generous joy it takes to live kindly? Who are the people who challenge me most to be kind? What does it mean for a fruit of God’s loving Spirit to be the simplicity of kindness?

May kindness find you this week. May you share a kind moment with yourself or those you love.

. . .

month 5Month 5: A Prayer for Kindness

God of kindness,

Halfway through this month
The journey will be halfway done.
Twenty weeks past,
Twenty weeks to go.
As I feel the weight and wonder
Of this milestone,
Let my hopes and fears
Be carried by your promise
Of unfailing kindness.

Now that I feel the flips
And kicks and gentle pokes
From the child growing within me,
Let me remember
How you cradle all your children
Within the depths of love itself.

When I finally see
On the ultrasound screen
The dancing feet and waving hands
Of the sweet baby
I will soon hold in my arms,
Help me to trust in what I cannot see:
That you are with us,
That you guide us,
That you will never leave our side.

Help me to be loving and kind
Towards myself and my child,
Family and friends,
Even well-meaning strangers
Who comment on my new shape and size.
Let the words of my mouth
And the thoughts of my heart
Be compassionate and caring,
Even when my body grows weary.

In kindness 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!
(And h/t again to Kendra at Catholic All Year for creating the lovely images for these prayers!)

start seeing sacraments: eucharist

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Every week until my book comes out, I’ll share images around each of the 7 Catholic sacraments.
Follow me on Instagram at @thismessygrace or tag your photos with #everydaysacrament.
Let’s start seeing sacraments together…

sacraments. . .

Eucharist. Source and summit. Body and blood. Christ at the center.

I see it everywhere, this blessed-and-brokenness of the Christian faith. It’s in our daily rhythms of eating and sharing at table. It’s in our everyday actions of taking and breaking. It’s in our ordinary offerings of sacrificing in love for each other.

It’s in this bread my husband bakes for our family every week, too.

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Every time I nurse the baby, I think of what it means to give of your self.

IMG_1129Every time my husband harvested bowl upon bowl of vegetables from his garden, I thought about what it means to feed others.

imageEvery time we sit down at table to share another family meal, I think about what it means to gather together and give thanks.

imageEvery time we shared our harvest with friends and family, I thought about what it means to be the hands and heart of Christ for each other.

IMG_1376Every time I watch people receive communion at church, I think about what it means to open up our lives to let love in.

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Eucharist can be hard. We break ourselves open to love. Eucharist can be easy. We reach out our hands to be nourished.

But at home? Eucharist is every day. Feeding our family and loving in the body and sacrificing for each other and thanking God who holds it all together.

For these thy gifts, which we are (always) about to receive.

Where do you see Eucharist in your life? What does this sacrament mean to you?

9 weeks for 9 months: prayers for pregnancy (month 4)

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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

Patience. 

Perhaps it’s the cardinal virtue of parenting. The holy grail we long to hold, grasping just out of reach, a shimmering mirage on the road before us.

Ironically it’s the way we have to start the parenting journey, too. Whether we birth or adopt or foster, we must wait for a child to arrive. Patiently some days, impatiently others.

Nine long months of wondering, watching, witnessing, and waiting. No swift storks swooping in to deliver these babies to our doorsteps.

The 4-month mark has been where my own pregnancies start to itch with impatience.

Still so sick, and even sicker of everyone asking, wide-eyed, why I’m not feeling better. Counting the weeks and groaning inwardly (ok, outwardly, too) at how many months remain. Starting to show and still so far to go.

So when I started writing these prayers for pregnancy, inspired by the nine fruits of the Spirit?

I secretly loved that month 4 landed on patience. Proof of the wit and irony of that good old Spirit.

Today’s prayer is for patience, wherever you find yourself.

May it be a deep breath reminder to slow down and settle into this present moment – all that it holds and all that God hopes and all that you carry within you.

. . .

month 4Month 4: A Prayer for Patience

God of patience,

Now that the first trimester is past,
And our news has been shared
Far and wide,
Help me to keep waiting patiently,
Enjoying this time.

When I wish away days
Of sickness or sleeplessness,
Of worry or discomfort,
Guide my thoughts lovingly
Back to the baby within me,
Whose life is a masterpiece
That takes patient time to create.

Let me mark each passing week
With gratitude and wonder,
Awaiting all the joy and good work
That will come in due time.

Open my eyes to see
How you are making me a mother:
In your time,
In your way,
In your name.

Bless the child within me,
And all who welcome with eagerness
The arrival of this new and sacred life.
Surround us with your peace
As we grow in love together.

In patience 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: confirmation

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Every week until my book comes out, I’ll share a few favorite images around each sacrament. Follow me on Instagram at @thismessygrace or tag your photos with #everydaysacrament. Let’s start seeing sacraments together…

sacraments

Confirmation is one of three sacraments of initiation into the Catholic Church (along with baptism and Eucharist). Sacred anointing with holy chrism oil. Laying on of hands by the bishop. Sealing of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Most Catholics receive the sacrament of confirmation as young people. (Too often it becomes a graduation from faith formation.) Others receive it as adults in the RCIA process. Either way we only “get it” once.

But do we ever get it?

This Spirit stuff is slippery. Scripture tells us of the Spirit’s gifts: wonder and wisdom, reverence and right judgment, knowledge and courage and understanding. But how do we live out these gifts? How does this sacrament shape our lives as Christians?

How do we see and taste and hear and feel confirmation every day?

. . .

I see confirmation in the way my children start to chase after their gifts.

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I taste confirmation in the day’s unexpected glimmers of grace.

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I hear confirmation in my callings, trying to listen to the Spirit for guidance in this holy work of parenting.

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I see confirmation in the ways I try to lift my gaze heaven-ward.

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I feel confirmation in the softest flutters of encouragement to share gifts.

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Where do you sense confirmation around you? What does this sacrament mean for your life?

9 weeks for 9 months: prayers for pregnancy (month 3)

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A prayer for peace. Don’t we always need it?

Peace is rare in these parts. As an introverted mama who craves calm and quiet to settle her soul and center her mind, I start to spin some days when the boys don’t stop talking/whining/crying/shouting. I know in my bones that this busy, bustling life is so good and the very gift I wanted, but it is still so frenzied at times that I can barely hear myself think.

And peace in pregnancy? It’s a nearly laughable prospect. My last journey down those nine months brought not only the severe morning sickness I’ve come to know (and loathe) as part of pregnancy, but also all the fear and anxiety of carrying a child after miscarriage.

When I think about what to expect when you’re expecting, peace would be last on my list. 

I try to remember that the God of Peace is always present with us, always calling us back, always inviting us to slow down into silence with a deep breath and a moment’s pause. But peace is still fleeting in this season of life, dancing before my eyes like a startling butterfly, dashing off again as soon as I stop to take notice.

Christ called us to be makers of peace. I think about this often, that peace is something we’re invited to help create, not just passively receive.

How do I make peace? How do I carve out corners for peace to settle in our home? How do I widen the margins of my life with enough space for a deep and lasting peace to guide our hearts?

Today I offer you a prayer for peace. Each new morning our world needs it more and more, millions upon millions of desperate hearts crying out for comfort and calm.

Maybe when we start to nurture peace in smallest ways, even from our earliest days, we can begin to align our lives with the peace that is God’s Very Self.

Wherever the dark chaos of your life calls out for blessing today, I pray peace for you, too.

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

Prayers for Pregnancy - Month 3Month 3: A Prayer for Peace

God of peace,
As my appearance
And appetite and energy
All begin to change,
Let me seek the peace I crave
In your unchanging love.

Help me to remember
That you are constant
When all around me is shifting.

Calm my anxieties
With the comfort of your presence.
Quiet the storm of my fears
With your calm.

Whisper still, small words of trust
And cradle my baby
In the warmth of your love.

Help me to celebrate
The life growing within me,
The child taking shape
In the dark chaos of creation.
Keep your horizon of hope
Ever before my eyes.

In peace 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!