Monday, June 23, 2014

When Modesty Hurts Ministry

As the modesty wars rage on, I watch mostly passively from the sidelines. I have an innate sense of what I feel is appropriate for Zuzu to wear and a decent sense for myself, and since those are the only two bodies under my purview, I let the rest go (unless asked by someone).

But I am in charge of the high school youth outreach at my parish, and that means I work with a lot of teenage girls in a variety of situations - Mass, weekend trips, service opportunities, and because we are on the coast, beach days. I have given talks before on chastity and modesty, but it never really seems to sink in for most of them. So for any parish event, I send out rules: shorts/skirts must touch your knees, no bare bellys, etc. and for water activities, one pieces only. This seems the responsible thing to do and lately, I have had to send out more reminders as our weather gets even hotter and the fashions become more microscopic.

But as we go into the third week of summer, I'm realizing something: my teen girls, usually so involved and dependable, are disappearing. My beach days are usually just my family and a few friends, with me fielding texts from normally sun-loving teen girls giving half-hearted excuses about why they can't come. As they disappear from water events, they're slowly not even coming to the other events I could count on them for - Bible studies, movie nights. I have been scratching my head wondering "Why aren't they coming to events they suggested we have??"

Just about a month ago I had a conversation with two sisters in my program that I'm very close to; they were telling me they didn't own one pieces, and I suggested they go buy them. "But they're all grandma suits!" they complained. I scoffed and pulled up Nordstroms website, eager to show them the vast array of cute, sporty, or retro one pieces that proliferate our modern market. As we scanned through a variety of cute options, I realized suddenly how expensive they all were. While some of these kids have parents who would buy them a $50+ swimsuit, most do not - most of them I'm helping find work, for pity's sakes. Why would I think they could go out and spend $30, $60, $100 on a swimsuit that will set them at odds with their peers, when they already have one they like?

I realized that the message I was sending when I made modest attire a requirement for average activities - not Mass, but daily events they could do with any group - is that I care more about what they're wearing than I do about spending time with them. Relational ministry, which is what we practice, is the idea that we must care about teens in all aspects of their lives: attend their sports games, remember their birthdays, encourage them academically, get to know their families. I am not sending the message that I care about them, when all my invites come with conditions and wardrobe requirements: I am putting up barriers to knowing me and being more involved with the parish ministry that is geared towards them.

Really, at the heart of this, I am putting the trappings of conversion ahead of the actual conversions of their hearts. What I want is for them to appear to care about modesty, more than I want them to internalize the idea that they are precious and beloved of God, someone of infinite value and worth. Yes, I think it's possible that some of them might experience greater freedom in dressing modestly and therefore, might begin to have a change of heart. But it seems that for most of them, if they can't be accepted for who they are right now - even the parts I might not approve of - they're willing to stay clear of me (and the parish) entirely.

Do I want my teens to be modest? Absolutely. I also want them to be honest, chaste, humble, kind, selfless and on and on. But Christ doesn't make any virtue a required prerequisite to be in His presence, so I shouldn't make modesty the prerequisite to be in mine.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

7QT: Vacations ecetera

Currently the Zuz and I are on a trip visiting my friend Colleen in Pittsburgh. Let me tell you, for all I love my home state, nothing beats summer up north! It reminds me of every other northern state I've ever loved: Wisconsin, Indiana, Virginia. Soft breezes, chilly nights (and sometimes days too!), and soft grass. What's not to love? 

Speaking of soft grass, I was telling Tom how much I love the grass outside of Florida - it's soft and walkable (albeit usually slightly damp). Contrast this with the grass in Florida that is poky and terrifying, usually hiding some sort of obnoxious bug that can kill you. Tom and I were reminiscing about laying about in the soft grass in Indiana and even, Alabama, during our courtship years. Lots of that time laying in grass was also spent making out - so now we call soft grass Make-out Grass. 
(sorry for that overshare, family)

I have been following two stories lately of women who were widowed at very young ages (29 each). I'm 29 now, and married. They both were very happy in their marriages; one loss was expected, the other was sudden. They are both devastated. 
I feel so often that I am in a fairy tale marriage. True, there's no castle and my singing does not beckon woodland creatures, but my husband is a prince among men. God has been bringing to mind, repeatedly, how blessed I am by the marriage that I have. 

How does your family work vacations? Do you vacation with other people, just your family, with extended family? Do you only drive, fly, what? We can't go on trips when others can (Christmas holidays, Spring Break), so our summer is jam-packed with travels. This summer in particular is very full, and I am happy to say on several of these trips Jen is able to come! We love traveling with her and with our families, mostly because we like it all to be a party. I am very excited that I'm headed to Edele, Aruba, and Valparaiso this summer!

This is how I feel about vacation, but less blurry

Looking for the perfect summer dessert? LOOK NO LONGER! This cobbler recipe is fantastic, used with any kind of fruit. I've made it twice now - both times to rave reviews!

One of my favorite things about the internet is the connections it can bring about. When I saw on Insta that Dwija had had her baby, I hollered up to Jen that John Charles Borobia was here - and she squealed like it was news about a person we've actually met, not just stalked on the internet.  Even though it's weird and I'm mostly on the fringes, I really love this 'virtual village' and the community that I feel a part of.

Thank you all so much for your kind words, messages, cards, and calls about the loss of Louisa. I really appreciate it more than I can say. I have found myself processing this loss much differently than Francis, not surprisingly, so I might write less about it...or not. :) Thank you, in advance, for your patience.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Another Naming

I have dreamed of a big family since I was a little girl: ever the ardent reader and scribbler, I was always writing wild fantasies about loving but chaotic families with 6, 8, 10, 20! children. There were always at least one set of twins, a mom and a dad who were poor but desperately in love, and plenty of drama.

As an adult, the dream hasn't died (well, maybe wee small deaths - I do want less drama...and maybe a bit more money, lets be honest). Ever since our wedding night, with every hope of a new baby, I have dreamt of the perfect names for the eternal souls sent to me. I weigh each of name carefully, considering all the possible combinations and all the great significance, both familial and faith-wise. I whisper them aloud, secret little prayers, with all a mother's hope attached to each one.

I dream of monogrammed towels, nicknames lisped by siblings, their name on a welcome home banner, a church bulletin announcement. To have the authority to name a child - I feel so connected to the first parents, to Adam and Eve, who named every creature. Isn't my child as new as each newly created creature? What a marvel, to name a precious new baby - to call them out of anonimity and place them in the family of God.

But I've only had the honor once. One precious time, one sweet name that I lovingly say so many times a day.

Now twice I've had the sorrowful honor of naming two new citizens of Heaven.  My first pregnancy was also my first-born into Heaven and I've no doubt that the banners there heralded his name with no less joy than our home would have: Francis Marian. This past week, our newest child entered into her Father's House - after three weeks where I was planning for her to enter mine.

I can't bear to name her, yet leaving her without a name is also breaking my heart. Another name to ask the intercession of, to jolt when I hear at the playground, or sadly read on a birth announcement; to murmur 'no' when people suggest it as a future baby name. Another name to love and never use as often as I'd like, to never cheer on at each new milestone, or get to mention in casual conversation. Another empty place at my table. How do I explain to people that my home is now missing two children? That I should have three names to rattle off when I tell of my family?  How do I feel this loss sincerely, without feeling crazy for mourning those I have never met?

The new baby is Louisa Frances. At our bedtime prayers, Zuzu always shouts "BABY" as the first person to pray for, which we taught her to do when we first learned of our pregnancy. Now it's painful, so tonight I worked with her to say "Louisa," which is for some reason less painful. It's precious to hear her say "oo-ee-sah?" Would've been precious for years.

So that's our naming again. Louisa Frances joins Francis Marian and the countless other innocents in Heaven. May their prayers gain their Mother the virtue needed to see them again.