Monday, July 26, 2010

Agnus Dei (or Why I Got the Giggles in Church on Sunday)

We have a great Praise and Worship team at my church, Dunwoody Community Church (in Dunwoody, Georgia) - if you live nearby or are visiting Atlanta, I invite you to stop in and check them out - they are THAT good.   All members of the band are professional musicians, not that you must be to lead worship in a church, but I am so proud of each of them and so thankful to have them lead us each week.  They always lead us in some amazing, meaningful, and deeply felt worship at the beginning of our services, and no Sunday morning would seem complete without it. 

I have on several occassions been moved to tears by the beauty and feeling of it all.  I have on  occassion been moved to tears because the words of a particular hymn happen to speak to something that I am dealing or struggling with in life at the time.  I have also on occassion been moved to prayer, and stop singing along so that I can pray right then and there.  On all occassions I can't help but do a little "dancing" - just tapping my feet or swaying, I've even caught myself bouncing a time or two.  But this past Sunday, I was moved to giggle when we began singing Michael W. Smith's "Agnus Dei". 

Growing up Catholic leaves it's indelible mark on a person.  For me, there are many things that bring me back to the Sundays of my early childhood where you'd have found me sitting on kneelers at St. Bartholamew's Catholic Church, eating whatever snack Mom had tucked away in her purse and drawing on the edge of the bulletin.  Mom and Dad would hand us each coins so that we too would have something to place in the collection baskets - this was a good thing, however for me it was never good enough - I wanted to put in a dollar.  Anyway, of all the many things that take me back, hearing anything with Latin words for a title takes me back immediately!  Which is why I caught a case of the giggles yesterday.

As we began to sing Agnus Dei Sunday, my mind filled with memories of training for my first confession at the ripe ol' age of six.  You had to make your first confession before you could make what I'd been looking forward to all that year... My First Communion!  I couldn't wait to finally wear the white eyelet, floor lenth dress that my Mother had sewn (and that my sister before me had worn for the same blessed event in her life) and to top my head with a lace-edged veil just like brides wore!  The only problem was... I was deathly afraid of making that first confession!  I had to tell someone else all the ways I'd been "bad" and if that weren't harsh enough I also had to memorize the "Act of Contrition" - the prayer one recites to the priest while in the confessional.  It goes like this:

O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended you and I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell. But most of all because I have offended you, my God, who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve with the help of your grace, to confess my sins, to do penance and to amend my life. Amen.

I was horrible at memorization.  I still am.  As long as I live I'll never forget standing in line on my own personal "D-Day" waiting to make my confession.  Confession of what I do not remember, and 30+ years later I can't imagine what "mortal" sin I required absolution from. With sweaty palms and nervously shifting my weight from one foot to the other, I remember heartily praying that God would make sure I ended up in the confessional on the right instead of the left, as the one on the right had the "Act of Contrition" framed and posted beside the black screen in the wall that seperated the sinner from the priest.  (Good news - God came through!)

I lived through my confession, read the prayer right off the wall, and  and received and prayed the appropriate penance for my crimes:  One "Our Father" and a "Glory Be". 

A few weeks later I made my way down the center aisle in that beautiful dress and veil, with a lovely corsage of daisies and gold floral ribbon.  My Mother had set my hair on big painful rollers the night before, and she'd assured me in the morning that I looked "just like Farrah Fawcett", something always important to me in those days.  I was so happy to have the entire church see me daintily place the communion host on my tongue, and I even remembered to perform the Sign of the Cross afterward.  Just before my group entered the church, I remember telling one little boy "I love you in God's way because I have to, but I sure don't like you!".

So should you ever see me grinning and giggleing to myself in church, just know that there's probably a good Catholic story behind it, and I hope you'll pardon me for it - I promise to share the story with you later if you do!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Slippin into my covers & Slippin thru my fingers

On my morning drive to work today I was listening to a couple of radio DJ's talking about the problems with allowing your child(ren) to sleep with you. They asked for listeners to call in if they were parents with kids in the bed. Each parent that called in would admit in very sheepish, guilty tones that yes, their little one did sleep in their bed. One woman didn't want to share her first name for fear of being "found out", and another even admitted that she has lied to her child's pediatrician about it.

Most mornings, I'd have changed the station because I generally prefer hearing and singing along with music and songs that I like. This morning, however, found me missing my 14 year old daughter terribly! She's on vacation, visiting my family for the week as she does each and every summer. This year her short term absence has been harder on me than ever before. I'm not exactly sure why, but I suspect is has much to do with how mature and competent she is, how she hasn't needed to call me every day during this trip away, and how each of my family members has commented in phone calls or emails about how "grown up" she is. And isn't all of that just sooo exciting? Not for me it's not! Although her growing up and maturing is a wonderful and healthy thing - it's a melancholy thing for me too. It makes me long for the days when my little girl snuggled up and slept with me.

Yes, it's true... Rebecca slept with me every night of her life from the age of 13 months thru 11 years old, and then off and on at various times during her 12th and 13th years. I admit this with no guilt. I don't feel sheepishly about it at all. For us, co-sleeping was a good thing.

If asked, I think most Americans would probably say that children should never sleep with their parents, citing dire possibile outcomes such as destroyed marriages, suffocated infants, poor future sleeping habits, or even the creation of a child's over-dependence on the parent(s).

It's important to note that my marriage was destroyed before my daughter's birth, so that was not an issue for me as a single Mom. I'm sure there are marriages where this would cause an issue, as men don't generally care for the idea of co-sleeping from what I hear. However, the notion of children sleeping seperately from their parents is actually only about 150 years young here in America. Prior to that most young children slept with their parents or other relatives as the majority of families at the time simply could not afford living arrangements that allowed seperate sleeping quarters. Additionally, it assured that all members of a family, down to the tiniest sibling, stayed warm through the night. I also know current-day families who share a bed with their children and all involved are happy and really ok with the arrangement (Yes - even the Dads).

For very small infants there may be some validity for being cautious about co-sleeping, but definitely no reason to sucuumb to the media's fear-mongering about it. Reports about infants dying from being rolled over on by an adult have been grossly blown out of proportion. They come from data collected between 1980 - 1997 which shows 2,178 cases of unintentional mechanical suffocation of American infants under 13 months old. An alarming number when stated alone, though a closer look through the data shows us that only 139 of those suffocations occurred in an adult bed. The same data shows 428 suffocations occurred in a crib where the infant was sleeping alone. Also, the advice to have a sleeping infant lie on their backs instead of their stomachs wasn't the advice being given during the majority of years the report data was being gathered.

As for co-sleeping developing poor future sleeping habits...I beg to differ. In my own childhood I was petrified of sleeping alone, and had such trouble successfully going to sleep by myself that my sisters took turns for years (until I was done with middle school) sleeping in my bed with me, or having me sleep in their beds with them. All members of my family got a better night's sleep when I was sleeping with someone. Rebecca, now in her own bed, adores sleep and gets plenty of it. If her current sleeping habits are not good it would have to be because she sleeps too much!

With regard to the potential problem of the child becoming overly dependant on it's parent(s) - I would have to disagree also. While I do feel that the years of nightly giggles, snuggling, deep conversation, light conversation, and comfort and security that come from being physically close to a family member have helped create an incredibly deep bond between my daughter and myself - she is very independent. Rebecca is capable of doing all sorts of things without me holding her hand or holding her back. She has an inner confidence that I did not possess at her young age (I wonder if I even have it now). She knows she can depend on me - but she does not feel that she has to depend on me for her own sense of well-being. She's very well-adjusted if I do say so myself. And I do.

All of that to say this: Should we really assume that we know what's best for another family? Should those of us who do allow our children into our beds feel guilty and shameful for doing so? Should those who have their children sleep in their own beds feel that they're doing this parenting thing more successfully? Or rather, should we acknowledge that every family is different. Every family situation varies from one to another. Every child and every parent is unique. Because of all these differences, variances and uniquenesses - bedtime, and the innumerable other parenting decisions, actions and duties we as parents are responsible for - will be handled differently and uniquely in various homes - and whatever way it's all handled in each home is O.K. if it allows the family to get the rest they need to function well together and makes the home a happy one.

I remember people offering, always unsolicited, advice (that's my nice way of saying "I remember people cramming their opinion down my throat while 'tsk, tsking' me") to "Girl you better get that child out of your bed!" So as a young and new mother worrying myself nearly to death about it, I worked up the courage to fearfully ask my pediatrician if it was wrong or harmful to let my sweet child nestle in with me each night and sleep in my bed. His response was "The only thing wrong with letting Rebecca sleep with you is what other people have to say about it. You and only you know what's best for Rebecca and you're doing great so far." God Bless You Dr. Ramey!

My advice, and I offer it the most loving way I know how, is this:

Whether you tuck your child into their own bed tonight, or into yours - make sure you place a kiss upon their cheek, rub their back for a few minutes, get close to your child and breathe in their sweet scent, tell them you love them several times - and then one more time just to be sure they know.

And while you're doing that, I'll be doing what I have done each night while she's been gone... on my way to bed I will stop in her bedroom doorway and stare into the darkness at the bed she left unmade 7 days ago with a dull ache in the pit of my stomach asking myself things like:

Does that over 5 foot long body indention in the messy covers really belong to my little girl?

Is that small flashlight what she's using late a night to write down in her journal all of her secret thoughts, hopes and dreams?

Or worse... is she using it to write her secret bad thoughts and opinions of me?

Or... is she using it read another "Twilight" book instead of finishing "To Kill a Mocking Bird" like I want her too?

Do all of these posters of Robert Pattinson bring her sweet dreams, or do they keep her up sighing and giggling to herself long past when she should have fallen asleep?

Is she really this close to 15, which means we're only a very short time away from 18 years old and her... FUTURE?

And yeah, that last question there - that's the one that looks back at all the years of my precious little girl sleeping in my bed with nothing but Thanks to God for so many happy nights spent with her - that time passed all too quickly and now no matter how tightly I cling to my efforts to keep her young, innocent and mine all mine - she manages to slip through my fingers a little at a time on her way to becoming a young woman ready to take on the world. Yes, there's a long way to go - but it will be a painfully short time to get there.

If you have a moment, listen to the video attached to this link - it's the song Rebecca says she hopes we'll dance to together at her wedding one day *insert my stiffled sob here*...

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Quotes I'm Loving Today

Often on my facebook or twitter updates, I'll share a quote I've run across and loved. Today, I've come across many - too many to share in a status update, so I'm sharing them here in my blog. Enjoy!

I have read in Plato and Cicero sayings that are wise and very beautiful; but I have never read in either of them: Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden. ~ St. Augustine

Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art... It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival. ~ C. S. Lewis

There is so much good in the worst of us, and so much bad in the best of us, that it hardly becomes any of us to talk about the rest of us. ~Edward Wallis Hoch

Judge yourself; if you do that you will not be judged by God, as St. Paul says. But it must be a real sense of your own sinfulness, not an artificial humility. ~Johannes Tauler

For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone. ~Audrey Hepburn

Know how to give without hesitation, how to lose without regret, how to acquire without meanness. ~George Sand

If you must hold yourself up to your children as an object lesson, hold yourself up as a warning and not as an example. ~George Bernard Shaw

Being happy doesn't mean that everything is perfect. It means that you've decided to look beyond the imperfections. ~Unknown