Sit Still and Be Quiet!?

I grew up making fun of homeschoolers. It was a way of life I didn’t understand. And now we have decided to homeschool our own children. One of the many reasons is because I truly believe that sitting still for 7 hours and reading from a textbook is not really learning. I get excited thinking about learning fractions from baking or working with daddy in the woodshop; of all the field trips and experiences we will get to have- life is one big education!

Then we had prayer time last night. We asked the kids to sit still and recite their prayers. While it is very important for them to know how to sit still and to memorize their prayers, that is not all there is to be learned about the faith. I realized that to sit still and learn your prayers is teaching in much of the same way that I’m trying avoid.

I think many well intentioned families have turned their kids off to religion by only applying that same approach to faith: sit still a recite your prayers or be quiet and go to Mass.

It is important to eventually be able to sit still and recite the rosary. It is essential to learn to be quiet and sit in Mass. God definitely speaks to us in the quiet of our hearts. But, it has to be age appropriate. And, sitting still and being quiet can’t be all there is to faith. If so, we are missing out on life being one big spiritual education: Who are we? How did we get here? Why is life hard? What is the point?

To pass on the faith means that you are letting your offspring witness your lived experience with t11011453_1596240467281706_5479734691516327357_nhe Trinity on a daily basis. It’s more that sitting still (which again is definitely essential!) It’s talking, singing, crying, laughing, etc. Just yesterday Timothy pointed out to me all the features of the Sacred Heart: a heart, a cross, fire, crown of thorns, blood. When I asked him what all the fire around the Sacred Heart meant, he said: “Love.” He told me today God heard his prayers when he asked for help getting his poopies out. He is beginning to grasp the idea of a relationship with God in the way a 4 year old can.

11246024_1593646200874466_489587991628054299_nBut for many, we are missing an important element of that relationship of faith: The Holy Spirit. I believe that the Holy Spirit is the key to entering into the faith, to living it out, and to successfully handing it on.

The Holy Spirit. The forgotten person of the Trinity. Jesus is easy to grasp because he has a human nature. God is comprehendable because of creation and because we have earthly fathers. But a dove? A tongue of fire? It’s much harder to intellectually grasp the concept of the Holy Spirit.

That’s why I’m excited for Fr. Dave Pivonka’s new series called “The Wild Goose.”

10401939_1596740307231722_8665441408544622917_nIt just finished it’s fundraising to create a 14-part video series that will be available for free December 2015. The goal of the videos will be to invite us into a deeper relationship with the Holy Spirit. So in the meantime, you can read a great article on the Holy Spirit by Fr. Dave called “The Forgotten Person of the Trinity” here:

https://redeemedonline.com/forgotten/

May your education of faith be much more than sitting still and being quiet. May your children embrace a life of faith lived in the Spirit.

EnthronementHappy Feasts of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (yesterday)
and Immaculate Heart of Mary (today)!

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Don’t Whine in Prayer: Use your words and ask!

There’s been a lot of crying and whining in our house lately. And not just from me. Mostly from the 2 and 4 year olds but even the baby has been joining in. When they are upset, they don’t say, “Mommy, I’m having a hard time opening this box. Will you please do it for me?” They simply throw themselves on the ground and start screaming. How in the world can I help them when I don’t know what it is they want? I have been trying to teach Lily to simply say the word “help” when she wants help with something instead of screaming at the top of her lungs like she is injured and needs to go to the ER. I tell her, “Use your words and ask.”

In my mom’s group recently, we were doing a bible study on prayer and I came across the bible verse that most of you I’m sure have heard before:

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives, and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” “…how much more will the heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him.” Matthew 7:7-8;11 (NAB)

There is much we can learn about God our Father through being a parent. And through being a parent, I realize how much I am like a child. What God was telling me through this verse was, “Don’t just throw a fit because I’m not giving you what you want! Use your words and ask!” He desires for us to ask for the things he wants. Through communication- through a relationship with our heavenly Father- he can give us things that are good for us.

In fact, just this morning, Timothy started screaming and punched me in the stomach because I wouldn’t let him have a brownie for breakfast. I told him he could have a brownie after dinner (pending better behavior), thereby answering his request. But I desired so much more for him to have a healthier breakfast and get the energy he needs to have a good day. So the answer to the brownie for breakfast was no, not right now. But, if he threw another fit, he was going to lose his brownie altogether. Thank goodness God has more patience and gives us many more chances than that!

Prayer is a relationship with God built on communication. There is no room for fits. Sometimes when Timothy is having a hard time not getting what he wants or with sharing, he says (usually in a pouty voice), “Mom, today’s just not my day.” And I reply, “That’s okay. Life is hard sometimes. It doesn’t have to be your day everyday.”

I think God answers the same thing to us. We are allowed to say, “God, today’s hard. I feel like quitting. I just can’t do it anymore.” And he says, “That’s okay. It doesn’t have to be your day today. But I have prepared a place in heaven for you where every day WILL be your day.” But we can’t just throw a spiritual fit and get mad at God because it’s not our day or we aren’t winning the lottery or getting our brownie for breakfast. We have to pray and ask God for the things we think we need or even want, and then wait for him to respond.

Because sometimes it's just not your day.

Because sometimes it’s just not your day.

As I look back on all the major deciding points in my life – from college, to a job, to my husband and family, and all my little jobs and decisions along the way – God has never let me down. He’s always answered my prayers and given me the desires of my heart. But in HIS time, because God the Father knows best.

So no more whining in prayer! Just use your words and ask!

Mark 11:24: “Therefore I tell you, all that you ask for in prayer, believe that you will receive it and it shall be yours.”

John 15:7 “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.”

Psalm 145:18-19 “You, Lord, are near to all who call upon you, to all who call upon you in truth. You satisfy the desire of those who fear you; you hear their cry and save them.”

Parenting and Perspectives

Timothy turned 4 back in April, and got some gifts of course! I had him sit down to draw a thank you card for his grandma. I went to the bathroom and when I came back he had drawn this:
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My first thought was “F. U. is not a good thank you card”, even though his Grammie is very understanding. But when he explained it to me, it was through the eyes of a 4 year old that can’t pronounce his th’s. Hence, his attempt to spell “Fank” resulted in a “f” and then a “c” for the k sound.

I kept these things in my heart until a few days ago when he drew this beauty and asked if he drew a 6:

IMG_1881If you’ve taken high school biology then you are picturing something very different than a number less than 10.

The theme from these stories is perspective. Sometimes I get so frustrated with Timothy for not obeying or for doing something I see as destructive. But instead of yelling and giving time outs all the time, when I ask him to see the world from his eyes, his reasons are never malicious. And then it becomes a teaching moment. The number 6 is not sperm. Thank you is spelled with a “th.” You cannot hang on the window shades because it will break them. I know you think you are a construction vehicle, but I told you not to forklift the piles of clothes I’ve already folded because then I will have to fold them all over again. You cannot feed your baby brother a chicken nugget because he will choke. Etc. Etc.

Communication is the key to any good relationship, and the same holds true with parents and children.

“Train a boy in the way he should go; even when he is old, he will not swerve from it.” Proverbs 22:6 NAB

“Do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up with the training and instructions of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4 NAB

Baby Gates, Budgets, and Boundaries

luke happyLuke is 10 months old (almost 11!) and is now walking all over the place. Watch out world, he’s not stopping!

When he learned to crawl a few months ago, once he got the hang of it- he just took off. I used to be able to sit him on the floor with a few toys around him and check in on him every few minutes while I got things done around the house. I clearly remember the day when I set him down, got something out of the fridge, turned around, and he was gone. He was at the top of the stairs and I caught him just in time. Very soon after that, the baby gates went up.

With the baby gates up, I can contain him to the main floor of the house and I don’t have to worry about not having my eye on him every second. With boundaries, there is peace. With boundaries, Luke is free explore his world without falling down the stairs and getting hurt.

As I was grocery shopping the other day, I was thinking about how the boundaries of the budget give this same peace. Before we started budgeting, I always felt guilty about grocery shopping. I know we need to eat food, but did I spend too much? Even if a steak was on a good sale, should I have opted for something cheaper instead?

Now, with a budget, I have a set amount to spend. Within that amount, I have freedom to splurge a little on special occasions and cut back in other areas, as long as I meet by budget by the end of the month. Boundaries give peace, and freedom.

And so it is with our wise Heavenly Father. He gives us the 10 commandments and the teachings of the Church – not to restrict us, but to give us freedom. I put up a gate so Luke doesn’t fall down the stairs. God give us rules and boundaries so we don’t fall from grace. And with a “morality budget”, if you will, we are guided to not overspend on earthly desires so we don’t suffer the consequences later.

In the parenting world, I think that’s how strategies like Love and Logic work. You give them two choices to choose between. You have set some boundaries- they only get choices that you have already deemed good choices- but they still get some freedom to choose between the two.

So even though I’m fairly new to this whole parenting thing, I suspect if we keep in mind that boundaries give freedom through security, we can pass that mentality on to our children. Not only through our own set of parenting rules, but through handing down the doctrine of faith as well. God is a parent who loves us, and his rules are there to protect us; to give us freedom and peace.

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He may not be happy about it now, but it’s for his own good.

 

I’ll be happier when…

When I was in high school, I used to think that I’d be happier once I got to college.

And, I was actually right. But then, I started thinking, “I’ll be even happier after this paper is done, or I pass this class, or I have a boyfriend, or I find a job.”

After college, I thought I’d be happier once I had more kids in youth group, or once I was married. And then, it was once the baby was born.

Then, once the baby was sleeping through the night. Or stopped nursing, or was done teething, or could walk.

I’d be happier if I quit my job, or had a new job, or stopped having kids. Or if we had more money. Or I could get one night of uninterrupted sleep for heavens sake! It seems there is always something standing in the way of my happiness. But am I searching for happiness, or joy?

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I’ve been painting these Saint Peg Dolls of Maximilian Kolbe for a saint doll exchange. And I’ve been thinking about his life. How he spent several years in Auschwitz, giving away his meals, never complaining about the work or the beatings, and eventually spending the last weeks of his life in a starvation cell. While in the cell, he sang psalms and hymns and gave thanks to God, mediating upon Christ’s passion and praying bible verses.  Even without external circumstances of happiness, he had pure joy. And now, a saint in heaven, he experiences the fullness of happiness in every second of eternity.

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Kolbe’s cell in Auschwitz is now a pilgrimage site.

 

I went on a retreat this past weekend and realized that my life is like pointillism art. I am so focused on the dot, that I don’t step back to see the whole picture, the whole beautiful masterpiece that God is creating out of all the dots of my life and my children. I don’t have that eternal perspective, but I want to. So this week I am praying with this Scripture where Jesus says:

“So you are now in anguish. But I will see you again, and your hearts with rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you. On that day you will not question me about anything. Amen, amen, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you…ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.” John 16:22-24

Even in our day-to-day circumstances, we can find joy instead of chasing after fleeting happinesses.

St. Maximilian Kolbe, pray for us!

Grasping for Sanctity (And Sanity!)

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Before I had kids, holiness seemed like something that was attainable, albeit difficult. There was a routine to follow that made sense as ways to “accomplish” sanctity marked by daily mass, holy hours, and personal prayer time. There were opportunities for retreats and confession, and I lived a life in ministry.

Then came the kids. There was no more daily mass or holy hours, confession became more of a logistical challenge, and a routine of personal prayer went out the window. I know that when the kids are older routines will again take shape, but for now I still struggle with seeing the sanctity in my day of diapers and dishes and bedtime. After all, this was my vocation, correct? This sacrament of matrimony and the blessing of children were to be my ticket to heaven, right? Well, they are but it doesn’t look the way I expected or how it looked before, and I’ve struggled with that adjustment.

My intention in starting this blog was to draw connections between every day life and the sanctity I’m grasping for; the closeness with Jesus that I know deep down below my tired eyes, saggy belly, and impatient heart that I am longing for. I wanted to find the deeper meaning in this interior house life of motherhood.

So I have taken a break from writing to collect and find myself, and to find my niche. I don’t want to be “another mom blogger.” There are so many out there (and so many good ones!) that I didn’t want to re-write the same things everyone else was saying and I wasn’t sure if I would even keep the blog going.

Thanks to some encouragement and some inspiration, I’m going to re-focus and try one more time. I’m going to write a weekly (hopefully) reflection on family life and how I’m trying to find holiness in mine. I promise writings that are sincere, honest, and encouraging. I hope you can journey with me as I figure out how this interior house life will draw me to sanctity (and hopefully to sanity).

You’re Doing A Great Job

I take great comfort in knowing that Mary and Joseph lost Jesus for 3 days. I imagine their conversation went something like this:
M: Joseph, where’s Jesus? I thought he was with you.
J: no…I thought he was with you.
M: NO….I told you to make sure he doesn’t dally.
J: Oooohhhh, I thought you said that’s he’s with Aunt Sally….

So they retrace their steps and of course he’s in His Father’s House, a 12 year old prodigy on all things torah-related.

But could you imagine losing your child for THREE DAYS? Oh my goodness. I’ve lost my children in my own house for 5 minutes and almost had a heart attack.

I’ve had some time to reflect on the Holy Family, given all the recent feasts since Christmas: Feast of the Holy Family, Feast of Mary, Mother of God, and just this past Sunday, the Baptism of Jesus.

And I’m taking comfort in knowing that not even the family of God was without it’s oddities and perhaps a certain level of dysfunction. Mary and Joseph weren’t even living together yet when Jesus was conceived. Obviously, it was to preserve her perpetual virginity that she became pregnant when she did, but think of the times they lived in. The scandal; the unconventionalism. And then don’t forget about Elizabeth, her cousin. She was PAST MENOPAUSE, people, and her husband even older than she was. And bam, a baby. You don’t think people questioned? Thought it was odd? And then to be born in a stable where animals live (the thought of the germs and the smell just kill me!). Packing up your family and running for your lives because someone wants your child dead? And then to lose Jesus for 3 days, just to top off his childhood.

Jesus! Where have you been? I've been looking for you for DAYS!

Jesus! Where have you been? I’ve been looking for you for DAYS! Don’t you ever scare me like that again!

I read a story the other day about a house that burnt down and killed a little 3 year old inside because her mom left her for the afternoon alone in her house. Heart-wrenchinging, I know. But stories like that remind me that I’m doing a pretty good job at this whole parenting thing.

A mom in my mom’s group last week asked that to our table: When was the last time someone told you you were doing a good job? Everyone was silent, and the first person I thought of was my doctor. Bless him, for telling us young mothers that. I know my husband and mom have also said it on occasion. But we modern day mothers can be so hard on ourselves. So I gave myself a little mothering test based on stories I have heard in the news.

Have I fed my children this week? Have I taken drugs around them or beaten them? Have I left them alone for long periods of time? Have I seriously neglected them or abused them? Have I buckled them in their car seat and put shoes on them when its snowing?

On the contrary, I tell my children I love them multiple times a day. I feed them a well-balanced diet and take them on trips to the museum, playground, etc. They have clothes and toys and games, and I do bathe them occasionally. We have prayer time at night and they know who Jesus is. They know their shapes, colors, ABCs. I nurse the baby on demand and change his dirty diapers, using rash cream when necessary.

Sure, I lose my temper sometimes and I yell, and I let them watch more TV than the doctor recommends. But it is winter and we have been sick and cabin fever is a real thing. So a little more TV and a few extra sugary treats to bribe them into good behavior and a “mommy meltdown” or two do not mean I am failing at being a mom. It just means I’m being human, and hey, the Holy Family wasn’t exactly perfect, either. (But close, poor Joseph.)

So I hope you take the test with me to see that you are doing a great job. Maybe I’m the first one to tell you: You are doing a great job! But even though our failings can overwhelming us sometimes, take comfort in knowing that God’s favorite way to come into a family can be very unconventional, and I do believe there’s nothing He likes more than to enter into our dysfunction and save us.

P.S. i really enjoyed these reflections on the 7 Sorrows of Mary. It reminds me that being a mother, especially for the Blessed Mother, wasn’t always easy.

Anything But Ordinary

I just saw that it’s been 3 months since my last post. And I’ll tell you why. The other week I had a thought while preparing dinner. Quesadilla begins with Q!!!! And I couldn’t believe that I’ve never seen a “q is for quesadilla” in any Alphabet book I have read to my children.

I have strict standards for what I post on here. And unless it’s thoughtful and carefully constructed, it doesn’t get posted. So that’s why there have been no posts. Plus I’ve been pounding away at mounds of to-do lists. And although I should be sorting the recycling to take later this afternoon, all 3 kids are sleeping so I’ll take a moment to sip some warmed-up coffee and write.

Write about what? Christmas. Getting ready for Christmas was so fun this year! Our newly remodeled room accommodated for a 10 foot tree. It was fun to decorate our new house for Christmas for the first time, and we even made a whole night out of hot chocolate and getting our tree at Tree Town. Prayer time around the advent wreath was one of my favorite parts of getting ready for Christmas. The story of Jesus’ birth plus blowing out candles easily lends itself to catechesis for the little ones. And when Advent was over we made a Christmas wreath with red and white candles (3 for the trinity!) and they blew that one out, too. Our simple advent prayer was, “Come, Jesus, Come!”

She only singed her hair twice this year.

She only singed her hair twice this year.

So come, Jesus, come. While it wasn’t in my top 5 of best advents in terms of personal prayer and preparation, Jesus still came. He was born into the world and into our hearts. And now today I have been taking down Christmas decorations, since the Christmas season ends this weekend. And it’s weird, because the house now looks plain. Ordinary, if you will, which I guess is appropriate since we are entering the liturgical season of Ordinary Time. But it seems too empty, like something is missing without the bells and lights and decorations.

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Jesus came. And so, our lives can now be anything but ordinary. And they should be anything but empty because Jesus is here! His incarnation sanctified humanity and the world. It sanctified the family, as his chosen means to come to earth and bring salvation. My ordinary family cannot be so plain anymore. It must be filled with the spirit and with life. But without my wreath and candles and decoration, I’m just not sure how to do that now.

The liturgical color for Ordinary Time is green. “Green is for the growing time,” my 3 year old informed me, having learned that in his Catechesis of the Good Shepherd classes. Jesus came as a baby. And maybe Jesus is still a baby in my heart, and it’s time to grow some roots this season. My youngest baby Luke, has grown up incredibly in these last 6 months (as he is now babbling and rolling and sitting up and eating solids!). So how is Jesus going to grow in my heart and in my household this year, especially during this new season of “ordinary”? That is the question I will keep reflecting on as I go sort my recycling…

Goodbye Christmas tree

Goodbye Christmas tree

You know you’re a mom when…

The other week I was leaving the grocery store on a high. I had scored big with sales. And I thought to myself, “You know you’re a mom when the highlight of your week is a deal at the grocery store…and getting to go shopping alone!”

A few days later Timothy ran past me with no pants (or underpants) on and yelled, “Mommy! I went peepee and poopy for you!” As if I should be so proud… And yet I am. And I thought to myself, “You know you’re a mom when poop is a normal part of every day conversation.”funny-moms

So then I asked some of you on Facebook to finish the sentence “you know you’re a mom when…” and here’s what you answered.

YOU KNOW YOU’RE A MOM WHEN…

-when you carry diapers in your purse.

-when you look for products that make you smell and feel as if you’ve showered, without actually showering.

-when you are used to cold coffee.

-when your kids boogers, snot and pee don’t gross you out.

-when you realize you forgot to get dressed for the day.

-when you say things you never thought you’d have to say, like “no we don’t suck on trash cans or dirty diapers.”

-when you find yourself doing the things your mother did but you SWORE you’d never do.

And, you know you’re a mom when you can’t stop praying and offering it up for your kids.

 

Being a mom changes you.

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It’s a conversion, this life of motherhood. Five years ago I would have never imagined my day to day conversations about bowel movements or not being able to shower on a regular basis. I now love to cook and make menus for the week. It’s a game to me to use up all the ingredients in my house. I now enjoy folding clothes at night while watching TV and making my chores part of my “down time”.  My highlights these days usually involved saving money on a good deal or something my kids did or said. 5 years ago my highlights would have been about travel or going out with friends. Then one day your looking at a positive pregnancy test and nine months later everything changes – your hobbies, your dreams, and even your highlights of the day.

But it’s a good thing – the changes; the journey. My husband and I have been watching the Symbolon videos about how our faith is a journey. It seems scary at first to change, to deepen your faith, and what if I have to give up all my fun? But as you get to know the Lord and have a relationship with him, you don’t WANT to sin the way you used to. Your idea of “fun” changes.

It’s the same with your vocation. Your idea of fun changes. As you journey in motherhood and grow to love your children more and more, you can’t imagine life without them anymore. Even with all the snot and boogers and laundry and dishes.

As a child, I use to think my mom was crazy for not waiting to jump in the pool with me or play on the playground. “How can just sitting there and watching me be any fun? How come you just want to be in the background taking pictures?” But as a mom now, I get it. My happiness is watching them be happy. My fun is centered around my family. My desires have grown and changed along with my vocation.

St. Paul says in Philippians 1:6- “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.”

In encompassing all that motherhood is, we are growing and changing and being brought to perfection through our vocation. The person I am today I couldn’t have dreamed of 5 years ago, but that’s a good thing.

So, you know you’re a mom when you can’t imagine having it any other way!

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From the Spotlight to the Hidden Life

I used to be a youth minister.  I worked in a church where I was in front of people all the time. Talking, leading, and ministering. I had to be on top of my game, spiritually speaking, if I was going to be effective.  Sometimes it was more about deepening my personal relationship, but sometimes it was that outside pressure that kept me going to the UnknownChapel and waking up for daily Mass.  And so there I was, at the Church all the time because I was the face of the youth in our church. I was in the spotlight.

And then I got married. And immediately the kids started coming and I was now at home. All the time. It was more of a hidden life now – for most of the day it was just me and babies who can’t talk. The way I was used to praying involved daily mass and frequenting the adoration chapel, and I no longer had those luxuries for my prayer time. And so my priorities became eating, dishes, and laundry, and it became difficult to find time to pray. “They don’t even know what prayer is; they wouldn’t notice the difference if I prayed or not.” Or so I thought. I convinced myself that my spiritual life wasn’t as important now that I wasn’t in the spotlight.

But I was incredibly wrong. I remember when it hit me. I was in line for confession examining my conscience. It has been a while, but I hadn’t really done anything that bad. I’m a mom now, so I don’t really have time to sin, right? And then I started to recall every time that my husband and I had fought. Every time I had lost it and yelled at the kids, every time that I had failed to discipline in love. I realized that my spiritual life was more important now than ever before because I was responsible for the souls of these tiny children who do not know any better. That I am accountable to my husband and our vows to be leading him closer to heaven.

So while the hidden life, the “interior house life” of a mom may seem inconsequential, it will impact your family and society for generations to come.

I think of Mary, who we know so little about in the Bible, but yet she was the most important person in Jesus’ life. Her role was so great, and yet so hidden. With every newborn comes an adjustment in routine and schedule. But that doesn’t diminish the importance of prayer; I think it increases it.images-2

So now it’s time to be motivated out of love for God, love for my vocation, and love for my family to be striving for sanctity and to find time to pray. Not just to say grace before meals and bedtime prayers, but to find time to be anchored in prayer and to be more like Mary.

“But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.” Matthew 6:6