New location, same inspiration

Last summer I completed the training to be an online instructor for http://www.CatholicMarriagePrep.com. It has been an incredible experience so far, to journey with engaged couples in an understanding of God’s plan for marriage, through the details of the Sacrament, and finally on the Relationship Tools to give them a strong foundation for their marriage. logo final cmp print fond blanc version2

I am so blessed to be a part of this ministry, and I strongly believe in their vision for preparing Catholic couples for marriage (dedicated to the building of strong, christ-centered marriages). But of course, marriage is a journey, not a destination. Our destination is heaven, and marriage helps us get there.

Therefore, I am excited to start blogging for the www.catholicmarriageprep.com/blog to share my spiritual insights with all couples who have just started the journey or who have been traveling for a while 🙂 My first post went up last week on Loving God Through Marriage, and you can see it here:
http://www.catholicmarriageprep.com/blog/entry/loving-god-through-marriage

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I will no longer be posting to this site, so please make sure to subscribe to Catholic Marriage Prep’s blog so you don’t miss out on any of the great content! You can subscribe by clicking this icon in the black bar at the top of the page:
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Thanks to all of you who have followed my interiorhouselife blog over the last 2 years, and I hope that the marriage prep blog will be able to bless so many more people!

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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)!

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.

luke gate

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

 

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.

To Share, or not To Share?

A few months ago this story was a popular thing to share amongst moms on Facebook (and I am only now getting around to writing about it). The article is about why this mom isn’t teaching her kid to share. The first time I read it, I got swept up in her argument and at the end thought, “you’re right, we don’t want our kids to feel ‘entitled’ and not be able to cope with disappointment.”

rule10_final-Conflict-1024x810Then later in the day after I had asked my 3 year old and 1 year old to share for the twentieth time, I realized a few important things that have compelled me to write this blog in defense of sharing.

My first realization is that sharing is practical. I realized that the author’s son is at the current time an only child. It doesn’t matter if she doesn’t want more children, can’t have any, or will have more in the future. She only has one child right now. I have two of the playing age.  If they do not share, they will steal toys from each other and scream until I lose my mind. It brings so much joy and peace to me and to our home when they are playing together and taking turns sharing.

I guarantee, if you DO NOT teach your kids to share, you kids will have NO friends. Who wants to be friends with someone who only thinks about themselves all the time? Who wants to play with someone who wont invite others to play along? This is not entitlement as the author suggests. What IS entitlement is hogging the toy all day long simply because you got there first. A swing or a car on the playground is not yours any more than the next kids. You just got there first.

My second realization is that sharing teaches virtue. They learn to be generous; to think of others; to be selfless and sacrificial. These virtues will go a long way when they are older- when they fall in love, get married, and have kids of their own. When they donate time and money to charities and people in need. This is my goal as a parent: to raise my kids to be virtuous, and so I need to teach them to share.

Certainly there are not hard and fast rules that make sharing work every time. There are different cases and sometimes a child is allowed to play with a toy without sharing. But if Lily has two balls and shares one with Timothy, everyone wins. When there is only one toy involved that they both want, we usually set a timer, and in the words of Daniel tiger, “I can take a turn, and then you get it back. You can take a turn, and then I get it back.” And it seems to work. And sometimes after 5 minutes they forget they even wanted the toy and learn to find something else to occupy them. This, my friends, is teaching them to cope with disappointment. Not teaching them to share at all is the real disappointment here.

Is going to Church on Sundays enough?

I met a nice young college student at a ministry fair this weekend. He was studying criminal justice and went to church on Sundays. “Oh that’s so nice,” commented the woman sitting next to me. “I’m sure that makes your mom happy.”

“Is there FOCUS or a Newman center where you are?” I asked.

They had some Catholic thing, but he wasn’t in to the “whole youth group thing.”  I get it. There’s more to life than ice breakers and snacks. But the encounter with that young man has been nagging me all week.

That’s because there’s more to life than “just going to Church on Sundays.” We in American have this “good person” philosophy. If we do “good” things, go to Church on Sunday, and are a “good person,” than you will go to Heaven. That’s it.

But our “good person” theory is completely out of touch with reality, and out of touch with the heart of the Gospel message. If my goal in raising my children is just that they are good people who go to Church on Sunday, then I have missed the point of Catholic parenting. Of course, I do hope they are good, and that they go to Church, but I hope and pray for more than that as well.

In last Sunday’s gospel, Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?”  The answer that Jesus is tvan_hornthorst_adoration_children_800x583he Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the Living God – that changes everything. It changed Peter from a loud mouthed fisherman to a fearless leader and the first Pope.

The Incarnation. God becomes man, takes on human flesh, conquers human sin. That’s more than being a good person. It’s being united to the Divine and bringing that relationship with the One who is God into every aspect of our lives. It affects our decisions, our vocation, and everything about us. It brings the Kingdom of God to here and now. A relationship with Jesus is what I hope for my kids.

You see, I am afraid of what this country will look like when my kids are in college. We are all comfy with the ability to go to Church every week and think we have religious freedom. But our government and our culture is increasingly hostile to Christianity. Is forcing a baker to make a cake for a gay couple religious freedom? Is forcing nuns to pay for contraception really religious freedom? This is only the beginning, folks. And if our kids are simply good people who go to Church on Sunday, will they really defend their faith to the point of shedding blood?

MV5BMTA0NjA3MzI5NTleQTJeQWpwZ15BbWU3MDMzOTg0MTg@._V1_SY317_CR6,0,214,317_AL_If you haven’t seen it, go watch “For Greater Glory.” I think it’s still on Netflix. It chronicles the war in Mexico in the early 1900’s of the government versus the Catholics. They took away Catholic schools, and then Catholic Churches, and then Catholic priests, and then Catholics. The government tried to eradicate Catholicism completely only 100 years ago. And America supported their government, but thankfully the Catholics won. Look at the life of 14 year old Jose Sanches del Rio who chose death over renouncing his faith.

Look at what’s going on in Iraq, and PLEASE make a donation to help those Christians through Catholic Relief Services. To them, their faith is life or death, heaven or hell. Do you think they are shedding blood because they are “good people?” Or because the Gospel has cut them to the heart, and they are nothing without Jesus. Look at the first Christians and think of the Colosseum. Would our world and history as we know it be the same without these brave martyrs? Do you think they were content just to be good enough to go to Church on Sunday?

Mark my words, we in the United States are not immune to persecution. It’s coming our way, and how will we answer? “Don’t shoot, I’m a good person?” I challenge you, going to Church on Sundays is not enough. A living, breathing, relationship with the Word made Flesh is enough, and that’s our goal as parents for our children.

“The Blood of the Martyrs is the seed of the Church.” -Tertullian (2nd century Church Father)

How Gloriously Different Are My Children

Sometimes it’s hard to believe my children come from the same genes. Not only do they look vastly different but their personalities are polar opposite, too. For example:Image

Timothy is my snuggler. He wants to be held and comforted often. Lily, on the other hand, is Miss Independent and is like, “mom, back up off my space, yo.” (She doesn’t really say that, but it would be awesome if she did.)  Timothy screams for a napkin if a drop of yogurt touches his shirt or, heaven forbid, it dares to dirty his finger. After using that napkin once he will immediately throw it away until he needs a new one two minutes later. Meanwhile, Lily has yogurt in her hair, up her nose, and down her shirt all before her first bite reaches her mouth. Lily will run away the moment you take her diaper off to change it, while Timothy is asking me to put his pants back on.

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You get the picture. Any veteran parent tells me their children are all on opposite sides of the personality spectrum, too. It seems like a daunting task to teach, discipline, and love each child in the way they personally need it. Trial and error, they say, to learn how to relate to each of your kids.

“How gloriously different are the saints,” once wrote CS Lewis. It’s true! I’ve been thinking of this often lately: all the vocations, all the religious orders with different charisms, all the canonized saints with vastly different personalities. There is more than one path to holiness; and it gives me comfort- while still overwhelming-to know there is more than one right way to raise holy children. What works for my family may not work for another, and vice versa. And that’s ok!

While I have no practical advice on parenting children, the only thing that I know so far is that the Holy Spirit is sent into our lives to help us relate to each of our kids individually. In Luke 12:12 it says, “For the Holy Spirit will teach you at that moment what you should say.”  If we are parents that are in tune with the Spirit, we can trust we will be guided to raise uniquely different and gloriously holy children.

But if you do have any practical advice, I’d love to hear it!

Why I Wanna Be My Parents When I Grow Up

ImageWhen you become a parent, you start looking at your own parents differently; examining what they did and didn’t do well in raising you.  While nobody is perfect, my parents did a darn good job at raising us in the faith and giving us solid ground for raising our own kids, too.  I know many of you have awesome parents as well, but I didn’t grow up with them, so here is a list of the things I love most about how my parents raised me (in no particular order):

1. Catholic Parties. As children, we were surrounded with other Catholic families. We’d have huge parties together, celebrate feast days and holidays, and just be fun! We’d end up playing praise music and praying. As a kid, being Catholic was normal.

2. Personal Prayer Time. In high school I can remember brushing my teeth every morning before school and watching my parents pray the daily readings on the couch in a nearby room. They weren’t trying to do it so I would see them, or even wanting me to join in, but I was a witness to their humble and sincere desire to grow closer to God every day together.

3. Daily family prayer time.  I have a confession that might offend some: if my parents had been the type to have EWTN on all day long and forced us to pray all the mysteries of the rosary every night, I probably would have rebelled and wouldn’t be writing this blog today.  Our prayer times were sometimes reverent, and sometimes not so reverent, especially when the opportunity to crack a joke presented itself.  We learned about the saints, we learned our prayers, we memorized bible verses, we learned about our faith, but most of the time it was fun. The length and content of our prayer time changed with our age. More than just time to grow closer to God, we grew closer as a family in laughter and tears.

4. My parents love each other and they showed it. Oh yes they disagree and argue like any human beings, but in 30+ years of marriage there also has been much PDA, smooching, squeezing, and other things that make you embarrassed when you are a child- but now that you’re older your parents are your heroes for being so affectionate so long into their marriage.

5. We grew up knowing morals and learning right from wrong, but we weren’t sheltered.  Sure we watched saint videos and veggie tales, but as we got older we watched normal movies and did normal things too, and I went to public school most of my life.  My parents said, “I love you” and “I’m proud of you” often and they gave us the freedom to make choices instead of hovering over our every move.  Most importantly, I know my parents prayed for me every day, and God listened.

6. They were involved in the church. They taught NFP classes and Pre-Cana. They sang in the music group. They participated in parish functions. They even started a prayer meeting there years back. From that example led me to be involved in parish activities, too. In high school I volunteered to teach Religious Ed with my mom, and eventually ended up working in a parish myself.

7. My parents encouraged us to be involved in youth group, prayer meetings, Steubenville youth conferences, and even attend Franciscan University of Steubenville. These experiences deepened my faith and solidified the foundation my parents gave me.

If I can be half the parents that mine were, than maybe our kids will turn out ok:)

Happy Feast of the Holy Family!