Friday, December 9, 2011

Surviving Christmas


As a “good” Catholic mom, I should be writing a post about the true meaning of Christmas.  I should be writing about how I am teaching my children about giving rather than taking.  I should write about spending more time praying than shopping.  I should write about growing in faith rather than growing in debt.  However, I would be misleading you.  As usual, I am an anxiety-filled shell of a woman hunkering down in her Christmas cluttered home, furiously wrapping countless presents from another budget-busting Christmas shopping disaster while yelling at her sugar hyped-up children as they fight over God knows what.  Yep, I’m a mess.  And the fact that I am such a mess in a season where I should be preparing for our Lord makes it that much worse. 

Although I love my fellow Catholic bloggers, I cannot STAND to read their “true meaning of Christmas” ramblings.  Yes, I know the true meaning of Christmas.  I know that it is a season of giving and finding joy and peace in that giving.  I know it is a season of preparing to welcome our Lord into this world.  But, I am convinced that these people who give us this wealth of information and Christmas season advice either don’t have children and families or are heavily medicated.  Here, in this day and age, Christmas has taken over EVERYTHING- from the coffee at Starbucks to the music in the dentist’s office.  And although it is great that such a large number of people in our society celebrate this season, Christmas has become something bigger than we can contain or control.  Christmas is that bull no cowboy hopes to draw.  All you can do is get on and pray you make it to the 25th.

As I was driving today in the lovely holiday traffic trying not to call the person who nearly took out my front end a word I did not want my four year old to repeat, I was thinking about how hard it is to find balance in this season.  We are called to be in the world but not of the world.  How do we do that during Christmas?  How do I not let the anxiety of shopping in an over-crowed mall get the best of me?  How do I figure out which social events to attend and which to pass up in favor of family time?  How do I teach my kids that the exciting part of Christmas is the arrival of Jesus and not Santa?  How do I live in the Christmas season but not be of the Christmas season?  Every year, I struggle with these questions.  And every year, I say, I’m going to do A, B and C next year.  But, guess what!  It rarely happens.  There are so many factors I cannot control.  There just doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day, money in the bank and patience in my being.  The world’s Christmas gets the best of me every year and reading about how everyone else has it all figured out makes my inabilities that much more depressing. 

But I have to remember that feeling when Christmas finally arrives.  I can finally get off the bull and dust myself off.  I've made it.  We open the champagne and give the kids their presents, which assure us some peace and quiet for at least the rest of the morning.  And in that time, I can finally relax.  There are no more presents to wrap.  There are no more Christmas programs to plan or attend.  There are no more cards to send out.  There are no more cookies to bake.  All that is left to do is go to Mass and be with our Lord.  And that is grand.

But on a day like today (one where I worked a full and challenging day and then braved the holiday crowds with my spoiled, cranky children), all I want to do is spend the next 24 hours in the total silence of the adoration chapel.  And while I am in there listening to the sweet nothings He whispers to my heart, I want time to stop.  And elves to address and mail my Christmas cards, decorate the outside of my house, finish my shopping under budget, wrap all the presents, bake the Christmas cookies, clean my house and make a week’s worth of meals.  They can also do all the things I forgot to put on this list because my brain is Christmas-fried.  Now, that would be REALLY grand.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Firing a Coach and Defrocking the Priests


I find the situation at Penn State to just be sad.  It is sad all around.  The child abuse that took place at the school is sad.  The fact that the school created an environment that allowed the abuser to continue to victimize children is sad.  The fact that the people that knew what happened- from the janitor to the school President and chose to ignore the abuse is sad.  And the protests that are now occurring over the fallout from this terrible situation are sad. 

I think that the public reaction to the firing of the beloved JoePa at Penn State is quite interesting.  This man turned a blind eye to the sexual abuse of children that occurred in his program- in his locker room.  Sure, he alerted his superiors, but he did not seek to stop the abuse.  And that is wrong.  More children were harmed because of his inaction.  He valued his friendship with the abuser more than the safety of children.  And yes, there must be consequences to his poor decision.  I understand that he has given so much of his talent and life to Penn State, but, nevertheless, his terrible lapse in judgment that perpetuated this situation needs to be addressed.  I think the trustees are justified in removing him from his position.  But the public seems to disagree.  Many think he should keep his job.  Many think the trustees are being too harsh.  Many don’t understand why the coach’s misjudgment has cost him his storied career.

This situation reminds me of another child sex abuse scandal that has a much different reaction from the public.  The Catholic Church has been rocked by this very situation.  There have been Priests who have taken advantage of their trusted positions and committed similar crimes.  Like the volunteer coach at Penn State, there have been Priests who have sexually assaulted children.  And in some of those cases, their superiors did not do enough to stop it.  They did not do enough to protect future victims.  When the public got wind of these crimes, they were outraged.  They wanted some one’s head on a platter.  The fall out has included not only the justified removal and prosecution of the abusive Priests, but also the resignation of many top level church leaders such as Cardinal Law of the Archdiocese of Boston.  But some think that this is not enough.  Some think that the Pope should pay for these crimes.  Some want his head on a platter.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  I am not trying to belittle the public’s outrage in their reaction to this terrible crime.  I think they should be mad.  I think this reaction is justified.  I disagree with people who paint all Priests with the sex abuser brush, but I do think that the public is justified in their anger.  And good things have come from this situation for the Church.  Thanks to this scandal, the Safe Environment programs developed by dioceses have never been more comprehensive.  The children and vulnerable adults the Catholic Church serves have never been safer.

So, my question is, how is the situation at Penn State different that the situation in the Catholic Church? I know that at Penn state we are just talking about one abuser and there were many more than one in the much larger community of the world-wide Catholic Church over a longer period of time.  But the crime is the same.  In both cases, the abuser was allowed to continue to victimize due to the negligence of his superiors.  So why does a football coach get a reprieve from the public while all Catholic Priests must wear a scarlet A?  Why does a football coach’s justified firing anger the same public that wants the pope’s head on a platter?  I don’t get it.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Men: Step Up and Surrender


I went to a ministry conference last weekend and I learned something rather profound.  Men are created in the image of God.  And God made women to be the perfect companions for men.  So, since men are created in the image of God that makes women the perfect companions for God.  I never realized that.  Logically, that makes perfect sense.  And it explains a lot concerning the spirituality of men and women.

In my experience, I've noticed that men seem to have a harder time with spirituality.  It doesn’t come naturally to them.  They have a hard time surrendering to a God they can’t see with their eyes and touch with their hands.  They have a hard time trusting in their faith and defining themselves by that faith.  I think some men see it as a sign of weakness.  Men are made to provide and protect.  They have a hard time admitting that they need to be provided for and protected.  The walls a man must tear down in his heart in order to embrace Jesus as his Lord and Savior are tall and thick.

Women, on the other hand, are made for God.  And that would explain why more women are in the pews.  More women are at prayer groups.  More women are enrolled in bible studies.  Women have an easier time finding God in everything around them.  They have an easier time in prayer.  They have an easier time with surrender.  In fact, I always thought it brilliant that God designated men to lead the church.  Because if the church was led by women, then men would be lost.  They would not be drawn into the Church if there were no male leaders to serve as role models.

This morning, on Facebook, I asked my friends what I should write about for today’s column.  Yep.  That’s right.  I had nothing planned.  ‘Tis the life of a procrastinator.  Anyhow, one of my friends suggested that I write about how the importance of the father’s role as spiritual leader of the family.  This is a topic I have been thinking about since the conference and then last week, our adult cluster group engaged in this very discussion.  Yes, indeed.  Men need to be the spiritual leaders of the family.  But why?  Why is important that they fill a role their wives seem to fit more naturally?

Have you ever prayed with a group of men?  I mean really prayed.  Like on your knees, face to God, heart and soul poured out on the altar prayed with a group of men.  It is pretty awesome.  I have had this experience at our Holy Spirit prayer group which is a charismatic prayer group in our parish.  I don’t think you have really experienced prayer until you have prayed with a group like this.  And our group has several core members who are men. They make it AWESOME.  I don’t know why but they do.  And then there was the time I visited my parent’s Baptist church.  All the men came to the front of the church, got on their knees and prayed.  They prayed hard for rain.  I thought for sure that it would be raining when we left their church service.  Indeed, there is something remarkable about the prayer of men. 

In the family, the most natural role for the man is provider and protector.  I am not saying that women can not provide or protect, but I think men feel more comfortable filling that role.  Therefore, it is pretty remarkable when the man looks to God to be his provider and protector.  That makes an impression upon the rest of the family.  If my Daddy, who provides the family’s income and is trusted with the family’s well-being, can give up that control to God, then I can trust God too.  I can believe in the God my Father depends upon.  A father’s faith in God sends a strong message to the family.

So, I challenge the men to stand up and be men.  Be an example of one who lives a faith-filled life.  Show your wife and your children what it means to love God.  Show them how to surrender their very lives to the God who surrendered his life to us.  It will not be easy.  You are not made to surrender.  The walls you must tear down are tall and strong.  But your family needs you to do it.  They need you to lead them to the Lord.  Your wife is God’s perfect companion which makes you, who is made in the image of God, her perfect companion.  But you can’t be the man she needs you to be unless you allow God into your life.  Surrender those walls.  Pray with your family.  Show your children how to trust God.  You are the person that will bring them to Christ. 

Seven Quick Takes Vol. 8



1
I’m really not in the mood to write this.  Today was not a good day in the 6th grade.  There were many tears shed.  The child is completely overwhelmed by the consequences of his lack of organization.  I wish there was something more I could do.  But these are lessons he must learn.  And he is choosing to learn them the hard way.  I wish his 5th grade teachers did more to prepare him.  This transition is ugly.

2

Well, the highlight of my week was meeting Lisa Hendy.  She is the creator of www.catholicmom.com and author of two great books: The Handbook for Catholic Moms and A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms.  We have been emailing back in forth for a couple years now.  She is probably one of the few people that have read all of my columns.  I feel like she probably knows me better than some of the people I see on a daily basis.  And until Saturday, we had never met face to face.  She is incredibly sweet.  We started chatting like we were old friends.  She even introduced me to the attendees in her session as one of her talented contributors (which left my ego rather inflated).  It was really great to finally meet her.  I hope our paths cross again soon!

3
I have a question for all of you.  I assume that many of you are Catholic parents.  Just in case this is your first time reading my blog, I am a youth minister.  We have a little over 200 middle school students enrolled in our Wednesday night faith formation youth group.  So, it is a big program that requires a number of volunteers in order to be successful.  I need more volunteers.  I need more faith filled people to mentor these youth.  I need more adults head over heals in love with the Lord to share their faith with these impressionable young people.  The first pool of adults I want to target is the parents of these youth.  So, what does it take?  How do I pull in these parents?  What would make you WANT to be involved in this program?  FYI- Adults do not lead groups on their own; they are given detailed lessons in advance that require little if any prep; they do not have to lead their child’s group-the choice is theirs.

4
My friend and I have discovered a WONDERFUL system: trading babysitting.  I take her kids so she and hubby can go on a date and she takes mine so we can go out.  For a family of four trying to make it on a teacher’s salary, this is a great system.  It is fun for the parents who get the outing time and the kids who get to play at someone else’s house.  I can not believe I didn’t think of it before!  I highly recommend it.

5
This one should probably be in the #1 spot on my list.  But since my brain is still reeling from all the 6th grade math, science and social studies homework on the night before the 6 weeks ends, I forgot about it until now.  My husband’s band, Wakeland High School is going to the state marching band contest.  To say I am super excited for him is an understatement.  This will be his second time (and consecutive) at the state contest.  He is hoping they will place well.  They compete on Tuesday.  I have to say that I am super excited for him AND I am super excited for what this means.  That is right folks.  Marching band season is coming to an end!  It has been a long, tough, long, stressful, long and really long season.  He has worked every weekend since the beginning of September.  The number of hours he has clocked is astronomical- averaging 60-80 hours a week.  The personal sacrifice he and our family have made is exceptional.  It is nice to see him have this success.  I’ll keep you posted.

6

Well, I guess I can’t avoid it any longer.  I might as well acknowledge the elephant in the room.  We lost the World Series.  The Rangers didn’t bring home the title.  We missed out for a second year in a row.  Game 7 was horrifying.  They had a good few innings in the beginning but then they choked.  The Cards played better baseball.  It pains me to say it, but they deserved to win.  Our guys looked terrible.  And the whole time the game was playing out, all I could think about was the fact that we were only one strike away from the title in game 6- TWICE!!!!  And they blew it- TWICE!!!!  Ok, I’m starting to get all worked up again.  Time to move on.  But on a good note, I did learn from my game 6 martini mistakes.  I didn’t partake in game 7 which proved to be a good choice given the outcome.

7
I have a confession to make.  My confession is that I haven’t been to confession in a while.  It has been a few months which is unusual for me.  I was going once a month.  But I have two problems: time and circumstance.  Since I have taken this youth ministry position at the church, my time is greatly limited.  I already have a full time job with my home day care and adding the part time church gig with all the family stuff leaves me short on time.  Our youth nights are during one of the weekly confession times at our parish.  The other time is on Saturdays and my husband has worked every Saturday since mid-summer.  I finally came to the conclusion that I am going to have to make an appointment with our Priest.  And then there is the Priest issue.  Now that I am working at the church, do I still go to our pastor for confession?  Is that professional?  Maybe I should just go somewhere else.  But then, due to some trust issues I am working to overcome with people in ministry(I know how ironic that is considering my new job), I have been making a real effort to go to our pastor for confession.  It would be easier for me to go to a Priest I will never see again.  I have been working to build that trust with him so I am not sure I want to give up on that just because I am working at the church.  What to do?  What to do?

Visit more 7 Quick Takes at www.conversiondiary.com.  Thanks Jennifer!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Seven Quick Takes Friday Vol. 7



1
I learned a few things about myself when I woke up on this morning after game 6 of the World Series.  I should wait to pour the martini until after the game.  I thought I could do it in the 8th inning, but no.  Exciting baseball games do not allow me to make good decisions about martini’s after the first one is poured.  After checking my facebook this morning, I have learned that I should not facebook while drinking a martini and watching the Rangers let game 6 and their World Series championship slip between their fingers.  Nope, that was not a wise decision either.
2
So, what do you think about the Church issuing the document “Towards a reform of international financial and monetary system in the prospect of a public authority with universal competence”?  I’m not sure I am smart enough to fully understand the technical causes of the crisis and the steps needed to improve the global economic climate.  However, I do understand my role as a Christian.  I must put the needs of others before myself.  I must work for the common good of the kingdom of God which will likely require sacrifice on my part.  I think these ideals have been lost in the recent Christian generations.  We have an underdeveloped sense of morality.  Our capitalistic society fuelled by birthright to the “American Dream” has clouded our morality and stolen our ability to see the common good before our own desires.  And if we continue on this path of greed and love of self over others, then we will destroy ourselves.  Kudos to the Church for not only standing up and saying something, but saying something intelligent lined with well thought out solutions.  I hope that the global community will listen and at least acknowledge that there is a problem.  But, I fear that there is little hope that solutions offered by the institutions profiting from this climate will have any impact on improving the situation.
3
So, a week ago, I got a Twitter account.  I know, I know.  I’m the last person on the planet to tweet.  You see, I have always facebooked.  I never had a desire to tweet mostly because I didn’t really understand how it worked.  But I was forced to get an account so that I may keep up with my son’s extracurricular activity.  So, I tweeted.  I do not have the hang of it yet.  I do not understand how people can follow me or even find me on twitter.  And the tweeting is a learning curve.  The tweets are filled with @ and # and crazy links.  I feel like I need a dictionary.  But, I do have to admit that it is fun to get on there.  I am following all my favorite bands.  They tweet more often than they facebook, especially Matt Maher (perhaps the greatest Catholic rock musician of our time).  I have REALLY enjoyed twitter stalking him.  So after a week of twitter, I think I understand it better.  Tweeting is like making an announcement over a PA system while facebook is like sitting at the lunch table with 300 of your closest friends.  There is more accessibility to get your ideas out there through Twitter, while facebook provides more of a conversational experience.  See, I’m not too old for all this.  I can tweet AND facebook.  HA!
4
For the past month, my youngest wanted to be a trash bag for Halloween.  I was horrified.  Why would he want be a trash bag?  In these four short years, have I already done collateral parenting damage? Should I go ahead a start him in therapy?   Naturally, I tried to talk him out of it.  But he was firm.  He was going to be a trash bag.  So, this past Sunday, I bought some trash bags.  I formulated a plan to make a trash bag costume so that looked like we at least tried and didn’t stick a trash bag on him at the last minute.  Then, on Monday, he changed his mind.  Now he wants to go to the costume store.  Now that all the costumes are picked over, he wants to go to the costume store.  I’m ready to talk him back into that trash bag.
5
I am going to the University of Dallas Ministry Conference tomorrow.  I am excited because I am finally going to meet Lisa Hendy, creator of www.catholicmom.com and author of two great books, A Handbook for Catholic Moms and A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms.  I have been a contributor to www.catholicmom.com for a couple years now, so I am excited to finally meet Lisa in person.  Since she has read my columns for all these years, I feel like she knows me better than most people and it’s quite silly that we have not actually met.
6
So, I am REALLY excited that the coffee creamer holiday flavors are finally hitting store shelves.  I love pumpkin spice latte and peppermint mocha.  I don’t understand why they only stock these during the holidays.  They really brighten my day.  Especially on the morning after the martinis, losing game 6 and unchecked facebooking.
7
I while ago, I mentioned that I was going to review The Third Testament by JohnEklund.  Well, I am happy to announce that in these 3 months since that post, I am over HALFWAY through the book.  I know.  It’s sad.  I usually read a book in a few days, but these last few months have been crazy.  I laid on the sofa the other night and started reading and my youngest walked by, stopped dead in his tracks, gave me the strangest look and said, “Mom!  WHAT are you DOING?”  He was completely taken aback that I wasn’t moving.  I guess I need to make more of an effort to have down time.  Hopefully, it won’t take me another 3 months to read the other half of the book.  And I should mention that it is good.  There is a lot of church history interwoven with the plot.  I’m curious to see how everything is going to conclude.

Read more 7 Quick Takes at www.conversiondiary.com

Friday, October 21, 2011

Raising Saints Instead of Bullies

Bullying was the topic at our middle school youth night this past week.  If you follow the news or have a kid in middle school, you know that the bully factor is an important issue.  Middle school students are more likely than elementary or high school students to engage in bullying and to be bullied.  At this age, they are growing fast.  Their brains are developing the ability to think abstractly.  Their bodies are maturing.  They are trying to figure out who they are and how they fit into this constantly changing world.  All of these factors combine to create these tough middle years in their young lives.  And unfortunately, the bully factor makes these turbulent waters even tougher to navigate.



Low self-esteem is a big issue for these young people.  They are constantly comparing themselves to others and finding flaws with their appearance, social abilities, academic abilities, athletic abilities, etc…  They want to stand out from the crowd yet blend in at the same time.  They want to be someone who is admired, accepted and loved and many times they think that someone is someone different than who they really are.  These feelings of inadequacy lead to bully behavior.  When some young people have low self-esteem, they may pick on others to make themselves feel better.  When the victims are picked on, all their fears about their inadequacies are confirmed.  This obviously has a big impact on how they choose to interact with their peers and perhaps even become bullies themselves.  It is a nasty cycle that can leave lasting scars on these young people, especially in this age of texting, twitter and facebook.

As Catholic parents, teachers and youth leaders, it is imperative that we teach our children about the dignity of the human person.  And that starts by teaching them about how much God loves them- just the way they are.  These young people need affirmation.  They need to feel loved.  They need to know that they are fine in their own skin.  In fact, they are wonderful in their own skin.  While they see all their flaws, we need to point out all their strengths.  While they measure themselves against the world, we need to show them how lovely they look in God’s eyes.  And most importantly, we need to love them how God loves them.  When they find value in themselves, then they are able to see value in other people.  They are more likely to develop the ability to have empathy if they see themselves in a positive light.  Dignity of the human person cannot be taught from a text book.  This concept can only be grasped if they find dignity in themselves.  And that is where the adults in their lives need to work.  We need to be God’s instrument in their search for their own dignity.

I challenge parents to affirm your kids.  Every day, tell them you love them.  Every day, tell them how blessed you are to be their parents.  Tell them all the things you admire about them.  Tell them all the things that make them cool and awesome.  I admit that I can get too critical of my children.  I want so hard for them to succeed that I spend too much time telling them how they can do things differently.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  Criticism isn’t a bad thing.  But, if we don’t balance criticism with affirmation, then our kids conclude that they are failures.  It may be obvious to us that our kids are wonderful, talented and awesome, but it is not obvious to them.  They need to hear it.  So, tell them.  Make it a daily habit.  Help them find their own dignity and then they will see dignity in others.

During our youth night, we talked about the Greatest Commandment: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)  We talked about what it meant to love your neighbor as yourself.  We talked about how God has given each person dignity and how we need to honor that dignity with love.  We discussed that because God lives in each one of us, the way we treat others directly reflects on how much we love God.  In order to hammer this point home, I wrote the following piece and read it at the conclusion of our night.  I think it is worth sharing:

I know a man who was bullied.  I know a man who was bullied by an entire community.  He was spit on, yelled at, beaten and humiliated.  His community hated him because he was different.  You see, this man loved God more than anything.  And he obeyed everything God told him to do.  He healed people. He taught about God’s love.  He provided food and nourishment to thousands.  He even washed their feet.  But that didn’t seem to matter.  The community hated him.  And even though he kept loving them, they continued to bully him.  One day, his community decided they had enough of him.  They put him on trial and declared him guilty of a crime he didn’t commit.  At this point, his few friends deserted him.  He was alone.  When they took him from the court room, the bullies stripped him of his clothes and whipped him.   They whipped him until he was almost dead.  But this wasn’t enough.  The bullies decided to make fun of him.  They put a purple robe on him and a crown of thorns.  The robe stuck to his open wounds and the thorns dug into his head.  They laughed at him and called him names.  The bullies pushed him around and spit on him.  But this wasn’t enough.  The bullies decided that this man needed to die.  They took him out in the streets and made him carry a heavy cross.  Some of the bullies were in the crowd.  They yelled at him, spit on him and kicked him when he fell down.  Some people in the crowd did nothing.  They watched him struggle and felt sorry for him, but they didn’t try to stop it.  Some people in the crowd cried and prayed.  They wiped his face when he struggled to move on.  One even helped him when the weight of the cross became too much for him to carry.  But no one stopped the bullies.  No one kept the bullies from yelling at him or spitting on him.  No one called for the torture to end.  The bullies marched him up a mountain where he collapsed in exhaustion.  They stripped off his robe and tore open all the wounds from his earlier brutal beating.  He felt like he was on fire.  They laid his bleeding body on the cross.  New waves of pain exploded in his body as the bullies hammered nails into his hands and feet.  They hoisted up the cross.  Then, they gambled for his clothes as he started the slow process of suffocation.  His mother and best friend stood by and watched him struggle for every breath.  They watched an innocent man bear the weight of a sin he did not commit- the sin of all mankind.  When the weight of that sin had taken its toll, Jesus looked up to heaven and gave up his life. 

Pretty amazing, isn’t it?  I bet you never thought of Jesus being bullied.  The truth is he was bullied- to death.  Put yourself in the crowd.  Who would you be?  Would you be praying?  Would you be weeping?  Would you be trying to comfort Jesus?  Or would you be spitting on him?  Would you be hammering the nails or pressing that crown of thorns on his head?  Would you be standing by and saying nothing?  The choices we make today determine who we are in that crowd.  The way we treat others determines who we are in that crowd.  Who have you been?  Who are you going to be?

Jesus bore the weight of all that sin out of love for you and me.  He took the punishment that we were supposed to endure so that he may spend eternity with us.  He showed us what it means to love another totally and completely by giving us his very life as payment for our sin.  And what does he ask from us in return?  To love him back.  And to love others like He loves us.

If you have been bullied, then you are in good company.  Jesus understands your struggle.  He doesn’t want you to suffer like he suffered.  Ask him to give you the strength and courage to seek help from an adult.  Jesus desires you to have the freedom he won for you on the cross- not fear.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Seven Quick Takes Friday Vol. 6



Ahhh… It’s nice to feel somewhat normal again. These last three weeks have been CRAZY. The event that really put it over the top was our middle school youth retreat. It was a great weekend full of fun activities, cool entertainment, engaging teachings and intense worship. And man, planning and carrying out something like that was amazing, exhausting and draining- especially when the other youth minister went down for the count with a migraine and that left me…. in charge. Gasp! But, it went great. The Holy Spirit was really the one in charge. I’m just really good a following directions. Although this was the first time I was in charge of a retreat, it wasn’t my first rodeo. So, I was prepared for the physical exhaustion. The mental and emotional exhaustion was another story. It took me a whole week to be able to think and reason and carry on intelligent conversation again. Whoa.

2
 So, many of my friends are having babies. I think that normally this would make me want to have more babies. But no. I sometimes wonder if God has me doing this home day care so that I will get all this mothering of babies desire out of my system. I have to say that being held hostage by 5 small children in my home 10 hours a day has worked. The thought of carrying the baby to term (which is a challenge for my body in itself), having the baby, paying the hospital bill, waking up in the middle of night to feed the baby, pumping every three hours, dealing with teething, ear infections, and middle of the night vomiting episodes just doesn’t get my mothering hormones pumping. I know that sounds selfish. There was a time when all of that didn’t matter. I would do anything to have that cute little baby in my arms. But those times seem to be over. If the Lord does bless us with another life, then I hope he also blesses me with this desire. But right now, in all of my selfish humanity, I just hope he continues to bless us with our ability to successfully practice NFP. The two boys we have make us feel rather complete.

Like I said, my friends are having babies- including my best friend. After waiting what seemed like FOREVER, she finally got pregnant again. We are ecstatic. And guess what? I get to be her Godmother! Did you see the “her”? Yes, the baby is a GIRL and I get to be her Godmother! I am sooooo excited! This is the first time I am Godmother to a Catholic child. My nephew is my Godchild, but I don’t think I have a formal role since they are Methodist. Now that I have a Catholic Godchild, I feel like I need to read a God-parenting book or something. But first things first. I must buy all the pink baby clothes I can find.

 4
 I am wondering if we are going to survive the 6th grade. I don’t remember praying for patience, but since middle school started, the Lord seems to be blessing me with abundant lessons in this skill. And they are rather dangerous lessons for my son because if I fail, he is in the direct line of fire of my fury. So far, he is still alive. But we are only 6 weeks into the school year. I have discovered that middle school is not only a learning curve for him, but also for us. Which is CRAZY because I used to teach middle school!!! I miss the days of him having one teacher, one personality, one person to know all his little eccentricities, one person to identify his potential and help him succeed. Now, I have 7 of these people. And these 7 people don’t have 25 students, but rather 125 students. It is a big learning curve. I am trying unsuccessfully not to helicopter.

This past month has been a big affirmation on why I am NOT a homeschooling mom. Since I hang around a lot of Catholic moms in person and online, I feel sort of in the minority because I don’t homeschool and worse yet, I send my kids to public school. As public school teachers, my husband and I are big proponents of sending our kids to school rather than homeschool. And, as public school teachers (one of whom is retired to stay home with the kids) we cannot afford to send the darlings to Catholic school. So, off to public school they go. And since we work there, it feels okay to do it. Now, over the past year, I have been doing preschool at home and I have been wondering if I should look at the homeschooling thing. However, we went ahead and enrolled our youngest in preschool this year. It was the best decision we could have made. He LOVES it. And he is thriving and growing in ways he could not grow here. Last year, I couldn’t even get him to color. After one month in preschool, he is writing his name. I could not have gotten him to do that. Yes, home schooling is not for us. I am not called to it. My kids are not made for it. And I admire those that are called and whose kids are made for homeschooling. That is a big undertaking that brings unique stressors to the family dynamic. It takes a special family to make it work. I am sure if I worked to make the square peg fit in the round hole, there would not be enough money to pay for all the therapy the children would need- or the liquor bill.

My Dad cracks me up. He recently retired from his second career and landed his “dream job.” Now, let me give you some background. He spent over 20 years in the Navy. He was a hospital administrator in the Medical Corps. He worked his way up through the ranks and even spent part of his duty working for NATO. He retired a Captain. He accumulated two master’s degrees during his navel career- one of those being at the War College. Once he retired from the Navy, he took a job at the Red Cross. He managed one of two national call centers who assisted military personnel and their families with communication during crisis situations like combat. He recently retired from that career as well. And now, he is most excited to land a job as the greeter at the Walters, Oklahoma visitor’s center. He was hoping to be a Wal-Mart greeter one day but never dreamed he would land a job as greeter at the visitor’s center. He feels he has reached the pinnacle of his professional career. HA! Sometimes I wonder if I should be living closer to my parents.

Well, here I am publishing this on Friday night instead of Friday morning. In my defense, I started this on Friday morning. But small children require my attention. All. The. Time. These days, between my day care and the church, I am busier than I ever imagined I would be. So busy that I forget to check my clothes before I race out the door to pick up my child from somewhere. The people at Wal-Mart must think I don’t do laundry since I always seem to be covered in spit-up and ketchup. Maybe I should take Jennifer’s advice and wear an apron. Of course, that is going to make for more laundry. Sigh…

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Laying it Down

“Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”- Matthew 10:39

I realize that it has been a while.  To say that I have been busy would be the understatement of the century.  These past two months, I have been losing myself.  I’ve given away my time.  I’ve given away my talents.  I’ve sacrificed my sleep, meals and moments with my family.  As I type here, I am beyond exhausted.  But I have never been more satisfied.  I have never been more sure of my path in life.  I have never been more complete.

Two months ago, I accepted a youth ministry position in my parish community.  I coordinate all the middle school youth events.  And yes, I realize that this confirms that I am actually crazy- special kind of crazy.  These kids are growing fast.  They want to find their place in the world at any cost.  They are questioning all the truths they have ever been taught.  And they are doing it in a rapidly changing and somewhat confusing world.  These young people seem lost, afraid, and unsure of themselves.  Yet, they are excited to be at the beginning of this great adventure.  And the Holy Spirit has called me to show them just how much God wants to be on that adventure with them.

The Lord has always spoken to me in grand ways through the sorrowful mysteries of the Rosary.  Through Mary’s eyes, I have seen the passion of the Lord.  I have seen the pain and suffering He endured for our sake and the love that drove Him to it.  That experience has taken me to a deeper understanding of that incredible infinite love the Lord possesses for us.  Now, once again, the Lord is using these mysteries to speak to me- to teach me about discipleship.  He is showing me what it is really like to give away one’s life and to lay it all down at the foot of the cross.

My garden was the chapel.  It was two in the morning.  It was just me and Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.  In that moment He told me what He wanted me to do.  He wanted me to be a core member on the middle school youth ministry team.  I tried to talk Him out of it.  I tried to tell Him that a girl with such a negative experience in her own high school youth group did not need to be involved.  I was damaged goods.  And the fact that I wasn’t raised Catholic made me all the more unfit for the job.  But He said, no.  He wanted me to do it.  So I did.  And while I was that volunteer, he kept bringing me back to the garden.  He kept showing me where I really fit.  He kept working through me in ways I never dreamed possible.  And then He asked if I would do this for real- if I would be a youth minister.  I balked.  I didn’t have the education or qualifications.  All I had was a music education degree.  He said that didn’t matter.  A position for middle school youth ministry became available in my community.  So I applied.  I was really doing it.

As disciples, we are called to teach as Jesus taught.  We are called to share our lives just as He shared His.  And in order to truly do that, we must come to terms with our own failings.  We must admit where we fail, work through that failure and allow God to have it and use it for His glory.  We must embrace humility and accept our crown of thorns.  Yesterday, I wore mine in front of 50 middle school kids.  I told them a story of how I deeply hurt a friend when I was their age.  I allowed God to use my unflattering story to speak to their hearts.  It was not easy.  It was not fun.  But I happily wear that painful crown for His glory.

Life in ministry is not easy.  I got a taste of its demands as a volunteer.  But, in the last two months, I have experienced how great those demands can be.  It is time consuming.  It takes a lot of planning, prayer, and love.  It takes sacrifice.  I will not get rich in this line of work.  In fact, I can't even give up my day job for it.  Time has become a precious commodity.  Have you heard of the I am Second campaign?  Well, I’m not second.  I am third- God, others, me.  And between this ministry, my family and my day job, the others usually get the time.  Which leaves me a sleep deprived, financially challenged, and well drained shadow of a person.  But that is my cross.  It is the cross He asks me to take up and carry.  And He fills me with such joy, peace and love that I can carry it.  I can do the impossible.  And I do it for His glory.

I am a performer and I am addicted to the stage.  The attention the stage brings is intoxicating.  The natural high of a great performance is what I live for.  And I have discovered that it is what I have to die to.  It is not about me.  It is not about my message.  It is not about my agenda.  It is about His.  I have to put myself aside and speak the words He wants me to speak.  I have to seek Him out and listen to Him in the voices of others.  I have to be open to changing the plan as the Holy Spirit desires.  I have to get off the stage and let Him be the star of the show.  Last night, I got off the stage.  I adored the Blessed Sacrament alongside 50 middle school kids.  And all I had to do was worship.  He moved in that room- in those hearts in ways my words cannot.  All I had to do was be in the back of the room and worship with all my being.  My humanity wants that stage, but I must die to the stage so that He may be glorified.

Now, my more astute readers may have noticed I skipped the scourging at the pillar.  Although, I can find the garden, the crown of thorns, the cross and the crucifixion in my ministry experience, I can never step into the scourging.  I have always viewed the scourging as the undue torture of my Lord because of my sin.  I know that the entire passion experience was how he defeated our sin and won our salvation, but the scourging was hardest to watch.  My Lord was transformed from a strong, healthy man to weakened, bloody mess.  His pain in that moment was more than a normal human could bear. I think He has given me an understanding of His pain so that I may have a glimpse of His love.  And that awesome love is what keeps me going.  The love that drove him to accept that pain and become a bloody mess is what I pray he fills me with in abundance.  So much so that it may overflow from my life and touch the hearts of others- all for His glory.

My biggest role in this ministry is to live this life- not just teach about it.  It’s like swimming.  You can’t teach a person to swim through lecture and study.  You have to get in the water and swim with them.  And you can’t do that if you don’t know how to swim yourself.  We have to have a relationship with the living God if we want to pass along our faith to others.  We have to live the life and then share that life.  In doing so, we are greatly blessed.  The peace, love and joy that flows from sharing in the life of Christ is an intoxicating experience.  And that is the payoff to living a life of discipleship in ministry and giving up your life for His glory.

Glory be to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end.  Amen.

Friday, September 2, 2011

New App

Hey everyone!  Check out this new catholic app!  http://ign.io/beq1g

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Seven Quick Takes Friday Vol. 5


1
I just finished mowing the lawn.  And my word, it is dry out there!  I stepped in a few holes, noticed large cracks in the ground and the dust was unreal.  In the 8 years we have lived here, I have never seen this before.  The lawn that is under the tree in the front is really starting to die.  The other side (where there is no tree) seems to be doing okay.  I am thinking that the tree must be soaking up what little water is in the ground and leaving nothing for the grass.  I adjusted the amount of time the sprinkler zones water from 4 minutes to 10 minutes.  Maybe that will save my lawn.  I am surprised the Trugreen guy hasn’t given me a big lecture. And, by the way, he doesn’t do rain dances.  It isn’t in his contract.

2
I really feel sorry for all the farmers this year.  It must be heartbreaking to put all your money in the ground and then watch the crops die.  We have a few farmers on my Dad’s side of the family.  My parents and farming cousins all live in a rural town in southwestern Oklahoma.  When I was up there this past spring, the drought was just beginning.  I went to church(Baptist) with my parents and the Preacher called all the men to the front of the church.  They all got on their knees and, man, did they pray for rain.  The effects of a drought do not touch us city folk like it touches the farmers.  They depend on the forces of nature in a way we don’t understand.  I was so touched by their prayer.  So, I started adding rain to my daily prayers.  I know that God has a plan with this drought and we have to trust that he will provide, but it still hurts to watch all those farmers suffer.

3
Back to mowing the lawn.  So, my husband tells me that he is has been called to fly out to Atlanta this weekend.  Long story short, he can’t mow the lawn.  Now, he doesn’t point this out to me.  I realize in the midst our conversation that he cannot get the lawn mowed.  So I say, “Well, I guess I will mow the lawn tonight.”  He immediately starts protesting and insisting that he can get it done.  I explain to him that he can’t mow in the dark and if we let it go any longer, we are going to lose the dogs and children in the high grass.  As he was walking out the door, he was still begging me not to do it.  Now I want to know, what is so wrong with me mowing the lawn?  Aren’t I doing him a favor?  I have not broken the lawn mower in the past and I am pretty sure that I am not capable of breaking it.  By his overreaction, I have to conclude he thinks I am stealing his manhood or something.  I certainly would not think he was stealing my womanhood if he did some laundry or cleaned a bathroom. 

4

I recently found these cups at Wal-mart.  I LOVE them.  They are insulated and they have a straw.  Thanks to my grinding, I have worn copious amounts of the enamel off my teeth.  Therefore, I prefer to drink a cold drink with a straw.  For the longest time, I was using my cup from the hospital- you know, the one with the long bendy straw.  But the straw broke.  I don’t think those cups are meant to last.  But you think they would after all that money you spend at the hospital!  On the last trip, the bill pre-insurance was $60,000.  I think we spent $15,000 and all I got to take home was that cup.  Oh, and we also took home our Ben-Ben.  I guess he is kind of priceless.

5
So, next week I am starting my new job (part-time).  I am very excited.  But I can’t tell you what it is yet.  It has not been officially announced.  So, you will have to tune in next week.

6
I am about to review this book.  It is a Catholic fiction novel.  I am looking forward to reading it.  In the back of my mind, I have always wanted to read some catholic fiction.  I just never put any effort to actually finding it.  And then John Eklund contacted me and asked if I would review his book.  So, I didn’t have to put any effort into it!  It just showed up in my mail box.  I have some selfish reasons for wanting to review it.  I think that if I ever wrote anything for real, it would probably be a fiction book.  But the idea of writing something that I totally make up that has to be interesting to other people is quite overwhelming.  Especially since it a book is longer than 1000 words.  Maybe this book will inspire me.

7
So, for those of you who don’t know, I run a home child care business.  I am the lone employee.  And yes, I do this in my home.  I am fully aware that I am insane.  I have five little clients ages 4 and under.  They keep me busy and they are my daily lesson on how to have more patience.  I must have prayed for patience at some point in my life and now God has provided me with 5 ongoing daily lessons.  At any rate, this Wednesday, I decided that the baby needed some space.  I have been unable to convince my two toddlers that the baby is not a toy and that if he is in the swing, they do not need to push him.  Or steal his pacifier.  Or give him enormous amounts of toys.  So, I put up some gates to divide the house into two parts- one for the baby and one for the toddlers.  The preschoolers can play with the toddlers or join the baby if the toddlers are picking on them or if they want to play with toys that are not appropriate for toddlers.  I have to say that this is the most genius idea that I have ever had.  All the little people seem much happier for their separate little spaces.  And I am no longer pulling my hair out trying to convince the toddlers that the baby is not a doll.  In fact, this idea has had such tremendous success that I have decided to put up sturdier gates that require me to drill holes in the wall.  Now, if only I can get my husband to tell me where he has hidden the drill bits…

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Sing, Dance and Forgive


“Dance like no one is watching.  Sing like no one is listening.  Love like you have never been hurt.  And live as if this were heaven on earth.”

The above quote has been my motto these past few years.  It fits my personality well because I am that crazy girl in the crowd who will happily do just about anything if it will bring a smile to someone’s face.  I am content to oblige to most requests - from singing karaoke in a crowded bar to eating spam out of the can because I lost a bet with a room full of teenagers.  Yes, the first two in the motto are easy.  I am happy to dance (on a stage) like no one is watching and to sing (into a microphone) like no one is listening.  But the last two in the list are a challenge.  I imagine those last two would be a challenge for most of us.

One of my facebook friends recently asked this question: Is it really wise to love like you have never been hurt?  I have been thinking a lot about her question.  She has a valid point. When you have trusted another with all of yourself and was betrayed, then the hurt is profound.  That hurt makes a lasting mark on your heart.  Is it even possible to trust and even perhaps “love like you have never been hurt”? 

Although I am very blessed to have never been significantly hurt by those who are closest to me, I have been hurt by people whom I trusted.  But relatively speaking, I think that we would be hard pressed to find anyone who hasn’t been hurt or betrayed by another.  My experience happened many years ago when I was on my way out of the Baptist church.  The ministers I was close with made no effort to speak with me concerning my decision to leave the Baptist church.  And considering my relationship with them in the end had been rocky at best, I had to conclude they were happy to see me go.  This was a hard pill for me to swallow because I knew they fought hard for all their members.  If someone stopped attending church, he or she could expect a visit or a phone call.   I was not called.  No one tried to visit me.  Not even one of my friends in the youth group.  Nope.  I could almost hear them yelling “don’t let the door hit you in the butt on the way out!”  At the time, I just moved on.  I concluded that the lesson learned was to not get close to a Christian community again.  From that point on, it was just going to be me and God.  I didn’t need brothers and sisters in Christ.

I think my reaction to this hurt is quite typical of most people.  When we are hurt, our “fight or flight” instincts kick in.  We protect ourselves.  We analyze the experience, learn our lesson, and take the necessary steps to avoid that pain in the future.  Although that can be healthy - it’s only healthy to a point. If we choose to hold onto the hurt and not forgive the person(s)/act(s), then we cannot be truly healed.  We will carry that garbage around and let it burden our souls and affect everything about us.  Why is that?  Why do we have to forgive in order to be free of the burden?

When we harbor past hurt and pain, we justify the resentment and hatred we hold towards the people who have inflicted that pain.  And that resentment gives birth to the fear of loving or of being loved.  The only way to let go of that fear, is to forgive the person and act from which the hurt was inflicted.  Through forgiveness, we regain the freedom love requires. 

But more important than our freedom to love is the fact that the act of forgiving is what Christ commands us to do:
Then Peter approaching asked him, "Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?"  Jesus answered, "I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.  That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants.  When he began the accounting, a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount.  Since he had no way of paying it back, his master ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, his children, and all his property, in payment of the debt. At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.'  Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan.  When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a much smaller amount.  He seized him and started to choke him, demanding, 'Pay back what you owe.'  Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.'  But he refused. Instead, he had him put in prison until he paid back the debt.  Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master and reported the whole affair.  His master summoned him and said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to.  Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?'  Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart."   (Matthew 18:21-35)
In this parable, Jesus teaches that if we don’t forgive one another, then the heavenly Father will not forgive us.  I don’t know about you, but I find it terrifying that at the end of my days, I may stand before the Lord and He will say, “You did many good things and you loved me deeply, but you did not forgive.  Therefore, I cannot forgive you”.  And boom: there, I am separated from God for eternity.

But, for the sake of argument, let’s set the fear factor aside.  In another teaching on forgiveness found in Matthew 5:23-26, Jesus tells us not to come to the altar if we harbor anger in our hearts towards another.  I was always confused by this teaching.  Just because I am mad at Cindy or Johnny doesn’t mean I am mad at God.  How are trusting God with my heart, and trusting Johnny with my heart related?  But as I have grown older and somewhat more mature and a little more experienced in the art of love, this teaching has become a little clearer.  I think the reason he says this is because we cannot be open to the love he offers us if we fear the vulnerability love requires. When we hold onto the hurt and pain and thus the resentment and perhaps hatred, then we cannot even begin to trust our hearts with anyone else- even God.  At the altar, Jesus gives us his heart but we cannot experience His love unless we are willing to give up our hearts in return.  That is the definition of love- giving one’s self wholly and completely to another.  Therefore, we cannot truly receive the love Jesus offers us at the altar if we hold onto our hearts for fear of letting go.  When we choose not to forgive, then we separate ourselves from God here and now.  And if we continue to hold onto it throughout our lives, that separation can reach into eternity.

I think that once the dust settles and we see the merits in forgiveness, then most of us desire to forgive.  But actually forgiving is a challenge.  In most cases, we have to let go of our pride.  In my situation, I had to let go of the glory of being right.  I had to let go of the idea that the work I did in that church deserved some sort of recognition by the leadership and its members.  I had to conclude that the reason I was Catholic was not because I stepped away from the Baptist community, but rather because Jesus brought me exactly to where he wanted me to be.  While I wallowed in all the hurt and anger, He found me, comforted me and showed me the beauty of the church He established 2000 years ago.  And then He waited for me to realize that I could not fully experience His love unless I was willing to let go of my hurt, my justification, and my pride.  Once I forgave, I was able to hand Him all of my heart and be embraced by the community through which He loves.  I was able to be reunited with Him.

So, is it wise to love like you have never been hurt?  I think so.  It’s not easy.  It’s not natural.  But it is quite necessary if we want to really live.  How sad would life be if we always guarded our hearts and never allowed ourselves to be loved?  How sad would life be if we never experienced the love and freedom brought forth in forgiveness?  How sad would it be to go to Christ’s table and never partake in the love for which he died?  How sad would it be if we choose to be separated from God here and now and then into eternity?  Yes, it is wise.  Partaking in God’s love is where we find life’s meaning, purpose and most of all, pure joy- it is heaven on earth.  And how glorious will it be when we stand before the Father and He says “I forgive you, my good and faithful servant.”

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Seven Quick Takes Friday Vol. 4


1
So, my seven quick takes Friday is happening on Saturday which is a great reflection of my life these past few weeks.  My husband has been out of town and we are celebrating his return tomorrow.  I think he is looking forward to arriving at a comfortable place that doesn’t smell like a gym or move like a tour bus.  He will get his wish but his comfortable place will be filled with toys everywhere, and screaming children.  And I may just sneak away from this comfortable place for a little while and let him wallow in the chaos- um, I mean tranquility.
2
While I have held down the fort all alone these past few weeks, I would be remiss not to admit that it wasn’t that bad this time around.  I am not sure if it is because I am getting used to my husband’s absence and all the extra work that his absence entails or if I have just reached a new level of insanity that broadens the parameters of my normal.  In these past few weeks, on more than one occasion, I have run low on patience, time, patience, sleep, patience, adult conversation, and patience.  But one thing I did not run low on was vodka (cue hallelujah chorus).  I refuse to take my kids inside the liquor store so I usually run out of vodka while my man is gone for extended periods of time.  This time, I have vodka to spare, so I think that is a good indication that I wasn’t quite as overwhelmed this time around.
3
This past Thursday, I got to pretend to be a reporter.  I covered the Guadalupe Radio Network Summer Speaker Series at the Frontiers of Flight Museum in Dallas for MetroCatholic (www.dfwcatholic.org).  Fr. Larry Richards was the speaker.  And he was hilarious.  On more than on occasion, I flashed back to my days of sitting in a pew in my southern Baptist church on a Sunday morning.  Fr. Larry is a great preacher.  He tells it like it is with no apology.  I had the privilege of interviewing him before the event.  And, being that I work with youth ministry, I asked him what advice he would give to a teenager.  His answer was awesome and should be the mission statement of every youth minister: (I’m paraphrasing) ‘Today’s young people need to come to know that they are beloved children of God.  They need to realize how awesome that is.  And in that understanding, they can experience the love of God in a profound way.  They come to know that God loves us more that any person ever could.  And they need to live in that love.’  Isn’t that awesome?  I think it is particularly awesome because young people think they are many things but beloved is not one of them.  They spend much of their time trying to feel important to someone- anyone.  For them to realize how important they are to God would be a life changing experience for many of them.  It would be the beginning of something extraordinary in their lives.  It would set them on fire.
4
Speaking of being on fire, how ‘bout this heat?  We are on day 22 of 100+ in a row.  I am glad that I had no desire to plant flowers this year.  If I had, it would have been easier to take the money outside and light it on fire than try to keep flowers alive.  Our lawn is starting to get brown in a few places.  And we water it!  We water it as much as the city will let us water it.  I am sure the TruGreen man is all in a dither.  I wonder if he will come do a rain dance on our lawn.  Is that in the contract?
5
So, I am getting to do something today that I do not get to do very often: enjoy a clean house.  My kids are with my wonderful Mother-in-law.  So, because I have a sickness, I saw a perfect opportunity to get my house CLEAN.  I turned up Matt Maher and rocked out with the Lysol, vacuum, and Pledge.  Everything is put away.  There are no little people to get it right back out and spread it all over the house.  I can sit and admire the order.  I can bask in my reflection in the coffee table.  I can walk around bare footed and not wonder what I am stepping on.  And (drum roll please…) the bathroom is CLEAN (which is pretty awesome when you live with a whole bunch of boys).  It is a glorious day.  I may even get to read a book!
6
I also got to do something I do not get to do very often- go shopping!  I am the cheapest girl on the planet so shopping is always hard.  I dread parting with the little bit of money I manage to scrape together for the blessed event.  But today, I did well.  I got three dresses and a pair of dress pants at Ross for $70.  Not bad.  And then I went to Two Hearts Catholic book store.  What I saved at Ross was spent there.  I did get Fr. Larry’s book Be a Man! which is turning out to be really interesting.  It is supposed to be for men but, since I live with all boys, I figured I was allowed to read it.  I also finally bought Lisa Hendey’s book A Handbook for Catholic Moms.  I am embarrassed that I write for catholicmom.com but I have never read her book!  She has a new book coming out in October so I need to knock this one out first.  Also, I figured I would need a book on how to be a Catholic woman after reading about how to be a Catholic man.
7
I fear that my oldest son is turning into a…..(heavy sigh)….teenager.  We seem to be dealing with mood swings.  He is going off to middle school this year at a school in a new district.  And I fear this change is going to be tougher than we originally thought.  I am praying that he makes some friends- and fast.  And good friends, of course.  He needs these friends because I am clearly NOT COOL anymore.  Somehow, I have crossed from the realm fun, loving Mom to dorky Mom who just doesn’t get it.  I don’t think that Dad has made this transition.  I think his absence has made the teenage heart grow fonder.  So, that is good for now.  I think this dorky Mom needs to read some books.  And hit her knees.  May God have mercy on all of our souls.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

A Journey Through Time

Life is a journey.  We are travelers through a land called time.  Because time is always moving, so are we.  We are always in motion.  We do not stop.  On this journey through time, we see beauty and horror.  We experience joy and sorrow.  We find peace and unrest.  Time’s terrain is rugged.  Its climate is unpredictable.  In one moment we find ourselves on top of the highest mountain and the next drowning in the cold, deep sea.  Just when we start to feel comfortable in the warm sun, storms arise.  Warm days give way to cold nights.  Time is a harsh land.  Those who journey here are shaped and molded.  Time leaves it mark and the travelers are forever changed.  But, what happens when we get to the end of time?  What lies beyond time?
This journey through time is our opportunity to get to know God.  We experience Him through His exquisite creation.  We see him in the faces of our fellow travelers.  We feel him in a child’s kiss or a mother’s touch.  God is present with us in time.  He is wooing us to His kingdom.  He is showing us glimpses of Himself in the hopes we will travel through time to where He is. 

For those of us who choose God on this journey, it does not guarantee the journey will be easy.  You see, we are not made for this world.  We are just traveling through it.  God allows time to shape us and mold us.  God uses time to grow us into the people He wills for us to be.  He prepares us for the wedding - the day when we will unite with Him in the kingdom at the end of our journey through time. 

Like any traveler, we need to be nourished.  We need to eat and drink and rest.  And God knows this.  Our physical world is a reflection of the spiritual world.  Just like we need water and food for our physical bodies, we need similar nourishment for our souls.  If we are to keep traveling to His kingdom, we need spiritual sustenance on this journey through time. 

“For just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth making it fertile and fruitful, Giving seed to him who sows and bread to him who eats, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; It shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.”  (Isaiah 55: 10-11)

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things came to be through him and without him nothing came to be.  What came to be through him was life and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1: 1-5)

(Jesus said)”Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.  For on him the Father, God, has set his seal.” (John 6:27)

“So Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.  For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”  So they said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”  Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.” (John 6:32-35)

“Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.  For my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.  Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.” (John 6: 53-57)

So, what is the sustenance God provides for us as we travel through life?  His son present in the Eucharist.  At every Mass, we take a journey through time.  We arrive at the cross.  We witness His sacrifice.  We celebrate His resurrection.  Then we experience His life as we receive the Eucharist.  Christ gives us nourishment for the journey.  And He hopes we will stay on this ill-traveled road and make our way to His kingdom where He will make us an everlasting gift to the Father.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Seven Takes Friday Vol. 3


1

In June of 2006, I was sitting in a Bennigan’s in San Antonio watching the Mavericks fold under the pressure of the Heat.  I knew they could play better.  I knew they could shut down Wade.  But they couldn’t pull it together in time and we lost out on our chance at our first ever NBA Championship.  Combine that gut wrenching defeat with the fact that the Mavs shut down a new and improved Heat (Wade, Bosch, and King James) and you have the sweetest championship victory in NBA history.  The good guys won.  The nice guys came away champions.  How awesome it is to live in Dallas on this glorious occasion.  LETS GO MAVS!

2

Now that I got that out of my system, let me admit that I have not kept up with the 7 takes Fridays these past few weeks.  I’ve got a lot of excuses.  But I won’t bore you with them. 

3

This past Sunday, my oldest went away to boy scout summer camp for the first time.  He was nervous which made me even more nervous.  I want him to make memories, not nightmares.  I want him to have fun, not be miserable.  I want him to grow as a person, not feel less of one.  I have not been able to talk to him since he left.  And that is unnerving.  I hope he is doing well.  I hope he is having fun.  And I hope he is wearing sunscreen, bug spray and has taken a shower at least once.

4

Along with the revival of 7 takes Friday, I have also revived my time at the gym.  Tonight, I ran 2.75 miles in 30 minutes which isn’t bad for an old lady.  However, I feel like I have a tire around my waist.  I can’t wait for the extra 10-15 pounds to come off.  It is driving me crazy.  My previous gym was a ladies only gym.  My new gym is not.  Let me say that I like the change.  Ladies tend to walk on the treadmill so I was always running next to walkers.  Now, I have a whole bunch of running men next to me.  And I like it!  I didn’t realize how much easier it is to keep going when you feel like you are running with someone. 

5

I am not that far into Screwtape, but it has already made an impression on me.  What a great and model patient I have made for the devil.  I fall for all these tricks.  Especially, the one where the devil gets between you and your loved ones.  Recently, I have two situations where I could tell the spiritual warfare was at play.  And they both involve my being upset with my husband.  In the first situation, I didn’t respond to the bait.  I kept silent and I prayed for Jesus to take this anger away from me.  It took most of the day, but it worked.  As the day wore on, I could see things from his perspective and I could focus on what really mattered.  In the second situation, I took the bait.  I blew up.  And in the end I could see how ridiculous my behavior was.  The devil got the best of me in that one.  I’m a little afraid to keep reading Screwtape.  I fear I am going to see even more of my true colors.  I guess that will make me appreciate the love and MERCY of God on a greater level.

6

I have decided I want a color Nook for my birthday.  My Mom and my Sister have color Nooks while my Mother-in-law and Sister-in-law have Kindles.  The Kindle is cool and cheaper.  It serves its purpose well.  However, the color Nook appears to be really cool.  It can do more than just books.  Although it doesn’t appear to be as cool as an iPad, it does go on the internet and it runs apps.  If I had money to burn, I would just get an iPad.  But, sadly, I don’t so I will have to settle for the next best thing.  If one of you has an opinion with regard to the Nook vs. iPad vs. Kindle vs. tablet computer, please feel free to share.

7

Two weeks ago, I got two new fillings.  Let me back up by saying I really despise going to the dentist.  My dentist is a very nice person, but what she does to me is just plain mean.  I am pretty sure that hell is filled with drill wielding dentists who insist you have enough Novocain before they hold you down and drill out all your teeth for eternity.  Anyhow, I got the fillings.  That evening, I put my night guard in (I have TMJ issues because I grind my teeth into an oblivion while I sleep) and it didn’t fit quite right.  So, I bit down on it and I heard a crack.  I could not tell from the chip I found in my mouth if it was the filling or the night guard.  So, I made another appointment and went back to the dentist.  Turns out it was neither- it was a tooth.  Now, in all the moments before she told me I chipped my tooth, I had no pain in that tooth.  As soon as I got home from the appointment, the tooth started hurting.  It’s gotta be all in my head, right?