Reader Read This (The Broken Way) by Ann Voscamp

the-broken-way-handIt’s easy to see someone who is doing wrong, and say, “It’s not done that way…”

It’s easy to look around and point to the person and notice their flaws and indiscretions. It’s easy to look at others and focus on their negative qualities, but so much harder to look for the good….And acknowledge that there is another person in the world who has it more together than us, or who is more on fire for God, and is really trying to love others. We sometimes read the stories of the saints, and we’re like- yeah- that’s impossible, I could never cut off all my hair like Rose of Lima, or sacrifice my own life for the sake of another like Maximilian Kolbe, but, then I see you working selflessly for your family, or caring for your aging parents and I think: we’re all called to be saints. It’s the hardest thing to remember, and even harder sometimes to do, but when we put our hands out to touch another person, we are reaching out to God.

It was just recently when I visited a relative who lives in a nursing home that I saw this so beautifully. I was feeling guilty for not visiting often enough, and remembering all the times she helped me, when I saw a lovely nurse come to bathe her, and I saw the tenderness she gave. These opportunities no matter how small are gifts for us. Especially in the political climate we are living in, with a president who no one seems to like, even those of us who voted for him. It’s pretty stressful reading through my newsfeed on Facebook, friends and family posting random articles written by?? Perhaps a young person, an educated person, a liberal, a conservative? It’s pretty hard to decipher all the crud disguised as news. I do have to say though that many people seem to be easily swayed by the media’s interpretations, and few are thinking for themselves. It’s actually pretty predictable and repulsive. In response to some March for Life pictures I posted, I received a bitter hate letter. I was pretty surprised, even people who preach love and not hate are ready to tear someone down because they need a way to place blame.

I have a new perspective on the many hurt people and rampant discontent I see. I am reading a wonderful book, ‘The Broken Way,’ by Ann Voskamp. I’m pretty sure y’all know about her previous books, namely.. ‘One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are.’ An Amazing and life changing book (I recommend the devotional, as well). I somehow got lucky enough to get invited to read this book as a group with some truly beautiful women (thanks Karen)! And it is changing me. I can see now- with these sudden outbursts of anger, contemptuous flares of hateful ‘feminism,’ and all sorts of looking at the glass half full- that God is here with us, amongst the brokenness. “When the church isn’t for the suffering and broken, then the church isn’t for Christ. Because Jesus, with His pierced side, is always on the side of the broken.”

Many of us feel broken.

Ann says, “What if the busted and broken hearts could feel there’s a grace that holds us and calls us Beloved and says we belong and no brokenness ever has the power to break us away from being safe? What if we experienced the miracle of grace that can touch all our wounds? I wanted to write it on walls and on the arms scarred with wounds, make it the refrain we sing in the face of dark and broken places: No shame. No fear. No hiding. All’s grace. It’s always safe for the suffering here. You can struggle and you can wrestle and you can hurt and we will be here. Grace will meet you here; grace, perfect comfort, will always be served here…..How do you live with your one broken heart? All I can think is-only the wounds of God can heal our wounds. God has not forgotten you, God has not abandoned you. God’s love is around you everywhere. When you feel in your marrow how you’re His Beloved, you do more than look for signs of His love in the world, more than have a sign of His love; you actually become a sign of His love.”

No matter the possible outcomes of this life, our hope is in God, not in any politician, and that is GOOD NEWS, friends. So, what practically speaking can we really do to help us stay sane during all this craziness?

My list is simple.

EVERYDAY …….

  1. Pray regularly throughout.
  2. Commit time to family and friends that is inspiring and peaceful.
  3. Play.
  4. Value your downtime, and don’t waste it being miserable.
  5. When you post, if you post, know your source, and if you have the feeling that you’re getting a little strung out on social media: make a fast. No knee-jerk comments.
  6. Read the Bible. Sing the Psalms.
  7. Get enough: good food, water, exercise, sleep.
  8. Say kind things to the people nearest you.
  9. Give hugs.
  10. Share your gifts, live cruciform.*

 

That’s what I’m learning about, trying today and all the days to do these things and feel loved by the One Who Saves. It’s amazing how He loves. What does your everyday list look like? I’d love to hear your comments and hear how “The Broken Way” has changed your life.

*cruciform: ‘love that is willing to suffer for others….there is no way to avoid pain, there is no way to avoid brokenness. Pick up your cross, It’s the only way you or anyone else can know resurrection. Carry your cross so this carrying of pain makes love. It is never the cross you carry, but your resistance to the cross that makes it a burden. Absorb the pain with greater love- touch a shoulder. Bite your tongue. Swallow your complaint. Still your wagging finger. Let yourself be worn down to love. Let your joints grow loose with love so your hands swing easy enough to give, to break and give your struggling-to-be-willing self away.’

thebrokenway_ourbrokenness-1024x1024

 

Advertisements

Questions For Barbara

120606030435-father-daughter-holding-hands-story-top

Together with a crazy life of trying to keep many children alive, and staying sane, I haven’t written much lately. I feel God calling me, saying that many people need good examples and inspiring people to offer hope and assurance these days. So much hurt and pain in my own life, as well as those I’m surrounded by makes me wish for heaven. It also makes me think of people who have lived through far more difficult times than these. It makes me want to grasp for the hem of their skirt, to touch them, to know how they managed it all. It can feel endless- the dreary housework, cold weather, children stuck inside, and people wanting attention. Constant ongoing pressure to do more and be more. Well, we aren’t meant to live with that sort of insurmountable stress. We were meant to live in peace, to rest in the arms of our Heavenly Father, so here, today, right now, give a moment to hear this story, and may it be an inspiration to you, as it is to me…..

.Morning-Prayer-Quotes-Images-Wallpapers-Photos-Pictures

If you don’t know Barbara Morgan, you should.  

She was born in 1938 in San Francisco, and had one younger sister. She was primarily raised in Phoenix, Arizona, where they moved when she was 8, and lived there through high school. When she was very young, Barbara suffered a bout of rheumatic fever and since this happened before penicillin was readily available, the treatment plan included staying very still and waiting for the body to heal because severe damage could be done to the heart unless precautions were taken. Barbara remembers her doctors and nurses and wonderful mother making this arrangement “not too terrible.” Her mother frequently met with her teachers and brought her schoolwork to complete at home so that she didn’t get behind. There was a time however, when she was so sick that her sister had to help her turn the pages of the book she was reading.

Barbara was raised Catholic by a mother who had converted as a young woman of nineteen, and her Baptist parents disowned her until Barbara was born. She was well versed in scripture and was an evangelist and lover of the Church! She taught Barbara about her personal relationship with Jesus when Barbara was just a tiny preschooler. She told her to listen to the voice of Jesus and how to discern God’s voice. Barbara had memorable experiences of giving her life to Jesus then, and also when she had her first Holy Communion, and again when she was fourteen, and then several times as an adult– recommitting her life to God. She says that her commitment to the Church came from studying scripture with her mother, she was made to memorize parts of the Baltimore Catechism in spelling bee fashion, and her mom would patiently explain the scriptural references, and Barbara fell in love time after time with God and with the Church!

Barbara aspired to be a journalist after high school, which she says was an honorable profession at the time! Her mind was changed when she accompanied a Sister to a nearby Native American Reservation where they would go to teach the children about God. She was going as a way to beef up her resume, not really because she was drawn to it. The first group she was assigned to was seven-second graders, they were outdoors under a pergola type structure covered with palm leaves. There was no blackboard and no books….she had to make it up as she went along, and Sister walked around checking on them, but she knew after those children received their First Holy Communion under her care, this is what she wanted to do!  She went to college for education, but never finished because she got married and began a family.

Gary is someone that Barbara had known from high school, he had joined the newspaper as a sports reporter and at first Barbara hadn’t been super impressed with him because she knew he had joined the newspaper to get out of his Phys. Ed class. That kind of annoyed her, that he was getting out of this other class, but he was able to go to all the sports activities, even into the locker rooms and became a valuable resource. Even though Gary asked her out several times she didn’t accept until he had proven himself as the awesome reporter he was. Little did they know that their mothers (vice-president and president of the school board) had been conspiring to get them to like one another. They didn’t know about that until much later. Gary and Barbara were always very involved with the church, and ministry work. CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) and CA (Catholic Actions) which eventually became CD (Confraternity of Christian Doctrine) were all groups that they belonged to.

They married and adopted five children. When I asked her about that process of adopting, she said that before Roe v. Wade there were homes for girls who became pregnant, and it was not uncommon to go to the Sisters of the Good Shepherd in Phoenix to adopt a newborn baby or through Catholic Social Services. Because there weren’t as many abortions, many more people gave children up for adoption, and it was a natural and accepted practice. She felt very blessed by each individual child that was clearly a gift from God. They never kept the fact that the children were adopted a secret, but always accepted their questions with love. Barbara says that parenting the children came naturally to her as did homemaking, that’s how things were in those days, the man earned the living, and the woman kept the house and cared for the children. And they remained very involved in their church.

Barbara says Gary was always a very good provider, and very faithful, but nowadays she would describe him as a saint because of all the hands-on care he does to maintain her health issues. There was a time when they struggled very much in their marriage, and at thirteen years together they considered separation. But because they could never tell their families this, out of embarrassment they stayed together. “God used it!” They had very strong personalities, and there were certain things they just couldn’t agree on, she said they prayed a prayer out of desperation one night, “Lord, if there is anything you can do to help us….” And the next day as they went about their normal routine, it was clear that God had actually reached in and changed their minds. Little unimportant things, now looking back- but things that they had been hung up on for years. They knew then that God was going to save their marriage.

When their fifth and youngest child was in high school, Barbara returned to finish her degree from the Notre Dame Institute. Her first degree was in Theology. and then she ended up getting a Graduate Degree in Catechetics. At that time there were many young people coming to Steubenville to take classes that would allow them to go to their parish and have a job there teaching families the faith. Theology was a degree that helped them learn the faith, but not how to teach it. That’s when the University asked Barbara to begin writing and teaching courses that would do that very thing. Over the next fifteen years, that’s exactly what she did.

The things I found most useful that Barbara told me during this interview was that you have to choose to be a gift, and give the children a place to grow and develop. It is always making decisions and tailoring them to each individual. She says that this moral culture we are trying to develop is really about teaching “how it’s done.” Like for instance, in our house we do not hit, we don’t call names….teaching the children bit by bit how to love, how to enjoy each other. When the kids grow older they can fall back on that love, they were taught, and they have that foundation. It reminded me of that passage from Deuteronomy 4: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.a 5Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”

Barbara is concerned first and foremost that most parents do not make time for their children in the way they should. She agreed with my analogy that if our work of raising our children is truly a mission-field, shouldn’t we give it the same care and attention a scientist gives their studies? If a scientist was truly observing his test subjects, he wouldn’t leave them be- no he would watch and learn and take notes, figuring out what each one was like. Children are like that. They need to be known, and treasured in a way that they can come to be understood, accepted, taught, and loved. it is a full time job, and somehow our culture continues to devalue and deny that.

The other day our homeschool co-op asked her to come talk to us, and answer some questions. Here is the question she answered that night:

” I am curious what you may recommend to a parent who believes that if they DO all the right things for their children, including sheltering them from everything secular or unchristian, that it will be a good result?”

Here was her reply, from my notes, not word for word.

  1. No matter what you do, you can not keep them from making decisions that you will agonize over, maybe for years. Every family has those who no longer believe, those who have fallen away. Don’t ever think that you will be able to escape this. That being said, those are children who are in the process of coming back, or maybe they are far away, but they are just as loved as ever. We have had to repent to these children, as some of the reasons they are where they are is because of our mistakes in parenting them.
  2. Most of the mistakes you make will be with your eldest child. You will hear the phrase,  “you never let me do that!” We have to repent a lot to our grown children, and as new things occur to us, we repent again. We also have had to do this in our marriage. We used to like being married, but now we love it, because we experience the joy of the sacrament in a new way.
  3. Our attitude should be to prepare our kids, not to protect them. You can’t possibly shelter them, and if you try it will bite you in the back.
  4. Time. Do you have enough time to actually be with your children? It seems as if most of us are too busy. Each child needs to know that they are known. You can never get this time back again, you need to prioritize time with them at each age and stage.
  5. I will not always be as good as I would like to be and I will make mistakes. I will yell or scream, or even get physical with my child at some point, and I will have to repent and ask for forgiveness. Because I only have a limited amount of time with them, I need to make choices about the time I have with them, that it is deliberately spent.  And if I don’t teach them how to apologize, who will? If you wrong a child and don’t admit it, that is a problem.
  6. Give them your mind and the churches mind! Screens need to be limited and monitored. Your kids are good at pretending they don’t care what you think, but they do. Talk to them and tell them why you think what you think, and continue making opportunities to have these talks. What better place to let them encounter this stuff than at your side?
  7. Share your testimony. There should be two stories your children know well: why you love Jesus, and why you are a Catholic. Share your worldview, listen to talks that bring this topic to life. Friends of early Christians said that Christians “turned the world upside down!” We also need to be trying to do this.
  8. A family that prays together, stays together. It’s so true. More than prayers before meals and Sunday mass are simply not enough. Regular family Rosaries or prayer times are very important.
  9. Restrict, but explain. A lot of children were hurt in the Word of God Community because there were so many unexplained rules and regulations. In this day and age we have more situations to say no to, use those golden opportunities to go into their bedrooms and check out what they are doing, and shed some light on the situation.
  10. Just because you explain doesn’t make it plain. We are given the children God wants us to parent. Focus on creating lasting and enduring relationships with each child, even if that means listening to music you wouldn’t normally listen to, or watching shows you normally wouldn’t watch (Barbara watches The Voice every week with her grown daughter)! It is most important that the children see and feel our dedication and love of them over all. That is what matters. When they fall, they know they can trust us to return without judgment. With love. With hope. With the belief that everything and anything that will happen to them throughout their lives is of no consequence. We will love them anyway. Always.

I hope you enjoyed this. Look for more interviews coming soon. May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you and your families.

 

 

 

Sunday Funday

At the beginning of the day, which started too early, in the first place, we jumped through hoops and sprinklers and dryers. We found crispy clothing worth the most dollars. We huffed and we puffed and we drew up the bows, ground up the coffee and clipped up the toes. We fished for earrings, cooked eggs in pots, wrestled with diapers, and onesies in knots. We wiped and we brushed and we did our very best. And we ran and we screamed and we flew out the nest. The driver was harried, his wife looked fairly scary, but as they gulped down caffeine, they became much less wary.

They arrive just in time to slide in a pew, hopefully by somebody who’s feeling quite friendly! The kids are homeschooled, they’ll surely talk to you! img_1934.jpgThe music is good, the pastor most kindly, except when he talks long, and then we get antsy. The power of prayer feeds the whole family, the gospels, the apostles, the sounds of the bells. We listen for Jesus, His Holy Spirit as well, and do not forget Father- the Trinity swell.  Their voices come softly like a still soft wind, sometimes He comes loudly to me and quite bold. I think this is a gift my Father bestows on mothers of wild families below.

After mass we breathe for the first time in hours, and look forward to donuts and other reminders, that today is Sunday- a day of rest. Also a day for families and taking a quest. We eat fancy foods, and take nature hikes, we ignore loads of laundry, and ride on our bikes. It’s the first day of the week to go spinning in circles, tying loose ends, and searching for miracles.

The children are growing and learning and knowing that the purpose of all this is very endearing. They know that the love between husband and wife creates all the babies that provide this full life. They see the source and summit confers a blessing of peacefulness on all of the gears: the fast gear, the slow gear, the waiting, the trying. They understand the best things are for God and not man. This sacrifice of Sunday is hard to accept, especially for sports addicts and parish events. But hold on to the truth, and make boundaries ever clear: this Sunday is a fun day, and that’s why we’re here.

Guerilla Momma Declaration

After the entourage of articles about the zoological malfunction/parental distraction/ unfortunate situation of the poor dear Harambe’s death…I am left feeling contemplative and also furious: here’s why. Most of the publications I read on the topic addressed the horrific parts about blaming parents who were doing their best, children who are clearly out of control/very active and curious (and perhaps lacking discipline), and also the lack of appropriate enclosures on the part of the zoo. The contraceptive mentality of our nation and the disastrous way we treat one another, even less humanely than we treat our pets or zoo animals is very troubling! But even more so the complete and utter lack of ways that we (parents) can assist and support one another.

So that’s what I’ll be writing about today.

We know, parents, that we have a child hating society. It’s truly sad, but it is what it is. People are daily confused and annoyed with my husband and I for having so many. And if that weren’t bad enough, they actually talk to us about it. Pretty much everywhere we go (other than Church) we get looks, finger pointing, and ridiculously obvious questions and comments. Also, most public places aren’t safe for children. We can now add the zoo to the list. There aren’t many people who consider children a blessing, so it appears the opposite is assumed to be true. And most people won’t acknowledge children, let alone reach out and help some parent who is struggling, or a child who is having a hard time. Just think how that whole gorilla debacle could have gone differently if another person (other than his biological mother or father), God Forbid!– had seen that the boy climb over the fence, and had jumped in behind him, and brought him to the information booth at the beginning of the zoo, and he had to sit somewhere for a while before his parents had found out he was missing and came to retrieve him? That would have been different. The gorilla would be alive, and the boy’s parents would have been horrified to find him missing, but they wouldn’t be plagued with the vision of their dear boy being dragged around by a silverback for the rest of their lives, and maybe, just maybe that boy would be left with a more realistic impression: everyone here is watching out for my well-being, and I am not allowed in that enclosure!

I want to start a petition, or make a universal declaration, or create some password so that other parents in my vicinity know, that although I am not helicoptering, I most certainly am watching/listening and will definitely let your child know if they are misbehaving, or being inappropriate, and I will also not keep that a secret from you, and I would very much like it if this arrangement would be reciprocal.

For instance: we are at a park and your kid starts throwing rocks at mine, I do like this,”Little Boy, you are certainly not going to throw rocks, understand? If I see it again you will be sitting out, and I will also inform your mother.” Why can’t this be the norm? I see the kid’s mom over there trying to push the three and five-year-olds on the swings,  why can’t the two-year-old hear this from me?? Why are we so distrustful and judgmental of other parents? Dude, the Mommy Wars are a real thing. I’ve met a woman who was too embarrassed to come to Bible Study because she couldn’t nurse their newborn and so felt judged and questioned by other moms–and so…she stopped coming! Isn’t that terrible!? It’s like by standing around in our messed up world, we absorb these ideas, that we are perfectly willing to put above normal human dignity. Yes, breastfeeding is ideal– but occasionally for various reasons a mother cannot or does not nurse her baby. Fine. Shut up about it. She doesn’t need your scrutiny! For heaven’s sake wipe that smug look off your face and congratulate her on her new baby. If she brings up feeding and asks your ADVICE, then, cool- say your piece, but otherwise, keep quiet!

I can think of many similar examples, but instead of boring you, I have written a ‘support your local family’ list:

IMG_7069

  1. Always congratulate and smile at new parents. It’s the hardest transition a person can make, and if you can brighten their day in any way, God Bless YOU!
  2. Consider doing something concrete for the parents in your area. Get on the list for sending a meal, offer to care for other children, or donate to the babysitter fund.
  3. Avoid making assumptions. If something baffles you about a particular family, like for instance how many (or few) kids they have, feel free to allow that to be a mystery until your relationship supports those types of questions. Frankly, commenting on a perfect strangers fertility is rude.
  4. Make yourself available when in public. If you see a kid wandering, tap the mom or dad on the shoulder gently and say. “hey! I noticed your young one wandering off, just thought I’d give you a heads up!” No parent minds this, especially if you smile and speak kindly.
  5. Sign up to help. You are only as limited as you let yourself be. Offer to help at the local YMCA kids camp, sign up at church, school, or whatever you see as a need in your area. Do you realize that if everyone volunteered in their town we wouldn’t have such stressed parents/kids/families? It really does take a village! What can you do???
  6. The next time you feel yourself getting judgemental of a neighbor, family member, or friend, say this quick prayer that the priest who married Abel and I taught us: “Lord, help me to see __________ as you see them, and Lord help ___________ to see me that way you see me.” It’s always good to look at things from a new perspective. I am not God, so it’s not up to me what others are up to, how they choose to parent, or not parent. We are only responsible for our own reactions: may they be ripe with mercy.
  7. Work together!! For goodness sake, when you need help with something, childcare, home cleaning, schooling, whatever– reach out to the people you trust and look up to in your community! You would not believe the things us old women do for each other when we are bonded by some common experiences.We start homeschool co-ops, date night drop offs, we even pull off fundraisers, garage sales, and pamper sessions for the bride/expectant mother/grandma!  We can cook meals, watch extra children, clean till we can’t clean no more! It’s simply amazing to see what can be accomplished when we all pitch in. Be not afraid, girls.

When you are where you are this summer, especially if you happen to find yourself in a large crowd, keep your wits about you. Be on high alert, and do not be afraid to tap a shoulder, scream at other people’s children, and smile at strangers doing the very same thing. If there is a place for a four-year-old to sneak into, say, a gorilla habitat; holler to the surrounding people and get your bad self in the way of that kid….God has called us to be parents, and even though most days we are drowning in coffee, climbing out of vans that release crumbs, shoes, and hairy brushes when the doors open…we are in this together! And don’t let anyone confuse the agenda- we are here to keep the little folks alive, healthy, and holy. And we are doing this every day, relying on sheer adrenaline, caffeine, guardian angels, and yes, occasionally- the kindness of strangers….

 

 

 

 

Reader Read This (More Than Happy) The Wisdom of Amish Parenting by Serena B. Miller with Paul Stutzman

5976029872_65acd5f8ea_z

I started a reading challenge this summer, and had a nice long list of books I wanted to read. I still have the list. I KEEP ADDING TO IT. But, life happens, and mostly I open a book at the end of the night only to hear it’s thump on the floor five minutes after I began reading it…This is a very busy time of life, and I’m most often ready for sleep when my head hits the pillow. This book: More Than Happy, came along at just the right time. I picked it up at the library and started right in. I haven’t set it down since. Sometimes carrying it in my diaper bag, other times carving out a minute to read while waiting in the car…Anyhow, I think it’s packed with wonderful thoughts from a community that puts family first, and strives for forgiveness. It’s really a beautiful book, and I hope you get a chance to read it!

There were many favorite chapters in this book, based on the real-life experiences of writer, Serena B. Miller, who noticed how content Amish children were when she was researching her recent novel, and wanted to figure out why…Before we get too far in this, I want to make sure you know I have no desire to become Amish, nor do I believe that the Amish are in any way perfect! I do see the value at looking at their way of life and taking ideas that align with what you & I both know is right. The Amish faith is similar to ours. They are Christians, believe in the Trinity, read scripture often, and have a set of rules that help them stay separate from the world and close to God and their families. They put up a high bar when it comes to service in their community, and they always take care of their family. My most favorite chapter was “Marriage in a Horse and Buggy Society,” where the author does an excellent job of clarifying the high calling that is marriage, and even more what this unique society does to uphold its beauty. I can’t resist sharing a couple tidbits: the Amish couple-to-be helps set up, and prepare for their wedding right alongside their families. It also wouldn’t be surprising to see them  as a force during clean up afterwards. Their wedding gifts are practical household items, and best of all: the wedding ceremony is a recounting of all the Biblical marriages down through the ages. And family stories of all the couples that set the example for the community. I thought that was beautiful.

The Amish have a strict dress code. At first I thought this would be a burden to the Amish women, especially when it comes to being a young bride! But, in slowly unpacking the goals of the Amish, it begins to all make sense. This is about a wonderful Amish couple named John and Mary: “A more secure life does not necessarily mean a bigger house or a deeper bank account. His greatest dream is to figure out a way to make his living entirely upon their hilly acreage. This is the ideal for Amish fathers, the life towards which most strive. The best life, in an Amish man’s mind, is one in which he has meaningful work that puts him in close daily contact with his wife and children.” There are several principles that really speak volumes. And I want more than anything to begin to incorporate these ideals more in my own life and model them to my children. Here they are in no particular order:

Uffgevva: “loosely translated, it means that you are less important than others. Amish children are taught from an early age, by example as well as words, that their needs and wants are important, but not more important than those of the family, the church, and the community. It is the exact opposite of individualism, which is what most American children are taught, and it is the exact opposite of what most American adults believe.” This important principle is why Amish children as young as two are given jobs around the house and farm. It is understood that to feel needed, all people should have real work. It also explains why grandmothers and grandfathers go first in the potluck line. They teach respect intentionally, at all times.

Gelassenheit: “the Amish acceptance of life… similar to uffgevva in that it is a giving up of will, but it holds within it the concept of totally giving up one’s will to God. It is the idea of seeking and accepting His will in every aspect of life. It is easier to accept grief, for instance, when one believes God has a bigger plan that He has put into place for our ultimate good.”This a difficult one, but you can see that the principles work together. If we surrender ourselves and our families to Gods will, even if that means difficulties– we will grow closer to God, and more peaceful.

Hochmut: “Avoiding hochmut absolutely permeates Amish culture. It is for instance, hochmut to boast about one’s biblical knowledge, or to praise a child’s beauty or intelligence. Amish parents would never put a sticker on the back of their buggy proclaiming to the world that their child was an honor student. To do so would be hochmut. It would embarrass them….For several decades now, the need to give children a good self image has been drummed into parental consciousness, and we have responded in an interesting way. We have assumed that those children who are told that they are special and intelligent and gifted, who are showered with words of praise and approval and given trophies for their shelves and certificates for their walls will be happy and content and possessed of a healthy self image. Therefore, one could assume that Amish children who are taught that their wants and needs are not more important than others, children who are not constantly praised and who will never receive something as hochmut as a trophy, would struggle with poor self image, depression, eating disorders, social maladjustment, feelings of inferiority, and a general lack of self confidence. That is not what has happened.The Amish suicide rate is less than half of the national average. Surveys have also shown that Amish teenagers have a healthier and more satisfied view of their bodies than English teens. Anorexia and bulimia are virtually non-existent. So are unemployment and homelessness. Obesity is much rarer among the Amish, and a survey of Amish women in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, concluded that on the whole, Amish women perceive themselves as happier, more content, and less stressed than those in a similar study of Englisch women.” So…they re doing something right. All this thoughtful and selfless behavior that the Amish teach to their children through word and deed- can it really be more satisfying than being praised night and day like our American children?

I am thinking that even though I do see many families serving the poor and we try to do little corporal works of mercy whenever we get a chance….there is always more we can do- and it’s a beautiful church that truly embraces this concept. I wonder how many conversions we would see if we all committed to living this way? Would we be happier or have happier children? I think my children are very happy most of the time, except when they aren’t. Their most common complaint is that they want to have friends over, or want to go do something. They couldn’t possibly be BORED with all the toys we have, let alone siblings, pets, and a big backyard! But somehow that ungrateful bug can creep in, and during those moments I am left to wonder: am I making my children’s life TOO GOOD? I never suffered poverty growing up, but my mom and I will joke that we were like the Amish, and led a very simple life. Christmas’s were homemade, toys were sleds, tree forts, and bikes, and my most prized possessions were made by mom and grandma–  “little house on the prairie” dresses and dolls. I really did value the outdoors and the time with my three siblings playing outside for hours on end. We had entire universes of pretend. Literally. We invented a spaceship from a tree fort and had communications with the other side! It was a blessing that our parents understood the need for us to spend those long hours outside. I recently read somewhere that if a child gets told to play something, it loses it’s ability to be real play. It’s when children decide what to play and how to play it that it becomes a real educational experience. I also was not immune to the ungrateful bug, and have memories of wanting to buy a Saint Alexis sweatshirt from my elementary school, it felt like all the kids were getting them, and my dad sat me down and said: we cannot buy you that sweatshirt because it’s too expensive. I didn’t understand it then, but I do now! Children may not understand completely what is best for them, even if they have very strong opinions of what they want. I feel like the modern view of child rearing is actually disrespectful of the child in that we give them the decision making power of a young adult when they are toddlers. It’s too much control for them to use wisely, and there is nothing more obnoxious then to be bossed around by a three year old. We can be gentle but firm. Repeat it with me: God gave ME this child to raise, I can be in charge and still give choices, I can be gentle but firm. I heard some one say the most loving people they know are the most boundaried. I agree with this thought, and would like to study up on how I can use good healthy boundaries with my children more effectively. A suggested idea that I really like: with your husband, make up the rules for your home. Write them down and post them. Have your children memorize them. The first step to having good boundaries is to define for those around you what to expect. What are our goals, what is our family mission? The Amish are very clear about this, and they are not afraid to punish a kid who disobeys the rules…

One Amish father said, “A wise parent learns his child, and what works with that child. God made each person different, and I believe families work best when the punishment is tailored to the individual child….Whatever punishment is decided upon, it must be carried out consistently.”I will take this advice, and pray for the courage to be consistent! What an incredible gift it is to be a parent, and also a lot of work. The follow through is certainly the most difficult part of discipline- but also the most fruitful. If we desire well behaved content children like the Amish- we have to be willing to put in the time and effort.

“Television, computers, and cell phones. Most Amish do not allow these items in their homes or lives, nor do they allow themselves the luxury of being connected to the power grid. They do not believe that God will strike them down for indulging in these things. They do believe, however, that owning technology can cause enormous damage to a family, not only because of some of the ungodly things that appear on the internet and television, but because it distracts the parents from the important job of raising and teaching their children.

I’ve spent several nights with my Old Order Amish friends and one thing that is noticeably different from our Englisch culture is that the family tends to spend the evening together in the same room. At dusk, kerosene lamps or a more powerful gas-powered light will be lit in the living room. Whereas electricity tends to distribute the family all over the house, a lack of electricity draws them closer together, kind of like moths to a flame.”

I think the beautiful picture this book paints is one of a world where children are given a certain priority because their whole lives are centered around family. There are few distractions for the parents, and the babies clearly lavish the unending attention and care. I found it interesting that the Amish only are required to go to school through eighth grade, at which point most of them have no trouble finding good jobs. The author interviewed several employers of local businesses that frequently hired Amish workers, and was surprised to find out that their lack of education didn’t get in their way of getting a job or keeping it. “They have a great attitude, a lot of skill, and they actually know how to work, she says, Amish kids show up on time, they have a lot of common sense, and they don’t steal. They’re not covered in tattoos and most of them are sober and drug-free. What employer in their right mind wouldn’t want that?” Apparently, in these areas heavily populated with the Amish, its often difficult for Englisch teens to get hired when there are so many Amish to choose from!

When Serena asked one of the Keim Lumber owners what the Amish do exactly to instill this wonderful work ethic in their children, his answer is the best ever. “In my family, it is my wife, she is the one who is with the children all day and she teaches them constantly. I’m amazed at what she accomplishes. She always goes the extra mile in making sure they know how to do things…..In Amish society the children get up early and have chores. It gives them a purpose for existing. In Englisch society they get up and watch cartoons. Reality versus make-believe. It definitely makes a difference in their work ethic as well as their worldview….The impact of all that training teaches children what it feels like to think that ‘I am a useful, necessary part of my community and my family.’ That is a good feeling, and it is an important gift to give a child.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Tell me, what have you read lately?

 

amish_children

There is No Such Thing As: You’re Doing it Right!

IMG_5201Woke up this morning to instantly feeling frustrated because my sweet son let the cat out, and the cat then took it upon himself to sit on my face in an effort to receive some love and affection. Then the baby woke up, and the four and six year old, and my hubby and I were all of a sudden covered in cats and babies and needy neediness. They want cuddles, food, water, diaper changes. They want loving smiles, kind words, and enthusiastic parents ready to serve them. Abe and I glance at each other, steal a hug (if we’re lucky), and then push ourselves up and out into the cold air of morning and head for the shower (him) and the coffee maker (me). We proceed to make breakfast and get the children going on their chores for the day. It always feels a little raw, that getting up and moving. Like scraping the dirt from a cut. It feels better once the dirt is out, but it takes a few minutes to do the dirty work.

I have been encountering my own limitations in a new way, as of late. This past week I found myself breaking down in tears at the pediatrician’s office when my six year old injured her foot. I couldn’t believe that I heard these words come out of my mouth: “I don’t have time to go to the ER!” And then instantly felt ashamed for saying it. How can a mother not have TIME to attend to their child’s injury? How did my life get so busy that I contemplate ways to avoid doing one more thing, regardless of if that one more thing is a really NEEDED thing? Like the doctor?? Being the good doctor that she is, she looked at me without judgment and said, “Can I pray with you?” It meant a lot to hear her words of encouragement and support. She prayed a sincere and thoughtful prayer and asked God to lead me. It was the best thing she ever could have done in that moment. Throughout the rest of that day, I felt a peace within me and had several people pop up out of nowhere to say they were thinking about me and praying for me. How cool God is.

IMG_4995

When you are going through the motions of your day and feeling the inevitable overwhelmed feelings that come from time to time, remember that you are doing all the things that you are asked to do, and then some, and that the work you are doing isn’t going to be stress-free or easy, it’s just going to be what is –but God is with you. When we ask Him to show up, He does. When we knock- He answers. There are traps that can make the adventures harder. One of the traps I have been getting caught in lately is what I call the “DOING IT RIGHT” Trap. I want to share this with you so that I can hear your stories of how you deal with the sometimes intimidating vocation of parenthood. The thing that happened to me was a kind of inadvertent recommendation from a well-meaning person who had been inspired to share her ideas on what we expose our children to. It was good stuff, just maybe a little more extreme than I could appreciate, or fits well with my family. I initially felt that what she had advised was up the right alley, and shared her perception with my husband and kids. But the more I grappled with the idea of it, the more I asked myself this question: if I never allow my children to be exposed to anything outside of the Catholic Christian worldview, what then will happen when they go to college and discover all the other ideas? The answer I came up with is: they will more then likely feel overprotected and bitter and possibly even throw out the baby with the bathwater.

I have seen super fervent parents pass on the faith to their children by being so amazingly awesome that their kids wanted to grow up to be just like them. I have also seen parents who weren’t seemly strong in their relationship with God raise up children who are currently serving the church and living the faith in a beautiful way. I have also seen incredibly Christian families produce children that dismissed the faith and went on to lead a life that was outside of the church, and sadly, often not close to their families of origin. The reasons why these different outcomes happen are varied and all different based on the individuals involved and the circumstances of the family. I wonder what I can do to better increase the likelihood of my children becoming saints? I know one thing has been made clear: I must pray with them and for them, and allow them to make mistakes while they are under my roof, so that I can hopefully help them navigate the challenging balance of living in the world, but not of it. I can not teach them to be a good faithful Christian by depriving them of every negative influence or persuading them to see life thru the lens I look through, I somehow need to inspire them to want to be holy for themselves.

IMG_5143

This Lent I gave up Facebook only to run into some friends who love Instagram, to then sign up with Instagram and here we are. Parenting fail. Lent fail. Social Media Fast Fail. I really love the feedback and inspiration I get from both Facebook and Instagram. People like me trying to stay on the straight and narrow and love Jesus. It’s a tough job, and there are many many bumps in the road. But there is too much of a good thing, and I felt like a fast was just the thing I needed to “reset” my spiritual journey of being focused on what is in front of me. Being present to my kids and husband, and not being so absorbed with my screens that I couldn’t focus on faces. I know now how addicted I am. I am addicted to social media and the affirmation of others. I have a long way to go. Please pray for me, and I will pray for you! Unplug yourself and be with the folks you love. Pretend this is your last day on the planet and just savor the ones God has given you. I’m going to start over AGAIN with my fast and spend the rest of Lent setting up my own standards, together with my husband and kids….. and not doing it right…..because there is no such thing.

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer yourselves as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. For by the grace given me I say to everyone of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ, we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead,do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.” Romans 12:1-8

cropped-img_5199.jpg

Before You Were Formed…

There has been so much to fill up these past few weeks, so many blog posts written, but never written, endless streams of consciousness fading into a tired sigh…..There was family, and shopping, Christmas, Nativity Plays, presents, parties, birthdays, New Years and my heart feels so heavy with blessings, and yet….also at a loss. The stinging loss of my nephew, Zion.

How can we talk for days about pregnancy and birth, but when it comes to miscarriage and infant death, all of a sudden we become tongue tied and desperate to switch topics? I am accepting this experience as a blessing…..to meet little Zion, and see what a tremendous amount of love you can have for someone you have never met. He was plump and handsome, and we don’t know the reason why he left us so soon, but we treasured the moments we were able to hold his bitty fat hands, and count and recount his little tiny ten toes. It makes me want to take back so many things I’ve said, or haven’t said to friends and family who lost a child. I’m so sorry. How limited I was by my lack of experience…..

Mary, my husbands youngest sister, became very concerned when she didn’t feel many movements. But, after going in to the OB and hearing her little boys heartbeat, she put her mind at ease and slept well that night. She slept well into the next day, and when she awoke–still didn’t feel much movement, and again went into the OB to rehear the tell tale chugga chugga choo choo of his tiny heart racing down the track. But….there was no sound on the other end of the Doppler. The baby had died. Mary handled the news valiantly, and was an incredibly strong force of nature during a difficult birth.

It doesn’t make any sense, and we were all shocked. And sad. And amazed that this had happened again, when only a little less that four years ago, one of my husbands other sisters, Hilde,  had experienced a very similar outcome with her third pregnancy. It seemed wrong then, and it seems wrong now that a baby can die before he takes his first breath. And not only die a mysterious death, but leave a hole in our family that lasts for generations to come. Every holiday and family get together, with many children tooling around, there seems to be someone missing, and there is. Pippin and Zion, you are missed! Pray for us!!

What I learned: Never tell a mom in labor that she is almost done, when that may not be the fact. And also extremely important: the very instant you become pregnant, whether you know it or not, your heart becomes intertwined with your baby’s, and there is nothing that can separate the bond that is created there. Just like the famous Psalm says: “Before you were formed I knew you…..” It’s so true. That squirmy little fish, swimming inside the fish bowl of your womb, becomes a welcome guest that is the focus of pretty much everything you do, or don’t do until it’s time for the birth. Birth, ah, that special moment when you get to hold the tiny guy in your hands, and confront the truth of the waiting: oh, you are what has been tapping all my resources?! Hello there, tiny person! Mary’s story did not have this happy ending, but nonetheless her heart had been wrapped up in her belly baby, and despite many challenges and difficulties, had made herself ready and open to the life of motherhood.

There is so much we can do in this life, but it’s stunning…..when it comes to death……… our culture comes up dry. We used to have these little rites of passage for when a close-to-us-person passed away. There was the black clothing, the community visits, paying of  respects, church services/masses/memorials/burials, receptions, processions, luncheons…..the richness of holding on to one another, crying, allowing and making allowances for there to be time for any amount of wailing to happen as it needs to…..space and time for the members of the family to kind of hole up in solitude, or a communal embrace. Eating, singing, sleeping, resting, grieving. There were vehicles for folks to be together to process the loss. It WAS expected…… Now it’s just back to business as usual. It’s too hard.

You can’t skip over grief.

I wish now to go back, and to understand what I know now. I wish I could re-comfort all the terrible losses, babies gone, parents laid to rest, grandparents, children, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles, and cousins that have gone before us. I wish I could revisit wakes, memorials, and funerals, and cry a little harder, and weep a little deeper, and be a little more present to those that suffered the loss….now that I have seen and tasted the pain for myself. It lingers, and the grief keeps popping back up at different unexpected moments. It is a hollow feeling. Every time I feel overwhelmed by my circumstances I remember Mary, Hilde, and all the others: Lord, help them to heal, moving into this unknown territory of living without the ones they love…..

“Have no fear of moving into the unknown. Simply step out fearlessly knowing that I am with you, therefore no harm can befall you; all is very, very well. Do this in complete faith and confidence.”-JPII the Great

Here is a wonderful article my friend Pat Schloss wrote about his experience with losing a child.

AND!!! This is really cool. My sister  & brother in law Hilde & Charlie, who experienced a similar situation almost four years ago, and lost their little one, Pippin, allowed me to share this letter that Hilde wrote, it really speaks to “how you can help.”

Dear Friends and Family,
                Today is June 1st.  As the kids and I flipped the page on the calendar this morning I felt utter disbelief that we are starting another month without Pippin.  Every day is strange and full of feelings:  sadness, anger, confusion, profound disappointment.  I am also still experiencing quite a bit of disorientation:  my short-term memory is full of holes; I have a hard time concentrating and often forget what day it is.    I glanced at the newspaper the other day and was shocked to realize that high school graduations are happening…  Is it really June?  What happened to May?  Where is the baby I’ve been anticipating all year? 
We are struggling to wrap our minds and hearts around the reality that we are going to be without Pippin for the rest of our lives.  It is a terrible reality to wake to each day as we are so full of longing for him!  Our sweetest moments with Finn and Annie are also the hardest moments as we realize again and again that Pippin will never participate in our sweet times together.  He will never go frogging with us at the mudhole, he will never sit on the sofa nursing and reading “Peter Rabbit”, he will never snuggle in bed with us in the morning.  I can’t believe we have to live without him.  Often when I glance at his picture, something in me shrieks as if I am encountering his death for the first time.  How can that beautiful little boy be gone?  How can little babies BE without their mothers?
So we are learning how to live in this new country of grief.  Charlie is far more functional than I am at this point though I know he too feels exhausted and out of sorts.  We are trying to be gentle with ourselves and one another during this season.
                We recently met with the doctor at Gerber Hospital who cared for us while we were there.  Unfortunately there is no explanation as to why Pippin hemorrhaged most of his blood into my bloodstream.  My placenta was in perfect working order.  All we know is that something happened with the vessels between the placenta and the uterine wall that caused them to malfunction.  Ordinarily this can be linked to significant physical trauma like a car accident or a serious fall.  In my case, neither of these occurred.  It is an utter mystery why we lost our perfectly healthy baby at 38 weeks. 
                This being said, we have received wonderful care from our friends close by and a great deal of love from you all who live farther afield.  We have felt held and supported through all of this.  I’d like to make a request for extended support in this way:  Pippin’s birthday was April 17thWould you be able to send us a note around the 17th of each month for this first year?  Just a little something to let us know you are holding us and continuing to remember Pippin… Could you send it as real snail mail?  This would give us something to look forward to each month when we ought to be celebrating Pippin’s months of life. 
On May 17th I wrote Pippin a little note and set in on the altar we have for him—just beside his ashes.  I am going to do this each month on the 17th.  You could send Pippin a little note, a picture, or some small beautiful thing (a rock, a feather, a dried flower or leaf) and we would place it on the altar with him.   Or you could let us know how Pippin’s life and death has touched your life, and continues to touch your life.   Please do not worry if you can’t remember to send something every month—just remember when you can—it would be a sustaining gift for us in the coming year.  The kids love opening mail and Charlie and I appreciate beautiful cards and thoughtful words. 
                Thank you so much for being in our lives and for walking through this with us.   We love you all.  Please feel free to forward this on to others we may have missed, or to post if to Facebook.
Much love,
Hilde and Charlie
IMG_1725THANK YOU HILDE for allowing me  SHARE this. It breaks my heart, but also gives me hope that there is something I can do to help Mary.
It’s in the little things….