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! The 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.
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:
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….
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?
Woke 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.
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.
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
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.”
Wildly running through the grocery store, haphazardly throwing various things into the cart, my mind wanders towards the beautiful retreat I was able to go on last week, at my parish. We welcomed Father Jacques Phillipe for the second time, and he did not disappoint. Something about the way he speaks in French, and his interpreter then speaks in English is very magical. It allows a little bit of time for the mind to absorb the simple and yet profound words of this holy man.
What Father was asking of us, to cultivate a life of prayer, is a beautiful idea, but much like having a tidy home and warm meals at dinner, the task is very complicated when you add a very full life of children and homeschooling and holy mackerel. Sometimes I feel lucky to be able to utter my morning offering before being bombarded with chaos, crying, and demands of all sorts. But yet, he points out, scripture is chock full of references that imply peace is attainable. So, what then are some practical ways we can create a space for the Lord to have His peace that surpasses all understanding? I would ask that of you, dear reader, and I will tell you some things I am aiming for this Advent, as I know God blesses our efforts!! There is so much room for better, but this is what it is right now.
5. Create A Family Prayer Time. Make a time, and stick to your guns. For our family it works best after breakfast, we eat, and talk about the day’s activities, and say a decade together. During Advent, we add in the Jesse Tree videos from Holy Heroes. We sometimes do a Litany of the Saints or an Angelus. Since beginning our new Catholic Homeschool Co-op we are working on memorizing a few traditional songs and prayers in Latin during this time. Don’t worry, I mostly am calling kids back to the table and breaking up sibling bickering (the whole time) but it’s worth it. No one ever said forming good habits was going to be easy. What does your family do for prayer time?
Philippians 4:6-7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
I would enjoy hearing your thoughts on this matter. What are your tricks to squeezing in some prayer? I am praying for all of my readers that your Advent is going well and that your heart is open to the baby Jesus…He will be here soon! Eight more days!!!
Thinking back to all the things that have inspired me over the years: people, plants, color, cloth, thread, paint, paper, books, bicycles, rocks, feathers, home, food, things that make food taste good, love, making love, babies, children, learning, pretending, playing, and growing up….trying to love God, love my family better, and grow up even more. It’s such a process. It’s ongoing.
It’s kind of a guilty pleasure having this time to write, really. In the middle of the night, with a baby lying on my lap. Smiling in his milk bubbled sleep, snoring occasionally, making an odd face from time to time. Flinching. I could watch his face change for eternity and never tire of his looks.
This is how life is. You take a chance, you see something you want, and you go for it. Some folks are better at figuring out what that is, early on. I often think of musicians, and their passion for making beautiful sounds, and how amazing it is, all that raw talent that they thread thru various needles and keep pressing on, until it’s been refined into something palatable. Something sewn up right. A masterpiece. And the time and energy and drive it takes to make that happen, when the truth is, maybe they will be recognized for their art, and maybe not. Is it just luck?
I happen to be someone who doesn’t believe in luck. I absolutely do though, believe in the divine. I believe that God has put you right where you are today, for a very important purpose. It may not seem particularly magical right now, but when you look back, you will see after years have passed, how your work is something special.
I had the life changing opportunity to spend sometime with my family near the ocean this summer. It was very impactful. I got to hear stories from my 94 year old grandmother about how she met my grandfather, and what she found inspiring. I heard tales of the Coffee Cabinet, which is an original to New England: it is a coffee flavored milk shake (think iced frappe), the first date she had with my grand dad was drinking one of these after a long days work as a secretary for the Government …..and that even though her 100% Ukrainian family felt strongly that she shouldn’t marry this Englishman, she did anyhow, and did the unthinkable: moved out of the neighborhood that she had lived her entire life. As the only child in her family (she also had a younger brother that died when he was very young), this was devastating to her folks. She had been honored with the title of most athletic girl in her high school, and had hoped to join the army when she graduated. Instead, because her parents hated the army idea, she went to Katherine Gibbs Secretary School and found a job straight away working for the Government. One day, when she got back from grabbing something from the other room, there was a young man sitting at her desk, typing on HER TYPEWRITER. She told him without equivocation to get the heck out of her work space, to which he replied, I am a newspaper reporter for the local newspaper, and I was simply typing up some observations. She wasn’t having any of that and wouldn’t let him get in her way, so she shooed him right out the front door. Grandpa let her know that he wasn’t happy with this decision, and so it was a bit of a surprise when he was there, at five thirty sharp requesting the pleasure of her company, and even offered to buy her a Coffee Cabinet. Well, good for him…. because that was her favorite beverage!
They hit it off, and married soon after. We all got a good chuckle thinking about the family trying to get Grandpa and his whole family to agree to a Ukrainian wedding. The poor Episcopalians had to go through the whole riga-ma- roll of that big fat Ukrainian wedding!!! All Grandpa ever knew of the Ukrainian language was la-tab-lo-loo (I love you). Grandma Stella loved him and their life together. They spent days working, and evenings at sporting events and shows and concerts as he often had to go to write reviews for Variety, the part-time job he had for over twenty years in Detroit.
She loved him then, and she loves him now, and even though he had to leave early (he died in 1982 of ALS at only 61 years of age) and she doesn’t regret a single moment of it. She doesn’t wish to change a thing. The time they chose to move to Detroit, the children they had, the life they made for themselves….it was all good and all meaningful. And when the idea was presented at some point that she remarry- Grandma Stella looked down at her ring and said: “Oh, but I am married!” She knows him still, and after all these years, doesn’t love him any less. How’s that for faithful? It was a beautiful witness to her sincere love for her husband!
Also, as a bonus, I sent this post over to Grandma, (for review)-who by the way still types faster than me, and does a crossword puzzle everyday, not to mention keeps track of the stats for several baseball teams!! When I asked her to tell me a little more about being Ukrainian in America, especially as a little girl, was there anything that stands out in her memory, this is what she said:
“As I sit here in my room and watch my 3-year-old great grandson, I think back the many years and realize how different life is today. Take the toys. There are a zillion of them here and more at his home. There are dozens of stuffed toys: there are trucks and plows and dumpsters; a cart full of legos for building houses, forts and villages; puzzles, books and so much more. Back then, if we had one toy, we were very special. Toys were usually handmade from a block of wood, or some kind of stuffed animal or doll. My great grandson will be going to school soon, and just think of the head start he will have!
I can’t remember that far back too well, but at age 5 I did go to school. I came from an ethnic family and we spoke no English at home. I guess I must have learned to shake my head “yes” or “no”, or maybe I could say those two words because I passed on from grade to grade each year, and graduated from high school in 12 years. I got a certificate saying that I had perfect attendance and was not late or absent during that whole time. What a lesson: Always be there, and be on time! Life and times have surely changed in the last 90 years, but ask yourself: Is it for the better?”
I think that was pretty well said. Thanks Grandma. I love you.
я тебе люблю
I decided to give myself the goal of reading a book each month this year, and I am really enjoying the challenge. I invite you, dear reader, to also set a goal for yourself, and get to reading. It’s a brain vacation, and it can be an inspiration to try new things or think about life in a new way.
This is not a book I would necessarily recommend, unless you had the desire to travel to Afghanistan, or you’re like me and enjoy learning about other cultures, the good, the bad, and the ugly. This is a story about a Christian mother of two who went to work for a non-profit organization called the Care for All Foundation (CFAF). She went there after taking emergency and disaster relief training, around the time of 9/11, and was imagining herself bandaging wounds and clambering over the rubble rescuing refugees, but instead found herself doing all the medical staffs laundry and becoming really bored with the day to day life of a CFAF worker, then there was a meeting of all the NGO’s (nongovernmental organizations), including the CFAF. At this meeting all the workers were introduced, dentists, nurses, doctors, engineers, all wonderful people trained in different fields that were very much needed in Afghanistan. At the end of the meeting the leader introduced the author, a hairdresser from Michigan, and she was applauded wildly! Apparently, salons were basically abolished during the Taliban, and for both the aid workers and the Afghans, there was not a lot of haircuts or styles happening. When her hidden identity was revealed she was in business, and she ended up befriending many locals at the same time, which grew into a mission of love and valuable training which then provided work for many young women of Kabul.
The reason this book appealed to me was through the interactions she had with the women and girls of Kabul, she learned their stories, and she was able to share those stories with us. I do not approve of, or appreciate the choices she makes in her personal life, but the treasure of learning the stories and understanding more about the culture was very precious. The story of Roshanna marrying someone she’d never met, and having to prove her virginity by providing a handkerchief with blood to her mother in law, Shaz’s family’s story of fleeing the Taliban and living in caves, the woman Nahida, who was a wife of a mean Talib and had to live in the authors home until he deemed the beauty school appropriate, the forlorn Hama who couldn’t escape her abuser….. This is reality for many of the women who came to the beauty school being involved in arranged marriages….Some were terribly abused by their husbands in a world where divorce wasn’t allowed. A man could dismiss his daughter’s husband if he didn’t pay the proper dowry, but even then a woman would most likely not have custody of her children. Also, if a woman didn’t provide a son for her husband, he was free to marry again…. up to three wives is considered normal. It was very revealing to gain some understanding about how marriage is handled there, and how protected and even oppressed the women are.
I enjoyed the picture the author painted for us of the suffering the Afghans had dealt with, and those many personal testimonies made it all the more real.
If you have a longing for travel, becoming a missionary, or learning about middle eastern Muslim people, you will find a treasure in Kabul Beauty School.
I am going to continue reading more books like this one, and hope to share them with you!
On my list of titles are:
The Dressmaker of Khair Khana, by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Three Cups of Tea, by David Oliver Relin and Greg Mortenson
There are many tasks I enjoy as a stay at home mother, but cleaning and organizing isn’t one of them. I love to cook and sew and all that involves children….but for some reason I have never been drawn to the clean side of life. I kinda like it messy, and colorful, and busy. That’s just how I roll. But, my sweet reader, something new has taken over. The light bulb has been turned on! I have read Marie Kondo’s New York Times Bestseller, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, the Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. It truly is magic. I think you should go check it out from the library, or buy it!
As I traveled with my family this summer on our fifteen day long excursion, I learned that there is nothing more comforting or peaceful than finding the thing you put away is in it’s spot. Kondo advises that everything has a place to belong, but before you store anything, you must touch everything and seriously purge your home of all things you do not want. She asks you to only keep those things that give you a “spark of joy.” It took me some time to understand what that meant exactly because I do not get a spark of joy from my spatula or toilet paper, but they are a necessity. What she means is: of the things one can choose, clothes, books, decorations, and just stuff- how much of it do you find truly wonderful? That shirt that you bought on a special trip with your husband that fits weird? Yes, give it away. Even if you remember where all your stuffed animals came from, you don’t need them anymore. It’s okay to say goodbye. If you find that you are extremely connected to something sentimental, you could take a photo to put in a family album with a short note describing it’s significance!
“One of the magical effects of tidying is confidence in your decision making capacity. Tidying means taking each item in your hand, asking yourself whether it sparks joy, and deciding on this basis whether or not to keep it. By repeating this process hundreds and thousands of times, we naturally hone our decision making skills.”
After throwing away at least five trash bags of things that were not sparking joy and giving away a carload of other things, I feel a surprising amount of peace, knowing that my home is far from perfect, but that it really is possible!! I have thoroughly KonMaried my own room, and closet, the little children’s room, the kitchen, and the dining room. Now I only have the pantry, the school room, and the ever so daunting basement.(I will let the hubby do the garage and big girls are amazingly tidy in their own room, God Bless them)! Kondo recommends decluttering by category, not by space, and I really like her idea of going through all the clothes on your living room floor, shocking yourself with how much you have, and then seriously and intentionally going through each item….But something tells me tiny little Marie does not have eight children!!! And all that goes along with it! SO, I did take her advice while going through my own things, and I am resolute about KonMaring my entire house, but if I did put all our stuff on the living room floor by category, it would look like Anthony’s pasta pot in the Strega Nona books- over flowing out the door and into the town! So scary!
I definitely recommend this book if you are in need of a house detox. It will be magic, and it will make your family and even better, YOU happy to have everything in a place! I have a little bit of a junk drawer problem, and it was really neat how after going through all of them, I’m too embarrassed to tell how many.. (okay, 5)! I found a very common thread, the space was all the same. There were pens, pencils, hair ties, coins, batteries, and jewelry all together at the bottom of them. Like graffiti that teenagers paint with an unskilled hand, these scatterings were so familiar I had begun to just assume that is what belongs at the bottom of all drawers! Now having a designated battery drawer, and hair drawer, and even an electrical cord drawer- I can’t believe I haven’t fixed this before, and I am super motivated to do the whole house…. so there are no more lurking messy spots clouding my subconscious!
I also have a trash picking problem. I see furniture and different loveliness by the side of the road, and I see it’s beauty…Are you like that? I love dilapidation because I can see how wonderful something would look if it was just given a little wash & tenderness. Its like ‘runt of the litter syndrome’ or something. Maybe that’s why I love children, I can see their potential, what they will one day become, and I get inspired to help them get there. It happened to me today! I saw a simple wooden desk sitting there by the side of the road, looking very inviting, like all it needed was a chair, and me to sit at it, perhaps I could dust it off and set some beautiful fresh flowers on it, or a little pot of tea…and it could be my writing desk! I was so high off this stupid desk, until I looked in my review mirror and saw the piles of belongings I was on my way to drop at Saint Vincent De Paul’s….before I put my van in reverse I had to ask myself the question I never, but always should ask…..”But where will you put your new writing desk?”
The spark of joy vanished. There is no more space. In fact, I currently have a television hutch chillin like a villain in my living room….sideways….in the middle of the walk way, because I moved the room around, and it made the hutch homeless. I haven’t been able to get rid of it, even though we don’t have a television because I love that it is a cabinet, and you can shut the doors when you don’t want to look at the TV. You see that! All that rationalizing for that silly thing. And it’s been sitting there for months. I think there is a spiritual component too, we don’t have to live like Depression era- hoarders, saving popsicle sticks that could potentially be used as buttons if the world comes to an end, because God is so good, and he supplies everything we need! Every time my kids grow out of clothes, or I really want/need something, God gives it to me, usually on a golden platter. I could tell you so many stories about this! It’s really quite amazing how it happens. That being said, I could get rid of that hutch, and maybe someone in my neighborhood is praying for that exact thing right now, and I could bless them while also freeing up my walkway. My husband may even speak to me again! Just kidding!!! No, but he really would be happy.
Ok. So you see, it does work. Tomorrow I will get rid of the hutch! And if and when we get another TV, a perfect hutch will come along! I believe in God giving you good gifts if you ask for them, and I also believe in the life changing magic of tidying up.
I want to hear your organizing stories!! Do share!!
What an incredible fun, and adventuresome summer we had! I have written many posts in my mind, but alas, haven’t published any… I hope to get you, dear reader, up to speed with the stories of the Traveling Thomason Family! There are many highlights, but just before we left for our big trip, we were able to enroll our older girls in a Challenge Camp, led by some Consecrated Women of Regnum Christi.
When I had the pleasure of meeting several Consecrated Women, my first question was, “What is the difference between being a nun and being a consecrated?” And they happily explained that these two vocations are very similar. Both require perpetual or life-long commitments, both take vows, and both are actually a calling…more than simply a lifestyle choice. The only real difference is that nuns typically wear a habit, and are a part of a community. Consecrated women do not have to be a part of a community, they are considered part of the “lay” population, and do not wear the penguin suit…
I found these women very inspiring. They expressed joy and pleasure in their life, but also shared with sorrow the different reactions of family members, some of whom were initially, or sometimes, still, very opposed to their commitment to Christ. The Consecrated women undergo a period of discernment, much like a religious would, and then take vows after a period of time. What I really found beautiful about this is that these were YOUNG ladies, drawn to God in a very distinctive call, not thirtysomethings who used it as a fallback plan because marriage didn’t work out.
What an incredible desire, to love Jesus so much that the only answer would be to spend one’s life serving Him in His church, with His people.
Phenomenal. Give me a desire like these ladies. Come, Lord Jesus!
Now I have to get back to my life of absolute craziness and remember that I too, chose my vocation, as well. And I am fit for the task, and God is here ready to pour His mercy over me because it can be very stressful. It can get weary. It can be tiring… God is ready to hand me the grace I need to make it through this day, and tomorrow too, and he commanded me not to worry. So I am not anxious, I am not concerned. I am more precious to God than the sparrows, and He knows the number of hairs on my head. I am relying on him to satisfy my heart, keeping me in the palm of His hand.
This recovery (baby number 8, in case you’ve lost track) has been different than the others. Each baby is so unique, and this child has been a wonderful, fat, and happy baby, with a longer and harder recovery. I’m not sure if the recovery is harder simply because I’m getting older, or if it’s a combination of being busy, with extra wear and tear that makes the healing go slower…needless-to-say, I am relying on Gods grace, every day! I feel I am being told through this experience what is most critical, and what can be saved for another less busy time of life. There are times to be running around, and there are times to be still. This is a be still time! I do what I can, and then I have to say “no.” But by saying that no, I am saying yes to my infant, my healing process, and the other people in my family who need me to be around for the long haul.
We used to be a family that only did one activity per day. And spent Sundays at Mass and with our family, but in the past few years, we had gotten used to running around like headless chickens because that’s what we could do. That’s what the kids seemed to want. Everyone wanted to see their friends, everyone had to play sports, everyone was needing something. It’s all I could do to not be in two places at once. Yikes! What I learned is that the children will never be content. They are human, they always will want more! They always will want friends, attention, experiences! It’s a good thing! But, as parents, we need to decide what is best for them, despite their desires. We are allowed to say no to the kids. Actually, we must!
There is a bit of wisdom our Pastor, Father Ed Fride, shared in a homily once, there are many things, many good things, so many that we will have to pray for wisdom, and make a choice. There is such a thing a too much of a good thing! I am thankful for this insight.
I am praying for discernment, and constantly asking for my mind and heart to be open to what God has for me and my kids. The nice thing about having a herd of children is if things aren’t suiting them, they will let you know. If you have a child who seems to be overwhelmed and is always crying or fussing, or whiny- there’s your signpost- too much going on. Or you may have a threenager. That is a disclaimer. If you have someone who is three and figuring out how to be a big kid, you may just have crying, fussing, and whining anyway. I’m sorry. Keep saying those things like: “use your words, please tell me how you feel,” but I won’t tolerate all that crying….. And you shouldn’t either!!
So, this fall when you are all doing your best to think of what is best for your family, say a prayer for me and my chunky baby and that obnoxious threenager. I have a high schooler this year and it seems like every grade in between, …and I know you probably do too. Go easy on yourself as much as you can, and I will hold you in prayer, asking that like the Consecrated, you too will be overcome with a desire to please Jesus, and do His will.
If we are trying to serve Him, we’re doing it right.