Saturday, March 28, 2009

Rockin' Love of God!

These ideas were developed by me for my local group and are not a part of the official Little Flowers Girls Club ® created by Rachel Watkins. To purchase the excellent materials and begin your own local group, please visit

This post is really late. Our last Little Flowers meeting was last Friday, March 20. We began the virtue Love of God.

I taught the girls a new song this week to replace the Mother Mary song to the tune of "Frere Jacques." Instead, we sang this song to the tune of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star." It is modeled after one in the Little Flowers Leaders Manual about Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.

St. Therese of Lisieux,
Watch over me and all I do.
Help me be like you each day,
As I work and learn and play.
St. Therese of Lisieux,
Watch over me and all I do.

After prayers, I began sharing about Love of God. We discussed the concept in the Leaders Manual where faith is the root of a flower, hope is the stem, and love of God is the bloom. This was a beautiful analogy. I also shared the following Scripture verses to underscore how significant Love of God is:

Matthew 22:37, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

1 Corinthians 13:13 , “So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

1 John 4:8, “God is love!”

John 14:23 , “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.”

Somewhere in between the verses, I mentioned that Love of Neighbor will be our next virtue and that it is clearly different from Love of God. We discussed things that show our love for God and how difficult it can be to find the time for those things sometimes. I asked the girls what it takes to be someone's friend and compared their answers (spend time with them, talk to them, tell them about yourself) to being friends with God. I explained that the most perfect time to love God is during Holy Mass.

Another key point from the Leaders Manual to me was that the love the girls show God now is very important, as it is the first fruits of their lives. They are young, but that does not mean they can wait until they are older to put God first. In fact, their actions during this time of their life are even more important than my actions at my age. They seemed a bit awed by that point.

Next, I got out my visual demonstration. Some readers may have heard of or seen this in corporate training or business seminars. I took a clear vase and set it on the table. Then, I asked the girls to name all the things they do in their daily lives that are not directly focused on loving God. As they said things like "ballet, math, soccer, chores, eating, television, schoolwork, and helping parents," I poured into the vase a bag full of gravel, tiny pebbles, telling them each of these pebbles was one of those things in a week of their lives.

Then, I took out some stones about the size of a two-year-old's fist. I asked the girls to now name the things they do that are clearly focused on loving God. As they said things like "Mass, Rosary, praying, reading the Bible, and serving the poor," I placed in the vase the large stones. The key to this demonstration, though, is that not all of my large stones fit in the vase. I acted frustrated that these ways of loving God would not fit, because they are SO important.

I told them to watch carefully as I dumped the contents of the vase into a large bowl on the table, and I said, "Let's try that again." This time, I put the large stones in the vase first, naming the ways we can love God. After they were all in, I poured in the gravel, which surrounded the stones and filled the vase perfectly to the top with no extra room or overflow. (It took me five times the day before to get the right amount of stones and gravel for this to work!)

There were a few oohs and aahs, as I asked them the lesson learned. Many indicated they understood that we have to put loving God first above all things in order for our life to be full and to fit all those actions in our week. Then, I said, "If you love God first, above all things, he will even fill your life with special graces and blessings," and I poured sand into the vase. As I tapped the side of the vase, the sand fell between the gravel and added more to the already-full vase.

Finally, I told the wide-eyed girls that God might even surprise them by putting something unexpected and amazing in their lives when they least expect it and think nothing else will fit. Then, I took the water bottle from which I had been sipping and poured some water in the vase. It trickled down through the sand and gravel and stones, truly filling the vase.

I LOVE this demonstration! It is a key thing for me to remember in my life, and I was so glad I had the inspiration to share it with the girls.

Now, for our craft project, I had asked the girls to bring a rock, so they were asking what to do with it. I told them I wanted to share the flower for the virtue first, so I read the following catalog description of the peony as I held up the silk peony I found at WalMart. I asked the girls to try to figure out why a peony was chosen to remind us of love of God, as I read:

"Peony flowers are one of the most beautiful blooms that can grow in the garden and have a very beautiful scent. They are large, colorful, dramatic, and very heavy. Peonies come in all colors, shapes, and sizes, and they grow all over the northern hemisphere. Peonies are also very easy to grow and will live in good soil and poor soil."

The girls had some great answers about how our love of God is the most beautiful thing in Heaven and how we can love Him anytime anywhere, regardless of our surroundings.

Then, we made prayer rocks. The girls simply wrapped a rock they had brought to the meeting in a piece of fabric and tied it with a ribbon, attaching the following poem:

(Author Unknown)

I'm your little prayer rock,

And this is what I'll do.
Just put me on your pillow
Until the day is through.

Then turn back the covers

And climb into your bed,
And, whack!
Your little prayer rock
Will hit you in the head.

Then you will remember

As the day is through,
To kneel and say your prayers
As you intended to.

Then when you are finished

Dump me on the floor.
I'll stay there through the nighttime
To give you help once more.

When you get up next morning,

Clunk! I stub your toe,
So that you will remember
Your prayers before you go.

Put me back upon your pillow

When your bed is made,
And your clever little prayer rock
Will continue in your aid.

Because your Heavenly Father

Cares and loves you so,
He wants you to remember
To talk to Him, you know.

This was a very easy craft but very meaningful, as I reminded the girls that their prayer rock was like the large stones in the vase.

We then took a snack break and I instructed the rose group leader moms what to do after snack. They took their girls to a shady spot away from all the others and led them through the following guided meditation:

Say all this in a soothing, gentle voice…

Close your eyes. Take deep breaths. Focus only on my voice. Try to block out other noises around you. Use your imagination to “see” this story.

Imagine yourself at age 4 or 5. You are walking along a dirt path, leading to a small hilltop. Your mother is next to you, holding your hand gently. Your father is a few steps ahead, and you try to follow his strong steps.

As you climb the hill, you look down and notice your feet are dusty. You look up towards the hot sun and wipe your arm across your forehead. Your mother seems to be excited, hurriedly pulling you along as you follow the line of people going up the hill. As you get higher, a gentle breeze begins to cool the heat.

Now, you can finally see the top of the hill. There is a clump of trees and a few large rocks. Some men are sitting on the rocks. A crowd of people is gathered around, men, women, children of all ages.

But, it is not noisy. Instead, it is quiet, peaceful. You can hear the gentle breeze and the coos of a few birds. As you approach the crowd, you see the line of mothers and fathers bringing their children to one man in the middle of the group of rocks. Your mother leans down and whispers in your ear, “That is Jesus.”

To hear your mother say this almost takes your breath away. You have heard of Jesus, the healer, the prophet, whom some call the Messiah. And, now you can just begin to see his face beyond the dozen or so families in front of you. You are struck by the kindness and peacefulness you see is that face.

As the first family approaches Jesus, a few men step forward. They say, “What are you doing? Can’t you see that our Lord is tired? Take your children home. Let him be.” At those words, Jesus’ face changes. He looks sternly at the men, as if to scold them. But, His voice is still gentle, as He says loud enough for all around to hear…

Let the children come to me…and do not prevent them…for the kingdom of heaven…belongs to such as these.

He smiles and embraces the first two children that rush towards Him. They climb onto the rock to sit with Him, and He blesses them. Your heart starts to beat quickly as you realize that you will soon be near the front of the crowd and face to face with Jesus. He is blessing the children, and they are resting near Him on the grass and on the rocks. Their eyes are fixed on His face, a face full of love.

Now, it is your turn. As you step forward, you let go of your mother’s hand. She clasps her hands to herself and sighs pleasantly. You are not afraid of this stranger. Everyone calls This Man a great teacher. Some call Him God. But, all you see is His love for you.

He reaches out to embrace you and pulls you up into His lap. He asks God to bless you and be with you, laying His strong and gentle hands on your head, and then He simply gazes into your eyes for what seems like hours. It is actually only a few minutes, and you see another two children approaching. You slide off His lap and down the side of the rock to the grass below to watch Him bless more and more children. All the while, you cannot take your eyes off of Him.

And you realize that upon the first instant you saw Him, you loved Him. Dusk draws near, and parents gather their children to take them home. You begin to walk back down the hill towards home, this time clutching your father’s hand, almost skipping with glee from the joy in your heart. As you recline on your bed that night and stare at the dark ceiling, you think of Jesus.

He loves you! That was clear by the look on His face. He blessed you! Your life will never be the same. He promised you the Kingdom of Heaven! You think desperately of how to honor this gift as you slip into a deep, peaceful sleep.

Open your eyes. Here we are. Jesus really loves you here and now, just as He loved those children back in Judea. His love is bigger than anything you could ever imagine, and He would do anything to save you, even suffer hours of torture and a miserable death on the Cross. That is how strong His love is for you, (here name a few girls and then point to each one to remind them of His individual love for each one). What will you do for Him? How can you put Him first in your life to show Him your love in return?

(If the girls are interested, share a few ideas about how they can live the virtue of Love of God.)

When they were finished, the leader mom of the oldest girls told me the girls' responses brought tears to her eyes. I hope she shares with me some of their insights. If she does, I will try to post them here.

Next, we talked about St. Agnes. She was a young girl and is usually pictured with a lamb, because Agnes means lamb. She was beautiful and many men wanted to marry her, but she would always refuse them. She would say, “Christ is my Spouse. He chose me first and His I will be. He made my soul beautiful with the jewels of grace and virtue. I belong to Him whom the angels serve." This made the men angry.

So, when she was thirteen and responded thus, she was led to a pagan altar to offer prayers, but instead she made the sign of the cross. Since Christianity was not tolerated in her time and region, she was chained and dragged naked through the streets. All the while, she declared aloud her love of God.

I think it is important to our young girls for them to know that St. Agnes is the only child mentioned in the Eucharistic Prayer of the Mass. What a virtuous girl for them to imitate!

At the end of our meeting, we practiced the Scripture verse song. In fact, the girls asked to practice all three of the ones we have learned, so far, and they did an excellent job. We closed in our usual prayers to St. Therese, and I read the intentions the girls wrote down. Then, we passed out the Love of God Patch Project Sheet.

It was another joy-filled day! I feel so humbled to be witnessing such amazing understanding in these precious girls.

Per the request of the official Little Flowers Girls Club ® I have removed the downloadable patch project sheets and practice pages. If you are interested in learning about how I used these documents in my group, please contact me directly.

Teaching Our Children or Letting God Teach Us?

I have had two dear friends lately asking me many questions about homeschooling, as they discern and decide to begin homeschooling their oldest child as he/she reaches Kindergarten. There are two key points I wanted them to know, and I thought it appropriate to post them here for anyone else who may be in a similar situation. I hope pulling them out of context does not distort the meaning too much. This is wisdom that was passed to me by holy priests and fellow homeschooling moms.

1. You have to be true to your state in life. If you are called to be a homeschooling mother, you are called to put your child's education as one of your top priorities. That may mean having to give up other things, yes. I was SO blessed to move to a new city and have a completely clean slate to start the year. That way I could carefully discern each new opportunity that came my way. I decided my children were not going to have extra-curriculars this year (partly financial but partly to help us focus) and that I would not do any service or join any groups AT ALL for the first four months we were here.

I have put everything to prayer before the Lord since then, and my husband and I have a deal - if you're not doing your primary responsibilities well, you don't do anything extra. I always ask him before saying yes to anything. So, until I got a reasonable (by both of our definitions) handle on the housework (which still means I miss mopping about one week a month), I did not commit to anything outside of the home. My priorities are loving God, loving my husband and children (which means providing for their physical needs), educating my children, and caring for our home, in that order. Math comes before mopping in this house! (can you tell mopping is my worst enemy?)

So, if you begin homeschooling, you do have to make sure nothing unnecessary is taking away your energy, emotional or physical, towards being the best homeschooling mother you can be! Sleep helps. I am hit or miss on this one, with so many personal projects I want to do in the evenings. My selfishness to do what I want to do is stealing my sleep. I am sure there is a way to sleep and still do some of what I want; I just have to let go of some things. So hard for this weak soul!

2. A realistic schedule and the best curriculum are not going to make your state in life easy. Through this vocation of motherhood, especially as homeschooling mothers, God calls us to the Cross to imitate and join His Son, our Savior. Homeschooling is the means through which my sanctification will occur, if I allow it. There is no perfect schedule or perfect curriculum. A lot of moms, when things start to get difficult, switch curriculums, thinking that will solve the problems, but it won't. God will change you from the inside out, and it is painful, let me tell you! You think you changed when you became a mother? You ain't seen nothin' yet! :) And, He isn't done with me!

Seriously, homeschooling is difficult. It is a challenge, but if it is a call from God, we have to do our best and put our trust in Him to make up the difference for what we are lacking. I believe we have to offer up our challenges and our suffering to God. It is the only thing that gets me through some days, to beg Him to bring some benefit from my miserable state. And, all of the questions, doubts, and fears you raise in your email are real and honest, but they are not from God. He put this on your heart. He chose you for this task of educating your child. He wants to homeschool YOU!

For me, homeschooling is also a tremendous joy, of course! I am so privileged to spend so much time with my children. They are not away from me. We get to have amazing conversations about nature and God and math. (if mopping is my nemesis, math is Therese's) I am blessed to witness the wonder and joy on my children's faces when they learn something new. And, I know that I am giving them the best education I can to form them in Christ and send them on their paths toward eternal life, not to mention the transformation that has happened in my spiritual life and will, I hope, continue to happen.

We think homeschooling is about teaching our children, but in reality, homeschooling is God teaching us about ourselves, about our faults, our weaknesses, and showing us that we really can change, that we really can become the person He created us to be!

Tulsa's Spiritual Mothers of Priests

Yes! This is exactly what my heart has been desiring. Go tell your bishop to do this in your diocese, too! At least, write him a letter, print out the Tulsa story, and mail both to your bishop and the vocations director of your diocese! What a phenomenal step for Holy Mother Church!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Sunday, March 29, 2009 ~ Fifth Sunday in Lent

Note: These Sunday & Holy Day Gospel Reflections are written so that mothers may prepare for Holy Mass in advance either as a small group or individually (especially since we are so often necessarily distracted during Mass itself).

John 12:20-33

Some Greeks who had come to worship at the Passover Feast
came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee,
and asked him, "Sir, we would like to see Jesus."
Philip went and told Andrew;
then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.
Jesus answered them,
"The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.
Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies,
it remains just a grain of wheat;
but if it dies, it produces much fruit.
Whoever loves his life loses it,
and whoever hates his life in this world
will preserve it for eternal life.
Whoever serves me must follow me,
and where I am, there also will my servant be.
The Father will honor whoever serves me.
"I am troubled now. Yet what should I say?
'Father, save me from this hour'?
But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour.
Father, glorify your name."
Then a voice came from heaven,
"I have glorified it and will glorify it again."
The crowd there heard it and said it was thunder;
but others said, "An angel has spoken to him."
Jesus answered and said,
"This voice did not come for my sake but for yours.
Now is the time of judgment on this world;
now the ruler of this world will be driven out.
And when I am lifted up from the earth,
I will draw everyone to myself."
He said this indicating the kind of death he would die.


Jesus speaks here of the Cross. His words are clear. We must follow Him and do the same as Him...die. We must die to bear fruit.

This world does not understand that. It is indeed a challenging message. Most fear death, and many for good reason. They are not living in Christ. They are living for themselves.

Our American culture is so self-centered that I am amazed. I should not be surprised anymore, but I still am. People are not willing to sacrifice for another unless it happens to also bring about personal gain. We are told to "pay it forward," because a kindness has been granted us. The Lord teaches us to be kind even when others are not kind to us, to offer everything for God, even, perhaps even especially, if it leads to humiliation and pain.

If you have not yet taken time this Lent to ponder the Cross, take some time now. Imagine the Cross, standing against the darkened sky on the top of Calvary. Jesus is hanging from it by nails in his hands and feet. His flesh is torn. He is bleeding. He has been bleeding for hours. Some of the blood is dried and caked with mud. He is clearly in agony, pain beyond compare, and you can see that on His face. It is not a pretty sight. Most want to turn their eyes away from the sight.

Yet, it is the sight of God's glory. It is how the power of God was most clearly revealed to all people. In many cultures and churches, crucifixes have no blood, just marks where the wounds of Christ would be. In Protestant churches, Jesus is removed from the Cross altogether. Through these actions, we inadvertently make the Cross a pleasant thing to gaze upon, which it was not and is not.

And, He calls us in this Gospel to do the same as He. He, He expects us to fall to the ground and die to ourselves, so that He can create us anew. What suffering is in my life? I do not face some terrible disease or illness. My family is beautiful and whole and healthy. The crosses I face are tiny, insignificant when compared to others, but Christ does not ask us to compare our suffering to others'. He asks us to bear it with Him.

We should adore Christ's bloody body. We should gaze upon His crown of thorns with adoration. We should embrace the life and the death He chose to teach us all how to live and how to die. Do not hesitate. Go to the Cross today, meditate on the death of Jesus and once again, die to yourself. Offer everything to Him; hold nothing back. For only then, will we bear great fruit in this world or possibly not even until the next life.

Lord Jesus, help me to adore your Cross in all of its glory and all of its pain. Give me the courage to lay down everything at your feet, to keep nothing for myself. Let me lie down on the wooden beams with you and be transformed through death to myself. Make me a new person, so I might better glorify my God, my Lord and Savior, the broken, beaten body of Jesus Christ.

Monday, March 23, 2009

More Than You'll Ever Know

This past week I have both experienced and witnessed the incredible power of friends praying for one another. Years ago, my best friend discovered a song that aptly describes the gratitude never adequately expressed for such a gift. Below are the lyrics.

Thank you, Terri! Send this one to those you want to thank for prayers...

More Than You'll Ever Know
by Watermark

Something brought you to my mind today
I thought about the funny ways you make me laugh
And yet I feel like it's okay to cry with you
Something about just being with you
When I leave I feel like I've been near God
And that's the way it ought to be...

'Cause you've been more than a friend to me
You fight off my enemies
'Cause you've spoken the Truth over my life
And you'll never know what it means to me
Just to know you've been on your knees for me
Oh, you have blessed my life
More than you'll ever know, yeah, yeah, yeah
More than you'll ever know, yeah, yeah, yeah

You had faith, when I had none
You prayed God would bring me a brand new song
When I didn't think I could find the strength to sing
And all the while I'm hoping that I'll
Do the kind of praying for you that you've done for me
And that's the way it ought to be...

You have carried me
You have taken upon a burden that wasn't your own
And may the blessing return to you
A hundredfold, oh yeah...
A hundredfold, oh yeah...

Note - I do not actually recommend purchasing the CD, because one of the songs is blatantly anti-Catholic.