Thursday, April 30, 2009

Sunday, May 3, 2009 ~ Fourth Sunday of Easter

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 10:11-18

Jesus said:
"I am the good shepherd.
A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
A hired man, who is not a shepherd
and whose sheep are not his own,
sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away,
and the wolf catches and scatters them.
This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep.
I am the good shepherd,
and I know mine and mine know me,
just as the Father knows me and I know the Father;
and I will lay down my life for the sheep.
I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold.
These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice,
and there will be one flock, one shepherd.
This is why the Father loves me,
because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.
No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own.
I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again.
This command I have received from my Father."


Wow! We are loved this much! I have been greatly inspired to teach my children this Gospel passage over and over again. We have a beautiful image of the Good Shepherd on our prayer table, and I try to remind them repeatedly that Jesus is watching out for them.

Reading the Gospel for me, though, is very comforting. Jesus explains that He will not ever abandon us. He will fight the good fight to save us. He will - and has - even give up His life for us.

He knows us intimately --- "just as the Father knows me and I know the Father." Think about the last flock of sheep you saw. Could you tell them apart? Yet, an experienced shepherd knows his sheep, and they know him apart from any other voice or call. There is nothing about our lives, our thoughts, our souls that Jesus does not know. When we feel ashamed to go to Him, He knows and still waits for us. He knows us as perfectly as Jesus knows God the Father; they are one!

At the end of this passage, the Lord points out His own free will. God Himself chose willingly to lay down His life for us. No one, nothing, not even satan forced Him to do this. There were many other ways He could have crushed satan, but He chose to love us this much. He receives no pay for His work; it is purely out of love that He cares for us. There is no reward but love and devotion in return.

Amazingly, He even cares for the sheep who do not recognize His voice. Can you imagine how difficult it must be for a shepherd to lead sheep who do not know him? Likewise, our Good Shepherd lives to love each one of us, regardless of our inadequacies. He wants to protect each precious soul. He is the Good Shepherd.

Lord, I want to be a part of your flock. I want to know you and know your voice. Please send me the grace to remember you as my Good Shepherd, to rely on your protection through the daily trials of my life. When the wolf comes, remind me of this image, so I might not fear but have trust in your awesome power.

Marian Geography for May

Sorry to only be posting this now, but it was one of those things that I kept remembering and then forgetting again. Obviously, I never wrote down that I wanted to share it with you, which is why it did not "really" exist in my brain! But, at the risk of causing some of you anxiety about starting something tomorrow (you can always catch up), here we go!

Last May, my daughter and I followed The Bookworm on her Marian World Tour. Essentially, this ingenious tour takes one Marian image and title for each day of the month of May and provides background, resources, ideas, and pictures. Each Marian title is from a different country, resulting in a beautiful Marian geography unit!

We kept it simple, since Therese was only five at the time. I printed each day's blog entry in color and put them in a binder (which I still have). Then, we wrote out the titles of Mary on tiny stickers and put them on our world map on the schoolroom wall. All we did was read the blog entry, say a quick prayer for Our Lady's intercession, and put the sticker on the map. It was a beautiful time. I learned about Marian titles that I had not previously known, and it kept our focus on honoring Our Blessed Mother during her month of May!

This year, I think we will do basically the same format. I am going to focus on identifying the continent where the country is found this year, and we might refer to our atlases and almanacs for additional information on the country, perhaps to determine a specific intention we can offer for the country to Our Lady.

Go see Mary Around the World (Marian World Tour) and see how you can fit it in to your May days.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

If you use bad language...then you clean the toilet!

On Sunday, at a Day of Reflection for homeschooling mothers where we shared tips and encouragement with one another, during a discussion on discipline, one mother shared her use of these charts made by Doorposts. Her example of the If-Then Chart was that if her children use bad language, they must clean a toilet, since that kind of language belongs in the toilet!

The whole idea is to give children additional work beyond their regular chores when they make poor choices. Several mothers concurred that physical activity as a consequence is very effective (i.e. having fighting siblings run around the house ten times to work out their energy and then clean out the garbage can with a hose together).

I am so excited about the idea of ordering some of these charts (even though I have not done it yet) that I thought I would share them with you! This is the description of the If-Then Chart from the website:

This chart is designed to help you be more consistent in disciplining your children. When they disobey, it will help you know what you need to do, and it will help them know what to expect. It has helped my husband and me to be more united in our authority and discipline. Our children have responded very well. The chart is divided into 3 columns. The left-hand column lists common areas of misbehavior, each illustrated with a simple cartoon.

The center column gives a Bible verse related to each sin. The third column is blank, for you to write in the agreed-upon consequences for each misbehavior. The instructions offer suggestions, but you choose your own disciplinary actions.

Our regular wall chart version includes pre-lettered consequences to paste onto your chart, and the small laminated version gives suggestions for writing in your own consequences with a permanent or wipe-off marker.

When a child misbehaves we take him to the chart, read the Scripture, and let him see what the discipline will be. Even our 2-year-old could understand this chart!

The chart helps you deal with the following issues:
Teasing/picking fights/causing trouble
Stealing toys, books, or other items from someone else
Defiance/rebellion against authority
Name calling/foolish or evil speech
Disrespect/rude behavior/poor manners
Irreverent behavior at church

We suggest recognizing your children's godly behavior with the companion chart,
The Blessing Chart. Scripture quotations are primarily from the King James version.

My friend said she uses both the If-Then Chart and the Blessing Chart, and there are a few other charts Doorposts sells, as well. Check them all out!

St. Catherine of Siena Coloring Page + More!

Tomorrow is the feast of St. Catherine of Siena, the first saint we met in Little Flowers. So, I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to introduce you to a woman who draws beautiful coloring pages for saints and feasts (if you have not already found her beautiful blog)!

Go visit Charlotte at Waltzing Matilda and scroll down, looking in her right sidebar for her coloring page links and the one of St. Catherine. She also just posted a beautiful one of St. Joseph the Worker for Friday.

St. Catherine of Siena, pray for us!
St. Joseph, pray for us!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Who Am I?

It cannot be about what I do! It must be about who I am!

This was the beautiful nugget of intimacy Our Lord shared with me some months ago. I am a planner and a do-er. It is a constant chore for me to organize the notes, schedules, plans, calendars, and lists that I create to help me get everything done each day. But, what do I do when it still does not get done?

What about those days that I do not shower until noon? What about the times I get distracted with another task instead of doing what I committed to do? What about sticking to my priorities? Those days, which are many, I feel lost. I am not speaking of days when the children are sick or the power goes out or of other unexpected disasters. Instead, I refer to an inappropriate focus on how I spend my time. My fuzzy brain cannot see until after the fact that I am squandering hours.

A friend sent me an article by Father John A. Hardon, S.J. entitled Gentleness. It was through that article that I began to see that what I do is not nearly as important as who I am in a practical way. I knew, intellectually, that my interior life and the state of my soul was a more important mission than the laundry or the grocery shopping or the math lesson. This article started me on a journey, however, towards the nugget above, a moment of clarity and understanding.

I began to see that no matter what I did, whether it was on my to-do list or was a spontaneous moment, it is how I live those moments that is most important. ”Someone who always stuck to her schedule” is not what I want in my obituary. “A gentle, kind, self-sacrificing soul” would be my goal. And, honestly, most days, I am not living that way. Most days I am either too focused on the lists or too frustrated by ignoring the lists to remember love.

Just like Marie Bellet’s song,“Ay Yi Yi,” my focus all of my life has been my work, my accomplishments, crossing out lines on the lists. The Lord is slowly showing me that while these things are tools to keep order in my life, they really are basically not at all important to the eternal picture. Often, because of striving SO hard to DO things for others, I neglect to BE who God created me to be.

So, take some time this week to reflect on your state in life. Who are you? Who has God created you to be? If we live our daily lives with simple love, carrying out our daily duties will be the most pleasing thing we could offer the Lord. He will smile with us when we cross a task off of our list, but He will glow with joy when we do the work He has given us to do with great love and gentleness.

Thank you, Jesus, for repeatedly reminding me that who I am is infinitely more important than what I do. In this culture where some laugh at that concept and insist that our achievements determine who we are, help me to remember that you created me in your image and likeness and gave me my vocation to do your will. And, I am sorry that you will have to remind me of this time and time again, probably for the rest of my life, but I thank you for your patience and gentleness in showing me this truth again today.