Friday, January 6, 2012

Women of Inspiration

Today was our monthly Catholic homeschooling group's First Friday Mass and lunch. I was completely overcome in Mass this morning by being surrounded by such awesome women and their families! Truly, it was humbling and inspiring to look from face to face and see the faith and devotion these ladies have. In my experience, Catholic homeschooling mothers are some of the most beautiful images of God I have ever seen.

While I know personally only about half of the families there, I know I could ask any one of them to pray for me or help me in some need, and they would provide in abundance. I know that they are all watching out for my children in the lunch hall and on the playground when my two eyes cannot catch all three little ones, because every one of them treasures every child as a miraculous gift from God. I know these women are the friends who will pray me to holiness, as we walk together in this vocation, teaching our children and leading them to Him.

And, amazingly, whether a large group or a small group, I have found such women in all three states in which we have homeschooled (Michigan, Florida, and Texas). The Body of Christ surrounds us, and to be together with like minded women who have similar days and nights helps me walk this walk better than anything I can do with my own power. With them and trust in God, I am confident I can not only survive this lifestyle but thrive amidst the gifts that are my children and the opportunity to teach them at home.

So, ladies, near and far, thank you for walking with me. Thank you for surrounding me with joy and love and peace and faith. Just your presence is enough to lift me up, whether I need lifting or not!

Do you know the women of whom I speak? Where can you find them in your town?


This Job Is Hard

Falling into the couch the other night after a long day, my husband says to me, "This is hard work!" He was referring to the complex task of raising three children that day. His simple comment stuck with me, as I realized I needed to be reminded of this fact.

So, here is your reminder, Friend. This job is hard. Motherhood. Homeschooling. They are not easy tasks, and we should not keep hoping for the day when it will get easier. Don't get me wrong. It does get easier. Different seasons of life result in different levels of difficulty. But, in the grand scheme of things, this job is hard. It is hard, because it is important.

Physically, by the end of the day (or the middle of the day) you want to fall to the ground and surrender. Of course, this may not apply if you are under the age of 30! You may ache from pregnancy, ache from a night with a toddler flopping all over you as he slept, ache from running to rescue dare devil children from certain injury, ache from rocking an infant for hours, ache from keeping up with children at a park or zoo, ache from standing all day long (the last time you sat was to go to the restroom, and that was yesterday), or other similar feats.

Then, there are the worries. Are they eating enough? Sleeping enough? Are they behind in math? Ahead in spelling? Do they know Jesus? Will they keep the faith? Who are their friends? Are they healthy? How do I keep them safe? Do they have kind hearts? Will they get to Heaven? These and more spin in our heads, as we try to do what's best for our babies. A mother's worries never end...unless she finds the peace in giving it all to God.

The heart of a mother is stretched like her bulging belly during pregnancy. We are forced to love harder than we ever thought possible, which makes loss that much more painful. Someday our children will "leave the nest." Even though my oldest is only nine, I am starting to see evidence that she will one day walk away from me and have "her own life." The years of my influence are waning, and so I feel called to love her ever more each day. I work harder to help her grow into the strong, delightful young lady I know God has created her to be. But, this mother's heart knows I am not in control. God will lead her. I just have to keep trying to steer her back towards Him over and over again.

To raise virtuous children, I must grow in virtue. I must control my reactions. I must never let my guard down. It is exhausting, as it should be. We are called to give our all to God to fulfill His will for us. His will for me is to raise these babies and give them back to Him, so if I do not give every ounce of myself every day to glorifying Him in this vocation, I fail. It is okay to be tired. I must acknowledge that I am working hard.

Note: I do not mean that if your sanity is compromised by your exhaustion, that is excusable. Sometimes we truly do need a helping hand, whether from another person or by giving ourselves a break and/or cutting something on our to-do list. I am speaking here about the general day-to-day weariness that comes from loving until it hurts but still knowing in your mother's heart that you can do it all over again tomorrow.

For God has designed motherhood. Our model of motherhood, the Blessed Virgin Mary, had the most difficult motherhood of any. She saw her son ridiculed and crucified, knowing that He was the Son of God. What a painful way to let go of your only child! In Mary's strength, we can find strength for this job. We can endure its struggles and be renewed in mind and spirit to carry on with a loving, gentle, mother's heart.

How do you cope with exhausting days? Have you found ways to stay consistent despite the weariness?


Thursday, January 5, 2012

A New Year's Gift

Happy New Year’s! I received a gift from Jesus on Sunday, and I want to share it with you.
We had a wonderful Christmas, enjoying intimate family time here at home before I took the children to visit the grandparents while Daddy went back to work. The time visiting was hectic but so blessed by love and laughter! Coming home was a great shock to my system, as my husband quickly noticed I needed a vacation from my vacation.
In fact, for a couple of days, all of the things I needed to accomplish before the new week could begin were swimming in circles in my head, not unlike those sugarplums dancing just a week prior. I thought about them, complained to myself how much there was to do, and did... Absolutely.Nothing!
I was overwhelmed, much like a deer in headlights, a character trait of mine I often lament. There was conference work to be done, homeschooling plans to make, bills to pay, laundry to do, email to answer, and football to watch. It was simply inconceivable to me how I survive on a daily basis with so many responsibilities.
Confession. I did not do absolutely nothing. I watched football, drank Shiner, and napped for a couple of days. And I did a few loads of laundry, so we all had clean necessities.
Then, it was Sunday. Sunday, of course, is a gift in and of itself, but all I could see was Mass, more football, more Shiner, and more napping! Hooray! The rest was way too much to face. If I ignored it, would it all go away?
As these thoughts were swimming in my head, I walked into Mass somewhere just before communion.
Explanation. Unfortunately, my youngest child has not yet mastered a good night’s sleep, and so if he falls asleep during the thirty-minute drive to Sunday Mass, we let him sleep. The alternative is waking him up, which results in a grumpy boy who will not stay quiet or still in Mass anyway and must be taken out.
Anyway, I say my Rosary in the van and try to pray while waiting for him to wake up. Usually, I get to hear at least half of the homily, because he naps about 45 minutes total. On the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, however, he slept longer. So, we walk in, stay at the back, and I try to enter into worship for the last few minutes of Mass.
I try to shed all the moaning I just did in the van, telling God I just have no motivation to get started on any of the daunting tasks in front of me in the days to come. Jesus, please help me, I beg. With that slight opening of my heart, He enters. An angelic voice from the choir begins singing the Ave, and it hits me.
None of my concerns have anything to do with this.
I am before God Almighty working out my salvation, and nothing else is nearly as important.
At all.
This gift, this realization, gave me new life. It was just a moment, but on my knees, snuggling a still groggy toddler, gazing upon His Body and Blood in the Eucharist, I knew I could do it all for Him. I could do it all with Jesus.
That night, after a day of naps, Shiner, and football (and some giggly family time), I made a to-do list, and I dove in head first. A few days later, I have still not made a sizable dent in that list, but these tasks will not defeat me. One thing at a time, He will see me through.
Is your list too long? How do you maintain the proper perspective while dealing with the day to day? Jesus, I trust in You!