Friday, December 2, 2011

My Quest for Quiet

How can a busy wife and homeschooling mom find quiet? It seems next to impossible. On Thanksgiving Day, after cooking all day and feeding my family, I put the baby in the stroller and took a short walk around the neighborhood. The quiet was so alluring that it was difficult to go back home.

In that quiet, I could really talk to God, honestly. I knew He was with me, near me, could truly feel his presence.

Late at night when I am up with my wakeful toddler, I try to pray. I can get through one or two decades of a Rosary with a sincere heart. Then, I either get too tired or too frustrated to pray meaningfully. My words are empty.

In the morning, if I remember to stay in my nursing chair for just a few extra minutes to pray an offering, I am already being pulled in several directions by the needs of my family. Breakfast, schoolwork, laundry, and more beg my attention. Two minutes is something but not enough.

We periodically have quiet time in the middle of the day, but when the toddler is ready for his nap, my older two children are still finishing schoolwork, often needing my assistance. Taking time away from them for prayer escapes me. Most often I just escape online, an easier way to “get away.”

Several times in my life as a mother I have made early morning quiet time work for me, before anyone else is up. That time has been like precious gold and fed me in miraculous ways. It has not worked, however, in quite a while. I am generally trying to keep the wakeful toddler quiet long enough for everyone else to sleep.

And, so this Advent, I am begging God to show me the quiet. I want to be with Him and talk with Him, to share my joys and struggles, to open myself to His love and His mercy, both of which I so desperately need. I know He is all around me; I pray for my eyes to see and my ears to hear.

I have all confidence that God will give me opportunities for quiet. He wants me to be with Him even more than I desire to be with Him (but I am the one who *needs* Him). My greater prayer is for the self-discipline to accept these gifts of quiet, to allow myself moments with my Lord.

I pray for you, my friend, that in ways and times that suit our seasons in life, we may both embrace the quiet we are given to be with the Lord in peaceful anticipation of the Birth of His Son.


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Why I Love Homeschooling

Because yesterday morning we began reading this book, which we picked up from our local library system a few days ago...

at the recommendation of the Serendipity American History Trails.

And yesterday afternoon at the playground we met Baxter, a five-year-old, 116 pound, Newfoundland dog that looked like this...

Our family calls these circumstances God-incidences (instead of coincidences). It was so awesome to see up close and personal the kind of dog that accompanied Lewis on his adventures!

Why do you love homeschooling?


In God's Hands

I was sharing with my parents last night something that has been bouncing about in my mind the past few months. As parents, we make millions of decisions about raising our children over the course of their childhoods. Some decisions are small and seemingly unimportant (can she wear mismatched clothes to the party? should they eat McDonald's franken-nuggets?), and some are important life-defining choices (when should they receive sacraments? where should they go to school?). We try to discern God's will and do the best thing in each circumstance.

To put it simply, I am amazed that my parents did this same thing for me (and my brother, of course). As a child, even as an adult, I was not aware of the conversations they must have had about what was best for me. It is clear to me that they had these conversations, because I know they are intentional people who do things deliberately, not randomly.

And, because I was completely unaware of this master-planning of my upbringing, it is stunning to me the responsibility parents have for their children. (well, parents who intentionally set out to raise responsible adults, that is) In fact, I often feel my husband and I are orchestrating some grand symphony whose many parts are dizzying as we try to juggle them all!

The reality is that we can steer our children one way or another. We can attempt to instill in them the same priorities that we decide are most important in life. Yet, they will, in the end, be in God's hands. They will do whatever they want (like get engaged to a guy they have only dated for three months and move across the country a few times with him to chase dreams even taking your grandchildren thousands of miles away from you...) and as parents we have to embrace it all.

Yes, we can try to be the conductor of our children's lives and dreams. We can hope to lead them towards the best path, especially the road to sanctification. But we also just need to love them and trust that God is truly the master planner of their lives. Because at some point, they will leave us, and I can only hope and pray that they will not leave God.

Thanks, Mom and Dad, for all your careful decisions in raising me. I think I turned out okay! As I parent my own children, now, I beg God's guidance in leading them to be what He created them to be, and I pray for their faith so that when I am far away, they will follow God's will, not mine, not theirs.


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

God's Unique Will for Each of Us

Being in the public eye is something I never wish to encounter personally. I am happy to live my quiet unknown life as a wife and homeschooling mom! Three times this week I have noticed public criticism of Christians who I sincerely believe are trying to follow God's unique will for their lives that made me want to jump up on my soap box and shout. (yes, two involve football!)

Tim Tebow - I read his autobiography, Through My Eyes, and while I will not say it was especially well written by his co-writer, I found it compelling. Mostly I was fascinated how a homeschooled kid found success in the highly secularized world of college football. I learned that he was taught and still believes that his football talent is God's way of providing him a platform through which to share the Good News. He loves football with a passion and has been successful, because he is always seeking to glorify God.

The sports pundits will tell you that he is not a good NFL quarterback. They are only partly right, IMHO. Yes, Tebow has some room for growth in his skill and development as a professional player, but the bottom line is he is winning games. I fully believe, and I am guessing he does, too, that this is God's way of making sure he continues to have a platform to share Jesus Christ with as many people as possible. Of course, there is the continued criticism that he always mentions his faith when in public, and doing is is "getting old." To me, this is merely the persecution we can all expect when being openly religious in a God-less culture.

Urban Meyer - Sorry. I cannot help it. I absolutely love football. And, my mother was born and raised in the Buckeye State! Most media has been positive about Meyer's decision, but there have been a few hints of skepticism about his ability to coach successfully after his personal near-collapse a year ago. The most blatant criticism I read was on a friend's Facebook status, which read (and I imagine was dripping with sarcasm) "I guess Urban Meyer has had enough time with his family." Really?

Why are we second-guessing someone's personal decision about his career? His family is supportive of his decision to take the head coaching job at Ohio State. He made no secret in press conferences about their family meeting and the tough scrutiny his wife and children gave him before agreeing to the position. He even shared the details of the "contract" his daughter wrote, explaining her requirements for supporting the decision. They have prayerfully chosen to go home to Ohio as a family. Enough already.

Danielle Bean - The most egregious criticism...Elizabeth Foss beautifully articulated my soapbox points already on Mrs. Bean's new position as editor in chief of Catholic Digest. For faithful Catholics to judge her decision to take on this job while homeschooling her eight children is appalling. How dare they suggest she is neglecting her family by taking on this role? Do they know her personally to determine her capabilities?

I do not, but I can imagine that she also prayerfully made this choice with her family's support. Clearly she is an amazing woman of God, evidenced by her writing and leadership skills, but I am certain she is also dedicated to her family and the education of her children. The Bean family has discerned that she is capable of handling both the work at home and professional work. Perhaps they have help from family and friends to succeed in their homeschooling. Perhaps she has simply been gifted with an efficiency and generous heart that knows no limits. Only God knows all.

Homeschooling? - My point in sharing these three examples is that it is easy to love the life you have chosen for your family, but we should never claim to know God's will for another. Because I have embraced homeschooling, I do believe that it is the most wonderful vocation there is, and I do believe it is the best way to educate my children. But, your children are yours. You choose to educate them according to God's will for your family.

Whether you work out of the home or stay at home, a mother's heart is her own, and knowing the path that will lead your family to eternal life is between you and God. Accordingly, let us be very careful not to question the decisions of others, especially when we do not know them personally. Let us simply pray for God's will to be done and that they will accept His graces to fulfill His will, not our own.

Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Outward Appearances

My daughter asked me this morning how she can prove to me she has improved her attitude. You see, I had to exact a certain punishment for some mouthiness and noticing that I have had to do so numerous times in the past two days, I decided the punishment was in effect indefinitely until I could see her attitude improved. (that brought on quite the scowl!) We discussed how she needs to stop blurting out whatever complaint is on her mind and strive to be more positive.

But, how will Mom know she kept the negative thought to herself? (she and I already agree I cannot read minds, generally speaking) I pondered her excellent question for a moment before explaining that the only way I can tell her attitude is appropriate is through her voice and body language. Her responses to me and her expression have to be pleasant, and she should appear peaceful if not outwardly joyful. Easier said than done, of course, as we all struggle with self-control on a regular basis.

And yet, how many times do I internally remind myself that I am doing this motherhood thing for all the right reasons and yet not externally prove that to the people around me? My mind is constantly racing with many things throughout the day, and so my expression is often anything but pleasant while my attitude may be positive (or at least neutral). Once again, the Lord uses my children to teach me.

After all, it has become a habit for me to deliberately force a relaxed smile once my little guy has fallen asleep in my arms before putting him down, because that simple smile relaxes my entire body and increases the likelihood that he will stay asleep once his body touches the mattress! So, I guess that in order to receive a pleasant attitude from my daughter, I should force a few more of those smiles.

Per my own advice, my inner disposition is only proven by my outward appearance, and something tells me that a little more effort on my part will radiate to my little girl and make it easier for her to grow in virtue. Win-win! (Duh, Mom!)

Take notice of the impression you make on others with your body language today and see what attitude you convey.


Monday, November 28, 2011

Advent Change

Yes, the words of the Mass changed yesterday, and everyone is talking about it. But, did you change?

Did you go to Mass in need and come away fulfilled? Did you allow Christ in the Eucharist to transform your life? Did hearing the words of the Mass elevate you just a little higher towards God? Isn't this what we should pray for every time we encounter Him?

I have been asking myself: What good is it to meet God on Sunday and be the same on Monday as you were on Saturday? And, what good is a morning offering, a noon Angelus, or an evening Rosary if there is no substantial change after each?

The Church's liturgical seasons are opportunities for change. Lent is especially seen as a chance to better ourselves through sacrifice. But, I typically think of Advent as preparing myself to receive Jesus, getting myself ready for Christmas Day, not necessarily doing the hard work of change.

This year, however, I am approaching Advent not as four weeks before Christ's birth, but as today and tomorrow and the next day. I want to embrace the opportunities to encounter God each day and strive to be open to the stirrings in my heart that beg me to more closely imitate Jesus. I pray I will allow Him to transform me a little more each moment I visit Him in prayer and service to others.

Because every encounter with God is an opportunity for change. He is coming. I want to be there to meet Him. Will you join me?