Friday, February 28, 2014

7 Posts in 7 Days

I feel so validated that other, more seasoned bloggers, are having trouble sticking to this commitment we made to ourselves, to you. Even Jen who created the challenge has been challenged. Phew! I thought it was just because I haven't blogged in forever!

This is tough. And I think it is tough for different writers for differing reasons. I have no illusions that more than a handful of friends are reading my posts this week. I have no grand schemes to launch my blog into fame or fortune. I write, mostly for myself, to feel a part of the bigger world, the inter webs. :)

But, I do think that since God gave me the desire to write and the ability to write moderately well, there must be something I can say that at some time will bless at least one mom's heart. In fact, when I was in college, I was invited to speak to the National Association of Catholic Campus Ministers to encourage them in their ministries. My speech focused on a quote by Mother Teresa:

"We know only too well that what we are doing is nothing more than a drop in the ocean. But if the drop were not there, the ocean would be missing something."

So, here I am today with no links and no pictures and barely a post at all. And I am one step closer to continuing to write, not to quit when it gets tough, because I feel that as mothers we so need moments to rejoice and suffer, seek and discover, together, wherever we may be on this long journey to holiness. 

What topics would you like to see me address in upcoming posts? (yes, I realize I am asking you to do some of my work for me!) TIA

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Early to Rise?

Tuesday night, I was blessed to listen to most of a presentation given by Maria Rioux as part of Homeschool Connections' REFRESH Midwinter Virtual Conference. If you don't know about this, do click on over. These webinars are completely FREE!, and while you sit and view the live presentation, you can snuggle little ones and participate in live chats, too! This is the third year Walter and Maureen have organized these sessions to help Catholic homeschoolers through February, aka burnout month. You can even watch most of the previous year's webinars anytime for free!

Honestly, I took a whole page of notes on what Maria shared in less than an hour. Her topic was Ora et Labora: Loving Service as Prayer, and she had so many good thoughts and quotes. The one that has been stuck in my mind, however, is truly meaningful and quite simple. I won't try to quote her exactly, but she said something like...

Go easy on yourself. Yes, you need prayer time, but sometimes we put too much focus on having alone time for silent meditation when we have small children. There have been seasons in my motherhood where I couldn't even use the bathroom alone, much less get alone time for prayer.

Thank you, Maria, for giving me permission to let go of that expectation, for now. As 2014 began, and I tried to decide what resolutions to attempt, I kept reading about mothers, some with small children, who shared their habit of waking early before their children in order to pray and blog. It sounds glorious to me, as much as I hate mornings. The thing I want the most this year is more time to pray and write.

Having learned as a law school widow (a post for another time) that key to my happiness is realistic expectations, however, I went on Facebook and asked my actual friends, people whom I have seen face to face and hugged delightedly, if anyone who still gets up to nurse a baby at night is getting up early in the morning to be alone in prayer. Overwhelmingly, the answer was no. At least half a dozen friends told me they are waking up with their children in the 6-8AM range.

Phew! I'm not alone! Yes, getting up before the children can be a delightful gift to a weary mother whose soul needs fed, but getting up before the children also means, sometimes, waking the baby who is on top of you. It can be absolutely draining to a weary mother whose body simply needs more sleep. That was me in January. It's a slightly different story in February, as our gradual night weaning is going fairly well, and I'm getting better rest.

So, when I heard Maria share her thoughts about realistic prayer time for mothers, I was reminded that in this season of young children, I am called by God to take the moments I have been given and offer them to Him, as humble as they might be. If I have a few minutes of waiting for the pasta pot to boil at lunch, I can pray. When I am driving in the car, and the children are interested in their books for a bit, I can pray. If I do awake in the morning early and the baby is asleep on me, I can offer a few words of prayer before drowsily falling back to sleep. It is not going to be perfect, sometimes it is not even going to be pretty, but every little bit is a taste of grace. And I can never get enough grace!

As an example, yesterday morning, I went straight from nursing to showering to cooking breakfast, but when we had eaten, I had a few minutes while the children were finishing their chores. I sat on the couch, grabbed a children's Bible, the three-year-old, and the baby and pulled up iBreviary on my iPhone. Each line of the Psalms was punctuated by questions about the Bible stories and a wiggly nursling, but it was beautiful and necessary to this weary mama.

What time do you wake up? What are your morning prayer habits?

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Share a Prayer

I have started three different posts today, but my brain is too foggy to make much sense. Instead, I thought I would think outside of myself and ask for your prayers for the retreaters of Aggie Awakening #100 this coming weekend and the former retreaters and staffers who will be a part of the Aggie Awakening Reunion Weekend. I know there are only a few readers here these days, but every prayer means volumes to me and to God.

Aggie Awakening is a retreat that takes place three times a year for college students and is run by the students of St. Mary's Catholic Center at Texas A&M University. St. Mary's changed me into who I am today. At the end of my first semester at A&M, thanks to the amazing ministry there, I stepped away from the cradle Catholicism I had known and into the more challenging waters of a daily call to holiness. The Aggie Awakening retreat, quite truly, changed my life, building my leadership skills, forming my prayer life, and ultimately, leading me to my husband.

So, as you go about your weekend plans, please say a prayer for the 100 college students who are attending the retreat for the first time and are experiencing a dramatic wake up call to faith, as well as the thousands of families attending the reunion to bolster their spiritual lives and reconnect with old prayer partners. Thank you!

And, if you know nothing about St. Mary's, you can check out their amazing new promotional video. I truly hope my children are able to experience Truth and Light at St. Mary's...

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

What Makes Your Homeschool Catholic?

In keeping with the spirit of Jen's seven posts in seven days, this one has been in the draft folder a long time with several other similar posts. I  host a monthly breakfast for Catholic Homeschooling Moms, and we usually discuss a predetermined topic. I try to take notes and then send those out to the list of over 60 moms who have expressed interest in attending at some time. (we have 5-10 women typically join us)
So, these notes are from last summer! Since most of us wish to homeschool so that we can impart the faith to our children, we shared ideas on What makes your homeschool Catholic? With Lent approaching, I found this list has wonderful ideas for families to consider. Which do you feel the need to incorporate in your home? What did we forget to mention?

Update: It looks like the links failed to transfer. I will come back and fix them later today. Sorry!


    Pray the Rosary daily, even with young children, even if it's just a decade. Get some Catholic religious coloring books or buy crocheted or make simple silk toddler Rosary roses.
  • Attend daily Mass if you can. Of course, some parishes are more conducive to daily Mass with small children and some are not. Go to different churches at different times to find one that works for you. Sit up front; children can see more and pay attention better. There are seasons when some families just can't go to daily Mass; that's okay.
  • Teach sensitive topics at a developmentally appropriate age and include the Truth of the Catholic faith. When children ask questions about where babies come from, be honest, but only say what they need to hear at that age. As they get older, refer to Catholic resources, especially the Catechism.
  • When you pass a Catholic Church, hear sirens from emergency vehicles, pass a cemetery, etc... make the sign of the cross and/or offer some short ejaculatory prayer. Teach your children some traditional ejaculations, such as found here.
  • Learn and read about the saints. You can read about the saint of the day and provide books for your children to read independently or as part of their lessons.
  • Say a morning offering, prayers, and/or pledge together before starting school.
    • I have attached our daily homeschool prayer pages.
    • L suggested singing the morning offering. Here is a sample.
  • Read Scripture, especially perhaps the Gospel of the Day. We sometimes try to do this after breakfast or lunch before we leave the table. Make sure your Bibles are approved Catholic translations. (see devotional use Bibles here)
  • Create a family altar or prayer table/area, including appropriate items based on the liturgical season and feasts - Lent, Advent, Christmas, Easter, saints, etc...
  • Make your Catholicism visible. Include the use of holy cards, religious artwork, holy water (especially when you leave and return to your home), small statues, blessed oil, blessed salt, and other sacramentals in your home.
  • Live the liturgical year in your home. Plan special activities for seasons and feast days. These can be as simple or as complex as you wish.
  • Celebrate Feast Days/Name Days of your children with a special treat (i.e. on the Feast of St. Thomas, your child named Thomas chooses a special family dessert, meal or outing). Also, celebrate their Baptism Days in the same way, since this is their birthday in the Church. Set aside part of your wedding anniversary day to celebrate all together (we call it our Family Birthday and always eat white cake with white icing!).
  • When you go on vacations, be sure to attend Mass and try to include a pilgrimage to some religious site. You can also plan local pilgrimages to various churches, such as on the feast day of the patron of the church (visit St. Mark's on his feast day, etc...), and the Missions.
  • Attend Catholic co-ops, support groups, play groups, etc... and help your children develop friendships with other Catholics. This common ground helps them (and you) to solidify their faith. Other groups and friends are good, too, but making the sacrifice to include Catholic activities will nourish the family's spirituality.
  • Above all remember that the ultimate goal of your homeschool is to get your children to Heaven. Which curriculum you choose and how you teach pales in comparison to leading these little souls to Christ. Do not forget the simple things, the little traditions that can be infused throughout your days to create a culture of Catholicism in your family.
Which do you feel the need to incorporate in your home? What did we forget to mention?

Monday, February 24, 2014

Happiness is...Writing a Blog Post

"People desire joy and happiness more than anything else in the world. There are many popular expressions of this sentiment in every language and culture. For example, we wish people good luck or good fortune. This is certainly a noble and worthy custom. And yet, all of this wishing does suggest that people are not that successful in finding joy and happiness in their lives." Lukewarmness: The Devil in Disguise, Francis Carvajal
"A 'happiness project' is an approach to the practice of everyday life. First is the preparation stage, when you identify what brings you joy, satisfaction, and engagement, and also what brings you guilt, anger, boredom, and remorse. Second is the making of resolutions, when you identify the concrete actions that will boost your happiness. Then comes the interesting part: keeping your resolutions." Happier at Home: Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon a Project, Read Samuel Johnson, and My Other Experiments in the Practice of Everyday Life, Gretchen Rubin

"Happiness. Purpose. Meaning. Everyone wants to be happy. Do you create circumstances to nurture this desire and enjoy your journey through life? I hope so. Too often I meet people who are not. Perhaps you say you are just too busy surviving to be happy. Have you ever met someone who wasn't busy? The chances are good that you have not; at least not recently." Living Intentionally, Laryn Weaver
Happiness is... unexpected inspiration.

Like most bibliophiles, I read multiple books at a time. The above three quotes are from three books I am currently reading. In fact, they are the first few sentences of each. Honestly, I did not set out to read specifically about happiness this month. Baby #4 is about to be one year old next month, and I have felt the need to dig myself out of survival mode and begin to live more intentionally. Yes, I know a year is a long time to get stuck in reaction-mode versus living intentionally, but when you form habits of living daily life, it can be challenging to notice they are bad habits, much less resolve to change some of them.
I don't know about you, but the two things I tend to neglect during survival mode are all about me, my interior, spiritual life and my emotional and physical well-being. The laundry has to get done. The children have to eat. We have to complete our school work. We even have to clean the house periodically. Even my ministry and my business get attention. People are depending on me, after all. But, things that revolve entirely around Mom get left out, and that's not good. The result is that the joy I experience is fleeting, and I am completely drained. every. single. day.

So, I was given the first book from my BFF who knows what I need. In confession, she mailed that book to me last fall, but I wasn't ready for it. Now I am. I picked up the second book, at the recommendation of another friend, curious that Rubin chose her home as her second project, since that is where I spend the majority of my time. And, the third book I found by chance, or more likely by the careful orchestration of the Holy Spirit, as I listened to an inspiring training call for my business and realized the speaker was Catholic. When I heard she wrote a book, I knew I had to read it.

Happiness is...the presence of God.

I was expecting Rubin's book to be about happiness. I was not expecting the other two to mention the trait in the first few sentences. My thoughts have been swimming about the confluence of these topics ever since: fervent faith, happiness at home, and living intentionally, such that I've been unable to read past the first few pages of any of the three. Of course, the fact that most of my reading is currently done while nursing and rocking baby to sleep, making it next to impossible to highlight or take notes during my reading has been a huge factor. I process so much better when I write things down, and this topic begs my attention.

Am I happy? Yes. Deep down there is a peace that sits steady. I have lived enough and been blessed enough to know that I am infinitely loved by an awesome God. What I lack most days is joy, the outward sign of an internal happiness. My children deserve a joyful mother, and my heart longs to deliberately and prayerfully find ways to be joyful.

Happiness is...looking forward to fun!

Many years ago, while trying to order my life after baby #1, I followed the sage advice of FlyLady, and one of the things I added to my binder was a list of things that bring me joy. I still have that list even though the binder has changed and morphed into an electronic task list of sorts. It says things like read books, laugh out loud, eat chocolate, spend time outside, talk with friends, and write. As I was contemplating the list most recently, I keep settling on the idea of writing.

This space has been neglected for too long. This space that brings me joy. It is going to take moving mountains to spend time each day here, but I am going to try again. Thanks to Jen Fulwiler, I have motivation to create a new habit and write seven posts in seven days! I hope at least one of my posts brings someone like you a little joy, a little inspiration for this last week of February! Click below to find more bloggers joining Jen's challenge!

What is something that brings you joy? Are you including it in your daily life?

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Let Go and Let God

Let go and let God. They taught us that in college at my awesome campus ministry. It was the first time I had heard the concept of total abandonment to God in our daily lives.

As a college student, I learned to turn to prayer for all things. I asked God to help me make wise decisions. I knew the decisions were still mine, but I asked for the Holy Spirit to guide me. This was a big step for me. My entire life I was taught how to anticipate and control my life, and I did it well, mostly the result of my personality type. A!!!

When I was seriously discerning my vocation shortly before graduation, I learned how to abandon even the direction of my life to God. At first, that involved assuring Him that if He told me where to go, I would enter a convent and let Him be the center of my life, the only love of my life, in complete obedience to whatever order I joined.

You see, I still wanted to give God control over my life in a way that I could control, or at least anticipate. Does that even make sense? He taught me in almost an instant the potential within the vocation of marriage to live a life of holiness, one that seemed (and still does) more difficult to me than any other vocation, and that is why He wanted it for me. Because it is the path that would give me the most opportunity to grow in holiness. There would be no one to tell me what to do every hour of the day; it was up to me to listen to God directly. I was terrified of this, but I made a choice to listen. The man I was to marry became clear to me in uncanny ways.

So, I got married to a great friend. As a new bride, I knew the potential for sanctification in the married vocation. I had confidence that my husband and I had the faith and tenacity (a.k.a. stubbornness) to live the model of a Catholic marriage. My manual were the holy married families I got to know in early marriage, such loving, giving, joyful friends. God was leading us. Every decision we made was made in prayer. We studied and discussed the Church's teachings on marriage and promised God to follow Him.

It did not take long for God to ask more of us. I had health issues. We moved across the country, leaving friends, family, and familiarity. Our marriage and our faith was tested, but we still felt the image of a holy Catholic family was within our reach. As I waited for God to fix everything and get us back on track, I began to see that this time of waiting involved a new kind of letting go, but I could not fully understand it. Finally getting pregnant preceded another move across the country and a huge dose of humble pie. I was in a fog, because I knew I had to let God control everything. But, I felt helpless and forgotten.

I think God was asking me if I was really willing to give Him complete control over my life and the lives of those I love. While outwardly I said yes and went along with all the changes, inwardly I was crushed. I had not realized the way of the cross was part of this life I had chosen. Our daily lives improved, but it was like my spiritual life had taken several huge steps backwards.

Of course, in the middle of all of this, I had a newborn, a fussy newborn. Need I say more? My days and nights were spent figuring out this motherhood thing, and I constantly begged God to help me keep going. I felt like I was giving all control to this baby, not to God, but I was allowing God to teach me through the child. My prayer life was in snippets, offering every mundane task as a prayer, because I felt I had nothing left to give beyond what I was giving my child. But, I did see a glimpse of that ideal Catholic family life return. My plan might still work out.

Moving across the country again and having another baby were new tests to my faith, but I endured. I finally realized that my life would be full of such challenges, and I started to understand that my plan was worthless. While this is a pretty significant step towards letting go and letting God, it was not some monumental moment, just a quiet acceptance. This time, though, instead of living helplessly in a fog, I kept my confidence that God had a purpose in all things, and that purpose is to lead me to Him. As a result, I stopped thinking long-term in earthly ways.

My focus became fulfilling my daily responsibilities for God. I started to see that what He puts in front of me on a daily basis is an invitation to grow closer to Him. One foot in front of the other I move towards Jesus and trust that the Lord will indeed "give us this day our daily bread" and not a morsel more or less.

From time to time (okay, fairly often), I fall back into my old ways of wanting my plan to work out. And I do pray for what I want, asking God to consider the desires of my heart. But I always turn back to letting go and letting God run my life. It's too exhausting to fight against Him! I grow in faith by repeating endlessly - Jesus, I trust in you!