Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Can Anyone Hear Me?

Everybody wants to be heard, right? I mostly lost my voice this week. We have all been fighting the mega-virus these past two weeks. My first thought on Monday when it felt kind of scratchy was: "Moms should not ever lose their voices." It's not like I have a choice whether or not to speak. I have four children, and charades isn't just going to get it done. So, I managed to get through it with my hoarse, painful loud-whispering.

When they didn't listen or I had to repeat myself, I'll admit, my blood started to churn a bit. I just wanted them to hear me! The first time!

And I started thinking about that. My toddler throws tantrums occasionally (don't you love that subjective term?). He wishes more than anything that he could communicate to me exactly why he should get whatever it is he wants, so that is his way. My tween throws tantrums, too, fortunately not as often, and she shouts as she stomps to her room: Why don't you listen to me? What she really means is: Why don't I always get my way?

Yesterday was a great election day. I'm a nerd. I stayed up late, by myself, watching election returns, eating popcorn and Junior Mints. I was trolling the Facebook pages of some friends who were doing the same, and I felt like we were watching together. Voting is about our voice being heard. We want the government to listen to us, because the United States of America has a "government [that is supposed to be] of the people, for the people, [and] by the people." (Gettysburg Address) Right?

But, what about God? Does His blood (work with me on the comparison here) boil when He has to repeat Himself to us over and over again? Does He throw tantrums and yell: Why don't those humans always do it My Way? For He is "the Way, and the Truth and the Life." (John 14:6) And daily, over and over, we don't do it His way.

So, as I am forced to keep my mouth shut more than I would like, I can at least share with you the thoughts in my head. I think the only way to truly be heard is to listen more.

I need to listen to my toddler and anticipate his needs as best as I can, so he feels connected to me. That means ensuring he has the right amount of food, sleep, cuddles, and my focused attention. My tween daughter needs me to stop what I am doing and listen when she shares random musings. She needs me to pat her on the back and grab her for a quick hug more than I do.

God, I really need to make space in my day for the peace and silence needed to hear Him. Since I stopped nursing this summer, there aren't those silent, sitting moments that force me to pause and rest with the Lord. The other morning, I sat in my room and listened to the divine office podcast for Morning Prayer. Kids were in and out. The toddler was up in my lap and down again, running out to fetch a ball and coming back to play catch with me. But, my body was still and my voice was quiet (except for the time I whisper-yelled at the other boys to stop fighting), and I knew I was with God.

If you want to be heard, listen to the Word was God. Find Scripture. Find quiet. Listen. Because He hears our hearts before we even speak a word.

How can your listening skills improve?

Bless Your Heart!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Are you beautiful?

I have the honor of hosting monthly gatherings of Catholic homeschooling moms in my home. We share fellowship and encouragement, and I take notes to send out to those unable to join us that particular month. These are my October notes. We are all sick here, so I'm not able to include photos this time around. Enjoy the thoughts shared!

In October, we talked about the feminine strength from chapter 2 of Momnipotent: "We appreciate beauty." This is a conglomerate of the discussions at our dessert and our breakfast.

We watched the introduction to this session’s discussion on the DVD. Basically, a camera crew walked up to women, clearly mothers, out in a public place and asked each one of them, “Are you beautiful?” The responses ranged from “I’m not comfortable answering that question” to “I think I’m average” to “Uh…um…eh…” and two women acknowledged their beauty, one pointing out that her mother and sister next to her are also beautiful while the other described her inner beauty as a kind person.

Then, we launched into our discussion, where I posed the same difficult question to the moms attending:
·       I realized in my 20s I will never be a size 4 but also that God doesn’t make mistakes.
·       I associate beauty on the inside, not the outside.
·       I notice that super vain people doesn’t have anything to talk about. They are not fun, because they are too self-conscious.
·       This is a struggle during pregnancy, because doctors are always focused on if we are gaining too much weight.
·       Our souls count more than our bodies. We should train our souls to show God’s beauty.
·       Mother Teresa was one of the most beautiful people ever.
·       Being around my mother-in-law, who is very focused on her outward beauty, brings me down. She counts calories and always comments on exercise, so I feel self-conscious.
·       When I look in the mirror, I can tear myself down and blame myself for the way I look.
·       I have struggled with my body since being a teenager, and when I became a mom I lost the body I worked so hard to get.
·       I realized that make-up covers up a woman’s natural beauty and had to stop wearing it.
·       Women who can’t say I am beautiful are only looking at the secular definition of beautiful.
·       Say yes to the question, and it’s not being vain. Just point out others’ beauty, too.

How do we teach the balance of beauty and confidence to our daughters/children?
·       Tell girls they are beautiful. Some say we shouldn’t, because it puts too much focus on physical appearance. But, they need to hear it from their moms and especially their fathers.
·       Compliment our girls’ appearances when they take appropriate care.
·       Porn addictions are rampant. We can counter it for our boys by putting up sacred art. We are naturally drawn to true beauty.
·       When honest children say mom is squishy and soft, accept it as a positive, because that’s how they see it.
·       Sexy is different than beautiful. Explain that the term sexy is degrading and disrespectful, noticing only the outside not the inside.
·       Every child thinks their mother is beautiful.
·       Don’t talk about weight. Talk about being healthy.
·       Your insides are more beautiful than your outsides.
·       Down syndrome children are beautiful.
·       Explain why we dress up for certain things. When we look put together, we show respect for others.
·       Modesty is different for all families, but it is a way to show respect.
·       Appreciate their own sense of style. Balance your guidelines based on their style and respect for others.

How do you enhance your own natural beauty in healthy ways?
·       Take a shower daily. Walk regularly. Eat healthy. Get adequate sleep.
·       I exercise to take care of the body God gave me.
·       For me, eating in front of others, especially my family is tough.
·       Eating healthy helps one feel better, though. Junk food makes me feel like junk.
·       Those who obsess over their weight might actually be seeking affirmation and to be told they are beautiful.
·       We need to break the mold of our Catholic homeschooling stereotype: no jean jumpers.
·       Taking care in one’s appearance is a way to evangelize as moms. We teach our kids to be good examples, and we can do the same.
·       Going to the grocery store with kids means you will be noticed. Smile and keep your sense of humor to show the beauty of motherhood.
·       Be a testimony to motherhood.
·       A smile is a beautiful thing.
·       I feel more beautiful when I am not grouchy. It matters to take care of ourselves.
·       I keep track of my menstrual cycles and my hormone levels to be aware of my emotions and understand my feelings.
·       When we take care of our appearances, we feel better; we act better; and we treat our families better
·       Some people comment that I don’t need to exercise, because I am skinny. But we all need to exercise to be healthy, for our heart and our lungs.
·       Make-up can be an accessory, like shoes or a scarf. It’s not necessary, but it can help one look more polished.

How do you create beauty around you?
·       When my husband comes home I try to act peaceful in the chaos rather than focus on appearances.
·       Develop a solid prayer life.
·       I try to put out a few pretty, little touches, flowers and candles.
·       Accept this season of life, but also teach my children the value of tidiness.
·       Decorate for holidays with the children. It might not look like Pinterest, but it IS beautiful. Let go of the control if you want it to be a certain way, because you will miss them when they are gone.
·       When one area of the house is neat and tidy, the children are attracted to it naturally.

How do you avoid materialism and be at peace with your house and your stuff? And your beauty?
·       Danielle Bean says the key is detachment.
·       Mother Teresa once said:
o   “Every day we have to say yes. To be where he [God, the Universe, Source etc] wants you to be. Total surrender: If he puts you in the street—if everything is taken from you and suddenly you find yourself in the street—to accept to be put in the street at that moment. Not for you to put yourself in the street, but to accept to be put there. This is the difference, to accept. If God wants you to be in the Palace, well then to accept to be in the Palace – so long as you are not choosing to be in the Palace. … This is what makes the difference, total surrender. To accept whatever he gives and to give whatever he takes with a big smile. This is the surrender to God.”
·       We should put relationships before things.
·       My parents had a small house with ten kids. My house is bigger, and we have fewer kids. But I want more. What about those who have more?
·       We should make a habit of denying ourselves to temper our desires.
·       The key is to be okay with having and having not.
·       Does the negative self-talk every go away? Perhaps as we get closer and closer to what really matters, it decreases.
·       Be sure to do a morning offering and an end of day examen at the minimum, so you can let go of where you fall short.
·       Remember that all I can do is all I can do and all I can do is enough.
·       Be happy with what I have, not look at what it could be.
·       Neatness is a personality trait. It comes naturally to some, not to others.
·       My husband expects a clean house. How can I balance his expectations with reality?
·       Teach children that it is an act of service to tidy for Dad.
·       Take a day to do nothing so he sees that you do so much.
·       Know what his pet peeves are, so you can focus on those things, prioritize them.
·       Change and greet him joyfully most days, regardless of the mess, so he sees your effort.
·       When you feel like you want more things, count your blessings. Be content.
·       Clutter is tough. Storage is a challenge. Constantly declutter. If it doesn’t fit in your space, get rid of it.
·       Keep toys only in certain rooms, so they don’t overtake the house.
·       Stop storing so much. If you’re not using it now, someone else might need it now.
·       Remember that everything is from God. Don’t compare to others.

Are you beautiful?

Bless Your Heart!