As the Family Goes

JP II Quote

"As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live." John Paul II

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Our Angel Gabriel

A few weeks ago, Jeff and I discovered that I was having a miscarriage. We barely would have known because I was so early along, except that I have been through miscarriage once before. I had taken pregnancy tests as recently as two weeks before the miscarriage occured, which came out negative. However when I suspected that I was miscarrying, I took another test which came out positive. One more little angel for us.

I had suspected I was pregnant a few weeks before Advent began. I had put on a few pounds, my midsection was starting to shift, and my pants were getting tighter. My youngest son whom I was still breastfeeding started getting fussy and refusing his feedings - usually the biggest sign that I am pregnant, because my milk changes and the baby doesn't like it anymore. I took a few tests, which, as I mentioned, came out negative. I became obsessed with checking, watching my weight like crazy and taking pregnancy tests every few days. I felt like I just HAD to know what was going on! As Advent approached however, the Lord began to convict me that I needed to trust in Him. And so, the week before Advent began, I resolved to neither weigh myself nor take a pregnancy test until the fourth week of Advent. In preparation for the feast of the Nativity, I would truly enter into Mary's expectant waiting by mirroring it, as best I could, in my own life. I did so fully expecting to have joyful news to announce to family and friends, just in time for Christmas.

Not long into the second week of Advent, I began to bleed. I assumed it was my period, and I was completely dumbfounded and confused at how I possibly could have misinterpreted things so badly. Up until that point I was certain I was pregnant, and I felt a sense of loss that there would be no baby, at least not yet. It wasn't until the second day of my bleeding that the full picture of what was going on became evident. It began to be less like a period, and more like what happens in the days following the birth of a child. It also was very similar to what had happened when I miscarried for the first time in 2005. Jeff and I both agreed that I should take a pregnancy test, in the event that we were losing a child, because we wanted to know if a life had been created. And indeed, it had.

I felt very clearly initially that the Lord didn't want me to give up hope, and so I didn't. As the days went on however, it became more evident. When we entered Advent with the hope that we were expecting, we had talked about naming the baby Gabriel, in honor of the season of waiting, and Gabriel's message of hope to Mary. Now as we simultaneously rejoiced over another precious child created, and were saddened by his loss, it seemed to be the most fitting. And so it came to be that our seventh child Gabriel was conceived, and now lives in Heaven with his brother John Paul, where we know we can joyfully expect to be reunited one day.

When you miscarry so early, it's hard to really decipher how you feel about things. Of course you feel a sense of loss - but I'm sure it's not the same as it is for women who are further along. And I think the real message for me is that same sense I had from the very beginning signs of miscarriage - that God wants me to hope. I am not sharing this for anyone to be sad for us, but simply because whenever a child is conceived, it is something to be celebrated. I want people to know that we are not a family of seven, but of nine, and that these two children exist and are just as precious to us as the ones we are blessed to hold here on earth.

As parents, the best we can ever hope for is to lead our spouse and our children to Heaven. Every day I hope and pray that I won't mess it up for them - that my own sins and failings which I see reflected in them won't keep them away from God. For two of my children, I know the battle has been won. We all count on their prayer, and feel their love. Each night as we say the rosary, we all ask our patron Saints (whom each of us are named after) to pray for us, and as the kids each announce their own Saint, Jeff asks the intercession of Blessed John Paul II and St. Gabriel on behalf of the children we know join us whenever we pray as a family.

Through his short life, our little Gabriel has succeeded in drawing us ever closer to God. Through the season of Advent he united our hearts with our Blessed Mother and Saint Joseph, and helped to point us in expectant hope to our Lord Jesus. As we draw closer to the feast of our Saviour's birth, I hear the same words spoken by his namesake, the great Archangel: "Be not afraid! For behold, I bring you good news of great joy." And I really do feel that God is doing great things in our lives, and it's only going to get better.

Praise God for the gift of marriage, and the way that it allows us to share in a love so perfect, as Scott Hahn says, "in nine months it needs to be given a name!" We hope and pray this will not be our last little one, but of course, nobody can know that. What I do know is that we are eternally grateful for the five little souls we share a house with every day, and the two that have taken up their dwelling in Heaven. And if God chooses to honor us with another little one, it would be our supreme joy to say, "Yes!" once more!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Anxious Waiting

I don't have too much trouble with anxiety, but every now and then it sets in, for no apparent reason. Such was the case this morning. I can't explain it, but I just had this worried feeling gripping me.

I'm trying to make this advent season about preparing my heart for the birth of Jesus, and part of that has been to listen to Advent music, and save the real Christmassy stuff for Christmas. As I was buzzing about in my worry, listening to my Advent playlist, the song, "Magnificat" by Steve Bell (which is a cover of the John Michael Talbot song of the same name) came on. The Magnificat is the prayer that Mary prayed after the angel Gabriel appeared to her, asking her to be the mother of God. It is a beautiful prayer, the words of which are:

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, and my spirit exults in God my saviour.
For He has looked with mercy on my lowliness, and my name shall be forever exalted.
For the mighty God done great things for me, and His mercy will reach from age to age.
And Holy is His name!

Everything stopped for me as I listened to the words of our Blessed Mother's prayer, and it occured to me the utter foolishness of my situation - that I have nothing to worry about, and yet have given myself over to it: yet Mary was faced with what must have been the most fearful position in the world, second only to the suffering of her Son. You, Mary, barely a teenager and engaged to be married, will conceive a child who will be the Saviour. Yikes! And her response was total abandon, and praise of the Lord. I believe she was joyful, but that the joy came as a result of her prayer, and not the other way around.

Sometimes when we get into a mood, it takes deliberate action and prayer to bring us out of it. We can't wait until we feel at peace to pray - sometimes we have to put on our raincoat, and enter into the storm. This is the example of our Blessed Mother, and this is the message of Advent. We don't know when the Lord is coming again, and He may seem so far away. But despite that, if we pray and turn our hearts to the Lord, only then will we - as our Blessed Mother - enter more fully into the joy that He promises.

Monday, October 10, 2011

My Buddy

Stephen is my absolute middle child. Number 3 of 5 children, he is also at what I consider to be one of the most difficult ages of toddlerhood (4). He is strong-willed and determined, which are in and of themselves wonderful attributes to have. However, for a four-year-old who just will not be quiet at mass because he is so intent on asking you (not in his church voice, either) why those lights are up there on the ceiling, and just will not take "I don't know", "because Fr. Mike put them there", "to light up the church", or any other variation for an answer, it can be quite trying.

I was sick yesterday with a bad cold. When we walked into mass, the kids started to be quite themselves for their ages, and I prayed, "Lord, please give me the strength to be loving with them today, and not to snap at them if they misbehave." I was so very impressed with the good behavior that resulted from all of the kids, but most especially from Stephen. The Friday before we had been at a holy hour, and I timed him out at least ten times (yes, you can time your children out during adoration, haha!). We were the loudest family there, and I was at the end of my rope.

Most of our stuggle comes with just getting him to sit still and not roll around everywhere (which, at four years old, is something he should be capable of, at least for a few minutes at a time). With my older boys, if they are fidgeting or not standing when they are supposed to, I discovered that if I hold out my hand to them, they will reach up for me. Then, simply by holding their hand they will stand up. I'm not sure why, but it's so much better than disciplining them, because they choose it for themselves. And it becomes something to affirm them, not to correct them.

So I put my hand out for Stephen (who was laying on his back on the pew), but he wasn't having it. He rolled around completely ignoring me. I always try to get them to look into my eyes before I say something to them, but he wouldn't even look at me. I could feel my blood starting to boil, and suppressed the urge deep within me to just yank him up out of his seat and say, "YOU STAND NOW BECAUSE I SAID SO AND DO NOT IGNORE ME!!!" Instead, I remembered that he is my buddy.

Earlier in the summer, I began using the buddy system with my kids. If we are going out somewhere, I pair the older ones with a little one to help them get ready, and hold each other's hands while we're out (I had seen it on 19 Kids and Counting). They all responded really well to it, but Stephen did in particular. I noticed that when he played with his older brothers, he started calling them his buddies, and it really meant something special to him. He made up this saying, "buddies always stay together." It has been great, because as the third boy (and with the next child being a girl), I notice that often he get left out of what the older kids are doing, and that he didn't seem to have the same bond as the older boys did. This new concept of a buddy gave him something special to attach to them, and deepened his feelings for them (and they for him). I could get the older boys to do anything for him if I reminded them that he was their buddy. It was beautiful!

So there in the church, faced with the iron will of my four-year-old, and praying for the strength not to just loose it on him right there, my hand still outstretched I said, "hey buddy?" He turned and looked at me with his sweet little smile, took my hand, and stood up straight and still beside me. For the rest of mass, anytime he started to get out of hand I would do the same thing, and my buddy was happy to pay attention and stand beside me.

I watched a documentary about elephants recently. In elephant families everyone follows a matriarch, and the bond with her is so strong that the elephants will turn away even from hunger if she calls to them. I realized at mass that the same can be true for the kids, that if I call on the strength of my bond with Stephen, instead of being stern, he will respond with his affection for me. Don't get me wrong, I know there are times when strict discipline is required. But far too often I think I go to that first, out of desparation. And yesterday, feeling completely empty and drained of myself, I cried out to God and He gave me the grace to see that there is another way, a better way.

Thank you Lord, for showing me that without you I don't have what it takes - but that with you, and in You, I have everything I need to treat my children with the love and respect they so deserve.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Best Job in the World

When I was growing up, I always loved kids. My cousin and I used to fight for the attention of our many younger cousins. At family gatherings we were willing babysitters to exhausted parents who wanted a break, and I loved every minute of it. I always used to say that if working in day care paid better, that would have been my career.

Funny though, I've tried the babysitting thing. And it's not enough to love kids, I don't think. There is a special kind of person who is called to do that for a living, and my children have been blessed to be cared for by a couple of them. But it's not me. What I have discovered though, is that my ideal job does indeed involve being around kids all day, but that the pay is even much less than that of a daycare worker. It is, of course, a mother.

I was out with my kids earlier today, and I realized how much I really, truly enjoy spending time with them. I always have, but now I don't feel as though a million other things are dividing my attention. On previous maternity leaves I have had the luxury of a part-time sitter, where I could drop the kids off if I had errands to run, or just wanted a day to myself once a week. That, however, would now cost me upwards of $50 just to drop the kids off for one day, and I have a hard time justifying that. The result? Now Jeff does most of the errand running, and whenever I go in town I bring everyone - which means we do something fun together (I'm not one to waste a trip).

People always say they don't know how I do it, and I know they never quite believe me when I say that having more children makes a lot of things easier. I found it way more difficult to get around with three babies than I do with my five children, because the two older boys are older and much more capable of helping me round the little ones up. And I've had seven years of getting around to figure out the best (and most efficient) way to do it. And I'm learning not to put too much pressure on myself - if I make it anywhere at all, it's an accomplishment. I don't stress about being late when I'm on my own with the kiddies.

You would think that having more kids would make you busier, but for me it's the opposite. It is crystal clear the things I cannot do anymore, so I just don't do them. Instead, I get to spend my days enjoying this journey with the best companions a girl could ask for. And that is the best job in the world!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Catholic Guilt

These days, I am feeling strongly convicted that I need to be more kind to my children. My three oldest boys share a bedroom. For the past several months bedtime has been tricky, as the youngest of the three Stephen has a difficult time settling down, keeping the older ones (and in fact, the entire household) awake. Our solution has been to sit outside their room after they go to bed, and speak swiftly and sternly at the first sign (or rather, sound) of disruption. It has been working pretty well.

Last night when the boys went to bed, Timothy was upset. I tried my best to comfort him, but (as is common with Timothy) there was nothing I could say to calm him down, and so I ended up having to leave the bedroom while he was still crying. Not long after I left, I heard the slow creak of the door opening. Thinking it to be the cat, I jumped up and started shushing at the door. Only then did I discover that it was Stephen, up out of bed. I reacted with a harsh, "you get back to bed!" It was only when I was tucking him back in that he said, "but Timothy's still crying." I looked at his little face, and my heart broke. He was pouting, and he was really upset. He was concerned for his brother, and I thought he was just being defiant (and treated him that way). I felt like mean Miss Hannigan in "Annie".

People often speak about Catholic guilt, but I think those people must not truly understand the heart of God, and His intentions in providing guidance through the teachings of the Church. It is precisely the teachings of the Church that bring me comfort in times like this. God wants me to be patient with the kids not because He wants me to feel bad about times like this, but because He knows that I will not be happy if I am constantly giving in to my emotions. He knows that by learning to control my impulses, I will see the bigger picture, and that in being loving in all situations, I will be happier myself, and make my children happier as well. And when I do fall short, as I so often do, it is the teachings of my faith that help me to know I am not stuck there, and that I am not an awful person. We all sin and fall short of the glory of God, but forgiveness is just a breath away (the breath it takes to form the words to ask for it), and once received, brings us to a place where we have a fresh start.

Today is my fresh start, this very moment. And I am so grateful for the faith that brings that to me. In the Catholic Church I find not teachings that guilt and shame me, but guidance that helps me grow more into the person God wants me to be. A person who is happy, a person who is free, and above all, a person who loves God and His people (especially those entrusted to my care) above everything else.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Culture of Life

I think most often, people think that being open to life is the job of parents. As Catholics, we vow to accept children lovingly from God, and it is a vow Jeff and I take very seriously. We know that each little one we bring into this world helps us to become more of the person God intended us to be. But we also know that the buck doesn't stop with us. Because being open to life is an attitude not just for the parents, but for the entire community surrounding the family. And it doesn't stop once the baby is born, it continues for the rest of their lives.

We are so incredibly blessed to have two sets of parents who bend over backwards to help with our children. If too much time goes by without us calling them, they are calling us saying, "Can we come see the kids? We miss them!" They are always willing and ready to watch some or all of the kids if we need to run an errand, or just take a break. We are so fortunate, because not everyone has this. If it wasn't for their openess to life, our children wouldn't have half the life they have now. And we would find it much more difficult to be good parents without their love and support. Whenever anyone tells us what good parents we are, I say that we couldn't be good parents if our parents weren't first good to us.

Not only do we have awesome parents, but we also have a great network of family and friends who love and support us in our journey as parents. Whenever we have friends over, they are all eager playmates for our children. And when we bring our kids on outings, we find in them extra hands to help look after the kids. When we show up at friends' houses, they are happy to have us all over, even when they know it will mean their place could quite possibly be turned upside-down! They don't shy away from including us because we have children, and never act as though they are a burden. Some of our childrens' best friends are in fact our friends, and it makes me so happy that for Jeff and I, having a good time with friends can include our children as well. We are building happy memories as a family that I know will benefit our kids for years to come.

So my challenge to everyone reading this today is this - whatever your stage in life, whether you have children or not, make it your mission to be open to life by supporting young families. Jeff and I are infinitely grateful for the support we receive on a daily basis. We could not do this without you!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Road to Sanity

I was at the doctor's office yesterday with all the kids in tow, for vaccinations for my baby. While it wasn't always so, after the last few babies I can count on my doctor, once the little one is a couple of months old, to say, "so, when are we doing this again?" Not going back to work gives me a real freedom when it comes to planning our next baby, so I shared that while I didn't know just yet, Jeff and I are both noticing how fast Aaron is growing up, and that we both miss having a newborn in the house. She just smiled and said, "I don't know how you do it - I mean, and keep your sanity!" I laughed, and said, "sometimes I don't!"

As I left the doctor's office, I realized that the moments when I feel like I'm losing my sanity have little to do with the kids. More than that, I truly believe my children are what ground me, and keep me from going completely crazy much sooner than I do. They are there, every day, and I can always count on them to guide me and provide purpose in my life. I don't wake up in the morning wondering, "what am I going to do today?", or laze around while life just passes me by. As soon as my feet hit the floor I am smack in the middle of life - all I have to do is go with it!

One of the things that was brought into the world through original sin was that we would have to work for the things that matter most to us. I often wish I could take a vacation with Jeff and the kids, and just relax and have nothing to do but enjoy life. And I think this is good - because this is what we were made for; and in fact, will live one day. But it is not possible on this earth. And while vacations give us much-needed moments of relaxation and getting away from it all, the reality as we all know is that there is a price to pay for vacation. We come home groggy from our trip to do laundry, clean house, and work double-hard to get back into the routine of every day life. It's in doing the duties of every day life with joy that we find our true happiness in this life, our eyes set on the eternal vacation and rest that awaits us in the next.

I think that's why I'm much happier with five children than I was with two. Because with two children, I was still clinging to that desire for "a break". And if I tried hard enough, I could get it. That lead to a false sense of control, and consequently disappointment when the responsibilities of life came knocking all too soon. But with five children, your idea of a break changes. It's no longer dropping the kids off at the sitter's to have a day to yourself, but rather taking just two or three of them with you to the grocery store, and stopping for ice cream on the way home. It's no longer watching TV while the kids nap, but painting with your older kids while your babies nap. It's in the work that I find my true fulfillment - having more children helps me to keep my sanity far better than I ever did with less!

Not that I'm perfect. Someday, when my kids are old enough to read my notes, they'll tell you otherwise. But I do feel like I know more than I did when I first started having children. And I know there is still so very much more for me to learn. Here's to family, babies, and journeying down the road that leads me ever closer to sanity!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Love like this

Today, as most days, I fumbled about getting supper ready with a thirty-pound toddler on my hip. My one and only little Katie.

She is the fourth of our five children, and is vastly different than the boys. She is so much more clingy, even than the baby. She would spend the whole day on my hip if I would let her. It can be quite frustrating at times, particularly when she is tired and I'm trying to put her down. I'm sure most parents can relate to the feeling of just wanting to finish something that they've started, and that's how I often feel. I could do this so much faster if I could just put you down for two minutes - and then you'd have me all to yourself. But alas, this is not what she wants. She's more content to have half of my attention most of the time, than to have none of it for a bit, and all of it later.

Yesterday she wasn't feeling good, and was particularly clingy to me. And it hit me, she really, really loves me a lot. She clings to me because she wants to be with me all the time - she's happiest when she's with me. That's such an incredible thing! Lots of people love me a lot, but very few are so honest with it. With kids, there is just love. And sometimes, that's hard. Because love so innocent and pure demands something in return. And that something is you - now. It's my own imperfections that cause me to become frustrated, my own distractions that cause me to turn elsewhere. But when I look at her, it's so clear. She's not demanding, she's not trying to keep me from doing anything, she's not looking to drive me crazy! She's just loving me, and calling me to love her back.

This is the way God loves us. Asking nothing in return but the gift of ourselves. And with God, as with the kids, I often feel frustrated. If I could just finish what I'm doing Lord, then I'll spend time with you. And just like my little Katie, what God really wants is to be part of my whole day, not just something tacked on at the end, if I have time. Parenthood teaches me so much about life, and particularly why children are so special to God - because they really do get it so much better than we do.

I don't know what I did to deserve such a perfect love. But I pray to always see the good, to see with the eyes of faith what my own eyes, so full of distraction, too often miss.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Kids' House

I remember having a conversation with a coworker when I was expecting my fourth child. It was about the clutter you accumulate in your house when you have kids. In particular the living room, and how despite my best efforts to make it a grown up space, it always ends up with toys along every square inch of the perimeter (if I'm lucky, and they haven't been strewn across the entire room). He talked about visiting friends and seeing all the toys their kids had out in the main living areas, and how ridiculous that was. And at the time I desperately wished for a space of my own in all this craziness. A place where we could entertain friends that was sophisticated, modern, and free of toys.

And now, I'm home full time. Not only that, but I have two extra children, and I'm homeschooling. So in addition to the extra little ones and all their toys, I also have school desks in my dining room and work pinned up all around the upstairs of my house. Not only does the living room look like a play room, but the dining room looks like a classroom. But you know what? I don't mind it so much anymore. In fact, I really love it. Because the fact is that kids do live here - they are part of this family, and this is their space too. I do have my own space - it's called a bedroom, but the rest of the house is meant to be shared by a family, not just me. And people who come into my home should realize that. I am happy when I look around my house that signs of the life contained within are everywhere to be found.

When I see all of their stuff, it reminds me how fun it is to have them around, and to enjoy them being so little. Because like it or not, some day they are going to grow up. And I know I'm really going to miss these days. So I figure I may as well make the most of it, and celebrate their young lives while I am in the midst of it. It will be a sad day when there are no toys in my living room. But if I'm anything like my mother, I'll get to do it all over again when I have my own grandchildren - and maybe with even more stuff!

Monday, March 7, 2011

The World's Greatest Spiritual Epidemic

These are notes from one of the best talks I have ever heard in my life.  It was given by Brett Powell, at a CCO conference in December 2001.  I came across an old notebook a few weeks ago and found it, and it is as convicting to me today as it was when I heard it ten years ago (maybe more).  Enjoy!


You know the kind of person who goes to a conference, and gets really on fire for Jesus?  Who is so convicted, they can’t wait to get home and tell everyone what they have seen and heard?  When they get back to the routine of life, maybe they start off pretty good – going to mass regularly, praying every day, receiving the sacraments.  But then as time goes on, they start to lose their fire.  Prayer and sacraments become a little less important.  They no longer feel the same passion, and they start to get lazy in their faith.  I know this person well, because I have been there many times.  When you live conference to conference, and do not have any other spiritual life, you have what is known as Spiritual Apathy. 

Spiritual Apathy is a condition of the heart that is characterized by indifference and inactivity. It is when your obedience is not equal to your knowledge; in other words, when your knowledge of the faith is greater than your obedience to it.  It is when we know that Jesus is the Saviour of the world, but we do little to make Him known to others.

Apathy is a serious threat to the spread of the Gospel.  More so than nonbelievers or persecutors, those who say they believe in God and do not act accordingly turn people away.  Why?  Because your life is a witness.  Once you’ve made a public decision for Jesus, you have said to the world, “I am a Christian”, and they will judge you based on that.  They will judge what you do, not just what you say (be careful to make them the same).  They may also judge Christianity, especially if you are acting with hypocrisy (or appear to be).

Your life is a witness.  The question is what are you witnessing to?

Don’t get depressed if this sounds like you.  I guarantee that we have all been there at one point or another in our walk with Jesus.  Remember that God encourages, Satan discourages.  As you listen, remember the words that follow are not meant to discourage you, but to call you to action and encourage you to live as Jesus calls us to.

Why does Apathy affect so many of us?
An epidemic is dangerous because it is a disease that spreads rapidly and infects many.  Apathy is the world’s greatest spiritual epidemic.  Why?

  1. Because of the influence of the world around us
    The world evangelizes us in its ways.  Because of that, we try to isolate our faith (to survive).  Sharing our faith leads to confrontation, so we often shy away from it (because it is difficult or uncomfortable to do so).  This is the opposite of what we should be doing!  As St. Francis said, “sanctify yourself, and you will sanctify society.”        
  2. Because we have lost a sense of the importance of evangelizationRalph Martin says the world tries to convince us that wide is the road that leads to Heaven, and that many are going there.  The world would also have us believe that the road that leads to destruction is narrow, and that few will take that road.  But we know that there is only one way, and that no one comes to the Father except through Jesus.  It has never been more important than now to share your faith.  The number of people who don’t know Christ (haven’t experienced Jesus as Lord) is increasing even though there are more converts (the number has doubled since Vatican II).  Mary told us at Fatima that “souls are falling into Hell like snowflakes”.  And Pope John Paul II said, “we must move fast, because the enemy is moving faster.”  We need to remember to move with a controlled sense of urgency, like salt in a recipe.  Enough to taste, but not so much that it leaves a bad taste in your mouth.  We need to plant seeds, and leave the rest to God.  Pope John Paul II tells us, “Now is not the time to be ashamed of the Gospel, but to shout it from the rooftops!”
  3. Because due to our fallen nature, we want to take the path of least resistanceIt is difficult to live a life for Christ.  But Pope John Paul II tells us, “If you are who you should be, you will set the world ablaze.”  We must be prepared to meet persecution (Jesus did).  A missionary can be described as someone who goes to a place where he is not wanted, to sell a pearl that, although of great value, is not valued, to a people who will not accept it even as a gift.  Therefore, do not seek your consolation from the world.  The apostles Peter and John were ordered not to preach under fear of death (not just dirty looks) – they prayed for boldness in the face of persecution.
  4. Because we don’t really know what to doVery often we have a heart to evangelize, but we may not know how.  We need to educate and train ourselves, in the same way you would for a career (if you aspire to be a doctor, you go to medical school).  How?  By giving yourself 100% to the sacraments, prayer, reading the bible, studying the teachings of the church, attending retreats and conferences, etc.  When you feel called to evangelize, Satan will tell you one of two things:  1) Sure you can do it, you’re great! Or 2) You can’t do it, look at how sinful you are.  But Jesus says, “Go, for I am with you.”  The principle agent for evangelization is not you, it’s the Holy Spirit.  All you need to do is share what God has done in your life.  1 Corinthians 1:26-28 says, “Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.  But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.  God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are.”
  5. Because we experience spiritual gluttonyThe abundance and availability of religious material is a tremendous gift of the Church.  There is, however, the temptation to use it for our own growth and advancement, with little regard for the growth of others.  This elevates our pride, and results in greed.  We need a balance of personal and missionary formation.  Once we receive knowledge, we need to share it with others.

The most important contributing factor to spiritual apathy is the absence of a personal, compassionate, undying love for Jesus – the kind that is contagious.  The opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference (apathy).  Revalations 2:2-4 says, “I know your works, your labor, your service, your endurance, yet I hold this against you, for you have lost the love you had at first.”  And St. John Vianney says, “There is nothing more commonly discussed among Christians than love for God, yet nothing so uncommon.”  Pope John Paul II challenged the excuse that we are too busy by saying that if we loved the Lord, we would make more time.  It is not a lack of time but a lack of love that leads to spiritual apathy.

We are called to dig deep in Christ, not just conference to conference – we need to raise the standards.  Evangelization is driven by your love for Christ.  The prophets were pushed into life by something more powerful than themselves.  We need to respond generously to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. 

The more we come to know Jesus, the more we will love Him.  The Church is an everlasting mine containing many treasures; no matter how far you go, no matter how deep you dig, you never come to their end - fresh riches are on either side.  There are several treasures in the Catholic Church that help us to evangelize, including sacraments, spirituality, prayer, scriptures, the lives of the Saints – all of these things feed you, and help you to know Christ more.

It’s time to be honest with ourselves – and remember, this is not meant to discourage, but rather to call you to action:

-       Have I taken advantage of the many means Christ has given me to
         grow closer to Him?
-       Am I making time to pray every day, as often as I can?
-       Am I reading God’s word in the scriptures every day?
-       Do I seek the Christ who is powerfully and personally present in the
         sacrament of reconciliation?
-       Have I made the Eucharist my absolute lifeline?

Christ makes Himself available to us when we call on Him.  The question is, do you burn for the love of Christ?  Because if you are who you should be, you will set the world ablaze.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Gifting and the Giver

I can't take credit for the title of this note.  It's a song from the new Steve Bell CD Kindness (which I highly recommend). Before I even knew all the words, one line in particular struck me - "the painter of this picture I adore, the Gifting and the Giver".  I love the thought of God as an artist, and as I listened closer to the song I realized it was about the author sitting on a beach, admiring all the different things he could see and hear (the sound of waves crashing, sands shifting, rocks carved out by waves, sunsets) and in so adoring this vast beauty, he was adoring God Himself.  Beautiful!

I spent the afternoon humming this song. I looked at my two-month-old baby, and listened to the chorus:

And I on shore admire this living scripture 
And adore the painter of this picture
I adore the gifting and the Giver

I admired my little one, adoring this beautiful gift and the One who gave him to me. I can totally relate to this song.

Lately I have taken great joy in creativity through homeschooling my two oldest children.  As we sit together, painting, or building, or writing, I have been unable to articulate exactly how I feel.  People ask me how it's going, and I try to explain how wonderful it is, but I can't seem to find the right words.  I'll say, "I painted with the kids today, it was so great!"  And I can tell they're like, "yeah...okay."  But I know they really don't get what I'm trying to say.  Mostly because I didn't really know what I was trying to say myself.

It's beyond joy, happiness, even excitement - though these are definitely part of it.  It almost seems silly to me to feel so much about something so relatively minor.  I am not a great artist, nor a great writer - yet the thrill of creating resonates in me. In listening to this song I realize that it's not only the creation but the Creator that has me so excited.  Sharing in the masterpiece of the life God has created in me and my children by being so intimately involved in their learning is exhilarating!  And it causes me to turn my heart with joy to the painter of this glorious picture. He continues His great work with me watching, and just when I think He's done He adds another stroke, and then another, and while I could never imagine it being more beautiful - it is.  Life is like this, and in this way we are truly the greatest of God's creatures.  Because He spends a lifetime perfecting us, and when we think we're done, He adds one more stroke, and we are more beautiful than ever.

I can really relate to the thought of God as an artist, not because I am an artist, but because I appreciate beauty.  And being home with my family every day, watching my children grow, teaching and learning alongside them, it is ever before my eyes.  How can I not be filled with joy?

You can get more information about Steve Bell's new CD on his website,

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Sometimes Life can be Crappy

Our fifth son Aaron is absolute perfection at two months old.  He is always happy, rarely cries, and even when he is fussy is soothed simply by our presence.  He eats every few hours through the day, sleeps through the night, and is a generally content little baby.  I marvel at him every day.

Yesterday I took the big boys and Aaron to the museum.  And as I sat with my perfect little baby while the big boys did a craft with an employee in the discovery area, my little darling started to fill his diaper.  The worker, a young guy, was busy instructing the kids on what to do, and I smiled sweetly at my baby hoping the sounds he was making were not too obvious.  Then I felt something warm on my hand - it was coming out of the side of his diaper!  Trying to be inconspicuous for the sake of the instructor (you never know with guys whether they are cool with babies, or if that would have completely grossed him out!) I turned Aaron the other way so he couldn't see what had just happened, managed to find a small piece of paper towel to clean out the little that had come out, and waiting for the kids to finish their work.  After which I promptly scurried them down to the washrooms so I could change my little stinker.  When I put him down onto the changing table, I noticed a wet spot on my shirt where I had been holding him.  And that's when I realized - my little one had an explosion out of his bum!  What a mess!  But he smiled sweetly, I joked with him as I cleaned him up, and it was all good.  What else can you do?

As funny as it is, it's pretty true that life, as with babies, can be pretty crappy sometimes.  I wish I could handle all of life's messes with as much grace as I handle the baby, but the truth is I have a lot of work to do.  It's crazy how quickly I go from calm to despair at the slightest sign trouble.  Like two children throwing a tantrum while my supper boils over.  Or someone falling off the top bunk while I'm nursing the baby.  Or a toddler who just needs to be in my arms while I have to vaccuum three days of crunched up snacks on the floor.  Those are the times when I lose my cool - when I find myself thinking, "why does everything go wrong all at once?"

It's easy to keep things in perspective when the cause of your upheaval is a sweet little two-month-old who is practically perfect in every way (okay, except maybe one!)  What takes work is remembering that the older kids are also just as sweet and innocent as the baby, and that the chaos is no more their fault than it is the baby's, it's just part of life.  And there is something incredible that is gained from maintaining composure and handling these situations with grace.  You live life and experience it, instead of allowing it to consume you.  You get through the tough times with joy, with the people you love supporting you through it.  And who knows, you might even be able to laugh at it together, this crazy life that you are all so privileged to share.  That way beats blowing your top, sending the kids to their rooms, and grumbling under your breath.

Lord, help me to see all of my children in the same in the same way I see the baby - to marvel in joy, be positive in difficulty, and clean up life's little (and not so little) messes together.  May I never allow despair to rob me of the beauty in every situation that comes our way.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


I learned something today - that any mess can be cleaned up.  Okay, so it's not earth shattering.  In fact, most of you probably already knew that.  I thought I did too.

This afternoon I painted with the kids.  And can you believe that in the six and a half years I've been a mother, I can count the number of times I've done this on one hand?  Occassionally if the little ones were napping, I might be inclined to set the older kids up with some paint while I took care of some housework.  But even that's risky, because as soon as they get up from the table with their paint-filled hands it's a disaster waiting to happen.

A few weeks ago, we started homeschooling our oldest son.  And seeing the artwork he brought home from Kindergarden and his first few months of grade one, I knew I wanted to continue to encourage those same skills at home.  Homeschooling makes it necessary for me to completely schedule my day, and so while I would previously set the kids up with their art supplies and leave them to amuse themselves while I tended to the countless other duties that need my attention (Moms, you know what it's like!), now my job is teacher.  Specifically, from 1:30-2:30 on Tuesdays, Art teacher.

So I did some research, found a simple project, and painted with the kids.  I helped them make outlines, mix paint, and then did some painting of my own.  Long after the older boys had finished and gone off to play, my three-year-old son and I remained - I painting, and he...well...experimenting with "watercolor" (is that what you call it when you paint a picture, and then drizzle your paint brush in water and soak everything you just painted?)  It was so therapeutic for me, because I love to paint and create.  As I looked at the growing mess, I did not feel the need to clean it up right away.  We were having too much fun!  And besides, it wasn't 2:30 yet.

Sometimes schedules can be restrictive, but I'm finding more and more that they are also freeing.  They say, "don't rush away just yet, the time for work will come.  Play with your kids."  I always thought I would be the kind of Mom who just did this intuitively, and yet I allowed myself time and again to be consumed with the daily duties of running a household.  Now, with more on my plate than ever, I am feeling way more in control and at peace in my life.  And it's because I'm spending more quality time with my kids.

I thought I knew that any mess could be cleaned up, but obviously I didn't.  Because I held back on doing so many things with my kids, for fear of making a mess that I would inevitably have to clean up.  Maybe that's why God lead me on this path of homeschooling.  Because He knew I wouldn't want to reach the end of their childhood and say, "I wish I had done more with them."  I'm starting to learn that it's worth it to have a big mess to clean, if you had a good time making that mess with people you love.

I love teaching, learning, playing and creating with my children.  And if things get a bit messy along the way, I say bring it!  The best things in life always take a little extra work.

Monday, January 17, 2011


I regularly apologize to Jeff for giving him my leftovers.  You know, whatever's left of me by the time everyone else has had their fill.  Which isn't much, considering there are so many people who need me so intensely.  I'm not complaining, I love being a Mom to my five beautiful children.  Still, I do find myself feeling a bit neglectful of my husband.

This past Friday night Jeff came home to an empty house, as the kids and I had an outing for homeschool and then supper at Mom's.  When I arrived with our whole crew in tow they were down for the count, and we carted our sleepyheads off to bed.  It was still early in the evening, so Jeff and I curled up together and watched TV for a bit, revelling in the silence of a house full of sleeping children.

The following day, Jeff laid out a plan for the evening well in advance.  Once the kids were down for the night we would share a glass of sparkling wine, rent a movie, and snuggle up together.  And that's when it hit me - just because it's leftover time, doesn't mean it needs to be wasted time.  Kind of like leftovers from a really great meal, sometimes they taste better than the meal itself.  But far too often we allow what's left over to spoil.  Jeff is teaching me that as we should not do that with our food, the same is true of our time together.  It's a lot of work to arrange babysitters and drive the kids back and forth, especially in the evenings.  But it takes little effort to just say to each other, "keep tonight free for me".  Sometimes staying in and pampering each other can be just as good as a night on the town - maybe even better.

I love my crazy life, with all my crazy kids.  Mostly because I have a crazy, romantic, completely awesome husband by my side through it all, who never ceases to remind me that the best things in life can be found in the simplest moments.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

That Family

Today, because we have some issues with our septic field that need my husband's immediate attention while the weather is mild, I had to take the kids (all five of them) to mass by myself.  I knew not to expect anything stellar of them, keeping in mind their ages and the fact that mass seems to bring out something in them that makes them get completely wired, and the fact that I only had about four solid hours of sleep last night.  Instead, as I prepared my heart before mass, I focused on the fact that this is important and that's why I'm willing to even try it by myself.  And that it is not about me but about all of us, and the greater benefit I know we will receive from being there.

You know how sometimes you just can't prepare yourself for the storm, no matter how hard you try?  That's how I felt.  We sat at our usual seat in the front, where a Christmas tree had been erected and decorated for the season - I should have picked a different seat.  Trying to keep my kids from removing the ornaments and redecorating the tree, and from jumping all over my infant in his carseat (who, praise God, stayed asleep throughout the entire mass - my only comfort!) and trying (and eventually giving up on) keeping my toddler from screaming throughout the entire consecration, to the point that a parishioner, feeling sorry for me, swooped her from my arms and took her for a much-needed walk - left me physically and emotionally exhausted.  Amidst encouragement from the priest and parishioners after mass (they are so forgiving!) I ducked my way out as fast as I could, and it was everything I could do not to burst into tears as I packed my little darlings into our van.

When we got home I sent them to timeouts or to play outside (depending on their level of disobedience at mass), and sat down, frustrated and thinking about how much I desperately hate being "that family" at mass.  You know, the one everyone stares at with thoughts like, "oh she has her hands full!", or "can't she control her children?", or even "why did she even bother to bring them when it's clearly too much?"  Week after week I feel like a spectacle at the front of our church, and God bless the lovely parishioners who are so patient and understanding at our church, because it's the only thing that allows me to keep my sanity (hanging by a thread though it may be).  I kept saying to myself, "there is dignity in motherhood, there is dignity in motherhood" because at the time I really needed to be convinced.

As I sat in the quiet of my house trying to calm my frazzled nerves, I thought about why I had even bothered in the first place - because this is important.  If I accomplish nothing else in this life, so long as my children know Jesus and how much He loves them then I have given them everything.  I knew this going into mass, and it wasn't God that was causing me to question that.  It was the voice of another, a dark one, whispering lies and causing me to feel shame and humiliation.  One who wants me to just say, "it's too hard."  I won't give in.

I also realized that I have my own struggles which make this situation so much harder than it needs to be on myself.  Because as much as I don't want to be "that family" that everyone thinks is crazy, there is definitely a part of me who wants to be "that family" with the perfectly well-behaved children, who sit still and listen attentively at mass.  Aren't they holy?  Aren't they such great parents?  Look at how good their children are.  Clearly there is something deeper going on in me, and as the Lord is breaking me of my pride the fact that it hurts so much shows me how very far I still have to go.

As I leave my quiet time to immerse myself in the rest of the day, I praise and thank God that He is so merciful to me, and pray for the grace to live up to the true dignity of my calling.  "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet was without sin." (Hebrews 4:15)  Jesus must have been tempted to wonder where the dignity was in His life as man, yet He did not cling to His glory, but submitted His entire life to His Father. And after being made the greatest spectacle, His true dignity was revealed.

Sometimes things are not as they seem.  Help me Lord to see the goodness in tough times, and to be humble enough to submit myself to You, trusting only in Your mercy.  Far greater than I have walked far more difficult paths.  May I truly be grateful for the trials You allow me to endure.