Children are a gift from the Lord; the fruit of the womb, a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children born in one's youth. Blessed are they whose quivers are full. They will never be shamed contending with foes at the gate. ~Psalm 127:3-5

Friday, September 23, 2011

Courage Under Fire

(I love Willow Tree and this angel is perfect for this post!)

So I've been a little busy lately. We started homeschooling this past week, though today we are taking a little bit of a break. It's not so much because we need to be away from schooling, but because I need to take a "mental health" break. Not only have we started school but I have started something on my own. I am in the process of training at a crisis pregnancy center to become a volunteer counselor. I am very excited. But I know that it is going to be a battle with Satan, as I have already experienced in the four weeks since I made the decision to sign up.

It's going to take buckets of courage to travel this road. I have always been pro-life. Even when I found myself in a very difficult situation: pregnant and unmarried at a relatively young age (mentally I was younger), I still knew with absolute certainty that all life is to be protected. Of course I thought about how much my life would change and how much I'd have to give up to even bring her into the world, let alone parent her. Some even believe it "ruins" your life to have a baby when you're not ready. But as Mother Teresa so eloquently said, "It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you please." I didn't want to live as I pleased if it meant my baby could not live at all. I rescinded my life to choose life for her.

And now, I hope to help others choose life for their babies as they find themselves in similar - or even more difficult - situations as I was in almost 8 years ago. I am acutely aware of the fact that I will not always succeed in this aspect of the mission. But God has called me to a higher purpose than just trying to help them to believe in the sanctity of human life. He has called me to show these broken women His perfect love, regardless of their choice. It is going to be difficult. Even the training has had its moments of difficulty. Last night we learned about abortion, which I already knew a lot about anyway but it never gets easier to hear about. We also had to watch a movie that was graphic and sickening and informative and raw. I had a hard time and I was afraid. But it was necessary, despite how painful and scary it was to endure.

The unsurprising thing about this whole process is that Satan has been right on my heels the whole time. From the moment I discerned that volunteering at the center was what God was calling me to do, I felt Satan slink in ever closer. He planted so much in my head that first day of training. I was irrationally fearful of the drive to the center. It was one I had never taken before but was in reality very easy. I even talked to Joe about maybe driving me even though it was a ridiculous request because of the kids and the time-frame. And then I thought about not going at all. Then, my wonderful husband said, "didn't you drive to Florida all by yourself when you were younger?" Ah, yes I did, honey. Yes I did. I did it when I was even more shy, scared of the world, and had a huge lack of self confidence. So that was the boost I needed. Strike one for Satan.

And from there, a slew of other lies and misunderstandings of situations which have caused me to question what I'm doing have descended upon me like a thick heavy cloud. Last night I left that very difficult training session completely drained. There were other factors in that state of emotional stress that in a round-about way linked to this battle I'm fighting, and I felt suffocated as I mentally dissected each particle contributing to my angst. I prayed a million Hail Mary's as I drove home, and rested in the knowledge that I was going to be guarded with all the forces of God if I would only remember to ask Him.

But that Satan is a sly one.

I went to sleep very very late last night; the last thoughts in my heart being a prayer to God to help me to not have nightmares of what I saw on the movie we watched. And He was faithful. But as soon as I awoke, images from the movie floated into my head, stabbing my mind into a state of paralysis. It didn't help that it's gray and raining outside or that I was still dealing with other factors that make me question my abilities to spread God's truth. I spent the first few hours of the morning not getting up and launching into my routine with prayer, exercise, breakfast, homeschool, but snuggled with my hubby, hunkered down in our bed with the children who filed in one by one, watching cartoons and praying for peace.

I realize that I have joined this war in a more definitive role than I have ever played before. And that comes at a price. Satan has me on his radar, even more honed in than he's been my whole life. And he will use whatever means, and whoever he can (even if they're unaware of the fact that he's using them), to plant even the tiniest seed of doubt and fear in my heart. I will be ridiculed, I will be called wrong, an idiot, opinionated, biased, close-minded, and worse... There will be attempts at knocking me on my butt like I have been today. In this world we live in, where anything goes, every one's thoughts are considered mere opinion and there is little regard to God's truth, I will be fighting the fight to protect human life. At times I will lose. At times I will feel alone and depressed much like today. But I am the daughter of a sovereign God, a God Who is unmoved by the lowly attempts and puppets of Satan, and He is protecting me as I serve Him in my role.

Today's reflection on the daily Mass readings from was exactly what I needed to feel secure in the above knowledge once again. As I seek to spread God's truth in the world - a task He asks of all Christians - He will protect me, guide me, lift me up, and reward me. He is the source from which I draw my courage and strength and therefore, I too will be unmoved.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Yes, God Even Cares About Our Trash!

Okay, so as much as I would LOVE to make this post about recycling, caring for the earth, being less wasteful, etc...which are all things on my mind A LOT, it is about something almost completely unrelated to those subjects.

I was just thinking today about the small things that God sometimes uses to say "see, I'm here, I care about even this." I was reminded about a little blessing that came this past week in the form of...well, a trash can storage bin...or whatever they are called. Yes, I'm talking about trash - and those large wooden or plastic bins with doors that people hide their trash cans in. Are they kind of unsightly? Maybe a little. We got ours from someone who thought it didn't go with their new landscape. But we were excited to receive it, as it really was a small blessing.

Here's the story:

In our neighborhood, which I guess is considered somewhere between rural and suburban, we have a lot of random animals roaming around, which often get into our trash. LOTS of homeless cats, a few foxes and deer from neighboring fields, and the occasional squirrel feeling extra saucy. We have woken up on many a morning to find a cornucopia of rotting veggies and meat, and other items - food and nonfood alike - trailing across our back patio area where we keep the trash until trash day. Of course, the culprit is almost always long gone, carrying with them whatever prize they dug out of our very accessible trash cans, probably laughing (do animals have a sense of humor?) at the mess they left in their wake.

So for the past few years (yes years!), we've put it on the "to do" list to find a remedy for this situation as we were both tired of cleaning up the garbage strewn about our yard. Okay, hubby was tired; I vehemently refused to do it!

We even went to Home Depot to price those plastic trash corrals - or whatever they're called - and were appalled at the amount H.D. was charging for a plastic bin that probably cost someone in China about $5 to make. HUNDREDS of dollars these things were. Really. Appalled. We left H.D. wondering how in the heck anyone could even spend that much on something like that. I mean really. It's trash. We have a big family. There's no way we can shell out a couple hundred bucks to buy one of those things.

Lowes was much the same, by the way.

So lately, the stench has been more of a problem than pesky critters searching for a midnight snack, and I have been curious as to what to do with this little issue of ours. Not only that, but the area where we keep the trash is really the most convenient and practical place to have it, yet it also is in the area of our backyard where we keep the grill. Who wants to smell smoldering trash on a hot summer day while trying to enjoy some toasty hot dogs at a bar-b-q? Not me. And probably not our guests. We'd move the grill except that it too is in the most convenient and practical area of the backyard, as it's tucked neatly into a spot we created out of the existing counter area that the previous owners had built. I think about it, and it used to be a very stressful thing....but it hasn't been like at the forefront of my mind too much lately. I mean, who thinks about their trash that much?

Enter Joe. And our business....both of which have been changing and growing so much lately. (That's not really pertinent to my trash tale but I thought I'd throw that in you honey!) He had a really big install with a residential client this week and the client really liked what he did with his pool area. He liked it so much, that this trash hideaway thingy - or whatever it's called - seemed so much like an eyesore against the backdrop of his newly - and beautifully, I might add - landscaped yard, that he asked Joe if he wanted to take it. What? A trash thingy in really good condition; one that would normally cost several hundred dollars, for FREE?? Of course! Yes, we'd LOVE to take it!

So as I'm watching Joe and his brother haul this thing into the backyard from the truck, I'm just smiling to myself...although at first, I was a little unnerved by the disgusting condition it was wonder the guy thought it didn't "go" with his yard... But then I said to myself, "it's for TRASH Rebecca, who cares that it's dirty?!" So I was smiling. But it didn't hit me til a few hours later that we just got a blessing delivered to us.

God says that He cares even about the hairs on our head. I never really thought that same care would extend to our trash but apparently it does. And maybe it's not so much about trash than it is about the trash bin thingy being a vehicle to deliver His love to us; a small reminder that He is still here and He does care about us. It's that simple.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Next Item On The List Is......Nothing!

List making. I LOVE it! I love writing down all the things I need to do, buy, fix, remember. What I love even more is being able to go back and check them off one by one. The organization which list-making provides is critical to my sanity, especially when it comes to my "to do" list. I can never remember everything and writing it down serves as a tangible in-my-face reminder of the many things I need to get done as a mommy of four littles, a wife, a homemaker, a business owner and a woman of God.

Since having children, mental lists just don't seem to hold their substance anymore. Usually, they dissipate the second I get distracted and then trying to recall each item is like trying to wrangle a child's favorite blankey away from them on wash day. There is one list, however, that seems to constantly be at the forefront of my mind, almost mocking me as I realize none of the items on it are able to be checked off.

This mental list is a list of things I'm waiting for. This list is often detrimental to my sanity because it is made up of things I cannot control. I have no say in when I will be able to draw a thick black line through any one item. I have to keep waiting and praying and hoping that each thing will be resolved in the perfect timing of God. It's a difficult thing to do sometimes, because I like to have some say in these particular items. One of the main items on my list is the future of our business. We want so many things to happen. But I've been re-learning lately that it's not about what I want or think I need or what my timing is, but what God's will for my life is and when it will come about according to His divine plan.

Getting to that moment in my faith walk where I really had to let go of things was a long and arduous journey. I'm sure there were many times in my life where He's tried to get me to give up that control, only to find that I was just like that determined child trying to keep my blankey near me even though it was time to let it go to get cleaned up, repaired, or even put away for good. I didn't trust Him enough to know that my "blankey" (my life) was in safe hands and that His plans for it were more important than what I wanted or thought I needed. I had to trust that He had my best interest in mind but at those times, I just couldn't, not always. The first real time I had to do it was when I found myself pregnant for the first time. Since then, I sort of back-tracked into a hole, afraid of what lay ahead, not always trusting in His perfect will.

Fast-forward to 2009 and hubby has just lost his job for the second time in 1 year, due to the recession. I was pregnant with our fourth child and there were no job prospects in sight. Talk about having no choice but to give up all control to Him and only be able to trust that He has our best interest in mind- the perfect plan He's been waiting to bring to fruition! We were at a cross-roads. I knew it. Joe knew it. We had to take a leap of faith and trust. So we did, and our company New Growth Landscaping was born. That year was difficult. But not as difficult as we anticipated. We meandered through each day, holding our breath, waiting for the other shoe to drop, waiting for the moment when everything would fail. We didn't have much control in the situation at all and yet, we still couldn't quite believe that God was carrying us. But He was. And we didn't fail. In fact, we went through that first year, bills being paid somehow, food being put on the table every day, our family building in spirit and momentum as we took our new life and ran with it. The numbers don't add up but we survived anyway, solely on the grace of God.

Our bottom line that first year was only in the negative by a few hundred dollars. The second year, we showed a profit in the 20 thousand's. This third year has yet to show how well we've done but to us, the numbers don't really matter. Our first year proved that very fact when we realized we survived without the numbers making any sense. What matters is what God wants. Our future is in His hands. My mental list is in His hands. I can stare at it all I want, wishing I could see those lines through each item, but they will not appear until He wants them to. It's something I'm working on really being at peace with. Most of the time, I resign myself to be at peace and those things on that list don't seem so glaring. But other times, I find it difficult to remain peaceful as I see a few of them beaming through another layer of dust.

One of my favorite verses is Jeremiah 29:11. "For I know well the plans I have in mind for you says the Lord, plans for your welfare, not for woe! plans to give you a future full of hope." (St. Joseph Edition of the NAB) I recently came across this verse in a most unexpected place. But it came in such perfect timing, as I was overwhelmed with anxiety over one particular item on my list that concerns the future of both our business and family lives. At that moment, a warm peace washed over me and though I often feel slightly anxious when I realize I don't know what our future holds, that peace is still there, plus a joy I never could have imagined. All because I know that God knows well each item on that list, and I can rest knowing that I really DO NOT have to keep the list in my mind; that He will take good care of it, remembering all items in perfect succession and using His divine pen to cross them out according to His plans. He has them in His mind and that's good enough. I don't have to do a thing.