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

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Crucify Him!

Today marks the beginning of Holy Week.  I don't know about you but this time of the year is always so very hard for me.  I am not even sure I can explain why except to say that there is a heaviness in my heart at the beginning of Lent and it doesn't lift until Easter Sunday.  A heaviness that grows deeper as we travel through Palm Sunday's Mass, reliving the Passion of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

This year was no different in that, but what was different was that this Lent, it seems like the devil was on the prowl ever more swiftly.  I have had a number of serious "run-ins" with him over these past few weeks, both in my personal life and via the trappings of our fallen world.  All the events in that time came to a head for me this morning as I followed along during the remembrance of the Passion, and listened to the short homily given by our resident Deacon.

The theme of the homily focused on the words "Crucify Him!"  In utter grief and conviction, it was hard to not tear up during the reading of the actions and words expressed by that crowd so long ago. Appropriately, Deacon Hall paralleled those two condemning words with our actions of today.  How many times have we said them in our hearts every time we've chosen to sin?  How many times have we basically spit on the saving grace of our Lord, given to us through His death and resurrection, each time we choose that which we know is wrong?  Or every time we've given in to the temptations of Satan and allowed evil to infiltrate our lives?  Or every time we decided we were happy with where we were in our relationship (or lack thereof) with Christ; feeling no need to better it? And what about every time we've stood silent in the face of injustice?  Every time we've not taken the opportunity to lovingly admonish our family or friends when they do something that goes against God?

Crucify Him!

As I thought about my own sins, my thoughts stemmed out to those of the whole world.  During Lent one of my "additions" has been to say a Divine Mercy Chaplet every single day.  Though I regretfully have missed a day here and there, as I made it a habit, I became more and more aware of the power of this prayer and the need for it.  If there is anything out there in the world recently that is more telling of the need for Christ and His Mercy, it is the horrific event that happened in Steubenville last Summer; brought to light as the trial took place last week, ending in the conviction of the two young men involved.

Where is the world going when we just stand by and allow such trauma to happen to a young girl and not only do NOTHING, but spread it across every avenue of social media as if it is a joke?  Where is the world going when we don't teach our children to respect other people?  To treat people as human beings with value instead of something to be used and consumed?  Where is the world going when we as adults allow our children to drink to the point of debilitation, and even supply them with the alcohol?  Where is this world going when we try to place the blame on the victim of a heinous crime, instead of where it truly belongs? 

Where are we going when we choose to crucify Jesus Christ over and over again in our actions, and in total disregard for the fact that He GAVE HIS LIFE FOR US?

How far removed are we from reality that these things are considered status quo?  Where is the conviction?  Where is the responsibility?

As I sat in the pew after Mass today, completely exhausted and emotionally spent from the reality of Christ's suffering and death, and every thought that had converged on me during the Mass, I realized how in my own life, there have been times when I have been quite stagnant with my faith.  There have been times when I have felt "happy where I am" in my relationship with God, and have not wanted to make the effort to delve in deeper, go to places I know are hard, sacrifice more, or be humbled and broken further. And though it seems that I would be happier to stay where I am, the truth is, I am not.  I suffer endlessly because of it.  I have rejected Christ, and in essence, I have crucified Him all over again.  And every single time I sin, that is what I am doing.  Crucifying Jesus Christ.

The exciting thing is, that the HOPE found in Christ's resurrection is a powerful assertion that no matter what, when we return to Him, He will welcome us with open arms.  When we seek Him out, when we call to Him, when we ask Him to remember us and have mercy on us, we remove the paralysis and continue on in our journeys toward Him.  All are forgiven in His name.  All have access to the gift of His passionate love and saving grace.  When we find ourselves longing for His Kingdom and asking Him to humble us and help us enter into a deeper relationship with Him, the temptations and evils and selfishness of a worldly life don't look as exciting in comparison.  It is then that the horrifying reality of sin is more tangible to us, when disrespecting and traumatizing other people isn't viewed as a joke, when the reality of social media being a tool of the devil is realized.  It is then that Christ's death - a death meant to save us from our sins - is enough to make us turn away from sin.  It is then that we are turned on to the call of God in our lives, and we fall all over ourselves in attempts to answer Him.

Jesus Christ suffered THIS for YOU!
As we go through holy week, let us meditate on the suffering of Christ and look forward with a hopeful heart to celebrating His resurrection.  But let us also be mindful of the purpose of both of these things: salvation from our sins.  And let us ask ourselves this question: What would I rather be saying with conviction?  "Crucify Him!" or, "Jesus, remember me, when You come into Your Kingdom."

Saturday, March 16, 2013

I Love You Because

For Christmas, we got a homemade gift from Joe's sister.  It was a picture frame turned into a dry erase board.  In the frame, she put a decorative piece of paper with the words "I love you because..." written on it.  And the glass surface serves as the dry erase board.

We stuck it by our bed so we could randomly surprise each other with words expressing our love. Over the months, in moments of thoughtfulness, moments when I see him doing something cute or nice, or I just think about him and get that giddy feeling, I write my love notes to him.

I haven't ever written one without first being prompted by those wonderful "lovey" feelings.

Never until today.

Earlier, we had a little fight. Okay, a big one. I mean, not colossal; not how fights used to be for us.  Still, fights of any real magnitude are few and far between usually so the degree of this one was a hurtful surprise. 

I went to our room and shut the door.  Sitting on his side of the bed, I noticed the frame.  It was empty as the kids erased the last message on it.  I felt like writing something mean.  Like 'I love you because, despite how awful you are, I have to.'  Or something else completely horrible and dishonoring.

I chewed on it for awhile.  I felt so much bitterness in my heart.  I did the dishes and prayed a Hail Mary.  I felt myself calming.  I got online and chatted with a friend.  More calm.  I got on my blog and noticed traffic from someone googling our company and Joe's name.  It led them to this post which I wrote about him for his birthday last year.  My heart began to soften and open to the prompting of love.

I decided to write a message on the frame, despite my hurt feelings.  Despite the pain I still felt stinging my heart, I knew that I had to erase the anger inside and work through my negative feelings in order to show my husband that I love him even though we had a fight.  He is still learning how to love unconditionally.  He is still navigating the murky waters of trust and tangible communion in any sort of relationship.  He needs my love.  And I need his.

Sometimes, in any relationship be it marital, friendship, or extended family, we are hurt. Much like our feelings of excitement, desire or happiness, those hurt feelings can often fuel our actions.  We may feel like stopping that flow of our love.  We don't want to make the effort because it's just too hard.  We often only think of ourselves and we push the other person away because we don't want to deal with the hurt or confusion anymore.  But LOVE needs to have a place no matter how we feel.  It needs to be expressed even in the most difficult of circumstances....even when we don't feel like it.  Even when it takes a lot of effort.  Everyone deserves love.  Everyone is worth it.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

It's My Birthday!

Me, last summer, pregnant w/#5
Today I am 31.  Not 58, not 100, like my kids have joked about.


Last year, my wonderful husband, along with my sister and my friend, threw me a fun birthday party to mark my passage into the thirties.  I was so blessed to see so many of my family and friends, and I missed those who could not make it.  But I felt no different than 29.

Today I do not feel different than 30.

At times, I have felt 58, or even 100, since I started having babies.  So nothing new there either.

This time last year I was pregnant with #5 and now he is 6 months old.  That's different.

This time last year I was full of anticipation for our future, anxious and overwhelmed with what I hoped would come soon.  That's different, also.  Because this year I'm a little more calm and peaceful over our future, though I do have my days, and getting here to this place of rest took a long, long journey.

Me at 1 or so
Today, I guess, just marks another year's passing.  A day I can reflect over the last 12 months and take inventory of my accomplishments and failings over the year, all that has happened, and all that hasn't.  I can thank God for all that He has blessed me with in my 31 years.  For the family I was born into, as my sister Cori just said to me on the phone, 'My life is better because you're in it; happy birthday.  I'm glad we got the family we did.'  I am glad, too, Cori!  I have been so very blessed by the family I was born into.

I can also thank God for what He has done for me in my life.  What He's doing for my husband and our children.  For all the memories I've been able to create; for all the blessings and challenges of old, and the ones the future will bring.

I look back on different moments in my life, in awe of the divine plan that surrounded me and how unaware of it I was. I am in awe of the guidance I've had, though I have strayed from it at times. I look at pictures of me as a little girl and I wish so many things for her; things I wish I could tell her to help her through the next few decades.  But I have a feeling she wouldn't listen to me anyway.

Today I celebrate my mother's birthing day.  I celebrate all the people in my life, especially those who have challenged me. I celebrate my husband, for loving me and our children, for making the last 9 + years of my life what it has been to me: a gift, a learning experience,

         a dance in the rain despite the storms,
                    the magic of travels through a waterfall of hope.

Today I celebrate not just my birthday, but Life.

 The moments behind me, and the ones yet to live.

Me and my big sister, Kate
First or Second Grade at St. Johns!

This funny picture is from when I was about 11

Sunday, March 10, 2013

What Do I Know About Beauty?

In case you missed the announcement, I am doing the A-Z Blog Challenge in April.  Actually, attempting to do the challenge would be a better suited phrase here.  In any case, I previously mentioned two ideas given to me for my posts:

3 random words from which I choose 1 to write about.

As I thought more about these, I thought 'hmmm...maybe I'll combine them.'   

So, now that I've decided what to do (and my friend Katie is graciously supplying me with the words), here's my challenge:  What do I know about beauty?

My sister, Corita, who gave me the idea to write about beauty, said that I actually write about it often on my blog already, and I will do fine.  I write about my kids, I write about life.  Both of those themes are beautiful in so many different ways, even in the challenges presented by each.  I still felt a little hesitant.

Today as I watched my children have a contest to see who could make the best picture for me using sidewalk chalk and organic matter scavenged from our yard, I realized that there is much beauty in every single thing, if only I will look.  Surely I can write about that, right?  I don't actually have to know much about beauty to begin with, as long as I'm willing to make efforts to discover it.

Sometimes beauty is the senseless gatherings of a three year old, haphazardly thrown into a pile.. 
           a beautiful mess.

       Sometimes it's the shadows creeping over the house, chasing the sun to the western sky, dividing artwork into two landscapes.

Sometimes it's red winter berries scattered 
         on the driveway by little hands 
            to express  

Sometimes it's colorful boats 
across an asphalt sea.

Sometimes it's just the JOY your heart feels watching your children work together in teams to create art and win a prize.
Cori lamented that we label things as beautiful because they have some sort of divine order to them  Perhaps that is true. Perhaps there is a "method" to God's madness when He created children in all of their messy, clumsy, crazy ways.  And in the brown, barren landscape of March silently awaiting Spring.  And even in the scattered materials of little artists showcasing the inner workings of their minds as they attempt to please their mama. 

" Beauty is the shadow of God on the universe." - Gabriela Mistral, DesolacĂ­on

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Taking Inventory of Our Blessings

Tonight as I was washing the dishes (by hand because we still do not have a dishwasher), I realized that I had been angry earlier about some of the challenges we've faced of late, and I wanted to use the time at the sink to talk to God, ask for forgiveness and thank Him.  As I was going over things in my mind, I decided it would be a good idea to sit down afterward and really take inventory of the blessings He has bestowed upon us- an activity which will help to further wash away all that negativity from earlier which I tried to undo as I soaped up the dishes in the sink.

Aside from the blessings of eternal life, hope in Jesus, everlasting Love from God, there are more tangible blessings in every day life which we should meditate more on and be in constant thanksgiving for.

So here, my friends, is a list of some of our blessings; not to brag or make you feel envious as I'm sure you have much (and maybe more) to be thankful for as well, but to share with you that despite how awful things seem for me/us (as I write about them a lot here on this blog), I am also aware how truly blessed we are.  I hope it will inspire you to sit down in the quiet part of your day - if you have one; they're scarce here! - and create an inventoried list of your own blessings.  And then take the time to really thank God for all that He bestows upon you.

Our Five Beautiful, Amazing Children
ALL of our children are a blessing, but I find it really enjoyable and inspiring to take a moment sometimes and think about them individually and thank God for His perfect design.  Family dynamics always intrigue me. God is a god of order and wisdom and He makes perfect plans for each of His children.  It is absolutely NO mistake what birth-order our children came in, or the specific personalities they were given, or even the individual challenges they each face.  Our oldest, Angelina, is so bright, so full of life; loves dancing and singing and anything artistic.  She is definitely a right-brained child and therefore has trouble with things like Math and Reading.  She is very high-strung and anxious and this part of her personality often presents a challenge for us, and herself.  But, her heart is so full of love and she is such a wonderful little girl, so helpful and caring.  Aidan is next, such a sweet-heart, so smart and such a B-O-Y! But he exhibits a wonderful balance between the typical destructive adventurous spirit and a deep sensitivity, which makes him mostly a lover, not a fighter.  Isabella is our second girl and we definitely have our work cut out with her!  She is so amazing, though; LOVES her baby brother to pieces, and reminds me MUCH of myself when I was young.  She's a free-spirit, but has a wise face and I just know she's going to do great things when she is older.  Sophia is next; we call her our little Dennis the Menace.  But she is so...easy...and so goofy and silly and we can forgive her for just about any of her crazy antics because her bright blue eyes and little button nose refuse to unhand us unless we do.  Last (so far) is Jeremiah.  He's so cute, so happy, so full of life. Just started crawling. Loves his mama.  I don't know what else to say but how very blessed we are with each of our children.  I can't wait to see what the Lord does with their lives.

Our Family Business
This is one that is a little bit difficult to view as a blessing at this moment in time, but nevertheless it makes the list as it should.  We started our business in 2009 and actually did well the first 3 years considering the state of the economy and the fact that it was a new business.  Though the 2011 season seemed to be a sign that we were on the right path and only getting better, this past season did not bode well for us.  I feel if we didn't have the faith that we do, and the desire in our hearts to go a specific route with our business, we would be devastated and truly down in the depths.  But, the Lord is sovereign and merciful and He takes good care of us.  We never have to fear because we know that no matter what our bank account says, we are one of the richest families in the world and we will be taken care of.  Starting our business despite the challenges we have faced was one of the biggest blessings thus far.  We have learned so much and we have grown closer as a couple, a family, Catholics, business owners, and parents.  The challenges we have faced have served as great reminders to keep our eyes fixed on the cross and to always trust in Jesus.  No matter what.

Our Home
This, too, is a difficult one, as we have been wanting to move for some time now.  God has said 'no' each and every year we got the itch to start looking for a new place.  We want land to grow our business, and a slightly bigger home.  But it is not time. And in the moments I find myself really anxious about this, closing my eyes against the view, I am so blessed to suddenly look up and have a new appreciation of my home as I see my kids running through it filling it with laughter, watch them playing alongside each other, see the love poured out in tangible ways all throughout our home.  It may not be the best or biggest home, it may feel cramped and dated and often suffocating at times.  But it is our home.  Our first real home.  I have literally had 3 babies here.  We have worked together on countless projects in this home, growing our love and respect for each other.  We have welcomed so many of our family and friends into this home for birthday parties and holiday celebrations over the last 6 years.  It is truly where we belong at this point in our life.  It takes a lot for me to concede to this aspect of God's perfect plan.  But I must.

My Extended Family
My husband and I have been through a lot in our marriage.  There has been much pain and much suffering, many moments of despair.  The one most constant thing, other than our Heavenly Father, throughout our ups and downs, has been my family.  Time and time again they have surprised both hubby and I with their generous love in the form of advice, wisdom, food, counsel, financial help, grace, prayers, support.  My husband just wrote a little note to them on our family facebook page about them helping to teach him what unconditional love is, and how grateful he is to have them in our life.  I can't agree more.  Though I have always known how loving my family can be, they never cease to amaze me when they put that love into action.  We are truly blessed to call them family.  Not only that, but we have been blessed by the opportunities to show them our love and support in all the above mentioned ways as well.  People don't often realize that allowing others to help [them] blesses those others in so many ways.  It is part of God's perfect calling to servanthood.

Joe and I don't have a lot of friends.  We don't go out often.  For a long time, we craved the types of friendships we had before we got married and had kids.  We wanted so much of the social aspect of life before. But God showed us what was more important than going out every weekend with other people.  And we do have a few very good friends.  And they're good friends because they don't let us get away with being less than God wants us to be. Our friendships are ones of encouragement, trust, prayer, respect, and support.  It is amazing the way God has shown both my husband and me what true friendship is, the value that lies in it, and the measures He takes to bring it about.  We are truly blessed in this area.

Our Marriage
When we first got married, things were really tough.  I have written several posts on here alluding to aspects of our relationship, one of my favorites being this one.  But suffice it to say that we have come such an incredibly long way in our short marriage.  God has really changed us both.  He is where the glory lies. Joe and I worked hard but our efforts were meaningless with out the blessing of the Lord, His grace and strength which kept us going.  It was not Joe and me, really, but the willingness we had to allow God to transform us into what He wants us to be.  There is much more work to be done.  There is much more to let go of, to relinquish to Him, to pray about.  But I can say without a doubt that He has done great things for us, and He is wondrous indeed!  Our marriage is truly a great testament to God's love.

The Sacraments
Lastly, but most importantly!  Over the years, I have become more aware of how beautiful the sacraments truly are, and how perfect is His plan in instituting them.  Grace abounds through each sacrament we are able to receive.  It is an amazing thing to get to go to Mass (though I know we all struggle with wanting to go sometimes), to receive the body and blood of Jesus each and every week, or more often if we are able to.  It is an amazing thing to be able to confess our sins to a fellow sinful human, knowing full-well that God has supernaturally bestowed a power and right to that human to absolve us of our sins in His holy name.  It is a wonderful thing to have received Baptism, chosen by my parents to welcome me into His one true Church, and Confirmation, chosen by myself to continue on my journey in my Catholic Faith.  Marriage as a sacrament never had more meaning to me than it has in the past few years.  I finally understand why it is a sacrament and I am so blessed by it.

This of course, is a partial list, as I could stay up late and spend much time going through every single blessing I can think of in our life.  But these, I felt, were the most important.  I hope you will find some things to be thankful for in your own life.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

A-Z Blog Challenge

So I have decided that this year I will try to do the A-Z blog challenge officially.  Last year I started late so it was unofficial, of course, and then I abandoned it when I realized I just didn't feel like doing it...I think I got to letter Q, maybe.

I am trying to decide on a theme.  My friend gave me the idea of having her send me a few topics for each letter and I choose one and write about it.  Hmmm..

My sister gave me the idea of writing about Beauty.   I was thinking more on this.  I'm not sure I could do such a theme justice.  I don't know much about Beauty.

Wish me luck and check back during the month of April to see what I'm spilling out of this crazy head of mine for the challenge!  But come back before then to see if I have anything important to share!  ;-)