Saturday, July 31, 2010

This Sunday's Gospel: 8/1/10

Luke 12:13-21

Someone in the crowd said to Jesus,
“Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.”
He replied to him,
“Friend, who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?”
Then he said to the crowd,
“Take care to guard against all greed,
for though one may be rich,
one’s life does not consist of possessions.”

Then he told them a parable.
“There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest.
He asked himself, ‘What shall I do,
for I do not have space to store my harvest?’
And he said, ‘This is what I shall do:
I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones.
There I shall store all my grain and other goods
and I shall say to myself, “Now as for you,
you have so many good things stored up for many years,
rest, eat, drink, be merry!”’
But God said to him,
‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you;
and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’
Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves
but are not rich in what matters to God.”

We all have heard that our lives could end at any time, and that we must always be prepared to enter eternal life. Though true, at my age, it doesn't seem real. Yes, I know I could be struck by a drunk driver or by lightning, but most things that could kill me are unlikely to happen. I don't take chances that are likely to cost me my life. And so it's easy to push it out of my mind.

Lately, I have heard many stories about young people suddenly and fatally collapsing from a heart attack or stroke. These people are not much older than I am and are seemingly in good health. What is causing this? Perhaps stress. Perhaps diet. Whatever the cause, it is something to be aware of, though not worried about it.

The realization that one could die at any time has a way of putting things in perspective. Indeed, possessions are not important and should not be what we base our lives upon. Our lives are empty indeed if we worry about and try to accumulate stuff (stuff we can't take with us). But yet our lives are so rich when we live according to God's purposes and in God's love. The feeling we get when we give to another in need is a very joyful feeling indeed, where as hording that same item gives us a feeling of deep emptiness. When we trust in the Lord for all things, it is very freeing; yet, when we try to control situations around us, we feel anxious. Yet society tells us we must have this and that to be happy. Whom should we trust; whom should we listen to? The emptiness and anxiety that accumulates in our chest starts to feel normal. And could it possibly be that the stress we feel from this trying to find happiness while we are just becoming more and more anxious, all at the pace at which our lives move, is actually killing some of us? What then is the point??

The first reading, Ecc 1:2; 2:21-23, includes these words:
Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth,
vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!
Here is one who has labored with wisdom and knowledge and skill,
and yet to another who has not labored over it,
he must leave property.
This also is vanity and a great misfortune.
For what profit comes to man from all the toil and anxiety of heart
with which he has labored under the sun?
All his days sorrow and grief are his occupation;
even at night his mind is not at rest.
This also is vanity.

Now I do not believe that means we should not work hard or labor. As in a post I just posted about a children's book, we are given certain "hats" to wear by our Heavenly Father - hats that reflect what we truly love to do and have been given as a gift the unique ability to do; we are to work hard in accordance with those hats, desiring God to be glorified. Doing God's will is not vanity, but working and toiling to accumulate things, always worried that they will be taken away from us or being frustrated when they break, is.

I want to end with a prayer taken directly from the psalmist
(Ps 90:3-4,5-6,12-13,14,17):
You turn man back to dust,
saying, “Return, O children of men.”
For a thousand years in your sight
are as yesterday, now that it is past,
or as a watch of the night.
You make an end of them in their sleep;
the next morning they are like the changing grass,
Which at dawn springs up anew,
but by evening wilts and fades.
Teach us to number our days aright,
that we may gain wisdom of heart.
Return, O LORD! How long?
Have pity on your servants!
Fill us at daybreak with your kindness,
that we may shout for joy and gladness all our days.
And may the gracious care of the LORD our God be ours;
prosper the work of our hands for us!
Prosper the work of our hands!

Book Review: A Hat for Ivan

A friend of mine gave me couple books and lent me a few movies after I asked for some advice regarding helping promote a love of God in our home. The movies were part of the Little Cherub series and were very good. And only 25-30 min long, which meant the boys were not sitting in front of the TV for very long. The books were a couple by Max Lucado, a Christian writer who also writes children's books. We read A Hat for Ivan this morning, and both the kids and I enjoyed it. It's about a 9 year old boy growing up in a town where everyone wears hats that illustrate what they love to do and are gifted in: baking, fishing, music, etc. Ivan's father is that hat maker. At 10 years, children are given their first hats, and Ivan is excited to get his. When he is on his way to school one day, one person after another give him a hat. The baker gives him a baking hat; the music teacher gives him a music hat; the firefighter gives him a firefighting hat, etc. Each time, "Ivan was surprised. Not happy. Not disappointed. Just surprised" and accepted the hats because he didn't want to disappoint his friends. None of the hats fit him very well and were clumsy to wear. Eventually, he was so tired from carrying and wearing all the hats and sat down, exhausted among them all. His father found him there and helped him up with a few understanding words. "I'm the hat-maker, Ivan, " he said. "I have seen what happens when people wear hats they weren't intended to wear. They feel silly. They fall down. And they get tired.... Listen, son, just because someone gives you a hat, that doesn't mean you are supposed to wear it. They mean well, but they don't know you. That's my job. I'm the hat-maker, and I'm your father.... Tell me, Ivan, what do you really love to do?"

I love how this subtly tells kids they don't have to live up to others' expectations and that, if they catch the metaphor, God knows them better than anyone else and can guide them and help them in deciding what proverbial hat to wear.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Singing in the Rain

Andy and I were playing "Don't Forget the Lyrics" board game tonight. We use youtube and the internet so that we can hear the songs as well as reading the lyrics. One of the songs tonight was "Singing in the Rain." This video of Gene Kelly is awesome. Enjoy!

Please note, because of copyright laws, I cannot publish this video directly on my blog. But the link directly to the video on youtube works.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A pattern is emerging

Thank you who commented on my last post about Blaise's going to Mass. I appreciate your support. My plan is to take him every week. If we have to have 10 more, or 20 more, Sundays like this last one, so be it, even if it does bother some people. But I'm hoping it won't take so long as, being 5, he is capable of understanding the concept of behaving in church and also of understanding that we can have a pleasant time in church or a bad time outside of church. I have no doubt he will get there; I just need to pray for patience as we are going through the process, as I believe Holly said.

I just want to write a quick note about a pattern I see emerging the last month. Mondays are typically great; I really enjoy the boys on those days. Sundays aren't too bad. But Fridays, Saturdays, and Wednesdays are trying; I have very little patience, and Blaise especially seems to like to test my patience on those days (perhaps because he senses that I have so little of it, or perhaps it's his frustration when I get after him for a relatively small infraction, or perhaps it's because I hadn't been around the day or two before that). Whatever the reason for Blaise's testing, what I am finding is that the day or two after working, especially after working my later shifts on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I am exhausted and just don't want to be around anyone, including my husband and kids. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I hit a wall somewhere between 1:00 and 3:00, but I have to keep working through it until 6:30 or 7:00, and am spent by the time the day is over. And that affects the next day. My plan is to go to bed early (8:30??) on my late days, perhaps spending some time praying alone in bed before actually falling asleep. And I'm going upstairs right now to take a nap.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Blaise's birthday and going to Mass

Happy 5th birthday, Blaise!

He is so proud to be a "big boy" now that he's 5! But he was surprised he didn't grow from one day to the next. He had me measure how tall he was on Saturday, then again on Sunday (his birthday), and was a bit disappointed until I showed him how much smaller he was on his 4th birthday. Before going to bed, he had me lift him up to look in the mirror. "Look how big my cheeks are. And my mouth. And my chin!" he said. I did something similar the morning of my 5th birthday. I woke up and looked at my hand and thought it was HUGE. I wouldn't get out of bed or take my hand out from under the pillow because it was so big. So Blaise's thoughts that he had grown so much was very entertaining.

We had both Andy's and my family over for the afternoon. It was great to see everyone, and both boys had a great time. I had threatened to put any gifts back in trunks if anyone but grandparents and godparents brought them, so we had just the right amount of gifts. Blaise got a remote controlled car, a great game called Goblet Gobblers, a bike (which was given to him early), and a dust buster. I especially like the dust buster. The family room has been staying very clean since he opened that!

Recently, the boys have been going to Mass with us sporadically because they just simply do not behave. We had been planning to start to bring Blaise weekly soon, though dreading it. A wonderful friend graciously pointed out that kids are very impressionable at this age and that it's an important time for formation and expressed her concern that we're not taking him to Mass with us. Last week, he had been in a vacation Bible school, and so I thought it would be a good opportunity to start taking him. So I linked Mass-going to being a "big boy" and told him it is our gift to God for all He has given to us.

Mass was a disaster for nearly the first half. As soon as I knelt down, he started trying to fold the kneeler up while I was on it. I asked him to stop and took him out when he didn't. Since I had decided to sit in the third pew, I had to go through the front door and sit in that entry way. If his very loud crying echoed through the church the way the reading echoed through the entry way, I'm sure we disrupted most people's praying. I made it clear that we could either have a miserable time outside the church or a nice time inside, so he let me take him back inside, where he promptly started to kick me. So we started the process all over again, with more crying. He finally said he wanted to be in the church and settled down enough that we could go back in, during the Gospel reading. While he wasn't perfect from that point on, he was much better, and we were able to stay in the pew. He did tell me that next week he would be better. If he's not, we'll just have to have a miserable time outside the church again, until he decides he wants a nice time inside. If you could just say one quick prayer that he learns to behave in church, I would appreciate it. Thanks. But I feel good that we're starting this process toward hopefully better behavior in church.

Message of Our Lady of Medjugorje

I've been posting Our Lady's messages in Medjugorje on the side of my blog. Is anyone interested in reading them if I post them in the main body of my blog?

This is her July 25 message to Mirija:

"Dear children! Anew I call you to
follow me with joy. I desire to lead all of you to my Son, your
Savior. You are not aware that without Him you do not have joy
and peace, nor a future or eternal life. Therefore, little
children, make good use of this time of joyful prayer and
surrender. Thank you for having responded to my call."

Someday I can also post more background regarding these messages if anyone would like.

God bless you!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

This Sunday's Gospel

Luke 11:1-13
Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished,
one of his disciples said to him,
"Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples."
He said to them, "When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread
and forgive us our sins
for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us,
and do not subject us to the final test."

And he said to them, "Suppose one of you has a friend
to whom he goes at midnight and says,
'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread,
for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey
and I have nothing to offer him,'
and he says in reply from within,
'Do not bother me; the door has already been locked
and my children and I are already in bed.
I cannot get up to give you anything.'
I tell you,
if he does not get up to give the visitor the loaves
because of their friendship,
he will get up to give him whatever he needs
because of his persistence.

"And I tell you, ask and you will receive;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks, receives;
and the one who seeks, finds;
and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
What father among you would hand his son a snake
when he asks for a fish?
Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg?
If you then, who are wicked,
know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will the Father in heaven
give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?"

So often it seems we ask for things and never receive them. It is too easy to give up on prayer, to say, "Well, that didn't work." Perhaps we move on and pray for something else, saying that what we had wanted must not be God's will. Perhaps it is not, but Jesus says something interesting here:
"If he does not get up to give the visitor the loaves
because of their friendship,
he will get up to give him whatever he needs
because of his persistence."
"Ask and you will receive;... for everyone who asks, receives."
What does this mean? Jesus must want us to ask, and ask again and again and... again.

If I were God, I would find this to get annoying. "I told you no once. That is my answer. You don't have to ask again" is a common phrase in this house. But not so with God, Jesus says.

Think of Saint Monica. She prayed for years and years and years and years for the conversion of her sinful son. She never gave up on asking God for this one favor. And we know what happens - her son became a very holy man, in fact one of our earliest and best known saints: St. Augustine. We know the story, but it is too easy to forget how long those years of praying and yet seeing her beloved son fall into one sin after another must have been for Monica.

I have been very concerned about my Blaise recently. Isaac too, but more so Blaise (Some of you experienced moms may laugh at this a little - and I realize I will likely too when he is a little older and I am perhaps going through this with one of his younger siblings). He is 5 years old today (Happy birthday, my big boy! I will hopefully post something regarding his birthday soon). He is my emotional, trying kid, though some days he can be absolutely wonderful and helpful, but just flip the coin and... He seems to make too light of prayer time and even seems to disdain it at times. When we do take him to Mass, which has been infrequent until yesterday (another post), he tries to misbehave and make us angry. I do not want to be angry at Mass or with prayer, especially in that I do not want the boys to associate Mass and prayer with anger, when patience is the virtue I should be exhibiting. Well, obviously, I have been praying only 5 years and 9 months for this particular child, compared to Monica's years of prayer for hers before his conversion when he was 29 or 30. This gives me hope that, with continued, and more fervent, prayer, my children will indeed become holy men and women.

But I digress. I like the reflections in a book I have, The Better Part, by John Bartunek, LC. So I will end with something from this book: "Prayer is much simpler than you think. [Jesus] is always with you, always at your side and in your heart. [He is] always paying attention to you, thinking of you. [He is] always interested in what you are going through and what is on your mind and heart. Remember this, believe it, and prayer will be as natural as breathing... Live in the awareness of [His] presence; let [Him] be your life's companion."

And a prayer from the same book:
"I trust in you, Lord. Send me the gifts of your Holy Spirit. Fill my soul with your light and your peace; wipe away all the stains of selfishness. I want to live each new day with the freshness of your everlasting love. I want to live with the joy of the simple child and the wisdom of old age. I want my life to be a window, clear and spotless, that faces the vista of your Sacred Heart."

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Part Time

Just thought I'd share: Working part time is going great! I feel I have a much better balance between home and work, and my patience with the boys seems to have quadrupled, as has my ability to enjoy them! Yay! I'm more sure than I was before that when I do get to stay home full time, I will truly enjoy it, as will the kids!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Washing up

Blaise started vacation Bible school today at St Peter's and loved it. He didn't give us many details of what they did, but he's excited to go back tomorrow with his friends Frank and Isaac (another Isaac, not his brother).

On our way home, he told me the van was dirty and needed to be washed. Well, that was true enough. So I put the boys to work. They learned how the clean a car, though they didn't very well figure out how to see a job through to its completion, so much of the cleaning fell on my shoulders while they played... until I got the hose out again to rinse the car. We had a good time, and the boys did a great job.

And why not stop there? Blaise decided his bike needed a bath too, so I have him some clean water and a towel and let him have at it. Here's Blaise taking a short break from washing in order to manually jack up the side of his bike to check that his training wheels are turning well.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Martha, Martha...

As a way to reflect on the following Sunday's Gospel, I'm going to start to post more often on the Gospel. When I looked up this Sunday's Gospel reading, I was pleased to see it's the reading about Mary and Martha. It's a wonderfully challenging yet simple Gospel.

Luke 10:38-42
Jesus entered a village
where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him.
She had a sister named Mary
who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak.
Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said,
"Lord, do you not care
that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving?
Tell her to help me."
The Lord said to her in reply,
"Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.
There is need of only one thing.
Mary has chosen the better part
and it will not be taken from her."

"Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things." Is this not rampant throughout our society? So many of us are anxious and worried about many things. So many of us are so busy running around doing things, all while thinking about everything else we have yet to do. Constant multitasking - isn't that the work of us women and mothers? Such work needs to be done, but it cannot be the focus of our lives. This life is not about getting stuff done or about being anxious and worried about other things, about what may or may not happen at any point. How many times has Christ said, "Do not be afraid"?

"There is need of only one thing." To sit at His feet, to know Him, to trust Him. Why do we have such difficulty with this? Do we not have a deep desire to know Him more deeply?

Two things I am reflecting on today are our physical busyness, constantly doing something, and the busyness of our brains. It's easy to notice how physically busy we are and how few times we actually sit down to rest in prayer. But what about mental busyness? Do you find that once you do sit down to pray, or while you're in Church, your mind wanders to this or that? To what you have to do, to what your son or daughter just did or will do later that day, to what the person in front of you is wearing or what the little boy three pews in front is doing? It is so difficult to sit with Jesus and listen to Him. We don't know how to stop.

I had read a couple articles in which the internet, for one thing, contributes to this. With all the information quickly available to us, and with how easily we can check email while chatting with someone on facebook, shopping for deals on new shirts, and reading the news, all while thinking about what our next blog post will be, of course our brains are working on overdrive and are being conditioned to do more of that, resulting in our having difficulty slowing down.

I had also been reading an interesting book, Simplicity Parenting, by Kim John Payne, in which, among other things, Payne talks about children becoming overwhelmed by too many toys which offer too many choices, too many activities, complicated schedules, and TV, computers, and other "screens." He offers story after story in which parents have simplified the above and have seen dramatic improvements in their children's behavior. Children can become easily overwhelmed, anxious, and worried about things. And then we want them to develop a relationship with our Lord, and we want them to settle down a bit and behave. Such "too much" is completely antagonistic to our children developing a prayer life.

But what do we do? Our world is now build around cell phones and the internet. Andy and I are "behind the times" for not having reception to our TV and not having a blackberry or other similar device. I would love to simplify completely, but where do we start? And how far do we go? And what do we do with all this stuff?

"Mary has chosen the better part, and it will not be taken from her." No, He will not take it from us, but how many times do we take the opportunity from ourselves?

Lord, please help me to slow down and sit at your feet. Help me to know you and trust you with all things, to feel less anxious about all things. Amen

Gone Fishing

The boys have been enjoying some fishing lately. They went fishing on a lake with my family and us just over a week ago. Though they didn't catch anything, they had fun.

So Andy went out and bought them fishing poles. Blaise took to casting pretty well.

We went fishing yesterday at a nearby lake with the boys' new fishing poles. Unfortunately, I forgot the camera, but the boys, especially Blaise, had a great time. They each brought in their first fish: Isaac first with a blue gill then Blaise with a sun fish. After that, we must have caught and released 15 more fish, including one small bass.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Return to the beginning

I started my blog with this prayer: "Mary, I wish to consecrate the writing I do in this blog to you and to your Immaculate Heart, and through you to your Son, Jesus, and His Sacred Heart, for the GLORY OF OUR FATHER IN HEAVEN. Please pray for me and my project and guide my hand as I write."

And I began with this hope and purpose: "While I am not a writer or a theologian by training, I am a writer in that I love to write and rarely feel more alive than when I do write. And I am a theologian in that I love to study about God and to pray. I am one of those crazy people that learn the most through writing, especially when that writing is done in prayer and contemplation. And I feel that God has placed the desire to learn about Him and the desire to write on my heart. I hope that He will bless my efforts to praise Him through the use of the gifts He has given me and that He will help me to develop those gifts through their continued use so that I am able to give Him all the more glory.... [And] I believe I have [been given] a special gift in knowing the need to surrender and rely on our Heavenly Father and the the hope and joy that can result from doing just that. As I continue to write and pray, I hope I can continue to learn to surrender to Him and trust Him always more. And I hope to share my experiences with others... who wish to grow further in faith."

Those words were written on 1/20/09 and 1/21/09. In the last 1 1/2 years, I have deviated too often from what I originally set out to do with my blog. I have turned it into a place to complain about my current situation (which is not so bad in that God has given me SO MUCH to be thankful for) rather than a place to give our Lord glory. I have allowed myself to feel sorry for myself, rather than grateful. I have focused on myself rather than on Him, and clinged to some semblance of control rather than surrendering to Him. Unfortunately, these changes in my blog have reflected changes in my life as well. I must return to my original prayer, my original hope, my original purpose, in writing this blog, or give the blog up.

I also like how many of my blogging friends have used their blogs to beautifully document events in their family life, and the beauty of their children and what their children do. So I hope to make that a portion of my blog as well.

My blogging (and following other blogs) may continue to be sporatic, as I also do not want it to take away from the time I do have with my husband and boys. Speaking of which, my boys are asking me to play with them...

So I offer this brief prayer: Lord, help me and all of us bloggers to give you glory through the words we write and the topics we choose. May we grow closer to you. And may the relationships we develop while blogging and in life reflect our growing relationship with you. Amen.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Dairy Days and Cousin's Wedding Reception

Some recent happenings around here include my cousin's wedding reception. He and his wife got married in Mexico then had a reception in Wisconsin. (An aside, what is your opinion on the common marriage of today, ie two people living together then being married by a justice of the peace, outside a church of course? I have mixed feelings, as this type of marriage is a contract, an agreement, and really just comes down to a piece of paper that is too easy to undo. On the other hand, there is a form of commitment, which is at least adds some dimension of permanency beyond sharing a roof and unfortunately a bed. What do you do in this case, when you are invited to the wedding and/or reception? I was glad in this case to have an excuse to not go to the wedding but felt ok about going to the reception.)

Anyway, the boys had a great time with the pinata, their little cousin Addy and a new friend, David, as well as the rest of the family.

As you can see, they couldn't get enough of the pinata even after all the candy fell out... so they attempted to put it back together and then went at it again and again.

The boys with cousin Addy and friend David

A four-generation photo, with Great-Grandpa, and a beautiful view!

The boys had a great time at the Dairy Days and Brunch also. They had some fun things for kids to do, such as a pedal tractor pull, petting calves and other animals and seeing cows, a wagon ride behind a tractor, and exploring various tractors and a combine. The boys loved it!

The tractor pull. Something I had never heard of when we lived in a medium-sized city, but something that is big around here. For those of you who have never seen one, they usually take full size, usually older, tractors that have been fixed up and attach something to the back that is weighted and somehow actually gets heavier the further it's pulled, then drops a sled so that it has more drag on the ground. Of course, the point is to go the farthest.

Tractors and combines, oh my!

Petting calves.

Just a couple more photos to end this post with:

My second breakfast on Saturday: spaghetti and meatballs followed by ice cream.
The boys playing baseball. Notice how Blaise has the football helmet pulled down over his eyes and face. That is his catcher's mask. The boys love to do this. Isaac typically puts one baseball hat on backwards and put another one on over his face. They also will wear backpacks backwards for the chest protection catchers usually wear. Sometimes one of us (Andy or I) will be asked to stand behind the "little catcher" and be the "big catcher" or ump.

Today, we're going to the pool. Andy took the boys last week and said they both actually went down the waterslide with him, which is about 3 stories tall, over and over. They've also recently been going under something that pours water down onto them from a mushroom-shaped "roof" just above them. Both of these, as well as their willingness to go into the water to their chins, are new things for them. My father-in-law has free tickets to a big outdoor water park near us, which he offered to us. We went last year, and it turned out to be a pseudo-disaster (basically the boys would scream if we tried to get them on anything, or even just to wade in the calf-deep water), but this year they will likely have a great time! :) It's great to see them enjoying stuff like that!

Enjoy your day!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Countdown to Graduation: 11 months

Less than a year now until Andy graduates. What a nice thought. We're enjoying our summer, with his being off for the time being. He signed up for 2 summer classes and is currently in between them. So things are calmer around here.

Also, I cut back to part time this last week, from 30+ hours to 20+ hours, and it is seeming to make the difference I was hoping it would! I still feel drained after my late days (at least this week), though not as much since I start the two days later and so am not working 10 and 11 hours on those days, as I was before. And I have one more day off (Monday) to spend with my boys!

I hope you all enjoy your 4th of July weekend! May God bless America and bring us all back to hoping and trusting in Him!