Monday, July 11, 2016

My Father's Legacy

Today my father would have been 88. This is the first birthday we’ll be spending without him here on earth. He was called Home January 29th of this year. It’s been a very difficult journey trying to get used to life without the physical presence of this wonderful man in our lives. Each first so far has been extremely challenging; Easter, his favorite holiday, Father’s Day, and now his birthday. Never before has “To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears”, in the Hail Holy Queen meant so much. As Father’s Day was approaching last month I wanted to write some thoughts about my dad and found a note I had written two years ago after visiting him on that Father’s Day. It speaks to the legacy he has left which I am so very grateful for.

Father’s Day, 2014

Watching my dad decline, seeing him sitting in his wheelchair, head lowered because he's just too tired to sit up and stay awake, I wonder, where did this strong man go? This strong, confident, joyful, boisterous full-of- life man, always so quick to give a smile and tell a story.  And why did I expect he'd be that man til my dying day? Did I really believe he'd stay young and strong? 

These past five years I have watched him decline.  I’ve watched his body try to take over and watched him fight back. A fighter he is. My daddy is strong, brave, courageous.  

We used to hit heads a lot in my younger years. Oh how I would argue with him. I didn't want to do things his way, didn't want his advice. But now how I treasure the lessons he taught me. I wonder if I let him know before his mind began to slip away. I hope he knows…

I hope he knows that I did listen I did hear. I did observe his way of life, his integrity, his generosity, and most importantly his faith. And when I put into practice the most important lessons he taught me, life is much better. A plaque that hung in our home when I was growing up stated “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord.” And boy did my father believe it to his core and practice it. I’d laugh at his convictions at times. Thought they were too extreme. Now I have the same ones. Others think I'm too extreme. With joy I can say my father taught me. 

My parents had me at the ages of  41 & 42. As a child I’d watch my siblings have their babies and how much joy they brought to my parents lives. I’d wonder if my parents would still be around to see my kiddos. (Young person’s mind!) God has blessed me with 21 years of parenting and my parents know and enjoy every one of my children. My dad even came to meet our youngest in the hospital in a wheelchair! I don’t take lightly the blessing of the years I have had with my parents. Especially these past 5 when my dad really began to decline. I’m so grateful for every day with them on this earth. 

These days are fleeting. Each visit my daddy slouches a little more. Each time I leave I hug him a little harder.  Make sure he hears me tell him how much I love him. Bless him. Each holiday or birthday I'm grateful for another one. 

Two years later I faced the first Father’s Day and now his birthday without him. Today while my heart broke wide open again because it was so incredibly hard to face the reality that he is not physically here, it is a day to be brave and focus on what I am thankful for in regard to my dad. To focus on the blessing instead of the loss. To look to the positive instead of the negative feelings I have, as he always taught me to do. 

The blessings: I was given 2 more years with him. I was able to spend more days with him in which he was less confused. I had moments with him that were precious. One day shortly before his death he held my hand so hard I thought it might break! He kept telling me over and over, "It’s just so good to see you." I didn’t want that moment to end. I’m thankful for the grace that moved me to go see him his last day when I had planned to wait a few days. Such a gift spending his last day on earth with him. I am full of gratitude for the example of love he and my mother have shown. They would have been married 65 years this coming September. They are a true example of Christ-like love, never giving up, remaining best friends through all the ups and downs. And in 64+ years there are a LOT of ups and downs to share!! That love spilled over into raising their 6 children. Their model of raising a family was completely in line with God's order and plan for a family. My parents respected each others God-given roles and encouraged each other in them. Most importantly, although right up there next to their example of love, I'm thankful for the gift of faith. 

There was a theme running through each eulogy my siblings and I wrote for my dad. The theme was how much his faith impacted our lives. The most important job in the vocation of parenting is to raise our children in faith. To help them attain Heaven. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says this; "2222 Parents must regard their children as children of God and respect them as human persons. Showing themselves obedient to the will of the Father in heaven, they educate their children to fulfill God's law." and  "2197 The fourth commandment opens the second table of the Decalogue. It shows us the order of charity. God has willed that, after him, we should honor our parents to whom we owe life and who have handed on to us the knowledge of God. We are obliged to honor and respect all those whom God, for our good, has vested with his authority." It goes on to state that "parents have a grave responsibility to give a good example to their children." My father handed down this knowledge of God well. He was an excellent example and he taught us well that we need to fulfill God's law.  

My dad learned these things from his mother. She was a woman devoted to prayer. A few days after my father's death I learned  that he had my grandmother’s prayer book, Rosaries and medals in his possession all these years. It brought great joy to me. I cherished this as most of my childhood memories of my grandmother surround her perpetual prayer life, always holding that prayer book and Rosary. She was never without them. I was able to use her Rosary one morning after my mom shared this treasure trove with me. I cannot express how wonderful it was to pray using my grandmothers Rosary beads. What a gift! This legacy of faith has been passed down through the generations. No easy feat as each passing generation has squeezed God out of the picture a little more. My faith has been formed greatly by my father, and his mother. This is the best legacy a father could leave his children. And I do believe when his Creator called him Home my daddy heard the words “Well done good and faithful servant.” 

Happy Birthday to the first man I ever loved. And the first one who loved me. Kiss God for us all!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Worth Revisiting:Things that Seem Insignificant

 I began this post last spring, in the midst of a rough week when the whole family had a terrible respiratory virus. I have since forgotten that I started the post. It's interesting that I came across it today, as I just watched Mom's Night Out last night. Boy could I relate to the main character, who felt overwhelmed by her life as a mom and saddened by realizing her dream of being a mother wasn't exactly what she thought it would be. I completely commiserated with her on so many levels. I laughed and I cried because I knew exactly how she felt. The huge message in the movie, which all moms need to hear, is that our job is IMPORTANT!! God created us for this purpose.

 I do believe everything we do for our children, our husbands and our homes means something to God; something bigger than we can imagine! It's just hard to stay focused on that at times...

 With that, here are my thoughts from the midst of our sick week in April...

 Sometimes I get so caught up in the seemingly insignificant tasks of my day and start to wonder, "is this it?" The mundane jobs of a mother, the time consuming tasks that appear pointless can make a mom to wonder. This week as my family has been sick, I keep finding myself feeling down and asking God, "is THIS all you created me for? Is this all my mind will ever be used for?" I seek these answers as I spend my days dosing medicine every 4 hours, refilling juice glasses, making soup, cleaning up dirty tissues, taking temperatures, making sure everyone is receiving enough fluid intake-and monitoring the output as well (fun!), keeping an eye out for dehydration. I wonder these things when my 3 year old finally feels better and is back to being little miss sunshine in the wee hours, when I have barely had any sleep. Of course I am relieved she feels better, but could we sleep a little?! Where did she find her energy?! I keep find myself singing the Steven Curtis Chapman song, More to This Life.

"There's more to this life than living and dying, more than just trying to make it through the day..."

 A few verses end with the words, "life just goes on." That is the way it feels sometimes, doesn't it? Life just goes on. Yet, if I keep singing I will be reminded,

 "So where do we start to find every part of what makes this life complete? 
If we turn our eyes to Jesus we'll find life's true beginning is there at the cross where He died." 

 So, even though I wonder what else I can do in THIS life, I am reminded it's about Eternity. My vocation as a mother is about far more than all these seemingly insignificant tasks, which are actually pretty important to God. It's about raising our children for Eternity. And that's a pretty significant vocation. When I do ask God these questions He reminds me, "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these, you did for me." (Matthew 25:40) That includes wiping little noses!

 Saint Martin de Porres always comes to mind when I struggle with the mundane. He joyfully completed any menial task he could within his Dominican monastery. He was known as "The Saint of the Broom". I often wish I could go about my tasks more joyfully like he did.

 I know God did in fact create me for other things, it's just that caring for my children is my first and most important order of business.

 Before I close I want to say that I am keenly aware of the fact that while I complain about my day-to-day responsibilities, there are mamas out there who would do anything to have their child on this earth still, to do anything for, as well as women who would give anything just to be able to have a child. I know a few and I always remember them when I begin to complain. And I try to embrace the task with a little more gratitude. And mamas, I hold you in my heart and I pray for you.

 Mamas, let's remember that our job is important to God, the One who made us Moms! May we, by His grace, see the significance in all we do for our families.

God bless,

Linking up with Theologyisaverb and Reconciledtoyou for #WorthRevisit

Thursday, July 23, 2015

A New Addition

After a good bit of thinking and planning I have decided to separate my reflective posts from my homeschool posts. I will still blog here but I'd like to introduce you to my homeschool blog, Teaching Toward Eternity. There you will find ideas on homeschooling, teaching our faith, some practical resources for homeschooling and hopefully some encouragement. I hope you'll join me!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

A Closer Walk With Jesus

Holy week, especially the Triduum, has always been such a special time for me. I think it's fair to say it is my favorite part of the Liturgical year. As a little girl we spent much of Holy Week at our church. Although it is such a solemn time, as a child I found it to be a comforting time as well. Maybe it was simply because of all the time spent at church! As an adult I find it to be a time where I can experience a closer walk with Jesus. I wish throughout the year I could feel the intensity of His love and my need for Him the way I do throughout Holy Thursday and Good Friday. Life gets to be so busy and it is hard to "be still". Lent, especially Holy Week, gives me that time to pause and ponder and reflect.

 When I walk the Stations of The Cross on Good Friday I remember what Jesus did, for me personally. To focus on His sufferings in such a significant way brings me to my knees. During the Lenten retreat I attended, Father Brannen mentioned how St. Augustine spoke of life revolving between two questions; How can God love me so much to go through this for me? and, How can I sin and hurt Him so much when He did this for me? These two questions speak well to how I feel when I look upon The Cross every Good Friday. Father Brannen also reminded us that the nails couldn't hold Him on the cross. His love held Him there. This is love like nothing we can even comprehend.

 My prayer for us all is to move through the next few days, taking time to be still, and to really let His immense love for us sink in. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Lenten Reflections

Things I have been pondering this Lent

I haven’t written any “reflections” in a while because I like to give them time, consideration and prayer before I put my thoughts out there. But for today I am going to do sort of a quick snippets type of post on some different things I have been pondering and reflecting on throughout Lent; much like the bloggers who do “7 Quick Takes”, I suppose. Here are my 4 quick (or not so quick!) reflections!

For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.
Matthew 6:20-21 tells us, “but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” 

I have heard this verse all of my life. I have always understood it to mean that I need to focus on things that are pleasing to God, things that are eternal, not temporal. But this hit me so much harder when my husband and I were discussing a message we heard recently; What we are attached to we will be with when Jesus comes back for us. God will give us what we love in the end.  I want to make sure I (as well as my family) am attaching myself to things that are eternal; attaching myself to God, not worldly things that will go away. When He comes for me I want to be with Him, not left behind. We choose our path. We choose, with our God-given free will where we will spend eternity. When He comes back to abolish sin I do not want to be attached to sin because then I can’t be with Him. I have prayed over the years to be less attached to worldly things and have seen God take many of those desires from my heart. I am so grateful and continue to pray that He will create a clean heart in me. This isn’t an easy thing though, to let go of our worldly things and desires. We have to ask God for the grace to desire it and then grace to actually do it. We have to allow God to change our hearts.

It’s really about Eternity!
At the beginning of Lent I attended a retreat and heard Father Brannen speak. It was incredibly uplifting and such a wonderful blessings to attend. I have a notebook filled with many notes that I scribbled away while listening. I wanted to remember so much of what he had to say, but I believe what struck me the most was when he said, “God answers our prayers based on our ETERNAL well being”. WOW! Entirely different perspective! I have always known that on some level, but when he spoke of it, it hit me and sunk in deep. Of course He does! And I thank Him for doing that! Our life here on earth is just NOT about remaining on earth. It is ALL about ETERNITY! God gives us what we need here so that we can live fully with Him in Heaven when we pass from this life. He wants us there, and the trials and sufferings here on earth are to refine us; to remind us of our need for HIM. Through the trials and sufferings we lean more into Him. We rely upon Him more. In turn we have a relationship with Him. This is the first step to a relationship with Him in Heaven. We can’t live consumed by things that are NOT of God here and expect to just join Him in Heaven with an unclean heart. We are called to die to self, to share God’s love and sew good things here on earth and in turn reap a harvest in Heaven. Last week’s  Gospel reading speaks to this.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there shall my servant be also; if any one serves me, the Father will honor him.” John 12:24-26. In his homily from that same day, Father Barron spoke of this, saying, “if I learn to give my life away as lavishly as he gave His life away, then I will produce much fruit.”
So if I die to myself and embrace my sufferings, understanding that God will answer my prayers based on my eternal well being, I can then let go of the worldly influences in my life and live for Him, doing His will, living for Eternity!

Martha! I am so very Martha!
"Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things…” Luke 10:41

{Preface here for my non-Catholic friends; before we take a seat in the church pew we genuflect toward the tabernacle. The tabernacle holds The Consecrated Eucharist. As Catholics we believe that during the Consecration (part of the Mass) Jesus becomes truly present in the Eucharist. So we genuflect out of reverence and respect for Our Lord. Going a step further, “Eucharistic Adoration is a very privileged (special) time of prayer. This time of prayer takes place in a Catholic church or chapel. An ordained priest places the Most Blessed Sacrament within a sacred vessel known as a monstrance. The monstrance containing the Real Presence of Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament is then place on the altar in exposition for the faithful people of God to adore Jesus.” (source) When we walk into the church for Eucharistic Adoration we do a double genuflection, kneeling on both knees and bowing our head before entering or leaving the pew.}  

My 15 year old has been getting us on track to attend daily Mass a few times a week. One of the three drivers in the house usually takes a turn. I will admit I am somewhat ashamed that it has taken my daughter to get me to Mass other than on a Sunday or Holy day. I also feel somewhat ashamed that it has seemed a burden at times. But I am grateful for the blessing of it once I am there. I am very grateful my girl has gotten me on track! The week before last we attended morning Mass as a family to celebrate the feast day of St. Joseph. I left the house feeling completely frazzled. It is so hard to get my family out the door on a Sunday for Mass, let alone a weekday. I felt irritated and flustered. We walked into the church and I began my usual gaze upon the pews to see where we could fit our whole family. I found a pew, began walking toward it and during my genuflection was more focused on someone waving hello to me. I didn’t want to be rude so I smiled and made my way into the pew. I knelt down to pray and see, there on the altar, The Blessed Sacrament. I completely missed that Jesus was right there on the altar when I walked in. I have always felt I have more of a Martha heart, worried and distracted with many things. Although I’d much rather have a Mary heart, focused on my Savior. This particular morning was a perfect example of this. I was concerned with many things and completely missed Jesus on the altar. Now, I don’t want to be too legalistic and focus on how sinful I am that I didn’t get down on both knees. I believe God is bigger than that, but I did feel I lacked respect because I was paying attention to other things.  I felt so convicted in my heart at that moment. I shook my head thinking my goodness, Jesus could be sitting on the steps at the altar in full human form and I’d probably do the same thing! This got me thinking of how much I miss seeing Him in my everyday life. Thankfully His mercy is so great. Thankfully He will still love me in spite of the fact that I am so very distracted. And thankfully He will continue to pursue me. Fittingly, our word of the month is “Mercy”.  


How would I have treated Jesus?
A recent homily really prompted me to think about what I would have been like if I lived in the time Jesus walked the earth. The priest asked us to reflect on whether we’d act the way we feel now about Jesus or would we act the way the Romans did. He went on to remind us that when we are indifferent now, it’s as if we are standing by watching them crucify Him and doing nothing. When we sin we are taking part in the crucifixion. I have heard this question in the past and it brought these questions back to mind; would I have been one of the ones weeping, begging them to not crucify Jesus? Or would I have been one of those who didn’t believe and screamed with the crowds, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”? My previous reflection makes me sad to think maybe I would NOT have believed. Maybe I would not have trusted His words. Though my heart wants to believe I would have been there weeping, crying out to stop the madness of it all, wiping His face, helping Him carry His cross, and cleaning up the blood He lost, knowing He lost it for me. Something to really think about…and I haven’t stopped…