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…

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Focusing on Blessings and Growing in Virtue

 I have never been a big fan of New Years resolutions. (I do realize it’s February but stay with me!)  I can never seem to keep those resolutions. It can be so defeating to begin something big at the start of a fresh year and then “fail” at whatever change I have made. A year is a L O N G time!  Plus there are SO many things I want to work on, how do I decide which ONE thing to work on all year through? Why do we feel such a need to start fresh on the first day of a new year, or even the start of a new month or week?  I am so grateful God’s Mercies are new EACH MORNING! We are offered a fresh start each and every day! That just gives me such comfort. 

 Something we like to do all year as a family is to keep a Blessings Jar. Basically this is a simple jar that each family member places slips of papers into now and then describing how they feel blessed. On New Year’s Eve we read all the blessings. It’s really neat to remember things from earlier in the year that we have since forgotten. We skipped this past year and decided to do it again this year because we missed reading those blessings on New Year’s Eve. I also wanted to do something more, but not those New Year’s resolutions! I have been seeing some different things about a virtues jar. I was intrigued. That’s it! We can work on all kinds of virtues! Shortly after this thought a friend shared her virtue jar and gave me a virtue to work on this year. Between her suggestions and a little research on virtues we were up and running by the beginning of February. I know, a month late, but hey, the year does have 11 more months! 

 The way we are using our virtue jar is by choosing a new one each month to six weeks. There are so many virtues and I feel like that may be a good amount of time to study our virtue and work on it. I have printed out a number of virtues on slips of paper and placed them into our jar.

 I used different colors based on the main virtue. I have many virtues that branch off of each of the four cardinal Virtues; Prudence, Fortitude, Justice and Temperance, and the three theological virtues; Faith, Hope and Charity.

 As each person takes one out, their virtue goes up onto a chalkboard hanging in the kitchen (if they want) so we can all help each other out along the way. They have the option of keeping that private. We discuss how everyone is doing with their virtue about once a week during dinner. About a month in I am amazed at how much you can learn about virtues. And now I want to just keep learning. This site has been extremely helpful.

  I have also had a strong desire for the whole family to focus on one word each month throughout the year. Many people are doing the “One Word Challenge” where they choose a word to focus on all year. My sister especially encouraged me to try this when I read her blog post about it. But my attention span must just be too short! The idea of one word the entire year is too long for me as well, but I do love the concept. 

 To do this I am going to have the word front and center where we can see it each day to be reminded of it. I also will have quotes or Scripture verses based on that word in a little frame next to our word. I began with Love since it was February. Love on a deeper level. I wanted us all to work on serious Christ-like love. I printed two Mother Teresa quotes and used them in the frames on either side of some blocks that I created with the word "Love" on.  

 The blocks were easy to make. I simply cut some squares of paper with my 1&1/2 inch paper punch and used Mod Podge to glue them to 1&1/2 inch blocks. I just glued the papers to each side and the tops. Then once they were dry I used pretty letter stickers to create the word Love. Easy peasy!

 So, our plan to grow this year is to focus on our blessings, work on our virtues and to live out a new word each month. Hopefully, with His Grace, we'll keep the momentum going.
 If you find yourself discouraged about some resolutions you may have made and have not kept, rejoice in the fact that God’s mercies are new each morning, and begin again!

Blessings to you,