Less Than Ideal

  • Have you ever done your morning prayer time at a baseball game?

I have.

Let me tell you, it’s less than ideal.

My prayer book open on my lap during warm up–music blasting, conversations all around me . . .

Do you think I was fully immersed in my prayer? No way. I’m distracted enough at home.

So why was I doing my morning prayer time at the  baseball game?

Well, my excuse is I had to be there early and I didn’t have time to do it at home.

But the truth is–I was too undisciplined to go to bed on time and so I couldn’t get up early enough to do my prayer time before we left for the game. A little planning and a little self-discipline could’ve gone a long way.

But here’s my theory–I didn’t just quit.

I said my morning prayers.

Imperfectly–yes.

But I did something. I took  a less than ideal situation and I did what I could.

Now, in this situation there were things within my control, things I could’ve done better.

But sometimes we can’t. Sometimes our morning prayer time gets derailed by a sick child, a child waking up before they were supposed to,  an unforeseen mess, a friend who needs to talk or some other unseeable circumstance.

Sometimes our life gets derailed.

Or maybe sometimes, we are showing up–we’re doing our adoration, our reading, our prayer time but we just can’t enter into it. Maybe we keep getting distracted or we’re so tired or our heart is heavy with worry or grief and we just don’t feel like we are all there, like we are all present.

Like I tell my kids when they start to mess around during prayer time, “you are talking to the God of the universe right now!” But sometimes it seems lost on us–even if we don’t want it to be.

And so sometimes we just do the less than ideal, and then, then we accept that we are doing what we can. Because we are showing up and putting in whatever we can.

Sometimes that less than ideal is our prayer. 

Because God knows the heart. That’s what I’m sure of. That’s what I keep reminding myself in these moments that feel a bit like failure.

And then I remember. I don’t need to be the one succeeding. Just the one who keeps trying.

 

 

School Supplies that Matter

Granted, it’s been a few weeks since school started but with the transition of going back to school and football, etc, it’s taken me a while to adjust. But, back in the middle of August when I was doing my tax-free weekend school shopping for five kids, I got to thinking.

Somewhere between the pencils, binders and uniform clothes, I started to wonder . . .were my kids really equipped to go back to school? Have I given them what they need?

So I pondered what “supplies”  I truly thought they needed–what virtues and attitudes they needed most and with their help came up with a few reminders for them:

Patience

Sometimes they wonder what the point is. Why do they have to learn these things, Why does it matter? What in the world does this have to do with the rest of their lives and their future? I remind them that the subjects are not the only thing they are learning. Many of these experiences are helping to form them. And, being a student is what God has called them to for now. So they need to be the best student they can, and learn to be patient with where they are in life.

Perseverance

School gets tough. Days get long. Subjects get hard. Friends can be mean. Some days we don’t feel our best. Still, we get up every day and move ahead. Maybe every day isn’t fun. Maybe we are not where we want to be. We persevere through until we get to those bright days.

PPI or Presumed Positive Intention

Without fail, every time there’s been a very troublesome kid in my kids’ class, he had a difficult family situation. I use this example again and again to remind my kids that there is always something more to a kid’s behavior or to the things a person might do that hurt, offend or just annoy us. Sometimes, we just attribute the wrong motivation to someone’s words or actions. We can assume that they had the worst possible intention but I try to remind my kids to do just the opposite. Assume they had the best possible intention. Look beyond just the action and assume the best, not the worst.

Kindness

Be kind to everyone. You don’t have to be everyone’s friend but be kind. Don’t gang up; don’t make fun. Sometimes kids get their feelings hurt, even when other kids think they are doing it all in good-natured fun. Be aware of that. Befriend the new kid and the weird kid.

Self reflection

Just like when we are dealing with our brothers and sisters, remember, you’re not blameless. Maybe, they started it, but your job is to examine yourself for your part in the incident. Same at school. Did a teacher yell at you unjustly? Were your friends being unfair? See if you can identify anything at all that you could’ve done different to help the situation. Furthermore, what can  you do to diffuse a situation instead of making it worse?

So that’s what I supplied my kids with. Pens, pencils, glue sticks, white dress socks and some important reminders.  Does it stick? Who knows.  But hopefully when they encounter those difficult situations and difficult days, it will give them a boost!

Holy Spirit, give us the gifts to practice these virtues!

8:30 Chats

It’s true–and I think I’ve pretty well put it out there–I’m not the most organized person.

You know, I implement a lot of ideas and don’t keep them up or the kids complain.

They complain through trying to say the Rosary everyday (or even just a decket). They’ll complain through trying to read the Bible everyday. Or they’ll complain through trying to read another spiritual book everyday. Whatever spiritual goals I try to implement, somebody is going to complain.

I’d like to believe that something is getting through anyways, but I confess, some days I get discouraged. Still, there are spiritual words of wisdom and aids I’d like to pass on to my kids. Things I notice in the way the act or treat each other that I’d like to address. Things I read that I think would be good for one or more of them to hear.

So here is my new plan to provide some variety, keep things casual, hopefully cut down on complaining and hopefully still help them learn about the Lord and the toolbox of our faith (a subject for another post)–I’m calling it:

8:30 Chats

At 8:30 (or a little later depending on our schedule), we sit down and after the shushing and the yelling, we do something to help our spiritual lives. For example:

  • We read a quote from a book and discuss it.
  • We read a chapter of a spiritual book (Right now, Matthew Kelly’s Perfectly Yourself).
  • We pray the Rosary.
  • We pick a spiritual topic and discuss it.

Then we finish with bedtime prayers all together.

So for instance, in this past couple weeks:

  • We prayed the Rosary in it’s entirety offering it up for a dear family we know with a very sick child.
  • We read excerpts from the book, The Power of Silence by Robert Cardinal Sarah about the meaning and purpose of pauses and periods of silence in Mass. We then discussed what we were supposed to do during periods of silence and how to turn our hearts and mind back to Jesus when we get distracted at Mass.
  • We watched a movie about St. Peter on EWTN.
  • We read the first chapters of  Matthew  . . .and will continue to read through the New Testament.
  • We watched the part in Jesus of Nazareth where John the Baptist baptizes Jesus in honor of John’s birthday.
  • We read excerpts from the book Taming Your Tongue about being divisive and being argumentative and talked about why mom might have chosen this subject and how we can do better.

Now, keep in mind like many of you I have a variety of age groups and it’s quite possible that my five year old isn’t learning anything except (maybe) how to be quiet while we’re talking. Still, I’m hoping to make this a lasting habit even after summer ends. I just want to know that maybe, once in a while, I’m doing something for their spiritual good, that when I go to bed at night and I’m doing my examination of conscience that my kids’ spiritual lives was not something that was neglected or pushed to the back burner.

I’m not saying theyr’e not complaining at all, but my feeling so far is that it’s been good for us. I’ll check back in with you in a few months and let you know how it’s going!

Prepare for Battle

Do you go to Adoration?

I find going to Adoration is like a spiritual life line for me–without which I am often drowning. Sometimes, when I’m there, I feel like God has a message to impress on my heart. And so it was a couple months ago and the message was this:

Prepare for battle.

Now of course, I’m not talking about physical battle but rather spiritual battle.  And I felt the Lord telling me to get my family ready for battle.

So like a good soldier, I got my instructions and did my best to implement them. Here’s what I did:

The Picture

Quite a while ago, my family and I attended a healing service at our parish. The priest leading it told a story about how his family had a picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and everyday his parents would touch their heads to it and say, “Jesus, take over my life.” He has two other siblings in religious life and the other has a thriving marriage with several children.  So it seems to have had an impact. I’ve been meaning to implement this for a while and it seemed like the right time. Now all of my kids and I touch this picture daily and say those words.

 

Consecration

I took my family through a Marian Consecration using Father Michael Gaitley’s 33 Days to Morning Glory. For 33 days we gathered around every night and read that day’s lesson (usually about a couple pages).We would then have a brief discussion of it. At the end of the 33 days, on the feast day of St. Catherine of Sienna, I asked our priest to bless 7 Marian medals, gave one to each member of my family and we stood around a Mary statue in our church and prayed the consecration prayer together.

 

Examination of Conscience

One thing I am dead convinced of is that being self-reflective is the only way you will ever grow as a Christian and as a human being. I figure my kids will not be perfect when they leave the house, but if I’ve taught them to be self-reflective, then they always have the tools to keep walking their path to sainthood. To this end, I reminded them about the importance of an examination of conscience before they go to bed.  To keep it simple, I ask them to think of one thing they did wrong that day, think how they could’ve handled it better and then tell God they’re sorry. Then, think of one thing they did well that day so they are not just focusing on the negative.

 

The 8:30 Chat

At about 8:30 every night (or later if baseball dictates), we gather together for a spiritual chat or spiritual reading. Yes, much like the consecration, half the time is spent shushing them and yelling at them to hold still and listen but I have faith that maybe a little is getting through.

I’ll go into detail about the 8:30 chat in a future blog.

 

The Heavy Hitters

Of course, any time you are preparing for spiritual battle, it’s time to parade out the classics:  every day prayer time, frequent adoration, frequent confession and the Rosary. We’ve been trying to get these into the mix as well. Inf fact, during the summer, my kids have a list of morning chores which include a devotion time of their choosing.

Indeed, spiritual battle is happening in my family. We are walking a path of struggle and suffering right now. But,  I think, I pray, these tools help us to walk the path to holiness. That as battle rages, we have the weapons to fight–and to emerge on the other side. Strong.

My friend, the martyr Father Stanley Rother

Last blog, I  name dropped.

Did you catch it?  I said my friend, Father Stanley Rother helps me walk the path to Heaven.

Actually, that’s Blessed Father Stanley Rother to you.

Allow me to introduce you.

Father Rother isn’t a saint–yet. But he is a martyr, which gives you a big boost on your road to sainthood. In fact, he was just beatified on September 23rd and my daughter and I were there.

He’s the first american born martyr. And while he was growing up, no one ever thought he’d be a saint one day.

See, he was a simple man, an unassuming man, an Oklahoma farm boy who failed Latin in seminary, who had to have the bishop intervene so that he could finish seminary.

Who had a heart for missions and joined his diocesan mission to Guatemala.

And it was there that he found his true calling and his true heart. He became immersed in the life of the people. He learned two languages, the native dialect (Tz’utujil) and Spanish. In fact, he translated the new Testament and learned to say Mass in the native dialect. This from the boy who failed Latin.

He helped start a radio station and a hospital, and he just served. He did whatever needed to be done. He farmed and fixed things. He visited the people in his home and ate whatever they ate. He let poor people eat at his table everyday. The people loved him.

But civil war was raging. The Church was serving the poor, oppressed people and so made enemies with the government and so priests, catechists and the like were all in danger.

Father Rother knew it. He knew members of his congregation had been murdered. He buried bodies.

Then his name appeared on a death list.

At this point, he returned to Oklahoma but his heart remained in Guatemala. He begged the bishop to allow him to return even though he knew there was great risk to him.  He didn’t care. He was their shepherd and he could not abandon him. He went back in time to celebrate Holy Week with the people.

As he said in one of his letters:

[I]f it is my destiny that I should give my life here, then so be it.  . . .I don’t want to desert these people, and that is what will be said, even after all these years. There is still a lot of good than can be done under these circumstances.

Within a few months of his return, the rectory was broken into in the dead of night and Father Rother was shot in the head.

His body was flown back to Oklahoma but his heart was left in Guatemala where it is enshrined today.

So what is about him?

It’s his kind smile; his kind eyes, his kind face. It’s the way he worked and lived among the people. It’s that he didn’t run.

It’s that he was just an average, ordinary man.

Whatever it is, he inspires me. He encourages me. He shines a light on the path to Heaven and makes it a little easier to follow.

When I heard he would be beatified in Oklahoma, my daughter and I decided to go. I’ve never been to a beatification. It was an amazing trip.

On the plane, we met two priests who had been in seminary with him. At the diocese, I was able to get the book of his letters for $5 that is selling for $80 on Amazon.  We met the man who put his cause for canonization together. We met a Guatemalan priest who had lived and served with him. And, because I complimented someone’s shirt, we ended up eating dinner with his second cousins. It was an amazing experience, to say nothing of the beautiful beatification ceremony itself.

So yes, Father Stanley has been a good friend to me. And he helps me walk the path God has for me.

Father Stanley Rother, pray for us.

To learn more about his life, check out this link:

Homepage

To purchase his story on DVD or book form visit:

http://stanleyrother.org/shop/

 

Where I’ve Been

What happened to me?

The last thing I posted was about the beginning of football season–a whopping 9 months ago.

It’s even more ironic when I tell you the whole story.

How I said in that post my biggest fear was the busyness and the dropped balls.

Boy, was I wrong.

Because on October 14, as I got my boys ready for the first week of play-offs, my worst fear was spending the evening with two miserable, grumpy boys whose games and thereby whose seasons, hadn’t turned out the way they wanted.

So I said this to them:

Now remember boys, whatever happens today is God’s will.

I wouldn’t remember having said that when it all shook out but my younger son reminded me later.

You see my older son was indeed losing. And it was the 4th down with the clock running out and we had one more chance to try and score. So the coach told my son, the quarterback, to keep it and just run.

But when the play cleared there was no first down.

And my son was lying on his back on the field.

With a broken leg.

Now maybe sometime, I’ll tell you the whole story if  you’re interested. About my slow reaction because I was in disbelief.  About running out on the field and being told to be calm before I could see him. About the coach who stayed by his side.  About my son’s pain and worry about his sports career. About my worry and wonder about his sports career.

But that’s not the point of this. The point is where I’ve been.

After that, life got hard. His tibia and fibula were broken clean through and his cast was up to his thigh and he was in tremendous pain.  And I had to give him constant care and had 4 other kids who began to feel neglected and act like it.

I was cracking under it all.

And then something else happened.

Tragedy struck our school community. I won’t go in to details but let’s just say the death of a child puts a broken leg into a bit of perspective.

And then, some family stuff following that and I got lost just trying to survive it all.

So in a nutshell, that is where I’ve been. Huddled with the Lord in survival mode watching bombs drop around me and trying to find the path that’s been blown to pieces.

But here I am. Ready to walk forward and ready to write again.

You see,I view my days as a path. At the end of the path,  is my goal of reaching God the Father.

And every day, I walk the path. Some days I get far. Some days I only walk a few steps. The worst days, weeks are the ones where I’m swerving back and forth off the path. That’s when I lose my focus on the Lord and my thinking gets distorted.

And my saint friends are there too. Helping me walk the path and keeping me straight and comforting me when I fall or when I find that end of the day I am dusty, dirty, bruised and beaten up.

Jesus, Mother Mary and Father Stanley Rother walk with me.

So, yes, I’m back.

And ready to walk with you once again and tell you about my walk with the saints.

Here we go (and go and go) again

How did this happen?

How did it turn into football season already?

If you know me, you know I always get a little nervous for football season. No, I don’t mean nervous about my boys getting injured or anything like that. Not even about the overbearing parents or youth sport politics. I get nervous about the schedule.

Football is consuming and intense and I worry about myself getting tired and  overwhelmed and burnt out . . .

But sitting there, the first day of football season, I realized, if we choose to do this, then it’s going to be what it is and that’s okay. I don’t need to worry–I just need to accept this season.

This football season I will:

  • Be tired some nights as I’m running my boys back and forth.
  • Have to decide everyday what’s for dinner and when to eat dinner.
  • Mistime dinner and end up eating it later than intended.
  • Not be able to do other things because I have to get the boys to and from practices.
  • Have to coordinate rides for kids because the boys have games that overlap and my other kids have other activities.
  • Not coordinate rides until the last minute.
  • Feel awkward asking people for rides.
  • Feel like I’m the only one who is always doing things last minute.
  • Feel a little burnt out at the end of some nights and snap at the kids.
  • Feel like there should be 2 or 3 people doing my job instead of just one.

That will all happen.

Knowing and accepting that now, makes me realize that maybe I can handle it after all.

I’ve just gotten to the point where I realize, that messing up is part of the game. And you just dust yourself off and get up and start again. No hard feelings.

I’ve done all this before.

 

Not always graceful or well but in the end, we always figure it out.

And sometimes I even enjoy parts of it.

 

So here’s my tribute to football season!

Let’s go!!

The Divine Comedy–Taking my family to Church

What is it about going to church, that makes me want my family to look perfect?

Why is it that that is where I notice, the other families who seem so nicely put together.

Unlike mine.

Have you ever seen them? These nice big families where the children are all sitting quietly, the girls all have their hair done, their all dressed nicely . . .and I’m sitting there thinking why can’t I do that?? Now, I’ve gotten to know enough of these moms to tell you that they actually are human too. But I’m still working on not comparing.

And so it was, a few Sundays ago, I was herding all of my dear children into church–late of course–hoping for a nice, quiet, well-behaved, inconspicious entrance when, well . . .the comedy began to unfold.

My husband stepped out for a moment to take a phone call and I couldn’t find a pew empty enough to accommodate all 7 of us so I figured half of us could sit in one pew and half of us could sit in the pew behind. Sounds simple enough. So I march my little ones, myself and my daughter into a pew and motion for my boys to sit in the pew behind me.

But they won’t budge. So I’m gesturing away. And their gesturing back and I’m gesturing bigger and . . .

then the people behind us brought to my attention that the people next to us had actually moved so there was room for all now.

Yes, Mass was going on the whole time.

So now with everyone settled, I’m sitting there, trying to throw myself back into the Mass but feeling like everyone around me must be looking at me, judging me.

You know how when the kids are little and they’re doing things like running out into the aisles and making noise and you feel like you’re running a three-ring circus right in church? That day, I realized there was more than one way to run a circus.

Or how about the time a couple months ago, when we were heading to the early Mass and it was time to go and my 4 year old could’t find his shoes? So I said just get in the car and so we get to church and  I’m looking down at his feet  and his socks don’t even match, now completely exposed since he’s actually wearing no shoes.

Sometimes Mass feels more like a comedy of errors than a prayer.

But the truth is, the only thing that’s hurt in these situations is my pride. And yes, the kids can be quite distracting in Mass but so can my own pride, my fear of being judged and me looking around judging others.

You know, we women love to compare.

But that’s not why we come to Mass. Not to judge, not to be judged. Not to have our ego fed.

We come to be in the presence of the God of the universe and to have our souls fed and our will strengthened to continue to do this crazy parenting thing.

The kids are distracting enough . . .let’s try not to distract ourselves with things we don’t really need to worry about.

Personally, I think God smiles at mismatch socks.

My summer of nothing

I know what you’re thinking…

It’s summer–why haven’t I posted my list of my goals for this summer? I mean, I always a list of goals for every season, right? Lent, Advent, summer, new year’s, starting the school year…

But not this time.

This time, and for this summer, I’m taking a different approach.

Because for the last two summers, I’ve been blind-sided by how busy we were and how fast it all went. At the beginning, I had these visions of slow moving days, time to read, time to play, time to get projects done….

And by the end, I’m left wondering what the heck happened. Those summers are past. Summers are now filled with baseball games, driving kids to retreats, and work crew, and VBS, and other volunteer opportunities, and sports camps and then football practice…

And all sorts of odds and ends in between.

I have a schedule for my kids on their days off that include morning prayers, working out, chores and then spiritual reading later in the day, but these past two summers, we have had very, very few days when anyone could possibly do that.

So it was that this year, I just wasn’t inspired to plan any lofty goals. Even vacation plans or family excursions seemed kind of sparse.

And I felt kind of bad about that. What exactly would my kids remember from this summer? What would they say they did over the summer when they went back to school?

So my first trip in the beginning/middle of June to take my son to Indiana for his retreat, I drop him off and stop in the chapel to pray.  I expressed my concerns to God about the summer.

And I heard: let it be what it is.

Let it be simple. Let it be boring even. Just let it be.

And so just recently, baseball is winding down. I came back from dropping my daughter off in Cincinnati for her mission trip/retreat. And I find myself at home with a day with nothing to do.

I need to do dishes and laundry and but should we go to the zoo, or the park or….

And then I decided we don’t need to go anywhere.

I decided we would just have a lazy day at home. I decided we didn’t need to fill every spare day with activity.  Because we go, and go and go . . .and  just maybe for once even the kids would like to not have to do anything or go anywhere. Maybe not. But either way, I decided, they don’t need to be constantly entertained and fulfilled all summer long. And maybe we needed a few more days to just do chores and play in the yard and do our reading and to just let that be enough for a day.

So, yeh, there are a few plans for the summer. We went camping, we’ll be visiting family in New York and taking a weekend trip to Lake Erie. Maybe we’ll go to the zoo. Nothing amazing.

And you know, I’m kind of happy about that.

I think for once I’ll let it be.

 

 

Saying no to the good

Whenever I look around, there is always more to be done than can possibly be done in the time allotted.

Do I  do dishes, laundry, bills, sort papers, clean floors, exercise . . . .

Well you know I could go on and on.

I’m  not going to sit here and try to tell you how to make an organized schedule–that’s not me and if you have any tips in that direction I’ll take them!

But my point is that we can’t do everything.

So sometimes we have to decide what the best thing is. I remember a priest saying in a talk to women, that just because something is a good thing, doesn’t mean its the right thing for us. Just because something is good to do, it doesn’t mean its best for us.

So the question isn’t, “Is it good?” The question is, “Is it the best?”

For example, last March there was a one day women’s retreat close by and I knew a lot of people who were going. In fact, two of my closest friends were going. Now, wouldn’t I love to go spend a day with my closest friends growing in my faith? Yes, definitely.

But, for a variety of reasons, I’d been away from home a lot and I knew I had a weekend retreat coming in a month. For me to spend a day away from home again? It didn’t seem like the right fit for my family. So I said no. I said no to something that would be fun and faith-filled . . .because it wasn’t the best thing for me and my family.

My friend Nancy is really good at this. Through experience and discernment, she knows what she needs to get done when to make her schedule work for the week. If we’re making plans for a girls get together, she might say, “I can’t do it then. I’ve got to grocery shop during that time.”

I once had  a friend reschedule a lunch with me because after looking at her schedule for that week, she knew she had to use that time to shop for an upcoming kids party.

The discipline and foresight of these women stand out to me because this is where I still need work. A chance to get together with friends? The schedule be darned!

But we all need discernment.

Look, what works for you doesn’t necessarily work for me because of my family life, my upcoming events, my temperament. . .so maybe my friends can say yes to the retreat, but I need to say no to this good thing because in my case, its not the best thing.

How do we discern? Here are some of my thoughts:

  1. Pray about it. Do you have peace thinking about doing it?
  2. Ask your husband. His opinion might put things in perspective.
  3. Ask yourself some basic questions. How will this affect me? How will this affect my family? Will it be any big deal to put off what I was planning on doing with that time? Am I putting an unnecessary burden on someone else to be able to do this?
  4. Consider what part of your desire to do it is because it’d be fun or nice not because it actually makes sense for you  or your family.

Time management is a constant struggle. I’m still learning but through what I’ve learned so far, I know sometimes I have to say no to the good so I can do what’s best.