Friday, September 9, 2011

There is no Hectic in Heaven

When my dear one and I were engaged to be married we received a packet of "important information" from the priest who was facilitating our marriage preparation. In the packet was a prayer for engaged couples.

Back then, my memory still worked and so I memorized the prayer and have continued to say it to this day.

One of the lines in the prayer says, "In these hectic weeks, help us to laugh when small plans don't work out, and make us willing to support each other in real problems."

Every time I pray this part of the prayer, it occurs to me how very few non-hectic weeks we've had since our engagement. First there was wedding planning which coincided with finished up the semester's work at school. Three days after the wedding I was out pounding the pavement, so to speak, looking for a job so we could afford to stay in our very inexpensive apartment.

Not long after our first anniversary, our first child was born and my dear one started a new job which kept him away long hours.

Twenty-eight plus years later, things are still hectic but a lot more fun with 9 children to fill up our home and keep us up worrying at night!

One of the things heaven will bring is no hectic. I cannot imagine being able to ponder the face of God with no interruptions; no dinner to cook or a phone ringing, no schedule pulling me every which way. There will be no dog messes to clean up, no carpet installers, no gas prices to worry about.

I'm happy to say we've learned to laugh when small plans don't work out, and we support each other in real problems. And we will help each other to get through the hectic of this life on a wing and a prayer until we reach our heavenly reward of non-hectic.

Friday, August 26, 2011

A Popsicle Stick and a Prayer

In the fight against abortion, prayer is the number one weapon you have. For some it is the only weapon. How do you make your prayers more fruitful? You personalize them.
Bishop Fulton Sheen penned a prayer for the spiritual adoption of unborn children:
“Jesus, Mary, and Joseph we love you very much. We beg you to spare the lives of the unborn babies that we have spiritually adopted who are in danger of abortion. Amen”
Short but powerful. So, how do you personalize it? Name your baby. Commit to pray for a child you have named for nine months. At the end of nine months, choose another name. You will only know at the end of your life how many babies your prayers saved.
In my family, we try to make it a little more tangible and easy to remember to pray. On a piece of construction paper, folded in half along the short side, the above prayer is taped near the fold. On the bottom we attach a Popsicle stick for each member of the family. Each person writes the name of their adopted baby on a stick and we have a little nursery of unborn babies for whom we pray. Write the start date and the date nine months from that date (the “due” date), hang it in a prominent location, then pray. In this way you take part in the movement to end abortion, not only in our country, but also throughout the world.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Quick! What’s the Sixth Commandment?

How well do you know the Commandments? Although we should be living them daily, how many of us know them off hand, and out of order? My sister taught me a great way to remember them and to teach them.
Use your fingers to help you:
#1 God is number 1. I am the Lord your God, you shall have no other gods before Me.
#2 Your fingers make a V shape. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
#3 Your fingers make a W (worship). Remember to keep holy the Sabbath.
#4 Next to God in deserving your respect are your parents. Honor your father and your mother. (The only commandment with a promise-look it up!)
#5 Open one hand and then make a fist. Thou shall not kill.
#6 This is a tough one for kids but it has the word adult in it. Thou shall not commit ADULTery. (For kids it’s about purity of mind, mouth and body.)
#7 Seven starts with S; so does steal. Thou shall not steal.
#8 Eight goes around and around with no end. So does a lie until you confess and tell the truth. Thou shall not bear false witness.
Nine and ten are both about coveting but people are more important than things so:
#9 Thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s wife.
#10 Thou shall not covet they neighbor’s goods.
Learn them, teach them, live them. For Christ said, “If you love Me, you will keep my commandments."  (John 14:15)

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Joyous Words

"I absolve you from your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."

These few words are so relevant in the lives of Catholics. These are the words the penitant hears after confessing their sins to a priest. They bring healing and comfort.

Confession is pretty much a monthly thing at our house. Six weeks feels like way too long to wait for the graces that come from this Sacrament. We try to get there on First Saturday. Sometimes we go with cousins and most of the time we go for ice cream afterward to celebrate being sinfree again.

Often it is very difficult to step into the church. Stubborness, humility, sadness at having offended our Lord, are all emtions that come to mind. We wonder if the priest will recognize our voice. We stress over the words to say even when we know the sins. Many times we have not been aware of the ways we are separating ourselves from the Lord, and we may have to sit in front of the Blessed Sacrament for a bit and ask the Holy Spirit for help recalling our sins. (He's always willing!)

Waiting in line can be peaceful or nerve wracking. Then comes the moment of truth. We have to speak our sins outloud. If I can offer one piece of advice it would be, find a priest you love! I have had several favorites over the years. I prefer those that take time to talk to you and aren't in a hurry. The really great ones seem to read your heart and say just what you need to hear.

After giving you a penance the joyous words are spoken: "I absolve you from your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." You leave the confessional a new creation. You are back in a state of sactifiying grace ready to move forward and "sin no more." If only!

But that's the beauty of the Sacrament. Christ instituted it because He knew we would need it often.
If you haven't been in a while, first pray for humility to acknowledge your sins, then pray for the courage to confess them. God loves to answer these prayers. When you're done, treat yourself to an ice cream cone and enjoy the peace.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Pedestals are for Statues

Have you ever watched someone from afar and thought they were just amazing? How do they accomplish all that they do? They look pulled together, their children are well behaved, they do this or that so easily. Why can't I be like them???

When we only watch from afar and put someone on a pedestal, we may be missing out on a great friendship borne from shared joys, sorrows, frustrations, accomplishments.

I know I'm guilty of doing just this. I watched a now friend, from afar for years. She and her husband had a big family. They were all sweet and smart and holy and so far from where I was that I could only look on in awe.

Well, once I got to know them, I found out they weren't so far from where I was, nor was I so far from where they were. Some of their children had issues, as some children do. The job situation was sometimes precarious. They had moments of fear and frustration, not just all rosy, as I assumed when they were out of reach.

We can only know someone by taking the time to talk to them. We should never assume that someone has it all together and hold them so aloft in our minds that we miss out on really getting to know them. There could be a great friendship just waiting to happen.

So, save the pedestals for the statues, and make it a point to meet those that inspire you by what you see in them. You may find, as I did, that they could use your friendship and your prayers.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Counting My Blessings

Yesterday I was at the opthamologist's office with two of the children. They were new patients so, of course, there were forms to fill out. One form for each of them was a health history. As I read through the list of potential medical conditions with which they could be afflicted I was so grateful to be able to check 'NONE' in all of the categories except allergies.

How often I overlook this in my grumbling and worrying; I have nine healthy children! Thank you, Lord.

What else do I miss and forget to thank God for? Unfortunately, a lot. Here are some of the things that have not gone unnoticed.

A horrible tornado struck Missouri and killed over 100 people; we had thunder storms with some tree limbs down. Thank you, Lord.

One of my daughter's classmates died in a car accident this year; my daughter graduated! Thank you, Lord.

The unemployment rate is still way high; my husband and 6 of my kids have jobs. Thank you, Lord.

Many children need glasses or perhaps surgery to correct eye problems; my girls can see just fine unaided. Thank you, Lord.

Lord, help me to see all of your blessings, all of the time, but most especially when things feel overwhelming. Grant me Your grace to be grateful.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Much Needed Break

Sometimes you just need to get away from it all. On the weekend of our 28th wedding anniversary my dear one took me away. We didn't go far but it felt like half way around the world. We enjoyed quiet meals, uninterrupted conversations, and a couple of movies. We browsed book stores and made a wish list to take to the library.

One of the highlights of the weekend was the opportunity to attend Mass together, twice. Praying together is such a bonding experience even if there are lots of others sharing that time with you. Our regular organist is taking an extended leave of absence and I miss the music at daily Mass. Our two weekend Masses were full of both music and lovely songs. So refreshing!

We enjoyed the relative quiet.  It's different when the noises are things you do not have to attend to.

We renewed our relationship with each other.   Hard to do when life takes over at home.

We put away the cell phones, thankful that the older kids will not let the younger kids call us.

We've decided to make this a habit.  So, now, every two to three months we take off for the weekend.

God always blesses our time together.  We come back better spouses and better parents.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

God Cares About the Little Things

In the days before online banking, as I was writing my return address on yet another envelope, I said a small prayer something to the effect of "Lord I wish I could afford some return address labels so paying the bills wouldn't take so long!" It was a very small prayer about a very trivial matter.

Guess what? God heard that prayer and continues to answer it to this day; for seemingly overnight, it became quite popular to include return address labels in mailings from organizations seeking donations. Within a few months I had more return address labels than I could possibly use. Even after we moved into our new home (13 years ago) God made sure I had labels.

To say that He cares about the little things is no little matter. How many times a day do we pray for a parking spot, an open lane to turn left into on a busy road, green lights when we're in a hurry. How about those prayers we whisper and then immediately forget about until we realize they have been answered.

Some people don't like to bother God about little things. I think He likes to answer the little prayers because He wants to please us and wants our faith in Him to grow. When He takes the time to answer our little prayers, He is showing us that He is never too busy for us. He is inviting us to trust Him in the big matters; that ones that won't be answered swiftly. He is challenging us to pray without ceasing and trust that little or big, our prayers are being heard and answered, sooner or later, in His time.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

"This, Lord, Or Something Better."

I was reading my Daily Guideposts 2011 this morning and found this quote. The author of the meditation I was reading said that this is how a friend of hers ends each prayer. How beautiful is that?

We think we know what we want, how we want certain situations to turn out, the blessings we want for family and friends. Christ has told us to ask, seek and knock, and so we do. We ask for more money, we ask for health, we ask for help getting this or that job that looks so great, and so on.

Often our prayers are not answered the way in which we would like. How long does it take us to see the answer and, often, get over the disappointment before we realize that the answer is so much better than what we were praying for in the first place?

If we go into the prayer seeking God's Will, we are less likely to be disappointed with the answer, especially if it is not exactly the one for which we were hoping. How wise this woman is to place all her needs before the Lord and yet be so open to His Will over her own.

When people ask me to pray for something specific, I often find that I have a hard time doing that because I know God may have a different answer. I try, instead, to pray for His Will. Now I have a way to pray for what others ask me to pray for and to pray for my own needs, as well, without feeling like I'm trying to go around the will of God in my asking.

Now I can end my prayers this way, too: "This, Lord, or something better!"

Monday, April 4, 2011

Please! Don't Wear Black to My Funeral

Our parish/school community has had an abundant number of funerals this year. Three current or former students, several parents of students, and many older parishioners have died in the past 12 months. It has been a bit overwhelming for us.

One thing in common at all of these funerals was the black mourning clothes. Now, I don't take anything away from the sorrow and pain surrounding these mourners. I would just like it to be different at my funeral.

The way I see it, I will have, with God's grace, reached my goal: HEAVEN! (ok, more likely purgatory but still.) I will not be mourning.

I would like my funeral to be a celebration. Folks rarely wear black when they are celebrating. Celebrate my liberation from the bonds of earth. Celebrate my entry into the Kingdom. Celebrate the hug that I receive from Christ when He welcomes me. (He knows this is my fondest desire.) Celebrate the life I lived.

I want a rainbow at my funeral in the form of all those I love wearing their favorite celebratory color. (My favorites are red, green and blue.) Sure, you can cry if you need to. But please, make sure the tissue is colorful, too!

Friday, April 1, 2011

"Come back to me..."

I decided the next topic would be about reconciliation. I had the title and was comtemplating the content when I left for Mass. Wouldn't you know it? The first reading was from the book of Hosea and it was about God calling His people to repentance.

Why do we flee from God? What makes us afraid to repent?

There is so much noise all around us. It's as if we are trying very hard not to have any quiet that may allow us to think about uncomfortable things. Perhaps we are really afraid to hear the voice of our conscience or the Holy Spirit calling us to a deeper relationship with God.

The first step in the journey is to listen. What is God saying to our hearts? His call to repentance is gentle but constant. Humility is so necessary for our turning back. We have to realize what our sin is and what is causing it. We have to be willing to let go of the sin and turn to God for all of our needs.

Confession is a humbling act. To voice our sins outloud, even if they are not grave, (but especially if they are) takes courage, humility, and a lot of trust. We have to understand that the graces we receive, as well as the forgiveness, will far outweigh the fear we feel before our confession. As the next line of the song says: "Don't let fear keep us apart." Turn back to God. Receive His forgiveness and start a new life in Christ.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Silent Witness

Of the gifts with which God has blessed me, the gift of gab is not one. I find that I gravitate toward people who love to talk. My favorites are the ones who let me get a word in here and there as well. I am not a conversation starter most of the time. Instead I love to listen. There is so much to learn.

So how is a quiet person supposed to share the Good News? My heart is full of things that need and want to be said, and so I have become a silent witness. How can you witness if you do not speak well? The written word is the way I express myself. I put my thoughts in writing and then I can go back and re-read them later. I can also share it with others.

When I eat out, grace is said no matter where I am. The sign of the cross before and after the prayer is my witness. No one needs to hear the words of the prayer for them to know what I am doing.

I often pray the rosary when I take a walk. I don't bury the rosary in my pocket. I let it hang at my side. This, admittedly, took some working into. It takes courage to witness even if you aren't speaking.

My husband reminded me of my other "silent" witness; our nine children. Not that they are silent (unless they are sleeping) but they are my witness that with God in control of this aspect of my life, I can show others the beauty of His plan. When you have a large family, one of the questions most often asked is, "are you Catholic?" "Absolutely!"

Our children know that the Bible is important because they have all seen me curled up in my chair reading it while they get ready for school, or when they come to snuggle in the early morning. Sometimes they ask me to read it to them. Most often it is just a comfortable feeling they get because mom is sticking to her routine. They will remember this and, hopefully, emulate it.

All of us are called to spread the Good News. Some of us are just silent witnesses.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Who Was More Centered than Mary?

To quote a famous mother: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done unto me according to thy word." (Luke 1: 38) Can you even imagine how different our lives would be if we would utter those words every day? How we fear to let go of our own will to find out what God has planned for us!

Who knows better than God what we need? Yet we try so hard to control everything. The recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan shakes us to our core because we see just how NOT in control we are. We think we are in control because we plan so much of our lives; what time we get up, who we call on the phone, the kind of car we drive, the house we live in and on and on. This is why, when the unexpected happens, we complain and carry on.

Jesus has given us His own Mother Mary to show us the path to freedom by being open to the will of the Father. Mary was so centered that even the appearance of an angel did not cause her fear. She listened as the angel told her what God needed of her, and then she gave her Fiat. Having a child was not on her list of things to do. Mary had consecrated her life to God. She had planned to spend her life in a chaste manner, meaning she would never have children. Yet God had other plans for her. She not only would have a child, but THE Child. Talk about not being in control!

Today, decide to lose control. Decide to open your hands to receive what God has to offer you. Decide to "Do whatever He tells you." (John 2:5)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Open the Gift

In the movie Splash, Tom Hanks' character gives a beautifully wrapped gift to mermaid, Darryl Hannah. She ooh's and ahh's over the wrapping paper and ribbons until Hanks tells her the gift is in the box. He has to tell her to unwrap it.

John 20: 19, 26 invites us into the following scenario: ". . . Even though the disciples had locked the doors of the place where they were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood before them. 'Peace be with you,' He said. A week later, the disciples were once more in the room. . . despite the locked doors, Jesus came and stood before them."

The disciples were given a gift. If you notice, however, the disciples didn't open the gift. They were still locked in the room the next time Jesus came to them. He gave them His peace once again. It took them until Pentecost to open the gift.

When the Holy Spirit rushed upon them, they finally had the courage to let the peace of Christ fill them. They became able to leave the locked room peaceful and content that the will of God was what was going to lead them to the greatest happiness.

At every Mass, the priest repeats these words of Christ to us: "I leave you peace, my peace I give you." We have been given the same gift. Do we have the courage to open it? Do we let the peace of Christ into our hearts and to trust that no matter what is going on in our lives, God already knows all about it? Allow His peace to flow over you. Trust that even in the storm He is guiding you to a peaceful place with Him.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Label or Sign?

My six-year-old, Claire, found a stack of sticky notes and a pencil, and slyly asked, "Mommy, how do you spell 'kick me?'" Of course I knew what she was up to, but I spelled it for her anyway and turned out to be the first person upon whom she tried to stick it.

This got me thinking about labels and signs. We know that signs give us directions or commands; 'shopping center ahead 1/2 mile' or 'STOP'. Labels, on the other hand, tell us what to expect when we open a package. We don't buy a box labeled 'tissue' and expect to find chocolate. We don't hope to find a love story in a book labeled 'Managerial Accounting'.

We often put labels on other people; someone is handicapped who cannot walk without a walker, someone is dumb if they don't know what we know. Sometimes we even label ourselves; I'm a Christian.

If we are bold enough to label ourselves as Christians, should not our actions then, be a sign of what that label stands for? When a stranger, or even those we know and love, see us, speak with us, hear us speak to others, should they not come away with a clear and unmistakable understanding of what a Christian should sound like; act like?

If our outward appearance and speech do not reflect our statement of being Christian, maybe our inward knowledge of who Christ is, and what He means to us, needs to change. Do you use the label 'Christian'? Are you an accurate sign for that label?

Help us, Lord, to not only be a Christian in word, but also in deed. Amen.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Center of Attention

There was an ad on the back of the cereal box that I encountered when I opened the cupboard this morning. It was an ad for a sweepstakes to win a new kitchen. It read: "Make your kitchen the center of attention."

In this area, I need no help. Not that my kitchen couldn't use a makeover; it is original to the house. But, my kitchen, because it is where the food is, is the center of attention at our home. At dinner time my hungry kids swarm and chat while I make the meal. We call the movements at breakfast and lunch time, when everyone is working on fixing their own food, the kitchen dance. If you aren't "dancing", get out of the kitchen because you are just in the way.

We have a 1/2 wall between the kitchen and the dining room. When the older kids are home, the younger kids must hover to hear the latest stories, sing a song from a muscial we've just seen, or just watch them fix their meal. The little ones can stand on the dining room side of the wall and not be in the way, yet still be part of the action.

The kitchen is our family's center. It is where we reconnect with each other and stay in touch, sometimes literally. We all need a center. We need a comfortable place to hang.

When Christ is the center of our lives we can be comfortable wherever we find ourselves. We just need to call Him to mind to bring peace to our hearts, which are sometimes completely overwhelmed with the demands of the world. Invite Him to be the center of your life.

"Christ, be the center of my life. Guide me, protect me, surround me with your peace."

Thursday, February 24, 2011

'Christ is the Answer'

We are blessed, in our diocese, to have a wonderful priest and teacher. His name is Fr. John Riccardo and each weekday at 11:00 a.m. EST on you can listen to his teachings. The name of his show is "Christ is the Answer."

One day my ten-year-old, Hannah, brought me her math sheet. It was neatly sectioned off and numbered, and in each answer section was the word 'Christ'. While it didn't work for her math grade, it tells me she is listening.

As we teach our young ones about the One who died for us we can sometimes get the feeling that what we say goes in one ear and out the other. Fear not! You are planting seeds in their heart. While these seeds may bloom immediately and you can witness the fruit in your children's lives, often times they lie dormant waiting for someone else to water them.

The Lord places people in our lives to help us learn and grow closer to him: teachers, priests, friends, siblings. Most of all, He places Himself in our lives. Open your Bible and read the Gospels. The Lord speaks to us, His Spirit breathes on us. Christ tells us, "I am the Way and the Truth and the Life." Truly, Christ IS the answer.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Need a Reminder?

As you go through your busy day, what reminds you to stop for a second and say a prayer or give a word of adortion to our Lord?

If you are fortunate to live close to a Catholic Church, the Angelus bells at noon and six could remind you. Or stepping out of the building where you work or live and seeing the sun shining may move you to say a awe-filled "thanks, Lord."

My sister, Margaret, uses her clock. As she works away at her desk, God nudges her at just the right moment to see the numbers 123. They can be in any order, day or night: 1:23 p.m., 2:31 a.m. (She's a night owl). These numbers are her reminder of the Trinity; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

I, personally, get nudged at the 1's. At 11:11 my prayer is: God is number 1. At 1:11 I say: Jesus is Lord. One word for each number. It only takes a second and we have brought God into our day.

Another friend looks for license plates. In Michigan, one style of plate has three letters and then four numbers. The letters she looks for are BEG. This is her reminder to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy or just the words "for the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world."

Look for opportunities throughout the day to breathe a prayer. It changes your attitude and reshifts your focus. A wise person once said: If you hem your day with prayer, it's less likely to unravel.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

In Due Season

My Scripture reading yesterday was the last chapter of Sirach. It was one of those times when I just opened the Bible and read what was before me. The chapter starts off: "I give you thanks, O God. . ." Just what I was looking for. I am working on being more grateful. I have so much to be thankful for and, yet sometimes I find myself wondering "what would I do if . . .?" If I had more free time, if I had more "me" time, if I had more energy, if I had more money, if I had more space, if I had less laundry, if I had fewer bathrooms to clean.

Raising nine children is what I'm up to these days, although I have to say with 7 of them aged twelve or older, they are not all children anymore. None the less, they do take time, energy, money and space. I was at a store one day with a couple of my little ones a few years ago and a woman in line commented on how sweet they were. :) I admitted that, as cute as they are, I was looking forward to being able to shop alone one of these days. Her next comment proved how completely unaware of my situation she was. She said, "one day you'll miss these times." I wanted to respond, "I've been doing this for 24 years and believe me I look forward to doing this alone."

Shopping alone twice a month has become a reality for me. I head off to the grocery store in blissful silence. I get to pray in the van on the way there. I get to peruse the shelves with no one asking for anything, I get to use the U-Scan all by myself. I might even listen to the radio on the return trip. And, even better, when I get home the kids get to haul in the groceries (another benefit of homeschooling.)

All this leads me to the closing line of Sirach 51: "work at your tasks in due season, and in His own time God will give you your reward." So, even though I don't have more money or space or time, and I still have three bathrooms that need to be cleaned, I have reached the time of shopping alone; my reward for 24 years of hauling kids everywhere I went. I don't know what the next change will be, but for now, in this season of busy, I understand that change is coming. And I try to remember to be grateful for all the blessing that occur each day in my bustling, busy home.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Centered in Christ

I watched a video on youtube the other day about a woman who is very attuned to the voice of Christ. She told the story of being in a very crowded airport and finding herself sitting next to a elderly gentleman (she described him as at least 120 years old) with below-the-shoulder length grey hair. She thought God wanted her to witness to him. God actually wanted her to brush his hair. After a bit of an internal struggle she offered her help which was gratefully accepted. The man explained, after she finished, that he was just going home after a long hospital stay and he was worried about his beloved wife seeing him so unkempt. He was very pleased to have had her help.

How awesome to be so aware of the Lord working in your life. Just imagine how different the world would be if we were all Centered in Christ. Our every movement done out of love for our Savior. The corporal works of mercy would take on new meaning for us; feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsy, clothe the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned, shelter the homeless, bury the dead. How many more times would we look past the face in the mirror and see the needs of others.

We hear and read these words in the Bible (aka: Basic Instruction Before Leaving Earth) and yet we leave the church or close the book and do nothing. What if we saved our spare change and put it in the poor box? What if we called Purple Heart and made a donation once a month?  What if we shopped a sale and bought nothing for ourselves, but instead donated that purchase to a crisis pregnancy center or homeless shelter? What about the food that keeps getting shoved to the back of the pantry to make room for the new stuff? There are people who would be so helped by having that food on their shelves.

How do we become more centered? The first and most important thing, PRAY. You must ask the Lord to change your heart. Beg Him to take away the things in your life that are keeping you from hearing Him. Beg Him to replace the selfishness with His desire for us. The Gospel reading at Mass today was about being perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect. A tall order and one that we can't possibly accomplish on our own. The Holy Spirit must be alive in us in order for us to accomplish what God wants us to accomplish.

We must pray daily to become more Centered in Christ. In this way, we can do our part to change the world.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Spring is on the Horizon

When I walked out the door to take Amanda to school at 6:44 a.m. I expected to be enveloped by darkness and I was. But, what a nice surprise I had waiting for me. I stepped onto the porch, and since our house faces East, I was greeted by the sunrise. It was just a very faint light in the sky, barely noticeable, but there none the less.

As I drove West to the high school, the moon, in its almost fullness, reflected the sun back in a bright glow of white. It was beautifully surrounded by cirrus clouds (homeschooling teaches me things!!)

In the cold and snow of winter, we sometimes lose sight of the fact that spring will come again. God gives us February thaw and brighter mornings to remind us not to lose hope.

In a few weeks we will begin daylight savings time again. The mornings will go back to being very dark for a time, while the evenings will begin to be light for longer. Lent will begin and with it the LENGTHening of days. The snow will give way to rain, the ground will thaw and the spring flowers will come forth. The trees will bud and leaves will unfold. The cold of winter will be pushed to the background of our memories.

March will soon be upon us and with it, probably more snow and cold. But we hold onto the fact that it is only 31 days long. Keep your eyes fixed on the heavens. Wait for the sunrise and praise God for spring.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

God Does Not Want Me to Hibernate

When you have ten people in your care, 11 if I count me, which I often forget to do, your days are not your own. Wayne asks me most mornings, "what does your day look like?" To which I have begun responding, "God hasn't shown me yet." I find that when I have a plan for what I would like to accomplish, or think I need to accomplish, I am often frustrated when "interruptions" take my time away from the plan. By making my days belong to the Lord, I come away somewhat less frustrated and much more in tune to what others need.

This brings me to hibernating. Winter and I don't get along very well. I dislike being cold, wearing a heavy coat and boots and having to sit in a cold vehicle to get where I need to be. Since I go to Mass nearly every morning I do experience the outside cold often and early. However, Mass is the one thing I do for me and I need it, especially in the winter.

Some mornings I wake up and want to roll over and snuggle back under the covers, however, the Lord beckons me to the living room for our morning chat. One by one the kiddos start to wake up. The two high schoolers need rides before 7 a.m. Wayne is kind enough to take them most days but I make his oatmeal before he leaves so he has a good start to his day in the trenches.

Then the youngest wakes up. She calls "mom?" down the stairs to make sure I'm up and in the living room so she won't be alone when she comes downstairs. She snuggles on my lap and my "interruptions" begin. From this moment, with the exception of Mass, my day belongs to the rest of the family. Dishes, laundry, schooling, chatting with the older kids as they get ready for work or school, help with homework, taking gasoline to my son who pushes it to the limit at least once a month, taking care of the dog when his owner is at work, and on and on.

On those mornings when I want to curl under the covers and wish winter away, God has other plans for me. I have to bow to His will, which always is a better way. The days pass quickly and I find that it is already past the middle of February. My spring is coming quickly and the wish to hibernate will soon disappear to be replaced with the desire to be up with the sun at 5 a.m. so I don't waste a minute of the warm spring and summer weather.

So I'll leave hibernating to the bears, and instead take comfort in the fact that God knows what I need and gives it to me every day.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Sweet Cacophony

Have you ever gone to the church a bit early for Mass and been privileged to join the steadfast retirees that are there, daily, praying the Rosary? I have been there on quite a few occasions and it is a peaceful, prayerful way to begin the day. Usually I sit toward the back of the church and stay in time with the person sitting closest to me with the loudest voice.

One morning I ventured to the front of the church for a change of pace. This vastly changed my perception of the Rosary. When one sits in the front, the sounds of more voices drift forward. Not only is it slightly more difficult to pick a single voice to follow, one notices that not everyone is following the same person. It is more like a Rosary in round, with each prayer starting at a slightly different time and the Amens coming in scattered at the end.

This revelation led me to think of how God must hear our prayers in Heaven. In my parish, there are about 40 people that gather for the Rosary. In other parishes, the numbers vary from a few to up to 100. So, on an average morning, just in the Eastern Time zone there are many thousands of people praying just the Rosary at certain hours of the morning.

Now, pause to consider all those who are not in church but are praying none the less: hospital patients, parents and children, soldiers on a battlefield, a homeless person. All these prayers reach the being of our Heavenly Father and He is able to discern each individual, each word, each plea, each groan, each praise.

How do our prayers sound in heaven? I have to imagine they are like music. Different tones, paces, passions, fervencies make up our prayers. Like a symphony, our prayers reach to God and become a sweet cacophony of sound. God loves our prayers, whether we are happy or sad, angry or frightened, peaceful or in turmoil. Hence the proclamation: “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord.” (Psalm 98:4)