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)