Monday, February 18, 2019

The Spiritual Journey

The following is the spiritual journey I went through while enduring all I have written about here, so many hidden jewels in the midst of suffering.....

The Spiritual Journey

I was raised Catholic by my mom, and have had a prayer life and what most Christians would refer to as "a personal relationship with the Lord" since I was about 13. Never have I had doubts about God's loving care for me. And though I have had "dry spells", times when I did not feel consolation in prayer, I had never reached a point of feeling totally abandoned. I reached both points somewhere in the middle of this trial of suffering. I knew God had a plan, but my faith was seriously tested for the first time. As Catholics, we also believe there is a redemptive purpose to suffering as there was in Christ's suffering (Col. 1:23-24, 1st Cor. 3:9, and 2nd Cor. 4:8-12 are a few scriptures that might help in the understanding of this). This more than anything, got me through it. I was also blessed to have stumbled upon a spiritual treasure, a formation called Disciples of Jesus and Mary and the priest who wrote it, now deceased, God rest his soul. Some of the principles from this, based in scripture that helped me so much were: Nothing is an accident, everything is a providential gift of God, and since everything is a providential gift everything has a purpose in your life. Even the bad stuff. Suffering was a way of life for me, and I had to know God had a reason for allowing it.

My beloved husband, a precious gift from God, listened to my doubts, my rants and ravings, and very calmly replied that he knew God had a purpose, that he felt he was going to heal me, and most of the time, he just listened and held me. He was Christ to me, as a spouse truly should be, and often had faith for me when I could not. At one point when things were really bad and I was on my 2nd or third healing service/novena/etc. I had decided to do a novena to St. Thérèse, "the Little Flower".

Maybe you have heard of her. She was a very young saint. She didn't do anything spectacular, just offered up every little thing she did for souls and for love of Jesus. But the Church decided her "little way" was so spectacular, she was not only declared a saint, but a Doctor of the Church, which is basically like saying she has a doctorate in holiness. On her death bed, she promised she would "spend her heaven doing good on earth, and send a shower of roses." So there is a novena you can say and at the end of nine days, receive a rose in some form as answer to your prayer. Sounds kooky, I know. But I have done the novena several times, and on all occassions I did in fact receive, a rose. In each circumstance, I was the only one aware I was looking for it. The best way I can explain a Catholic's reason for doing such a thing is this: First of all let's get this out of the way, we don't worship saints. Ok? We know they are people like us. But this life is tough and was not meant to be done alone. God made us to be in a family, on earth, but also in heaven. We need our family and friends to get us through, right? Well, the saints are like our big brothers and sisters who have won the race and are on the other side (Heb.12:1) AND they have connections. They are right there at the throne and are just waiting to help us out and intercede for us. Do you ask your mom to pray for you? your best friend? sister? I asked my heavenly sister to pray for me.

So, at the end of this novena, my husband comes home from work and puts my ipod in the dock. He had been working on a special playlist for me and wanted to share. Now, I am a musician. Music is my passion. If a song touches me, I cry. Ask my children. The first song that played was "a Rose" by Susan Ashton. The tears were flowing. That night I can't explain it, but there was a release. A cloud of despair lifted. And even though things were still bad, somehow I knew it was going to get better. I sat there on the couch with my husband and just cried my eyes out, but they were good tears, tears of relief. One song that has stayed with me the most from that night is this:

There is something else I learned from this experience. Sometimes we have a problem with other people's problems. When someone asks "How are you doing?" we don't always really want to know. From the Christian point of view, somehow, we have gotten this idea that, we are not supposed to have a hard time if we are followers of Christ. We think that we should always be happy no matter what. And you know what? That just isn't realistic. Jesus wept when his friend died, and he knew he was about to make him rise again. And I am pretty sure he wasn't hanging on the cross with a big smile on his face. It has taught me to really think when I ask someone "How are you doing?" to want to know and to care, and to listen. This song spoke to me in the very depths of my aching heart, when I was suffering so much, and at times felt abandoned by God:

When you are going through something really hard, it is ok to question God, it is ok if all you can do is cry sometimes. I hope with all my heart that when someone unloads their problems on me, I will be willing to hear them, cry with them, and be compassionate, as my husband, family, and very close friends have done.

There were little jewels that God dropped down into the midst of the most intense suffering. I was given the gift of a spiritual director who I still have the privilege of meeting with. She helped me through the deepest struggles of my faith during this time. There were 3 priests who prayed for my healing, both in person and from afar. One priest, who is now in heaven but still very much in my heart, became a spiritual father to me and taught me so much about being a true disciple. Another priest, an exorcist and missionary, came to my house when I was bedridden, prayed with us, gave us many spiritual insights into our personal family life (that no one else could have done without the help of God), and gave me the Sacrament of Annointing of the Sick. This experience had such a profound impact on my husband and me, I can't even express it in words.

As a couple and as a family, prayer became no longer a nice thing to do, but a must do. My children learned to help a lot more because I simply was unable to do a lot. They learned to think outside of themselves, and to step up to serve their younger siblings and me when I was in need. They learned a lot by watching me just be human. My daughter once sat with me on the floor and hugged me, while I cried through a difficult reaction. My husband too, took on a lot more burdens, and had already been doing a lot as a husband and father to 5. Sometimes it takes a good deal of hardship for our souls to grow, stretch and wake up a little. Sometimes we are only ready to receive God's gifts when we are broken.

I am happy to say that although I have been faithless many times and questioned God repeatedly, He has been faithful still! Over all, the greatest fruit I have seen in myself, and that I know beyond any doubt having gone through this: God is faithful. This last song was a theme song to me throughout: br />
Blessed be God my Father, who is faithful always, even when we are not!

Friday, July 28, 2017

When God's Plans Look Different Than Yours

When I was first raising little ones, my husband and I both were introduced to Catholic, homeschooling families. Some we did not aspire to imitate, but most, at first glance, we admired greatly and started to want to follow in their footsteps. When my oldest was 4, I started attending our local support groups' meetings and was further impressed with much of what I observed to be a typical catholic, homeschooling way of life. My husband had also gotten to know several of the dads and we began to consider homeschooling, ourselves. When I want to learn about something, I pour over as many books as I can. And so I did, read many books about homeschooling, catholic and other. I pictured listening to Mozart with them, teaching them to paint like Rembrandt, discussing philosophy and finishing school by lunch so as to develop other hobbies such as crocheting, gardening and badminton. As it turns out though, my eldest, as you may have read in other blogs, struggled with severe ADD symptoms. I would be on the verge of tears trying to just get him to finish a math and writing assignment by dinner time. My second child I gradually came to discover, was dyslexic, and again many hours spent on the basics, reading, writing and arithmetic, very little time for crocheting. My 4th child had SPD, was developmentally delayed, and just a very strong-willed child. My little homeschooling picture became blood, sweat, and tears, just about every day.

Don't get me wrong. There have been little glimmers, beautiful moments along the way. I have cried trying to teach a child a concept and then cried for joy when they finally overcame their hurdles. I have watched in amazement as Princess reveled in creating games, learning experiences, even faith lessons for her little brothers, and seen the awe in their eyes as they listened to her, thinking she hung the moon. I've seen the two little boys with great excitement share their homemade "bibles" with each other. I have had conversations with each child that I am not certain I would have been able to have had they been in school all day, with another life I was not a part of. I have had the joy and pleasure of teaching all of my children to read, some struggling more than others, and been there for their first word, sentence, and book. I have loved seeing their gifts unfold with each passing year, taking shape, improving upon last year's work. My children being homeschooled together have grown very close to each other. Oh, they are normal, they do fight and pick at each other.  However they also love each other and have been privy to each other's struggles and weaknesses, going through each day together. I think it has made them more compassionate and understanding of a variety of behaviors.

All this to say I had to make a difficult decision a few years ago. It was becoming evident to me that my oldest and I were not working well together. There was little peace in our homeschool relationship. And he was not excelling, though he is very smart. When I went through a formation I have mentioned on several blogs before, the principles of discernment I had learned through it were constantly coming into my head. "What's right for one is not necessarily right for another, because we are all unique in our path." "You should have an increase of faith, hope, and charity if you are following God's plan for you." "You should have peace." "There should clearly be good fruits from it." Based on these principles, homeschooling him did not feel right, at all. The possibility of putting him in a local catholic school was made available to me and I began to pray and discern about making this change. God responded with clear signs. So we went ahead. There have been some struggles in his adjustment, but quite honestly I have been amazed at his success, growth and accomplishments since making this decision. He made Honor Roll almost every semester at his school for the 2 years he was there. He has remained in school and has had ups and downs, but I am still confident it is the right fit for him.

I continued to homeschool my little boys and girls. Then we decided for the sake of my oldest to move into a better school district. Making an elementary school and high school with high ratings, available to us for the first time. I was still struggling constantly with my SPD child. Teaching him required much of my time and energy, and I was often mentally and emotionally drained by the end of a day. Meanwhile the children who did not struggle as much were not getting enough attention from me. So I began to discern once again, putting the boys in school. We visited their local school and were amazed at the amount of discussion there was about help for special needs children and the positive environment. I once again received clear signs it was time for them to venture into the world of "brick and mortar" school as well. They finished their first year, and there have been a few ups and downs.  Mostly though, I am completely amazed at God's faithfulness, when you open yourself up to something other than what you think is best for you. One of my son's teachers actually homeschooled her kids until adulthood when she decided to become a public school teacher. She has been amazing. My son with SPD has several teachers that are trained to help students with special needs and has received a lot of extra help while in school. They both come home, usually excited to tell me about their day. I am more than ready to see them, having accomplished what I needed to in the morning while they are gone.

I suppose some of you might be saying "See! I knew homeschooling was not a good thing!" or some of you are thinking "Well, she probably could have done it with more help, more resources." The truth is, I think it was right for my boys for the time we did it. It may even be right for the younger ones later on. If I should feel led I would consider discerning homeschooling again. I always tell people I take it one year at a time. I have come to love, respect, and admire both types of schooling. It really depends on the family dynamics, the individual children's needs, what types of schools are available, and many other variables. What I have learned is when you open yourself up to God's plan for you, even if it doesn't match what you thought, He will be completely faithful.  

I hope that this gives someone hope to step out on faith.. and trust... in whatever circumstance you find yourself.  

Monday, March 13, 2017

Tomato-less Tomato sauce (no beets!)

One of my children is allergic to tomatoes, among other things. When you have a large family with multiple food allergies, it is easier, at least with the big meals to only include ingredients that everyone can have, rather than make several separate dishes for individuals. Years ago, when we were on the Feingold diet there was a recipe for Untomato Sauce which used beets. Beets are not my favorite. (When I was 16 I decided to go on an extreme cleanse diet which consisted of nothing but vegetable juice, specifically beet juice. all day every day for 4 days. I have never felt the same about beets since) Anyway, I am always trying to come up with substitutes for things. One day I was using butternut squash for a sauce and I thought, "Hm. If I added some cherries to this it would probably look like tomato sauce. And cherries are tart yet slightly sweet, like tomatoes." I added salt, pepper, and italian herbs such as oregano and basil to it, and voila. tomato sauce, Italian style. Don't judge until you try it. Seriously. My kids say it is very close to the real thing. If you have a kid with a tomato allergy, make this and try it. They don't have to know what's in there. I used frozen organic cherries from Costco. I cooked them down on a stovetop until there was a liquidy syrup accompaniment. About 4 cups frozen. Add to about 4 cups of cooked butternut squash, no skin. Blend well in a high powered blender. Depending on how much cherry juice you have you might want to add a little water to get the sauce nice and smooth. We have a vitamix.

 Add your salt, pepper, and spices to taste.

The result:
Now you could also just start with salt and pepper and use this as a base sauce. Add cumin and cilantro for a Mexican flavored sauce, and the above for a more Italian flare. I recently used this on a homemade pizza with an almond flour crust, ground beef and sheep cheese. Everyone loved it.

Here's a printable recipe

Enjoy! :)

Sunday, September 4, 2016

The Loch Ness Monster and the Mysterious...

   Every family has certain tendencies, a more positive word would be "charisms". Well, perhaps I should say all people have certain tendencies, some more or less desirable than others. Some of my children have a tendency to obsess over things, for certain periods of time. It could be a few weeks to a year, to several years. Obsessions are not all bad. After all, it was my husband's obsession to discover the fullness of the truth that led him to the Faith. It was my eldest son's obsession with reading (I used to find books "hidden" everywhere, under the bathroom sink, in the crevices of his bed, around his carseat...) that led him to score so high in language arts consistently, and become a good writer. My husband has taught me that if I reject the obsessions, it will only lead them to obsess more, not less. And anyway, If I'm lucky and I don't want to hear about a certain obsession for an undesirable length of time, it will only last a few weeks.

   The Little Guy is currently obsessed, with cryptids. The Eldest went through this obsession possibly about the same age and still relishes a conversation or book about the topic from time to time. But, if you are at my house and trying to get up early on a Sunday morning to sneak a quiet luxurious breakfast by yourself on your due date for number 6, like I was this morning, stay in bed. Just kidding. God just has different plans for me sometimes.

   As he expounds on the possible mysterious and undiscovered creatures out there that could be lurking around the corner, and at the same time asks me over and over "Do you think it's possible? Huh? Do you think it's real?" I, as a theology major, and well, just a mom, am always thinking "How does God and the soul fit into all of this?" So to the questions he poses, here are my off-the-cuff answers.

"Why do you think God would create such a creature, if he did?"
"Everything he created was created for His glory, and out of His goodness. Also if he didn't, what would you have to talk about this morning to me?"

"If he did create these things, I'm scared of them."
"If he did create them, the same God created you, loves you, and cares for you. That's the only thing you need to dwell on, ultimately."

   I was formulating a speech about how our curiosity for the mysterious is actually a reflection of our deeper inner quest for the ultimate "mysterious and unknown" which is God himself. That while He, I believe, gives us these mysteries, to excite our imagination, and give us something to learn about, the ultimate search for the mysterious and deep can only truly be satisfied in Himself- of Whom the quest for is never ending and in its mystery and depth, inexhaustible. Alas, he was onto another obsession, directing his little brother.  (His little brother had cleverly escaped this conversation and retreated into another room for his own session of imaginary play, while his older brother was occupied.) I (shhh) meanwhile, sneak back into my own retreat, the bedroom, for perhaps another dose of sleep, before the next round of soul-searching questions comes.

Friday, January 22, 2016

A Special Christmas Present

I wrote the majority of this less than a month ago, and had planned to wait longer to post, but today being the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, and seeing some of my dear friends at the March for Life, I thought it would be an appropriate time. I'm not standing out in the cold marching for the unborn, but I'm contributing in my own little way, I hope....

I have to write this today, before I forget all the things that have happened over the last few days! But I won't be able to share until later. Hence the later post date. And I have to start with this. This has always been a favorite of my husband and me, an old Bob Carlisle song (side note: I hear a lot about how my Christian music favorites are "ancient" lately from some teenagers in my house.) But I digress. Have a listen...

It's true. I've been dreamin' bout babies. for a while now. I know, I already have 5 how could I possibly want more?! I can't explain except that, once you open your heart to life, and see the wonder of what God can do as a result, it's hard to not want to experience it all over again, morning sickness, labor, poopy diapers and all. Each of my children in their own unique way has added depth and beauty to our family. But for many reasons, we were putting family planning on hold, temporarily, maybe permanently. My health problems after the birth of Angel Boy were a big factor. I have been doing a lot better though, than I was. We have had some funny family jokes too over the years, about there being another invisible sibling. Often times my kids will accidentally set the table for 1 extra. And my husband would refer to it as "Aloyius". He would say "oh Aloysius needs some water." Sometimes Aloysius even gets blamed for stuff. Poor child. And then there was the "mistake" my husband made when he nailed up all the hooks for our Christmas stockings. He got done and said "Oh, I put 6 up there. instead of 5." I smiled in my heart. Every year we have put up an extra stocking, just, because. I started to suspect there might be a bun in the oven this Christmas, and could hardly WAIT to test. It was constantly on my mind. Christmas day, ironically, my mom put this in my husband's stocking at their house:
Special Christmas Present on the Feast of the Holy Family!

Then on the feast of the Holy Family, I found out, I was in fact, expecting. I cried tears of joy! All current hardships melted away and nothing else mattered, except the new life God had placed inside me. Then on the way to mass that afternoon, I saw this:
Seriously. A Baby and a rainbow. Perfect. 

The only thing is, I had the girls in the car with me, could give no explanation of the reason for my tears, and had to keep a secret! Pretty much impossible with those 2. I managed to until New Year's Eve. We talked about how to tell the kids and my husband worked all day on a puzzle for them to put together that told them the news.  It took a while for them to assemble, but the final picture told them that number 6 was on the way. When they put it together, the Little Guy first said, "Wait mom, no doctor has said you're pregnant! what does this mean?!" and The Eldest who figured it out first, and had had his hand over his mouth for several minutes, said " (Little Guy), how many kids are in this family?" He answered "Um, 8?" Hilarious. I lose count too sometimes ;). Then it slowly started to dawn on each of them, and smiles began to creep on each of their faces. The Little Guy had told me a long time ago that he was asking God for me to have another baby every mass after he received communion, (melted this mama's heart). So he exclaimed, "Mom! God answered my prayer!" and Angel Boy said, "I love Babies! They are So cute!" We made an effort to keep it secret for a short while, but the next Sunday, Angel Boy blurted out to our Youth Minister "Mom's having a baby!" And during mass, The Little Guy kept pointing to my stomach over and over and back at the picture of Mary and baby Jesus on the program, and smiling. He is my baby that was born on this day, and ironically, he has been the most consumed with the growth of the baby in my womb, asking me almost every day "what size is the baby now mom? What's the baby doing?" But for those of you who have not picked up on it yet or been the recipients of excited siblings' hints, we are pregnant!! :)  

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Handwriting Without Tears Jam

My boys' favorite part of Handwriting Without Tears curriculum, is the music. They BEG me to listen to the songs. They get their wiggles out and The Little Guy gets some heavy work in for his SPD by picking up Angel Boy and pulling his arms off  dancing with him (poor fella, what he puts up with). He is actually about to move out of HWT, a big step for him, but I am sure he will be dancing and singing the songs with us for a while still. The music teaches them various concepts about their handwriting curriculum, but for kids' school music, is pretty well done I think. It keeps their interest. Occasionally I join in, but there is, alas, no video of such instances. Not sure how I missed those opportunities. So without further ado, I give you, The Alphabet Boogie.....

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Kids and What They Say

(I wrote this when Angel Boy was a baby and never published. Found it recently and had to share)

One morning at breakfast, I inform the kids that it is the feast of the Immaculate Conception. "Does anyone know what that means?" "When Mary visits Elizabeth?" The Queen says. "When Jesus is born?" Princess pipes in. At this point my delusional image of their perfectly Catholic education is waning a bit. Then, the Eldest saves the day with a perfectly perfect book answer "The Immaculate Conception refers to the Blessed Virgin Mary being conceived without original sin, God granted her this grace at her birth, it is not to be confused with the Incarnation." Phew!! 1 out of 3, not so bad. The conversation went from this to why some people don't understand or believe in this doctrine to so many other directions I can't even cover here. But my favorite quote is from the Eldest, "You know mom (while doing his shot for breakfast) this insulin is like people coming into the church, and I am like the syringe helping them to get there and my body is like heaven, our ultimate goal."

There's a little rhyme I learned in school to learn the direction of a compass, "Never Eat Shredded Wheat". When trying to teach the Queen this she says, "but I eat shredded wheat every morning. We have to come up with something else." After careful thought over this she says "How bout, Never Ever Sink a Warship." I find this hilarious considering her personality, it is SO appropriate. She says, "Well! It's true! You don't want to sink a warship or then you might get in the middle of a war!"

Sunday morning, I send The Queen up to wake up her older brother as usual. She comes back down and with a big sigh says, "How come he is always grumpy in the morning? even on Sunday!" I asked, "What did he say?" She said, "He said, 'great, now I have to break my back to get dressed'".

At the table The Queen kept asking me when the Little Guy would start kindergarten. I finally said, "Why are you so concerned about (The Little Guy) and his starting school?" She said, "because I am trying to figure out how he is going to change from 'El Destructo' into a Kindergartener, I mean, he doesn't have that much time!"

We have conversations about heaven often. As a family we are having to make a lot of dietary sacrifices for our health, so often the children take turns describing what their house might have in it (ok, mommy plays too, my house is usually made out of chocolate and coffee). The conversation then moves to what will we be doing in heaven and what will it be like to be with God? I make the comparison to candy, when you taste God, he is so amazing you can't help but want more and more and more, except, candy would make you sick, God does not. And the Eldest says, "yea, and like candy when you taste it you feel like you want others to taste it to."

The Eldest asks "Mom, what's a winter solstice?" After looking it up online, I read out loud, "The winter solstice occurs exactly when the Earth's axial tilt is farthest away from the sun at its maximum of 23° 26'. More evident to those in high lattitudes, this occurs on the shortest day and longest night of the year, when the sun's daily maximum position in the sky is the lowest. Since the winter solstice lasts only a moment in time, other terms are often used for the day on which it occurs, such as midwinter, the longest night or the first day of winter." After a brief moment of silence, The Eldest says "Were you talking to someone, mom?"

 At the table someone asked how old I was. "34" I reply. The Queen says, "40?! oh wow, at first I thought you said 40, I'm glad you are just 34, 40 is a really BIG number." The Eldest says, "But there's even hope for 40 yr. olds. I heard that one even won an Olympic medal once!"
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