Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Boasting in the Lord!

Boasting in the Lord. St. Paul tells us to do it (1 Cor in thins 1:31). In fact, it's a good thing. Yet he reminds us not to boast in leaders of the world (1 Corinthians 3:21). Ok Paul, I gotcha. Boast in the Lord, my God, my Savior not in flawed sinful men. Yes! I want to. Some days I want to shout with JOY screaming at the top of my lungs sharing all the good things the Lord has done for me. But when does this boasting become just bragging? When does it become "look at me, I'm favored because God has done so much for me"?

This is something with which I struggle a great deal. Some days I am so excited about receiving the Eucharist that morning in Mass, I just want to dance. In fact, (ok I know this is weird but), I do dance "in my head". Walking back from the Communion reception line, here I am in my brain dancing down the aisle singing the only word that ever comes to mind (or maybe the only word that really comes from my heart, who knows), "Yes! Yes! YES! YES! YES!!!". So yes, I WANT to boast in my Lord. I want everyone I meet to get that feeling of pure happiness, that almost uncontainable joy, when receiving our Lord, when participating in the perpetual sacrifice, when taking part in the ONLY moments where Heaven ACTUALLY meets earth.

Have you ever really thought about that? The Mass is the ONLY time in our lives we will be able to experience a bit of Heaven here, in our mortal lifetimes! We know for certain, our gardian angels are there as they come everywhere with us. But have you thought about the fact that there are other angles present as well according to Paul (1 Corinthians 11:10). And what about the saints? We even mention the saints in our Eucharistic prayer. Could it also be possible they are present too? Honoring our Lord at His great table of plenty? Of course it is! And if so, then why AREN'T we flocking to the churches on Sunday, Holy days and every other chance we get? Why AREN'T we boasting in the Lord our God?

Here's what I think. At least for me, it's all about vanity. Curse my stupid pride! I don't want that person to think I believe I'm holier than them. If I say, "Listen to how great God is to me...." I don't want that person I'm speaking with to think of me as a braggart, like the pious Sadducees and the fake Pharisees who thought of themselves above others. No, I would never want someone to think that about me. And so I keep my mouth shut. I choose not to share my great joy in Christ because, heaven forbid (pun intended), someone might think ill of me.

Well no more. The time is NOW. Pride, be gone with you! I happily, loudly, and joyfully boast in Jesus Christ, my Lord, my Savior, and my great, great love.  Today, I shout it from the laptop (not a mountaintop but it will do)!  I stand steadfast in my love and joy of my merciful Lord.  I will not deny Him and my happiness will NOT be contained!

So next time you see me, I just might be dancing down the aisles at Mass unable to contain this great happiness.  And don't stop me outside of church or you just might hear "Hey, guess how good God is to me?".  Because from this day forward you cannot STOP me from boasting in the greatness that we call our Lord and our God.

My prayer for you, my friends, is that you too will find the strength, peace and joy of boasting in Jesus too (whether it be through words or deeds).

Blessings to you and yours,

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A Lesson On Prayer

Have you ever been in the situation where life has just become so busy that it seems as if you are putting out fires every second of the day, as if you are running on autopilot, a buoy in the water bobbing up and down just trying to stay afloat with no real direction?  This is exactly how I would have described my last year.

In the fall of 2014, we were blessed with the arrival of our second son, Little Bean, followed by my husband's retirement from the military.  So it was time...the time of transitions!

As a family, we needed to find a direction with which to go.  Do we stay in AZ, far from family, and does my husband try to find a permanent job?  Or do we move back to the east coast without any job prospects to be closer to family and trust in the Lord?  It was a decision my husband and I discussed and prayed about for some time.  In the end, we decided, as my husband likes to say, to "take a leap of faith".  So we packed up all our belongs, our 4 year old, our 2 month old, our dog and ourselves and headed east.  This move also meant I had to close down the doors to my dream, my private practice.  We had no home, no jobs, and no idea where we would end up.  But if we trust in Him, God never disappoints.  Though, they may not be the things we ask for, like any good parent, God will ALWAYS give us the things we need, things that will bring us closer to Him.

We were so very blessed during those months of transition.  First we were able to stay with my family and then with my husband's family.  So shelter during a terrible winter was thankfully covered.  Check.  We celebrated Christmas and New Years with family we hadn't been able to see in many years due to military life.  Family for the holidays!  Check.  And after the New Year, after many sleepless nights with my newborn, and many, many, MANY prayers, the Lord shared His plan with us.  My husband was offered a job in Northern Virginia.  Check.  We found a nice house in a family friendly neighborhood and were officially moved in by March of 2015.  Check.  Yet, it's only been over the last month or so that I realized how many times God answered "Yes" to my prayers this past year.  You know, not just the big, life-sustaining prayers (food, shelter, water, etc.) but the "little" prayers.  The ones we think are nonessential.

I prayed for us to know where to move and to get settled.  Well the Lord made His plan for us very clear with this job opportunity for my husband.  There was no need for an agonizing decision.  THIS is where we are SUPPOSED to be!

I prayed that where ever we ended up, I hoped to find a group of strong Catholic women from which to learn and grow.  Boy did He ever deliver on this one!  I am so happy to be part of a wonderfully large homeschooling community with families both large and small (and by large community, I mean 90+ people on the email change!), whose mothers dedicate their lives to teaching their children this beautiful faith!  I've been reintroduced to the beautiful tradition of head covering and what an AMAZING blessing this has been for me during the Mass.  And I have rediscovered my love for the Eucharistic celebration and am blessed to share that love with my children on a daily basis.  So many "Yes" answers to prayers for which I didn't even know I should pray.

Finally, I prayed for something very small, very insignificant.  I have read about the wonderful groups of women who participant in saint peg doll swaps and I wanted to be part of one.  Not just to be part of a swap as I could make the dolls on my own.  No. I prayed to be part of a group of women, mothers, who understood the importance of teaching our children about the awesome saints of Mother Church.  I wanted a group of women, who were on fire for Christ. Women who understand, believe and live as if this world, this life is fleeting and simply a stop along our eternal journey.  I wanted women who get it, who get me!  And, I'm happy to report that I have found that group.  Through my church I have become part of a beautiful mom's group called the St. Anne Society, where we meet bimonthly to discuss all things in which a Catholic wife and mother would find interest.  As if that was't amazing enough, randomly a few weeks ago, I was asked to participate in a saints peg doll swap with some women from my church (click on the link to see how the swap went)!  Can you believe it?  All these "Yes's" from God?!

My Life Lesson:
So what have I learned through this year of transition?  Through taking our "leap of faith" and leaving it all up to God?  Well I guess I've learned a few things.  One, the old adage, "The Lord will provide", is so very true. Two, when the Lord provides, He does so with gifts even greater than our imaginations can dream.  And thirdly, maybe the most important lesson of all, I discovered that our Lord  will answer "YES" to all prayers He knows will bring us closer to Him!  This has COMPLETELY changed my prayer life.  Now before I ever pray for anything, I ask myself "Will this bring me closer to God?", "Will this build my relationship with Jesus Christ? The Holy Spirit? His mother? The saints?".  If the answer is "yes" then I not only make that prayer request, I make it boldly and confidently as I know our good Father in Heaven will say "yes".

Yet, what if the prayer request may not bring myself or another closer to Christ?  We find this conundrum in cases of illnesses and disease, among other things.  Will the removal of my suffering or the suffering of another, bring either of us closer to Christ?  Rather, can this suffering be more effectively used as an offering for reparation of sins or as a purgation of one's soul?  And, if so, do I have the right to pray for it to cease?  It is in these times, these cases I can pray for only one thing that the Lord's will be done and that all involved can accept that will and use it to grow closer to Him.  Now this prayer, I KNOW will be answered with a resounding "yes, Yes, YES!" from Heaven!

So I guess, the lessons I've learned over the last year have taught me to be more thoughtful in my prayer requests and to always keep a soul's salvation in mind above all things.  Yes, I'm cautious when it comes to prayer, but I am confident and I know-I don't just trust-I believe, I have faith, I KNOW that our prayers will be answered "Yes" when we pray to become closer to our Lord.

May all of our prayers be focused on creating relationship with Christ especially during this upcoming Advent season!

Blessings to you and yours,

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Dealing with the Distractions

Do you ever just feel like what is the point?  What is the point of all of this "stuff" in the world?  What is the point of joining this "rat race"?  Why deal with all this stuff...television, movies, radio or podcasts, facebook pages and blog posts?  Do you ever just look around in life and notice it's filled with "Distraction. Distraction. Distraction." one right after the other?  Sometimes all I hear in my life is noise, noise, noise.  With all this noise and distraction in life, how in the world am I supposed to know where the Lord is calling me?  How am I supposed to "hear His voice"?

What does it the bible says?  Oh that's right..."Be STILL and know that I am God."
Be still...while a 5 year old is shoving his wonderfully creative uniquely self-made lego creation in my face.  Be still...as my 13 month old has crawled to my feet and is now crying while grabbing my pant leg wanting to be held.  Be still...while my 13 lb. bichon barks (all day long) at the NINE neighborhood dogs that surround our house.  Be still...while my husband calls to check in with us and see how our day is going.  Some days "being still" is quite the challenge, don't you think?

The best part about life is that I can always look to our Blessed Mother and know that as a human mama herself, she experienced days full of distractions and noise.  She knows what it's like to not have a minute to herself all day until the kids go down for bed at night.  Our Holy Mother knows what it's like to look in the mirror (or in her day, her reflection in a pool of water, I'm guessing...Ha!) and realize she doesn't recognize the person staring back at her.  She knows what it's like to reluctantly open her burning eyes far too early in the morning after a night of terrible sleep in response to hearing "Mom. Mom. Mom, you up?".  She knows that there are days I just want to sit in prayer.  She feels my desire to have time to pray and meditate on the bible.  She understands how I long to pray a rosary without children to distract me.  Our Mother knows all of this, however, she also realizes that in my state in life, sometimes this is not possible to do.

Here's the challenge for me.  It is a form of suffering to have to be brought back to focus on these "earthly" things and to not have the time I would like to spend with Our Lord and Our Lady in silence and without distraction.  I could spend time thinking about all the things I wish I could do, or all the things I don't "get" to do because of my "state in life".  I could spend time focusing on all the things I would like to be able to do yet cannot, but what would be the use in that?  That only results in a pity party for me and no one wants to come to a party of one, do they?  I'd much rather spend my time, wisely.  Through Our Lady's wisdom, I know I can offer up this "suffering", the distractions, the noise, the headaches, the frustrations, the lack of focus during the Eucharistic prayer due to having children (the classic cry of the church-going Catholic parent)...all of it.  I can offer it all up to and place it at Our Mother's feet.  Then she can take these gifts of love and sacrifice, package them beautifully and present them to her Son for me.  What better way to send a gift to my Lord than through His beloved mother?  So this is what I now do.

Nothing is wasted.  Distractions are blessings.  Noise is welcomed.  Headaches...well headaches are still responded to with a bit of ibprophen and dim lights, but even these are offered up.  All have become part of my daily prayers.  And how grateful I have become for my children, who are the makers of all distraction and noise in this universe, or at least in my universe.  Without them, my prayers would be dull, sterile, and bland.  But because of them, because of my lovable little boys, my prayers, although not deep or earth shattering, are full of the joy, perseverance, patience, and compassion.  Because of my boys, I am learning how to make my life into a prayer!

Praying for wonderful distractions in your lives as well!

Blessings to you and yours,

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Homeschooling: Art Appreciation!

If you are like me, then you know NOTHING about art or art appreciation. This can be a problem when you want to present a well rounded curriculum for your homeschool child(ren). Luckily for me, I came across, or rather was divinely guided to, this beautiful new book by titled, Jesus Christ & The Virgin Mary in Art.  This book has everything a beginner might need to introduce some artistic concepts to your child(ren) while focusing on appreciating beautiful religious masterpieces of the past.

So, why do I love this book so much? Well partly because it is perfect for a beginner such as myself, and partly because it is a book that teaches one how to pray using religious art as inspiration!

What specifically do I love about this book?  Well here's my top 5 list:

1.  The Variety of Artists:  This book presents works from 36 artist of varying notoriety.  Both well known and lesser known (to those of us who have no art background at least) artists of various periods in history are included in this large compilation resulting in a large accumulation of various types and styles of art to observe, learn from and appreciate. 

2.  The Low Down on the Artists:  This book is divided into chapters by artist and each chapter provides an introduction to the artist, a little bit about their background and the basics of what we would need to know to appreciate their art. This includes the style of art they use, the period in which they created their masterpieces, the use of colors or various shapes for which each artist was known, etc.  I like that this information is fairly short and sweet (typically only a page or two) and it leaves one feeling as if they understand what they should be making note of when looking at each artist's work.

3.  The Art:  You can get a sense of the beauty of this book by looking at the above picture. There are 280 oil paintings included in this anthology!  You can easily get lost in some of these remarkable works of art and being that it is in one book, you can always return to a favorite any time you wish.

4.  The Scriptural Connection:  Below each masterpiece is a scriptural reference you can read and on which you can meditate if you so choose.  It's a beautiful way to make the pages of the bible come to life right in front of your eyes!  Below each scripture verse, there is a written prayer for you to pray if you wish.  I love this way of using art to pray!  I've never done this before so to me this is all new and quite beautiful.  I find myself creating my own personal prayers after meditating on a piece of artwork, something that was WAY out of my comfort zone, prior to using this book!

5.  The Glossary:  Oh for the art novice, the glossary in this book is a life-saver!  It provides one with the basic definitions for some well used and some unknown art terminology which aids in one's understanding of information presented in the information portions of this book.

How do I use this book while homeschooling?
I use this book with my son in a very simple way. First I explain the very basics of what makes the artist we are targeting, famous. I share a few points explained in the introduction about the artist's work and what we will be looking for in each of the artists' paintings. Then we spend some time just looking at one painting. We talk about it, the shapes, lines and colors we see, as well as the  emotions we feel when looking at each painting.  We talk about the characters we see in the paintings and their possible feelings at those moments as well.  I read the scripture verse followed by the prayer. Then I give us some time for our own thoughts and meditation on the picture. Usually only a minute or two, because a five year old boy can only "meditate" so long. Then we share our own spontaneous prayers this painting has inspired in us. It's very basic, but I feel it's a great way to introduce the concept of art appreciation and how it can inspire our own prayer. 

I cannot express enough how much I LOVE using this book as a simple, fun and prayerful way to introduce art appreciation for some of the most beautiful religious art that we have available at our fingertips and for such a reasonable price.  I know it will take us a long time to get through all 280 paintings available to us in this book and I definitely feel that I received my money's worth based on what I can share and what we can do to create such a powerful prayerful experience in our homeschool.

If you are interested you can find it at this website or on Facebook.

Blessings to you and yours,