Monday, June 22, 2015

Our Blessed Mother and Infertility

As I was meditating on our Blessed Mother's life and her true devotion to our Lord Jesus Christ while praying the Chaplet of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, a thought came to me, a revelation if you will. When praying or meditating on Our Lady, I tend to think of her in two capacities: either as my spiritual mother, or as another mother/friend/model of the woman the Lord is asking me to emulate.  Hey, I never said I was good at imitating her, just that I know I should! ;)  But while praying one afternoon, another thought actually came to my mind.  Mary is also a woman who knows what infertility feels like.

I know you are saying "Um, Maria, have you lost your mind?  Mary carried our Lord into this world.  She had a baby, how in the world could she even understand the depth of my pain and frustration with infertility?".  If you are reading this blog post and asking just that, let me first say how very sorry I am that you are experiencing such a cross in your life, but that I do believe that our Mother Mary is THE woman you can go to with such a cross.

Yes it is true that Mary, only through her fiat, was granted the gift (and cross) of being the mother of our Lord, Jesus which eventually resulted in her becoming the Mother of Heaven and earth.  However, have we ever really thought about what that "yes" entailed for Mary, for her body, for her marriage, for her life as a woman and mother?  Have we ever really thought about the fact that because her womb bore God's only son that she could NOT bare any other children?  I know some denominations mistakenly read certain passages of the bible as Jesus having siblings and assume they are from Mary but as the Catholic church teaches, Jesus Christ, was Mary's only biological child.  There are a number of reasons for this and a number of historical resources, including scripture to support this and maybe one day I'll be able to take time to discuss it in detail but for now, this is what we, as Catholics KNOW to be TRUE.  Mary never carried another baby in her womb.

Those of you who have never been able to conceive or carry a child to term, will retort with, but she at least had Jesus.  That was some consolation.  And I cannot disagree that I'm sure His life, His ministry brought great joy to her as well as great sorrow.  Let us think about this for a second.  Mary was espoused to the Holy Spirit the moment she said "yes" to our Lord.  But she also knew that her "motherhood" was limited in a sense far greater than ours.  When presenting Jesus in the temple, Mary was told she would have swords of sorrow pass through her heart.  Mary had to escape to Egypt in the middle of the night like a thief, in order to keep her divine Son safe.  She lost Jesus for THREE DAYS in Jerusalem at the time of year where millions of people converged on the town.  She felt the hopelessness and failure, the despair and embarrassment.  While raising her Son, she learned very quickly how our Lord had to live here on earth with one foot in Heaven.  Then of course, she had to stand by while He was taken in the dead of night, trialed unjustly by the high priests, scourged by Roman soldiers, beaten, hit and spat upon while carrying His cross, pierced by nails in His hands and feet while trying to breathe in excruciating pain, and finally, His mother had to look on while Jesus took His last breath followed by a spear thrust into His side.  What a motherhood of pain and suffering!  Do you think the "good days" were true consolations to her heart?  I wonder. 

So Mary's motherhood was plagued from the beginning with sorrow and pain.  In addition, Mary was never to conceive again.  She would never feel what natural conception felt like.  She would never have a child that was the result of the union between her husband, Joseph, and herself.  She would never have a child she did not have to share with the world.  Her uterus would be barren for the rest of her life.  Can you not imagine the pain, the aching Mary probably felt at times longing for a chance to have another child, one she knew she wouldn't have to give completely to God?  A child that could grow up to take care of her and help her in her old age?  A child she didn't have to "give back" so quickly?  Oh, I think Mary most definitely knows what infertility feels like!

If you are experiencing infertility of any kind, I encourage you to take your pain, your burdens, your sorrow to Our Lady.  She was not divine.  She was human just like you and me.  She knows exactly what your pain feels like.  Lay these pains at her feet and allow her, through the grace of the Holy Spirit, to bare fruit in your life.  It may not be the fruit you are requesting or hoping for, but it will undoubtedly be the fruit you need.

Blessings to you and yours,

Monday, June 15, 2015

Mary's Flame of Love and the Ave Maria!

In Elizabeth Kindlemann's spiritual diaries, our Blessed Mother reveals how she would like us to pray the "Ave Maria" (a.k.a. the "Hail Mary")..

Our Holy Mother would like us to honor the Flame of Love when saying the "Hail Mary" by saying it in the following way:

"Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee;
Blessed are you among women,
And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, Pray for us, sinners, 
Spread the effect of grace of thy flame of love,
over all humanitynow and at the hour of our death.  

From what I am understanding reading this information on the official Flame of Love Movement website, we are to say the "Hail Mary" like this even when reciting our rosaries from this point on.  When we do recite the Ave Maria in this manner, we will be able to deliver souls from Purgatory by our prayer.  In fact, the Holy Virgin promised Elizabeth Kindlemann the following:  

“Whoever prays three Hail Mary in honor of My Flame of Love delivers a soul from Purgatory. Whoever prays one Hail Mary in honor of My Flame of Love during the month of November, delivers 10 souls from Purgatory.”

Our Blessed Mother goes on to promise that those souls who will be delivered from Purgatory by our prayers will help us in saving souls from heaven.

These are AMAZING promises simply by changing the way we say one prayer!!!! 

I have to admit it is a bit difficult at first to change the way I have said the "Hail Mary" since I was little, but it helps to say it over and over again when reciting the rosary to get the repetition and it begins to come more smoothly over time.

Please join me in honoring our Blessed Mother's grace of the Flame of Love and saving souls by saying this version of the "Hail Mary".

Blessings to you and yours,

Monday, June 8, 2015

Chaplet of the Immaculate Heart of Mary!

This chaplet is associated with the Immaculate Heart of Mary's Flame of Love movement inspired by Elizabethe Kindlemann's spiritual diaries.  If you missed my review of the Flame of Love you can check it out here.  Read more about the Flame of Love Movement here and check out the official site of the Flame of Love here.

This chaplet is to be said on the regular rosary beads.

Begin by blessing yourself 5 times meditating on the 5 wounds of Christ (the nails in each hand, the nails in each foot and the lance pushed into His side).

One the larger/"Our Father beads say:  "Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us who seek refuge in you."

On the smaller/"Hail Mary" beads say:  "Holy Mother, save us through your Immaculate Heart's flame of love."

End by: repeating the "Glory Be" three times.

I have begun saying this chaplet daily and it is a truly beautiful meditation.  Try it and see!
Blessings to you and yours,

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Homeschooling Update: Spring 2015

This Friday ends our first marking period of our homeschooling adventure!  I can't believe nine weeks have flown by so quickly.  So, do you want to know what our homeschooling looks like?  Allow me to describe it in one sentence: We love learning in our pjs. 

Well what do you think?  Take a peek and see for yourself.

If you missed my post on how I am supplementing religious education with something I like to call "Breakfast with the Bible" you can check it out here.  This picture above is an example of one of the extension activities we did to accompany the Cain and Able bible story.  This simple writing prompt works on language arts, spelling, handwriting as well as religion.  Four in one.  Not too shabby! :)

Addition with manipulatives!

Another way to visually show addition!  Use a dry erase marker and no matter what it is, Pickle is ready to participate.

This was right after Easter.  We decided to work on graphing by using what we had, jelly beans. Yummy!  So we graphed the number of different colored jelly beans then we had a little snack (and had to re-graph what was left over. Ha!).

Adding coins!  Pickle LOVES adding real money.  With activities like this, he mastered counting by 5s and 10s so by the time we were ready to tell time (yes on a regular clock), he was a pro.  

Of course spelling goes hand in hand with our Phonics goals as well.  Here we are using stickers to spell out words with short vowels.  Below we are spelling with simple letter tiles.  

Nature walks!  They speak for themselves I'd say.


More experiments!

Geography and Social Studies:
We are slowing learning about the 50 states.  We have mapped the big road trips we have taken across country and labeled all the states we've lived in the past.

Since we are living in a state chock full of our country's history, we are taking advantage of it with lots and LOTS of field trips!

Ok, I'll admit it. Handwriting is Pickle's least favorite activity.  He actually makes some very nice letter formations but he does NOT like to copy words or sentences.  Again, if I add dry erase markers to the activity, he is there!  Looks pretty good if you ask me.

So this is just a glimpse of some of the subjects Pickle is working on and what homeschool currently looks like in our house.  It has taken a bit of time, preparation and organization, but we are getting this "school" thing figured out and we are coming to learn what works for our clan.  Stay tuned and I'll share more updates over the summer. 

Blessings to you and yours,

Monday, June 1, 2015

Taking it to the Cross!

Life lessons seem to be coming from all sides some days.  Today I am ready to hit the sack at 7:30pm because I've simply had just that kind of day.  Little Bean is now 8 months old but still nursing throughout the night.  Pickle just turned 5 years old last month and we are coming up on the end of our first marking period next week.  I can't believe it's been almost 9 weeks since we have started school!  Hopefully I'll share some pictures with you from our homeschool adventures next week.  But for today, I'm just spending some time in reflection.

My life has drastically changed over the last 6 months and not simply because we've had another bundle of joy (which he has truly been such joy to us).  Rather, it's because my husband went on terminal leave several months before officially retiring from the army after two decades.  We bounced around for a few months spending time with family before settling down in our new state within 40 miles of my husbands new job.  Forty miles in terrible traffic equals hours on the road some days.  But, he's been taking time getting into the swing of things over the last three months with this job and we as a family have begun to get used to dad being back to work after all the time we were blessed with having him at home with us during our transition period.

The first few weeks of unpacking, infant separation anxiety, sleep deprivation and emotional outbursts from a preschooler who was desperately trying to find his bearings in his topsy-turvy world, truly tested this mama's resolve.  The chaos and clutter was closing in on me and my children were feeling my anxiety.  I ached for organization but between needing to hold my infant constantly while trying to reassure my preschooler that all would turn out just fine and we would in fact find new friends for him to play with, unpacking became a much greater obstacle than I could have ever thought.

We were on an emotional roller coaster.  Our days, much like Clint Eastwood's famous movie, were sometimes good, often times bad, and a few times, admittedly so, very ugly.  My husband was so busy at work that many times he would get home simply to eat dinner and see the kids off to bed.  To say we, my boys and I, were struggling is probably an understatement.  However, I'm the type of person that can only see the extent of the darkness with the sun's return.  When I'm in the thick of things, I simply put out immediate fires and deal with what's at hand (which incidentally is not the same thing as being good under fire...I'm terrible at that).  It's as though I can only process what is right in front of me and therefore can only deal with solution to those immediate problems.  There is no time for thinking, for reflecting or for silly things like emotion.  But I knew we were struggling and I knew for sure that I couldn't do it all on my own.  I had to do something I have done over and over time and again in my lifetime.  I had to return to the cross.

Simply praying during the day wasn't enough.  I had to stop in moments of anxiety, frustration or anger, silent those thoughts in my head that wanted to so desperately come tumbling out of my mouth, and get on my knees.  Some days I had to just kneel in the midst of a floor strewn with toys, a screaming baby, and a preschooler dancing around the both of us seemingly oblivious to the hearing-loss-inducing noise level that Little Bean could belt out.  Sometimes I had to go into the bathroom and shut the door.  It didn't matter where I was, it just mattered that I took it to the cross.

At first I asked our Lord and Blessed Lady to end this emotional ride, give me a break from this chaos and help Little Bean get some sleep and help Pickle find a few friends with which to play.  But I realized that I was wrong to pray like this because those prayers were requests to take away my suffering, my anguish in the moment and my suffering in watching my children in pain.  I came to understand, finally (like the good Catholic that I am...wink, wink), to offer up my suffering rather than requesting it to cease.  So my daily prayer became an offering of my suffering in union with our Lord on the cross.  It was a prayer asking Jesus to help me suffer well.

What a difference this change in prayer made for me!  I no longer focused on trying to make my children blissfully happy in a time I knew I couldn't do just that.  I simply chose to love them where they were.  I no longer dreaded the screaming and crying from Little Bean and began to accept and even anticipate his need to nap while I wore him practically all day long.  He really needed that bodily security that I was there with him at all times and I stopped trying to emotionally fight that.  I no longer felt annoyed by the constant noise and attention Pickle was seeking from me as he too required reassurance that he wasn't going to be left alone, that I would never leave him and that he too would one day find friends.  No.  My prayers became offerings.  Sacrifices for reparation of my sins and for conversion of souls (what a perfect time to do this since we were right in the middle of Lent...a "Godincidence" for sure).  I still had no time for myself, the boxes remained packed and the clutter continued to pile up.  The noise level didn't subside but my anxiety surely did.  Oh once I began to use these little infinite daily struggles, these moments of "dying to myself" as offerings, tiny gifts to our Lord, they no longer felt like a burden.  No longer did I feel like I was really suffering.  I began to feel joy in these burdens knowing I was offering, small as it might be, this little act of love for others which I felt was a consolation to Mary's Immaculate and Jesus' Sacred heart.  And the darkness, over the span of the next two months, began, ever so slowly, to fade.     

Now that the sun is beginning to rise again, now that Little Bean is feeling more secure and taking naps without needing to be held or worn, now that Pickle is settling into his homeschool schedule, and now that most (notice I did not say all) the boxes have been unpacked, I am breathing a little easier, and I am able to look back and say, beyond a shadow of a doubt I could not have gotten through the last few months without the assistance of our Lord and Blessed Mother.  Although, I know that this darkness is far from being over as Pickle and I have yet to find a good set of friends for him or a social support system for myself, through this time of adversity, I am reminded that as long as I take all of my sufferings, joys, prayers and works to the cross, the Lord will carry me through the darkness and once again the sun will surely rise.

To all of you going through your dark nights, I pray that you will rely on our Lord and Blessed Mother.  Take it to the cross, where it all belongs!

Blessings to you and yours,