Tuesday, January 27, 2009

True love...a gift from God

God has always been at work in my life. I have always believed that and I have had many wonderful experiences that help me to know it is true. My favorite story of seeing God's hand at work, though, is the story of how I met my husband. It is, at least to me, an amazing story of God's love, His providence and maybe in some ways a story of His sense of humor. As Valentine's Day approaches I would love to share the story....

Though I did not meet Tim until I was 19, the story started, for me, in high school. I was always very shy and awkward as a child. Even in my teen years, I tended to be somewhat quiet and introverted- especially around the opposite sex, and most especially around members of the opposite sex to whom I was attracted. I could barely even talk to guys, let alone have a relationship with one. I really wanted to have a boyfriend, though admittedly, at that time, for all the wrong reasons. Having a boyfriend was like a status symbol. It meant that you were pretty, fun, popular- all things I really wished I was.

Although I really did not date in high school, I did have a few very good friends. It was through one of them that I owe a significant experience in my quest for true love. It came about when she invited me to join the youth group at her parish for a couple events. At the time, I was not active in a parish of my own. Thankfully, God has a way of finding me no matter where I am, and I accepted her invitation. I remember casually talking with the youth minister, a young mother with small children who worked at the church part time, about my lack of a love life and my desire to have a boyfriend. She told me that when she was younger she had actually made a list of all the things she wanted in a husband and then turned her list into a prayer asking God for exactly what she wanted. It almost sounded like she placed an order and God delivered! It sounded like a fabulous plan to me. I made my list and wrote my prayer. Some of my prerequisites, were probably a little silly but I was about 16 when I wrote the list and at the time it seemed important to be able to share poetry together.

Now, obviously God did not deliver my perfect husband to the front door the next day. A few years passed, and the prayer was all but forgotten when my same friend from high school who had invited me to youth group, introduced me to her boyfriend at a prayer meeting we were both attending. I said hello to them and spent a few minutes talking to my friend then went to join other friends across the room for the remainder of the meeting. I happened to be leaving the meeting at the same time as my friend and her boyfriend and so we walked to our cars together. The guy was obviously very quiet because I don’t remember him saying much, if anything, but somehow I learned that he was in the seminary studying to be a Catholic priest. I honestly did not think much about the guy at all, but if I had, I would not have had much respect for someone who was preparing for a life of celibacy and dating at the same time.

Over the next few months I saw my friend and her boyfriend at a party or two, we went to a concert together with a group of friends, and we went out to ice cream one time, again with a big group of people. Over the months, my opinion of the boyfriend did not much improve. He continued to be very quiet and he continued to study for the priesthood while carrying on a relationship on the side. Eventually my friend felt she should move on and confided in me that she would be breaking things off. After that, my opinion of her now former boyfriend went even farther down. It seemed to me he was not taking the break-up well. He continued to call her every once in a while and to be friendly towards her. Then, I heard just a few short weeks later that he was leaving the seminary, and I assumed it was his attempt to convince my friend to date him again. What was with this guy?

Now as all this was happening I was at a pretty good place in my life. I was going to community college, had a job as a nanny that I really enjoyed and was preparing to go away to school in a few months. Though I still did not have a boyfriend it seemed to matter much less and I was content with life. So when my friend told me that she had seen her ex-boyfriend at a party and that he had told her something interesting I listened to her story with very little interest myself. It seems he had had a dream about dating one of her friends and was wondering what it might mean. I purposely did not ask which of her friends the dream was about....

It was only a few weeks after the mysterious dream that we all ended up at the same Christmas dance, and somehow I ended up spending a lot of time with the now former boyfriend, former seminarian who happened to be named Tim. At the end of the evening he gave me his phone number and ask me to call him. Now, at the time, I had no intention of doing so and even though we had had fun at the dance I was still not sure I had any respect for him. Yet, I took the phone number. I suppose the rest is history. For some reason, I did end up calling him and maybe because I was not sure if I even liked the guy, I was not at all awkward around him. In fact, he was very easy to talk to and we had a ton of fun together just hanging out and doing nothing. As our friendship grew I still had no expectations and certainly did not expect to have a serious relationship with him but within a few weeks we were spending all our free time together. I remember telling him all about my plans to go away to school and he shared with me that he would be majoring in literature instead of philosophy or theology. One time he even shared with me a poem he had written for one of his college English classes! Was this a sign? Maybe so because somewhere along the way I realized I really did like him and we have been together ever since. He is truly exactly what I prayed for and he likes to tell people that I am really the woman of his dreams!

So somehow, even when we can’t begin to see it, God is always at work in our lives. If we are open to His plan He will work out all the details and bring us our greatest blessings, sometimes in the most unexpected ways. I thank God daily for bringing Tim into my life. He is my best friend and my soul mate. I’m also so grateful that though I have not always been so good at trusting in God I was wise enough to let Him fill my order for a husband. If I hadn’t I’m sure I would have missed out on one of the most wonderful gifts in my life.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The good old days

My daughter loves learning about pioneers. She read one "Little House" book by Laura Ingalls Wilder and was hooked. She seems to be enthralled with all aspects of that time period from what they wore, to what they ate, to the crafts and farm work they did. I have learned much from her interest in pioneer life, as well. I am amazed at how they lived for many reasons. They worked so hard and never seemed to complain. They did without so many conveniences in life and yet persevered in their efforts to build their own life. One of the things that surprised me the most though, was the lack of supervision the children seemed to have.
Children were given very big responsibilities back then, to help out on the farm, or with the hunting, or with their younger siblings, and they were on their own, many times, to do it. There is an instance, in one of my daughter's books, of the parents going to town for the day and leaving their children, about 6 and 8 years old completely alone, for like 8 hours! They just left their children to their own defenses- in a time of Indian attacks, wild animals prowling around, and prairie fires breaking out without warning- and they thought nothing of it!
In our world, children are not left alone to do much of anything. They have their entire lives planned out and supervised every moment by well meaning adults. Children are enrolled in art classes, sports programs, after school activities and/or music lessons each and every day of the week. When they have a free day their parents set up playdates, through other parents, so they will not get bored or lonely. When they are not planning and scheduling, parents spend their time shuttling the children around to all these various appointments. Children are not allowed to play outside without someone watching for fear of strangers or pedophiles lurking around every corner. Every moment of our children’s lives seems to involve an adult making sure every thing is as it should be, in the child’s best interest. I wonder if this is all really in the child’s best interest. As crazy as it sounds to leave a 6 and 8 year old alone for an entire day, those children grew up just fine! They were respectful, and responsible. They did not abuse their parents trust, unlike many children I’ve met these days (my own included at times)!
I think we underestimate our children when we schedule every moment of their lives and refuse to leave them alone to play. In my experience, children, even in the year 2009, are still capable of amusing themselves, and are so often happier doing just that. They are still able to watch out for themselves, within reasonable and safe limitations. When given the opportunity, my children can play together for hours- out in the backyard, or with a bin of Legos, or with blank paper and markers- and not need a thing from me! They would rather play on their own, games of their own making than have me step in and plan an afternoon of intellectually stimulating activities.
I am grateful for a very simple life. My children are not involved in many activities outside of the house. We simply cannot afford much of that, but they are usually not asking me to amuse them either. Oh, occasionally I hear, “I’m bored.” But when I don’t respond by whisking them off to Chuck E. Cheese, or sticking a movie in the dvd player for them, they eventually find something worthwhile and productive to do with their time.
I am not suggesting we should go back in time to live like the pioneers. I enjoy my air conditioning and my computer too much for that. I don’t even think structured activities are all bad. I do think we need to allow our children to enjoy a lot more unstructured, unsupervised play time, though. What kids these days are really missing is an opportunity to just be kids. With more “down time” and more opportunity to be responsible for themselves, maybe they will more naturally grow into the dependable, resourceful adults we all want them to be.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

On second thought…

I was thinking about my latest blog, about sheltering my children and keeping them safe in the haven of our home. And as I thought more about it I started to feel a little guilty. I started to wonder if maybe my attitude was a little selfish, maybe even a little controlling. Now the thought of me being controlling might be a little hard for some of my readers to believe…. but probably not any of those who have actually met me.

Anyway, as I pondered my own words, I realized that though it is my duty and my responsibility to protect my children, maybe choosing the people they spend time with is not the best way to teach them Christian values. I thought about the often asked question "what would Jesus do?" Jesus certainly did not surround himself with all the best examples of love and holiness. He did not avoid those people who thought differently or made choices contrary to His beliefs. In fact, He sought out those people in order to spend more time with them! Now I am certainly not going to send my three year old in to do some prison ministry. Or ask my five year old to take a pie over to the house of a registered sex offender but maybe I am being called to trust a little more. I need to trust in myself and the morals I am raising my children with. I need to trust in my children and the values they are already developing and living out. And most importantly, I need to trust in God to protect them and care for them when they are facing situations I wish they weren't.

Rather than spending my time choosing and controlling what my children experience in this world I need to teach them to be good influences to those they encounter. I need to concentrate on allowing them to share their beliefs with others and to be examples of Christ's love and acceptance. I still want our family life to be an example, to my children and others, of the way God wants His people to live. I realize this must include loving others, all others. The world is not perfect. It is not even always child friendly but it is the world God has given us and He is present in it. Therefore, as I reconsider my views on this issue once again, I think I will try harder to find a balance between protecting my children and letting them spread their wings.

Sheltered in love

To shelter or not to shelter? That is a question I have asked myself for years. Before I had children, and even when my oldest was very young, I thought it was best to allow children to be exposed to the world with all it has to offer, both good and bad. I thought since my children were to be a part of this world, it was best to let them see and experience it all. Then I, as their mother, would interpret things for them as best I could.
As my only child grew, and as we added to our family, I grew also. I grew in my faith and spirituality. I learned more about the teachings of my Catholic faith and I came to understand the truth as Jesus taught it. Part of the truth Jesus gave us is that there is right in the world and, consequently, there is wrong. We have each been given the free will to choose what we will do but we are not given the freedom to define right and wrong. That has been done for us. I, as a parent, have also come to understand the development of children a little better over the years. With all this increase in wisdom and understanding, I have decided to do all I can to shelter my children.
I believe that sheltering and protecting my children, from many of the injustices and immoral choices in the world, is part of my duty to them. I believe, though they are living in this world, they are often not ready to handle being exposed to all that is out there. Nowadays, my desire is that though my children are in this world they will not be of this world. I hope that by filling their childhood with moral truth, good Christian values, and the influence of as many positive, holy people as I can, they will have a strong foundation to build on. Avoiding all that goes against moral truth, good Christian values, and true holiness will only strengthen that foundation even more.
I know, at some point, they will see the "alternative" choices others make in this world. Unfortunately, they will eventually be exposed to options that go against the teachings of our church and the values and morals their father and I hold to be true. My aspiration is that when this happens they will look back to the innocence, simplicity, and goodness of their childhood and easily reject that which goes against truth. I can only hope to achieve this by limiting their exposure to the evils of the world and by surrounding them, instead, with the people and experiences I see as worthy and Christian.
As my children grow, and on their own, start to realize some of the differences between our values and choices, and those of others around us, I pray they will come to me with their questions. I, as their mother, will still have the opportunity and responsibility of helping to interpret this world for them, but I will do everything in my power to wait until they are mature enough to handle it. In the meantime, I will continue to keep them in the shelter and safety of our loving home, where they are being taught that the greatest choice they can make in this world is to know, love and serve God in all they do.


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