Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Thanking God for Fun

I have been trying to focus, this month, on all that I am grateful for. After the love, mercy, and guidance of God in my life, I am most thankful for my family. I am thankful not only to have my family, my husband and our five children, but especially for the family that we are and all the fun we have together.
I am grateful, first and foremost, that Tim and I are so close and that our marriage is a source of laughter and joy as well as companionship and cooperation. As a child, I used to love spending the night at friends' houses. It was so much fun to stay up late talking and goofing off together, giggling late into the night, and then waking up to do it all over again the next day. Obviously, marriage is not always like that but it is pretty wonderful to be married to my best friend. There are many nights Tim and I do stay up late talking and laughing. There are occasionally mornings, when we don't have to rush off to work, school or some appointment or errand, when we can start the day together talking and laughing some more. Even on our normal mornings when life is busy and we are just bustling around getting ready and juggling the preparations for the day at least we can do it together. Our marriage is far from perfect and we do get angry and frustrated with each other, as all couples do, but for the most part Tim and I truly enjoy spending time together, and that is something to be really grateful for!
Parenthood, like marriage, is not always fun and easy. In fact, many days it is an overwhelming task that leaves me exhausted or even frustrated, sometimes both. However, like my relationship with Tim, my time with my children is often marked by giggling and goofing off. Our family dinners, which in the past have been a source of stress, these days are filled with so much laughter and fun we often end up at the table for over an hour after the food is gone, just because we are enjoying the time together. The kids recently started initiating dinner time games, such as "I spy" and "20 questions". They have also added a few games of their own making into the mix, including one called "What's your answer?" that is pure nonsense, and one where we all must avoid saying words that begin with the letter "p". Tim and I enjoy these games as much as the kids do. It is not a time of meaningless fun, though it probably looks like that. Instead, I really believe having fun together and having our own family traditions strengthens our family bonds. I am grateful for the joy that fills my home and I pray these happy memories will stay with my children and serve to remind them that the love of family will always be there for them.
I am grateful, too, for the time we share in more serious moments. As a family, we talk about our feelings, our plans, and our beliefs all the time. We pray together throughout the day. We learn together throughout the day. We share so much more than just a house and bloodline. I feel so blessed not just to have a family, but to be a part of this family. I feel so blessed to share my life with each of my five children and my wonderful husband. I am so impressed with each of the members of my family and feel honored to spend my days surround by their love and goodness. And so this Thanksgiving, I will not only thank God for the gift of my family, I will thank Him for the blessing of the family we are.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Finding the extraordinary in my messy house

The weather has been gray and rainy for the past three days here. It is unusual in Florida to have too many days like this. Maybe it is because of the gloomy weather but lately I have been feeling a little bored and unfulfilled in my life. I feel like my life has been reduced to one monotonous day after another. I look forward to each day anticipating nothing more than whiny kids, a sink full of dishes, laundry and dirty diapers that never seem to end, and school work I cannot keep up with grading.
This morning, as I looked at my calendar, the day did not look much different than normal . Nevertheless, I dragged myself out of bed and as I did so I prayed that God would bless the day and help me to do my best to face the normal everyday challenges. Tim had the day off work for Veteran's Day and I would be spending my morning helping out in my son's pre-school classroom but the whiny kids, over abundance of dirty dishes and unending laundry would be the same. I was not feeling very energetic, or very grateful, as I went through the motions of yet another day of life as a stay-at-home mother. Now, don't get me wrong, I love my life... most of the time. I wouldn't want to be doing anything else and I know this is the path to holiness that God has chosen for me. I know all that but lately I have not been feeling it. I have not been feeling like my contribution to the world has much value, nor have I been feeling very motivated to do much more than just get through each day.
So today went along as usual. After a few loads of laundry, a little straightening up of the family room, and a long list of other equally exciting things I finally found a few minutes to lay down next to the baby as she napped on the couch. I laid there watching her sleep and wondering why my life has been feeling so boring and hollow lately. Tim was working on a puzzle, the kids were, amazingly, all playing nicely and quietly together, the house was peaceful and I had a rare moment to really think. It occurred to me that if life never had anything more to offer than this-- a husband who I love and who loves me, 5 healthy children, a roof over our heads, and our Catholic faith, it would be enough. This really is all that I ever wanted. No, it isn't glamorous. No, it doesn't always feel fulfilling, exciting, or important. No, I don't receive a lot of recognition for the things I do but this is my vocation. And, taking care of my family, taking care of my house, educating my children, well, these things are infinitely more important and meaningful than they may ever seem. Though I sometimes lose sight of it, these are the things I am most grateful for in life.
It is rare that I can take the time to step back and see my life as God sees it but this afternoon, as I watched my infant daughter sleep, I think I got a tiny little glimpse. This is just where God wants me to be. For it is in the ordinary-- a quiet afternoon at home, a peaceful sleeping baby, my less than perfect home and the normal everyday routine of caring for my family, --that I can find the extraordinary-- a glimpse of God's love and goodness, a moment of true peace and contentment, opportunities to serve- if only I remember to focus on God.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Blessings all around me

My children love decorating the house for holidays. They started talking about our Halloween decorations in late September and insisted on pulling them out right on October 1st. On November 1st, after a month of pumpkins and skeletons, the children were ready for new decor and so packed up the spooky embellishments in favor of cornucopias and turkeys. So now, surrounded by Thanksgiving reminders, my thoughts too turn from candy and costumes to all the things I am grateful for this year. I decided, in honor of the season, I would try to focus all my blogs this month on gratitude.
The first thing that comes to mind as I ponder what I am most thankful for is the bucket of Halloween candy and the cute pictures of my kids in their costumes. I am kidding (mostly, I mean I do appreciate chocolate in the house and the pictures of the kids all dressed up did turn out so, so cute!).
Actually I find myself thinking back to where I was in my life a year ago. At that time, Tim and I were seriously discussing whether or not to add to our family. It was a discussion that had literally been going on for more than a year. We talked about it, prayed about it and struggled to discern God's plan as well as our own desires, which seemed to fluctuate depending on our four children's behavior. As we agonized over the decision many things weighed heavily on my mind. I worried about our finances, the added challenge of another child, and the thought of another long pregnancy. Our conversations seemed to go in circles, one minute we greatly desired a baby and felt God calling us to have another child, the next we felt sure that was a crazy idea. Finally, we decided the only way to truly tell what God wanted was to trust in Him enough to put it completely in His hands. We threw away our NFP chart and prayed that God's will be done. It was only a few weeks later that God revealed His plan and we found out we would be welcoming baby #5. Despite my previous uncertainty and indecisiveness, as soon as I found out we were expecting I was instantly filled with overwhelming gratitude.
It was the weekend before Christmas that we found out about baby and we told our children on Christmas Eve. What a beautiful memory it is to think about sharing the news of our new baby as we celebrated the birth of baby Jesus. All the Mass readings that week spoke of rejoicing and blessings and that is how we felt. A few days later, I lost sight of rejoicing and I was instead filled with fear and worry about our unborn baby. After having four beautiful healthy children I started wondering if, perhaps we were asking too much to hope for another healthy baby. I was plagued by thoughts of all that could go wrong and almost expected that at any moment one of those things would come to pass. I spent the first trimester of my pregnancy in terror, losing sight of our prayer that God’s will be done and our decision to trust in Him. It was around the end of my first trimester that we announced my pregnancy to people outside our family. A friend, upon hearing the news, said to me, “Oh God must be so proud of you and Tim, trusting in Him and being so open to life.” Her statement was just what I needed to hear. It was true, we were cooperating with God in His plan, and He was blessing us for trusting in Him enough to be open to life.
And so, this Thanksgiving I will say a prayer of thanks to God for His plans, He always knows what is best for us even when we, try as we might, can’t seem to figure it out. I will remember to be thankful for good friends, who so often bring me closer to God and remind me to keep things in perspective. And, of course, I will be mindful of my greatest blessing, which now includes our five beautiful, healthy children, my family.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Getting honest about money matter how much you have you can always use more, right? I consider myself sort of an expert on always needing more. Tim and I have never had much. We were still in college when we married, and neither of us had had much worldly success before we started our family. To be honest, by the standards of many people, we still have not had much worldly success! And, to be honest, we still don't have much money.
However, strange as it may sound, I honestly have never really worried or cared about money. Tim and I got married, bought our first little townhouse, and started our family all without much thought to whether we could afford it all or not. We had decided early on that I would not work when our children were young and so after our daughter was born I quit my job, again without really worrying about how we would make ends meet. I remember during those early years, having only about $20 dollars to live on after paying all the bills. Somehow or other, there was always food on the table, gas in our cars, and diapers for the baby though. Thankfully, our income has grown a little over the years. Of course, our family seems to have grown much, much faster and so we still live paycheck to paycheck, sometimes not sure how we will afford everything we need. Yet, still there is food on the table, gas in the cars, and diapers for the baby.
If I do not really worry or care about the size of our bank account, why, you may ask do I bother "blogging" about it? The truth is I know too many people who make their life decisions based on money and it makes me sad. I have friends and family who lose sleep over money. I know many people who are unhappy about the state of their lives and the choices they have made but feel they have no other option, because of money. I have heard too many stories of people who wish their life was different but feel they cannot change it, because of money. How many mother's claim they desperately want to be home with their children but can't, because of money?
On our limited income, Tim and I have had to do without a lot of things. Our children do not have all that their friends have because we cannot afford it all. I think, though, of all the people I know who struggle with too little money, Tim and I have had to sacrifice the least in life. We have not sacrificed time with our family. We have not sacrificed raising our children the way we think is right. We have not sacrificed our sense of peace because of money. And through it all God has provided.
Living within our means is getting harder. With five children, mounting medical bills, and a house that seems to be falling apart around us some days, a little more money would come in very handy. I do find myself wondering lately how God is going to rise to the challenge to provide for us now, yet He never lets us down. He provides for all that we need to live physically. And even more importantly, He provides us with peace and comfort if we just trust in Him and do what he has called us to do by putting our family first. I hope and pray that others, who are in a similar financial state, can learn to worry less, trust more, and follow God's plan even if it doesn't pay well.


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