Saturday, January 30, 2010

An early morning appointment with God

When we first got married Tim predicted that, though at the time, I dreaded dragging myself out of bed at even 9 am, I would one day be a morning person. He was sure that once we had children I would start to rise earlier and even look forward to the mornings when I might steal a few minutes of peace before the kids got up. This, apparently, was what his mother did when he and his four siblings were little and he thought it must be a sort of universal mom thing. I wasn't so sure.
Fortunately for me, our first child was a night owl, like Tim and I, and would sleep until 10 am most mornings, even as a baby. I remember reminding Tim of his prediction and pointing out that it had yet to be fulfilled. In fact, even after our first four children were born, I would burrow under the covers, when morning came, trying to steal a few extra minutes of blessed sleep. Of course, I was not sleeping until 10 am anymore but anything earlier than 8:30 still felt like the middle of the night to me. For the most part, our four children all agreed. Then along came our beautiful fifth child. She certainly looks like she belongs to the family, with her big beautiful eyes and her long (yet very chubby) legs. Her sleep patterns, however, could definitely not have been inherited from me! Here, finally, is Tim's morning person! She awakens, most days, when it is still pitch black outside my window and is ready to start the day by 6 am, if not earlier.
I am desperately hoping she will outgrow this very bad habit quickly! Yet, despite my sincere hope that this is short lived, I am actually starting to appreciate my mother-in-law's wisdom. I have come to discover that there is an amazing peace in the quiet, dark early morning hours. I am now starting my days with prayer as I nurse the baby in virtual silence. I am able to truly reflect on the upcoming day and to even listen for God's quiet voice in the stillness of the new dawn. I can watch from my window as the sun lights up the morning sky and see a special beauty as day breaks and the world comes awake. I feel a little closer to God as I rise to this time of peace and prayer than I did when my day started with the chaos of four children clamoring for breakfast and fighting over who gets to look at the back of the cereal box. I am filled with gratitude for my life and my family as I sit quietly nursing and snuggling my baby instead of being filled with resentment that I must greet a day already filled with bickering and screeching. It seems, these days, this is the only peace and tranquility I have and so, though I still sort of wish it could come at noon, I am savoring every minute of it. Because, deep, deep down, I am hoping that any day now baby will start to sleep till the more reasonable hour of 10 am!

Monday, January 25, 2010

One in a million

I have been "blogging" for over a year now. I recently spent a little time playing around on the computer and looking at other people's blogs. I discovered pretty quickly that blogs are a dime a dozen. There are millions of them out there, on every topic imaginable. My own blog, in fact is possibly one of the least original out there. If you "googled" blogs by Catholic moms you get 1,460,000 matches. A search for blogs by homeschooling moms will yield 40,500,000 matches. Even blogs entitiled "Overflow" will result in over 5,800,000 matches! I have seen other "little" blogs written by moms just like me with upwards of 400 followers. My blog currently has ten, one of which is my husband. So really, why bother? Do I really have anything unique, original or meaningful to add to the cyberworld in my humble little blog?
Probably not, yet I plan to continue blogging for years to come. Though my words may not be profound, my experiences unique, or my discoveries earth shattering, I really enjoy writing my blog. I enjoy it for many reasons. First of all, I love to write. I've always loved to write. For many years, I was so busy raising my children, taking care of my house, and trying to be a good wife that I did not take the time to indulge my passion for writing. I missed it. Having my blog gives me an outlet and a sort of accountability to write (even if I am accountable only to my ten loyal followers). Second of all, my blog helps me to chronicle the everyday life of caring for my family. My children are growing up way too quickly and the years seem to fly by. If I do not take the time to write about the funny things that happen, the emotions I go through, the chaos of life with all five kids under the age of 12, I am sure I will never remember it all later. Third of all, my blog is a wonderful way to process all of my thoughts, feelings and experiences. It gives me a perspective that I would not otherwise have in the midst of the craziness that is my daily life. So, whether my followers grow to 400 over the years, or drop to only one (I hope Tim will continue to read even if no one else does!) I am grateful for this outlet, and especially for the opportunity to share my life and God's amazing gifts and blessings in it, with anyone who He might send this way. Thank you for reading and I hope God blesses you through these words and the time you have spent in my little corner of cyberspace.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Anybody want a free boat?

My youngest son is such a happy child. He is easy going and imaginative and loves to talk. Lately his favorite subject is what he is going to be when he grows up. Apparently it is very normal for children his age to ponder their future. I was listening to the radio the other morning and they were discussing a survey of children my son's age concerning their upcoming career choices. The most common answer among five year olds to the question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" was, "Spiderman", according to the radio announcers.
Though it comes as no surprise to me, my son is a little different than his peers when it comes to his aspirations for adulthood. He has informed me he is going to be a boat seller when he grows up. Where he came up with such a unique career choice is beyond me. We do live in Florida and are completely surrounded by beautiful water, being close to both Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. We see boats all the time but we do not own a boat, we do not have friends with boats, nor have we ever set foot in a marine store of any sort. In fact, my son has only been on a boat twice in his life. Once when he was only a year and a half old, and more recently on my brother's boat on the pond in his backyard. My son does not remember the first boat trip and was terrified the second time. Of course, the whole time we were in my brother's tiny old dinghy there was an alligator only 15 ft away watching us very closely. Nevertheless, my son is convinced he wants to sell boats when he grows up. He has it all worked out. He will sell big boats and small ones. He, himself, will have a pirate ship and he will give me a free boat too. After I receive my free boat he will come over to my house for dinner and he will give me either 2 or 8 lifejackets, for use on the boat. His sister, much to her disappointment, will have to buy her boat, at the greatly discounted price of only $1. Ironically he has offered free boats to more than one complete stranger upon making their acquaintance even though his only encounter with them has been in line at the grocery store or sitting near them at a friend's birthday party.

I recently discussed the concept of vocations and God's calling for their lives with all of my children. This only further cemented the idea of boat selling in the mind of my youngest son. He promptly declared that God would want him to sell boats with prayers in them, and that his personal pirate ship would have two prayers in it!

I'm not sure my lovable little guy will ever be successful in the boat selling business. After all, you can't expect to earn much profit giving away free boats to every nice person at the grocery store. But, thankfully, I have no doubt with his kind heart, his generosity, and his amazing imagination my son will serve God well in whatever he attempts in life, and isn't that what God calls each of us to do?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Drowning in insecurities

Ever feel like you are drowning in insecurities? I have felt that way for most of my life. I am feeling it even more significantly lately. Where does all this insecurity come from? Is it from the worldly view of what gives us, as people, worth and value? The notion that in order to matter in this world we must be skinny, beautiful, young, and rich? I am, currently, none of these things. There was a time in my life when I was skinny and young, at the very least. Was I any less insecure then? Not really. So, maybe that is not the source of my feelings of inadequacy. Does it come from the judgments and teasing I endured as a child? Well, I was picked on an awful lot throughout my school years. However, my insecurities seemed to be there before all that started. I think my lack of confidence certainly contributed to my falling victim to the bullies in my life, but I don't think they were caused by them. Am I insecure because I was born third in a family of four children, with an older sister only 18 months ahead of me and a younger brother only 15 months behind? Did I, as a middle child, grow up believing I was unimportant and forgotten much of the time? I am not sure it helped me any to be a middle child, but the reality is I cannot blame that either.
My insecurities come from only one thing. Living my life focused on myself and losing sight of serving God. I have come to realize my lack of confidence is just a form of selfishness. It is caused by turning away from God and not trusting enough in Him.
My self worth comes from God. I matter- all of us matter- because we are formed in the image and likeness of our Lord. When we put ourselves at the center of our lives, we forget that God should be our focus. Without God, it makes sense we feel we are lacking. We are lacking something if we fail to worship and serve our Father in heaven. Knowing, loving and serving God is what we were created for!
I see, as I get older, that I am not alone in my insecurities as I so often felt growing up. Instead, many of my friends, family and peers seem to be feeling similar uncertainty and inadequacy. Perhaps, I am also not alone in my struggle to put God at the center of my life. If only, I could strive each day to live the life that God intends for me, how much more peace I would feel. If only I would worry less about living up to some man-made ideal, how much more effective I would be in living a life of consequence. If only I could learn to let go of my own selfishness and trust completely in God, how much greater I could serve Him and others. If only I thought less of myself and more of God how much stronger the relationships in my life would be. If only we could ALL focus on God, how much better our whole world would be!
Help me, God, to put You at the center of my life, to lay aside my desire for reassurance and validation and to, instead, seek to glorify You in all I do. Help me to worry more about bringing You to others and less about bringing others to me! Bless this world we live in, that so desperately hungers for You but so often fails to seek You or to recognize You.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The saints are crazy!

A few weeks ago, at our Little Flowers meeting, I was talking to my 6 year old daughter and a few of her friends about St. Clare. I told the little girls about how St. Clare ran away from home to follow St. Francis and how she cut her hair off as a symbol of her dedication to God. Then I proceeded to explain about the Poor Clares, the order of nuns she founded, and their way of life which included denouncing all material possessions, living a simple life of prayer, and subsisting on little food.

One of the little girls looked at me incredulously and said, "She was crazy!" This was not what I expected, but her reaction made me smile.

"No," I told her, "St Clare wasn't crazy, she was holy."

Most people in the world seem to agree with my little friend. Holiness, it seems, is viewed as craziness in the world we live in. I, myself, am just starting to understand that true holiness really does require a little something "crazy" though. True holiness, a total and complete focus on and dedication to God, does require us to live in a radically different way than our culture tells us to. The saints were willing to be radically different for the sake of holiness.

Though it is not easy for me, I would like to live more like the saints. I would like to be willing to be radically different than the world around me. My husband and I have had a lot of conversations about this recently. Maybe because our oldest child is now on the brink of her teenage years we have started looking more closely at the choices we make for our family.

We do not watch television, at all. We monitor who our children spend time with. We have chosen to home school. We do not allow our children to "surf the internet" or have their own cell phones, or watch very many of the current movies, and I stay home with our children despite the fact that money is always tight. Many people look at our life and our family, and think we already are living a counter-cultural existence.

We do try but the truth is we could still do so much more. We, as a family, have a long way to go in order to really grow in holiness. Though we try to minimize the worldly influences on our children (and ourselves) our focus is still not where it should be.

The saints are saints because they were willing to put Jesus, and service to Him, at the center of their lives. St. Clare, and all the other saints, were willing to sacrifice all the comforts and selfish pursuits the world has to offer in exchange for something so much better. They trusted in the promise that what they gave in life would be rewarded in heaven.

In fact, they trusted God so much they were willing to do some pretty crazy things for the sake of an eternity of life with Him. As the Bible says in Luke 6:38, "Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." I, too, believe in these words of scripture, but am I crazy enough to really live them? Are you?

photo from wikipedia


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