Archive by Author

Family Ideas for Lent

11 Feb

40 daysLent can be a hard season to get excited about. Surely it lacks the jingle and sparkle of Advent. Even more, it’s longer, falls right as we are getting sick of winter and, more to the point, involves sacrifice.

Further, it’s difficult to explain to kids. Most kids can understand the excitement of waiting for a baby to be born. Even when there is sacrifice involved in Advent, it’s surrounded by a sense of joy. Many of us have a much harder time giving our kids a good focus for the sacrifice that leads up to . . . the violent death of our Savior.

Below are some suggestions for activities that can (hopefully) help your family to embrace the three practices of Lent: prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

Prayer. Prayer is simply talking to God. The formal prayers of our Church are ways that Christians have been talking to God for hundreds, sometimes thousands of years. I think we need both “from the heart” time with God, as well as a way to connect with all those who have come before us (“formal” prayer). Here are some suggestions for ways to bring prayer alive for your family:

  • For younger children:
    • help them to tell God one thing they are grateful for and one thing they really need each day
    • print off a children’s version of the Stations of the Cross (some even have coloring pages), and talk about one each day
  • For older children:
    • Read scripture (maybe the Sunday Gospels?) and have them tell you one line that stood out to them and ask them why
    • Engage their strengths in learning the Stations of the Cross. If they are artistic, they can draw one per day or week. If they are writers they can write prayers for each station, etc.
    • Find famous paintings of the Stations from different cultures and explore them with your children
  • For teens:
    • Encourage them to start a prayer journal that you won’t look at
    • Use Lent as an excuse to get involved in a good youth group or teen retreat
    • Have teens write a “teen stations,” relating one or more of the Stations to the difficulties that teenagers face
  • As a family:
    • Make a regular time to pray together. If that is totally new to your family, try just saying one thing you are grateful to God for each day. Other options are a family Rosary, a chaplet of Divine Mercy, a decade of the Rosary, or one Station of the Cross each day
    • Use Stations the children have made (or print some from the internet) and put a small votive near each one around your home. Move around the house as you would around the Church as you pray.
    • Choose a short Scripture verse that is appropriate for the season and say it after every meal. You and your children will have it memorized in no time!

Fasting. I think the key to successful fasting as a family is to explain to everyone what it’s for. When we fast, we give up a material good for a spiritual one. Even young children can understand what it is to give something up for someone else. For example, my son was terrified of getting a flu shot last year, but he found courage to do it when we told him that he was protecting his baby sister from getting the flu. We sacrifice out of love for God.

  • For children:
    • Make a “crown of thorns” out of clay or craft wire with toothpicks for “thorns.” Each time a member of the family makes a small sacrifice, they take a thorn out of Jesus’ crown. This is a way of connecting their sacrifice to love for Jesus.
    • For each sacrifice, children get to put jellybean in a jar . . . that they can eat during the Easter season!
    • Remind children that sacrifices should be something they like that they are giving up, or something hard for them to do (i.e. doing what mom asks the first time they are asked!) Varying the sacrifices can keep it from being too burdensome, and can help children start thinking of ways they can sacrifice for others.
  • For teens:
    • Have your teens consider giving up video games, iPad, Facebook, cell phone time (for non-essential purposes), etc. If the prospect of being unplugged for 40 days is too overwhelming, maybe consider unplugging on Fridays. Hint: agree to do it with your child!
    • Ask teens to help plan and prepare the Friday meatless meal. They may enjoy looking into meatless meals that are a staple for other cultures.
    • Invite your teen to “give up” a treat that costs money such as a movie out with friends, a snack after school, etc. Put that money in a jar and allow them to choose the charity for donation.
  • For families:
    • Choose one night a week during Lent to be family night, where all activities are cancelled (this may take some serious effort!). Use the time to pray a little bit, then either play board games or watch a movie with a good message that will inspire conversation.
    • Join in with one of the other activities above.
    • Consider one thing your family can “give up” together.

Almsgiving. Almsgiving just means serving others out of love. Several of the suggestions above for sacrifice could be used for this as well, but here are a few more:

  • Parents “pay” for each sacrifice, putting coins in a jar for each good deed. Alternately, if there is a behavior your family is working on changing (for instance, saying “Oh my God!”), each member of the family can put a quarter of their own money in each time they say it! The money then goes to a charity of the family’s choice.
  • Skip a meal out in order to buy your family’s favorite groceries for a food pantry.
  • Volunteer together at your favorite organization together.
  • Practice “deliberate acts of kindness” within the family. You can even do a Lenten spin on the “Advent Angel” idea, having each member do secret, thoughtful deeds for another family member.

Obviously, this is not an exhaustive list, nor could any family handle everything mentioned. I hope it has gotten you thinking, though, about what will best help your family grow in holiness. Happy Lent, everyone!

Lessons learned from St. Gianna

27 Apr

April 28th, Feast of St. Gianna Molla

Our infantSt. Gianna's feast day is April 28th daughter Gianna’s first hospitalization, even though it was her healthiest, was by far the hardest for me. During later ones we would have the slim hope of transplant to focus on, but during this one, as they tested the heck out of our little girl, we were coming to grips with the truth. Inside what looked like a normal baby was a liver full of cells that couldn’t make enough energy to keep her alive. Our baby was going to die. Again.

St. Gianna Molla kept me company during those few days, as I had just received a biography of her for Mother’s Day, a week or two before. There were two things that stood out to me in this particular account of her life. The first was of the very real pain her martyrdom caused her family. It is easy to gloss over this in saints from eras long past, or for priests or religious even. But here was Pietro Molla, Gianna’s beloved husband, sharing about how hard it was for him to raise their four children alone. How hard he tried to protect his kids from the limelight surrounding Gianna’s growing popularity and her cause for canonization. How awkward it was for him to allow his personal love letters to be published all over the world. It was hard for him to share his Gianna with the Church, when he would much rather her have just been his unspectacular, non-miracle-working, grocery-shopping, diaper- changing wife!  Yet, he knew she was not his to keep to himself, and so he allowed the process to continue. In 2004, He and their three surviving children (their daughter Mariolina died a few years after Gianna did) were at her canonization ceremony. Wow.

Our Gianna was baptized and confirmed before she was old enough to sin, so we know she is in heaven. As the mother of a little saint, I can share some of Pietro’s sentiments: saint-making is tough! Especially at that moment in time, I did not want to share my Gianna with the Church. I did not want her to intercede for people or inspire them. I just wanted her to keep making diapers, and spitting up and wearing cute baby clothes, just like any other normal baby who lives to see their first birthday. I love St. Gianna Molla, and I am grateful for what she did and who she now is. But dang, she reminds me how real saints are, and that even when God is doing great and wonderful things, it still sometimes hurts!!

The second thing that struck me from that read of Gianna’s life was her unfailing trust in Providence. Can you imagine having to decide between giving your baby life and giving her a mother? St. Gianna didn’t want to die. She loved life, and especially her family. But she trusted God: that He was good as He claimed to be, and that He would take care of her family in her absence. Pietro talks in that book about the times that were darkest for him and the kids and how he could feel Gianna’s tangible presence. God did come through… through Gianna.

So this Saturday, as we celebrate 50 years of St. Gianna Molla’s new life in Christ, let’s let her example and her prayers help us along on our own difficult road of sanctification.

The Third Option

25 Apr

Ever been stuck between a rock and a hard place? Mary Magdalene was on Easter morning.  Well, actually, it was Jesus’ body that was stuck between a rock and a hard place, and she seemingly had no way to get to him.  This consumes her thoughts on the way to the tomb.  How will I get that stone moved? Jesus needs to be anointed. If I ask the guards, what will they do to me? Can the disciples move it? They would be thrown in prison if they tried! And further, they don’t have a great track record of sticking around when things get tough…

What I think is most striking about this inner dialogue of Mary is that as she runs through the impossibilities in her head, she keeps moving toward the tomb.  It seems like she has two options: to incur ridicule or worse from the guards at the tomb, or to fail to give Jesus a decent burial.  Yet when she arrives, she finds something altogether different. Jesus has provided a spectacular third option she never could have dreamed of.

I have been reflecting lately how so many of our pressing social issues come down to a failure to see and embrace that third option.  Our society forces people in difficult circumstances into a false dichotomy of horrible solutions.  If you’re in a troubled marriage, you have two choices: the trauma of divorce or the long agony of staying together “for the sake of the kids”.  Young, pregnant and unmarried? Your choices are abortion or a doomed future of poverty and underachievement. This is a brilliant tool of the devil.  No one likes divorce or abortion, but if you juxtapose it with something equally devastating, it suddenly seems like a viable option.  The “lesser of two evils”.

Now enter Mother Church, who is increasingly a lone voice against some of these “lesser evils”.  Prohibit contraception? You want women to become helpless baby factories! Prohibit assisted suicide? You want Grandma to linger is meaningless pain! Prohibit IVF? You want to deprive people of the beauty of parenthood! What our culture fails to see in every one of these tough cases is the third option.  The Church never just slaps on a legislative cuff.  Instead she gently takes the struggling sinner by the hand and says, “this is extremely difficult, but you can do it”.  In short, the third option is grace.

Grace is a poorly understood concept today, but simply it means God’s supernatural power which we have access to by our Baptism and by the other sacraments.  What it means is that we never face our hardest times alone.  We face them with the same power that moved the stone for Mary Magdalene.  Grace opens doors where no doors should be able to open.

The third option is a transformed marriage where partners can learn to slowly rebuild trust and love again.  It is adoption, where an infertile couple becomes parents, the young person is able to continue with their education and the baby gets to live.  It is Natural Family Planning, through which couples learn to be generous in their love, open to God’s will for their families and through which they can either space their children or often conceive children despite low fertility.

I’m not naïve. I know that life is not a Hallmark movie.  That’s the beauty of grace! I know that sometimes the third option is an ability to survive one of the first two horrible options.  If Grandma is terminally ill, grace normally won’t provide a miraculous cure.  But God will illuminate the meaning of Grandma’s suffering.  Like all suffering endured with Christ, it can be a powerful avenue of grace for others.  This is true of any suffering we let God into.

Finally, the best part about the third option is that it is available even after one of the “lesser evils” is chosen.  There is hope for those who have divorced, whether that choice was made for safety, against one’s will or in the pursuit of a happier life.  There is forgiveness and healing for those who have chosen abortion, or IVF or contraception.  Here, too, the third option opens up floodgates of mercy and peace that never could have been imagined before.  No matter what the situation, choosing the third option of grace leads to a surprisingly rich joy.

So this Easter season, let’s approach the tomb with our deepest anxieties.  Let’s offer them up to the Lord and see what miracles await us.

Note: Grace is often channeled through practical avenues.  For help in understanding the issues raised in this post or in getting practical help, please contact your pastor or the Respect Life or Family Life Offices.

Died for Me

29 Mar

closing scene, Saving Private Ryan

My daughter Gianna, like her brother before her, had a rare genetic disease called Mitochondrial Depletion Disorder. Essentially, the cells in her liver could not make the energy they needed to stay alive, so her liver started to shut down. As a result, the doctors recommended a liver transplant. The chances of her getting a liver were slim (she needed half of a toddler’s liver, as she was only 3 months old) and the long term outcome of the risky surgery was questionable at best for her diagnosis. But it was the only chance we had, so we waded through all the blood tests and paperwork and waited for the phone to ring. Continue reading

Reflections on Fasting

13 Mar

How’s your Lenten fast going? Is it getting tough? Are you steadily holding firm? Have you given up? Or maybe you are starting to lose your attachment to what you gave up.  Wherever you are at with your fast, I want to share a little bit about what I have been reflecting on as I fast this season.

Remember for whom you fast.  My dad is a pilot and can get passes for my family.  He recently gave up a whole day to take my son out east to visit.  He had to get up at the crack of dawn to catch a flight to KC, and due to a flight delay, he didn’t get back home until around 9pm.  He endured a long, boring day of sitting on airplanes and in the KC airport, but did it without a second thought in order to spend time with his grandson and to save us the airfare.

Have you ever had someone do you a favor like this? Conversely, have you ever had someone do you a favor with such a bad attitude that you would have rather done it yourself? In either circumstance, you know how important the disposition of the giver is.  When we are fasting, it’s good to keep in mind that we are doing this for someone, not just gritting through something uncomfortable just for the heck of it.  We fast for Jesus, who gave up so much more for us than we can imagine.  How can I complain about passing up a bowl of ice cream when the one I offer the sacrifice for shed every last drop of blood for me? We want our sacrifice to be a joyful gift to Jesus.

Fasting as bonding.  When my son Peter was critically ill and it was obvious that he would die, friends of ours drove from Minnesota (where we lived) to St. Louis (where he was in the hospital) just to be with us.  They knew they couldn’t “do” anything for Peter, but they wanted to share in our sorrow, so they came. Then, they returned home a day before us and cleaned my whole house since I had left it in a hurry and it was in no shape to host my whole family who would be coming up for the wake and funeral.  In the following months they continued their love and support.  I now live 6 hours away from these people, but they will be lifelong friends.  Our friendship was tried in fire.

These friends came to mind when I heard a talk recently.  The speaker mentioned that when Jesus allows suffering in our lives it is out of a desire to grow closer to us by being together with us in our pain.  Jesus didn’t want my son to die, as death was never part of his original plan for mankind.  But he was glad to be closer to me than my friends from MN, or my family or anyone could have been.  And through that experience, I have grown deeper in my relationship with Him.  I think that when we fast, we are returning the favor.   By giving up something we like, we are saying to Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, or on the Cross that we want to suffer a little bit with him.  We not only want to think about his passion, but enter into it in some small way.

Fasting is decadent.  Every once and a while in my house we run out of Tupperware.  When that happens, I will scratch my head wondering who didn’t return a container or if there are gnomes that roam our house at night searching for the plastic stuff.  Then, I clean out the fridge and my supply is magically replenished! In this analogy, if we don’t clear out the putrid, rotting leftovers in our lives, there is no room for storing the freshly baked muffins.

The connection to fasting is this.  We often cling to things that keep us from receiving all that God has for us.   Fasting helps us to empty ourselves of not only nasty stuff, but of things that are good, but get in the way. So often we focus our fasting on being sad for losing the things we liked.  How much would we benefit from focusing on all the good things God will fill us with instead!

At this halfway point in Lent, things can start to drag a little.  My prayer is that we all gain a spiritual “second wind”, and wherever we are in our Lenten observances, renew our efforts to grow in love of God in this holy season.

Family Suggestions for Lent

17 Feb

Lent can be a hard season to get excited about.  Whereas it’s easy for us to get excited for Advent, Lent not only lack the jingle and sparkle of the season, it’s longer, falls right as we are getting sick of winter and more to the point: it involves sacrifice.  Further, it’s hard to explain to kids.  Most kids can understand the excitement of waiting for a baby to be born.  Even when there is sacrifice involved in Advent, it’s surrounded by a sense of joy.  Many of us have a much harder time giving our kids a good focus for the sacrifice that leads up to… the violent death of our Savior.

Below are some suggestions for activities that can (hopefully) help your family to embrace the three practices of Lent: prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

Prayer. Prayer is simply talking to God.  The formal prayers of our Church are ways that Christians have been talking to God for hundreds, sometimes thousands of years.  I think we need both “from the heart” time with God, as well as a way to connect with all those who have come before us (“formal” prayer).  Here are some suggestions for ways to bring prayer alive for your family:

  • For younger children:
    •  help them to tell God one thing they are grateful for and one thing they really need each day
    • print off a children’s version of the Stations of the Cross (some even have coloring pages), and talk about one each day
    • For older children:
      • Read scripture (maybe the Sunday Gospels?) and have them tell you one line that stood out to them and ask them why
      • Engage their strengths in learning the Stations of the Cross.  If they are artistic, they can draw one per day or week.  If they are writers they can write prayers for each station, etc
      • Find famous paintings of the Stations from different cultures and explore them with your children
      • For teens:
        • Encourage them to start a prayer journal that you won’t look at
        • Use Lent as an excuse to get involved in a good youth group or teen retreat
        • Have teens write a “teen stations”, relating one or more of the Stations to the difficulties that teenagers face
        • As a family:
          • Make a regular time to pray together. If that is totally new to your family, try just saying one thing you are grateful to God for each day. Other options are a family rosary, a chaplet of Divine Mercy, a decade of the Rosary or one Station of the Cross each day
          • Use Stations the children have made (or print some from the internet) and put a small votive near each one around your home.  Move around the house as you would around the Church as you pray.
          • Choose a short scripture verse that is appropriate for the season and say it after every meal.  You and your children will have it memorized in no time!

Fasting. I think the key to successful fasting as a family is to explain to everyone what it’s for.  When we fast, we give up a material good for a spiritual one.  Even young children can understand what it is to give something up for someone else.  For example, my son was terrified of getting a flu shot last year, but he found courage to do it when we told him that he was protecting his baby sister from getting the flu.  We sacrifice out of love for God.

  • For children:
    • Make a “crown of thorns” out of clay or craft wire with toothpicks for “thorns”.  Each time a member of the family makes a small sacrifice, they take a thorn out of Jesus’ crown.  This is a way of connecting their sacrifice to love for Jesus.
    • For each sacrifice, children get to put jellybean in a jar… that they can eat during the Easter season!
    • Remind children that sacrifices should be something they like that they are giving up, or something hard for them to do (ie doing what mom asks the first time they are asked!) Varying the sacrifices can keep it from being too burdensome, and can help children start thinking of ways they can sacrifice for others.
    • For teens:
      • Have your teens consider giving up video games, iPad, Facebook, cell phone time (for non-essential purposes), etc.  If the prospect of being unplugged for 40 days is too overwhelming, maybe consider unplugging on Fridays.  Hint: agree to do it with your child!
      • Ask teens to help plan and prepare the Friday meatless meal.  They may enjoy looking into meatless meals that are a staple for other cultures.
      • Invite your teen to “give up” a treat that costs money such as a movie out with friends, a snack after school, etc. Put that money in a jar and allow them to choose the charity for donation.
      • For families:
        • Choose one night a week during Lent to be family night, where all activities are cancelled (this may take some serious effort!).  Use the time to pray a little bit, then either play board games or watch a movie with a good message that will inspire conversation.
        • Join in with one of the other activities above.
        • Consider one thing your family can “give up” together.

Almsgiving. Almsgiving just means serving others out of love. Several of the suggestions above for sacrifice could be used for this as well, but here are a few more:

  • Parents “pay” for each sacrifice, putting coins in a jar for each good deed.  Alternately, if there is a behavior your family is working on changing (for instance, saying “Oh my God!”), each member of the family can put a quarter of their own money in each time they say it!  The money then goes to a charity of the family’s choice.
  • Skip a meal out in order to buy your family’s favorite groceries for a food pantry.
  • Volunteer together at your favorite organization together.
  • Practice “deliberate acts of kindness” within the family.  You can even do a Lenten spin on the “Advent Angel” idea, having each member do secret, thoughtful deeds for another family member.

Obviously, this is not an exhaustive list, nor could any family handle everything mentioned.  I hope it has gotten you thinking, though, about what will best help your family grow in holiness.  Happy Lent, everyone!

Perspective

16 Feb

Overall, my 7 year old son has adjusted well to life in Kansas City after our move from up north in September. There are times, however, when he is almost brought to tears in thinking about all that we left in Minnesota. What I find fascinating is the specific things he laments losing.

For instance, he talks a lot about his “best friend,” whom I will call Cole. Cole is a kid who is a grade ahead of my son and with whom he had maybe a total of five play dates the whole time we lived there.  When he talks about Cole and how much he misses him, I am sympathetic, but I can’t help but picturing what things would have been like if we had stayed. Cole, now a 2nd grader, would be so wrapped up in school and activities that my son and he would rarely, if ever, have time to play. I marvel at the other friends he left that I know he misses, but that he forgets to mention.

Likewise, I know that when my son talks of moving back to Minnesota, he is picturing life there just as it was last year when he was in kindergarten.  Yet I know that even in the few short months since we left, our friends there have changed, and so have we. He doesn’t realize that if we moved back tomorrow that he would miss the new group of friends he has met here. He doesn’t take into account that we made a commitment to our job here and have no jobs in Minnesota anymore. He doesn’t get the fact that other people are living in our house and that we have signed a contract to rent our Kansas City house until the end of the summer. He definitely does not understand that moving an entire house full of things so soon after moving them the first time would certainly turn his mother’s head prematurely gray!

What he understands when he suggests we move back is are his feelings at the moment, his affection for all that he loved about living up north. A good parent empathizes, but also sees that granting the request will not make him as happy as he thinks. As parents, we have a greater perspective.

Lack of perspective is not a 7-year-old’s problem. It’s a fallen humanity problem. Continue reading

Getting Real About Role Models

7 Feb

Recently I met with a group of other moms, the topic of Tebow Mania came up.  A few of the moms had teenaged sons and they expressed how pleased they were that there was at least one NFL player that they felt their kids could look up to.  Almost in the same breath however was the fear that like so many other figures who seemed promising, Tim would also disappoint.  One mom noted a magazine cover broadcasting Tebow’s new girlfriend, as if the editors were salivating over the next issue when they could either report a nasty breakup or an unplanned pregnancy.

The conversation then turned to all the role models who crashed and burned in the last few years.  Too many sports, entertainment and political figures have hit the papers with a sexual indiscretion, a nasty divorce or a brush with the law.  It is common enough that it has become the bread and butter of certain types of magazines.  It’s no wonder that the moms I was meeting with were a little hesitant to let their sons dive into Tebow Mania!

What is worse is when the fall is one who was supposed to be leading others to God.  How many church communities have lost their faith because a pastor has been caught doing something bad? We Catholics, whose dirty laundry seems magnetically attracted to headlines, are by no means alone in these rare but hurtful instances, but we can feel it more intensely than others.

So, famous people and even our local leaders can seem just poised and ready to disappoint us.  What do we do? Well, I suppose we could choose to live in fear of the next headline, but what kind of life would that be? The fact of the matter is that due to a pesky thing called human freedom, we are all capable of terrible things.  This is what I choose to think of when I these stories break.  It is important that we not get too comfortable in our own piety that we begin to believe that those people over there are big sinners, but I (with all my rosaries and daily Masses and devotionals) am immune.  This is a dangerous frame of mind that I think we can all fall into from time to time.  The fall of others should lead us not to judge a person’s intentions or character (obviously, we can judge the actions as wrong) but to reflect on what we are doing to keep ourselves far away from a similar slippery slope.

I think this is a good lesson for our kids, too.  Continue reading

Ordinary Time

13 Jan

Well, it’s finally over. While the world took their Christmas stuff down at midnight on the 25th, we held strong, our tree blazing straight through New Year’s and the whole week after. But now it’s officially over. Bye, bye Christmas, hello Ordinary Time. Though the color for Ordinary Time is green, what we see a lot of here in the absence of snow is muddy brown. It’s time to hunker down into winter, with nothing but Valentine’s Day to tide us over into Lent.

As we enter this season from Christmas, my thoughts have turned to the Holy Family’s long stretch of ordinary time. They had some absolutely amazing experiences that first Christmas, didn’t they? Visits from angels, a few long road trips, a huge star, visits from shepherds and Magi, prophesies from Simeon and Anna, royal gifts and stern warnings in dreams. Later, there would be more amazing things: healings and walking on water, huge crowds of followers, the conversion of sinners, controversy with authorities and of course a humiliating death and triumphant resurrection. But in between these two brief spans of years where God manifested himself very plainly were 30 years where he settled into life as any ordinary carpenter’s son.

Isn’t this how our lives are? We have very profound events in our lives: marriage, births, deaths, illnesses, graduations, milestone birthdays. We have profound religious experiences too: initial conversion s or reversions, intense retreat experiences, spiritual epiphanies, etc. But the majority of our lives are much more mundane. We settle into a routine of commuting, house cleaning, nose wiping, errands and carpool. Our spiritual lives take on a pattern too of daily prayer, grace before meals, Sunday Mass, monthly confession and whatever other practices we make part of our family’s religious life. There can be a temptation to become a little ho-hum about everything, or to live distractedly, always latching on to the next thrill, whether it be the next night out or the next retreat.

This is a serious thing, since the mundane makes us such a huge majority of our lives! It is also why I think God decided to make it such a big part of his own earthly life. He could easily have come as a conquering king, swishing down from heaven in grown-up form to save the day. He could have started his ministry that day in the Temple, when at 12 years old he was already blowing away the Rabbis. But he didn’t. Taking on our humanity meant taking on the vast expanse of years in simple, poverty-line family life. Everything Jesus touches turns to gold. That is why he chose to live a quiet, hidden life in Nazareth for those 30 years. It’s where his sanctifying work began. Not only did he begin suffering for us then through hard work, obedience to his parents and the humility of not being recognized as the creator of the universe, but he transformed those daily things so that they could sanctify us, too.

What will you do today? I will attempt to teach my son to add, read and know more about Jamestown and mountain habitats. I will likely change 2 or 3 poopy diapers and subject my children to baths. I will drop the kids off and head into work for afternoon meetings. I will make three meals and two snacks, give out several reminders, text back and forth with my husband and my mom. While I hope that these things are done with a smile, I will not be surprised if they are accompanied by whining and grumbling: by either me or my family. Therefore, the day will also likely contain several apologies. With my list or with yours, there is hidden grace. The grace of doing our duty with love.

So today as I run through my to-do list, I will try to steal away a moment to think about Mary making bread for the evening meal, going to the well for water, mending and washing clothes. I will think of Joseph who scraped by a living for his family by the sweat of his brow, and little Jesus, wisdom incarnate, doing his chores and memorizing his lessons. I will think of the inconceivable miracle living in that tiny Nazarene household and ask that family to help me see the miracle in mine, as well.

Prepare for a Merry Christmas

15 Dec

Ten days til Christmas. Are you ready? If you’re like me, you probably still have cookies to bake, presents to wrap (or buy), a menu to plan, a house to clean (or suitcases to pack)… and on and on. The parents I talk to these days are buried under their fa la la la lists. At the risk of adding one more thing to your list I am going to, well, suggest you add one more thing to your list. Don’t worry, this thing is free, and it just might be the most valuable thing you do to ensure a merry Christmas.

Often, after all the material and even spiritual preparations we do during Advent to make the season bright, we still end up having arguments, blow ups or melt downs when the big day comes. Since they tend to happen every year, we may be tempted to just accept them as “just how things are”, or we may become discouraged and upset by them every time, as if we didn’t see them coming. Instead of either of these responses, I’d like to suggest a third: foresight. Continue reading