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Allison Allison Welch Conversion Evangelization Ink Slingers Offering your suffering Prayer Spiritual Growth

What I Learned in the Walmart Parking Lot

Life weighed heavy on me: the loss of employment and relationships and financial difficulties that go with it; a son’s medical issues and the looming threat of the death of his well-fought-for dream; aging parents with health problems. And within weeks, I would live in an empty nest for the first time in more than two decades. The best of life, it seemed, was behind me.

As I walked to my car feeling sorry for myself, I noticed an older woman shuffling slowly toward me. She was leaning heavily on her shopping cart like a walker. At the rate she moved, it would be at least a 10-minute trek just to enter the store. I should be grateful, I thought.

As I loaded my purchases into the car, I felt a persistent urge to offer her one of the small pink mums I shouldn’t have bought.

“Would you like some flowers?,” I asked awkwardly.

“I drive a truck; I don’t have any place to keep them,” she said matter-of-factly. “But thank you.”

I fought back the familiar feeling of failure. Clearly, the persistent urge to reach out to her hadn’t been from the Holy Spirit. Or was it? The prompting, it turns out, was not about what I had to offer her, but what she had to offer me.

“Have a blessed day,” she said, as though it were secret code for I’m a believer, too.

“You, too,” I replied. We’re family.

“I will,” she insisted, “Every day is blessed.”

There was a pause where I began to consider her attitude. How does she do it? As if answering my thought, she added, “Some days are just more blessed than others.”

Walmart parking lot wisdom.

The priceless, eternal wealth of the Saints offered freely in the superstore’s parking lot…who knew? The sermon on the plain, the sermon on the mount. It comes to us from the elderly, the infirm, and the poor. Surrounded by suffering, they are blessed. Happy. Low in the valley or high on the mountain, independent of circumstances, blessings abound.

This elderly, infirm, truck-driving woman reminded me that God is good. All the time. God created good. “All things work for good for those who love God” (Romans 8:28). What is good is the only thing that’s real; all else will pass. Perhaps St. Teresa of Avila said it best: “In light of heaven, the worst suffering on earth will be seen to be no more serious than one night in an inconvenient hotel.”

It’s okay to acknowledge the bad things that happen, but we should resist the temptation to dwell on them. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Phil 4:8). This is where we are called to dwell: In the good. We must train our minds like athletes for the big game.

Consider this: Every.  Day.  Is.  Blessed. Some days are just more blessed than others. 

Homework:

What weighs heavily on you, readers?  It’s okay to acknowledge it, just don’t live there. Name the distractions and discouragements and offer them to God, asking him to do what he does best. He can transform them, making them work for our good. Amen and alleluia.

Now, go!  Collect your blessings!

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Allison Faith Formation Homeschool Ink Slingers Motherhood Parenting Raising Saints

13 Years of {Catholic} Homeschooling ~ 13 Simply Great Ideas

Thirteen Years of {Catholic} Homeschooling ~ Thirteen Simply Great Ideas

My firstborn graduated from a high school course of study accepted by the state of Alaska and is now attending college (paid for by the state because of good test numbers!).  Thirteen years of homeschooling now and I feel properly disposed to present some great ideas.  In no particular order they are:

1One hour a day “alone with your thoughts.”  Not a nap.  Never call it a nap.  This sounds a little fruity, I know, but the real reason is for me to get reacquainted with my thoughts, changing this . . .

into this . . .

2. Family newspaper.  Two or three times a year, we hunker down and assign articles to every child for the Howelling Herald, printed on that longer-sized paper.  We do recurring features such as Outdoor Odysseys (excursions around), Family Accomplishments  (from black belts to potty training), History page (reprinted assigned paragraphs), and Classifieds (from lost cufflinks to cheap plastic crap for sale).  Smaller people just color stuff, which I scan and add right in, along with witty commentary.

3. Cheap ziplocs, tape, bandaids, and paper clips as toys.  Dump onto the floor and watch them get all MacGyver on you.  Amazing creations.

4. A time line made of 3×5 cards stuck to the top of the wall where a wallpaper border would be.  Helps to consecutively organize discombobulated reading selections and also helps to place into perspective things like an 8 year old’s obsessesion with ancient Greece and an 11 year old’s love of Scottish fairy tales.  I point to the section of the wall where it fits; they draw another 3×5 card with a minotaur or a fairy ring ~ bingo!  School.

5. Lots of reading and lots of legos makes an excellent curriculum.  Corresponds nicely with:

6. Pair up older children with a younger sibling for a half hour blessing (I call it a spiritual word because it guilts the big kids.).  This means that young teens can play forts and legos without embarrassment and little kids get to hang out with cool teens.

7. If there are male children, you can create an entire curriculum around battles. Choose 6-ish important battles to read about.  Read all about the country/ies and the reasons (social studies).  Recognize and dig into a relatable science topic.  Then write about it, play-act it, draw pictures of it (language arts).  An easy example is Gettysburg.  It’s fun to recreate the battlefield in your yard or living room with small soldiers.  There are strategy books for older kids and picture story books for younger kids.  Watch it , if they are old enough.  Science is battlefield medicine, which is pretty gruesome, which means they’ll love it.  Actually, my daughter did, too.

8. An IV in a kid’s arm that needs to be flushed and run through with antibiotics is great science.  If you don’t have someone with cystic fibrosis in your family, sorry.

9. Pet care = science.  But only if you make the children do the care and then draw pictures of things like the creepy rash on the dog’s belly.  Extra points if they mix up tea tree oil and warm water and bathe it.  If you make them write about it all, you’ve got language arts; if you make them do graphs of information like weight and amount of food and exercise, you’ve got math.

10. Boxed curricula works just fine and may be exactly right for whatever season you’re in.  So does unschooling.  

 

11. Elizabeth Foss’ book Enough said.

13 Reasons to Homeschool

12.  My shelf.  The red basket squares hold, from left to right, science equipment, math manipulatives, and art supplies, with books on the bottom corresponding orderly.  I love my shelf.

And my 13th great idea ~

13.  We stuck with it.  With all the stress and wondering and trouble and comparisons, we did it; for there is also fun and learning and companionship and education.

What ideas have worked in your homeschool? What would you add to this list?

Check out our Homeschool, Homeschool Curriculums, and Homeschool Resources boards on Pinterest, too!

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Allison Homeschool Ink Slingers It Worked For Me

Boob Tube Homeschooling

Our Alaskan sun begins shining through the windows again in February and stirs desires for planting and prettiness that the still-deep snow squelches. Because I get a little burned out this time of year, I purchase Shiny Things for the children to plug into the television, then send them off on inspired, educational rabbit trails. This is not because I want to lock them in the den and do my own thing; quite the contrary. I watch with them. They love that part. It is because I’m tired of last August’s perfect plans. After math –I never renege on math– here are a few things I’ve purchased recently and some of the activities that sprang from them:

Fantasia 2000 spurred an idea to separate the kids into different corners with a sketch pad and colored pencils. While a piece of classical music played (not one from the film), I told them to draw anything that came to mind (not one from the film). Some drew designs, some drew scenes, and some drew monsters.

Reading Rainbow DVD on music got the kids creating their own version of Stomp. Loud but lovely. Also, the conductor from the orchestra segment said something profound about each musician holding back a bit of breakout talent for the ordered beauty of the orchestra. It made me think about reigning in a bit for the good of the family.

Liberty’s Kids spawned writing assignments and role-playing and hilarious British, German, and Scottish accents. Whom did you like the best ~ John Paul Jones? Van Steuben? Dr. Warren? Why? What was he like?

Schoolhouse Rock gets them singing all the songs. It’s awesome and it’s enough.

Beatrix Potter short films bring to life her little books. They are sweet, proper, mischievous, but never crass. I had the children do some nature journaling every day for a week in the same spot, hoping to foster some observation. Some drew bugs, some drew our farm animals, some made up stuff, and one cried that he didn’t see anything.

National Geographic VHS tapes to play on a 23 year old TV bomb with a VHS player. If you have a newer model, I guess you’ll have to stream! Find the place on maps and globes, draw the outline of the land and animal, and write three facts you learned.

Animated Hero Classics by Nest Entertainment are thirty minute sketches of heroes from across time and place that incorporate clear examples of a defining virtue, as well as important facts. The set includes downloadable activity books with crossword puzzles, secret codes, coloring pages, etc. Just too easy. *Now these are expensive. We homeschool under our state’s umbrella and are reimbursed for educational expenses.

So the boob tube helps me homeschool through May, when the snow melts and things turn green up here. Then I let the earth do its teaching throughout the summer.

 

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Allison Ink Slingers

Keeping Our Sympathy

And Jesus Wept Statue

During a thirty minute wait in a physician assistant’s office a few weeks ago, I had enough time to read all of the informational pamphlets on a dozen different drugs and conditions. When my provider excused herself to consult with one of the doctors, I learned all about unpronounceable medications and rheumatoligical conditions. There is a drug that inserts itself into DNA and strangles cell replication and another drug that doctors don’t even know how it works for autoimmune diseases, just that it does. And there is a condition so odd that it is called a phenomenon. One of the last-ditch treatments for this Raynaud’s Phenomenon, when blood flow to the hands and feet is severely reduced, is nerve surgery called a sympathectomy. The nearby nerves, named sympathetic, that control the blood vessels in the hands and feet are cut in order to “interrupt their exaggerated response.” I understand that the surgery strips away troublesome nerves around the dangerously constricting blood vessels, but the word “sympathectomy” sounds dreadful. I wonder if some of our personal sympathy is being cut out of us these troublesome days.

The word is defined as “feelings of sorrow for someone else’s misfortune” or “understanding between people.” And it seems that every time I open up a newspaper (Yes, we still receive a real paper in a tube by our driveway; it’s good for the kids to run up there and read the headlines before flipping to the comics and fun page!) or scroll through news websites, there is horror and sorrow: Syria, ISIS, our own cities and campuses. It’s easy to shake my head and keep flipping the paper while in my comfortable kitchen, but I must not. I must not ignore sympathy. I must nurture my uncomfortable feelings of sorrow for others’ misfortune and strive to understand others’ plights. When an ambulance or police car zips past us on the road, we all cross ourselves as a quick prayer; “Help them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” I’m trying to do the same when reading news stories.

God has sympathy for us. He became one of us, uniting himself with humanity. “And the word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).” God, in the person of Jesus, pitched his tent (dwelt) with us like the traveling tabernacle of old. It was the architectural expression of God’s presence with Israel; Jesus is the human expression of God’s presence with us. In the Nicene Creed, written in AD 325 even before the canon of the New Testament was finally accepted, we affirm, “For us men and our salvation he came down from heaven; by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate of the Virgin Mary and was made man.” The point of a creed is that it is truth about God. The word credo means “I believe;” I believe this truth, these sacred words, this reality. The reminder of truth is solid grounding in the uncertainties and problems of life. He came down from heaven for us and our salvation; halleluia! Yes, I believe.

And Jesus has sympathy for us. While on the earth, he was moved by people’s suffering. “When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he began to teach them many things (Mark 6:34).” Later on in the chapter is the miracle of the loaves and fishes. He had sorrow for their misfortune; he understood. Even though he knew what was going to happen when his friend Lazarus died (John 11), “he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled” at the sisters’ weeping and pain. Here is where we find a favorite verse for children to memorize, the shortest verse in the Bible: “Jesus wept.” He actually wept. According to Hebrews 4:15, “For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sinning. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

crucifixFrom our catechism, “Jesus knew and loved us each and all during his life, his agony, and his passion, and gave himself up for each one of us. The son of God loved me and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20). Jesus’ Sacred Heart, pierced by our sins and for our salvation, is quite rightly considered the chief sign and symbol of that… love with which the divine Redeemer continually loves the eternal Father and all human beings with out exception (#478).

So we can read the news and embrace those feelings of sorrow for someone else’s misfortune. We can draw close to Jesus, who understands and loves all human beings without exception. Let us not cut away our sympathies (except for Raynaud’s Phenomenon).

 

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Allison Ink Slingers

Peace in Pain

You know how Paul wrote, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body; that is, the Church (Colossians 1:24).”?

And you know how the Catechism says, “By his passion and death on the cross, Christ has given a new meaning to suffering; it can henceforth configure us to him and unite us with his redemptive passion #1505).”?

I have to do this, dear Sistas. Don’t worry; my children with cystic fibrosis are fine, no turns for the worse; I’ve not received dreadful diagnosis. But I do have a situation with zero answers. I’ve had many punctures and pictures and proddings and prescriptions the past few months and have been finally told, “We do not know why your knee swells up like a grapefruit every ten days. Everything looks perfect. Sorry no anti-inflammatories work. Do you want to take immunosuppressants and see if they help? By the way, most of them take four to six months to begin working.”

I’ve been bare-knuckling through four-day spans of crippling pain only to begin the process again ten days later, over and over for months (Years, actually, but the pain is new). And now the final test has returned with perfect numbers so this past week was time for me to come to grips with myself. I hate to admit such weakness. I have to offer up this pain and immovability as a prayer. It is real and raw.

I’m trying to make more of a plan, other than hissing through a rosary in the middle of the night because I’m distraught; other than crying to the kids to eat cherios for supper because I can’t get up; other than hyperventilating to my husband that we’ll never go hiking again. I need to regularly pray whether I’m down or not. I need to put food in the freezer when I’m up to cover when I’m down. I need to head to the mountains with everyone when I’m strong and enjoy listening to their stories when they return home after going without me.

I’d like to think I will live on my sofa with a glowing, holy aura about me as I read stories and play board games with the children while offering heavenly advice and encouraging conversation, but I’ll probably struggle with my anger, cry a lot, and skip a few rosaries. I’ll keep my plan before me, though, and take baby steps forward.

This is where our Holy Faith meets the road, isn’t it? Do I believe it? Can I rejoice in this and get closer to Christ? I find my answer with Paul in Philippians 4:8.

“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, do; and the God of peace will be with you.”

Jesus is all of these things. I can be at peace.

a.h. photo