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Domestic Church Faith Formation Ink Slingers Parenting Sarah Vocations

A House Full of Joy

“Don’t you have any hobbies?” “You know what causes that?”

You’ve heard it all before. The probing questions, the not-so-discreet counting as your brood passes by, the eye rolling when you announce, again, that you’re pregnant. To you, tired mama, I say, it’s worth it. It’s worth every rolled eye, deep sigh, or rude comment you are forced to field.

We still have a long road of parenting ahead of us and maybe one day, we will have more sleepless nights and endless diapers.  But for now, we are in a baby lull. We are given a time to focus on raising only people who can walk to the car or go to the bathroom independently. It’s an odd place to be, after so many years of dependency. But it is a good time to reflect on the gifts we’ve been given.

After the gawks and stares, the next comment we’ve all heard is, “I don’t know how you do it!” or even more pointed, “I only have one and I’m losing my mind!”

Oh, how different six is from one. Had I been given six babies growing into six toddlers, all at once, I’d definitely have even more wrinkles than already I do! But life doesn’t generally work that way. God eases us into big family parenting, one (and the occasional two!) at a time.

Our first children came fast and furious, one after another. Those were hard years filled with sleepless nights, tantrums and meltdowns (sometimes not from the kids!), and sweet, sweet snuggles. On the oldest’s fourth birthday, I juggled a toddler and infant as I served the cake and ice cream.

That boy is fourteen and our “baby” is very nearly four. As I serve her birthday cake next month, there will be no toddlers or infants to juggle. But the years in between those two are filled with siblings and laughter and love. We wouldn’t have it any other way. There have been difficult seasons, but even those are laced with a joy that can only come from the big love of a big family.

There is a specific love that comes from following the will of God, from being open to bringing new life into an already filled-to-brimming home. Our walls are filled to bursting, but our hearts are as well. Six kids isn’t six sleepless infants or six screaming toddlers. It’s six friends, six helping hands, six joke crackers and table setters and board game players. It’s late night giggling, homework helping, and partners in crime. It’s six built-in, forever by your side, best friends.

Yes, this life requires sacrifice. But so does anything worth doing. The taste of reward is that much sweeter when sacrifice is required. It takes sacrifice to save for that beach vacation or a vehicle upgrade. We work hard for our material goals. Our spiritual goals are that much more important. Raising souls for Christ’s army? Equipping those souls with siblings to assist them along the way? When you step back and look, you realize that the sacrifice isn’t all that big, in proportion to the reward.  

When I look around our kitchen table and see smiles, hear laughter, I know that it’s worth every wrinkle, stretchmark, and sleepless nights. When I look down the pew at Mass and see the fruit of our marriage literally filling the pew, I know it was worth every worry and struggle and frustration. Christ said, “Let the children come to Me” and I’m sure He also meant, “The more the merrier!”

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Allen Ink Slingers Perspective from the Head

What God has Joined Let No One Divide

scan3-77Your Family was started on the day you got married, and after you took your vows.
 The presider may have uttered words similar to the ones above.  It not only applies to you and your spouse, but also to your entire family.  The world many times seeks to separate what God has joined together.  

Living the Life

As our kids were growing up, we got involved in Church, sports and social club activities.  It got to a point that we were busy every night of the week.  I was a member of the church choir, my wife and I were deeply involved in building a Catholic School, three of our children were playing soccer and I was coaching them, and our daughters were members of a Catholic Girl’s club.  In addition to these church and family related items, I worked full time with a bit of travel and even took lessons to become a private pilot.  When a new opportunity for spiritual growth or volunteering came our way, our method of deciding whether or not to say yes was to take a look at our calendar and see if there was any spare time.  If there was, we said yes until every moment of our life was filled with activities.  IMG_2709
Each of the activities we were involved in were good, it was the sheer number of activities that was bad for us.  Looking back on that time in our lives, I don’t think we realized that this constant busyness was unhealthy for our family.  We were just living a full life, volunteering for every worthwhile cause and making sure that each of our children was able have all the fun a child should have.  We were on the road to burn out and to losing touch with our young family.
Then I took a new job and one of the highly suggested activities at my new company was to spend a couple of weeks at our corporate offices helping out in the technical support call center.  It was a great way for a new Systems Engineer to quickly learn the technical aspects of the products while helping out our short-staffed support team.  My wife and I discussed this extended business trip and we decided to buy an RV and make a family trip out of it.  When the planning was completed, I had arranged a trip to California and back that lasted just under a month with stops at customer sites, national and state parks, theme parks and visiting friends and family along the way.  I don’t know that I fully realized the immediate profound effect this trip would have on our family, nor the way it would shape our family life and rhythm for the rest of our lives.

RVLife Lessons from Living in an RV

When preparing to leave for this trip, we had to squeeze 10 people, all our clothing, bicycles, and any personal items we needed for a month into a 31 foot Class C RV with no slide outs and limited storage.  This was a serious exercise in detachment, not only from possessions, but from our normal routines.  I still did my work on the road, but pretty much everything else in our normal routine changed.  We didn’t have any sports, school, social or church activities, we left all that behind when we pulled out of the drive on our way to California, we only had each other.
Our commitments at home weren’t missed, we didn’t long for our things, we had a great time and really grew closer together as a family over the course of our trip.  We ate all our meals together, we visited shrines along the way, attended Sunday mass and an occasional daily mass together, met with friends in different cities, and we explored the beauty of God’s creation.  In summary, we retreated from the world, prayed together, played together and formed closer bonds with each other and with the Lord.  We emerged from our month long adventure a changed family with a renewed focus on what was most important in our lives.  

The Family Mission

God taught us that one of his greatest gifts to us is our family.  Each of our children brings something unique to our family, something we didn’t have before and something that makes our family unit better.  We learned that we really like our kids and they like us too. Our kids didn’t need to be kept busy with tons of activities, they were just as happy, maybe even more so, to simply be with us.  GrandCanyon
Unhealthy patterns had crept into our family, this RV trip was a good exercise which allowed us to take a step back and evaluate our lives and our family routine.  We began to regularly spend time in prayer as a couple and as a family, asking God what our family’s mission should be and where we should be spending our time and energy.  At times this exercise has resulted in minor adjustments, and sometimes  major life changes to our family routine to ensure that we meet our primary goal of leading our family to heaven.
Every family needs to retreat from the world on a regular basis, this can take the form of a family vacation, a family retreat, or just making Sunday family days.  But if you don’t plan for them, they probably won’t happen.  Your family is a great gift from God, be sure to nurture and care for it.  
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Domestic Church Faith Formation Ink Slingers Karen Parenting

Five Ways to Keep Your Kids Catholic

It is always our intent here at Catholic Sistas to provide you with inspiration, guidance, and hope in Christ. Children are the greatest blessings God bestows upon us and it is our role to provide them with a firm foundation in Christ. However, we know that despite all we do for and with our children, sometimes they choose another path. While we cannot guarantee that our children will remain Catholic, and there are times despite our best efforts our children leave the faith, there are certain things we can do to help build that firm foundation in Christ so that they will have faith to return to when they are ready. 
 

Our primary goal as parents is to get our kids to heaven, or at the very least, to give them their best start in that direction. But when faced with the impact our parenting has on our children, and the monumental task of guiding children through this broken world to come out as faithful Catholics, the task is daunting. And even if we check all the boxes that should yield faith-filled children, sometimes children still stray (while we ask St. Monica to help them return!). But there are some things we can do that will equip our children with some good tools that just might keep Christ and His Church at the forefront of their lives, and to make faith-filled choices.FIVE WAYS (1)


Pray!

This one is obvious, but so easy to neglect. We must pray independently, with our spouse, and with our kids. Our children must see prayer happen, model it, and participate in it, both with formed prayers such as the Hail Mary or Our Father, as well as with “free-form” praying that is from the heart in praise or pleading. If our children see us praying on our own daily, they will see this as a normal fluid part of life, as natural as changing clothes or brushing teeth. If they see you pray with your spouse, they will see the foundation of marriage is a relationship and unity with God. And most importantly, pray for your children. Pray that God keeps them close and helps to protect them from the grasp of Satan.


Get involved at Church in both attendance and extra activities!

Mass is every Sunday- rain, snow, sleet, hail. Feel like it, don’t feel like it. For many reading this, Mass attendance just isn’t an issue. For very young kids, especially for families with several very small children, sometimes parents need to split up Mass (where one parent goes earlier in the day and the other later in the day to avoid taking the littlest). Do what you need to do for your sanity. But do at least occasionally take your smallest children, and always take your older children.

In addition to Mass attendance, get involved in at least one ministry. This will undoubtedly change as the years offer different life challenges, and will ebb and flow in terms of how involved you are, but have a presence. Having small children dictates that heavy involvement and meetings are just not going to happen. But small acts help tremendously. Bake a pie for the funeral luncheons, offer to stuff envelopes for the parish secretary to reduce her burden, or donate diapers for a diaper drive for moms in need. If you have older children and are more able to get out and do things, then help clean the church, help with set up and cleanup of the funeral luncheons, bring communion to the sick or homebound. Where appropriate, bring along your children so they can see works of mercy in action and participate in loving others as Christ calls us to do. While is it a good goal to have much of this centered in the Church, it is a great idea to expand acts of service to even sources that are not Catholic, such as soup kitchens, general pro-life groups, etc. We are called to love our neighbor whether Catholic or not.

It is also important to puzzle in Adoration into that picture. I have heard many priests speak about their childhood. Out of those who were cradle Catholics, all have mentioned that their family or parents went to Adoration at least once a month. There is something very powerful about sitting in quiet contemplation and prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament.

Get your husband involved in Church!
This article cites a Swiss study that detailed whether a husband or wife (or both) were practicing their religion, and their children’s practicing of religion when they grew up. This study found that when a father is actively practicing a religion, the couple yields a much higher rate of children actively practicing the religion as well, irrespective of whether the mother is religious. Aside from that, it is the man’s role to lead his family to Christ. As such, it is important to make time for him to not only get to Mass, but to also be involved. Whether that is service, attending a men’s group, or starting a dad’s group, he should find something that feeds his faith and demonstrates a love for Jesus that his children can model. Many husbands feel they cannot participate in activities because of the needs at home (lawn maintenance, helping mom, etc); however, it is important and wives need to be supportive and encouraging of the nurturing of our husband’s faith, even if it means the lawn is mowed a few days late.

Have Catholic Friends!
If your friends are practicing Catholics with children, your kids will have Catholic playmates. Having your world framed by your faith is integral to keeping it. Since children have such a small world that contains school, home, and friendships, it is ideal if as much of that contains a Catholic influence as possible. Kids who have friends that think going to Adoration sounds like a good time are more likely to go to Adoration. Since peer influence is incredibly powerful, we have to find ways for this to be positive. It is frustrating for kids to experience religion at home and at church, but to have a non-religious school environment and friends ambivalent about God. While children in that situation certainly still can maintain their faith, it does provide some challenges.
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Vocations are an Option! 
Most of us probably envision our children growing up, getting married, and having children. Certainly the married vocation is a beautiful one. But many families are quick to disregard the religious life as a reasonable option for their children. Pray as a family for priests and for those discerning callings to the religious life. Go to a convent or seminary for a seminar, Mass, or other activity. If your child shows any interest in the religious life, be positive and encouraging, help them seek out spiritual direction, visit the religious, and encourage them to keep praying and see where God leads them.

While none of these individually or cumulatively will guarantee your children remain Catholic, it sets a great foundation to increase your own faith and provide your children with great opportunities to obtain and keep a strong faith.

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Guest Posts Marriage Motherhood Offering your suffering Prayer Spiritual Growth Testimonials Vocations

Suffering at the Hands of Family: A Personal Invitation and a Gift {Part 1}

I’m reading through threads on social media today and am thinking that if I had a nickel for every thread I read about the hurt family inflicts…. *sigh* well, I wouldn’t have to worry so much about my fuel budget to haul my ducks around town.

I’m sure we’ve all been there. For myself, every time we have family visits, my anxiety shoots through the roof because I know I can’t change my beloved extended family’s habits of inconsideration, rudeness, pettiness, and the usual contrived jabs. This occurs on both sides of the family.

After 14 years of this in married life (and x years before), all I can do is steel myself before these visits. Then I pray, wait, and try to prepare as much pre-damage control as possible (if that’s possible).

It has struck me more than once how I never thought that my Catholic family would be the cause of hard feelings because of envy, jealousy, lack of charity, unwillingness to forgive, and grudges that lead to further separation in the family. It is this separation that causes us to drift so far apart that we lose touch. Finally when we tearfully meet 5, 10, 15 years later at mutual loved one’s funeral, we wondered whatever it was that caused us to part so.

Here’s my situation…

My extended family members are faithful Catholics, but to this day, still struggle to get along, to show basic manners when it comes to planned events, asking us to leave so they can have dinner with friends who are coming by, not offering support in any way, and trying to control our children and how we parent them, etc.

I can’t change them, however, and have to be comforted in the fact that they are Catholic and that as Catholics they are called to love. They have the Sacraments to help them to reflect, to try to bear wrongs, to be charitable. It’s not in my hands if they do so but I pray for them for God to lead them as I ask that He lead me. We may not be friends during our time here, but I beg that we meet in Heaven someday.

I’m a wimp and am incredibly flawed (ask my husband), but I grit my teeth to ask for suffering to bear on their behalf for the wrongs—the grievous, almost unforgivable wrongs they have hurt me with and still hurt me with if I give them the chance—so that they don’t spend a single day in Purgatory.

Now it’s a little harder in a way with my non-Catholic family who are openly hostile toward my Lord and His Church—and anyone who loves Him and is in His Church. But at the same time the betrayal isn’t as deep or hurtful as it is from my Catholic family. I mean, one expects better from faithful Catholics, right?

Yet, with my secular family, it’s hard to not be affected when my precious 5 year-old, in her innocence wants to color and draw pictures for Jesus with a same-aged cousin who is every bit as precious and just as innocent, and the family’s response is anger and hostility, albeit in the passive aggressive form because she dared express her love for Jesus and had her cousin doing the same. For this side of the family, this is all too common. While we try to lay low, not give too many opinions, to be helpful and accommodating, we can tell that our mere presence is offensive somehow and they can’t wait for us to leave.

Given both sides of our families, my husband and I wouldn’t care so much if it was just us. We could stay away and not make an effort. But we have children who are like all children; they love with all of their hearts, and that includes people who are family who have been a big part in our suffering.

It’s hard to explain to people who haven’t lived it. The first thought someone who may or may not know you and yours is, “Well, what’s wrong with you that your family hates you so much?” They might think that I’m not telling both sides. If I detail our defense I’m torn between the fear of looking like a petty, oversensitive, drama queen or of them looking like monsters. I don’t feel like going on trial at the hands of even well-meaning friends who cannot understand and unknowingly cause more hurt when they defend the undefendable. I don’t blame them, they don’t know the history. How can a survivor of child abuse really explain to people who haven’t live it? I don’t want to burden them and I doubt they want to be burdened. Who does? It’s between my husband, myself, and God for our Sanctification and for our children’s souls and the souls of our family and friends, and enemies. As much as my family still hurts me, mainly through my children, I love them and don’t want anyone thinking badly about them. I want the best for them in this life and the next.

When I used to talk about it and be more open about difficult visits, perhaps it was because I sought understanding and empathy; perhaps because I wanted to know if anyone else was in this situation and how they coped and healed–if there was healing. I’m learning how to bear it more quietly. I said “more”, not “entirely.” I am writing this because I see similar situations and want to reach out to those suffering at the hands of family to tell them, “You’re not alone. You are loved. I don’t know you, but I love you because I am called to love you and I feel for you! You are in my prayers.”

So I pray. Sometimes I cry. And I feel alone. It’s here I can identify with my Lord’s Passion when He was falsely accused- by friends! He was maligned and betrayed- by people He loved and who were closest to Him! I think of Our Lady who suffered His Passion in her heart. It’s how I am drawn closer to Him through Her. I am at the foot of the cross as I gaze at their hearts: her Immaculate Heart and His Sacred Heart on fire with love us, pierced by our wrongs toward one another and God. Mary feels the pain from the blows of our sin to her Son simply because she’s His mother! With love of God and us (in spite of the pain we cause), she gives her suffering to Him, Who makes all things new and turns this suffering into something beautiful to heal and bring souls to Heaven. Her love is so pure. She does all of this because she loves us, only like a mother could. He bears it—bore it for love of us. It’s mind boggling.

I grew up Catholic and used to study pictures of the Immaculate and Sacred Hearts in wonder. Why did they draw it like that? It took all of this time, suffering through a wounded childhood and the continued rejection of the people whom I love most to help me understand. This is only a taste of what my Lord suffered on my account, because He knows every hair on my head and my own heart better than I.

When I have the gift of suffering at the hands of those closest to me, I am being invited to partake in my own little passion made Holy by a God who can always bring a greater good. My heart will look like theirs: pierced, purified, and on fire with love of God and love of my neighbor—even my enemies—for the sake of loving God. To His Heart through hers. To Him through her. To God, the Father through His Son by the Holy Spirit! I rejoice because I am blessed indeed.

 

Monica is married and has a Masters Degree in Engineering. She “gave it all up” when her first was born to stay home with her growing family. She homeschools their five children, some of which are special needs. She is currently living her “happily ever after” deep in the heart of Texas.