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Alison W Evangelization Faith Formation Ink Slingers Motherhood Spiritual Growth Vocations

Give the World Your Gifts

I’m not a writer by trade. In fact, English was always my worst subject. However, when I saw the call for single parent writers, I submitted a story. Not because I’m a great writer. Not even because I’m a great Catholic, but because I feel like single parents need more support.

I know my long road was supported by Jesus. Again, not because I’m anything special, but simply because I turned to Him and trusted Him. I’m a sinner; I’m a brat sometimes. Those closest to me see my weakness and rottenness more than others. I’m so blessed they have stuck with me through this race of life. I regularly go to Confession because I know I’m a wretched sinner. But Jesus promises the most grace to the worst sinners. That’s just how great He is.

I’ve also come to know that people love to be encouraged. I have had many people thank me for encouraging them or for the stories I’ve written or posts I share. I encourage you to share your faith stories, too. I encourage you to encourage others. So much grace comes from this. Together, we are the body of Christ and we need each other to grow. God made you special; He has a job for you no one else can do. He has given you grace and strength different from everyone else. You have a purpose–to know God, love God, and serve God.

Satan has done a marvelous job of tearing apart the body of Christ. You don’t have to look far to see all the quarrels, division, and irritations. I challenge you to mend those broken relationships, to love your families better. I challenge you to see the people who hurt you as opportunities to love like Jesus does. Instead, strengthen the body of Christ and understand we are all the body of Christ. We need each other. The world needs your stories, your support, and your encouragement. The world needs the special gifts God has given you.

Jesus charged us with this task. He didn’t suggest it. He charged us to go and proclaim the good news.

And the good news is awesome! The good news is: Rotten sinners can be saved by our loving Jesus and go to heaven. The good news is, no sin can bind us to hell. Jesus died to make sure of this. It doesn’t matter how wrong you’ve gotten things; all that matters is that you reach out to Jesus and accept His mercy.

The sacraments of the Church help sustain us in this uphill battle of life. Use them! Go to Confession, receive the Eucharist, pray your rosary, accept grace, and then share it! I challenge you: Remind one person today how much Jesus loves him or her.

And remind yourself, too!

Categories
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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Domestic Church Homeschool Ink Slingers Michelle

Encouragement for When You are Surrounded by Homeschooling Naysayers

If you are anything like me you’ve encountered all the comments out there about homeschooling. Some of them are understandable; others are just plain dumb. Some come from a place of true concern; others from a place of ignorance. When people hear that you are homeschoolers you encounter advice from people from every walk of life.

I remember one of the first comments I ever got when I was a newish homeschooler in the fall of 2000. I had actually been homeschooling for a year and a half, but I still felt pretty timid about telling people we were homeschoolers. A man, a stranger, came up to me as I was getting my kids McDonald’s at lunch time after a doctor’s appointment and questioned me why my kids weren’t in school. I shyly told him that we were homeschoolers and that they didn’t go to school. He rebuked me telling me I was wrong to do this to my children… that I needed school to socialize them and that I was not qualified to teach my children. I felt angry and upset. I calmly told him that I didn’t need his permission, that I was more than qualified to teach my children, and that if the world today was an indication of school “socialization” then I was more than happy for my kids to miss out on that. He left but his condemnation stayed with me.

Throughout the years we have faced similar situations over and over again. It’s irritating when it is strangers who say these things to you, especially when they don’t even know your background, your reasons for homeschooling, or anything else about the situation. It is even worse when such ridiculousness comes from people who do know you and have knowledge of your situation.

A few years ago a couple well-meaning friends took me aside and proceeded to tell me how I was ruining my children’s lives by homeschooling (yes, they actually said ruining their lives). I was failing them they said. They could look at my children’s progress {one child who was 9 was not reading at “grade level” and one child who was 6 was not reading yet and I’m sure they had other worries that they didn’t bring up to me} and could see how some were behind and lacking. I was told that these vital years of formation were being wasted and that I should consider putting them in school as soon as possible. Never mind all the ways my children were succeeding; all that mattered was they were behind in some areas. It felt like a slap to the face. How could they look at my amazing kids and only see where they may be “behind”?

As a teacher {I AM a teacher}, who yes, went to college to learn to be a teacher, I am very aware of the different needs- educational, emotional, spiritual, physical, and mental- that my children each have. As a mother I am even more in tune to those needs. Because I am with my children 24/7 in both capacities, I am even more aware of where they succeed and where they lag. While some are ahead in certain areas, others are behind in those same areas. Likewise, those who are behind in some ways are further ahead in others. Unless you are with my children and teach my children and KNOW my children intimately, you will not know where they truly fall in any one area let alone all of them.

Being the mother of children who also have special educational needs (we have several who suffer from dyslexia, dysgraphia, and other learning problems) I am hyper-vigilant of trying to help my children succeed. Unfortunately most people don’t give homeschoolers the same benefit of the doubt that they give teachers in the school systems… if a homeschooled child isn’t at level it’s because the parents aren’t doing their job; never mind any learning problem the child may have. It doesn’t matter what kind of help you are getting your child, what kind of program you are using, or how much you teach, if your child is not at “level” then you are the WORST PARENT EVER AND SHOULD PUT YOUR CHILD IN SCHOOL NOW SO YOU DON’T RUIN HIS LIFE.

Ok, so maybe not really; maybe I’m being dramatic, but it sure seems that way when people begin judging you without knowing all the details. Instead of offering support they offer judgment and condemnation.

Real life experiences at Cave Springs, GA

I am a firm believer that children develop at different rates and what is right for one child may not be right for another. I have seen this in my own home. I have children who have begun reading at 3 and 4 years old and others who absolutely could not grasp reading until about 10 years old. One of my children, so severely dyslexic, didn’t get it to click until he was a teen! Because kids develop differently and because we struggle with learning disabilities, we use a variety of curricula and techniques to help our children learn. There is not a single child in my family of 11 children who has followed the exact same educational path. Thankfully with homeschooling we don’t have to force our kids into a learning style that doesn’t work for them. And guess what? They eventually all pick up what they need! By providing a variety of ways to learn, some conventional and others non-conventional, our children end up with a well-rounded education.

Maybe you aren’t a homeschooler and you are reading this and think that I sound pretty angry. You would be right. Everywhere my kids go they are quizzed about what they know and what they don’t know by people who want to make sure that we are “homeschooling enough” or “homeschooling right”. I never see people quizzing kids who are taught within the school system. You might hear someone question a child who is in the school system, “Oh, what classes are you taking?” or “What’s your favorite class at school?” But you will never hear them ask, “Well, tell me, what is 5X5?”, “How many continents are there?”, “How do you spell dinosaur?”, “Why don’t you read this to me, I want to see how well you read.”, “How much school did you do today?” But you will see and hear people do this to homeschool kids all the time. It’s maddening!

Learning about lung capacity

Do I think there are people out there who shouldn’t homeschool their kids? Absolutely! I am not a proponent that all parents or all kids will do well with homeschooling. For some it would be a travesty to try to school their children in this manner. Their children would not do well being at home with mom or dad as their teacher. For some families public school is a Godsend! For others private school works better. But for many families, including mine, homeschooling does works and it works well. It might not look exactly like the school system and our kids might not learn on the same schedule that other kids are taught within the school system, but our kids are learning. They are flourishing in their own ways and on their own time schedule.

Homeschooling your child is a very personal decision. If you have chosen to homeschool and you are receiving negative remarks or perhaps even digs at you or your decision, know that this isn’t about anyone else. Maybe those people simply don’t understand the benefits that can come from homeschooling; maybe they just don’t like people stepping outside the box; maybe they don’t understand the desire to teach. It doesn’t matter what they think… this is simply about your family and what you have deemed to be best. Don’t worry about the naysayers or the forced timelines that they may feel is best when it comes to learning. Take your days one day at a time, teach your children according to their abilities and interests, and know that you can do this!

At the Tennessee Aquarium learning about marine life

 

 

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Charla Ink Slingers Saints

I am not brave.

bbraveHave you ever watched movies about heroic feats and actions of larger than life individuals who defeat the odds, brave adversity, and survive against something insurmountable? Have you heard real-life news accounts of courage and resilience? I have watched many of these types of films, heard many of these stories, and instead of walking away feeling validated as a human being and empowered, I feel downtrodden and vulnerable. I enviously look at these characters and say to myself, “I could never do that!” However, I do often think, “Maybe I underestimate myself?” or “I never know unless I was placed into that situation,” but deep down, I have to admit to myself, and now to you, that I am not brave. If I were stranded on a deserted island, would I build a hut, talk to a volleyball, and learn to fish to eat? Probably not. If I were stuck with my hand in between two rocks, could I drink my own urine and sever my own hand in an attempt to survive.  Not likely.  No, I am not brave.  

What makes these stories great is the superhuman ability to go beyond what an average person could do.  I am quite average, and I have never thought there was anything great within me. In a society that values physical prowess and fortitude, I find myself at a loss and very mediocre, but if I am able to focus on the spiritual side of things, I find that I am not so drab. If I try to compare myself to characters who are physically strong and powerful, I fail, but if I strive for a life of sainthood, though it seems harder in many ways, I don’t feel like so inadequate. God gives us all different gifts, but he enables us all to gain heaven. We are all superhuman in this regard.

teresa-of-avila-72-webWe are lucky to have role models in the form of the saints. St. Teresa of Avila taught me to step away from the physical focus of appearances and the romance of the world and seek the romance of the Kingdom. St. Francis models the ability to reject worldly material wants and search for the want for Heaven. St. John Paul II enables me to accept what is needed of me and embrace it as part of God’s Will, as well the ability and necessity of forgiving others. St. Catherine of Alexandria helps me embrace my intellect as a means of evangelization and conversion. St. John of the Cross shows me a poetic life of beauty and words. St. Thomas makes me feel that my normal doubts are a part of being human and I too can become a saint despite these doubts.

I need these examples to prove to myself that I can be courageous and extraordinary, if I choose. I choose the unpopular path of Catholicism and bravely pursue a Faith and Truth aside from the mainstream. For some reason, I feel I actually have the tenacity to survive—spiritually. My mind and my spirit unite, just as for some the mind and body unite, to accomplish great things.

When I tell myself that I am not brave, I have to realize that it is a standard to which I do not wish to adhere. When I tell myself I can be courageous, it is because God has enabled me with the desire and the will. He has blessed me with that longing for Him and I have been brave enough to listen and be receptive to it. This has to be a daily decision to be strong and tenacious in this way. I fail often, but I have to continue despite the difficulties. So may I am indeed extraordinary and brave because God has enabled me to be.

“Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections, but instantly set about remedying them — every day begin the task anew.” St. Francis de Sales

How have the saints influenced you to be brave in spirit?

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Ink Slingers Karen Prayer Priesthood Vocations

Praying for Our Priests

Recently two reports were made public by the German Catholic Bishops’ Conference. In one, the results of a survey are presented claiming a disparity between the realities that families face and the teaching of the Catholic Church. In another separate survey results report, it was discovered that an estimated 58% of priests in Germany pray every day and 54% go to confession no more than once per year.Pray for Our Priests

When I first read this, I was floored. It hadn’t honestly occurred to me that it could be a common thing for a priest to not go to confession frequently or not even pray every day. But as I thought about it, I wasn’t all too shocked. Priests are human too and in need of prayer like the rest of us. But unlike the rest of us, they have a responsibility to morally guide hundreds or thousands of individuals and the onslaught of cultural sins that can’t help but to seep into every individual’s life of which priests are not immune cannot help matters. They are perpetually hit with their own and everyone else’s sins daily. And yet, they are expected to keep on; faithful and strong, they must lead the flock. Can any of us do this?

There has been more than one study that linked the likelihood of success in religious formation and practice by children into adulthood with the faithfulness and encouragement of their mothers and fathers. It’s pretty simple- if your mom and dad pray every day and attend Mass, chances are you will too. The same goes for our priests- our spiritual fathers. If our priests are strong, faith filled, and practicing the sacraments, it will resonate in how their flock worships.

In the words of St. John Vianney, “Without the priest, the passion and death of our Lord would be of no avail. It is the priest who continues the work of redemption here on earth…What use would be a house filled with gold, were there no one to open its door? The priest holds the key to the treasures of heaven: it is he who opens the door: he is the steward of the good Lord; the administrator of His goods…Leave a parish for twenty years without a priest and they will end by worshiping the beasts there..The priest is not a priest for himself, he is a priest for you.”

Our parents who pray and go to Mass also go to their priests for guidance. But who do our priests have here on Earth to turn to for guidance, other than other priests? No one. As such it is no small wonder that they can become weary, complacent, or deal with spiritual dryness.  And when that happens, it seeps into the life and vitality of the church family they minister to.  Often people approach their parish priest for only two things: to get a sacrament or to get spiritual direction in a time of crisis. How often are they approached to be told what a blessing they are to their community? Or how they are appreciated for standing up for life or for having such a reverence for the Eucharist? How can we expect our parish priest to stay strong and resilient in spite of cultural norms and wayward and complaining parishioners without any encouragement or prayer on their behalf? It seems an unreasonably high expectation, and though they have taken on the vocation of the priesthood, and to some extent this situation is par for the course, it is good for the laity to charitably attempt to reduce some of those more bitter aspects.

So, what can we do for our priests to strengthen them, encourage them, and help remind them how what they do is for the greater glory of God and actually is accomplishing something?

Try doing some of the following to support your own parish priest:

-The priesthood is the love of the heartPray for your priest

Start a novena for the priesthood and seminarians

Invite your parish priest over for dinner

Compliment your priest after Mass about something they said during the homily that made you think

Praise your priest for standing up for life and Church teaching

Thank your priest for the reverence they have in the consecration and distribution of the Eucharist

Write them an anonymous card

Write a thank you note after getting helpful spiritual direction to let them know what a blessing their wisdom has been for you and your family

These are just a few things we as the faithful laity can do to support and encourage our priests!

What else can you suggest we do to show our priests how important they are in our lives?