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Ink Slingers Marriage Maurisa Motherhood Spiritual Growth Vocations

That I Might Be Perfected in Him

Oh my, The Pioneer Woman, don’t you just love her?  Her life seems picture perfect.  She lives on a successful ranch with her handsome and adoring husband and their four well-adjusted, amazing children.  She’s a talented photographer, decorator, writer, homeschooler, and cook.  She has a show on the FoodNetwork, a magazine, a popular blog, a line of home and kitchen products, a retail shop, and just recently opened a beautiful lodge. Sigh. She is perfection. I write that with just the slightest tinge of envy.

The Struggle is Real

Like so many women, I’ve struggled with perfectionistic tendencies my entire life.  Growing up, my mother lovingly encouraged me, telling me God had great plans for me.  I believed that with my whole being, but what were His grand plans for me? In reality, He has chipped away at my ideas of greatness and perfection for the better part of 50 years and He continues to chip away.

Early in our marriage, I knew I was being called to let go of grandiose ideas of my own career in sacrifice to the very real demands of being a military wife.  I realized I could not support my husband’s Air Force career adequately if I pursued my chosen career as an educator and school counselor. With the arrival of our first child, I discovered my true vocation as wife and mother.  No problem.  I would be the perfect wife and mother; run the perfect household and raise perfect children.

Ha! Nothing turns a woman’s idyllic vision inside out quite like the gift of free-will given to her children.  Over the course of 18 years we were blessed with seven kids—all of whom were given very strong wills of their own and they wanted nothing of my perfection.  Thank God for them.  I needed that lesson desperately.  I needed to be shown I was not in control and I needed to let go of my idea of perfection.  

A short list of the perfections I’ve had to let go of over the years would include: 

-having a career outside the home in exchange for living in the shadow of my husband’s career and to be a hidden homemaker.

-cloth diapering, ecological breastfeeding, making my own baby food in exchange for convenience and sanity.

-a rock solid K-12th grade homeschool plan in exchange for allowing two of our children to attend high school outside our home.

-a clean and efficiently run home initially in exchange for naps, and books, and snuggling with my babies, and more recently in exchange for teaching our children how to do chores—even if they don’t do them perfectly.

-perfectly prepared and well-balanced meals in exchange for allowing our children to explore their own culinary tastes and talents.

-obedient and faithful children in exchange for strong-willed, independent children who may stray; because even if we parented perfectly, they still have free-will and must choose to follow Christ of their own accord.

-healthy, comfortable relationships with extended family in exchange for accepting and praying through messy, difficult relationships.

He is the Answer

With each case, He gently prodded me into letting go of my vision. Nudging me to lean into Him and to become ever more dependent upon Him and the kind of perfection He is calling me to.

To the best of my ability I try to cultivate the many talents I’ve been given and I’ve become adept at many things—I’m a writer, photographer, homemaker, homeschooler, gardener, etc. but I am not called to be The Pioneer Woman.  Slowly, I’ve handed over my ideas of perfection to God.  It has taken me many years to see, acknowledge, and embrace my littleness; for it is in my littleness that I best serve Him and my family.

“If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world ablaze!”—St. Catherine of Siena

Embrace the Littleness

Dear sistas, if we are completely honest, the vast majority of us are called to living out our our time here on earth in littleness.  It is in our hidden lives that we work out our salvation.  It is in quiet, humble, obedient service we can best become the saints we are called to be.  We are called to embrace imperfection and littleness so that we might be ever more perfected in Him. 

“Be patient. God isn’t through with me yet.”

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Ink Slingers

Theological Virtues

Did you know that faith, hope, and love are gifts from God?  Our catechism says of these theological virtues, “They are infused by God into the souls of the faithful to make them capable of acting as his children and of meriting eternal life (#1813).” The word merit causes angst in our separated brethren, but it means simply worthy. We are worthy of eternal life because we accept God’s gifts. Of course, we also have a responsibility once we accept them to “work out our salvation in fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12) because we are “created in Christ Jesus for good works (Ephesians 2:10) since “Faith without works is dead (James 2:17). They are both a gift and a task, and they work in concert.

My favorite philosopher Peter Kreeft illustrates the theological virtues several ways. He calls faith, hope, and love heaven’s actual gate, not just the way to get to the gate. He calls them the glue that attaches us to God and a three-legged stool that supports the whole Christian life. He calls faith the root, hope the stem, and charity the flower. He connects them: faith without charitable works is dead and without hope is impossible; hope without faith is wishful thinking and without love is selfish; love without faith is merely feelings and without hope is desperation. Like a pretzel.

The oft-memorized John 3:16 is a perfect example of the theological virtues moving from God to man: “For God so loved the world (love), He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes (faith) in Him will not perish but have everlasting life (hope).” Our belief moves us to act upon these gifts and live as children of light (Ephesians 5:8).

“Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to sir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another all the more as you see the day drawing near (Hebrews 10:22-15).” We are to take these theological virtues and do things: hold fast, help each other, perform good works, meet together. This will transform ourselves and the world; God’s kingdom will come.

“We give thanks to God always for you all, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brethren beloved by God, that he has chosen you, for our gospel came to you not only in word but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction (1 Thessalonians 2:2-5).” What a wonderful mix of God’s love and faithfulness with his people’s labors of love and hope. Not mere assent, but conviction and action. That is how we can walk as children of light. This is our responsive obligation to God and his kingdom for the theological virtues he pours into us at baptism. This is how we nurture them to maturity as we run the race with perseverance.

And we do not even have to work and run on our own. The Holy Spirit is our Comforter, sent to teach, convict, remind, and comfort us on this road that faith opens up for us. Pope Francis concludes
Lumen Fidei  (The Light of Faith) with a reminder that Jesus is the center of it all and a request of Mary to pray for us: “Mother, help our faith! Teach us to see all things with the eyes of Jesus, your Son, our Lord” We are also surrounded by a cloud of witnesses, all of us looking to our Lord, the author and perfecter of our faith.

Because these virtues are infused by God, I am humbled and mindful of my smallness near the great I Am who knows me and wants me to be happy with him forever. I am amazed and grateful that the Creator loves me and gives me gifts that will draw me closer to him. I am serious and attentive to the work involved in keeping these gifts supple and useful for the kingdom of God. When creation is fully renewed with a new heaven and new earth, there will be no more need for faith and hope, for we will have Jesus ever with us. But love will go on forever. Maranatha.

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Faith Formation Liz The Crossroads - Where Faith Meets Mental Health

Rest, Don’t Quit

rest, don't quit

Catholic women work hard. Understatement of the millennium, right? We nourish and nurture relationships, create and raise precious lives, look well to the ways of our households, and bring our feminine genius to endeavors within and outside of the home. We are wives, consecrated religious and singles, mothers and teachers and healers and warriors and executives and intellectuals. We rock the cradle and rule the world.

This work that we do is important and holy. If you’ve ever doubted that, just take a look at Pope St. John Paul II’s words in the encyclical Laborem Exorcens:

“Work is a good thing for man-a good thing for his humanity-because through work man not only transforms nature, adapting it to his own needs, but he also achieves fulfilment as a human being and indeed, in a sense, becomes ‘more a human being’.”

But many of us do this important work while carrying heavy personal crosses: mental or physical illness, care for an ailing family member, financial strain, or broken relationships lay heavy on our shoulders as we go about our daily business.  Our own personal weaknesses, quirks and sins also add weight—just ask your favorite perfectionist, worrywart, procrastinator or control freak!

help at workSo through the brokenness of the world, others and ourselves, work often morphs from a holy endeavor to a painful drudgery or all-consuming monster. We work and work and go and go until we can go no more. Many times, we ignore our own physical, mental and spiritual well-being until we crash under the weight of illness and sin. This is not healthy or holy behavior. Work is not a god, and martyring ourselves in its name won’t bring us happiness in this world or the next. But what’s the alternative? In our increasingly extreme society, we imagine the opposite of working is quitting. We envision our lack of participation equates to sinful laziness and apathy, our families and finances falling apart.  But there is another way.

“If you get tired, learn to rest, not to quit.”

This quote, popularly attributed to the famous graffiti artist Banksy, perfectly describes the Catholic counterpart to work. It’s the antidote to the overwork and crash cycle that secular society perpetuates. Rest seems like a stupidly simple idea, almost insulting to suggest. Of course we’ve all tried to rest! We snag minutes on the Internet or the couch, squeeze a date or a girls’ night into our already-crowded calendars, or nervously tap our fingers on the kneelers at Adoration, peeking at the clock to see when our hour is up.

But true, holy rest, like all things Catholic, goes much deeper than meets the eye. Rest from our labors requires practice and focus. Far from being a fall-back or a lame excuse for not working, rest should be an intentional part of our daily lives and yearly calendars, waxing and waning in tune with our personal circumstances. Rest increases our virtue, refreshes our souls, and heals our bodies and minds for another round of holy labor for the Lord.  Below are just a few practical ways we can rest and the fruits we can gather while doing so:

  1. Ask for help: If you’re overwhelmed with the tasks on your to-do list, ask a friend, family member or co-worker to help you carry your cross. More often than you might imagine, people are happy to help with an hour of babysitting, a hot meal, or a housekeeping project. Admitting that you can’t do it all grows you in humility and reaching out in your time of need requires courage.
  2. Start from the beginning: The very, very beginning, like Genesis. God showed us the perfect way by resting from all his good work on the Sabbath, so imitate his holy relaxation by taking time out from your labor on the Lord’s Day. Your email and laundry can wait, and heeding the Scriptural mandates of our faith is a great way to practice holy obedience.
  3. Be intentional: There’s a good reason so many monks eat and work in silence: they’re giving their full attention to whatever God has called them to do at that exact moment in time. Imitate their focus and intentionality by hallowing your times for relaxation. Whether you’ve got fifteen minutes or a whole week, don’t waste it by dwelling on the job you’re going to do next or worrying about the future. Cultivate diligence in your leisure and time with the Lord, and you’ll be all the more rested when it’s time to get back to the grindstone.
  4. Go with the flow: On the flip side, most of us aren’t in a cloister. No matter how much we’d like to focus on our times of rest, urgent phone calls, children with boo-boos, and unexpected obligations are a part of life in the world. Putting aside rest temporarily, and picking it back up gracefully (over and over and over again!) helps us grow in patience, perseverance and inner peace.
  5. Counter the culture: Rest doesn’t necessarily mean a fun social activity, a pricey vacation or a self-indulgent Netflix binge (although there’s a place for all these in a well-balanced life)! Much of the time, rest is simply about ceasing our labors in order to honor the Lord, our loved ones, and ourselves. What that looks like varies according to your own personal devotions and family, but choosing our ways of rest, and lessening our dependence on the world’s definition of leisure takes both bravery and wisdom.

Catholic women work hard, of that there’s no doubt. But let it be said not only that we rock the cradle and rule the world, but that we refresh and repair a tired and jaded society by our holy rest in the Lord.

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Domestic Church Erika D Homeschool Homeschool Raising Saints Reviews

Virtues Program Review & Giveaway for the {Catholic} Home & School

Rosary QuiltThis is not your normal homeschooling article as this program can be used by any Catholic parent, a Catholic Virtues Program integrating the beautiful Holy Rosary into it!

About a month ago I noticed my children ages 4, 6, 8, 9, and 16 were bickering more than usual!  It was a little upsetting to see them act this ugly way towards one another as we do all the “right things” as a Catholic family.  We pray the Rosary daily right after lunch, we read about the lives of the saints, we use a Catholic Curriculum which incorporates the Faith across the board (OLVS), and we go to Mass every Sunday as well as often as possible during the week!  We even recently participated in a Rosary Procession in the streets near downtown Scranton, PA and this coming Sunday will participate in a Eucharisti Procession!  All these thoughts raced in my brain as I saw them calling each other names I cannot print here and which are NOT allowed to be uttered in my home.  No longer did they want to help each other with chores and the constant bickering was driving me insane!  For goodness sake, we even go to the High Mass of the Latin Mass, aren’t all Latin Mass children supposed to just *know* how to behave in a virtuous manner?  I guessed not.

This brought me to the realization that I needed to be more proactive in my integrating the virtues into our daily routine.  I went Googling for virtues, Christian virtues, and  even Catholic virtues and found a plethora of information on virtues. The CCC tells us, “Human virtues are firm attitudes, stable dispositions, habitual perfections of intellect and will that govern our actions, order our passions, and guide our conduct according to reason and faith. They make possible ease, self-mastery, and joy in leading a morally good life. The virtuous man is he who freely practices the good. The moral virtues are acquired by human effort. They are the fruit and seed of morally good acts; they dispose all the powers of the human being for communion with divine love.”

virtutesWhile reading through the virtues (cardinal and theological) according the Ancient Christian teachings (on morals [CCC #1749-#1802] and virtues [CCC #1803-#1845], these are under Part III, Section 1, Chapter 1, Articles 4 to 7 of the CCC), there are four cardinal (from “hinge”) virtues:

  • Prudence: discern the good in circumstance and the means to attain the same
  • Justice: constant and firm will to give what is due to God and neighbor
  • Fortitude: firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of good
  • Temperance: moderates the attraction of pleasure (natural elements of created goods) and balance in the utility of created goods

Further, there are three theological virtues. Their highest object is God.

  1. Faith: belief in God and his promises
  2. Hope: desire of God’s presence and trust in his Ways
  3. Charity: preference of God above all things, others and self being second, and things third

All this was wonderful information but HOW was I going to easily incorporate it into my already busy homeschooling day?  Then I remembered a book I received from Catholic author, Cassandra Poppe!  When you first look at the cover of this great books, you would not suspect that it is jam packed with so many practical ideas on how to incorporate and teach virtues using the Holy Rosary.  As I thumbed through her book entitled, The Rosary Quilt Manual, I realized I had the answer to my prayers right in my own home!  A virtues program that is Catholic and incorporates our beloved Rosary (my children love praying the Rosary, they can do it in English, Spanish and Latin but their favorite is to chant the Rosary – it’s really adorable and I know brings joy to Our Blessed Mother’s heart!)  It was such an answered prayer when I discovered this gem which sat collecting dust on my bookshelf for months!  So quickly I put the books into action and found that explicit teaching of the virtues was definitely something that I needed to do, implicitly by reading the lives of the saints and living out our Catholic faith was not enough!

books

So I contact the author Cassandra Poppe and she agreed for me to do a review of this beautiful program AND she would also give us a FREE PDF of the whole program to one of our readers!  Simple fill out as much as you can of this following form for your chance to win this amazing Catholic virtues program, The Rosary Quilt Manual comprised of  ONE digital file which will contain the books, poster and directions on how to make your own Rosary quilt.

In the meantime if you would like to visit Cassandra or check out this beautiful curriculum, you can like her page, see the product at her Etsy Store, Intercessories Family Ministry, LLC OR enjoy reading her amazing blog, Flectamus Genua where she shares her journey as a Catholic mother, homeschooler, and author.  Cassandra has started another great venture Christian Crafts for Children, join her group on Facebook for some really neat kits.

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