The Fountain of Youth

15651412945_345963fee3He gently caressed her beautifully curved back as she sat patiently awaiting her lunch that he so devotedly cooked. She looked up at his face when she felt his soft touch as he passed, shuffling his sore feet, to sit next to her.

“I love you.” she said truthfully, to her husband of almost 60 years.

“Well give me some sugar, I need some’n sweet!” says he, always trying to get her warm smile to shine on him.

They kiss, and then they thank the Lord for their food and for each other. The sound of their spoons tinging against the bowls begin to fill the air.

The fountain of youth is sometimes believed to be an actual body of water. I believe, however, the “fountain of youth” is love.

How often do you feel like a little child when someone tells you they love you, just because? How low do we feel when we are not loved by someone? I believe that the love we bestow to one another is just a splinter of how cherished we are by Jesus.

To be a child of God, to know that we are loved by Him, and to truly become a child in spirit, these are elements of the proverbial fountain of youth.

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. ~ Gal 3:26-27

The Bible consistently tells us we must become like children to enter heaven. God wants us to learn this valuable lesson…to love everyone, to be like a child – and love unconditionally.

…Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it. ~ Mark 10:14-15

If we read further in this gospel, Jesus explains that we all must become children of God by following the Commandments and ridding ourselves of worldly treasures. (Mark 10:17-23).

Witnessing true love can give us a glimpse of heaven. Have you ever seen a newlywed couple and how in love they are? Imagine that “honeymoon phase” in our older years. We all should be so blessed to have childlike joy in our lives until we meet Jesus in heaven no matter if we have the vocation of marriage, holy orders, or single life.

“He’s my man!”, she says with a proud smile as she drapes her lovely arms around him.

He smiles and asks, “I am?!”, as he knows how to get her to laugh. He likes to keep them both young at heart. He adores his bride just as Jesus cherishes the Church.

They begin to sing “You are My Sunshine” to one another as they smile and gaze into each other’s ardent eyes. They hold hands and kiss once more. ‘I love you’ echoes within the walls of the home.

Is this fountain obtainable for all of us? How is this possible? I contemplate these questions as I strive to love my husband better daily, and we aim to raise our children to hold onto unconditional love to spread to others. The Bible has all the answers if we trust and obey.

Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers; but their delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law they meditate day and night. They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all they do, they prosper. ~ Psalms 1:1-3

This explains that we must keep at the foot of the cross. We must obey His Commandments, love thy neighbor, and do not fall into temptation to be unloving to Christ. Love is our fountain. We are those trees planted, and it is up to each of us to yield our fruit, through the gifts of the Holy Spirit, at the appointed time for God’s greater glory.

It may take years of contemplation, prayer, trust and obedience to achieve the fountain of youth. We can ask the saints and spiritual directors to intercede and pray for us. We can enlighten our minds by reading pieces that open us up to understanding. Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ, was a priest in the 20th century who had a deep spirituality and sense of justice.  He was an expert at spiritual exercise after all he had endured.

Nothing is more practical than finding God, than falling in Love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, whom you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazed you with joy and gratitude. Fall in Love, stay in love, and it will decide everything. ~ Fall in Love – Attributed to Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ (1907-1991)

He shuffles into the living room after taking a moment for himself, possibly in silent prayer, “What’cha doin’ hun?”, as he sees his beautiful wife.

“Well I’m lookin’ at you now!” she chuckles as she admires her groom.

He bends slightly and pats her head of satiny white hair. She smiles softly, knowing how loved she is. He sits himself down across from her, so as to gaze upon her natural beauty. Love fills these walls. Love is their fountain of youth. Let it be yours’ too.

All glory be to God; let us run to Him as His child.

 
photo credit: Senior couple – Stock via photopin (license)

I don’t deserve a baby.

 

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I never would have thought it during the time that the grief was so bleeding raw and crippling. In the days and months after our miscarriage, I felt angry and sad and shocked and despairing.  Losing our baby ripped my world apart and it felt like it would never, ever be quite right again.  In the years since I’ve realized that while the grief lessened and the wound healed, the life – and loss – of that baby changed me forever.  Losing a baby taught me things that I don’t think I could ever have understood otherwise.  Perhaps greater and more important than all of these lessons, though, is this:

I don’t deserve a baby.  No one does.

While mourning that baby was good and right, that baby did not ultimately belong to me.  A baby is not something to which I have a right and should never be treated as anything other than the undeserved gift that he or she is, however short the time it is given.  This is the lesson that crept into my heart and has grown with each subsequent pregnancy.

The Christian worldview is different from so many others throughout history – and still today – in that it sees in each and every human being the image of God.  It unequivocally expects its followers to treat every person as such.  Each and every human being is a separate and unique person with equal dignity, their worth never to be found in their ability, their usefulness, their attachment to another, their heritage, any personal character trait, their sex, color, or size.  This is why slavery is an abomination.  This is why we see the disabled as precious and equal in worth to anyone else.  This is why women are to always be treated as equal in dignity to men.  This is why racism is abhorrent.  This is why a child is not considered the property of its parents.  A child should always and every time be a gift.

And this is one of the reasons why Christians cannot accept procedures and rituals that treat a baby as something one can create at will or that someone has the right to have.  No one has the right to a baby because no one has the right to another human being.  Husband and wife open themselves up in their love to the gift of a child but it is never something that can be demanded or expected or earned.  A child is entrusted to its parents and the parents receive the gift of caring for this irreplaceable and unique new image of God, not because they’ve somehow shown how much they deserve it but because God willed to give it.  It should always and every time be freely bestowed, not demanded or manipulated.  We do what we can to make sure our bodies are working according to the way He designed, that they are healthy and functional and working properly, yes.  But the ultimate gift of a new life placed in that body is His to give.

Babies and children are to be treated with equal dignity and worth as any adult.  Care and teaching and guidance are needed, of course, and they are not equal in intelligence or ability or usefulness.  But that is of no matter to the Christian.  Their inherent dignity is always equal to any other human being, from the moment, nay, even before the moment, that they exist. While natural and divine law give the husband and wife authority to welcome the gift of a child and the rights to make decisions in the care and wellbeing of that child, they are never to be seen as somehow earning or owning the child.  They must be treated with respect and love and their dignity never violated.  Likewise, their worth can never be attached to how much they were wanted or planned, sick or well, convenient or not.

The gift from that child we lost to his or her younger siblings was a mother who knows well she doesn’t deserve them, a mother with new eyes to see the fragility and profundity of the gift.  With each new life we have since been given (and with each subsequent year as I come face to face with the extent of my own limitations and failures as a mother), this knowledge and conviction grows stronger.  I am weak.  I am undeserving.  I am not at all worthy.  There are certainly other women out there struggling with infertility who seem so much more suited to the task than I am.  But His ways are not our ways.  Every new life given is only and every time a gift from Him.  God help me if I take that for granted or treat them as anything other than the beautiful images of God that they are.  God help us to create a world where every child is seen only as an undeserved and beautiful gift.

“A child is not something owed to one, but is a gift.”  Catechism of the Catholic Church 2378

Come Away and Rest

“This culture places too much pressure on new mothers to jump right back into everything right away when it should be encouraging others to take care of her so she can rest,” I’ve said to more than a few persons. “A menstruating woman isn’t supposed to be doing; she’s supposed to be being. It’s her time to rest and reflect. Her time for doing will come later,” I say to all my Natural Family Planning clients, and well, to anyone who will listen. It seems a lot of my work is encouraging people to take breaks. I finally decided to listen to my own advice. I gave birth about two months ago for the fourth time. My midwife gave strict orders for me to rest. For the first week I should be primarily lying or sitting, she said.

My husband and I at home showing Mateo to his older sisters on the day of his birth.

My husband and I at home showing Mateo to his older sisters on the day of his birth. 

So that’s what I did. Unlike with the births of my daughters, where I know I did too much too soon, this time I stayed lying or sitting, and I slept a lot. I noticed how much sooner my body was healing this time around. One day, while I was lying in my bed, just awake from my nap with my son and now nursing him, I thought about rest.

It’s really hard to rest — at least it is for me, and I suspect it is for many people. There’s always so many volunteer opportunities for some very worthy causes. There’s work, appointments, bills, housework, meals, kids, and on and on. It seems there’s more to do than any of us has time for. After having just given birth, however, there were all the same things to do, but I knew that it wasn’t my job to do them. My job was to rest. It struck me as an odd thing. It was obvious to me that God’s will for me at that moment was not to do, but to be. In fact, if I had jumped out of bed at that moment and started trying to do a bunch of housework, pay bills, answer emails, and the like, I knew I would be going against God’s will.

Why has that never struck me before? In fact, every Sunday God calls me to rest, yet how often do I do instead? It seems like such a loving command from such a loving God. To realize that God doesn’t want me to run myself ragged into the ground with accomplishing so many things, to think that God doesn’t want me to be stressed or frantic with finishing the maximum amount of tasks in the most efficient way possible, but instead He says to me, “Come away by yourself to a deserted place and rest awhile.”

It seems to me that to rest is an act of humility. I must be humble enough to know that everything does not depend on me. Others are capable too. I must avoid the temptation to become indispensable in order to empower others to do the work so that I can rest when needed. Resting is an act of trust. I must trust in God that the necessary things will get done, and again, that all does not depend on me. Finally, to rest is to affirm our own dignity. Unlike the gods of the ancients, the God of Abraham did not create people to be His slaves. We are created in the image and likeness of God, created with dignity, and therefore we must rest. We do not earn our worth by our accomplishments. Our worth is a free gift, and to rest is to live according to the dignity that is ours.

And now it is September. A frenetic month of back to doing for many people. Last year’s homeschooling was for me a year of anxiety. Were my children learning enough? Was I doing enough? Surely we needed to do more and learn more, and do it quicker and learn faster! I even looked into the possibility of sending my children to school for this year. Although I had felt when my oldest was five that God was calling us to follow the unschooling approach for our children’s education, I wondered if God was calling us to now abandon it. The school that would have been a good fit for us was already full however. That fact seemed like one instance among many that reaffirmed this path that we are on. Even though I always said that it didn’t matter when children learn to read as long as they do eventually learn it, I secretly worried about my ten-year-old. Last year she was reading slowly and not on “grade level”. Then, seemingly overnight, she was suddenly reading adolescent chapter books with ease. I guess I could’ve relaxed.

In my household responsibilities too, I keep hearing the whispers to let go and to trust. “My yoke is easy and my burden is light,” says Jesus. I need to listen and to learn this message, like when I let the messy living room or kitchen ruin my peace. I need to remember this message when I look at my to-do list and see that there are many things to get done, more than I have the time to do. I’ve been doing better at living in the present moment and being at peace with whatever task is before me, practicing peace when I snuggle with my baby while the laundry stays piled up, or even when dinner is late to the table. I keep telling myself that God will give me the time to do that which He wills me to do. Slowly, slowly I am learning that there is a way to go about my tasks that is rushed and full of anxiety, and there is a way of being that is calm and even restful in the midst of doing.

“Be still, and know that I am God.” Ps 46:10

 

 

PRAYER NEEDS: WHY and HOW?

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Today, Ladies and Gentlemen, we’re talking about neither mamas nor babies, pregnancy nor miscarriage. Today we’re talking about the other half of Elizabeth Ministry, RECLAiM Sexual Health™ and the effect that pornography has on our culture and the future of families. That’s basically mamas and papas, and all the kids as well!

 

The effect is huge. Critical. Your help is needed!

You probably watched the Olympics over the past month. Most of it was wonderful, full of glitz, guts and glory. But did you happen to see the burger-chain ad? (Maybe there was more than one; I’m just an old prude, but the one I saw on prime-time TV certainly raised my eyebrows!) I was embarrassed for the sake of parents whose children happened to be watching at the time. How has it happened that a company whose goal is to sell food uses pornography to sell it? (But, no, we’re not going there!)

Once upon a time, we had the “Legion of Decency.” Now someone (undoubtedly Satan!) has told us that we have the right to be indecent! Certainly God made man and woman and called them good, but that goodness came from the sacredness of man’s and woman’s sexuality. Something of great value is made to be protected and cherished. What we value is not meant to be paraded through mud or trampled by swine. (Matthew 7:6)

There are many websites and blogs, miles of statistics and acres of articles pointing out the direction of our culture. We know where it’s going! What can we do about it?

First of all we can pray!

At the beginning of each month you’ve noticed that this blog includes a list of prayer needs. Did you know that there is a (confidential) list of individuals who have agreed to pray consistently for the needs of Elizabeth Ministry, and more specifically, for RECLAiM Sexual Health? Some of these prayer ministers came through the RECLAiM website. Some of those individuals may be students of RECLAiM who are themselves fighting a porn habit and need to know that someone is praying for them and, in many cases, for the healing of their marriages. Some of our prayer ministers are monks and nuns who have taken a vow of celibacy. Some prayer ministers are EM chapter leaders and support personnel. If you would also agree to join us in consistent prayer, please sign up by emailing prayers@elizabethministry.com. Provide your name, an email address, and a simple statement of intent to pray with us. This prayer initiative does include, of course, the “mother and child” needs of EM, but is primarily a means of opposing Satan’s attempt to destroy families and relationships through pornography. Occasionally an “Immediate Need” email is sent out during the month, but the list of needs is generally identical to those that are posted with this first-of-the-month blog entry. So, sign up by emailing prayers@elizabethministry.com and let us know that you’re joining us in prayer.

Our second “to-do” is to educate ourselves about RECLAiM. For this, let me call upon my confrere in the next office to share with us some information:

Basically, what is RECLAiM?

RECLAiM is a fully Catholic, online subscription program [link] designed to help individuals acknowledge and rid themselves of a pornography habit and/or other unhealthy sexual behaviors. Each individual enlisting in the program chooses a screen name to maintain his/her anonymity.

What are the components of RECLAiM?

RECLAiM consists of 20-plus hours of teaching on the brain chemistry basis of porn habits, along with a set of exercises clinically demonstrated to help people break out of those habits. The daily exercises are supported by a tracking system to aid the individual in monitoring his or her progress. Each individual is assigned an online coach to answer questions and provide support and accountability. Members are also invited to join an online forum where they support one another in the practical steps toward freedom. The RECLAiM program is reinforced throughout with Catholic moral teaching, Scripture, Theology of the Body, and recommendations for the Sacraments.

About how many members are there?

The RECLAiM program has helped more than 2000 individuals. Several hundred are currently enrolled.

What can we ordinary people do to be “mini-ambassadors” of RECLAiM?

Go to the RECLAiM website to learn more about this approach to purity and freedom. At the website, order flyers for your parish and “Confession Cards” for your pastor to inform others of this path to freedom. Contact your diocesan “Family Life Office” and tell them about RECLAiM Sexual Health. And of course, donations are necessary to keep the program financially healthy.

And from there we go back to the beginning: PRAY! Please do join us! Every family, every parent and every child needs your help, and most of all, we need the help of our Almighty Lord, Jesus Christ.

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SEPTEMBER, 2016, PRAYER NEEDS

of Elizabeth Ministry/RECLAiM

Faithful Lord, Jesus Christ, we are so blest to be calling on your Name and presenting these needs to Your Father and ours:

+ for the spread and success of the RECLAiM Sexual Health™ program in dealing with pornography addictions throughout the world.

+for individuals who are enrolled in the RECLAiM program, for their determination and success in breaking their addiction to pornography.

+for healthy marriages and families, and for those experiencing tension and crisis.

+for the healing and reconciliation of previously unhealthy parent/child relationships.

+ for greater respect for the authority of parents, governmental officials and law officers.

+for the legal protection of all human life, from natural conception to natural death.

+for those who live in physical, mental, moral or spiritual danger, that they might experience God’s protective power.

+ for the continued healing of premature baby boy, Aneal (“ah-nah-yel”), who will be undergoing additional surgery in mid-September to complete his undeveloped digestive system, and for his parents.

+Thank you, Lord Jesus, that premature baby, Lilly, is finally home with her twin sister, Brooke, and her family!

+for couples who experience infertility, those undergoing difficult pregnancies, and those who grieve the death of their children, that they may receive support and comfort.

+for refugees and those affected by or involved in human trafficking, that they may know God’s love and mercy, and receive the help they need.

+for EM volunteers, members, and all those with physical needs, especially for Gerrie, Judy, Sue, and Sue’s son who has bone issues, that they may experience the Lord’s healing presence.

+for the financial needs of Elizabeth Ministry, and for generous donors and volunteers.

+for the needs of those who join us in prayer.
……….and again, Lord Jesus, Thank You for the privilege of knowing, loving and serving You in this world, and looking forward to Your Presence in eternal Life! Amen!!

photo credit: Prayer is vital at SMBC via photopin (license)

For the Moms Who’ve Been Flattened by Motherhood

This week we have a guest post from Shannon. Evans. Shannon believes that we all belong to each other.  A wife and mother of three boys through birth and adoption, she enjoys scrubbing sticky furniture, hosing mud off children, and rushing to the ER to have nails extracted from small intestines.  Shannon blogs about faith, motherhood, and the beauty of humanity at We, A Great Parade.

There are some moms for whom motherhood is a manageable thing.  They feel the ups and downs, the stretching, the lack of time, the lack of sleep, the lack of personal space; but it’s never just all too much.  They’re never pushed over the edge.  They always manage to keep it together, despite the growing pains or the twists along the way.  And to these moms I say with all sincerity, “well done! The human race might not have survived without you.  I am so glad there are women like you out there!”  I certainly deal with my fair share of jealousy, but I truly am glad that some women find motherhood to be something short of soul-crushing.  I’m just not that woman and, if you were drawn to this post by the title alone, then neither are you.

flattened 1

I have always loved being with children and have always wanted to be a mom, even as a little girl.  When we began pursuing adoption I had grand images in my mind of the kind of mother I would be.  What I saw in my mind’s eye was a woman strong but kind, firm but soft, disciplined but playful: I imagined myself a woman capable.

A day after landing on American soil as a brand new mother, my own mama asked what I was most looking forward to about this season.  My answer was something along the lines of “doing it really well, making it go really smoothly, so that Eric will want more children soon”.

No pressure, self.

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I was not prepared for adoptive motherhood, I’ll go ahead and say it.  We were living in Indonesia when we went through the process and got very, very little training in therapeutic parenting beforehand and had no connection to other adoptive families.  That does not exactly set one up for success.  It was only a matter of time before traditional parenting practices began failing us left and right.  By the time Alyosha turned three, all of my incapabilities were resounding off the walls of our home.  I was deeply attached to him, derived great joy from his little personhood, and loved that we belonged together.  But there was no escaping the fact that I was sinking.

I was flattened by motherhood.

But even with my face pressed to the floor, I knew it was good.  It was the very best thing that could have happened to my soul.  “His strength is made perfect in my weakness”.  What took me a little longer to realize is that “His strength” still doesn’t often “look” strong.  Often it looks like enough grace to hold on, enough grace to be humbled, enough grace to break open and love the world a little more.

When I got pregnant with Moses, I was thrilled.  Already being a mom while preparing to have your first baby definitely has it’s challenges, but one perk is that you don’t do that thing first time moms do where you hold rigidly to your expectations and plans and parenting methods you’ve determined to be The Right Way.  You’re flexible because you’ve already experienced how it can all blow up in your face anyway.

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That being said I still had my preferences, I just held them more loosely.  I planned to give birth with certified Nurse-Midwives in an esteemed local birthing center, but I was open to ending up in the hospital if that’s what needed to happen.  I planned to breastfeed but I knew that sometimes that doesn’t work out either.  Basically, my ultimate birth and newborn plan was something like this:

have a baby, be his mother.

But none of us are exempt from having hopes, no matter how much we temper them with the understanding of other possible outcomes, and I was no exception.  I felt empowered through learning about natural childbirth, reading testimonies of women who are strong and focused during labor, watching The Business of Being Born and admiring the woman who pushed her baby out in the birthing tub without making a sound, so intense was her concentration.  I didn’t have that expectation of myself, but the very idea that it was possible intrigued me.  Natural childbirth, it seemed, was all about the breathtaking strength of a woman.

I spent about two hours in the birthing tub and finally had to get out when I threw up in it.  Do you know what I was not feeling?  Strong.  For THREE AND A HALF HOURS I pushed a baby with a head twisted under my pelvic bone.  Do you know what I was not feeling?  Capable.  Finally, the midwife cut an episiotomy and I was able to bring my precious baby boy into the visible world.  It was one of the greatest moments of my life.  And do you know what I felt?  Flattened.

Oh don’t get me wrong, it was amazing and I was happy.  But to be honest, I was too exhausted to have any strong mindfulness of the miracle of the moment.  I just wanted to sleep for a few weeks.  With my baby, of course.  I liked him.  ;)

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I had heard that women who give birth naturally recover more quickly, so I was kind of hoping to be the woman who was out of the house with babe in tow a day later.  But we all know that certain *ahem* things in labor can effect the length of recovery.  I didn’t leave the house for 2 weeks.

I want to be clear, this was a beautiful little season in my life.  I had so much family around to help, it was the Christmas holidays, and I had this amazing little person glued to me 24 hours a day.  In many ways, I loved it.  But when I look back, the word that comes to mind is flattened.  And it wasn’t until today, almost 2 years later, that I made the connection between bringing my first son into our family and bringing my second in.  The same thing happened both times.  Motherhood flattened me.

But the Good News for moms like me is that Scripture says we are the clay and He is the potter. What must happen to clay before it can be molded?  It must be flattened.  It must be pressed and pushed and kneaded beyond recognition.  And then and only then can it be made into something beautiful, something useful, something able to hold that which another needs.

flattened 5

The Good News for moms like me is that the Poor in Spirit are blessed, and they shall see God.  I can attest to this, not because I am so great or so holy, but because I am so flat and so poor.  Motherhood has flattened me, but it has also gifted me with new eyes to see God.  I see His generosity towards me when I look at my children.  I see His love for me when I realize that He was indescribably more flattened for me than I could ever, ever imagine myself to be.  I see His presence here when I see other parents make mistakes even as they try their best.  I see Him in neighbors that don’t like me, I see Him in moms that parent differently than I do, I see Him in my husband who suffers with me.  And yes, I see Him in me.  Because I know that the kind of love that allows itself to be flattened yet continues to love relentlessly doesn’t come from me.

And you, flattened mamas of the world, I see Him in you too.

This post was originally published here and has been reprinted with permission.

Back to School Again…

Please join us in praying for our urgent prayer request: For preemie Lilly’s health needs. Her twin sister, Brooke, is out of the hospital, but Lilly has heart problems and now severe bronchitis, and is in isolation. Please pray for her, her parents and her twin sister.

….. 

28503803912_78f70cca45It’s hard to believe, but it is that time of year again. Summer is almost over, and parents are preparing to send their children back to school. For some parents this is a joyful time of year, but for me I send my daughters back to school with very mixed feelings.

After my daughters were born, my favorite time with them was before they were old enough to go to school. I loved the feeling of keeping them at home, almost like being in a little cacoon. Now that they are older, I dread the day each year when I will have to relinquish them during the day. I even tried homeschooling for a few years in my quest to keep them at home with me. As they get older, for our family at least, I have realized that there are others that are better qualified to teach my daughters. I also think they wanted more of a social life than spending all day with at home with their Mom. I enjoyed homeschooling much more than they did.

This year, my oldest daughter will be entering high school. This is very exciting time for her, and for the rest of the family. I can’t wait to see all of the activities she will find to become involved in, and to see all of the new friends she will make. She will embark for high school on her own, as she leaves her younger sister behind in middle school. Her younger sister will be in seventh grade and will finally be able to play school sports in addition to her club teams. She is looking forward to it, just as the rest of our family is. No matter how excited I am for them, I can’t stop that feeling of sadness caused by knowing that soon the house will be empty all day.

I always thought my Mom looked extra happy in the fall as she waved to us on that first day of school. I now think that maybe after we turned the corner and were out of sight her smile may have become wet with tears. I know that parents today have a lot more things to worry about than my parents did. These differences are the things that cause me to worry about our children.

The first few weeks of school, our children will be taught how to deal with every possible scenario that may happen at school. As kids, we practiced in tornado and fire drills. We knew that bad weather and fires could happen, but we also knew they probably wouldn’t. We usually welcomed the little extra time outside practicing fire drills. My girls will learn what to do in case of tornado or fire, but they also learn what to do in case of an intruder or group of intruders with or without guns. They learn lockdown procedures, and they learn what to do when confronted by a gunman. Unfortunately, unlike fires and tornadoes, my girls know that this could actually happen. They hear about it on the news way too often, and it is becoming more frequent. The drills are necessary for their safety, but they are also very scary to them. We have many conversations during the first two weeks of school explaining that they don’t need to worry. But, as their Mom I will worry and I will trust that God will keep them safe.

School Picture Anybody else worry about what their children are exposed to at school? I know I certainly do. Today there is a wealth of information at our children’s fingertips. This is certainly something that wasn’t available to me. My daughters go off to school with their smart phones, iPads, and they will also each have a Chromebook at school. As parents in this age of technology, we need to be certain of the security measures the school has taken. Maybe I worry about this more than most parents because I work with people who have pornography addictions, but it is something that we need to be vigilant about. When you look at statistics of how many young people have been exposed to pornography and at very early ages, it is very scary. This is one area that parents need to be sure to protect their children. Do you know your children’s usernames and passwords to all of their devices? This is one step that helps me to worry less. I am also one of those annoying parents that monitors my daughters’ social media accounts. I don’t read many posts, but I do check in on them. I think they know not to post anything they don’t want me to read, because they know I will be checking up on them.

When I was in school, we didn’t have bullying to the extent young kids do now. We had the playground bully, but usually we just ignored the bully and went on with our lives. Bullies have gotten so much better. Our children can be targeted at school, but it can continue after school because of the use of computers. It is difficult to deal with a bully in the classroom, but much more so when it is a cyber bully. It is so easy for someone to attack a child this way, and difficult to stop it. This is another reason that I am the annoying monitor of social accounts. We had a child videotape one of my daughter’s classes without the teacher or anyone else knowing. The tape was posted on a social media account against the school’s technology use policy. Thankfully it wasn’t to bully anyone or to do anyone harm, but imagine if that videotape was in a locker room or bathroom. It could have been an inadvertent mistake with disastrous consequences.

Gone are the days when we worry about playground accidents, although I have an accident-prone child so I still worry a little. We are into a generation that is so much more advanced than the last. As parents we can worry, but we need to be vigilant and protective of our children’s innocence. There are so many more concerns I could list, like the school curriculum, health class, etc. I think that this is a good place to start, and hopefully I have given you a few things to think about. As I send my daughters to school each day there are two things I say to lessen my worry:  “Jesus, I trust in You,” and a quote from the Bible, “For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11).  If I say these each morning, and repeat them whenever I begin to worry during the school day, I am reminded that they are in God’s hands each day when they leave mine.

 

photo credit: First Student #351 via photopin (license)

Mary – Who Do You Say She Is?

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We, as Catholics, call Mary, “Mother,” because she was the pure and holy vessel that God chose to be His Mommy here on earth. Mary is called Immaculate because she was conceived without sin. As we begin to learn more about, and love our Catholic faith, we not only get to know Jesus; but also the Holy Family; Jesus, Mary and Joseph. As we contemplate in prayer the Scriptures, we see the many roles that Mary played during her life on this earth. It is then that we come to realize why Mary was God’s choice.

 

Mary was a daughter.

She taught me how to be a daughter too. One day the Lord was dealing with me about my relationship with His mother. It was 1979 and I was in the kitchen in my home in Vernal, Utah. God said, “You do not love my mother, because you do not love your mother.” The word from my Heavenly Father was spoken clearly, yet in in silence. It happened in an instant, and I knew that it was the voice of God. I also knew that God had read my heart. I immediately repented. Then I began the journey of healing a wounded heart. Only God could lead me. I needed a spiritual surgery that only He could perform. For my spiritual needs, I sought prayer and wise counsel. For my natural, I made phone calls, bought presents, encouraged, visited, supported, and listened to my mom. I learned to know her; I learned to love her. It was a slow but steady journey, with the Holy Spirit as my GPS. God was right. As my relationship with my mom grew, so did my relationship with His Mother. Now I call Mary my Mother too and my mom and I are now best friends. She is my daily laugh. Just ask Deacon Pat. My mom will never be a Mother Teresa type like I had secretly hoped, one who serves the Lord with gladness and prays me through life’s challenges. Rather my mom is more like a Marie on the sit-com Everyone Loves Raymond. Liking her for who she was, and not wanting her to be who she was not was key to my healing. There is no perfect earthly mother. I learned that when our earthly mother fails to measure up to our idea of a perfect mother Mother Mary fills in the gaps. She is blessed indeed. God knew how much her children would need a Mother’s love.

 

Mary was a Mother.

She taught me along with God the Father how to be a mother too. When it came to motherhood, I was clueless. Before marriage I did not even like children. I rarely even babysat. In fact, I thought I would never have any children!. I had a long way to grow into a mother full of virtue and sacrificial love. I guess you could say that as I was teaching my children character and virtue; Mary and Jesus were teaching me the same. I needed all the grace and wisdom I could get. Trust me on this one. Hanging in our home when I was a young mother was a picture of Mary hanging the laundry.  It was next to the picture from the Family Circle cartoon where the house is a total wreck and the caption reads, “I thank you God for my blessings, but I could use a little help around this place too!” By comparing the look on that mother in the picture’s face with the look on the Blessed Mother’s face I was daily reminded how very human I was. Mary and Jesus to this day, I am convinced, look down from heaven at Ellen Mongan, mother of seven living children, and shake their heads at each other saying, “This truly this is the greatest miracle that we have done in her life. We have given Ellen a Mother’s Heart. “I thankfully agree; Jesus changed me completely, with a little help from His Mother.

 

Mary knew how to stand at the foot of the cross.  

Mary taught me how to stand at the foot of the cross too. Many people were there to wave the palm branches and welcome Jesus, into Jerusalem. BUT….. OH…, so few were waiting and praying just a few days later with the same Jesus at the foot of His cross. Jesus was facing His toughest hours of His suffering, His crucifixion, and His death, but so few, so few had come to show their love and their support for Him. At His Passion, Jesus was quite alone except His friends; John, Mary Magdalene, and His mother Mary. Isn’t that the way it is today? When a  new baby is born, a couple weds, or one  moves  into a new home; all friends and family come to  rejoice and celebrate; to eat, drink, and make merry. Then disaster strikes; sometimes like Jesus at the cross we are almost all alone. Our friends are nowhere to be found. Remember this friend, Jesus is there, and Mary is too. Also, those who have been taught to stand at the foot of the cross will be there. Mother Theresa said, “When you are at the cross, you are so close to Jesus that you can kiss Him.” Do you want to be close to Jesus? Do not be afraid to stand at the foot of the cross. You will find that that is where the grace is. You will discover that even if you feel you are alone God is closer to you there at the cross than ever before. You will be in good company because Mary is always willing to stand at the cross with one who is suffering.

 

Mary always points to Jesus.  I somehow felt like half a Catholic, without her. But I was to learn through my search that that just was not true. The heart is a work of God; not a work of man.  We must seek, pray, and wait. We must be led by God’s Spirit daily, listen to His still small voice, then do whatever He tells us to do. We must repent when we sin and surrender our hearts to Him. God will, as we yield, do a work in our hearts. We must never rush a work of God. As I was thinking on this, I began to see how Mary was in my life all along. I just did not see her. Why, I pondered? I did not see Mary because she was never drawing attention to herself; she was always pointing me to Jesus. Mary has taught me so much. She is a gentle woman who teaches wisdom and teaches us how to love. We as Catholics Christians are in the family of God. We have both a Father and a mother. Mary, our mother, has a lot she can teach us and she will if we but let her. ARE YOU WILLING?

Jesus cries out from the cross, addressing His Best Friend John, “John, behold your Mother.” Next, Jesus, in unbearable pain addresses His Mother Mary, “Mary, Behold your Son.” He says those same words to us today.  What is your answer?

 

photo credit: M&J — 24th street in noe valley, scott richard via photopin (license)