Landmarks

We were driving into Austin, TX so that Ben could run in the marathon (He’s insane, in my humble opinion. But he finished under his goal and we are super proud!). Per our usual arrangement, Ben was driving and I was navigating. I started chuckling to myself as I told him he would need to turn left ahead, and that there would be a Joe’s Crab Shack on the right. Usually, I don’t give him references like that, and he made a funny face. “What?” I said, “Google says so.” Within the directions on my phone it had not just what streets to turn on, but it also gave landmarks for most of them. This was new to us.

Google told us things like “Pass by the Pizza Hut on the left,” and “Turn before the Wendy’s across the street on the right.” I don’t think this is a feature everywhere (I ran a search from our house to base and didn’t get any helpful hints). But Austin is a major city, so I imagine this is the the next step for Google navigation.

I am more of a landmark based direction person. I can find my way around much better if I can connect a memory to the location or the steps in the directions. This was clear on the way back to the car when I found myself saying things like,”Oh we have to turn here because remember, John, you saw the longhorn statue,” and “I think we keep going straight because we need to pass the corner where that huge tree is.”

Landmarks, large and small, trigger memories. They cause us to think of something. The Statue of Liberty may bring forward memories of a visit to Ellis Island or perhaps your sophomore year high school history class learning about the Irish Famine and the immigrants who passed under her torch. A picture of Mt. Everest might make you think of endurance, persistence and the ultimate challenge. Maybe seeing the Grand Canyon or the Golden Gate Bridge will make you recall a favorite vacation or family who live nearby.

Landmarks

Our lives are filled with landmarks.  We all have favorite spots, restaurants, parks, places that hold fond memories. There are also landmarks that don’t necessarily hold memories, rather they serve as guideposts. They are the landmarks that help us remember how to get where we want to go. On our way to base, Clare, who is 3, can shout out at least 4 different landmarks along the route. There’s that coffee shop you pass on your daily run, which subconsciously lets  you know you only have 1 mile left until you are home. You pass by a pizza place or go over a bridge every time you go to your grandma’s house.

The Church, wise as she is, give us lots and lots of landmarks, both big and small. The big ones – the Vatican, the Sistine Chapel, Chartes Cathedral, The Chapel of the Nativity, and so so many more. The point of these immense spaces is to point our gaze heavenward. They are beautiful in their own right, but they are also beautiful because they show us a glimpse of a deeper reality. If you would like an example, check out this short (6 minutes) video excerpt from Bishop Robert Barron’s Catholicism series.

As reflective individuals, we have the opportunity to decorate our homes and environments. We surround ourselves with images, furniture, and necessities. Some of these items we need, like clothes, cooking supplies, food, etc. Others are more decorative – pictures on the wall, stylized couches and tables, calendars, books, clocks, and accessories. We can, and often do, place certain items with great care and in specific rooms. The dining table obviously goes in the dining room or kitchen. A pull-out couch or bed would be out of place in the patio.

Just as the everyday items of our home “belong” certain places, religious items too can have great significance on what goes on in that space. They serve as landmarks within our home, helping to guide our families’ day along paths of holiness. A crucifix in each bedroom is a great place to start. Many families have a small holy water font by the front door. Perhaps an icon of the Holy Trinity, whose image the family reflects, would fit well in your living or dining room. Our kids have an icon of their saint namesake in their bedrooms. Ben’s grandmother has a small photograph of a young refugee girl near her front door because it reminds her to pray for all those who will spend the day/night without a home, especially refugees. I have an icon of Mary and a few prayer cards scattered throughout the kitchen because they remind me to approach the day as Mary did, with a smile and a Yes to God’s will.

What sorts of landmarks do you have in your home that help you and your family keep on your path to holiness? Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

Ingrained

We were walking out of a Tiger Scouts meeting when Ben stopped us so we could look at a “cool cloud formation.” Ben, to remind you, is a pilot in the Air Force. He has been fascinated with space and flight since he was a small child. That fascination is so ingrained in him that I don’t think he even thinks about it anymore. Whenever he goes outside, he looks up. It’s like the reflexes that are built into our muscles.

ingrainedI quickly snapped a picture of those clouds, because they were cool. Ben makes me smile when he draws our attention to the sky. There is always a touch of wonder in his voice. He is sharing with me, and with our kids, a small piece of everything he has experienced in his 7+ years flying. It’s as if he’s saying “Look, just look at how incredible this space is. I can’t always take you with me, but I can share this piece with you. Look!”

Ben has been in love with the sky for so long, yet its lure remains. It hasn’t gone stale, he hasn’t moved on to other things. Not every day is easy, but I haven’t known him to have a day that he didn’t want to go fly.

As a Catholic, I want to capture the joy and enthusiasm that Ben has for flight and infuse it into my day. Imagine what my day, your day, could be like if we felt a similar level of enthusiasm for the liturgy or adoration? What if the thing that got me out of bed was the opportunity to read my Bible? What if every time I walked outside the beauty of creation was the first thing that captured my attention?

As a parent, I want to instill this kind of joy and enthusiasm for God in my children. I want them to wake up every day and reflexively thank God for the gift of life. I want them to know so deep in their hearts that God loves them unconditionally. I desire for them to seek out the sacraments, recognizing the overabundance of grace and mercy God wants to share with them. I hope that the foundation of love in our home ingrains within them the desire to know, love and serve God all the days of their life.

Today is Ash Wednesday. It is a day to remember that we are broken, we are flawed, and we are desperately in need.  It is also the first day of Lent, a day full of commitment and promise as we embark on our Lenten journey. For these next 40 days, where are you lacking in enthusiasm and joy for your faith? What are things you can do that can encourage you to deepen your love of God? I challenge all of you, just as I am challenging myself, to rediscover the wonder and beauty of Catholicism. Find a new book, memorize some Scripture passages, commit to an extra Mass or time in adoration. Don’t forget about the free 2018 Lent Lectio Journal. Lent is a more somber liturgical season, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be bursting with insights, discoveries and love.

Celebrating God’s Presence

The past few months I’ve felt like I’ve had to force my writing. Each time I have sat down to write, or even thought about writing, all my premises have been negative. Stories that were more on the down side of things, pessimistic, challenging moments or general mayhem that goes on in any household. It has been so frustrating, which just perpetuates the my negative Nancy attitude.

Last night as I was putting Eliza to bed I found myself going through the same old stories and feeling less than inspired. Then, something I can only describe as a God idea finally broke through my negative Nancy writers block. I finally stopped and asked myself what the whole point of this blog is. In case you need a refresher like I did, it is

Finding God in the everyday ordinary

And guess what? While yes, God can surely be found in the more challenging parts of life, that’s not all! God is in the giggles, the smiles, the jobs well done and the simple bedtime kisses. God is a God of joy, delight, simplicity and beauty.

The other night we decided to go out to dinner as a family because we wanted to celebrate the kids and some marked growth in their behavior and development.

Clare has been obsessed with what she calls “cutting projects.” Basically, she creates some kind of drawing, cuts it to smithereens, then presents it to a lucky recipient. Sometimes even before breakfast. At the start of this phase I mentioned (only once mind you) that she needed to clean up the scraps from her projects. I assumed this would be a recurring conversation. But it hasn’t been. In fact, she proudly tells me each time she finishes that she made sure to clean up all the scraps. She is 3!

Over the past 2 weeks there have been at least 2, maybe 3 instances where Rosie has demonstrated a remarkable about of patience and flexibility for a 5 year old. In each situation, she was the one with the last turn for something (like a turn on the iPad or playing a computer learning game) and the timing was such that she wasn’t going to get to have her turn. We had somewhere to go or something needed to happen that prevented her from taking her turn right then. Each time I explained the situation and asked if she would be ok to have her turn later in the day. Each time I braced for some kind of dramatic, throw down, probably going to be terrible reaction. And each time I found myself looking at a graceful, accepting and generally cheerful little girl who was willing to make the sacrifice of time for her family.

When John turned 6 it became his job to unload the silverware from the dishwasher. Just this week, he decided all on his own to unload the whole dishwasher. He can’t reach the cabinets where things are kept, so he made tidy piles of the plates, bowls and cups. He even did his best to match up the tupperware with their lids. When I came into the kitchen, he said to me, “Look Mommy, I did all the dishes so you won’t have to!” He has done this every day since. When did my little boy get so big and so generous? He is just 6 years old.

My kids have shown me what patience, self-sacrifice, obedience, duty, responsibility and empathy look like. What a gift! I’m not sure I ever thought as a mom of small kids I would say, “I wish I had John’s sense of responsibility,” or “I want to be more patient like Rosie,” or “I need to work on being more like Clare, taking care of my mess right away.” These everyday ordinary moments are what I want to focus on. They bring me joy, and I hope they brought you some joy as well.

I want to spend my time celebrating these God-given children. And I want to spend my writing uncovering the beautiful surprises God has in store for my day. Is He in the challenges, of course! But they don’t need to be the only places.

Haircut Day
The three big kids got their hair cut. My babies are so big!

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com