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.

Melting a Heart of Stone

Melting a Heart of Stone - Daily Graces.
By Sylda31 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
This day did not start out like a normal day. It actually started out as a rather terrible day. It was the day that Ben was coming home from a trip, which usually means it’s a day that is both exciting and awful all at once. Exciting because, obviously, Daddy’s finally coming home and the kids are bonkers, elated and otherwise screaming with joy. It is awful because time moves at its slowest speed and since we are all so excited our faces hurt from smiling, sometimes patience wears thin and tempers flare as we march through the day until he finally gets home.

Today was just such a day, except today started with one of my children, I won’t implicate them here, informing my still closed eyelids that there was potty on the couch while still dripping with it on the carpet in front of my bed. I flew out of bed to find indeed a soaking wet child as well as a drenched couch. Not only is Daddy coming home, now he is coming home to a pee-soaked former-favorite spot to sit.

Needless to say, I was not amused. I think my patience was forgotten in bed, probably still with my sleepy eyes and my temper was shorter than the coffee I had not yet drunk. With each paper towel, every squirt of any deodorizer I could get my hands on, and towel soiled, my heart hardened. The whole house smelled, breakfast still had to be made, children clothed and we had someplace to be by 10am. Oh, and I needed coffee. Badly.

Children truly are incredible in their ability to move on. The offending party was appropriately contrite, said all the right words and gave lots of hugs. They steered clear for a few minutes, recognizing that Mom was in rather a state. But only for a few minutes. Then, they were back to their happy-go-lucky selves, asking for extra juice and asking me to find a missing toy for them as if I wasn’t up to my elbows in pee and all manner of cleaners, almost desperate enough for a clothespin on my nose. Rather than being inspired by their uplifting attitude, it only fueled my stony heart.

I was turning into one of the disciples in the Gospel of Mark. They had just witnessed Jesus multiplying the loaves and the fish and now were looking across the sea to find Jesus walking to them in the midst of a storm. Mark says they were “astounded.” But at the same time, their hearts were hardened because they did not understand what Jesus was trying to tell them.

Jesus was trying to soften my heart through the cheerful attitudes of my children. Instead, I gave him the cold shoulder.

My mood, predictably, did not improve on its own. I needed some serious help. And thank goodness, I got it. We were driving to our morning event when Rosie asked to listen to the Vacation Bible School music that the kids had just finished that week. If it kept the car quiet and peaceful I was all for it so I turned it on, fading it to the back of course so that such uplifting, happy music wouldn’t influence my sour disposition (because who would want that? Clearly, I was stuck).

Then, very faintly, I heard the singing. I looked in the rearview mirror and saw John singing along to the song playing. Rosie quickly joined him. The next song they added some hand motions and even Clare tried to keep up, clapping and giggling. Slowly, my stony heart was melting. These beautiful, simple children, were praising God to the greatest of their abilities. They were filling the car with joy and adoration. Who was I to stand in the face of that worship, fold my arms and turn up my nose? Who was I to hold onto a grudge that I had to serve my family that morning, even if it was at a time not of my choosing or a task I was particularly fond of? I had been given an opportunity to serve my family with love, patience and and joy. I utterly failed on all counts.

The sweet joyful singing of my children brought me back to reality, sufficiently humbled and sorrowful for the example I had given them. Instead of seeing an opportunity to demonstrate love, I displayed petty anger, frustration and a general yucky attitude. And so I joined in their song, letting all those negative emotions ebb away as I allowed myself to be graced by their song. In those few moments my heart of stone was being melted away and replaced with a softened one capable of seeing God working in our day once again.

I’m not going to say the rest of the day was perfect, because of course it wasn’t. But it was better, so much better than if I had hung onto that stony heart rather than embracing a humbled, soft one.

Melting a Heart of Stone - Daily Graces.
The 3 causes for my joy!