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

The Front Row

Let me begin by saying that we very much like our new parish. We will only be in San Antonio a few months but we felt it was important to find one church and quickly re-establish our Sunday morning/going to Mass routine. After being on the road for 2 months visiting family yes we of course went to Mass every Sunday. However, often it was a different church and time from one week to the next. We wanted to regain the stability of routine for our kids after so much transition in as many ways as possible. Going to Mass at the same time and place is one of those critical weekly routines.

That being said, I witnessed something interesting at our new parish this past week. This is a large parish. Large in both the physical space and number of people. You can easily fit 300 or so people in the pews, maybe 350 or even 400 if everyone actually moved all the way to the middle (#Catholicproblems haha). There is also standing room in the gathering space and along the walls. They actually keep folding chairs permanently set up along the walls knowing people will need them. There is also a Blessed Sacrament Chapel that is in the back and can be used for overflow seating.

This Sunday we arrived approximately 10 minutes early. Typically early enough to find a pew for 5 at most churches. At this parish, however, we were cutting it close (again, if people would only move to the middle….). Ben went to park the car and I walked in with the kids. As we walked in I noticed a large group of families with small children hovering in the back by the Blessed Sacrament Chapel (doors closed). There were still plenty of seats available if you smiled nice and negotiated space. As I walked by with my 3 little ducklings (or elephant sea lions depending on the day) an usher stopped me. She asked me if I wanted to wait with the others, they would be opening the doors (to the Blessed Sacrament Chapel/overflow seating) in just a minute. She questioned whether I would be able to find a seat. I looked around, assured her we would be fine, and moved on. We did find a seat. Front and center (and in the middle no less).

During Mass I sneaked a peek at the back and saw that all those families were in the overflow seating instead of being with the larger community.

Now I know you can argue that they were still sitting with the community, they are just an aisle away. And I do agree, they were still worshipping with all of us. My big issue, especially in light of the Gospel reading, is how they got there.

For as welcoming as this parish is, somewhere there is an undercurrent that pulls families with small children to the back. No matter how or when it happened, there is now a culture that exists which tells families that their place is in the back, away from the larger community (even if it is just separated by an aisle).

Now think about the Gospel. Zacchaeus is a tax collector who happens to be short. Due to his stature, Zacchaeus can’t see Jesus and the crowd isn’t making it any easier for him. So, he climbs a tree to see Jesus better. There are many theological and scriptural lessons that can be pulled from this passage. I would like to think about the most basic point, the height difference. Zacchaeus was short and the tall people wouldn’t let him through to the front. He took matters into his own hands and climbed a tree.

Let’s apply this to our children. They are short. When you stick them in the back, they can’t see. All they experience is a disembodied voice, some music and they get to go for a walk close to the end. Since there aren’t any trees around, they take matters into their own hands in any number of ways.

I’m not saying that children are angels in the front row and demons in the back row (mine proved this very well in our front row experience for All Saints’ Day). However, I do notice an overall improvement in behavior and most importantly, interest, when we sit up front. John asks me more questions and participates in the songs he knows much more when we sit up front compared to when we are in the back. Clare, only 2 years old remember, is much more likely to go into the aisle and try to run away when we sit in the back than when we sit in the front. Again, it’s not perfect and we have had some very hard Masses in the front row. But they are fewer and farther between than when we sit in the back.

Jesus told his disciples “let the children come to me, do not prevent them” (Matthew 19:14). This means, to me at least, let the children come all the way to me, not just to the cry room or the designated overflow seating that is in the back and out of the way. Tall people, stand aside! Let the children come all the way up!

So what to do about this? I have a proposition that I would love to have opinions on.

The Front Row by Daily Graces at dailygraces.net
CC Public Domain

Many churches reserve one of the front rows for a handicap row. This way, persons in wheelchairs and their families will have a place to sit where they can see and feel comfortable. Why don’t we take the first 3 rows of one section of the church to reserve for families with small children? What if we went even farther and created a new ministry for high schoolers and adults with older children or grown children? These individuals could sit in the middle (yes, the middle!) of the pew to be helpers for these families.

Well, what do you think? Let’s make a new culture. If we insist on designating a space for families, let’s at least offer them what should be the prime place where their children can see and engage in the drama of the liturgy. And, let’s offer them the help that they need so that when their youngest unloads in their diaper or someone needs some extra space to calm down on the day that their spouse had to work, is sick or is deployed, they have an extra set of hands who is willing and wanting to be of service.

It’s not rocket science folks. After all, how many times have you taken a group photo and heard the photographer call out “Short people in the front. Tall people in the back!”

****Don’t forget about The Mass Box coupon opportunity and GIVEAWAY! Raffle for the giveaway is open until November 11, 2016.Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com


The Timekeeper

I’m not sure what moms did before we understood there were hours and minutes keeping track of the day. How on earth did one monitor sharing, playdates and events?? Now, I realize that our ancient forebears probably didn’t have scheduled swim lessons at the community pool or playdates with specific families at the local playground. But sharing, sharing has always been something to deal with. I’m not sure how many times I say or I hear my kids say, “In how many minutes?” when it comes to sharing. Sometimes we even go so far as to set a timer, just to make sure all is fair.

A big part of my time as a mom is being the timekeeper for the family. How many minutes until dinner? How many minutes until playgroup? How many more minutes until we can go home? Why don’t we have a playdate today? What time is that meeting again? Is the commissary closed yet? Watch out, Clare only took an hour long nap today and she is grouchy this evening.

So much time is spent keeping track of time.

We recently decided to take our oldest two out of gymnastics. They had been involved for about a year and loved to go, but it was taking up a lot of time and becoming increasingly difficult for Clare to stay on the sidelines. Plus, there weren’t any times when both John and Rosie could be in class at the same time, so two mornings a week were filled automatically with gymnastics.

The Timekeeper. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com #DailyGraces
Pocket Watch by Romina Campos (2008) via Flickr, CC. Altered by Kate Taliaferro 2016.

We are a few weeks into the new schedule and I have to say it was the right move. I am less stressed out about getting things done in the mornings, especially on Thursdays when we were trying to cram homeschool plus gymnastics all before 11am. The weather is beautiful right now so we are spending more time outside in the mornings and the kids are getting just as much exercise, if not more, by being home and playing. Plus, we now have so much more time for simple, unstructured play.

Watching my kids simply play has been so wonderful. I can see their imaginations working as they come up with different renditions of how to rescue Rapunzel or Snow White or how they intertwine the characters from a book we are reading and a tv show they watched. I love when they are able to problem-solve together and celebrate one another’s achievements.

Now to be completely transparent, not all unstructured play is picturesque. They are still kids and still fight, still talk over one another, still don’t always want to share and definitely all must be first. But that’s ok, it’s all part of growing up.

As an adult, I am seeing in my children’s need for unstructured play a similar need in myself. Even though I don’t necessarily need “playtime”, having time that isn’t scheduled is so important. Sometimes it is ok to just sit and listen to the wind in the bushes in front of my house or watch the hummingbirds hover by their feeder just beyond the front window. Some days I need to just crochet or knit for its own sake, not not because I want to finish the project faster. I try not to “schedule” too much time for writing, rather waiting for inspiration to strike and then writing that day when I can, carrying it over to the next when I don’t finish. To be free to create means first I must have the freedom, a.k.a. the time.

Time is a precious thing. We can all think of days that we wish we had spent differently. Lately, I have started to build some safeguards into my day to help me make sure I accomplish a few things every day. The most important for me is to pray.

I pray everyday, but I do not necessarily have structured prayer every day. Something that I have done to help me remember to pray throughout the day is to set alarms on my phone which are simple reminders to pray (took this idea from my mom – thanks Mom!). At 1:30pm every day my alarm goes off and reminds me to slow down and pray 2 consecration prayers, one is my consecration to Jesus through Mary and the other is a consecration to Merciful Love. (I will be posting about both of these consecrations in the coming weeks, stay tuned!). And at 3pm, an alarm goes off so that I can pray the 3 o’clock hour prayer of Divine Mercy. Just last night I realized that I still have the Angelus memorized from my high school days praying it in our school chapel with a few students and our theology professor so I might start either a noon or 9am alarm. Personally, I need alarms or I forget (I tried and miserably failed).

So I am the timekeeper, both of my own life and my family’s life. When I am doing a good job, it is a blessing. When we get over committed and stretched thin, I resent it. So, as a challenge to me and to you, how well are you managing your time? Are you resentful of how your day is filled or do you enjoy a balance between work, rest and play? What can you do (it might be to say “no” to something) to achieve a better balance?

Peace and blessings