Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Peace! I've got this!

I often get asked the question, "How did your older girls turn out so well?" My older girls who are 17 and almost 20 love the Lord with all their heart and are striving to follow him. I do not have an easy answer. My main prayer has always been, "Lord, make up for where I am lacking." He has been very faithful in doing just that! Which is good because I am very much aware of my own limitations. I think the most important thing to keep in mind is taken from Psalm 127 - "Unless the Lord builds the house, the laborers labor in vain." As parents, we can do all the right things but if we are not leaning back in the Lord in everything we do, our efforts are in vain.

I did not homeschool my older girls all the way through high school. I only homeschooled them through 2nd and 5th grade and then sent them to public school. We did not pray every night as a family. I did not do scripture memory with them. I also let them watch more TV then I'd like to admit.

It is easy to lose hope of our children turning out well as we are surrounded by so much sinfulness in the world and then pile on top of that the awareness of our own inadequacies but we need to trust that God is in control. The most important thing we can do for our children is lean back in Christ, surrender and let him do the rest. Recently I was in prayer and I saw a vision of this icon of Jesus making a peace sign with one hand and holding the world with the other. It was as if Jesus was saying, "Peace, I've got this!"

Thursday, November 14, 2013

You have how many kids!?!

I get interesting comments all the time because of the size of our family which some people think is so astronomically large (personally I do not think having six children is that many).

*Disclaimer: I do not judge people that have  fewer than I have. I realize there could be a variety of reasons ranging from illness, infertility or past miscarriages. I have a couple of friends who dealt with hyperemesis gravidarum (excessive nausea and vomiting) when they were pregnant. If that were my case, I do not know if I could have kept having more kids. I am simply addressing here the comments I happen to have received.

I am not sure why people often feel the need to make certain comments when they find out I have six kids. Sometimes it makes me wonder if they are experiencing some inner turmoil and conviction especially since I do not ask. Here are a sample of some of the comments people feel compelled to share with me:

"I am MORE than happy with my two!!!"

I was perfectly happy and content when I only had two as well. I realized however it was not just about me and what made ME happy. My children were not brought into existence for my enjoyment. It is an added bonus when I enjoy them but that is not their meaning and purpose in life. Their destiny is not necessarily intertwined with my destiny.

Each person is made in the image and likeness of God. We were conceived in God's heart before we were conceived in the wombs of our mothers. Each person has the capability of reflecting God's glory in a way that no other person on the planet can do. We each have our own unique characteristics, purpose, and dignity as human persons.

Often people in our culture think happiness is one of the most important emotions for us to experience in life. God however does not always promise us a life of happiness. He is more concerned with our holiness. If we will surrender to his will, we will obtain an even greater fruit of the Spirit in our life which is joy! Joy is something deeper and longer lasting than happiness.

I would like to say I am always happy with my children but the truth is, they do not always make me happy. I happen to have one child who seemed to be born miserable. She is miserable a lot of the time. What she teaches me is God's unconditional love. It is my job to steer her in the right direction so that through God's grace her seemingly negative personality traits can be transformed into positive traits for the Kingdom of God.

Several of my children happen to also be very strong-willed (not sure where they get that from). This was quite difficult to deal with when they were little but now that they are older, their strong-willed personalities have been transformed into a holy determination.

"I don't have the patience for more than one."

I don't either. That is probably why God gave me more than two. As a matter of fact, just when I think I am getting the patience virtue down, one of my children will test my patience severely and then I realize just how far I still have to go.  I don't know which saint said it, but one of the saints said, "You are only as virtuous as you are in the worst of situations." In other words, you could lock yourself in a closet, never go out and never see anyone so that you keep from sinning but that doesn't mean that your heart is clean. Children have a wonderful way of bringing out the ugliness that is in our heart and showing us how much our hearts still need to be purified and transformed. 

"I don't know how you do it?!" 

The truth is, I don't! People like to believe that God doesn't give you more than you can handle. That couldn't be further from the truth. Having six children, I am faced with my limitations and tremendous need for God's grace in my life every day. Everyday I am faced with more than I can handle. People ask how I do it. The only way I am able to "do it" is by leaning back in Christ and allowing him to "do it" through me. Having six children definitely keeps me humble. I am constantly faced with my own short comings.

"I can't afford more than two children."

Ironically usually the people that say this to me have nice cars, a nice house and nice things. It is usually a matter of where one's priorities lie. I shop at thrift stores, use cloth diapers and receive hand-me-downs for my children's clothes. Tom and I drive older cars that are paid off. Our house is older and spacious as opposed to newer and smaller. I will say however, God has always provided for us. Maybe not in the way we expected or wanted, but he has always taken care of our needs. In fact, with each pregnancy, Tom has gotten either a raise, bonus, or promotion while I was pregnant or right after the baby was born. We take that as God's little way of letting us know he's got our back.

"Are you done yet?!"

We think we are but it really isn't about us. Ultimately we are leaving it up to God. Some think that is foolishness and I'm okay with that.

I think the bottom line is to avoid looking at our own limited desires, situations, and what we think we are capable of. We serve a big God who is more than capable of moving mountains in our life, transforming us, and bringing about his purposes. All we need to do is surrender and trust!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Time to Fly

I don't know if anyone else has unknowingly tried to drive a car with the parking brake on but when that happens, your wheels spin and spin but as much as you are pushing down on the gas pedal, the car will not go very fast or far, especially if you are trying to drive uphill. Lately this has been feeling like my day to day life. I don't know if anyone else can relate with this but sometimes I find myself getting bogged down and overwhelmed by life. It feels like I am working hard but not getting anywhere. To be honest I have been in that season for a while and have had to take a  step back, pray about and reevaluate my life and priorities. I figured I must be doing something wrong because Jesus says that "his yoke is easy and his burden is light (Matthew 11:30)."

It was hard at first to figure out what I was doing wrong. It was easier to figure out why I would feel overwhelmed in the early days of walking with the Lord. When I first started following the Lord twenty some years ago, I was like a run away train, running ahead of the Lord and doing, doing, doing. Through life circumstances, physical problems, and outright being rebuked trying to do ministry, the Lord taught me to first learn to "be", rest in him and allow him to transform me. Over the years I have made great strides resting in him, making my prayer life a priority, leaning back in him for everything I do and trying to pray without ceasing.

What I have discovered is that my priorities and ways of thinking needed to be realigned yet again. The Lord needed to push me out of the nest so to speak. I had learned to be still and rest in him but I had become too comfortable. One day he showed me a vision of a monarch butterfly in chains. Well, it is an illusion to think you can keep a butterfly chained down. The butterfly could easily slip through the chains if it wanted to. I realized I was like that butterfly. The Lord had reigned me in to teach me a few things. I had learned to be still and allow the Lord to transform me. Now he was calling me to fly and I had the freedom to fly but I was focusing on my circumstances and things I interpreted as "chains" that were preventing me from flying. Actually what I discovered is that the "chains" were just a matter of perception.

I began to realize that my priorities and my focus was off. As a housewife and mom that also home schools, I thought I was doing the responsible thing to try and finish all the household chores, laundry, meal planning and everything else that goes along with managing a household before trying to serve others outside my home. The problem is, especially as a housewife and mother of six children, there is always more that can be done. The house is never fully clean and organized. There is always more laundry that can be done and children that require attention. As long as the kids are little, there will always be more work that needs to be done. Also by focusing on everything that "needed" to be done around the house, I wasn't even having the right attitude of serving my husband and children. Therefore, if my 3 year old got out of bed for the tenth time at night, I was short tempered because she was interfering with "my" time.

I am realizing that just like a bird needs two wings to fly (thanks Glenn for using this analogy), we need a balance between "being" and "doing" in order that we can fly. Not only that, but our "being" needs to be meaningful, centered on God and our "doing" needs to be restful, out of a place of rest. Every morning now when I start my day with prayer, I ask the Lord to show me if there is somebody I need to serve this day. I have been trying to make more of an effort to recognize the needs of those around me and people I come in contact with. Some days it isn't anyone outside my home he ends up wanting me to serve but he has been calling me to serve my husband and children sacrificially. I realized that by not having the attitude of serving then the things I was doing were becoming more of a burden and felt like work. The irony is, I thought I was first resting before doing but because I didn't have an attitude of service in the things I was doing, it became burdensome. Take the story of Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42). The lesson of the story is not that we should all just do nothing but sit at the feet of Jesus and receive. Nothing would ever get done. The lesson is that we start there with an attitude of surrender and then the things we do should be out of an attitude of service.

I also realized that some of the things I was praying for were off. I was praying for strength and grace to do all the things I "needed" to do. I am now realizing that if there is something we think we need, what little we have, we should first give it away. It is in giving that we receive. If we are in need of strength, we should give what little strength we have away. If we are in need of joy, let's give joy away. If we are in need of peace, let's give peace away. If we are in need of money, let's give money away. I think about the parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14-30). When we hoard, even the little we have, it shows a lack of true faith, and the things we have rot and turn to dust. It is a rather horrid thing. Who in their right mind is going to want to give someone more if they are just going to hoard it for themselves. However when we give of ourselves and our possessions, we get back more than we ever could have imagined!!! We can not outdo God!  I think I might be onto something and this might be the key to the perfect joy that St. Francis of Assisi discovered!

"Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you (Matt. 6:33)."

Monday, September 30, 2013

All Things Catholic

I have a good friend who joined the Catholic Church about 5 years ago. When people ask him why he became Catholic, he will reply, “I found beauty there!” Recently I was talking with him and I asked him if he prays the Liturgy of the Hours. He said he used to but doesn’t seem to have the time because there are lots of other good thing that he wants to do like pray the Rosary and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. That got me thinking about how the Catholic Church has many gifts and tools to help us draw closer to Christ, but that is exactly what they are…tools! 

Protestants often think Catholics are just into religious ritual. They are right if we allow these tools to stop there and do not allow them to draw us upward and closer to Christ. All these tools are meant to help us encounter Christ in a deeper way and draw us into contemplation. If they do not draw us closer to Jesus and they are just something we do because we feel we should and they become burdensome, then maybe we need to take a step back and reevaluate the things we are doing.

What about Mary?!
Another area my friend struggles with is the idea of devotion to Mary. Again, Mary is a gift to us to help us draw closer to Christ. Mary’s soul Magnifies the Lord (Luke 1:46).

Philippians 4:8 Says, "Finally brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."

When we look at Mary and behold her beauty, we can know that her beauty is just a fraction of God’s beauty and should draw us upward to her son! Mary is also the perfect example of what is possible for all of us with the help of God’s grace. She is the new Eve. The one that said yes! Sin entered the world through the first Eve but through Mary’s yes, grace and salvation entered the world. That is something to celebrate!

Another amazing tool we have as Catholics is the Sacrament of Reconciliation. What an amazing gift to impart God’s grace and bring us into closer union with him! The Lord once showed me that when we take advantage of this Sacrament, it is like a humming bird drawing deep into a flower and pulling out the sweet nectar.

One thing that has brought me great consolation especially during times of suffering has been the Eucharist. When Jesus resurrected from the dead, he still had his wounds and he allowed Thomas to touch his wounds. When we receive Jesus’ body, blood, soul and Divinity in the Eucharist, we can touch his wounds and join our wounds to Christ’s wounds. There is no greater intimacy we can have with the Lord! I often feel bad for people that lose a loved one or go through tremendous suffering but they do not know about the intimacy we can experience by receiving Jesus in the Eucharist.

Enjoy the Journey!
Last but not least, God wants us to enjoy the journey! In my prayer time not too long ago, the Lord, in my mind, took me on a hot air balloon ride. There was a big pillow on the bottom of the balloon basket. I lied down and told the Lord to “Wake me up when we get there.” He then got me to stand up and notice the beautiful scenery, and the cool breeze against my skin. We are not just supposed to focus on getting to heaven but relish in all God has made and our relationship with him. 

I think about St. Francis whose feast day is coming up on Oct. 4th. He experienced tremendous joy even in the midst of suffering. He was able to see God in all of His creation and everything in creation drew his attention upward towards God and brought him closer to him. As we start a new day let us ask for God’s grace to see Him in everything we do and let the beauty we experience draw us into deeper union with  Him!  

Monday, August 26, 2013

Honey I Shrunk the Kids!

People often ask me "How do I do it?". What they mean is, how do I manage a household of 6 children, home school, keep up with the household chores and not lose my mind. The thing is, without God's grace I really don't. Often God likes to remind me of this. Sometimes I forget I have limitations, I try to do things in my own strength and then it seems that God will withhold his grace from me. I will then end up in tears and completely overwhelmed until I realize how weak I really am, that I need him for everything I do and surrender myself again at his feet.

It also is never a good idea to compare ourselves with others. We must remember that we do not always see the full picture of other people's lives. What works in one family might not work in another. If we compare ourselves with others we are always going to feel inadequate, but is that what the Lord is saying to us?

2 Cor. 7:10 says that "Godly sorrow leads to repentance, without leaving regret, leading to salvation but a worldly sorrow leads to death." If it is the Holy Spirit convicting us of sin then there is hope and the Holy Spirit will give us the grace to change but if we get down on ourselves because we do not feel we are measuring up to the standards of the world then that can lead to despair which is not good for our soul.

Sometimes we may have a hard time discerning the Lord's voice from the voice of the world. An important thing to remember is the Lord likes to encourage. About a year ago I was at a homeschool support group meeting. Some women were sharing with us how they do scripture verse memorization everyday with their children that stresses different positive character traits. Initially I felt a heaviness in my chest because this isn't something I was doing with my kids. The thought then came to me that what I was doing with my kids was just as if not more important. Every morning before we we start school, we pray a decade of the rosary. This is teaching my children the stories about Jesus and hopefully helping them to fall in love with him. If they fall in love with him then the law will be written on their hearts and we won't have to go through every positive character trait there is. (Disclaimer: If the Lord hasn't yet put this on  your heart to do, don't fret, I didn't do this with my older girls and they turned out well and love the Lord very much!)

My main prayer has always been that God will make up for where I am lacking. Amazingly he always has answered that prayer. My older two girls who are teenagers, love God with their whole heart and desire to serve him. This amazes me because there have been days where I lost my cool, had no patience, failed to spend quality time with them and failed to give them Jesus. I can only credit God's grace.

In case it hasn't been apparent yet, I am a very visual person. I often like to envision myself leaning back into the outstretched arms of Christ and relying on his strength which I need so desperately! I also like to do visual type prayers for my children. I like to visualize the Sacred Heart of Jesus and then in my mind, visualize each of my children, one at a time and place them into his Sacred Heart. Then I leave them there, trust God with them and not worry about them.

I once told my older girls about my vision of placing them in Jesus' Sacred Heart. They got a kick out of that and visualized themselves being shrunk and  being picked up by the back of the shirt with their little legs flailing. It may seem silly but I think it has worked for me!

As parents, we are often hard on ourselves concerning our parenting ability. Instead let us trust that we are clay in the Potter's hands and the Potter knows what he is doing. Let us not question the Potter's ability or how long we think it is taking him to mold us. Instead let us lean back into his chest, rest in him and learn what his heartbeat sounds like. Only then will we be able to be the parent we dream of being.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Let's go fly a kite!

Have you ever tried to fly a kite when there was very little wind? I have and it takes a lot of effort and bears very little fruit. You can run really fast and the kite will go up a little but as soon as you stop running, it comes down again. When the wind comes however, the kite will literally go up in the air on it's own and stay up with very little effort on our part. 

I believe the latter is like the season we are coming into in the Church. When the wind of the Holy Spirit shows up, his graces for healing, miracles, prophecy, etc. will easily be available and more prevalent (1Cor.12). It may not happen as suddenly as the Catholic Charismatic Renewal and other Protestant movements but it will be longer lasting and have more depth (see my last post about pick up sticks). I believe it is something that has just begun and will happen gradually until that "kite" is all the way up in the air and these signs will be common place among believers (Mark 16:15-18). The cross will be the central focus and therefore Jesus will be lifted high and glorified (notice the cross providing the frame for the kite)! Come Holy Spirit!!!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Holy Pick Up Sticks!

Our son, Isaac is now 5 months old. We are adjusting to being a family of 8 and I am ready to start blogging again. It really helps that Isaac is a very happy and pleasant baby! I am so blessed!

One thing we have been really striving to do as a family is make our home into a Monastery. One way we have been accomplishing this is by doing Night Prayer every night as a family. For the hymn we sing a few worship songs.

Surprisingly the kids have really been enjoying it! Of course they still act like kids and sometimes they are jumping on the couch while we are trying to pray, but the Lord has really been showing up. Especially lately, it has been really easy to enter into contemplation almost immediately when we begin. I suspect that the Lord is going to be bringing the Church as a whole into a new season where his tangible presence is more readily available too. In fact, I had a vision a couple of nights ago while we were doing Night Prayer. In the vision I saw Pick Up Sticks. I remember playing this game as a kid and it required a lot of strategy. I was kind of at a loss as to what the Lord was showing me at first but then I saw a camp fire. I am married to an Eagle Scout and I have observed him making a camp fire. He can be very meticulous in order to create a fire that will burn big and be long lasting. I felt like the Lord was saying to me that right now we may not see a lot of visible manifestations of the Holy Spirit but he is being real strategic. He is working in the hearts of people; humbling, transforming and calling people to lay down their lives. People laying their lives down in humble surrender are like the sticks that are going to cultivate the right atmosphere for the fire of his Spirit to burn bright and long. I felt like he told me this movement of his Spirit is going to burn brighter and longer than any other movement in the past.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Patiently Enduring for God's Promises

Christians often like to say that God will not give you more than you can handle. They are well meaning people who usually like to say this to someone who is going through a tough time. Personally, I do not find these words encouraging. I think this idea comes from the scripture about God not testing us beyond our strength (1Cor.10:13). However, I see these as two different things. In my own life, I know that God has often given me more than I could handle. The reason however is so that I will learn to lean back in him and rely on his grace. I think if we limit ourselves to the things we think we can handle, we could really be missing out in life and limiting God.

One area I have personally been stretched is in the area of bearing children. I have very difficult and complicated pregnancies with gestational diabetes and usually preterm labor that results in bedrest. With my second pregnancy I was on bed rest for 5 months. After I have a baby, it also sends me into a flareup with a couple health conditions that results in extreme muscle and joint pain for 12 months. If I would have gone off of what I thought I could handle and what seemed logical, I would only have two children right now. However, God had other plans.

Twenty years ago this past Thanksgiving, I was engaged to be married. I was in prayer and a very clear image came to my mind. I saw myself in a hospital room. I could see the bright lights and the doctor and nurses in their scrubs. I then saw myself giving birth to a baby. The next thing I saw were two giant hands coming down from heaven and handing me a baby boy.

Tom and I got married 6 months later and conceived on our honeymoon. I assumed the baby I was carrying was going to be the boy I saw in my vision but we were blessed with a beautiful baby girl. Almost two years later I conceived again and again we were blessed with another beautiful baby girl.

I had made the mistake at the time of telling a few friends about my vision. In their attempts to encourage me they told me maybe it was just symbolic or maybe we were supposed to adopt a boy. I knew in my heart however that this was supposed to be a biological child that we would have.

Eight years later we got up the courage to put aside the NFP charts that we were using to avoid a pregnancy and try to conceive again, thinking surely this time it would be the boy that God had promised us. Instead we were again blessed with another beautiful baby girl.

By now I was considered advanced maternal age and I knew the clock was ticking for us to have the baby that God had promised us. Surely this would be it and I wouldn't be expected to endure another rough pregnancy. I ended up have two more beautiful little girls and then a miscarriage.

I must say, I never felt like I "needed" a boy. I was perfectly content with my girls and felt very blessed. We just wanted to do God's will and see his promise fulfilled. In June of 2012 we got up the courage to try one more time and conceived right away. I had my 20 week ultrasound scheduled. I was a nervous wreck beforehand. I knew I needed to surrender to whatever was God's will and have peace with whatever the gender of this baby would be. By God's grace, I was able to do that and the day of the ultrasound I had peace. Our perseverance ended up paying  off! I was told we were having a boy! We were ecstatic and excited that we were finally seeing the fulfillment of  God's promise to us. We decided through prayer that our son's name would be Isaac because he was the son of God's promise to us. On January 21, 2013, little Isaac Francis was born! The Lord is faithful to his promises! What is even more important sometimes than seeing the fulfillment of the Lord's promises is that we learn patient endurance and perseverance which leads to the perfecting of our faith which is more precious than gold. The lessons I was taught through the waiting and persevering were invaluable!

James 1:2-4, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."

Romans 5:3-5, "...we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us."