Saturday, March 31, 2012

a brief outing...

I managed to get out of the house for a little bit today (YAY!) and take the big boys to a local park for an Easter egg hunt.  The littlest rascal made a cameo appearance, but he's still not feeling 100%, so Daddy took him home pretty quickly to rest.   

Today's blessing was the sun, the giggles, the blue sky, and the walk back home from the park.  I love my rascals!





Friday, March 30, 2012

You know you're a mom when.....

...after a week of a horrible stomach bug and being clung to by a 3 year old who wants nothing other than to be with his mommy (even when she pees), your blessing comes in the form of this:




Yes, that is a clean bathroom.  

Why is it my blessing?  Well, because it hasn't been this clean all week.  In fact, it's been pretty downright gross (remember the stomach bug in the first sentence of this blog?).  

So, tonight, as I sit folding laundry and blogging in a quiet house with only the humming of the washing machine and dishwasher in the background, I am thankful for the 20 minutes of silence that I got to spend finally cleaning the bathroom.   I am thankful for the smell of Lysol.  I am thankful for the repetitive motion of scrubbing.  I am thankful for the lack of interruptions.   And, most of all, I am thankful for the silence. 

Now...off to bed....

Thursday, March 29, 2012

A bit of relief...

Today's blessing may seem odd.  It might seem like an "old wives' tale" to some of you.  It did to me until the past month or so.  Now, I'm a full-fledged believer, even if I can't explain it.




Pre-kids (and even for awhile after kids), I used to work as a pharmacy technician.  I loved my job.  It was fast-paced, challenging, and I loved being able to work in a retail setting (what can I say?  I love people).   Anywho, I very clearly remember being asked, over and over again, for something that people called "sweet oil."  I had no clue what these people were talking about.  I finally asked my pharmacist one day just what these people were referring to.  He told me, basically, that when people get earaches, they would put warm olive oil into their ears for comfort.

I honestly thought these people were crazy.  Olive oil was for cooking, NOT for health treatments!   Besides, there were these great prescription ear drops that literally numbed the ear canal - how could anything work better than that?

I think God has spent a lot of time laughing at me this Lent.  I detailed some of that here, but this is in addition to what He's taught me so far this Lent.   You see, God's managed to humble me quite a bit this Lent.  How?   By giving me an ear infection.

I know I used to have ear infections when I was younger (I very much remember the "Strawberry Shortcake Medicine" of my youth), but I do NOT remember this sort of pain.  What started as a nasty sinus infection has turned into clogged ears that are now infected, inflamed, and just plain gross.  At times, I've actually contemplated ripping my ear canals out of my head somehow (not sure how, but that doesn't mean that I haven't tried to figure it out...).  The pain is horrendous.

One night, when I couldn't sleep (again) because of the pain, and I had none of those marvelous numbing drops prescribed to me, AND I'd managed to take the maximum dose of Motrin two hours earlier and couldn't take any more, I got desperate.  I was in severe pain, and needed to find a way out of it.

I went downstairs to our computer and googled, "Natural remedies for ear pain."

EVERY.SINGLE.ONE involved olive oil.   I kind of giggled to myself as I infused garlic into a pan of olive oil, laughing at the fact that just 10 years ago, I would have been horrified to be doing this. 

You know what?


It WORKED.  It was AMAZING.   I'm still not sure how it worked (I know garlic has anti-inflammatory properties, so I'm guessing that has a lot to do with it, but I'm not sure...), but all I know is that it worked, and I was finally able to get some sleep.

So tonight, as I mix up some more of this amazing concoction so I can hopefully fall asleep in NO pain, I am thankful for olive oil, and humbled to admit that I was wrong, so many years ago. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Quiet time

For some reason, we've been hit with a lot of germs this Lent.  It seems never ending, really.  Right now, we're in the midst of a stomach bug from the youngest rascal, so we haven't really done much.   I'm tired out, and heading up to my bed with a cup of tea and a book to spend a little time in peace and quiet.

So today's blessing is my book.   I'm thankful to have some time to relax and recover from caring for sick kids, and I'm thankful to finally get a chance to read this book.  It's been suggested to me a couple of times now, with our impending adoption and bringing a child with Down Syndrome into our family, so I feel blessed to just be able to sit and read it.  I feel doubly blessed because the reason I even HAVE this book today is because we were able to go down to the diocesan center and have Bishop Olmsted bless the rosaries that we're selling for our adoption fund.   Not only did he take the time to talk with us (and play with the boys a bit) and bless the rosaries, but he was the one who gave me the book that I'd been wanting to read.  I'm very thankful!

Now it's off to enjoy my blessing from today...Good night, all!


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Playing catch-up

Okay, we've been hit by the stomach bug of all stomach bugs, apparently, so I'm playing catch up today.


Yesterday (Monday's) blessing occurred BEFORE the stomach bug rared it's ugly head.  It was a feast day (Feast of the Annunciation - which we happened to be learning about with Joseph's religion lessons), and so we decided to go celebrate by getting ice cream cones after dinner.   It was perfect:  yummy ice cream cones, happy little boys, and perfect temperatures/spring night.  A quick picture:






Today (Tuesday), the blessing came in another form.   Unfortunately, I was woken up at 3 am this morning, by a very upset little boy.  Why was he upset?  He'd just puked all over the side of my bed, while trying to wake me up.   I couldn't quite gather my wits quickly enough, because about 30 seconds later, I was also being puked on.  Literally.    The rest of the day continued along those lines (although, after some coffee, I managed to gather myself more quickly each time and catch the puke with a bowl, and not my pajamas).    So, today's blessing came in the form of a 30 minute reprieve when he took a nap and I could finally take a shower and remove the puke smell from my hair.  (Yuck!).  Here's hoping for a better day tomorrow!  


Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Laundry Fairy Appears!!



A husband that actually washes and folds ALL OF THE DIRTY LAUNDRY IN THE ENTIRE HOUSE?!?!?


Yep, today's blessing.  I'm a lucky woman.  ;-)

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Friends and family....





Today's blessing was a bbq fundraiser that we hosted in a nearby park.  It was an opportunity for us to gather our friends and families together to celebrate our newest addition to our family, and to try and raise funds to help bring him home from his current location (Hong Kong).  

It was great - we counted 60 people in attendance at one point, but stopped counting after that - and we were blessed by it being a very successful means of raising funds.  More than anything else, though, we were blessed with the opportunity to spend the day with friends.  There was much laughter, lots of smiling, giggling children running around, and just a overwhelming sense of joy throughout the whole pavilion.  

I am truly grateful for everyone who joined us today, and for all of your support on our journey to bring Peter home.  You have blessed us in so many ways!  Thank you!


Role Models

Okay, so today's blessing is again going to be one of a couple of pictures. Sorry in advance!

Today, the boys and I went down to downtown Phoenix to join in a rally for religious freedom.   As a Catholic, I am committed to fighting the direct attacks on our religious freedom and our ability to live (and work) according to our consciences.  For more information about these attacks, please go here

The rally - while a total blessing in itself, as I finally got to meet some wonderful people that I had only "met" online before today - was kind of a springboard for what I consider my "true" blessing for today.  You see, after the rally, I went home and plugged my camera into my computer and started transferring all the pictures I had taken from the day onto the computer.   The very first one that popped up on my screen was this one:





You can probably recognize my three rascals, squatting down on the landscaping gravel, carrying on a conversation with a man that you may not recognize.  This man - who impressed me by instantly crouching down to talk to the boys at their level, instead of forcing them to either stand up or tilt their head up at an uncomfortable angle - just so happens to be one of our priests at our parish.  The boys LOVE him.  (Mike and I are pretty fond of him, too).   

Three little boys, especially ones that are the age of my rascals (7, 6, and 3) can be really intimidating, especially for a guy the age of this priest.   The boys can be incredibly energetic....and often (especially with the 3 year old) speak a dialect that is incredibly difficult to translate.  (Example:  I'm pretty sure the 3 year old asked this very same priest if he was a witch after last weekend's Mass.  Oy....  Thankfully, his pronunciation isn't exactly clear, so I'm not sure if Father realized that's what he was saying....).  This particular priest isn't fazed by the energy of the rascals - and he has no problem getting down to their level and showing them respect.   As their parent, this is a characteristic that I am incredibly grateful to find in another person!

Anywho, this picture made me realize that we have been completely blessed with being able to have excellent role models for our boys.    I have been able to show my boys truly awesome men who are dedicated to their faith and to building up the Catholic Church - - and, more importantly - - that these men are real people.  I think too many of us (especially when we were younger) have this idea that priests (and consecrated religious) just kind of fade into the woodwork whenever there isn't a mass being celebrated, and aren't "real" people.  I love the fact that my boys can think of these guys and remember real conversations or experiences that they have had with them, and they can see that devoting your life to the Church is a GOOD thing, a BEAUTIFUL thing. 

So, I am thankful for the blessings of these men in our lives, and the example that they provide my boys.  One day, my little rascals will be men too, and I can only hope that they will follow in the footsteps of these role models.  

Thanks so much for your leadership and your service!

Thank you, Brother Rex!


 

Heehee...Sassy Father Nathan - thanks for putting up with my rascals!

So blessed have Bishop Olmsted as our shepherd, and even more blessed that he takes the time to greet the boys directly (and by this, I mean, he asks them questions directly related to their lives - questions about their dogs, homeschooling, etc - which make them feel SO special and respected)  whenever we see him.


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Let's Go State!

Apparently, they're going back home, but the game was fun while it lasted!   Kudos to Louisville for playing hard the whole game, and good luck in the rest of the tournament.

Tonight's blessing was the chance to spend a couple of hours watching MSU basketball with my oldest two rascals (and a friend).   The boys had fun, I had fun, and while a win would have been awesome, it was just a blast spending time with them and at the game.  The travel band was there, Sparty was there, cheerleaders/dance team were there, and there were TONS of Spartan fans all around the arena - at times the noise was deafening.    I think a good time was had by all....

So today's blessing is brought to you by two excited little boys, and a whole team full of big boys and their awesome coach.   Go green!




A look back at Lent (so far)..

(I know, Lent's not over, but I've found myself so surprised by this year's Lenten experience, that I've already started writing about it.  I started this post a few days ago, after Adoration, and finally am getting a chance to sit and finish it.   Enjoy!)

Trust.

Here it comes again:  the "T" word.

One that I struggle with so much:  TRUST.

I'm too focused on my own control.  If I can't do it myself, I have a hard time doing it at all.  I suppose I'm no more mature, spiritually, then my three year old is, developmentally?

When he masters a task, there's usually no convincing him that it would be better to have someone else complete the task.  Recently, this has manifested itself in the very not-so-glorious process of potty training.   He just mastered being able to complete the entire bathroom task by himself.  He can manage the clothing, the flushing, the handwashing, etc.   Offering to help him at any point of the process usually produces a crazily loud, shrill scream of sorts that can most often be translated into "I CAN DO IT MYSELF!!"

How often does my relationship with God look like my potty training three year old?  I mean, sure, technically, he can "do it myself" when it comes to the bathroom.   But, does he do a good job?  One look at my bathroom floor could answer that question quite quickly.

So do I do that?  I may be capable of handling it all on my own, but does that mean that I should be?  Or am I more like that three year old - not quite able to perform the duties and end up making a mess out of the situation that I am in?

I hate to admit it, but I am learning this Lent that I am a lot like my potty training three year old, spiritually.   I'm not willing to relinquish the control, and trust that Someone else can care for me better than I can care for myself.  I'm scared to admit it, but spiritually, I'm pretty much still potty training.

Back at the beginning of this Lent, I blogged about this very topic:  trust.  I asked God to help lead me into a relationship with Him where I did trust Him.  I wanted to fall so deeply in love with Him that I could lay everything down at His feet and have faith that He would provide for me, out of His great love for me.

So I picked out my typical Lenten fare that I thought would help me focus on trusting God:  a sacrifice of some sort (which I will admit is a very challenging one, of a definite sacrificial nature), found some Lenten reading on trust, and planned out my prayer goals.  Usually this kind of plan or system serves me well during Lent.  

But God had other plans for me this Lent, it appears.  Almost immediately after Ash Wednesday, the spiritual attacks started.  They came in ways of disagreements/hurtful experiences with friends, they came in the form of major sicknesses in our house (that kept me from physically being able to keep some of my Lenten plans), they came in stress with the adoption process, they came in the form of government persecution for our faith.   Everywhere I looked, I was being pushed away from what I thought I was supposed to be doing this Lent.

Through it all, though, God had a plan.   He allowed these attacks to help lead me to a greater understanding, one that I recognize now is helping me to trust in Him more.  

You see, there's a third "pillar" of Lenten practices in the Catholic faith.  I've mentioned the first two already in this post:  sacrifice and prayer.    I'd always focused on these two pillars in previous years, probably because they were the most accessible for me at the time, logistically.   I needed them more in previous years than this year in my preparation for Easter.   I'd forgotten about the third pillar, when preparing for this year's Lenten season.  This third pillar, almsgiving, wasn't even on my radar, to be totally honest.

Almsgiving, as defined by the Church is:  Any material favour done to assist the needy, and prompted by charity.

Almsgiving is relative to the situation of those in need.  In some cases, this translates into providing goods and services, but oftentimes (because of situational restrictions), it translates into giving of financial support.  

I'd always kind of avoided this service, and justified that avoidance because we "barely had enough to survive ourselves."  In some cases, that was true....but often, I think it was my own personal cop-out.  

(I'm not at all implying here that those who do not give financial gifts are also "copping-out."  I'm merely saying that in MY situation, I realize that I could have given more but rationalized not doing it.  Please don't take this post as my judgment of YOUR situation - I am merely reflecting on my own experience).

Trusting God with our finances was something that I just didn't DO.   In this part of our lives, I guess I was still potty training, convinced that it was something that I had to "do myself."   In my head, I was being responsible, and isn't that what God asks of us, anyways?  Being a "responsible" steward of our gifts?

It is true - we are supposed to be responsible with our money and financial gifts.   But there's a slippery slope where we start defining "responsible" with "no God involved at all" and I had really slid down that slope, quite quickly.  I know it was mostly because of fear - I was afraid that I would unintentionally find myself in a situation where I was unable to care for those entrusted to me (my family), and I did not trust in God's loving care and His ability to provide all that we needed.

Back to the definition of almsgiving.  You'll find the word charity in the definition - charity is what prompts (causes) almsgiving.  Charity can be defined as:   that habit or power which disposes us to love God above all creatures for Himself, and to love ourselves and our neighbours for the sake of God.

(My gosh, are you seeing what I am seeing and where this post is going?)  

I had started Lent with a prayer asking God to help me trust in Him, to help me fall more deeply in love with Him, and in His own way (which I didn't understand, of course, since I am only human), He has provided me with that growth.  How?
I've been really sick for most of Lent.  I'm still struggling with ear/sinus issues and not being able to sleep because of them.   I have spent most of this Lent awake, and on the couch with my laptop, while my household sleeps peacefully.   During all of that quiet time, I read.  Some of it was my planned Lenten reading....but most of it flowed out of our adoption of Peter.   I read article after article, blog after blog, financial information, testimonies of different families, reports of orphans and orphanages around the world.....just word after word about these beautiful children who are in need of so much love and care.

And it led me down a path this Lent that I didn't anticipate at all, one of almsgiving.

Now, I'm not telling you this to "toot my own horn."  Not by any means.  I'm still working on growing in trust and sacrificial giving (financially).  But I can say, with all honesty, that we have given more this Lent than probably in all of our years as a married couple, combined.   I've felt compelled to support families and children and charity groups more than I ever have before, and through prayer and discussion, Mike and I have responded to that compulsion.   We've been the recipients of amazing financial support so far with the adoption process, and we feel truly blessed.   God has called us to turn around and share those blessings with others who may not have the same support, and so we've tried to step out in faith and do so.

Is it scary?  OH.MY.GOSH is it ever.  Our entire adult lives, we've had this "plan" of paying down debt and saving up the leftovers.   Sacrificial almsgiving has never been a part of this plan, I'll admit.   It's HARD for me to say, "I'm going to give "x" amount of money this month, and we'll eat rice and beans again this week to make up for it" when I don't really want rice and beans to begin with.   

But you know what I've learned?  The fact that it is rice and beans doesn't really matter.   What matters more is the fact that my family is eating rice and beans together.   Food is just food.  Sure, some of it is better than others, but in the end, it's just food.   My family is blessed by being able to eat it together.  God provides for us, always.

God is leading me into a deeper relationship with Him through almsgiving this year.  I am learning how to release some of that control and trust in Him more.   He has provided, every time, this Lent, and poured out blessing after blessing upon us.   Every time we've stepped out in faith, or put our trust in Him.....He has not let us down.

And, honestly, now that I'm looking back at my Lent so far, I kind of giggle.  Of COURSE He would use money to teach me this lesson.   The one aspect of my life where I consistently fought Him - out of pride, out of arrogance, out of lack of trust - was our financial life.   The one way He could be sure that I would learn my lesson and break down that largest defense that I'd built around myself was through money.   Our God has a sense of humour, that's for sure.

I'm still learning, and deep down, I'm still struggling with fear of trusting Him.   Those nagging doubts, worrying about having "enough" money, are still there.  They still whisper in my ear, and I struggle to ignore them when I feel called to give to someone else.   But I'm learning - quickly! - that what I thought I "needed" is not at all what I really need.   I can pay my necessary bills and feed/clothe/shelter our family for way less than what I had thought until this Lent.   I'm seeing that God will provide for my necessities, and I need to help share the gifts that He has given me so that other people can have their basic necessities.

It's a hard journey, and one that I'm not anywhere near completing.   Trust is still hard for me.

But I can say, without a doubt, that God is working in my life this Lent.   He's answering my prayers for a deeper relationship.....just in ways that I never imagined.

God is good!






Wednesday's blessing: a BBQ and good friends



Today's blessing is kind of a hopeful one, in all honesty.  I got to go shopping today for our upcoming adoption bbq (which is this Saturday).   I'm hopeful that this bbq will be a great fundraising event for our adoption costs, but more than anything else, I'm so looking forward to getting to spend the afternoon with friends and family, and just enjoying each other's company.

So today's picture may be of food....but to me, it symbolizes the amazing community we've been blessed with here in AZ, and the wonderful journey that we're on to bring our Peter home! 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Go Green!

I have a very long blog post rattling around in my head, and I promise that I will try to put it down on paper (um, computer screen?) tomorrow.  This year's Lenten season has kind of taken me by surprise and hasn't been anything like I expected - or planned - and I wanted to reflect on that a bit.  Lots to share and talk about...that's for sure!

Anywho, today's blessing comes in the form of a friend who is helping me to make Rascal #2's Thursday night this week.  You see, this particular rascal is a HUGE sports fan.  Seeing as his mommy and daddy both are Spartans (Michigan State Spartans, to be exact), Rascal #2 also cheers for the green and white.

It just so happens that MSU is heading into the Sweet Sixteen round of the NCAA tournament....and will be playing, here in town, on Thursday night.  I'd been watching for tickets, hoping to snag at least a couple so I could take the big rascals to their first college hoops game, but the prices out there were just outrageous......

......and here is where the awesome friend enters in.  With a simple text message last night, I was made aware that there were 3 extra tickets - offered at face value - up for grabs for Thursday's MSU game.  I snagged them as quickly as I could, and now have the opportunity to take Rascals 1 and 2 to go cheer on the Spartans on Thursday!  Woo-hoo!  

So, a huge thank you to my friend, and I'll be posting more pictures soon, I'm sure!


Monday, March 19, 2012

Art Appreciation

Today's blessing may not be a blessing to most people.  I went up to our school room after a long day, with a lot on my mind.  There's just been a lot going on recently, with a lot of details and decisions that can't be ignored.  My brain is a bit tired at the moment, and I'll admit, the idea of prepping our schoolwork for tomorrow didn't really appeal to me at all.

I walked into the schoolroom - with pretty much nonexistent motivation - and discovered a mess.  A huge mess.  It seems that Rascal #1 had managed to get into our art supplies and had created a little masterpiece.   This wouldn't normally be a problem.....except that Rascal #1 is the one who cannot seem to remember to ever clean up after himself.  You'd think that, being the oldest and all, he'd remember not to leave his crayons and markers where the youngest can find them, but......it doesn't usually work that way.   He's the messiest of all three of them, pretty much consistently.

So, I found all of the leftover art supplies that Rascal #1 had left piled on his desk.....and the art project that Rascal #3 had been working on with #1's forgotten art supplies.  Sigh.  I started working on cleaning it all up, kind of grumpily (after all, I really wanted to just be heading to bed!).   I didn't want a mess to start our school day in the morning, so it had to be done, and considering all three rascals were already tucked into bed....it was going to have to be done by me.   

As I sat there and cleaned, not too willingly, I started to recognize as that annoying as it was....this mess was a blessing.   I was blessed by little boys who loved to create and who find joy in the very simple task of colouring.  I'm blessed with three little boys who LOVE art and the process of creating artwork.   I'm blessed by boxes of that artwork - almost every day at least one of them gives me something that they've made, or designed, or coloured specifically for me.  I'm given tangible manifestations of their unconditional love for me on a daily basis.

So.....let them make a mess.  I'll clean it up.  A blessing isn't always neat and tidy, anyways.  ;-)



Sunday, March 18, 2012

"The Gift"

Okay, another quick blessings post, and then I'm heading to bed.  March Madness kind of swallowed up my day today, I'll admit!   Now, it's late, and I'm sleepy!

Today's blessing is two-fold again:




It comes in the form of a Theology of the Body workbook.   Why is it a two-fold blessing?

1)  ToB has kind of revolutionized my own personal faith.   I'm not sure I would be where I am today without it....wait, I KNOW I would not be where I am today without it.   My life was completely flipped upside down when I started learning of JPII's amazing work..and it's continuing to be flipped upside down as I dig deeper and deeper into it.

2)  A group of 4 of us (all women, all different ages) have started meeting regularly for a Sunday brunch prayer group.  Together, we eat a yummy breakfast, we have lots of coffee (and sometimes mimosas!), and we break open more and more of this ToB workbook.  It has become a centering experience for me - one that can directly affect the flow of my week.  The weeks that I get to start in prayer and friendship like this are truly blessed ones.  Today was one of these brunch meetings - our first after a 3 week break due to scheduling conflicts.  It was much needed, and I feel truly blessed by our gathering today.  I am so lucky to have met these women and have them in my life!  Thank you, ladies! 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Sleepy Time...

Quick blessing post, because the day has been long, and I'm quickly running out of steam.  Besides, I have to get all of us up and out of the house quickly tomorrow morning......

I'm cheating a bit.  Today's picture was taken a few months ago, but if I took a picture of what it looked like tonight, I'd be a bit embarrassed.  Remember:  long day today.  That can be translated into none of the beds got made and not too much cleaning went on....

Today's blessing?  My bed.  I'm heading there now.  Very happy about that.....


Science experiments....

(Post intended for Friday, March 16th, and posted a day late....)

Today was an interesting day.  We met a friend for a playdate and lunch at a shopping mall in Scottsdale, which was quite the interesting experience (If we're facebook friends, I'm sure you understand what I'm talking about).  Anywho, the experience kind of rattled me, and I spent a lot of time thinking about what things mattered to me, and what things didn't.  It's funny how you tend to analyze things when someone challenges your priorities.  

Anywho, I spent the majority of the day feeling a bit "off."  Not unsettled, not upset....just deep in thought, really.  So, I decided to scratch my plans for the rest of the day, and instead, the boys and I did some yardwork (I mowed the lawn), and we just hung out in the backyard together for most of the afternoon.  It was a relatively good antidote to the beginning of the day.

As I sat there, reflecting on the day and all its events, I watched the boys.  They'd retrieved a glass from the kitchen, and were doing "science" experiments to see what they could find in the yard that floated, and what sank, in a glass of water. They were giggling, working together, and just truly enjoying the sunshine and each other's company.  It was a truly heartwarming moment.

So today's blessing comes in the form of three happy little boys, playing together in the mud, and thoroughly earning all of those dirt marks that caused such an uproar in Scottsdale.  ;-)


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Ready, steady....GO!!!

I took the boys to a local farm to go pick some veggies today.  It was a beautiful day (yay for blue skies!), we were finished with school, and at $1.50/lb for organic veggies....it couldn't really be beat.

The littlest rascal was a bit of a grump in the sun and with sand in his shoes (the boy does NOT like his feet to be dirty!!), and so today's blessing comes in the form of a sand pit.  The sand pit pretty much was the only place Rascal #3 enjoyed himself.   When we broke out the "jumping contests," he couldn't contain the giggles and laughter.

So today's blessing comes in the form of giggles and smiles of Rascal #3.....as we perfected crazy, hair-flying jumps into the sand pit.  Enjoy!






Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A perfectly clear night..

..is tonight's blessing.

I had to run the garbage can out to the end of the driveway tonight, and I happened to glance up at the night sky while doing so.  I was speechless (hard for me, as I'm sure you all know).

I'm quickly deciding that Arizona's spring is one of my favourite times and places.  Everything is in bloom, the air smells just absolutely amazing (no, that was not my trash can that I was smelling!), and the weather is incredible.  Not too hot, not too cold.....and blue skies every.single.day.  It's absolutely fabulous for a person who, like me, loves to be outdoors as much as possible.

The night sky "cinched" the deal for me:  it was breathtakingly clear, which was slightly surprising to me, considering just how populated of an area we live in.  The stars were crisp and twinkling, and I was easily able to pick out a couple of different constellations, which I haven't have even tried to do in years, probably.

The only thing that would make my star-gazing better would be having my husband home for the evening.  But.....I suppose someone has to catch all the babies out there that insist on making their entrance tonight. 


Meditations on the Sorrowful Mysteries (for today's cultural climate)

Awhile back  I blogged about my love for the rosary.  I try to pray a daily rosary, meditating on what we Catholics call "mysteries" of the rosary.  There are 20 mysteries, and each 5-decade rosary focuses on 5 of these mysteries.  When praying the rosary, each decade (group of 10 beads, each representing prayers) is supposed to be spent meditating on a particular mystery.   For every Catholic that I've talked to, there seems to be a particular "set" of mysteries that they find themselves drawn to.  Typically, this set of mysteries is easier for them to meditate on, or to enter into more fully.  It's no different for me:  I find that the joyful mysteries resonate more deeply within my soul.   They draw me in, and I find myself able to meditate more easily on these 5 joyful mysteries.   

Up until today, I actually found the sorrowful mysteries the hardest to meditate on.   Friends would speak of being moved to tears while praying these mysteries....and I would feel a pang of sadness that I couldn't enter into them as deeply as my friends did.  Especially during Lent (where the focus is on these mysteries), I would struggle with praying the rosary.  

Tonight, I spent an hour in Adoration at our parish.  In fact, I wrote about it as today's blessing.  I brought my rosary (as is my habit during Adoration), and since it was Tuesday, I intended to pray the sorrowful mysteries.   As I usually do, I prefaced my rosary with asking for the Holy Spirit to guide me through the prayers, helping me to hear what God was speaking to me.    He did not disappoint.  

I feel called to share my meditations with you here.  Maybe you are like me - unable to really enter into these mysteries.  Maybe you are struggling - like me - with all of the chaos in our society today.  Maybe you, too, feel like persecution for your Catholic faith is just around the corner.  I'm hoping that tonight's experience (where I was finally brought to tears during these mysteries) may help you as much as it helped me.  

If nothing else, maybe it will help you remember what I was reminded of tonight:   When we ask, and are open to Him....He answers.   


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The Sorrowful Mysteries, meditations for today's cultural climate

1.  Agony in the Garden  (Matthew 26:  36-46)

Jesus entered into prayer, asking for a release from doing God's will ("Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet, not My will but Yours be done").  How often do we do the same, but not trusting in God, as Jesus did?  How often do we ask "God, please take this from me..." but not continuing with submission to His will?  Have we even stopped trying to discern His will for us?   It seems that everywhere we turn, we are bombarded with ways to do what WE want, encouragement to fulfill our every selfish need and desire.  Have we stopped submitting ourselves to the will of the Father?

Currently, we Catholics are being thrust into the Garden in our society.  We are being challenged - even mocked - and some are even being persecuted.  Now is our time to learn to trust, as Jesus did.  Are we entering into the Garden in humble prayer, or are we demanding that God remove us from the challenges and struggles, without any commitment on our part?  Are we begging God to let us avoid the fray outside.....because it is what WE desire?  Are we stopping to ask what it is that He desires of us?  

Are we willing to release that fear, and find strength and courage in the prayer of the Garden?   Have we begun to trust in God's plan for our lives?  Can we commit to trusting in God's plan for our lives?

Lord, help me to trust.  Help me to name my fears, and lay all my anxieties at Your feet.  You've given me a model to follow in your son, Jesus, and His agony in the Garden.  Help me to find the strength that can only come from trusting in You.  Help me to step out of my own Garden and follow Your path for my life.

2.  The Scourging at the Pillar  (Mark 15:  1-16)
Jesus stood strong and did not deny You when challenged by Pilate, even though He know the pain that He was going to endure.   He accepted the beating, humbly, because to do otherwise would have been to deny You.

How many times are we challenged, in Your name?  How often are insults and mockery thrown in the direction of the Church, of which we are a part, because of You?  How often do we read inflammatory articles and editorials, aimed at defacing the very Church we love?

Do we hide the Truth from those around us, in order to avoid the hurt and pain that we know is coming?

Now is our moment to stand in witness to Your glory and truth.  Will we deny You, in order to protect ourselves?

Lord, help me to witness to Your love.  Help me to accept the insults with humility, and out of love for You.  Let me love those who hurt me, those who insult me, and those who attack your Church.   Let me be the witness to Your glory, through my humble actions.

3.  The Crowning With Thorns (Matthew 27:  27-31)
Jesus was mocked, publicly, as the soldiers dressed Him as a king, and pierced His skin with a crown of thorns.  He accepted all of this with utmost humility, even as His own dignity was being attacked.  He did this out of perfect obedience to Your will, showing perfect patience and love.  

How often do we feel mocked, especially by those we care about the most?  More painful than general insults aimed at the Church, these thorns attach to us personally and intimately.  The insults, the teasing words, can pierce us with what seems like thousands of thorns.  The pain of persecution is intensified, as those closest to us dig the thorns even deeper into the "skin" of our hearts.  

But, yet, we can know and trust that You have a plan.  The suffering will lead to Your glory, and embracing our own thorns can remind us of that, if we let them.  First we must accept the thorns and the suffering, with humility and grace, as Jesus did.

Lord, help us to embrace our thorns.  Let our humble obedience to Your will be a beacon of light to those watching.  Allow us to trust in You, to gain strength through Your love, as those around us mock us and pierce our hearts with thorns.

4.  The Way of the Cross (Mark 15:  20-22)
Jesus was hurting, He was physically in pain.  He fell multiple times, out of sheer exhaustion and pain.  In Your mercy and love, You placed people along His path to provide help (like Simon), to love Him (like the women and His own mother), and people to show Him compassion (like Veronica).

How can I doubt Your mercy and love within my own life, then?  I am not perfect.  I will stumble, I will fall, I will be discouraged, I will be scared.  And yet, along my path too, You will place help, compassion, and love.

But will I see it?  Will I recognize Your gifts in those around me?  Will I be looking for You in everyone I meet, open to receiving Your love and compassion through the people I come into contact with?

Lord, help me to see You in all who surround me during this difficult time.  Help me to accept their gifts with humility, and respond to them in gratefulness and love.  For I know that I walk in communion with my fellow man - help me to love him in my thoughts and in my actions.  Help me to love my fellow man as if he was You.

5.  The Crucifixion (Luke 23:  33-46)
Jesus submitted Himself to Your will in the greatest way possible.  He died in order to reconcile us men to You.   Through Him, we were shown the way to everlasting life.  Through His death, and His obedience to Your will...we were given new life.

We are being called to death now, as Catholics.  We are faced with a death to our own selfish ways,  our own lives.  We must turn away from our current culture, and die to what we have come to know.  To find new life in You, we must turn towards Your Church, and away from the world we have grown up in.

This is painful.  It is hard.  Our old life - and all that is culturally acceptable now - seems to be filled with so much less pain.  Submitting to Your will, and faithfully living as a member of your Church, appears to invite so much more pain and suffering.  We are being tempted, daily, to save ourselves from that pain and turn towards the wisdom of the world that we live in.  Just as Jesus was challenged to save Himself from death, we are constantly being challenged to turn away from You and "save" ourselves from apparent pain and suffering.

But we must follow Jesus' lead.  He did not turn away from Your will, He did not "save" Himself.   True salvation came only through His perfect submission to Your will.  

We will not be perfect - we will stumble time and time again - but we must have the courage to face the pain, and die to self.  We must turn away from this world and live for life with You in the next.  We are facing our moment of truth, as Catholics.  

Lord, give me the strength to die to this world.   Help me to overcome the temptation to save myself from pain and suffering, by denying Your Truth.  Help me to trust in Your endless mercy and love, and let my refusal of the current culture be a witness to Your promise of new life.


Why I love being Catholic....

Today's blessing is kind of uniquely Catholic.  You see, we believe that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist:  body, blood, soul, and divinity.  When I am in the presence of the Eucharist, I believe that I am in the presence of Christ Himself.

About a month or so ago, Mike and I realized that we were being called to dedicate at least an hour a week spent in Adoration, or time spent in prayer, with Jesus in the Eucharist.  With his crazy call schedule, we really only had one day a week that we could dedicate to always showing up to the Adoration Chapel at our church: Tuesdays.   So, we committed to an hour every week, guaranteeing that Christ would not be left alone between 8-9pm on Tuesdays.

This regular Holy Hour has quickly become a blessing in our lives.  Between the two of us, we manage to make sure that at least one of us shows up every Tuesday at 8 pm to spend some time in the presence of Christ.   The past two weeks, I was too sick to go (I didn't want to be coughing and sniffling and disrupting anyone else trying to pray), so Mike went, but I was finally able to make it this week.

I am never let down by Christ.  Whenever I come to Him, and make a true effort to sit and listen to Him, to enter into a truly prayerful time.....He never disappoints.  I am shocked (although I probably shouldn't be) at the blessings He pours out on me during my time spent in Adoration.  Tonight was no different (more on that later).  

So tonight, I am truly blessed by my faith, and the opportunity to spend time in the presence of Christ in the Eucharist.   I love being Catholic.  

(I did "cheat" with this picture.  I couldn't take a picture myself of our Adoration chapel, so this is a picture from my parish's Facebook page)

Monday, March 12, 2012

The best toy EVER!!

Okay, okay, I've complained a lot about being sick, and I'm sorry for that, but it seems like this cold just likes its new residence SOOOOOO much that it's not moving on.  Today, I spent the majority of the day feeling like I was wearing earplugs....but without anything actually being in my ears.  The world is a much quieter place when it's on "mute."  ;-)

Today's blessing picture was snapped quickly with my phone, so sorry for the not-as-great quality.   I had to sneak a picture when no one was looking, because today's blessing was in use pretty much all day today by the rascals.   With not being able to hear, and needing to get caught up on household chores and tasks, I felt extremely grateful for today's blessing:  legos.

Now, I personally feel that Legos are one of the best toys ever created.  I've stepped on my fair share (which is not fun, but easily avoided by wearing slippers in the house), and even with the pain of stepping on a sharp little plastic block, I think I'd still rank Legos as the one of the best investments a parent could ever make (and this goes for boys OR girls).

The boys pulled out a Lego police station set, tore it apart, and worked together for HOURS putting it back together.  Rascal #1 patiently explained to Rascals #2 and #3 how to read the instruction booklet and then led them through each step....even cheering when they completed the steps correctly.  This silly police station bought me a couple hours of peace and quiet...and time to catch up on my chores without straining to talk (and listen).  It was fabulous.

So today's blessing, invented in the 1940s but still going strong today, are Legos, the best toy ever!


Music makes the world go 'round...

So, I still feel pretty miserable, and kind of went to bed as early as possible last night, and missed posting.  I'll try to make up for it now!

Yesterday was a busy day.  We spent the morning price shopping and preparing for adoption bbq that's happening later this month, and then had an impromptu lunch date with friends at the Aloha Festival in Tempe.  It was fun - hot, but fun - and I was able to kind of forget about my ear for a little while.

After a quick stop home for a nap (yay, me!), we headed out again to go see one of my favourite musicians in concert.  Now, I don't get all excited for many musicians - I'm actually really bad at remembering the names of bands/singers and what songs go with them.  There are a few exceptions to this amnesia-esque problem that I seem to have, and last night, one of those exceptions was performing in our town.  

We went to see Audrey Assad, and up-and-coming Christian artist, who we first heard about 2 years ago, and fell in love with back then.  Like I said, there aren't too many artists that I get excited about, but she is one of them.  I do believe that her albums are the first ones (and probably only ones) that I've ever pre-ordered, and actually look forward to their release date.  Her music is just brilliant, and for an introverted melancholic like me.....the songs just manage to put my own thoughts and feelings into words in a way that very few musicians have before.  I highly recommend her work!  You can find out more about her here. Check it out!

Anywho - even though my ears were screaming from the volume level and the ear infection....the concert was definitely a blessing from the day.  


Saturday, March 10, 2012

An Online Village

A few years ago, I stumbled upon an amazing online community of women.  This group of women has made an incredible mark in my mothering, my faith, and my family life, and for that I am forever grateful.   Today, I had the opportunity to meet up with one of these women "in real life," and made sure to document it in photos.  (cough, cough, a LOT of photos.  164 in an hour, to be exact...I think I have an addiction to my camera...).

Today's blessing is two-fold:  the friend and her family we were meeting with, and just the sheer existence of this group in our lives.  I am blessed daily by these women, and I cannot imagine my life without them.  They are true friends, and I love them dearly.

So, today's blessing:  CMOMC.  So blessed, and so grateful....




Friday: Date Night

Okay, so I'm a day delayed ... I kind of had a rough night last night with this cold thingy we're battling.  Apparently, adults can get ear infections, and I had a night dealing with pain from my ear, and sitting on the computer was NOT what I had in mind - sorry!  I can honestly say that I now know why babies cry nonstop with ear infections.  I was doing that last night, too!!

Anywho, before the ear pressure/pain issue, we headed out for a quick date night.  Adding date nights back into our lives has definitely been a blessing over the past few months.  Before moving here, we just didn't have enough free time (or income) to be able to pay for a babysitter and pay to go do something without the kids in tow.    Here, the cost of everything is just cheaper, overall, and it gives us enough wiggle room to be able to do monthly date nights.  Last night was one of those nights - and it was hilarious.

We gave up going out to eat for Lent, so we couldn't really do our normal date night of dinner in a restaurant.  We ended up bowling ... something we haven't really done in YEARS.  It was definitely entertaining, and the constant stream of 80s music made it even more so.  It was a good night - lots of laughter.

So, today, I'm thankful for date night.  


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Learning to Change




Today's blessing comes in the form of medical test results.

I know, weird blessing, right? 

Here's a little background:  when we moved, last July, we had to transfer all of our insurance policies to our new state.  Not a big deal, right?  Well, we decided to change all of our policies at the same time.  We'd basically had very, very basic coverage when it came to car/house/life insurance, and we wanted to look into all the options available to us, and possibly change things.  We did end up changing some things...and that led to needing to get a new life insurance physical.

Not a big deal, again, but the results from our lab results (back in August) kind of was a big deal.  To say it was less than ideal would kind of be an understatement.  Mike's, especially, was a bit more like a wake up call.  So, we decided to do something about it.

We drastically changed our lifestyle and eating habits, some of which can be read about in more detail here.  It's been a hard transition at times, but today came the first big reward.   Part of our adoption journey   involves lots of paperwork and references and approvals by all sorts of people:  including our physician.  So, appointments were made, and Mike and I both had a pretty in-depth physical.   More blood work was ordered as a part of these physicals.

I'm happy to say that BOTH of us now fall into the "ideal" range for all of the tests ordered (which were the same as back in August).  For Mike, especially, this was a HUGE change in the right direction. 

It's a good feeling when you realize that all of your hard work is paying off, even if it is in ways you can't necessarily see with your eyes.

So, today's blessing comes in the form of a pretty boring looking piece of paper that encourages, motivates, and reassures.  Today's blessing gives me hope for our future. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Sometimes you just have to laugh...

....or make a silly face.

Today's blessing came in the form of a funny face contest during dinner.  Mike was working late, and so the boys and I had a bit more of a relaxed dinner (awesome sesame chicken in the crock pot!)....and pulled out the camera for a silly face contest.  A few of my favourites:

Sad faces...





Mad faces..
 




Surprised faces:
 




Cutie-pie faces:

 




Okay, so I know it kind of broke the rules and was more than one picture, but it was too much fun to condense into just one shot!  Enjoy!!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Pooped

That's what I am.  Pooped.  I'm not sure why I'm so tired today, but I'm guessing it's just because I've finally started to feel better (yay, antibiotics!), but haven't gotten much sleep over the past few days.  In order to make sure I get to bed relatively soon and hopefully get a good night of sleep, this post will be short and sweet.

Tonight I'm thankful for this:




Okay, don't mind the smudgy glass, apparently.  I swear it didn't look like that when I put the glass down.  This camera picks up WAY TOO MANY details! 

Anywho, tonight I'm thankful for 3 sleeping children, a faithful husband at Adoration, a silent house, a glass of red wine, and homemade cookies.

....and a soft bed, which is where I'm headed.   See you all tomorrow!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Gym Class

I'll admit, I didn't really look at today's blessing as a blessing even just six short months ago.  I've kind of put off letting our kids join any extracurricular activities for quite a long time.....mainly because I selfishly didn't want to have to cart them from activity to activity, and couldn't really find the motivation to commit our family to anything.   Basically, I was too lazy.

But all that changed this past fall.  We started down the homeschooling path, and I wanted to make sure that my very social little boys wouldn't feel deprived when it came to friends and interacting with peers.  Sooo...after much conversation, we decided to enroll them in a sport.  

After even more conversation, we decided to get them involved in gymnastics.  Really, the decision came down to what they enjoyed, their natural talents and abilities....and the fact that, at least for now, I wouldn't have to give up every Saturday morning/afternoon to sit in the beating sun, chasing their little brother around while they kicked - or hit- balls of varying sizes for hours.

Today, I felt totally blessed to have found the gym that they are receiving instruction at.  Their coaches are members of the ASU mens gymnastics team, and these guys are totally dedicated to their students.  I'll admit, college-aged guys are not usually people that I find myself trusting when it comes to sincerity and maturity....these guys have proven me wrong.  I'm sure that they, just like any other college guy that I've met, enjoy a good time, but, you'd never know it from the professionalism and enthusiasm they show in the gym.  They truly have been excellent role models for my three little guys.

I watched my oldest on the rings, working hard to grow in strength and technique, and saw the genuine joy and excitement on his coach's face as he "stuck" the landing (and gave Rascal #1 an EXUBERANT "high-five" to celebrate said landing), and felt incredible gratitude for their presence in our lives.  My boys are growing because of these college athletes - - and I feel truly blessed!


Sunday, March 4, 2012

Today's blessing......my cell phone?!?!




Today's blessing is my cell phone?!?!?!


Even though I am fully addicted to my "external brain," feeding that addiction isn't the reason for today's blessing coming in the form of my cell phone.

Today's blessing is my cell phone because of a text message I received earlier today - you don't get a picture of that, though.  Gotta respect privacy and all, you know!  ;-)

Anywho, in my pre-Arizona life, I worked as a youth minister at our local Catholic parish.  I loved my job.  Sure, it was hard at times (especially the times I had to cart around three rambunctious boys at church functions), and there were lots of hours and very little pay involved....but it was probably my most favourite job that I've ever held.  I was able to feel like I made a difference - even if it was just in one or two people's lives - and I was able to share my love of the Catholic Church with some of the most amazing teenagers that I've ever met.  The job was unique in that while it exhausted me....it rejuvenated me at the same time.  I'm very grateful for having had the opportunity.

So, today's text was in response to yesterday's blessing:  Rascal #1's First Reconciliation.  A former teen - who is now off at college on their own - sent me a quick text to let me know that after seeing Rascal #1's First Reconciliation pictures, they, too, decided to go to confession and they felt great now and just wanted to let me know.

Today's blessing reminded me of a few very important points:

1) We are social creatures - meant to live in communion with each other.  What one of us does can (and will ) affect everyone around us.  We would do well to remember this!

2)  I feel so lucky to be able to experience all that the Catholic Church has to offer.  We have such a rich, deep faith .... and I feel truly blessed to be a part of the Church family.

3)  This one is a shout-out to all of you from the youth ministry world:  I am truly and completely blessed to have met you and gotten to know you over the past 5ish years.  You all - in some way or another - have shaped me and my family, and for that I am grateful.  Keep texting, emailing, and FBing - you brighten my life, daily!!  <3