Thursday, September 29, 2016

Angels and other really good people

Yesterday would have been my 20th wedding anniversary. I didn't think about it all that much, except when I made decisions about my day...decisions that in the past would have been made badly and resulted in the total loss of a day to self-pity and distress.

Have no fear, I'm still well acquainted with self-pity and distress on occasion...gratefully much less than in the past. I know and thank God for His continuing work in my life. That is the difference.

We had a reasonably productive day of school (usually true on Monday and Wednesday since little man is off-site for a few hours) then I headed downtown with #1. She had a class at Citizens Science Lab . I simply love this place. The great people, the equipment (!), the opportunity they provide my homeschooled kids to learn science with and from the people who do it every day. They also provide so many great opportunities to local schools. Fantastic program.

Since my helper was at home with the rest of the kids, I had the opportunity to take a jog downtown during my two hours of waiting. You can tell when I just follow the pedestrians...it's never a pretty map.

It was a beautiful (if windy) day and a great time to go out and appreciate all the wonderful things about the city we call home while filling up my adrenaline tank (good to fight depression!). I had a destination in mind...so, halfway through, I stopped for about 20 minutes to stand, witness and pray for all those in danger of abortion (and the parents who are struggling with the choice of whether or not to give their child life).

Yesterday was the opening day of 40 Days for Life and when I'm in town, I try my best to join them. How blessed I was to arrive and immediately hear the wonderful news...a baby had been SAVED that morning! How good is God to give His servants such a boost on the very first day?! What a happy day it was all around. Plenty of smiles and good wishes to the passersby. For the first time, I was one of those people.

I realized yesterday that, when I take all of my kids down with my during the week, I have to spend most of my time talking with them and watching out for their safety. Being there alone, I was able to concentrate on the people walking into and past the building. I think, at least this 40 days, I'll confine the family witness to our Sunday slot. With DH along, we can take turns watching the little people and provide an alternative example of what families might do together on Sunday morning (we usually head down after Mass, then we're already dressed up ;0) )

Standing with some lovely people from a parish down the road from ours. They took ALL 12 hours yesterday and had presence at every shift. That is a wonderful witness.

When I was leaving, I checked my phone and had a text from my friend who works nearby. Would our family like to use a suite at PNC park that evening to watch the game? Um, yeah! (she is one of those really good people) So, we gathered some friends and headed down to a beautiful fall evening of baseball and friendship. The Bucs won handily and we saw the first ever Pirate hit for the cycle at PNC park. (DH and I had actually seen a previous Pirate hit for the cycle at Three Rivers in 2000...we are baseball people!)






It happened to be "zombie night" but, gratefully we didn't run into many (except the Parrot...goofy). It wouldn't have mattered, anyway, since we had two namesakes of the archangels with us to celebrate the eve of their Feast Day. 

Each of these archangels performs a different mission in Scripture: Michael protects; Gabriel announces; Raphael guides. Earlier belief that inexplicable events were due to the actions of spiritual beings has given way to a scientific world-view and a different sense of cause and effect. Yet believers still experience God’s protection, communication, and guidance in ways which defy description. We cannot dismiss angels too lightly. 

What a blessed day, full of God's grace and joy. Reflecting on it today, I realize how very much better my life is after having turned to Him who is all good and worthy of all my love. I am so very grateful that He sought me out of the darkness that I had chosen for myself. I am so humbled by His mercy. How very blessed I am. 
In the sight of the angels I will sing your praises, Lord. Ps 138 
Saint Gabriel, Saint Michael, Saint Raphael, Pray for Us! 

Monday, September 26, 2016

Trust

I just spent the last ten minutes looking at paintings of "The Visitation" (of the Blessed Mother to her cousin Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist). It is a wonderful exercise, you should try it. There are all shapes and colors of Mary and Elizabeth (although not nearly as many gray-haired Elizabeths as I had imagined!). How wonderful that we are all able to see these great figures look like us. Was the Blessed Mother Chinese? No, but, remember Acts, Chapter 2? The Holy Spirit descended at Pentecost and enabled them to speak in different languages, so that all would understand. If an African person wants to see an African Mary and Elizabeth in order to understand, so be it.

The Visitation, by Mariotto Albertinelli
I have this in my mind because, after Mass, not seeing the regular rosary group, our small tribe headed down to the Eucharistic chapel to pray. As always, I was assigned #2 (I don't mind...especially today) and it was active in my mind as I prayed...

- Here is Elizabeth, rejoicing that her cousin is carrying the Savior of the world.
- Elizabeth, again, grateful that her child, John the Baptist (forerunner of Christ) leaps in her womb
- Elizabeth's big role in the Christ story is to take part in a miraculous conception in order to produce her son...certainly more than a cameo but hardly a staring role...she rejoices that she can play some part, her part.

Today's first reading is from Job:
One day, when the angels of God came to present themselves before the LORD,
Satan also came among them.
And the LORD said to Satan, “Whence do you come?”
Then Satan answered the LORD and said,
“From roaming the earth and patrolling it.”
And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you noticed my servant Job,
and that there is no one on earth like him,
blameless and upright, fearing God and avoiding evil?”
But Satan answered the LORD and said,
“Is it for nothing that Job is God-fearing?
Have you not surrounded him and his family
and all that he has with your protection?
You have blessed the work of his hands,
and his livestock are spread over the land.
But now put forth your hand and touch anything that he has,
and surely he will blaspheme you to your face.”
And the LORD said to Satan,
“Behold, all that he has is in your power;
only do not lay a hand upon his person.”
So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD.

Then, of course, Satan goes out to wreak all kinds of havoc on poor Job (this is an excellent example for those people you meet that think Satan is not an active force to be dealt with daily. If you think he's a passive spirit, you could not be more wrong). Job, having lost everything he had and loved, realizes the important thing still remains...

Naked I came forth from my mother’s womb,
and naked shall I go back again.
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
blessed be the name of the LORD!
How many of us, losing everything, would be praising God? There was a story today of the lack of despair on the part of two people who had their luggage stolen while traveling.  They continued on their journey without trepidation. Indeed, this should be our response in everything...ultimate trust in the goodness and protection of Our Father in heaven.

I'm currently reading The Spiritual Combat. It talks of the essential need to have total distrust in ourselves and total trust in God.
THE PRESUMPTUOUS MAN is convinced that he has acquired a distrust of himself and confidence in God, but his mistake is never more apparent than when some fault is committed. For, if he yields to anger and despairs of advancing in the way of virtue, it is evident that he has placed his confidence in himself and not in God. The greater the anxiety and despondence, the greater is the certainty of his guilt.
It's easy to say and clearly, difficult to do. Earlier today, upon hearing that my best laid plans have come to naught, I did feel disappointed. So, I have to turn back, seek forgiveness for the thought that I had control over the situation, and turn it all over to Him. Ultimately it's His fight anyway. (This is true, no matter what the subject, by the way). We should work to do all in our power to advance virtue and right but also recognize that the final result is not in our power. We are in the world with so many other people and everyone attends to their own priorities, whether or not they advance virtue and right. From that view, no one will have the ability to achieve any lasting success without a Greater Power, mainly the Creator of all things.

Elizabeth, in her acceptance of God's will in conceiving and bearing John, her joy at Christ's Incarnation, and her satisfaction with her given role, "got it". She understood being small in the face of God's Largeness. Her trust in His work through her life is immense. She, like Job, rejoices, in the part she plays within God's grand design.The trials and questions do not dissuade...and ultimately they are richly rewarded. What a wonderful thought as we travel this valley of tears.



We are blessed.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

25

Today was day two of Duquesne University's homecoming. It was a special day because I was there, retracing some of my steps, and giving thanks for all of the lessons God has taught me since I walked out of the Palumbo Center as a graduate...twenty-five years ago.

Truthfully, in some ways, it seems like twice that long but mostly it seems like it was the day-before-yesterday. Wow, a quarter century. Wow.

So, I took my family and we had a fun few hours. Tomorrow we will gather with other alumni for Mass and say goodbye for another year. Ah, your undergraduate Alma Mater...there is just something so special about that place.

Some pictures from today's fun...


Giant slide with almost no line...


perfect

the centurion and his princess ;0)

Captain America playing a game

These two had laser-like accuracy and won three goldfish...during bedtime prayer #3 was grateful, "that we finally have a pet." Please, God, let them live longer than the hermit crabs!

Until we get to the pet store on Monday, Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael will have to make do in their tight quarters. Life is funny...I doubt when I brought it home from the bar 23 or so years ago, I would have ever guessed it would house the goldfish my kids had won.
 "The Earth was made round so that we would not see too far down the road." - Karen Blixen, Out of Africa
 We are blessed.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Every now and then I fall apart...

nothing, really, I was just listening to the '80s station while doing the mad-cleaning-dash-while-everyone-else-was-gone and Bonnie Tyler came on. Curiously, it served as a very good anecdote to the I'm-exhausted-please-just-let-me-be-a-childless-single-woman again moment. Whatever gets the shower scrubbed...

I was having that moment because the week had already exhausted me and we were just starting on the packed weekend. Gratefully, DH was there to pick up that slack and I got my schoolwork and housework done.

Some totally random flashbacks from the week, so I can reflect when I get some time. hah.

Exercise and Dental Health
I had mentioned that we went to a cross country meet last week so, keeping my promise, "the twins" and I headed south to the trail to get a little walk/jog thing going.


About .20 miles into our 1.5 mile jaunt, Blondie stops and shouts, "My tooth! My tooth!" Her second front tooth (the first was lost at church over a year ago) has been trying to come out for a while now. Of course it would come out just then. That's how we roll around here. (In fact, #2 just walked in proudly waving his tooth...he's been missing all the money that the others have been raking in).

She is the one, in my opinion, most likely to push out a 10-lb-baby, if God provides that trial one day. She swished her mouth out with water, tucked the tooth in her brother's pocket, and went on with her run. When I suggested she was a bit young to start this whole training routine because she wanted to walk when it was time to jog, she took off for almost two minutes of a sub-7 minute mile. She's feisty, that one.

They pretend they don't like one another at home but, really, they're best buds. 

Fantastic Field Trip

Wednesday, we again fought the traffic into town for one of the best field trips I've been on...probably ever. It was given by the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation and covered the Strip District during the Great Depression...aka, an Immigrant Story. We started at St. Patrick's and walked in and out of shops, noting architecture, history and social facts (including the banana warehouse explosion) then ended up at St. Stanislaus. Fabulous tour. Even little man thought so (when we were feasting on biscotti and pepperoni rolls post-jaunt). 
In the grotto with God rays and sweet Bernadette

Wholey's lightning-fast filleter (is that a word?)
1958 mural in the spice shop (it showed the Ft. Pitt bridge under construction)
 
Our final stop...I love it. The Stations are in Polish!
In the days before reality TV

What better way to spend a moonlit night in the car waiting for daddy to finish his meeting? The older kids are fascinated with Lost in Space right now. For me, it's one of the most hysterical things I've seen in quite a while. The most shocking thing? It ran between 1965 and 1968 and the year they were purportedly lost in space? 1997! You know you're old when...wow. Still funny, tho.
 
They wore the shiny suits for the first 4 episodes


 Then, purple and green boots! groovy.


Heading to College

Friday began our weekly trek to St. Vincent college for Step Up classes. I love, love, love this program (OK, maybe only 2 loves since I wish it were at Duquesne instead). The little boy even paid some attention to Mass instead of dropping all the kneelers and falling asleep. It is a wonderful journey to end our week, reunite with old friends, walk through the Holy Door and ask God's blessing on our studies. Perfect.
 
Lighting a candle for a dear lady's recovery post-surgery


football practice and a bag of gummy worms...perfect prelude to Mass (maybe that's why he didn't fall asleep!)
  Weird, nature stuff

See the green thing that looks like it was rolled in rice? That, is a tomato hornworm. It seems they crawl around causing ruin among tomato and other nightshade plants. I think it is humorous that we just found this one, since I "harvested" (i.e. tore out ) my entire garden last week. Anyway, the hornworm, after chomping down your tomatoes, eggplants, etc., becomes a
Sphingidae (hawk moth, sphinx moth)...a rather weird looking thing that appears to be what would happen if a humming bird and moth would mate. I've seen them around in years past but not recently.

I guess I won't, either, since the white grains on that guy's back are actually braconid wasp eggs, which will slowly feed on the worm as they grow, eventually resulting in the worm's death. Nature is fascinating and cruel...eat and be merry for tomorrow a wasp will lay fifty eggs on you and you will die a slow, tortured death.

Saturday Virtues

This was the first monthly meeting of Little Flowers/Blue Knights/Little Women Hospitality Club. It was the first time they all met on Saturday. That was fantastic because it meant I could dance around to the 80's and clean my house while my little people were with their dad learning all sorts of good things about Saints, virtues, crafts, and cooking. God bless the husband and wife who take all these wild little people on. I asked Blondie about her half-made pillow, "it's not done...was it frustrating?" "yes" "did you cry?" silence followed by crying "it was so hard...don't talk about it, it makes me cry" lol. I'm laughing because a minute later she was babbling about how many other girls in the class share her name. I told you, the people are saints.

I'm just happy because my first-born came home bearing a container of oatmeal mix and a huge smile. It warms my heart when she gets together with these girls. I love that smile. 
little woman of hospitality
Today was a well-earned day of rest. I am grateful for a bit of crazy during the week so we can center ourselves again on Sunday. Mass was celebrated by our beloved priest, we chatted with friends, and the kids played together all day (yes, I wrote lesson plans but at least the cleaning was done!). We prayed for all those in need, especially those who are ill, recovering, or traveling in another country(!). How blessed we are by this life...trials and joys. God is so good. 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Wishes and Reality

Wish...
Reality...
I love C.S.Lewis...he makes everything sound better :0)

we are blessed.

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Start of School

Homeschool is weird (I know, you're shocked) because everything is, for want of a better word, fluid. You can legally begin your year on July 1st (like all good homeschoolers do...lol) and end on June 30th or whenever you get around to chalking up your 180 days (which is another arbitrary number to discuss at a later juncture).

So today, on day 42, we find ourselves on Day 1. Yes, that's right. Even though they're homeschool academies, they begin online classes in mid-September...just like "regular" school.

I kind of chuckled to myself thinking about how #2 is going to be mighty annoyed when we're "officially out" of classes but he still has another month to go online. Such is life when mama doesn't have the skill or interest to teach Latin or writing. Subcontracting has its drawbacks.

This week also starts Step Up at St. Vincent College. It's a bear of a drive (especially the trip back to Monroeville at 5 PM for dance at 7) but it's Friday and I get not only 90 minutes of prep time but also Mass every week with tiny man. This semester holds a lot of promising art/geography courses along with science, history and sign language. The first grader gets to play games and write stories for three hours. Tough gig. Lucky she's only in first grade!

When we started five years ago, I was sure we would have already bid our homeschool days goodbye for #1. We were at a cross country meet today watching friends compete and part of me wished some of mine could be running along with the others. Instead of cheering on a sibling, they stood and cheered on all the kids as they ran up the hill. Tomorrow, some of us will go out and run/walk/talk together before school begins. That is the blessing I have as a homeschooler. There are times when I worry about how they will fare without friends, then I see them being supportive of friend and stranger like today, or we receive an unexpected visit and I remember it's all OK.

There are enough "friend" moments to allow them to appreciate the love Our Father extends us by putting people in our path, for a short time or for life. Not too much, though, to forget our ultimate purpose.



The Gospel reading at Mass this morning was Luke 7:1-10; the centurion's faith. I love that reading so much because this man acknowledges the greatness of Jesus, even as someone who has a high standing in the world. This centurion neither "forgets the little guy" nor believes himself to be equal to the Savior. What an important (and at times quite difficult) road to walk. God should be always foremost and first (this is why the whole, "Jesus is your buddy" thing troubles me) and we should treat others as He, in His Infinite Mercy, treats us. Always a good reminder for a mom who teaches her little ones. Remembering that all I have and do is a gift from Him who loves me.

So, now we begin our scheduled routine...there is also Catechesis, Tae Kwan Do, evening enrichment classes, Adoration, Mass, Blue Knights/Little Flowers/Ladies of Hospitality . Lots and lots of good things. Not nearly all the good things that are offered...many things were turned down (looking at that list, I probably should have said "no" more).

My current salve against the monster of over-commitment is taking faith time for myself. It's been wonderful to sit in Adoration and read 1 Corinthians during the few hours I've subbed this month. It is a joy to fight traffic (because one of the two bridges into the city is closed!) for 30 minutes to take the little ones in to visit the Blessed Sacrament for 15 minutes each Monday because I know that the routine has caught on enough that it's expected and anticipated by everyone involved (no, I don't take the 4-year-old). I can see the fruit it bears in my outlook and patience. It is so needed...even more than the runs or the date nights. They are also good but I must turn always first to Him. He will, aided by His mother, guide me along the right path and fill me with the grace I need to continue the journey.


So, I'm off to Adoration for the second time today but, gratefully, alone and for an entire hour! We also have family Mass day on Monday morning, as often as possible. I told DH today that I think it's good to front-load the grace, to get at least partly through the week (holding on until Mass again on Thursday or Friday). It's not some superhuman commitment. There are plenty of people who attend Mass daily. For me, it's not the time. Perhaps there will be that time one day. For now, I'm taking it when I can get it and giving all thanks to God for His continuous opportunities to say "yes" to Him (if you missed it, that's from two posts ago).


We are blessed.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Happy Birthday!

Let us run to Mary, and, as her little children, cast ourselves into her arms with a perfect confidence.
-Saint Francis de Sales


Monday, September 5, 2016

sinner, Saint, and all the things in between

What a wonderful few days we've had around here. I'm kind of tired but I wanted to share some insight to see if I can get it down in words. I'm never sure if it comes out as well as it sounds in my head.

I realized last week that it's been over a month (nearly two) since I'd been to confession. The benefit of going reasonably often is having that internal clock after a while that reminds you of the grace you're missing...we don't have Saturday confession here and since it was my Uncle's birthday last week, we figured we'd do two things, penance and cemetery, on the same end of town.

Our former parish priest who has changed assignments just happened to be in a church near the cemetery. I had no idea if it would be him who heard the confessions. I had no idea if he would think we were crazy for showing up there. I had some idea (because, let's be honest, I don't come up with these things on my own) that it was the right choice.

I like when God gives me time and opportunity to really parse out what I'm going to say before I enter the confessional. I am really bad at it...I blame my first beloved spiritual director because for him, it was just a nice conversation that ended up with absolution (completely correct in form, just more friendly-like and meaningful to me than counting sins)...so it is always a bit nerve wracking for me now. It's just like God to make sure I have an hour to wait (while watching 3 or 4 little ones) so I can really think about things.

I had no idea where to go so I read the daily readings. I actually laughed when I read the first reading from 1 Corinthians.
Brothers and sisters:
Learn from myself and Apollos not to go beyond what is written,
so that none of you will be inflated with pride
in favor of one person over against another.
Who confers distinction upon you?
What do you possess that you have not received?
But if you have received it,
why are you boasting as if you did not receive it?
You are already satisfied; you have already grown rich;
you have become kings without us!
Indeed, I wish that you had become kings,
so that we also might become kings with you.

For as I see it, God has exhibited us Apostles as the last of all,
like people sentenced to death,
since we have become a spectacle to the world,
to angels and men alike.
We are fools on Christ’s account, but you are wise in Christ;
we are weak, but you are strong;
you are held in honor, but we in disrepute.
To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty,
we are poorly clad and roughly treated,
we wander about homeless and we toil, working with our own hands.
When ridiculed, we bless; when persecuted, we endure;
when slandered, we respond gently.

We have become like the world’s rubbish, the scum of all,
to this very moment.
Ahh, who but my Creator could know me this well? My heart has been so troubled by the "spectacle" we have become in the world, merely by trying our best to follow His will. The choice to follow, troubled or not, is directly the result of knowing that all I possess was received from Him. So, I follow...it's rare, though, that I bless when I'm ridiculed, or respond gently when slandered...enduring persecution is definitely a work in progress.

What a wonderful discussion came from this. What great thoughts Father had, including the conclusion that there are no great thoughts for some of it. We know what is right and we try to do so but it carries no assurance of an easy life, especially in today's society. Only knowing God's will and following will allow us the grace to do all of those great things the Apostles accomplished.

Visiting the cemetery with the kids is always a good time. I like that they're familiar with what happens and where we go and I like that they are centering themselves on praying for the souls in Purgatory. I remind them that, upon my death, they need to up that several-fold to help me in my time of need.

My brother was also in this weekend and he and DH took the "twins" to the ballgame while #s 1, 2 and 5 accompanied me to vigil Mass at a neighboring parish. Again, the readings were so full of things on which to chew...the book of Wisdom:
Or who ever knew your counsel, except you had given wisdom
and sent your holy spirit from on high?
The Gospel according to Luke:
Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me
cannot be my disciple...In the same way, anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.
Following Mass, we stayed for day 9 of a novena to Mother Teresa and the rosary (the second of the day...there were some complaints but they came home saying it was a "great day"...definitely worth the extra nudge). Sitting there, looking at this woman who seemed to always say "yes" to God. I see that the opportunities are abundant and it's really only us who stands in the way of becoming a Saint.

I am so far from Saint material it is laughable and yet there is rarely a day that passes when I do not give God so many thanks for the guidance He provides. Sometimes I follow it immediately and obtain the grace swiftly and sometimes I merely learn the lesson from refusing to follow. How grateful I am, however, to even have that opportunity to fail. He is so good and so full of mercy and love. What an amazing Father we have! Each of us...every one...the same love and mercy. Wow.

So, as you go through the day, try to look for all the opportunities Our Loving Father gives you to move toward sainthood (or even Sainthood!). It is amazing how many ways there are to say "yes" to His will for your life. It is more amazing how those "yeses" can ripple as good through the world.


Saying "yes" to being open to life  - then cherishing that life...even if it's trying a lot of the time.



Saying "yes" to extended family time even when they don't live exactly the way you would like them to and praying patiently for their conversion 


 Saying "yes" to serving others...better even to serve while sharing happy times :0)
 Saying "yes" to the commitment to teach children the faith and practice it

Saying "yes" to the daily chores of your life (like watching little people and trying to prepare for confession)...and trying to perform them in love

Saying "yes" to little ones who like to wander because sometimes the wandering shows you God's wisdom in action

video
 Saying "yes" to letting kids be kids sometimes...sleeping late, laughing with one another, spending time bonding to their siblings...because that relationship will last long after many others have passed

 Saying "yes" and acknowledging that every great gift...like a sunrise at the end of a blessed or trial-filled day...is from the One who loves us beyond measure. 

See? That's only the "yes" times I could remember from the weekend. Were there "no" times as well? Indeed. Many. That's also why I'm not anywhere near the beautiful woman who was just made a Saint. Still, it's really good and important, while examining your "no's" to also count your "yeses". Then you can see all the ways God is working in your life and pray for the grace to keep saying "yes".

Because it's St. Teresa of Calcutta's feast day, here are a few wise words from her. Enjoy the holiday and remember to listen, say "yes" and follow...you'll be amazed at what He can do.



We are blessed.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Preach, brothers...


Just going through a thing here...nothing too big for the One on my side :0) Back soon.

We are blessed.