Wednesday, January 31, 2007
But I have a four-year-old who lives to do math. Isaac is currently at about a second-grade math level. He adds and subtracts two and three digit numbers in his head and is starting to understand how multiplication works. His favorite thing to do is play "rummy" and other card games. In our on-going "rummy" game, he is currently at 11,000 points while I am around 7,000 and it is not that I am letting him win. He walks around the house doing math problems. Granted, he does not have 100% accuracy but he is usually in the right ballpark. It is a pretty amazing thing to witness. This is obviously his gift in life and I am trying to nurture it which means that my days are spent doing a lot of math.
A friend of mine gave me an "algebra" textbook and a "preparing for the math college boards" book today. She was cleaning out her house and thought she would pass them along to her "little mathematical friend." I know he is not yet ready for these books but he will enjoy looking at them, and I am sure his first statement will be "Mommy, do this!" Yes, God does have a sense of humor!
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Now, find a way to incorporate at least one of those things in your life, even if it is only for 5 minutes at a time. When I first began a mom, I had to accept the reality that if I didn't take advantage of those little spurts of time in my life when the kids were happy, fed and changed, I was never going to get anything done.
I learned to always have reading material available. I have read so much one paragraph or one page at a time. I learned to pray anywhere, anytime. I learned that you can actually pull a few weeds out of a garden in 5 minutes of free time or step outside for a quick breath of fresh air. These little "breaks" in the busyness of life help quiet and nourish the soul. Take advantage of them.
Sunday, January 28, 2007
Love is patient. Love is kind. It is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.
1 Corinthians 13:1-8
Chapter 13 of 1st Corinthians is one of the best-known Bible passages. St. Paul's words on love carry a resonance down through the ages. Many brides and grooms choose this passage as a wedding reading and rightfully so. The love he speaks of is the love which all married couples should aspire to, but that love is not limited only to those who are married. Jesus gave us the great commandment, to "Love God and Love our neighbor as yourself." As Christians, our fundamental task is to love one another however and wherever we find them.
The first part of this scripture passage is especially demanding. St. Paul tells us that we can do the most amazing and generous things, but if we do them for the wrong reason, they are of little value. Love needs to inform our every action. It needs to be the reason behind everything that we do. Sometimes, that can be very challenging. Sometimes the most loving thing to do isn't exactly clear.
In parenting, love can require different things at different times and with different children. Sometimes love requires a hug and a kiss to make a problem all better. At other times, love requires setting limits and doling out punishments when those limits are violated. Sometimes love requires holding on tightly. At other times, it requires letting go and allowing your child to make a mistake he can learn from. It can be very difficult to know which time is which.
In our dealings with friends and family, love can help us to keep our mouth shut so that we don't cause harm to anyone. Other times, love means we need to speak up and help talk someone we care about out of a bad course of action.
In facing larger issues in our community and world such as homelessness, poverty, hunger, and war, love can mean working with others to find a solution and respecting those whose opinions of how to fix these problems differ from our own. Love can mean being generous with our material resources or respecting the homeless person who crosses our path on the street. It can mean putting a donation in a tin cup or choosing to help through established agencies. It can mean supporting a soldier while at the same time protesting a war.
Yes, love sometimes means making difficult choices when the way is not always clear. St. Paul tells us, however, that as long as we do make our choices out of love, we are on the right path. We do the best we can and we have to trust that love and God in heaven will help it all turn out the way it should.
Thank you so much for mentioning my new book on your blog. It is always a thrill to "meet" someone who loves angels. You might want to know, and mention to your readers, that on my website, www.joanwanderson.com, I now have an archives page which has allowed me to post about 150 stories that I never used in my books. These are stories mailed out every other week to my mailing list (which you can also sign up to receive at the same website address). Never a fee or anything. Just a gathering place for angel lovers. Thanks again. Joan Wester Anderson
Friday, January 26, 2007
If you don't believe in angels, you should read this book. It will convince you that there are other beings who walk through life with us and help guide our way. If you already believe in angels, "Guardian Angels" will only serve to reinforce that belief. It is filled with wonderful, touching stories, quite a few of which made me tear up. It is such a reinforcement of the good in the world. We all need that now and then.
Thursday, January 25, 2007
My husband and I have an on-going debate about the amount of stuff in our house. I like to get the "stuff" out of the house. He likes to bring it in. In all fairness, my husband is not a shop-a-holic and I am not ruthless in my removal of what I feel is excess. His office is his own. He also has a corner of our bedroom which serves as his clothespile. I truly feel that life is too short to get into fights over such trivial matters.
I have tried to implement rules such as "If you bring a new item into the house, you need to get rid of one item." But his response has been that "That is your rule, not mine!" And life goes on.
In our communal spaces, however, I do try to manage the amount of stuff that we own. Having children doesn't help this venture. The toys seem to multiply by themselves. In addition, they make an astounding number of crafts that they become extremely attached to and refuse to allow me to throw away.
And so, I continue to struggle with "dealing with the stuff." I try to keep the amount of things I personally own to a minimum. At least twice a year, I weed the children's toys when they are sleeping, removing items that they haven't played with in ages and hopefully won't notice that they are gone. I give away the clothes that they have outgrown on a regular basis.Even as I continue the battle, I try to remind myself that I am lucky to have all these items in my life. I would much rather have my husband and deal with the clothespile than have a pristine bedroom and live without him. The day will come when my children will no longer play with toys and I will miss their childhood. The battle is important. There is a need to manage the mess, but the people who share my life matter more. It's all a matter of keeping it all in perspective.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
To help me write for the Catholic Exchange blog, I've been reading several books on productivity. The one I'm reading right now is "It's Hard to Make a Difference When You Can't Find Your Keys: the seven-step path to becoming truly organized" by Marilyn Paul, Ph.D. I came across this wonderful quote:
"There is an old saying: Men make plans, God laughs! For all our planning, there is some other Force in charge, and much of the time, the best of life takes place when we haven't planned for it."
I find this to be so true, especially with children. You can spend a lot of money and plan a special activity and while it may be fun, it often does live up to expectations. Yet, you can just be hanging around the house and doing the simplest thing like reading a story or making cookies and those moments are so sacred and special.
Sunday, January 21, 2007
1 Corinthians 12:12,27
I've always enjoyed this scripture passage from St. Paul. We are all parts of the body of Christ, the Church here on earth, and each part has its job to do to keep the body working. We each have been given gifts from God that we bring to the table. There are those who are wonderful teachers or talented speakers. Some bear silence witness in prayer. Others have the gift of compassion. Still others have great understanding. Some have forgiving hearts or the gift of patience. There are as many gifts as there are people, but we each have something to offer. Perhaps most importantly the Church is not complete without our gifts.
Sometimes I suffer from "comparisonitis". I look at other people and wish that I had their gifts. I look at my own and feel like I come up short. But this is the exact behavior that St. Paul is speaking against. "God placed the parts, each one of them, in the body as he intended. If they were all one part, where would the body be . . . Indeed, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are all the more necessary." (1 Corinthians 18,22). We all matter. Isn't that a wonderful comfort as well as an awesome responsibility?
We need to bring all that we are and put it to use in the service of the Lord. I am reminded of the hymn, "Christ has no body now but yours." If people are to know the love of Christ, they will come to know it through our acts of kindness, through our charitable actions, through our human embrace. If people are to know the forgiveness of Christ, they will come to know it through our ability to forgive and heal broken relationships. If our children are to know about Christ and what it means to be a Christian, they will learn it through our sharing of our faith. If others are to learn what it means to live in relationship with Christ, they will see it in our prayer and witness to the truth.
St. Paul exhorted the Corinthian community to embrace their roles in the body of Christ. The message still holds true for us today. We live in a global community and are perhaps more aware than ever of our brothers and sisters throughout the world. Yet the vast majority of us will live out our faith commitment within the intimacy of our families, our communities, and our local parishes. We join our gifts with the gifts of others and together work to make Christ visible to those around us. Embrace your gifts and humbly offer them back to God in service.
Friday, January 19, 2007
The Power of Forgiveness by Catherine Leary, SSJ. Sr. Cathy gave this homily at a reconciliation service. It was so touching - I don't think that there was a dry eye in the place. She graciously gave me permission to share it with all of you.
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Dodds understands the pressures that millions of middle-aged Americans endure as they become caregivers to aging parents. Her professional work with the elderly has exposed her to the complex medical, financial, and legal problems that entangle older people. Her personal experience helping ailing family members has given her deep insight into the difficulties caregivers face in dealing with these problems. A Catholic Guide to Caring for Your Aging Parent is a comprehensive guide for caregivers.
She insists that faith is a fundamental part of caregiving, and her approach is deeply rooted in Catholic spirituality. She shows adult children how they can love and serve their aging parents better by deepening their own spiritual lives. "Caregiving", she says, "is a time of many grace-filled moments."
Dodds explains how to properly assess the needs of a failing older person, and she writes in detail about the physical, mental, emotional, interpersonal, and spiritual dimensions of care. Three extensive appendices provide checklists for assessing needs, a compilation of resources, and an anthology of prayers.
Monday, January 15, 2007
I have just been invited to be a regular blogger at Catholic Exchange as part of a new blog "CE on Time" dealing with productivity. I am thrilled with the opportunity to be a part of this new project. To prepare for this new venture, I took out a bunch of books on that topic out of the library this week which readers of this blog will no doubt be hearing about. I was actually pleasantly surprised that I do make use of many of the techniques that these experts suggest. So, this is my first post to the new blog which I am sharing with you as well:
My Christmas pictures came in by UPS truck today - nearly 300 of them! Granted, many are doubles, but still, that is quite a few pictures to wade through. I love to take pictures. Even making diligant use of the "delete" button on my digital camera, I end up with an overabundance.
I patted myself on the back last week when I finally got all the pictures uploaded from the camera to the computer. I then went through and got rid of red-eye on several of them as well as attempted to lighten up many that had been taken in low-light situations (somehow photographs taken in my Church always come out way too dark even with a flash.) Then I sent them off to my favorite photo-processor to be printed. I breathed a sigh of relief that I could cross "send out the pictures" off of my to-do list.
I knew my relief would be short-lived, however, because the pictures were going to come back! Now, I have an even bigger job to add to the to-do list: Sort and scrapbook the pictures.
I have two young children (ages 5 1/2 and 4) and I work part-time from home. Saturday night I have dedicated as my evening off. After the children are in bed, my husband and I will usually watch a movie and I work on something creative. My first choices are quilting or watercolor painting. I consider scrapbooking an activity I have to do to insure that our photo memories are kept in order. I have the feeling the next few Saturday nights will be dedicated to this.
There are people who love to scrapbook and that is wonderful. If that is a creative outlet that you enjoy, then by all means put your heart and soul into your creations. If, like me, you are simply looking for a way to organize your memories in an attractive manner, I offer you my system.
First, I sort the photos into three piles. One pile is for my husband and I. Each child has his own pile. Any picture that is truly bad goes in the trash. Others which are good go into an "extras" box. I find that these photos come in handy for projects. I then go through the "keep" piles putting them in chronological order.
The pictures for my husband and I go into an album that has room on the side for comments. That way all I have to do is slip in the pictures and write what the event was and who is in the picture. This gives me the informational benefit of scrapbooking without much added work.
My children have actual scrapbooks. They enjoy looking at "their" books and I think that they will appreciate being able to take their memories with them when they move out someday. I like the 12" x 12" scrapbooks because you can fit more on one page. There are very few events that require more than two pages in their scrapbooks.
My scrapbooking supplies are minimal. I have a small paper-cutter and corner-rounder that I purchased at a scrapbooking party several years ago. I have a collection of colored card stock that I use for both the background of the scrapbook page and to mat the pictures. Add scissors, scrapbooking tape, and a pen and I am ready to go. I keep it all in one bag so that it is handy whenever I am ready to work.
I go through each boy's pile of pictures and crop the photos for maximum emphasis using my paper-cutter. I then do a final weeding of the photos to decide which ones are the best and will make the most appealing composition on the page. The others go into the "extras" box. Next, I mat the photos on colored card-stock, usually using two different colors per page to add some contrast. I arrange the photos on the background piece of cardstock, add some captions, and the page is done! Each page usually takes about 1/2 an hour.
Sunday, January 14, 2007
It is so easy to get caught up in the drudgery of work, but what if it had a higher purpose? What if work was actually a form of prayer? St. Benedict, in his famous monastic rule, mandated that each day be divided among prayer, study, and work, with each area carrying equal importance. Robert Ellsberg, writing in "The Saint's Guide to Holiness," tells us that "The aim of monastic life is a state in which there is no artificial division between the sacred domain of prayer and the 'worldly' activity of labor. Prayer is itself a form of work - the opus dei ('work of God') - while manual labor ideally should become a form of prayer."
How then, do we raise the work of our hands to this level? How do we give greater meaning to the ways we spend our days? The most important step is simply to have the intention. Begin by offering God your day. Do all that you do for the glory of God, whether that is sweeping the floor, changing diapers, working in an office, or running a multi-national corporation. Take pride in whatever you do.
Sometimes it is easy to think that one's work doesn't matter especially if it seems to have little impact on the world at large. At home, we sweep the floor only to have to sweep it again tomorrow. We clean the bathrooms only for them to get dirty again. We make dinner and are hungry again in a few hours. In an office, we might wonder if selling the widget of the moment really matters. After all, there are people out there doing amazing things to change the world. Surely, their lives, their work, matter more than ours?
God does not call us all to do the same thing, but God does call us to bring our all to our work. Whether our work is in the home or in the larger community, we touch lives. Our work matters. We have the opportunity to love our neighbors, to change the world by one small interaction at a time. We can take pride in whatever product we might be involved in making or selling, thinking of the person who might ultimately own it. Yes, our work does have value. It has value for our own lives by providing us with purpose, it has value to the world at large, and it has value to God when we offer it to God as part of our daily prayer.
Friday, January 12, 2007
But then the princiapl lesson of the saints occurs to me: the fact that for all of us it is our present situation and the given circumstances of our lives that provide our own road to holiness. This is my monastery! And if there is a way to God in my present life, I must learn to find it in the midst of work, of driving children to school, of walking the dog, of washing the dishes, and of responding to a hundred other demands on my time and attention. One learns to realize for one thing, that it isn't necessary to flee to some special religious place to find occasions for the exercise of patience, humility, forgiveness, self-sacrifice, and generosity.
Just another reminder of the care God takes with all of creation!
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
To do this activity, put a piece of colored sidewalk chalk in a zippered plastic bag. Place it on top of some newspaper and then crush it with a hammer until it is powdered. Put the powder in a plastic cup. Mix with 6 tablespoons of water. Then add 1 tablespoon of white glue and mix. Your paint is then ready to use!
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
And he is not the only one. If you pick up a book on the lives of the saints, you will find that there are many whose pasts were rather colorful before they encountered an experience of Jesus that made them change their ways and start anew. We all have made mistakes in our lives, myself included. I have certainly done many things in my life I am not proud of. And as an imperfect sinner, I will no doubt continue to make mistakes despite my best efforts to avoid them.
But that is the beauty of Jesus' life and message. He came to forgive us and offer salvation. When we fall, we can ask for forgiveness and begin again. We can continue on our own path of conversion and continue to experience the power of the Risen Lord.
Sunday, January 07, 2007
So, we have added this to our morning routine. Every school day David, his four-year-old brother Isaac, and I stop for a brief moment before sending David off to school. The church is so quiet at that time of the morning. The lights are dim and often we are the only ones there. The boys stop in front of the statue of Mary and baby Jesus and discuss which candle they each are going to light. We don't have real candles - they are just little electric lights inside of votive covers that make them look like candles. The boys pick their chosen candles and push a button. Instantly there is light shimmering in the darkness. We say a simple prayer - an Our Father, Hail Mary, or Glory Be. Our voices echo in the stillness. We bless ourselves with holy water and leave. The whole ritual takes two minutes at most, but it gets the day off to a good start.
As a small child, my mother would often take me to churches during the day as we would be out running errands or going to pick up my older sister from school. We would always stop to light candles and say a prayer. Of course, back then the candles were real and there was this wonderful aroma that permeated them. It was always comforting to know that the lit candle was there, continuing to lift our prayers to God long after we had left the church.
I hadn't lit candles in church for a long time. I considered myself too theologically advanced for such simple symbolism. Prayer is prayer and God hears them with or without the candle. But there is a place for symbols in life, and candles can be particularly powerful ones. The light represents Jesus, the light of the world, breaking through the darkness. The light represents the light within each one of us struggling to shine despite the trials and tribulations we may be going through. It represents our prayers going up to God.
Yes, lighting candles in church does have value and I have come to look forward to our morning visit as much as David and Isaac do. There is peace in the darkness and the stillness, and there is a great deal of comfort in knowing that those tiny little electric lights are glowing throughout the day as a sign of our prayer.
Friday, January 05, 2007
Thursday, January 04, 2007
NFP works, is life-affirming, is free, helps you know your body better, and is in harmony with Church teachings.
To learn more about Dr. Hilgers work, visit www.popepaulvi.com. To find someone to help you learn NFP, visit www.fertilitycare.org.
Wednesday, January 03, 2007
God is as much in our everyday life as in the big celebrations, and sometimes we have a little bit more time to be aware of it. About 4:30 pm this afternoon I looked out my front window and there was a breathtaking sunset full of radiant oranges and purples. It was beautiful. A few minutes later I looked out the back window and the full moon was shining through the silhouette of a giant pine tree. It was equally beautiful and I gave thanks to God for those two brief moments of peace and revelation.
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
a mother's authority he confirms over her sons.
He who honors his father atones for sins;
he stores up riches who reveres his mother.
He who honors his father is gladdened by children,
and when he prays he is heard.
he who reveres his father will live a long life;
he obeys the Lord who brings comfort to his mother."
Family relationships are hard. As a child hearing this passage, I would think of the ways I had failed to "honor thy father and mother" by disobedience or by lying to them to stay out of trouble. As an adult, I reflect on how my relationship with my parents has changed. The experience of being a parent myself has altered how I view my own upbringing. While in the past, I was quick to judge, I am now quick to forgive. I understand my parents did the best they could and that is all any of us can do.
In some respects, the way I parent is different from the way I was raised. But I realize that if I am doing my job, the day will come when at least for that moment, one or both of my children will hate me. I can only hope with time and experience (and, perhaps through the births of their own children) that they, too, will understand that I did the best I could and come to forgive as well.
I am thankful that I have reached a stage where my parents are my friends. I enjoy visiting with them. I seek out their advice and consider their counsel when making decisions. I ask for their prayers and in turn, pray for them. I value the relationship that they have with my own children.
But there are also times when it is my job to care for them as well. As parents age, honoring thy father and mother takes on a whole new meaning. It can mean having the patience to take them shopping or to doctor's appointments. Depending on what God and life hand us, it may mean years of care or making difficult decisions when they are unable to do so. Eventually, it will mean letting go when they go to God.
We hear much about the "sandwich" generation - those with both parents and children to care for. Sometimes with longer life expectancies that sandwich gets extended one generation further where there are either grandparents or grandchildren to care for as well. In all cases, God calls us to respect those in our families who came before us as well as to do our best to bring up those who come after us. That respect is not always easy. We get tired and frustrated and lose our patience. Instead of bringing comfort, we bring pain. Sometimes the pain comes in our direction from both our parents and our children. But God tells us to persevere, to keep trying, to keep loving, and to keep honoring.
Monday, January 01, 2007
Today's first reading, however, offers a wonderful blessing for all of you, which I thought was perfect for the new year:
The Lord bless you and keep you!
The Lord let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you!
The Lord look upon your kindly and give you peace!