Quick Takes: A Family Update

Once again, I’ve neglected and abandoned my blog. It’s a good think I don’t treat our gardens the same way I do my little space on the web.  Both for the sake of time and for lack of anything important or interesting to say, I thought I’d do my first ever “quick takes” entry.

1. After a lengthy hiatus, we’re back on the DIY/home improvement bandwagon. I, for one, am thrilled. I just can’t get enough of working in the yard. Sadly, our yard is small, and most projects are quickly completed. I desperately want to extend our patio and add some stone retaining walls to our beds, but I don’t yet have the confidence to tackle those projects myself or the budget to hire them out. Alas, I stick to simple gardening and the likes. Inside, I just bought new paint to cover the “turkey puke” I pasted all over our living room and foyer. While I can’t wait to get the new paint on the walls, neither my hubby nor I are thrilled about painting. It’s definitely not a project that either of us enjoy.

2. We’ve officially made the decision to homeschool and we’re not turning back. I’ve been waffling back and forth for over a year now. Laughably, one of my biggest fears all along was what people would think/say when they found out. I felt like so much about our little family was already off the beaten path, and I knew that announcing we were homeschooling would officially make us weirdos. I’m finally getting a little more confident about sharing this information, as evidenced by this public announcement. Weirdos or not, this is what we believe is best for our family.

3. Despite my dislike and distrust of too much tv time, the addition of a DVR in our home has resulted in some new tv addictions on my part. Some are embarrassing, like American Idol and Teen Mom 2, some are late, like The Office, and some are just hysterical like Police Women of ___________. Luckily, Josh has never taken issue with vegging out in front of the idiot box, so he’s happy to accommodate my new-found fascinations in the evening.

4. I’m in love with my job, but I literally don’t have time to breathe. And adjusting to both parents working is a topic for another entry. Maybe even a series of them. Being a mom that works outside of the home, I am now more convinced than ever that the ideal situation is for mom to be at home with the kids. But, for whatever reason, Josh and I are both wholeheartedly convinced that the Lord put me in this position and would like me to stay there for the time being. We’re both curious to see just how long the “time being” actually is.

5. Ben is ENORMOUS! He’s nearly 10 months old! I truly don’t know where the time has gone. He got his fourth tooth today, but only having four doesn’t slow him down at all. He will literally eat anything I eat. Of course, most of it requires a little modification to make it safe for him, but he inhales it all. Despite the fact that he routinely out-eats me, he’s only in the tenth percentile for weight. The doctor doesn’t like that at all, but I could care less. He’s happy, healthy and meeting his developmental milestones. Who cares how he stacks up against the other kids his age? That being said, he’s in the 95 percentile for height. Maybe we’ll be traveling to watch him play in the Final Four one day!

6. Speaking of Final Fours, this year was such a waste! Worst. Game. Ever.

7. I’ve been a total slacker this Lent. I chose my Lenten sacrifice and I’ve stuck with it, but I haven’t really opened myself up to big spiritual growth like I did last year. There’s sill time to though…and it’s not like Lent is the only time to grow spiritually… I don’t mean to sound nonchalant, because I’m not at all. As I so often do, I’m just rationalizing my shortcomings. It’s easier to deal with that way, right?

8. I’ve been on the hunt for cute, modest, flattering swimwear. It’s impossible! I have no desire to be covered completely from neck to knee on the beach, but I also have no desire to be fully revealed either. Surely there must be another option besides being naked, wearing the same bathing suit as my grandmother, and swimming in sweatsuits??

Well, things are beginning to unravel here, a clear sign that Mommy’s attention has been diverted for a few minutes too long, so that’s it for now. Have a great weekend everyone!

Finding Time to Love

While reading an article about the actor who played Jesus in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, I came across the most simple and profound quote. Jim Caviezel, the actor, quoting Ivan Dragicevic, stated

“Man always finds time for what he loves. If somebody who doesn’t have any time finds a girlfriend and falls in love with her, he will always find time for her. People don’t have time for God because they do not love Him.”

I love it when something so simple rings so clear and true. Even though I didn’t come up with this on my own, these are my favorite kind of epiphanies. Furthermore, this is such a fitting statement to summarize some of my Lenten experiences.

As you may recall, one of my Lenten epiphanies was about being called to tithe our time. Most days during Lent, I probably did a decent job of doing this simply because of what I chose to do for Lent in terms of prayer. Added on to my regular daily prayer time, by the end of the day most days, I’d probably shared about 10% of my awake time with God. But what about now that Lent is over? And what about the fact that it was kind of happening by default, not because I had a burning desire to spend as much time as possible with the Lord in prayer?

I think Ivan’s statement sums it up perfectly. Even though I’ve grown SO much spiritually, I still have such a long way to go. Yes, I love the Lord. But do I love Him with the same passion that I love my husband? Or greater for that matter? I’m always a little emotionally high maintenance, and during my pregnancies it can amount to downright neediness. Recently, I’ve found myself almost daily begging Josh not to go to work or to come home early or whatever else will get me a few more minutes with him. Where is that same passion for more time with the Lord?

One thing I’ve been praying for a lot lately is for our marital love to become the love that Christ intended for it to be. In Ephesians Chapter 5 we’re told that wives should submit to their husbands as the Church does to the Lord and that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the Church. That’s pretty powerful stuff. It really moves me and its something I greatly desire for our marriage. (Although I’ll be quick to tell you, I hope Josh never has to hand himself over for me in the manner in which Christ did for his bride, the Church.)

What I find so funny is that I’ve been asking to grow in this kind of marital love without really understanding what it even means. My actions show very clearly that I have more passion for my husband than I do for the Lord. That being the case, I think it’s laughable that I pray for Christ to teach us to love each other as He loves His Church and vice versa. Thankfully, God loves me just the way I am, despite my many imperfections and ignorances. I’m confidant that through continued prayer I will grown in both martial love as God designed it and love for God himself. I have no doubt that He can work on more than one part of me at a time.

On a less serious note, this quote also called to mind my Lenten Facebook experience, or, more accurately, experiencing life without Facebook during Lent. There are several people I keep up with on Facebook. There are many more that I am “friends” with, read their status updates, look at their pictures, but never actually communicate with. Regarding the later, I’d say I am not actually friends with those people, regardless of what I’d like to think. All relationships take effort to sustain and reading about someone’s life on Facebook doesn’t count. As for the former…well that’s the question that really got me thinking.

Previously, I would have told you that I rely on Facebook so much for communication because I’m too busy for other forms of communication such as lunch dates or even phone calls. Taking into account Ivan’s statement, which I wholeheartedly agree with, if I am too busy for time with these people, am I even really friends with them?

Being out-of-state from many of my closest friends, the ease and convenience of Facebook for feeling involved in each other’s lives is unparalleled. I don’t dispute that. But what if its come to the point where Facebook is all you have left? With few exceptions, I didn’t talk to or communicate with the people who I keep up with most on Facebook at all during Lent. I’m actually not even sure if I knew I missed some of them until I “saw” them again on Facebook. I was really excited to “see” them, but it never even occurred to me to get in touch with them without using Facebook. That may just mean I’m selfish. But if the same is true for them, are we really even friends to begin with?

I don’t have an answer to that question.

My point is that love is a verb. For those of you struggling to remember, verbs are words that show action. If we can’t take even the smallest, simplest action, whether it be for our spouses, our friends, or the Lord, how much do we really love them? Let’s be honest with ourselves. Ivan is exactly right. When we love something, we make time for it. It’s not uncommon for Americans to move their whole schedule around to ensure they don’t miss some particular hour of TV. If we can do that for a show that we “love,” why is it so hard for us to make a little time for the people we love and for our God? After all, people and most definitely God have so much more value than anything you could possibly find on TV.

DIY Crazy

Official reports indicate unanimously that I have gone DIY crazy. And we haven’t even closed yet! From spending hours at a time at Lowe’s to watching DIY Network clips online to reading how-to books to making a list of about 100 projects, priority ranked, it’s safe to say I’m definitely obsessed. I’m just so excited to finally have a home that we own, that we can make our own, that we can make real improvements on. I suppose you could be wondering what I could possibly need to improve since we bought a brand new home, but trust me, there’s lots of room for personalization and upgrades!

Speaking of upgrades, we were very careful to ensure we chose a neighborhood where we could upgrade away without worrying about pricing ourselves out of the neighborhood. There are plenty of homes larger and more expensive than ours. So, all of our projects should go hand in hand with increased equity. Ah, sweet equity. I am absolutely thrilled that we will finally be building equity instead of fattening some other Joe Schmoe’s wallet with our rental payments.

So what’s first? Well, the week we close I plan to have the interior painted (no more boring white and beige!!), seal our privacy fence, build our compost bin and rain barrel, and of course move in. I’ve already picked all the paint colors, except for the boys’ room. We went out to the house after church on Sunday to make sure everything worked with the cabinetry, counter tops, tile, carpet, etc. Aside from matching the paint, I’m SO glad we went out there. It was so much fun to see all the finishing touches going in. Our beautiful front door is up, the fence is built, the 2 in blinds are installed, and they extended the tile in the foyer like we asked. I was so, so excited to get an even better idea of what it will be like finished.

According to Andy, we should paint his room and the playroom blue, the living room gray, the kitchen white, and the master bedroom brown. While I love his ideas, that’s not quite how things are going to work out. He’ll be getting some of his wishes as the playroom ceiling will be blue, a pretty pale gingham blue, and a brownish color, Delta Sandbar, will run throughout the house. Other than that, I’m afraid he’s out of luck.

I’ve really been surprised at how much Andy has gotten into our pre-DIY research. He sits right next to me on the couch and examines paint samples, looks through how-to books, and watches video clips with me. He even picked out two of the paint colors we’re using after I completely missed them. I think he’s most excited about all the tools we’ll be gradually acquiring and planting and working in the vegetable garden in the backyard, which is pretty high on the priority list after unpacking.

It’s definitely safe to say that I have become consumed with planning home improvement projects. In fact, it’s probably completely counteracted my giving up facebook for lent. Initially, I had a lot more “extra” time to spend in prayer or reading or whatever. Now, all my free time is completely absorbed. I guess I just replaced one time-killer with another. At least this time-killer is a little more worthwhile than monitoring status updates and picture uploads, as if those activities somehow imply that I have a real relationship with the posters, but that’s a topic for an entirely different post all together. Feel free to follow our DIY escapades here. Since it’s all I ever talk about anymore, I’m sure I’ll be writing about it a lot too! And if you have any helpful tips along the way, feel free to share them. We have no idea what we’re doing; we’re just learning as we go.

What We’re Doing for Lent

I’ve been asked several questions about what my family is doing for Lent. Just to satisfy curiosity, I’ll fill you in.

Of course, we’re observing all Church traditions regarding fast and abstinence. Josh and I both spent time in prayer to discern what God was calling us to give up. I’m giving up Facebook and Josh is giving up espn.com. Bless his heart. When he felt God calling him to give it up, he was a little disappointed to say the least. He most definitely does not want to, especially with March Madness just around the corner. And I can’t say I’m particularly thrilled about giving up facebook. However, I know if I spent a fraction of the time in prayer that I spend on Facebook, God would most certainly be able to work wonders through me! With the boys being so young, we didn’t expect them to choose something to give up. Instead, we decided this would be the ideal time to take their tv privileges (or more accurately, lack thereof) a step further. They’ve been without cable for sometime, but we’ve decided to remove all DVDs and videos that aren’t either educational or spiritual in nature.

For our family almsgiving we’ve stocked up on non-perishables. Each day, both boys will get to go to the cabinet and pick one item each to donate to our box. We will deliver the box to the poor at the end of Lent. We’re also participating in CRS’ Operation Rice Bowl. I love Operation Rice Bowl and we add an additional fun twist. Josh and I deposit a quarter anytime we use a curse word, gossip, make a judgment about someone, or engage in general negative commentary. CRS provides a calendar that has a suggestion each day for either giving alms, Lenten Scripture passages, stories from the less fortunate around the world and more.

To increase time in prayer Josh has chosen a devotional book, Classic Catholic Meditations to Enrich Your Faith & Help You Pray by Fr. Bede Jarrett, OP. I will be making the Stations of the Cross each day. It just occurred to me that we haven’t selected an activity to help the boys spend more time with Jesus in prayer, so we’ll have to get on that this evening.

We’re also planning to spend each Friday evening at Church this Lent participating in our parish Fish Fry, Mass, Stations and the Lenten Speaker Series. This is what I’m actually most excited about. I think these Friday evenings will be invaluable time together as a family, with our Church and with the Lord.

This is by far the most we’ve ever planned in advance for Lent. That makes me nervous. You know what they say about God laughing while we make plans…. I recently read a fabulous article in the February issue of Liguorian magazine about seeking God in not only in the sacrifices and circumstances that we choose but also those that we do not choose this Lent. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what the Lord has in store for us as we seek Him this Lenten Season.    

What to Give Up?

I found this on EWTN.com and thought it was wonderful. Just wanted to share it with you!

Give up complaining. . . . . . . .focus on gratitude.
Give up pessimism. . . . . . . . . become an optimist.
Give up harsh judgments . . .think kindly thoughts.
Give up worry. . . . . . . . . . . . . trust Divine Providence.
Give up discouragement. . . . .be full of hope.
Give up bitterness. . . . . . . . . . turn to forgiveness.
Give up hatred. . . . . . . . . . . . . return good for evil.
Give up negativism . . . . . . . . .be positive.
Give up anger. . . . . . . . . . . . . .be more patient.
Give up pettiness. . . . . . . . . . .become mature.
Give up gloom. . . . . . . . . . . . . .enjoy the beauty that is all around you.
Give up jealousy. . . . . . . . . . . .pray for trust.
Give up gossiping. . . . . . . . . . .control your tongue.
Give up sin. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . turn to virtue.
Give up giving up. . . . . . . . . . . hang in there!

What Are You Giving Up for Lent?

This is a common topic of conversation this time of year. The answers I hear vary from the typical (chocolate, sweets, coke) to the selfish (I’m going on a diet. I’m going to start exercising.) First and foremost, Lenten sacrifices and New Year’s Resolutions are NOT synonymous. Lent isn’t a time to make a “sacrifice” that is all about you or for your benefit. Lent is the time leading up to the commemoration of our Lord’s death for our sins and the commemoration of His resurrection for our salvation. We use this time to mourn the sins for which He died. Humans have an innate psychological need to mourn tragedies, and our sins are tragedies of the greatest sort.

So what are we called to do each year during the Lenten Season? The answer can be broken down into three categories: prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

Prayer

This one doesn’t seem to need much explanation. We’re simply called to spend more time with the Lord in prayer. If you need a few tips on how to do this, consider the following:

  • Begin each day with the following prayer: “Lord, I offer you this day, and all that I think, do and say.”
  • Attend daily Mass as often as possible
  • Pray the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary
  • Make the Stations of the Cross at home or at your parish celebration
  • Spend 10 minutes reading Scripture each day (or 10 additional minutes if you’re already in the habit of reading Scripture daily)
  • Pray the seven Penitential Psalms (Psalms 6, 31, 50, 101, 129,142)
  • Spend time in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament
  • Keep a Lenten Journal with your spiritual insights, special intentions, hurts you want to offer up, and progress reports on your Lenten resolutions
  • Pray for people who you don’t like or who don’t like you
  • Institute family prayer time, even if it’s just a few minutes or just one prayer

Fasting

I think when most of us think of fasting, our minds immediately go to Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Yes, those are the days we are specifically called to fast from food. Fasting in the strictest sense can mean going without food all together or having only bread and water. All the Church expects of us is to restrict our intake to three meals, 1 meal and two smaller. The smaller meals added together should not equal the larger meal with no snacking between meals. The Church further notes that this is only expected of people in good health between the ages of 18 and 59.

We are also called to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and all Fridays in Lent. Abstinence requires a Catholic over 14 years of age to abstain from eating meat on Fridays in honor of the Passion of Jesus on Good Friday. Meat is considered to be the flesh and organs of mammals and fowl, including soups or gravies made from them. Fish, amphibians, reptiles and shellfish are permitted, as are animal derived products such as margarine and gelatin which do not have any meat taste.

In addition to fasting from food and abstaining from meat, the Church asks each of us to impose a personal penance on ourselves. This is to be modeled on fasting and abstinence but left up to the individual. This is what we’re talking about when we refer to “giving something up for Lent.”  Here are some examples of what one may choose to do to fulfill this requirement.

  • Increase the number of days you abstains from meat or give up meat entirely for religious motives (as opposed to those who give it up for health or other motives)
  • Increase the number of days that you fast. This fast could be the same as the Church’s law (one main meal and two smaller ones) or stricter.
  • Give up something you enjoy – candy, soft drinks, smoking, that cocktail before supper, tv, secular radio, etc.

Almsgiving

Almsgiving is a very important part of Lent. For most, this means donating money to Catholic Charities or contributing to a food drive. This is a good start, but almsgiving is really more than that. It’s about answering Christ’s call to reach out to those in need, not just with money, but also with our time and talents. This gives us an opportunity to cultivate a culture of generosity in our homes and in our communities. It allows us to share not just what we have but who we are with others. It helps us understand that we are all, regardless of our economic status, members of the Body of Christ. Almsgiving invites us to remember the words in Acts 20:35, “It is more blessed to give than receive.”  Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Clean out all the closets in your house and donate the items you’re not using to the St. Vincent de Paul Society
  • Participate in Operation Rice Bowl. Make sure to use the included calendar to really get the “big picture.”
  • Google “Catholic Missions.” Pick one and pray about how you can contribute. Send money, clothes or supplies.
  • Serve at a soup kitchen or food pantry
  • Take the kids grocery shopping for the poor. Take the items to a food bank or your parish pantry.

Other Tips to Boost Your Spiritual Life and Make This Lent More Meaningful

  • Examine your conscience and go to Confession
  • Listen to religious speakers or music on the radio or on CD
  • Read a good book: the life of a Saint, a spiritual “how-to” book or other inspirational book, one of the Popes’ books or encyclicals
  • Go out of your way to do something nice for someone each day
  • Attend a Lenten lecture or spiritual program
  • Volunteer at your parish fish fry or food drive
  • Turn off the TV and spend quality time with family or friends
  • See a Passion Play

So there you have it. It’s not just about giving something up, and it’s especially not about making some sort of resolution to improve your health or lifestyle. It’s about sacrifice. It’s about coming together as the Body of Christ for the greater good of others. It’s about depriving ourselves to allow our focus to rest more clearly on God and neighbor. It’s about carving out some extra time in our busy schedules to get to know our Lord and spend time with Him. Pray about how God is calling you to give yourself to others and to Him and have a blessed Lenten Season!

May Lent be for every Christian a renewed experience of God’s love given to us in Christ, a love that each day we, in turn, must “re-give” to our neighbour, especially to the one who suffers most and is in need. Only in this way will we be able to participate fully in the joy of Easter. ~Pope Benedict XVI

For more information and FAQs about Lent click here or here.