Mass: It Fits in the Schedule!

massWhen I first imagined myself homeschooling, one of the perks was the ability to take my kids to daily Mass. Three years later, that is finally becoming a reality. As with so many other areas where I feel called to grow, I had a list of excuses of why it just couldn’t work. My most prominent excuse was our schedule.

If only Mass were earlier. Or later. Either would be more manageable. How could I possibly go to Mass at 9AM and have any semblance of a reasonable daily schedule? How would we ever get anything done?

While visiting with a friend recently, we were chatting about the unreasonable expectations we place on ourselves in the context of our homeschools. In the course of this conversation, I discovered that one of my unspoken expectations was that we must be done with our school day by lunch time. Why? I don’t really know. Other than for bragging rights. You know, something along the lines of, “Oh look how efficient and productive we are. We finish school by lunch and then have the whole day to play and enjoy childhood.”  Yup. That’s about how my thought process went.

Discovering this was a major revelation for me and, best of all, released me from my scheduling hang up. Granted, it took me a few days to come to terms with this revelation, (Yes, I’m ever so graceful when it comes to change.) but once I did, our whole day opened up! I love our new schedule and the icing on the cake is: so far, we haven’t gone past lunch time with our book work! It is so true that when we make time for God, he allows everything else to fall in to place.

Just in case you’re curious, this is what our day looks like right now. I know my family well enough to know that there are many areas I can’t put tasks in order or schedule them into 15 minute increments. In these instances, I simply schedule blocks of time. The routine in that area may vary some each day, but I allot enough time for us to get it all done. This flexibility is also incredibly useful for the days when we’re not exactly “on schedule.”

6:00AM – Mommy’s alarm goes off. Ideally, I get up and exercise, but, unfortunately, I have a rather strong tendency towards sloth. Some Most days I just hit snooze.

6:30-8:30 AM – Everyone gets ready. We get dressed, I shower, nurse the baby, serve breakfast, etc.

9:00 AM – MASS!! Truly, the highlight of our day. Sometimes, thanks to my not-so-angelic children it’s also the low point. Thanks be to God, even when it’s the low point, it’s still the highlight!

10:30ish – We get home from Mass. It just depends on how long we chat afterwards.

10:30ish-12:00 – Formal lessons and bookwork.

12:00PM – We stop to pray the Angelus and sing the Salve Regina.

12:05 – 1:00PM – Lunch and free time.

1:00-3:00 PM – QUIET TIME! (It’s almost as good as Mass.) The little ones (and cranky ones) nap. Other options are reading, praying, or quietly working on a project that requires no assistance. No group activities allowed. In the future this will also be a great time for studying, test taking, researching, etc. (This concept may seem odd. One day I really will write a post about the value of silence to further explain why I find this so important!)

3:00PM – Those who are awake pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet.

3:15-5:30PM – Finish lessons (if needed), art or science projects, chores, free time.

5:30ish – Dinner.

6:00-9:00ish. Family time. Baths. Prayers. Goodnight!

9:00-10:30PM Mommy and Daddy time.

10:30PM – Lights out everywhere. Sweet dreams!

Despite having our day planned out, I am certainly not opposed to impromptu water gun fights or trips to the park or visits to/from friends. This flexibility is one of the many things I love about homeschooling and one of the reasons our family chooses to school year round. But that’s a topic for another time…

7 Years, 7 Lessons

anniversary

Today, Josh and I celebrate 7 years of marriage. I’m not sure how that happened. On the one hand, I can’t remember what it’s like not to be married. At the same time, it seems like it was just yesterday when we were rolling around Memphis with far to much free time and expendable income. In honor of the seven years we’ve been together, I thought I’d make a list of seven things I’ve learned about being married so far.

  1. Whoever said the first year of marriage is the hardest probably wasn’t married for more than one year. And I don’t think I’m alone on this. I once bought a book entitled “What I Wish Someone Had Told Me About the First Five Years of Marriage.” I never actually read it. I bought it somewhere around year 5 and the title alone was enough to bring me comfort. Knowing that it was ok that we didn’t get it all figured yet was a great relief. So far, for us, I think the sixth year of marriage was the hardest. I suppose only time will tell if it was indeed THE hardest year.
  2. The couple that prays together, stays together. I know this might sound cheesy, but it is so very true. Our marriage is so much easier when each of us is focused on growing in holiness (i.e. growing in our own individual relationship with God). Our fights don’t last as long, we’re more patient and forgiving with each other, and we’re generally more pleasant people when God is number one. We’ve ebbed and flowed in this area, so we’ve seen it from both sides at various points in our marriage. It’s not just a maturity thing or something like that. We really are better people when we are aware of how completely dependent we are on God’s grace to make it through the day.
  3. Girls/guys nights out aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. It’s definitely nice to get away for some “me time” every now and then, but we’ve both found that girls/guys nights aren’t very positive or uplifting experiences. Almost always, the evenings turn into a flogging of the opposite sex, particularly the spouses or significant others of those in attendance. Speaking ill of your spouse and/or being around those who constantly do is not a good thing for your marriage. We much prefer couple or family gatherings. It’s not uncommon for these events to end up as completely gender segregated as a 7th grade dance, but it’s a much different environment. No one is there to “escape” from the other, which drastically changes the mood and conversations.
  4. Expectations, especially unspoken ones, are more toxic than cyanide. I haven’t found anything in our marriage that can ruin a perfect day or situation quite like expectations. We all have them. But we need to let go of them. And the ones we can’t or don’t want to let go of? We need to communicate them. Clearly.
  5. Be willing to suffer together. It’s kind of an at-least-we’re-in-it-together type mentality. If Josh has to bring home a pile of work, I make sure I’m also doing something along the sames lines, like homework or my own work. If I’m pacing back and forth with a screaming baby, he cleans the kitchen or starts the laundry. We’ve learned that when one of us is sitting comfortably reading or watching TV, while the other is engaged in some unpleasant task, it usually sparks some kind of fight. Usually about something stupid. That’s because the problem isn’t whatever stupid fight erupts; the problem is that one of us is frustrated. It’s a lot easier to express frustration when you feel the other one “gets it” instead of looking up and realizing that the other is completely oblivious to what you’re dealing with at the present moment. (In all honesty, this is probably a much bigger deal to me than it is to Josh. Regardless, learning this lesson has cut back on many stupid fights.)
  6. It’s important to acquire some basic knowledge about all of the things your spouse is interested in.  Yes, all of the things. I’m still working on this. Learning about what the other is interested in shows you value and respect the other person. Their whole person. Even the parts that you find completely boring and stupid. Like Japanese candlesticks. Like I said, I’m still working on this one. If he can go baby shopping with me, I can learn a little something about those colored graphs. (Note: Josh just supplied the baby shopping example. I was shocked. I really had no idea how much he dislikes baby shopping. Guess he’s much better at this skill than I am.)
  7. Your pride is not more valuable than your spouse. We’re both prideful people. And we’re both stubborn. Back in the day, we could stay mad at each other for days, just to avoid having to be the one to give in. It’s so not worth it. No matter how badly it stings, apologize or cave in or whatever. It’s so much better than driving a wedge between you. This is a relatively new skill for us. Sometimes we stand there shocked at how quickly we can get over something that would have caused a major battle not all that long ago. This is probably one of the hardest lessons learned, and definitely one of the most valuable.

So there you have it. They’re not listed in any particular order, and they may not be profound, but these are the little lessons that have made our marriage what it is today. Like the little card on the flowers Josh sent me today said, I’m looking forward to seeing what the next seven years will bring!

Ch-ch-changes

After Ben cam home, and even in the hospital, Josh and I kept commenting about how quickly I seemed to be recovering. For the first time, I spent most of my last day in the hospital on my feet or in the rocking chair instead of in bed. We even had an out-of-town house guest before Ben was three weeks old. Of course I was exhausted, but not in pain or even in poor spirits. In fact, from the minute he arrived, after the most painful, yet quickest, delivery I’ve ever experienced, I was in a state of absolute bliss. I was happy to meet all my boys, but this was different.  I attributed all of this to my new doctor. I thought for sure she must have done something differently. It didn’t take long for me to discover that, although I love my doctor, it wasn’t anything she did; it was just God’s plan. He had a project lined up for me, and my normal, slow recovery would have prevented me from getting on board.

On August 13, I accepted a job that I interviewed for on the 9th and applied for on the 6th. From the time I first saw the posting through the conversation when I heard myself accepting the position, I was in my own personal (yet obviously less significant) Garden of Gethsemane. I didn’t want to go to work. I feel sorry for moms who think they have to work outside the home. I had my whole family-raising plan mapped out in a beautiful mural in my mind. But we all know what they say about God laughing while we make plans….

I knew from the moment I read the posting that God was calling me to apply. I kept trying to forget about it, but I couldn’t get it out of my mind. And, as Josh so astutely pointed out, I’ve seen many job postings over the years that I’m well qualified for, but none have haunted me the way this one did. I spent a lot of time in prayer, mostly telling God I didn’t want it. I spent a lot of time trying to convince myself and my husband of all the millions of reasons why we couldn’t justify my leaving the home. I didn’t know what to do, so I applied for the position. I told myself that I would interview and not get the position. Then, I would know wholeheartedly that I had misunderstood what the Lord was saying to me. I reasoned that doing so would keep me from feeling guilty, since at this point I had convinced myself that there was no way God would ask me to work outside of our home.

As I spent more time in prayer, my prayers changed from “I don’t want it. Don’t ask me to do it.” to “I don’t want it. Don’t ask me to do it. But, Lord, I want to do your Will.” Funny how God works on our hearts like that… I just kept repeating Jeremiah 29:11 to myself, trying to remind myself that God’s Will for me was best, despite what it may look like to me. Meditating on that verse, Jesus’ passion, and Mary’s “yes” to the God through the angel Gabriel were all that kept me going. I was so stressed out. I did not want to leave my boys. I did not want to leave them in the care of someone else. I did not want any more responsibilities than those I already had.

But as I’ve already given away, the position was offered to me and I said yes. I know I’m perfect for this job. I never once questioned my qualifications and abilities. My whole life, educationally, professionally and personally, has prepared me for this position. I know if I interviewed me, I would have hired me too. I don’t say this to toot my own horn, but I am truly an asset to our parish. I am so humbled by and grateful for the opportunity that lays before me. It’s a huge responsibility, but I’m happy to take it on, challenges and all.

Josh and I are doing our best to adjust at home. Luckily, my hours are flexible, and we belong to a church that values life, so the kids aren’t so much of a problem. They’ve been up at my office many times when I’m supposed to be working. Right now, we don’t have a weekend, or even a single day off, together. If I’m at work, Josh is at home and vice versa. The exception is Wednesdays when we both go to work. We just hired an amazing babysitter and the boys love her. Leaving them with her was a little tough for me, but knowing how happy they were about playing with her made it so much easier.

I have no idea where this path will lead. And it’s definitely put a big hole in my mural. But as God keeps reminding me, He’s in charge. Not such an easy lesson for this control freak to swallow.

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.

For My MK Girls and Any Other Prayer Warriors

Independent Elite Executive National Sales Director Emeritus Dalene White was the first consultant in Mary Kay, the first director and Mary Kay’s first National Sales Director. She is an amazing woman with a sweet spirit and a positive attitude. Please stop and say a prayer for her right now. Dalene has a malignant tumor on her pituitary gland which is putting pressure on her spinal cord in her neck. She will have more tests at the end of March. Then she meets with her neurosurgeon in April. The pressure is causing pain and imbalance, but, as always, she is confident that all will turn out well. We have been asked to please pray specifically for good news with the test and with the neurosurgeon meeting. If you would like to send her a card here’s her info:

NSDE Dalene White

PO BOX # 5

Leakey, TX 78873

Make sure to pass the info along to your unit because every prayer counts! I’ll definitely keep you posted if I get more information.

A Few More Words on Tithing

imagesJust to clarify my previous entry, I am fully aware that I am under no “obligation” to give a specific percentage of my income to the Church, as that was Mosaic law, which Jesus fulfilled. (Matthew 5:17) But let me tell you what I do know: I want my both my finances  and my personal life to be in order, and it would be foolish of me to believe that I could achieve such a task without putting my trust in the Lord and being open to His will.

Here’s what the New Testament has to say about how Christians should give:

“On the first day of the week  each of you should set aside whatever he can afford” (1 Corinthians 16:2)

“So I thought it necessary to encourage the brothers to go on ahead to you and arrange in advance for your promised gift, so that in this way it might be ready as a bountiful gift and not as an exaction. Consider this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each must do as already determined without sadness or compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. Moreover, God is able to make every grace abundant for you, so that in all things, always having all you need, you may have an abundance for every good work.”(2 Corinthians 9:5-8)

God doesn’t demand a fixed amount of money (or time) from us; He wants us to give from the heart. He wants us to give back to Him a share of what He has given to us. If 10% was the model for giving God provided His people under Mosaic law, I believe it to be an acceptable gift even now. I further believe 10% to be especially acceptable if it requires stretching and trusting the Lord to provide. (Luke 21: 1-4)

Since beginning our monetary tithe (which undoubtedly can be a stretch) God has done amazing things with our financial situation. Somehow, the remaining 90% of our income goes so much further than the full 100% ever did. That’s why I’m so excited about my “tithing time” epiphany. How much more will I accomplish in my day for my family and for the Lord when I am  “sowing my time bountifully?”

It definitely gives me a lot to think about. As I begin offering a tithe of my time to the Lord, it may be difficult to fill that time. But once I get going, I suspect I will find myself desiring even more time with the Lord. I may even honestly find myself “praying without ceasing” in a much more meaningful way than the current continuous dialog I have in my head that is often directed at the Lord. Pray for me as I set out on this journey!

Called To Tithe Our Time?

I had a little epiphany tonight that I just thought I’d share. If we were to tithe our time as we tithe our money (And why wouldn’t we? Our time is very much a gift and every bit as valuable, perhaps more so, than our money.), I figure the average person should spend about 1.6 hours with the Lord each day. Assuming the average person gets 8 hours of sleep each night (I know, laughable, right?) he/she would be awake for 16 hours each day. 10% of 16 hours is 1.6 hours. However, that’s kind of like tithing based on net income as opposed to gross. I know some people who feel very strongly that tithes should be based on gross income. Applying that logic, we should each spend 2.4 hours with the Lord each day. I was blown away by this thought, as such a thought had never occurred to me before. Yet, upon further reflection, it seems that this, also like a monetary tithe, is just the jumping off point. After all we are called to “pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) Isn’t amazing what one can come up with when she’s not spending her idle time on facebook? :)