Friday, July 23, 2010

Insights from Matt Maher

While cleaning the shower and scrubbing my kitchen floor I listened to this radio interview with Matt Maher from the Immaculate Heart Radio archives. Although I have been a fan of Matt's music for years, I have never been to a concert or heard him speak before now. Wow, it is no wonder the beauty of his music truly reflects a passionate man of God.

He had some incredible insights on the state of the Church that I found thought provoking. First of all, he called marriage the "Helm's Deep of our time". He went on to explain that since marriage is the foundation of our society, it is there that we must stand our ground. He connected the breakdown of marriage as a big reason for the decrease in Mass attendance, because the Mass is all about the marriage between Christ and the Church. Marriage is meant to reflect this relationship, so when marriages are crumbling it is no surprise that people no longer feel a reason to come to the liturgy.

When asked about his past affiliation with LifeTeen, which was instrumental in his return to the sacraments, his  view on youth ministry surprised me. Recognizing our culture is no longer rooted in Judeo-Christian values, and that family life is non-existent for most teens now, he feels that the days of separating teens from their families and the rest of the parish community should be over. More than ever, young people are totally absorbed in their own world with no connection to their families, parishes or the greater community. Ministry needs to be focused on re-establishing the bonds within families and the building up of true Christian community in which parishioners of all ages work, serve, and worship together.

Matt Maher is an artist who I have admired for his courage to be authentically and boldy Catholic in his music and lyrics. I am excited to finally be able to see him in concert this summer and am glad I came across this interview which has given me a lot to think over as I go back to my cleaning :)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

5 joys of being Mom this week

This week has had a few rough spots with Joseph finally cutting his molars (5 months in the works) so during his peaceful naptime today I took the time to get back my perspective and remember just how much the joy outweighs the struggle:

5 joys of being Mom this week

1. Playing swords, building forts, and racing cars down the hallway.
2. Rediscovering the wonder of stones, sticks, flower petals and bugs.
3. Yard work accompanied by dirty knees, rosy cheeks, and wet kisses
4. Bed head after naptime
5. Dancing and singing to Mary Poppins' sound track

I could go on and on, but I can hear the rustling of a waking baby-time to get back to it!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

How Dave Ramsey shaped our family's finances

When Brian and I were engaged we began to realize how differently we approached money. I was a saver and he was a spender, I was the nerd, he was the free spirit. Although this had been a concern while we were dating, it never really was an issue that needed to be addressed while our finances were still separate. But good, honest marriage preparation has a tendency to bring these issues out of the closet. One day my boss mentioned that there was going to be Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University classes starting on the campus where I worked. I grew up listening to Dave in the car with my Dad as he drove me to class on his way to work. Immediately I knew this was something that Brian and I needed to do.

When I told him about it, however, he was not enthused. He said it was too expensive (so I paid the $100 to take away that excuse) he said it was too big a time commitment when we were both working full time (one night a week for 13 weeks). Finally, I decided to press hard. I told him it was really important to me and asked if he would do it for me? He relented. To this day I still think that was the best 100 bucks I ever spent and Brian has thanked me over and over for dragging him to that first class. After the first session, we were both hooked. Everything Dave said made sense and we had so much fun while we were learning! Looking back, we consider Financial Peace University one of the best practical things we did to prepare for marriage.

But things began to change dramatically in our relationship before the course was even over. For the first time, we had written individual budgets. I felt a sense of peace when I finally knew exactly where I stood financially.   Neither one of us made much money and like many brand new college grads, thought we didn't have enough money to make a budget, but having a written game plan for the month was like getting a pay raise.  We were amazed how earmarking where each penny would be spent before the month began kept us disciplined in our purchases and prioritize our needs and wants. It was so important for us to get on the same page while our finances were separate in order to make the transition to marriage and joint accounts smooth. Because of FPU, it was an easy and exciting transition for us.

As a married couple, we implement the lessons of FPU every day. I carry an envelope system for our cash categories. Before the beginning of each month, we use Dave Ramsey's Monthly Cash Flow Form to plan and prioritize our budget. Over the course of the month, we have frequent discussions to keep each other up to date on where we are. Now we take pride in finding big big bargains on our usual purchases and clever ways to enjoy a night out.  The knowledge gained from FPU has guided us in making the biggest decisions and kept us on track when facing small temptations.

At a time when the number one cause of divorce is money fights, we have been blessed with financial peace. Because of Dave, we have long term goals and patience to sacrifice to get there. I no longer worry about money. Although we still live on a tight budget, I don't worry anymore about money. I know right where we are, where we are going and we have an emergency fund for the things we can't predict.

One day while in prayer, I realized that fear about money is not a fruit of the Spirit and in fact can hold us back from our duty to be good stewards of the money God has trusted us with. How can I use it for His glory if I don't even know where it is going or have a plan for how I can get to a point where I am more free to bless others with it? Our goal is not to become wealthy so we can buy anything we want or do anything we like, but rather to become financially secure so that we can provide for the needs of our family and then be the instruments of the Lord in whatever work He has for us.

That's why we're living like no one else, so that later, we can live like no one else!

For those of you wanting to know more, Dave's Total Money Makeover is a must read!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

NFP: Licit or Illicit?

I am far behind in my blogging due to travel and end of the school year busyness. Hopefully, things will settle down in the next week or so and I can get into the swing of things again. In the meantime...

For those of you who haven't seen my husband's blog, here is a great sample on a topic close to our hearts and probably many of yours as well:

NFP: Licit or Illicit?

Within the Church, there is a great battle raging.  This battle is truly for the heart of the Church and centers around sexual morality and ethics.  It is the battle between those Catholics who feel it is moral to use artificial birth control and those who stand behind the teachings of the Church on this topic.  In recent years, with the support of many wonderful priests and bishops, the tide is turning where more and more individuals are turning their hearts back to the teaching of the Church and rejecting artificial birth control as an intrinsic evil.

Yet, this is not the only struggle on this topic.  As Natural Family Planning instructors for the Couple to Couple League, my wife and I have encountered on several instances individuals and families within the Church who claim NFP to be no better than artificial birth control.  These people are good people who obviously seek to do God's work and support the Church, yet in their animosity towards NFP, they do great harm.  This harm stems from a rejection of the Church's teaching on the use of NFP.  I realize that for some of these people, it can be very difficult because they have been on the defensive within the Church itself for the past 40 years in regards to so many issues.   It would seem that they do not know what they can believe anymore and so some turn to the time before the tumult, namely the pre-Vatican II era.  And yet, in doing so, they lose so much of the rich development in the understanding of sexual ethics that has come from John Paul II's Theology of the Body and the need for orthodox Catholics to better understand the relationship of man and woman in response to a culture hostile to God's design for sex.  

In this smaller conflict, there is a need for proper catechesis. It is a matter of reminding these families that the Church's teachign truly does trump all, and in this case, NFP is licit.  Below is the beginning of a post written on the topic that does a thorough job of laying out the case for NFP in the heart of the Church.  I encourage you to read it, and if the Lord calls you to, send it to anyone who you think may benefit from its message.

Let’s talk about, sex, artificial birth control (ABC) and Natural Family Planning (NFP).  Let’s focus specifically on the licitness of NFP.  The things that follow here assume the Catholic position on ABC.  I understand that some who come here may not share our beliefs.  This is not about “convincing” non-Catholics of anything.  This is what you might call an “internal discussion.”  This is a discussion for those of us who are Catholic and who agree that ABC is morally wrong.  That is the foundation.  If this isn’t you, you may find this writing to be boring or even ridiculous.  That’s okay, you can just close the window and come back another time to see pictures of Gariníon or to see what is happening in our daily life.  Whether you stick around or not, this will be a very, very long entry.
Throughout the years, I’ve been exposed to a many, many, many conversations regarding Natural Family Planning.  I guess that comes with being Catholic, having a large family and being a certified NFP instructor (now retired!)  It has come up again recently in a couple of different venues.   I often find it frustrating to have conversations about this because people tend to be passionate about their position to the point of not being able to consider or hear anything else.  I also find that it is hard to fully “argue” your position in these types of conversations.  (That fact that it’s taking 3100+ words here might explain part of that!)
Sometimes in these conversations the question is trying to get to the heart of the Church’s teaching on human sexuality, birth control, and what it all means.  Often, it boiled down to questioning the licitness of using NFP at all.  Many have wondered if using NFP shows a desire for control that is not an appropriate response to God’s creative prerogative, and is therefore just as evil as contraception.  This is what I’ve got on my mind today.  Let me say right upfront that while I do not criticize the people who are asking these questions (for in my experience, most truly appear to be seeking) I find the suggestion itself (that NFP is always wrong) to be, well, hogwash.
The conversations I was a part of or was exposed over the years to took all kinds of twists and turns and some of the things that were said or implied were mind-boggling to me.  Some of these things seemed a bit extreme.
I have heard or read more times than I can remember that since ABC and NFP have the same “end goal” in mind, (avoiding pregnancy) either both are valid or both are invalid.  This argument is put forth by those who reject the Church’s teaching against ABC as well as those who reject NFP along with ABC.  The problem with that line of thinking, in my opinion, is that it confuses the issue.  The problem with it is that it assumes that seeking to avoid pregnancy is always evil in all circumstances.  If that were true, then I would have to agree that no matter how you violate that, it is evil.  But avoiding pregnancy for a good (sufficient/grave/serious) reason is not evil.  The problem enters with the how.  It comes down to the meaning and purpose of sex and to the natural law regarding human sexuality
As I observed these conversations and took it all in, particularly over the past 15+ years, I kept coming back to one, single question:
Does no one read the catechism?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

We rarely let Joseph watch TV or videos. The one exception however, is when I cut his nails. I have found this to be a wonderful way to keep him distracted while I clip as fast as I can. He is just getting to the age where he actually pays attention to what is going on, and isn't too pleased when I turn it off. The last two weeks have been especially rainy and have really tested my resolve to avoid using the TV as a babysitter.

Last night, we were chatting with some friends and some of the events of my childhood came up and as we laughed over them, I realized something. Out of all the memories I cherish in regards to my upbringing, not one is connected to the movies or shows I watched. All of them have some tie to a loved one or beloved pet or place. As a stay at home mom, it is easy to forget amidst all the busyness of running a household, the reason why I  stay at home is for those unforgettable moments with my son, not so I can be productive and check everything off my list.

I have come to see the balance that can be achieved. Instead of sitting him down in front of the TV so I can get some things done, I am trying to involve him in the things that MUST be attended to. His sense of wonder is refreshing and offers me such perspective on the beauty of housework. He now will rush to the washer when it rings so he can help load the laundry into the dryer. One by one, he reaches in and pulls out each article of clothing so I can put it into the dryer. After the last item is out, he sticks his little blond head into the machine for a final check then squeals and claps for himself for a job well done. Although this whole process takes much longer, he is learning the goodness of work and I am learning the joy in the little things.

Besides helping with the laundry, he now sweeps, vaccuums and washes floors with me. The other day, he even put his leftover banana bread in some tupperware! I must admit, there are times my little tag along does try my patience as his helpfulness can be counterproductive. That is when I must remember how fortunate I am to be with him everyday and that he WANTS to be with me! My chance to influence him is here and now. I pray I don't waste a moment....

Friday, May 7, 2010

A Mother's Day

While folding laundry this afternoon I was listening the focus on the family's radio broadcast on Mother's Day. As each speaker shared favorite memories and lessons from their mothers and all the different ways they celebrate this day, I couldn't help thinking what a strange "holiday" this really is. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE my mother and love being a mother and think all mothers are deserving of recognition for their incredibly difficult, important work. I get all sappy when reading through the Mother's day cards and love smelling the beautiful flower bouquets as I walk into the grocery store. My mouth waters to see the tasty celebration cakes in the bakery and Joseph waves to the balloons. All of this is wonderful, right?

But think about it a minute-does our culture really appreciate motherhood, really seek to promote this sacrificial yet rewarding vocation, or is this just another opportunity to make a buck? Is all this fanfare sincere and reflective of a culture which supports women in motherhood the other 364 days of the year?

I am not suggesting that Mother's Day should be boycotted, but I have come to realize the importance of being a witness of the gift of human life which makes us mothers and that we must make attractive to others the beautiful call of motherhood. When a women is expecting her third (or 4th or 10th) child and is congratulated in the grocery aisle, or is encouraged by her employer to leave the work force to stay at home with her new baby, then I'll know our culture has finally embraced the true meaning of Mother's Day.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Do you know your food source?

We just watched Food Inc. on a PBS special last night and I have to say it really got me thinking. For those of you who have never seen this documentary, I strongly encourage you to do so. It exposes the dangers of industrial farming and what it has done to taint the quality of our food supply. I have always been a fan of small farms and try to support farmer's markets and buy my produce locally as often as I can. Local meat however, is not as easy to find, especially from farmers who still practice free range feeding. But after last night, the importance of knowing the source of our meat has become a bigger priority for us. We are planting a garden this year, but since we are not in a position to start our own small farm (yet), we must rely for the time being on someone else. So the researching begins...

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Another Housewife Success!

I haven't written in quite some time but we have been busy as bees working in the yard and enjoying the warmer weather. During the winter months I had undertaken a search for a great bread recipe which I could master. I always felt I couldn't be considered a true housewife until I had mastered the skill of homemade bread. Finally, I have found a wonderful recipe which is easy and delicious. The best part is, it only takes 5 minutes a day once you get the batch going! We have really enjoyed it and find it comparable to the fancy, expensive artisan breads. It is from Mother Earth News and is called the 5 minute a day bread recipe. Enjoy it with a blend of balsamic vinegar, olive oil and Italian seasoning as a dip, with goat cheese and olives, or use for a sensational sandwich. To add a health punch, I use a cup of whole wheat flour in the mix and decrease the flour by 1/2 cup. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Big-Bummed Babies

I was the sixth of eight babies born to cloth-diapering parents. I still remember the diaper pail that was part of the décor in the first floor bathroom. I remember my confusion the first time I changed a disposable diaper. I didn’t know what to do without pins or folds or diaper covers. After the youngest grew out of diapers, they continued to be a part of our everyday lives as we used them for cleaning rags. Now that I am married, and have my first child, we are continuing the tradition. When people ask why, I tell them that cloth diapering (or CD) is not only cost effective, and environmentally friendly, but also happens to be the most organic way to keep a baby’s bum clean and dry. Once considered a necessity only for the financially struggling, cloth diapers have taken on a new image as the hip mom’s newest baby accessory. It isn’t hard to pick out a CD baby as they squirm across the floor, with their behinds high in the air, twice the size of their head, or the clumsy new walker who’s every fall is absorbed by the abundant fluffiness of their tush pillow. However good these reasons may be to CD, I must admit that I take a certain delight in watching people squirm when they try to envision themselves washing used diapers. As determined I am to save money, recycle, and integrate more natural habits into our everyday lives, having the ability to push people out of their comfort zones and break old stereotypes, remain my motivation for staying the course and doing my part to bring back the big- bummed babies.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Lessons from Robinson Crusoe

I have been reading Robinson Crusoe along with the student who I am tutoring and am amazed by the gems of wisdom and insight I am constantly encountering. Although I have read this book before, it has been several years and this time I am getting so much more out of it. It has really renewed in me a grateful spirit for the abundance of things I am blessed to have. I have also become more aware of how much I take for granted.

Here's a few lines to ponder:

"All our discontent about what we want
springs from our ingratitude for what we have."

"We never know how to value what we enjoy, except by
the lack of it."

In light of the recent events in Haiti especially, we have much to be grateful for.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Catholic Covering Conundrum

Since we began attending the Tridentine Mass at our parish a year and a half ago, I have found myself in the midst of a personal struggle. I had to face my true feelings about chapel veils. My past exposure to them had left me with a mixed impression. The women who I had seen wear them were either in their 70s or above and had probably just never stopped wearing them, or they were, to be blunt, socially awkward, jean skirt and flannel wearing coeds who majored in the classics and probably spoke fluent Latin. I didn't feel I really fit into either category.

But the women of St. Joseph's broke my past stereotypes. There were women in their 80s down to toddlers who were veiled. I noticed even mothers of babies managed to wear them. Despite the fact that I wasn't a veil-wearer, I was warmly welcomed by all the parishioners and never felt snubbed or judged for not conforming to the custom of the majority. Not every woman in our parish covered her head and there was no pressure of obligation or expectation that I immediately begin this practice. However, the more I witnessed it, the more attractive it became to me. Around this time, our son Joseph was born and any thought of taking up the practice of head covering was dispelled as I adjusted to caring for a newborn at Mass. I finally decided it wasn't practical for me to wear a head covering as Joseph would constantly be pulling it off and it would become more of a distraction to me and others. Having this logical excuse, I felt the issue was settled and I stopped thinking about it.

But then God kept sending me little reminders, such as our friend Jeremy, who isn't Catholic but comes from a traditional Christian denomination and has come to Mass with us a few times. Every time he would ask me why I wasn't veiled. It wasn't an accusation-he was just curious and actually really admired the practice. I always told him that with Joseph it was just too hard. As time went on I became less satisfied with this answer as day after day I sat behind women of numerous children including babies who covered their heads. One day I noticed that there were many styles of head coverings-the lace mantillas, the small, circular chapel veils, and the head scarves which wound around the shoulders. The head scarf jumped out at me as the least intrusive because when it did slip off the head, it came down to rest on the shoulders and easily could be restored to its proper position without any pinning or elaborate arm gestures. "That's the style I would wear if I were to wear a veil" I thought to myself. (Obviously, this issue had me a little preoccupied)

Then advent rolled around and we began our spiritual preparations for Christmas. In prayer I began to ask Christ to show me something that I could do for him for his birthday which would please him. Nothing struck me immediately so I just kept it in prayer as advent continued. Then one day I was talking with one of the young ladies from our parish who I tutor and who also happens to wear the style of head scarves that I liked and I asked her where she got hers. This led to a whole discussion on the topic and I realized what was holding me back-I was afraid of what others would think. I didn't want to start wearing one to fit in, or to appear more pious, or even to pacify Jeremy. I needed to be convicted personally. Through the witness of my student and an article which Brian had me read, I came to realize the meaning behind it and with this understanding, I also knew what God desired of me. Now, when I go into church and cover my head, it is a reminder to me that I am in the very presence of my God and King and helps me to humble my heart and bow my head in reverence and worship. It is a physical expression of submission to my Lord. As my student had explained to me, it is an aid to worship rather than a distraction from it. Never would I have guessed what a profound impact it could make on my prayer life. This simple yet ancient custom has helped me to focus my prayerful participation in the Mass and deepen my Catholic identity. So for those of you born post Vatican II who would like to know more about veiling, I challenge you to read the link below and prayerfully consider what God desires of you.