Saturday, March 27, 2010

Following the Jelly Bean Trail

Remember that jelly bean trail I mentioned in this post?

When my older three children were littles, I would plant a trail of jelly beans coming out their bedrooms into the hallway. They would wake up Easter morning and follow eat the jelly beans as the path tempted them down the hallway into the dining room table where their festive Easter baskets and chocolate bunnies resurrectedly awaited them. What bliss.

These darling jelly bean ideas shared at Catholic Icing has me longing to spend a whole week hopping down that jelly bean trail once again.

But I am washing laundry, packing a camper, and taking care of the business that calls me in the here and now; not yesterday's business but today's.

The one thing I must remember is that the prayer, the sacrifice, the glory and the blessing which these little beans symbolize are what matters. It is the virtures they plant within my heart that matters. All the jelly bean trails I leave for my children will not teach them anything if I am not planting, sowing, fertilizing, and tending those seeds through the rest of the year.

All the little crafts I'm unable to do in limited camper and cooking space don't matter...much.

The prayers...the little reminders...the little trails I take with my children...and what all these things have to teach me and my children...they matter. They matter...much!

*****

Red is for the blood Christ gave
Green is for the palm's cool shade
Yellow is for God's light so bright
Orange is for prayers at twilight
Black is for sweet rest at night
White is for the Grace of Christ
Purple is for His days of sorrow
Pink is for each new tomorrow

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Sweet Spring

Sweet syrup over ice to celebrate the breezes of spring...and the opening of the snow-cone stand.
And sweet spring rain to squelch the spring pollen.

It's all very sweet!
We and the bees think so.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

3 Wishes

Today I heard a little voice say from the sitting room door, "Mommy, look! I get to make three wishes!"
And I really do hope all your wishes come true, little one.
I really, truly do.

Easter Fittings

Yes,  it's still Lent so our Lenten altar remains. (The dough fish was created by Annie.)

One of my CCD students brought me a pinecone at the beginning of Lent and I later found it on our Lenten altar. Not sure who put it there but...somehow, it fits.
In days past, the children and I would decorate the house lavishly for Eastertime. Easter mornings are much different now and we spend that time in more limited ways so, even though it's still Lent, the girls and I did a little bit to "resurrect" our home. Afterall, 'tis spring around here.

Excuse my little loppy-eared white bunny rabbit (sitting on piano). I've had this little guy since 1974 and, somewhere along the way, his left ear drooped. But he's still a very big part of my Easters and graces my house every Easter. Every!

Colors seem to fit perfectly with the girls' Splatster. We're all about color-coordinating around here. :-)

My husband's childhood Easter tree. The girls and I plan to make it "bloom" this Easter.
The girls and I even went dress shopping yesterday and had a delightful time! Swimsuits and Easter dresses! We're all set!
Later, while taking shots of our Easter decorating, I saw Annie's new little shoes still on the table where she left them. I didn't have the heart to remove them from the picture.

Somehow, they fit.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Easter Exultations...Yesterday & Today

Once upon a time, my Easter mornings were exactly what I invisioned them to be:

A house with Pine-Sol sponges, Mop-n-Glow mops, and spring-cleaned windows.

Sweet, sweet Easter dresses and hats for my girls. Clean blue or khaki slacks and nice shirts for my boys.

Jelly beans trails down that freshly mopped hardwood hallway.

Chocolate bunnies guarding festooned Easter baskets of sweets and goodies and Alleluia moments.

Plastic, candy-filled eggs lurking in the living room (a tradition carried over from my childhood).

Real eggs scattered over the backyard, the swingset, the clubhouse, the playhouse, and along the fence line.

My most famous creation of all...my lollipop garden left by the fairies amidst newly planted flower bulbs and petals.

Spiraled ham dripping crystals of honey and brown sugar in the oven.

Squeaky egg cartons awaiting the annual Easter egg pacque (or egg knocking).

It was my favorite season of all! My Easter, and, in due season, my birthday as well.

Nowadays, my ideal Easter lives in my head and in memories and in pictures of past Easter mornings with my older children. Pictures that I would have to dig and find in boxes, scan and load in order to share them now on my blog.

Today's Easter is anything but normal. With the evolution of blogging, my family's Easter evolved as well.

These days we dye Easter eggs outside on campsite picnic tables.

And the Easter bunny hides them in the woods.




Easter baskets, moments, and memory-making are limited by space. One has to be creative and non-committal.

Our Easter meal is fixed in a 29-foot camper with limited counter space. Consider a four-foot table top and  three-foot countertop space. Sharpen your culinary skills on that bit of information.


On Easter Eve, after showers and toiletry in the shower houses, we make a late drive through wooded backroads to the nearest Catholic Church for the Easter vigil fire. Our church clothes, despite our best cleaning efforts, are often purged in campfire before we get there. It is just not possible to spend a week around the campfire and expect to smell like an Easter lilly after one trip to the shower house.


There is a smokey halo around our group as we drudge past the Easter fire into the full church and file, smog-like, into a pew.

The hollow pit of the tabernacle and voidness of the fonts remind us that we are hollow shells, seeking to be filled. We are empty: like the empty tomb and the empty egg shells. But what has come forth from those objects is the reason there is a flicker, a light of hope which brings us together to rejoice.

The new Paschal candle is blessed: "Christ yesterday and today, the Beginning and the end, Alpha and Omega, all time belongs to him and all the ages to him be glory and power through every age for ever. Amen"

God's time surpasses and repasses our time. It consumes and engulfs the clocks upon our walls and the watches upon our arms.

The Easter fire outside wraps us in its protection as the lights of the church go out. The dimming of the church reassures us that our appearances don't matter. Much. What matters is our presence.

The new Paschal candle is lit from the Easter fire: "May the light of Christ, rising in glory, dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds."

We are there. Smoken ashes all. The brother-in-law who wishes the Vigil Mass didn't last so long. The older son who still plays with the beads of dripping wax. The mother cautioning her youngest equipped with flaming sword. The prodigal son who has returned to the Father. The friend studying for the diaconate program. The single parents in our group who are welcomed into this fold called family. The little girls with smokey wisps of hair and pastel dyed-fingertips. The little boys thinking of chocolate rabbits and real. The Baptist turned Catholic. Fishermen turned slicked-up churchgoers.

We are a motley crew.  None better than the other. None holier. All wanting.

In the darkened church the faint glow of individual candlesticks reassure us that God's eyes are upon us. Only us. We are not to watch our neighbor. Certainly not glance at the sinners on our left, least we find ourselves on someone else's left. We are to watch the symbolic flame in our hand and sing the Easter song: The Exsultet

"Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing choirs of angels! Exult, all creation around God's throne! Jesus Christ, our King is risen! Sound the trumpet of salvation!

 "Rejoice, O earth, in shining splendor, radiant in the brightness of your King! Christ has conquered! Glory fills you! Darkness vanishes for ever!


"Rejoice, O Mother Church! Exult in glory! The risen Savior shines upon you! Let this place resound with joy, echoing the mighty song of all God's people!

 "For Christ has ransomed us with his blood, and paid for us the price of Adam's sin to our eternal Father!


"This is night, when Christians everywhere, washed clean of sin and freed from all defilement, are restored to grace and grow together in holiness.


"This is the night, when Jesus broke the chains of death and rose triumphant from the grave.


"What good would life have been to us, had Christ not come as our Redeemer?


"Father, how wonderful your care for us! How boundless your merciful love! To ransom a slave you gave away your Son.

"The power of this holy night dispels all evil, washes guilt away, restores lost innocence, brings mourners joy; it casts out hatred, brings us peace, and humbles earthly pride.


"Accept this Easter candle, a flame divided but undimmed, a pillar of fire that glows to the honor of God.


"Let it mingle with the lights of heaven and continue bravely burning to dispel the darkness of this night!


"May the Morning Star which never sets find this flame still burning: Christ, that Morning Star, who came back from the dead, and shed his peaceful light on all mankind, your Son, who lives and reigns for ever and ever. R. Amen."


* * * * *

Easter is the time to arise from darkness and see a Great Light.

Since the death of my mother-in-law in 2003, I have given up my ideal of the "perfect" Easter. This will be the seventh year I have followed my husband's family to the piney woods of north Louisiana for our Easter feast. My family, much smaller than his, has since followed us up there as well. Friends join us. Grown, working children come in intervals all week long.

Through unity of family, the making of new traditions, and rejoicing in what is instead of what isn't, this wilderness Easter has become a true celebration.

For where families are gathered together, there is the risen body of Christ. In this way, we do well to dispel the darkness and bring God's light to a fallen world...especially into our very own.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Sick Day Texting...

...which I only sent to my husband because no one else needs to know the nitty-gritty mess...needs to see or hear me when I'm sick...or really cares. ;-)

It began Tuesday morning with this text message:  Do you have cough drops left? Annie woke up with a really bad sore throat. Gave her Tylenol and cough drop. She's feeling better now. Says stomach is fine. (Sent 11:45 AM Tuesday)

By Wednesday: Will work something out. I'll take girls if I have to. Annie's head, throat, and stomach r hurting her this morning. But get the overtime while u can. I'll let you know how annie is doing later in the day.

*****
(Thursday---Annie much better; my turn.)

* Throat hurts like crazy. Feels like bile is in my throat. How long did yours last? (Sent at 8:29 AM on Thursday)

* Now my ears itch. Ugh! Throat burns like there's acid in it. (Sent at 9:15 AM on Thursday)

Went to doctor (orthopedic) with Kayleigh then Starbucks. Then brought girls to Keeper's Club then to library. Folded clothes then laid on couch. That's all I'm good for today. I'm so tired."
(Sent at 4:31 PM on Thursday)

* I'll live. Just woke up. Fell asleep on couch and went from feeling extremely tired to feeling like crab. :-(
(Sent at 6:01 PM on Thursday. Yes, I did mean to type crap. Evidently my FB censor was still on. lol)

*I look at this messy house and just say "screw it!"  (Sent at 6:21 PM on Thursday. Yeah, just go ahead and give me the badge for Mother-of-the-Year or Keepers @ Home Award now...Geesh!)

* Later: I definitely need a good night's sleep or...a maid.

I got neither.

****
(Friday)

* Exercise? None. I'm still in bed. (Sent at 10:16 AM on Friday as I wondered why my husband would ask me what kind of exercise I had done that day. Turns out the exercise question was meant for our oldest daughter.

It caused a thought process which led me to Tweet and Profile this thought on FB Saturday: "Funny how we think living a healthier lifestyle will make us feel better then we become sick and realize how well-off we were two days ago."

Later in the day...details you'd rather not read. Trust me! They were meant only for the man who was with me through five morning sicknesses and five natural births...and stayed with me.

Was in bed the rest of the day. Totally lifeless. Totally neglected home and hearth. My oldest son got home after 11 AM and ended up taking care of everyone and everything. He generously left all the bedding, dishes, and laundry for me once I could raise my head off the pillow. But, God bless him! he got us all fed and watered. That's what counts. Consider him a husband/father-in-training.

Husband continues to work crazy overtime hours, which I'm grateful for. Let's be practical. Someone has to earn money to pay for our...ummm...health care. Let's not discuss that right now. I believe FOX has it covered.

My oldest daughter, who will begin her nursing clinicals this fall, will take my Saturday night shift staying the night with Grandma who broke her shoulder...giving my mom, aunt, and uncle a much needed break (excuse the pun) in their "new normal" routine.

Personally, I hate "new normals." Personally, I think everyone else does too.

Personally, I'd much rather have a sleepless night with a dementia patient than being the patient me-self.

Ask me how I know the difference. Go ahead! Ask me!

On a closing note...it's amazing how educated I've become on the new health care bill as I've been mucked in the bedsheets with the television droning above me. Ironic timing, isn't it?

Did I mention that Chelsea's pet mouse died this morning? Nothing flushes a parent out of a sick bed quicker than a child's dead pet who...evidently...didn't have health care. Rats!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Top O' the Morning Food Blitz

Green Eggs and Pancakes
A French/Irish twist---cafe au lait topped with green-tinted whipping cream. Yum!

Corned Beef Brisket and Irish Potatoes ready for crock-pot.
Pouring on the beer!
Mixing: cream cheese, whipping cream and powdered sugar.
Stirring in the green.
Mint Shamrock Brownies
Pot of Corned Beef Brisket, Cabbage and Irish Red Potatoes steeped, bubbled, and squeaked in beer.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Unwrap Mid-Lent

Catholics and Health Care

I have read Archbishop Chaput and trust him impeccably (especially when it comes to the life issue). He is very spiritual, very knowledgeable, and very easy to understand. A rare combination:

"The Resurrection, coming on the heels of a very unpleasant execution, is not an easily tamed story. And exactly that story---the fact of Jesus Christ's crucifixion and resurrection from the dead---is the starting point, the source, the seed that became the faith, the moral code, the sense of human dignity, the culture, and the civilization we now take for granted every day." ---Render Unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life by Archbishop Charles Chaput

Read his most recent column on Catholics, Health Care, and the Senates's Bad Bill here:

"Do not be misled. The Senate version of health-care reform currently being pushed ahead by congressional leaders and the White House -- despite public resistance and numerous moral concerns -- is bad law; and not simply bad, but dangerous. It does not deserve, nor does it have, the support of the Catholic bishops in our country, who speak for the believing Catholic community. In its current content, the Senate version of health-care legislation is not “reform.” Catholics and other persons of good will concerned about the foundations of human dignity should oppose it." ~ Archbishop Chaput

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Luck o' the Irish Menu


This week's menu looks almost as good as anything my 8-yr-old and I have stirred up at CafeWorld:

MONDAY
Chicken Fetticini Alfredo (Kayleigh's cooking)
Some type bread
Banana Pudding

TUESDAY
Pesto Pasta
Italian Chicken and Artichokes

WEDNESDAY
Corned Beef Brisket and Irish Potatoes
Baked Squash
Butterfinger Cake
Tea Time: Shamrock Brownies

THURSDAY
French Meat Pie
Deliciously Cheesey Potatoes

FRIDAY
Baby Limas with Shrimp over Rice

SATURDAY
Chicken Netti

SUNDAY
Shrimp Creole
Smothered Okra and Tomatoes

Mercy

"Which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asks for a loaf of bread, or a snake when he asks for a fish?

"If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him."

~ Matthew 7:9-11

"God is rich in mercy because of the great love he has for us."
~ cf. Eph 2:4

Saturday, March 13, 2010

I Love This!

Chatting at the Sky writes:
"It has to do with a real life Tuesday...The 24th, to be exact. I hung my camera around my neck and decided to document the day as it happened: the messy, the lovely and the unexpected."

"So what was an ordinary, regular day is now a sweet memory I want to keep. I wondered about all the other ordinary Tuesdays passing by and decided not to let them go without at least a little reflection. What about you?...One thing we all collectively realize is that what seems everyday today will not be so tomorrow. And so we pause. Join us?"

* * * * *

Deciding not to let another ordinary Tuesday pass by unkept, I grabbed my camera, took a few pauses of my day to unwrap my reflections, found an ordinary object in my home that showed a glimpse into the heart of my home and, by documenting it with a photo, I turned it into something extra-ordinary.

Amidst "the messy, the lovely and the unexpected" I unwrapped "the gift of the everyday" and found one "sweet memory I want to keep.":

This framed doily was made by my husband's maternal grandmother: Memomma. She crocheted countless ones for all her daughters, granddaughters, granddaughter-in-laws, and greats. One Christmas my mother-in-law had her make four doilies and had each one framed for her four daughter-in-laws. She matched the color to our living rooms at the time.

In this heriloom piece upon my wall is a piece of Memomma, a piece of Bass, a piece of Girlinghouse, a piece of history, a piece of family, a piece of memory.

I only wish I had four more so that, as each of my children marries and moves out of my home into their own, I could send them off with a piece of love from Memomma...a piece of love that would smile upon their homes...a piece that would help their new walls to talk.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Make Sure Your Conference Tables Are "Picture Perfect"

Conference season is around the corner and I have begun receiving requests for bulk orders of my book A Picture Perfect Childhood.
In anticipation of the educational conferences this spring and summer, I decided to make it easy on everyone to get copies of A Picture Perfect Childhood.

You can read more information and reviews on my book here: A Picture Perfect Childhood

I will be placing a bulk order of books to send out to interested parties at a discounted price. You may order them in units of 10.
The drop-menu button is found in the sidebar to your top right. Tax is automatically figured into the amount and no one needs worry about the outrageous cost of postage. If you order by April 5, 2010, a flat $10.00 S/H fee is figured into the amount, whether you order 10 or 50 copies. This is the cheapest, easiest way for all of us.

Anyone interested may order them from me and pay via paypal or drop a check in the mail.
You can email me if you need future information, mailing address, or have any problems with the paypal button found at the top right sidebar.

So if you are hosting a curriculum fair, own a bookstore, or are manning a table at a conference and would like to offer participants a copy of PPC, now is the best time to order.

Thank you to everyone who has bought a copy of A Picture Perfect Childhood and written so kindly about it. If you think it was worth the money, please share it with others. And, remember, a percentage of sales goes to St. Jude's Children's Hospital in the form of books at the end of each year.

*****

Speaking of conferences, I will be attending the ARCH Curriculum Fair in Houston, TX along with...Ahem!... fellow writer Danielle Bean. Don't you seriously want to MEET DANIELLE!?!? I certainly do. And I hope she brings copies of her new book: Small Steps for Catholic Mothers
I want mine autographed. I'm greedy that way. :-)

I can promise you that Houston's ARCH Curriculum Fair is an outstanding conference. It will have everything you need for your new school year: inspirational talks, friends, lots of good books, Danielle Bean, Linda Nelson, and little ol' me sharing all the great offerings from my publisher Hillside Education. Please stop by my table for a quick chat or perhaps we can visit as we wait in line to meet and chat with Danielle. :-)

Friday, March 5, 2010

Opening Our Windows to Let God In

"I realized that in our time of history, living in the throes of a technological world where everyone rides in cars with closed windows and subways that speed along, when we stay inside our enclosed boxes (houses and apartments) to watch television and to play with our machines (computers and gaming devices), the creation of God is blocked out."
~ Dancing with My Father by Sally Clarkson (WaterBrook Press, 2010)

* * * * *

I realize the weather here in Louisiana is on the outter part of the seasonal merry-go-round. We are one of the first to thaw. And while everyone else is still experiencing the roar of a lion, we are hearing the gentle mew of a lamb.

Still, it's cold out there so we are not quite ready to give up our hunkering tendancies: fuzzy socks, steins full of hot chocolate, warm ovens of comfort food, and, yes, even our 21st century parlor games .

These things are not all bad in and of themselves. But there are other things, more precious things in life.

That's why Sally's words hold truth the way these sheltering oak trees hold a new harvest of acorns within its deep recesses. If I don't pay heed, these mellow clouds will one day hail acorns down upon my housetop and I will be caught unaware that the seasons have changed.

Sally's words woke me from my winter lethargy.

It's time to plan and get prepared for a new season; one that will promise escape from these "closed windows", "enclosed boxes", and "machines".

One that will open the windows and let God in.
And I'm willing to bet that the backyard garden is a safe place to start.

After all, life originally began in a garden and I know, without a doubt, what a beautiful invitation it is, delivered straight from the hand of God.

Mustard and turnip greens, anyone?

Poetic Friday

My husband called the kids to the patio doors this past Sunday. Seems these four robins flew all the way from Joann's house to our cajun cottage. What a visit!

The North wind doth blow and we shall have snow,

And what will poor robin do then, poor thing?

He'll sit in a barn and keep himself warm

and hide his head under his wing, poor thing.
~ Old Nursery Rhyme

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: No Sign of Spring

My apologies...you won't find any snow pictures on this end of Louisiana. This is what my driveway has looked like. All. Winter. Long. And. Today. And. Probably. Tomorrow.

This Job Called Parenting

My friend Maria called me the other night as I was walking my grandmother to her bedroom. Mawmaw fell recently and broke her shoulder so she's like a one-winged bird, she's can't fly and she's a bit wobbly. For fear that she will fall and break the other arm and/or a hip, she cannot be left alone. The night-shift was mine.

Upon pulling my cell phone out of my pocket and seeing it was Maria, I took the call quickly. It had been months since she had called so, naturally, I knew the call was a necessary one.

It was. I knew from the anxiety in Maria's voice that prayers were needed, and I assured her of them and asked if I could get my grandmother settled then call her back. But there was no time for any more late night calls. Her daughter Adrienne, who survived cancer so many yesterdays ago was going to the hospital in the early morning hours for a series of tests which would show if the toxic level of chemo pumped into her all those yesterdays ago had drenched and damaged the vibrant blossom of a youthful heart.

Was there damage to her body? That was Maria's fear. That was this heart-stopping question that kept Maria awake that night. This hospital visit was a necessary canticle. She needed assurance of prayers to keep her out of the Slough of Despair.

As I settled my grandmother in her bed, straightened her nightgown, raised her legs evenly in the bed, and tucked her into warm sheets; I balanced a tiny cell phone on my shoulder and tried with all my might to do justice to two needs at once. I'm not very good at multi-tasking. Just ask my husband. Neither need was perfectly done. I couldn't escape either scenerio. And I wanted to make each sacred. I wanted to serve these parts of Christ's body with warmth and attention. But, mere mortal that I am, I failed.  God, through one of His precious saints, assured me that I did not:

"God doesn't require us to succeed; he only requires that you try." ~ Mother Teresa

Such is the pain and frustration we find here on earth. We realize how weak and incomplete we are. We realize how insuffient are ourselves and our plans. We realize there is no perfection here outside of Heaven.

But God takes our pathetic little offerings and makes them something holy and beautiful. That is part of my faith, to believe that God is bigger than anything I might try to be.

Maria has updated us here and it is good news...for the most part.

"What we learned today: Adrienne is growing well, has no heart damage at this point,..." ~ M.R.

"With regard to the future, it's not quite what I thought. Some of the chemos she was on for so long cause negative long-term side effects which is why she will have to have annual physicals all her life, regular echo-cardiograms, EKG's, and various tests to check for secondary cancers on a regular basis. That was in some ways a surprise to me. I knew certain things were a lifelong question. I did not know they all were." ~ M.R.

It is not perfect news but it is news that teaches us to trust in God's lives for us and for our children. It is news that teaches us once again that nothing is perfect on this side of Heaven. It is news that teaches us that God is control, that He has a plan...if only we trust in His almighty plan. Nothing happens outside of His will for us.

It was something Maria wrote in 2003-04 while she was in the depths of chemo with her daughter and hoping this nasty stuff would save their little girl and prolong her life that caught my heartstrings today. It is the voice of all parents and how much we love, how much we pray, how much we care...and how little we trust...weak, sinful creatures that we are:

"My mistake was to cling to my hope for these children, to forget that they are more God's than ours and to be so arrogant as to imagine that my plans for them were better than His. I didn't express it to myself that way, or even think of it that way. I lived that way, thoughtlessly. I suffered needlessly for it, and made my life more difficult than it was meant to be. As a result, I became disheartened and sad. Time with our children felt like water in my hands, relentlessly dripping away despite my every effort to hold it in my grasp. It was never meant to be held in my grasp. I worked to deflect the weight of this cross from the shoulders of our children. Cancer seemed less ugly if I could cage it and keep it from touching anything other than what it must. In my pride, I imagined I could take on every cross. I was motivated by love, but not by Love. I wanted to limit our children's suffering, forgetting that suffering teaches us, transforms us, and Christ "makes all things new". Even crosses become so beautiful I know no words to describe that. They ought to be embraced as lovingly as they were fashioned. We ought to trust that God has greater care for these children than we do." ~ M.R.

So here's to all of us and our children, the sinners (each and every one of us) who are called to be saints, all the sinners who learned that God's plan was larger than their own, all the prodigal sons and daughters who return to God with grateful and contrite hearts, having learned the hard way, via the cross, how to trust in God more completely and know that but for the grace of God go any of us.

My greatest prayer is that no parent should miss out on the joy of parenting and the incredible beauty of this vocation found amidst the everyday toil that whispers to us to doubt ourselves, doubt our spouse, doubt our parenting, doubt our children.

Once again, Maria wisely writes: "Parenting is no problem...It's a joy" while knowingly admitting "Getting all the academics done amidst childhood cancer and chemo...well,...I'm sad at what has been missed. ...It occurred to me that this cross, which Adrienne bears so very well, is being shared by her family in so many ways. God is asking different things of her siblings than of her, but each of us is growing in love as we die to ourselves in so many little ways. I'm reminded to trust our Father whose plan works for good in all things."

This extends to families who suffer the cross of addiction and death. I wrote not that long ago about our nephew's cross and death. He was a good kid. He was also weak. Who isn't weak? Let that person step forward and cast the first stone. His addiction was probably no worse than my addiction to Dr. Pepper, it was just more destructive.

It saddens me to think that my brother-in-law and sister-in-law should live their lives feeling they failed as parents, more so, failed their son. He made choices that were long lasting and dangerous but the choices were his. We all have free will. If you saw their other two children you would see what a fine job they have done and what an awesome job they are doing in raising the grandchild left in their care because of their son's death. In a weak, sinful, fallen world they have done the best they knew how to do at the time. In the process they have learned much via the cross and they have taught others what they have learned. I trust that the greatest lesson they have learned, a lesson they have taught others, is to trust in God...in his mercy and forgiveness and, most of all, His love.

This parenting job is hard! It is not little or minut. It is so incredibly HARD! Especially when we consider the fact that our vocation as parents is so HUGE...to teach our children "to know God, to love God, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him for ever in heaven." ~ Baltimore Cate. Lesson 1

Our job...period...is to lead our loved ones to Heaven. That is a huge job. It is also a joy, a blessing, a comfort, a canticle.

It is also one which the devil hates and tries to distract us from.

Do we live it in fear and dread? The devil wants us to. We shouldn't. Afterall, God's in control. Thank goodness He is in the driver's seat. According to my husband and sons, I'm not that great a driver. :-)

We should neither fall victim to pride, that our parenting methods or superior or holier than our neighbor's nor should we fall victim to despair that our parenting style is less than our neighbor's. Yet the devil tempts us towards all these human emotions.

Despair is one of the seven deadly sins. The devil delights in the lukewarm water which we drown ourselves in when we fall victim to despair. He thrills in it! He loves it! Do we give him this satisfaction? Because of Christ's Resurrection, we should never give the devil such pleasure.

Still, don't we question our decisions and our reactions time and time again? I don't know about you but I most certainly do. That's human nature. There's no getting away from that weakness. Thank God that over two-thousand years ago He walked the earth and knows every weakness, desire, and emotion I have ever felt. I don't have to explain anything to Him. He already knows.

Every day I think of the things I should have done differently. Every day I second guess things I've told my children. Every day I pray that God guides me and leads my children's hearts to me. Broken hearts, all. And every day He puts wonderful family and friends in the paths of my children to make up for all the deficiences their father and I, through our own weakness, lack.

Never for a minute do I pressume that I can single-handedly get my children to Heaven. Without a doubt, primarily it is my duty, and their father's and we will be answerable for their upbringing; and I do so hope (and pray) that when I come face-to-face with Him the Almighty Father will say to me, "Well done! good and faithful servant." But I cannot presume this. One can hope, but never presume. We also need the Body of Christ. Without the Body of Christ, we are simply a noisy gong or clanging cymbal, prideful and depending upon our own strength versus the strength of Gods...the ultimate Father.

And when my children fail and do something wrong (and they will), I remind myself of all the sins of my past and how grateful I am for God's mercy and love in my life. He is the Great Physician. To add humor to the mix (because laughter is such a great natural remedy), I find it ironic that the greatest saints were also the greatest sinners. Ironic, isn't it. And, yet, so awesomely God! showing the miraculous way He works in our lives.

"It's true he was a sinner. But don't pass so final a judgement. Have pity in your heart and don't forget that he may yet be an Augustine, while you remain just another mediocrity." ~ St. Josémaria Escriva

All glory and honor is His...not ours. If our children turn out well, it is more because of God's mercy and graces in their life than anything we have humanly done.

Still, I am anxious about many things, especially when it comes to my children. Every day I see or hear of someone else's child doing greater things than my own, saintlier children than my own. And I slap my hand least I fall victim to the commandments against coveting my neighbor's belongings. That is not what God desires for me. He desires that I embrace my vocation joyfully and do the best that I can with the abilities and resources He has given me.

Not that I don't observe and take home the good things I see, the good things I hear, the good advice given. These worthy tidbits family, friends, and strangers give me are God's blessings in my life and I would be unwise not to put them into practice within my home. My family is blessed because of them. This is how God works through the body of Christ. This is how the body of Christ works in the world.

Sadly, I'm still a raw piece of clay, broken and jagged, hopelessly trying to mold the clay which creates my children. It's almost like the blind leading the blind, huh? I cut myself time and time again on my insuffiencies. I put too much, or too little, water on the wheel and I despair of this job called 'parenting.' But to immerse myself in fear and grief that I have done a lesser job than my neighbor can lead me to despair. And despair is not of God. These are the times I must remember that each child, each parent, and each family, each one of us is made so different; yet we are all made in the image and likeness of God. That is holy in and of itself. That is the beauty and the joy we are called to embrace so that, like St. Monica with her wayward son Augustine and the father of the rebellious Prodigal Son, we trust and pray that God will embrace each one of us when He calls us to our Heavenly home.

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