Heaven on Earth

The story of St. Thérèse receiving her first Communion is very beautiful. She was 11 and had spent her entire life  looking forward to the moment of receiving Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. After receiving, she cried tears of joy and felt a peace that she had never experienced before. She wrote:

“Ah! how sweet was that first kiss of Jesus! It was a kiss of love; I felt that I was loved, and I said, ‘I love You and I give myself to You forever!'”…Her joy was too great, too deep for her to contain, and tears of consolation soon flowed, to the great consternation of her companions. They asked one another, ‘Why was she crying? Was there something bothering her?’…They did not understand that all the joy of Heaven having entered my heart, this exiled heart was unable to bear it without shedding tears.”

I have always loved the way she described the Eucharist like it is a kiss from Jesus. And I love the thought of  “all of the joy of Heaven having entered her heart.” Every time I read a description like that, I am in awe that I am able to receive that gift too- every Sunday- or more if I make it to daily Mass. Of course, it is also easy for me to ready this and get disheartened. Right now, the reality of my experience at Mass is nothing like the sweet prayers that Thérèse prayed. My prayers are more like this, “Jesus, I love You. And oh Hi! Yes, I am still here… Please please please grant me patience every time I have to take my children to the back of the church when they cry, have to go to the bathroom, have to blow their nose, or when they ask for the hundredth time if Church is over yet. Amen.”  It can often seem like sainthood is a distant goal, too far away to grasp.

Dan and I recently had the gift of witnessing a beautiful young woman become Catholic and as I watched her, all I could think about was the above story of St. Thérèse.  Here is part of an article that he wrote about this amazing event:

“Just two weeks ago, I had the tremendous blessing to see one of my old students come into the Church. During the interview process when she was asked why, her first response was- ” I just want so badly to receive Jesus!” Several times when the topic of the Eucharist came up she was even teary-eyed. Honestly, at that point, I was even tearing up. Who wouldn’t? Who wouldn’t be moved to see this young person so happy by the thought of something that I take for granted every day. She had realized the deep hunger she had could not be filled by anything but Jesus Himself!

When she finally received Jesus in the Eucharist she went back to her pew and knelt down with tears of joy streaming down her face. I watched a living saint experience an intimate personal communion with Jesus. I was in awe and inspired by her great faith.”

I was in awe, too. I know that I am often distracted during Mass, caring for and trying to keep my children under control. And if I can have a half a second to pray and contemplate before Communion, I am grateful. But reading about Thérèse and watching Mia were reminders to me that we all have a call to be holy and that if we make it to Mass, Jesus must be so happy that we are there. And I would think that He just wants us to say to Him, “I love You, and I give myself to You forever!”

 

Congrats Mia!! We love you!


read more

Dinosaurs and the Saints

Emma: “Why did God make the dinosaurs a long long long time ago?”

Kolbe: “They are now in the sky.”

Emma: “No, they are just bones in the ground, they are NOT in Heaven.”

Emma and Kolbe love dinosaurs. It is their most recent obsession.  They are drawn to books, T.V. shows, and games that have to do with learning about these incredible extinct creatures. Thanks to our DVR, we are  able to watch the few episodes we have recorded of “Dino Dan”, over and over again… We have printed off coloring sheets and made their very own field guides and they like to search for imaginary dinosaurs around the house. I am blown away when my 3 year old corrects me on the name of a dino. “No mommy, that is not a Compsognathus, it is a Dromaeosaurus.” Oh, right, silly me. Even Joshua roars every time he sees one. They think that dinosaurs are so mysterious and constantly want to learn more about them.

I remember sitting in my Catechetical Methods class in college and my professor was talking about “wonder and awe.” He talked about how children have the gift of looking at the world with wonder and are amazed by both the grand and little things that this world has to offer. His point was to remind us that we all possess the gift of being able to look at the world in this way, we just have to allow ourselves to do that. He was particularly talking about how our Catholic faith is filled with wonder and mystery and how we have to show that to the world.

St. Thérèse was filled with wonder and awe for her faith. The way she wrote about her love for Jesus and the Church even when she was a little girl, may come across as silly, impossible, or not relatable in our world today. I read this story in her book this week and wanted to share it. When Thérèse was 8, she and her cousin, Marie, loved to play a game where they pretended to be hermits and would take turns being in solitary prayer and the other would be out living the “active life”. One time they were walking home and one decided to pretend they were a blind hermit and would lead the other on the sidewalk. However, they both wanted to be the blind one, so they both walked with their eyes closed, they ran into a shop’s display cart and knocked it over, causing the owner and their older sisters to be quite mad at them. They then had to walk home quietly and apart from one another.

These girls grew up without T.V., computers, i-pads, and cell phones. And they probably only owned a handful of toys. They didn’t have catalogs come in the mail for them to drool all over and beg for a particular toy for Christmas, like my daughter is currently doing at this very moment. The games they  would come up with had a lot to do with what they knew. Thérèse’s family was very Catholic and everything they did and talked about was centered around their faith. So naturally, their games involved playing Mass or pretending that they were saints like Joan of Arc or praying like hermits.

I have been thinking a lot about how I am as a mother at home with my children. I know I allow too much t.v. and time on the computer. My kids love to make up games and use their imagination as well, but their games normally have to do with whatever character is their favorite at the time, like Sofia the First or Jake the Pirate. And there is nothing wrong with playing those characters, I think it’s awesome, but I also want to come up with more ways to make the Faith come alive at home. When Dan took his  job as the Director of Family Life for our archdiocese, I immediately felt pressure to be a “model family” for the Church. And I know that was me being prideful. We, by no means, have parenting our children in the faith totally figured out. Our kids whine and complain while we are getting ready for Mass. This week Emma counted to 100 during the homily. “What comes after 59, Mommy?”  And I spent most of Mass in the back with Joshua. It’s easy to get disheartened when an hour at Mass with young children is a battle every time. But we still go and for now, struggle through it. I sometimes get overwhelmed thinking I am not doing a good enough job.

But then I am reminded of the little ways our children are growing up immersed in the Catholic faith, not just on Sundays, but every day.  For example, our St. Francis statue is a constant playmate in whatever game they are playing the living room:

We like to listen to Christian music in the car and  the other day Kolbe requested to listen to Matt Maher’s “Burning in my Soul” on repeat about 8 times and it was so cute to watch him bob his little head every time the song was played.  We consider St. Thérèse and St. Francis of Assisi as patron saints for our family. We started a tradition to make their feast days a very big deal, with a special dinner, dessert and the children even get a little gift. Their feast days are Oct. 1 and Oct. 4, so it makes for a fun week.

So dinosaurs, St. Thérèse, kids, and faith. I know this seems kind of all over the place. But the point of this post from this scattered brain mommy is that children have so much to teach us about appreciating the mysteries of this world. They are eager to learn and will love anything that we teach them, if we show our excitement for it. My children could be just as excited about the amazing stories of the saints as they are about dinosaurs, if I just took more time to teach about them.

 

Here are a few Catholic resources that I love to look at and find inspiration from:

Catholic Icing has wonderful craft ideas for preschoolers and young children.
Holy Heroes offers coloring pages and activities for children of all ages.
Happy Saints has a fun way of bringing the life of Jesus and stories of the saints to life.
Wee Believers sells beautiful Catholic toys and puzzles.

 


read more

Growing Up

 IMG_2818

My Baby is all grown up and going to Kindergarten!! How did this happen?! When did I get to this moment?  Friday was Emma’s “move-in” day.  We brought her supplies, books, and nap mat up to her classroom and she got to meet her new teachers. I am sure I had “I am a NEW MOM and I am OVERWHELMED” written all over my face. And I only asked about 17 questions. Emma was quiet and then very upset when we had to leave her nap mat at school. She was anxious about her first day and I was too.

This morning she was so excited to put on her uniform and I was so excited to not have to battle with her about what she was wearing. Dan took her to school and she was happy to stay. And now here I am, sitting on the couch with just the boys. I have been a tad bit sentimental thinking about how time is going so by fast, so please bear with my ramblings…

Last night Emma ended her prayers saying, “Jesus and Guardian Angel, please be on my side. Amen.”  There are moments, like this, when I am blown away by what children say and think about. I love how honest they are and I love their simple faith. I guess that’s why Jesus said to let the children come to Him. I just finished reading the first chapter of Story of A Soul. It was so interesting to read because it was all about St Thérèse’s first 5 years of life and I couldn’t help but compare her stories to those of my kids. As a toddler, Thérèse was stubborn and quite a handful. She was the baby of the family and loved attention, especially from her older sisters. But then she wrote this about herself, “Having nothing but example around me, I naturally wanted to follow it.”  She continued to learn, grow and follow the example of her parents and siblings. Following those examples was the foundation of her path to sainthood. It was a huge reminder to me about how much our children learn from us as their parents. It is so humbling when they copy our faults and then so hopeful when they imitate our strengths.  This morning we hit a new milestone in our family with Emma starting Kindergarten. I hope and pray that our example to Emma over the past 5 years was and continues to be that strong foundation that, with God’s grace, will lead her to sainthood.

And now it is time to get off the couch and stop reflecting and take these wild boys to the grocery store…Jesus and Guardian Angel, please be on my side. Amen.

 


read more

Dear Joshua David

Dear Joshua David,

You are 14 months old and oh so good at it.

IMG_2639

You are very busy, very determined and definitely keep your mommy on her toes. You love being outside and have learned how to open the front door, which now remains locked all of the time. You love to help me in the kitchen by opening the dishwasher and pulling everything out. You also like to turn off the the oven while I am in the middle of baking something. Thanks to you, I have learned that if we ever get a new oven, the touch screen will not be accessible to little fingers. Your new favorite thing to do is to throw toys behind the fireplace screen, a wonderful hiding place if the screen wasn’t see through.

IMG_2747

Bathroom doors must always remain closed because of your love for playing in the toilet. I know water is so fun to play in and it is just your size, but later on you will understand why this is a no-no.  You are also in the middle of teething and have a constant runny nose. By the end of each day my shirt is covered in snot stains. On a more positive note, you have a really good arm and yesterday you chucked this toy at me and now I have a lovely battle wound right in the middle of my forehead.

lowly worm 2

Oh Joshua David,

you are a little stinker. But you sure do love life.

IMG_2698

You want more than anything to keep up with your brother and sister. You love trying to play with them and think they are the silliest people in the whole world. When Daddy gets home from work, your face lights up and you run to him as fast as your chunky little legs can. And you are a mama’s boy. Despite the snot stains and battle wounds, you know how to show love and your smiles melt my heart. And when you cry because of a fall, you quickly stop once I pick you up. I LOVE it when you throw your arms up, wanting to be held and then collapse on my chest, at peace in my embrace. I think about the feeling I have in that moment and how it must be  like how our  Heavenly Father feels when we hold up our arms to Him.

I have just begun reading Story of A Soul again, and in the first chapter St. Thérèse wrote this about little children,

“But He created the child who knows only how to make his feeble cries heard…It is to their hearts that God deigns to lower Himself. These are the wild flowers whose simplicity attracts Him.”

Thank you, sweet Joshua, for teaching me how to remain little. When I lower myself to hold you and love you, that is what God desires to do for each of us who cries out to Him.  I love you and I am so thankful for the gift of you.

IMG_3005

Love Always, Your Mommy


read more

Living Little

I have always considered myself a simple person, an introvert, and very shy around new people.  How I ended up being a cheerleader in high school is still a mystery to me. I have always loved my Catholic faith and because of my simple heart, I have always had a childlike faith. My freshman year of college I was first introduced to the story of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. I was at Franciscan University’s orientation and one of the sweet girls on the team invited me to join her at her household’s Lord’s Day (A household is kind of like a Christian sorority). The household was called the Little Flowers and their spirituality was all about following the little way of St. Thérèse. So the following Saturday  I hesitantly took her up on her invitation and attended my first Little Flowers Lord’s Day celebration.  I remember walking in and feeling overwhelmed by all of the girls standing around laughing and talking and so excited to be there together. Then we all sat around the room and read the following Sunday’s Gospel and then we each shared what we were thankful for that week. I was inspired by the community and the sisterhood that they shared.  I loved meeting my future sisters and I was drawn to their joy and obvious love for this little saint that I knew nothing about. I am pretty sure later that week I went and bought her autobiography, Story of a Soul and that fall semester I found the little way and have been trying to stay on that path ever since.

I really could relate to her simple theology and love for God. Her heart was beautiful and I wanted to be more like her. So now here I am, exactly 10 years later, trying to live out the vocation that God has called me to. Being a wife and mother definitely has its trying moments and I fall and make mistakes all of the time. I struggle with finding a prayer routine and I often think back to how easy it was to grow while in college and I often think why is it so hard now?  I have given myself a goal to reread Story of a Soul with the eyes of a young mother. I hope to share my thoughts along with stories of my crazy, messy and often funny kids.

                            

 

“But I will look for some means of going to heaven by a little way which is very short and very straight, a little way that is quite new […] It is your arms, Jesus, which are the lift to carry me to heaven, And so there is no need for me to grow up. In fact, just the opposite: I must stay little and become less and less.”  -St Thérèse


read more