brown jest for you box
caregiver, Catholic Family, Dignity

Seeing the Gift

1 March 2021

Lk 6:36-38

This smiling young man in his First Communion suit turns twenty-one today. Eighteen of those years he and his sister Sarah spent with us, fifteen of them as “official family” since we adopted them in 2005. Like many children with hard pasts, they were a handful. More than once I wondered if God was granting my exasperated mother’s wish, “One day may the Lord give you a child. Just. Like. You.” 

Instead he gave me these two. Two frightened, skittish, love-resistant little monkeys whose difficult past made it hard for them to trust us, and even harder to trust themselves. Almost from the start, it was clear that these kids were nothing like us: In school they struggled to keep up with their classmates and make friends. This was new territory for my husband and me, who were always at the top of our classes and (in the case of my husband) could talk to anyone.

As the kids continued to struggle, our social circle narrowed; running the kids to doctors and counselors, and praying for peace in playgroups, it was hard to relax long enough for meaningful conversations. But somehow slowly, slowly we became a family, and these two little kids fulfilled their special calling, teaching me the wisdom of today’s Gospel: Be merciful. Stop judging. Stop condemning. Forgive. See the gift.

Some days seeing the gift isn’t easy through the snark and smartassery. Some days there are tears are tears of joy … and others, tears of frustration. Each day became a series of little good-byes as they asserted their independence and my husband and I anticipated our own … until my own mother’s decline presented yet another special gift: a chance to take care of her the way she took care of me. Now at last God is giving me a chance to be another kind of mother: a mother Just. Like. Her.

Heidi Hess Saxton

Meditation

Lord, Help us to see the gifts in our lives. Amen.

Lent Devotional 2021
Download your copy of A Time to Grow: A Daily Devotional for Lenten Pilgrims here.
Nativity Scene
Advent, Catholic Family, Family Life, Gospel, Motherhood, Self Care

You Have Ears; Use Them.

Thursday 10 December

Matthew 11:11-15

Jesus said to the crowds: “Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the Kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now, the Kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent are taking it by force. All the prophets and the law prophesied up to the time of John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah, the one who is to come. Whoever has ears ought to hear.”


Hearing implies listening.  A simple concept but a difficult application.  There is so much white noise in and around us, but it’s not the soothing, white noise that helps us to relax and puts us to sleep. It is noise that distracts, agitates, and keeps us awake: screens, children, meals, plans, activities, parties, husbands, chores, and let’s not forget our own heads.  This noise is constant.  Filling our ears.  Filling our minds.  Filling our hearts.  Stealing our peace.

Stop.  Breathe.  Look around.  Whoever has ears ought to hear.

Some of the noise can be controlled and chosen.  This is the season to slow down. Advent is a time set apart.  A time to look back and a time to look forward.  A time to slow down and listen.  What do you hear? 

Sometimes on returning home, I will sit in the car after all the family has gone inside.  The car is off and there is silence.  I sit and listen.  I soak it in.  Advent is like this for me.  Intentionally slowing down, sitting, and listening.

This is a time of preparation.  What is God saying to you?  Do you hear His call to come deeper and experience Him?  Where do you hear God speaking? What is He using? Who is He using? 

This year is different from all other years and there is a gift for you here, in this moment, in this season.  Don’t miss it!  This time is not about stuff, things, and business.  It is about a gift.  The gift of time. The time to hear what the Lord, the creator of the universe, has to say to you.  Whoever has ears ought to hear.

Meditation

You have ears. Use them. Take five minutes, and as St. Benedict wrote, “incline the ear of your heart.”

Jackie Henderson

Catholic Family, Motherhood, Parish Ministry, Uncategorized

Catholic Mom Summit!

I’m so excited to share with you that I’ve teamed up with CatholicMom to present the Catholic Mom Summit.  The (AMAZING!) event is coming up digitally on November 13-15th

And… It’s FREE to register!

The Summit will feature more than sixty well-known and loved Catholic authors and speakers, including Danielle Bean, Katie Prejean McGrady, Mary Lenaburg, Lisa Brenninkmeyer, Lisa Cotter, Michele Faehnle, Emily Jaminet, Sonja Corbit, Haley Stewart, Kendra Tierney, Sarah Christmyer, and more!  We’ll be talking about the real issues that moms face every day and the practical steps of how to find the peace and balance we all want.  

I’ll be talking about recalibrating to our vocation —in our women’s ministry groups and in our homes.  I’m looking forward to sharing my heart with you and ask for your prayers as I prepare my talk! 

Register HERE to sign up!

See you at the Summit!
In Christ,
Elizabeth

P.S.Sharing really IS caring!
Please forward this email to all the moms you know and share the link on your social media. Thank you so much!!

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Catholic Family, Family Life, Homeschool, Motherhood, Self Care, Uncategorized, Women's Ministry

This Fall May be a Season of Pruning and That’s Okay

Late August in my family is usually filled with last-minute beach trips, back to school shopping and sports try-outs.  It’s fun for the kids but hectic for me as I balance leisure time, with the kids’ needs, and my own work.  By September, I relate well to that internet meme where the kids are all lined up at the bus stop with frowny faces, and the mom is jumping for joy at the realization that she gets the house to herself for a few hours.

But that’s not happening this year, is it?  Nope!  Most of our back to school plans have been up-ended as we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. My older children began classes digitally, and we have opted to homeschool our rambunctious second grader for the first time. Instead of a quiet September, we’re bumping up the chaos.

My aspirations of autumn “me time” in a quiet café with a pumpkin spice latte are cooling off faster than my re-microwaved home brew.

So how am I finding and balance amid the noise of competing demands and an ever-changing pandemic environment?  Honestly – it’s tough, and sometimes, I feel overwhelmed.  But when I do manage find balance, here’s how: 

The name of the game is recalibrating.

friend recently had to abruptly change a plan that we had made together.  In her email, she wrote that we needed to “recalibrate.”  Her word stuck with me because that’s how I’m managing in this pandemic.  I’m constantly recalibrating.   

I’ve seen and read a fair bit of unhappy stuff on social media lately, and I am concerned that a lot of us are facing the fall with other re words. Re-ticence, Re-sentment. Re-servation. Re-calcitrance. Re-sistance.      

As I face this school year, I’m focusing on recalibrating.  Why?  Because back to school days should be a time of re-newal. You see, recalibrating is adjusting to a true and accurate value.  Like orienting a compass toward north, when we recalibrate to the correct value, we get renewal.  This fall, I’m recalibrating life to my Christian vocation. 

Recalibrating to your vocation.

What do I mean by recalibrating to my vocation?  Well, let’s back up.  The word vocation gets tossed around frequently in Christian circles, but what does it mean?  Very broadly, our vocation is how we express our love of God and share the Gospel.  We live our vocation through married life, religious life or holy orders, or singleness, and it’s possible to have more than one vocation. St. Teresa of Calcutta, for example, spoke of her vocation to the religious life and her vocation to start a new religious community to serve the poor as a “vocation within a vocation” or a “call within a call.”

If my life is properly calibrated, each part of my life feels like a “vocation within a vocation” and life makes sense.  Married life dovetails with motherhood, and my job fits within our family dynamic.  When I’m working within my vocation, instead of feeling pulled toward competing priorities and anxious, I feel clarity. 

This doesn’t mean that working within your vocation won’t ever be hard.  Take one look at a crucifix and you’ll be reminded that living our vocation can be extremely challenging.      

But when I feel pulled in all different directions at once and everything in life becomes a chore, that’s when I know it’s time to recalibrate to my vocation because my vocation matters.  The other stuff frankly doesn’t.  I take time to remind myself of what my vocation is, and as importantly, what it is not.  I scrutinize whether the things that demand my time help or hinder my vocation. 

This is a prayerful process through which I’m reminded that that God created me as a finite being with finite capabilities and finite hours in my day.  I’m am not called to do everything.

Holy Pruning.

During this pandemic, God is certainly calling me to focus on my family, keep my children safe, educate them, and catechize them.  This is requiring me to prune things out of my life and make more space for these priorities.  It’s a holy pruning.  Some of the pruning is obvious:  I need to limit the time I spend on Instagram and Netflix, for example.  But I’ve also made some harder decisions to prune away fun social functions and volunteer work that I enjoy, so that I can give more attention and energy to my vocation. 

Navigating this fall’s evolving school schedules and family dynamics will require continued recalibration and pruning, but I find it consoling to remember Jesus’ words that God prunes every branch that bears fruit so that it can bear even more fruit for the kingdom (see Jn 15:2). How are you recalibrating?

Catholic Family

On Becoming a College Mom

I spent $133.47 at my son, Patrick’s, college bookstore this week.  I had not spent that much money on nonessentials since the pandemic hit.  But I enthusiastically plunked the money onto the counter at the College of William and Mary bookstore and happily walked outside to the Virginia summer humidity sporting a new ball cap and a bag full of college mom paraphernalia that screamed my pride in Patrick’s next step in his adult life.

The Move In

Arriving to Patrick’s new residence hall, we unload bins of school supplies and a semester’s worth of clothing, bedding, and ramen noodles.  We were amateurishly clumsy in our unloading tactics as items fell out of grocery bags and rolled across the sidewalk.  While chasing a rogue bottle of Gatorade, I noticed that the mom and son in the car in front of us had expertly packed everything in large, zip-up Ikea bags.  Several college mom bumper stickers on her SUV tailgate confirmed that she had past experience with freshman move-in.   

Once we transported the gear to Patrick’s room, we started to arrange the furniture.  Patrick rejected each suggestion I gave for how to fit his mini-fridge into his rather small room, and it became clear that he wanted, and perhaps needed, to arrange his room without me.  I left Patrick and his sister to the task of arranging the furniture while I ran to the store for a few necessities. 

The Floodgates

As soon as I got in the car, I was grateful for my new ball cap and oversized sunglasses because the floodgates opened.  I cried my eyes out all the way to the store and up and down laundry detergent aisle.  I even cried my way through the Chick-fil-A drive through on my way back to campus.  When I returned to the dorm, Patrick and his sister were beaming with satisfaction.  They had made the bed, hung posters, strung Christmas lights, and even found a spot for the mini fridge.  The room looked great –without my input.   

I invited Patrick to go to dinner with us, but he opted to eat with other freshman.  My daughter and I ate dinner and drove past the dorm later in the evening to see if Patrick needed anything.  From a distance, I spotted him sitting on the lawn with other students.  We slowed down to look but kept driving.  I didn’t want to intrude. 

Saying Goodbyes

We said our goodbyes in the dorm parking lot the next morning. 

I left Patrick with the following words:

Be good. Study hard.  Go to church.

And I cried – surprise, surprise.  I told myself that I would feel less sad when my daughter leaves for college.  However, as I put the minivan in reverse, I saw the expert unloader family from the day before.  The seasoned, strong college mom hugged her son goodbye with a smile, but as soon as she slid into her car, she burst into tears. 

Unexpected College Mom Grief

I was not prepared for college mom grief.  It is a confounding grief.  A paradox, really.

It’s a paradox because unlike other types of grief, in grieving a child leaving the nest, we’re grieving exactly what we worked so hard to attain for so many years. 

Throughout our motherhood journey, we traverse “long days and short years” often filled with pregnancy nausea or the anticipation of adoption, teaching our children to read, celebrating birthdays, confronting medical challenges, leading scout meetings, navigating finances, getting kids to behave in church, reheating cups of coffee, attending sports practices and music recitals, and helping our kids learn to share, do chores, and make good friends.  We joyfully and exhaustedly parent our children. 

With our work often unseen, we raise squirmy, snuggly children to become God-loving, independent, kindhearted young adults who don’t need our help to set up dorm rooms, find dinner, or make friends. 

But the manifestation of that adult can break our mom hearts a little as we think about the childhood years where they desperately need our physical presence. 

Acceptance: It’s Going to be Okay

It’s okay to grieve that our children don’t need us the way they used to.  It’s okay to cry on college move-in day.  It really is.  Once again, I bawled my eyes out on the flight home from Virginia to Washington State.  Somewhere over Missouri, I recalled words that my friend Mary Lenaburg wrote about grief.    

“Acceptance is where healing begins,” she wrote. 

So the goal this week is acceptance.  God called me to motherhood that began with a child who desperately needed me for nearly his entire life until now.  Now, however, my vocation as his mother is to accept that my son needs me in different ways. He needs the hidden work of my prayers instead of overt actions.  He needs the subtlety of a listening ear instead of direction.  He needs me to support him even if he does things differently than I would.  He needs me to observe him from a distance while he forges his way.  His Mom driving away is exactly what Patrick needs. 

As for me, I need to accept that happiness and sadness can co-exist in this new chapter of motherhood.      

Catholic Family, Homeschool, Motherhood

Joyful Conversations, Even During the Corona Virus Outbreak

Friends, I’m excited to bring a new resource to Joyful Momentum! With all of the Covid-19 responses, many women have found their women’s ministry gatherings canceled indefinitely. Instead of hugging our friends, we stand six feet apart, or elbow bump each other. This atmosphere is uncharted! In many parts of the United States, schools have been canceled for weeks, or even for the duration of the school year.

Schools in Washington state where I live are canceled until nearly May, and to my dismay, I’m now a homeschooler of three children, ages 18, 14, and 7. I shared with Jackie Henderson, my amazing homeschool mom friend, that I don’t feel up to the task or gifted enough to homeschool my children. And Jackie told me, “Hogwash!” And she’s right. But we new homeschooling moms are craving mentorship and practical ideas for how to make this work. If you’ve read Joyful Momentum chapter eight, what I need is someone to accompany me in this home school walk. And I’m not alone.

Thanks to the assistance of several homeschool mom friends, I’m creating a video series in the Joyful Momentum Facebook group. In these videos, which are about 15 minutes long, different homeschool moms from around the globe are sharing practical tips and tools to get your homeschool started, manage the workload, find time for self care, and even to be prepared for how homeschool may affect your marriage . . . yep, we’re going there! The first video published today, and my friend Jackie shares lots of tips to get started.

With each video, I’ve created Joyful Conversation Notes that are basic outlines of the conversation. Use these notes to talk about the content with your women’s group, or to refer back to when you need some direction.

An opportunity to accompany each other – Since we women are so relational and really crave accompaniment, I’ve also built an opportunity for new homeschool moms to link up, one-on-one, with experienced homeschool moms on the Joyful Momentum website. If you are a new homeschool mom and you’d like a mentor, simply fill out the “New Homeschool Mom Eager to Connect” form, and we’ll link you with a mentor. If you are an experienced homeschool mom willing to walk this stretch of road with a new homeschooler, fill out the “Experienced Homeschooler Willing to Share Tips.” Please consider participating.

While these days of physical self-isolation are new and can bring anxiety, let’s look at homeschooling as a blessing in our midst. Be not afraid. Together, let’s homeschool!