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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, 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!