Thursday, March 29, 2018

He is gone

Being a military wife I got pretty good at goodbyes and long deployments. One thing that stands out from all that is how it felt when my husband was gone. No matter if it was a weekend drill, a two week annual training or an 8-month deployment, I remember that it just felt weird in my house. Nothing was the same until he returned. It was as if we were always waiting. And we were! We went about our normal family routines but something was always missing. 

We have just begun the Easter Triduum in the Catholic Church. Our 40-day Lenten Season is over and now we wait. He is gone. The tabernacle is empty, the church is bare and it feels weird in God's house. Nothing will be the same until our Lord's triumphant return. We must wait. 

There were some scary and uncertain times when my husband was overseas. Especially right after 9/11. What was happening? Why did he have to go? When will he come home? What if he doesn't? 

On Holy Thursday Jesus' apostles were devastated. Their Lord, their teacher, their comfort, was gone. Why did he have to go? On Good Friday they watched him die. How could this be happening? And on Holy Saturday they remained in hiding. We can only imagine their despair and hopelessness. 

We know now what the apostles didn't know during those three heartbreaking days. We know the rest of the story. The Easter Triduum is a celebration. Jesus rose to new life. We must never give up hope. No matter how bad things seem we must leave it all at the foot of the cross. Jesus did not leave us orphans. He is with us to the end of days. 

Friday, August 11, 2017

Not That Mom

Today we moved our middle two daughters to college. It was a wonderful day! In the coming weeks, more than one person will ask me if I’m sad or if I miss them and say how hard it must be to send them off on their own. I understand the assumption. Many if not most moms dread this time in their kids’ lives. But my answer to that question is usually “I’m not that mom”. Kinda snarky huh? I don’t mean it to be and I definitely have compassion for all the moms who cry and hate letting their kids go. They love them and I guess they aren’t ready. I’ve just never had those feelings. I'm always ready for the next stage, the next milestone. I never want time to stop or for them to stop growing up. I was always so excited to see them master a new skill or move on to a new stage, that it didn’t occur to me to think of it as some kind of loss (for me) of their youth or innocence. I taught them to be independent, to advocate for themselves and to be responsible for their actions. Because I always knew they needed to be ready for this roller-coaster life.

Let’s be clear, I love my girls ferociously, but I don’t want them to live with me forever. I want them to venture off on their own life path, because this is what they want and this is how it’s supposed to be. I pray that I’ve done everything I can to prepare them for the years to come. I’m glad that they are just a text or Facetime or a phone call away. They know that if they need anything at all; money, advice, a solution or to just listen, that I am here for them any time. 

Will I miss them? Of course! But not in a sad way. I like when they are around. I will miss seeing them daily and hanging out with them, and I will be very happy to see them when we go visit or they come home on school breaks. 

My prayer for them is that they recognize that the happiness they strive for will only happen when they remember to lean on their creator. I can’t wait to see what God has planned for them.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Our Journey Home

Easter will always be very special for our family. Especially the Easter Vigil Mass on Saturday evening. It's hard to believe that it's been 8 years since that  wonderful night. Here is the story of how our journey began.
I remember the day it happened. Although I didn’t recognize it at the time, I realize now that God was tugging on me that day. It was August 2004 and the day I took my second-oldest daughter to sign up for 1st grade. Her new teacher went through all the important information and asked a series of questions. Is your address and phone the same? Will she be walking, going by car or riding the bus? Then she asked something I didn’t expect. She asked if I would like her to attend weekly religion classes. I was surprised that a public school even allowed such a thing. I agreed and then she asked: “Catholic or non-Catholic class?” Umm… Catholic I guess.

I’m a Cradle Catholic by definition. It’s the only faith I’ve ever known. But I spent most of my life away from my faith. I attended Catholic grade school through 8th grade and then went on to public high school. When I was young, I attended Mass at school and on Sundays with my family. My mom rarely missed weekend Mass her entire life. It was clear that it was very important to her. At home though, I don’t remember mom or dad ever talking about faith, God, the bible, The Eucharist, or anything at all to do with the Catholic faith. The only Catholic “thing” we did was say Catholic grace before meals. There was a Crucifix hanging on the wall, a religious statue on the mantle and a Bible on the bookshelf. My mom had several rosaries in her jewelry box, but I never saw her pray with them. I have no memory of Dad ever going to church or talking about faith.

When I was 14 and just starting high school, my dad suffered a severe stroke. He survived but was disabled. The stroke changed his personality and there was a lot of turmoil in our home. It was then that my church habits changed. I would go to mass occasionally, but the older I got, the less frequently I would go. Mom would always tell me I should go to church, but she never told me why. I wouldn’t say I ever stopped believing in God. I just didn’t feel that I needed to go to church. I figured if I was a good person, then I would be ok. Dad was never very healthy after his stroke and he passed away when I was 19. As I got older, the longer I was away from the church, the more uncomfortable I became with anything regarding religion. I did my best to avoid it. I didn’t want to talk about it, read about it, or hear about it.

When I was 25 I became pregnant with my oldest daughter. I was unmarried, scared and faced with raising her alone. Even though I was a single-mom, I was determined to do all I could to give her a great life. Becoming a mom for the first time was an amazing experience. She was a perfectly healthy beautiful little girl and I felt truly blessed. At my mother’s urging, my daughter was baptized at a local Catholic Parish shortly after she was born. But that is where her Catholic faith ended. I realize now that all I was doing that day was trying to please everyone. Mom wanted her baptized and I just went along with it. I didn’t have a clue how important it was. I didn’t understand that I was making a promise to God which I had no intention of keeping. One of my deepest regrets is that I did not give my oldest child the gift of faith. But then how could I give her something that I myself had lost?

I was in my 30’s when I met my husband Mike. We were married by the County Clerk and began our life together. We were blessed with three more daughters within a short period of time. Needless to say it was an incredibly busy time in our lives. I knew my husband had been baptized in a Baptist church as a teenager, but he wasn’t attending any church when we met. When the girls came along, we never even discussed having them baptized. I guess neither of us were very comfortable talking about God.  So when the teacher asked me that day if I wanted my daughter to attend religion classes, I was fine with it. She could learn about God and I was off the hook. My daughter grew very excited by what she was learning each week. She would bring home her activity papers which always had suggestions for family activities. I learned to ignore those. I didn’t want to talk about God. She had a teacher for that.

I never counted on what came next. My daughter started asking me to take her to church. Her teacher would talk about going to Mass and how wonderful it was. My daughter had always been fascinated by the beautiful, historic Catholic Church we drove by almost daily and that’s where she wanted to go. My husband and I were never against going to church. It was just something that had never come up. And being different faiths was something we had never even discussed. But we decided that if our daughter was asking to go to church, then maybe we should give it a try. And so off we went to Mass one Sunday. Mike and the girls had never been to a Catholic mass before. I answered lots of questions during and after the best I could. But I was very uneasy being there. I felt out of place, like I didn’t belong. Some of the prayers and music were familiar, but something just didn’t feel right. I thought maybe this was a mistake. I decided to start researching different faiths. I knew people switched faiths all the time and maybe I wasn’t even supposed to be Catholic. Maybe that was why I left the Church as a teenager. Maybe that was why I was so uncomfortable at Mass that day.

One Sunday I finally decided to accept a friend’s invitation to attend a service at the Baptist church she belonged to. We enjoyed the service. The music was catchy and the preacher was passionate. The people were very friendly. But then something happened that changed everything. One evening the pastor and a couple of other people from the church came to my house for a visit. He asked me a lot of questions. He wanted me to define faith. I had no idea what to say. When he found out that I had been raised Catholic, he said I needed to be baptized right away. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. When they left, I shut the door and told my husband how offended I was that they thought my Catholic baptism wasn’t good enough. I knew better than that. I was more confused than ever. After giving it some thought and discussing it with Mike, it finally became clear to me what I had to do. I had to give my Catholic faith another chance. I knew that it would be a big commitment for Mike to join the church but he was completely on board with me. No matter what, we had to do this as a family. We went to Mass again one Sunday and something amazing happened. I felt a sense of peace come over me. It was like someone was wrapping their arms around me. This time I felt completely at home and I knew that was where I belonged.

Mike and I started RCIA classes in September of 2006. At the Easter Vigil in April of 2007 Mike was received into the Catholic Church. My three youngest daughters were baptized and two of them received their First Communion. Our marriage was also convalidated in front of the congregation that evening.  It was an amazing and beautiful experience for our family.

I learned so much that first year back in the Church. I felt like Paul who had been blinded by Jesus. My eyes were opened like the scales that fell from his eyes. I could finally see and learn what had been missing for so many years. I was amazed to learn that Jesus started the Catholic Church. I never knew that the Eucharist was the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus. I was on fire and hungry to learn.

My family has come so far in the last 10 years. I no longer avoid talking about God and try to bring our Catholic Faith into our home and our family life every single day. My children see us read the bible and recite the rosary. We attend Mass as a family every Sunday. I try to get to weekday Mass as often as I can and we are very involved in parish activities. I am now a Catechist for our parish religious education program and facilitate adult Bible study classes. I still have work to do, much to learn and many improvements to make. Prayer doesn't come easy to me but it’s getting better. That day years ago, God invited me onto this path when I least expected it. I know he's still with me tugging on me when he sees me get distracted or frustrated, so I will keep going and do all I can to serve God just as he's asked me to do. One day I will face him and hopefully I will hear the words "Well done my good and faithful servant".

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day

Memorial Day is the official National Holiday set aside to remember those who died while serving our country in the armed forces. My mom always called it Decoration Day. Growing up I remember it being the day that we took flowers to the cemetery for all of our family members. There were always American flags dotting the landscape of graves throughout the cemetary. Although Veterans Day in November is the official day to honor the service of all those in the military, many will pay tribute to all soldiers on Memorial Day. This holiday weekend also typically marks the end of school, beginning of summer vacation, picnics, parades and graduation parties. And of course here in Indiana we have the Indy 500.

This morning on Memorial Day I said goodbye to my soldier as I have so many times before. This time though he is not gone for long and he is not going overseas. He was home on leave this long holiday weekend in the midst of a 2-month class he is teaching. He will be home in less than five weeks and back to his civilian life and job. We still miss him though. It’s not the same when he isn’t here. I still pray for his safe travel, even though he’s only 10 hours away. I still smile when I see his face pop up on my phone as it’s ringing. I still tell him I love him and miss him every single day even though I can count the days until I see him again. And even though he’s not deployed, his military obligations will keep him away from special events in our daily lives. Last week he had to miss Gina’s 8th grade recognition night. He missed Mother’s Day and won’t be here for Father’s Day or our Church Picnic. But we are luckier than many military families. Many many soldiers in our countries history left home and never returned. Today my thoughts and prayers are with those families. They gave everything so that we could be free.

Dear Heavenly Father,
With a sober heart we come before You this Memorial Day.
We pause for a moment and call to mind
all the men and women who have died in the service of our nation.
Dear God, please look with mercy on our brave and selfless brothers and sisters,
who did not shirk from their task but gave themselves completely
to the cause of defending and protecting us all.
Bless all who have given their lives for the sake of liberty,
and grant them eternal rest with You.
We remember also our brave men and women now serving in our Armed Forces,
both at home and abroad.
Dear God, send out Your angels to protect them all.
Help them discharge their duties honorably and well.
Please bring them safely home to their families and loved ones.
Please bring Your peace and mercy to our troubled world.
We ask this, Father, in the name of Jesus, Your Son, our Savior and Lord.
~author unknown

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Sacrament of Marriage

Last weekend, I was privileged to be invited to witness the marriage ceremony of Katie and Jeremy. It was a wonderful ceremony and refreshingly different than most weddings I've been to. Many Catholic couples in our area choose St. Joseph Church for their wedding. It is stunningly beautiful and large enough for most weddings. It has a long center aisle which is perfect for the procession of flower girls, bridesmaids and groomsmen. It was apparent though from the beginning of the ceremony that Katie and Jeremy didn't choose St. Josephs because it is big or because there was plenty of room for a big wedding party. As the first (and only) bridesmaid came down the aisle followed by the maid of honor my first thought was "ah, this is going to be a simple wedding". And I smiled because I knew immediately that this couple was focused on why we were there. As Katie came down the aisle on the arm of her father, it was refreshing to see how beautiful she looked in her wedding gown. It wasn't sleeveless, it wasn't low-cut. It was perfect. Katie and Jeremy came there that day putting the love of God first in their minds and knowing that he deserves nothing less than reverence and modesty. This wedding wasn't about putting on a show but about keeping the focus on God. This wedding Mass, like every Holy Mass was a re-presentation of the sacrifice of our Lord at Calvary. And second to that it was celebration of a man and a woman forming a lifelong covenant bond. When the time came for the exchange of vows, the Priest stepped down into the center aisle closer to the congregation as Katie and Jeremy took their place near the altar. And again I smiled. A Catholic priest presides over a Marriage ceremony but he does not and cannot administer the Sacrament. Katie and Jeremy administered the sacrament of Matrimony to each other. The priest is the official witness representing Christ and so his presence there is essential for the sacrament to take place. But the couple confers the sacrament. How beautiful it was! I was honored to be there in Holy Worship of our Lord and to see two young Catholics who understand what being authentically Catholic is all about. God Bless them as they begin their new life together.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Isaac's Miracle

People who are pro-abortion would say that Isaac should never have been born. Doctor’s said he would not live. They advised Isaac’s parents to terminate the pregnancy. His parents refused to do that and went home to pray and hope. Watch this video which was made a couple of years ago. Pro-abortion advocates would say that it is unfair to bring a child in the world who will have to live with handicaps, medical intervention, pain and may die anyway. But in the video you will see how doing things God’s way has changed these people’s lives forever. What abortion advocates don’t understand is that Isaac is a child of God and that all of us are only on this earth for a very short time. But in heaven with the God of this great universe Isaac will have no pain, no operations, no wheelchair, and no sadness. God brought Isaac to the world so that the people who know him will love more, care more, give more and hope more. God knows that Isaac and his family can handle the hardships that He asked them to endure. God allows Isaac's suffering so that we can witness what holiness, true faith and trust in God is all about.

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Since this video is a couple of years old and the website link at the end of it is not working I thought maybe something had happened to Isaac. I did a search for Isaac’s Miracle and found them on Facebook. They are working on getting their website back up but happily Isaac is well and they have pictures on there as recent as this Christmas.

God Bless

Sunday, September 11, 2011

I remember

September 11, 2011

Yesterday while cleaning out a closet, I ran across a box of old 8mm video cassettes. We haven’t used our old video camera in years because the batteries stopped holding a charge and we could no longer find replacements for it. Since my three youngest girls were fairly young when we used that camera, I knew they had never viewed any of the tapes. We found audio wires and hooked the video camera up directly to the TV. What fun it was to see what the girls looked and sounded like over 10 years ago. We laughed and shared memories that had long been forgotten.

This past week I’ve been preoccupied with other memories of 10 years ago. This is the first time the younger girls have asked questions about what happened on Sept 11, and their questions brought back feelings I haven’t visited in quite awhile. It’s not as if I’ve forgotten. It’s something that comes to mind more often than I probably realize. But as I pulled out the yellowed newspapers and stack of magazines from years ago, a sadness came over me that I thought was long gone. It wasn’t quite the same as it was when the events unfolded that first year. But I felt it again. I remembered being scared. I remembered all the tears I shed. I remember saying goodbye to my husband and not knowing where he was going or if he would come back home. I remember trying to explain to toddlers where their daddy was. I remember not being able to stop watching TV as our soldiers went to war with an unconventional enemy. I remember seeing reports of wives with small children who were burying their soldiers. And I thought, there but for the grace of God go me. We were spared that grief and my husband returned to us. Our country asked us to live our lives and not let terrorism rule us. And so each day for the past 10 years we’ve gotten out of bed every day and tried to do just that.

I am happy that my youngest girls don’t remember how it felt to survive 9/11. It’s a sadness I hope they never have to endure. I will probably answer more questions in the coming years and try to help them understand what it was like. But I think for them it will always be similar to watching part of their childhood unfold on those old video tapes. They know it was real but they have no memory of it.

God bless all of those who died that day on the three planes and in the buildings that were hit, the firefighters and rescue workers, the people of New York, our soldiers and their families.