Choosing God

The other day, I mentioned that just because something happens, it doesn’t mean that God wills it.  It isn’t God’s will, for instance, that children get sick and die.  It isn’t God’s will that we commit violent crimes against each other.  It isn’t God’s will that some among us suffer hunger, homelessness, or loneliness.  It isn’t God’s will that we treat our most vulnerable, the unborn and the elderly, with callous indignity.

None of this is God’s will.

He envisioned something much better and more beautiful for us: peace, joy, love, and intimate friendship with the King of all.

But God is a gentleman, and he never forces Himself upon us.  He asks us to choose Him, to want Him above all other things.  He longs for that, and it is why He so cherishes the sinner who returns to Him, but He never demands it.

This is the great problem of free will: we are equally free to choose or reject God, to choose evil or to choose love.

Advent begins today, four short weeks to prepare our hearts to receive the infant Christ, to turn away from sin and worldliness and choose He who is Love itself.  This is a time for penance, for renewed acts of charity and mercy, and for refocusing on what matters most to us.

I’m grateful for these times, because it’s so easy to be distracted.  But God is always calling, always seeking, and always waiting for us to turn back to Him, too.

Scripture Study: Isaiah

A few years ago, our parish – our whole archdiocese, actually – began participating in a small group study program called Why Catholic. Now, the whole Why Catholic program is terrible, all watered down and wishy-washy, but our group so enjoyed the fellowship and the food that we decided to keep meeting year round. We selected several other Catholic scripture studies to use in between the mandatory Why Catholic sessions, and we learned a lot. Just before Evie was born, though, knowing that babies are something to be savored and feeling like I just wouldn’t have the time to love her and prepare to lead this group, I handed the whole thing off to another woman. She’s doing a great job, but I really miss that immersion in the Word of God. I miss the conversations at the table, in the barn, in the car, since we were all thinking about the same passages. (Yes, the older children followed along, too!) I feel a little like a tiny ship lost at sea. 🙂

So, in order to bring the Word back to the forefront in our lives, I selected a study on Isaiah, because we hear passages from this prophet so often, but – to me, at least – it all seems kind of cryptic! We’ll have a formal meeting on Thursday afternoons, with refreshments, of course, and I’d like to invite anyone who is reading this to join us. If you would like to participate online, we can have a discussion here over the weekend. 🙂

The text we’ll be using is Come & See: Isaiah. I’ve used these studies before, and they’re pretty good. You’ll also need a bible (I recommend this one) and a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (which seems to be out of print?! I’m flabbergasted!)

The first in-person meeting will be December 4th at 1PM, with an online discussion to follow that Saturday.  If you are interested in participating either way, let me know!  I need accountability. 🙂

Holy Thursday at My End of the Pew

There was mostly an older crowd at Mass tonight, and so the sanctuary was unusually quiet. It wasn’t so bad when Tommy fell asleep beside me, snoring softly through his spring-induced congestion. But then Evelyn got hungry. She slurped noisily and moaned contentedly with each swallow. And I, I just kept my head down, for those slurps and moans resounded throughout the whole church!

First Peach Blossoms

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Doesn’t spring always seem like such a miracle?

Party Like It’s Lent

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So most people consider Lent a time of abstinence and sacrifice. We give things up – most notably dessert – in order to grow closer to Christ. We tried that for a few years, but it just made us sad. For one thing, we tend to show love with still-warm chocolate chip cookies and homemade not-quite-blue-ribbon brownies. For another, we now have as many as four birthdays likely to fall during the Lenten season. No, we try to do Lent a little differently here. Instead of focusing on giving something up, we focus on acts of service. I figure that’s more likely to result in positive post-Lenten behaviors anyway.

Today is one of our Lenten birthdays, and I thought you might like to hear our Lenten Birthday Guidelines.

1. Lenten babies are worth celebrating, too! No birthday shall be skipped or postponed unnecessarily.
2. All birthdays are considered both feast days and national holidays. Therefore, there will be no school and, if the birthday should fall on a Lenten Friday, no abstaining from meat, unless your favorite meal happens to be meatless.
3. The aforementioned guidelines are null and void if the birthday falls on either Ash Wednesday or Good Friday, which days are so solemn that Holy Mother Church requests fasting on these two days alone. In this case, the birthday shall be celebrated with all due pomp on the day immediately following.
4. If you did give up sweets for Lent, it would be uncharitable to decline a piece of birthday cake. Say thank you, eat politely, and offer up your sacrifice for the holy souls in Purgatory.

Amen.

Do you have Lenten birthdays? How does your family handle them?

And now for a gratuitous baby photo. 🙂
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2014: A New Year

This is a nice time of year for setting some goals for the future, don’t you think? Not resolutions. I mean, just the word itself, it sounds so grim and unyielding. And our “resolutions” tend to be pie-in-the-sky ideals. But goals? Those are visions – flexible, adaptable, maybe even just a smaller part of a bigger vision, a stepping stone on the path to achieving a dream. We’re big dreamers here, Davey and I, and Davey has a knack for turning dreams into realities.

We have a pretty big year coming up here, with our eighth baby due in just a few more weeks. And babies are so big, they pretty well force a slow-down in all other areas, so, for us, this is a holding year. Some things will continue to grow and expand, because that is their nature. In other areas, we’ll scale back a little, maintaining the successes we earned last year, but not looking for much improvement. We’ve been expanding our activities at a pretty phenomenal pace, so this will be a nice break, mentally, if not physically.

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Here are some of our/my goals:

In The Home: Honestly, I’ve been pretty overextended for the past few years, and homemaking has suffered a bit for it. I plan to focus on the essentials of food and laundry and keeping the dust bunnies from multiplying in neglected corners. Our credit/demerit chore system has been revamped and revived, and it works well; I just need a more organized plan for getting things done that need to be done, without me having to do them myself. We also plan to remodel the children’s bathroom upstairs in the next couple of months, and I hope to save up some cash for some modest kitchen work next winter. My range is on its last legs, and I hope it lasts through one more year.

On The Farm: Our cows will calve pretty late this year, due to various issues, and I want to get them back on a good schedule, so we’ll probably only have one or two bred next fall. The rest will wait for spring. (I’ll have four to be bred, in case you’ve lost count.) The cows are our only profitable venture, and probably the one most enjoyed, so they may continue to grow at whatever pace they can manage.  We had really good success with our chickens last year, but we need to cull more aggressively for both size and laying ability. Also, we need to figure out how to keep turkey chicks alive long enough to reach butchering size. We had none to harvest this year, and barely enough to provide fertile hatching eggs this spring. We have pastures to finish fencing, and a non-productive pig that needs to get her act together. The girls are in 4H Sheep Club this year, so we will have a sheep or two, at least temporarily. (That’ll be our one exception to the No New Projects rule.) Lastly, we had good success with our garden this year, but we definitely petered out by July. We need to maintain our momentum through the autumn, and also see if we can’t get a decent amount of produce preserved for winter use. Oh, yes. We’ll need to find a new meat processor, too. I haven’t been happy with ours since the business changed ownership and the grumpy guy left. He may have been surly, but apparently, he really knew his business.

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In our homeschool: Brenna will be graduating this spring, and with a little luck, we’ll be able convince her to go get a job, at least. Her torture begins on January second. We intend to make her life miserable enough that joining the official workforce will look more appealing. Unfortunately, neither one of us puts any particular value on college, and she doesn’t have any particular goals that will make the expense of college a worthwhile investment, so, really, we’re just aiming to get her out of the house. Beyond that, what we’re doing is working pretty well, so we’ll keep plugging along!

As children of God: I got pretty burnt out on all things religion with our weekly bible studies.  We quit that at Thanksgiving, and I don’t intend to pick it back up again.  It’s too nice to have a little space.  So, as the new year turns, I look forward to finding my way back to this living, active God of ours.  Now, the children were not as pleased as I was to give up the bible studies.  They miss the snacks. 🙂  So what I plan to do is host a little family study of the Sunday scriptures, complete with tea and coffee and, of course, something sweet to nibble on.

Financially: We use Quicken to track our accounts and spending categories, and every time I open it up, it greets me with a graph of steadily declining assets and the cheerful words, “Your plan is working!”  Apparently, my plan is to be absolutely broke in the next few years.  🙂  Actually, we’ll have a little more income this year, and we hope to start making extra payments on our mortgage again.  It’s extremely frustrating to see that this big number has barely budged year after year, and we consider that mortgage a major liability, a chink in our armor, so to speak.  We also need to start saving for a new(er) tractor.  Our ’52 model is still plugging along, but she has some catastrophic defects, and it’s only a matter of time.

All in all, this is kind of a rebuilding year for us, a back-to-basics year, even though, reading this list, it doesn’t really seem like it.

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What are some of your goals for this year?

The Domestic Church: Snowed In

We decided early in the morning that we would make the decision to go to Mass or not at 10AM.  Davey came in from his chores at a quarter till to report that the roads were not cleared and quite slick, being coated with layers of both ice and snow.  He even saw someone actually driving the speed limit, unheard of in these parts.  So we called it, but that didn’t mean that we were going to forgo our commitment to spend some time with our Lord today!

We gathered in the living room and assigned an alter server, several lectors, a cantor, and a deacon, and we held our own little service, skipping over the parts that required a priest, but praying through all the rest.  It was a very nice service, if I do say so, and fruitful.  I think we’d make good pioneers in this regard, as we await the semi-annual arrival of our circuit priest and Holy Communion!

Resources we used: Our missals, and a kindle copy of At Home with the Word. I downloaded this for use for family scripture study, in lieu of our weekly adult bible study, and I really like it. It contains all the readings, background, and questions for reflection. Also, they have additional resources on their website at no additional charge to make it more relevant for families or adult groups.

Next time, we’ll plan a wee bit better and select some songs for the opening and closing, and also have that spiritual communion prayer handy.

I think is the first time the weather has kept us from Mass!

In Which I’m Suddenly Three Steps Behind

Well, look at that! A whole week has slipped by, with no posts, of course. Been busy.

On Tuesday evening, Delaney stood outside the barn, swinging her duck-feeding bucket. “Can I have a scoop of feed?” she asked cheerfully.
“No! I’m almost out! Don’t you have feed next door?” I asked. We have a lean-to on our barn where we store hay, rabbits, and feed for the chickens, so the kids don’t have to navigate bovines all the time.
“Nope,” Delaney said. “We’re all out.”
Would have been nice if someone had told me. I could have gone for almost a week on the grain I had left for the cows, but not if I had to share with chickens, ducks, turkeys and pigs. I sighed and gave her the grain, then figured we wouldn’t be able to get to the feed guy till Thursday. So I pulled out the cows’ next three meals and set them aside, and warned everybody that they had to make the remaining grain last till then. Cows get priority around here. They’re the only ones who pull their financial weight. 🙂

I can’t remember what happened on Wednesday. It was cold and very windy. Very windy. I think we basically hunkered down indoors and tried to pretend that there was not cold weather coming. How’d we do? It was 29° this morning and I’m wearing long johns. You just can’t pretend the weather away.

Then it was Thursday! Bible study in the morning (only four more weeks, hooray!), a quick lunch, interrupted by a long phone call from a potential woodstove buyer, then off to the feed store in Corydon! Of course, there had to be a freak rain shower on the way home. Wouldn’t do to make it back with dry grain. Just as we pulled in, a customer did, too, and she had the pleasure of watching me back up our trailer into the barn for unloading. Fortunately, it was one of my finer backing-up jobs, so I did not embarrass myself. I helped her get her milk, helped the children get 2000 pounds of feed unloaded into the barn, got the trailer parked in its storage area, also in such a way that I would not have been embarrassed, and then… Davey pulled in, newly arrived from an entire day of VA doctor appointments! (One good thing about the VA is that they are excellent at stacking appointments.) So we had to discuss all of that, of course, and then it was time to make dinner, and the making of dinner is the beginning of four solid hours of activity, culminating in the blessed moment when I tuck in the very last child and turn off the hall light. (None of my children would even dream of going to sleep without their tuck-ins!)

So here we are on Friday morning, and I’ve cancelled school for the little ones because I have errands to run and other business to attend to. I just can’t squeeze everything into the hours on the fringes, you know? And sometimes it builds up into this backlog that must be dealt with, otherwise I shall never have another moment’s peace as long as I live. (No, I’m not exaggerating. Why do you ask?)

Oh, and prayers would be appreciated for my parents, Ken and Linda. He’s been in the hospital this week with some heart trouble. (And now I shall switch to understatements – make a big deal out of the little things and a little deal out of the big things; that’s my motto this week. 😉 )

So how has your week been?

If you aren’t doing anything, we’re having a bonfire tomorrow night. You’re welcome to stop by and relax for a while. You could probably use a little break, too. 🙂

An Answered Prayer

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“Where did this rose come from?” I asked.

“The Mary garden,” Brenna replied.

“Unusual to see a rose so late in the season,” I said thoughtfully. Then, “Has anyone been praying to Saint Therese?”

Rosie smiled sheepishly. “I have.”

I nodded and considered the rose. “It looks like your prayer has been answered. What have you been praying for?”

“For you and the baby, that it would be born safely.”

So I guess we have nothing to worry about. St. Therese has got this covered.

Time to Pray

I can’t help but feel this is the beginning of the end and it breaks my heart. Julia said “I wish he could stay in your belly forever where he would be safe.” Exactly. Terry and I are just so sad. Trying to remember that God is in control. God knows Thomas’s days and how long he will be with us just as he knows with all of us. Thomas’s story is already written. I am praying this time will be blessed and beautiful.   ~~   from Sonlight Garden

Will you pray with me today for Kirsten and her family?

A misty blue morning on the farm... it somehow seems appropriate.

A misty blue morning on the farm… it somehow seems appropriate.