Thursday, March 29, 2012

Sharing the Joy

Pope Benedict XVI: “We cannot be happy if others are not: joy has to be shared.”

This is a statement that I read today online.  It couldn't be more true for me right now.  Although I feel that God is calling our family to spread His message and ultimately His joy to others in a foreign country, I am having a very hard time sharing that joy with my closest friends and family right here in my own backyard.  Sometimes the toughest people to share your joy with are the people closest to you---your family and close friends.  But we are ALL called to be missionaries of Christ to everyone, everywhere, and at all times.

The Pope's message ended with an invitation to be “missionaries of joy”, “enthusiastic witnesses of the new evangelization! Go to those who are suffering and those who are searching, and give them the joy that Jesus wants to bestow. Bring it to your families, your schools and universities, and your workplaces and your friends, wherever you live. You will see how it is contagious.”

The past year of my life has been so very blessed.  Wonderful things have been happening in my life.  My relationship with my husband couldn't be better.  My relationships with my kids are stronger then ever.  Things have been falling into place for us after many, many years of struggling.  This is all because of the change in our relationship with God.  It is all because we decided to actually put Him first rather than just claiming that we did.  We began to put all our trust in Him and to follow His plan instead of our own agenda.

This peace and joy that I have is just bursting out at the seams.  I want to share it with everyone I meet and do.  I can talk for hours with strangers about all the wonderful things God has done for me.  I've made so many new friends this past year because of the simple fact that I shared my joy with them.  It is so contagious that began this blog to do just that---to tell more people how much God has blessed us and continues to bless us the more we turn to Him---to share my joy with anyone who will read about it.   But in the mean time, I've grown apart from some of my closest friends and some of my family simply because I don't know how to share my joy with them. 

There are many reasons excuses that I make daily about why I can't share my joy with them.  I feel terrible about my blessings when others are struggling so hard with their own situations.  I don't want to make them feel worse.  Some just think we have totally lost our minds and will probably tell me that to my face if I try to share God with them.  Many around us disagree with our decisions completely and are unhappy with us.   I don't like confrontation, so I figured if I didn't share my joy with them, I'd have a better chance of keeping it.  It feels so good that I don't want anything to knock me down from this high.

But in the end, I'm not truly happy because I haven't shared the joy with the people who mean the most to me---my family and friends.  I can't be truly happy with the wonderful things happening in my life if those around me aren't happy and aren't sharing in our joy. 

So, the tough question is:
How do I share my joy with those closest to me that don't see the joy in what we are doing?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Modesty Doesn't Mean Ugly

When did the word "modesty" become an "ugly" word in society?  When did we begin to lose sight of what modesty meant? 

As I TRY to shop for myself and my two young daughters, I've really been pondering the above questions.  My ten year old has taken up sewing because she can't find clothes to fit that she deems acceptable.  (Yes, her code is more strict than mine.)  She decided that she will just make her own clothes if no one is willing to produce what she wants---long, simple skirts, loose fitting knit shirts with sleeves, and jeans that don't fit like tights.  Sounds simple enough to find, but after trying on a bazillion skirts and tops and jeans, we've found that it's not so simple to find.

The choices out there are ridiculous.  Skirts and shorts that just barely cover the backside and swimsuits that are much skimpier than my under garments!   Not to mention backless shirts/dresses, strapless shirts/dresses, halter style shirts/dresses, spaghetti strap shirts/dresses; all so tight that a person can't possibly be able to move or breathe properly.  If we do find shirts with sleeves, we have to buy them 3 sizes too big and have to roll the "monkey length" sleeves in order for it to look half-way decent.

The choices out there for our young girls are not helping them to grow into holy Women of God.  These fashions are helping them grow into young ladies who think they need to look "hot" or "sexy".  Young ladies that think they need fake nails, fake tans, fake breasts, fake lips, and numerous other fake characteristics to be a woman.   Several months ago I was getting my yearly haircut and witnessed a 9 or 10 year old crying NOT to have her eyebrows waxed as the mother insisted that she could "no longer look at the bushy mess."  What are we teaching our daughters?  Shouldn't we be teaching them that they are beautiful just as they are?  Shouldn't we be teaching them to be happy with the way our Creator created them?  Do we really need to "improve" God's creations?

Yes, at one time I did fall prey to this Satan led fashion world, even though I told myself I hadn't, but as I grow closer to Christ and His ways, I realize how far, not just I, but how far society as a whole has strayed from His teachings.  In the last few weeks, my Facebook and email accounts have been bombarded with ads for diets, gym membership discounts, diet pills, tanning bed coupons, exercise equipment, etc. to entice the female population "as bikini season approaches".  Many years ago (before birthing 3 kids) I too would have been trying to lose weight for "bikini season", worrying about tan lines, and searching for "cute" sundresses.  But as I grew older, flabbier, and wiser, I realized that this is not the image I want to portray to my daughters. 

Lately, I've been praying about what other changes I need to make in my life and the lives of my kids.  I have discovered so many Bible passages about my role as woman/wife/mother in the last year or so.  The little (yet very HARD) changes I have made seem to have led me to greater rewards each time.  This in turn has led me to look at society's view versus God's view of women.  With HHS mandate now in the headlines, everyone seems to be writing about the role of women, women's rights, etc. I've read the arguements of both sides and wonder.... Where did we go wrong?  How did society's view of women, children, and family get so twisted?

Once again God led me to the things I needed to read--- the "warnings" that various Popes and Saints gave about the coming times, warnings from the Blessed Virgin Mary, and even warnings from Christ himself.  (I know many people do not believe in apparitions and visitations from Heaven.  Not sure why, since visions and apparitions are mentioned throughout the Bible.  Why wouldn't God talk to people on Earth today and send messengers with warnings if He has done it before?) Anyway,  I have been amazed at how the fall of modesty in fashion has been closely related to the fall of values in our society.

I could write for days about all the things I have read, but I won't.  It's out there for you to discover in your own time as I did through prayer.  But I will leave you with a few thoughts to ponder:

1 Timothy  2, 9  "In like manner women also in decent apparel: adorning themselves with modesty and sobriety, not with plaited hair or gold, or pearls or costly attire."
The words of the Blessed Mother at Fatima to Bl.Jacinta Marto:
      "the sins which bring most souls to hell are the sins of the flesh. 
      Certain fashions are going to be introduced which will offend Our Lord very much...
       the Church has no fashions; Our Lord is always the same..."

From St. Francis de Sales, Introduction to a Devout Life, Part Third, Ch. 25:
Keep yourself always, as much as possible, on the side of plainness and modesty, which, without doubt, is the greatest ornament of beauty, and the best excuse for the want of it."

From The Catechism of the Catholic Church: 
"... Modesty protects the intimate center of the person.  It means refusing to unveil what should remain hidden.... Modesty inspires a way of life which makes it possible to resist the allurements of fashion and the pressures of prevailing ideologies."
Modesty is decency. It inspires ones choice of clothing. It keeps silence or reserve where there is evident risk of unhealthy curiosity. It is discreet.

I realize that modesty is more than how someone dresses, but dressing modestly does help one to act more modestly.  This is something that I have recently learned by simply changing the way I dress and dress my family.    The way you dress does have an affect on how you act (For all my teacher friends, think about free dress day behavior!), how you present yourself to others (Think about being dressed up for an important interview), and how others treat you (Think about how you treat clergy when you "see" them in their vestments).

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Frustrations Turned Into Blessings

Last weekend began with a sick husband and a sick child that led me to cancel my trip to Abbey Youth Fest with our parish youth group.  Abbey Youth Fest is my favorite youth event of the year.  The atmosphere there is indescribable.  Being surrounded by so many priests, brothers, sisters, and seminarians, and over 3,000 teens, praising God under the beautiful sky by day and under the stars at night is overwhelming to witness.  I was very disappointed to have to miss this for the second year in a row.  Later that night, I got sick and began a night of vomiting which would not have been a good thing to happen on a four hour car ride with a bunch of noisy teens or at the hotel with a room full of teenage girls.   "Thank you, Lord, for a sick husband and child."

Saturday we all took it easy and rested.  We attended Saturday afternoon Mass and headed to bed early so that everyone would be well and ready for the rodeo the next day.  It worked; everyone got up bright and early and headed to the barn to get the horses ready.  My husband had gotten called to go on a job for a co-worker whose wife was about to have a baby.  He would need to make a four hour drive after the rodeo; I hoped the rest of the day would go smoothly and quickly too.

Well, we arrived at the arena to find that it was still locked.  I guess not everyone had gotten such a good night's sleep.  Again, frustration got the best of me.  It was already bad enough that the rodeo was on a Sunday, my day of rest, but now it would start late and end late causing me to miss my Sunday afternoon nap and would put my husband on the road late.  Ugh!  Frustration!

Around lunch time, we began to get weather alerts on our phone about bad weather approaching our area.   Another reason the rodeo needed to move quickly that day, and yet it seemed to drag more slowly than ever.  The more we wanted to get home, the slower things dragged on.  As the day went on, we continued to check the radar.  The weather seemed to be waiting on us to leave that arena.  "Thank you, Lord, for holding it off until we were out of that large, open, metal, unsafe place."

By the time we get got home and unloaded the horses, it was almost bedtime.  Everyone was exhausted, and my husband was once again running fever.  Everyone took their baths, and we put the kids to bed.  As we checked the radar, we saw that we were in for some pretty bad storms.  He decided to wait until the storms passed to leave.  He went to bed to get some rest, and I stayed up to monitor the weather and pray for our safety.  I must have dozed off because I woke to a text message from one of our parish priests warning us of a tornado heading our way.  "Thank you, Lord, for caring priests."

I woke my husband up, and we grabbed the kids and headed to the interior bathroom.  I sent a quick warning to my neighbor to do the same.  We began to pray quietly for protection so we wouldn't  alarm the kids anymore than they already were.  Then we heard it.  The wind got louder and louder.  So, we prayed louder and louder. and the kids began to join in.  I knew that it was going to hit us, so I asked our Blessed Mother Mary to please protect us.  In the next moment, all went silent.  No eery wind, no rain.  Silence.  We didn't move.  I thought maybe this was the moment before you die when time stood still.  Another text message broke the silence.

It was my neighbor checking on us.  The tornado has just knocked a tree onto their house, but they were all safe.  "Where was it?  It should have hit us by now, " I told myself.  We sat for awhile in the bathroom before moving.  After about 10 minutes of silence, the rain began again; we got up and began to move around.  It had missed us.  "Thank you, Lord, for sparing us yet again!  Thank you, Mother Mary for protecting your children."

We finally got the kids back to bed just not their beds.  I talked to the neighbor again and found out that everyone was safe and the damage to their home was minimal compared to what it could have been. Then she told me something that I will never forget.  Another neighbor had gone out and looked around the neighborhood.  He had told them that "it stopped just before the power plant."  We live across the street from the power plant.  The tornado has disappeared just before it got to our house.  I sat in awe for hours, truly amazed at how blessed we had been. 

About 2:00 am, my husband left for that job four hours away.  I realized that the slowness of the rodeo that day was another blessing in disguise.  Had it ended that afternoon as normal, he would have left for work.  I would have been there alone in that storm with the kids.  He would have been four hours away worried about his family back home alone.  "Thank you, Lord, for a slow day at the rodeo."

Remember to thank God for all your blessings even for those that seem like frustrations at first.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Verdict

So, after reading the book by Family Missions Company's founder, the Cursillo made with an FMC missionary, the Magnificat breakfast whose speaker was the FMC founder, the "Feed My Sheep" Holy Hour, the SERVE flyer from FMC, the messages heard at the FMC Formation night about children and safety, the Middle School retreat at Our Lady of the Bayou owned by FMC where we heard from "kid missionaries" themselves, and lots and lots and lots of prayers, it is official------This family is heading on a mission trip to Mexico!

Our family, including the kids, will be traveling with other families to General Cepeda, Mexico and staying at FMC's mission house at the end of May.  We will join the missionaries there in corporal and spiritual works of mercy.  Our group will be painting, repairing houses, and various other work projects.  We will also be visiting the sick, handicapped, elderly, and the homebound.  We travel to some of the surrounding communities and evangelize by sharing our stories with them and praying with them.

There are a few things that you can do to help.  First, PRAY, PRAY, & PRAY some more.  Although, we are very excited, we are a little nervous about traveling to a foreign country with the kids.  But we feel that is what we are being called to do, so off we go.  Pray, not only for us, but for the other families & the missionaries that will be traveling with us and also for the people we will be ministering to.  Pray for our safety and our success in spreading Christ's message.

We will be collecting various items to bring with us to hand out to those in need and collecting monies to help fund some of the work projects we will be doing there.  I will be sending out a list of what is needed by email and regular mail.  If you aren't on either of those lists and would like to help, please message me.  I'd be happy to get that information to you.  In the meantime, please add us and FMC's Family Pentecost Mission Trip to your daily prayers.

I'll leave you with this statement that I read on the blog of an FMC Missionary this morning:

      "God doesn't call the qualified, He qualifies the called."

What's He calling you to do?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Life After the Flyer

So, after the flyer from FMC God, my husband and I decided to pray about going on a mission trip instead of that awesome couples cruise.  We decided that we would go on a short term mission to "check it out."  We decided that it would be best to leave the kids behind until we were sure it was safe to bring them on a mission to a foreign country.

Last Wednesday led us back to Our Lady of the Bayou's Retreat Center for the FMC's weekly Formation (pot luck supper & prayer).  The place was packed.  We immediately felt that warm welcome as we opened the door.   I'm not usually one to like to venture into a crowd of people I don't know.  I'm not usually comfortable in large crowds unless its close friends or family.  Yet, I have never worried or had anxiety about this place or meeting all these new people.  The warmth and kindness felt there is indescribable.  The kids found their friends that they had met the last few times we'd been there and quickly made new ones.  We did too!

Anyway, after the meal, the adults gathered for prayer as the kids went off to pray and play in the Chapel.  I was halfway listening to the bible passage being read because I was so in awe at how "at home" I felt in this place.  The one thing that I heard was "Children are the best missionaries."  I immediately focused back on the speaker to make sure that's what was said.  Again, "Children are the best missionaries." In the next half hour, it must have been repeated at least 30 times.

I looked over at my husband to see if he had "gotten" this message as loudly as I had.  He didn't quite look as convinced as me.  I knew in my heart that he was still worried about the safety of our kids in a foreign country.  I whispered a prayer to God to make it more clear for both of us.  I reminded Him that my husband is going to need more "convincing" if we are truly suppose to bring the whole family on a mission.  He is a very protective husband and father. 

The next thing I heard was the founder of the company begin to tell about how safe he feels on the missions.  He continued to talk about the dangers right here in our own country compared to the dangers surrounding their mission posts.  My prayer was answered.  Mr. Frank closed with a very profound statement that I've been thinking about all week (paraphrased but you'll get the point), "What's so bad about dying doing God's work and going to Heaven to meet Him face to face?"

Once again what "we" decided to do, doesn't seem to be what He wants us to do.  So, back to praying for more concrete signs once again!  I see a billboard in our future!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Does God Send Flyers?

I've written before about the Family Missions Company (FMC) and how I feel as though God is leading our family to their family.   I wrote about going to their retreat house for their weekly Formation which is basically sharing a meal and then sharing the Word.  We really felt we were being called to do missionary work, but after that first night we decided that we were being called to be missionaries right here at home.  There was just no way that we could do what these people do.  Sell everything, leave behind everyone, and follow Christ---that only happened in the Bible and to REALLY holy people, not us.

The message that night, we thought, was clear, "We are ALL called to be missionaries.  We are to bring the Word of God to others where ever we are." Easy enough.  We could do that.  We already do that, sort of.  We had just recently made a Faith Renewal weekend together and had both just made a Cursillo.  We felt we were being "called" to be missionaries through these two wonderful movements.  We listened to people around us talk about how great it would be to have such "a strong, YOUNG, couple" to be a part of these ministries.  Our heads got a little bloated when we heard YOUNG and a little more bloated when they praised our strong faith and family life.  So, we decided to concentrate on being missionaries at home.

Thinking that it was God calling us to be "role models" for other couples, we decided to sign up for a couple's retreat cruise that was being offered by our Diocese.  This would give us a chance to "getaway" alone; something we haven't done in a very long time, but it would also help us to help other couples which we thought was our "mission."  The priest going is wonderful.  The couple putting on the retreat played a big part in the changing of our married life, and the wife played a huge role in my own personal awakening about my role as wife.  This was going to be perfect for us!

So, we were all set last Friday to sign up and pay our deposit as soon as our tax refund came in.  Saturday led us to the Adoration Chapel where I got this feeling that we weren't suppose to be going on that cruise.  I went back and forth about what we were suppose to be doing; where we were supposed to be going; what were we being called to do.  In the back of my mind, there was FMC.  So, for nearly an hour I sat begging God to show us what He wanted us to do, what He had been preparing us for these past few years of dramatic change.  All I kept hearing was, "Feed My Sheep."  Over and over again, "Feed My Sheep."  I asked a million questions, "What sheep? Where are they? Who are they?"  Nothing.  Just "Feed My Sheep". 

Finally, being a little frustrated, I told Him that He was going to have to be more specific.  Again, FMC in the back of my mind.  Still not enough, we were going to need a definite "sign".  It was going to have to be a clear as day.  We couldn't just pick up and move to another country.  I continued with lots of "What about....?"  The doorbell rang.  The next Adorer was there.  I got up still not happy that God did not answer my questions.  I made one last plea for a sign, bowed to Him, and left.

As we pull into the driveway, we stopped to grab the mail.  My husband hands it over to me and continues up the drive to the house.  I glance down and find a pamphlet folded in half labeled SERVE on the outside.  I unfold it to discover that it's the FMC newsletter.  My heart raced as I glanced inside at the different articles.  Everyone scattered in different directions outside as I took the newsletter inside.  I sat in the quiet of the house and read the answer to each one of the questions I had asked in that Adoration Chapel earlier that day. 

Does God Send Flyers?