Daughters of Eve: You are God’s Masterpiece

Young, naive, scared, poor, marginalized, alone . . . That’s how I was when I became a Mom . . . First to Marley Grace and only a year later to Mahala. In the absence of congratulatory remarks, people asked: Don’t you know how *that* happens? What’s your plan? A close relative even exclaimed, “Oh no!” and groaned upon hearing the news of my pregnancy.

For nine months that felt like an eternity, I carried her in the sanctuary of my womb, 6 of those months with hyperemesis gravidarum and the last three with a pinched sciatic nerve.

My ob/gyn was a terrible woman. She cared more to spend nine months persuading me to use contraception so “this” doesn’t happen again than she cared to treat my like a person, deserving of dignity. She talked a lot and listened so little. Good for her. This is breaking the glass ceiling? This is feminism? Not once did she praise the remarkable job my body was doing sheltering another body, another soul.

That’s part of the problem with the secular feminist movement today. It rejects and suppresses our femininity, seeking to take control and make us the *same* as men, rather than embracing our beautiful bodies (God’s masterpiece, ladies) and encountering us IN our incarnated form to support and empower us as life-bearers, persons with the power and authority to determine the characters and the values of the next generation.

Rather than being empowered by our unique differences, the secular feminists want us to fear and suppress what makes us women and what empowers us. Contrary the call of the saints to “Be who you are!” the secular feminist decries “Be who you are NOT.”

Use and be used. Objectify and be objectified. As if by ignoring the soul’s home in the body, women will somehow be better off. The secular feminists twist and warp your perception of what is beautiful and what is in fact feminine. They open us up to be objectified in the name of some faux equality rather than demanding we be treated with reverence in the name of our God-given dignity.

Mahala was born on All Souls’ Day, and her name, “Mahala” means “feminine strength.” Because she was born by feminine strength and because she embodies TRUE feminine strength. From conception on, she taught me that it was worth it to sacrifice my comfort temporarily for the LIFE of another human being. She taught me about the reality of the soul and the unique value of each human person.

Mahala is sweet, nurturing, competitive, smart, graceful, compassionate, diplomatic, strategic, artistic, athletic, funny, fun. I could think of hundreds more positive adjectives for Mahala. But I’ll leave you with the adjective “unplanned.”

To those that look at children or unplanned pregnancy as a burden, I know from experience that children are THE greatest wealth and unplanned pregnancy (while certainly not without its inconvenience) is the GREATEST surprise gift. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying to you.

Mahala once said, “Mom, I’m so glad you were pro life when you were pregnant with me because otherwise I probably wouldn’t have been born.” And you know what? She’s right. And I am so so soooo glad too. Mahala fills my life with joy and our family would be so empty without her. Mahala fills the world with light and the world would be so dark without her too.

Catholic in America: Maria, a Princess and a Warrior

“I’m a princess but you’re not,” a little girl abruptly said to my second grade daughter, Maria. I had wondered why she had come in prematurely on a beautiful day in MN. It snowed three weeks ago, but now it’s in the 70s and 80s. We bask in the beauty of nature, soaking in the sun whenever we can here so it’s a red flag when the kids come in early.

Kids can be so cruel when they’re not taught right from wrong in their home. Our school-aged children have been targeted by bullies since the moment we began to socialize them outside of the domestic church (our home). The home, also called the domestic church, is also called the first school. Children should be loved and nurtured, given responsibility, and taught right from wrong. I have often questioned my parenting and wondered what I’ve done wrong. Why are my kids targeted when from what I’ve seen, they’re “normal” kids, trying to socialize and have innocent fun with others? What am I doing wrong?

I hate to admit this, but I’ve even gone as far as to blame them and ask them why they can’t just “fit in” with the other kids. I’ve been especially hard on our oldest child, an authentic leader who has spent the entirety of childhood swimming against the tide. She recently called me out for my “why aren’t you like other kids?” in a moment I initially called sass.

She said, “Mom, you want me to practice Catholicism and follow the Gospel. But my peers, the kids my age, have FUN by engaging in sinful words and actions. What do you want me to do? Do you want me to ‘fit in’? Or do you want me to BE Catholic?

I wish she dropped her imaginary microphone so I could write “mic drop,” but by now she knows I reflect and turn inward when I’m alone, praying through my household chores, so she walked out of the room without giving me time to reply.

I reflected in my space when she was not in it. Point taken. In reflecting, I realized that I wish I always had the faith and courage to say to her (and each of my children), “No, my child, be you. Be Catholic. Be counter cultural.” I didn’t have the courage or strength. But I do now. . . most of the time.

A doubting Thomas like the Apostle who converted my ancestors in India two thousandish years ago, I’ve learned faith through experience by feeling Jesus’ open wounds and asking, “How?”

I’ve learned it as a mother, watching my innocent children crucified by the ways of this world. And by the way, it hurts.

I ask Mary’s intercession when it hurts as a mother. I ask her to comfort me and to pray for me. I can talk directly to Jesus and I do. But Jesus gave us his mother. I always asked my Mom if I wanted something because my Dad was strict. My son asked my husband for a cookie and he said, “No,” so he came and asked me. I looked at my husband and said, “He has been a really good boy.” My husband turned to my son and said, “Ok, if your mother says it’s ok.” And that’s the power of intercessory prayer. Jesus was at a wedding in Cana, not starting his public ministry yet but they ran out of wine and Mary asked Jesus to help. He changed the water into 🍷 wine.

He changed the water into wine. Not Johnny Cash, Jesus . . . but I always get that song in my head. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=fE09xqZYBLI

But, I digress. Back to the second grader, Maria.

She came inside early from outside play, and I asked why since it’s unusual of her to not enjoy the weather and play. So, she did one of the things she does well. She told me a story.

Calm as a 🥒 cucumber, Maria shared that a girl came up to her to tell her she’s not a princess and not beautiful. She’s the fourth child in our family and the cruelty of peers is no longer a surprise, but what did surprise me is her response. She said, “I told her that technically I am a princess because I was baptized and adopted into God’s family, and all baptized girls are princesses.” She continued, “Then I told her a story of one of the saints who was killed just because she believed in God and she wouldn’t say anything bad about God. So even though she could have saved her life on earth, she was killed because she loved God so much. And now she’s in heaven. She’s a princess too because she’s part of God’s family!”

As an adult (and even as an adult with a law degree), I’m often (okay, not just often, almost ALWAYS) caught off guard when someone insults me or challenges me for no reason. I typically find myself speechless and with no come back, even though I know my faith.

But this young child God gave us to parent, even though she’s struggled to learn in school, can so gracefully and confidently defend our faith like a warrior, clothed in the armor of God. I told her she’s right and that I’m so proud of her for her courage to share the truth.

I asked how the other girl replied. And María said, “Well, she didn’t believe me. She told me I can’t be a princess because I’m not beautiful and because I don’t have freckles like her. But I said, ‘God doesn’t care about beauty.’ And I told her there are earthly princesses in different countries and you aren’t one of those. But if you are baptized into God’s family, you are a princess. And i know I am because I was baptized when I was a baby. And I receive the bread of life too now.”

“Wow. Maria, you are so beautiful to God and to me. God knows how many hairs are on your head. I am so proud of you and I love you so much.”

She said she loves me so much and gave me a hug. The next day, when some of the same kids were outside again, she asked to go out. I didn’t want her to because my Mama heart hurt for her. I said, “I don’t want people to be mean to you, Maria. That’s not right.”

She looked at me and without hesitation said, “Mom, it’s okay. That’s how the world is. Sometimes the devil talks to people and they listen. People are like that. But I want to be a saint so I don’t listen and I try to be nice. So just let me go play.”

We are the 🧂 salt of the earth 🌍, the light 💡 in the dark world. Our love for God and each other is evangelical. It stands out, flickering in the dark, adding flavor to the bland.

If you’re Catholic in America and you are practicing your faith tradition, you will be put to the test. And know your children will be put to the test when not in the domestic Church (your home) or in the protection of your parish community. And yes, they’ll also be tested in your parish and home. But those will be different tests. Catholics are persecuted all over the world. We are tortured and killed for our beliefs. So, the bullying we face in the secular world in America might seem like a lighter cross but it’s heavy and painful too, especially when our children have to carry the cross wherever they go.

If you are not Catholic and would like to be, I would love to help you! Please let me know.

Meanwhile, if you’re interested, here’s some advice for parenting Catholic kids in a culture of morally nihilistic bullies:

1. If your kids are honest and do what I used to consider oversharing (tell you everything), be thankful, listen to them and believe them. Actively listen, repeating things back; validate their feelings. I’ve been terrible at this because it seemed so strange my kids were picked on wherever we would go. I started to assume it was them and us. Don’t do that please! It hurts. I now remind my kids that Jesus warned us we will be persecuted all because of Him. (Mark 13:13, Matthew 10:22, John 15:18-25, Matthew 24:9).

Teach your kids about saints. Our kids love stories of saints. They are really captivated learning about saints who were martyred. Saints are historical, real life super heroes. And when you talk about the Gospel and how Jesus wants us to live and they say, “Well, I’m not Jesus,” you remind them that we are all called to sainthood.

Put down your phone to be present for your children. I write as I’m on my phone, ironically. (Marley and Mahala, I know you’re reading this and will hold me accountable.😂)

2. We call home the domestic church for a reason (well, many, actually). Home needs to be the family’s sanctuary, a holy place where we can have a break from “work” in the world. If you send them to school or to play and if you’re doing your job at home, they’ve been evangelizing all day, just by the nature of their moral choices. Be easy on them. Make home a place to relax, pray and be there for each other.

3. Hang a crucifix, religious art, and sacramentals in your home to remind you and your family of your Catholic/Christian identity and to call you into contemplation. Set up a prayer corner if you want. A word about sacramentals for our non-Catholic (Christian) brothers and sisters: we do not worship “false images” like paintings, statues, crosses. These images are NOT our God, but during the first few hundred years of Christianity, most Christians were illiterate. So, just as our little kids like to “read” picture books and are drawn to images, stories are told through images and pictures and symbols, whether they be stained glass windows, paintings or the written word in the Bible (which is not God but is certainly inspired by God). We show some degree of reverence for these items that draw us into worship, just as we show reverence for the Bible, a library of books put into one book by . . . the one holy Catholic Church, even before the printing press existed. We have a Mary garden statue and we do not worship it. But we will stop and pray in front of it because looking at the statue reminds us of our story, God’s story and how Mary said “yes” when she was called. And we are called into deeper contemplation and imagination.

4. Speaking of graven images and idolatry, do not worship false idols. You probably think of that golden calf in the movie, The Ten Commandments. Hey, I do too!

But that’s pretty easy. If it was that easy to NOT worship a golden cow or a statue, most if not all of us could live without temptation of breaking that commandment. But anything. . . And I mean anything you put before God is a false idol.

You’re obsessed with soccer ⚽️? Hey, me too! 🤚 I love the sport. Your kids play and can’t miss a traveling tournament game? Fine. But Mass is a holy day of obligation. It’s that one commandment: that one of ten.

. “Keep holy the sabbath.” So, if your soccer game interferes with your ability to attend Mass (and make Sunday a holiday), you gotta miss it. #sorrynotsorry

Don’t put soccer or hockey or basketball or band or orchestra or dance or anything before God. I know it’s easier said than done but this is important stuff.

Money is a false god.

Don’t idolize it. You don’t need more and more and more. Be conscientious about how you spend it and whether you’re supporting fair wages, the earth, and moral companies. I’m consistently working on this one because harmful products and companies who have immoral philanthropies tend to have cheap and convenient products or services, which make them awfully tempting. Give a tithe. Give 10% of your income to the Church. Maybe you want to give that full 10% to your parish. Great! Maybe you want to give 5% to the parish and 5% to charities. That’s fine too. However you want to arrange it, practicing tithing helps us detach from a false idol.

Your career could be a false idol. My identity being linked to “what I do” has tempted me to make some poor choices that were not discerned for God’s glory. Who are you? A lawyer? Doctor? Nurse? Lobbyist? Be like a child. Be like Maria. You’re a princess or a prince awaiting your royal inheritance in heaven. That’s your identity. That’s my identity.

Your vanity could be an idol. And I’m not saying you should neglect self care. No, no, no. Contrarily, your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. So, care for it like God’s sanctuary because it is . . . you are a temple of the Holy Spirit, a sanctuary of love. I struggle with being a disciplined steward of my body. I like ice cream and beer and tend to overindulge. Or maybe you’re on the opposite end of that and starve to be thin. Either way, if you struggle with caring for your body as a temple, you’re not alone but I’m not justifying your actions or my own. We are not excused from responsibility for ourselves. But we can be sorry and ask for forgiveness and repent. And we can be thankful for God’s mercy.

5. If you have been worshipping false idols by putting other things before God and just realized it, don’t worry. Thankfully, if you’re Catholic, you can go to Confession. For free! How awesome is that? It’s better than therapy and you don’t need any health insurance co-pay for it.

If you are catholic and you have committed a mortal sin or are living in sin, you may not receive the Eucharist until you’ve confessed and repented. So, if you’re outside of the state of grace, sit with God. If you’re sorry and ready to repent, go to Confession. If you’re not feeling sorry or don’t understand (truly practicing Catholicism takes discipline and it’s counter cultural), talk to a priest, spiritual director or practicing Catholic. Here’s something I’d like to share: I get nervous every single time I go to Confession. Even for venial sins. Even for saying the same thing I said last time. I have laughed in Confession. I’ve cried. I’ve cried so hard I’ve laughed and laughed so hard I’ve cried. I’ve sat there and talked with my stomach full of knots, knots that can only be untied through absolution. And then walked away feeling free. Sometimes I go to other parishes. Sometimes I go to my home parish. Either way is fine.

The Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen said something along the lines of “Hearing nuns confessions is like being stoned to death by popcorn.”

If your worried about what the priest will think, don’t. At least maybe he won’t be bored. And Jesus gave us this sacrament. Don’t ignore it now and risk the fires 🔥 of hell later. You might disagree with the fire and brimstone preaching, but I’m serious. Don’t be the rich man, asking to go back and tell his relatives to live life as Lazarus on the doorstep when it’s too late. (Luke 16:20) Instead, look for Lazarus at your door. He’s there, covered in sores and hungry and thirsty. There our Lord is in the least . . . (Matthew 25:40). Do onto Lazarus as you would onto our Lord. Look for Him! Encounter Him. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven!

6. After Confession . . . receive the Eucharist. Encounter Jesus in the flesh. Remember this covenant and that you are a sanctuary.

Vatican II said the Eucharist is the source and the summit of Christian life. The Eucharist is our spiritual nourishment and renews our covenant with God. Christians, most of us are Gentiles. Jesus came to invite you to the table. He is our sacrificial lamb. Make the Eucharist the center of your family’s week. Your week’s plans should revolve around what time you have Mass planned. You might think this is unnecessary or be overwhelmed by this but try it. It will fill you with joy and grace and love. It’s my favorite part of the week. We try to make Sunday a holiday and get donuts after Mass. It’s part of our family tradition.

Yesterday, Father Don asked Maria after Mass, “tell me, what are you doing this summer? What is the most exciting thing?” I honestly expected to hear, “Swimming lessons” or “going to the cabin” or something similar. Without missing a beat, this kid who has struggled academically said, “Going to Church.” She wasn’t coached to say that. And all week she has said, “Mom, I can’t wait to receive the body and blood for the third time!” My two year old throws tantrums to go to Church and McDonald’s. The two aren’t connected for her. They’re just her two favorite things, I guess, even though she’s wiggly during Mass.

7. Pray. I know. I’ve got to pray just to make it each day.

1 Thessalonians 5:17 says “Pray without ceasing.”

Translated from Greek, the author is saying our prayer should be constantly reoccurring.

Talk to God. Bring Him your worries, your sorrows, your joy. Whether you’re playing a soccer game, doing dishes or working at an office, you can talk to God. Unite your suffering with His.

Be disciplined in your prayer life. Our kids know to pray before we eat and we do so even on the rare occasion when we go out to eat. We say the “Bless us, Oh Lord, and these Thy gifts . . . ” prayer before every meal. If you’d like to do a different or additional prayer, that’s fine. Your prayer can always be personalized. But memorized prayer allows us, in our family, to focus on God and not have to think of who is the best orator. There’s no prep work or praise of the individual necessary. And it allows us all to participate. We have special family prayer times, and some depend on the liturgical season. During Lent, we did Stations of the Cross in our home on Friday’s. We pray nightly with our kids and the prayers we choose as well as how personal the prayer is changes depending on the season of our life. But what’s non-negotiable is prayer before bed.

We make the sign of the cross before and after our family or individual prayers. We have holy water fonts throughout our house which we try to keep full. We remember our baptismal vows and that we are born of water, adopted sons and daughters of God. As aforementioned, we do not worship Mary or the saints but they are our favorite heroes. We ask them to pray for us, just like we ask holy people in our parish to pray for us.

In our home, we yell. We sing. We argue. We play. We laugh, and we cry. We are fully human and prone to sin and error. But we try to live a Christian life. We regularly use the language of our faith because we are baptized royal priests and prophets. We bless each other in our homes and outside our home. I frequently hear my kids say to others without even thinking or knowing it’s counter-cultural, “Bye, God Bless You! We love you!”

So, for anyone reading this, I hope this blog finds you well. Reach out if you like what you have read and would like to learn more. May God bless you.

https://www.paypal.me/teamgillespie

One Beautiful Dream

I breezed through the book One Beautiful Dream by Jennifer Fulweiler and my goodness, I wish I had come upon Jen’s blog earlier during my vocation as a mother because she is so authentic and funny and makes me feel so much less alone in my struggles as a mother. So many of her stories feel so familiar to me because I’ve lived my own version of them (Green Bean Lady seemed to be a daily occurrence when shopping in the city.)

I think Jen is so intelligent and amazing so when I read the “Beer Bong Play Date” Chapter when she has “a stranger from the internet” (another Mom) over for a play date and apologizes for the state of her messy house, and she implied her house is messy because it is the end of pregnancy (rather than because it’s just not a priority), it struck a loud chord of familiarity.

Her writing style is so easy to read and yet subliminally thought-provoking. Reading this book has been a true gift of self care during this time of my life when my husband is deployed, and I’m single-parenting six kids while expecting a seventh and I just can’t seem to keep up with Jones’s (or keep my counters clutter-free for that matter). Through Jen’s stories, I have grown much better at letting go of my pride, asking for help and accepting help when I need it or can use it.

I have also reflected on my beautiful dream, my “blue flame,” and what makes me and other humans really happy. (Hint: it has to do with love). As Matthew Kelly always says/writes, “There’s a genius in Catholicism.” I’m really grateful my cultural tradition and my religious upbringing provided me with strong foundation in love, faith and family values.

I loved this entire book. It made me laugh so hard my pregnant body convulsed; it made me cry so hard I sniffled and needed a tissue for my runny nose and eyes; it gave me all the feels and helped me reflect on my life and my priorities without feeling like I was really reflecting . . . It was kind of like doing the work of self-examining through spiritual osmosis.

I highly recommend this book for anyone seeking happiness and inspiration (including but not limited to busy busy busy overwhelmed parents).

https://m.barnesandnoble.com/p/one-beautiful-dream-jennifer-fulwiler/1126606236/2679654619982?st=PLA&sid=BNB_DRS_Core+Catch-All,+Low_00000000&2sid=Google_&sourceId=PLGoP79700&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIvMaO_oCh2wIVT57ACh1scwx7EAQYASABEgI86vD_BwE

https://www.amazon.com/One-Beautiful-Dream-Rollicking-Personal/

Waffle House Shooting

I am considering adding short news opinions to this blog. They will not be well-written because I simply don’t have time to write well and in a timely manner, especially while single-parenting six children, but I want to call attention to newsworthy items and how said news is reported. In every form of media I take in, marginalized populations are degraded. This may not seem like I’m sharing the “light” but the sad reality is we need to bring those issues to light in order to raise awareness and create change.

Language matters and impacts how people are perceived by others. It is not okay that the newspapers call violence by white men “mental illness” while similar violence by people of color (usually black males but not always) is described in gruesome details that include the innocence or youth of the victims and arouse no compassion whatsoever for the perpetrator.

This morning’s Star Tribune has an article starting on the front page entitled “Gunman kills 4 in bizarre assault.” There is no mention of race in this article. The gun man killed 4 people, all in their 20s(!), but there is also no description humanizing these four young people whose lives were certainly taken too soon.

Additionally, the gun man was nearly naked! Two fully dressed black men that visit Starbucks are suspicious and police arrive nearly immediately, but a white man can walk into a Waffle House naked with an AR-15 and then go outside and not be caught and arrested.

Travis Reinking, the suspect, had been arrested and detained back in July by Secret Service agents because he was in the restricted area near the White House and he refused to leave. I’ll write that again: he refused to leave, (stating he wanted to meet Donald Trump!). At the FBI’s request after investigation, four guns were subsequently removed from Reinking’s possession. But the deputies allowed his father to keep the guns safe from his son. Whose idea was that? The suspect’s? Ummm . . . Do we ever hear of this process for African-American people? I mean, you remove guns from someone’s possession because they pose a danger to society and then you give the guns to the suspect’s parent who has arguably done an inadequate job raising their child to be a contributing adult member to society? No, thank you.

The article states the suspect may have “mental issues.” This one always gets me! You don’t read about the people incarcerated with addiction problems who committed nonviolent drug crimes having “mental issues” but mental issues are the justification that conditions us to believe white people who commit VIOLENT crime have mental illness and are an exception. They just need help. Meanwhile, black people are bad and no matter how much they have been chronically and unjustifiably traumatized, the consensus of those in power is that they need to be locked up or killed, not helped.

That’s the reality of our system(s) today.

What do we do about it? Question it. Don’t believe it. Talk about it. Write about it. Stick up for people that are treated unfairly, even if it means you will be treated unfairly for it. Have tough conversations with your neighbors and friends. You are called to integrity! Raise a fuss to the media when news is presented in a racist manner (every day!). Don’t give up. Get politically involved. Point out injustices. Be loud and proud, not silent. We are morally obligated to speak up and protect each other. We must not be neutral.

“We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormenter, never the tormented.” (Elie Wiesel)

Prayers for Vocations and Earth Day

This fourth day of Easter is dedicated to world prayer for vocations. And praying for religious vocations (and raising children in a way that supports prayerful consideration of religious callings) is important.

As we pray for vocations and dedication to the religious life, we must not grow weary or forgetful that we are ALL called to holiness. Our universal call to holiness, as part of the human body, includes a call for all of us to be stewards of the earth. And since it also happens to be Earth Day, I thought I would share a link to the encyclical, Laudate Si: https://laudatosi.com

I would love to know what you do, big or small, to take care of our planet. Do you compost? Do you use reusable bags? Do you boycott items packaged wastefully? Each little effort makes a difference. What do you do to take care of our Earth? Comment below or message me.

Top Ten Imperfect New Year’s Resolutions for the Recovering Perfectionist

Something about a new year inspires a lot of us to set new goals, embark on a new journey, and leave bad habits behind (as if it’s that easy). It is as if the ball drops, signifying the new year and poof, we change our lifestyle and our priorities.

Sometimes we accomplish our goals but sometimes life is stressful and January is not the dry/clean month we had planned while justifying our eating/drinking at holiday gatherings. And I should mention that while I am certainly not encouraging binge eating and/or drinking, I have been reflecting on self-acceptance, forgiving oneself, and the value of moving on and setting more meaningful goals this year.

Because at least for me, even when I accomplish my (often lofty) goals, I am still not happy with myself. It never seems to be enough and I remain imperfect. And it’s even worse when I don’t accomplish the goals I set!!! But guess what? There is nothing really wrong with indulging and adapting here and there, especially when our goals are shallow and indulging means skipping going to the gym to spend time with an elderly relative or a lonely friend. The only thing wrong with breaking our own rules once the year turns new is our mindset about it. Part of acceptance is being able to adapt and savor those moments of presence with loved ones without feeling terrible about making an exception to your own rules.

I’ve written down ten imperfect goals for people, especially parents, that share in the struggle to accept our imperfections as perfections. I hope they are deeper and more realistic than the typical goals we often set for the new year.

1. Instead of trying to do more this year, try to do less. Say no to hustle and bustle. Slow down.

2. Instead of resolving to change yourself, work to ACCEPT yourself. You are beautiful just as God created you!

3. Rather than focusing on physical inadequacies, as defined by the images of beauty projected by others, focus on TRUE BEAUTY, which always comes from within. Look inward, not outward.

4. When you indulge or don’t meet a goal you’ve made, forgive yourself. Forgiveness means being sorry for wrongdoing and doing your best to repent or be better. But if your goals were unrealistic, shallow, or for the wrong reasons, prayerfully reflect and reconsider your goals.

5. Practice discipline. We are stewards of our bodies, spirits and minds, so it’s necessary to be disciplined, exercise our free will and make hard choices.

6. Pray daily, hourly, constantly and consistently. Let your work be a prayer. Look and listen for God in everything you do and in everyone you encounter.

7. Set small accomplishable goals and celebrate every success, no matter how small.

8. Whether you stay at home or work full time, when you are with your children, say “yes” to really being present with them for at least a few minutes every day. Set a timer, if it helps.

9. Observe your children and take a moment to look for their sense(s) of wonder daily. Pause and try to see the world through their eyes.

10. Ask for help. Be humble enough to ask for help. Love yourself enough to understand your limitations. We were created for interdependence, not independence.

Our culture wants us to believe that our identity and who we are is limited to what is written on our resumes, how many friends we have on social media, how beautiful we are according to unhealthy standards that dehumanize the beauty of our human diversity (including but not limited to neurodiversity that is both visible and invisible). So easily we forget that we are all born naked, vulnerable, dependent on others for home, food, drink, freedom, safety, and for love. We receive so many different levels of nourishment (physical, mental, spiritual) on earth.

When we look deeper than the surface, it doesn’t really matter that you fit into your prepregnancy clothes, had “perfect” hair or skin, kept your house clean, stayed on top of laundry and dishes at all times, had a kick-ass career. It doesn’t matter if you were a respected, well-known, rich, or even famous. What matters in the end is love. Did you put God above all things? Did you love your neighbor as yourself? Did you teach love by living love?

#sharethelight

My Sister’s Wedding

My gorgeous sister, Leah, got married Saturday, and everything about her wedding and reception was perfect. I loved that it was all very “her” and also very “him” from the Timberwolves theme (both basketball lovers, they happened to meet at a Timberwolves game) to the groomsmen’s blue Air Jordans.

I may have ugly-cried (okay, I did) when Leah interrupted her wedding ceremony right before she and Jeremiah said their vows and surprised all of us (even the Pastor) with THE most beautiful speech of proposal to her stepdaughter. It was so thoughtful, loving and authentic. Even the groom was in tears.

Here is her surprise speech:

I was not there when you took your first steps or said your first words. But I promise I won’t miss a first of anything again. in the past two years I’ve watched you lose your first tooth, ride a bike for the first time, graduate kindergarten, become a big sister, learn how to do your first cart wheel, and continue to grow into an amazing young woman. I am not here to replace anyone nor will I try to. I will be the best I can to you and your daddy. I promise to love you as if you were my own, to protect you, to listen to you, and to always support your dreams. I promise to cherish every moment we spend together but most of all I promise to love you unconditionally. I am so thankful that you are sharing your daddy with me. You have touched my heart in a way that you can’t understand. I may not have given you life but life has given me you. Will you officially take me as your stepmom by accepting this charm bracelet?

I was delighted to be included as a bridesmaid Leah’s wedding. Each of the bridesmaids were beautiful, gracious, smart, endearing, fun.

I couldn’t be happier for Leah and her awesome husband, Jeremiah. I am thrilled for their two beautiful kids. I am thrilled for my family too. We gained a brother/uncle and niece/cousin. Like I said at the reception, when I was a little girl, my Dad asked me to pray that he wins the lottery and I prayed for a little sister for myself. Truly, I won the lottery when Leah was born. She’s exceeded all of my dreams and imagination.

Staying home

The fresh cold air fills me with gratitude for my current freedom and privilege of staying home with my little ones.

Without a doubt, motherhood is deeply challenging. I constantly worry about the kids’ development, as I find myself challenged by their behavior and at a loss for how to respond to tantrums. I feel really frustrated when my school-aged children try to negotiate with me or ask me “why” rather than immediately obeying me.

I’m an imperfect work in progress. And as a mother of six children, I am humbled by how much I don’t know. Every time I think I have things under control or know about parenting, I’m humbled and reminded that I don’t control anything but I DO have free will to respond to any person or situation with love or with frustration and impatience. I often choose to respond with the latter with my own children. Today I’m going to try to be calmer and slower to respond. I am going to try channel the feelings of appreciation I had this morning to be a loving teacher.

As I pulled the two youngest kids around our house on a sled this morning, I felt thankful, blessed and energized. Thankful for the legs and feet that carry me, the body strong and healthy enough to pull the sled through the snow without pain or difficulty, Sir William Wallace (our collie) prancing along side us, the pure joy and delight in my kids’ eyes and their gut giggles when we speed down a slope, the beautiful trees around us, the cold crisp air that is fresh and pure to breathe. Exhilarating, beautiful, peaceful . . . I pray for grace to appreciate the abundance of blessings that have been poured down upon me.

Deployment Day 1

Today was a melancholy day. We miss Dylan so much already. I didn’t prepare a menu ahead of time this week, so we had breakfast for dinner (banana chocolate chip pancakes, sausages, eggs, bacon). The kids were hungry and enjoyed dinner with cheerful attitudes. I really enjoyed hearing about their days and appreciated their table manners (which are often lacking, to be honest). “I miss Dad so much already,” was something I heard about a million times today. It brought me joy and gratitude each time.

Homeschool transition 

Good morning,

This is a blog to update you on why I haven’t been blogging, silly as that seems. As some of you know, we are moving from our small house in St. Paul to a small town named Isanti (still in Minnesota) where we are building a house (or having one built for us, rather). I haven’t been writing lately because on top of Dylan working a lot, we are homeschooling and that is keeping me busy and SUPER overwhelmed. 

We decided that Catholic School is too expensive for us, especially with building a brand new house. And you couldn’t pay us to put our kids back in St. Paul Public Schools (literally). If you are curious about why I feel so strongly about our district’s public schools, this is an editorial with some of our final experiences (the straws that finally broke the camel’s back) in the St. Paul School system: https://www.google.com/amp/www.twincities.com/2016/05/25/letter-to-the-editor-for-may-25-2016/amp/

Homeschooling has been rough. I am having the school-aged kids wear uniforms so they get into the habit of dressing properly weekday mornings and once they are dressed, it is supposed signal that they are ready to learn. A good idea but I’m not sure it’s as effective as I intended. 

Our oldest two children are doing an online school. They are independent and motivated. In fact, they’re so motivated that they are working ahead and as middle schoolers, they are a third of the way through a high school Geometry Class and it’s only September. They are the youngest ones in their online class and they just keep working and moving ahead. I’m proud of their work ethic and motivation, but I’m especially proud that they are loving and helpful. 

Our third, fourth and fifth children are far more challenging. They’re energetic, and they aren’t motivated like their older siblings. I’m really thankful that my Aunt Kathy, a retired school teacher and Sister of St. Joseph is taking our third and fourth child to tutor them in reading every week. They need some extra help and are receiving it from a retired reading specialist that loves them, knows we she’s doing and believes in educating the whole child (for example, they pick fruit and vegetables from her abundant garden in between lessons). They love, respect and listen to her, and that makes a huge difference. 


Dylan bought me a Y membership and it’s been a lifesaver (or at least a mental health saver which might be the same thing) to get away from the kids and workout (or even walk the track kidless). 

All in all, I have to be honest I really can’t wait to move and give the kids all the learning support they need. I thought I’d be better at this homeschool thing than I am. Yesterday our fourth child (1st grade) said, “Mom, I wish we moved into the new house right now.” I asked why. And she said, “Because then I could use the bathroom.” A sibling was in our one bathroom. The big move can’t come soon enough. Pray for us as we await a new life.