Coincidence? I think not.

Is there such a thing as coincidence? No. Not in the least.

Yesterday I was telling my children about the phrase every family should have cross-stitched in their living room and framed: “If Mamma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” They nearly had a heart attack that I should use such foul grammar and vocabulary. I’m pretty sure this is how they view me.

Anyway, an hour later, I was listening to a podcast with Sarah Mackenzie and Brandy Vencel from the audio companion to Teaching from Rest (buy it!). What do I hear? Hmm, yes. “If Mamma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” Maybe they didn’t say ‘ain’t.’ Close enough. One of them went on to say that as mothers/wives, we set the atmosphere of our homes by our attitude. This can be overwhelming until we realize that grace does the work, not us. If we rely on our own strength, we will fall apart. We have to go to God every day (many times, at least for me) and beg for His grace to flow through us and into our homes. At this point, I pause the podcast, go in my room, shut the door, lie on the floor, and start sobbing. Why? Because this Mamma was supremely un-happy, with a surly, selfish attitude that was certainly not doing anything positive for the atmosphere of my house. I cried and cried and told Him, “I can’t do it! I can’t, I can’t!” I think I caught a glimpse of what St. Faustina means when she speaks of herself as a miserable creature. I saw my misery, my failure, my inability to do it on my own, my stark need for grace and mercy. I poured out my heart to Him (Ps. 62.8).

And He answered me.

As I was sitting down to do my lectio, I read in Deuteronomy 30.14: “But the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so that you can do it” (emphasis mine). The word for me is ‘grace.’ With grace, I can do it. Or rather, His grace flowing in me and through me can do it. Still, I must not have fully grasped this because later in the evening, with my head in my husband’s lap, sobbing again, he said to me, “You can do it.” Alright, God. Alright. I can. Only give me Your grace, and I can.

God has spoken once, twice have I heard Him.

 

 

 

First Day of School and A Mother’s Education

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A shot from our first day of school. I am still working on lesson planning and we still don’t have all our books, but we jumped right in. At least for today, we moved up to the giant table in the dining room. It seemed to work well. First day of school music was courtesy of Aradhna, their live concert album.

Since the children are beginning a new school year, I decided, at the prompting of the Scholé Sisters and Sarah at AmongstLovelyThings, to create a loose syllabus for my own education. Here is what it looks like. I am not expecting to get through all of these books this school year. It’s just to keep me on track and keep me growing as a mother, a teacher, a woman!

Education
A Well Educated Mind (in progress)
Poetic Knowledge
Beauty in the Word
Towards a Philosophy of Education
I Thought It Was Just Me
Daring Greatly (again–it’s that good)
Gifts of Imperfect Parenting
Teaching from Rest

Classics/Poetry
Kristin Lavransdattar
Don Quixote
Sonnets from the Portuguese
Brothers Karamazov
Anna Kamienska Astonishments
Czesław Miłosz

For Fun
The Tale of Holly How
Margaret Frazer

Spiritual Reading
Into Your Hands, Father
St. Faustina’s Diary
Edith Stein Essays on Woman
Something Other than God
The Romance of Religion
Deep Calls to Deep
Praying the Name of Jesus
My Peace I Give You

Creativity (not books, per se, but areas I would like to improve/learn)
Spenserian penmanship (in progress)
embroidery
knitting
make French pastry (I made puff pastry! 9/5)

History/Science (I’m a little light on this area. Suggestions?)
Astronomy app (learn constellations, major stars)

Here’s hoping for a restful, beautiful school year for both the children and me.

Motivations

“And when they heard it, they glorified God” (Acts 21. 20).

I have been involved in numerous conversations centering on this question: Why do you homeschool? There are several answers ranging from protecting one’s children from outside influences, being able to teach religious truths, having greater flexibility. Mine has always been somewhat more prideful: I can do it better.

Tonight I read about St. Paul in Acts. He came to Jerusalem after his mega-tour of the middle east, converting city after city to the Faith. This apostle to the Gentiles seemed to be able to bring the converts in by the thousands, maybe even out-doing St. Peter himself. When he met with the elders, “he related one by one the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry.” Hearing this, “they glorified God,” (21. 19, 20). Not Paul.

So many times, as a mother, I relate things my children have done (that I have taught them, of course) or have them “perform” for guests, not for God’s glory, but for my own. I want to hear my children praised because it reflects well on me. Shouldn’t I really be working to teach them that others may hear/see and glorify God? Whose praise am I working for? God’s or Man’s?

This is something I’ll probably struggle with for my entire life. It’s easy to forget that my children’s accomplishments do not define my worth. That comes from God alone. Always back to Him. From Him comes my worth, my ability to work and teach, that I may take that ability and give the fruits of it to His glory.

St. Peter, pray for me, that I may learn to work for God’s glory alone.

Life is Sweet

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“They told you life is hard
It’s misery from the start
It’s dull and slow and painful

I tell you life is sweet
In spite of the misery
There’s so much more
Be grateful.”
–Natalie Merchant “Life is Sweet”

Six months is a long time, people. A freaking long time. But Dear Husband is back and we’re together again. And yes, life is hard but we have to go through the hard to experience the sweet.

Children’s Theater

The kids branched out and tried something new. Missoula Children’s Theater came to town and offered a free week of children’s musical theater for the play Robin Hood to the military children. The first day was auditions and a two hour practice. Then followed three more days of 4.5 hours of practice. And then, today, the culmination of it all. Nine hours of glorious theater. First a run through, then a dress rehearsal, a 3 pm show and a 5:30 pm show. The children were delirious with excitement. Stepford Son did quite well as Prince John. He really got into it. Mini Me, as Marian’s maid, delighted in her responsibility of herding and guiding the skunks (all the 5-7 year olds involved). My Wallflower, who didn’t want a speaking part, was happy to be Forester #5 (she ended up having a few lines and doing marvelously). And then the Little Soldier was a Little Stinker, one of the many skunks. A huge thank you to Missoula Children’s Theater and especially Mr. Scott and Mr. Eli for giving military kids this opportunity to be involved in theater and for working with the kids so hard all week.

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Freaking Out!

Dear Husband’s homecoming is close. So close I can almost taste it. And smell it (ever smelled amine?). And feel it (it’s ok, we’re married).

And I am FREAKING OUT!
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Yeah, kinda like that. Only better. Her eyes aren’t quite crazy enough. Face looks way too calm.

Deep breaths!

Thankfully, I am swimming. Every day. With my dear friend. (Thank you, L!) And running. And biking. And keeping busy. And praying. A lot. Today I had to do it all just to stay sane.

With this level of excitement, it’s hard to sleep, hard to stay calm, to focus on anything. Time creeps. The Rosary helps as does adoration and Mass. As is evident by my writing, putting more than three words together is a struggle. But pretty soon, this will be me, heel pop and all.
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Bring. It. On.

Of Vulcans and Saints

I may have mentioned before that I like Star Trek and that I’m re-watching the episodes of Enterprise. One of the main characters in this series is T’Pol, a Vulcan science officer. When I originally watched the series, she was my hero. Cool, calculating, master of her emotions (read: master of suppressing her emotions), living by logic and reason. Simon and Garfunkel would be proud. *cue “I am a Rock”* On last night’s episode, “Fusion,” the crew of the Enterprise meets a strange set of Vulcans: friendly, open to trying new things, cooperative. These Vulcans claim that the teachings of Surak have been misinterpreted and that Vulcans were never meant to suppress their emotions but to integrate them with logic and reason. T’Pol disagrees, calling the sect, “Vulcans without logic” and warns the captain that they are dangerous. “Just because they smile and eat chicken doesn’t mean they have learned to master their emotions,” she quips.

What does this have to do with saints? Well, I often find myself making the saints into Vulcans. They are perfect. They have reached Kolinahr–mastery of their emotions. They always please God because they are perpetually living in happy land where nothing bad ever affects them, sadness is received as joy and pain as pleasure. And after last night’s episode (which showed that T’Pol was right), I was slightly distraught at the apparent “score one” for the Vulcans. I know in my heart that the Saints were not Vulcans, but how were they different?

Then this morning I read in St. Faustina’s Diary that she was greatly upset by something false someone had said about her. She says, “My heart felt a twinge of pain.” She resolves to show greater kindness to the offending person. “I became aware, however, that I was not strong enough to bear this calmly, because the matter lingered on for weeks. When I saw the storm building up [I took this to mean storm of emotions]…I went before the Blessed Sacrament and said to the Lord, ‘Lord Jesus, I ask You to give me the strength of Your actual grace, because I feel that I will not manage to survive this struggle. Shield me with Your breast'”(#1150).

What?!? A saint feeling offended, overwhelmed by a storm of emotions, unable to fight hurt with kindness and accept false accusations? Yes, actually. The saints didn’t please God because of their super-human control, the suppression of their emotions. Saints experienced pain, sadness, anger, humiliation, melancholy–all the emotions known to Man. But they knew how to take both the negative and the positive to God, to thank Him for the opportunities for growth in virtue, to beg mercy, grace and consolation, to give Him praise in all situations. They knew their weaknesses, knew and humbled themselves to ask for grace and mercy and for forgiveness when they fell.

I don’t displease God when I feel emotion. And I don’t please Him when I suppress emotion. He made me; He made emotions. “And God saw all the things that He had made, and they were very good” (Gen. 1.31). Emotions are good. They can be misused and abused like any good thing. The answer is not to suppress them, to stop feeling, but to acknowledge them, take them to Our Lord, thank Him, praise Him, ask for His grace, His assistance, whatever the situation requires. Well, at least that’s part of the answer. Still working on it myself, to tell the truth.

Watching Enterprise the second go ’round,  I find myself pitying T’Pol. Emotions are terrible, but they are also wonderful. She may not be able to feel sadness or pain or disappointment or anger, but that also means she cannot feel joy, exhilaration, love. What a loss.