Friday, July 3, 2015

The SCOTUS Decision on Gay Marriage: Talking to my Teen Daughter

I was putting away laundry, and she came to me. She said, "I need to figure out what I think about all this before I go to camp in two weeks, because it is going to come up. I'm not sure what I believe. I don't know what to say."

She is 16.  It is no longer my job to tell her what to believe. It is my job to guide her with reasoning of basic truth so that she can be discerning and make solid decisions for herself that align with the calling God has for her specific life.

So. I did my job. I gave her some reasoning based on solid truth, and appealed to her heart to discern whether it be true.  She can then take that basis, and meditate upon it, so when the issue comes up in her life, however God arranges it for her (which are different circumstances and people than would be in my life, or in anyone else's life), then she can have a solid foundation on which to discuss and reason out her position.

What did I tell her about the recent U.S. Supreme Court Decision legalizing gay marriage?

1.  America is a free country.  Our forefathers came here for religious freedom. They wanted to be able to live, educate, pray, eat, worship and marry according to how they believed.  In America, all denominations of Christians are free to be Christians outside the Catholic Church. In America, I am free to be Catholic even though the country was founded by those who didn't want to be. Jews are free to practice Judaism--and have Jewish weddings, and eat after Jewish law and customs. Muslims, Buddhists, Wicca, Mormons, Scientologists, Hindi... in America, all are free to believe what they like and practice their beliefs--include wedding ceremonies that align with their culture and beliefs.

America is FREE.

As long as we don't HURT or DESTROY.  Which is what laws are in place to keep us from doing.

2.  Each individual is accountable to God for himself/herself only. A person may acknowledge that, or  may not.  My question to her: Do you believe you are accountable to God for your beliefs and behavior?

3.  Marriage, by definition--BY ORIGIN--is between a man and a woman. If it is not a man and a woman, it cannot be marriage. That is like taking a rock and deciding it is an orange. It doesn't work. No matter how you discuss, debate, change society's perception, preferences, and tolerances, a rock will always be a rock, and marriage will always be marriage; which is, by original definition, a man leaving his mother and father and cleaving unto his wife for the purpose of being fruitful and multiplying through the male/female union. It is a basic, essential, physical, sexual, spiritual essence of life. Anything else is not marriage--I don't care what you call it. You can take a rock, and paint it to look like an orange, and call it an orange, and most people may say, "Nice orange!"  But they know it's a rock.  I think spiritually we are all designed to recognize this on some level. We can call it marriage--but it's different. It has been painted. We know that. Everyone knows it. But you are free to call it as you see it.

I say let us love each other, and enjoy each other--all our goodness, and love, and humor, and talents, and gifts, and strengths, and weaknesses, and quirks.  And if I respect and love you, I will listen to your heart and maybe ask you questions, and help you however I can. And if you respect and love me, you will listen to my heart, and maybe ask me questions, and help me however you can.

We're all in this world together... for better or for worse.

May God have mercy on us all. 

For the Love of God

That's an expression that has been around forever, and is often said when one is ultimately frustrated or exasperated with someone else's actions, or the condition of things (because of someone else's actions), or the state of the world (because of our actions).

But it is a loaded statement.

It means, "For the love of God, why didn't you do this right? Or at least better?"

It essentially challenges you this:  If you really love God, why don't you do things that PLEASE Him, instead of things like (this).

So, ask yourself, in your life, what could you be doing for the love of God? How can you adjust your actions today for the glory of God and the greater good of the world?

Could you...

  • Be a better steward of your time, home, belongings, money--for the love of God?
  • Be a more patient and loving parent--for the love of God?
  • Turn your back on a temptation, at least today, for the love of God?
    • Laziness--for the love of God
    • Gluttony/Over-eating--for the love of God
    • Wasting time on social media--for the love of God
    • Spending too much money--for the love of God
    • Anger--for the love of God
  • Give something--to a neighbor, to someone less fortunate, to the sick, to the homeless--for the love of God
  • Show mercy to someone who has hurt you or angered you--for the love of God
  • Bless your spouse and/or children with words and actions of love--for the love of God
  • _____________________________ (add in your conviction here)--for the love of God

For the love of God, do something of virtue today to align yourself with God's will and to be one with His love for you today, so that you can be His love to all those around you.

To him who will love Me and will observe my commandments, will I manifest Myself; and he shall be one thing with Me and I with him. 


Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Best Part of Waking Up...

Is spiders in your cup. And coffee in your bathwater. And sea witches, and sewer inspectors.  Lemmee explain.  No. There is too much. Let me sum up. (yes, you know where that came from, so read it with a Spanish accent).

Soooo... my little Millie is teething. Eight, count 'em... EIGHT teeth all at once. She's being quite cheery about it considering, but let's just say it was still a looooonnng night.

But it was a nice night, filled with sweet and thirst-quenching prayer and meditations. And then in one groggy and not-so-sweet 2:00 a.m. moment, God sent me this (through a FB post by Kendra at Catholic All Year), which fixed it all quite nicely and kept me smiling and giggling. Hilarious! Well... at 2:00 a.m.  ...

But, what were those monks thinking (or drinking) when they drew those illuminations? 

MONK #1: what part of the knight do fish go on
MONK #2: the head
MONK #1: thanks
MONK #2: oh absolutely
no problem at all
MONK #1: both lying flatwise across the head, or…?
MONK #2: no one on each side
like ears
MONK #1: ok great
(Click the link to see the rest!)
But... back to the best part of waking up. In case you forgot.  God decided my April Fools was

1. To give Cam April Fools Day one day late
2. To use coffee, spiders, and sewer inspectors, and sea-witches to shake things up and get her into gear.

Hilarious, He is. I bet He cracks Himself up quite a bit.

This was MY plan:

My daughter took the baby to give her a bottle and a snooze. I fed the boys some breakfast and settled them nicely in their room amongst their Legos, and thought a relaxing hot bath with a cup of coffee... then I'll be ready. Ready for everything!

Well... except that thing that I thought was happening Thursday. What was that... ... ... Nothing comes to mind. I must have been imagining it. So,

I fill the antique claw foot tub, using my favorite "Boheme" scented body wash. It's day, so I don't light the candles. But while it's filling I get the Tervis cup filled with fresh hot coffee with some cocoa powder and half & half.  As I'm lying there soaking, mentally preparing to tackle a "doable" portion of the day, I ponder grabbing one of Millie's toy donut rings (you know, the stacking kind), to use as a floatie for the Tervis cup, to keep the coffee hotter longer, floating in the bath beside me.

Then, I see it, and I am enjoying my coffee no longer. And, no longer need it to wake me up.

A big spider, heading down the wall right towards my bath.  I leaped up, grabbed a washcloth, and smushed it, at the same time, leaving my poor, unbalanced Tervis cup of coffee bobbing and spilling.  I flung the washcloth to the far corner of the bathroom and rescued my drowning cup. My bathwater is now brownish--infused with mocha latte.  I figure if the coffee was coming OUT of the cup, what was inside is probably still okay to drink.

Nope. Blech and double blech.

So I finished my bath, much more quickly than I planned, and got some of my coffee by osmosis. Whatever works. But God apparently was saying "Get going."  I was about to find out why.

And, I get dressed, and keep my hair wrapped in the towel, and start baby stepping into my day.  Lessee... Start the boys on ten minute turns playing with the baby, start Breton on projects 1 and 2 (in that order), I'll get laundry going, and then clean up my desk...

Ready, set...

"Mom, why is there an inspection truck in the driveway?"

Facepalm.  That's what was happening Thursday. Sewer and termite inspection. Because we're moving to Florida, you know, and selling this old farm house.

I whip my towel off my head.  No good.  With my new pixie haircut (I'm growing it out after losing it last year), I get this, because I've left it in the towel too long. Exactly. This. Not kidding.

I'm new at this short hair thing. You comb or style it IMMEDIATELY, or you get it wet again.  So... I figured it was better to face the inspector with the towel on my head. Wrapped it back up, opened the door with a smile!

No problem. He only had to run water in my kitchen sink, which was overflowing full of six glasses and spoons from last night's rootbeer floats, and six cereal bowls and spoons, and the remnants of the milk and cereal therein, miscellaneous coffee and juice cups, and a couple of bottles.

Such a gentleman. It was "not a bother at all."

By the time he had walked to the basement and come back up, my kitchen was sparkling and the clean laundry had been hauled upstairs, and though my head was still towel-wrapped, I kinda felt like I had it all together.


April Fool's Day was not all on me. My daughter and I managed to do this to my son's truck while he was visiting last night, hanging with the little ones and distracted by rootbeer floats.  He saw it on his way to work today.

That's Gollum, taped to his passenger side rear view mirror.

Prayers for you, dear readers, to have a blessed day, too.  Because, actually, I really do feel quite blessed.

Especially after Millie tried to fist-bump the sewer inspector. That was cute.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

This Thing Called Suffering...

What's it all about, anyway?  Oh, how I have begged and pleaded and struggled to get my mind around suffering in this world, especially these past few years as God has allowed my fair share. Not that I'm complaining about my personal suffering (much), because there's always someone who has suffered more. But I've complained plenty to God about my lack of understanding about it all.

I have an insatiable desire to know how God is only and always good and Holy, because that is the only kind of God deserving of our faithfulness. But reconciling the knowledge of good and evil to it all... it overwhelms me. Darn it all, Eve... why'd you have to take that bite? (no disrespect meant, by all means, 'cause I'd have probably done the same and even sooner...)


How's your Lent been going?  And your Holy Week?  I'm still very new to learning about liturgical living. This is my second ever official-awareness-of/attempt-to-observe the Lenten season.  This year, my most fervent prayer specific to Lent has been for God to help me understand suffering. Or, more specifically, how the suffering He allows contributes to His glory (or how it WILL in the future culmination of all things).  To help me understand how me accepting my "crosses" brings Him glory, and even furthers His Kingdom, and allows for the help of other souls--their provision, healing, and salvation.  Paul speaks of it. There are verses in the NT that get glossed over and ignored continually that have always bothered me. Now that I've been studying more of early church history, I see this teaching was common--the teaching to gladly accept our suffering and see it as good, and as only for God's glory and for the work of His Kingdom. But... I still have been unable to grasp it.

“On the Way of the Cross, you see, my children, only the first step is painful. Our greatest cross is the fear of crosses. . . . We have not the courage to carry our cross, and we are very much mistaken; for,whatever we do, the cross holds us tight — we cannot escape from it. What, then, have we to lose? Why not love our crosses and make use of them to take us to Heaven? But, on the contrary, most men turn their backs upon crosses, and fly before them. The more they run, the more the cross pursues them, the more it strikes and crushes them with burdens. . . . If you were wise, you would go to meet it like Saint Andrew, who said, when he saw the cross prepared for him and raised up into the air, “Hail O good cross! O admirable cross! O desirable cross! receive me into thine arms, withdraw me from among men, and restore me to my Master, who redeemed me through thee. “ — St John Vianney

And Paul states,

“In my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.” (Col. 1:24)

Oh... how I hate suffering. And we're not even talking about my three-month stay in ICU on life support. I hate being cold. I hate my shower that has no water pressure. I hate my aching feet and wrists from rheumatoid arthritis. I hate having to get up with the baby if I am dead tired. I hate having to tell myself "no" to chocolate. I hate allergies, and snow, and mud, and mosquitos, and dusting and sweeping, and....
But, I have pleaded to understand. God, can I joyfully accept all these things, hand-in-hand with your work for our redemption?  I mean, if you think about it, why would we be joint heirs and be able to reign with Him without having any part of sharing in what it took to get there?

One thing that has marked my ENTIRE journey of faith is gaping holes in my understanding of the gospel, theology, and doctrine, and the lack of satisfactory explanations (or complete lack of) when my questions are asked.  For example... when pondering the crucifixion and the suffering of Christ:  How is it that His death was enough? Other people have suffered worse physical deaths, have they not?  People make a big deal out of how much Christ physically suffered for us, but there is a disconnect. There has to be more to the story. People before Christ, during Christ's time, and people now have physically suffered more torture, torment, and more painful physical deaths.  It wasn't the physical suffering that did the job, was it. There's more to the story. So yes, this person will tell you it was because His blood was pure, so that was what was enough. Yes, but then why the cross? Why the nails? Why the thorns?  Why the stripes? Why the pierced side?  There is more to this story of physical suffering--more reason, more meaning, more wisdom, and more understanding--and I have always wanted to know.  And I'm starting to get it. Christ's physical afflictions were partial to the redemption process and culmination of God's plan of redemption for the whole world. The fully human part of Jesus could only experience human suffering, which makes the human, physical suffering part of His death for us an "example."  And because of the curse on mankind sent forth from the beginning, there is a full providential cycle of human suffering that will happen (Noah's flood being an example).  The fully God part of Jesus, His sinless blood, the pure and innocent taking on the sacrifice of the guilty--that is the Holy sacramental act that saved us and reconciled us spiritually to God. But, there is still a physical, sin-filled world that is living out its life-cycle with all the ordained suffering that our all-Providential and Sovereign God has put together from beginning to end--ending in pure brightness, sinless, painless, hope, everlasting perfection and glory.

We're just not at the end yet.

“In my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.” (Col. 1:24)

When I first got deathly sick a few years ago and faced dying, God sent me the author Fenelon for encouragement. Fenelon, like the Apostles themselves, understood completely the normalcy and continuation of human suffering, the need for it, and how it was necessary for the continued work and culmination of God's plan for mankind. He understood it so well, in fact, he failed to explain it. It was understood. I told you I've been going back to the beginning to find those things that have been lost--those things our early church fathers and mothers understood, because the disciples themselves understood them. I wanna know.

I just wanna know.

Oh... I won't get you lost any further in my  mind. But, this concept, of God allowing my suffering, for His glory, and for the furthering and completion of His Kingdom and His work.  I had to know.

So since the beginning of Lent, I have prayed for this. With tears. It is my heart to know.

And, He answered. Of course. With this beautiful story. 

So, if you need encouragement. If you just can't take one more day of headaches, or emotional struggles, or poverty, or fatigue, or stress,  or hurt, or pain, or your stubbed toe, or the loss of your spouse, or your child, or your crippling injury, or your bee sting, or the icy wind...or any of it. Go read it. It may encourage you one tiny bit.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Way They Should Go

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
Proverbs 22:6

That verse is definitely one of the most quoted by homeschooling parents.  It's a verse for all parents. So, the obvious question is, "what is the way they should go?"

I believe this verse has two obvious applications.

First, the way all children should "go" is down the path of faith, obedience, righteousness, and holy living. This encompasses honesty, integrity, morality, wisdom, and virtue (anything you consider a virtue, especially based on the character of Christ). Any parent, when looking into the future, hopes for their child to grow up to be wise, good, honest, hard-working, loyal, moral, ethical, generous, respectful, faithful, loving, serving, merciful, compassionate, and so on.

So how do we do that? It's simple. If you homeschool, put God first in your curriculum line-up, and link all your other subjects to God. We made a solemn pact in our homeschool that learning God comes first. So before we do any other subjects, we do devotion, memory work (whole passages, folks, such as The Lord's Prayer, Psalm 1, 23, 37, 91, 100, The Ten Commandments, Isaiah 61, Apostles Creed, and more, and as you're learning it break it down verse by verse for devotion), and Bible history. The example of this alone is powerful. It teaches your children to put God first as a rule.

Then, homeschooling or not, simply exhort your children all day long, whether work, school, or play, to do all things as unto The Lord. (There's a verse for everything,). For example, working diligently or neatly because it pleases God, cleaning and organizing to be a good steward, being selfless, compassionate, and kind when playing, etc.

In addition, make a habit of teaching them to bring their thoughts and behaviors "captive" to Christ.  For example, for each lesson, story, movie, situation, or song, discuss what is good and virtuous, and evaluate for foolishness or evil. Practice discernment. Teach them to identify foolish behavior and avoid it.

Remind them continually, as the opportunity presents, of the Ten Commandments and other commands, along with the blessings, promises, or consequences related. When faced with a character or behavior issue, use a concordance to look up relevant verses and use them for devotions, paragraph writing, note taking, outlines, and memory work. For example, if a little one is dishonest, look up ten verses on lying and study one a day for ten days. You can address things like obedience, coveting,  greed, morality, laziness, quietness, listening, studying, being creative... ... Yeah. Anything your child may need to work on. It's in  there.

Now, the second application of this verse I believe has to do with discovering the unique gifts and interests God gave each child that are unique to him/her, and by developing them will honor God and fulfill God's purpose in their life.

Sometimes this is obvious. Sometimes it is not. Your job is to be in tune and always on the lookout for clues. And when there are no clues or clear leading, teach them to be led by the Spirit to make wise decisions , and each step will take them one step closer to where God has planned for them to go.

Take for example, my now 20-year-old.  When he was 15 and starting college-level classes, he really did not know yet what he wanted to do other than knowing in general he wanted to be married one day and have a family. After prayer, we decided the wisest course of college study for a young man in this situation would be a BSBA in General Management, considering that could apply toward any field and help with a family supporting job. Lo and behold, his first college level class was financial accounting. He fell in love. He knew immediately that  he would be happy doing accounting every day (yeah, I didn't see it coming and was like, "Whaaaaaaaa? Really? Whatever knocks your socks off, boy!). So we finished the BSBA in general management, and added the extra 30 credit hours in accounting needed for a CPA license.  He is now 20, a college graduate (plus the extra 30 credits), 
and is happily working as an accountant at Chipotle regional HQ, contentedly preparing to put himself in a position to marry, with a career, house down payment, engagement ring fund, and additional savings.  By the way he is also  a  pianist and plays for hours a day just for fun.  All through college, he would "study 20 minutes, play 20 minutes."

His nameplate at the Chipotle Regional  Office.  My husband joked that it was a  Chipotle fail that they didn't use a  picture of a black bean for  "bean counter!"
And then there's my six-year-old.  He is a gymnast, and an author. He said so very confidently, "Yes. That's what I am. An author. I know it for real." And he is. The greater portion of every day he spends writing and illustrating books (see below). And he could jump before he could walk. I  signed him up for beginning gymnastics at age five and  within  two  months had skipped up  two levels  to  advanced.  I know which way he should go.

A  couple of pages from today's work in progress. His books are usually  20-30 pages  each,  fully illustrated, with well-developed plots and  lots of writing on each page  (well, lots for a  6yo). The above text reads phonetically, "The mommy wolf got back from howling." 

 My five-year-old very confidently stated one day, "when I grow up, I am going to be a boss."  Leadership.  He is also by far the most gifted piano player, and loves it the most. His piano teacher was beyond thrilled at his interest, dedication, and skill. He is committed to practice  and  precision. And, as an aside,  we  learned very early on that he HATES poetry (yes, we sent this clip to AFV. We usually  learn  nursery rhymes while potty training.  He thought that was torture.)

And then there's the three-year-old. So far we have only joked that he will be the next world dictator. But I'm always on the lookout for clues.  Well,  and  then  he  can  do this. Yes. Literally. He is climbing the walls.

The 9yo loves math, science, geography, and "facts." He is gifted in logic and reasoning. He instantly finds fallacies in anything he reads. Even C.S. Lewis. He corrects all his textbooks. How will this develop? Detective? Lawyer? Forensics? Scientist? We will just have to nurture his gifts and interests and see how it plays out.

And my 15-year-old daughter has no clear vision as of yet. She plays piano several hours a day, but for fun. She is not really committed to performance perfect playing, even though she can now play any music she likes.  She sang in one of the top children's choirs in the country for three years, singing with the Columbus symphony orchestra in Carmina Burana, Carmen, and Pops concerts, toured Spain, sang on ESPN for NASCAR, and won a bronze medal in the world choir games. She can sight-sing any piece of music and her range is phenomenal. But she is no longer challenged and does not want to direct. She played "Marian" in a children's production of The Music Man, (she  was 11  in  this  video),  and she was amazing. She does want to try more theater. She wants to try acapella. She wants to take dance in case she decides to audition as a Disney Princess or do more musical theater (Les Miserables, Peter Pan, and Christine in Phantom of the Opera are dream roles of hers). She is an amazing artist--sketching, colored pencil, Copic markers. She spends as much time drawing as she does playing piano.  She will perform anywhere at anytime without reservation. The concept of "stage fright" is completely foreign to her. She loves to sew and crochet. And, she loves to cook. She even imagines competing on Chopped or Cupcake Wars. She did a Cupcake Wars birthday party last year and the results were definitely Food Network-worthy. So, lots of clues. But no clear direction. We will just cultivate her interests one day at a time, putting God first and making the wisest choice possible based on what we know and observe, and she will end up on the way she should go.

And the babe? At nine months, her laid back, easygoing personality is apparent. But that's not much of a clue yet. Oh, and she can play jumpy swing soccer. And she's probably a lefty--like me and her big sister (but none of her brothers).

How about you? How have you helped your children find the way they should go? Leave a comment, or leave a link and share your story!

Friday, January 9, 2015

A Year to LIVE!

2014 was not a year to live. I spent a good portion of that at death's door, and the rest trying to get the nerve to drag myself out of the valley of the shadow of death and dare to start living again. It is now time to do that.

Our family has been through a difficult chapter. Although we feel happy and blessed, the past 12 years have mainly been defined by financial hardship and serious health problems. About a year ago I  stated getting that restless, discontent feeling that signaled God was getting ready to make a change, and He has. We are starting a new chapter. I became a new person. All things have become new.

The biggest new thing is my faith. You don't stare death in the face as much as I have without finalizing your beliefs. Most of my teen and adult life, I have fervently and steadily pursued God and His truth, longing to put to rest all my doctrinal questions, and longing to know exactly how to belong to Him fully, worship Him in a way that most pleases Him, and come to rest in obedience, submission, and mercy. And He has done that. I no longer feel I'm seeking or striving to discover more truth. Now I feel settled fully in His truth. Surrounded by it. Upheld continually by it. It is now in me and all around me, and I just have to sit back, relax, and let it wash over me, lead me, teach me, and grow me.

Hence, the new blog name for a new chapter. For over ten years I have blogged at "Growing in Truth," (first on the original homeschoolblogger!), which I always felt was the perfect defining phrase for my life. It is no longer perfect. Now, I will confidently say "Surrounded by Truth." The chapter that begins with me finally feeling spiritually at rest, complete in my soul, and full in my heart.  It is the most wonderful thing that has ever happened to me! It really is peace like a river, flowing steadily and continually deep down in my soul.

How about another big new thing? My husband exchanging his small-town job in rural Ohio with a struggling company that couldn't always pay him fully or on time, for an executive position in bustling, beautiful, sunny Jacksonville, Florida. Not to mention the blessing of knowing God hand-picked this job, and my husband, who started this week, LOVES it. He loves the company and the people and the location and the hours and the dress code. But most importantly, he really loves the work. He finds it thoroughly interesting and even a bit fun!

Not to mention selling our blessed little homesteader farm and replacing it with a beachside home. Yeah. That's big.

And here's to a new chapter in health. I am going into this new year with a diagnosis I had been lacking, and a treatment that seems to be working. I am going to dare to throw off the fear of ending up in ICU at any given moment. I'm going to quit worrying about getting over-tired. I'm going to walk again, run again, build muscle, play, and go do things. No more hiding away from germs or being paranoid of overdoing it.

It is time to LIVE.  Hence, my "word" of the year. I want to wake up each morning, claim God's mercy, restoration, and healing, and then glorify Him in good works using the health He has restored to me. I'm going to love, cherish and support my husband, train my children for Him with joy and passion. I'm going to experience, fellowship, serve, give, relish, do, try, go.

 This is what I read just before planning this post, and it is perfect:

 "But this every one is sure of that worships Thee, that his life, if it be under trial, shall be crowned; and if it be under tribulation, it shall be delivered: and if it be under correction, it shall be allowed to come to thy mercy. For thou art not delighted in our being lost, because after a storm thou makest a calm, and after tears and weeping, thou pourest in joyfulness." 

"Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us and let us grow old both together in health."

Tobias 3:21-22, 8:10
Two prayers of Sarah, the wife of Tobias.

And in closing, how about this? Our precious blessing, Millie Jewel, now nearly nine months old, survived the first few months of her life without her mommy, but it blesses me to know that my new chapter is her FIRST chapter! What's the title for the 2015 chapter of your life? I'd live to hear it! Yes. I just caught that typo. It's appropriate. I'm leaving it that way! I will live to hear it! 

Yes, she IS a Florida  girl!