Friday, March 28, 2014

"The real driver's seat"

My freshman year undergrad English class read Anne Lamott's Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year.  (Note: In no way am I advocating the book or saying that I agree with Anne Lamott's theological views.  I just liked a few passages from the book.  I'd love to reread it now that I'm a mother myself.)  

At one point in the book, Lamott talks about our need to be in control as being an addiction.  She shares an astute observation from a friend:

"He said he'd finally figured out a few years ago that his profound sense of control, in the world and over his life, is another addiction and a total illusion.  He said that when he sees little kids sitting in the backseat of cars, in those car seats that have steering wheels, with grim expressions of concentration on their faces, clearly convinced that their efforts are causing the car to do whatever it is doing, he thinks of himself and his relationship with God: God who drives along silently, gently amused, in the real driver's seat" (p. 113).

I love that.  The real driver's seat.  

I am so totally addicted to control.  I am a control freak.  I love making plans, figuring out how to execute plans, being methodical in carrying them out, and proclaiming victory when it all goes according to, well, my plan.  Getting thrown off course makes me batty.  

That quote from Anne Lamott makes me picture God, watching me go about my daily life with the fierce determination of a toddler with that pretend steering wheel.  

How I must look to God
Meanwhile, God has the eternal view of time, and He knows that my plans often aren't in line with His will (aka what's ultimately best for me).  "Catherine," He must think, "let me be the driver.  I'll get you exactly where you need to be when you need to be there."

With all of the craziness surrounding trying to sell our home and find a new one, I can't even begin to tell you the number of times God has shown me the importance of letting go and letting HIM.  Let me tell ya, it hurts to let go of control when you're a control freak.  

God knows I'm needing extra graces lately because He's making all kinds of grand gestures.  For starters, He sent me to confession with our Archbishop last week!  Still processing that one...

This week, I was fed up with weeks of a rotten house hunting experience.  I said to God the other night, "Okay, I give in.  I'm trying too hard to be in control of everything.  Please take this.  Please allow me to hand it over and be at peace with whatever You want for our family.  YOUR will be done!  Make me mean it, God, because You know I want it all to be on my terms."

And, you know what?  God really can't be outdone in generosity.  We just have to let go of our fake steering wheels and let him be in the real driver's seat.  When I finally let go, in the most incredible turn of events I've ever experienced, God dropped our new home in our laps.

I've cried so many happy tears in the last few days because I am blown away by God's goodness and His faithfulness.  I'll share the story when everything is done done, but let me tell ya, it's an amazing story.  

Lesson learned: the way to happiness is to abandon my will, pray for God's will to be done, and learn to unite mine with His.  Besides, life's better when I'm enjoying the ride instead of white-knuckling the steering wheel on my own course. 

Are you a control freak, too?  Do you struggle to let go of your white-knuckled clutch of your fake steering wheel?  Was there a time when God taught you how to let go?  What happened?     

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Bishop James D. Conley's Letter to Catholic Families & Healthcare Providers in the Diocese of Lincoln

In case you didn't know it, I love our shepherd here in Omaha.  In fact, I (accidentally) had my own private audience with him last week!

Did you know that today is the Solemnity of the Annunication?  Today, the Catholic Church celebrate's Mary's "yes" to become the Mother of Jesus.  If you'd like to learn more about the Annunciation and why it's kinda a big deal, read Jimmy Akin's helpful blog post.  

On this Solemnity of the Annunciation, Bishop James D. Conley of the Diocese of Lincoln, released a letter to Catholic families & healthcare providers.  The letter charges those in the Lincoln Diocese to respond to the gift of the Incarnation through openness to life.  Please read the letter in its entirety.  I know our family will be in good hands when we join the Diocese of Lincoln this summer!

To download an audio copy of Bishop Conley's letter, click here.

Below is the full letter from Bishop Conley:

The Language of Love
A letter to the Catholic families and healthcare providers of the Diocese of Lincoln
Most Reverend James D. Conley, STL

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Additional Resources
Click here for a PDF version of The Language of Love.
In Obedience to Christ: A Pastoral Letter To Catholic Couples and Physicians on the Issue of Contraception
Bishop Glennon P. Flavin  |  Click here.
Humanae Vitae  |  Click here.
Married Love and the Gift of Life  |  Click here.
Mother Teresa, 1994 National Prayer Breakfast  |  Click here.
To read more of Bishop Conley, check out his writings and columns.
Twenty years ago, Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta stood before the President of the United States, before senators and congressmen, before justices of the United States Supreme Court.  She spoke about her work among the world’s poor.  She spoke about justice and compassion.  Most importantly, she spoke about love.
“Love,” she told them, “has to hurt. I must be willing to give whatever it takes not to harm other people and, in fact, to do good to them.  This requires that I be willing to give until it hurts.  Otherwise, there is no true love in me and I bring injustice, not peace, to those around me.”[1]
Sacrifice is the language of love.  Love is spoken in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, who poured out his life for us on the cross. Love is spoken in the sacrifice of the Christian life, sharing in Christ’s life, death, and resurrection.  And love is spoken in the sacrifice of parents, and pastors, and friends.
We live in a world short on love.  Today, love is too often understood as romantic sentimentality rather than unbreakable commitment. But sentimentality is unsatisfying.  Material things, and comfort, and pleasure bring only fleeting happiness.  The truth is that we are all searching for real love, because we are all searching for meaning. 
Love—real love—is about sacrifice, and redemption, and hope.  Real love is at the heart of a rich, full life.  We are made for real love.  And all that we do—in our lives, our careers, and our families, especially—should be rooted in our capacity for real, difficult, unfailing love.
But today, in a world short on love, we’re left without peace, and without joy.
In my priesthood, I have stood in front of abortion clinics to offer help to women experiencing unwanted pregnancies; I have prayed with the neglected elderly; and I have buried young victims of violence.  I have seen the isolation, the injustice, and the sadness that comes from a world short on love.  Mother Teresa believed, as do I, that much of the world’s unhappiness and injustice begins with a disregard for the miracle of life created in the womb of mothers.  Today, our culture rejects love when it rejects the gift of new life, through the use of contraception
Mother Teresa said that, “in destroying the power of giving life, through contraception, a husband or wife…destroys the gift of love.”
Husbands and wives are made to freely offer themselves as gifts to one another in friendship, and to share in the life-giving love of God.
He created marriage to be unifying and procreative.  To join husband and wife inseparably in the mission of love, and to bring forth from that love something new. 
Contraception robs the freedom for those possibilities.
God made us to love and to be loved.  He made us to delight in the power of sexual love to bring forth new human beings, children of God, created with immortal souls.  Our Church has always taught that rejecting the gift of children erodes the love between husband and wife: it distorts the unitive and procreative nature of marriage.  The use of contraception gravely and seriously disrupts the sacrificial, holy, and loving meaning of marriage itself.
The Church continues to call Catholic couples to unity and procreativity. Marriage is a call to greatness—to loving as God loves—freely, creatively, and generously.  God himself is a community of love—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Christian marriage is an invitation to imitate, and to know, and to share in the joyful freedom of God’s love, an echo of the Holy Trinity.
In 1991, my predecessor, Bishop Glennon P. Flavin, wrote that “there can be no true happiness in your lives unless God is very much a part of your marriage covenant.  To expect to find happiness in sin is to look for good in evil…. To keep God in your married life, to trust in his wisdom and love, and to obey his laws…will deepen your love for each other and will bring to you that inner peace of mind and heart which is the reward of a good conscience.”[2]
God is present in every marriage, and present during every marital embrace.  He created sexuality so that males and females could mirror the Trinity: forming, in their sexual union, the life-long bonds of family.  God chose to make spouses cooperators with him in creating new human lives, destined for eternity.  Those who use contraception diminish their power to unite and they give up the opportunity to cooperate with God in the creation of life.
As Bishop of Lincoln, I repeat the words of Bishop Flavin.  Dear married men and women: I exhort you to reject the use of contraception in your marriage.  I challenge you to be open to God’s loving plan for your life.  I invite you to share in the gift of God’s life-giving love.  I fervently believe that in God’s plan, you will rediscover real love for your spouse, your children, for God, and for the Church.  I know that in this openness to life, you will find the rich adventure for which you were made.
Our culture often teaches us that children are more a burden than a gift—that families impede our freedom and diminish our finances.  We live in a world where large families are the objects of spectacle and derision, instead of the ordinary consequence of a loving marriage entrusted to God’s providence.  But children should not be feared as a threat or a burden, but rather seen as a sign of hope for the future. 
In 1995, Blessed John Paul II wrote that our culture suffers from a “hedonistic mentality unwilling to accept responsibility in matters of sexuality, and… a self-centered concept of freedom, which regards procreation as an obstacle to personal fulfilment. ”[3]  Generous, life-giving spousal love is the antitode to hedonism and immaturity: parents gladly give up frivolous pursuits and selfishness for the intensely more meaningful work of loving and educating their children.
In the Diocese of Lincoln, I am grateful for the example of hundreds of families who have opened themselves freely and generously to children.  Some have been given large families, and some have not.  And of course, a few suffer the very difficult, hidden cross of infertility or low fertility.  The mystery of God’s plan for our lives is incomprehensible.  But the joy of these families, whether or not they bear many children, disproves the claims of the contraceptive mentality. 
Dear brothers and sisters, Blessed John Paul II reminded us that, “man is called to a fullness of life which far exceeds the dimensions of his earthly existence, because it consists in sharing the very life of God.”[4]  The sexual intimacy of marriage, the most intimate kind of human friendship, is a pathway to sharing in God’s own life.  It is a pathway to the fullness of our own human life; it is a means of participating in the incredible love of God.  Contraception impedes our share in God’s creative love.  And thus it impedes our joy.
The joy of families living in accord with God’s plan animates and enriches our community with a spirit of vitality and enthusiasm.  The example of your friends and neighbors demonstrates that while children require sacrifice, they are also the source of joy, meaning, and of peace.  Who does not understand the great gift of a loving family? 
Yes, being lovingly open to children requires sacrifice. But sacrifice is the harbinger of true joy.  Dear brothers and sisters, I invite you to be open to joy.
Of course, there are some true and legitimate reasons why, at certain times, families may discern being called to the sacrifice of delaying children. For families with serious mental, physical, or emotional health problems, or who are experiencing dire financial troubles, bearing children might best be delayed.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that couples must have “just” reasons to delay childbearing. For couples facing difficulties of various kinds, the Church recommends Natural Family Planning: a method for making choices about engaging in fruitful sexual relations. 
Natural Family Planning does not destroy the power to give life: instead, it challenges couples to discern prayerfully when to engage in life-giving sexual acts. It is an integrated, organic and holistic approach to fertility care.
Natural Family Planning is a reliable and trustworthy way to regulate fertility, is easy to learn, and can be a source of unity for couples.  To be sure, using NFP requires sacrifice and patience, but sacrifice and patience are not obstacles to love, they are a part of love itself.  Used correctly, NFP forms gentle, generous husbands, and selfless, patient wives.  It can become a school of virtuous and holy love.
Those who confine sexual intimacy to the infertile times of the month are not engaging in contraceptive practices.  They do not attempt to make a potentially fertile act infertile.  They sacrificially abstain during the fertile time precisely because they respect fertility; they do not want to violate it; they do not want to treat the gift of fertility as a burden.
In some relatively rare instances, Natural Family Planning is used by couples with a contraceptive mentality.  Too often couples can choose to abstain from fertility by default, or out of fear of the consequences of new life.  I encourage all couples who use Natural Family Planning to be very open with each other concerning the reasons they think it right to limit their family size, to take their thoughts to God, and to pray for his guidance. Do we let fear, anxiety, or worry determine the size of our families? Do we entrust ourselves to the Lord, whose generosity provides for all of our needs?
“Perfect love,” scripture teaches, “casts out fear.”[5]
Dear friends, I exhort you to openness in married life.  I exhort you to trust in God’s abundant providence.
I would like to address in a special way Catholic physicians, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals.  The noble aim of your profession is to aid men and women as they live according to God’s perfect plan. Bishop Flavin wrote that, as professionals, “you are in a position to be God’s instruments in manifesting his truth, and his love.”[6]
No Catholic healthcare provider, in good conscience, should engage in the practice of medicine by undermining the gift of fertility.  There is no legitimate medical reason to aid in the acts of contraception or sterilization.  No Catholic physician can honestly argue otherwise. 
Healthcare is the art of healing.  Contraception and sterilization may never be considered healthcare.  Contraception and sterilization denigrate and degrade the body’s very purpose.  Fertility is an ordinary function of health and human flourishing; and an extraordinary participation in God’s creative love.  Contraception and sterilization stifle the natural and the supernatural processes of marriage, and cause grave harm.  They treat fertility as though it were a terrible inconvenience, or even a physical defect that needs to be treated. 
Contraception attempts to prevent life from the beginning, and when that fails, some contraception destroys newly created life.  Many contraceptives work by preventing the implantation of an embryonic human being in the uterus of his or her mother. 
Contraception is generally regarded by the medical community as the ordinary standard of care for women. The Church’s teachings are often regarded as being opposed to the health and well-being of women.  But apart from the moral and spiritual dangers of contraception, there are also grave physical risks to the use of most chemical contraceptives.  Current medical literature overwhelmingly confirms that contraception puts women at risk for serious health problems, which doctors should consider very carefully.
Some women have health conditions that are better endured when treated by hormonal contraceptives.  But the effects of contraception often mask the underlying conditions that endanger women’s health.  Today, there are safe, natural means of correcting hormonal imbalances, and solving the conditions that are often treated by contraception.
Contraception is an unhealthy standard of care.  All doctors can do better.
Catholic physicians are called to help their patients and their colleagues learn the truth about the dangers of contraception and sterilization.  The good example of a physician who refuses to prescribe contraceptives and perform sterilizations or a pharmacist who refuses to distribute contraceptives in spite of antagonism, financial loss, or professional pressure is an opportunity to participate in the suffering of Jesus Christ.  I am grateful for the Catholic physicians and pharmacists who evangelize their patients and colleagues through a commitment to the truth.
Tragically, a majority of people in our culture and even in our Church, have used contraception.  Much of the responsibility for that lies in the fact that too few have ever been exposed to clear and consistent teaching on the subject.  But the natural consequences of our culture’s contraceptive mentality are clear.  Mother Teresa reflected that “once living love is destroyed by contraception, abortion follows very easily.”[7]  She was right.  Cultural attitudes that reject the gift of life lead very easily to social acceptance for abortion, for no-fault divorce, and for fatherless families.  For fifty years, America has accepted the use of contraception, and the consequences have been dire. 
Dear brothers and sisters, I encourage you to read the encyclical by Pope Paul VI, Humanae Vitae with your spouse, or in your parish.  Consider also Married Love and the Gift of Life, written by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. 
Dear brother priests, I encourage you to preach about the dangers of contraception, and to visit with families in your parish about this issue.
Dear brothers and sisters, if you have used or prescribed contraception, the merciful love of God awaits.  Healing is possible—in the sacrament of penance.  If you have used or supported contraception, I pray that you will stop, and that you will avail yourself of God’s tender mercy by making a good heartfelt confession.
Today, openness to children is rarely celebrated, rarely understood, and rarely supported.  To many, the Church’s teachings on life seem oppressive or old-fashioned.  Many believe that the Church asks too great a sacrifice. 
But sacrifice is the language of love.  And in sacrifice, we speak the language of God himself.  I am calling you, dear brothers and sisters, to encounter Christ in your love for one another.  I am calling you to rich and abundant family life.  I am calling you to rejoice in the love, and the sacrifice, for which you were made.  I am calling your family to share in the creative, active love of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
I pray that in true sacrifice, each of you will know perfect joy.
Through the intercession of Our Lady of the Annunciation, the Holy Family, and in the love of Jesus Christ,
+James D. Conley
Bishop of Lincoln
March 25, 2014
Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord

[1] Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.  National Prayer Breakfast, 1994.
[2] Glennon P. Flavin, Pastoral Letter to Catholic Couples and Physicians.  September 26, 1991
[3] Blessed John Paul II.  Evangelium Vitae, 13.
[4] Ibid. 2.
[5] I John 4:18
[6] Bishop Flavin.
[7] Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.  National Prayer Breakfast, 1994. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

It's a Beautiful Thing

This Lent, I decided to create our own Boucher Family Rule of Life in the hopes that it would bring order and peace to our family.  In small and big ways, our Family Rule of Life is transforming our daily lives.  If you have no idea what I'm talking about, this post ought to explain it. 

Creating our own Family Rule of Life is giving each minute, object, and person purpose.  Implementing our new schedules and household routines is very much still a work in progress, but we are loving the results so far.  The kids are less whiny, the house is in order, we have more chunks of free time, and we are working our way toward a healthy balance. 

One of my favorite parts of our Family Rule of Life is the children's involvement.  Jane and Walt have chores that they perform throughout the day.  Since we're still very early on in implementing our Family Rule of Life, the kids' chore time mostly consists of me training and guiding them along in their duties.  It's a lot of work early on, but it's already paying off in a big way.  

One of Jane's pre-lunch chores is checking our dog Monty's food bowl.  If it's empty, it's her job to fill it up.  I wish you all could have seen how excited she was to discover that his food bowl was empty before lunch today.  "Mom!  Mom!  Monty's food bowl is empty!  I'm going to fill it up, okay?!"  

That, my friends, is a beautiful thing.  Sure, we'll have to work on the proper amount of food to put in the bowl, but let's remember:

  • The bowl is full
  • I didn't fill the bowl
  • I didn't have to nag to get the bowl filled
  • The person filling the bowl did so cheerfully
  • Did I mention that the bowl is full and that I didn't do it?
When Jane finished filling Monty's bowl to the tippy top with dog food, she asked me to inspect her work.  She was BEAMING!  She couldn't wait to hear my words of praise and recognize her work.  "Mom!  Look!  I filled up Monty's food bowl!  Here, Monty!  Look, you have food in your bowl.  Does that make you so happy?!  Oh, you want to eat later?  Okay, come back when you're hungry!"

I'll share some of our Family Rule of Life charts in a future post.  I'm off to enjoy my coffee, fold some laundry, and listen to Fr. Riccardo's "Christ is the Answer" podcast.    

Saturday, March 22, 2014

An unforgettable confession

This Lent, Archbishop George Lucas is inviting all Catholics in the Archdiocese of Omaha to experience the sacrament of reconciliation through a program called "The Light Is On."

This Lent, Catholics in the Archdiocese of Omaha, especially those who have been away from the Church or the sacrament, are invited to experience God’s mercy and forgiveness through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Catholic churches in the Archdiocese of Omaha will be open on Thursday evenings (March 13, 20, 27, April 3, 10) during Lent from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. for Confession and quiet prayer. 
Since my Bible study meets at my parish on Thursday evenings at 7:00 p.m., my gal pal Michelle thought this would be a perfect opportunity.  She invited me to join her at 6:00 p.m. before our study to receive the sacrament together.  How awesome is that?!

As we waited in my pastor's line, I looked over my laundry list on a free app called "Mea Culpa."  (My friend, Jonathan, did a review on this app on his FOCUS blog here.)  I downloaded Mea Culpa last week, and it is FANTASTIC!  

From the iTunes preview page of Mea Culpa

The app is an opportunity for you to thoroughly examine your conscience before going to confession.  Mea Culpa goes through extensive lists of possible venial and mortal sins you may have committed, organized by the Ten Commandments.  The venial sins have a bug logo, and the mortal sins are noted with a skull and crossbones.  If you've committed the sin, you simply swipe to the right to add it to your "Committed" list (noted by a doctor's bag).  If you've committed the sin more than once, swipe additional times to the right.  You can also add notes to the sin to include any additional thoughts such as occasions of sin in this particular area, habits surrounding this sin, or a plan of action to avoid it in the future.  

Additionally, the app allows you to create a passcode to protect your privacy.  You can also create a daily examination reminder so that you remember to make a regular examination of conscience at the same time each day.

Eventually, the person in front of me exited the confessional.  As I walked in, I noticed that our pastor's name placard on the wall was covered with a sheet of paper that said, "Archbishop George J. Lucas."  I didn't absorb the meaning of that sheet of paper until I found myself in the confessional, sitting face to face with his excellency, Archbishop Lucas.  

The Most Reverend George J. Lucas
Yup, I went to confession WITH THE ARCHBISHOP!  As it turned out, he was at my parish to celebrate a Mass to recognize the area altar servers, and he graciously offered his time in the confessional before the Mass. 

He was visibly amused at how starstruck I was when I saw his face.  We got started, and I apologized for bringing my newfangled tablet in to the confessional.  I explained how this new app, Mea Culpa, helped me to create a very thorough list and that I was afraid I might forget some of my sins if I didn't bring it with me.  He smiled and said that he had heard of it and was glad that it would help me to make a good confession.  

It's always so humbling to go through your laundry list of sins, but it was especially humbling to do so with his excellency listening a few feet across from me.  After I finished, Archbishop Lucas spent a few minutes giving me some of the most convicting and encouraging words I've ever heard.  He very wisely noticed that a good portion of my sins revolve around my vocation.  Because I spend most of my day performing my duties as wife and mother, my husband and children are almost always the ones on the receiving end of my sins.  He encouraged me to take heart and trust that precisely because Jesus asked me to live out my vocation, He will meet me there.  Archbishop Lucas encouraged me to leave the confessional with the intention to find Christ in the midst of my vocation and to live a life of active thanksgiving.  In seeking out Christ during the day-to-day life as a wife and mother, he said I would start seeing the ways that Christ is blessing even the ordinary moments.  He encouraged me to start mentally thanking Christ for those blessings and to verbally thank those around me.  

Have I mentioned how much I love confession?

After Archbishop Lucas' convicting words, he invited me to say an Act of Contrition.  In case you aren't Catholic, here's the prayer:
O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of heaven, and the pains of hell;
but most of all because they offend Thee, my God,
Who are all good and deserving of all my love.
I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace,
to sin no more and avoid the near occasions of sin. Amen
Confession always makes me cry, but the graces I was experiencing that night overwhelmed me.  When I got to the words, "but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, who are all good and deserving of all my love," I started crying.  Ugly crying.  I didn't come prepared with tissues, so I had to grab a few from the box sitting next to Archbishop Lucas' chair.  I eventually made it to the end of the prayer and heard Archbishop Lucas say the most beautiful words I will hear this side of heaven.

"I absolve you of your sins..."

Hearing those words after I rattle off my sins and apologize for them always brings me such peace.  With tears streaming down my face, I thanked his excellency, wished him a blessed Lent, and told him that I would be praying for him.  He thanked me and wished me the same.  (And, no, Star Wars fans, I did not say, "May the force be with you," to our Archbishop named George Lucas!) 

I held the door open for my friend Michelle and whispered, "It isn't Father Dan; it's ARCHBISHOP LUCAS!"  I wish I had a picture of her face in that moment.  I'll never forget it!

As we passed each other and I squeezed her arm, the image of St. Téresa de Ávila and her fellow sisters came to mind.  When I studied abroad in Spain, I had the opportunity to visit the confessional where St. Téresa and her sisters regularly went.  My tour guide told a story that has become part of Catholic legend.  (My friend, Lisa Schmidt, from The Practicing Catholic wrote about the same story here.)  After going to confession herself, St. Téresa would wait for the other sisters.  As each sister emerged from the confessional, St. Téresa would take them by the shoulders and convict them with the words, "Begin again!  Begin again!"  

In no way am I even remotely trying to compare myself to St. Téresa.  I just love the image of the sisters lifting one another up outside of the confessional.  I couldn't help but think how lucky I am to have a friend that was doing the same thing for me.  It's pretty awesome having friends that encourage me to participate in the sacraments and begin again.

So, that's my unforgettable confession story.  Do you have one?      

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Planking Harry

Harry is having a big explosion of development.

He started saying "Dada" last week:

Instead of rocking on his knees to learn how to crawl, Harry is doing a baby version of planking.  He lifts up his torso, smiles, and then it happens.  He makes some scary gutteral noises like the olympic weight lifters as he lifts everything off of the ground except for his hands and toes.  I love everything about it.

Check me out, Ma.

Taking a breather.  Oh, you liked that, Ma?  Ok, let's do it again.  Here I go...

Feel the burn!  Look how red his face gets! 

OK, I'll do it one more time.

No pain, no gain, Ma.

Just using my focal object for inspiration.  
After his morning workout, he started learning how to rock back and forth on his knees.  We just might have a crawler by moving time!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The 5th "P" in Our Rule of Life: Provider

The adage that it's easier to do something everyday than occasionally is definitely true for me when it comes to blogging.  Onward with the Boucher Family Rule of Life!

If you have no idea what I'm writing about, I decided as part of my Lenten mission to create a Boucher Family Rule of Life based on Holly Pierlot's A Mother's Rule of Life.  In previous posts in this series, I've written about:

Today, I'm resuming the series with the 5th "P": Provider. 

Today's "P" focuses on providing for the material needs of our family and being good stewards of our finances.  Today is all about giving our provider role the proper, regular attention it needs so that we can focus on the rest of our other "P"s: prayer, person, partner, and parent.  

"In God We Trust"

Yesterday, I mentioned Holly Pierlot's metaphor that parents mirror the work of God during creation in many ways (providing for the material needs of our family, creating a mini-paradise for them, etc.).  One of the ways we mirror God's work during creation is through our work and stewardship of the resources God gives us.  It is essential that we recognize a few things:
  • Work is GOOD!  God asked Adam to till the garden before the fall.  Work is good for us.
  • What we have belongs to God, so:
    •  we better take good care of it
    •  we better give God what He's asking
So, what does all of that mean?  Let's focus on a few key areas:

Our Home
We need to maintain it, improve it, and make it a "little paradise" for our families.  However, a "little paradise" has nothing to do with keeping up with the Joneses.  We need to be prudent, aware of our financial resources, and use some creativity to develop our own skills in creating a haven for our families.  If whatever we have belongs to God, then we can transform our attitude toward homework when we realize that we're doing it for the Big Guy and serving our families to reveal God's love.  Practically, Holly Pierlot gives some suggestions in making your home a "mini-paradise."

  • Do a "room by room analysis"
  • Decide:  What is the purpose of each room?  What does each room need for that purpose?
    • Place items in the places where they will be used
    • What do I need to remove?
    • What needs to be repaired?  (Remember to prioritize and budget)
    • What improvements would I like to make?
  • Housework
    • What housework needs to be done in each room?
    • How often does each task need to happen? (Daily, weekly, monthly, seasonally?)
    • Who is going to do the work?  (Delegate, teaching everyone that working is part of being good stewards)
    • When can I schedule these chores into our day?
    • Create a "home-and-property analysis" to discuss with Philip (the needs in and outside of the home including: lawn, garage, garden, repairs, purchases, future projects)

What does being a good steward look like?

  • Take good care of what we already have (proper maintenance, giving everything a "home," learn to repair things ourselves)
  • Budget, budget, budget 
    • How much money do we have?  
    • Where is it going?  
    • What's a want?  
    • What's a need?  
    • Are we tithing?  Are we giving God what belongs to Him?  Do we think it's "our" money?
    • What debt do we have?  
    • What bills do we have?
    • Are we saving?
    • How are we wasting money?  (Groceries, eating out, etc.)
    • How are we helping others?
  • Schedule time to:
    • File receipts
    • Record expenses
    • Review the budget
    • Plan future purchases
    • Review the payment schedules of any bills and debt
    • Revisit our savings and emergency fund
Are we taking it to prayer?
  • Pray that God to release us from the temptation toward materialism and jealousy
  • Pray for wisdom in creating & maintaining a budget
  • Pray for clear communication, goals, and teamwork between Philip and I in our finances
  • Pray for a transformed heart when it comes to the work we do 
  • Pray for peace and trust when we are in want
  • Pray for generosity when we are not in want
  • Pray for thanksgiving at all times
  • Pray for faith that God will not be outdone in generosity when we give Him what belongs to Him
Questions for you
  • What do you do when you're struggling to find value in your work?
  • Have you ever done a "room by room analysis" of your home?  Do you feel like each room has a specific purpose?  Is each room set up do accomplish that purpose?  What changes do you need to make?
  • Do you have the housework schedule in your head, or do you have the schedule written out somewhere?  Do you struggle to delegate tasks because you think they won't be accomplished properly?  Are you teaching your children to be good stewards through their participation in housework?
  • How are you taking care of what you already have?
  • Do you have a family budget?  Who handles the finances?  Is one of you "in the dark" in this area?  Have you considered having a regular meeting to check in?  Do you have a regular time to organize this area so that the monthly bills, taxes, etc. do not become an excessive burden?
  • How can you take this area of your life to prayer?

*     *     *

Now that I've tackled all "5 'P's," it's time to start sharing how I'm drawing up our Family Rule of Life. Chapter 8 of A Mother's Rule of Life is all about pulling your rule together.  This will involve: 
  • creating daily time frames
  • prayer time
  • chore time
  • meal prep/eating/clean-up
  • laundry
  • daily constants
  • filling time between meals
  • routinizing everything
  • organizing weekly & seasonal schedules
  • discerning through prayer when to add or remove something from the schedule
I look forward to hearing your answers to my discussion questions and getting feedback on Our Family Rule as I share it.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The 4th "P" in Our Rule of Life: Parent

Whew, it's been waaaaaaaaaaaaaay longer than I intended to return to the 5 P's of our family's rule of life.  It turns out selling a home with three small children is no small feat!  The good news is that St. Joseph is THE MAN, and he has already proven himself a powerful intercessor for our family.  Please join us as we pray the Novena to St. Joseph!  (We're on Day 3 to culminate on his feast day next Wednesday, but you can pray these prayers anytime.)

In case you've missed my previous posts in this series, I decided as part of my Lenten mission to create a Boucher Family Rule of Life.  It's based off of Holly Pierlot's book A Mother's Rule of Life.  In previous posts in this series, I wrote about:

Today, I'm tackling the 4th "P": Parent.
As a former high school Spanish teacher, I can tell you what a difference it makes when parents take their role as primary educators of their children seriously.  It was easy to identify children who came from homes where their parents led as primary educators instead of passing the buck along to the teachers at school.  

Regardless of whether or not God calls me to homeschool at any time, I will always be my children's primary educator.  Holly Pierlot calls a mother's role as a primary educator to her children the "mission of motherhood."  That means I need to give this whole stay-at-home mom gig the dignity it deserves--even if the world doesn't.  I need to take seriously the impact day-to-day living in this domestic church has on all of the members of our family.  I need to take seriously the impact our children's witness will have in our local community and larger society as they leave the four walls of our home.  

Now, in the midst of the diapers, dirty dishes, and mountains of laundry, I need to recognize how irreplaceable my presence is to my children.  It's not just my job to watch them like some kind of glorified babysitter.  I'm supposed to be helping to form them.  In A Mother's Rule of Life, Holly Pierlot talks about coming to the realization that "parents image God's work at creation."  

From the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, the Creation of Adam.
Holly expands the metaphor, describing the parallels between the work that God performed back in Genesis with Adam and Eve and the work that we perform as parents:
  • Provide food and shelter
  • Create a paradise (our homes are to be a "mini-paradise," "a place of beauty and peace and harmony"
  • Be in close communication
  • Infuse them with knowledge for their survival (temporally and eternally) and equip them to be good stewards of creation
  • Teach them the value of work and delegate responsibility
  • Govern, lead, and discipline
  • Forgive children for trespasses, "cover their sins with love," but teach them "the just consequences of their actions"
After looking at all of those responsibilities we have as parents, especially as mothers, it's hard to view our work as ordinary and meaningless.  I love, love, love Holly's definition of what it means to provide our children with a Catholic education.  She says that parenting "is a call to form persons.  We're called to bring God to our children's spirits, truth to their minds, health to their bodies, skill to their hands, beauty and creativity to their hearts, and in all this, virtue to their wills and sanctity to their souls."  Dang.  Re-read that.  Pope Pius XI had another way of saying that.  He said, "Education consists essentially in preparing man for what he must be, and for what he must do here below, in order to attain the sublime end for which he was created."  Ultimately, both Holly Pierlot and Pope Pius XI are saying that our homes need to be domestic churches where we propel our children along the path to sainthood.  

That goal became very real for Philip and I when we miscarried our baby, Thérèse, at 12 weeks.  We entrust her to God's mercy and believe that she is in heaven (and, therefore, a saint).  We frequently ask her for her intercession.  Being separated from Therese further inspires us to get every member of our family to heaven.

That all sounds fine and dandy, but let's "get down to brass tacks" and talk about how to make that goal happen practically.  To help our kiddos get an "ST" in front of their names, I re-read the section on parenting in Holly Pierlot's A Mother's Rule of Life.  Here are a few areas I considered and used to create a saint-making action plan:

Open up the channel of grace to God
  • Attend daily Mass at least once a week in addition to Sunday Mass
  • Monthly confession for everyone that's old enough (put it on the calendar!)
  • Family prayer time (morning, mid-day, after dinner & bedtime prayer together)
  • Access to sacramentals and prayer aids (Holy water, Rosaries, Bibles, lives of the saints, etc.)
  • Pray for the children (ask for their intentions, spontaneously offer prayer throughout the day, and pray with Philip for the children before bed)
  • Dedicate formal & informal teaching times to talk about & celebrate the saint of the day, virtues, current events in the Church, parts of the Mass, feast days, baptismal anniversaries (start with "Circle Time" in the morning and build from there)
Consider if I'm Being a Channel of God's Love
  • Model the behaviors I'm asking of other members of the family.  Am I revealing God's love to them in the way I treat them? (Examine this during my weekly Examination of Conscience)
  • Be available and treat my children as my vocation instead of an obstacle to it - stop whatever I'm doing, make eye contact, listen, and respond with love
  • Treat my children as the unique children of God that they are (identify their strengths & weaknesses, encourage them, and help them in whatever appropriate ways possible)
  • Do what's best for them (food, sleep, appropriate chores, playtime, surprise activities for refreshment) 
  • Maintain the children's free will like God does.  Teach them to accept negative consequences instead of trying to bend their wills.  
  • Consider if the child's behavior is an isolated act or a habit of disobedience.  (If it's habitual behavior, consider the root cause, and work to find a solution.)
  • Make sure what I'm asking is reasonable & justified, and take the time to enforce it
Create Opportunities for Them to Exercise Freedom Within a Framework
  • Allow them to make choices (clothing, menu planning, recreation activities, etc.)
  • Help weigh the options (what's good & what's not)
  • Discuss potential consequences
  • Let them make the decision and face the consequences
Find a Place for Everything
  • Maintain outer order in the home to create inner order for everyone
  • Teach the children where things go
  • Take the time to enforce that things need to be put back "home" instead of doing it myself
Find a Time for Everything
  • Hygiene
  • Exercise
  • God time (prayer, Mass, confession, etc.)
  • Learning (formal & informal learning, homework)
  • Recreation (sports, hobbies, friends)
  • Meals (including preparation & clean-up)
  • Cleaning
  • Laundry
  • Sleep & rest
  • Set aside time to teach the components of the routine
Set the Family Up for Success to Start the Routine
  • Create, print, & laminate charts for various tasks around the home to teach the children (bathroom, getting dressed, laundry, meal clean-up, etc.)
  • Make time to teach to reduce frustration for everyone
  • Observe the children working and revise when necessary
    • Re-teach and model
    • Adjust expectations
    • Provide motivation (creating a reward system to implement by the end of Lent)
    • Teach the importance of hard work
    • Teach about redemptive suffering (and enter into it with them!)
    • Suggest ways to make the work easier
    • Change the time of day they are performing the task
    • Allow them to choose tasks
    • Read stories of saints that exhibit determination or hard work
    • Use logical consequences
    • Remove privileges
  • Make sure everyone is getting the grace they need to perform their duties

A few questions for you:
  • Specifically, how do you open up the channels of grace to God for every member of your family?
  • How do you hold yourself accountable to be a channel of God's love?
  • Are you and your husband on the same team in the discipline department?  What changes need to happen?  How can you be more consistent?  
  • What are you doing (small or big) to gradually develop your children's inner moral compass?
  • Are there problem areas or "hot spots" that regularly collect clutter in your home?  The kitchen counter or dining room table?  Can you set a goal to find a home for the items on those surfaces during Lent?  Do you have too many things and need to live more simply?
  • Are you building time into your schedule to do everything that needs to be done?  Do you include time for things like meal preparation or clean-up?  How can you limit the feelings of frustration or being rushed?
  • How have you taught your other family members to maintain a routine?  Do you have any tips to share?
  • What did I forget?  I've only been a parent for 4 years, so I know I still have a lot to learn!  Share away, please and thank you!  
*     *     *

In the next posts in this series, I will write about:
  • The 5th "P": Provider
  • What Our Family Rule looks like, and where I am with putting it together

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Small Success Thursday #9

Here are a few of our small successes from this week:

It's March, so that means we have 4 more months of residency!  Yahoo!!!

I successfully completed Jen Fulwiler's "7 Posts, 7 Days" challenge.

In the midst of the craziness with the house yesterday, we made it to Mass and remembered to fast & abstain.  

Jane loves feeding Harry and fed him all of his peas yesterday.  Sweet big sister offered to play with Harry while I cleaned up his chair.  Harry loves it when Janie blows raspberries on his tummy!

So much cuteness has happened this morning!  I'm calling it a success that there's so much love around this house today.  

As we were loading up to take Jane to preschool, Jane and Walt decided to sing Harry a lullaby in his carseat.  I love Harry's big grin as his big sibs sing to him.

While I was cleaning the breakfast dishes, Walt ran into the kitchen and squeezed my leg.  "Thanks for being my girl, Mama.  I love you."  I don't know where he picked up the phrase "my girl," but this mama is loving it.  

Before we pulled into the school parking lot, Walt turned to Janie and said, "I'm gonna miss you, Janie!"  Without skipping a beat, she said, "I'm gonna miss YOOOOOOOOOOU, Walt!"  

We've had a lot of interest in the house since we listed on Monday, and we just *might* be done with showings.  I like to say that "it ain't over til it's over" with the house stuff, and I probably won't be breathing easy until we're pulling away in the moving van, but, for now, things are looking good.  Please pray all continues to go well as both parties dot our "i"s an cross our "t"s, have the inspection, and near the closing date.  If I can get a little greedy with my prayer requests, please also pray that we find a home in Lincoln within our new parish boundaries.  Unfortunately, there isn't much on the market right now, so we're hoping a home will come on the market very soon.  Way to go, prayer warriors!  

Your turn!  What are your small successes from this week?  Head on over to CatholicMom to read other small successes and share your own triumphs.  If you're using social media, use the hashtag #SmallSuccess. 

Monday, March 3, 2014

The House is Officially On the Market!

Yay!  Our house is officially on the market as of today!  

We had two scheduled showings this late afternoon/early evening.  Unfortunately, one had to cancel due to a family emergency (and I pray that everything is okay!).  We're hoping the steady stream of interest will continue this week and that we'll see an offer soon.  Hopefully no one will want to have a showing during nap time!

Monty decided he wasn't up for evacuating our house during showings because he gets carsick.  Instead, he's staying in our basement living area in his cage.  He left a note for all of our visitors, and he's hoping that they'll give him a treat for being such a good boy.

Here's his sign:

For a little fun, I'd love for you to place your bets on how many days our home will be on the market.  Wise guys that want to upset me with guesses like 366 days need not participate!  Philip guesses 8 days, and I'm going to guess 23 days so that I don't get my hopes up TOO high.  What's your guess?

Philip's mom is so thoughtful!  She sent us a St. Joseph statue and holy card.  Jane placed the statue in her and Walt's room, and she is so proud that he's on their dresser.  

St. Joseph, pray for us!