Tuesday, December 31, 2019

So long 2019!

This year was a tough year for us. I would say, it was probably one of the most difficult years of our marriage. Funny enough they say the 7th year is always the toughest. However, ours was a struggle for reasons that are not listed in all online polls. Ours was a spiritual and emotional struggle with things beyond our control, a sort of spiritual warfare seeping through our family life.

We survived.
We learned.
We've grown in our trust for God and His providence.

Suffering can be in vain or it can be a life lesson spurring us to grow and stretch our hearts in ways we never thought possible.

Our experience was the latter.

What we learned from 2019:

  • Family life has challenges that are meant to make us stronger and grow towards holiness.
  • Family life should push you towards selflessness.
  • Sometimes God asks us to do things we never dreamed of doing; You do them and He always provides.
  • Marriage is the heart of our family and not the other way around.
  • Simply family all together is probably the best gift you can give your children.
  • Technology steals from the intimacy of family life.
  • Prayer is not only essential but required in marriage.
  • When there is no prayer life, there is no peace.
  • We can only handle one big project at a time.
  • The desires of our hearts, no matter how good they may seem, are not always what is best for our family.
  • A faith community can fill in the gaps in your faith life at home.

Now it's time to turn the page and start a new chapter in our lives. As usual, standing on the threshold of a new year has its promise and hope for 12 months' opportunities.

It's 365 days of possibilities
52 weeks of starting fresh.

We've gone through many unfinished resolutions year after year and one thing we have learned is that being reasonable and practical in our goal setting is probably the wisest thing we can do. Being specific rather than vague also makes for achievable resolutions. 

Our hopes for 2020 are:

  • Spend more time sharing as a family; one outing a month. 
  • Pick up our nightly rosary again.
  • Pray a family rosary on Sundays.
  • Introduce boys to night prayer (liturgy of the hours).
  • Take time for a monthly holy hour (with or without the family).
  • Take on Hail 15 a Catholic fasting program for mind, body, and soul. 
  • Pray for one person every day, all year and watch God do His marvels in that person's life. 
  • Finish one unfinished project in the house every three months (being realistic here).
  • Finally, make our wedding photo album.
  • Exercise 3-4 days a week for 30 minutes a day.
  • Serve more fruits and vegetables daily.
  • Plan a family camping/hiking trip.
  • Learn to ski.

What are your lessons learned in 2019 and what do you hope for in 2020? Have a blessed and happy new year and may 2020 be filled with Christ's blessings through our Blessed Mother.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Our hearts, a dwelling place for the Lord tonight!

The Lord of the universe was born in a manger. Do you know what a manger really is? It comes from the old French word mangeure, which stems from the Latin word manducat- or "chewed". It is literally a trough where animals feed. It most likely was not made of wood as most of us imagine it. Wood was quite scarce in those parts of Judea. “The manger would have been hewn of stone."
Jesus would have been laid in a trough that already foreshadowed the tomb he would lay in three days before His resurrection. It even foreshadows his becoming food for the Salvation of the all mankind.

The child Jesus is to be born tonight. Again? No! His birth was and is for all eternity. Just as his death, the Lord's birth is outside of time and in aeternum.  His birth tonight is for each of us and yet, for the Salvation of the world.

But the real question to ask ourselves today is, where will He be born this evening? In a cold and uncomfortable manger? or in the space, we make for him in our hearts? Jesus desires to come into our hearts this evening! He wants you to make room for Him.

Is there room? What state is your heart in? Is it ready to receive the King of the World? Is it cold, uncomfortable and full of grime? You can clean up your heart, prepare it for the Savior. It's not too late. Go and receive the beautiful sacrament of Reconciliation. Make room for Him. Remove all sin and grime. He wants to come and take possession of your heart. He wants to dwell there, stay there, transform your life there!

One of my most favorite Christmas stories is probably one of the simplest. The Lord can take our sinfulness and even our old habits and transform them in one instant. Are you ready?

St. Therese of Lisieux, the great saint we know today was not such a saint all her life.

"She was a stubborn and childish little girl. Her mother was terribly worried about her. 'One cannot tell how she will turn out, her stubbornness is almost unconquerable...nothing will make her change.”

Therese writes in the "Story of a Soul" (some paraphrasing).

When I got home from Midnight Mass, I knew that I should find my shoes standing at the fireplace, filled with presents, as I had always done since I was little, so you can see I was still treated as a baby.

Father used to love to see how happy I was and hear my cries of delight as I took each surprise packet from my magic shoes, and his pleasure made me happier still. But the time had come for Jesus to cure me of my childishness; even the innocent joys of childhood were to go. He allowed Father to feel cross this year, instead of spoiling me, and as I was going upstairs, I heard him saying: “Therese ought to have outgrown all this sort of thing, and I hope this will be the last time.” This cut me to the quick, and Céline, who knew how very sensitive I was, whispered to me: “Don’t come down again just yet; you’ll only go and cry if you open your presents now in front of Father.”

But I was not the same Thérèse any more; Jesus had changed me completely. I held back my tears, and trying to stop my heart from beating so fast, I ran down into the dining room. I picked up the shoes and unwrapped my presents joyfully, looking all the while as happy as a queen. Father did not look cross anymore now and entered into the fun of it, while Céline thought she must have been dreaming. But this was no dream. Thérèse had gotten back forever the strength of mind she had lost at four and a half.

You can read the full article from Aleteia "St. Therese of Lisiuex was never the same after the Christmas of 1886." here. 

Let us ask the Lord for a Christmas miracle in our own lives. Let us clean up this dwelling place for the Lord, our hearts. Let us, through the intercession of Mary, the first dwelling place of Christ, ask that he repair our hearts. Let him transform our hearts. Transform our lives so that we may become a dwelling place for Him always.

A very happy and blessed Christmas to you all.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Boyhood is not a disease!

When you are faced with a child who is inattentive and extra energetic, you can't help but think that perhaps he has ADHD. I have done my fair share of reading on this topic. I have been reading about it from all angles, from what the symptoms are to does it really exist? Being a teacher myself I have seen what ADHD can look like. I've also seen the ramifications of what medication does to a child and even older adolescent children. The bottom line, it is not pretty. But when it hits home, everything changes.

I am not going to write about what ADHD is. I am not going to write whether it is a real diagnosis or not. What I will write about is what we, as a family, are going through as we are being bombarded by comments, suggestions, and recommendations to have our son evaluated. I have my fair share of opinions on how ADHD can sometimes simply be immaturity and how ADHD is overdiagnosed.

For starters, our son is very energetic. Does energetic necessarily mean hyper? Outside the classroom he is high energy, inside the classroom, it means hyper and mental illness. ADHD is classified as a mental illness. Whatever happened to just good old-fashioned high energy and since when is it so wrong to be full of energy? I see the difference between one son and the other and one is definitely in more need of movement. Why does that have to be a mental illness? Fifty years ago we accepted all different personalities in our classroom and dealt with behavioral problems. Now we diagnose, label and medicate. Some teachers and administrators do not want to be bothered.

Then there is the boy crisis. Boys "are three times more likely to receive an ADHD diagnosis than girls." However sexist this may sound, it is a fact, in all my years of teaching, that boys tend to be more distracted than girls. It is also true that the educational system we have set up is more geared towards a girls way of learning than boys. Ask any mother of both boys and girls and they will tell you, a grand majority, that the boys have a much harder time sitting still for long periods of time than a girl. Of course, it goes without saying, that this is not always the case, but it can be typical. Boys need more movement. Heck, children need more movement!

Then there is plain old immaturity. In speaking to our pediatrician, we were pleasantly relieved that she was on our side. She said that it was completely ludicrous to diagnose a child under 9 with ADHD. There are so many levels of development and maturation that there is no way to draw the line between an immature child, who is easily distracted, and a true ADHD diagnosis. What happened to kids being kids and not wanting to sit down for hours on end doing math drills and reading comprehension? What kid would not rather play than do "work"? What adult wouldn't rather relax than do work they do not enjoy?

Finally medication. In all my years of teaching, I was never so saddened than when I witnessed a child on stimulants. Currently "12% of school-age children and as many as 20% of teenage boys, are diagnosed with ADHD." This is staggering. Stimulants are given to children for ADHD. Ritalin (Methylphenidate) and cocaine are classified as a central nervous system stimulant drug. Yes, you read that correctly, they are both in the same category. I realize that for some children it would be almost impossible to function if they did not take these drugs on occasion or often. I am not here to judge anyone's parenting choices. I am here to simply write about our family's experiences and thoughts on this very dividing topic. Medication should not be the first option. In fact, it should be the very last option!

The fact of the matter is that apart from our son being easily distracted and high energy, he understands all concepts and is able to get some of the highest grades. Yes, albeit probably to the detriment of his teachers. But is teaching supposed to be easy? I never found it easy? You are dealing with a lot of personalities and learning styles at once, not to mention personal issues and family problems that they bring with them every day. Teaching is not for the faint of heart. The human person is complex. We cannot expect, as teachers or as parents, to have all the same little robotic children who will do what we say when we say. It should be no different in the classroom.

Perhaps I am rationalizing our situation. Perhaps I am finding reasons to avoid evaluation. Whatever may be happening, I am firm in my belief that although ADHD may be a very real mental illness, we have to certainly take a look at all the variables in a child's life and consider that some children are just different. Some children are just more high strung. Some children are more easily distracted. Some children are lazy. Some children are more laid back. Some children are more focused. Shall I go on?

If you have a child that you are being told may have ADHD, I strongly advise you to talk to many professionals both in and outside the psychological field and really do your research before you get your diagnosis. "Nearly 1 million children in the United States are potentially misdiagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder simply because they are the youngest- and most immature- in their kindergarten class." And an even higher percentage of this misdiagnosis are boys! Fight for your boys, fight for your children and do not let them be labeled just because they are more energetic and easily distracted. Childhood is all about distractions and energy. Let us not make childhood a disease! Let us not make boyhood a disease.

A highly recommend this extensive article for anyone who is considering an ADHD evaluation for their son: "The Drugging of the American Boy" by Esquire.com

Photo by unsplash.com

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Advent traditions

Advent is a time of preparation. It begins four Sundays before Christmas and means venire which is "to come to," in Latin. For Christians it is a time of preparation for the coming of Christ in His birth at Christmas, however, it also symbolizes Christ's Second Coming at the end of time.

In today's world, everything comes to us in an instant. We can binge on Netflix or with one click and in just one day, have anything we want on Amazon. It's almost as if instant gratification cannot be avoided. Advent, is a reminder that "the best things come to those who wait". Literally! We wait for Jesus.

As a family, we have decided that Christmas would be all about, well, what it is: Jesus' birth! The gifts are wonderful, the tree beautiful and the feeling in the air, splendid but there is more to it. The focus has to be turned towards the one that is the reason for all this celebration. 

If it weren't for the birth of Christ, our stores would not be jam-packed with Christmas decor and sales for all sorts of gifts. It is amazing how so many have forgotten the true meaning of Christmas and how some do not even know who Jesus is.  

Here are some beautiful Catholic traditions you can bring into your family and celebrate with your children. One you may know already, it is the Advent wreath. The Advent wreath (circle) is used to symbolize God the Father and eternal life. It holds four candles which are lit over the four weeks of Advent. There are three violet (purple) candles and one rose (pink) candle, each representing 1,000 years a total of 4,000 years that humanity waited for the Savior.

The progressive lighting of the candles symbolizes the expectation and hope of our Lord’s first coming into the world and the anticipation of His second coming to judge the living and the dead.
Traditionally, each of the four candles has its own meaning:
  • The 3 violet candles symbolize the prayer, penance, and preparatory sacrifices and goods works undertaken during Advent. 

  • The 1 rose candle is lit on the third Sunday which is known as "Gaudete Sunday" it is the Sunday of rejoicing because it is the midpoint of Advent and it's close to Christmas.

But another tradition you are probably not familiar with, that we've been doing for a couple of years now, is the Jesse Tree. The Jesse Tree dates back to the middle ages and came from Europe. You may even find a Jesse Tree design in stained glass windows in old cathedrals.

The Jesse Tree comes from Isaiah 11:1: “A shoot shall come out of the stock of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.” Jesse was the father of King David. The Jesse Tree is decorated with handmade ornaments that represent the people, prophesies, and events leading up to the birth of Jesus. The ornaments of the Jesse Tree tell the story of God in the Old Testament, connecting the Advent season with the faithfulness of God across four thousand years of history.

One way I (we) can learn that instant gratification is not normal and is actually not good for us, especially children, is to spend Advent preparing for the coming of Christ.

Here are some of the ornaments I have made out of felt. You can also have your children make them out of paper. 

Day 1: Symbolizes the World Created by God– Globe – Genesis 1:24-28

Day 2: Symbolizes the First sin by Adam and Eve – Snake and Apple– Genesis 3:1-24

Day 3: Symbolizes the promise of God to Noah after the Flood – Rainbow & Ark – Genesis 6:11-22; 86-12; 9:11-17

Day 4: Symbolizes the promise of God to Abraham – Camel & Tent– Genesis 12:1-7:13:2-18; 18:1

Day 5: Symbolizes the Ram sacrificed instead of Isaac – Ram – Genesis 22:1-14

Day 6: Symbolizes Jacob – Ladder – Genesis 27:41-28:22

Day 7: symbolizes Joseph – Multicolored Coat – Genesis 37:1-36

Day 8: symbolizes Moses – two tablets --Deuteronomy 5:1-22

The great thing is you learn so much! You learn how all these events and Biblical figures foreshadowed Jesus & led to His birth. It makes the time leading up to Christmas all about what it should be. You read the appropriate Bible verse each night and the child(ren) places the specific ornament on the tree.

This tradition does not interfere with a Christmas tree, as it is not a Christmas tree in and of itself. There are literally hundreds of ways to do this. I have seen some creative things on-line. There are also tons of recourse books...Catholic and non-Catholic alike as this is not strictly a Catholic tradition.

I used this one:

The remaining days are as follows but there are dozens of variations on symbols and passages.

Day 9: Symbolizes the promise land-Numbers - Grapes - Numbers 13:1-2, 17-18, 20, 23, 27
Day 10: Symbolizes Ruth - Sheaf of wheat - Ruth 1:15-2:3
Day 11: Symbolizes Miriam – Tambourine – Exodus 15:19-21
Day 12: SymbolizesSamuel – Lamp – 1 Samuel 3:1-21
Day 13: Symbolizes Jesse – Branch – Isaiah 11:1
Day 14: Symbolizes King David – Harp – 1 Samuel 16:14-23
Day 15: Symbolizes King Solomon – Crown – 1 Kings 3:3-28
Day 16: Symbolizes Isaiah – Throne – Isaiah 6:1-8
Day 17: Symbolizes Jeremiah -Heart - Jeremiah 31:31-33, Hebrews 9:13-15
Day 18: Symbolizes the Angels – Angel – Hebrews 1:1-14
Day 19: Symbolizes Malachi – Trumpet – Malachi 3:1-4
Day 20: Symbolizes Zechariah and Elizabeth – man and wife - Luke 1:39-45
Day 21: Symbolizes Mary – Mary– Luke 1:29-35
Day 22: Symbolizes John the Baptist – River – Matthew 3:1-6
Day 23: Symbolizes Joseph of Nazareth – Hammer/Saw – Matthew 1:18-25
Day 24: Symbolizes Bethlehem – Star over town– Matthew 2:1-12
Day 25: Birth of Christ – Crib – Luke 2:1-7

A happy and blessed Advent to you all. May this time teach each one of us that the best things in life take time and bring us joy and hope. Come, Lord Jesus!

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Our beauty and flaws

Like an old wooden table, we have beauty and flaws. Our beauty shines through in our gifts and talents; in who we are and how we love. Our beauty is especially cherished by those who are dearest to us. Yet, at the same time, like an old wooden table, our flaws intermingle with our beauty.

This is how our Creator sees us, the beautiful and the flawed.  God sees a beauty that encompasses all: the sturdiness, the durability, the reliance, the authenticity, of this beautiful piece of work. Yet, at the same time, He takes notice of the scratches, the stains, the knots, the wormholes; all the flaws that are there on the surface for all to see. And He loves it. He loves it all.

Like that table, it is difficult to hide our flaws.  They are there, out in the open.  Some of us might do a better job of hiding the flaws. However, in the end, they are there. They are a part of us that we cannot deny. We cannot ignore our defects and yet, we can use them to become even more beautiful.

What flaws are you ashamed of? What character defect do you try and hide? What weaknesses surface at the most inopportune times, despite your best efforts to cover them up. Do you try to buff them out? Sand them down with your sense of humor or your silence? Your intelligence and wit? Still, you see them surface time and time again. How to remove them forever, you ask? But that would take the character away from that old beautiful table. The flaws are a part of its beauty.

Although our weaknesses can be a cross, a burden if you will, they also present us with an opportunity to grow. Our defects help us to remember that we are not perfect and that there is only One that is perfect. God. God alone is perfect. Our weaknesses remind us that we cannot make it on our own. Yet, they help us strive for that perfection we do seek. We seek perfection because ultimately we strive to "be perfect, as our heavenly Father is perfect." (Mt. 5:48)

We become who we are meant to be by acknowledging our flaws. We become more of who we were created to be when we carry our vulnerability, our debilities, with dignity. They keep us humble. They keep our feet planted firmly on the ground.

At the end of the day, they are a part of who we are. And just like that old wooden table that we feast on, share coffee with close friends upon, we are beautiful.  That old reliable table we polish and clean, sand and down and reseal, whose every blemish tells a story, is sturdy and reliable. We are rich with beauty because our imperfections make us a work, always in progress. Although our flaws make us imperfect, they should make us reliable human beings that ultimately understand our neighbors imperfections, precisely because we share that same cross of weakness.

I encourage you to take a look at your weaknesses, your flaws, your blemishes. Take a look at them with eyes of mercy. Accept them. Strive to improve upon them, while also recognizing that they make up who you are. And remember that it is there, in that very part that you sometimes try so very hard to cover up, that God does some of His greatest work: He shows His Mercy!

Monday, November 4, 2019

Who are you meant to be?

"Be who you are meant to be and you will set the world on fire!" What I love about this quote is the truth that lies within these simple words, but also that if you examine it further, you will find a journey for your life. Who are you meant to be really? Most of us spend our entire life trying to figure this question out.

One of the best parts of this quote is that it talks about fire and not just a small flame, mind you. A fire! Setting the world on fire. The image that comes to my mind when I read this is that of my own heart being set on fire and enkindling other fires all around me.

When I do the things that I love, and I'm not talking about shopping or watching a good movie...meaningful things. When I do things with a purpose; fulfilling things. When I engage in what truly makes me come alive, well, I feel like I'm on fire. Fully alive. I am set ablaze. It's like a fire that burns within me. It's a fire that does not consume but burns continuously. This happens when I use my gifts and talents.

And when this happens, when I feel that burning within me, I know I am doing what I am supposed to be doing. I am becoming who God meant me to be. Of course, it's not all about doing. The quote does say "meant to be." But if we examine this, essentially who we are meant to be, is part and parcel with using the talents we have been given. When we use these gifts, when we share them, we are most fulfilled. When we are fulfilled we become more of who we are meant to be. We are fully alive!

What are the things that make you feel alive? That set you on fire? Have you not found the fire? What are your talents? What gives you joy but also pushes you towards giving to others?  Look for the fire! Those very things that bring you most joy and set your heart ablaze, are the very things that will "set the world on fire".

My husband and I started a project two years ago to set up a Classical High School here in Metro Detroit. I will say that this project lied well outside of our comfort zones but we had this strong intuition that we needed to move forward with it, no matter how uncomfortable we felt. In the process, both David and I have discovered new talents that we did not know we had. But perhaps the most beautiful thing that has set our hearts ablaze has been the people that we have met and are journeying with as well as the faith and trust we have had to place in God.

Setting the world on fire, discovering who you really are is not an easy process. It can be quite uncomfortable and even, I will admit, painful. But there is nothing that is completely worth it that does not require pain and growth. The Lord has instilled in us an assurance that not only He is in charge but that "He's got this!"

I encourage you, dear reader, to allow the Lord to help you discover who you are and who you are meant to be. In the process, along the journey, the flame in your heart will turn into a raging fire. He will show you that those gifts and talents that He has given you are not only for your own joy and fulfillment but for the world. He will set you ablaze if you let him, and in turn, you will light fires of love and hope all around you.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Halloween, a teaching opportunity on Christ's victory!

Halloween is right around the corner, so I thought I'd share a few thoughts and some great insight on the 31st of October:

What is the way to go about participating innocently in the childish notions of Halloween without necessarily touching upon the very debased traditions of this night that precedes "All Saints and All Souls"?  It's a real question that we ask ourselves as Catholic parents. We want to be able to use every opportunity to teach our children about the difference between what is good and bad; what is right and wrong.

I cannot say that the following thoughts flow solely from my own reflection but rather from an excellent article I read a while back. This article was sent by a friend who has encouraged us to raise our child "in the world but not of the world".

The truth is that Halloween, within its basic foundation was seen as a moment to remember the truth and grim reality of hell. "Hence all the devil, goblins and references originally were meant to teach others of the horrors and consequences of sin and evil."

"Thus, Halloween can depict a vital element in the re-enactment of [our] salvation history. Although it is not an official holy day...linked to All Saints and All Souls, Halloween imagery presents an integral illustration of the human passage and the consequence of Christ. Without death, there would be no saints in heaven or souls in purgatory. Without Christ, man would have no right to ridicule the devil. (paraphrased from Crisis Magazine article, my emphasis added).

"Halloween offers a comic, cultural expression of the truths that comprise man’s participation in Christ’s Resurrection. Halloween celebrates Christ’s triumph through parody—or exultant mockery—subjecting the symbols of the grave to satirical derision. Witches, devils, ghouls, skeletons, and such spooks become caricatures of an impotent evil...."

"...O death, where is your sting?"

In essence, we can mock hell and all that is evil because Christ has been victorious over these.

But, unfortunately, in today's reality of Halloween, there is so much occult and satanic worship involved that we do have to be wary. We have to take steps to be cautious particularly when it involves children. We must set boundaries and offer alternatives to the overtly commercialized culture of violence, ugliness and what is blatantly occult.

Many schools, neighborhoods and religious communities offer alternatives such as dress up as your favorite story character, or your favorite saint. These are good teaching opportunities as well. This way we are able to help children see the reality of evil without actually "dressing" in it or praising it.

As Christians, we have a responsibility to take Halloween and other pagan festivities and redeem them by using them to teach about the realities of life and faith and of the truth of Christ. Halloween shows us the consequences of dying without Christ. Halloween helps us to stare evil in the face and laugh!

We must pass through death into new life. It is no mere coincidence that Halloween precedes the great feast of All Saints, where we pray for those who have died and have been victorious with Christ in reaching Heaven. And yet, we have another opportunity, the following day to pray for the dead who are in Purgatory. During the feast of All Souls, we become aware of the cleansing reality of God's mercy that helps to wipe away the consequences of sin.

If you would like to read the whole article found in Crisis Magazine, please go here.

May your Halloween be safe and pleasant. May it offer you an opportunity to teach your children of the mysteries of life and death and the great truth that Christ is victorious!

Photo by Bekir Dönmez on Unsplash

Monday, October 21, 2019

When all you can do is trust!

Sometimes in life, there are things that come along that take you by surprise. There are surprises from the Lord that leave you humbled and questioning, why me? Why now? But the Lord has His plan and the Lord has His timing. This I know very well. But how do you hold on to the ride you are about to embark on when all you have is TRUST?

Here are three ways you can allow the Lord to do His will in your life and trust that He is in charge!

1. Praise! Praise the Lord in the good and the difficult times. There is no better way to show the Lord your unfailing trust in Him than to just praise Him even when you are scared out of your mind. Praising means to offer up our song and words of gratitude to God just for who He is. God does not need our praises but He does desire them. He desires to know that we trust in Him and are willing to ride out the times in life that are difficult and seem uncertain with a heart full of praise.

2. Prayer. Pray to Him constantly. Yes, taking time out of your day for personal prayer is not only essential but good. Time set aside to pray to the God that has given all to us is what makes us come back to this reality of His undivided love for us. But prayer can take on other forms. Prayer is also wrapped up in our constant dialogue with him throughout our day. Prayer is also offering up the little sacrifices (especially as moms) that we take on at every minute of the day. From doing laundry to washing the 100th dish of the day, you can offer up those tiny sacrifices with love as St. Thérèse of Lisieux reminded us in her "little way"! Prayer is essential but constant prayer is beautiful.

3. Doing your part. God does not want us to just sit back and allow life to happen. He does not ask us to be spectators, He wants us to be participants, disciples. It is only by being proactive and willing to seek out His will, even when it might not fit our plans, that we are able to be co-creators with the One True Creator. Being a co-creator is not just being a parent and having children, it also means creating and doing the things that the Lord asks of us. Doing our part involves using the gifts and talents He has given us to the fullest and always for His glory. Sometimes using those gifts is a bit scary because He asks us to partake in things we feel we are not capable of, but He is in charge. He knows our limits, He knows our capacity and He knows our heart.

What is God asking of you today? Trust in Him and allow Him to work and create with you.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

6 ways to teach your children gratitude

Photo by Simon Maage on Unsplash

Gratitude is expressed through a simple gesture or words. It shows our appreciation and love for others and directs our lives towards blessings. Without gratitude we are unable to acknowledge how richly blessed we are and hence we become abysmally unsatisfied and unhappy. Essentially, gratitude is a form of love. The Roman philosopher Cicero said, “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues but the parent of all the others … Nothing is more honorable than a grateful heart.”

As a mother, the thing I desire most for my children is happiness. However, I pray for the type of happiness that doesn’t come from success or worldly riches. I pray for happiness that comes from knowing that they are loved and that they are blessed by it. With this desire, comes the task of teaching them how to achieve this happiness, and that is only achieved through gratitude. Here are six simple tips you can start using today to ensure your children a lifetime of happiness as they count their blessings:

1. Never give up reminding your children to say please and thank you.

This can be simple and sometimes aggravating. I don’t know how many times a day I remind my little ones, “How do you ask for something? What do you say when you receive something?” It can certainly get tedious. But gratitude is like a muscle. You’ve got to exercise it so it can become stronger. Remind them to say “please” and “thank you” in the not so obvious of scenarios and it will soon become a disposition that they will bring to life each day. It’s not just about being polite, it’s about really appreciating others and who they are. I remind my children to thank their teacher when they leave school or when they’re in earshot of our mailman or garbage men. If you remind them for the little things, they’ll remember it more so for the bigger things.

2. Help them clean out their toys and have them choose some to give to the needy.

At first, I was a bit reluctant to move forward with this idea. I was afraid they wouldn’t cooperate; after all, we’re talking about two small boys and their toys! Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised. Both my children proceeded with enthusiasm. There were a few discussions about this toy car and that dinosaur but in the end, they freely chose some good toys to give away.

I took this opportunity to explain how blessed they were and how others are not so fortunate. If you want to take it a step further, take them with you to the place where you will donate the toys, if possible. Allowing children to follow a task from beginning to end not only gives them satisfaction but makes it memorable. They may very well ask to do it again.

3. Pray out loud and thank God for your blessings and then ask them to do the same.

Be prepared to listen to your little ones rattle off all sorts of things they are thankful for, such as their toy tiger and giraffe and on and on. It requires some patience and perseverance. Nonetheless, it is a beautiful way to teach children to be grateful for all. Praying out loud has a great impact on the whole family. Each member is able to hear that they are a blessing to others. As they grow older they will forget their toy zebra and name each and every family member and friends. Yes, gratitude can also help you develop the virtue of patience.

4. Let them get bored!

I know. This is, by far, the most daunting one. We live in an age where everything is scheduled and timed. Who has time for boredom? Boredom is frowned upon; if you’re bored, you’re not being productive. But children need boredom. They need to experience the frustration of that feeling so they can appreciate the present moment. It is in those moments of absolute boredom that children’s creativity is sparked; their imagination comes alive. What better way to be grateful for the little things in life such as bugs under rocks, tadpoles, sprinklers, mud pies and pretending to be wild animals in a jungle? Boredom leads to the beauty of the now and all the varying degrees of gratitude that it can yield.

5. Delay gratification.

We can only be grateful for what we have now. There is no better way to help children discover what they have now than to delay gratification. In today’s age, we have easy access to just about anything. We know it, our children know it, and our culture makes sure we know it. Being appreciative for what we already have keeps the temptation of selfishness and greed at bay. Not allowing our children to always have what they want, when they want, can be the impetus for them to discover how they are already rich in many ways. With a little bit of nudging and a little bit of withholding, this can turn into another life lesson that is as good as gold.

6. Finally, take them to serve the poor or visit the sick.

There is a reason why Jesus emphasized these two actions. Having contact with those less fortunate than us brings us into contact with Jesus Himself. When we meet those who have less, we are reminded that we have so much. This is a great way to practically and powerfully show our children gratitude. Whether you volunteer at a soup kitchen, your local food pantry or visit sick children at your hospital, take your children along with you. Do not be deterred in thinking they will be traumatized. Let them see that in their simple gesture of service, they can be a blessing to others. The grateful hearts of those who are poor will, in turn, give our children grateful hearts. As  Fr. Solanus Casey said, “It’s Heaven begun, for the grateful on earth.”

Published on Aleteia in September 2017.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Let them get bored!

Photo by Blake Meyer on Unsplash

Why should you let your children get bored this summer? Because it will expand their imagination and provide lots more opportunity for fun!!!

I've had my fair share of days of sitting my boys in front of a screen, in order to get a few things done. But overall I want them to just play. It's not easy. What with all the planned activities throughout the year, now there is more downtime than ever.  My only rule during the summer is that if it is sunny they have to be outdoors.

What proceeds from this indoor embargo is that they discover boredom. Heck, I even learn about boredom from a whole new perspective; as a mom. As I leave them to their own volition, things begin to get interesting rather quickly. That uncomfortable and irritating feeling of boredom sets forth a slew of emotions. At first, it isn't pretty. But I allow them to sit with these emotions; to bask in the glory of pre-creativity. I command they think outside the box. I wait and watch with bated breath. What ensues from the annoying feeling of just plain blah boredom is priceless.

It is only through boredom that my children begin to come up with the most creative ways to pass these hot sticky days. The rocks lining the garden become stepping stones along a raging river. The garden shed becomes a fortress and the surrounding fence their fortification that keeps the neighboring enemy at bay. The branches are their swords and the garbage can tops their shields. The swaying water from the sprinkler is the hot lava spraying from an active volcano. The bugs grow to giant proportions and are dangerous dinosaurs. I can go on for days, but I will spare you the ramblings of two boys who battle dinosaurs and turn into cheetahs at a moments notice.

Needless to say, our days end with dirt-encrusted nails, caked-on sweat, scraped knees and loads of laundry. The dark waters of their evening bath are sure proof of a satisfactory day of play. To boot, they sleep better and stay out of trouble, all because I allow them to just get bored. This is the way children are meant to play. This is the way children should live their summers, as free from technology and scheduled activities as possible.

Nowadays boredom is frowned upon. We think that if someone is bored, they are not being active or productive. Boredom is the antithesis of success and productivity. But is it? Boredom is actually the key to creativity. It unlocks the imagination and allows, especially children, to discover a world of pretend and adventure. Children need boredom. Once the fog of boredom lifts, the mind releases an onslaught of inspiration. It makes you wonder why we don't allow ourselves to get bored more often.

So for this summer, we will try our best to avoid too much screen time, postpone playdates, cancel our errands and I'll just allow them to get bored. I won't interject. I won't fret. I will just wait, watch and witness how their creative juices begin to flow. Where ever their imagination takes them I will allow them to soar to new heights and discover new adventures. I'll let them get bored!

Photo by Johnny McClung on Unsplash

Thursday, June 27, 2019


Photo by Jorge Vasconez on Unsplash

Since my blog is all about imperfection, I will just admit that I have been less than perfect in keeping up with my posts. In fact, I had just about completely stopped posting once Lent started.

So here is my update on a few things: Our school is well on its way. We have hired a wonderful headmaster who just moved his family to Detroit. He will be setting up house at our soon to be disclosed location, recruiting students and marketing this whole year leading up to our grand opening in the Fall of 2020. Check out our website at www.chestertonacademydetroit.org Spread the word if you are in the Metro Detroit area.

On the family front, the kids are growing and our little redhead is getting cuter every day. It is amazing what red hair will do. We get stopped where ever we go. "Where did she get that red hair?" Considering we both have very dark hair it's really a mystery to us. I relay it to God's sense of humor. I always dreamed of having red hair. So there you go!

This summer we will be spending a lot of time with my family. We are sorely missing our family in South Florida and look forward to spending several weeks down there in the very hot sun! Nothing like a huge dose of Vitamin D to prepare for Fall and Winter here in Michigan. I have realized that the reality of Michigan is that we get at least 7-8 months of COLD! That is the analysis of a native Floridian. Any Michigander want to argue that? My husband says it's not true.

Finally, I will try to refocus on posting here as I have to confess that trying to extract what is true, good and beautiful in every day mamma land is very hard and so this outlet gives me a chance to really think about that.

God bless each of you.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

What are you doing for Lent?

Lent is just around the corner! I sit and ponder all the things that I can "give up" and all that I can "take on" but it's probably best to make this very simple.

I ask myself two questions:

What distracts me most from God?
What can bring me closer to Him?

I would answer the first one quite quickly and without hesitation: SOCIAL MEDIA!

The second one? Frequenting the sacraments, with no excuses. Lord knows, that throughout the week I can come up with a million excuses of why "I just can't attend daily Mass."

The baby is fussy.

I have errands to run.

I didn't get enough sleep last night.

I have cleaning to do.

But really, what is more important than the King of Kings? All the rest can wait. 

What are you doing this Lent? Do you have something in the works to lead you through the desert? I purchased the "Blessed is She" Lent Devotional. I can't wait to get my hands on that. 

Don't complicate your Lent, yet go beyond your norm. Do you really have to give up chocolate and pizza again? Just be with Him. Just be still and know that He is your God and He loves you! Move the distractions out of the way and don't make excuses.

Join me on a Lenten journey. Take these remaining days to discern what the Lord is calling you to do this Lent. 

I will be praying for you.

photo courtesy of Pixabay

Friday, February 8, 2019

Reboot your life!

Have you ever felt like you need to reboot your spiritual life, life in general? Have you ever felt that you are just drained and running out of the hope that belongs to all children of God?

Last night I attended Chris Stefanik's Reboot conference. I needed it and frankly, if it's in your area, you need it. It's a spiritual booster shot. Go!

Chris Stefanik is a Catholic international speaker who heads up Real Life Catholic which is a non-profit that is dedicated to spreading the Best! News! Ever! Because the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not just Good news you know, it's the Best News Ever! (MercyMe)

Chris puts into perspective the simplicity of our faith and how absurd the world has it in not believing in the One True God. It's a love story and all those upsets, suffering, disappointments, illnesses...well those are just a page in the Greatest Love Story ever told. And it's not a general love story like God loves the world. No! It's a love story between You and God.

When God created the world, He had You in mind. When God became a man, He had You in mind. When God suffered and died on the Cross, He had You in mind. And when He rose from the dead so that we wouldn't be mere "food for the worms" but true sons and daughters of God who would live in eternity, well, He had You in mind!


God is a passionate lover who only wants your love in return. That's it. So simple.

And how do we love Him back? Well, to be completely honest, it is so simple that I just have to tell you that you can't love Him back unless you allow Him to love you first. 

Allow Him to love you. Then...

Love yourself.


Share the faith.

Build good friendships.

and...Reboot. Deal with your past and know that it's all, (wounds, sins and all), been thrown into the abyss of His ocean of mercy and He has placed a sign there that says, "No fishing". That's it!

We were made for more. We were made for greatness and that greatness can only be found in God. It won't come from a career or a marriage. It will not come from material things nor degrees. It will not come from lovers or even experiences. It only comes from the One who created You. The One who loves you with a perfect love. It comes from the One who gave everything for You and waits for you.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

The blessing of Now!

Right now I am waiting for the teapot to boil so I can make a nice hot cup of coffee on this very cold "polar vortex", day number two.  I'm focused on that teapot. I am grateful for that teapot right now because I am struggling today. I am struggling with living in the present moment. Actually, I must confess, this has been a constant struggle.

Do you struggle with living in the present moment? I believe it is a human struggle. A real human problem.  We are persons of hope and so many times we find ourselves confusing longing for hope. Hope is intricately tied to Divine union. Longing away our present and losing sight of the blessings of now is certainly not hoping. God is hope and God is the God of the present moment.

So here are five tips on how to stay in the blessing of the present moment.

1. Contemplate God's name:

We worship a God of the present moment! A God who, although He knows all things, blesses us in the here and now. Tomorrow? Well, that is just up to Him to gift us with or not!

In Exodus, Moses asked God “if I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what do I tell them?”

And God replied: "I am who I am." And added. "This is what you will tell the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you."

If you think about it, God could have said anything to Moses. I mean he is God after all. But He chose to say "I AM".

Not, He was.
Not, He will be.


Our God is the God of blessing and He blesses us Now!
It is now that we have to count our blessings. It is now that we must choose to live. Not when that addition is finally finished or the last ten pounds are finally lost. When our toddler is finally out of diapers or when we'll have the time to finish that project we started over two years ago.

Contemplate His name. Contemplate how God is good and how his goodness is presently in your life right now. 

2. Count your blessings immediately, right now! 

I do this by walking around my house literally cataloging all the things God has blessed me with. And I am not just referring to the material things. I thank God for my children, relationships, health, experiences etc. But if you want to focus on the present, try to literally thank God for what you are presently in front of, what you are doing, what you are feeling and seeing. Use the fives senses to list all the blessings you are living this minute. 

This is why I thanked God for my boiling teapot. He is a God of details. Yes, He even takes care of those little tiny details like that great cup of coffee as you look out onto the snowy white landscape. 

3. Practice Lectio Divina:

Lectio Divina is a way of reading and contemplating Scripture in the here and now. The great thing about Lectio Divina is you must focus on what God is trying to tell you in the right now.  Basically, there are four parts to Lectio Divina: read, reflect, respond and rest. The steps are pretty self-explanatory. You read the Scripture passage/passages. What grabs your attention? You reflect on what God is saying to you. Respond to God by reading the passage a third time and answering to His message to you (you can also journal your answer). And finally, rest. Read the passage a fourth time and rest in God's Word and God's love through His word. 

There is nothing more grounding than God's Word. His Word is alive! The beauty of Lectio Divina is that today God will say one thing to your heart and then two weeks from now, the same passage will say something totally different. That is because God's word is for the present moment and it is in the present moment that we are living and that is when He speaks. 

4. Beware of Social Media:

Social media has a way of robbing us of the present moment. The dangers of social media are not only a loss of precious time that we will never ever get back again but it also robs us of our gratitude. It has been reported that "those who used social media the most were about 2.7 times more likely to be depressed than participants who used social media the least. Why do we get depressed when we are on social media too long? Because we are focusing on the edited life and happiness of others and not on reality. Not on our reality. The time we could be spending living the present moment is lost in a world that tempts us to focus on what we do not have. 

Social media in and of itself is not evil, it's how we use it that can become a problem. Many women reported feeling depressed after going on Facebook and Instagram. Let's be vigilant and live more in the moment and interact with those around us rather than getting lost in a virtual world where we are mentally comparing ourselves to other peoples edited lives. 

5. Set more short-term goals:

Goals are great! I love setting goals. Shoot, I am constantly writing up lists of things I would like to accomplish. It keeps me on my toes and helps me to accomplish things I would otherwise put off. But long term goals can get in the way of living the present moment. Although we should have them, we should also focus on short-term goals. I mean short-short term goals, for today. 

These short-short term goals are not a list of chores. It's not a grocery list. It is a goal that I will set for today that I need to accomplish now. Some examples? Pray. Count blessings. Not yell. Offer up the mundane chores for those who need it. To be joyful when my husband walks through the door even though the kids are on my last nerve. Those kinds of short-term goals. Goals of becoming a better you rather than waiting until...whatever it is will make you a better person in the future rather than today.

This is how I try and overcome the temptation of living way out into the future. These are the ways in which I can stay focused in the here and now. The blessing of now is fleeting. The blessing of this moment is all we have from God. He does not give us the grace for tomorrow because He is the God of now. I AM he said to Moses. He is the God of love. He is the God of the present. He is our first blessing. Now. Today! 

Photograph courtesy of Pixabay

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Transforming our Culture from a Dream (continuation)

You can read the first part here.

Time passed and it was time that was on my side. Our children are still very small and attend a very good school in the suburbs. It is Montessori (a Catholic-based educational method that is student-led) and it is bi-lingual (Spanish-English) which works really well for our bi-lingual family. But the Lord was not going to wait very long to start working on His project.

We scheduled a visit to our community out in Minneapolis in the Summer of 2017 where there happens to be an excellent classical Catholic school that we wanted to check out. It is called Chesterton Academy. We decided to pay them a visit while we were out there. Our encounter with the founder was providential. He ended our very lively conversation with these words "Why don't you open a Chesterton Academy in Detroit?" It's as if the words hung in the air and all of a sudden I was transported back to that evening I sat in the back of the Church asking the Lord what we would do for our kid's future education. "Open a school!" I heard in my heart.

The two events were fused together through God's providence. I knew in my heart that this was the right formula. Chesterton Academy had recently set up a program for parent-led initiatives to open Chesterton Academy's in other parts of the country. It was almost a packaged deal. All we needed was local interest, donors and benefactors and a building. Easy, right?

Needless to say, we returned that summer, I got pregnant and things were put on hold. We picked it right back up in December and started to scout out interest in a Chesterton Academy of Detroit. We had a great turn out and things began to roll. For a bit, it seemed as though we would be able to open the school in the Fall of 2019. But the government has put a damper on our plans. We are not defeated though. Between beaurocracy and an all-out paper-chase, we have seen a recent inspiration of the Holy Spirit in many local Catholic citizens who have forged a great support system for us. I mean, who were we but Mr. and Mrs. Miller with a dream and a lot of desire. It was God who was handling this, we were just his instruments.

Needless to say, the opening of the school has been pushed back to the Fall of 2020 but we are well on our way to making this dream a reality. The dream is not only to provide this type of education for our own children but for countless other families. These families not only wish to provide their children with the right tools to be persons of great faith and service but also so that they may grow into adults who will be able to think and decide for themselves.  We need to equip our young people with the means to exist and thrive outside the suppressive society we are living in. We want to form real ambassadors that lead and forge a culture of change, a change towards hope, freedom, and love.

I must say that this grass-roots effort of Christian homeschool education, hybrid schooling, and Classical education is not a mere coincidence. Many parents are realizing that the public educational system is broken and that our Catholic schools, since after Vatican II, do not have much more to offer. What once set Catholic education apart, the teaching of the faith and the quality of education that surpassed other private schools is now almost non-existent. Parents are waking up and realizing that they cannot leave such a precious aspect of their children's formation in other people's hands. It is the parent who is the first and most important educator of their child.

Please pray for us. We still have many things to iron out but we are very well aware that God is in charge and that He will take care of the details. We move forward in hope and faith.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Transforming our culture from a dream!

For a little over a year now I have not been too consistent with my blogging endeavors. So many times I have a great desire to write but I just cannot seem to carve out the time. I've decided to share with you, dear reader, what is going on in our lives that has caused me to have less time.

Besides welcoming our red-headed princess last spring, we have also decided to open a high school! That's right, you read that correctly. We are trying to open a Classical Catholic high school. But before I can get into the details of that, perhaps I should begin with how this all came about!

I am a Catholic school teacher. I have been involved in education, on and off since I was 19 years old. But it wasn't until right before I earned my second degree in Theology that I decided that teaching was truly my calling. Since 2002 I have been working in some way, shape or form in Catholic education.

I've seen a Catholic school from the inside! I mean, I've really seen it!

It's not pretty!

In fact, it's mostly disappointing!

Since 2002 I worked both at the middle school and high school level. Teaching theology is not for the faint of heart. In the world we are living in today, theology is just completely counter-cultural! I fought against the popular culture every day in my classroom. It was interesting at best, but really it was completely revealing as to what we are up against.

The culture is powerful!

But we are not defeated! Jesus is victorious and I will tell you how we can begin to make headway against the tide of this monstrous, ubiquitous, absolutely seductive culture that has a stranglehold on our young people and even ourselves...


But not just any education.

Real, honest to goodness, old-fashioned Catholic education!

Classical Catholic education.

Classical education is a way of educating young minds through the basics of learning to read, think and speak. Sound simple enough? For centuries this is the way all Catholic schools from the youngest of minds all the way through college taught.

It is called the "Trivium" which is grammar (read), logic (think) and rhetoric (speak).  It allows children to learn according to their developmental stages.

At a young age (elementary or grammar), children are like "sponges" and through repetition and memorization, they soak in everything from phonics, to grammar, to history and poetry and math. The next stage, known as logic (middle school) is when children begin to question everything. As we all very well know, when children become teenagers they begin to rebel and question everything from our authority, faith to why the world works the way it does. This is when we are able to teach them to think deeply and critically. By using the Socratic method, children are not spoon fed their information so that they can then "pass a test". Their questions are answered with more questions and it is the student, not the teacher, that arrives at the truth. Through all the information they have absorbed in the grammar years they are able to access all their learning and come to a conclusion. And this conclusion is always, always hinged on the truth.

But what truth you ask?

Let's get to the third stage first.

Finally, the third stage is rhetoric (high school) and this is where it all comes together and young minds discover ways in which to argue and discuss subjects eloquently. They essentially learn to speak with logic and truth as opposed to emotion. All this is done through the Catholic lens and is centered on the One truth which is Jesus Christ. All truth, goodness, and beauty are acquired throughout the years because the children understand, on their own, that it all comes from the One source: the Incarnation of God in the world.

This, my dear reader, is what will help to transform our culture! The faith they will receive in schools like this and other authentic Christian schools paired with the faith hopefully imparted at home. Classical education will help to release our young people from the grips of a culture that wants to convince them that emotion is king. "Do what makes you feel good!" Authentic Catholic education will help young people realize that they are not slaves to media or to their peer groups. By teaching them how to think and speak, young people will finally understand that anything that is true, good and beautiful in this world comes from God and God alone.

This is what will help bring about a new revolution of love and life in our world.

I began to search for this in our hometown. I found nothing. Sure, we had the typical menu of Catholic schools: the academically centric ones where the faith was watered down at best and the end goal was getting to the best universities across the country. The sports driven ones where boys or girls with money or talent flocked to in order to get that ever coveted scholarship to top State universities.  The all too familiar elite Catholic schools with the well-known name that has graduated generations of families and has a large and faithful donor base but barely anything to be called Catholic. And then there is your run of the mill Catholic school; Catholic on the outside, public school education with a fat price tag on the inside.

I was not impressed! Nor did I ever imagine sending our children to these.

Yet, the only offering of classical education was homeschool programs or the new programs of hybrid schooling: three days at home, two days at school. The programs were excellent but I did not feel up to it, at least not for now.

I felt called to something more. As if God was nudging me to continue to search.

So, I began to pray.

Then one day, during Mass, it all became clear! We would open a school! The thought was crazy! Even crazier because it had come to me during prayer. But it seemed right. I knew it was going to happen. I didn't know how or when, but I felt it in my gut.

(To be Continued...click here to read part II)

Photograph courtesy of Pixabay.