Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Holy Week is Coming

Just a bit of planning advice - in order to take full advantage of Holy Week why not make plans to get all the details and shopping done either this week or during the weekend.  

Take a look at the wardrobes for you and the kids.  Everyone have their clothes (including socks)? If you do Easter baskets have all the treats taken care of.  Menu planned for Easter Sunday?  Get the groceries now.  Having everything laid out and ready to go.  Plan who is getting a bath/shower and when.  Who is cooking, hiding the eggs, driving to Gramma's.  Be as detailed as you can.  Let the older ones know what is expected of them and assign tasks.  

Taking care of the worldly aspects of Easter allows us to focus on the spiritual aspects of Holy Week and Easter.  

And in light of that - make some real plans for this year's Holy Week.  Have you watched the Passion of the Christ?  Done the Stations of the Cross as a family (either in your home or at Church)?  What is being planned at your parish that you can take part in?  While I love the pretty dresses and can't get enough chocolate in my life - I know that my Lenten practices were for nothing if I don't make it to the finish line at the Garden.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Let it be done....

These words are both powerful and poignant.   They are a challenge and a commitment.  The challenge is ours - will we let God do what He wills?  The commitment is God's - He will do what He has said.

No matter how impossible it may be - a virgin birth.  No matter how difficult - save the world by the death of His only Son.

But we waver, we hesitate and we give conditions.  Yes, Lord - your will BUT.....Yes, Lord, your will IF...Yes, Lord ONLY....

We need to strive every day to see all as His will - the good and the bad, the joys and the disappointments.  Especially perhaps the disappointments.

Let it be done, Lord according to your will.  

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Just something to ponder this Lent...

Like many of you, I find a great deal of solace and support from the publication, "Magnificat", www.magnificat.com.  

The meditation from March 8th is from an ancient text called "Angl0-Saxon Spirituality" (c. 660-1066).  It includes this amazing concept to ponder and wonder about.

"We all, good and evil, must look on our Lord on the Day of Judgement, but then there will be no person of the devil who will see any part of this glory and beauty.  But sinful people will then have to see the wounds and sores on our Lord and the marks of the nails with which he was nailed onto the cross, and no part of the bliss about which I spoke earlier, because now here in the world they were more unthankful for his great humility that they should have been.  Then Christ's saints will not be able to see any portion of the sores or the wounds on the lordly body, but there they will see on him the bliss and the beauty and the fairness, because here in the world they were thankful for his suffering and his humility with words and deeds."

I often wonder about Judgement Day.  My children have asked about it.  I've discussed it with my dh (dear husband) more than once.  My concerns come from my own humanness that attempts to avoid confrontation at all cost.  In my past, I especially struggled with trying to please people almost to the point of sinfulness - all to keep them happy.  

I am stronger now but still struggle.  This meditation gave me a very powerful imagery.  A wonderful goal to strive for and prayer to make my own:

Dear Lord, 
In your love and mercy, please show me now what I need to do to see you at the end of my life p in your glory not in pain.  When you have called me home, let me see you in all your glory and majesty.  Let not my sins reveal your injuries.  May my life be a source of thankfulness for all you have done for me. Amen

Friday, March 20, 2009

Learning Joyfully

It’s all about the program! Get through the virtues, complete the lists and move on! That is our challenge, that is our only goal.

No, not really. When Little Flowers began some 15+ years ago, I was looking for an opportunity for my daughters and their friends - the first Little Flowers - to get together outside of their schooling to have fun and socialize. Yes, socialize. While we can often dismiss this aspect of their formation when defending our choice to homeschool we can’t. When friends and family ask about socialization as they find out we homeschool, we are quick to comment education should not be about the friends and point out the great educational materials we’ve chosen.

If our children are in school, socialization is still an issue as while they may be around friends all day long, the school day isn’t always the best place to form healthy friendships to build. They spend the majority of their time in classes and can usually grab only a few minutes during lunch or recess (if they still even have that). These conversations have their own problems as they may find themselves with others who don’t share their faith, their beliefs or family ideals. They may find they are either uncomfortable with the conversations or defending themselves. Not good.

So, Little Flowers began as a chance for young girls to learn how to become friends, real friends who learn to build their relationships on a life of virtue and Catholic truths. With a life built on such strong a foundation as that, it will surely survive the storms that will come.

But how to do this? What can you do to help Little Flowers be more than another religion class (something we have been accused of being) or becoming just another talking, talking, talking time (something girls are often accused of)? I think we need to remember balance; proper moderation in all things and the importance of having the virtues being not only the lesson but life.

Covering the materials for each virtue will surely instruct the girls in its characteristics and its function. What charity is and how it should look, for example. But these lessons need to be reinforced and can be as they make a craft and participate in a game.

It is important to make the virtues are part of our conversations - complimenting the girls when they are kind, pointing out their generosity in sharing or courage in making a tough decision. Rather than using vague words such as ‘nice’ or ‘good’, using virute words helps them see virtues in action.

Another important place where virtue comes to life is in game playing. While games are not necessary for every meeting, we all know the girls (and us) love to play them. And while we might like to think that every virtue would lend itself to a specific game, we all know that is not actually practical. We don’t need to have a game about ‘industry’ for example, as all games require some effort to complete. We might not find a game perfectly illustrating piety but can know that every game is eutrapelia in action!

With this in mind, here are a few important things to keep in mind so that every game retains its capacity to teach cooperation, lend itself to joy and give everyone a chance to have fun. Every game has a chance for our daughters to learn healthy social skills in an atmosphere of Catholic truths. Catholics like to have fun, after all, we are just called to do it in a manner that never offends Christ.

On Choosing Pairs/Teams: Be both aware of friendships and cliques. Friendships are healthy, cliques are not. If you find some members always choosing the same friend to be with while ignoring others you will need to step in. There are many ways to choose teams/pairs from counting off, using birthdays, oldest with the youngest, drawing straws, same color shirts, etc. Please make an effort to allow every member the chance to be a leader, be first one picked, feel included and be a winner.

Attitude in Play: Charity must prevail in all things and games are no exceptions. No cheating is ever tolerated and poor winners and losers may need a lesson in fair play and justice. If you do not see charity and friendship displayed as you play, you might need to take a meeting to discuss this. Do not hesitate to remove a member from play who cannot display good sportsmanship and kindness. It is up the leaders of the group to ensure that rules of fair play are displayed at all times by all participants.

In order to help ensure that charity is maintained remind the members of the basic rules of fair play which would include the following:

1. Rules for the game will be set out clearly before the game and may not be changed during the game without full consent of all players and leaders.
2. Referees (or Adults in charge) have final say. No arguing with the ‘officials’.
3. Playing is more important than winning. Win or lose, I will treat myself and other with kindness and respect. Having fun and making friends is most important.
4. Never ridicule or speak harshly to any players.
5. Never intentionally hurt or exclude anyone.
6. No temper tantrums and no showing off.

Do not forget the power and joy of Free Play. Allow members time to create their own games. Encourage them, when practical, to bring their own jump ropes, skates or other portable game equipment and let them decide on their own games. Allowing them unstructured time to imagine their own play is as valid as planned games.

With so much of their time scheduled with school, lessons and other responsibilities many members do enjoy just sitting around and talking and sharing. As long as these conversations are wholesome they need not be discouraged. Gently monitoring of these conversations will help ensure they do not become gossip sessions or create an air of superiority or divisiveness.

While Little Flowers’ goal is to help our young ladies grow in virtue, let us remember that many of life’s greatest lessons do not happen as a result of a lecture but rather from an unplanned experience that became a cherished memory and a part of our character.

God Bless,
Rachel Watkins

Lent is here....how's it going for you?

I have to admit that Lent has become a habit.  A familiar comfortable habit that no longer causes me any discomfort.  What I gave up isn't a struggle any longer and I have not been at all consistent in other resolutions.  Yuck!

I have two choices - give up and just slide my way to Easter knowing that no one knows how lousy I've been - well, except for all of you.  And God...

OR I can make a recommitment to Lent knowing that God allows for second chances (and third and fourth and five hundred and eleventh!).  

I think you know which one I am going to choose.  Feel free to make that choice with me.  I am not assuming that you need to, but I also know I am not alone in being a slacker Catholic at times.

I am glad that confession is available at my church.  :-)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Flowers in Bloom

As Rachel said in a previous post, we recently met to plan some exciting new things for Little Flowers. Our daughters are both part of the same religious order in Rhode Island, so we met there, able to visit with them so that we two busy moms with 21 children between us could make the best use of our time. Rachel flew from Baltimore and I drove with two other children, including baby Thomas, from Kentucky. Driving home through Maryland and Virginia to visit relatives on beautiful early spring days, I was struck with the increased budding of flowers as we traveled south. In New England, all was still bare. While visiting Concord, MA, we saw syrup collectors on nearly every maple. Rhode Island was still brown and bare, too. Going through New Jersey, we began to see signs of life. Maryland actually boasted buds and a few brave early spring leaves poking through the earth. Virginia, however, was actually green. The daffodils, forsythia and hyacynth at my parents' home in Central Virginia were in full bloom. The bird feeders were crowded. Spring had actually come!
I began to think about you all in your Little Flowers year and how you have been working on virtues since September. All through the cold, dark winter, the girls have been learning about virtues, the saints, and their faith. Now, as the flowers poke through the ground, the trees begin to bud, and sun warms the body and soul, we can start to see the virtues growing like little flowers in our girls' lives. They begin to be excited about the next Little Flowers meeting, the next saint they will read about and the next virtue they'll practice. Finally, in May, they'll have an elegant Mother/Daughter Tea or May Procession to present their mothers and present to the Blessed Mother a symbol of the flowers that have grown in their hearts this year. What beautiful work God has done through all of you this year. Thank you for all your sacrifices for your girls and all those Little Flowers that are touched through your efforts. God bless, Joan

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

What is endless and what isn't

There are some facts of life when it comes to large families.  You will have a larger than average grocery bill, you will dream of driving a convertible but perhaps never own one and you will do a lot of laundry.  A lot of laundry.

On a typical day I do at least three loads of laundry.  I have scheduled my laundry so I do one bedroom at a time and take care of household laundry (towels, kitchen stuff) either in the over night loads or on Saturday.  I strive to never do laundry on Sundays.  It still seems like an endless job.

Today it seemed more endless than ever.  One of my younger children had an accident in the middle of the night so I am also doing extra sheets and blankets, in addition to the scheduled laundry.

As I was folding I caught myself whining a bit - okay, more than a bit.  I listened in as I complained about the amount of laundry, the lunch mess yet to be cleaned up and the dinner soon to be made.  I groused about my oldest who seems to have caught, again, the stomach virus and is in bed trying not to vomit.  The list of my complaints, my endless list of to do's kept piling up and up and up.  My stress level increased.  And while all of this was silently building in my brain I wanted to scream out loud - I have SOOO MUCH TO DO!!!

And then - like a bolt of lightning - came the thought - all that I do, all my tasks are done while He still hangs on the cross.  During Lent we have been focusing on this - His time in the garden, His walk to Calvary, His death on the cross.  A death that is played out all through history until He comes again.  Talk about endless....

It is a part of the mystery of our faith that Christ is continually saving us.   While He has risen from the dead and both rules over us and helps us from heaven, His saving death is still there on the cross on the hill in Jerusalem.  

His act of salvation, his crucifixion remains to save us - save me and save all those yet to be born.  That is an endless duty that He does with love.

This makes my folding the laundry - no matter how many loads - seem pretty pitiful.  

May I look at my jobs as significant but pale in comparison of Christ's.  May I offer all of my daily work up as a small contribution to His great and powerful work of eternity.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Some good things are coming...

Really!!  I had the absolute pleasure of having a wonderful weekend (and business meeting) w/ Joan this past weekend.  We got to see our daughters, meet some wonderful LF moms from Ohio as well as make some plans for LF.

Keep your eyes out for a games book, the Honor Guard which will be a new format for older children (both LF and Blue Knights) to learn about making positive impacts on their families, their church and the world.  We are working on some new books including "Princesses You Can Believe In" which will be a series of stories on the real princesses of the Catholic faith.

We are also working at being present at a few conferences this summer.  I will post the info and dates when available so you might be able to come.  We'd love to meet all of you!

In light of these new projects your prayers and support is needed.  We always want to be sure that whatever we do is first and foremost God's will.   We always want the LF garden to grow as the Master Gardener would like.  May we never stray from His vision for the program and for our families.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Look for some great LF suggestions

I am going to start posting some great ideas from the LF Leader's Loop and other sources to give good ideas about crafts and games.  If you have some ideas that have worked well for your group of girls, let me know.  Sharing our ideas will make all of our groups work better and give a universality (or catholicism) to Little Flowers.

I am also going to begin posting at night rather than the morning to make better use of my time.

God Bless,