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Family, Life, Marriage, Parenthood, Reflections

The Father’s Love

Every morning when my children come down the stairs; my younger ones carrying a blanket or stuffed animal and my older ones searching for their first cup of coffee, I make an effort to stop what I am doing and reach out to them physically and emotionally. I embrace them. With this daily action, I look into their eyes and whether exhausted or busy, I stop and force my eyes to meet theirs. I call Christ forefront into this exchange and I feel the softening. My eyes crinkle just thinking of it and my lips lift into a smile. I speak truth and love into their hearts, every morning. I look for ways to do this throughout the day as well. I ask them how I can bless them. I go and sit upon a bed, ignoring the soda cans and popcorn bowl and listen. I swing on a hammock and listen about the colors of the rainbow within the horizon.  I sit upon a swing and let my body relax into the moment with a son who has a story to tell.  A ministry of presence is paramount in building relationships in my home. 

I look forward to my mornings. Rolling over and seeing my husband beside me, I am in awe of the blessing he is to us all. Sensing my presence, he will sleepily open an eye, reach out and roll me into his embrace. We murmur morning prayers of thanksgiving and start our day. This continues throughout the day as my husband works from home and our witness of connecting with each other manifests itself in how our children seek to engage with us and with each other. My children seek me out in the morning if I miss their entrance. This routine of connecting has become necessary and beloved. It has extended itself to our evenings as well and even while away, they call or text to connect; every night. Some mornings or bedtimes can seem like the never ending sign of peace in my home as hugs are given, small siblings snuggle into bigger sibling’s laps. Older siblings have established their rituals as well but they all seek an encounter with the other. 

I often think of the gaze of the father upon us. Our Father in Heaven who ever more so seeks to engage and connect with us. The image of the joy upon the father of the prodigal son from the book of Luke Chapter 15 comes to mind. I can see this father’s eyes light up upon seeing his son. I can feel his smile spread wide as he runs to greet his lost son. I can feel the gratitude within his soul, and I believe ever more so, this is the love the Lord has for us. With just the tilt of our head and heart we have the ability to reconnect to the father countless times a day and there He is ready to run; his face filled with joy that we have turned to Him. Sometimes I find myself on my knees where the physical act of lifting my head can seem too much. From that place, I lift my heart to my Father and he is there, engaged and ready to carry me. In other moments, I am watching something beautiful, whether it be a tender family moment or a sunrise that brings forth the day, and I lift my soul to Him in recognition of the gift of this moment and we connect.  

            In his book, Abba Father, Finding our way back to the Father’s Heart, by Neil and Mathew Lozano, we are reminded of the privilege of calling God, our Father. “When Jesus teaches us to address God, as Father, [in the Lord’s Prayer] He is inviting us into a relationship with the Father based on trust, confidence and the openness to ask.” Reflecting back on the prodigal son, it is exactly these virtues that the father has instilled in his relationship with the prodigal son that allow his son to come back. Our Lord has paid into these virtues with His relationship with us by his precious body and blood. Luke 11:9 tells us “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”  We must have faith that Lord is actively waiting for us to call out and seek Him. 

            Jesus’s whole ministry here on Earth was a manual on how to build authentic relationships that call us back to The Father’s heart through a ministry of presence. It is easy to let the distractions and preoccupations of this world steal us from this necessity but scripture reminds us to “Put away the foreign gods which are among you, and incline your heart to the LORD God of Israel. – Joshua 24:23 The Lord is present for us in all the countless moments throughout our days and all we need to do is incline our hearts to Him; and he calms every storm, wipes every tear, and celebrates every little victory. As we actively invite Jesus into these moments, we see it all through His lenses. This rose colored view shows us we are not alone and regardless of the content of the situation in which we are seeking Him out, like the Father in Luke’s gospel, our Father’s eyes light up, they glisten and he runs to meet us. The embrace of the Father is unlike any other. 

Family, Life, Marriage, Parenthood, Reflections, Special Needs

The Land of If Only

The slippery slope of comparing our lives robs us of the beauty of the suffering moment.

I’m wishing upon a star tonight. Leaning on the edge of my deck looking into the bright country sky where God displays his artistry, I sense his presence. Perhaps it’s not a star I’m wishing on, but rather a door I’m knocking upon. I often do that in prayer. I visualize my encounter with God. Tonight I’m knocking. It’s an unexpected visit. I hadn’t intended to go out in the crisp night air and pray, but just as I suddenly break into conversation with my husband, I felt the need to just start conversing with my Lord. 

            Today has been a full day. Every person within this large family of mine has needed me in big and small ways. From drinks of water to close the door and can I talk to you serious conversations, the onslaught of need was intense today and all the while I felt as if I couldn’t keep up. 

As a mom of many and adding in the special needs of my family, life is very fast paced and fluid. We have physical, occupational, assistive technology and aqua therapy. We have speech and sensory challenges. We have counseling and durable medical equipment appointments. I am constantly checking skin breakdown and bones are brittle around here. I am Chief Operating Officer of Eberhard Inc. and it can be a daunting job indeed. When you add in the schoolwork, outside activities and our commitment to place our church activities first, one outburst or unplanned trip to Urgent Care has the potential to throw the day into a tailspin.

My younger son recently broke his arm and the turn around time to the car was less than 7 minutes. My kids know this drill and executed the plan flawlessly. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed. It’s easy to wallow in the what ifs. It’s ever so much harder to accept what is and take the next step forward. A friend once referred to this danger zone of comparison as the Land Of If Only. If only I had a smaller family. If only I didn’t have kids with special needs. If only we had this or that. Comparison is the thief of joy says Teddy Roosevelt and I wholeheartedly agree. The slippery slope of comparing our lives to the lives of anyone else robs us of the beauty of the suffering moment. Some of my most powerful encounters with Jesus are in my suffering and surrendered moments, on my knees in my room by my crucifix or kneeling in front of the Sacred Heart of Jesus by our family altar. This is where Jesus heals me constantly. He heals my feelings of inadequacy. He heals my self doubt. He fills my heart with His grace like I fill my car with fuel.

            I am so gifted to know who I am and whose I am.  My creator and redeemer stand by my side with every breath and from that realization I draw my strength. God promises us enough manna for today;  and from that truth, we need to draw our strength and comfort. In our home, when momma looks overwhelmed and maybe a little teary-eyed; actually if anyone in our family feels this way, we call them moments. If you are overwhelmed, have lost your self-control, or made the wrong choice, it is just a moment; and our days are filled with moments; good and bad. Let our hearts be led by mercy; for others and for ourselves. 

            Traveling to the Land of If Only is not a mental vacation spot I advise.  Instead, I draw strength from the realization that as a mom of this incredible family of mine, God has revealed His plan for my path to heaven. I am sanctified in every “moment” by my “Yes Lord!” and my “More, Lord” (Both of which some of my children now call out loudly when things go a bit haywire.. I think they are a wee bit mocking me, but we plant seeds as parents right?) These are our fiats and the consistent reminder that by disciplining our minds and hearts to live in The Land That Is and see its transformative beauty, we can enter the gates of What Will Be with trusting hearts and the assurance of hearing the beautiful affirmation from Mathew 25:23 “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

Family

Finding Balance in Family Life

Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night with your mind racing; filled with disorder? Or find yourself standing in the middle of your kitchen/sitting in your car… wondering how am I going to take care of all of this? If you are like me, and that is probably not the best thing to be right now:), you get overwhelmed. You see yourself plowing through the everyday not ever getting to the little extras you have at the bottom of your list.  Those extras.. the things on my list that never get crossed off because I am always taking care of others… and then I crash.

But I am on a mission this Lent. A mission to restore myself.  To be honest, this will probably take longer than 40 days, but it is a beginning. Things on the bottom of my list have been: read a book, take a walk, go to Adoration, sit and pray, date night with my husband. They never happen or very rarely because I let the other things have priority. It is coming to me lately that I make the list. I get to state the importance of each action item, and I need to reclaim that authority over my life.

I need to take care of me so that I can take care of others. There are all kinds of slogans like that: Live simply so that others can simply live. Do less so that others can do more. etc. But seriously if my cup is empty I have nothing left to give.

I listened to a podcast the other day at Messy Parenting and learned a lot about reordering the priorities into my life.  A pyramid of sorts with Prayer at the bottom of the triangle. Next comes personal care, then taking care of my partner, then peripheral… And it is shocking to me how much I can put in the peripheral.  I am thinking about this. It is making sense to me.

Prayer is the foundation for everything listed above. When I take time to pray I am listening to God as He balances my day. He lays out a plan. He brings to my heart those I need to lift up. He lifts me up! How often I am looking to others to affirm me when my Dear Jesus is right there waiting to shower His love upon me? A routine that has worked for me in the past is to set my alarm a half-hour early and have a place for prayer. Accents are important and do not need to be elaborate: a soft light, a warm blanket, a candle. I have a spot in my den where I have all the images of my family’s patron saints. I like to think of them as friends who are with me. I light the candle, sip my cocoa or tea, wrap myself in a blanket and read my devotionals. A couple of favorites right now are Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, Roses among Thornsby St. Francis de Sales, I have my highlighter and I highlight all the passages that span to me form my devotionals. Our parish is also doing a program called Alpha.  I have a Bible in a Year app on my phone and I use that as well to read my scripture.  I love the Psalms as well and sometimes I will grab the music book and sing myself a psalm or two. They are so comforting and having them memorized form being in the choir as a child has brought great comfort to me through the years.

Personal is the next level on the pyramid. Here it is: the taking care of oneself. Here is where I can give myself the time for a walk, the time to make that salad or a fresh pot of soup. The time to read a chapter of a book, and/ or grab a cup of tea with a friend. Things that used to be for others I am now opening up into my world. They are not extravagant! It is crazy to realize this!  I also am putting the time for me to do my paperwork; my thank you notes, my quick bill paying, etc. So I am making a plan. I pencil in a walk with a friend, schedule a cup of tea with a friend, schedule something each day to refuel me. So far I have read Pride and Prejudice and watched the movie! ( So good! I even shared the movie with my family and had some good family time as well!) I have gone to daily Mass a few times and shared a 2 1/2 half hour cup of tea with a friend at a local Panera. Oh! And I am trying to eat my food when it is warm:). I’m aiming for a date night coming up and have lunch scheduled with a good friend tomorrow. So the future looks bright!

Taking care of my partner; in this case, my handsome husband is pretty important to me. Getting myself and this man to heaven is my priority.  Being married almost 23 years we can get caught up with the lives of our kids and the running of our house. By taking time for myself, doing some reading, taking a walk, discussing the latest whatever with someone else gives me something else to bring to our table of discussion instead of how was the kids’ school day? I can make him a special meal. I can write him a note. Looking at my life this way is helping me to be more intentional. I was at the dollar store the other day and I picked up some cards that I can leave on his desk every once in a while with a note. We used to do that when we were younger. How fun it will be to revisit that tradition.  Love.. it has to be fanned to keep the flame alive. We are blessed with church family whom our children call aunties and uncles, grandmas and grandpas and we trust them. Their kindness allows us to grab a date night out here and there. All we have to do is make it a priority. Put it on the calendar. Be intentional. Take care of the one you love.

Peripheral is the smallest one, yet the one where I placed most of my energy. The doctors’ appointments, sports teams, music lessons, therapy appointments, friends visits, youth groups, house cleaning, laundry, etc. It’s all peripheral; It’s all in the background. I am creating a structure for laundry, chores, etc so that they flow more smoothly and are not the focus of my day. I am letting go of the crumbs on the floor and the toothpaste in the sink and taking time to recharge. I am delegating more to my kids. Surprisingly it is easiest for my smaller kids to embrace this change as my bigs have grown up with me doing more, but they are coming along.

It is my prayer that this new structure that I am trying to add into my life will make still my mind and bring it peace and balance. I pray that by seeking to find God’s will for myself and my family in all these areas, we will continue to draw closer to one another. I seek constantly the example of the saints in the church. Struggling mother issue? St. Monica. Lost Something? St. Anthony. Small stuff weighing you down? St. Therese of Lisieux is the answer. The Holy Family has always been an inspiration to me in the model of caring for self and others and how to live a life close to God our Father. May the Holy Family pray for us all

Family

Give Up the Seat

Image credit: Pixabay.com (2013), CC0/PD

It’s an endless battle; the mad rush to sit “shotgun” in the front passenger seat in our car. With so many bodies to fill that coveted seat, the prerequisites seem mind-boggling: Is it defined by weight? Size? Age? I am reminded often that there are so many benefits to sitting in this beloved seat. You are navigator, DJ, and can have a quality conversation with the driver of the vehicle. (The seat warmer is just a bonus.)

Today, as I drove four of my children to morning appointments, the arguing began. My husband is out of the country for a few weeks, and I have been flying solo. I took a deep breath and silently asked for guidance. Immediately, an image came to mind of the parable Jesus tells us in Luke’s Gospel (Luke 14:7), where Jesus reminds us to not sit at the head of the table lest we are told that seat is reserved for someone else. Rather, it is best to take the seat at the end and be asked to come sit in the place of honor.

I explained to my children that what they needed to seek was humility and develop gratitude. The constant assuming that the seat belongs to you can transfer to so many other aspects of their lives. That part in the school play should have been mine. All my friends have nicer cars than the one I can afford. He has the next version of whatever technological gadget is this year’s craze … and then it hit me. I fall victim to this too.

I fall into this same trap. I have had periods of wondering why I wasn’t chosen. Why I was left out. I have thought that I should have been recognized for a certain achievement and not received it. Corrie ten Boom, a World War Two Holocaust survivor and author, is quoted as saying “Comparison is the thief of joy.” When I reflect upon who God created me to be and the gifts He bestowed so generously upon me to get there, I am laid low by my own humanity. It is so human to value place, recognition, accolades. Yet that is our own destruction because, as I reminded my children, our dignity as a person is not defined by where we sit. (Or what we have, or what school we go to, what paper we write for or how many books we have published.) Rather, our dignity as a person is defined by the simple recognition as being a child of God. It’s so simple and yet so easy to whitewash.

I think we need to be careful of this because failing to rest in the simple reality that God created us in His image, and that His cross opens the gates of heaven for us all, denies us this very inheritance. So, my dear children, give up the seat. It was never yours to begin with. If it is offered to you, say “thank you” because the One who loves you is offering it. But please, take no offense, for your worth in my heart and in the Father’s heart is not seen in where you sit but in rather who you are becoming with each selfless act of charity.

Creation of Adam by Michelangelo
Family

The Miraculous Healing of the Eberhard Family: Seeing is Believing

It’s 8 am in my busy house and my phone rings. Exhausted from an emotional night, I answer the phone. “How’s that boy of yours?” the caller asks. Immediately my body tenses and the wall around my heart grows another layer taller. “He’s wonderful,” I reply. “Thank you.” After a short amount of perfunctory chit chat, the call ends. I carry on with the day receiving multiple similar calls. The wall around my heart grows taller with each one. The day seems long and endless, and I am stuck in a rut that I alone have made. Continue Reading

Inspirational
Family, Reflections

Letting Go and Letting God

Settle in, friends. Here’s a long one…

It’s a late night. Worry has taken the night away. The possibility of the few precious drops of sleep that I so crave will soon drift away with the sunrise, and I cry out to my God for strength and help. Wrapped in the warmth of blankets upon my bed, I seek the warmth of His loving arms. Oh, that I could hear His voice and be wrapped in His loving embrace. The image is at the forefront of my thoughts right now because I am in need of Him.

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Family

Love Begins at Home: Family Traditions

One of the questions I often get from people is how do you teach your kids the faith?

I love this question because it’s like asking how do you bake a chocolate chip cookie? Everybody does it differently but each one tastes so good!

Now, I am coming from this with a Catholic background but any Christian can take Holy scripture, the parables of Jesus, The Old Testament stories of Adam and Eve, Noah, Joseph and the coat of many colors, etc. and bring them into their family library.

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Family

Living Mercy

This year Pope Francis called for all Christians to embrace a year of mercy.  To “rediscover the infinite mercy of the Father who welcomes everyone and goes out personally to encounter each of them.” If I had a meme, it would look something like me plotting ways for Pope Francis to hear my ideas for next year’s theme.  I see a dish of M&M’s with Joy, Peace, and Rest. A phone call perhaps: “Dear Holy Father, About that year of mercy.  You see I’m weak, and I want a break.”

But not really. I embrace this year of mercy, and it is changing everything.

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Family

When the Walls Come Tumbling Down

I am a  firm believer in mothering. I mother from dawn till dusk and dusk till dawn. Mothering, it is what I did, what I do, and what I will be doing for the rest of my life. That switch that was turned on at the moment of conception, that forever gave me another soul—or 8—to shepherd. From that moment, I determined that I was going to do it right. I would right the mistakes of the past and mine would be the blessed generation. Oh, the worries I have given myself over this goal. How much stress I have put upon the shoulders of myself, my spouse, and unknowingly my children with my lofty goals.

We wear masks to hide our faces and build up walls to create an image of ourselves in our minds that we, mothers, “have got this.”

I am exhausted from my goals. There are times I walk in a fog, dizzy from the overwhelming burdens I have placed upon myself. And the fox waits in the vineyard, ready to steal my joy.

Have you ever had that feeling that you are not enough? When you lose your patience, speak words of frustration, look around you and see the laundry, dust, cluttered email box, kids dressed with mismatched socks, and say you are not good enough? And say, I cannot do this. I am not doing this. Someone else better than me should be doing this.  And then, if you are me, you imagine that faceless person caring for your children, the scene of neatly packed lunches and cheerful hugs as they leave for school, a spirit of joy as she goes to do the laundry and tidy up their bedrooms.
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Preparing lunch.
Family

Calling It All Joy

Lesson 1. Don’t ever tell God to yell so you will hear Him. That story in the Bible where it’s the whisper passing by…dude, that is all you need. Trust me.

We have been a homeschooling family for 8 years now and I love it. Homeschooling for me conjures up so many great images of cocoa by the fire, picnics in the back yard on a blanket on a spring day, Shakespeare, late-night chats about politics, daily mass, freedom to explore and serve. That being said, homeschooling also leads me to put those things first and leave off the dinner prep, laundry, house cleaning, doctor calls, etc that are necessary to keep a family of ten up and going.

In the Fall, we noticed that our dream of homeschooling wasn’t lining up with the reality of what was actually happening in our home. Kids were not so motivated, arguments were becoming too common,  motivated learners were having to wait while I took doctor calls, cleaned up the latest mess from the mighty three “smalls”, settled disputes, re-ran the load of laundry in the washer that I forgot about, etc. Homeschooling did not meet our family goals at that time. We prayerfully considered our options and asked God to lead the way. After many discussions with those close to us and a few visits to local schools,  we decided to enroll in our local Catholic school.

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