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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.”

Marriage, Reflections

A Love Like This

He saw me before I saw him, but once I heard his voice my eyes lit up, my smile grew wide and my heart lifted. I ran across the airport into his arms and we embraced as if this were a young love.  His arms are my shelter. His scent is balm to my soul. His heart, so giving and joyful, I feel blessed every day to be his bride. “His bride,” that is what he calls me still. We have been married 21 years and I am still his bride. We have 8 children together and I am still his “Bright Eyes.” We dance in the kitchen. We snuggle on the couch. We laugh long, cry often, and love deeply. We lift up each other to the Lord with every glance. “Thank you, Lord,” is a breathable prayer uttered constantly throughout our days.

When I first met this man, he was a boy. I first loved his goodness.  Yes, his eyes were amazing and his laugh was contagious, (Just thinking about it makes me giggle.)  but what truly touched me first was his goodness; his ethic of life.  He recognizes the inherent dignity of each individual he encounters. He has a vulnerability that breaks down walls and mends fences. From the little things in life to the big moral choices, he will always choose the right. These are hard standards to live with sometimes, but they have formed all of us in this family to be better humans and a stronger family.

He’s a listener, my husband. Wrapping his arms around me, he takes the time to hear me and support me from near or far. He’s learned to not solve problems for me but listens as I process through my options, always guiding, always loving.  Knowing that environment is key, he takes each of our children away to connect with them. He builds relationships through experiences and conversation and they remember. They turn to him. We all do. He is our rock.

This rock has been traveling often and working longer and harder lately as a new job position has mandated lots of changes in our family. We prayed deeply over this new change and recognized what it would ask of each of us within this marriage and family.  Sacrifice and fortitude are not new to us and we are weathering the new challenges with grateful hearts and a recognition that like shells found upon the sands brought in from the ocean tide, we will be made smooth through these sacrifices and trials.  I am so proud of him.

More and more I am recognizing all he has given and continues to give. I have prayed for eyes to see and love more deeply. I am privileged to have his office at home, so I hear his conversations with his coworkers. He praises and laughs and shares stories with them like he does with the clerk at the grocery store! I always say it’s the Ohio in him, as I am from NY, but truly it’s just a reflection of the true goodness within his soul. He works long hours, balancing being present when he is home as much as possible, tag-teaming a therapy appointment or a play practice and yet always making time to keep our marriage a priority. While he is at work and away, I am holding down the home front, schooling the kids, forming souls, managing the house, taking to therapies, doctors’ appointments, and outside activities and continuing to welcome in the stranger and bear witness to God’s mission for our family: to live and love openly.

We raise our children to recognize how blessed they are to be children created from a love like this. We tell them never to compromise; that to be able to love truly and deeply, to be able to weather trials and tribulations, you must recognize the unity between each other and draw from that source. For us, that source will always be Jesus Christ; His spirit rising up, intertwining our hearts, guiding our actions and mending our wounds together.

As I quiet my heart this Christmas season, I am continually thinking of this special love I have with my husband and it has grown quite dear these past few weeks. Pondering why my love for this husband of mine has become my Advent reflection, I hear the words “A love like this.”

That is it! That is where my Advent was this year! A recognition of the infant child Jesus born so that I may have eternal life. This love, modeled throughout his human life, is an example to all of how to live and how to love. This season I am drawn to that recognition through the actions and love of my husband. How blessed I am to have a love like this.