Browsing Category

Faith at Home

The Eberhard Family - Reorienting Our Families Towards Christ
Faith at Home, Family, Keeping Kids Catholic, Life

Reorienting our families toward Jesus Christ

The rooms in my home are quiet, the only sound being the typing of my fingers on my keyboard and the occasional yawn of a dog by my side. My college students, home for the summer, are still asleep. My husband has taken three of the kids fishing, and the rest are out and about, already getting an early start.

This will soon be the new normal for us as another Eberhard flies the nest for college, leaving us with just five at home. The countdown started three years ago, and each year, we graduate another child. We will have a two-year break after next year to adjust for the next four to begin their trek into the world.

I am not a mother who counts the days till her children go to school. My family is a tight-knit bunch who I see drawing closer together each day. I remind each of them that my husband and I will not always be here, so it is up to them to water their relationships with one another.

A big brother takes a younger sister to the zoo. Two college-age siblings share appetizers and drinks at a late-night restaurant. Teenagers take siblings to the library to hang out and possibly enjoy a promised drive-thru stop.

Memories are being created, bonds forged, and it is good. I am grateful they are growing together, and yet these same memories they are forging with one another I desire for them to forge with Jesus Christ.

There is a theory in group dynamics where each time a member joins or leaves a group there is readjustment. The group must redefine itself. As a teacher, I use this theory in the beginning of the school year. The seniors have graduated and moved on, and we need to now take on new roles. Leaders must step up.

We ask ourselves, What type of group are we going to be this year? As I walk through this with my classes for this school year, the Lord has been calling me to do the same within the hearts of my own family. The word “realign” continually pops into prayer. Realign with what? I ask. With Me, He responds.

If we are seeking to realign ourselves (and our family) with God, we must ask ourselves three questions. First, Who are we being called to be in this season? s Catholic Christians, we are called to be authentic witnesses of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For our family, we are called to return to our roots.

Just as in a marriage, when you fall more wholly in love with your spouse, and that period of growth is so good, so, too, do we desire for our family to enter into that period of growth and fall more deeply in love with our faith. It is so rich, and the Lord is putting on our heart a desire to taste it more fully.

Second, we must ask ourselves, What are we being called to do? For the Eberhards, we are called to welcome and witness. Our family welcomes in the stranger and calls them friend. We share openly of what we have and speak vulnerably of the challenges and joys of walking the Christian path. When we do this, we are whole.

We have gone off the path a bit in this last season, stepping away from ministry, letting family struggles draw us more inward than out, and the Lord is calling us to our center. I feel a strong pull back to our missionary roots. The pandemic shook us, and our doors felt closed, figuratively and literally.

For better or worse, we live a life that is very visual. There are many of us, and the needs of our family mandate that we live openly and let others walk with us for us to care for our children fully. It is truly the Christian way, to let yourself be loved and to wholly love others as Christ loves us.

The third question we must ask ourselves as we create this new group dynamic of Eberhard family life is, How are we going to get there? Prayer is the first response. From prayer comes clarity, strength and grace, and we need all three if we are to turn the ship toward Christ. (This, at times, can literally feel like you are trying to quickly turn the Titanic.)

Prayer helps us stay connected to Christ, and constant prayer keeps us in close conversation with Jesus, letting Him be the captain and us the mates. I can turn to Him and ask every day, Should we do this? Go there? What do You think? This closeness brings focus to our goal.

The second response to this question is to get involved in parish life. If we truly desire to know Jesus Christ, we must seek opportunities to be in connection and community with Him. When my children go off to college, I remind them that they do not have to belong to every club, activity or sports team, but that they should step forward and try some within their charisms.

How can they share their gifts, and how can they allow themselves to be served? So, this year, my family is stepping back into parish live more fully using our charisms: hospitality, music, prayer, guidance, mentoring.

With five kids left at home, we are still a busy family, so that prayer mentioned above will be crucial in discerning the what and how of getting involved, but I am confident God will bless our yes, bringing our family more deeply into His circle of faithful friends.

This desire to realign our family to the heart of Jesus comes from a strong belief that true happiness comes from knowing Jesus Christ. Over our almost 25 years of marriage, we have come to realize that our happiest moments were in pursuing a deeper relationship with Him.

We want to witness that to our children. We want that witness to be a reflection for those around us, and we have found that that is achieved when our family is wholly oriented toward being in a relationship with Jesus. We do this out of love for our children. We do this as a legacy passed down to them.

“Whatever you do for your family, your children, your husband, your wife, you do for God. All we do, our prayers, our work, our suffering, is for Jesus.” – Mother Teresa of Calcutta

As the new school year begins, and as we look toward fall’s seasonal entrance, may we take the necessary time to reorient ourselves toward the heart of Jesus Christ. May we humbly ask Mother Mary to be our compass, to gently (or firmly, if needed) provide the guardrails keeping us on course as we pursue a deeper relationship with her Son, and may this all be pursued out of an authentic desire to grow ourselves, our families and our church community.

This post first appeared in The Catholic Times.

Image licensed via Adobe Stock.

Mom looking in fridge
Faith at Home, Family, Life

Use What You Have

It’s spring-cleaning time in the Eberhard home and that means everything from windows to deep freezers. Spring acts more like a natural New Year’s resolution time for me than January. There is something about the rebirth of nature timed so well with the resurrection of Our Lord that I feel it timely to begin my lists of goals for the upcoming year. As I read through the plethora of ideas, a message was placed upon my heart. What if you used what you have?

Living in a culture of consumption, this is a radical thought indeed. However, as I began to pray into it, the realization that within the walls of my home, I have the materials necessary to accomplish most of my goals was glaringly obvious and also inspiring. There were no reasons for me to not begin right away.

My overarching goal stems from the desire to be ready for anything the Lord asks of me, whether that be physical, mental, or spiritual. Based on the fluidity of my days currently, that could be anything from answering deep spiritual questions from my children to carrying medical equipment up and down flights of stairs, lifting heavy teenagers for their daily care, a quick business trip with my husband, changing meal plans based on medical diagnosis, daily therapies and follow up appointments for all the needs within my family, and/or being asked to join a yoga class with my teenage daughter who is far more limber than 45-year-old me. I simply want to be the best servant possible for the work the Lord asks of me every day. I want my yes to be ready.

In our home, we have been gifted a weight bench and weights, and a treadmill. There are yoga mats, therapy bands, and a subscription to a streaming service where you can watch any myriad of workout videos. I am also blessed to have a pair of sneakers, some yoga pants and a sweatshirt to go for walks outside! Clearly we can use what we have to help our bodies be physically prepared for any task the Father might ask of us.

Each week as I grocery shop, I try to make sure that there is a rainbow of fresh fruit and vegetables in my cart. I have however then found myself going out to grab a salad for lunch when all the fixings are right in my fridge. This had to stop. I have had so much fun lately, challenging myself to use those vegetables and fruits to create meals as I use up my pantry staples. Our deep freezer as well has been a treasure trove of unused meal possibilities. I have sat down with my older children and written down what is available in the freezers, fridge and pantry. We have made lists and created meals, snacks, and desserts. How blessed we are to have these supplies available to us.

The goal of continuing to educate myself comes from a love of education. This gratitude for the gift of education filled my heart when, as a young married college student, my husband and I worked our way through the last years of my education. Sharing knowledge over fireside chats became a common occurrence and quickly became a hallmark of our hospitality and home. This love of learning continues to follow me through educating my own children as well as teaching others. I strive to grow my mind by reading and taking advantage of online lectures, free classes, and visiting speakers. My husband has different interests than I do, and I love hearing him share his thoughts and observations. As I look around my home, I see piles of books that I have collected from library sales, book sales, birthdays, and so on, and I again am reminded to use what I have.

It is easy to look to what others have or to make excuses as to why we are held back from becoming the best version of ourselves. However, many of us have only to look within the walls of our own home to prepare ourselves for what the Lord might ask of us. May we honor Him with our efforts today. May our hearts be true and focused as we seek to gladden His heart with our ready spirits. What is in your home that will help you prepare for what God make ask of you tomorrow?

Trusting God in tough times can lead to transformation
Faith at Home, Family, Life, Special Needs

Trusting God in Tough Times Can Lead to Transformation

I looked in the mirror this morning in wonder at the woman I saw. I knew her face and features, but something in her eyes was different, a newness not there before. Ahh, I thought, there you are. You see, this is not the first time I have had this moment, a moment when God allows me to see Him working in me.

I remember when my son Gabriel was born with arthrogryposis. His legs were bent behind his back touching his neck, and his ear was touching his hip. His spine was curved, and his muscles were atrophied. As he was taken from my arms to another hospital, my husband in pursuit, I remember asking the Lord, “How are we going to do this?”

Sixteen years later, I look at the young man he has become through 37 procedures, surgeries and thousands of therapy days, and I am in awe of the transformation. Physically, yes, my son sits tall in his wheelchair, taking his college classes, cheering on his lacrosse team, hanging with friends and teaching chess. But there is more.

His life is a witness to perseverance, and walking that journey with him has formed me as well. I look back at the young woman who 16 years ago cried out to the Lord for guidance, and I can still feel the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, this font of love, hope and courage that has strengthened and formed me into the wife and mother I am today.

I could not have become this woman without having walked these past 16 years. The Lord knew the journey I had to take. It is important to recognize that in our struggles we are being formed more closely into the person God created us to be.

It has been a season over the past couple of years in my home, where I have faced very challenging situations. I pondered how I was going to walk through it. The pragmatic part of me knew that putting one foot in front of the other moves you forward, but wisdom speaks that how we place each foot matters also.

Is it with trust or resentment? Is it with expectancy or resignation? The Lord works with what we give Him, but it’s easier to create a meal with a stocked fridge than with the end of the month’s rations.

I often speak of “situations” in family life. I love my writing and sharing stories with my readers. When sharing family stories, each member’s dignity must be protected, even when that person does not see the value.

Each of us has faced, and are currently facing, “situations” where we are being asked to be stronger than we think we can be. We are being asked to trust the Lord implicitly as we are again in the crucible of drawing closer to His heart. Looking back, I can see the worth of this trust placed in the Lord.

I love to create environments of warmth and security for my family. From family meals and family prayer to snuggling under a blanket and reading books, these warm, tender moments fill my soul and bring comfort to my family. I am so comfortable being this woman. Ahh, but the words of Pope Benedict XVI come upon my heart: “The world offers you comfort. But you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.”

Greatness for me is becoming that saint of a wife and mother who witnesses Jesus Christ to others in what I think, say and do. Like the Blessed Mother whose fiat changed the trajectory of her life and models for us the path to sanctification, I want to always be ready for transformation.

To do this, like Mother Mary, I must be willing to sacrifice greatly. Sacrifice is a common theme of our faith. Sacrifice means forsaking what I want for a greater good. St. Thomas Aquinas reminds us that love is willing the good of the other. Therefore, sacrificial love is forsaking what I want for the greater good of the other.

As Christians, we see the arduous and brutal sacrifice Jesus made for us on the cross, His body given up for us. I am, however, always a woman and a mother, and it is from that lens that I often examine my life.

What a mother we have in Mary, mother of our Lord! We speak of sacrifice and fiats, many times saying “yes” to the Lord. With her yes, she sacrificed for us all. She knew the suffering and the emotional pain she would go through with her yes.

The transformation of the Blessed Mother from the young girl who gave her life’s path to Jesus to the woman who is the mother of the Church, constantly beckoning us closer to the heart of her Son, calling us into repentance and love, witnesses such sacrificial love for her children. This is the heart I am being molded to that will carry me to the throne of Jesus.

The messiness of family life, the “situations” that we face, are opportunities for sanctification where we allow ourselves to be changed. While I love the sweet and soft mothering time, I am in a time of needing to be firm and fierce. Gratefully, Mama Mary provides that model as well.

She shows me that a mother’s firmness directs the course of her children’s lives. She demonstrates that this sacrifice of comfort is worth the saving of souls. She shows me that great love is shown when consequences of sin are shown, when truth is spoken. We look to Fatima to see this example. This firmness, these loving boundaries are necessary to protect, advise and love my family in their next stages of life.

I looked at myself the other day through a different mirror. I sat before Jesus in adoration. I looked upon myself through the lens of His love, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit swelled within me. I felt my body breathe deeply of the breath that was already within me. Imagine the beautiful reality that we can breathe deeply of the Spirit Who already dwells within us!

My eyes flashed before the Lord, my head rose and I nodded with understanding. This mission of motherhood is my offering. Through my sacrifice, the new way I am being formed to love, I am blooming more fully into the woman He created me to be.

Thank you, Jesus, for your steadfast patience. Thank you, Mother Mary, for your guidance on the path to your Son.

This post appeared in the Catholic Times.

Image is licensed through Adobe Stock.

Living room with symbols of faith
Faith at Home, Faith Traditions, Family

Bring the Holy into Your Home

I’ve been reflecting a lot about the behind-the-scenes efforts of raising a Catholic family. Since it is winter, and I have been hunkered in my home, I am noticing all the little ways we have nurtured our Catholic faith through environment. It is a delicate balance with the goal being that Jesus fills the places and spaces of our home initiating a spontaneous discussion or providing an interior awareness. I believe Jesus can be encountered in our home not only through the conversations that we share, but also through the visuals purposefully placed throughout our home. Each of these form memories for the souls in my home; from the worn paint on a handheld little Franciscan cross that has been teethed, slept with, brought to the playground and glued back together, to an image of the Sacred Heart that has evidence of a late-night mother’s vigil.

Here are ten ways we do that in our home:

PATRON SAINTS
In our den we have an icon of each member of our family’s patron saint. I begin my mornings there often and ask for their intercession as I pray for each person. I also frequently have found myself standing in front of them to ask their intercession for a particular child in challenging moments.

SACRED HEART ENTHRONEMENT
We placed the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary in a place that is most travelled in our home. As you go up or down our staircase, you see Jesus and Mary.

MUSIC
Our Catholic faith is so rich, and music is a great part of that wealth. From my turning on the worship music in times of praise and in times of sorrow, my children see this as a way to turn to Jesus. Over the years we have also sung or chanted our Divine Mercy Chaplet as a family. I don’t think consistency is as important as exposure. However, there is something to small acts of consistency. Each night as we shut down our home, tucking small children into bed, and nudging older ones towards that goal, we sing the Lourdes’ Ave. It is simply a sweet melody reciting the words, “Ave Maria.”

I have never been to Lourdes, but I learned this song and have sung it as part of bedtime routine both at home and on vacation. There is something peaceful about closing the day with the protection of Mother Mary sung upon the hearts of my children. Some of my most cherished moments are when I pause and hear them singing along or when I hear them humming this tune as they go about their tasks. We parents plant seeds of faith.

SCRIPTURE ON WALLS
I’ve always wanted to be a person who memorized scripture and could call upon it in times of strife and praise. One strategy towards that goal is to hang it upon my walls. There is not one room in my home where Scripture is not displayed in some form. One sweet family moment occurred during Covid when we were all staying home. My youngest daughter Sarah used the Scripture on our walls to create pictures and practice her handwriting for our neighbor, Mrs. Margaret. She copied each plaque upon her drawing paper, colored it sweetly, rolled it up, and tied it with a ribbon to deliver in our neighbor’s mailbox. My favorite was Song of Solomon 3:4: “I have found the one whom my soul loves.” While only nine years old, this girl is being led towards a goal for her life. These are holy words written upon their souls pointing them to what is good and true.

FAMILY PRAYER TABLE/ALTAR
This is placed at the base of our staircase underneath our Sacred Heart images. Here we rotate different prayer cards, relics, photos of clergy, seminarians, and sisters close to our family’s heart. This reminds us to pray for them.

CRUCIFIX IN EACH ROOM
When our home was blessed, we placed a crucifix in each room. I will admit that there have been times I have needed to feel the tangible closeness of Christ and have taken that crucifix off the wall and held it close, uniting myself to Jesus on that cross.

STATUES AND HOLY IMAGES
Over the years, I have brought into our home statues representing biblical scenes from the Annunciation to Peter receiving the keys to the Church. We as Catholics believe that art can draw us into the holy. For me, these pieces help me tell stories to my children. Exposure to these stories draw us into an encounter with Jesus.

ROSARY HANGER
Our rosary hanger is a simple coat rack hung on a wall. It is not super fancy but has become ever so beautiful as a reminder of our devotion to Mother Mary. Easy access is key. When we go to pray our Rosary as a family, I don’t want to wait for everyone to find/gather their rosaries. We have been gifted over the years also with very special rosaries, either handmade or brought from holy places. This is a wonderful way to keep them special and to always have an extra rosary for those who are in our home when we are praying.

FAMILY PHOTOS OF SACRAMENTS
We all make sure that pictures are taken at each sacrament. By printing them up and placing them in a place of prominence we tell our children that these are important. I love the idea of celebrating my children’s Baptism day and taking their Baptism photo and placing it on our dining room table alongside a special treat as we celebrate.

WEDDING PHOTO
This is similar to the above, except with one caveat that I feel is very important. With sacramental marriage being under attack by secular society, the celebration of holy matrimony within the family is crucial. We do that by pointing out the joy that comes from being married. We celebrate it with pictures from our wedding Mass. We speak words of love out loud bearing witness to that fidelity and place a holy marriage as a goal worth striving for.

There is no quick and easy way to form Catholic families. Having one, two, or all ten of these in your home does not guarantee a faith-filled, strife-free home. It does, however, plant seeds upon their hearts of our children. It imparts knowledge and wisdom, and points them towards the good and true.

This post first appeared at CatholicMom.com

Images copyright 2022 MaryBeth Eberhard, all rights reserved.

Family of Ducks
Faith at Home, Family, Parenthood

Opening My Heart to God’s Plan

I have become a go-to person for large family questions. I am not sure which child achieved me this status. Sons one, two, and three are all incredible gifts and watching them grow together was and continues to be a joy. Was it number four because we chose to open our hearts after our third son was born with a rare disability? Maybe number five because well, we got our girl so why have another? Number six was a surprise, but oh, how can there be a morning without the embrace of this son?

Adopting number seven with the same disability as my son just made us saints in the eyes of so many, but the truth that I have come to recognize is I needed her more than she needed me. This self-directed, joyful daughter of my heart has changed me profoundly. Number eight was a shock to us all and a risky “yes” to the Lord, as carrying her put us both at a risk, and yet to know this almost 9-year-old daughter of mine is to encounter such a pure heart.

In truth, having a large family was not my plan but rather God’s plan for me. In it, I have found sanctification. I have learned mercy and sacrifice. I experience love in its purest form every day through the gift of this family. I am becoming the vision of the woman I hoped to be, but never could I have gotten where I am by following my own plan.

This beautifully rich tapestry of marriage, woven together by an openness to life, has not been without its hardships. There is a cross that mothers carry that goes beyond the needs of our children, seen and unseen. We are tied to our children from the moment of conception, and that bond lays the foundation for a lifetime of service and joy.

As I write this, visions are filling my head and heart of all the moments we have been so blessed to share together as a family: the memories of older siblings meeting the younger for the first time, the way my youngest daughter runs to meet her oldest brother when he comes through the door, and the normalcy of big family life that has made the challenges of having children with special needs be the second thought rather than the first. The mistakes, the mercy, and the redemption we offer to each other over the years from within the walls of my family are unfathomable. The family truly is the mirror of Christ’s love for his church and its richness paints a masterpiece that daily I offer to the Lord.

I love sharing this family of mine with the Lord. They belong to Him more than to me and in that I find a heart so ready to listen and laugh. I share their antics, their successes, and their sorrows. I belly laugh in prayer when I debrief the day with the Lord. Daily, I am in out-loud conversation with the Lord as to what is happening within the walls of this home because I have become dependent upon Him to keep it together. He knows me so well, forming and blessing me through all my hours and days. There is such peace and grace that goes into knowing and owning this!

I simply cannot convey the richness that has come from opening our hearts to this family. As a mom of many, I am often asked, “How do you do it?” Staying close to the Lord, intimately close, the kind of snuggle into your husband, breath his scent and hold it in close is how I do it; how we do it. I rely on the intimate relationship I have cultivated with the Lord.

It is also true that large family life is done best with a father who leads by example. He daily lifts us up to the Father as St. Joseph did his Holy Family, interceding for us in prayer and deed. My husband and I are indeed one flesh. We are connected by our love for each other and our sacrament of marriage. We live our marriage and our parenting out loud in a way that is utterly dependent upon the recognition that without Jesus, this house would fall.

We did not choose big family life as a statement of our Catholicism, but rather God chose it for us as a statement of His plan for our lives. Having a big family does not make anyone a saint, though it might offer more opportunities for sanctification! There is no award in heaven for me due to the number of children I have conceived. Rather, this openness to God’s plan lived out in the everyday continually forms me into a woman, wife, mother, and daughter who knows her identity and strives to live a life worthy of that gift.

This article first appeared at CatholicMom.com

Image credits: Canva Pro

School Kids and Parents
Faith at Home, Family, Parenthood

This kind of school is new to us all

It is an odd time in our history as a country when all of our children are being led back to the home to educate. Families are experiencing mixed emotions as they enter into new territory in the middle of a school year. For many, schedules have been shuffled, anxiety and panic are escalating and the joy of learning for the pursuit of knowledge and formation of character goes out the window amid the desire to just get it all done. As a teacher and homeschool mom, I have watched these past couple weeks as social media has become flooded with complaints and comparisons. With a gentle heart, I’d like to step in and offer an alternative viewpoint and some strategies for helping navigate this unknown time.

First, recognize the time we are in. Our children, no matter the age, sense the sudden change. The fear of the unknown can be a heavier burden than the reality, even if the reality is grave. Taking time to sit down as a family and talk about why school has changed and why it is important to take these health precautions can help alleviate some of the worries and also provide a sense of family unity towards this common goal. We are all in this together. Everyone is being asked to make sacrifices. As a firm believer in holding kids to high standards, even the youngest child can rise and join the family in the new normal.

Make a family plan. Set expectations for school. Treating this moment as an opportunity rather than an inconvenience can help build character within us and our children. For instance, if you have a teenager who has been distracted in school, meeting with them and taking the time to build up their skills and helping them set up goals for learning builds up your relationship with each other as well as allowing them the independence to demonstrate accountability and build trust. In our home, it is said often that trust is built over time. Schooling at home can help build that.

Appreciate this time with your younger children.  There is so much going on in the mind of a young child; the desire to create and wonder, to explore and discuss. While curriculum is important and can be a tool to help guide this, remember that the time spent learning together is just as important as the knowledge being acquired. Keeping a journal, taking pictures of your learning together, reading books together, sharing what has been learned at the family table are great ways for your younger ones to feel involved. 

Be careful with the words we use.  The dignity of a human, no matter the age, will always grow stronger with affirmation. Choose words that present the schooling at home situation as an opportunity rather than a “catholic mom chain” around one’s neck. Do not demean yourself or your children with jokes that belittle them or your ability.  See this time at home as a gift to grow relationships within the family. Our lives run at such a hectic pace that the opportunity of time can cause panic. What do we do? Rest, laugh, go outside, read, play games, talk, listen, share time and space with each other and smile. It is amazing what an offering of a smile can be in many situations!

Trust yourself. It is being said that we are all in this situation together and indeed we are but no one situation is the same. As a homeschooling mom, our schedule has been drastically changed as outside classes, sports, music lessons, activities, and work schedules have all been altered. There is much to adjust to for us all yet seeing the opportunities within the current situation can help keep our perspective positive. This type of schooling, whether a veteran homeschool parent or one who is new to schooling at home, is not an optimal version for any of us. This is a historic time where virtue can rise and families grow stronger. Mother Teresa is quoted as saying “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.” What an opportunity! what fresh beginnings we are being gifted with!

On a side note, so many resources are being offered right now to help support parents and children who are educating at home. From illustrators offering daily art classes to online support for geometry and physics, one cannot scroll social media feed and not be overwhelmed. While all these resources are helpful and can support the learning in the home, they are not necessary. It is so easy to be overwhelmed and compare how we are “doing school” to other families. It has been said that “Comparison is the thief of joy” and that is so true in these times. One does not look at one’s neighbor and say “Oh, that is how we should be setting our table. Or that is how we should dress or mow or plant our garden or raise our children. Rather through prayerful discernment, we structure our family in a fashion that supports our family values. Trusting your ability to help facilitate learning in the home will help decrease the stress level immensely.

Love of learning comes by having an environment where we are being supported, challenged, and where a love of knowledge is being modeled. So, pick up a book, take up a new skill from that bucket list and show that learning is a lifelong skill. You might be surprised by the comradery that develops with your new students while you learn at home.