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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.

Mother Mary with Child
Family, Life, Parenthood

With Mary as our model, we mothers are enough

I’ve been reflecting lately on Mary’s role as a mother. Specifically on her role as a mother during the preaching years of Jesus and after His ascension into heaven, as her mothering years did not stop. Indeed, perhaps these were her mightiest years as she formed the hearts and souls of those set apart to form the Church.

As I hold another late-night vigil in prayer for my growing children, I sit with Mama Mary and ask her how she did it. For I know her mother’s heart was greater than mine, and I know the depths I would go to for my children.

I imagine the apostles reaching out to her as their mother, sharing their hearts. How she must have listened patiently to their worries, feelings of unworthiness and admissions of taking the wrong road. How she must have held their hand, wiped their tears, prayed with and for them and then watched them walk away, unsure if her words helped but holding each one so tenderly upon her heart. Her role of advocate to her Son was being honed in these mothering moments.

Mary’s fiat was more than just a proclamation of the moment. Rather, it became her mission statement, and she lived it out. We, as mothers, can proclaim the same boldness to our children in confidence that those seeds are watered.

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, and my Spirit rejoices in God my savior for he has looked with kindness on my lowliness.” (Luke 1:46-48)

As a mother, I recognize my inability and my unworthiness most acutely in the sacred moments when the doors of my children’s hearts are opened to me and their desire to believe and trust is so acute. When mistakes are made, or discussions begin, faith is brought into the discussion. I feel unworthy and ill prepared more often than not.

In the past, I have suggested, “Perhaps you can read Augustine,” or, “It sounds like Aquinas is right up your alley.” Tonight, after such a talk, I was awestruck by the realization that is me whom they need. Just like Mama Mary was commissioned, so am I. And I am enough.

These children of mine have grown up with the witness of a rich faith life. They have been surrounded by the stories of the saints, a home filled with prayer and laughter, a marriage that is deep and abiding and a door that is revolving with those witnessing to Christ’s love manifest in their lives.

As I reached to text a friend during this recent conversation thinking, “Maybe he or she will have the answers,” I felt a tug to pause and realized the answers are not to be given but rather to be sought. As these conversations get deeper and my children get older, my job is to listen, nurture, water and pray unceasingly. The Lord will place the right people in His time to bring clarity.

I am not abandoning ship to teaching the faith but rather am molding myself more acutely to the Blessed Mother’s heart, where a life lived out in witness will speak volumes more than heated arguments or long, drawn-out discussions. My children know I am always open to their questions, and rich conversations do take place but always in God’s timing.

As the Blessed Mother, dear Mama Mary, got older, I imagine her role as intercessor became fine-tuned. I see her talking constantly to her Son in prayer, reaching out, sharing, pleading and asking for guidance herself as she always models a suppleness to the Holy Spirit. It is why I turn to her so often as my guide.

My words whispered from my heart: Mama Mary, calm my voice. Steady my words. Let my words speak love and invite a relationship rather than an argument. It’s amazing the multitasking that we can do while in these moments with our children. I am constantly calling upon every saint and angel to make supple our hearts for whatever Jesus has planned for these moments.

Tonight, Mama Mary sits with me and, as the last child has walked off to bed and the clock strikes hours past the new day, we sit and we hold hands in the quiet, she and I. We pray for our sons and our daughters together. Our hearts swell with love and with pain for the trials they are enduring.

We lift them together to the Father and release them to His fatherly care. He knows them. He sees them right where they are, and He is working in their lives even when they and we cannot feel it. Hearts embraced together, Mama Mary and I pray blessings and leadership upon my husband as he will pick up the pieces of this discussion in the morning, after reading my late-night text giving him the details of the conversation. (We mothers are always advocating to the father!)

I know I am not alone in this struggle to give the conversion of my children’s hearts over to the Lord. I know every mother desires for her children to be in a relationship with Jesus, for if they know Him, they will love Him, and if they love Him … well then, how can they not serve Him?

St. Thérèse of Lisieux says, “The loveliest masterpiece of the heart of God is the heart of a mother.” Let us take our mother’s hearts, united with our dear Mother Mary’s, and claim our worthiness to have the hard talks, to wipe the tears, to proclaim the truth and to devote ourselves to prayer for the sanctification of our families.

This article first appeared in the Catholic Times.

Photo 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.

Friend comforting friend
Family, Life

Be open to the challenge of receiving love; you are worthy

It’s easy for me to love. It is what I do. Raising eight souls and being married 24 years have given me plenty of opportunities to grow in the knowledge of how to love.

Those who are loved by acts of service, I’ve got your gas tank filled up for you. Physical touch? Let Mommy rub your shoulders. Gifts? Here’s a special package mailed to your dorm room.

To the one who needs to be affirmed and connected, there is a note placed on top of your pillow, and “special time” is a coveted but precious phrase in our home. Those who are blessed with it bloom under its umbrella. At times, we have all felt loved by these efforts, but for me, the doing has always been easier.

I find myself in a season of needing to receive love, and it is formative. There have been multiple times in the story of this incredible family of mine where charity has been needed, and, oh, the stories of generosity and kindness have formed the backbone of who we are as a family.

But I have come to realize that my openness to that charity and love was always for my family. They were (and continue to be) always worthy, but it was for them that the charity was received.

I sent a text the other day to a good friend on my way back from a hard appointment. In it, I laid out the details of upcoming medical care: when I would be home, and when I would not. This friend, so busy with a thriving life of her own, responded: I will be there with your children.

I sat there in the car, as my husband drove me home, holding the phone and reading that message. I will be there. I sat in awe of that fact that she so loved me that she would stop her world, that I was so much a part of her world, that she would do that for me. Not for my children, not for my husband, but for me. I was worthy.

It’s a tricky thing being loved. I have been married 24 years, and even now there are days where I ask my husband, “Really, me?” Steadfast and true, he responds, “Always, you.”

I received a letter the other day from my children’s surgeon. I have spent 15 years walking with this man, showing him Jesus along the journey. I have been so grateful for the friendship that has grown.

His letter, so woven with care and love for me, left me weeping. In it, he spoke of who I am. He spoke in words that said he knew me, my strengths and weaknesses, and loved me. I was fully known and loved.

I’m in a place of pondering love. Not romantic love, but abiding love. I am reeling from the deep and steadfast love that is being laid before me in a time of need. Male or female, child or senior, love is being given to me. Love is slowing me down with its sheer radiance.

At moments, I feel like Peter or John at the Transfiguration, almost blinded by the sheer brilliance of it. It is palpable. There is no avoiding being loved like this.

A dear priest friend shared with me that receiving love is more challenging than giving love. That is why God became man, to show us how to receive. This has been my reflection, day and night, that I may live in that humility.

I know I am not alone this season, where receiving love is a necessity. It is also an opportunity I don’t want to let pass by, for I know this is sacred time – this dependency on the Father’s love, walking forward in faith and trust.

The Lord works through us in our weakness. When we allow ourselves to be supple to His working within us, our strength becomes His light shining from within and welcomes others in. Love speaks, welcomes, gives and frees us in our deepest moments.

This season, may we welcome love in all its brilliance and receive it as the gift that it is.

This article first appeared in the Catholic Times

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