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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.

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.

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

Woman sitting with two coffee cups in foreground
Family, Life, Mercy and Suffering

A New Lens of Hope and Understanding

Preface: I am not a writer on grief. Suffering, this I know  –but grief is new to me. I can write on laughter, joy, prayer, and love, but I never knew how they all could be wrapped up in a package of grief. While emotions are completely raw, they also offer healing. I share this with you in that spirit and ask your prayers as my family walks forward in faith.

I’m sitting in your chair tonight: a place I never thought I’d be. I feel numb at the loss of you; not really able to process the day’s events. It happened so quickly. This is not how I thought this day would go. And yet, you’d be happy I feel. We are here, all of us together, caring for Dad and helping him through what seems unimaginable, yet what we knew was coming.

I’m learning to know you again; a you I never knew — you through other people’s eyes and words. I wish I’d known this mom. They all speak so highly of you. I read your letters and your words to others, and I met a new person. This person seems recreated, renewed, filled with hope and a touch of sadness. This was you all while I was here; you just never showed her to me.

Day after day I prayed for you to know Jesus. I did, Mom! I prayed for you to know Him because I wanted you to have the eternal. This you I’m meeting while sitting in your chair … she took the Gospel seriously. She fed the poor, clothed the cold and needy. She welcomed in the stranger and offered shelter. She gave in countless ways. And yet she stayed stubborn till the end. I am not sure if it was all stubbornness, or if fear held you back. How is it possible to hold on to our brokenness and yet strive for sainthood? Letter after letter, call after call, I’m learning it is quite possible. Perhaps that is where we all are. It’s so hard to let go of hurts and wounds, yet so many stories are filled with your acts of kindness. You always had a servant’s heart for others. It is good to know that those virtues carried on as I moved away and raised my own family.

I can’t believe I’m sitting in this chair. It’s a visceral reaction that I am trying to comprehend. I both hug myself, wrapped in a blanket you knitted, and then throw it off as I stand up. I imagine you knitting and watching television. I wish I could be Ebenezer Scrooge on the outside of the window, seeing you and knowing both sides. It certainly feels like that kind of night as I write this. Most experiences like these are strong pushes to look for the Lord speaking into it. I’m always learning from what I see and asking how I can use it in my own parenting and marriage.

I won’t be the same, Mom. I will use this lens of hope and understanding you have given me as a final parting gift here on Earth to look upon others and cast away my assumptions. For I believe that as God formed us in our mother’s wombs, He planted seeds of our identity. Seeds that as they sprout, whenever they sprout, bear blooms of righteousness and redemption. Thank you for this gift. Pray for me, Mom, as I will pray for you. You are free of the shackles that bound you here on Earth. May your spirit soar with the angels you so dearly loved to collect as you watch down on us from above.

This article first appeared at

Image licensed via Adobe Stock.