Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Day 12/13 - How Your Home Can Make Your Children Brave

Well, it was inevitable that I'd miss a day, wasn't it? Grr. Pick myself up and brush myself off and try again.

Today I want to talk to you about how your home can make your family brave. We have a number of somewhat anxious people in our little family. (Basically, everyone but the father of the family tends to get unduly anxious at times. He is our steady rock!) I've been anxious practically forever, and the girls both get nervous about new, unfamiliar things. Super adventurous we are not.

But that being said, every member of our family takes risks. I can't speak for the girls, but I can tell you one of the main reasons (other that God's grace!) that I'm able to do that.

Our home for me is a calm place. It's a steady place. Knowing what to predict at home makes it easier for me to face the unpredictable. But why am I telling you this? Chances are you wouldn't lump yourself in the anxious category. (Although chances are equally high that you would.)

Understanding this is all part of understanding why a domestic monastery matters. 

You can't control what happens outside the walls of your home, and you can't completely control what happens even within the walls of your home - but you can have more say within than without.

This doesn't mean that your home needs to be perfect. No one is perfect, and we all make mistakes. But your efforts to make your home a sort of sanctuary - a place that is restful, familiar, comfortable - matters. Allowing your home to be a place where prayer can happen helps, too! Basically, a domestic monastery should be a place where we can know that we are loved and cherished; a place where we can know that we are not alone. 

This kind of atmosphere won't cure anyone of fears - but it will make those fears a heck of a lot easier to face!

(This always makes me think of that kernel of wisdom from The Princess Diaries, "Courage isn't the absence of fear, but the judgement that something else is more important.")

Your challenge for today - tell your children that you love them. Tell your spouse that you love them. Remind them that God loves them, and that their patron saints and guardian angel loves them. In that little (yet great!) way you can build up their confidence and make it easier for them to face whatever they need to face once they step outside your home.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Friday, October 9, 2015

Day 9: Imperfect Can Be Beautiful

It was a long day today, but I'm determined to stick to this 31 day challenge!

My challenge for you today is very simple: look for beauty in the imperfect. I was listening to the audio book version of Laura Ingalls Wilder's book, On the Banks of Plum Creek with the girls today, and I was so struck by Ma's reaction to their dugout home. If I had been in her shoes, faced with the challenge of turning a literal hole in the ground into my home, I would have cried.

But Ma responds by making her simple home beautiful. She cleans in, tidies it, and personlizes it with their simple things.

But what makes that humble dugout a home is...her. Her love, her gentleness, her drive to find beauty in everything - that is what makes for a home.

I hope I can be like Ma.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Day 8: Your Home Matters

(Linking up with Like Mother, Like Daughter. Pictures courtesy of an apple picking trip and dinner with Granddad while he passed through town on business!)

Most of us will never experience life in a monastery. We will never know that kind of silence, focus, and intense prayer. We will never know what it's like to be in that stable and calm environment.

Or will we?

{pretty, happy, funny, and real}

The home is intended to be a refuge. In the home, we are re-charged before going back out into the world. Hopefully, our homes include some prayer and some quiet. But it's the nature of our homes that they can't be all quiet prayer time. It's not the charism of family life. Much of our prayer as parents is the love in which we live life, the way we tenderly care for our children. Our more formal times of prayer (added to random prayers thrown throughout the day) strengthen us in that ever important work. We'll talk more about that another day.

But today we're talking about the environment you make for your family. Yes, you should pray with your children. Yes, you should teach them about God. But even a real monastery isn't solely made up of overtly religious activities. A real monastery has time for work, time for recreation, time for meals, and time for sleep. Much of the life of a monastery consists in these very ordinary activities. 

There is beauty in the ordinary. What you are trying to create in your home is a similar sense of routine and stability. One of the ways you can make your home a refuge is by making the daily rhythms predictable. 

I remember going on a retreat in high school, and during the retreat they covered up all the clocks with signs that said, "God's time." They reassured us that they would keep track of our schedule, would tell us when we needed to move on to the next thing, and that we didn't need to worry about it. We could just relax and focus on experiencing the retreat.

I remember how freeing that felt, and a lot of us reflected on the fact that we hadn't felt that way since childhood - the freedom of not having to figure out and fret over our own schedule.


It's important for you, as a parent, to figure out that schedule so your children can feel that peace. But your peace matters, too! Aiming for predictability in your home means that all of you can relax a bit. You can focus on the ever important work of just being a family.

The other day I came across this article (click here) which gave an important reminder: your family life matters. As parents, we sometimes are given the impression that what we can give our children isn't enough, and therefore isn't important. But it is! The home is an environment no one else can replicate!

You're probably already creating this kind of environment, without even realizing it. You probably already have a family routine in place - a time that everyone wakes up and goes to sleep, and eats, and goes to school/does school at home, goes to work, eats meals, prays, etc. Your natural inclination as a parent is already to make your home safe and predictable.

What I'm challenging you to do today, is to be mindful. Be mindful of what you're doing and how you're doing it. You may need to tweak a thing or two, but chances are you don't need to change a thing. Chances are that you're already creating a predictable environment where the members of your family feel safe enough to be themselves!

That is what the home is, after all - a place of safety and comfort. That safety and comfort is what makes it possible for all of us to grow, thrive, and face the challenges of the life. That, too, is what the monastery is. Your home is more similar to a monastery than you may think.

Your home (and family) do not need to be perfect to achieve this end. Having peace in the home doesn't mean that the toddler never throws a tantrum, the preschooler never has a meltdown, and the parents never disagree. It does mean that when those things happen, the family always tries to work its way back to genuine peace. It means that if a fight happens, or if someone (in resident two year old, ahem) gets too emotional, we pick ourselves up, dust off, and try again. It means we apologize when we're in the wrong, and forgive, forgive, forgive. It means we give each other space to be imperfect, and to love, love, love. Real monks and nuns aren't perfect people. And neither are you. 

But we do need to acknowledge that our homes are important, even when they're imperfect. We do need to reflect on how best to make our homes into a real refuge, a real place of calm and peace. 

Because, if we can do that, then our homes can become what they are a called to be. We don't need to make our homes and families important. Our families and homes already have infinite importance. In the words of St. John Paul II, "Families, become what you are!"

On a final note...don't forget to enter our giveaway! It runs through Sunday!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Day 7: Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary and BOOK GIVEAWAY!!!

Happy Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. And happy book release day!!!!

You can buy a paperback here, a Kindle copy here, or a PDF here.

I am sooo excited for you to get to see it, and to (hopefully) hold a copy in your hands soon!

I want to tell you a little bit more about this book, and what makes it so incredibly unique. As someone with an educational background in theology/catechesis, it is really important to me that the religious picture books my girls read are quality. I want them to have beautiful pictures and solid theology. I want them to draw them deeper in their love for God.

I had all of this in mind when I wrote the book, and when I asked Heather of Audrey Eclectic to illustrate it. This book is all of that, but it's also so much more - it's an tool for parents and children to pray together. 

Each mystery includes a (scripted) introduction for the parent to read, and a reflection (written in verse) designed to help the child(ren) imagine themselves in the mystery.

In my work with individuals with intellectual disabilities, one of the things that have been most important to me is having the faith be incredibly rich but accessible. I want little ones to understand the mysteries, but I don't want them to be watered down, you know? This book strikes that lovely balance.

You can pray it along with your family rosary, as individual decades, or even as stand alone meditations. I recommend it for ages 3 (probably an older 3) and up, and have personally and successfully tried it out with a 4 year old. :-)

Want to win a copy?? Rafflecopter away! Giveaway ends on Sunday.

(I'm also giving another copy away on Instagram, so head on over!)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Day 6: Why a Domestic "Monastery"?

Today I promised to share with you why I love the "domestic monastery" image for my home.

I'm not sure how many of you have had the opportunity to visit an actual monastery, but if you ever have the opportunity, I highly encourage it. When I was growing up in northwest Indiana, we lived near a small Carmelite monastery (the same one my husband later proposed at!) and we visited it frequently when I was small. We had family roots there, back to my great-grandparents, who were the ones who planted to original trees on the property, as a service to the brothers and fathers.

But what's particularly appealing about this monastery is that it occupies a very small section of land (not more than a couple square city blocks, if even) and it's plopped down right in the middle of an ordinary, suburban neighborhood. I know of other monasteries that are far out in the country, surrounded by acres and acres of beautiful landscape. In all honesty, were I called to a religious community, I would probably prefer one of those. But, as a lay person - I love the monasteries plopped into the middle of cities or neighborhoods. I love them for their accessibility.

A monastery is a refuge from the world, in the world. Taking your lunch break, a Sunday afternoon, or an early morning jaunt onto the grounds of a monastery is meant to refresh you. It's meant to be a place of peace and quiet. It's meant to be free from the hectic pace of the world.

That is exactly what our homes are supposed to be - a place of refuge in the midst of a chaotic world. The people who live in monasteries aren't perfect. The people who live in our homes aren't perfect. But, we're all striving for perfection, on some level. And each act of love in a family (or a monastery) gets its members closer to heaven. (Remember the Little Way?)

The Domestic Monastery image elevates the meaning of the family to its proper place. A family is supposed to image God's love. A family is supposed to be a little school of holiness. But a family is also made up of people who get impatient, frustrated, get angry, and are selfish. Yet, in an environment of love, the members of the family can have the freedom to work through their imperfections and be encouraged in their efforts. Yet, the love of a family is even deeper than the love of a monastic community. Often a family is made up of members related by flesh and blood, but even when that is not the case, the family is still intrinsically bonded in a way that amazes the outsider. A family is a place to love and be loved; to grow in holiness and be embraced when you have failed.

So, the domestic monastery image allows the family to view all that they do in the context of love - an ongoing reminder of why families matter, and are worth preserving (a fitting discussion as the synod on the family begins).

Why are you drawn to the domestic monastery image?

Don't forget that tomorrow is the official release date of the book!!

I am soooo excited!! You can pre-order the Kindle copy or...drumroll, please...purchase the paperback a day early!!! Check back the rest of this week for more info!

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