Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Christmas Memory

Sitting at the computer this morning, I thought of Christmas memories.  As everyone does, I have quite a few wonderful recollections from the past.  I thought I would share one, but I am wondering which one is the best to share.  I loved going to the Grandparents’ houses as a child.  The Nixon side had a ton of older cousins to terrorize me and aunts to follow around the kitchen.  At the Hedahl’s we always had my Grandmother’s delicious cookies, scrumptious lefse, and playing my child version of pool upstairs.  Staying home was never as much fun except the year that our neighbor’s family came to visit from England.  He had two grandchildren just my age.  We played games and sledded for days on end.  I also remember getting to attend the Catholic Church midnight Mass with family friends.  The year I didn’t attend seems to be the memory that stands out the most.
                Thinking back to that time, I haven’t a clue of what age I was at the time.  I believe I was probably in fourth or fifth grade.  I should ask, but I don’t know if Mom would remember either.  The friends that always took me to Mass were like family.  I have talked about some of them before.  The parents I called Aunt and Uncle and the kids (five in total) were like cousins.  Their oldest daughter had graduated from high school and lived in a town about an hour from ours.  Her and her cousin were driving and got in a horrid car wreck due to snow and ice on the road.  I don’t remember the details, but I remember this being the first time praying for a friend in crisis.  I cried and worried like crazy.
                Being this is a childhood memory, I could be very wrong about the details.  However, I remember a movie coming out right after the wreck.  It was about a bus load of teenagers getting stuck on the train tracks and getting hit by an oncoming train.  The main character was a young girl who then had to overcome the struggles of learning how to walk again.  I got it into my head that my friend and her cousin wrecked on the train tracks and were fortunate a train didn’t come.  This could be wrong.  I so related my friend to this movie.  Also, my friend, though I hadn’t seen her yet, was in a wheelchair.  To this day, I get an eerie feeling when crossing train tracks and I always double check.
                Christmas Eve night, when their entire family stopped at the house, it was decided that since getting the wheelchair into the church would be really difficult, she would stay at our house while the rest attended Mass.  I was invited along.  I  struggled with the decision.  The pull of attending the celebration was great, but the chance to spend time with a friend who we could have lost in the accident was greater.  I chose to stay with her.  We watched television I believe or sat around chatting.  My gratitude to God that year was huge.  Though the wheelchair intimidated me, I was so thankful we still had her in our lives.
                Do you have gratitude this season?  Though it is not as poignant, I am grateful again this year.  I can’t pinpoint it to anything huge like a saved loved one, but instead it is simply for life in general. 
Merry Christmas to you all.

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Graceful Christmas

                Christmas gracefully approaches for me.  Usually I have a list a mile long of shopping, wrapping, addressing, baking, and decorating to do this time of year which I frantically dive into right after Thanksgiving while listening to my favorite Christmas music.  In November, I started making the lists, but then set them off to the side.  Occasionally, I have picked them up and started a project at a turtle’s pace.  Amazingly, almost everything is done without the frantic attitude well except the baking.  I am still debating whether to do that or not.
                I keep wondering, what is so different about this year.  My daughter and I are doing the advent wreath almost nightly while reading a story about a Jewish girl who at the end gets to meet baby Jesus.  We have gone to all the band concerts, a choral concert, recitals, The Nutcracker, Peter Pan, and Christmas pageants.  The cards are sent, packages sent, gifts bought and almost wrapped.  All of this has been easy and relaxed and fun.  I didn’t decorate as elaborately as I normally do and the tree just went up last week.  The other thing I haven’t done like normal is baking.  I usually bake three to four different types of cookies and decorate them.  I also make a couple different types of candy plus lefse.  Since I am dieting, I haven’t done any of the cooking and baking.  This may be the big factor of my relaxed attitude, but I do think it is more.
                Looking over the past year, I have put more of a focus on my relationship with Jesus.  Now, I have always prayed, studied, and attended church and other activities relating to faith.  I do think I have had a very close relationship with God my entire life.  The difference this year is that I have focused all of these activities into a project, the project being this blog.  I am always thinking about what I want to write next.  By doing this, I listen more.  I immerse myself more.  I am now using my talent (whether it be good or not) for God which is enriching my life a hundredfold.  How great is that?
                A while back I wrote a letter to my son.  I was frustrated with what I was supposed to be doing in my writing and my ministries.  I always feel pulled in so many directions in both areas of my life.  In writing, I am pulled to write about theology, history, fantasy, young adult, adult, and where ever else the wind will take me.  In ministry/volunteering, I am pulled to Eucharist, school, Family Promise, football, Girl Scouts, the library, funerals, and this list can go on and on.  He wrote back that we are called to do these things in His time.  I started letting go at that point.  There have been other moments of clarity from my mother-in-law and a friend or two.  Instead of hitting all my activities with huge amounts of gusto or looking for opportunities, I am listening. 
                Sure, my book hasn’t made any editorial progress.  In fact, my fiction writing has come to a screeching halt in the middle of the road.  I am not worried.  It will come back in time if it is meant to be.  My giving to others is decreasing in the area of football, but ramping up in Girl Scouts and school.  I might this year add some Family Promise time.  I will wait for other opportunities to come in God’s time.  I will probably get frantic again because that is who I am.  For the moment though, I am enjoying a very relaxed advent season, listening and waiting.
                Blessing to you all.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

My Best Friend

                While my son and I were anticipating traveling to Washington State to attend Creations Northwest, I listened to many youtube videos.  I also bought a couple of CDs of the Christian music artists that would be there throughout the week.  Chris Tomlin and the Newsboys played over and over in my home.  We also listened to them and CDs my son and some of the other kids had on our way there.  On the way back, we of course had even more of a selection after buying additional CDs while at the concerts.  During all of this music listening, one lyric haunted me.
                When the song would play, I tended to tune it out because it wasn’t my favorite of songs.  Yet, when the one line played, I always stopped and paused.  At the concert of the Newsboys, the song Jesus Freak started to play.  For some reason I have problems with the idea of Jesus freaks walking around in the world.  It can turn others away from Christ and we are to do the opposite.  Granted, I am sure there are those out there that probably think I am a freak, but I hope more people see the qualities in me that Jesus asked us to live: love, patience, understanding, faith, and the list goes on and on.  I know I don’t pull off being this way all the time, but I do prefer this over being a freak.  As the song played that evening, the lyric boomed all over the fair grounds.  My favorite line of all time was in the song I probably like the least.  “That my best friend was born in a manger.”
                These words resonate in my soul.  “My best friend was born in a manger.”  He didn’t come from rich parents.  His birth was far more humble then my own.  I will never gain monetary riches from this dear friend of mine.  However, He loves me through thick and thin.  He carries me through my struggles and rejoices with me through my triumphs.  Daily He walks beside me.  I can’t think of a better best friend to have.  Does this make me a Jesus freak?  Maybe, maybe not.  Most of the time, I don’t care what people think.  And why should I?  Jesus is my best friend.
                Soon many people around the world will be celebrating my best friend’s birthday.  Hopefully He is their best friend and yours.  Oh, and another cool thing is I get to go to His house and celebrate.  Life couldn’t get much better.  Happy Birthday Jesus.
Blessings to you all

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Part V: Gardening and Sewing

I have always had a traditional side to my life that many people find outdated or behind the times.  They look at me oddly when I discuss with passion my gardening, crocheting, or desire to quilt.  I long for the days when women sat around knitting or having a quilting party.  I think this would be a ton of fun, but many of my friends don’t participate in any of these activities.  Also, in this busy world, time to do these tasks is minimal and financially less lucrative. 
She picks out a field to purchase;
                Out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
She is girt about with strength,
                And sturdy are her arms.  Proverbs 31:16-17
                Gardening is one of my all-time favorite activities.  Playing in dirt, soaking up the sun, watching seeds spout, encouraging plants to grow, and witnessing the blooms and fruits bring vivid colors and products to the world keeps me smiling and reveling in God’s natural world.  Now, I am not the best gardener, but this year I produced basil, chives, onions, potatoes, rhubarb, chokecherries, peas, cauliflower, beans, and zucchini.  I didn’t have a good year with the rest of the items, but it was a cold year and I had a graduation to pull off.  Life happens.  With the graduation though, I did get complements on my front flowerbeds that greeted my guests with flowers and foliage.
                I haven’t always gardened vegetables.  The work is hard and when I was busy working a fulltime job, weekend drills, and kids to run after, I just didn’t always have the time.  We also had rotatiller issues.  Even now if I am out of town for a week or more, my garden suffers.  Also, many people don’t have the yard to do gardening.  With these drawbacks in life, how can a woman be an Ideal Wife?  Well, out of her earnings, she can bargain shop for produce that is in season.  Instead of doing the expensive restaurant tour, she can make meals at home which are much cheaper.  I haven’t done this successfully, but container gardening is also an option.  When I have a bad year with one of my vegetables, I like to go to the local farmers market for produce.  This next summer I am hoping to take a few road trips to farms that sell their goods when you come to pick it.  I am not sure if these two latter ideas are cost effective, but I really love fresh produce from the sweet earth of the region.

She obtains wool and flax
                And makes cloth with skillful hands.
Like merchant ships,
                She secures her provisions from afar.  Proverbs 31:13-14
(Merchant: literally, “Canaanite” probably because the merchant class had been composed chiefly of Canaanites.”
She puts her hands to the distaff,
                And her fingers ply the spindle.  Proverbs 31:19
She fears not the snow for her household;
                All her charges are doubly clothed.
She makes her own coverlets;
                Fine linen and purple are her clothing.  Proverbs 31:21-22
She makes garments and sells them,
                And stocks the merchants with belts.  Proverbs 31:24
In today’s world, it is cheaper and easier to buy material already made by machines.  At the fair, there is usually a booth with people using the old techniques explained in these verses.  In fact, it is cheaper to buy clothing and bedding at local discount stores then it is to make it homemade.  Even to make the items and sell them, a woman would not get a good return.  When I took time off from my career to have my oldest son, I thought it would be awesome to sell the afghans I make.  One of the guys at Guard Drill, asked me to make him one.  After buying the supplies, it took me hours to make the blanket.  Because he was a friend, I only charged ten to twenty dollars above the cost of the yarn.  Though he treated me alright, he was not happy with the price.  Two years ago, I donated a beautiful blanket to our school’s auction.  It went for $35.  Hours and hours of my time went into making this blanket with prayers interwoven for the person who would receive it.  The money barely covered the yarn.  I couldn’t pay the electric bill or really any one of our bills consistently by selling things I can make at home.  Granted, I may be going about it all wrong, but times are different.
I can though bargain shop.  I have a friend who buys all her clothes at name band stores.  She especially loves Columbia coats.  I really like Columbia coats as well.  Someday, I would like to get one on a clearance rake.  Maybe I will, maybe I won’t.  When I need a coat, I go to a discount store and save a good $100s on my purchase.  This will pay a bill.  Last month, I had to buy birthday presents for kids and I started getting presents for the grandparents.  With a few coupons (and let me reassure you, I am not a coupon person), I totaled getting $130 off on purchases I had to make.  This paid the water bill and the insurance bill.  All year I save money to pay my daughter’s tuition early giving me a good $300 discount.  We do the same with our car insurance.
Years have gone by during the college years and early years of our careers where we weren’t able to do a lot of this saving.  But we continuously worked on saving money.  We have gone without.  Even right now, we do need a new couch.  I am thinking about doing a little sewing to fix a couple of areas because with some recoupment of back pay being taken out of the last couple of checks, tires needed for a couple of vehicles, a few more new windows this summer, four car insurances coming due, and a son who will need some help with tuition this next semester, we are tapped out.  The couch will wait.
Really, the short answer to these verses isn’t really about gardening and sewing.  The point is that we need to be thrifty and provide for our loved ones.  I will continue to garden and crochet blankets.  I will even continue to donate them to the school.  They make awesome gifts.  In fact, I didn’t have to buy my son any blankets for his college dorm.  One nana made a quilt; plus, he has an afghan I made him.  One aunt made him a quilt for his vehicle in case he gets stranded.  These items will wrap him in love and prayers.
Blessings to you all.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Part IV: Charity of Heart

She reaches out her hands to the poor,
                And extends her arms to the needy.  Proverbs 31:20
                During the holiday season, many opportunities exist to help the poor.  Food drives abound for holiday meals for families struggling.  Giving trees can be found at local malls and churches.  Many stores have people ringing bells, so as we rush around in Christmas frenzy, we can drop money into the bucket.  All of these are wonderful to help our fellow citizens of the world. 
                Charity has been a topic I have discussed quite a few times before.  To be an Ideal Wife, we have to “reach out her [our] hands to the poor.”  None of this is a new concept.  As I looked at this section of Proverbs 31, I struggled with bringing in a new idea to the thoughts of charity.  Driving to my Bible study group, I realized a past event in my life was the key.
                All of my life, I have struggled with female relationships.  I am more comfortable with men: talking sports, outdoors, military, and vehicles.  Though I am far from an expert in these fields, I enjoy the topics.  To make matters tougher, I joined the military being with a majority of male colleagues.  Around a lot of women, I feel like an elephant around ants.  One wrong step and I have crushed people.  Yes, this is a bit dramatic, but how I feel.
                Many years ago, I specifically struggled with a couple female relationships.  They were women I wanted to have a close relationship with but I really felt they didn’t like me.  While they went shopping, I tried to tag along, but I was miserable.  I hate shopping most of the time.  So I started watching the game with the guys instead of walking from store to store bored to death.  My thoughts were very dark because though I tried to join their activities, they didn’t join me in mine.  I felt like a complete outcast.
                At this time, I was sponsoring one of my military guy friends in his process of becoming confirmed into the Catholic Church.  During the Reconciliation service, I went to Monsignor to confess my sins.  My negative thoughts towards these women weighed heavily on my heart.  He spoke to me about charity of heart towards both me and the other women.  You see, I kept thinking I was such a bad person that they didn’t want to do things with me.  Then I would get angry at them for what felt like being shunned.  After many prayers and more tears, by having charity in my heart, I no longer mind that we have little in common.  I no longer hold resentment in my heart.
                This charity can continue to other areas especially in our hectic lives.  To “extend her [our] arms to the needy” can go beyond the material items people require.  Our society is in great need of love, understanding, empathy, and support.  Consider the clerk at the local Wal-Mart who has to deal with nasty customers all day.  Instead of growling at her slow process or perceived grumpiness, smile at her and PRAY for her.  Expect nothing in return.  There is a lady I have to interact with from time to time.  In her field of work, she is too grumpy and really seems to be incompetent.  My charity has struggled with her.  To be charitable, I pray, smile, and greet her in cheerfulness.  I expect absolutely nothing in return.  I doubt her and I will ever be friends; yet, I pray I may make her day a bit brighter.
                Charity of heart needs to be prayed for and practiced.  I definitely don’t come by it naturally.  I trip up a LOT.  In fact, I don’t go to the deli at one of the stores in town because of one employee.  Hum, I haven’t prayed about it either.  I might need to work in this area.  And there are others….
                My challenge to all of us during the out of control holiday shuffle is to smile to those needy drained souls in the world.  Try to brighten their day with an ounce of joyfulness.  When someone is annoying, pray for them to have a better day.  Embrace your charitable heart.
Blessings to you all.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Part III: Long Hours

                The next part of Proverbs caused me to pause.  I really feel that I fail in this area.  I watch some people and they do this so much better than I could even dream.  Of course, when discussing the topic with fellow Ideal Wife strivers, they help me look at the topic through different eyes.  These lovely ladies are very charitable to me.
She rises while it is still night,
                And distributes food to her household.  Proverbs 31:15
                Each morning, my husband rises at five in the morning to get ready for work.  He also cooks his own breakfast.  I am not distributing food to him.  Instead, I am sleeping in for another hour.  He says he doesn’t mind.  He likes to cook while I really don’t.  But I can’t help think I would be a better wife if I did cook for him.  When I first retired, I was determined to cook beautiful dinners for him.  Within three months, he fired me.  Cooking has no appeal to me, so I do the quick route of Crockpot cooking.  He hates that type, so he said he would take over the cooking again.  I do distribute food to the kids….  They would have to say whether it is edible or not. 
She enjoys the success of her dealings;
                At night her lamp is undimmed.  Proverbs 31:18
The note in my Bible states, “Her lamp is undimmed: indicates abundance of productive work and its accompanying prosperity.”  Again, I go to bed before my husband most of the time.  I need a lot of rest.  A friend talked about how I am still up before the sun rises and I go to bed well after the sun goes down.  This is true enough this time of year, but not even close during the summer.  I have an aunt and cousin who I really think never sleep.  I admire their work ethic very much.  The reality for me is I need to rest so my medical conditions don’t start giving me more problems.  When it comes to work hours, I won’t be the Ideal Wife.  I have to settle for a good wife.
Blessings to you all.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Mass Reflection

                On Sunday, I didn’t go to my church for Mass.  Instead, I attended serves with about forty women at Cursillo.  We were blessed to be celebrating with Father Stu.  He touches my heart so very much.  The gospel reading for the day came from Matthew, chapter 25, verses 14-30 entitled “The Parable of the Talents.”  What Father asked us really hit home.
                Since I was a little girl, I dreamed of being a writer like Laura Ingalls Wilder.  One rejection of a story sent me on a ten year writer’s block.  About four years ago, I started writing again.  My retirement opened the door to be able to write with all my new free time.  Another writer’s block hit.  This summer I contemplated not writing anymore.  In September, I forced myself to sit back down at the computer.  I floundered.
                A number of spiritual nudges happened over the weekend while working the Cursillo.  While sitting at Mass on Friday, Saint Francis de Sales came into my thoughts.  This writers’ block of fiction hit when I started asking for his intersession.  (For any Protestants out there, I know the saints are a tough topic.  I believe talking to the saints is just like talking to a loved one who has passed away.)  I do need to note, the writers’ block hasn’t affected writing about my faith.  Well, Saint Francis and I haven’t bonded like I have with Saint Daniel of Padua and Mother Mary.  I have been pretty grumpy with him.  As I thought of my writing, yes during Mass, I realized fiction isn’t where I need to be at the moment.  I have suspected this for a little while.  A topic finally popped into my mind, suffering.
                On Saturday during a social time of the weekend, I chatted with a dear fellow Christian writer.  We both follow each others’ blogs.  I did most of the talking and she listened with a lot of love and patience.  Being the dear she is, she told me that she really enjoys my writing.  Maybe I am to write more academic then fiction?
                As Father Stu gave the homily, he compared the servant placing the talent (a unit of coinage of high but varying value depending on its metal and its place of origin) into the ground as us burying our talents and not using them as God intends us to use them.  Ouch!  So, what talents are we burying Father Stu asked all of us?  This is a very good question.  I believe many of us bury our talent to serve.  We get so busy with life that we forget to use our talents for our faith, for God.  We also bury them because we are afraid we are going to fail.  We are afraid to put ourselves out there.  I think the reason I have been tempted to bury mine is that it is becoming hard work and I feel lost in this writer’s world.  I realized I have to keep writing even if nothing of mine gets published or even if I can’t figure out how to get published.  I also have to continue to serve Eucharist and work on the Cursillo weekend where God needs me.  I can’t bury my talents.  I might need to revamp them from time to time, but I can’t quit.
                So what talents has God given you?  Have you buried them?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Mass Reflection

                This week has been very hectic with all the activities for our community to participate in for the men’s retreat and now panicking for all the jobs I need to accomplish for the women’s weekend.  Of course this is also when both my daughter and I have medical appointments to throw into an already packed schedule.  Luckily, God gives us humor to place a smile on our face as well conquer the tasks put before us.
                I must confess that I really don’t remember much of the homily that Father spoke to us at Mass.  I liked that he reminded us we must always be prepared for when Jesus comes to take us to heaven when our time on Earth is through.  I am still smiling at our congregation trying to adopt the new changes that are occurring throughout the Catholic community.  It is like trying to teach a person who has only worked on a typewriter to figure out how to use the computer.  This however is not the humor that has stayed with me since Mass.
                The reading for the weekend talked about the ten bridesmaids preparing for the wedding or lack of preparing depending on the bridesmaid.  Father always talks to the children before they go to Children’s Liturgy of the Word.  My daughter stood with all the others enjoying special time with him.  He talked about the excessive amount of bridesmaids and turned to Madelle.  “What do you think of ten bridesmaids?”  She didn’t even hesitate.  “I think it works.”  Hum, I hope she plans to pay for some of this on her own.  Of course, everyone in the congregation laughed heartily at this.  I am still chuckling about this.  Especially when I think of my husband trying to talk her out of ten bridesmaids in about fifteen or so years from now.  Go out and find humor in your day.  It will help you through the chaos of life.
                Blessing to you all.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Ideal Wife Part II: Characteristics

Part II:  Characteristics
                Proverbs 31 provides for us a very good list of characteristics to live by in our lives not only at home and at church but also in our communities which throws worldly attitudes and actions in our face.  I know I struggle with the outside world.  The negativity can bear down on me until I succumb to the same approach to life.  Now that I am a stay-at-home housewife, I don’t feel the crushing world around me as much.  Unfortunately, when I go out and am with the right people, I fall into my old habits.
She is clothed with strength and dignity,
                And she laughs at the days to come.  Proverbs 31:25
                The visual with the first line brings to mind that of a lady.  I see nice manicured nails, hair in the right place, and clothing that looks classy.  Hum, my nails are never done, my hair is pretty good, and I tend to like wearing jeans and football shirts supporting my son’s team or my favorite NFL team.  With the help of my Bible study sisters, they aided me to see more of myself in the line by redefining strength and dignity.  Instead of looking at the superficial outside of ourselves, we need to study our inside.  Do we have the strength to stand by our conviction even in the face of adversity with family/friends?  Do we display the self-respect of ourselves and others through our bearing, conduct, and speech?  Most of the time, I do pretty well.  Not always though.  I still need to be conscious of the traps that are set for me.
                The second line of the entire chapter of Proverbs 31 is my favorite.  “And she laughs at the days to come.”  The note in my Bible states, “Laughs at the days to come: anticipates the future with gladness free from anxiety.”  Isn’t that simply beautiful?  I do worry sometimes about the future until I remind myself that everything in my life is in God’s capable hands.  About a month ago, my husband applied for a temporary job.  The two main problems I saw about the job was a significant loss in pay and the potential of him traveling a lot.  With a teenage son in the house, I like having instant backup from my husband.  Yet, the fun he would have doing the job would be unprecedented.  I could have worried, but I gave it to God as did my husband.  I am so free to laugh at the future, wrinkles and all.
She opens her mouth in wisdom,
                And on her tongue is kindly counsel.  Proverbs 31:26
                Wisdom and kindness seem to be lacking in our world.  Granted, I think I have many wise and kind friends out there; most of them are the ones that will be reading this.  And there are many others too.  Unfortunately, it is so much easier to listen to the frankly stupid, hurtful people.  We need to rise above this way of living and still be kind.  For the most part, I display wisdom and kindness.  Unfortunately, there are people out there who push my proverbial buttons.  I carry a cross of burden each time I have to work with a specific school secretary.  She never smiles either with her face or with her voice.  She never seems to know the answer to any of my questions or seems to care.  I have been so fortunate to know many amazing secretaries who are helpful, cordial, and personable.  This one is not.  So, every time I know I have to talk with this person, I pray for charity of spirit with a kind tongue.
She watches the conduct of her household,
And eats not her food in idleness.  Proverbs 31:27
                The one thing I am very stringent on is watching the conduct of my household which drives my family crazy I am sure.  Both of my sons have accused my husband and me of being overprotective because we set an age of when they could date and we expect to know their plans when they go out and about.  (Now that the oldest is in college, we don’t expect any of this, but I still like to know some of what is going on in his life.)  I will not apologize for any of what we have done with the kids.  Coaches, youth ministers, teachers, and adult friends comment on the maturity of my children.  They like my kids.  That is the best compliment a parent can receive.  Besides, we are raising them to strive to be the ideal Christians.  We are not settling for less.  We also don’t settle for less in my or my husband’s conduct.  We live what we discuss.
                I so don’t like the line of eating in idleness.  As we discussed this line in Bible study, the other women didn’t know exactly what was meant by it.  Unfortunately, I know it all too well.   My comment, “It is eating bonbons while watching soap operas.”  First, we shouldn’t be idle.  There is a time to rest when we are weary.  Some people have health issues and can’t do the same amount of work as others, but resting is different than being idle.  The definition I like the most from is “habitually doing nothing or avoiding work; lazy.”  Though I hate it, I have to rest more than the average person due to health issues.  However, my first year of retirement, I rested and carelessly overate at the same time.  To rest, I watch television or read.  Not bad things, unless adding food to that.  Now I am trying to cut the food and when I watch television, I crochet.  I am resting, but not being idle. 
Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting;
                The woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Give her a reward of her labors,
                And let her works praise her at the city gate.  Proverbs 31:30-31
The Bible note for this first verse is worth mentioning.  “The true charm of the ideal wife is her religious spirit, for she fears (loves) the Lord.”  We don’t need to be flirty, alluring, appealing, or the like.  As we grow older, this will slowly start to fade.  Our love for God will outshine all of the worldly aspects of other women.  What a contradiction to what the media sells all of us.  Now, I do dress nicely for my husband and yes, I flirt with him.  Okay, I confess.  I try to be alluring and appealing, but only for him.  I do believe this is part of being a wife.  However, I don’t do any of this for others.  Oh, and I don’t do it like the media does it.  I try to be a lady and not a lady of the night.  But, how do we juggle this?  It begins by picking the right spouse.  If we have a worldly spouse, he is going to want a worldly wife.  I was blessed by God in the husband God choose for me.  He is a faith filled husband who believes in Proverbs’ ideal wife. 
I want to go just a little deeper with this.  We need to teach our children this way of thinking.  I want my boys to marry women (unless they become priests) who want to strive to be the ideal wife.  I want my daughter to marry a husband who will reward her labors as she strives to be the ideal wife.  One day a young lady made the comment, “you are going to expect a lot out of your daughter-in-laws.”  We were talking about the expectation I have of my boys in taking leadership roles in the church while they live at home.  “No, I won’t expect anything of my daughter-in-laws.  I do expect my sons to pick good wives though.”  If they fail to do this, they will have to work even harder at their marriages. 
The media lambasts us with many antichristian viewpoints in all areas.  By their perspective, I should be 115 pounds, wearing heals and low cut tops, and doing everything in my power to look 25.  I am suppose to let my children have free reign of their lives with their own cell phones, televisions, new cars, and a million other material items.  Come to think of it, I should have a ton of material items as well to go along with a McMansion.   I don’t want to give the wrong impression of myself.  I don’t think there is evil in really nice homes or other material items.  I have a cool pickup that I love and love to drive.  We probably have too many televisions in our house.  I am also going to work on a new bedroom décor that isn’t necessary, but I want it.  But it is evil to make this a priority in our lives.  First and foremost comes our faith, without that, we are nothing.
We can change our world.  Instead of listening to the media, we need to reward women for their labors.  We need to praise them at the city gates.  So kudos to Holly, Diane, Heather, Diane, Beth, Pam, Cindy, Becky, Deidre, Patty, Amy, Pam, Michelle, and all the wives and mother’s out there striving to be Ideal in their roles as Christian Women, I commend you and pray for you.
Blessings to you all.

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Ideal Wife Part 1: Family

Wow, I can’t believe how quickly the last two weeks flew by without getting a chance to write for the blog.  I have been busy working the last few nice days in the gardens and finishing up trying to process the bounty of my vegetable garden.  I still have more to do, but thought I would take a break from that today.  My days have also been filled with activities with my children, volunteering, and my spiritual walk.  The best thing to happen in the last two weeks was after my daughter and I left the corn maze on a class field trip that I helped chaperone.  She stated, “I am so lucky you are a stay-at-home mom because you can take me to this.”  There are days I doubt my contribution to the family by staying home, but my family does give me moments of clarity.
My 4th Day Bible Study group of wonderful women is working through the book Woman of Grace: A Bible Study for Married Women.  Last week we read Proverbs 31:10-31 entitled “The Ideal Wife.”  I have read this passage many times; however, this time the verses resonated with my soul.  I am far from the “ideal” wife; yet, I see glimmers of myself in the readings.  I also find old-fashioned ideas which struggle against the current ways of our world.  How much do these ideas in the reading really apply to today’s culture?  Please join me in the thoughts I have and add thoughts of your own in this five part review of what an ideal wife looks like in the current world.

Part I:  Family
When one finds a worthy wife,
                Her value is far beyond pearls
Her Husband, entrusting his heart to her,
                Has an unfailing prize.
She brings him good, and not evil,
                All the days of her life.  Proverbs 31:10-12
(Good and not evil: i.e., prosperity, not adversity.)
                The first two verses are beautiful.  I smile at the thought of my worth being more then pearls.  I don’t even have any pearls.  In my younger years, I wanted pearl jewelry.  With the passing of time, I am content to buy the occasional trinkets for fun to spice up my wardrobe.  The thought of pearls hasn’t crossed my mind for a very long time.  To think, I am more precious than pearls is awesome.  My worth comes partially from putting my husband’s heart in the middle of my pearl.  Many times I believe we forget the tenderness of our husband’s hearts.  They do trust us.  What a responsibility and magnificence this trust is.
                The next verse is very important.  Part of our job is to make the home a haven from the rest of the world.  We need to block out the evil and only allow in good.  My daughter and I were discussing the definition of haven just last night.  “Our house is my haven,” she said.  To me this is what makes a house a home, it is a haven.  I realize adversity will enter the home because it is hard work to live with people; however, our main priority in our home should be striving to work as a team.  One of our other kids (my son’s friend) stopped by the other day and said, “This place never changes.”  He was lounging on the couch.  At first I was confused.  There have been many changes.  Then I realized he was talking about the atmosphere of our house.  It is his haven as well.  What beautiful compliments from two young people.  My house definitely doesn’t have the grandeur of the popular world and it isn’t always at its cleanest, but the people who don’t put value in all of that will find a resting place full of love.

Her husband is prominent at the city gates
                As he sits with the elders of the land.  Proverbs 31:23
Her children rise up and praise her;
                Her husband, too, extols her.
“Many are the women of proven worth,
                But you have excelled them all.”  Proverbs 31:28-29
                Verse 23 brings to mind men standing around the water cooler or in the break room enjoying some down time from their jobs.  While they relax, they don’t have to worry about their home life.  They are ensured that when the day is done, they can go home to a content wife.  She gives him the ability to work with no complications.  In other words, he doesn’t have to go home to nagging about how her day was horrible or how he spends too much time at work.  For the military wives this can be a very big problem.  It is really hard to stay home while the husband is off seeing the world.  Resentment can grow.  I always marvel at my cousin.  Her husband is a pilot and away from home much of the time.  She graciously sends him on his trips and welcomes him home with open arms.  She runs the house with efficiency and love.  I will say, I see her as an ideal wife and try to emulate her wisdom.
                There have been times I have resented my husband’s trips.  I love to travel and see new things.  I struggled when he went to Nashville, Miami, Pittsburgh, Louisiana….  I actually pouted.  I also rejoiced in his being able to go, but I wanted to be there too.  Since I have struggled with this, I try to make the situation better for myself.  When I went to D.C., I took advantage of the work trip and toured plantations in Virginia (a bucket list item).  I saved money and went to Hawaii for a girl’s trip.  Now that I no longer work and don’t get the trips that I used to, I make time for a special trip in the summer in our area (well, a day’s drive).  I love the ocean and drove to Washington to spend time there last year.  This past summer, I spent a week at a Christian concert event.  I am not sure what adventure I will go on next year. 
                We are fortunate to be able to afford these trips.  Next year we may not be as financially stable.  If we aren’t, I will look closer to home for new sites to see.  I still haven’t toured Our Lady of the Rockies.  I haven’t been to the Tizer Gardens, Virginia City, Morrell Falls, and over a dozen other places that are all about an hour or two from my doorstep.  We are only limited by our imaginations of all the things God has given us to make our lives brighter.
                My children don’t always rise up and praise me as it says in verse 28.  We have our moments.  This morning my daughter growled at me.  My middle child and I push each other’s buttons of annoyances.  He also wasn’t happy with me while mowing the lawn yesterday.  Yet, they do give me compliments and a whole lot of love.  I am also very blessed to have a husband that extols/praises the work I do at home.  He never complains if I fail to get his military T-shirts washed or I haven’t gotten to the folding and he has to look for socks.  With these verses, they show a woman how to be an ideal wife; yet, the family has a responsibility as well.  They need to show the wife/mother their gratitude for all she does for them.  I like this give and take relationship.
                I believe I am a woman of proven worth.  I still have growing to do.  I need to work on my resentment of being stuck at home (this happens on my bad days).  I also need to work at not pushing my son’s buttons or losing patience with my daughter’s moods.  I have other things to get better at, but we will save that for other verses to come.
                Blessings to you all.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Holocaust Readings

                My first reaction when facing a Holocaust denier was to prove him wrong.  I went to the library checking out six different books from this era in history.  That evening my husband and I discussed the denial.  As he said, people that think this way have an answer for every argument a person can raise.  The debating points don’t have to be logical, but usually when a person is of this mindset, they aren’t logical.  So instead of trying to prove a point, I decided to learn for myself.
                The first book I started to peruse though was Harry Truman: The Man From Independence by Karin C. Farley.  A friend had mentioned a quote of one of the presidents about the Holocaust.  I couldn’t find the quote coming from President Truman, but I did learn some interesting things about him that made me ponder his journey to holiness.  He is the president who gave the order to drop the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan.  People can say he would never make it to Heaven because he killed thousands of innocent lives.  I am sure he wrestled with this himself.  In the end, he and his advisors agreed that if they didn’t end the war in this drastic effort, millions more soldiers and civilians would have died.  I know others have different opinions from mine and that my opinion could be wrong, but I believe there is a time to fight.  I hope to see Harry someday after I have made my journey.
                Holocaust Memories: Speaking the Truth by Elaine Landau, I read all the way through.  The book is a simple read of individual stories of people living through the Holocaust.  The stories moved me.  I especially felt drawn to the author’s story of her family.  Growing up, her father never talked about his siblings.  She knew she had an uncle in Cuba.  However, the relatives in Europe where never spoken of by her father.  She assumed they were dying of old age across the sea.  As an adult, she became reunited with her cousins from Cuba when she learned her aunt had been killed during the Holocaust.  The memory of this so haunted her father that he couldn’t speak of her.  Elaine’s father died when she was eleven.  I pray he is enjoying time in heaven with his beloved sister.
                The book I am almost finished with now is The Liberators: America’s Witnesses to the Holocaust by Michael Hirsh.  In the beginning, I intended to share a story or two about the soldiers and medical personnel who helped liberate the prisoners from the death camps and concentration camps.  I found the reading very choppy and hard to follow just one story.  Besides, most of the stories are very similar.  Interesting points of fact, General Dwight D. Eisenhower knew the Holocaust would be denied.  He ordered all soldiers to go through the camps and if possible take pictures.  He wanted eye witnesses and proof.  He also wanted his soldiers to know what they were fighting for in Europe.  General George S. Patton demanded the German civilians to tour the camps to see what was going on and he and his officers made the German civilian men dig graves for the thousands of bodies that were found.  Like President Truman, these generals ordered the death of thousands of men.  I don’t know if they were religious men.  If they believed in God, I plan to speak with them someday.  They are probably hanging out with the Maccabees and Archangel Michael. 
                As for the soldiers and medical personnel, they all have been affected by what they saw.  The current term we use today of PTSD definitely played a role in these heroes lives after the war.  The horrors they witnessed are forever etched in their minds: the masses of bodies, the skin and bone prisoners, and the smell of death and disease.  Many of them said the horrors of war and seeing their buddies killed was nothing compared to the sights they saw in the camps.  My prayers go out to them as well.
                The number of history books I read through grade school, high school, and college all give proof to the Holocaust; yet, people still deny.  They believe the government in the areas of education and military have all brainwashed the masses to believe in the atrocities the Nazi regime performed.  Yes, I do believe the textbooks though they do tell the slanted version of the winner’s side of the story.  My real proof comes from the stories of heroes, the eye witnesses.  God bless those who died, the survivors, the soldiers, and the leaders who put a stop to the killing.
                Blessings to you all.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Accept the Invitation

Mass Reflection
                All three Bible readings at Mass dealt with banquets: food and wine.  Father connected the topic with being invited to weddings, dinners, and special occasions.  He reminded us of our invitations from God.  I really liked this thought.  I remember growing up in my Protestant faith being invited to share our reflections and to pray.  Yet, I have never quite thought of invitations since I have become Catholic.  They are there though every single day.
                Visiting with God is an invitation He gives us daily.  Like a good father, He wants to know what we are up to and how we are feeling.  I believe He gets as excited with me chatting with Him as I get when I hear from my son who is away at culinary school.  My invitation to my son is 24/7 just as God’s invitation is to me.  I really need to accept this invitation more often.
                Sundays, and for Catholics Saturdays, are more invitations that happen weekly.  We are invited to spend quality time with not only God, but all of our brothers and sisters in Christ.  I have always loved this invitation.  My week isn’t complete if I can’t attend church for reasons of travel or sickness.  Since being a small child riding the church bus, I love going to church.  Being with other like minded people struggling to make a difference and to be their best always has brought me comfort and strength to face the coming week.  The invitation goes even further during the Mass.  We get to attend the banquet of communion.  I have never been eloquent in my thoughts of the Eucharist.  Well, not as eloquent as Catholic speakers.  However, partaking of the bread and wine brings me in unity with Jesus.  There is no better armor to head out into the world.
                The types of other invitations we receive from God are as varied as the stars in the sky.  We are constantly invited to follow the golden rule: do onto others as you would do onto yourself.  Numerous times throughout the day, we can be compassionate to those around us.  Faith retreats are abundant at most churches.  Also attending different activities with different denominations can help us grow.  I hope to do this with my sister-in-law if my life with kids ever slows down.  Finally, we are invited to serve our church and our fellow citizens.
                Just yesterday, my husband and I were talking about a retreat he attended this weekend.  He was called to serve in this ministry.  After his short reflection, he was complemented on the message he shared.  As is his way, he gave all the credit to the Holy Spirit.  He told me he doesn’t know why he gets these complements or why his life is so good.  “I don’t deserve it.”  None of us “deserve” a good life or to be blessed in our service by God.  But when we accept the invitations God sends us, we are enriched by Him and given a vast amount of blessings.  My husband accepts the invitations God sends him.  With these invites, God gives my husband the gifts to fulfill a Christ centered life, blessings included.  Will we have the perfect lives?  No, but with God’s help, we will prevail but only if we first attend the “banquet.”
                Go out and accept His invitation.  I plan to.
                Blessing to you all.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Spiritual Fruits: Go Out and Product Them

Mass Reflection
                Yesterday’s gossip reading came from Matthew 21:33-43 and the Old Testament reading came from Isaiah 5:1-7.  Each discussed a vineyard concept or story.  I have to tell all of you, I didn’t gain much from the Homily.  However, I have always loved the reading from “gardening.”  The one point the visiting priest did mention was how we are to bring forth spiritual fruits.  This made me start thinking of how people can do this.
                Spiritual fruits come from not only attending church services, but also becoming active in the church community.  The parish I attend is extremely active.  The numbers of ministries are quite abundant.  Our family is involved in the Religious Education program, acolyte, Eucharist, Manclub, the chili competition, and other social events we can attend.  Other ministries are coffee after Mass, music, Lector, Eucharist to the VA and hospital, Family Promise, holiday dinners, Parish Council, Social Committee, Finance Council, Family Promise, Decorating Committee, Lent to Life, and funerals.  Spiritual fruits can come from these activities of service.  There are also the options of Diocesan programs.  We are active in Cursillo, 4th Day, and the Knights of Columbus.  I also helped with a teen trip to Creations Northwest this summer.  There are other programs to get involved in, but my list is big enough, I haven’t looked at more.  I do know there are other Bible Studies, conferences, and Rosary Group.
                We are very blessed to have such a vibrant church community in not only our parish, but also in our town.  This hasn’t always been the case.  What can a person do if they don’t have these options?  If you are a leader, start some fun church activities.  You are only limited by your imagination of which I didn’t have in my younger years.  Living in the small towns of Hardin and Wolf Point, I didn’t know how to find places to volunteer.  Also, I have never been a strong leader.  Those times in my life I didn’t produce spiritual fruits that corresponded with volunteer and community activities.
                The community at large is also another place to turn for spiritual fruits.  Volunteering can be done at the library, goodwill, schools, museums, and nursing homes.  Once all of my kids are raised, I would like to start volunteering at either the library or one of the museums in town.  Granted, you may not be working spiritual topics in these areas; but you can be an ambassador of Christ through your actions and maybe your voice.  This can also be done in the work place.  Smile and say hello to that person who seems shy or that older person who always seems grumpy.  Treat everyone with respect or at least courtesy. 
                What if you are homebound?  There have been times that I haven’t been able to do volunteer work because I was home with the children.  Also, when I have flare ups from my health issues, I don’t leave the house.  These are opportunities of prayer time.  Of course, we all should pray without stopping, but with the extra time, prayer life can go deeper.  I just looked up types of prayers.  The five types I found in multiple areas were thanksgiving, petition, persevering, intersession, and meditative.  Hum, I think I should be doing some posts on this.  I could learn some good stuff.  Studying the Bible and other writings is also a way to gain spiritual fruits.  Guiding our children is a must as is guiding our loved ones.  My husband and I guide each other daily.
                I meant to make this a shorter post, but the ideas of how to produce spiritual fruits just kept coming.  Even now there are other things that can done I haven’t mentioned that come to mind.  Really, every little thing we do can be offered up to God in thanksgiving and praise which will benefit our spirit and those around us.  Go out today and produce some fruit.  I am going to go clean house for God and family while listening to Tenth Avenue North or maybe Francesca Battistelli.  “Dear Lord, thank you for the family to clean up after and the house to make shine a little better.  I offer you the tasks I do today with a light and joyful heart.  Amen.”
                Blessings to you all.