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.