Posts filed under teenagers

Leading Our Daughters to Divine Love

She is isn't what I thought she was when the midwife placed her in my arms 15 years ago. She stole my heart, that's for sure. But I had this mistaken notion that she was mine - really and truly mine - made for my kisses and for the formation that I would give. I held the vulnerable child and was overwhelmed with the intensity of the bond and the vague idea that I never wanted to be apart from her.

The initial blow to this vision came the first time she threw a tantrum so hard that she connected her foot to my jawbone. I saw stars... and stars fell. I wrapped her up in my own body to help control the storm. When I felt her strength, I was afraid. Is this my child? Before she was born, I was the mother of one kid who never threw fits. Never. My mothering pride fell with this second fiery spirit... but she grew in spite of me. I learned the hard way that she was not my tiny bit of property to mold into another version of myself. Rather, she was a person apart from me, for a Divine vision that was not mine to know or own. 

That kick was a wake up call. I was given notice: You are not me, mommy... and I am not you. Step aside. Step aside... But don't forget to hold my hand...

I learned a few things over those early years. One was to get out of the way when that foot flew. Another was how to help a girl redirect the fierce emotion that grew out of a strong and fiery spirit. She grew in beauty and strength, learning to direct that will toward the good and beautiful. I watched in awe. And shed more than a few tears in pain and love...

I remember when she stood poised to race atop the pool blocks and the mother next to me cried out in anger: "She shouldn't be there. My daughter has no chance against this monster who doesn't lose." Two years later she stood at the service line on the volleyball court with her arm raised, ready, and the mother behind me spit out lies that housed her envy: "She's a beast. She obviously failed a grade. Shouldn't be allowed to play. Our team has no chance." Monster. Beast. If I thought I had known anger before in my life, I was being schooled in my error. The anger rooted in a mother's pain and fear is a terrible thing. It wasn't the last time that the worst side of women and girls would tear at her strength and my heart. I thanked God every time for the gift of homeschooling... to be able to retreat back into a safe place and nurture her heart until it was ready to step out again. 

Early lessons... early lessons in what happens when God makes you amazing and the world can't handle it. How does a girl learn to navigate that hatred? How does she keep standing at her full height and beauty when the world is always trying to take her down a peg? And why? Why do we do this to each other? Why do women take from each other that spark of beauty that God ordains? Where can we find community that will cherish the hearts of our daughters? And our own hearts.

Oh, the tears I've cried for this girl... not my girl... when I have seen the vultures circling. And I don't know any other way to save her except to give her back to God. In my care, but not mine. And what does He asked of me as her caregiver? He has temporarily placed her in my arms... what will He find when it is time to give her back?  I pray that He will find that I have kept her in His Word. That I have never tried to wrestle her out of His grip so that she can be more mine than His. 

His girl. His treasure. Please, sweet Jesus, keep the girl in your Word. I want her to dance in Your grace and mercy forever and cry "I have found Him Whom my soul loves." 

When Jenna of Blessed is She offered to send me those words for my girl to wear, my heart leapt because I knew that it was not simply an opportunity for a beautiful shirt... but a great grace. A welcoming into community. An opportunity to remind my daughter of her worth and to introduce her to a broader community of love. 

Blessed is She is a community of women rooted in the Word of God and His holy Catholic faith, clinging to Him, lifting each other up to greatness in His beauty. My girl is a woman, yet not a woman. She is the child she used to be and the woman she will be. It is a continuum and she belongs in this community. Mine... not mine. My daughter... and my sister. A child... a young woman. 

She sits at the heart of my home and diapers babies, surprises the family with beautiful food, and will learn to drive a 12-passenger van. She also dreams of being a doula, caring for the broken, photographing the life-altering moments, sharing joy through the work of her hands. She waits for God to open the doors to the future. 

The Blessed is She ministry is now offering Tees for Teens in Love with the Lord and when I asked my girl/not my girl if she wanted to participate in something like that? She immediately said yes. She loves the Lord and I beg your prayers of protection for this young woman who fiercely desires the hope and peace and joy that He promises. The day is not far off when she will have to choose Him without me to watch over her shoulder. And that is the day when I pray God will send her community... like you. 

That won't be so difficult if she already belongs. When does a girl stop being a child and become a woman? There isn't a set date. It doesn't happen in a moment. It is a slow blossoming. And one of the most important things we can do for our teen girls is to take them by the hand and invite them into a community of loving women seeking the Lord.

Would you like a Blessed is She tee for yourself or a girl or woman you love? You can enter to win one in the giveaway below or go now to the Blessed is She website to take advantage of the current sale. In addition to t-shirts, there are beautiful journals, prints, and sets.

Today, I'm praying for all your girls; that their feminine genius will shine out of love for the Sacred Heart. May the Divine Mercy protect them and strengthen them as they blossom into the fullness of His joy!

{Blessed is She Tee Giveaway}

...entries are now closed...
WINNER: Christine W.

Entering is very simple....

Just visit the Blessed is She shop and leave a comment telling me what your favorite product is. Yep. That's really all. 

The giveaway will end at 11:59 on June 30th, 2015. The winner's name will be selected via random drawing.

Posted on June 22, 2015 and filed under Womanhood, motherhood, teenagers.

How to Turn Teens Into Saints...

I know that a lot of Catholic teens think All Saints' celebrations are stupid and refuse to participate or dress up. It's easy to see why. When most adults hardly appreciate the excellence of this feast day, it is rather difficult to pass on any enthusiasm to the young people. Most dress-up parties and All Saints' Masses take place in a school environment, relegating them to part of the "school-ish" culture. The dynamic, authentic, awesomeness of this feast becomes a flattened dullish sort of thing and seen as only  for the little kids. Just try to have an All Saints' dress-up day in a Catholic high school and see what happens! And yet those same students will happily make fools of themselves in every kind of ridiculous get-up for Halloween. Obviously, it is not just about not wanting to be childish... but clearly an aversion to the things of faith because they see the faith as restrictive, cheesy, old, uncool. This is primarily the fault of a culture that is dead to true beauty and does not seek the heart of Christ.

Fortunately, this is not true for everyone but it does take some significant familial and parish effort and prayer to compete with the teen culture of boring. My teens participate in the fun of All Saints' Day of their own accord (so far), and happily so. I realize we have a distinct advantage as homeschoolers because the dull-ish, dead-ish secular teenage culture does not have constant access to our home.

Because we do not participate in the secular celebration of Halloween, we have been accused of being anti-evangelism. Tell that to my teens who deliberately wore their All Saints' get-up to one of the most liberal colleges in the country last week for their schola rehearsal! A college where they were sure to stand out and provoke unkind stares and certainly did. It was no suggestion of mine, just a real desire to spread the wings of their faith. Or how about the time my "St. Thomas Aquinas" decided it would be far better to go into Dairy Queen for his milkshake instead of using the drive-through. Because... Evangelism. 

Evangelism often manifests as families integrating smoothly into secular society (for example, watching Fourth of July fireworks within a community or participating in sports), but in our current culture, it is becoming increasingly important to be fully who we are within the context of our faith, even when it causes us to stand out.

As you can see by the photos, my teens not only dressed up, but they went all out. Professor had a very specific plan and taught me quite a bit about birettas as I fumbled my way through creating a couple. I love the way it turned out, and yes, it is only supposed to have three of those bump thingies. Amazing what a little poster board, heat n' bond, yarn, and fabric remnants can do!

Cookie was late to the planning because of a November 1st essay deadline. She wasn't sure she'd be dressing up at all and I didn't push her, but once that paper was submitted, she eagerly dug out some fancy things and began searching for a saint. (I am short on photos of her here because she was still rushing to get ready for most of the photo session. Other photos of her are temporarily imprisoned on someone else's iphone.)

Crash is nearly a teen and he didn't even flinch when that mitre towered over his head in public. I felt like Maria von Trapp making his outfit because I repurposed gold curtains to create it.

I've got lots of thoughts on why my kids are like this and they mostly center around the fact that we home educate. There's a lot of freedom and blessing in this lifestyle choice. Primarily, the kids are free from a secular teen culture that discourages true joy, passion, and respect for the dignity of the human person. I look at these pictures and know that in spite of our weaknesses and failures, we are on a fundamentally good path. It gives me the courage to keep going.

Not a teen but too adorable not to post.

When kids are little, mamas often believe that if we only do all the right things, our kids will be really great and good people. Not to burst your bubble, but it isn't true. It's not primarily about us and whatwe do. It is about how well we place them into the loving arms of Jesus, so that He can do the work. We can lead them along the right path and I guarantee you that they will still stray at times. Some will even leave the faith.

What we need to focus on during these years then, is not micro-managing them into a relationship with our Lord, but allowing them to retain and develop true passion for His Sacred Heart. 

In spite of the common, but false, assertion that homeschooling restricts that kind of growth, I give you my evidence that it clears away some of the debris that can obstruct joy. Will it guarantee that my parenting will turn out canonized saints? No. But I believe it gives them a fighting chance to retain a seedling of their original purity and innocence. They may need it very badly someday.

Middle kids lovin' on little kids.

If you don't homeschool, this is no judgment on you. It is not my vocation to parent your children and I trust you to follow God's will for your own family. I know that many of you are defending the goodness of your teens with great courage and success within the school system. May he bless and keep us all and bring our children safely home with the saints and angels!

Posted on November 3, 2013 and filed under All Saints' Day, Liturgical Year, teenagers.

When Busy is Beautiful...

We used to be busy. I mean B.U.S.Y... with practices and lessons and coaching and training and tournaments. There were times (embarrassed as I am to admit this) that we actually spent 20 to 40 hours in one week investing in the sport of 1 to 3 children. Our kids were very successful and success can be like a vacuum. It sucks you in, demanding more and more... until it sucks the very soul out of you.

We have reached the one year anniversary of our departure from B.U.S.Y. We have spent quite a bit of time floundering about trying to reestablish our identity as a faith-centered family and it has been a time of tremendous growth and learning. Not the least for me.

Busy can be a state of affairs (as in, "we have a lot to do") or it can be an identity.

I AM busy. This activity in which I am involved is WHO I am. I identify myself with it. I am not me without it. I am a swimmer. I am a volleyball player. I am an athlete. I am the mother of an athlete.

But when it comes down to it...

I am a follower of Christ

. And how does the busy in my life reflect that without question?

When we walked away cold turkey from club sports, we told the Lord...

We are opening up our lives to You... please fill us up with Your Divine Will. Choose our adventure!

Slowly but surely He has answered that prayer and it is one of the most exciting moments I have ever experienced, this take-us-whereever-You-want-us-to-go adventure. It is not walking in blind faith because He asks us to keep our eyes on Him, but the details certainly continue to surprise.

I have an intense fondness for the sporting lifestyle and could be easily tempted back into it. I like the energy and the challenge and the rises and falls. I like coaching. I like the smell of the gym and the pool. I like braiding hair and feeding kids and cheering and comforting. I even like the thrill of getting up at 3am to make sure that food and bags are prepared for the 8am meet with a 7:30 arrive time and a 2-hour drive preceding... and certainly the haul of medals and ribbons for the way home. I will always love the beauty of well performed athletic action. We didn't step away because sport is intrinsically bad but because we don't compete halfway... and modern youth sport culture demands life blood as the price of success. For example, if Cookie were playing in her well-deserved position on a team aiming for a national championship this year, our family would be spending Easter in Baltimore. And every year thereafter. Thank God for clear signs. This particular one served simply to highlight all the other misdirected decisions we were making.

Not even for a college scholarship. We will not sell our family for a bag of gold.

As we conclude this pivotal year, we have been unexpectedly given a period of pure B.U.S.Y. and the competitor in me is jazzed and ready to go. But not for sport... for the dignity of human Life, for the greater glory of God, for Love. This is a new busy. At the moment, it is rather intense and requires the kids to explore a new set of skills and experiences. But that adrenaline rush is still there. For all the right reasons this time.

To be completely honest, I have become quite comfortable with our slower pace. Even a little spoiled by it. We have commitments but they are carefully chosen and two nights a week are "busy" with Holy Mass. Although I used to taxi all over creation for sport, I whine a little now when I have to be disengaged from the house... especially when there's a fire in the wood stove! But I'm ready for an expansion. We've done a lot of healing. And even with this growing pregnant belly, I know that I can plan and tote car seats and pack food with the best. But this time, I pray that my heart will be focused on the work of the Lord.

I pray that our hearts will continue to be centered around the sacraments and our domestic church. That God will be glorified by all of our busy days. That He will provide the grace and strength that we need to reach out when He calls us to do so... and to retreat to our hearth when it is best for our souls.

In 2011, I wrote the following to my kids:

I pray you always remember the final goal. Don't forget that there will always be someone faster than you. Always someone stronger. Always someone who can jump higher. There will be times when you lose because someone cheats; when you lose because someone on your team gives up; when you lose because you just didn't give your best; or because of injury. There will be times when people hate you for your success and times when they will attempt to hurt you because of it... you have felt that sting. You know. There will be times when you give everything you have and it will not be enough. And times when people give you too much credit, too much attention and praise... and you will be tempted to forget to Whom proper gratitude is due.

Remember the lessons of the pool: "What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?" ~ Mark 8:36

Do not forget the final goal. Pursue goodness. Pursue truth. Pursue beauty. There are millions of other people pursuing success in your sport. If fighting for success costs you permanent things, then let those people have success. And let it go. It is fleeting... and you will never regret the prize you have gained in its place.

Since I wrote that, they have grown so much and will be the first to tell you that giving up their identity as athletes was a critical step in discovering the adventure that God has chosen for them. A couple weeks ago, Professor commented to me:

Imagine if we had kept going! We would have been completely swept away by now. There would be no end to it. More money. More time. More drama. Further and further from where we should really be. For what? 

And that comment from my most intense competitor. Praise the Lord! He shown us how to make busy beautiful.

Posted on February 26, 2013 and filed under culture, Family Life, parenting, sports, teenagers.