Thursday, May 31, 2018

Pray, hope, and don't worry....it's hard, but it's going to be ok.....

I think if someone had told me 19 years ago when I discovered I was finally pregnant (it was a grueling two years of trying) with our first child that raising children in this day and age would bring gray to my hair faster than any gene mutation could dream, I might have been more afraid to bring more children into this world.

If I had known the culture would pull on them harder than I or my husband could hold on to, I might have been more afraid.

If I had known the "new" pressures to fit in would include devices I can't even hardly afford for myself as an adult, or clothing that looks like something I madly took scissors to and all that was left was shreds of material, I might have been more afraid.

If I had known how painful the roll of an eye, or the yell of  an 'I don't like you,' would cut deep into my soul, I might have been more afraid.

If I had known the trouble a boy could get into, the demands a teenage girl could place, the point blank lies told to my face or any of the other ten million struggles we've faced, I could easily see how having one or even no children, might have entertained my thoughts.

But I didn't know.  How grateful I am for that as well. 

Raising children in this day and age is anything but easy.  I have quite the age span.  A daughter graduating HS and a baby who intermittently decides sleep is ok enough to go a few hours in between feedings.  To say I'm exhausted is an understatement. 

But it's not just sleep exhaustion.  It's mental and emotional exhaustion. 

To cheerlead your children day in and day out only to be yelled at and told we are too strict. 

To have your children call you when they're done with after school activities and although we live a little over a mile away and the weather is usually spectacular for walking you pick them up (which is terrible wear and tear for a car mind you...) only to be told we don't let them do anything or have anything.  No one, and I mean NO ONE makes their kids buy their own cars, or pay for their own insurance....No one else's parents are like us, we are told.

I could go on and on, and frankly the list is endless and I'm tired and feeling extremely emotional already and just read this so far, and I sound kinda like Eeyore- but I think I've made my point.

Yesterday was probably the worst day of my life.  On record (even with nearly dying after the birth of my 7th child).  Yesterday was the point I realized that my children, despite my husband and I trying our very best to steer our children away from some of the harmful things they are sometimes (some of them ALL the time) attracted to,  they are going to be stubborn and insist on their own way regardless.  I often wonder if God didn't make teenagers this way on purpose- to be so openly disobedient, or defiant, because there is some purging that must be done by we the parents....

I've gone to bed the last two nights with my heart so heavy, and the tears so freely falling at where I possibly could have been a better mom.  I know my short temper is definitely a part of the problem.  How could these children even begin to want to consider what God wants for them when their own mother gets so angry at times.  I've not been the best Christian example by a long shot.

I know I've tried working on being less reactive and a more proactive parent.  I have caught myself on several occasions actually stopping, and talking.  Which is huge considering how I was raised.  But teenagers are excellent for pushing buttons and my instinct to react is sometimes a painful sword that I wish would just cut my mouth off.  Or tape it off to be less violent I suppose...

Perhaps we have been too overprotective.  I could blame my husband and his work.  He's seen children die at the hands of predators.  That affects a person deeply.  He has also arrested more than his share of people who probably could have made better decisions in their lives but because of free will and choice, they didn't.  He wants better for his kids.  As a teacher, I witnessed first hand the affects of 'hands off' parenting, and the results I saw at a young age left an indelible scar that I didn't want my kids to just 'do whatever they wanted.'

Unfortunately, but fortunately, we are a large family, so actually buying every whim each child dreams of is honestly just impractical for us.  We must be frugal with our purchases and really pray about what we are buying them for birthdays and Christmas.  Even with that said, I spend way more money than most do because I do try to fulfill at least one of their wishes....

Sadly, many children in this culture do not even understand the word sacrifice.  And see children like mine, who don't have iPad at 5 years old, or their own personal computers by 10 years old, as poor children.  Heck, a few times, I've actually had some of mine return from school once or twice and actually ask if we were poor because we didn't have the same things as their friends.  POOR?  Do our children even understand what that word means?  POOR? 

So let me get this straight- because we don't have ipads, tablets, ipods, computers for every human in our home, take fancy vacations every three months, buy every trendy gift that comes across the Amazon HOT Christmas toy list (Hatchables, FIDGET SPINNERS? WTHeck...) we are POOR?

I'm sorry, I'm getting ahead of myself because it just sounds so ridiculous.  But these are things my children question me about.  At least in the younger years.  Some of my older ones know better, but still question.  Some of them actually see the affects of children who are never denied and they don't like what they see.

But to get back to being poor and making a sacrifice.....

What ever happened to wanting something so badly you really worked for it?  What ever happened to seeing that Liz Claiborne purse in JC Penney's and working extra hours and spending your ENTIRE Baskin & Robbins Ice Cream check to buy it????  ($87.00 people....how insane is that one.....) Whatever happened to getting a job and saving up money to buy your first car because you knew mom and dad weren't buying it and you sure knew your friends were as dependable as the wind....although, I will admit, I had one friend who would drive to the moon and back for me and she did and I am forever indebted to her friendship and rides.... 

My children don't understand what poor really is because all their lives they've literally heard that what makes a person POOR is NOT HAVING MATERIAL THINGS.... and mind you, these "material things" are not NEEDS, but actually WANTS and DESIRES.... 

I digress.... I am preaching to the choir. 

There are things I certainly could have done to prevent this. 

Yes...I could have homeschooled.  But honestly, I've heard stories with homeschool families and their teenagers.   They don't seem immune to the pull. 

Yes....I could go back to work to send them to Catholic schools, but honestly,  I hear the SAME things from many parents who feel as I do and I'm not spending 10's of thousands of dollars (well, minus my property taxes up here in the great white north.....) for that education....dealing with the same yucks....

Honestly, I wish I had taught my kids the faith better.  I wish I had sat down with each one of them and really delved into religion with them.  Talked about the persecutions people who were just like them faced.  Now saints, these young people didn't stop believing or learning or trying to bring the light of Christ to others.....

I think the thing I regret the most is not praying and trusting more.  Padre Pio is known for a quote that we see everywhere.   Pray, hope, don't worry.  I do the first two somewhat ok, but the third I don't do well at all.  As evidenced by last nights tear fest.  Worry brings fear. 

As I clutched my cord rosary (which I've discovered is the only painless rosary I can sleep with without hurting me or my husband), I just kept asking God to please help us.  I couldn't get the words to form into any prayer.  Just 'Please, Lord. Help us.'

We can't do this alone.  My kids can't do this alone.  Although, at this point in their lives they certainly think they can. 

I can't do this without my husband.  We can't do this without our God.  He has been showing us His love since the beginning of time.  He wants us unconditionally.  He loves us unconditionally.  He's been teaching us all about his love and all he wants is us to love HIM!  I guess that's all I want my children to do as well.  Love Him enough to really give Him their lives and trust He will guide them. 

And show them that life is not always going to be happy.  It's not always going to be about getting our way, or getting things, or being popular, or being wealthy, or having everything your heart desires.  Sometimes, life, when truly lived through Christ, is going to be HARD.  The right way to do things is going to sometimes be very unpopular.  The better choice is going to be the road less traveled on.  Living a life for God doesn't always smell like roses, but there are certainly roses along the way.  And as much as I want to protect my children from making the same stupid mistakes I made because I didn't have a cheerleader in my ear, I too, must learn that I have to let go and trust.  I want to protect them so badly.  No one warned me about my choices.  I wasn't discouraged to do things, I certainly was never told to bring it all to God and see what He wants from me. 

This life is hard.  Raising families is hard.  Raising large families is really hard.  Some days I just want to quit.  I literally just want to throw the covers over my head and pretend I am asleep....There are times when I truly convince myself that if I had "only prayed more, or gone to daily Mass more, or just been a more holy person," than my kids wouldn't make such dumb choices, or do things that make my head hurt, or just treat us so unkindly. 
If I had just gotten a hold of my temper, my anger, and really worked on the opposite virtue.  If I had just stopped being so scrupulous and blaming every single thing I didn't do right....

I could go on and on....but God doesn't want me to.  I know that.  Although, sitting here in my little pity party, I certainly could. 

I want my kids to have better than I did.  But not in things.  None of that stuff matters.  We can't take a U-Haul to Heaven.  It just.won't.go..... (I do have a teenager who might be slightly disappointed in this fact....)

What I want my children to have? 

1.  A firm and solid faith foundation.  

God is real.  God is really REALLY REALLY real.  I've had too many crazy, take my breath away, did anyone else see that, things happen to me to not believe it.  HE.IS.REAL.  Our amazing earth should prove that.  Nothing comes from nothing.  A great book is written by a great author.  A beautiful painting is painted by an amazing artist.  A masterfully built building is designed by a great architect.  A delicious meal doesn't just appear out of thin air, it is prepared by a great chef.  Same with us.  Same with our world.  We did NOT come from nothing... There IS a great designer...

2. God loves us so much He gave Himself to us in Jesus Christ His Son. 

Not only is God one in three, not only did He come to earth as a tiny cute little baby, but He DIED FOR US.  He was brutally beaten and practically dragged to His death on a cross.  We can't look at most crucifixes today and see that because they're all polished and shiny and clean, but His body was literally hanging skin and blood.   Bruised, swollen, dripping blood, dead.... He died so that we might not perish but have LIFE IN HIM....

3.  John Chapter 6 is not a symbolic gesture.

If we don't teach them anything else, I want my children to understand that Jesus Christ is truly present in the Catholic church under the species of bread and wine and that God Himself has been teaching and preparing people for it since Genesis.  Literally.  The only acceptable form of worship for God was an altar with a sacrifice.....a bloody sacrifice.  He taught them over time that it would be Jesus that would give us this one true form of Worship in the Eucharist.  HIS body, HIS blood.  We would be instructed on how to receive it, and the priests would be instructed on how to DO it.  It's all so completely fascinating. 

4.  Our faith comes from Jesus.  

Too many people have left the Church because of what they 'thought' we believed.  I almost did.  But I didn't want to leave it until I had exhausted myself in finding the truth.  And what I found?  Was glorious.  The depth and beauty of our faith is beyond what I can adequately put into words.  The love I have felt from God after going to confession.  Or the love I have felt after sitting in Adoration.  Or the love I have felt by just sitting with my bible and soaking up His word.  It's all real.  We can trace every aspect of Catholicism back to the beginning.  It's truth.  Study it.  Learn it.  Lead by it..

5.  That while 'things' bring fleeting happiness, the love we have for our children is rooted in a deep, mystical connection with God.  

We prayed for each one of our children.  Whether they were planned by us, or by God.  Not one of our babies was a 'mistake' or an accident.  Life is hard.  Too many people are trying to make our time here on Earth as painless as possible and while in theory that sounds delightful (seriously, no pain at all??? Does that include all the pain of getting old and getting out of bed in the mornings???) it's actually a horrible idea.  Too many of us don't know how to handle tragedy or heartache or pain.  We want a 'quick fix' for illness, a pill to take to end lives of those we deem "suffering" and surgeries to remove those "mistakes in the womb."    Don't fall into the trap of needing life to be easy.  Struggle is good.  Heartache reminds us that in heaven there is none.  Tragedies teach us to appreciate all life all the time and love one another with an unconditional love because we know not the hour or the day when we will be called home.

6. We don't make decisions lightly.

We don't make decisions about our parenting lightly ever.  Despite how it might seem that you never get to do anything, we actually pray and discuss every decision made in our home.  Are there some things we absolutely unequivocally don't allow or don't say yes to?  Yes.  There are.  Are there decisions we mess up on?  Absolutely yes and that's why some decisions change (like phone issues and other electronics...) some are just not mature enough to handle the responsibility or some just have no self control...But we never decide on things merely to torture you or exude our power over you...we want the best for you and as you get older the decision making process does involve you and we take your thoughts about things into consideration, but that doesn't mean you get the final decision on things...we are still the parents and ultimately we have to answer to everything we do for or against you as well....

7.  It really does take a village to raise kids...

I used to laugh at that idea, but as my children grew, and my concerns for the worldly view on things grew, my 'village' my group of friends, became my source of consultation.  Bouncing ideas off of them and asking for advice.  Knowing if my kids were with my friends that not only would they be safe, but they would be corrected when wrong, too.  It's important that our friends/family work with us on raising kids.  My friends have helped us more times than I can count when it comes to making decisions involving our children and their lives.  Having another perspective is also important when you might be upset about something and can't really see clearly.  That other voice of reason can help calm your soul and help see a reasonable solution.  Parenting is not easy. 

8.  Parenting is not easy.

I can think of no harder job.  It's not just physical, but emotional, spiritual, mental, you name it.  Parenting is not for the faint hearted.  It's a full time job.  All hands on deck.  We've gone from playing man-to-man defense to just doing a zone defense and hoping for best at times.  It's a struggle and it's an all out war.  No one wants to destroy the family more than the evil one and he's going to pull out all the stops.....
You not busy enough?  Let's add another activity.  You only eating one meal as a family a week?  Let's throw in a private lesson or two.  It's never enough.  There has to be more more and more.  All in the name of passion.  Let kids find their passion. Let kids explore their world.  Let kids activities dictate if we attend church together as a family or eat a meal together even just once a week (even though studies after studies show the vast difference in children and the effects of attending a religious service of some kind and eating at least one family meal together a week).  We are playing right into those hands of conquer, divide and destroy.   Slowly but surely.

9.  We do need time to be husband and wife.

This is a tough one.  I've got kids who actually seem to be bothered by my husband and I spending time together.  I understand.  I love my kids.  I hate being apart from them.  But our relationship is first in this family and we must nurture that often.  Too many couples find after children leave the home they don't know each other anymore.  They have grown apart either with separate activities they do with others or just the wear and tear of the family over time.  I've seen it.  It's so sad.  Our time together is already so limited with his work and our afterschool activities that time together is sometimes literally grocery shopping.  And that's more of a "let's hurry and you get this, this, and this, and I'll get this, this, and that..."  But time together, alone, is essential to refuel our own relationship and discuss life and things we can not discuss in front of our children....

10.  No matter what you believe, we will never, ever stop loving you.

I don't know how we haven't proved this to our children yet.  As a parent of kids whom the POLICE have called on, I can't really prove to them just how much I love them.  I prayed for them.  I carried them for almost 10 months (40 weeks - you do the math), I nursed them for the better part of a year, six months exclusively, I changed diapers, all kinds, I potty trained, I held when hurt.  I kissed booboos, I hugged, I helped with homework (when I could) I practiced spelling words, I cheered at sporting events and marching band and concerts.  I don't think I can express just how much we love each one of our kiddos.  Honestly, it's why the last two nights have been so painfully emotional for me.  I love them so much it makes my heart hurt.  Imagine how much more God loves them...His heart must hurt, too, when we do things to hurt Him....



I've rambled a lot here.  Probably more than I should.  But there is a whole lot on my mind.  I'm no theologian.  I've never claimed to be an expert at anything and certainly when people say, "oh you must know what you're doing by now..." I don't.  I feel dumber and dumber the older my kids get.  We certainly have learned that we make mistakes.  Lots of them.  We freely admit that.  We do dumb things.  We say we're sorry when we've lost our tempers.  We try to do our best and frankly, that's probably never going to be good enough for some, but we keep going. 

Parenting in this day and age is not for the faint hearted.  I've said it here several times and I'll say it the rest of my life.  There is so much against us.  So many forces pulling on our kids and trying to teach them the "right way."  Sometimes that ok, but lots of times, it's really not.  But it's also sometimes some of the most rewarding moments of our lives.  Truly.  To see a child discover his/her talents/gifts.  Hear about a great score on a test they were convinced they'd fail.  See them work hard and buy that first car and understand the effects of hard work and determination.  Seeing them fall, but not quit, get hurt, but keep fighting.  There are little grace moments I call them.  God gives my husband and I little nuggets that things are going to be ok.  That yes, this is really, REALLY, REEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLLLLYYYYYYYYYYY hard, but here is a little taste of Heaven for you to see that He's got this.  He's got all of it. 

He's got our children.  And we must pray, hope, and not worry.  Even when all we really want to do is not pray, lose hope and worry.....

There is always hope.  Do not be afraid.   


Monday, April 23, 2018

Growing......OLD?

We have had four days in a row of beautiful sunshine...I can almost say I feel human again with the amount of natural vitamin D I've been able to get.  But my bebe is still testing the boundary of my sanity...I'm trying to pray more and through the night, I constantly have my cord rosary in hand and when I'm awake, I am either praying the rosary or the chaplet.  I am constantly calling on Jesus to help me be patient...

Well, the last few nights, I've had other thoughts and I tried really hard to remember what they were so I could write them here.  I don't know if anyone else thinks like me, sometimes, as I tell my friends, my mind is a scary place to venture alone in....

But last night, I distinctly remember the thoughts that popped into my head.  I was nursing Agnes right before we turned out the lights.  I noticed my fingers.  I have arthritis in my fingers.  I actually have arthritis in a lot of places, wrists, ankles, toes, knees, both my hips, my neck, you name it... I suppose I can thank my genetics for it...both my grandparents on my mom side had osteoarthritis and for some reason, I feel like my grandfather on my dad's side did as well.  I also carry the factors for rheumatoid arthritis.  Which means, my blood work fluctuates (as all of ours does I found out from my RA doc) and six months from now, I'll test again and it will show different factors.  Or the factors that were showing this time, will be normal and vice versa. It doesn't mean I'll get RA, but it does mean, I have a greater chance of getting RA. It's quite amazing.  Factors might be the wrong word, but I'm working on an average of 6 hours of sleep or less a night and I require much more than that on a good day.....

So, back to what I noticed.  My fingers.  All of the sudden, I had this horrible twinge of great sadness.  I could see my fingers bent up and wrinkled as if I had aged 20 years instantly.  It took my breath away and caught me so off guard I became a tad emotional.  My fingers are already showing signs of these cysts that rupture and form which eventually lead to the crooked/broken looking fingers you see on little old ladies...I wanted to run away and find the nearest fountain of youth and drink it up!!  How could I be getting........OLD???

When did this happen?

What happened to that 20 something red head who had just married her best friend in the world and was ready to tackle anything that came her way???  

An overwhelming amount of thoughts came flooding through my mind in those short moments of quiet nursing.  I am 45.  I am married to a man who is 48, will be 49 in just a few short months.  I'm closer to 50 and I guess the realization of that really hit me...  I know plenty of people who are in their 50's and doing fantastic.  I've no doubt I'll be just fine in my 50's and God willing in my 60's and 70's as well, but I guess my mortality really hit me hard last night.  

I have friends who are my age who are grandparents.  I have friends who are my age who are just starting their families.  There certainly is no "set" way of life for a person who is 45 and reflecting on her mortality.  It just really hit me in such a strange way last night.  I was looking at the bebe and her beautifully perfectly soft skin.  I was rubbing her sweet little cheeks as she nursed and caught myself wondering if my rough finger from years of dishes, making meals, cleaning, digging in the flower/vegetable gardens bothered her...I have a memory of my grandma Grace rubbing my arm and thinking how her fingers felt like sand paper.  I always thought it was something that happened when you were, you know, OLD.  Not 45.  

As I sat there, I realized other things, too.  My red hair that took me DECADES to appreciate was graying at a much more rapid pace than in the past....how much longer would I be a red head?  My husband loves my hair, but he has always said he'd love me no matter what, but the silly thought, 'what if he doesn't like my hair all gray' kept playing in my mind... 

'Is this a mid life crisis,' I kept saying to myself....Or just a woman who is extremely exhausted, tired of fighting the battle that is the world/culture on my family, and feeling a tad bit vulnerable sitting here in the dark with an 8 month old bebe who would rather stay away 24 hours a day and nurse 23 of those hours???

I quietly spoke to God and asked Him to please remove these vain thoughts that kept bombarding my brain.  I started to pray the Chaplet and asked Jesus to make these thoughts go away.

They certainly didn't go away, but this morning, while I was making breakfast for the two second youngest, I remembered a picture I wanted to write up and print off.  It really struck me this morning as I re-read it....my computer is being wonky (can't imagine why, when I have 5 children who do homework on it....) so I'm just going to have to type out what the picture said...

"Obedience is one of the virtues that we struggle with from our earliest years.  Strangely enough when we are placed in charge, it becomes something we demand in justice. 
Whether it be something we want to demand or whether it be something we are bound to, the fact remains that obedience is that bond that ties us to the will of God, and ultimately to the love of God. 
We can not do the will of God by doing that which we prefer, and we cannot show God our love by doing that which we prefer, and usually in direct proportion we turn away from God and how He wants us. 
The pain of not doing what you want is a passing pain - it barely lasts but a few moments.  However, the reward for doing what God wants you to do begins now, and lasts forever."



Isn't that beautiful?  I read this last night before my little "mid life crisis" but it didn't really connect.  This morning, while I was trying to collect my thoughts, God (because say what we will about coincidences, I find them Godly) was showing me there was an answer to how to approach this getting "old" thing.  I actually, for the first time in a long time, felt peace about something that was really bothering me.  

I am getting old.  My husband is getting old.  Technically, we started getting old the day we were born.  But there is something waiting for me if I but just obey God and stop worrying about things that are completely out of my control.  Like growing old.  Like wrinkles.  Like arthritis.  Like gray hair.  Like rough hands.... I can't stop it.  It's a natural part of aging.  I can certainly take care of myself, exercise, eat healthy, stay out of the sun (for too long), and get plenty of sleep (yes, Lord, I'm trying to be obedient to my state in life with sleep right now.....), but ultimately, I'm getting old.  I'm going to age.  I'm eventually going to die and I pray with all my heart, that God will look upon me and have mercy on all I did, and all I didn't do.  

So today, as the temperature actually soars to near 70 (has it even been that warm since last August?????), I shall give thanks and praise for my Creator.  I shall smile at that woman in the mirror who doesn't quite reflect the woman in my heart or mind, but is her still the same, and I shall do all I can to be the light of Christ to my little people He's put me in charge of....

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Monday, April 16, 2018

Divine Mercy abounds....


My story has been brewing for almost 22 years.  I suppose if we want to be technical, it’s been brewing for over 45 years, but for now, I’ll keep the focus to the past few weeks.

Lent this year was less than stellar for me.  I always find it fascinating that no matter what I decide to give up or even include during my Lenten journey, God always manages to throw some new ideas into the mix during the 40 days. You know, some I certainly would never have chosen for myself...   This year proved to be no different. 

A little side note here- when I am nursing or pregnant, I tend to do very little as far as food sacrifices go….a girl has got to keep up her energy...especially one who is the mother of 8 children who all apparently inherited some crazy energy gene that I do not carry…

But this year, I tried to give up snacking (like the junk kind…) and TV (mostly because the only time I really watch it is with my husband and he gave up Netflix and Amazon Prime so- easy!).  But as far as actual sacrifice goes, it seemed as though my list was waning.  A bit.

But never fear- because when you are the mother of 8 and you help put together a Catholic Women’s conference, there is no limit to the temptation to sin being thrown at you daily.  

I had my fair share of less than stellar mom moments, friend moments, colleague moments, wife moments, daughter moments.  It was a veritable cornucopia of shame when it came to realizing just how much of a sinner I am!  (we all are, I’m not being scrupulous, just pointing out the obvs…)

The entire Lent was marked with sick babies almost WEEKLY, a constant barrage of family issues, events, etc that left me feeling exhausted and wondering why I ever worry about ‘giving up’ something to begin with.  If I just wait, Lent will show me my sacrifices rather quickly…

Fast forward to the week before Holy Week.  We were attending the new parish we are in the process of switching to.  It’s literally a mile down the road from our house and we’ve been hemming and hawing for years about how much easier it would be if we attended Mass/religion 5 minutes from home as opposed to the 20 minutes, sometimes 30 during the evening rush, we had been dealing with for the last 8 years.  Also, having three in high school, one in middle school, one in upper elementary and soon one in lower elementary in the local area, it was really starting to become impossible to get to every single place without implementing teleporting…. :) Wouldn’t that be awesome??  

We are very good friends with the priest at this particular parish and his mom is practically my mom, too.  I just love her.  She sends me notes, letters, even gifts often and that Friday (the week before Good Friday) at Stations, I was privileged to see her!!  The priest had made mention that the Divine Mercy Novena would be starting on Good Friday and ending right before Divine Mercy Sunday.  He said, “my mom sent me with all of these Divine Mercy Novena pamphlets to leave for you all and she told me to tell you to do the Novena….And I try to listen to Momma….”  (This priest is actually quite hilarious….but loves his momma dearly).  And it got me thinking that I’ve 1) never really done the Divine Mercy Novena (or I don’t remember doing it at least) and 2) I sometimes RARELY finish Novenas-really.  Some I do, but it’s tough with my short memory and crazy chaotic life.  3) I felt the call that my husband and I needed to do this Novena.  Like, NEEDED TO DO IT.  It’s hard to describe and my typing skills have weakened thanks to constant texting, so to actually put it into words….I really felt the call from God that I needed to do this Novena.  I’ve had a rough year and a half.  And as I stated early, 22 years of brewing and stewing…..

So I didn’t want to ignore this feeling that God was calling us to pray the Novena and my husband readily agreed to do it, so I knew it was meant to be.  And we remembered EVERY DAY!  The kids would even ask for us to do the “singing Chaplet” when it was time to recite the Chaplet.  It was kind of fun to see how some of them sang along….

There is a Plenary Indulgence with the Divine Mercy Novena.  I’m not 100% sold on this practice (which is the beauty of my faith, I can question things until I’m sure I understand them, and that’s so important to me, especially during these times where most would just LEAVE their faith because they didn’t like, understand, or accept a particular teaching/faith matter/practice.)

I borrowed the definition of a Plenary Indulgence from EWTN.com.:

The following "General remarks on Indulgences" from Gift of the Indulgencesummarizes the usual conditions given in the Church's law (cf. Apostolic Penitentiary, Prot. N. 39/05/I):
1. This is how an indulgence is defined in the Code of Canon Law (can. 992) and in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (n. 1471): "An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints".
2. In general, the gaining of indulgences requires certain prescribed conditions(below, nn. 3, 4), and the performance of certain prescribed works ..... [in this case, those granted for the Feast of Mercy]
3. To gain indulgences, whether plenary or partial, it is necessary that the faithful be in the state of grace at least at the time the indulgenced work is completed.  [i.e. one must be a Catholic, not excommunicated or in schism.]
4. A plenary indulgence can be gained only once a day. In order to obtain it, the faithful must, in addition to being in the state of grace:
?have the interior disposition of complete detachment from sin, even venial sin;

?have sacramentally confessed their sins;

?receive the Holy Eucharist (it is certainly better to receive it while participating in Holy Mass, but for the indulgence only Holy Communion is required);

?pray for the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff.
5. It is appropriate, but not necessary, that the sacramental Confession and especially Holy Communion and the prayer for the Pope's intentions take place on the same day that the indulgenced work is performed; but it is sufficient that these sacred rites and prayers be carried out within several days (about 20) before or after the indulgenced act. Prayer for the Pope's intentions is left to the choice of the faithful, but an "Our Father" and a "Hail Mary" are suggested. One sacramental Confession suffices for several plenary indulgences, but a separate Holy Communion and a separate prayer for the Holy Father's intentions are required for each plenary indulgence.
6. For the sake of those legitimately impeded, confessors can commute both the work prescribed and the conditions required (except, obviously, detachment from even venial sin).
7. Indulgences can always be applied either to oneself or to the souls of the deceased, but they cannot be applied to other persons living on earth.

As you can see, it’s something that might be hard to understand, but for whatever reason, and i’m getting ahead of myself, it was made crystal clear to me on Divine Mercy Sunday.  But I’m jumping ahead.

We finished the Divine Mercy Novena on the Saturday before Divine Mercy Sunday.  I had wanted to get to confession, but we had such a crazy afternoon/evening and one of mine had to serve at our former parish on the vigil of Divine Mercy Sunday, so even getting to confession was looking slim.  I knew I would miss Saturday.  Sunday would mean no confession, because i knew my former parish didn’t have confession on Sunday.  I was secretly praying that God would somehow grant me the grace to receive the sacrament without saying anything to anyone.  Boy did He blow my mind away with what happened. 

Saturday night I was home with the little ones and my husband went to our new parish.  My oldest took my one daughter who had to serve to our former parish (which is still her parish since she has been confirmed and is much like me, a creature of habit and comfortability).  Sunday morning my second oldest daughter and I went to our new parish and to my delight, were told about the Divine Mercy celebration that would take place that afternoon starting at 2 with confession and exposition of Jesus in the Monstrance.  Did he just say CONFESSION??? You can imagine my delight.  But I had a dilemma as you can guess, being a mom of 8 might….

My husband was in another state with my oldest at a volleyball tournament.  My son, who is the sacristan at our former parish (he’s been confirmed, too, and his parish is our old one…) had to work at 7:30 that Sunday morning.  Which meant, he finished at 1:45.  But our former parish was also having a Divine Mercy celebration at 2 (not with confession as far as I knew) but I knew it would be tough to get him all the way in another town and back to our new parish in time to get in line for confession.  For some reason, I must of known it was going to be tough, and wow.  I’ve never seen that many people in line for confession outside of parish penance nights during Advent and Lent!!  It was unreal, but I’m jumping ahead again!!

I had texted my son to see if he would possibly be able to leave by 1:45.  He wasn’t sure because he might need to help set up.  I figured as much, but instead of getting down as I usually do, I just sighed and told God it would be really nice if I could get to confession.  I had been wanting to get to confession for a few weeks because I really wanted to confess some root sins of mine that I needed to work on.  You know, like pride, anger, sloth…..the ones we struggle with constantly.  I knew I needed to really work on being forgiven for my root sin of pride because honestly, pride is what I struggle with the worst. It affects everything I do from being a mommy monster, to feelings of jealousy, to not getting my way, to how I deal with disciplining my children when they disrespect me. You get the idea... I needed confession.  

Not to mention, I felt in my heart, not connected to the indulgence at all, but connected to God’s mercy, that there was something very powerful about the novena and purifying my heart in confession and receiving communion.  Again, it’s hard to explain, but my heart actually was burning for confession. 

So I decided to head up to get my son at 1:45 even though he might not be ready.  And wouldn’t you know it, he finished and was out by 1:45.  I was super excited and maybe a tad too confident I would make confession.  I even heartily agreed to stopping by the house to let him change clothes because he actually wanted to go with me.  Bonus!  Also, by stopping, my 12 year old daughter decided to go to.  I had offered it to all the kids at home, but they were the only two to take me up on it.  So the baby, my son and daughter, and I headed to my new parish.

As we walked into the church, I was shocked and and a bit worried, when I saw the confession line, 20 people deep...I was almost discouraged, but I kept my focus.  In my head I just kept asking God to allow me to receive confession.  Please Lord, I need this.  Jesus was exposed on the altar, and I just kept trying to focus on Him and asking Him to hear my plea for confession.  I would not allow myself to be down, or even entertain a negative thought.

We stood in line for a good 20 minutes before a lady showed us that there was actually another line for another priest up front.  We, and several others, decided to leave that line and head over.  Little did we know it was our priest friend whose line we were in.  It was almost 3 and I knew the Deacon was going to start saying a few words, we would sing the Chaplet, and then Jesus would be put back in the tabernacle.  I was getting nervous I wouldn’t make confession.  It’s rare these days for priests to stay in a confessional and just listen to the sins of the people until they are all heard.  Finally the person in front of me went and I started praying for my confession.  I knew what I needed to say, and I suddenly felt a twinge of guilt that I was putting myself before my two children.  I sheepishly turned around and graciously offered them to go before me.  I felt terrible for seeming so selfish, but those two were so kind.  They both told me to go first.  And it wasn’t because they were afraid to go, it was because they knew how badly I wanted to go.  

It was finally my turn. I think I practically RAN into the back sacristy where the priest was sitting and laughed out loud when I saw it was my friend.  He was laughing at me for laughing and I started my confession.

I LOVE confession.  I know that sounds crazy.  But I do.  I love it, like I love shaving my legs.  Bare with me for a minute.  I know it’s a bizarre analogy, but maybe I can help it make sense.  I hate shaving my legs.  It’s such a tedious task, I don’t like wasting hot water, but I struggle with shaving with no water on because I’ll freeze and  then get goosebumps and shaving goosebumps is never comfy, so I resort to using hot water, and blah blah blah...am I making sense yet?? (yes, I know, my husband doesn’t get me either at times….) but once I shave, I lotion up and my legs FEEL SO GOOD!!!!  They feel so smooth, and creamy.  I LOVE it.  I can wear shorts.  I can wear jeans without feeling hairs bending up and hurting.  I can wear nightgowns without cutting either leg with sharp hairs….

Are you getting my visual yet??  Are you a tad disgusted by me?  I know.  I was born with a broken filter...it’s ok… ;)

Well, confession for me is the same way.  I love confession.  I hate how nervous I get before while I wait in line. It's so hard for me to tell the things I’ve done OUT LOUD to this priest (who consequently is acting in persona christa- you can google that for a later discussion if you don’t get the whole we are going straight to Jesus thing), I don’t like feeling like, wow, I’m a sinner (but that’s inevitable, we are.  Thank you, Adam and Eve) but once I go?

It’s like my heart is free.  I feel so clean and ready to tackle the world.  I confessed my root sins and said my prayer of contrition, got absolution, and literally left bounding out of the room.  All in all, it probably took less than 5 minutes.  But it was the BEST, most  HOLY 5 minutes ever of confession for me.  I felt amazing.  I had the baby with me, so her and I went to the back of church where I could do my penance, and for the first time in so many months, as I sat there before Jesus, I felt compelled to slip my veil on.  Now, I’m not going to wear it all the time right now.  I struggle with feeling like we already get an enormous amount of stares as it is, and the baby loves my veil.  In that, she would like to wear it, too.  So when my daughter came back from confession, she took the baby and I was able to kneel in adoration of Jesus with my veil on. I felt such amazing peace.  I was truly worshiping my Lord and my God.  It was awesome.

When the deacon began to speak, the priests continued to hear confessions.  I was in awe of that.  What a blessing for these people!!  The deacon went on to explain the whole, plenary indulgence and how we can apply it to ourselves, or to someone who had passed away.  So I thought to myself, alrite, if this is legit, and the church says it is, but if it is, I want to apply it to my Grandma, Grace.  She passed away in 2011.  So I left it at that.  The deacon went on to speak and was just a beautiful soul as he spoke about the Divine Mercy devotion and how he came to love it and we then sang the Divine Mercy Chaplet.  As we were leaving, my daughter told me that she applied her indulgence to my Grandma, Grace, too!  I was blown away that she was so selfless and thought it was perfect that she chose her as well.  So I asked God to apply it to my grandfather, her husband, who had died when I was in high school, and was someone who I struggled with forgiving for setting the ball for all the father wounds in my family.  I felt another bit of peace there, as well. 

But my story doesn’t end there.  That was Sunday.  On Monday, I had decided that my sebactical from working out was officially over and I needed to do something to help my brain seem less foggy and my body seem less icky. I knew I needed to start working out. I always feel better physically and mentally when I do.  And since I was getting things right with God spiritually, I needed to get things right with Him physically. He doesn't ask us to become bodybuilders, but our bodies ARE temples.  We ARE responsible for their health and well being.  No matter what the circumstance.  So I got the baby to sleep (and prayed God would help her rest long enough for me to get a weight work out in) and took my phone and baby monitor to the basement with my next two youngest.  I not only got a weight work out in (which was tough.  If you work out, you know what I’m talking about.  My muscles cursed me that day….and have only eased up the cursing on day 5 today….)but I even walked a cool down mile walk on the treadmill!  I thought I would watch something on Formed.org.  I absolutely highly recommend Formed.org.  If you don’t have it, or your parish doesn't, go talk to your parish administrator, or priest.  It’s chocked full of Catholic content that ranges from kid friendly cartoons, to in depth Lectio bible studies.  
I decided on the Formed pick of the week, the video series featuring Fr. Michael Gaitley as he presented “The Second Greatest Story Ever Told.”

That was the beginning of the end for me.  I was sucked in, hook, line, and sinker.  I watched each video with mouth open, jaw dropping amazement.  The history, the miracles, the connection between saints and countries and our faith, BLEW ME AWAY.

I only had time to watch a few of the ten, but it was enough to tell me that there was something CRAZY to this Divine Mercy business and what it was that God wanted me to do with it, was still unknown.  I really am not sure what He wants me to do as of right now, but something is going on. 
















To make the story even crazier- these Divine Mercy stories also involve Fatima and the Blessed Mother, whom I feel I have a really good relationship with.  I have a crazy scapular story that happened to me 20 years ago, so for the last two decades or so, I’ve had Momma Mary to turn to during times of needing a motherly love or advice.  Well, we had our priest friend over for dinner and he brought a gift that his mom gave to him to deliver to me.  It was the Magnificat book on the Virgin Mary. Now, to understand why this was so crazy, I had just watched the Fatima connection to the Divine Mercy that day.  I had just thought about the Consecration to Jesus through Mary book, 33 Days to Morning Glory and thought to myself, I should consecrate myself again.  It gets crazier.  I promise.
So I had this book.  It wasn’t the book, it was the fact it was Mary.  I was getting goosebumps.  What on EARTH could God be calling me to?
I watched the rest of the videos that week and basically finished them by the middle of the week.  Fr. Michael Gaitley ends it with a plea to consecrate yourself, or re-consecrate yourself to Jesus through Mary.  I thought I had the book by St. Louis de Montfort that he spoke of, so I went on a rampage through my house.  I just KNEW I had the book.  Matter of fact, I had two of them.  True Devotion to Mary (the one I currently could not find) and Secrets of the Rosary.


Image result for consecration to jesus through mary st louis de montfort


I found the rosary book, but the one pictured above, True Devotion to Mary, is MIA.  I’m sure I gave it to someone.  I am always loaning and giving my books away.  But I did find another gem of a book AND I found my copy of the Diary of St. Faustina.  The other book I found was one someone gave me years ago that I tucked away for a later read. 


Image result for total consecration of the family to Jesus through Mary


This book looks amazing and I can’t WAIT to do this with my family.  Now, of course, my family isn’t exactly singing joy over this.  But that’s a blog for another day.  When I explain just because I have 8 kids and an amazing husband, does not mean they sit and watch and soak up all the faith-based material I present to them.  Hardly ever….
Below is the book I have that I originally used for my consecration to Jesus through Mary! By Fr. Michael Gaitley (who is presenting the Divine Mercy videos on Formed!)


Image result for 33 days to morning glory

So, I had these three books and I decided I would re-consecrate myself.  Unfortunately, I missed the start by a day.  Isn’t it crazy how crazy we make ourselves when we think we’ve missed something?  I was devastated!  How silly of me of course, because I once remember listening to Johnette Benkovic on her Women of Grace radio show that if you miss a day of a novena, to never let that stop you from doing a Novena.  So I knew in my heart it was ok to catch up one day, but I still fell into a puddle.  I texted my friend who immediately replied, JUST START TODAY!!  So I did.

Now, I’m pretty much caught up to today.  I have no idea where God is leading me with this.  We’ve switched parishes, we are doing a new religious ed program with this parish, I am trying to do less and listen more to God and what He wants….I’m excited, tho.  I’m exhausted, and I feel that the devil will definitely use my baby and her insastiable appetite to just nurse exclusively 24 hours a day to bring me down, so I must keep focused.  And when the shadow of doubt starts creeping into my heart, I have to remind myself of this extraordinary experience I had with Divine Mercy.  I have to understand that I am called to do something.  Maybe it’s with my own kids.  Maybe it’s with my new parish.  Maybe it’s with the women’s conference.  I have no idea.  But for now, I’ll just sit back, pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet, and wait for His next move….