Monday, January 18, 2016

Friends & Family

I'm not really sure what to title this blog.  I currently have "Friends & Family," but that doesn't do it justice for what I want to talk about.

You see, my amazing super hero hubs and I have never lived near family.  In the nearly 20 years that we've been married, the closest we came was when we were about eight hours away from home.

Eight hours.

Wow.  That seems really close now, considering it takes about 13 hours on a good trip to get home.  Unfortunately, we've not been able to get "home" in many years.  Between the kids summer time activities, Christmas breaks being incredibly short, and winter causing us to stay grounded, it's been tough to get home in the last 3 1/2 years.

That's a long time to go without seeing your family.  Some have visited.  Some have called, and we are blessed for that.

But when you have a job like my super hero hubs, you get kind of used to "being on your own."  It's certainly not an easy task.  I can remember many times in the beginning of our marriage, moments that I wanted to run home and have my own family take care of things.

But as time has passed, we've learned to adapt.

It's been a difficult journey.  For many, many years, we tried everything we could to get back home.  Short of my super hero hubs using a "hardship" excuse, (meaning, his nutty wife needs to be closer to caregivers) we've been very unsuccessful in obtaining our goal.

Getting "home."

Home is East Tennessee.  If anyone has ever been there, it's actually one of the most beautiful spots in the country.  I know that's not saying much, considering I've never lived or been, west of Arkansas, (minus the Tulsa Zoo in Oklahoma, Dallas, and the Houston Airport), but it's saying a lot to me.  There is something there that isn't found anywhere else.

The Great Smoky Mountains.

Enough said.  If you don't know anything about those beautiful, breathtaking 'smokey,' mountains, well, I've just helped you plan your next summer vacation.

But the older we get, the more we realize that perhaps God has a different plan for us.  The whole idea of moving north to snow country was two fold.  One, his former supervisor was the catalyst at helping my super hero hubs realize he wanted more.  His job was draining him and he needed a change in scenery and a new title.  Second, it would make him more marketable and perhaps, open the door for a move closer to the Smoky Mountains.

Well, that was over six years ago.  Matter of fact, six years ago this week, we were driving the big 24 hour trip to snow country.  Stopping at family and friends houses along the way as we made our way to our new "home."

Six years ago.

I can't believe it's been six years.

I also can't believe, we're still not any closer to "home."

I'm wondering if  God isn't trying to show us that "family" means many things.  Also, maybe, just maybe, "home" means many things as well.

I am deeply reminded of this as we endure a rather horrific past week with a couple that have become "family" to us.  This couple, who are the godparents to our #7 peanut, are the embodiment of not only Christ and His message of love to all who meet them, but are like siblings to my super hero hubs and I.  We don't take lightly the task of choosing godparents.  It's something we begin praying about the MINUTE we become pregnant.  There are so many amazing people in our community, that the task of deciding which couple to choose becomes extremely difficult.  (matter of fact, can we adopt some as godparents for my other children??? Just kidding, my kids have awesome godparents).  When we had our surprise pregnancy, this couple really stood out the most.  The husband, John, was my oldest daughter's religion teacher and she just would go on and on at how "smart he is and he knows the Catholic faith so well!"  (her words!)  The wife, Tracy, literally took one of her daughters, who loves babies, out of school one day for a few hours to come babysit the little Taz #6, while I went to one of my daughter's parties at school!  That is the kind of giving people they are!

I can actually go on and on and on about how awesome and giving they are, but suffice it to say, the day they took all my laundry home with them, and returned them in brand new laundry baskets (she never commented on the condition of my own laundry baskets (or for the lack of) and for that, she will remain my sister in Christ until my death....), I felt a bond that only comes from being deeply in love with Christ.  And that, my friends, is what makes family.

A bond, so deep with our Lord, that love just emanates from their very being.  Two people, who have given their hearts and souls to one another, their beautiful children, and their church.  That kind of authentic love, is rare.

These two represent family, the way I always dreamed living by family would be.  Always there for you.  Wanting to be a part of your life.  Happy for the littlest thing.  (like being pregnant with #7...)

Now my family, our two very dear friends, are going through a very difficult time in their lives.  He has been diagnosed with a brain tumor.   And as brain tumors go, it's a good one to get, I guess.  A low grade one.  Hopefully benign.  But also, as brain tumors go, he's struggling with seizures and is in the hospital for an indefinite amount of time.  He had a biopsy, but that set off a round of seizures that medication has helped, but finding a balance between feeling woozy and gaining strength back,  is an ongoing battle.  They wait.  The neurosurgeon will watch and wait for pathology to determine a course of action for this tumor.  But  until then, he's struggling.

For my "sister?"  This has been a tough pill to swallow.  Seeing the man she loves, who has always been a man of great strength, both physically and spiritually, crumble under the power of this seemingly invisible poison, has been painful to say the least.  Her strength can't be missed as well.  Sitting with her at Mass the other day, I was literally blown away by her courage.

Courage. defines courage as 'the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear: bravery.  My friend, my sister in Christ, would be quick to point out she is not courageous.  She would be quick to point out that her husband, John, is the one with courage.

But I disagree.  Of course, her husband has courage.  He's facing the fact that he has a brain tumor.  Not too many people in this world have to face such a frightening fact.

But my friend.  My sister.  She has courage too.  And yes, it may be helped by the grace of God.  It certainly can be caused by the hundreds (I'll suffice it to say several hundred)of people praying all day constantly for the entire family.  But she has courage nonetheless.  Prayers can lift us up.  Prayers can keep us going.  Getting us out of bed.  Pulling us through the day.  But courage, does as well.  Sometimes, we take for granted how easy it is to get up every single morning.  We complain about the baby that doesn't sleep through the night.  We moan at the clock that buzzes way too early at 6 am.  We whine about our job that is this, that, or the other, you insert the appropriate complaint.  We tend to go through the motions throughout the day.  Taking for granted a phone call from a loved one.  Avoiding the call of a friend.  We tend to let ourselves get drawn into pity parties and act as though the sky is falling and no one loves me, I'm gonna go eat worms....

Ok, once again, having small children has resorted me to blend in children's stories into my blog.  It happens.

But real courage is knowing that people are lifting you in prayer, not necessarily "feeling" that Presence we long for, and getting out of bed anyway.

My friend, my sister, has real courage.

All of this has made my super hero hubs and I really sit back and take a look at all that is important in our life.

What is God's definition of family?  What does God say about family?  If we look at the New Testament, Jesus Himself says family will turn away from us because of our beliefs in Him.  The disciples spent three years of their life following Him, only to discover, all this "preaching and teaching" wasn't to bring about a new earthly King, but a Heavenly King!  Were some a bit disappointed?  sure.  Even when Christ Himself said to eat His flesh and drink His blood, those who had spent nearly three years with Him turned away.  Family!  Turned away!  Friends!  Turned away!

Real family.  Whether we define them as spiritual, physical, emotional, or what have you, real family sticks with you through it all.  They define the word, love.  They define the word  sacrifice.  They don't care if your house is a train wreck or if your laundry baskets are all broken and pathetic.  Being apart from our blood family, has introduced us to the beauty of friends becoming our family.  Every place we've lived, we managed to find some pretty incredible people who have become our family.  And here in snow country, it's no different.

They love unconditionally.

My husband and I have started praying together every single morning.  I'm lying.  We try to pray every single morning.  We read the readings for the day, the saints of the day (who KNEW there were so many saints in our faith and all of their stories are pretty incredible), we read the reflection of the readings, the daily prayer and then he and I pray a spontaneous prayer to Jesus.  Asking Him to bless and protect and watch over our families and friends.  Asking Him to guide us in our decision making, our marriage, our lives.  And lately, asking Him to watch over John and Tracy and their family. It's rather emotional as we pray because just like them, we strive to be that example to the world of what God wants in a marriage and a family.  Nothing makes one stop in their tracks and really count their blessings like seeing first hand a close family member suffering.

Things like that bring us to our knees.  We are helpless in the world of mortality.  We know neither the day or the hour when God will call us home. A reminder that we aren't made for this world.  We are made for something better.  Even though, the world wants us to believe this is as good as it gets.

 It's a very spiritual reminder of our own wedding vows.  We will love each other, through sickness, and health, til death do us part.  Sickness.  That word we think just means, you know, when you get a cold.  It's ALL sickness.  Mental, physical, emotional, spiritual.  ALL of it.

So many things this event with our family has reminded us of.  What is most important?  Well, that is up to you.  For me, and my house?  We shall continue to serve the Lord (Joshua 24:15).   We will trust that He is in control.  We will continue to love one another as He has loved us and we will pray.  And we will serve one another- including our dear friends who grow more like family to us each and every single day.

May today, we all wake up, praising God for another day blessed on this earth, even with all it's yuckiness.  May today, we smile a bit more, even when that child spills their milk on the freshly mopped floor, because let's face it, it's mopped and clean and craving a little spill.  May today, we not take one moment for granted with our spouse, or significant other, and perhaps, give an extra squeeze and linger a moment longer, just breathing in their sweet love.

May today, we realize how blessed we are and in turn, share that blessing with all we encounter.

And may we never lose sight of the greatest gift God gave us in His son, dying for us.  Giving us His body and blood, and loving us so unconditionally that it crosses beyond the friendship realm and into the spiritual family realm.

May the amazing God of the Universe shower you with abundant love today and always.  

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

My Jackpot Family

I have lost my train of thought with this blog about 492 times, please be patient as you try to navigate through this story and remind yourself that I haven't blogged in a really long time, so all my thoughts are piled in my brain so high, I can't even see the top....

So the Powerball Jackpot is at 500 million today.  That seems so ridiculous.  I mean, charities can't hardly afford to continue to offer food/shelter for the homeless and yet we have some insanely large amount cash people just keep dropping for lottery tickets....because that's what it is....every time we spend $2 on a ticket, we're building up the lottery...

I know, I get it.  It's our choice and even some states have implemented college lottery scholarships for people... (which I find interesting because I'm guessing debt for college is still outrageous).  Oh I know, every little bit helps and sure, for tax purposes, whoever wins will give a bit away (after Uncle Sam takes at least 1/3 in taxes-lest we forget that part....) but the irony to me is an article/blog/story I just came across this morning on my Facebook feed.  It's the "Global middle class and what it looks like."   Now as handy as I am on the computer, I still am hit or miss with figuring out how to post things, attach things, send things, so I'm not making any promises, but if I can, I'll post the story on this blog...

Actual Global Middle Class

Ta-DA!!!  I did it.  She did it...break into a Dora song now....

Now before people get their pretty little panties all twisted up inside- let me assure anyone who will listen, my husband was on strict orders not to return to his domicile unless he had a ticket in hand.  We only play the lottery when it's big.  REALLY BIG.  Like 1/2 a billion big.... So I have no intention of begging people to stop gambling their lives away.  Much like alcohol, food, medication, exercise, and the like, we must learn self control. We can not ban things because we've decided they're dangerous for a few, so take them away from us all.  God gave us control over ourselves, He left that to us-free will?  So people can play the lottery, I was just very emotional this morning in regards to the state of life in not only our world, but our towns, our cities, our very homes.

I rarely complain about my family life. I'm talking about serious family stuff.  Not my silly Tazmanian two year old antics, or crazy life as a mom of seven funnies.   I rarely feel the need to dump my silly family issues out there like dirty laundry mostly because when you have a big family, you're judged differently.  Not saying I condone judging, but people just look at big families differently.  We've heard it all, and then some.  Yes, we know how this happens, yes, we know could stop it, yes, we know it's expensive (well, that is relative, it CAN be expensive, especially if I tried to live like people with just a few kids who feel the sky has no limit), no, we don't have, nor want, a TV in our bedroom, yadda, yadda, yadda.... I could write a book about all the different comments/concerns and questions we've received in our lifetime of childbearing.... seriously.

But lately, my family has taken a real doozy of a turn in regards to how we treat one another.  I'm talking like pull up a chair and let's sit and discuss the Days of Our Lives, doozy...I used to love that soap opera until I realized what I was actually watching-

But for some reason, I'm feeling the urge to discuss my dirty laundry with people.  And boy don't I have a lot of laundry.  3-5 loads a day...

It isn't a mystery as to why I haven't blogged since the end of November....I have been swamped with Advent Preparation, Christmas activities, children who are sick.  The week before Christmas, one of my kiddos got sick and we haven't been well since.  Someone, every single week has suffered from one illness or another.  That, unfortunately, led to a lot of cleaning, bleaching, wiping down, laundry, and most importantly, stress.

Some say I must have the patience of Job.  I do not.  I am not Job.  I don't think I ever will be Job.  To think about losing my entire family, my job, my life, my whatever, actually makes me angry inside just a little bit.  I can readily admit my greed.

I just finished up a great book by Matthew Kelly called, Rediscovering Jesus.  It's really good.  Easy to read, and if you will pardon my squirrel moment, pointed out something I really have always known about myself.  He calls it greed, I called it selfishness.  Either way, I think the two words are synonymous in my book.  He recounts the brother of the Prodigal Son and how he was greedy, selfish and prideful.   Dang, that's me.  I'm more like the Prodigal Son's brother than I realized after reading that particular chapter.  I've always said I'm selfish.   I KNOW what you're thinking- how on God's green earth can a mother of seven children be selfish?

It's easier than you think.

I am selfish with just about everything in my life.  I swear that's why God put it on my heart to have a big family.  I can only imagine what kind of person I would be if I had stopped after one or two, or Heaven forbid, never had children.  I would probably be the kind of person who is very difficult to be around.  Not saying that I am something any better or more bearable now, but at least, having seven children, has in fact, lessened my greed.  Just a tee tiny bit.

I get tired of doing things right. I get tired of following God's plan all the time when I see people NEVER follow it, or just throw it away when they've carried it for so long or just decide one day, there is no God.  I get tired of trying to raise my kids to believe that God makes no mistakes, that the way we are born, the family we're with, the place we exist in, are not mistakes, but a part of a grander, larger, more complicated plan than we could ever imagine in our feeble little minds.

I get tired of denying my kids all the riches of the world.  Toys, electronics, trips to Disney, cable channels, computers, cars, (dear Lord, I will have a driving teenager next month- eek!) I get tired of having a budget and having to deny myself things when I really want them, or having to look at dirty, cheap ass carpet that the builder thought would do for this spec home.

I get tired of hearing all the garbage children try to spew into the minds of my babies that make this momma bear want to go out and throttle some parents over it because they're raising a generation of spoiled rotten brats (which, don't get me wrong, mine, ironically enough, recognize how "spoiled" they are...)

I get tired.  A lot.  Laundry sucks.  Dishes that never.ever.ever.go.away.  Floors that as soon as they are mopped become a friggin magnet for nice, full, glasses of milk.  Toys that magically appear under foot at midnite while getting a bottle for the baby.  Messy bedrooms.  That feeling when someone 'stops by' and your house looks like an episode of hoarders when they're showing the before pictures...

I get tired of trying to figure out where I'm going to cram six girls in a 4 bedroom house.  YES-recall above, I KNOW HOW THAT HAPPENED....

I get tired.  I try to keep it all inside, or vent it out when a girlfriend calls every once in a while, but mostly I try to keep it out of reality because heaven forbid anyone find out that me having seven children and trying to raise them with any kind of moral compass is exhausting work that I would not recommend for the light hearted.

But today, after seeing the global middle class pictures and story and seeing the 500 million dollar jackpot, it just set the ball rolling for me to really think about my own life and where my priorities are and what exactly is my own "jackpot" and how am I sharing my wealth with what I've been given.

My family has been slowly growing up and with that, are introduced to the real world, and it's hard.  As much as I would love to keep my babies in a nice, big, comfy bubble, they're being exposed to things I am pretty sure, I never had to worry about as a young child.  Sure, I wanted a Liz Claiborne purse and Nike tennis shoes, but I don't remember it defining who I was, or leaving an indelible scar on me.

This Christmas was supposed to be the 'best on record' at Crazycatholicmomma's house. I had worked so hard to make sure each child got a certain amount of gifts (I even vetoed the one gift from us, one gift from Santa rule)  I wanted every detail to be magical and beautiful and enjoyable because my oldest is a sophomore and could potentially just have a few more Christmas' at home with us.

Well, it was anything but the 'best on record.'  Matter of fact, after it was all over, I complained to my superhero husband that it was so bad and blah, blah, blah, people were sick, wah, wah, wah, we didn't even get to go to church together, I whined and complained like a

Do you know what that amazing man said to me?

"I'm pretty sure it wasn't the 'best on record' for Mary & Joseph either.


That's it.  That is the jackpot.  Recognizing that even in the midst of the yuck, even in the midst of the being tired, remembering that God sent His only Son, not only as a baby, helpless, completely dependent on others to take care of Him, but completely displaced, no where to call home, in a cave/barn that animals fed in.  We all know what animals do.  I'm guessing it stunk like crap.  He was laying in a manger, which is literally a feeding trough that would become a sign of the future when He gave us His body and blood to literally consume.

I am no where near perfect.  No where NEAR as patient as God would probably desire me to be, most especially in dealing with the seven gifts from Him.  I am tired a lot.  I am greedy.  I am selfish, but I am, once again, clay in my Father's Hands.

I don't need a lottery, or lots of fame, or money to define who I am.  I don't need "things" to make me happy.  I only need what God desires of me.  To continually strive to be better.  People say our Church is full of hypocrites and that's why they leave, or just don't even bother to attend Mass anymore.  They're right in one aspect.  But where they're wrong, is God never promised to come and heal the healthy.  He came to heal the hypocrites, the sick, the sinners.  Us all.  What a beautiful promise.  What a fabulous reminder to me of why I do those things I sometimes get so tired of.  Thank you, Jesus.  Thank you, for once again revealing to me in Your ever so subtle way, just how much of a blessing I have been entrusted.  

Blessings to you this Happy New Year.  May you recognize your jackpot as well.  

Hee hee!