Sunday, September 28, 2014

Intentional Community Building

Last Sunday a wind storm swept through the valley of Juneau and the sky was a classic autumn grey and the leaves were dancing and I had a typical nerd moment on my back deck musing about the loveliness of a seasonal change. The fall magic motivated me to make pumpkin waffles and wear a scarf and sip my allotted one cup of coffee. We lost power for about an hour that evening as well and our little candle on the kitchen table flickered as we all sat around making shadow puppets on the wall (you guessed it, I was tickled narrating how lovely the evening was in my head).

I've slowed down a bit as we near the birth of this fifth little and what a blessing littles are when it comes to pulling in and really being "ok" with staying put. If we are always going we don't have moments when we are all together, doing things like shadow puppets. In the past...because I was always "looking around" at what OTHERS were doing... I may have judged these types of families who don't seem to go out on the weekend to "Kids Night at So and So" and "Open House at Blah Blah" as people who live in bubbles....since we're not getting out ourselves I've had to redefine this apparent lack of social interaction as "building community in the home."

Yes, in our own home we are building a community.

In Joan Chittister's The Monastery of the Heart: An Invitation to a Meaningful Life, she has a beautiful chapter on community:

"In the Rule of Benedict,
community is made up of 
common worship,
common ownership,
and common life."
" become community
in a Monastery of the Heart
requires regular
and meaningful interaction 
among the members.
It is more than calendrical
or routing celebrations,
as important as these are,
for the building
of a common spirit."

I could copy the whole chapter but when I was reading this for the first time the lines

regular and meaningful interaction among the members

REALLY resonated with how  I wanted to build a sense of community in a large family.

It seems that having regular interaction within a family would be fairly easy to do. Homeschooling has really helped in this area, because my littles are always home and life at home together has given us REGULAR interaction. Because a majority of our day is passed together, it does seem fine to have the littles in out of the home activities...granted there is the balance of how many car days vs non car days we have. We also have to guard our time with our daddy. I have confessed in past posts that I realize this all changes as the littles grow into bigs...but I am not there yet!

So perhaps that "regular" interaction is there for now but...for me at least, the tricky part may be securing the "meaningful interaction" in a home. I have come to realize that living in a post-Christian modern high tech society means also having to constantly live with the hour to hour decision to live INTENTIONALLY.

There are so MANY distractions today that can rob us of meaningful interaction with our loved ones.

Seriously...there are I-phone & television/screen time/Facebook distractions (forget that I am blogging right now) that steal time away. Distractions...they can take all types of forms...I will admit that in the past I have fallen into the trap of having too many commitments out of the home (even if they are for good things like Church). I can also get into funky "oh my gosh I need to sit and have coffee with...list of people.." and this can be dangerous too if I am constantly shooing my children away. Are you missing moments?

Meaningful interaction.

Praying together. Reading. Singing. Laughing.

Raking leaves.

Playing in the leaves.

Cooking together. Enjoying the meal that we just cooked together.

Napping together.

Yes, building the family community is such beautiful, holy, intentional work.

And yet this author was specifically writing about a Benedictine community...and so...we extend outward beyond the home and I see the same regular and intentional interaction at work in our community here in Juneau. A specific community of women of faith who have been blessed with a love for littles.

Over the last five years, I have experienced an ease of coming and going in the homes of these women and taking care of each other's littles that I didn't receive in fullness when I worked full-time in the Coast Guard. We feed our littles together.

We help move each other's furniture. We babysit. We pray together. We read books together.

We celebrate feast days and life together...

My sister visiting from D.C. threw a surprise shower for me with the women of my faith community.
Celebrations are fun, but perhaps it is more what we do in ordinary time that helps us grow.

Last week my dear friends Jennifer and Janet came over and we built a new land of Israel for our atrium...

I loved the leaf on her hat.

That's Jennifer's sweet little one year old taking it all in. That's my eight year old enjoying a frozen banana on a stick...apparently she likes it.

We spent a good solid three hours together. Justin was off for the day, and it is the very rare occasion that I have anyone over when he is home (unless its his idea). This Land of Israel map needed to get done and well he needed to putter about the yard a bit before winter...mow the lawn one last time before we exchange the lawn mower for the snow blower. While mowing the ditch he mowed over a rock and it shattered the back window of our already run down minivan. While Justin called the speedy glass people, Janet went out with a dust pan and broom to sweep up the shattered glass.

She didn't ask where the broom was.

She didn't announce what she was doing.

She just went and helped.

The afternoon was delightful and there were littles EVERYWHERE. There were front doors and back doors and garage doors open, potty breaks happening, snacks being shared, shoes off and not off, interruptions galore....but it was meaningful.

As my family grows and we are homeschooling with more than just art and nature walks, I have found that being prayerful and truly discerning how we as a family spend our time is very important. Am I listening to the littles? Am I listening to my husband? Am I listening to my own needs? Who are we inviting into our home? How much time is spent away from our home? Time is so precious and being intentional with it takes prayer. Thought.

The other evening we were blessed with another perfect night for a campfire. The gnats are long gone and Justin just gets into a "I need to split and burn wood" mode. We love it! We sometimes extend the invite to neighbors or a few Coast Guard friends. My eldest specifically said, as we were all getting our jackets and hats on, "I like having friends come, but can it just be our family tonight? Just us?"


Thank you for reading. I LOVE this LITTLE BLOG COMMUNITY. I am specifically thinking of Lindy and Suzanne today because they popped in on my blog a few days ago when I was a little down and had removed it from public view. The Holy Spirit prompted them to stop by and they contacted me asking how they could view it. Random I know! But really...such a sweet gift...I shouldn't need to be affirmed, but that hour they were there. Bloggy hugs xxoo.

Message to Suzanne: My literary friend...if you are still looking for a good read... I am finally reading St Therese' Story of a Soul ! Special thanks to Kimber for allowing me to keep said book for I think over two years...I am finally reading it!

God Bless.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real in September

Just stopping in for the Like Mother, Like Daughter Thursday link up! I changed up my blog colors for autumn (so high tech of me yes!).


We've been enjoying walks in the campground behind our home.


We are happy to see this gate blocked off. This means the campground is closed until May of next year. We get to roam and I can send the littles down to play in the campsites closest to our house without worrying about cars or strangers. The dog can be off leash...err...see my real why this isn't such a great IDEA.


This is the "I wipe my runny nose on my sleeve and won't let my mom put Vaseline on me" mustache look. Does your toddler sport one of these?

He loves his glasses his big sissie made for him!


Being all preggo and in my last trimester I was enjoying a walk with littlest ones the other day...

And you lab there, Nori...she just gets into things. As we were walking home from our peaceful stroll, Nori went down an embankment. With my large belly, there was just NO WAY I could follow after her without being stranded down there. Picture me, in my state, desperately calling from the edge, "No Nori! Come Nori! Please NO NORI!!" as I watched my dog roll around in a salmon carcass and eat it. Ah yes, the adventures for the Southeast Alaskan dog....bears to bark at in the front yard in the early morning, porcupines to "investigate" and yes....STINKY DISGUSTING DECAYING SALMON to rub all over their bodies. 

My husband was away with my two eldest daughters for his brother's wedding (just too long a trip with the littles and being so far along) but...I did make Nori stay in her kennel until he got home the next day. I felt sorry she had no idea why I wouldn't let her come inside the house, but to say the garage smelled of dead fish is a gross understatement.

So my poor husband, the first item on his "honey do" list was bathe the dog.

REAL love my friends. My husband didn't complain or gripe, he just knows what needs be done and does things. Love you Justin xxoo.

Thanks for dropping in! Peace to you in your home! 

More linky happiness here.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Our Blessed Mother

Autumn has arrived in Juneau....

...and so my summer book study of The Little Oratory has now turned into... a book study. Most of you know my husband is underway at times and I have to be more serious homeschooling with third and second graders, so you forgive me for drawing this book study out....

Also, even if you aren't reading The Little Oratory, the themes are beautiful and worth reflecting on.

From Chapter 8: Praying the Rosary:

"Just as a child assumes his mother will make all the necessary background preparations for something important to take place, so we can be very confident in the Blessed Mother's help. A childlike attitude gets us further along to our goal."

How is your relationship with the Blessed Mother? The above quote sums up very nicely where I am at with her. Although the authors are specifically speaking about the goal of starting a devotion to the rosary in the home, I rely greatly on Mary to help me with my home...period. I am confident in her help. I have attempted at various seasons of my life to keep a consistent devotion to Our Lady, but many times my efforts go no further than keeping a tiny finger rosary on my hands as I do housework.

Housework. The work of the home that just needs to be done, the background work...and Mary seems to remain in the background as I meet these everyday needs.

And yet, the Holy Spirit brings her so clearly front and center in my life at other times. This can happen on her feast days, and wow, especially during Advent, and here I am pregnant thinking of her still.

My seven year old took this! I love it :)
My family is in love with our new liturgy of the hours evening prayer routine. My husband does lead us in evening prayer, which I think is huge, so I am hesitant to say, "I want to start the habit of my family praying the rosary in the home."

There is a part of me thinking, "this would be TOO much."

Isn't that funny? Too much prayer?

But I know my family and I think I'm on to something, because being almost regimented about prayer (we ARE a military family) and saying we "must" do this devotion does more damage than good.  This would ultimately be contrary to the spirit of this chapter, the whole book even.  Although this book can be read in the span of a few sittings...I feel like the actualization of a culture of prayer in the home will take months, years!!!! 

My husband and I have spent the past few years figuring out what we want the culture of our home to look like, since we're the ones that have to LIVE in it. I like to read about Catholic family life and I have had the honor of witnessing real family life in the homes of good friends (and I take notes).

From Angela's home.

Hmmm...the culture of a home...what does yours look like?

A few things about mine...

We don't have cable tv (err...except for if the Red Sox are doing extremely well in October...this was the case last year NOT this year. We cave for Thanksgiving football as well).

We like to be outside.

I watch for now.

We eat supper together every evening. We attend Mass on holy days and Sundays and we GUARD that Sunday. We are huge fans of Sunday brunch (any brunch really!). We read lots of books and sing. We like white elephant gift exchanges. We rough house with couch throw pillows to a Switchfoot album. We do campfires.

We "school" at home.

We pray.

That last one is a new one. It IS a little embarrassing to admit. In the past, we seemed to take prayer more seriously during Lent but lighting our prayer candle and saying evening prayer together over the past few months has really stuck.

"Our culture is plagued by explaining. We have lost the ability to allow experience to be the teacher, and we certainly have lost any patience for the kind of learning that comes with practice. We rely on words in a technical way, as blunt instruments for instruction. We don't rely on the meaning inherent in words of rituals, learned over time."

The littles know we wear Santa hats when we decorate our Christmas tree. They know that we light the Advent wreath and sing before supper as we wait for Him. They know that daddy checks the candy after trick or treating and that a "Daddy tax" is due. They know to put a life jacket on before getting into a kayak.

They know when daddy says "Brush your teeth and come pray" there are a few things loaded in those six words: This takes place in our family room. I should grab my book and coloring pencils. I should get a comfy spot. The prayer candle will be lit. I should be calm and quiet.

Justin and I say the prayer without EVER explaining anything. We simply pray and read and have our "sacred silence" together and it happens to involve the children sitting quietly by...listening. Sometimes quiet doesn't happen with one of these:

Note from authors:

"Try not to pay attention to antics or calls for attention. Focus as much as you can on the prayers and saying them reverently. It would be good not to comment on how things went in front of the children. The important thing is that you prayed together."

Prayer has thankfully made its way into the culture of this home. It is VERY simple but it is happening and becoming a ritual...which really evolves over time. 

Bringing this back to praying the rosary...with where my home is at, I think I personally just need to carve out time for MYSELF to spend with Mary. Even better, this can be about ME and then my children, especially my daughters, can just naturally see me drawing closer to her.

I don't need to say,

"Look at me children. Look! I am getting out a rosary as I sip my coffee. Isn't it so nice to think about the life of Jesus by praying this devotion??? The rosary covers everything. Here let me show you what each bead means. Did you know......blah blah blah blah...."

No show. No explaining. Just start my OWN daily ritual.

I just need to let my children do what they do and

because they are with me and we pass time in community with each other, they might notice I pray the rosary. If I can just sneak in a decade before the next "event" unfolds, it is a good start.

I feel blessed to have had the time to contemplate the Blessed Mother as I am turning my thoughts toward the big work of labor and delivery I have ahead of me. Pray for me? God Bless You!


Chapter 7 Thoughts

Please go here for other thoughts on The Little Oratory.