Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Cultivating the Space in September

We are going to our neighborhood pool almost every day as the summer season draws to an end.

My husband would have a fit if he knew I wrote such things about summer and it ending, but with our AC still out (weep weep) I definitely want fall this

I have told myself we will start schooling the week after labor day weekend, but I think that it will be a very light easing back into routine. Are we getting up and having breakfast and getting dressed? Are we praying in the morning? Are we reading together? If I can get that going the first week I will seriously be impressed with myself. I am setting up my fall calendar by blocking off some of the car days and no car days, my Tuesdays look busiest. 

The back to school web posts and school supply bins are glaring at me. I do everything I can not to get too panicky. I really want more for my children.

Last year I thought by this time I would have started some workings of an atrium at our new home parish. Taking my children from the atrium spaces in Juneau felt like a HUGE sacrifice, and I felt a special commission to bring the good work of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd here.

I still FEEL that...but I also see, the Holy Spirit works slow.

Very slow! And it is humbling really.

Where or where or where will my children receive the freedom to grow in their relationship with God? 

From The Religious Potential of the Child:

"The preparation of the environment is another indirect aid the adult should give the child. This is a fundamental principle in the Montessori method, the importance of which all modern psychology points out. The 'atrium' in the name Maria Montessori gave to the environment dedicated to the child's religious life, recalling that space in ancient Christian basilicas which served as the anteroom of the  intermediate place between the classroom and the church. It is a place where the child comes to know the great realities of his life as a Christian, but also and above all, a place where the child begins to live these realities in meditation and prayer. There is nothing of the academic classroom about the atrium; it is not a place for religious instruction but for religious life." 

Can my home, right here, our spot, be a place where the Forbes children can come to know the great realities of their lives as Christians?

YES! YES it can be! 

Oh I find so much freedom in this! I don't have to take them anywhere. I came to the conclusion they could pursue academics in this home when I decided to homeschool, but it wasn't until I really sat with missing the work of the atrium that I understood my own home could be a place where my children grow as Christians. 

Writing it it seems so blatantly obvious.

And yet, there are certain aspects about the atrium that I love and so, in back to school fashion, I want to share a few of things that I will be working as teacher, catechist, mother this fall and I think I will title these posts as Cultivating the Space, because I want to grow in several areas.

So I have two goals to share today:

1. Let the text come alive for my children

In the atrium we we speak of text we are specifically speaking of the Gospel, but let's think about it in terms of any classic:

By presenting this or that line to the child we claim for ourselves the incandescent moment of the direct encounter with the living Word; we deny the child the originating moment of that experience. We supply the child with a product we have already worked out, and, as such, one that is limited, rather than opening up the boundless realm of God's Word before the child.  (Religious Potential of the Child pg. 54)

Through reading aloud, my children and I have journeyed to Narnia with the Penvensies, run along the Swiss Alps with Heidi and hid from goblins with Princess Irene and Curdie. I wonder if I can hold back more on the things I am getting out of these novels.  Do I really need to ask who Aslan is? I believe in conversation about the books, but I will read this year making sure the aha! moments aren't robbed from my children. I wonder if I can stay little and really learn from them.

Which is a great segway to my next goal....

2. Have an attitude of observation and listening while mingling

This is challenging for me as I tend to dominate being the extrovert I am. I habitually interrupt and nag and I constantly find ways to relate conversations to ME. Yes, so a great place to grow as a listener is right here, in my kitchen, in the den, in the hallway with my very own people.

The catechist (read mother) who does not know when to stop, who does not know how to keep silent, is one who is not conscious of one's limits...(RPC pg.52)

Maria Montessori has written some beautiful pages on the teacher's attitude with respect to the student, highlighting contrast between the solemn, aloof teacher who sits as one enthroned on high before an audience that hears without joining in, and the learned scientist who, mingling with students, observes with patience and love the phenomena of life. The latter is the attitude the educator (in my case mother) should acquire. (RPC pg.50)

I wonder if this school year, I can take the ME out more. 

I love the idea of respecting my children, but putting it into action seems impossible at times. I am not sure if I am always AWARE of how each word, each expression on my face is either respectful and loving or...not. Respect doesn't mean being fun and easygoing as a parent, those are all fine and dandy, but we are shaping souls and leaders, aren't we? I think respect has a lot to do with counting our words and truly 'getting to know' our children. Getting to know them for who they are not constantly what we are trying to project on them of ourselves, mingling with them in the freedom of our home.

Freedom in the that is something to think about too.

I would like to give a big bloggy hug this morning to Mary Clare and Janet for reaffirming the beautiful truth that our homes can grow Christians. 

Happy schooling...


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

A LONG Moment

I am experiencing a moment...and it is causing me to stop and really do some interior work.

I have been reading. I have been reading since spring. Reading and really witnessing to some beautiful truths about the use of Natural Family Planning.

I think my story of coming to use natural forms of contraceptive instead of artificial forms is missing a key point, in is all still planning. I am waking up to a planning and limiting culture in many Catholic circles. I may have helped this culture in part by being so proud that I went from artificial to natural forms of contraception.

And we are all so comfortable.

Mary, Star of the Sea cookies for the Feast of the Assumption

I have to be very gentle with myself as I come off the NFP mountain. I am only even confessing these things to my readers because I would truly be sorry if any of my posts were misleading about the true purpose of NFP...and that should be used as the exception not the norm.

Is it hard for you to read that?

It is for me, and that is why I am pulling down all of my Natural Family Planning posts as of today. I am just pulling them down, not completely deleting. I want to read through them over the next few months, years even, to make sure the tone is always generous in supporting a marriage open to life.

I can be confident in saying I have always written the journey as just: how my family of five little ones came to be.

I don't know if it was more to help others in my same spot of coming off the pill or if it was to just help me work things out.

Well...It is so painfully clear to me that I have much more praying to do, much more to ponder when it comes to what Justin and I are saying yes to in our marriage. I feel my posts are a bit inadequate to address what we should all truly be proclaiming....and that is...TRUSTING in HIS PLAN.

I don't KNOW what that looks like for my life, for my marriage. And believe me when I say this is about ME and MY WORK, you know your own places between you, your spouse and God.

I have such peace about this. I really do trust that I will have much more clarity over time. I will continue to write because it is really how I connect and as I have said before it helps ME so much! We are just going to take a LONG PAUSE, a LONG MOMENT in any NFP related posts.

Pray for me.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

A Living Gospel

It is August my friends and our air conditioner in our new home is completely dead. Yes. Yes. Stephanie and her children are surviving with box fans and AC window inserts from K-Mart.

Oh yes, these are good times.

It makes me chuckle as it was a year ago just last week that we stayed in the rental property on the other side of town, all in one room as I looked out of the skylights and silently yelled at God (yes, you can silently yell). I was so angry with Him. He Who is the Giver of good gifts.

So, here we are, in August, and all my littles are sharing a room with us again, the room being the air conditioned master bedroom.


I would never ever ever ever go on an "Did my air conditioner really die during the hottest part of the year?" rant.

Yet, as I make an egg sandwich and watch as my freshly showered body starts to drip with sweat, my thoughts turn to sweet Juneau. Cool fresh crisp Juneau.

I called Juneau my Alaskan Atrium in my last post (nevermind that I have been away from this space for two months)....and yet when I think of Juneau as Atrium where I grappled with some deep mommy "work" I also see it as the sacred space where I encountered the Gospel.

What do I mean??

I mean, in my May visit to Juneau, the Gospel was and continues to be witnessed to me. Juneau is a place where I hear the proclamation of the Life of Christ. But not as something spoken to me, as if in history, no something I live, accept and participate in as a Christian. Something very NOW.

Take the Visitation for instance.

Elizabeth rejoiced with Mary. Elizabeth saw and FELT joy for Our Lady and proclaimed it to her.

"Blessed are you amoung women and blessed is the Fruit of your womb."

How special, how very special, that we as mothers are given a glimpse of a sweet and divine moment between two mamas.

I am so thankful for my mommy friends. They nurture me and love on me in ways that I couldn't imagine at times. I fell in love with the Visitation during my life in Juneau because I was given the gift of friendships, divinely inspired friendships, that I believe make St Elizabeth and Our Lady smile.

So, time and time again, in so many ways, I see not a stagnant Gospel, but a Gospel that is on the move in the people who are my friends, the people who are the Body of Christ giving that Gospel hands and feet, and kind eyes.

When we were planning our trip to Juneau it was my bright idea for us to arrive in Juneau and stay in our empty rental property, as in zero things in it.

It was my friend list maker, organized, DOER of GOOD DEEDS. CHERYL. Cheryl coordinated a mass effort to stock my fridge with things that other mamas donated. Like MILK! FRUIT! BREAD! I washed my face with face wash and dried it on towels. Air mattress beds were blown up and made with PILLOWS. I had a wonky coffee pot made with parts of other coffee makers but I DIDN'T CARE because there was creamer!!!!

I cried. I cried out of shear exhaustion from the cross country flight but also having been cared for in beautiful works of mercy. Feeding us. Giving us a home by providing the things a home needs. I was given things I didn't even know I would need.

So so so holy.

Generosity. I always feel a sense of extreme gratitude when I encounter the Gospels. God is a God of Abundance and so it feels so natural to want to respond with Thanksgiving!

The generosity of my friends from Juneau doesn't just make me feel loved and welcomed, it made me feel grateful! It makes me want to give thanks! Thank you to the beautiful York family who let us use their mini--van and drive all over Juneau as we saw and were affirmed in her mountains and water...yes Forbes family, I am still here! Thank you to the Smith family for having a wedding and a double baby shower so that we could participate, we could have a shared collective memory with our dearest friends...yes Forbes family, we are still here! 

Thank you to coffee dates with Kelley and playdates with Jennifer and walks in the campground with Maureen. Thank you to Jana and Trevor who helped us in ways that you only make really close people help help getting a power washer and help coordinating a late night drop off at a hotel.

There was more.

So so so much more and I am slowly getting handwritten thank you cards out.

Have you ever encountered someone who complains? They are so consumed with what is "wrong" that they sometimes need a gentle reminder of all that is RIGHT. Gratefulness can even surprise them!

Like this: "I know your AC is broken Stephanie, but you aren't ALL colonial living, you DO have electricity." Bahaahahahahaha

So I only felt as I logged on to this blog, that I wanted to say a little more about Juneau. A little reminder to myself, now written down, of sweet memories of shared moments, little gifts, that I will treasure. I am grateful for people who took the time to drive me to Douglas to borrow a van or gave their time and talent so my husband could paint the shed faster.  People who saw their things as something to share.  I borrowed all those things that Cheryl anticipated I would need. We consumed the food but we borrowed so much! Plates, coffee mugs, strollers, even christmas lights (wink!).

And then the Christian receives and asks herself...she asks herself even now, two months later...How can I serve?

How can I witness?

How can I be a Living Gospel?

How can I pass this on?

Because is where I have done the MOST growth. God moved me and He taught me it is not about the Place, it is about the Christian.

Love you and enjoy your AC for me! xxoo