The Journey of Hearing God

I’m making macaroni and cheese, the homemade kind that is super simple (cheese, macaroni, half and half and butter!). When I put the noodles in I will have nine minutes and I’m going to write for those nine minutes.

In a future post I’m going to have us hash out Little House on the Prairie and the pros and cons of possibly reading a book that gives insight into the reality of Laura’s life. I’m leaning towards a solid NO on getting that info. Ignorance is bliss.

For today I want to take a few minutes to hash out mentally (and for the reading pleasure of you, dear one) my decision to stop teaching full-time and “focus on my family.”

Truthfully, this might turn into a whole week of writing, because so much time and energy and prayer went into this decision and I learned so much in the process of recognizing something was off balance in my life and that I needed to make a change. Of course, when I began really crying out to the Lord for wisdom I wasn’t expecting the answer to involve my teaching commitments. But have you ever been in that position of really crying out? What I liked about this kind of communication with God is that I didn’t already have an answer. I was truly flummoxed. It wasn’t one of those times when I prayed for a specific answer (that I already had picked out for God to just press GO on). This was like, I don’t even know, Jesus. I don’t even know.

“Something is off,” began my conversation with the Lord, “and I need help.”

I wasn’t sure what the answer was going to be. I figured it would involve getting more organized in some aspect of my home life, or God just giving me better feelings about certain situations. All I knew is I was wandering in the desert. I wasn’t sure when it started or how I got there but I was stumbling around. Really, I felt a bit like the Israelites just not able to get from point A to point B.

The really troubling thing is that everything I was doing was really, really good. Not to be prideful, but it’s the truth. That’s what made this more confusing, more unclear. What do I jettison when nothing I’m doing involves things like “spa day” or “twelve hours shopping trip to Target.”

Those things aren’t necessarily bad either, but when you are feeling run down and overwhelmed all the time, you look first to the things that are disordered. Maybe too much time at TJ Maxx is the problem (honestly could that ever be the problem, no, but just as an example…).

So beginning in December I really cried out to the Lord. Like, Isabel and I had traveled to Texas to visit my sister and one early morning I was sitting on the floor of my sister’s guest room praying. It was an upstairs room and wall to wall carpet, so comforting and quiet and for the first time in AGES I just found myself settled. And I knew something was off.

In tears I just poured my heart out to God. “Something’s not right,” I said. That’s the best I could do.

Later, after a few conversations and lots of soul searching, I realized that I felt like life was flying by. I had a son graduate last year. I have another son graduating this year. My oldest moved to another city, another boy moved into a household in our neighborhood. So many things were changing and because I had said yes to so many things “outside the home” I felt like I was missing it all.

TO BE CONTINUED, THE MACARONI IS DONE!

Giving Love Freely

Our neighbor Monique died last week. We are so sad to see her go.

The thing about Monique that endeared her most to me was her unwavering love, and I was most touched by her love for my son Henry. Monique had a love for Henry and his spark. She recognized this as a good thing during a season when I could not. I cannot express what it meant for me to have this dear neighbor ask about Henry every time I saw her — and hear her tell me, every single time, what a special boy my Henry was.

You see, Henry is a pistol. And there are times when I struggle with this fact. But Monique was always so quick to remind me how awesome it is to be a fierce lover of life — and how God can and will use that quality. And for me now, in the season of parenting Henry through — what a blessing to have someone be so quick to just love your child.

There were so many other things to love about Monique. I will certainly miss seeing her tiny little self power-walking through our neighborhood while saying the rosary. She was also quick to pass along an article she had read that might inspire me with my writing. She is the person who introduced me to Catherine Dougherty and the concept of the “duty of the moment.”

But it was her ability to love that inspires me the most. Of all the things Jesus might call us to do in our lifetime, what matters most is our ability to love. “If I have not love I am a clanging symbol.” Monique loved the person in front of her. When you were standing talking with her, you were the most important person in the room. She was a gem.

We should never be afraid to love. What it meant for me in those years of chasing a wild and crazy little Henry — to have this person remind me time and time again what a gift my son was — well, it got me through. Because usually I ran into Monique at some neighborhood gathering where Henry had once again escaped from my watchful eye and I was feeling frustrated and defeated. And she would come up to me and tell me, once again, how amazing my kid was.

I think it might be easy for older people to feel disenfranchised, to question where they fit in. And I can tell you that the greatest asset you have right now is the ability to love. If you can walk up to a parent in the trenches of raising kids, and you can offer a word of encouragement — that is pure gift. If you see someone like me, trying to gracefully parent teenagers — risk starting a conversation and offer a word of encouragement.

The young mom in the grocery store needs to hear she won’t always be chasing an errant toddler boy. The mother with teenagers needs to hear that what’s she’s doing is bearing good fruit. That family in front of you at Mass? They are beautiful and the mother or father needs to be reminded that all this hard work is worth the effort.

Monique was willing to say all those things. She loved Henry, but she had that same love for each one of my children. She wasn’t afraid to love and she wasn’t afraid to love extravagantly.

Monique’s friend Debbie shared at the wake that she had this vision, after Monique had died. She was praying about what to share and heard Monique say, “Give it all away.” And she knew that what Monique meant was love. To give love freely. To offer encouragement with abandon. To be quick to build up and listen and love love love.

Give it all away. That’s what Monique did. That’s the gift we all have to offer, and this love can change the world. It sure changed mine.

Teenagers are Awesome

From my weekly column

I don’t write a lot about having teenagers. If you have some yourself, you understand. Teenagers are wonderful, don’t get me wrong. But it’s complicated. Having teenagers is every bit as grand as having little ones, but those growing pains aren’t as easy to share publicly.

But keeping quiet on life with teenagers can give people the wrong impression. A lot of people are scared of teenagers I think, or misunderstand them. And there’s a lot about having teenagers these days that can be scary. The kids themselves are great, but the culture is daunting.

Someone recently forwarded an article from the New York Times, all about the apps for smartphones that teenagers use. The worst part? Kids can hide this stuff from adults, so that even the most proactive, involved parents might be unaware of what their child is exposed to (or involved in).

It is scary raising teenagers — children in general — or it can be. If you gave me three minutes I could list in rapid fire all the things in the world to be afraid of, things facing our kids that we didn’t have to face. It’s terrifying, actually, when you stop to think about it.

But before I get too carried away, I want to share with you a few things I’ve learned in this journey of parenthood. I don’t have it all figured out (for sure!), but these things I know to be true.

When dealing with your teens, operate out of love, not fear. Don’t be afraid, scripture reminds us again and again. We have to apply that to every area of our life — especially parenting. Make love your aim, and even when times are tough you will have peace.

God loves your children more than you ever could. It seems crazy but it’s true. Don’t forget that as you proceed on this journey. You are God’s favorite — and so is your teen!

Your kid will mess up. It’s gonna be okay. God allows us to make mistakes, and He gives us grace to learn lessons in the midst of that.

Remember who you were as a teen — even if you were really, really good and always made great choices. I realized recently that I was starting to have a higher standard for my older boys than I had for myself! It’s not that I want them to be perfect, but I don’t want my children to suffer being separated from God. I have to remember they too are on a journey — and God’s working with them just like he’s working with me.

You and your spouse are on the same team. Early on in parenting, Paul and I saw how important it was for us to be in unity. If we had a chink in our armor, the Balducci boys would overtake us. Turns out that was an opportunity to be ready for these years with teenagers, when there isn’t time for us to be at odds with each other. In those tricky parenting moments (which always feel so spur of the moment) it’s nice knowing Paul and I are together in this adventure.

Your kid is not the only one struggling. If he or she is going through a hard season, just know it’s part of the growing process. Some struggles are certainly more serious than others, but if that’s where you are at, that’s okay too. There is nothing too big — or too small – for God.

Finally, the devil loves for us to feel isolated and alone. Pray for protection against the wickedness and snares of his lies. You are not the worst parent with the worst kid. Get behind me, Satan!

Lord, give us a heart of love and eyes to see the goodness of our children. Remind us how special they are to you, and that you have a plan for each one of them. We don’t have all the answers, but we trust and believe that you will give us everything we need.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” — Jeremiah 29:11

Blogging Again? Blogging Again.

So I might start this up again. Yeah! Let’s do it.

It has been almost a year since I wrote here and I’m in a major life shift. I have BIG KIDS now and life is different. At first I thought the change would mostly be about not feeling free to write about life with bigger kids. And that’s true. Big kids are their own beings. I mean, little kids are too but it’s different. You can write about them without feeling weird. But bigger people — I don’t really know if Elliott wants me telling you all about how great he’s doing in college (he is!) or Ethan’s plans (which are exciting!). Anyway this is clunky but I’m not going to sit here and delete a bunch of stuff. Otherwise I’ll never get this going again.

So I’m writing a book! Finally, a second book. I think it was just God’s time, because I’ve been hoping and praying and trying so hard to make something happen and finally, after all this time, it did! I’m excited about the topic but I’ll tell ya, I’m living it HARD right now. My dad mentioned something to me this morning that I think is so true: it’s like God is allowing some stuff to happen to give me perspective with my topic. The book is about having order in your life. So, yup Crazy times. Which, let’s be honest, I’m glad to be going through this instead of writing a book and being some kind of insufferable know-it-all. I think. Although being a know-it-all can be fun, because at least you are under some delusion that you’ve got it all together.

Ok, as an aside, I would just like to add that I can tell it’s been a long time since I’ve written like this because I keep finding myself wanting to use emojis to communicate. Like here is would put the little face with giant eyes. And up above I wanted to use the face with the hand under the chin ruminating. So wow, totally time to get back to the written word.

Back to the topic at hand.

About a month ago I realized I was just completely overwhelmed with my life. Like, suddenly there just didn’t seem to be grace for anything. It was crazy because I couldn’t even figure out what had changed. All the things that seemed to be running so smooth six months ago — well, it just wasn’t. I felt exhausted and emotional and couldn’t find the gaps in my day that I once used for sanity stops. Something in my life had changed and my carefully constructed daily schedule was sort of collapsing.

The schedule itself wasn’t collapsing so much as my ability to make it all work. And what I realized (I’ll spare you all the days and weeks I spent naval gazing and fretting and analyzing out the wazoo) was that I had scheduled and managed myself out to here (hold up hands shoulder width apart) and my life had expanded to here (hold hands slightly wider). What used to work “professionally” and “domestically” was no longing dovetailing. Things in my personal life were shifting in unforeseen ways; namely, big kids take up a different type of time and energy.

What worked with smaller or “in the home” kids just didn’t anymore. It’s totally different than what kids getting a bigger world view need. Does that make sense? Even just last year, with five kids at the same school and me working there, we were all on the same flow, so to speak. This year I have two kids that live either at home or just nearby who are doing something different from the rest of us, and suddenly I’m needed outside the realm I’d gotten used to.

I started realizing that my body was on overdrive ALL the time. I never got downtime, or a buffer with what was needed of me and what I needed in order to recharge to give. The margin I had built in got too small with the shifts in my life.

So I had to start having a hard conversation about all the commitments I had made and what I could now realistically do. And that’s where I’m at now. Trying to rearrange some things, working to consider how to manage things in the future. I also realized in the midst of all of this that I had let go of some things a few years ago that were the things that brought me the most joy. Namely, writing. And if you are wired to write in order to assimilate, that’s not a good thing to dump.

I don’t have all the solutions just yet. Ha! I don’t have nearly any at all. But recognizing that I’m in need of change — that I’m ready for it — that a good place to start.

Thanks for listening. And I’m so happy I remembered my password to this space. xo