Top 10 Reasons Why I’ve Been So Quiet

It’s not for lack of trying, that’s for sure.  As much as I love to write, my life seems to have other plans right now.

So if you’re wondering what’s been going on, here are the top 10 reasons why OHH has been so quiet lately:

1.  Diaconate:  The word is getting out so I guess it’s time to share with the world that Mark and I are in the beginning phase of discernment for Deacon Formation.  I won’t share why now is the time for this to take place, I’ll let Mark share that when he is ready.  I have wondered for a long time if this was is in our future, assuming if it was that it would be much later in life when our kids were grown.  Then God let us know pretty clearly that the time is actually NOW.  We have been on quite a ride since March with applications, interviews, and formation meetings.  We have begun the first phase and will find out at the end of this month if we are asked to continue on with the next phase and potentially the next 4 years of formation.  The process is a pretty big deal and includes one full Saturday and one entire weekend away each month for the next 4 years.  The full weekend is 3 hours away so as you can imagine, this is a very big adjustment for our family of home-bodies.   We would certainly appreciate prayers for this journey.  Here is a picture of us on the morning of our first day of formation.  Do we look as nervous as we felt?

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2.  Homeschooling:  Can I just say, thank you Lord for the ability and opportunity to homeschool?!?  Seriously, I love our life.  Being here with the kids day in and day out can be daunting, yes.  But there is absolutely no other place I could imagine being.  With Diaconate happenings on the weekends it is such a relief to know that we get to be together so much during the week.  Lessons keep us busy and activities, though limited, keep us on the go but seeing the true love of learning that these two kids have makes life so interesting.  I feel like I am in 4th grade again and I love history this time around!  Who knew it could be so interesting?

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3.  Daycare:  With the 2 commitments mentioned already, we have made the decision to cut back on the amount of time that I am available for keeping our 2 little daycare girls.  We truly love having them here but I feel like I really need to give more of my time and attention to our own kids.  Time with our kids is so fleeting and this has actually helped their mom realize that as well and decide to cut back on her hours to be home with her girls more.  So, we’ll be backing off to 1-2 days/week by the first of the year.  For now though if I am sitting still it’s only because I have a baby and bottle in hand or a book and a lap full of kiddos.

4.  Essential Oils:  Our family has been so blown away by how much essential oils have improved our overall health in the time that we have been using them.  We have been healthier than ever and have drastically decreased the number of doctor visits and medications we used to “need” to nearly ZERO.  I love these oils and am so passionate about helping other people find health and wellness with them that this little hobby has become a full-on business and a huge blessing for our family and many others.  I now get to combine my love for teaching others with my love for health and oils as I teach classes and educate people on how to live a more health-filled life.  Feel free to contact me for more info on this if you are curious!

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5.  Simplicity:  As beautiful as it sounds, living simply takes a lot of work.  Whether it’s cooking and eating healthy, home-cooked meals, raising chickens, canning and preserving, gardening, and so on, it all sounds so lovely and old-fashioned and simple.  But the reality of it is that it is a lot of work!  It takes so much more time and energy than most modern conveniences but it is also so much a part of our life that I hardly notice.  Our kids just assume that every mom makes all their own bread!  We’ve had to explain the truth about that before actually.

6.  Homesteading:  So right now we have 22 hens and a rooster.  A handful of the girls are new this year and for some odd reason that we can’t seem to figure out, they are being total slackers.  Yesterday we got ONE egg. Seriously.  We have been racking our brains, with the help of Google and many poultry sites, to try to figure out what is up.  My garden is a serious mess that I gave up on back in August because it was all I could do to get out there and water it once in a while.  I did get some canning in but not near as much as most years past.  Trees need pruned, perennials need cut back, etc., etc. etc.  There is always something to do around here.  With the way our schedule has been we basically have 1 day of the week when both Mark and I are off work together and that day is Sunday.  We have been committed for a long time now to keeping our Sundays sacred with resting and family time so we try not to work and do chores on that day.  That means all the other days are a rat-race to keep up with everything that we ignored on our “weekend.”

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7.  Reading:  I have pulled away from most of the online reading that I used to do and have found myself diving into some of the many books that have been waiting for me to find time for them.  So if/when I find myself with a snippet of time I try to pick up a book rather than park it in front of the computer.  Another reason for this is that when I sit in front of the computer, I work. That time is hit or miss so I have to be very intentional about doing what I NEED to do, rather than what I WANT to do.  Along with the Diaconate also comes more reading and assignments so there is never a shortage of material in my hands to peruse.

8. Intentional Family Time:  With so many demands on our time, we continue to be very intentional about the time that we spend together as a family.  Whether it’s taking a hike, eating dinner together, playing a board game, or snuggling up on the couch with a good book, we take full advantage of Sundays and the times each day, no matter how long, to just be together and enjoy each other’s company.  This doesn’t just happen though.  It really does take some intentional planning and persuasion even at times.  But it is so worth it.

9.  Health:  This month I accepted a 30-day challenge to work out.  A group of lovely ladies help keep me accountable and on track with eating right and working out 5 times/week.  The good news is that I have done it and in the process lost a few pounds and an 7.5 inches total!  The bad news is that most days I don’t get those workouts in until 9:00 at night, often times it was even 11:00pm before I started.  But it’s working and I feel great so I’m signing up to do it again next month!

We have also recently found that Lilly, and most likely Toby as well, have sensitivities to gluten and dairy.  Learning new recipes and items to buy in order to get our guts healthy has been a big commitment but the results that we are already seeing certainly helps me to keep focused.

10.  TIME:  After reading through this list I’m sure it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see why blogging here has just not been happening.  I miss writing and I write so many posts in my head throughout the day.  I just don’t take the time to plug them in here because my time is too precious.  I know that God has a plan for all of this and when the time is right for me to spend more time and energy here, He will make it happen.  Until then, thanks for hanging in there and reading whatever random ramblings I can share.

“There is an appointed time for everything,

and a time for every affair under the heavens.

A time to give birth, and a time to die;

a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant.

A time to kill, and a time to heal;

a time to tear down, and a time to build.

A time to weep, and a time to laugh;

a time to mourn, and a time to dance.

A time to scatter stones, and a time to gather them;

a time to embrace, and a time to be far from embraces.

A time to seek, and a time to lose;

a time to keep, and a time to cast away.

A time to rend, and a time to sew;

a time to be silent, and a time to speak.

A time to love, and a time to hate;

a time of war, and a time of peace.”

Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8

~Maria

Seventeen and Counting

Prior to our nearly summer long hiatus here at our OHH blog, the tone  was decisively more heavenly then homesteading. For those disappointed by that, this entry isn’t going to win you back. I simply want to use the space we have staked out on the interwebs to wish Mrs. Heavenly Homestead a happy 17th Wedding Anniversary.

It hardly seems possible we are old enough to be married this long. When we exchanged vows seventeen years ago, this blog wasn’t anything we could have imagined. I’m not even sure we were aware that Al Gore had created the interwebs. I don’t recall that we ever discussed having honeybees, chickens or home schooling. In fact we delayed our honeymoon, so Maria could student teach and finish her degree in education. I know we didn’t plan on living in my mom’s house forever. Thank goodness my mom eventually moved out. We expected to have more children on earth than in heaven, and we still plan on taking that honeymoon- someday. There is a saying that God laughs while we’re making plans. If that is true, we are living proof.

You’ve read here before that Maria is the planner, the organizer, and the dreamer of this relationship. Whatever dreams Maria had seventeen years ago, I’m sure I’ve come up short on just about all of them. In fact, in the first five years of marriage I did just about everything possible to ensure that by this time we could have more years apart then we actually had together. Yet still, here we are- about to embark on the greatest leap of faith of our lives. We are stronger and more in love than I ever thought we could be. At times it all seems too good to be true, but when I look at Maria it’s easy to see how it has all become possible.

She is my St. Monica- fervently praying until I found my faith. She is the voice of Mother Mary, encouraging me “to do whatever he tells you.” She claims to be too much like Martha, which I am grateful for. Without her busying around the house, our home would be a disaster. I prefer to think of her as my Blessed Mother Theresa, doing many little things with great love. She is my St. Elizabeth, seeing to it that our children receive the best home education possible.

These are just a few examples that come to mind, and I don’t mean to place Maria undeservedly in the category of a canonized saint. For anyone that knows our journey, my relationship with God is a direct result of her relationship with Him first. I’m not as well versed on the saints of the Church as I would like to be, but I have come to know many of them through Maria’s actions. She is clearly walking a path similar to many of them. She is a beautiful and holy sister of Christ, and I am humbled, honored, and blessed to be her husband. Happy 17th Anniversary My Love.

Mark

2014-2015 Curriculum-Years 2 & 4

I am so excited to see what this year has in store for us.  The kids actually told me the other day that they are looking forward and ready to start lessons!  That does a mama’s heart good.

Overall, we are continuing with a lot of the same things we used last year, with a few new additions.  Last year we were able to stay right on track and complete everything we needed to by the end of May.  Over the summer there has been a great amount of reading and self-directed learning going on.  I am really happy to see how much Lilly has taken off in her reading.  I will often find her in various places just quietly reading.  Likewise, Toby’s confidence in writing and spelling have started to really grow and I’m looking forward to seeing how much he has matured in those areas.

Lilly:  Year 2-Age 8

Reading:  Finishing Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading, Seton readers: These Are Our Neighbors and This Is Our Parish

Math: Right Start Math Level C 

Language:  Writing Our Catholic Faith 2(cursive), writing notes and lists, gratitude journal, Commonplace Book(a place to write special things to remember-scripture, poems, memories, sayings, etc.), CHC Language of God A/B

Science:  CHC Behold and See 4,  nature study, nature notebooking and Nature Club(includes poetry, composer, and art study)

History: Mother of Divine Grace Grade 4, Our Pioneers and Patriots, many living books that compliment this, Book of Centuries Timeline

Geography:  Maps, Charts, Graphs C, Geography Through Literature with Holling C. Holling books

Art:  Crafts, painting, drawing using Draw, Write, Now books, Art Study

Religion:  Faith & Life Series-4scripture memory verse box including Catechism and PrayersCatechesis of the Good Shepherd Level 2

Keyboarding:  Dance Mat Typing

Spanish:  Rosetta Stone Spanish

Music: Piano lessons, Composer Study

Handicrafts:  cross stitch, loom knitting, rubber band loom bracelets

Extras:  Homeschool Tumbling, Homeschool Softball, Nature Club, Lego Club

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Toby-Year 4-Age 10

Reading:  Seton Reader:  These are Our People, living books, daily devotion and Bible reading, Vocabulary 4 For Young Catholics classic literature.

Math:  Right Start Math Level D/E

Language:  Writing Our Catholic Faith 4 (cursive), writing notes and lists, gratitude journal, Commonplace Book, Catholic Heritage Language of God C Spelling Wisdom, will begin written narrations later in the year

Science:  CHC Behold and See 4 .  Nature study, nature notebooking and Nature Club(includes poetry, composer, and art study) .

History: Mother of Divine Grace Grade 4, Our Pioneers and Patriots, many living books that compliment this, Book of Centuries

Geography:  Maps, Charts, Graphs DGeography Through Literature with Holling C. Holling books

Art:  Crafts, painting, drawing using Draw, Write, Now books, Art Study

Religion: Faith & Life Series-4scripture memory verse box including Catechism and PrayersCatechesis of the Good Shepherd Level 3 

Keyboarding:  Dance Mat Typing

Spanish:  Rosetta Stone Spanish

Music:  Piano lessons, Composer Study

Handicrafts:  whittling, cross stitch, loom knitting

Extras:  Homeschool Tumbling, Homeschool Softball, Homeschool Football, Nature Club, Lego Club

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Here is our updated daily schedule which is the “ideal” but really just serves as a guideline to keep us on track.

Daily 2014

This year we’ll be using the weekly checklist for keeping track of what each child is doing again.  This worked really well last year and was a great way to just keep track of it all, including the books the kids are reading.  I will be assigning some literature books this year but that’s another post for later.

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As excited as we all are to get the ball rolling here in our little academy, I know there will be days.  You know the days. Here is a great little something to read, and reread I’m sure on those days:  On Inconveniences in Homeschooling:  Meltdowns and Other Messes

I usually have a few little surprises on the kids’ desks for them on the first official day of lessons.  This year they will each be getting new nature journals and a couple of these Dover Nature Coloring Books.

Happy homeschooling!

“Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with your whole heart, and with your whole being, and with your whole strength.  Take to heart these words which I command you today. Keep repeating them to your children. Recite them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them on your arm as a sign and let them be as a pendant on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates.”  Deuteronomy 6:6-9

~Maria

Back in the saddle again

A little Aerosmith reference for you rockers out there.

I know, I know, it’s been a really long time since I wrote.  I won’t even attempt to catch up on all that has happened since my last post.

This morning I found myself with some time to clean off the memory card from the camera and laughed out loud when I saw that my little 7-year-old photographer has been at it again.  I must say though, her eye for detail is improving and her choice of subjects has drastically widened.

So here’s a quick photo update of what’s been happening on the homestead:

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Our Nature Shelf gets its picture taken every other week when one of the kids’ chore is to dust it.  They take a picture of it to use when they are restoring the items after dusting.  Lots of changes have happened around here-new furniture, old furniture made new, rooms rearranged, cleaning, organizing, purging, simplifying….feels so great!

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We have a little family game that includes getting in the last “I love you” or being the one to say “I love you most” first. Cheesy as all get out but it’s a carry over from back when Mark and I were in the early stages of falling in love.  Yes, we were cheesy then too and now the kids play along.  Don’t judge.  I found this little note on the inside of a garbage bag when I removed it from the can last week.  A little blond hair, blue-eyed cutie was peeking around the corner with a pink crayon in hand, snickering in anticipation.

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Another night I found this little journal under my pillow.  It’s one that Toby and I have kept for a few years and write back and forth in.  Gotta love a boy who’s not afraid to love on his mama.

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Temps here have been really comfortable for the past couple of weeks so we have been spending a lot of time out of doors.  Unfortunately, the mosquitoes like this weather too, hence the bug spray that we may just need to start bathing in.  The kids have acquired some new-to-them kitchen utensils that include a nut cracker.  Who knew that cracking acorns could be SO amazing?  Lilly’s little mud creations are getting pretty impressive.

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The fruit in my garden has done really awesome this year.  The vegetables?  Meh.  Let’s just focus on the positive! We had a great haul of strawberries, several picking of rhubarb, lots of raspberries, and the grapes are really going crazy!  So what to do with all of those raspberries that don’t last very long fresh? Raspberry coffee cake, that’s what! Here’s the recipe: Raspberry Almond Coffee Cake

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I seem to always find lots of food pictures on the camera after it has sat around for a while.  We have quite the little food artist in our midst.

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We have had some early evening campfires this summer but when the sun goes down we run for cover because the mosquitoes are worse than I remember in a long time.

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Sometimes a girl just needs to drive a John Deere.

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This kid.  He turned 10 but sometimes I have to remind myself of that because there are times that I feel like I’m talking to a much older young man.  He’s an old soul that one.

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We were so blessed recently to have an impromptu grill out and campfire with my parents and one of my sisters and her kids.  It was a beautiful night and the skeeters actually didn’t chase us in until just after dark that night!  We are trying to revive a tradition of Sunday family dinners around here and so far so good.

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With 2 extra little ones in my care 4 days of the week, I am slowly learning to appreciate getting up early.  Cool July mornings have helped as they have beckoned me outside for my morning prayer time.

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This little one joined me on a recent morning out on the patio.

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This little piece of yumminess was still in my frig after Sunday night dinner….because sisters rock.

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The enlarged chicken run is officially done.  The girls can truly “free range” now, without the constant threat of death.  We never knew how many predators were around here until we got chickens.  On the far side of the run(in the back of the picture) we are looking forward to a HUGE garden going in next year but without any work on our part.  We stumbled upon a Farmer’s Market vendor looking for more ground and it’s a win-win!  My gardening needs are about to drastically change.

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We added 2 new colonies of bees this year and the resident beekeeper, aka The Man of the Homestead, has been busy helping them to feel welcome.

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There is some craziness going on in one of the hives but we’re hoping for a good harvest from the other one.

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The busy bees.  I’m actually really impressed with these pictures because I was gone the night they were taken so one of the kids took them and did an amazing job.

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No memory card clean off would be complete without a good “selfie” of  the photographer.  Such a clown!

Things are going really well on our little homestead.  We have so much to be thankful for.  With luck, I’ll write about some of those things soon!

~Maria

My Miracle: The Day I Saw Jesus

This past August, 2013, I helped to facilitate the second Christ Renews His Parish retreat at our church.  Without disclosing any of the beautiful gifts that are a part of the experience, I feel like it is time to share a gift that I was personally given during that weekend.  It was my very own miracle.

It was a very emotional weekend for me as I allowed myself to go a bit deeper in my healing process after having Sophia.  Toward the end of the weekend, I was spending some time in the Adoration Chapel by myself.  I had never been alone in front of Our Lord like that before, so closely and intimately.  The Blessed Sacrament was exposed in the Monstrance as it had been all weekend.

Side note:  As Catholics, we believe that Jesus truly is present in the Blessed Sacrament(the host which has been consecrated by the priest).  You can read more about that HERE or HERE.

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{Blessed Sacrament in the Monstrance}

So there I was, only a couple of feet away from Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.  I had been kneeling right in front of Him for a while, praying, crying, but not actually looking at Him.  I have never felt worthy enough to do that.  I moved to a chair nearby, still facing Our Lord but still not looking.  I was still very emotional but was regaining my composure.  I decided for some reason that I needed to have a face-to-face conversation with Jesus.  I figured I may never again get the opportunity to “look Him in the eye” since this was such a rare chance to be so close.  I didn’t want to miss this chance.  Besides, I had a couple things to ask Him.

I raised my eyes to look straight ahead at the Blessed Sacrament in the center of the Monstrance.  As I did this, I was praying that God would give me some answers.  I clearly but quietly stated what I wanted to know, “Will we always struggle financially and will we be blessed with more children?”

What happened next is only something that I can describe as a miracle.  It happened in a matter of minutes, I think, but time truly stood still and I honestly have no idea how much time passed.

As I sat there, before my eyes, the glass covering on the Blessed Sacrament seemed to suck inward, like when you cover something with plastic wrap and it suctions down onto the contents of the dish.  I blinked and kept looking. Something was happening and I was starting to get a bit uneasy.

My eyes had to be playing tricks on me.  I shifted in my seat and took notice of the lighting in the room, it must have been that.  But then I realized that the windows were covered  so the only light in the room was the soft glow of sunlight that could barely pass through the window coverings and several candles that were lit.  It was bright enough that I could see clearly from one side of the room to the other.

I sat there, dumbfounded and kept watching.  Right before my eyes, the face of our Lord began to become clearer and clearer in the inside of the glass until I was literally looking at the perfectly formed face of the suffering Jesus on the cross.  He was looking down to my left and I could clearly see the crown of thorns on his head.  In that same instance, I became overcome with emotion.  My body was wracked with sobs.  I blinked and rubbed my eyes to see more clearly.  I was shaking from head to toe.  I stood up and moved to another part of the room, He was still there.  I moved closer to the Monstrance, He was still there.  I walked to the other side of the room, He was still there.  It didn’t matter where I was in the room, He was still there and He looked exactly like the image I have seen so many times of Him dying on the cross.

What does this mean!?!?  My mind was racing.  Do I go get someone?  What if He’s not there when they look?  What do I do?

Just then, a calm came over me.  I sat down because it felt like I should.  As I sat and continued to look at Jesus’ face, I remembered the question I had asked and thought of it again, “Will we always struggle financially and will we have more children?”

As if someone was in the room and was reading my mind I heard, “Would you need me then?”

WHAT?!!?  What does that mean?  I had no doubt it was God.  The only way I can describe it is that I heard that question with my whole body, not just my ears.  I felt it.

Well that’s just great, now what the heck do I do?

Again, calm.  I sat and just remained there in silence, the whole time, looking at the face of Jesus.

I have no idea how much time passed, probably only a few minutes honestly, before my dear husband came in.  I thought, “Great!  Finally, someone else can see this!”  but at the same time I thought, “Do I even tell anyone or are they going to think I’m crazy!?”   He came over and hugged me and asked how I was doing.  The calm that had washed over me remained as I sat there staring at this very obvious face of Jesus.  Without taking my eyes off of Him, I blurted out, “You’re gonna think I’m crazy but do you see Him?”

There are so many reasons why I love this man.  Without breaking stride whatsoever he simply said, “I don’t see it right now but I also don’t think you’re crazy.  I saw something last weekend too.  I’m not in the same state of grace that you are in right now like I was last weekend.”  You see, he had been through the men’s retreat the weekend before and had this same opportunity as I was having to spend in adoration alone.

We decided, and even pinky-swore, that we would just keep this all to ourselves.  No one else needed to know and we would just consider it a gift meant just for us.  Deal.

Mark then left me alone again, well alone with Jesus that is.  His face was still as clear to me as it had been the entire time.  No sooner had he left the room, our priest walked in.  At this I thought, “Surely this guy will see what I see!” What happened next is somewhat comical.  My eyes were glued to Jesus.  Father stood beside me and said a few things but looked at me.  Then he came and sat near me but kept talking and looking at me.  I’m not sure what he was thinking at this point because I was nodding my head toward the Monstrance as he talked, in the hope that he would look over and see this miracle taking place right in front of us.

HE NEVER LOOKED!!

He finished talking, stood up, covered the Monstrance, picked it up, and proceeded to leave the room with it as it was time for the next part of our retreat.  I sat there for a few seconds just sort of numb and then joined my group again and finished the retreat.  I had no intention of telling anyone about this experience and I knew that Mark would not either.  I tucked it away as an amazing miracle that I was just blessed to experience and thanked God for it.

Fast forward to later that evening.  A small group of friends came back to our home to eat dinner after we all left the church.  The ladies had all been a part of the retreat and were chatting about how things went.  We were all so tired.  I was mindlessly moving things around on the counter while 2 of my girlfriends sat at our kitchen table chatting.  I wasn’t in on the conversation but was listening in as I sat out some food.  I heard one of my friends say to the other, “Did you see anything during Adoration?  I did, and I didn’t want to say anything but I wondered if anyone else did.”

Now, the way I remember this was that I chimed in and said, “What do you mean?” But the way my friends describe is was more like me wide-eyed and shocked saying, “WHAT DID YOU SAY?!!?”

So my friend goes on to explain that she saw something in the Blessed Sacrament when we were in the chapel as a group.  At this, I couldn’t keep quiet any more.  I spilled it all.  I told them what had happened to me and how I didn’t want to tell anyone because I figured they would think I had lost my marbles!  At that point, I really didn’t care.  I knew then that something miraculous was happening at our church.

Knowing that this miracle was something that I never wanted to forget a second of, I wrote down the details that night.  I even drew a picture of what I saw.

Over the course of the following week, we came find out that there were several of us on both the men’s and women’s weekends that saw visions in the Blessed Sacrament and in other parts of the church.  These things came out in various different conversations that were not connected and were all very unique.  Although we all saw different things, we all saw things that were pertinent to where we are in our lives and things that were most meaningful to each and every one of us in our own way.  True miracles.  It was no surprise to me at all that the image of Jesus I saw was of Him suffering.

I share this with you to give you hope.  I could tell you all about what I believe and why but you may not really understand.  But when I tell you about this experience that I have lived, I pray that you will have a better idea of the truth.  He is real.  I have doubted before.  There is no way I could ever doubt again.  These things don’t just happen.  They are true gifts from Our Father in Heaven.

Since that experience, things have become clearer to me.  At the time, I didn’t understand the answer that I was given to my question about our finances and family.  I can see now what He meant though.  ”Would you need me then?”  If I didn’t have to worry about every penny we earn and spend, would I lean on God as much and trust in His provision?  If I could get pregnant any time I wanted to without having to think twice, would I beg him to help me be patient?  Would I trust Him, lean on Him, NEED him as much as I do now?  Maybe not.  Perhaps He knows me better than I know myself.  In fact, I know He does, because He knows what I need before I need it and He gives me exactly what He knows is best.

I get it now.  He has always provided ways for us to make a little extra money when we need it most.  He has always given me opportunities to fill my arms and heart with babies, even if they are not always my own.  He provides everything I need and then some.  I am so thankful for the miracle that God gave me, but most of all, I am just overwhelmingly thankful for Him.

Happy Easter!

 And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, 
approached, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it.  His appearance was like lightning
and his clothing was white as snow. The guards were shaken with fear of him
and became like dead men. Then the angel said to the women in reply,
“Do not be afraid!
I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified.
He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said.
Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples,
‘He has been raised from the dead, 
and he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him.’
Behold, I have told you.”

Matthew 28:  2-7

~Maria

Taking Time vs. Making Time

Solitude as I envisioned it hasn’t quite worked out- at least not yet. We still have our closing meeting for Good News People, which we have been hosting on Sunday nights for the past couple of months. We still have paper work to file before I can officially step down as Financial Secretary for our Knights of Columbus council. After five softball practices in the past week, our next eight Tuesdays nights will be dedicated to the Homeschool Softball League. Lilly begins First Communion prep after Easter and that will last until her big day on May 18th. Not to mention the increasing list of projects I desire (in order to keep my wife happy) to get started in and around the house. My job which is the fund raiser for all this fun has also been hectic with a wave of repair and custom projects.

While this may not sound like a particularly daunting schedule, we haven’t had the break we thought we were called to seek out at the start of the year. While I thought we were being called to make time for solitude this year, perhaps we were simply being reminded to be sure and take time for solitude.

It’s Holy Week and I equate that to Super Bowl week for the Church. At first glance it doesn’t look favorable for finding an opportunity for solitude. In addition to the list of weekly commitments we have Faith Formation on Wednesday, the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Thursday, Celebration of the Passion on Friday and the Easter Vigil on Saturday night. Then after our traditional Easter egg scavenger hunt Sunday morning we’ll be off to celebrate the day with our families. Fortunately, our parish provides a great opportunity to make, or take, time for solitude with Eucharistic Adoration from the end of Mass Thursday night until the celebration on Friday night.

As I prayed for faith in the presence of the Eucharist, God planted firmly on my heart the words from Matthew’s Gospel as though it was His voice speaking clearly to me,

“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Mt. 3:17

That was four years ago at my first time attending Adoration in the early morning hours on Good Friday. Since then I have heard many other people share their own personal encounter with Jesus in Adoration. If you have never attended Eucharistic Adoration I invite you to visit All Saints this Friday. Throughout the year there are parishes in and around Des Moines who offer regularly scheduled Adoration, while St. Augustine has a perpetual Adoration Chapel. Whether you are a firm believer in the real presence, a skeptic like me at the time of my experience, or no faith at all,  I can’t imagine being unaffected when you enter the sacred space.

If Adoration isn’t what you’re called to do this week, I hope you’ll join in me making and/or taking time for solitude to ponder Christ’s Passion.

Mark

March SOLITUDE

Seeing:  IMG_6473 (768x1024)

Open books:  Family:  The Burgess Animal BookMark:  33 Days to Morning Glory,  Maria:  Signs of Life & Finding True Happiness,  Toby:  Island of the Blue Dolphins, Lilly:  Little House in the Big Woods.

Listening to:  The wind blowing the stink off of winter and hopefully blowing in some spring!

Intentions:  A cousin gone too soon, an uncle on his deathbed, a sick husband, a sick friend.

Thinking about:  Pulling up carpet in the ‘new’ dining room area to use the original hardwood flooring under it.

Unexpected:  We rearranged the entire layout of the main rooms in our home recently.  The living room is now a dining room, the basement is now the family room, and the kitchen now has a sitting area instead of a table.  It feels like a whole new house, and so much bigger!  This is why we are thinking of pulling up the carpet to use the old hardwood.  Pictures to come much later, so much to be done before then!

Discovering:  That I can in fact live without coffee every morning(maybe this Lenten fast will continue past 40 days!?!).  A cup of warm water with lemon oil and honey is a wonderful way to wake up and has so many other health benefits that I started feeling a few short days into it.

Exciting:  I admit, I am a huge fan of Pinterest.  I swore it off for as long as I could, now I’m pinning away.  I mean seriously, how cute is this new spice rack?

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~Maria

Our Word of the Year: SOLITUDE

Just one word.  A word to discover, to pray on, to strive toward, to learn from in the months to come.  

Our word for 2014:  Solitude 

Lest we think of solitude as a lonely place to be, we prefer to think of it the way a Carmalite Sister from LA so nicely put it, “Solitude is not an empty space, a void; it is an encounter with the God who loves us…” –Sister Laus Gloriae, O.C.D

The choosing of the word is a post in itself.  It was stumbled upon, prayed about, and then presented to each of us in too many unexpected ways to ignore it.

Here is to discovering what is in store for us this year as we enjoy some solitude.

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Seeing:  A year full of promise.  Plans made for regular date nights, home projects on the horizon, intentional slowing down and breathing room.  Oh, and new pillows.  After 16 years, new pillows!

Open books:  Family read-aloud: Just finished  Hitty Her First Hundred Years and started The Burgess Animal Book for Children, Toby:  Treasure Island, Lilly:  Magic Tree House Series(in random order-so much the opposite of her brother who could not go onto the next book unless it was in order), Mark:  Beyond the Birds and the Bees, Maria: Just finished The Secret Life of Bees and moving onto Signs of Life.

Listening to:  Crackling fires in the wood stove on these cold white days inside and Matt Maher, lots of Matt Maher.

Intentions:  Praying in thanksgiving for the health of our family and friends.  Offering intentions for those we know who are suffering from infection, cancer, and unknown causes.

Thinking about:  Which home project to tackle next…..

Unexpected:  A bag full of hand stitched doilies and table clothes from my late Nonna that made their way into our home.  And on a sad note, the loss of all of of our honey-makers thanks to the bitter cold winter.

Discovering:  The beauty of simplicity.  Decluttering, simplifying, spring cleaning, whatever you want to call it. When our physical space is tidy, our mental space breathes easy.

Exciting:  New chicks have been ordered!!
IMG_6376 (1024x768)  IMG_6379 (1024x768) IMG_6378 (1024x768)

Clinging to God in Solitude ~ Henri Nouwen

When we enter into solitude to be with God alone, we quickly discover how dependent we are.  Without the many distractions of our daily lives, we feel anxious and tense.  When nobody speaks to us, calls on us, or needs our help, we start feeling like nobodies.  Then we begin wondering whether we are useful, valuable, and significant.  Our tendency is to leave this fearful solitude quickly and get busy again to reassure ourselves that we are “somebodies.”  But that is a temptation, because what makes us somebodies is not other people’s responses to us but God’s eternal love for us.

To claim the truth of ourselves we have to cling to our God in solitude as to the One who makes us who we are.

~Maria

What Makes Our Homestead Heavenly?

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After a couple years of blogging Maria opted to change to a different server. At the time she decided to change the name to something that better reflected our life and her desires for blogging.  That might have been when we first discussed me contributing here and I vaguely remember her asking my thoughts on the name.  I found no reasonable objection.  Now that I’m joining in the fun and we’re being more purposeful, I started to think- what makes our homestead heavenly?

We are very blessed to live on family property situated across from a state park.  We have a bungalow house with a walk out basement.  The house sits on nearly 5.5 acres that is almost equally divided between timber and open green space.  The (mostly) open space separates our house from what has become a busy roadway.  We have slowly been filling that space with pine trees, fruit trees, a red cedar play set, trampoline, and garden that at last expansion put it at 25’ by 20’.  We have two detached buildings, of which one is a barn that houses are mower, tiller and the chickens.  The timber is a bit over grown, but the kids have spent countless hours out there with friends and cousins exploring.  It provides natural habitat for all sorts of wild animals which we can often view from inside our house through a large picture window.

The house itself was built in 1949, before receiving a major addition in ‘58-’59.  The master bedroom on the main level and basement storage rooms were added in 1979.  Since Maria and I took over the home we have done a significant remodel of the kitchen and living room, as well as updating the living space in the basement and the three bedrooms.  The house is plenty big for a family four, and we have also been able to accommodate two more adults for the last three months.  The house is generally tidy and often smells like food.  There’s no shortage of smiles and laughter.  Now that’s not to say that something might get left in the fridge longer than it should, the garbage in the can over stays its welcome, or someone wakes up on the wrong side of the bed.  Those are the days Maria is sure to be diffusing some essential oil.  Oh- and disregard the laundry.

We have been very fortunate to have family and friends who have supported and helped us with projects in and around our homestead. With our limited budget and limited skills we’d be hard pressed to accomplish what we have around here without them. The labor of love that has been put in by so many is just one more reason why our homestead is heavenly.

While I have focused on the physical aspects of our homestead the most important component for a heavenly homestead is the spiritual.  After all, what is heaven without the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit?  For that I have to give credit to my grandfather.  I could write an entire blog entry on the impact my grandfather has had on me, and maybe someday I will.  It was my grandfather who moved his family from the city to this acreage back in 1958.  Among many positive attributes, he was a faithful man.  On the night after my grandfather passed away, Maria and I sat with Toby before tucking him into bed and recited the Guardian Angel Prayer with him for the first time.  He was 2.5 years old.  It was a humble beginning for making prayer a regular part of our lives.  From that night forward we have tried to conclude each day with our children by giving thanks to God and asking His blessing upon those in need.

“In my Father’s house there are many dwellings places.  If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.  Where I am going, you know the way.”

John 14:2-4 NAB

Scripture tells us that in heaven there will be no more sorrow and no more tears.  We won‘t ever achieve that here.  What I hope we have achieved is a place where we can be a witness to the beauty this world has to offer.  I hope we have achieved a home where friends and family always feel welcome.  Where we can share in each others joys, share our sorrows, comfort each other through our trials, and always find time to break bread.  Where forgiveness is always an option and love reigns supreme.  Until our place in heaven is prepared this is the closest thing I could hope for.

Mark

Defining Purpose

PURPOSE-OF-LIFE

So how’s that for a first blog post?  I tell you about how we’re going to be more purposeful about our lives, then I basically admit I have no idea what my purpose is entering the blogosphere.  There are countless sources where you could find such unintended irony, but I’m grateful for your support in spite of it.

Let me tell you what my purpose is not.

I’m more of a cobbler than a carpenter, so you won’t be getting any impressive DIY homesteading project ideas from me.  If you’ve seen our garden fence or chicken run you already knew this.

When asked where our children go to school I say that “we home school our children.”  Most of the time I’m quick to correct myself admitting that “Maria home schools the kids, I just have a crush on their teacher.”  I’m not even a principal or superintendent.  Maria is a pretty effective disciplinarian and all-around administrator.  I’m more like the school board.  I only enter the picture when there‘s a major dispute and I usually side with the administration.  I support suggested punishments and approve what ever curriculum she suggests.  As far as I can tell, I‘m not in danger of losing my seat when I‘m up for re-election.

When it comes to the birds and the bees I know just enough to be successful(pun intended).  By successful I mean we have eggs, honey, and enough critters still alive to provide for our needs and then some.  I attended a Central Iowa Bee Keepers meeting before acquiring my first hive and an old timer said, “You can do everything right and still fail, or you may do everything wrong and they’ll get along just fine.”  See me under the category of doing everything wrong.

I’m not a theologian or a master apologist for the Catholic faith.  To be perfectly honest my faith is under regular attack which leaves me far less than the perfect husband and father that I desire to be.  I’m quite certain I would struggle to adequately defend all of the churches teachings or convince the floundering agnostic, let alone an atheist that, oh yeah- He’s real!

So now that I’ve let you down softly, I think I can safely share what our purpose is, or at least what we hope it will be. The purpose of maintaining OHH blog is to share the message of hope.  Hope to struggling Christians like we were. Hope to those who desire to integrate their faith more into their daily lives whether it be through home schooling, homesteading, or simple living strategies. Hope to those who grieve.  Hope to those who wish to grow deeper in their journey towards The Kingdom. 

I hope that you have already experienced some of that here.  I hope newer readers don’t find our goal for this blog to be trite or cliché. We hope that all of you keep following along, supporting us, and challenging us, all of which have helped make OHH what it is today.  You inspire us to strive for more, to be better, to keep growing, to be accountable. Thank you.

Mark