Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Why VBS is Special to Me

Vacation Bible School is about leading kids to Christ through music, fun, science, shared experiences, scripture and celebration of our faith.   This third year of VBS at St Angela Merici Catholic Church welcomed 150 elementary age children, 12 preschoolers, 59 teens and more than 50 adults to learn that “Jesus’ Love is One of a Kind.”  Coordinating VBS for the last three years has been a true labor of love for me.  Everyone asks what makes VBS such a special experience and why I dedicate so much of my time to organizing it each year.
My mother also helps with VBS each year.
My answer starts with my own children.  I want my three kids to learn about their faith, to have a relationship with Jesus, and to develop a prayer life.  All these things are enhanced through the VBS experience in a fun and exciting way.  Our faith comes to life during a week of song, snacks and more not only for the kids, but also for myself as well.

As an adult, too often I allow the hustle and bustle of life to interfere with my spiritual life.  Volunteering at VBS helps me to step back, see the big picture, and remember how God works through us in our day-to-day lives.  At VBS we see kids excited to learn how God loves them, teens actively discussing how God helps them, husband and wives coming together to decorate a hallway, family groups serving together and meeting new friends in the fellowship of volunteering. 

Our kids learn not only from the many adult leaders but also from each other and the teens.  The
TEENS! It is amazing to watch these volunteers as young as 11 years old blossom into role models in action, words and faith.
Teens Love VBS
My oldest daughter with Shelly's girls at VBS

Some may ask, do the kids learn anything “real” about faith?  YES! Everyday they learn about a different Saint, an aspect of Catholic Social Teaching, Scripture and Bible stories.  

Mass during VBS at St. Angela Merici
We celebrate Mass twice during the week.  If you want to see the good work of VBS in action, celebrate Mass with us.  Watching 200 kids respond to the Mass with reverence, without being under their parents watchful eye and sitting on the floor always brings the VBS experience full circle for me.  Mass at VBS is what always brings tears to my eyes and God’s praise to my lips.  This is my blessing that makes it all worth it. 

VBS is an opportunity for every adult and teen volunteer to reflect Christ’s love to the kids and each other.  We are the church.  We are responsible for building us up in worship and we can do that by revealing God’s love in a fun and engaging way to children.  The children respond by radiating His joy back to us.

Through VBS we are building up the children and families of our parish as God asked St. Francis to do through the San Damiano cross in Assisi. We at St. Angela’s are building up the church as God calls us to do through our own San Damiano cross.  

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Robin Williams Suicide: A Desperate Choice

Early Monday evening, I checked my Facebook feed, put the phone down, and made dinner. About an hour later, I gave it a quick glance and saw the flood of news that Robin Williams died.  Oh, I sighed, and then the cruel punch hit.

Suicide.
Just the night before, I introduced my high school daughter to Dead Poets Society, in which one of the teen characters commits suicide. It’s been four years, but that scene isn’t easy to watch without fighting back the twitchy memories of that early morning phone call telling me my godson was dead.
Suicide.

And now this brilliant comedic actor, whose life work has made me laugh until I cried, leaves me with silent sad tears for his family, for his soul, for his helplessness that led him to this desperate finale.
I wasn’t going to write about Robin Williams. Then I read Matt Walsh’s blog post, “Robin Williams didn’t die from a disease, he died from his choice.”  Matt is being hit pretty hard from a lot of sides for stating his viewpoint on this issue.  But personally, as one who has been on the periphery of depression and suicide, I think he captured the subject perfectly.  

Two good friends of mine lost their sons to suicide. One was a young man, whose depression occasionally crippled his life. The other was my godson, a teenager with a bright vibrant future.  For reasons known only to them, these boys chose their death. It didn’t happen to them against their will. They consciously made a decision to end their lives.  

We don’t want to accept that description. We rage and scream and sob and struggle to rationalize their act. To make sense of an empty darkness that leads them to think they have no other choice.  I remember being so angry with Nick over his complete selfishness, how he thought only of himself, and not of his mother, or his friends, or anyone else who loved him.
Of suicide, Matt wrote, “The complete, total, absolute rejection of life.”  “The willingness to saddle your family with the pain and misery and anger that will now plague them for the rest of their lives.”

Robin Williams’ death by his own hand, his own choice, should caution us that “Happiness and contentment are not found in our talents, our money, our luxuries, or our reputations.”  
“We are all meant to lead joyful lives.  Joy is the only thing that defeats depression. No depressed person in the history of the world has ever been in the depths of despair and at the heights of joy at the same time. The two cannot coexist. Joy is light, depression is darkness. When we are depressed, we have trouble seeing joy, or feeling it, or feeling worthy of it.”
Matt’s words may appear simplistic when dealing with a complex topic, but it is truth. I remember my friend telling me after her son’s death, that on her darkest days she realized that her son lived with this terrible dark despair daily.  The difference -  she sobbed – is that she knew that despite this really bad day or week or month, she will feel joy again and that knowledge would sustain her through the darkness until she returned to the light.

If you struggle with that darkness.  If you know someone succumbing to depression. Please don’t look the other way.  Encourage them to find help. If you want to know more about understanding suicide, preventing suicide, or coping with suicide loss, please visit The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. AFSP maintains a National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

1-800-273-8255 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Sometimes Winning is Just Getting Back On...

All through the spring youth sports season I found myself tempted to write about the life lessons my soccer stars were learning by losing almost every game.  After all I can't be the only parent who feels like everyone else's child is winning, winning, winning all the time.  Or, at least according to Facebook, they are all winning constantly, right?

Everyone wants to win at a competitive sport, but I also know there is great value in losing at something.  We all have at least one experience when we didn't win at something but it was an incredible character building lesson.  I can name mine in an instant - Mock Trial semi-finals my last semester of law school.  But when it seems everyone around you is winning and your child is losing game after game, it can bring you down.  Darn that social media.

Ashley & Brown
Just when I was about to put pen to paper (yes, I still write on paper first) my girls rode in a horse show and it really focused my perspective.

Leading up to the hunter/jumper equestrian show, my oldest was riding and jumping amazingly well for her level.  Her instructor and I  both thought she would finally earn a long coveted blue ribbon during her four classes.  I was buzzing with excitement as Ashley led Charley Brown to the arena to the warmup over fences.  As Brown landed their fourth jump, something wasn't quite right.  My camera slid down from in front of my face as I watched my daughter attempt to regain her balance, her grip and then her seat while Brown cantered on to the next jump.  Suddenly, in front of the next jump, she fell under the feet of her horse.  The spectators all gasped as she lay unmoving on her stomach in the dirt.  My heart stopped as we raced around to the entrance of the arena.  Once I heard her start crying I was able to take a breath while first the trainers and then a paramedic checked her over.
Every parent's fear

After what seemed like an eternity, I heard her laugh (at a joke from the trainers) and I finally exhaled.  Remarkably she was unhurt. The breathe had been knocked out of her and her shoulder was sore from the landing, but Brown had not stepped on her.

I found out later that while she was still laying on the ground, she told the trainers she wanted to complete her ride.  Wow!  Really? Are you sure? But, she did just that.  After a brief time to clean her up and get her a drink of water, Ashley went on to rejoin her group to compete over fences.

Watching her successfully complete that next round of jumps brought tears to my eyes.  Was this really my child? The same pre-teen who began riding less than two years at the suggestion of her therapist to help with her anxiety?  It was incredible to see her complete her competition after such an unsettling fall.


I know you expect me to tell you she rode her best and walked away with that first place blue ribbon, but no, this is real life not a fairy tale.  At the end of the day the colors she won weren't her prize.  Ashley's reward that Sunday afternoon was learning a valuable lesson about herself.   

Sometimes winning isn't actually winning.  Sometimes winning is simply getting back on to try again.  



Friday, July 11, 2014

7 Quick Takes Friday - Summer & Post Vacation


Since I have so many blog ideas swirling in my head but obviously can't seem to get them on the actual blog, I'm participating in 7 Quick Takes Friday. Maybe this will be a good way to get these things out.

-1-


My lounge chairs for the week
I spent last week with my husband and kids at a resort in Mexico on vacation.  We had been planning for a while to do a beach getaway and finally just did it.  My husband and I LOVE to take relaxing vacations, you know the kind where you lay on a beach chair with a fruity drink?  The idea of packing up the family and trying to do Disney World exhausts me.  I mean, the scheduling and rush rush all sounds too much like real life to me, not a vacation.  Brian and I have done the Mexico resort relax vacation a few times before (LOVE IT) but without kids.  The big question we had with this trip was could we relax on vacation with the kids?

YES!  Our kids are too much like us.  They absolutely loved going to the beach, hanging by the pool, grabbing a fruity drink or two and even reading in the shade.   The only scheduled activity we had each day was mealtime.  And even then, it was pretty loosey goosey.   We played on the beach, hung out in the pool, built sand castles and the adults found time to take a nap on a lounge chair.  We didn't leave the resort the whole time we were in Mexico.  No excursions, no nothing.  Just downtime.  I know that's not a vacation for everyone, but our family enjoyed it.

-2-


One of the best things about staying in Mexico for vacation was being unplugged for 5 days.  It has been many, many years since we've traveled somewhere we didn't have access to email, phone or internet and I'll admit it made me a bit nervous.  How would the world go on if I couldn't text, email or check Facebook?  Yep, I've obviously got a bit of an addiction problem.  No phones, no internet, no texting, nada for 5 days.  It was so liberating.  For the first two days, I found myself reaching for my phone throughout the day to check something or just when I was bored.  When I confessed it to Brian, he laughed and admitted he was having the same problem.

The big joke at dinner time when the kids would ask us a question was, "I'd google that, but wait, I can't!"  And you know what?  The world went on even though we didn't get the answer to that seemingly important question.

You know what's funny?  When we landed back in Houston I didn't want to turn my phone on.  I'd enjoyed being unplugged so much that I didn't really want it to end.  Without my phone I was able to enjoy what was right in front of me and focus on the present without worrying about what I should be doing or what I was missing.  Not being connected 24/7 gave me the opportunity to just relax.  I know there is a big life lesson in there for me that I am trying really hard to grasp now that I'm back.

-3-


Selfie of the family watching a US World Cup game at a local movie theater
We have spent LOTS of time in the last few weeks watching The World Cup soccer.    All three of
our kids have played years of soccer with two of them still competing in the fall.  I've been aware of The World Cup before, but have never paid much attention to it.  This year, we've watched it constantly.  At a Houston Dynamo soccer camp in June, Daniel and Birdie were challenged to watch the games and answer trivia questions at camp each evening.  Through them, I learned a great deal about the tournament and soccer in general.  Who knew what a Hat Trick was before the Germany v Portugal game??  Not me...

Watching the games, we learned so much about soccer strategy, penalty kicks and witnessed feats of amazing athleticism.  And I discovered how much my kids already knew about geography!  Birdie was always quick to tell us what countries bordered the country in question, what language they spoke and something else interesting about it.  Who knew??  As an added bonus to this new family watching event, my girls now throw things for my son to hit with his head (think Webkinz flying across the room for him to "head" into a make believe goal). Quite funny.

I'm actually sad it is ending this weekend and that we can't watch the final game between Argentina and Germany. We will dropping our kids off at Summer Camp on Sunday.   Which leads me to #4...

-4-


My kids leave for summer camp this weekend.  All three of my kids for a whole entire week.  What in the world???  I think my excitement of having a whole week to myself (and with my husband of course) is muting any anxiety of my youngest going away to camp for the first time.  The kids are really, really excited to go back to The Pines Catholic Camp in East Texas and I'm excited for them to have a great camp experience that is also filled with faith.  

The big question for while they are gone - do I attempt to tackle all the crazy projects I've been putting off forever or just lay on the couch watching BBC Masterpiece tv shows all week?  Both are tempting...

-5-


Have I mentioned that I am going to the Edel Gathering in Austin in two weeks?  It is a weekend getaway retreat for Catholic moms created by Jennifer Fulwiler of Conversion Diary and Hallie Lord of The Moxie Wife.  I'm excited and extremely nervous at the same time.  While I'll know a bunch of women in attendance, I don't have a close friend or my sister going with me.  This will force me to get out and meet so many new women, which is a great thing.  It just makes me a little bit nervous in advance.

I did manage to score a wonderful roomie - Lisa Schmidt of The Practicing Catholic.  Not only does she have the best name in the world, she is a crazy nice and fun person.  I'm really looking forward to spending time with her over the weekend.

AND, there is this shoe thing!  At the Friday night cocktail party, they are giving an award for crazy shoes.  So much pressure!  What to wear AND now I have to think about shoes??    Geez.  Of course, I do have these turquoise heels with bows that I bought on a whim 2 years ago and have never worn.  Is it too much to try to find an outfit to match turquoise shoes?

-6-


Books!  While on vacation I started and finished three books.  The first was The Sign of Four, a Sherlock Holmes novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  Since I've been watching the Sherlock Holmes series by BBC on PBS Masterpiece, thought it time to pick up my first Holmes book.  It was so much better than I expected.  A very good detective story that has held up over the last century. While reading it I kept thinking that Benedict Cumerbatch really nails it.

The second book was one already on my Kindle and on a whim I started it.  The Shadow of His Wings: The True Story of Fr. Gereon Goldmann was something I just couldn't put down.  It is the "astonishing true story of the harrowing experiences of a young German seminarian drafted into Hitler's dreaded SS at the onset of World War II."  I don't want to describe it much more than that and give away his entire story in case you don't know it.  That's all I knew when I started the book and was startled by the turn of events throughout Fr. Goldmann's life.  The most improbable things happen to this young seminarian attempting to follow God while serving in the Nazi army and SS in World War II.  Stuff this crazy only happens in real life.  And as an added bonus, the epilogue reveals the work God called Fr. Goldmann to after the end of the war.  This book is worth reading.

My last book was a recently released fiction thriller called, The Code Within by SL Jones.  It was a pretty good read if you like Vince Flynn and Brad Thor's books.  There was a little too much computer/technical jargon, but the lead character was charismatic enough to keep me reading through several more books.  This is the first book in a new series so I will reserve my final judgement until the next in the series.

Now I'm off to start Ken Follett's Fall of Giants: Book One of the Century Trilogy.  What are you reading this summer?

-7-


I'm sick this week with a major head cold that is migrating into chest congestion.  It makes joining the real world after a vacation pretty difficult.  Everything has been slow this week as all I want to do is sleep, sneeze and cough.  But there is work to do, a house to take care of, VBS to plan and a whole half a summer left to enjoy.  Quick, let's head to Pinterest to see if there is a pin on how to make DayQuil popsicles!  I can be sick later.  Achoooooo.....

I guess my Seven Quick Takes should be called my Seven "not so quick" Quick Takes.  How is your summer going at this almost mid-way point?



Thursday, June 5, 2014

God Loves Me (and You!)

Lawn Chair Catechism at CatholicMom.com

It's time to talk about Chapter 2 in "A Well-Built Faith: A Catholic's Guide to Knowing and Sharing What We Believe" as part of the Lawn Chair Catechism series by Catholicmom.com. 

The author begins this chapter talking to us about God's revealing of himself to us:
God passionately seeks to enter into a deep and intimate relationship with each one of us.  To that end, God reveals himself to us.... Since the dawn of creation, God has been revealing himself, inviting men and women throughout the ages to enter into relationship with him.  We call this act of God's self-revealing revelation.  
My favorite line from Chapter 2 - "Since the moment of our birth, God has been pursuing us, seeking us out, and inviting us to a deeper relationship with him."  

A Well-Built Faith by Joe Paprocki

This talk of God revealing himself to us made me immediately think of our parish priest, Fr. John Rooney.  In his time with St. Angela Merici, a consistent theme in his homilies has been God's yearning to be in relationship with each of us.  Fr. John reminds us that God is always there, loving us, waiting for us to love Him.  God was there first, waiting for us to respond and He will continue to wait for us, even if we turn away from Him. God loves us and wants to have a personal relationship with us.  

What a marvelous thing to realize and accept.  God loves us, want us and will always be there for us.  Wait, I need to say this another way to make it stronger...  (Say it out loud).  God loves Me, Wants Me and will always be there for Me!!!!  

When you say it with "us" it sounds all nice and caring, but when you put "me" in there, it just hits home.  And, saying it that way always makes me smile because I know it is true.  

If God is always there wanting to be with me, loving me, then what do I need to do?  In essence, the author reminds us that being in a relationship with God is not about what we do, but how we respond to God's invitation for us.  We need to recognize His revelation and respond to God with humility and love.  

How do you respond to God's invitation to love Him?  


Lawn Chair Catechism at Catholicmom.com with Joe Paprocki

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

ShareThis1