Yes, I AM Blessed (and That is a Correct Use of the Word)

A few weeks ago, someone I know posted a link to an article titled “I Used to Say ‘I’m Blessed,’ Until I Asked These Two Questions.”

Although this wasn’t the first time I’d read something with this idea that saying, “I’m Blessed” is somehow a bad thing, it was the first time I had read something that seemed to have the intent of shaming and ridiculing people who utter this, or similar phrases.

You can read the article here.

When I first read it, I was angry. I was shocked and appalled that anyone would feel the need to write something so hateful, to put down those who choose to express their joy by sharing their blessings. I was also frustrated, because I could see that the author of the article, and most of the people commenting on and sharing it, truly do not understand what it means when someone says they are “blessed.” I immediately began formulating a scathing response in my mind, debunking, one by one, the incorrect statements and assumptions made by the author of this article.

But then I stopped and remembered that writing responses in anger is not generally a good idea. So I waited for a while, and thought about the article, and decided that, while my response needn’t be angry, it still needed to be.

It needed to be, because there are so many misconceptions about Christian people. About what we believe or don’t believe. About how we act or should act and why. The article linked to above is a good example of how Christian belief and action can be twisted through misunderstanding. How something with intentions and origins that are true and beautiful and good can be misrepresented and turned into something worthy of scorn or ridicule or disgust.

The author of the article I linked to says that people who say they are blessed are basically saying they are lucky, but adding an emphasis on the idea that God had something to do with their situation. And so, when someone says he is blessed, he is saying God has helped him more than others, which is arrogant and disgusting. This argument is based on the idea that when someone says he is blessed, he is making a comparison to others and saying he is better, and that if there were no others to compare with, saying one is blessed would be pointless. He suggests just dropping the God reference and just using the word “lucky” in order to be more accurate, humble, and inclusive.

However, there are several significant errors in this line of thinking. Namely, when a Christian person says she is blessed, it has absolutely nothing to do with saying she is lucky, and she is making no assumptions about or comparisons with another person at all. Even if she were the only person on earth, it would still be completely appropriate for her to proclaim, “I’m blessed.”

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^^A couple of my many blessings^^

Saying that one is blessed is not a way of rubbing one’s specialness in others’ faces. It is not arrogant or egotistical (both of these are words used by the author to describe the act of saying, “I’m blessed.”). It is a way of sharing one’s joy and awe and wonder at the awesomeness of God and the many ways God can work in one’s life. It is giving credit where credit is due. It is the ultimate humility in saying, “I am not worthy of this. I do not deserve this. I am not so special. And yet… look at the many ways God has showered me with blessings.” Note that this does not imply that in saying that God has showered me with blessings, He must like me better than you. It is not a comparison. It is an acknowledgement of the goodness of God. Period. It is, in part, an expression of intense gratitude.

However, this takes me to the author’s second main point, which seems to be that when people say they’re blessed, what they really mean is that they’re grateful. Further, the author suggests that “grateful” is the better word because, “Saying you’re blessed doesn’t clearly describe the context of what you’re feeling.”

Think of this. If I say, “I’m blessed,” and someone says to me, “No, you’re not. What you really mean to say is you’re grateful. That’s a better description of what you’re feeling,” who is being arrogant? Am I not a better judge of what I am feeling than the author of this article or any other person? The author writes, “You’re not stupid, you chose the word ‘blessed’ rather than ‘grateful’ for a reason. Why?” In this statement he is absolutely correct, though he doesn’t seem to actually be interested in the “why” of the matter.

True, I am not stupid. Nor are the other people who choose to use the word “blessed” rather than “grateful.” The reason for this is that the word “blessed” actually does more clearly describe the context of what I’m feeling. To say I’m grateful for something is fine. I tell my husband I’m grateful that he did the dishes. I tell my children I’m grateful for the dandelions they bring me. And yes, I tell God on a regular basis that I am grateful for all that He has given me. But that does not encompass the fullness of the term “blessed.” To say one is blessed includes gratitude, but also joy, awe, wonder, humility, and more, all in reference to the greatness of God.

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^^More of my beautiful blessings^^

At another point in the article, the author expresses doubt about the sincerity, or intelligence, of some who say they are blessed because he happens to know that these people have experienced recent inconveniences and/or hardships. He seems to be saying that it is not possible for people to experience difficulty and feel blessed at the same time. He fails to understand that, because of knowledge of the goodness and mercy of God, Christians can often find blessings even in suffering. Many are even able to see suffering itself as a blessing. This is part of the beauty of the teachings of the Catholic Faith, though for the sake of not making this post into a novel, I won’t get into this particular issue more here.

I do want to give an example though. I know an amazing woman who lost her oldest daughter this past year after a painful struggle with cancer. In spite of, or maybe even because of, this tragic loss, my friend’s faith is still rock solid and is a beautiful example of God’s grace in action. Every time I speak to her, either in person or in an email, or even just to see a Facebook status update from her, she is radiant and humble with her love of and trust in God. She expresses gratitude and describes the many blessings she is able to see in the aftermath of her daughter’s death. She almost always expresses herself in part by using the word “blessed.”

Can you imagine someone telling her that she can’t really mean that because she has experienced tragedy? That her statements of being blessed are insincere because she has suffered?

I cannot.

The thing is, when one has faith in God, one can find true, deep, abiding joy, in good times and in bad times. This is different from feeling good in the world. It is not dependent on moment-to-moment surface happiness. This joy is what it means to be “blessed.”

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I want to clarify that, in writing this post, my goal is not to ridicule the author of the other I linked to. It is simply to point out the errors that occur when one assumes that they know another’s heart on matters that they just do not understand.

It is very common in our world these days for people to attribute all sorts of ugly intentions to Christians, to mock and deride beliefs, behaviors, and traditions that they do not take the time or the care to learn about. Calling it “arrogant” and “egotistical” and “disgusting” for someone to simply say, “I’m blessed,” is a pretty good example of this.

My hope is that people will just ask if they do not understand. If you don’t get why someone says, “I’m blessed,” ask her. Or don’t, that’s fine too. But if you choose not to seek to understand, at least please do not shame and disregard her as ignorant just because you cannot grasp her meaning or intent.

I hope that this will go beyond this one example and extend to other areas of misunderstanding as well. More specifically, I offer a gentle challenge those who mock and dismiss Christianity in general, and Catholicism in particular (including many who attend Catholic parishes), to actually learn about what you are rejecting **

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I have been so truly blessed (yes, blessed) to have been led to the Catholic Faith. I know that God led me and my family here. At times we experienced suffering on our way to conversion/reversion, but we now see these difficulties as the beautiful blessings they were, as they brought us to the true Faith. I want to share this blessing with anyone I can. I pray that you are open to experiencing God’s blessings in your life too.

 

**I have stated this in previous posts, but I will reiterate it here: if you have a question about the Catholic Faith, if there is something you disagree with or even hate about the Catholic Church, feel free to ask me about it. If I don’t know the answer, I will find it for you.

Our Homeschool Plan – Halfway Through the Year

We are a little more than halfway through our homeschool year. In August, I wrote this post about my plans and excitement for the year. Here’s an update of how it’s going, what we’re still doing and what has changed:

Our day starts with morning time, usually. I have had to learn to be flexible about this, since Bubba doesn’t always go down for a nap at the same time every morning. If he’s awake and happy when we start school, he’ll play in his playpen area or in his jumper while we get started. But sometimes I have to tell the girls to go straight to their desk work while I put him down for a nap. And sometimes we start morning time, and then I send them to their desks halfway through so I can put him down… it all depends on him, and the girls do a great job of just rolling with it.

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Other than that, morning time does look pretty similar to what I planned it to be at the start of the year. We begin by singing a song together. We started the year working on the Gloria and some of the other songs we sing in Mass each week, just to make sure my girls have those down. Now we sing the Doxology. After our song we pray. A new thing we have started is to choose a Christmas card from a big box of them that I have saved for the past three or four years, and whomever the card belongs to, we pray for them during our morning prayer. The girls love this and it’s a great way to pray for lots of our family and friends by name, whom we might not think to pray for on a regular basis. Then we do the Pledge of Allegiance and a quick calendar time and our memory work, which has been highly varied this year but right now is a fairly lengthy Shakespeare passage and a Psalm. Then we move into our read alouds.

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^ The girls asked to be allowed to illustrate their Shakespeare passage (“I know a bank where the wild thyme blows…”) while we listened to A Midsummer Night’s Dream ^

As I mentioned in the other post, I switched from Sonlight to Build Your Library for our main science/history/literature curriculum this year. I like BYL much better. I do all of the scheduled reading in the BYL plans with the girls during morning time each day. This usually consists of history (Story of the World or Usborne Encyclopedia of World History, or a fun book that focuses on something we’re reading about, like Knight: A Noble Guide for Young Squires or The Adventures of Marco Polo), science, which right now consists of the First Earth Encyclopedia and The Geography Book, and our literature read aloud, which is Girl in a Cage at the moment. At least once a week we read some poetry, and usually there is one day of the week when we include a fairy tale or a medieval legend. I also read aloud our chapter from Jesus Our Life and any other religious studies we are doing for the week during morning time.

One thing that I wasn’t sticking to very consistently is including nature study, Bedtime Math, art projects, and music appreciation each week. I have kept up poetry tea time every couple of weeks, but the other things have generally been forgotten or just bypassed for lack of time. For this reason, I added in the Winter Morning Time Plans from Pam Barnhill to help me stick to these things a bit more. This has been great, because now I have a lesson plan page in my binder prompting me to do a hymn/music appreciation and a picture study each week. We have art projects each week (though I’ve skipped one or two of them and one was a total flop) and nature study, too. Some of the nature study projects have been a bit tough because, even though they are winter nature study activities, they seem a little more like early winter activities than late winter, at least for our super cold climate. But we have gotten outside, in the snow, to do nature study, so that’s pretty awesome.

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^ When we were outside, we found these perfect snow flakes in a rotten hollow in a piece of wood ^

Even though some things haven’t worked out the way I wanted them to, the girls seem to be enjoying these fun additions to our morning time (and I am too).

After we finish with the winter plans, I’m going to do a few weeks of nursery rhymes and fairy/folk tales. I have a huge stack of picture books and lots of fun activities ready to go to add this to our morning time next. After a few weeks of these, when spring has actually arrived, we’ll be using the new Spring Morning Time plans that I just purchased (which are on sale until Friday, if you’re interested).

As for our desk work, this has stayed pretty much the same as what I thought it would too. For Math, we do Shiller or IXL or work in the Star Wars math workbooks, or Life of Fred for Miss. I like Shiller, but find it to be lacking in some skills practice, so we supplement with the other things. I have recently added some math games from Math Geek Mama, which are a nice change of pace and fun for the girls. We have also started playing board games like Sum Swamp and Money Bags during school time as well.

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^ A little break to learn about tessellation with magnet blocks ^

For phonics/reading we still use All About Reading. I just love this reading curriculum. Miss is cruising through Level 3 and Lass is moving right along in Level 2. I recently started Sis on Level 1, and she is so excited and proud of herself that she is starting to read real words and whole stories. Miss has additional books assigned to her for daily reading. I assigned “Understood Betsy” as her first book, and she hated it (how is this true of my child??), so I let her pick her books now from a stack I have approved for “school reading” (she has tons more books she can, and does, read on her own in addition to these). Lass is starting to read chapter books, too.

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^ Sis’s first whole book she read ^

Language Arts is exactly what I thought it would be – First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind for Miss and Lass, and an occasional page from Language of God for Little Folks for Miss. First Language Lessons has short lessons that I go through with them, and the Language of God book is a workbook that Miss can do to reinforce some of the FLL concepts we talk about.

The girls are doing their CHC spelling workbooks, but I haven’t added in any All About Spelling as I had intended to. I think All About Spelling is probably actually a better method, so I’m considering switching to it soon.

I changed up handwriting a bit. Miss is now using the Writing Our Catholic Faith Grade 2 cursive book, while still working on her printing with copy work. She is so excited to be doing cursive writing. Lass is still using the same Catholic Heritage Curriculum book, and Sis is mostly using the preschool version of Writing Our Catholic Faith.

We are still using the Faith and Life books for religion, and Miss has started working through the Little Catechism on the Eucharist and The New St. Joseph First Communion Catechism to prepare for her First Holy Communion in April.

We made a few changes with extracurriculars this semester too. The girls are still doing piano and ice skating, but we have added gymnastics in again and dropped their homeschool gym class at the YMCA. This class was starting to feel like such a time suck, since the girls had it twice a week at an awkward time of the day for us. Now we are trying to do various gym time activities at home more, and I don’t think we’ll miss it.

Happily, since I chose curricula that I’m enjoying this year and have added in a few things to liven it up, I’m not feeling the February homeschool mom burnout right now that I hear lots of people talking about. I’m still enjoying (most of) our school days and love learning so much stuff with the girls every day (the more I homeschool, the more I realize how limited my own education was!).

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^ A recent field trip ^

A big change that I’m already starting to plan for for next year is that we will be joining our local Classical Conversations group. I have been intrigued by this for years, and have looked into it briefly a few times, but never too seriously. Recently, I spoke with a friend whose daughter is in the group, and she shared with me how much they enjoy it and benefit from it, and then I got an invitation to attend an open house. We went on Tuesday and it was so wonderful. The girls loved it and begged to go back. After looking into it a bit more and discussing it with my husband, I decided to go for it, and we will be adding this to our curriculum for next year, most Tuesday mornings. We are all pretty excited about this one.

You know there will be a full, overly-detailed post some time in the future about all the plans for next year, when I get to that point.

For now, we’re enjoying this year. For me, each day presents challenges that I’m trying to use as a way to grow in virtue as I push myself to do better for my kids, and I try to help them to think of it this way too. We are working on growing in faith and love in the small moments of each day, and we’re doing it together. That’s pretty cool.

I’m looking forward to the rest of the year and the fun things we have coming up.

 

2016 in 12 Photos

I have tried to do a few posts in the past month, and have obviously failed miserably, due to various technical difficulties.

However, I am bound and determined to get one more post in before 2016 ends. A photo post to link with Bobbi and share one photo for each month of this past year.

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JANUARY

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We found out our baby was a boy!

FEBRUARY

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Mama had a vacation. Florida. It was amazing.

MARCH

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I captured my hugeness. I still had over two months to go when I took this photo.

APRIL

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I just love this photo.

MAY

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With my girls on Mother’s Day

JUNE

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June 1. My sweet boy.

JULY

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Our boy’s big day.

AUGUST

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A sister sleepover for Lass’s birthday.

SEPTEMBER

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A field trip day. We drove 45 minutes to a farm for a field trip, only to find that they weren’t open. So then we drove another 30 minutes to this place (making a full circle around the lake near us). It turned out to be a fun day, and I’m glad we made the best of it. One of my favorite photos of the year.

OCTOBER

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We eventually made it to that farm. Officially the most chill baby ever.

NOVEMBER

15073317_10209049165358731_8721964428732703897_nMy big girl had her First Reconciliation. She said it was the best day ever.

She has already asked to go back again, and she enjoyed it the second time too.

DECEMBER

15747752_10209438267166033_5131299987971233937_nAfter Mass on Christmas morning. I was nervous about doing Mass Christmas morning instead of Christmas Eve, but it turned out the church was not packed at all and we made it with plenty of time.

It has been a beautiful Christmas so far.

Here’s to trying to be a better blogger in 2017!

Down the Homeschool Rabbit Hole – 7QT

I’ve had homeschooling on the brain for the past few weeks, with thoughts about how things are going to go next year and excitement about all our new curricula (which I eagerly purchased in April and will tell you about soon). I’m beginning to feel that urge to get out all the things and get everything organized for fall. But then Baby Boy needs to eat or be changed or rocked, and so I don’t get into all that yet.

I have, however, been looking at resources online and learning lots of new things through various websites and podcasts and books. I found a new book and fun summer activity. And as I’ve been reading about this endeavor, I’ve been led to other great resources, and I’ve found myself falling down the homeschooling rabbit hole. It’s been quite enjoyable and informative, so today I’m linking with Kelly and sharing seven of the (nursing-and-newborn-friendly) things I’ve been exploring to prepare myself for our upcoming homeschool year.

ONE

It all started when I saw that Jamie Martin of Simple Homeschool has a new book and is hosting an online summer book club to promote it. The book, Give Your Child the World: Raising Globally Minded Kids One Book at a Time, is a collection of recommendations and summaries of children’s books about different people, places, and cultures around the world. The books are grouped by geographical area, and the online book club going on right now focuses on one area of the world, and the corresponding chapter in the book, per week. So far we’ve done a multicultural week, an Africa week, and we are now finishing up our Europe week, with North America coming up next.

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TWO

Sarah MacKenzie has been kind of a co-sponsor of Jamie’s book club. I have read plenty of Sarah’s blog posts at Amongst Lovely Things, and have read her book Teaching From Rest, but I haven’t been into much of her content in a while. So when I saw she was doing the book club with Jamie, I thought I’d go over and check out some of her stuff. I watched a bunch of her scope videos on how she does homeschool, and then I decided to look into her Read Aloud Revival (RAR). This is a podcast and, for members, a set of online master classes about ways to cultivate a reading culture in your home. Right. Up. My. Alley. So I joined up and have been master-class-watching for weeks, along with watching her videos and listening to podcasts (all nice things to be able to do while nursing a baby!).

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THREE

When I was watching one of Sarah’s videos, she mentioned a series of podcasts called “Your Morning Basket,” hosted by Pam Barnhill. These podcasts are about ways to implement or improve on morning time in homeschool. I did something in our homeschool last year that could roughly be considered morning time, but I have been wanting to improve this starting point of our day, so I was interested in checking out these podcasts. I have been listening to them from the beginning and I have learned so much from them! I’m a little addicted to them, to be honest.

FOUR

When I clicked the link to buy Jamie’s book, one of the other books Amazon recommended for me was How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare. I recently got the Usborne Illustrated Stories from Shakespeare, and my kids were devouring the stories, so I decided I would get the book and be a bit more intentional about teaching them about Shakespeare and his stories this next school year. I haven’t read the book yet, but I’m eager to. Sarah MacKenzie also has a podcast and an RAR Master Class about this, and Pam Barnhill has a podcast on it too, so I’ve got lots of resources to help me when I’m ready to implement it into our school.

FIVE

I got a mass email from Jamie about the book club, and in it she linked to her free ebook, Secrets of a Successful Homeschool Mom (which you can get by entering your email on her blog in the sidebar). I clicked through to the book and read it real quick. One of the links in the ebook was to a resource for putting together unit studies called Konos. I have always felt drawn toward unit studies in our homeschool. Even though the curricula I purchased last year and this year are not unit-studies-based, I have a love for them and am always looking for ways to incorporate units. I’m really, really dying to buy some of the Konos curricula, especially the Obedience unit, which includes a medieval section and would fit in nicely with our history reading this coming year, but I haven’t done it. Yet.

SIX

One of the Your Morning Basket podcasts I recently listened to was about incorporating music appreciation into morning time. Pam talked to Mary Prather, who is the creator of a music appreciation curriculum that is affordable and seems simple and fun. It’s called SQUILT, and it has me quite intrigued. I am really hoping to implement this into our curriculum for this year.

SEVEN

On another YMB podcast about narration, I learned a bit more about the philosophy of Charlotte Mason, and discovered the website Simply Charlotte Mason. I have not been an official follower of the Charlotte Mason method, but our curriculum for this year has some CM-esque elements to it. And as I learn more about the CM style of homeschooling, and get more into the information on this website, I am thinking that I might want to incorporate even more in the future. I love the idea of teaching through using living books, which is why I like using literature-based curricula. I could spend days looking through just the Bookfinder of the Simply Charlotte Mason site. So much good stuff.

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And that’s what I’ve been doing for the past few weeks. Looking through all of these resources has me very eager to get out all of my stuff for next year to get planning and figure out if I’ll be able to add in a Konos unit and/or SQUILT, and how/when I’ll incorporate Shakespeare. Right now my school room is a mess, because I just don’t have enough shelf space. So I’m not going to pull out the materials for next year until I get some new shelves built and can organize everything better, and have a place to put the new stuff. New shelves are being installed on Tuesday, so by Wednesday I should have it all out and be gleefully poring though all of it. I can’t wait.

For more Quick Takes, check out This Ain’t the Lyceum.

A Homeschool Day in the Life

A few bloggers I enjoy reading (like Ana and Micaela) have recently participated in the Homeschool Day in the Life link up at Jamie’s Simple Homeschool blog. I love reading these kinds of posts, and they’re kind of fun to write too, so here’s my contribution with how our day ran yesterday, a pretty typical Monday:

6:45 – I wake up and get (decaffeinated) coffee. Proceed to office. Pray the rosary and do my Lenten reading : Rediscover Jesus by Matthew Kelly and the little black book for Lent from our parish (usually I read the Mass readings and daily devotions from Blessed is She, but this morning I got distracted before making it to these).

8:00 – Go upstairs to wake up all three of my kids. Usually at least one of them is up already, but not today (this is why I like springing forward better than falling back).

8:10-ish – Breakfast is on the table.

8:40-ish – The girls have finished eating and they go upstairs to get ready for the day. This consists of getting dressed, making their beds, cleaning their rooms, and brushing their teeth and hair.

8:50 – I have put away the cereal and I go up to hustle the girls into finishing and getting down to the school room. At this point Sis still doesn’t have a shirt on, but the older girls are done with everything except brushing teeth. I grab a shirt for Sis, and put pony tails in hers and Lass’s hair (Miss brushes her own). Lass helps Sis to make her bed, and I think we just might get the day started “on time” as I change my clothes, brush my own hair, and brush my teeth.

9:04 – Everyone is in the school room and ready to go around our old dining room table. We try to start at 9:00 every day, so I’m calling this close enough. We do our morning prayers, say the Pledge of Allegiance, and talk about the date and the weather a bit.

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9:10-ish – We start our work together at the table. I don’t really have a name for this part of our day, though the girls usually call it our “reading,” and it might be like what some people call “circle time.” We do all of our read-alouds from our curriculum (Sonlight plus some Catholic add-ons, plus a late addition of Five in a Row). This usually contains some elements of religion, history/social studies, poetry, and science, with our FIAR book and activities added at the end. This week’s new FIAR book is They Were Strong and Good by Robert Lawson, and I love it!

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10:00 – At this point I’d usually send the girls downstairs for some running and “recess,” but we don’t do this on Mondays because we have to be done more quickly to get lunch in before piano lessons. So I go ahead and send the girls to their desks for their independent work.

Each girl has a desk and a rolling cart with drawers. I think some people call this a “workbox” setup. Each drawer for each girl has an assignment in it that needs to be completed that day. As each element is finished, the girls return their completed work to the drawer it came from and move down to the next.

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They have a mixture of things they can do on their own and things they need my help with. I try to stagger the items in their drawers so they don’t all need my help at the same time. This sometimes works, and sometimes fails miserably with me saying repeatedly, “I’ll be with you in a minute,” or “Please be patient,” or “Go on to the next thing in your drawer until I can help you.”

Mondays are a little light, and Miss, in first grade, has science questions, a math workbook, spelling words to copy, a handwriting/copywork exercise, a word list and some stories to do in her reader, a piano theory test, and piano practice in her drawers today (I always include their piano practice in our school day, or it will never get done). Lass in kindergarten has a Star Wars math workbook, handwriting, exercises from Learning Success, some addition and subtraction, some worksheets with word family/spelling practice on them, and piano practice. Lass has her pre reading curriculum, which includes some cutting and pasting, some prewriting tracing, and coloring.

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10:05 – Sis gets my attention first with her All About Reading Pre-Reading curriculum work. She is nearly finished with this entire program (only Y and Z in the last section are left). As I’m sitting down with her to do Letter X, Lass starts complaining that she doesn’t know how to do her math workbook. I tell her what to do (counting sets of Star Wars characters from 11-20 and drawing a line from each set to the correct number). She starts wailing that she doesn’t remember those numbers. I tell her that’s why she’s doing the exercise, for practice, and help her demonstrate that she does in fact know these numbers better than she thinks. She wails some more, and then I snap at her to quit complaining and get to work. After a few minutes, she begins complaining loudly again, so I keep my cool a little better this time and send her to sit on the bottom step outside the school room until she can get herself in a better frame of mind and do her work without disrupting everyone. I manage to do this without freaking out, and she complies in kind, which feels like a small victory. I proceed with Sis and Lass sits out for about 2-3 minutes before returning to do her work without further complaint.

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10:15 – After I finish with Sis, there is a period where no one needs my help, so I go to our book stack and my curriculum binder and get the books ready that we will need for tomorrow. I give direction as needed for the next 45 minutes or so.

10:30 – In between periods of helping the girls, I go to start lunch. We eat early on Mondays, so I’m getting some crescent-roll-wrapped hot dogs ready to put in the oven.

10:45 – Lunch is in the oven.

10:55 – Sis and Miss are done with their drawers. Lass is complaining that she is the last one done. I remind her that her negative attitude at the beginning of the morning and her messing around with her little sister at other times is the reason that she is not done. I let her know that we will be having lunch when the baking timer goes off and that whatever she hasn’t finished will need to be done when we get home from our afternoon classes.

11:00-ish – The timer goes off. The girls start lunch while I read our book study book to them. This month our homeschool group is doing Redwall.

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11:20 – I start telling the girls to hustle up so we can leave for piano. I hate this about Mondays, that I have to rush their lunch a bit.

11:30 – I’m rushing everyone into socks, shoes, and jackets, filling up water bottles, and gathering piano binders so we can go.

11:39 – We’re pulling out of the driveway on our way to piano, with just barely enough time to get there on time.

12:00 – Piano lessons start. Lass goes in with the teacher first, while I let Sis and Miss play on iPads and I read my book The Second Greatest Story Ever Told, by Fr. Michael Gaitley. I also take the time to read my BIS email with the day’s Mass readings and commentary.

12:30-ish – Lass comes out and Miss goes in for her lesson. I get lots of instructions from the piano teacher about Miss’s “audition” this weekend for the Wisconsin Music Teacher’s Association. She’s not actually auditioning for anything, but will be playing some pieces in front of a judge and taking a written music test to accumulate points. Her teacher makes sure I know where to go and what to do because this is Miss’s first time participating.

1:15 – Miss comes out of her lesson and her teacher gives more instructions about what she needs to practice for the week to be ready for her audition. We leave piano and head to the YMCA for the girls’ homeschool gym class.

1:25 – I drop off the two older girls for gym and take Sis to Target for a few things.

2:00 – Still happily wandering around Target.

2:25 – I’m back at the Y to pick up the older girls, and we head home.

2:45 – I set Miss and Sis free to go play, while Lass goes to the school room to finish the work she didn’t complete for the morning. It only takes her a few minutes, and then she’s off to play with her sisters. I avoid doing anything productive, and instead spend about an hour and a half messing around on the computer and starting to type this post.

4:30-ish – My husband comes home and goes downstairs to play with the girls. He likes to do more gym class with them in the afternoons before dinner.

5:30 – We sit down to dinner. The girls animatedly tell my husband about the book we’re reading, Redwall.

6:00 – Our babysitter comes so my husband and I can go to our RCIA meeting (we are both sponsors this year).

8:15 – I come home (my husband got called to work). My babysitter tells me that the girls requested early/extra reading time before bed, and they read three more chapters of Redwall. I pay her, clean the kitchen from dinner, and go into the school room to get the girls’ drawers set up for the next day.

9:00 – My husband comes home and we talk and talk about some new things that happened at RCIA.

11:00 – I go to bed.

So there you go. That’s a pretty typical Monday around here. Our other days are pretty similar except we do a little more work. I usually will have All About Reading for the older girls (Miss is in Level 3 and Lass is in Level 2), and they have more recess time to break up the morning. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I sometimes add in an art lesson or a craft. Fridays we usually do less work in the school room and more other stuff, like chores or field trips. That’s it!

Head over to the link up if you want to read others’ “Day in the Life” posts.

2015’s Top 10

It’s mid-January, and I’m just now getting around to looking back at the most popular posts from 2015. I always think it’s fun to see what posts were read the most. As usual, my most popular post ever –  9 Reasons I’m Not a Feminist (And Maybe You Aren’t Either), which I wrote in January 2013, got the most clicks this year (with around three times as many as the most popular post that I actually wrote this year). This is one I keep thinking I’m going to revisit with a new post (because the first one wasn’t very well-written), and I never do. I think perhaps 2016 needs to be the year…

Anyway, of the posts I wrote in 2015, here are the top 10:

10. A Sacramental Blessing – Thoughts on What Was Missing From My Marriage  – This is one of my favorites from the last year. A favorite memory and a favorite post.

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9. Home At Last – The Move and a Few Kitchen Photos – The post I wrote after we finally moved into our new house. I love my kitchen.

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8. Seven of My Favorite Things About Edel – A quick takes post with a few of the highlights of my trip to the Edel Gathering with Super Friend this summer.

7. The Kindergarten Birthday Party Dilemma – It was kind of fun for me to go back and reread this one, since I didn’t really remember deliberating about this issue as much as I did. Of course it all came rushing back when I read the post. The birthday party turned out to be just fine. This year Miss has asked to have her birthday party in Iowa with her cousins again, like we used to do for her, so that’s an easy choice this time.

6. Thoughts on Pre-ultrasound Worry and a Gender Reveal – Everyone always wants to read the gender reveal posts 🙂

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5. Teaching Girls to Respect Themselves is Not Shaming Them – This one is actually another of my favorite posts from the year, on a topic I feel very strongly about.

4. An Adventure in Chicago – I’m kind of surprised that this one was so popular. We had a fantastic trip, but this post was mostly just for myself to commemorate it and for my family to see some fun photos of our adventures. It’s not one I would expect many others to be interested in. But, cool.

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3. Ditching the Cover Up at the Pool – Another post near to my heart, and pretty difficult to post because it includes a photo of me in my bathing suit.

2. A Little Secret… – The post announcing this pregnancy, including my thoughts about how this one feels different, after struggling to get pregnant, after loss, after conversion.

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1. On Abortion – I Used to Look Away Too – It’s hard for me to think about, and to write about, the pro-choice attitudes I used to have. The shame and embarrassment resulting from my previous way of thinking about the issue leads me to cringe a little bit that this post was read so much. But I am also very grateful for all the clicks it got, for the same reason.

So, those are the top ten of the year according to what others liked, or at least clicked, the most. Some of my favorites are in there too, especially #10, #6, #5, #2, and #1, but a few of the others that I liked the best didn’t make the cut, like On Becoming a Runner. Again. Thoughts on Community From an Introvert, “Evangelize” is Not a Four-Letter WordMy Kids Went to Vacation Bible School and It Made Me Cry, and On Humility (or Lack Thereof).

I guess those are my top 10.

What was your favorite?

Thoughts on Pre-ultrasound Worry, and a Gender Reveal

When I first found out I was pregnant with this baby, I was, of course ecstatic, but I was also nervous. Having lost two babies between my girls and this baby, I was somewhat worried from the very start.

But I also decided very early on, that I did not want to experience the miracle of this pregnancy in a constant state of fear. I knew that I wanted to feel joy and wonder at the life of this little one, even if my pregnancy was again short lived and I didn’t get to see my baby on this earth.

With a few exceptions, my husband and I did not tell people that I was pregnant until I got through the first trimester, but I also did not try to hide it at all. Since I had lost so much weight right before getting pregnant, and I started showing very early, I knew that most people had figured it out. Some people asked me, and I enjoyed admitting it. We told our girls shortly after the very first ultrasound showed that baby was looking good.

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I wanted to celebrate however much time we would get with this baby.

But I’m almost 40. I’ve lost two babies.  There has still been worry. The four-week wait time between OB appointments when I’d get to hear that little heart beat have seemed interminable.

I have tried to give it all to God. Having faith has helped a great deal to keep my anxiety at bay, and whenever I would start to feel afraid, I would return to my go to: “Jesus, I trust in You.” Never fails.

And getting to the point of being able to feel the baby moving has helped a ton too.

Yesterday, we had the Big Ultrasound. Everyone, of course, asked if we were going to find out the baby’s gender and expressed excitement over finding out whether we are having a boy or a girl. And every time the subject would come up, I would think to myself, “But we have to see other important stuff first. Gender is great, but I need to know our baby is healthy.”

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Finding out the gender was the side show for me this time.

But not for the baby! Literally, the very first clear image that came up when the tech placed the ultrasound thingy on my belly was a very obvious shot in which the baby was announcing that he is all BOY.

My husband called out right away, “It’s a boy!” And I nearly burst into tears. I kind of knew it was a boy, because this pregnancy has been different in many ways from my pregnancies with my girls. But to have it confirmed, in such a fun way, was an amazing moment. I will never forget it.

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(On the way home, we stopped and got a few onesies as our way to reveal the gender to the girls)

And happily, the rest of the ultrasound (during which I felt like I was often holding my breath) looked wonderful too. Our little guy looks healthy and strong, and I breathed a big sigh of relief and sent up many prayers of thanksgiving when it was all done.

A boy. I’m absolutely thrilled… and slightly terrified. It’s a whole new world.

The girls are very excited to be having a baby brother. Miss has been praying for a baby brother for many months, and she is certain this is a direct answer to her prayers.

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The two older girls began working on “baby books” for their brother right away, including drawings of our family with him in utero, drawings of him being born, and even drawings of him and his wife and three kids when he grows up (pictures of Lass’s drawings in that order):

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They’ve got things all planned out for him it seems.

I’m getting used to saying things like “My son” and “Your brother.” It’s kind of surreal, and absolutely wonderful.

We’re having a boy!!

Baby Catholic Answers All the Things, Volume 10 – The Real Presence

Very early in my process of conversion to Catholicism, I wrote a post about a sort of, epiphany, if you will, that I had in coming to understand the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. In the post, I described what happened when I was in my first meeting of my first ever Bible study, and we were watching a video with Edward Sri in it, and suddenly something about the Eucharist really being the body of Jesus just made sense. I had already believed in the Real Presence, but in that moment I gained a new understanding of it. I felt compelled to share my revelation in the group, much to my chagrin, since I made a complete idiot of myself in doing so.

Anyway, you can read all about my first attempt trying to explain the Catholic belief about transubstantiation and the Real Presence in the Eucharist here if you want to.

Today, I’m going to try to do a little bit of a better job than I did then, because I know that the Catholic doctrine that, during the consecration at Mass, the bread and wine actually become the body and blood of Jesus and are not just symbolic of it, is a hard one to believe for lots of people who aren’t Catholic. So, today’s Baby Catholic question is this:

Why do Catholics believe that the bread and wine contain the Real Presence of Jesus, rather than just symbolizing Him?

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Surprisingly, coming to believe that the bread and wine offered at communion actually become the body and blood of Jesus during the consecration by the priest at Mass was one of the easier things for me to accept in my conversion. Perhaps this is because I read the book “Rome Sweet Home,” in which Scott Hahn, once a very anti-Catholic Presbyterian minister, describes his discovery of the Real Presence and quotes several sources to support it. Or perhaps it’s because, after a few months of attending Mass regularly, I began to have the experience of intense longing to receive Communion, which suggested to me that it was much more than just a wafer and a sip of wine.

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Probably both of those things contributed to my fairly easy acceptance that Jesus was truly present in the Eucharist. Honestly, once I got past my initial doubting of all things religious and was able to accept that there is a God and that Jesus is His Son, transubstantiation wan’t too hard for me. It’s all a matter of having faith.

The Catechism of the Cathoic Church says this about the Eucharist:

In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist “the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ, and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained.” (CCC 1374, the quote within the quote comes from the Council of Trent)

And:

It is by the conversion of the bread and wine into Christ’s body and blood that Christ becomes present in this sacrament. The Church fathers strongly affirmed the faith of the Church in the efficacy of the Word of Christ and the action of the Holy Spirit to bring about this conversion (CCC 1375)

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We can also see that the early Church fathers believed in the Real Presence. St. Ignatius was the third bishop of Antioch, succeeding St. Evodius, who was the direct successor of St. Peter. He wrote in his letter to the Romans (c. 80-110 A.D.):

I have no taste for the food that perishes, nor for the pleasures of this life. I want the Bread of God, which is the Flesh of Christ, who was the seed of David; and for drink I desire His Blood, which is love that cannot be destroyed.

But where does this idea come from in the first place, that Jesus is really present in the Eucharist?

The Bible, of course.

While they were eating, he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.” (Mark 14: 22-24)

The gospel of Luke says almost the exact same thing (Luke 22:19-20), and these are also the words that the priest says to consecrate the bread and wine during the Mass. It comes straight from the Bible. Jesus does not say, “Take this bread as a symbol of my body.” He does not say, “This is like my body.”

This is my body.

Further, in the gospel according to John:

Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.” (John 6:53-58)

Jesus was not telling us to symbolically take Him in, as in welcoming His Spirit into our hearts or something, because the verb used here for “eat” is more like the word “gnaw” rather than “consume.”

“My flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.”

He gave it to us on Calvary, and continues to give it to us every time the Mass is celebrated.

In addition to the Biblical basis of the Real Presence, I can attest to my own experience of receiving Jesus during communion and being with Him in Adoration. It’s difficult to explain, but I can feel that He is there. When I receive Communion, I can feel myself being filled by the most incredible sensation and presence. It’s not just eating a cracker.

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As I’m typing this, I can’t help but think that this is sounding hokey. Corny. Crazy, maybe. To someone who hasn’t experienced it, it probably does sound that way.

Someone who does not believe might attribute my experience to some sort of placebo affect. As in – I believe Jesus is present in the Eucharist, therefore I feel something when I receive Him. I probably would have explained it that way before I experienced it myself. But that’s not a sufficient explanation. I felt a strong pull to receive communion before I believed in the Real Presence. Before I even really knew what that meant. That’s the first and most basic reason that I became Catholic.

Because when you realize that you are in the presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, and that you can receive Him during Communion, why in the world wouldn’t you want that?

The Eucharist, the Real Presence, is Jesus’ incredible gift to us.

A Conference, Guilt About a Conference, Cleaning Out, and Second Thoughts (7QT)

It’s been a while since I did Friday quick takes, so I’m linking up with Kelly for seven of them today.

1.

Last weekend, I went to a wonderful Catholic bloggers conference in South Bend.

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I was so excited to finally meet in person the lovely Nell, and Bonnie, and Annie, and Jacqui, whom I’ve communicated with in cyberspace for some time now. I was also happy to meet many other ladies whose blogs I have read, and many new people whose blogs I now can read. You’ll notice that I updated my Blogroll in the sidebar, and I’m pretty sure I have all the new blogs I found there. Recommended reading  right there>>>>

2.

Unfortunately for me, I cannot go away from my family without feeling guilty. I drove to South Bend on Friday evening and was planning to stay on Saturday night too. Then I discovered that dinner was planned for early on Saturday, so my guilt led me to decide to cut the weekend short and drive home Saturday evening. It was wonderful to get home, but I do wish I didn’t always feel so guilty about going away for a short time by myself (last weekend was only the second time I’ve done it). Does anyone know a cure for this??

3.

If you know me, you’ll understand what a huge step this is for me:

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My husband and an appliance salesman convinced me (finally) that it’s okay to not rinse my dishes to a gleaming shine before loading them into the dishwasher. I have requested that my husband still rinse dairy products before loading, because dairy+sitting in the open=Ew, but other than that, I’m doing pretty well with leaving the dishes sort of dirty before putting them in. This experiment has been pretty successful too. Other than having to rewash a few bowls and a couple of spoons (note to curious husbands: big globs of peanut butter don’t come off with just the efforts of the dishwasher), I have been pleasantly surprised that our dishes are coming out clean. I can honestly now call myself a recovering compulsive pre-dishwasher-rinser.

4.

Miss had her first rehearsal with the children’s choir at church last night. It was so darned cute. Look how small she looks!

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She loved it, and now wants to sing in church every week. She’ll sing at her first Mass next Sunday.

5.

I met with a realtor about selling our house. She casually mentioned our need to “edit out” some of the stuff we have in our closets and storage. I wonder if she meant this:

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I was really embarrassed to even let her look into that closet (which is why I’m showing it to all of you), but she was intrigued by how big it was and wanted to go on back in there. The part of the closet that is used (I mean not as a dumping ground for outgrown baby clothes) is also quite big, so this stuff is all out of the way and usually I just toss the stuff that is too small for anyone back there, knowing I’ll get around to going through it “someday.”

Someday is now.

6.

On Wednesday, I went in there with trash bags and started mercilessly throwing all of it into the bags to take to St. Vincent’s. It was actually kind of hard, because I have been holding on to all of this stuff thinking I will probably need it again at some point. But I went ahead and bagged it all up.

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I bagged and bagged until I ran out of time and bags (I ended up with about five grocery bags in addition to what is pictured). I kept almost nothing. A few special and personalized things, the pants I made for Miss, the Wonder Woman shirt that is my favorite, and almost nothing else. I loaded it all up in my car, where it still sits.

I don’t think I can do it!

I’m pretty sure this weekend I’ll be bringing the bags back inside and going through them a little more carefully. I’ll still be donating a ton of it, but it would make sense to keep a few things. I think.

7.

I’m feeling a mixture of excitement and terror at the idea of going through and cleaning out other areas in our house. We have so much stuff to purge. I’m so eager to do it, but I don’t want to do it. Know what I mean?

But I must.

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This is happening, whether I’m ready or not!

I hope you have a great weekend. I’m gearing up for fish fry, another in-town conference tomorrow, and lots of game time and outside play with my girls (hubby is out of town). Don’t forget to check back for Embrace the Ordinary tomorrow (and link up!)

And be sure to check out Kelly’s Quick Takes link up too.

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A Sacramental Blessing – Thoughts on What Was Missing from My Marriage

When my husband and I first got married, we did it in the most secular way possible. We were outside, we had a judge officiating, and I specifically requested no references to religion in the ceremony.

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It was really wonderful, and remains one of the best days of my life. At the time, I didn’t think for a moment that there was anything missing.

Indeed!

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When I decided to convert to Catholicism, I realized that I really wanted for my husband and I to have our marriage validated in the Church. It took us a while to make it happen, but a few weeks ago, we finally had our sacramental blessing. A Catholic wedding, complete with full Mass.

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While we were receiving communion, Lass asked the priest, “Why don’t the little people get to have any of the good stuff?”

It wasn’t a big, fancy affair. Just us, our girls, our priest, Super Friend and Super Husband, and The Godmother (plus our babysitter and photographer).

We did the whole thing. We selected readings, and the priest gave a homily. We said vows and had our rings blessed. The priest said a blessing over us and we received communion, all standing around the altar. It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever experienced.

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Our first wedding was also beautiful. It was wonderful and meaningful. It was a big celebration of our marriage with most of our friends and family. It wasn’t fussy, and it was fun. It was exactly what I wanted it to be at that time.

This time was so much the same and yet so, so different. Our first wedding was obviously important. But this time, this ceremony, felt sacred. I looked at my husband while saying our vows and there was so much more. We’ve been married over six years and have three children. We’ve experienced wonderful joys and terrible grief. “In good times and bad, in sickness and in health” took on a whole new meaning as I said those words again. It was different, because this time I felt the presence of God watching over us, blessing us, embracing us. I know now that He was there the first time too, but I didn’t bother to notice. This time, He took center stage, and it made everything so. much. more.

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There was even more joy. More love. More beauty. More grace.

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I used to think I knew a lot about marriage. I thought I was really good at being married. I thought my husband and I had a fabulous marriage. Here’s what I know now: I knew some. I was pretty good. We did have one.

BUT,

Since converting to Catholicism, since beginning to go to church with my husband every week, since instituting prayer in our home and faithful practices in our family, my marriage has improved in so many ways.

I’m a better wife and a better mom. I am less prideful and less selfish. I still have so much to learn. I am still striving and praying to get rid of all the yucky parts of myself: my pride and anger and selfish tendencies. But the love of God helps me to love my husband better. And just as He was the thing missing from our first wedding, God was what was missing from our marriage for the first five years. I didn’t even realize there was anything was missing back then. But now I do. Our marriage is so much better with Jesus.