Friday, May 31, 2013

Youth Group Cookout

Jesse came home from senior high youth group last week & said, "By the way, we're having youth group at our house next week."  Surprise!  Thankfully there really wasn't much for me to have to prepare, which is a good thing because I haven't had any free time lately!

We live about 15 minutes from our church, in a more serene & rural area than the downtown hustle & bustle atmosphere that most of these kids are used to.  Our yard is plenty big to run around, play football, soccer, Kan-Jam & have the opportunity for these youth to just be kids.  This cookout gave them the opportunity to relax & hang out with one another.  To me, I think these types of fellowship events are just as important as regular youth group.  Jesse's weekly message at youth group is always relevant, encouraging & challenging, but it also provides a platform for the youth to bond with each other & engage in peer-to-peer ministry.

I laughed when Jesse said he was only going to bring home one van full of kids.  Typically, he spends the first hour before youth group each week driving around & picking kids up.  But surprisingly enough, they carpooled & we ended up with a great turnout.  I would say 80+ people in total.  And...ready for the shocker?  Jesse didn't have to take a single person home.  Now if only we could get that sort of activity during regular youth group meetings.

I'm so proud of this little community.  May they all go out & change the world!  As for me, I've got to get back to clean up, it looks like a hurricane of hungry teenagers came through our yard & house!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Zach Sobiech

We are all given a finite time on this earth, realizing that someday we will pass on from this place to the next.  However, "someday" is so vague, we often (myself included) forget how truly valuable each day is since we don't know the day or time we will be called home to our Heavenly Father.  Although it would be emotionally exhausting to think of each day as our last & wonder when it will be our time to go, I think we should at least try our very best to remember that each day were are given is a blessing from God.  And it is our job to try & do our very best with

Every once & a while the media will catch hold of a story of someone with a terminal illness, given a finite amount of time to live, and share their stories of hope, perseverance & attitude of living for the moment. Recently, I heard such a story, that of Zach Sobiech, a young man who was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer that is often deadly in children.  At the age of 14 he was diagnosed and at the age of 17, he was given months to live.

I watched the documentary of his life & felt incredibly inspired by his attitude, "You don't have to find out you're dying to start living."  Zach used the power of music to express his final thoughts to his family & friends.  The song "Clouds" has become a YouTube sensation.  Although the situation is incredibly sad, the song is remarkably uplifting & encouraging.

Zach found solace attending mass by himself early in the mornings.  He & his family had a devotion to St. Peregrine & even made a pilgrimage to Lourdes to visit the healing waters.  His family found strength & comfort knowing that this was a part of their earthly journey, but that it was not truly the end.

I don't know that I could react to this type of situation with the same type of faith & dignity that Zach did.  Listening to his songs, I am reminded of the many blessings I have in my life.  Although there are plenty of times when I am stressed by the kids or frustrated by Jesse's long hours away from home, it is in those times when I need to take a step back & thank God.  He has blessed all of us with so many wonderful things.  It shouldn't take a tragedy to make us realize it.

I have been drafting this post for a couple of weeks.  Sadly, Zach Sobiech passed away yesterday, May 20, at the age of 18.  Eternal rest, grant unto him O Lord & let perpetual light shine upon him.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Let Go & Let God

As I wrote in this post, I have someone in my life, "Jon," who has proclaimed his decision to actively be in a same-sex relationship.  When I left off on my last post, Jesse & I had decided to limit our contact with Jon because of his lifestyle decisions.  Unfortunately, not much as changed since then.  When Jon & I had our falling out during Holy Week, he said some very hurtful things.  Now, I understand we all sometimes say things when we are angry, but that is still no excuse.  So, I have asked him to apologize for these things before we can begin to talk & hopefully heal our relationship.  But that apology has not happened yet & the more time that passes, the more I am beginning to feel it may never happen.

Coming to this realization has been a very difficult thing to deal with.  When all of this started, I didn't expect to be at the point where I am now.  But that is true about a lot of things in life, isn't it?  We never know what sort of ripple effects will result from our actions & decisions.  It can be nerve-wracking to contemplate all the various outcomes to our potential choices.  We (especially those of us with control issues!) want to feel like we are in charge & maintain control over our lives.  But the truth is, we can only be truly happy if we relinquish control & let God take over.  Our Heavenly Father wants the best for us, it is up to us to listen & follow His will.

As frustrating as it is, I know that I can't force Jon to understand my decisions.  I can't force him to end his same-sex relationship; I can't make him turn to the Eucharist & find healing through Confession & Mass.  As much as those things bother me, I have to take that energy & channel it into prayers.  Prayers that God warms Jon's heart, prayers that Jon's faith strengthens, prayers of mercy for Jon & prayers for faith & hope for all of us impacted by Jon's choices.

I have found a lot of solace in music during challenging times in my life.  Lately, the song I have been listening to that has touched my heart during this trying time has been "Not Alone" by Family Force 5.  The chorus says:

Cause I don't hurt when you say it
I hear your words, I can make it
I need you now, I want you now
To tell me that I'm not alone

May we all surrender ourselves to You & open our hearts to Your will.  Allow us to hear Your words, reminding us we are never alone; even in the darkest moments when all seems lost, remind us of Your presence.  Amen.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Work-Life Balance Introduction

At the time when Jesse was offered his first youth minister job, we were 6 months pregnant with our first child (we waited to find out it was a daughter until the day she made her arrival!).  We made a list of all the pros & cons that this new opportunity would bring.  Right near the very top of the "Pros" column was "flexible schedule."  Since youth groups happen in the evenings, Jesse would be able to stay home during the day with our little one.  Although we were a mere 3 months away from meeting our little girl, we hadn't yet discussed what would happen when my 6 weeks of maternity leave ended & I had to go back to work.  It was a conversation I was certainly putting off because I didn't want to think about the day I had to drop my newborn off at a daycare & then go into work for the day.  I understand that daycare is a blessing for parents who have to work daytime jobs, but in my heart I knew it wasn't going to work for us.  If I would have to continue working (a necessity when your job carries all the healthcare benefits as well as necessary income) after our daughter was born, I could only imagine being comfortable with her being with Jesse all day.

So, we made the decision that Jesse would take the youth ministry job.  At the time, he was working 50+ hours a week at a job placement service & wanted to remain there for as long as possible, which meant right up until I had to go back to work.  So, he continued to work there during the day & lay the groundwork for youth group in the evenings.  Needless to say, when our daughter was born, I spent most of my maternity leave by myself (looking back, this should have been a warning of things to come!).

I am blessed to be able to go to work in the mornings & know that my daughters are being taken care of by their dad.  I think it has made him a better parent & has formed a strong bond between Daddy & his little girls.  All that being said, there are very few days that I walk out the door & don't wish it was me being able to stay home with them.  Or at least be able to do this.  There are certainly times when I am thankful that I can go to work & get a break from all the craziness that comes with having 3 little ones.  But I miss them terribly when I'm away & can't wait to come home cuddling & playing with my girls again!